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What Do Interracial Couples, Obama, and Oprah Have in Common?

by

PhD, LMFT

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What Do Interracial Couples, Obama, and Oprah Have in Common?

How often have you heard people say that racism doesn’t exist, or that race no longer matters—“Just look at Oprah.”  Interracial couples, a group experiencing a major growth spurt in the past decade, are frequently pointed to as evidence that racial borders or barriers no longer exist, or don’t matter.

The discourse that U.S. society is colorblind, or evolving in that direction, has become increasingly popular in recent years. Colorblind discourse is rooted in the belief that a persistent refusal to see differences in race, ethnicity, or color is: (1) humanistic (i.e., “we humans are all alike”; “there’s only one race—the human race”), and (2) socially and politically correct (i.e., one reduces the risk of being called racist if one does not see or acknowledge the importance of skin color in how people experience the world).

A colorblind stance dispatches the problem of race in one fell swoop, effectively taking those with race–based power and privilege “off the hook.”  Elaine Pinderhughes (1989) writes that this stance “protects those holding it from awareness of their ignorance of others and the necessity of exerting the energy and effort to understand and bridge the differences” (44). Perhaps it is not surprising that many white people believe that the U.S. has already become a truly color-blind nation, with national polling demonstrating that a majority of whites now believe discrimination against racial minorities no longer exists (Twine & Gallagher 2008). But can race be erased so easily?

Parallels exist between the meanings and interpretations made of the increasing rates of interracial couples in the U.S. and a major milestone in the American political scene. On November 5th, 2008, The New York Times stated, “Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive.” Post (2009) summed up the discourse around Barack Obama’s election in the following way: “This narrative is all about race even as it makes various claims about the diminished significance of race: the prospect of racial healing, the ability of a new generation of Americans to transcend their own identity, and the emergence of a post-racial society”.

Much like the hullabaloo made over the increasing frequency and visibility of interracial couples and multiracial peoples, Obama’s election was accompanied by passionate, and premature, proclamations that racism was at an end in the U.S. After the November 2008 election, almost half of white voters (48%) and three-quarters of black voters (74%) said they expected to see race relations improve during Obama’s presidency. Voters were less effusive a year later, with a plurality of whites (45%) reporting that Obama’s election had made no difference to race relations, and 15% reporting it has made race relations worse (Pew Research Center 2010).

Taking the election of a black—black and white, in fact—chief executive as evidence that racial tension and inequality had been successfully dispatched was a quantum leap, with such an interpretation implying that no further work needed to be done in the quest for equality. The embracing of the notion of a “post-racial” U.S. in popular culture and mass media does not allow space for either acknowledgement of, or critical reflection on, racism as an ongoing phenomenon.

My question: In the age of Obama, are interracial couples and their children now blessed to live in a post-racial era where racial boundaries will simply vanish?  According to the narratives shared by my research participants, the answer is a definite “no”; perhaps, one day, it might become a “yes”.

The more pundits declare the arrival of a post-racial society, the clearer it becomes that we’re not there yet. After President Obama’s State of the Union address in January 2010, commentator Chris Matthews quipped that he “forgot he was black.” Asked to explain his comment, Matthews stated that he had meant it as a compliment to President Obama for rendering race a “non-issue”. Matthews went on to assert that Obama is “post-racial”, rendering racial debate no longer relevant.

Obama’s election, just like the rise in interracial couples, continues to be used as a trope by some to support colorblind discourse. And while Matthews insisted he meant well (i.e., a case of overt, unintentional racism), and had not intended to be offensive (i.e., “it’s not my fault if you’re offended”), others wasted no time fanning the flames of racist political discourse and disinformation following Obama’s election.

The perception of Obama’s “otherness” has actually intensified since his election (New York Times, August 19, 2010), partially due to a macro-aggressive campaign. The Pew Research Center (2010) conducted a poll that found that 18% of Americans believed two years into Obama’s presidency that he was Muslim, up from 11% after his inauguration, and 27% Americans doubted he was born in the US, and, therefore, saw his election as suspect. Protest signs seen in recent years include “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery” and posters portraying the President as Hitler, an African “witch doctor”, and the arch-villain The Joker from the Batman comics and films.

In fact, the number of racially offensive images of President Obama and his wife proliferated so rapidly that Google began running an apology associated with the image search results (Blow 2009).  The fact of President Obama does not allow us to rewrite history and remove race as a powerful organizing principle in U.S. society or even as a factor in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Voting results in battleground states broke down clearly along racial lines. In the South Carolina primary, Obama won 78% of the black vote, but only 24% of the white vote (National Public Radio, January 28, 2008). Innuendos that Obama had been born in Kenya and was secretly a Muslim would never have gained currency if white persons had not experienced him as “Other”.

Vast material disparities remain between blacks and whites. The median black worker earns about $600/week, approximately 80% of the median income of white workers. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that black men are imprisoned at 6.6 times the rate of white men, with nearly 1 in 20 black men incarcerated. The unemployment rate for blacks is nearly twice that of whites across demographic categories (New York Times, November 9, 2009). The catastrophe that was, and is, Hurricane Katrina is yet another reminder that skin color and poverty remain markers of not only who can thrive, but who can survive (Agathangelou 2010).

Racial issues are very much still with us. And Keith Bardwell, a Louisiana justice of the peace, refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children that the couple might have. Bardwell commented, “I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way.” So, post-racial is a ways off, and resistance and prejudice continue to be daily experiences for interracial couples and persons of color. How couples strategically respond to these acts of racism says a lot about their negotiation style, identities both as individual partners and as a couple system, and what can and cannot be talked about in this intimate context. More on this later.

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Kyle D. Killian, Ph.D., LMFT is a licensed couple and family therapist and clinical supervisor. He is the author of Interracial Couples, Intimacy & Therapy: Crossing Racial Borders from Columbia University Press. Connect with him at academia.edu (click), or via Linkedin at Kyle Killian.

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References

Agathangelou, A. M. 2010. Bodies of desire, terror and the war in Eurasia: Impolite disruptions of (neo) liberal internationalism, neoconservatism and the ‘new’  imperium.  Millennium: Journal of International Studies 38: 693-722.

Blow, C.M.  2009. Black in the age of Obama. New York Times, December 5. Retrieved January 19 2010 at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/05/opinion/05blow.html

Pew Research Center. (2010). Blacks upbeat about Black progress, prospects: A Year After Obama’s Election. Retrieved April 24, 2010 at http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1459/year-after-obama-election-black-public-opinion

Pew Research Center. 2010b. Growing number of Americans say Obama is a Muslim. Retrieved August 19, 2010 at http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1701/poll-obama-muslim

Pinderhughes, E.  (1989). Understanding Race, Ethnicity, and Power. New York: Free Press.

Twine, F. W. & Charles Gallagher. (2008). The future of whiteness: A map of the third wave. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 31, 4-24.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010).  Economic News Release, Table 2.  Accessed April 27, 2010 at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/wkyeng.t02.htm

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#Arabia: It is More diverse than you think!

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#Arabia: It is More diverse than you think!

Did you know that the term “Middle East” is a misnomer? What came to designate, in the popular press and the mass media, the region spanning from the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean on the West, to Iran on the West, was not originally intended as such.

From a European centric perspective, there are 3 main parts to the “Orient”: The Near East, the Middle East, and the Far East. With Russia on the North, the Indian Sub-Continent and South-East Asia to the South, this leaves a clear definition of the Far East. The Near East, sometimes called the Levant, is really the areas of Asia closest to Europe and used to designate also most of the Ottoman Empire. But over time the term Near East has gradually been replaced by the notion of “Middle East”.

Enough about geography … let’s talk business and economics …   

In the business world, we use the term MENA, which is Middle East and North Africa. Although geographically this usually includes Iran, Israel and sometimes Pakistan, I want to talk in this blog and the following series about Arabia, which is the Arabic speaking world, often referred to as Middle East.

Arabia stretches from Morrocco on the West to Iraq on the East, and from Syria to the North to Yemen and Sudan on the South. I on purpose started this discussion with the geographical overview and linguistic history and then decided to use a new term, Arabia, to designate something CNN refers to as the Middle East, because I am keen on demonstrating the diversity of this region, which can be very surprising at times.

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Arabia comprises countries which are at a wide range of extremes from every perspective you could think of:

            • Wealth: Some of the richest countries in the world on a GDP/Capita basis are part of Arabia (Qatar: USD 99,731; UAE: USD 64,840 ). On the other hand, some great poverty can be found in places such as Egypt and Yemen with GDP/Capita of USD 3,112 and USD 1,377, respectively.
  • Population: The overall population of Arabia is 342.9 million (2012) , but this is very unequally spread, with Egypt being the largest at 82.5 million, followed by Algeria with 36.5 million. On the other hand, some very small countries by population such as UAE (5.5 million), Qatar (1.8 million) and Kuwait (3.8 million) have a very important economic and political role in the region thanks to their great hydrocarbon reserves.
  • Geography: Not all Arabia is deserts and sand dunes: From the snow capped mountains of Lebanon, to the fertile valleys of the Nile and Euphrates, to the rocky plateaux of Morocco, the region also offers a great variety of landscapes.
  • The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) itself has great internal variety, with Saudi Arabia being much larger than all the other 6 countries combined (population 29.0 million out of 44.4 million, surface 2.1 million Km2 out of 2.6 million Km2). And also a significant cultural variety and population mix. With UAE and Qatar having a majority of expatriate population relative to the local citizens, these are some of the most open and welcoming countries in the world to expatriates.
  • Religion is not a unifying factor for the region either, with large Christian minorities in many countries including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. The dominant religion is Islam, which itself has two major denominations: Sunni and Shia.
  • If anything the Arabic language is the one common trait for the region, but even the language exhibits a rich variety between the Western regions (Maghred), Egypt and the Near East / GCC. If you ever attempted to learn Arabic, you would also know that there are subtle but tricky differences between the day-to-day spoken language in every country, the TV and media language and finally the official written language.

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Ziad Awad is the Founder and CEO of Awad Advisory, an independent corporate advisory firm based in Dubai, UAE, specializing in Mergers and Acquisitions, Business Valuations, MENA Market Entry and Capital Markets Advisory. He is a seasoned investment banker, with 20 years of experience working for Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. Connect with him at www.awadadvisory.com or ae.linkedin.com/in/ziadawad/ .

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  Note: The views, services and experiences expressed in this Featured Post are solely those of the contributor.

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Every American Should Work/Live Abroad

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Every American Should Work/Live Abroad

140801everyam03In just a few days, I’ll have been living and working in the Netherlands for 8 months, with the hope of continuing for at least another few years. This is a pretty big step for someone who never did a semester abroad, and only took a handful of trips overseas. Especially considering I moved to a country where English is not the native language, and I don’t speak a word of Dutch.

Despite what would seem like a massive list of reasons NOT to jump at the opportunity to pack up my life and move thousands of miles away from friends and family, I took the plunge and did it anyway. It was scary. It was stressful. It regularly made me ask myself “What the heck was I thinking?!”

But you know what? It was absolutely worth it and now it’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone who has the opportunity, regardless of difficulties or fears. It’s an experience that can broaden your horizons in so many ways and can make you a better employee/boss through the rest of your career.

  • Learn to Communicate Clearly

As an American, I didn’t realize how much I relied on idioms, cultural references and analogies to express myself and communicate my ideas. When suddenly faced with an office full of coworkers that didn’t speak English natively (though all spoke it well), I had to figure out how to change my communication style. Already my English has started to transform from “American” to a more International form of English, one that is stripped down to its most basic. The benefit of this is a kind of clarity to what is said. I’m a much better communicator now than I was a year ago.

  • Deal With Cultural Differences

As every industry becomes more global with outsourcing, international business deals, partnerships etc. the ability to identify and deal appropriately with cultural differences is more important than ever. In my job at Spil Games, I worked in an office with 30+ different nationalities represented, with my team alone having folks from 8 different countries. Immediately I had to learn how to navigate meetings and conversations with people from all over the world, with each requiring a slightly different approach.

A great example is Dutch bluntness. The Dutch are, by American standards, blunt to the point of being extremely rude. They value direct honesty in almost all cases. If they think your haircut is ugly, they’ll just come out and say it. They aren’t trying to insult you, they’re merely stating what they see as fact, and would appreciate the same direct honesty in return. I had to quickly learn how to receive Dutch feedback without getting angry/insulted, and I also had to learn to give more direct feedback in return. A definite change from the American approach of trying to soften everything so as to not to appear mean or rude.

  • Experience the World From a Different Viewpoint

I’m probably going to piss someone off by saying this, but I don’t necessarily think the American Way is always the Best Way in every aspect of life. This doesn’t mean I think the US does everything wrong, I just don’t blindly accept that it’s the end-all-be-all of How to Do Things Right.

Living overseas, if you approach it with an open mind, can give you a new view on the World, a different one from what you grew up with at home in a way you just can’t get moving around the US (though you could argue that living in California vs Texas is like living in two separate countries). Living in a place where things are done differently gives you a chance to view the world from a new perspective. It can challenge your prejudices and open you to totally new ideas and experiences.

Here are a few ideas I held personally before moving to the Netherlands that have been challenged and while these are small things in the grand scheme, they’re representative of the kind of new viewpoints you might encounter living abroad. Beyond the specific new ideas you discover, it opens up your mind more to the idea that maybe there are other ways to approach a particular problem or situation, and that willingness to explore is a huge advantage in any job.

I’d never want to give up owning a car  As an experiment, we decided to not buy a car immediately upon moving, giving walking, biking and the national train system a try to see if that would meet our transit needs. Turns out it does! I haven’t driven a car since November 2nd, 2013 and it’s only been an annoyance (and not even a major one) once or twice.

Mandated, government regulated healthcare is a nightmare that doesn’t work This is a huge political topic back home that has people fuming with rage, and having worked for an insurance company once I had severe doubts that a health insurance system where you’re mandated by the govt to have coverage wouldn’t be a bureaucratic nightmare that would cost a fortune. Turns out, the Dutch have found a really nice middle-ground approach to the problem I think the US could learn a lot from.

Things Should be Open 24/7  Here in Hilversum, shops close up around 5pm on Saturday, and generally don’t re-open until 1pm on Monday. Grocery stores etc mostly close up by 9pm. Regular shops are shuttered by 6pm. This is such a shock to the system for someone who’s used to pretty much everything being open 24/7 (or close to it). The first few weeks were maddening! I couldn’t just get up and go out to grab something at any time I wanted! I had to wait!

But I found once I got out of the habit of having access to stores at any time of the day or night, I found myself buying less junk. Also, I noticed the fact that everything’s not constantly open, has a slowing effect on life that manifests itself countless ways that results in what I’d consider a far more relaxed lifestyle. A lifestyle I kind of like!

  • Learn to Work With Non-US Companies & Workers

Everyone who’s ever worked with an overseas outsourced company, contractor or partner knows the struggles of trying to fit them into the way business is done in the US. In addition to learning how to better communicate, and appreciate cultural differences, there is a lot to be gained in understanding how different people from around the world work. Knowing more about these differences means you can better plan for them and how they may impact a project.

It’s often mocked in the US, how much vacation time European workers get, or how they stick so hard-and-fast to a 40 hour work week (or sometimes less). Some of it’s jealousy, some of it’s smug satisfaction (Hah! They don’t work nearly as hard as I do!), but it always results in resentment, frustration and extra work when it impacts a project.

If you know about these sorts of differences going into a relationship or project, you can save yourself a lot of pain by building it into your plans and contracts. Sadly, in my experience most US workers enter into relationships with companies and workers around the world expecting them to conform to the American way of working, and it almost always ends badly.

In many ways, living and working overseas teaches you a lot of the soft skills and tools an MBA program promises you. It equips you better to adapt to difficult situations, improve your communication, and learn to view problems from multiple perspectives. While I’ve been out here less than a year so far, I honestly feel that I’ve grown more professionally in these 8 months than I did in the preceding 5 years.

And whenever I do move back to the US, I’ll be a much stronger employee and a better manager for the experience.

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Michael Crassweller is a veteran of the video games industry with 8 years’ experience managing external relationships with global publishing and development partners, internal operational teams, and providing subject matter expertise & operational support across groups in both small and large corporations. Today he’s the Head of Platform Services at BoosterMedia in the Netherlands where he oversees Game QA, Localization, Content Licensing and more. Connect with him at nl.linkedin.com/in/michaelcrassweller/.

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Korea and the Trans-Siberian Railway

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Korea and the Trans-Siberian Railway

At 9288 kilometers, the Trans-Siberian Railway’s distance from Moscow to Vladivostok is more than twice the distance between Boston and San Francisco; and spans across seven time zones. The first construction of this railway started in 1891 and became connected to Vladivostok in 1916. The trip on rail, taken today, takes 6 nights and 7 days long.

With ongoing economic development and cooperation between South Korea and Russia, talks over potentially connecting the South Korea’s railway system from Busan, and of course Seoul, in South Korea to the Trans Siberian Railway have recently been on the table for future consideration. At present, the Moscow to Pyongyang (North Korea’s capital city) is 10,267 kilometers – which is already the world’s second longest published train route.

Talks are currently in progress in East Asia to plug South Korea’s rails into the Trans Siberian Railway which will make moving cargo (shipments) from South Korea to Europe 3 times faster than now.

♦ Value-Added Insight ♦

In the YouTube video below — please view the clip @ 15:50 to 15:55 — it says that 15,000 coolies were recruited from China to work on the Trans Siberian Railroad. Now, typically, the term coolie (as used during the 19th century) was meant to refer to laborers from China or India.

However, and for building the Ussuri segment of the Trans Siberian Railway many of the workers were actually of Korean origin, and not Chinese. Thus, the video is technically inaccurate, and placed false to give credit to, and by saying that workers were from China because the photo (in the YouTube clip) actually shows Korean workers in their video segment which starts from 15:50 and which ends at 15:55.

Was this a cultural gap between East Asia and the West, or was it just an inadvertent mistake (oversight) by the documentary producers? Any Korean, or East Asian sociologist, would have been to easily spot and identify the “Sang-Too” hair-style in the photos which is unique and a distinct characteristic of Korean culture in the East Asian region.

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Compared with the Video Clip, an article which was published November 1899, in McClure’s Magazine, properly shows the same photo of the workers as a “Group of Korean Coolie workmen” in its description.

Please click HERE to see the same photo with the Korean workmen shown with correct acknowledgement (contributions to building the Trans Siberian Railway) and their role in history.

♦ Food for Thought ♦

Even without the participation of South Korea, it is highly likely that Russia will once again increase the utilization of connected railways between China and Europe, via Russia, as an alternative to sea shipping routes. Such collaborative movement coupled with other BRICS activities — such as the Plan to build a Trans-Asia Railway between China and India through Tibet as announced this week — will have impact on world trade and on how the shipment of goods, and tourism, will be done in the future.

Today, more tourists are beginning to take a ferry boat from South Korea to Vladivostok (long vacation); and then on to ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway on to Moscow, or Saint Petersburg, and elsewhere in Europe. Such tourism activity was helped by the recently adopted “no-visa” travel agreement between Russia and South Korea which went into effect earlier this year in January.

♦ Language Footnote 

  • Sang-Too (or otherwises spelt as “Sangtu”) // 상투 // Topknot

♦ Related Outside Stories and External Links via the World Wide Web ♦

♦ More information from YouTube 

Note: The Seoul Tribune takes "copyright and fair use" seriously. However, and as the internet continues on with its evolution, there remain quite a few number of “grey” areas still left open to legal interpretation and/or the Republic of Korea court decision cases. If you notice any violation(s) for attention, please send us a message by using this “Contact Us (click here)” form with your legal opinion so that we may promptly address your concern(s).

 

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Anger Management Tips From Genghis Khan

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Anger Management Tips From Genghis Khan

Listening to a few friends talk about some bickering and retaliatory tactics at their workplaces, I was reminded of a story about the great military warrior, Genghis Khan.

As the story goes, he is out with his forces and has his favorite, most trustworthy falcon with him. While his men are resting, he decides to go into the woods to clear his mind and find some fresh water.

Now, falcons are renowned for their sure, swift striking ability and their razor-sharp vision. Khan lets his falcon loose, and after a few minutes it dives and lands at a trickle of water. Khan approaches, sees the water, and begins to fill his cup.

As he raises his cup, his falcon swoops and knocks it to the ground, spilling the water. Khan curses furiously, then picks up his cup and begins filling it again. And once again, the falcon swoops and knocks it from his hands.

Now, being strong and having won many victories, Genghis Khan is a proud man. Fearing one of his soldiers might see this and ridicule him for letting a simple bird get the best of him, Khan draws a small sword and begins filling his cup for a third time from this slow trickle of water.

The falcon again dives and knocks the cup from his hand. Khan is prepared, and he strikes down his own bird. Infuriated that his bird is dead and his cup is still empty, he walks toward where he determines the source of the water to be. He is astonished to see a poisonous snake, laying dead in a small pool of water. Surely, if he had drunk the water contaminated by this deadly snake, he would have died.

Khan later orders that a statuette be formed in the shape of his slain falcon, and engraved with these words:

“An action done in anger is an action doomed to failure.”

The lesson here is in how you react to fear and anger.

Especially as a leader (or parent) acting in anger doesn’t make you look strong. In fact, it makes you look childish and petty or like a bully. How you respond to negative stimulus at both home and work are what will really define your legacy and have far more impact on how the world perceives you.

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Russia’s Expansion into East Asia: Who is this man in Khabarovsk? Why 1858?

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Russia’s Expansion into East Asia: Who is this man in Khabarovsk? Why 1858?

The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804 to 1806) in North America — which had taken place immediately after the Louisiana Purchase (1803) — is a well known, and a frequently told, story about America’s westward expansion. But, what about the Russians? What about the Russians – you say? Well, how and when did the Russian Empire (1721 to 1917) move all the way from Europe eastward to reach the Pacific Ocean? How was it able to sell Alaska (formerly known as Russian-America, 1733 to 1867) to the United States in 1867. Was Fort Ross (located in California – now Sonoma County) really a Russian establishment between 1812 and 1842?

Although we won’t be able to answer all these questions today, the story of Russia’s expansion into East Asia is a fascinating story. Towards the end of this postings (i.e., bottom of this page), a series of video clips are presented to help readers/viewer further understand and interpret events which are related to Russia in East Asia as presented by Dr. Peter Smith of the Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand. 140531ruseast5000ruble02 Well, and getting back to one of questions, the person who is profiled on Russia’s 5,000 Ruble (currently Russia’s largest) banknote — and the person who’s statue is standing in the city of Khabarovsk — is none other than Nikolai Muravyov (1809 to 1881).

The reason for why he is so well-known to all Russians is because he had been appointed Governor of Irkutsk and Yeniseysk (a.k.a. Eastern Siberia) in 1847 by Tsar Nicolas I  (1796 to 1855); and because he was the person who had led the “Treaty of Aigun (1858)” — signed with the Manchu-Qing Dynasty of China — which set the historic groundwork for Russia’s territorial entry into (and permanent presence in) the Amur basin in East Asia.

Prior to this treaty, there was the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), which had restricted the Russian Empire in the Amur basin. His contribution were enormous since the treaty helped the Russian Empire secure future ports, along the Pacific (ocean) coast — namely Vladivostok — subsequent to the Treaty of Beijing (1860); and later the ice-free port of Port Arthur.

If we consider, the position of the Russian-American Company (RAC, 1799 to 1867) which had a presence in North America, this signing of the Treaty of Aigun meant that the Russian Empire would soon play a significant role in the shaping East Asia’s future. To provide a timeline of other world events during this period; the completion of the Suez canal (Egypt), by the British, was in 1869; and the last spike to connect the first transcontinental railroad across the United States had also taken place during 1869.

♦ Value-Added Insight 

While Russia continued to secure its foothold in East Asia during the late 19th century, it established a closer relationship with the Joseon Dynasty (Korea) by helping King Gojong push out the unwanted advancement of Japan in Korea.

After the Japanese murder of his wife Queen Min (October 8, 1895) who had been firmly against and growing suspicious over Japan’s infringement against Korea’s sovereignty, King Gojong and their son (Sunjong) took refuge at the Russian Legation (below photo) for one-year between February 11, 1896 to February 20, 1897. 140531ruseast5000legation03However, the final moments of Korea’s 500 year-old Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1897) — aka Chosen, Chosun — was quickly coming to an end.

After the Coronation of Nicolas II (May 26, 1896), the Tsar of Russia, what is called the Lobanov-Yamagata Agreement was signed in St. Petersburg June 9, 1896.

This was where the notion of dividing Korea up along the 38th parallel was first discussed between Russia and Japan – a concept that was later raised again by Stalin, many years later, at the Yalta conference in 1945; and a concept of division that became operative after Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces (1948).

In return for protecting the the sovereignty of the Joseon Dynasty, Russia had gained special interests to develop Korean mines and forests (timber concession along the Yalu river). The Russians, also during this period, helped squeezed out mining concession for the United States at the famous Unsan Gold Mines in 1895 from King Gojong.

In response to the power-play of Russia and Japan in Korea, and with the decline of Qing-China, King Gojong returned back to what is now Deoksugung (a.k.a. Deoksoo Palace) in 1897.

Shortly thereafter, King Gojong prepared and gave birth to the “Korean Empire” (1897 to 1910) to proclaim to the world that Korea would independently seek a course of autonomous modernization and function as an equal “Empire” state rather than remain simply as “Kingdom”. This gave him (King Gojong), the title of “Emperor of Korea” rather than being the “King” of Joseon. The title and rank of Emperor was deemed different from that of a King.

With the “Eight-Nation Alliance” — namely, United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, United States, France, Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary — converging into China to collectively suppress the Boxer Movement (1899 to 1901, a.k.a. Boxer Rebellion), and the Xinhai Revolution (1911) the Korean Empire’s (1897 to 1910) relationship with the Chinese Qing Dynasty came to an complete end.

In the meantime, in the year of 1898, the United States was focused on the “Treaty of Paris (1898)” which was a great bonanza for the United States. With a payment that involved $20 million dollars, this Treaty ended the Spanish-America War; and also signaled the end of the Spanish Empire.

As a result of this treaty, the United States acquired (1) the Philippines which it ruled until 1946;  (2) Guam and (3) Puerto Rico – both of which still remain as unincorporated territories of the United States – after obtaining indefinite colonial authority. America’s influence in Cuba also started in 1898 after the Spaniards. 1898 was also the year that the United States House and Senate passed with Newlands Resolution which, in effect, annexed Hawaii to become a US territory.

In Russia, the Great Famine (1891 to 1892), which had left about half-a-million people dead, reawakened Russian Marxism as anger over the Tsar’s government; and with Japan winning the Russo-Japanese War (February 1904 to September 1905); and the Russian Revolution of 1905 which took place during the war gave Japan clear dominance over the Empire of Korea.

With the Anglo-Japanese Treaty in 1902; and the Taft-Katsura Memorandum (a.k.a. Agreement) in 1905; the Japanese had gained international support to push the Russians out of the Korean peninsula until August of 1945 — within 3 months after the end of World War 2 in Europe, as it had discussed at the Yalta Conference (Crimea, February 1945).

Today, the Russian boarder with its East Asian neighbors were redrawn during the San Francisco Peace Treaty (Signed on September 8, 1951) — a.k.a. the “San Francisco System” — between Japan and 48 participating countries.

However, because of the Soviet Union’s strong protest over the draft which was primarily prepared by the British and United States who did not have legitimate claims to the territories (lands) that were being discussed and partitioned, they (the Soviet Union) did not sign this Treaty.

Ironically, and with so many countries participating, nobody from Korea, and also nobody from China, was invited to this Peace Treaty (meeting) in San Francisco.

Moreover, another country which was “not” invited to this “peace treaty” was East Timor, which recently became the first “new” sovereign state of the 21st century — after fighting its way (for more than 50 years) to gain independence — a break away from the San Francisco System — on May 20, 2002.

♦ Food for Thought 

For more than 100 years, the shadows of past imperialistic super powers still linger over the divided Korean peninsula. One one side, it is the American-Japanese alliance supporting (or pushing) South Korea, and on the other side, it is the Chinese-Russian alliance supporting (or pushing) North Korea.

However, the major difference today is the fact that South Korea has persevered to become one of the world’s top 15 economies with a thriving democracy, and North Korea has developed into a country that potentially has, or will soon have, nuclear weapons to defend its regime against. Moreover, China has re-emerged as a superpower after its Opium Wars, and the march onto Beijing by the Eight-Nation Alliance.

For many Koreans, the reasons behind why the morale outcry for human justice and righteousness against Japan — and its fight for independence by the Korean people — were completely smothered by the United States government, in support of the malicious and evil Japanese empire during the late 1800s and early 1900s still remains a great mystery.

The same Japanese empire that gave so much grief to (and inflicted so much excruciating pain upon) the people of Korea, and millions of other people in East Asia, would eventually go on to proudly bomb Pearl Harbor.

Today, the countries in East Asia – including Russia – are closely watching the “good-will” intentions of the United States and its “Pivot in Asia” which should lead to a longer period of peace, stability and prosperity for the people of East Asia.

♦ Language Footnote 

  • Nikolai Muravyov // Nikolai Nikolayevich Muravyov-Amursky // Никола́й Никола́евич Муравьёв-Аму́рский

♦ Related Outside Stories and External Links via the World Wide Web 

♦ More information from YouTube 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Cry for Me Sudan – The Extraordinary Life of Padre Jolly

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Don’t Cry for Me Sudan – The Extraordinary Life of Padre Jolly

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The story of Padre Jolly of the Don Bosco mission in Tonj, South Sudan has touched the lives of many people. The story of his extraordinary life can be seen in the video below within this story.

After becoming a medical doctor, Padre Jolly went on to become a Roman Catholic priest, and then one day traveled to one the poorest places on earth to be with, and to help, the people of South Sudan in a town called Tonj.

Padre Jolly learnt the local Dinka language, and with his background as a medical doctor, help those who were suffering from leprosy and hundreds of other patients. He had a born talent for music, which he used to help the youth of Tonj.

Padre Jolly, the Korean Salesian, past away at the age of 47 (Korean Age, 48). His Korean birth name was Tae-Seok Lee (a.k.a. Father John Lee). The story of his life, and the kindness, that he had taken to Tonj continues to inspire those who are wishing to follow in his footsteps.

♦ Value-Added Insight 

Unlike China and Japan, South Korea has more than 5.14 million followers of the Roman Catholic faith, which is roughly 10.9% percent of South Korea’s population. If you add-in 18.3% who are Protestants, then South Korean Christians are 29.1% percent. In a country where 46.5% claim no formal religious affiliation, Christians have surpassed those who believe in Buddhism (22.8%). In other words, South Korea today is a society of many Christians.

In stark contrast, and in the nation of Japan, 90% percent of the population follow traditional Shinto (religious) customs by visiting their shrines. Even tough only 3% percent of the Japanese claim to be followers of the Shinto religion.

There is a huge “cultural/religious” difference between the Japanese and Koreans in terms of their national mindsets and faith. In Japan, less than 1% percent of the population are Christians (0.7% protestant and 0.2% Catholic). On the other hand, the number of people who follow Buddhism in Japan is near 34% which is a higher number than that of South Korea.

The greatest number of Catholics in Asia are in (1) the Philippines – 77.34 million, (2) India – 19.25 million, (3) Indonesia – 7.35 million, (4) Vietnam – 6.40 million and (5) South Korea – 5.14 million.

It is of no great surprise to people from the West who know that there are many Filipinos who are Catholic, but very few people have knowledge into the number of Roman Catholics elsewhere in Asia.

In history, the very first Roman Catholic missionary priests entered in to China (the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty) and India during the 13th century. The Italian priest John of Montecorvino (1247 – 1328) went to what was then called Khanbalik (now known as Beijing) in 1294, built a church and began translating the New Testament and Psalms in to the local language.

Prior to this visit of this Italian priest, Giovanni da Pian del Carpine (1182 – 1252) was the first European to enter the Mongol Empire (1206 – 1368). In this regards, Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) was not the first European who had visited China.

A more permanent mission in China (1601) was established in 1601 by Matteo Ricci (1552 – 1610) — during the transition period of when China was shifting from Ming (1368 – 1644) Dynasty to the Manchurian-Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Pope Francis will visit South Korea this year (2014) between August 14th to the 18th. The last time the Pope had visit South Korea was in 1984 and 1989 with Pope Paul II.

People say that the Dinka people (tribe) of South Sudan who speak the Dinka language — which is the location of the Don Bosco Mission of Tonj — are the tallest people on earth. The famous NBA basketball player Manute Bol (height 231 cm, or 7 feet 7 inches) was the son of a Dinka Tribe elder. It is interesting that both Father Jolly and Manute Bol were born in the year 1962, and both of them past away (by coincidence) in the same year (2010).

♦ Food for Thought 

In East Asia, the separation of church (religion) and state (government) has been achieved in Korea, Russia and China. In Russia, when the Bolsheviks took power in October 1917, they declared separation of church and state. In China, and after 1949 during the Cultural Revolution period, China’s government officially took an atheist position, and led to a policy of eliminating religion.

If you fast-forward to today in China, 31.4% of people consider themselves as being a religious person, of which approximately 66% are Buddhists. The major 5 religions recognized in China today are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism, whereas Buddhism and Taoism is most widespread. The future role of religion in China is a subject / topic of interest that many people are following these days.

With more than a decade behind us in the twenty-first century, Japan remains the only country in East Asia where a clear separation of state and religion has not been fully put into practice. Despite Japan’s post world war constitution, which had forcefully (by primarily the Americans) separated Japan’s Shinto religion from its government (state); Japan’s political leaders of today still publicly display their worship to Shinto shrines with the argument that is a private (personal) visit while being accompanied by their cabinet ministers.

♦ Language Footnote 

  •  Father John (Tae-Seok) Lee // Padre Jolly // 이태석 신부

♦ Related Outside Stories and External Links via the World Wide Web 

♦ More information from Vimeo 

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