When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Sharp Turns

Three years ago, a sharp turn — and, perhaps, the usual Korean slapdash engineering and systems operation — caused an intercity ferry to roll. All ships roll in turns, but Sewol kept rolling, and sort-of-stabilized with a profound list… that guaranteed flooding, more list, and the vessel turning semi-turtle and slipping beneath the waves.

The crew did not cover themselves with glory, or even live up to the ancient honor code of the seaman. They saved themselves, or froze, disbelieving, in place. They ordered the passengers to return to their cabins and await rescue.

Rescue wasn’t coming.

The Republic of Korea did not have sufficient SAR resources for the conditions — naturally, it was dark, and the weather foul — or the sheer number of passengers. Few nations’ coast guards or lifesaving services would; they’re great at lifting a family of four from a dismasted yacht, or plucking the 8-man crew of a modern merchant ship from the sea, but hundreds of people would overwhelm anybody, and the ROKs’ lifesaving resources were overwhelmed.

Over 300 souls, most of them passengers, most of them children on a school trip, were extinguished.

This week, the ship was raised… to renew a disappointingly incomplete investigation (which so far has settled blame on the captain, who most certainly did not go down with his ship, and who has been threatened with the death penalty), and in hopes of recovering the remains of nine who are still missing.

The ferry, Sewol, was structurally unsound, overloaded and travelling too fast on a turn when it capsized and sank during a routine voyage off the southwest coast on April 16, 2014.

Bereaved families have been calling for the ship to be raised and for a more thorough investigation into the disaster. Officials also hope to find the last nine missing bodies.

Salvagers started to bring up the vessel, which has been lying on its side at a depth of 144 feet, late on Wednesday, and worked through the night.

Television pictures taken from the air early on Thursday showed the white 460-feet long hull, coated in mud and sediment, breaking above the surface, flanked by winching barges.

“The work needs to be done very cautiously,” Lee Cheol-jo, an official at the Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries, which is in charge of the operation, told a briefing.

It’s a hell of a thing, both that this is necessary, and that it is possible. A Clive Cussler tale come to life, but with no lost treasure or happy ending. And consider this:

A Chinese salvage company has fitted 33 beams beneath the hull with 66 hydraulic jacks inching the ship up.

via Sewol ferry raised in South Korea after THREE years | World | News | Express.co.uk.

There was a time that your go-to guys for marine salvage would have been British or Dutch. Then, there was a time where the know-how rested unquestionably in American firms.

Now, if you want to raise a ship from the depths and solve a mystery, you look to China. (We can barely build warships, any more, and no US merchant ship is ever built except for some government boondoggle). The raising of Sewol is a true extreme-engineering case, and her Chinese salvors are to be congratulated. (Not that they’re done yet, but they’re on track for mission completion).

There’s a lot to be learned from this accident, but we wonder if the highly politicized environment in the Republic of Korea is conducive to such learning. In our experience, only disinterested and professional investigators have any real hope of getting to the bottom (no pun intended) of such a complex accident. Adversarial proceedings and public hearings are almost certain to be useless, at least in terms of understanding what happened, and preventing next time.

Thereby guaranteeing a next time.

27 thoughts on “When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Sharp Turns

  1. AlanH

    We have had major successes in recent decades by Glomar Explorer and its sister ship, and by Deep Ocean Search, Inc., both recovering ships (or parts of them) from depths of 17,000 ft. and more. Raising the Sewol from a depth of 144 feet doesn’t seem to set a world-beating pace.

    When it comes to building Panamax and Capemax dry bulk cargo ships, though, Korea and China can duke it out for the crown.

  2. whomever

    Question for the Navy types: in mild seas, do ships normally have turn rate limitations? I.e., if I was on some typical ship and grabbed the wheel and turned the wheel hard over, does anything bad happen (assuming open ocean with nothing to hit)?

    I have always just assumed that, at least in calm seas, there are no steering inputs that result in a capsize. Correct?

    (confession: I always got the heebee jeebies on the Seattle ferries. They look like a parking garage balanced on a canoe. I always worried a heavy vehicle would pull onto one side and over we’d go.)

    1. Blackshoe

      Second Scipio. A hard turn and resulting heel shouldn’t endanger a ship’s buoyancy, provided that even basic buoyancy calculation (Mother Goose Beats Kids!). There can be some danger with weight shifting if people haven’t properly secured things.

      Now, a hard turn with no warning might send stuff flying-people might be included in that stuff-to a fair amount of damage, but the ship shouldn’t be endangered.

      I was always amazed at how I never perceived a lot of concern for management of weight allocation for individual vehicles on the Puget Sound ferries. Although, all the larger vehicles did go to the middle, and I’m guessing those things had tons of reserve buoyancy.

  3. Cap'n Mike

    From what I have read of this disaster, The Korean Coast Guard was on scene in 30 minutes, which doesn’t seem unreasonable. Everyone that got out of the ship and into the water was rescued, along with some people in the pilot house that the KCG broke the windows to get to. Supposedly when they arrived, the list was too severe to allow them to get on board.

    Reports I saw had the disaster starting at 0850 local time, in daylight with calm seas. I think the reporting of the sinking happening at night came from the foreign press mixing up Local time with GMT. (23:58 UTC, 15 April 2014)

    The sinking was caused by a long string of errors and mistakes, but the excessive loss of life seems to have been caused by the crew ordering everyone not to move around. By the time the abandon ship order was given, it was too late. The 50 to 60 degree list to port made it impossible for the passengers who got the word to get out.

    Such a tragedy.

    1. Kirk

      Oh, sweet babby Jeebus…

      Korean engineering may be good, but… Korean execution? Lordy, lordy, lord…

      The Koreans did not get a visitation from the Japanese lord and savior, Deming. As a result, there’s a lot to be desired with regards to a lot of Korean construction and general production. If they’re doing it for resale, to a foreign company who establishes and holds them to standards? They’ll do good work; if its for themselves…? LOL. Just… Dear, sweet God, laughing out loud.

      You may have missed the numerous collapses of Korean buildings, over the years. Friends of mine were on the old Haengju Bridge when the new one, still under construction, collapsed. That one was kinda forgotten, because a bit later, the Seongsu Bridge collapsed and killed like 32 people.

      Remember, the Han River is about the size of the Columbia, or the Missouri–Care to remember the last time a bridge of that size just up and collapsed anywhere else in the world? It doesn’t happen, does it?

      South Korea had and to some degree, still has, a major problem with quality control. The US Army Corps of Engineers has bankrupted more medium-sized Korean construction companies than anything else, because the money is tempting to them, but the quality control standards…? Very difficult for them to attain, and still make money. You don’t want to know how many times various Korean construction companies have had to be bailed out, or thrown off of jobs on bases over there. It’s tragicomic, in some respects–I could tell you stories that would turn your hair white, relayed to me by a friend who was a construction inspector for the Corps of Engineers over there.

      It is changing, but when you couple Korean fatalism with modern technology…? The results have been less than good. It’s a cultural thing, one that they’re gradually working their way out of, but… Lord, what crap I’ve seen, over the years…

      1. Hognose Post author

        The US had a major highway bridge revert to kit form in the Twin Cities a couple decades back, with a big butcher’s bill.

        KAL is legendary in aviation safety circles… not in a good way. And some of the newer Korean lines make KAL look like a US major. One of the problems is cultural lack of adaptation to crew resource management. The Captain is God Himself. He doesn’t want to hear anything from the copilot except “roger.”

        1. LFMayor

          I think that bridge failure was due to heavy use coupled with poor maintenance/corrosion control boss, not shoddy materials or craftsmanship.

          1. Hognose Post author

            I believe it was a designe error… let me look it up….

            Although the I-35W bridge had been rated under the National Bridge 19. Inspection Standards as Structurally Deficient for 16 years before the accident, the conditions responsible for that rating did not cause or contribute to the collapse of the bridge.

            Source: https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/HAR0803.pdf

            The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was the inadequate load capacity, due to a design error by Sverdrup & Parcel and Associates, Inc., of the gusset plates at the U10 nodes, which failed under a combination of (1) substantialincreases in the weight of the bridge, which resulted from previous bridge modifications, and (2) the traffic and concentrated construction loads on the bridge on the day of the collapse. Contributing to the design error was the failure of Sverdrup & Parcel’s quality control procedures to ensure that the appropriate main truss gusset plate calculations were performed for the I-35W bridge and the inadequate design review by Federal and State transportation officials. Contributing to the accident was the generally accepted practice among Federal and State transportation officials of giving inadequate attention togusset plates during inspections for conditions of distortion, such as bowing, and of excluding gusset plates in load rating analyses.

            It’s really a very complex systems failure. The gusset plates that ultimately let go were never considered in anyone’s calculations because “everyone knew” they were among the strongest parts of bridge design and would be the last to fail. Even the computer models leave them out. (Or did, until the center span of the bridge fell 100+ feet with 111 vehicles on it. Amazingly, only 13 lives were lost; 145 people were injured which I believe counts some injuries among rescuers.

            There’s quite a decent discussion of the design process and failure at around pp. 127-135 but the whole report is interesting.

            Same problem we have in the airline industry. We (first world) have solved most of the easily soluble and obvious causes of mishaps, so when we get one, it’s either extreme noncompliance with safety best practices (Asiana), or an improbable chain of unforeseen circumstances. (AA 587 in New York). Indeed, the accident chains have gotten weird enough to allow many accidents to produce conspiracy theories.

        2. runalltheway

          Wow, thanks Kirk and Hognose, I’ve learner something for the day! Will make sure I avoid flying KAL…

        3. whomever

          There’s also Galloping Gertie (design flaw) and the 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington that … stopped floating (access hatches left open during construction + a heavy rainstorm).

  4. Boat Guy

    As a one-time mariner I found this to be a bit … amusing ” … it capsized and sank during a routine voyage… ” – purty sure the whole capsizing thing would put the voyage into the “not routine” category even for pretty careless folks.
    Only Koreans I’ve worked closely with were their Marines; those were some HARD dudes.

    1. Kirk

      It is an unfortunate thing, but HARD does not always imply “smart”, in terms of “will we survive this particular bit of foolishness…?”.

      I love Koreans. I really do–But, the culture over there is flat-out ‘effing bizarre to Western eyes. There’s a fatalism and a cultural mindset that says “If I’m cast up into this role, this is now “me”, and that’s how I’ll behave…”. The Germans are sort of analogous, in that they’re very much driven by what they think they’re supposed to be doing in a particular role, but with the Koreans, it’s turned up to about twelve. Literally.

      Friends of mine lived over there for years, worked with the Koreans intimately, and the big thing they noticed was how Koreans had particular and specific ideas of how they were supposed to behave based on their job/role in society.

      A friend of theirs had a son who was the biggest party-boy, student protestor type you ever could imagine. Literally days after he got hired on with Daewoo or Hyundai (I forget which it was…), he morphed into Mr. Grey Suit corporate salaryman–To the point where they didn’t recognize him at a family function. His whole formerly free-wheeling personality changed, and it was like he assumed the role of corporate hatchetman as though he were an actor playing a part in real life. Because, that’s what he was hired to do, and what he was doing–Being Mr. Corporate Bad Guy, negotiating with the unions and so forth. Considering he’d been a student protestor against those companies not so long ago, well… It was dislocating. But, as explained by their Korean friends, that’s what students do: Protest. And, when you’re no longer a student, you do what the hell you’re supposed to do, whatever that is.

      We do some of this, in our culture–Anyone who has ever watched one of their newly-promoted junior NCOs start acting out in real life the things he’s seen in movies, like the various portrayals of NCOs and officers in leadership situations, well… You know what I’m talking about. But, in Korean culture, it happens to a degree that is absolutely stunning, looking at it from the outside. I completely get how Koreans were the worst of the worst, as Japanese camp guards for POWs in WWII–So long as they were in that role, they adapted to it, and followed it to a “T”. Same-same with the Korean pimps and whore mistresses that managed the comfort girls for the Japanese Imperial Army–The majority of those were Korean, exploiting other Koreans. But, see, they don’t get the same hatred the Japanese do for the comfort girl situation, because they were simply doing what they were supposed to do… So, they are less blameworthy. It’s a weird deal–The Koreans know that most of the pimps were fellow Koreans, but the people they blame, perhaps somewhat rightly, were the people who hired those pimps. The pimps, you see, were simply doing that which pimps are supposed to be doing…

      Or, so it appears from the outside, looking in. I’m sure that a really self-aware Korean would have a different view, perhaps, but I’ve talked this over with a couple of expat South Koreans who grew up mostly in American culture, and they agree with my broad points. Mostly. They’re not as understanding about the whole thing as I am, and one of them flatly hates Koreans worse than the KKK feels about American blacks. I guess being abandoned as a baby will do that to you…

      1. Quill_&_Blade

        I know that there are long standing hostilities between the Japanese and Koreans; but IIRC, in the series Shogun, only the Samurai class had names. All others were addressed by their job title, is this related?

        1. Kirk

          Japan and Korea are wildly different cultures. In Japan, the warrior had primacy, and the scholar…? Not so much. Korea? Scholars trumped warriors, period–To the point where the warriors had very little social status.

          It’s a very interesting place, when you go digging into the details. Although an awful lot of stuff got transferred from China to Japan via Korea, the Japanese absolutely loathe the idea of that even being possible. They were doing excavations on the old Imperial burial mounds in Japan, and when they started finding Korean artifacts…? All that work stopped dead. The roots for Korean-Japanese antipathy run deep, way further back than the latest episode of colonialism that started back at the turn of the 19th Century.

          Korean history is amazing–Google up the “Turtle ships”, and marvel at the technical sophistication of them, compared to what we had going here in the West at the same time.

          Like I said, I really like and respect the Koreans, but… Wow, is that a weird and wonderful culture to try to understand.

          1. Hognose Post author

            OTR sent me a mountain of photos for a photo essay on the Korean Military Museum, which will probably run later this week insha’allah.

      2. Mike_C

        >Koreans had particular and specific ideas of how they were supposed to behave based on their job/role in society
        Interesting to hear that. My experience with ROK Koreans is limited, but Pretty Korean Girl (who grew up in a small town and attended college in the ROK) tells me it was a revelation when she came to the US (Texas yet) for her PhD. “One day I suddenly realized no one cared what I did, so long as I didn’t hurt anyone. People would mind their own business and leave you alone here!” This was tremendously liberating, heady stuff. Which is a long way of saying that the behavior/role thing is not merely internally enforced.

        > [ROK Marines] were some HARD dudes.
        No doubt; some of the stories I’ve heard….
        But I wonder how representative they are of the general military-age male ROK population these days. I was recently at an international medical research conference and was amused and saddened by the proportion of east Asian young men (Korean and Japanese, and these mostly with at least one doctoral degree, mind you) who literally seemed unable to take care of themselves: e.g. giving their presentations wearing suits or suit-vests buttoned up askew (I mean, it just hangs wrong when you’re off by a button, for goshsakes), hair every which way, and so forth. These guys weren’t dirty or smelly, just fantastically unkempt as well as fragile looking. (The mainland Chinese were in another category I won’t even get into here.) I don’t think those guys looked like the result of a 5-year old dressing himself for ironic reasons either; if anything I think they were the kind that went to school, then to cram school (hakwon/juku) after hours their whole lives while mom dressed, groomed and fed them so they wouldn’t be distracted by having to actually take care of activities of daily living. Maybe it’s just my ornery Murrican perspective, but that can’t be a good way to produce independent-thinking adults, what I would call a “citizen” as opposed to a drone or consumer.

        Now admittedly, ROK Marines and pasty academics are probably on opposite ends of many spectra, so neither are likely to be representative of the general population.

        1. Kirk

          Korea: Weird country, and I wouldn’t want to bet one way or another how the current generation of young men will react to war. Could be bad, could be good… Could be really, really weird.

          My KATUSA troops were… Illuminating, as far as culture goes. And, seeing them on my first tour, back around ’90? When I went back ten years later, it was a different river, indeed. Some ways, they improved; some ways, they didn’t. The KATUSAs were always a bit of a false thing, because the typical wealthy Korean tried to get their kid into that program, perceiving it as being “easier” than the ROKA.

          One thing is for sure: The KATUSAs I was dealing with in ’90 were not good physical specimens. For whatever reason, the rule of thumb was that we had things which were described as being a “two-GI lift”, and the same item would be termed a “four-KATUSA lift”. You’d be out on a jobsite doing physical labor with those kids, and the facts of life were pretty ugly, insofar as being a Combat Engineer with them. Loading timbers by hand up onto a HEMTT? LOL… I’d be on one end of a 16″ 8X8 timber, and there’d be three-four KATUSAs on the other, and they’d still have trouble getting the damn thing up onto the truck. Those poor kids were all scrawny little guys, without a lot of meat on ’em. If it came to blows…? Typically, you could count on about four-five KATUSAs to a GI, and the result would be a bunch of broken Koreans. We had a mini-race riot where I was, due to some really inspired leadership that had been in place before I got there, and… Wow. It was not pretty–I had duty that day, got informed of what was going on, and went down to the Recreation Center to deal with it. As I got down there, it was like watching an explosion as all the miscreant troublemaker KATUSAs we had tried to un-ass the building through two doors, all at once. More got injured trying to get away from the fight they’d picked with a mixed-race group of GIs than got injured in the “fight”, which was more of a slap-fight between puzzled barroom brawlers and a bunch of college kids that thought their classes in Tae Kwon Do meant something. The ROKA Staff NCO we had in the battalion was emphatically not happy with those clowns, and a bunch of them wound up over in the ROKA after all that–I understand that the rationale was that it was fine to pick a fight with Americans, the riot was kinda embarrassing, but… Losing? At like, 30-to-1 odds? LOL… He was pissed. He was already unhappy with those kids, anyway, because the battalion had been a dumping ground for connected troublemakers already, and he’d been sent there to clean up the place because the unit was transitioning from 8th Army support to 2ID, simultaneous with a change from a CBT (Heavy) to a CBT (Combat) role. Which, if you know the US Army Engineers, is a serious sea-change in terms of culture and attitude–Most of the Americans around at that point were all Neanderthaler Combat Engineers, vice the previous regime most of these KATUSAs had known, who were the Heavy guys. The change was not something they’d really cottoned on to, but it became brutally apparent as the battalion left and moved north into 2ID areas.

          Anyway, when I went back ten years later, to the same damn company in the same damn battalion, the KATUSAs had changed a hell of a lot. Might have been due to the fact that the ROKA didn’t screw around with putting second-rate troops up in 2ID, with the idea they might need to rely on us come war, but the KATUSAs were much physically stronger, and had more on the ball by that point. Where they’d been noticeably smaller than the average GI when I was there around ’90, they were not as easy to tell apart from the GIs by size alone, in 2000.

          I haven’t been over there in awhile, but I suspect that the ROKA will acquit itself honorably if war comes. They might not be quite as physically hard-core, but the troops will probably be a lot smarter about doing things with electronics and drones, and once they get pissed at the North for interrupting their games of StarCraft…? Yeah; hell hath no fury like a gamer whose game you’ve managed to screw up.

        2. Boat Guy

          NOBODY’s Marines are ” representative of the general military-age male population…”
          Least not any of them I’ve known (ROK, Brit, Philippines).

          1. Mike_C

            >NOBODY’s Marines are ” representative of the general military-age male population…”
            Good point!

            Re the circa 1990 KATUSAs: apart from the usual child-of-wealth/privilege issues (I seem to remember an Aesop piece on the Inventor of the Internet playing summer-school cadet or something) I wonder how much of that was “I’m too good for this kind of work” mindset because of being from the “educated” class. Anecdote in point: I’ve helped Pretty Korean Girl move apartments twice in the last 18 months or so. The first time she hired two movers, but they got stuck in traffic, so I ended up loading the entire U-haul truck on the “from” side and unloading (and carrying up 4 flights) a third of the truck on the “to” side. So when she moved again it was pretty clear that I could move all of PKG’s stuff myself, especially since the new building had that marvel of technology called an elevator. I pointed this out to PKG but she said “My mom said to not let you do any moving. She says it’s okay for you to drive the U-haul, but no moving. She was very embarrassed and upset when I told her about last time.”
            “Why’s that?”
            “Because you’re educated!”
            Well, that just about blew my mind because even with my semi-Confucian upbringing, I was taught that there was nothing wrong with or demeaning about physical labor. Anyway, on her mom’s advice PKG hired one mover; she also recruited some Korean post-doc from her lab. Post-doc was a good-sized fellow for an Asian, about 6-foot and well built. Mover was a little guy (about my size, but wiry and tough looking) from Bulgaria as it happens. Well, you guessed it, we two skinny little shits ended moving 90% of PKG’s stuff, including all the furniture and boxes of heavy stuff, while Post-doc took his time eating the breakfast we’d brought him, and moved a few lamps and things like that. This, incidentally, did not escape PKG’s attention in the AAR, and she noted that it was probably the cultural thing of “I have a PhD, I’ll let the ‘lower types’ do the grunting.”

          2. Kirk

            @ Mike C,

            You bring up an interesting facet of Korean culture, one that creates a lot of problems for US NCOs.

            On the one hand, physical labor is seen as extremely demeaning to Koreans; if you’re doing it, you’re very obviously not a leader. The other hand is? If you’re not carrying your fair share of the load, then your American troops think you’re a piece of shit. It’s Hobson’s choice, really… And, given the ratios of US to KATUSAs, well… Guess who gets cultural shock?

            It’s one reason a lot of KATUSA troops never quite “get” the US Army; the egalitarian ethos we have towards physical labor is very hard for them to understand or adapt to, and the hard part is that they lose all respect (in some individual cases, proportions varying) for US NCOs and officers that they see actually, y’know, doing stuff. Meanwhile, if you don’t “do stuff”, the Americans have no respect for you… A lot of what the Army terms “Expert Authority” stems from actually demonstrating you know your shit. When you do that in front of Koreans, you’re generally signaling that you’re a very low-status sort, ‘cos your hands are dirty…

            Had a Major with us on one exercise I went on with I Corps Headquarters–I think it was the last official “real” Team Spirit, where US troops actually deployed to Korea en masse for an exercise. This Major had been former junior enlisted, served in Korea, and been a driver over there. When his assigned driver freaked the hell out in Korean traffic, he took over and did the driving. Unfortunately, he had never had the experience of working around Koreans at that level, and did not know he was making a huge mistake when he allowed them to see him get out from behind the driver’s seat of his vehicle. Since this was when he was arriving at a rather large staff meeting with the ROKA guys, and they all saw him…? Yeah. We literally got a memorandum from the US Army one-star who was the liaison with their higher headquarters, officially “un-inviting” him from participation in the exercise. We had to move him to a position where he was working only with US troops, and put another officer who wasn’t “tainted” in his position. Right after that, they started having some impromptu little “cultural awareness” classes with the O’s over just this point. It wasn’t so bad with the KATUSA types, because they were used to seeing it, but the ROKA…? Huge, huge faux pas.

            It’s all a part of that “scholar” culture, in Korea, and I suspect it plays a role in their piss-poor execution of things. The guys out on the working edge of the projects, the ones turning wrenches and digging the holes? They can’t say shit to the “white-collar experts” parachuted into the factories or the project sites. If you’ve ever seen a Korean engineer or project manager arrive on a work site for construction, you’ll be totally amazed at the deference and respect they get–But, that’s tempered with the fact that nobody is willing to tell them they’re wrong, or really make suggestions about much of anything.

            This is a major flaw in Korean culture, in my opinion. You see it evidenced throughout the whole thing, whether it’s a command deck on a KAL aircraft, the ROKA, or anywhere else in society. It’s very hierarchy/position driven, and they are so used to falling in on hierarchies that they literally can’t function effectively without having one. Put ten Koreans who are strangers to each other into a room together to perform a task, and they’ll spend 90% of the available time trying to figure out who is where in the hierarchy, instead of working.

            I guarantee you that played a role in this ferry disaster. The majority of those dead kids were locked into their mindset as passengers, and deferred to the crew, doing as they were told. With an American passenger list, there would have been a lot less deference, and a whole lot more “looking out for themselves”, as the passengers likely would have observed that the crew didn’t know what it was doing, or wasn’t doing anything, and then the passengers would have self-organized to do something. Maybe the wrong thing, but they still would have told the crew to fuck off, and likely the death toll would have been at least a little lower.

            North Korea ain’t what it is because the Korean people and culture have an inborn antipathy for authority and dominance… That whole regime is what it is because of inherent cultural traits and vices only Koreans are really prone to. I think you could make a damn good case to say that Koreans are natural victims for authoritarian communism… Or, for that matter, authoritarianism of any kind.

            One thing that plays into US-Korean issues with each other is that when shit like that dumping of formaldehyde into the Han river, or those girls getting run over by a tank (which was actually an AVLB from my old company…) happens, the Koreans naturally assume that there is a some organizational plan behind those things, instead of misadventure. They assume a monolith, because that’s how they view the world, and thus, everything happens because someone inimically willed it to. The idea that misadventures happen? Alien; they do things to a cohesive group plan, so they assume we do. The facts of the cases, like that the guy who actually dumped that formaldehyde being a Korean national in the employ of the Army, and having deliberately ignored regulations and SOP to make his job easier…? Completely over the Korean’s heads. Same-same with that AVLB incident–It couldn’t have been that the girls were foolishly trusting that they could be seen, or that their father was partially responsible for having encroached on training area land, where they knew massive armored vehicles transited on a daily basis, it had to be that the US Army intentionally planned to run those girls over, probably because their dad was farming on the training area lands…

            Relations with Koreans are fraught with issues due to this stuff, and it’s one reason I’m fairly confident the Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese are never going to dominate the world. At least, until their cultures significantly change. Hell, we’ve got issues with slavish adherence to hierarchy and “experts” ourselves, but in those cultures…? The ‘effing dial is turned up to about twenty, broken off, and welded in place. The North Koreans are a symptom–By this time, any other population in the world would have revolted, and replaced the Kim regime with something that worked. Not the Koreans–They’ve got that crap baked so deeply into their culture that I’d speculate that it might be f**king genetic, at this point.

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