Friday, March 27, 2009

Democracies that Censor the Internet: ROK

This article in Foreign Policy lists five democratic countries that censor web content--and South Korea is among them.

As described in the article, the South Korean web censorship mechanisms are mostly directed at blocking any and all propaganda from the North, though ISPs carry out a lot of protect-the-children censorship. Of course, like most censorship programs, South Korea's casts a much wider net than, for example, seems to be blocked in the ROK.

Given such strange cases, I can't help but wonder how many "accidentally" blocked or crippled sites simply have powerful domestic competitors here? I'm looking at you, Naver! Fastest web portal in Seoul!

Singapore: The Quick and Dirty

(This is the first in a series of posts about our recent trip to Singapore. You can find other posts by clicking the "Singapore" tag below.)

With a city-state like Singapore, where do you start? The city is really like a half-dozen cities rolled into one, with a whole nation's worth of history and a whole hemisphere's worth of cultures and cuisines. Since many of our readers may not know much about Singapore, here's a brief intro, with more detail to come in later posts.


One of Singapore's two main attractions for Nana and me was its history as the commercial and military hub of British interests in Southeast Asia.

After its founding by Sir Thomas Raffles in 1819, Singapore's status as Southeast Asia's only free trading port and its location at the mouth of the Strait of Malacca, which constitutes the main sea route between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, attracted immigrants from around the world. The result is that, today, Singapore enjoys a diverse blend of Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Arabic, and other cultures.

In the buildup to WWII, Singapore was fortified as the British Empire's main bulwark against the Japanese in Southeast Asia. When the island fell to the Japanese after a short overland campaign on the Malay Peninsula, it was considered the greatest defeat the British Empire ever suffered. That the island fell within a few weeks of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor only added to the gloom.

Today, Singapore is one of only three sovereign city-states in the world (along with Monaco and the Vatican), and has transformed itself into the cultural and economic capital of Southeast Asia.

Some Awesome Things About Singapore

  • The food: Local Malaysian and Indonesian fare, alongside various regional cuisines from China, India, and the Middle East; low prices; fresh ingredients; and a culture that reveres eating above all other pastimes (save, perhaps, shopping)--IMHO, Singapore has earned its reputation as one of the best places in the world to eat.
  • The culture: Singapore has done a great job preserving and displaying its remarkable history--colorful Colonial neighborhoods and abundant museums satisfied our voracious inner nerds.
  • The people: Tourist-friendly, hospitable, laid-back (but not too laid-back).
  • The rules: People follow them, the occasional bizarre injunction aside, and the result is a clean, safe, easy-to-navigate town.
  • The green: Singapore is ostentatiously tropical, and there's stuff growing on any surface that can take a root, leaf, or vine.

The One Potentially Annoying Thing About Singapore

  • The weather: Singapore is located at 1 degree, or about 60 miles, north of the equator. When the sun's out, it's just about as hot, year-round, as anywhere in the world, though the frequent brief thunderstorms do offer some respite from the heat. And about those thunderstorms: You'd better keep an umbrella on you at all times!
Stay tuned for more tales of our Singapore travels.

Back in Seoul

Nana and I got back from Singapore late last night--though not as late as we would have gotten back, if not for a timely ride from an APIS parent who was on our flight. (Thank you!)

Expect more on Singapore shortly. The one-word summary: Awesome.