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MAY 28, 2008
Raising money for AIDS victims
By Victoria Cook
Expat living is a page dedicated
to the issues that affect expats' daily lives. It is your page, where you can share stories about your life in Korea. Send story ideas to Matthew Lamers at email@example.com
Assisting Cambodians detect water poisoning
By Dr. Suthipong Sthiannopkao
PHNOM PENH — The Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology has initiated a joint research project in Cambodia to assess the health impacts and costs of arsenic poisoning resulting from consuming contaminated groundwater and food. The project, Collaborative Research on Health Impacts and Costs of Arsenic Poisoning in Cambodia, is led by professor Kim Kyoung-woong and Dr. Suthipong Sthiannopkao. Researchers from Malaysia, Cambodia, Resource Development InternationalCambodia, the World Health Organization, and Hong Kong Baptist University will also participate. In Cambodia, a country of more than 13 million people, groundwater resources are a very important source of drinking water. Groundwater use remains popular in rural areas and in some small urban centers. More than 81 percent of the population is rural, close to 60 percent of which uses groundwater. In contrast, only 15 percent of people living in the capital, Phnom Penh, consume well water. Groundwater is used for the towns’ water supply and for irrigation. According to the Cambodian Ministry of Rural Development, groundwater is available in large quantities in most areas throughout the year. Although the geography of Cambodia is dominated by the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap, an important source of fish, as well as other rivers and streams and lakes, the groundwater resource is esti-
mated to be close to 17.6 billion cubic meters. Water, food and hair samples will be collected in five suspected provinces of arsenic contamination — Kandal, Kracheh, Bat Dambang, Svay Rieng and Kampong Thum. A health questionnaire survey and health check, as well as a food consumption survey, will also be conducted. The assessment of health risk and costs will be determined. It is expected that the outcomes obtained at the end of this project will assist the Cambodian government in managing arsenic contaminated drinking water and food in Cambodia. According to previous studies into arsenic contamination in groundwater in the provinces of Prey Veng and Kandal, concentrations of total arsenic in groundwater ranged from not detectable up to about 900 ppb, with about 54 percent of all the samples collected (28) exceeding the WHO drinking water guide value of 10 ppb. Arsenic speciation was dominated (80 percent) by dissolved inorganic As (III) which is more toxic to human health and also more difficult to treat than As (V). Based on these results, this international collaboration project on assessing human health impacts from arsenic contamination in groundwater and food is urgently needed. Dr. Suthipong Sthiannopkao is a research professor and program officer at the International Environmental Research Center, Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org — Ed.
Finding out about some new disaster or problem in the developing world is as easy as turning on the news or opening up the daily paper. But while the terrible events may provoke sympathy, many people, struggling with their own issues at school, work or in their personal lives, also feel the problems are too distant and large to do much about. This is exactly the kind of attitude, however, that Craig Kulyk and Mark Boesch want to change. On May 31, Kulyk and Boesch will team up with the Korea HIV/AIDS Prevention Center (KHAP) to host A Common Cause — a fundraiser that aims to show that individuals and communities can come together to make a real difference in the lives of people across the world. A Common Cause will benefit Little Travellers, an HIV/AIDS Initiative based in South Africa that raises money for those affected by the pandemic. Kulyk and Boesch started the Korea chapter of Little Travellers almost a year ago and have been volunteering their time and efforts to help the organization grow throughout the country. “I want people to be aware that there is something they can do in everyday life to help people in need, wherever they are,” said Boesch. “We want to empower people to not just give money but actually do something.” According to Boesch, this entirely grassroots organization lets people throughout Korea
Buselaphi Gwala, 50, of South Africa, has worked for the Hillcrest AIDS Centre for the past two years. She can make four pins a day and earns about 400 rand per week for her work. Thanks to Little Travellers, she has been able to support her entire family.
Little Travellers HIV/AIDS Initiative
participate and proves that even a little help goes a long way. A perfect representative of this idea are the Little Travellers themselves: tiny, colorfully beaded pins created in the image of the Africans they support. The pins may be small, but they symbolize a big idea, and an even bigger hope, about how to ease the burden of HIV/AIDS and poverty in Africa. The pins are handcrafted at the Hillcrest AIDS Center in KwaZulu-Natal, a province in South Africa which has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Around 40 percent of adults are infected. They are then shipped to places like Canada, the United States, England and Australia where they are sold for around $5. All proceeds are then sent back to the AIDS Center. “The dolls are a bridge for people to learn more about the issue,” said Kulyk. “People see these adorable, beautiful dolls and are attracted to them. Then, when they find out more about them, they usually get motivated and want to help.” Through community outreach, fundraisers, support from local businesses and even a bake-off, the Little Travellers Initiative in Korea has been gaining a lot of attention recently. But their biggest event is yet to come. A Common Cause will be a collective effort bringing together individual volunteers as well as local businesses and organizations — and it expects to attract a big group from the local community as well. “We were looking for a way to give Little Travellers more visibility and let people be a part of something really big,” said Boesch, who hopes that between 1,000 and 2,000 people will attend. “We also wanted to team up with KHAP to help increase awareness of HIV/AIDS in Korea.” Three bars in the Itaewon neighborhood of Seoul — the Rocky Mountain Tavern, Wolfhound and B1 — have offered to help by providing their facilities as well as drink specials and raffle prizes. Local bands Sotto Gamba, EV Boyz and The Bellows will also provide entertainment for the night. “The spread of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa feels like a problem that’s so rampant and far away, it’s easy to just turn your head away,” said Matt Boland, drummer for Sotto Gamba (www.myspace.com/sottogamba). “Little Travellers is a program that directly involves those affected and can therefore enact some real change.” Local businesses like Buddha’s Belly Restaurant, Marrakesh Nights Restaurant, Bar Nabi, Healing Hands Massage, Smoky Saloon, Taco Taco, Quiznos, Orange Tree Bar and Istanbul have all donated prizes and money to the event. KHAP volunteers will also be on hand giving out condoms and informational brochures on HIV/AIDS prevention. By donating 10,000 won at any of the bars, patrons will receive their own Little Traveller pin, a raffle ticket and drink discounts at all the bars all night long. They will also be given the opportunity to be a part of a big community effort to make positive change for people half a world away. Visit littletravellers.net for more information. (email@example.com)
Stumbling toward Korea-U.S. FTA
By Bobby McGill
Jeonju teacher sent to prison for two months
By Bart Schaneman
An American English teacher in Jeonju has been placed in jail for not paying a fine from an incident that occurred years ago. As of April 19, the teacher, James Molem, has been serving a 60-day sentence in Jeonju City Prison to pay off a 3 million won ($2,850) fine — 50,000 won per day — he incurred from a fight with a Seoul taxi driver three years prior. Before leading to his jail sentence, a separate incident outside of the Jeonju bar Deepin led to Molem’s arrest. According to Jeonju resident
Colin Dyer, Molem and two of his friends were involved in the late-night incident where police were called and Molem was taken to jail. No charges were filed at the time. A few days later, Molem was contacted by the police. A Korean citizen at the scene had filed an assault charge against Molem for alleged violence during the police involvement. The outstanding fine was discovered when the Jeonju District Attorney conducted a background check on Molem. Molem was unable to pay the fine at that time. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
BUSAN — The biggest problem with democracy is that sometimes it actually works. We witnessed this of late as thousands of Koreans filled the streets to protest the “threat” of Mad Cow Disease from America. Ignoring the crucial fact that the odds of contracting Mad Cow are statistically nil, or that half of the protesters against this “menace” are panicked teens, democracy marched on. The collective voice spoke and was taken seriously. Newly elected president, Lee Myungbak, his face branded with contrition, down deep in opinion polls, humbly bowed and offered a televised apology for mishandling public concern. Painful though it was to watch him pander, he managed to get in a nice parting shot. “To be honest,” Lee said. “The government was baffled by the spread of unfounded rumors about mad cow disease.” There is no need to be baffled. Though the protesters and their troops of worried youngsters are talking “mad cow,” what they are saying is, “No FTA with America.” And, by using American beef as a wedge issue, opposition legislators are afforded another chance to question whether two years of FTA negotiations should be allowed to pass at all. Truly baffling are the voices ringing out from their U.S. counterparts, as congressional Democrats express concerns that the FTA favors Koreans disproportionately. Even Barack Obama has made anti-FTA a centerpiece in his appeal to blue-collar voters. So, what are we to make of the conflicting rhetoric? Logic says both sides can’t be right. While the field of eco-
nomics seldom lends itself to logic, the majority of economists agree — the FTA is good for both nations. The benefits to Korea are more profound than enjoying unfettered access to the largest market in the world. The cordoned-off Korean economy that produced one of the great growth miracles of the last century has started to stumble. A survey conducted by Samsung Economics Research Institute and Swiss research firm, IMD, ranked Korea 31st in competiveness worldwide and 8th in Asia. These numbers are not surprising considering a near lack of competition within Korea’s own borders. Samsung alone accounts for over 20 percent of the economy, with a handful of other industrial giants, known as the “chaebol,” sharing the bulk of the rest. Productivity inevitably lags in protected economies, but an even more sinister problem occurs. Domestic producers, satiated with consumers of limited choice, invariably charge higher prices. Purchasing parity statistics from SERI show that for every $1 Americans spend on consumer goods Koreans spend $1.22. Koreans deserve lower prices — their money is more than well earned. Averaging 2,390 working hours per year, Korea exceeds second-ranked Poland by nearly 17 days, America by 26 and Germany by 43. While immediate tariff bans would lower the price of American products such as food, cosmetics, alcohol and cars, other items would phase in over several years. To protect politically sensitive sectors such as Korean farming and American textiles, financial safeguards were written in to ease the anticipated pains of transition. On a more intrinsic level, not passing
the FTA would be a PR disaster for Korea — a country well known for minimal cordiality and at times xenophobic attitudes towards foreign business. A survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, ranked Korea 25th out of 82 countries for a “friendly business environment.” Well behind regional competitors, Singapore (3rd), Hong Kong (6th) and Taiwan (19th). In the past, Korea’s protectionist policies have served it well — as they were designed to. High tariffs and heavy exports are Economics 101 for growing economies from scratch. The resulting 30-year rise to the 11th largest economy — currently 13th — speaks for itself. Yet, as President Lee pointed out, when transitioning from a developing economy to an established economy, the old rules no longer apply. “Korea has failed to go with the current of the times,” said Lee. “If we now fail to join the ranks of advanced countries, we might never have another chance.” Lee also highlighted the fact that other regional economies are, “coming up behind us.” Although not as far-reaching, the deal would also benefit Americans. Of the roughly $75 billion in goods and services passing between the two countries each year, Korea has enjoyed trade surpluses since 2001 of no less than $13.9 billion and as high as $20 billion in 2004. In 2006 Koreans sold over 700,000 automobiles in the United States while buying only 4,500 American cars. And Korean electronic powerhouses, Samsung and LG, consistently remain atop the U.S. market for TVs, monitors and cell phones, while their American counterparts are either taxed out of or forbidden from the Korean market.
While lowered tariffs will allow American businesses a chance to gain some ground in Korean markets, garnering the loyalty of Korean consumers could prove difficult in the short haul. The FTA will likely to pass and benefit both countries, but what negative effects will continued American press accounts of Korean animosity towards their long time customer and ally produce? While hard to assess, one promising fact remains: Americans and Koreans are deeply intertwined. Thousands of Korean tourists visit the United States every day. The 103,000 Korean students studying in the United States number more than any other nationality. And of the 1.4 million Koreans permanently residing in America, nearly 1 million are Korean-born, with more than half of those now U.S. citizens. The ties going the other way are also strong. Nearly 17,000 American small businesses trade with Korea. Thousands of college grads go there to teach English. And tens of thousands of American families send their sons and daughters to military bases on the Korean peninsula. The immediate worry for Korean business is that many Americans feel a sense of betrayal for a half century of constructive relationships. In an online forum on Korea’s condemnatory protests, Frank Mac of Batavia, Illinois wrote, “I currently own two Hyundai automobiles but will have to think real hard to justify buying another.” Bobby is a freelance journalist based in Asia. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of The Korea Herald. He can be reached through his website at idlewordship.com or emailed at email@example.com — Ed.
In focus — The benefits of using RAW files
By David Smeaton
I’ve been looking at RAW files on my DSLR and I don’t really understand the benefits. Are there many advantages to shooting in RAW? — Su-joung, Seoul The simple answer is yes. This is my second article about the miracles of RAW files and I’m happy to write again and encourage more people to make the switch to RAW. All digital cameras have a number of options when they record photos. One option is to save a RAW file, which includes
all of the available information from when the photo was taken. RAW is considered a lossless format; no information is lost in the recording of the data. The other common option is to save the file as a JPEG. To do this, the camera deletes a lot of information to reduce the file size. JPEG is a lossy format, because it deletes data as it records the image. So, essentially, a RAW file is an original negative, with everything about the photo included in the data. This also includes the camera’s valuable EXIF data: shutter speed, ISO, aper-
ture and a plethora of other info. The biggest benefit to RAW is that the larger amount of data gives you a much, much bigger dynamic range to work with from the photo. The dynamic range is the difference between the darkest and lightest areas in the shot. In a RAW photo, an overblown area will often be recoverable. Because a JPEG file deletes a lot of that dynamic range information, it’s harder to recover photos. In fact, shooting in JPEG will often result in more overblown photos because the necessary data has been
deleted. This difference in data is worth a couple of stops, and that’s a lot in photography terms. The other big advantage is editing. Post-processing a RAW file is easier and you have much more ability to alter the image without it looking grainy or leaving behind ugly JPEG artifacts. This gives more freedom and control during the editing process. It also means that your final image will be much higher quality. However, no medium is perfect, and RAW has a few disadvantages. One small problem is
that cameras don’t render RAW very well in camera. So previewing your photos on the camera’s LCD screen can result in the shots looking flat. But once you get them on the computer, you will notice quite a difference. Send David a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.davidsmeaton.com. If you want to be a part of the weekly Photo Challenge, join the “Seoul Photo Club” group at flickr (flickr.com/groups/seoulphotoclub). — Ed.
PHOTO CHALLENGE — A Buddhist monk walks the streets durJon Pak (flickr.com/photos/kapnoj) ing May’s lantern festival.
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