SKM seeks NKF

The Financial Times reports on a new cottage industry in Korea -- matchmaking services pairing South Korean men with women who defect from North Korea:

Defying the gloom among small businesses in South Korea, Mr Hong predicts a rosy future for his enterprise, run from a small office in the suburbs of Seoul. Driven by a haemorrhaging economy, defections from the authoritarian North are soaring, and the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers are women. Of the 2,809 defections registered last year – up from 1,043 in 2001 – 2,197 were women.

In 2006 Mr Hong was the second South Korean to open a specialist agency finding husbands for them, but his niche market is exploding. The 39-year-old has identified 10 competitors, most of them established last year.

Mr Hong’s own match certainly lends credibility to his business. His wife, Kang Ok-shil, defected from North Korea in 2002 and has a crucial foothold in defectors’ social networks. They have named their agency Nam-nam-buk-kyo, an ancient adage meaning “the south’s got the boys, the north’s got the girls”.

Mrs Kang, a 41-year-old former electrical worker, says many North Korean women see South Korean men as less domineering. “North Korean men are more authoritarian. North Korean men have the perception that men are the sky and women are the ground,” she says, quoting a famous Korean aphorism.

South Korea’s unification ministry offers less romantic reasons for the disparity. The men in the North are trapped in military service, often for 10 years or more. Women become the breadwinners and are increasingly involved in cross-border trading, presenting opportunities to defect. Many women are also trafficked into prostitution and hostess bars.

While South Korea has a skyrocketing divorce rate, the company claims that almost none of the marriages they have arranged have broken up. They attribute this to the fact that “North Korean women are more persevering."


Colonialism's last battle: to the victor go the spoils?

Colonialism has some unfinished business. Like a messy divorce, former partners scratch and claw for who gets what and all too often the colonized lost. Their treasures were stolen; their cultural heritage and national heirlooms were boxed up and shipped to places such as France and the United Kingdom. Now, the fights over who gets custody of these artifacts are starting to sway in favor of the former colonies.

Some 2,000 Afghan artifacts went on display at The National Museum in Kabul on October 6, some as old as the bronze-age. These items were stolen and smuggled into Britain while the two countries fought a brutal war.  The museum was founded in the 1920s, after Afghanistan gained autonomy from the British Empire.

The New York Times reports Afghanistan was a treasure trove for ancient wares, given its geographical placement as a crossroads between China, India, the middle-east and Persia. In the early 1990s, after the Soviet invasion and civil war, the museum's director estimated 70 percent of the artifacts were stolen. Then in the name of Islam, the Taliban destroyed ancient statues of Buddha. The 2,000 pieces from the United Kingdom join nearly 13,000 returned from all over Western Europe and the United States after the Taliban fell in 2001.

Returned treasures don't always come so easily. The French government will return five ancient fresco fragments to Egypt after Cairo threatened to end cooperation with the Louvre. Egyptian authorities say the French bought the frescos in 1990, even though they knew they were stolen in the 1980s.

In a move of cultural sanctions, a British museum isn't returning an artifact to Iran due to the "post-election situation."  Iran threatened to cut off cultural cooperation if it isn't returned. The item in question, 6th century BC cylinder is engraved with what is called the first bill of rights. The Persian King Cyrus ordered it to be made. The British say they plan to return the cylinder, but they are just waiting for the "appropriate moment." The Iranians said their delay is just a ploy keep the cylinder and they will end their relationship with the museum if it isn't returned within two months.

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