Media’s perspective of foreigners can be better

Edited version published in Joongang Daily, December 10th, 2013.

I have lived in Korea for seven years now. Despite firsthand experience and research on media and education, I still do not claim to be an expert in Korean media culture. No doubt that media are powerful tools that orient us to reality particularly in societies like Korea where the media are a near ubiquitous. The significance of new media in contemporary Korea lies in its proximity; smartphones have become our closest consultants. In the words of Marshall McLuhan four decades ago that “the media work us over completely” couldn’t be truer today. McLuhan is considered the father of modern communications.

It is also common knowledge that the media largely influence our choices: what we buy, what we eat, how we dress and sometimes invokes our thinking on topical issues. Beyond the traditional functions of media to inform, educate, persuade, entertain and set agenda for deliberations, the media too form deep-seating cultural perspectives or worldviews. In fact, McLuhan asserted that all media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values. His claim that the media are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, or unaltered is quite evident in modern life.

In the recent days, there has been a series of publications focusing on multicultural aspect of the Korean Read the rest of this entry »

World Bank presidency and the moral aspiration

[Edited version published by  Joongang Daily – April 9th,]

Dr. Kim and Ms. Ngozi

When the US president Barack Obama recently nominated Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank, debate arose regarding who among the other formidable candidates was best qualified for the top job.

Ms Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister and former Colombian finance minister José Antonio Ocampo are other frontline candidates. Jeffrey Sachs, with massive experience in development and poverty eradication programs would have made a decent entrant. Well, that’s life, isn’t it?

I have no doubt that Dr. Kim, a Korean-American public-health expert, can make an exceptional head of the World Bank having led World Health Organization’s global body on AIDS/HIV, an significant public health body. I also have no doubt that Ngozi, a World Bank savvy insider, can bring in her experience and development perspective which is an important ingredient to regions yearning for crucial development.

And of course, Mr. Ocampo can also inject his expertise of international finance and perhaps a fresher cog to the South-South cooperation which is getting attention in its role in the global economy.

Admittedly, debate still lingers over the candidates and their merit on proficiency in global economic development which is seemingly what the World Bank is about. The debates may continue but what matters at the end of the day is whether the new president Read the rest of this entry »

Wangari Maathai: Audacious Woman of Her Time

Also published in The Seoul Times, Oct. 4, 2011 and The Korea Times, Oct 2, 2011

Sometime in January, 1999, I came face to face with quite a frightening sight in Nairobi. I was just about to cross the road when a speeding anti-riot police truck swerved past followed by a jeep full of policemen with wooden clubs. Panic raged high prompting women to grab their children and flee. Some shops were shut instantaneously. Were it not for my school uniform, a distinctive red shirt and blue pair of shorts, I would not have been allowed into a matatu, public transport van, heading East. I was a high school sophomore.

Inside the van grape vine was churning from every other tongue but the theme was, “Wangari was in the forest planting trees”. You see, I knew Wangari Maathai from my Boy Scout training on environmental conservation, but it took me longer to comprehend why one can be clobbered for planting trees. The television’s chilling images later in the evening and newspaper pictures the following morning are still fresh in my memory – unsettling.

This woman never quit. Sooner than later Wangari Maathai was back in the forest or Uhuru park either attempting to plant trees or dodging tear gas from the authorities. Today Uhuru Park is scenic and Karura Forest where she was beaten by hired guards as the police watched is mostly saved from the hands of land grabbers.

The woman was also unbowed; a fitting title she gave to her biography Read the rest of this entry »

Zambia: Slow but sure, a new sunrise is going up

Also published in The Seoul Times. September 29, 2011

By Patriciah Njambi & Benson Kamary

A new political sunrise in sub-Saharan Africa is seemingly licking away outdated regimes and leaving an aroma of democracy. But this is not to say that democracy is the redeemer of Africa. Not yet. Like any other political system impacted by a corrupted world, democracy can be abused, and seriously so. Even in the West where democracy is hailed as an assuring pragmatic system, it has severally been turned into the ‘tyranny of the majority’ with persecuting claws on the minority and their feeble voice.

Well, at least in the savannah land, the ‘jasmine revolution’ of a kind has just arrived if the recent polls in Zambia are anything to count on.  But unlike the mass action and street battles witnessed in the Arabic Northern regions, sub-Saharan Africa is getting new governments with a reduced violence. Optimistically, minimal or no Read the rest of this entry »

Nairobi Fire: A call for urgent safety measures across Africa

Also published in The Seoul Times

The images of raging fire from Nairobi a few days ago was shocking andthe pictures from its aftermath even more disturbing. But perhaps what might be disappointing is the pattern in which most African governments have provided in the past as a response to slums-related challenges. Will there be seriousness this time around?

The inferno at the Sinai slums near the Kenya Pipeline Company depot in Nairobi is said to have been triggered when a section of oilpipe succumbedto high pressure leading to a spillage. Explosion is claimed to have occurred at the Sinai village where the oil, running through a drainage system, met fire at a time when villagers were scooping oil for various reasons. The outcome of the outburstwascatastrophic with over 100 people dead andmany others still to nursingserious wounds in the hospital Read the rest of this entry »

Politics: Our mandate amid optimism and cynicism

Published by The Precious News, Kenya

Politics: Our mandate amid optimism and cynicism – a Christian view

Political influence is massive in any given society. Over the years, the understanding of what it means to be a politically active Christian has been met with mixed reactions. By politically active I do not mean political activism or being a career political leader. In the simplest form, I hold the view that everyone, particularly the tax-paying citizen is politically active; the context, approach and ideological variations Read the rest of this entry »

Racism: Remembering Luther King’s Legacy in Korea

Published in the Korea Times, Joongang Ilbo and Yahoo-Korea January 21, 2011

Today is the third Monday of January therefore a Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Across the globe, Luther King Jr. has often regarded as a hero of civil rights in America alongside Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin. On the same day this week, I was privileged to sit among ‘panelist of color’ to discuss a rather hot radio show topic of racism in Korea hosted by E-Busan Fm and Busan Ilbo. ( Check

While my four year stay in Korea does not make me an expert on the issue, it could be however Read the rest of this entry »

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