KIS’s New Badminton Team

A new sports team.

Juniors Peter Ha and Eric Kweon, after prolonged efforts to reinstate the KIS badminton team, have recently obtained approval from Athletics Director Mr. Vreugdenhil.

Badminton is now an official winter KIS sport for the first time in almost four years, and will be competing in assorted sporting events such as KAIAC and AISA, coached by either Mr. Ashok Shanishetti or Ms. Christy Yang. Each of the boys and girls teams will be admitting 10-13 members. Peter and Eric’s request for badminton to be classified as a varsity sport is under review by the administration. Those who are interested in joining the team can fill out this interest form.

–William Cho (’21)

 

 

Why are lunch prices rising?

It’s not greed. Really.

“Why are the prices rising?” ask many waiting in line in the cafeteria. They’re right— burgers, once well within ₩5,000, set us back ₩5,800, and Korean meals jumped more than ₩1,000 to ₩5,200 in a two-year span. As someone who had been at KIS since the entry of Hyundai Green Food as the school’s official caterer, I’ve felt the impact of the gradual increase of lunch prices. However, we tend to view these price increases as something unjustified that’s done merely for the increase of profits and in the spirit of greed. The economic trends in recent years offer sufficient explanation.

First, it must be established that Hyundai Green Food’s dependence on the Korean economy is significant. Despite the fact that the company tends to source its beef from Australia and certain types of rice from Vietnam, its ingredients are mostly grown or raised in Korea; fluctuations in prices of ingredients in Korea will most certainly impact Green Food. Since the 2000s, South Korea’s minimum wage has been steadily increasing until the past few years, where President Moon Jae-In’s economic policies in recent years have driven the minimal wage up in dramatic increments.

ROK Minimum Wage
South Korea’s hourly minimum wage. From tradingeconomics.com.

The first conclusion that can be drawn is that the Hyundai Green Food is probably paying higher wages to the cafeteria workers in order to keep up with the rising minimum wage. Of course, this change is advantageous for our cafeteria’s workers, but not for the company. Low-cost labor keeps its products and services cheap and accessible to a larger audience. Then, we must consider Green Food’s supply chain.

This supply chain involves agriculture and animal husbandry, labor-intensive fields of work that involve many unskilled laborers that are often paid low (sometimes, illegal) wages. Prices for agricultural and animal products are determined by numerous factors, the some of the most important of which are the production and circulation costs, both of which are directly impacted by the Moon administration’s wage increases. The produce and livestock companies that supply Green Food have to pay higher wages to the manual workers that grow and raise the products and the truck drivers that drive the food to wherever it needs to go; these wage increases ultimately drive the costs of food up due to the fact that companies increase prices in order to cover for the additional expenses the increased salary incurs. In summary, with every step of the food’s journey from the field to the cafeteria, the current economic situation forces increased expenditure by all the parties involved, a chain reaction which makes its way to us and forces us to pay more for lunch. So, to those that say that these price increases are motivated by corporate greed, here’s your answer. Don’t jump to conclusions.

— William Cho (’21)

Sources will be provided upon request.

Image: Hyundai Group

 

The Malaysia Corruption Scandal–How Did They Do It?

How did the largest kleptocracy case in the world play out?

The biggest corruption scandal of the 21st century is finally coming to an end. A single leader of a single country carried out a con game against not just his people but the entire world. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, currently awaiting a final decision by the jury, has been charged for more than 40 crimes including embezzlement of over $4 billion from the state fund. Mahathir Mohamad, who came to power last May in the general election, has openly denounced Najib and immediately barred him from fleeing the country. When the police forces searched Najib’s properties, they seized hundreds and thousands of luxury goods: 234 pairs of sunglasses, 423 watches, 567 handbags and 12,000 items of jewelry as well as 30 million dollars of cash in various currencies. By far, the Malaysia Scandal is “the largest kleptocracy case,” as US Attorney General Loretta Lynch described.

How is a 12 billion-dollar international fraud involving Hollywood celebrities and more than 12 countries worldwide possible?

It all began in 2009 when Najib Razak was elected Prime Minister of Malaysia. One of his first actions was creating the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-run investment company which was supposed to promote economic growth and lead Malaysia to become a more developed, sustainable nation. Its announced initiatives included purchasing privately owned power plants and building a new financial district in Kuala Lumpur, which would understandably lead to astronomical costs. In order to raise funds for his “projects,” Najib issued international bonds for state-owned oil and in the process took advantage of connections with the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), Goldman Sachs, and Deloitte to establish trust among the international economic society. As a result, Najib successfully raked in bond sales totaling 6.5 billion dollars. However, instead of reaching towards its initial goals, 1MDB was exploited by Najib and other high-ranking officials.

In the center of the scheme was Jho Low, also known as the “Asian Gatsby.” As the main conductor, Low managed to bribe famous Hollywood celebrities and renowned public figures and utilize them as tools of “word of mouth” to promote his 1MDB business. It seemed that Najib and Low would live in luxury forever. However, the US Department of Justice reported how the pair used the money from 1MDB to buy real estate in the United States, rare artwork, and custom-made jewelry.

Corruption is seldom uncovered when the corrupt are in power. However, at the time of the regime change, the power of the commander-in-chief is weakened, the inner circle of the politician handing the torch off to the new administrative team. With this newfound (minimal) instability, criticism of the Malaysian people against Najib and his party intensified. In the process, Mahathir recognized that he could rise into power once again and resolve this financial crisis.

Regarding the Malaysian case, it is hard not to notice a striking similarity with South Korea’s presidential scandal in 2016: a leader can lead his or her country to not only prosperity but also drive it towards chaos. In order to prevent such political and economic fiascos, it is necessary to establish global and international apparatuses and mechanisms of anticorruption so that the behavior of politicians can be scrutinized and regulated for any foul play.

–William Cho (’21)

Featured Image: Associated Press

The Growth of the Self-Help Industry: An Economic Examination

In the modern digital age, information has never been as accessible as it was in the past. However, such access can also be a double-edged sword, not only providing us with the ability to gain knowledge with the touch of a button but also making us painfully aware of our own perceived inadequacies. This seems to have given fuel to one particular sector, the self-help industry, which, in recent years, has experienced tremendous growth. This industry focuses on self-improvement in basically all aspects of life and aims to help people achieve their goals ranging from appearing more physically fit to overcoming depression or anxiety. As of 2017, the self-help industry was worth $9.9 billion with a projected average annual growth rate of 5.6%. With the growth of digital platforms, the self-help industry has now become an integral part of mass media: its branches include but are not limited to books, TV shows, websites, and even seminars and smartphone apps. So, what has fueled this industry’s financial success over the last twenty years? The aim of this report is to explore the economic rise of the self-help industry by examining current income inequality as a possible source driving the self-help industry’s demand.

To better understand the enormous demand for the self-help industry’s services, it is important to first explore the current economic climate in the United States. Over the last forty years, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. Today, it is estimated that the top 10% of the population, in terms of income, owns over 80% of the nation’s wealth. According to a Senate testimony by Melissa Kearney of the Brookings Institute, since 1975, “families in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution saw their income increase by a mere 3.7 percent while those in the top five percent saw an average income gain of 57 percent.” Much of this began in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan, who instituted a series of tax cuts and overturned many business regulations. These changes have led to a hollowing out of the middle class with the rich getting wealthier while the poor remain mired in financial difficulties. However, with the growth of technology, people are constantly bombarded with images of wealth. Through the Internet and social media, people see that there is great wealth to be had, and those in the bottom half naturally desire a way up the financial ladder. This has led to the enormous demand for self-improvement, which has, in turn, created a robust market for the growth of the self-help industry.

With this growing market, those with expertise seized the opportunity to monetize the information they had. They saw that there was a large segment of the population that desired professional development with the goal of advancing themselves economically and knew that they could provide those people with the help they desired for a price. Self-help books represent one area that reflects this popularity: this sub-industry is worth $800 million as of 2017 with a 6% projected annual growth rate. For example, the book Mindsight, one that advocates a clinical and scientific approach to self-improvement, is written by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, a medical doctor and professor at UCLA In the “health” genre, Siegel is the 16th most popular author, and Mindsight is currently ranked in the top 100 books of this genre. App developers have also taken advantage of this opportunity. Self-improvement apps have generated enormous revenue despite being relatively new; the top ten apps in the United States earned about $15 million in 2018’s first quarter alone, and the most popular app in the United States, Calm, has a net worth of $250 million and was named the 2017 Apple App of the Year. The app’s content creator and bestselling author Tamara Levitt’s approach of mindfulness has been implemented by schools, hospitals, companies, and prisons in prior years. In the field of lectures and seminars, the TED Talks also show the self-help industry’s popularity. These short videos have been known to be reliable ways in which people can learn about and improve themselves. The organization behind the TED Talks has hosted many experts giving advice on self-improvement, such as businessman Dan Gilbert and psychologist Shawn Achor. TED’s reliability comes from its policy that “science and health information shared from the stage must be supported by peer-reviewed research.” Indeed, the 25 most popular TED Talks have garnered an average of 26 million likes, enormously contributing to the popularity of the self-help industry.[15] In these cases, the widespread popularity of the self-help industry has been enhanced by the work of experienced, credible people who aim to help others by sharing their expertise and knowledge. This trend shows how the rising demand for self-improvement has fueled the exponential growth of this market as people flock to take advantage of the opportunities this market provides.

Yet, there is also a darker side to the self-help industry’s growth over the past few years. While there are many legitimate sources of information that are meant to help others and take advantage of an economic opportunity, there are also those who wish to prey on the enormous demand for self-improvement. Some people, with the sole desire to exploit this social trend to their benefit, advertise bogus self-improvement programs and products that do no more than waste the consumer’s time and money, sometimes by using the power behind a brand to market useless products. One important example is Trump University, thrown into the spotlight by David Fahrenthold’s 2016 exposé for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. According to Steve Gilpin, a former professor at Trump University, Donald Trump used his reputation as a real estate mogul to draw in students who paid about $1,495 for a “one year apprenticeship” and up to $35,000 for “Gold Elite” classes. Other examples of possible scams include motivational speakers like Tony Robbins and Dave Ramsey, who are both widely popular; as of 2018, Robbins has about 7 million followers on social media, and Ramsey has about five million. In 2016, the total revenue of motivational speakers was $207 million and was projected to grow about 3% a year. Some, however, question the methods and teachings of these speakers. The Motley Fool, a Virginia-based private wealth management company, has found that Dave Ramsey’s advice on retirement planning could leave people economically unprepared for retirement. More recently in 2016, the famed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his personal chef released a $200 cookbook detailing Brady’s strict diet. The outrageous cost of the book, according to Brady’s website, is justified by its “natural wood [cover],” and “laser-etched TB12 logo and title.” It is Brady’s popularity, though, that has caused many to accept this unreasonable price tag. Although this part of the self-help industry is comprised of people using their fame to market products, the actual benefits of their “advice” are largely questionable. Yet, as more and more of these pseudo-experts join the market, the self-help industry continues to grow at an exponential rate.

Some may argue that the growth of the self-help industry is merely a natural result of the growth of technology. While technology may partially explain the enormous growth of this industry, it is important to also factor in the role income inequality plays in its popularity. The widening of the income gap, along with the advancement of technology, has led people to desire a better life. Seeking improvement through the traditional methods of attaining a degree may not be feasible for those in the bottom half of the income bracket. This demand has created a market for those seeking to capitalize on their talents or knowledge. Add to this those who want to prey on the people who seek help by fooling them out of their money and it is understandable why the self-help industry has been so financially successful over the past few years.

– William Cho (’21)

Featured Image: Grist.org

Quiz Bowl Takes the Lead

Last Saturday, the Quiz Bowl team competed at the National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT) Korea Invitational tournament at Seoul Foreign School. Fighting through ten grueling rounds of questions concerning a wide range of topics from geology to pop culture, the KIS teams came in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th places, coming home with a trophy. “First time a team of mine came in top three,” Coach Joo beamed as he boarded the bus.

The Quiz Bowl team, formed by Chemistry teacher Mr. Jeong S. Joo in the second semester, now boasts about twenty members who attend weekly two hour-long practices on Wednesdays or Thursdays. Sometimes, the Quiz Bowl team members take on our very own KIS teachers—Mr. Russ Williams (U.S. History), Mr. Chien-Fa Kao (Chemistry), and Ms. Kim Bunting (Biology), are regular visitors. Last month, a visiting student from MIT and a member of MIT’s Quiz Bowl team joined a practice session

Quiz Bowl, despite its reputation as an extraneous activity, demands a lot but also teaches its participants just as much. A successful Quiz Bowl player not only has an impressive breadth and depth of knowledge but also possesses extraordinary quick recall ability—the player must beat his opponents to the punch when answering a question. The successful Quiz Bowl player also displays excellent teamwork and self-control, skills that also aid the player in real life. He/She must be capable of communicating efficiently with teammates to deduce the answer to a difficult question within seconds but should also be careful enough to wait for the reader to offer more clues to verify the exactitude of his/her answer.

“Quiz Bowl is, if you look at it, where you share and learn new knowledge. It is only natural that is academic; what you learn in a classroom is always bound to come out,” says Edward Yang (9), a top scorer at the Korea Invitational Tournament. Grace Lee (10), another star Quiz Bowl team member echoes this sentiment: “I think it’s very multidisciplinary; it fits how knowledge is like a web and how everything connects.”

In the end, however, it’s about having fun with other KIS students. Yoon Sung Kim (10) describes Quiz Bowl as “[combining] the competitiveness of team competitions while also allowing for each Quiz Bowl player to contribute and have fun.” For Brian Song (12), Quiz Bowl “is a place for [him] to get [his] mind off off schoolwork by answering trivia questions.” Like him, other senior members of the team are excited for their final overseas KIS school trip to take part in NAQT tournaments.

Currently, selected members of the Quiz Bowl team are competing in Hong Kong in the Hong Kong Invitational Tournament. In March, the KIS Quiz Bowl team will be participating in the Asian Quiz Bowl Championship in Shanghai.

– William Cho (’21)

Featured image: Mr. Jeong Joo

Chris Park (’19) contributed to this report.

Walled Off from Reality

“Wal-mart… do they like make walls there?” — Paris Hilton

By now, it is evident that Donald Trump thinks of the border primarily as a threat. Over it flow criminals, drugs, and fictitious “unknown Middle Easterners.” Trump seeks to seal the border as tightly as possible with a “big, beautiful wall” while also cracking down on legal routes of entry into the United States. The wall, according to Trump, can defend the nation’s vulnerable underbelly and restore American sovereignty and, of course, greatness.

Even if the impenetrable barrier were to funnel all cross-border traffic to legitimate ports of entry, real challenges at the border can hardly be addressed. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Central American refugees have arrived, traveling as family units who voluntarily surrendered themselves to US authorities to apply for asylum. A wall could probably stop them crossing the border, but they are still legally entitled to claim asylum at a port of entry.

At the present moment, the immigration court system has a backlog of over 800,000 refugee cases and desperately needs more staff and resources to give asylum seekers fair and effective hearings. The wall won’t help. Meanwhile, due to the president’s manufactured crisis and government shutdown over the funding of the wall funding, these immigration court systems have been closed, exacerbating that backlog.

Compared to that of the early 2000s, the number of undocumented residents in the US has been dropping significantly. On top of that, those who remain are most likely to overstay their visas. Trump’s wall is unlikely to have much impact on the population of undocumented immigrants. The president also insists that the wall will hinder illegal entries and especially block any terrorists trying to sneak in from Mexico. However, he fails to produce any evidence of terrorists passing over the United States’ southern border. It would be safer to say that the main threat facing the US today comes from homegrown extremists.

Moreover, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the border wall cannot stop the flow of illegal drugs since most of these drugs enter the United States through legal ports of entry, hidden among legitimate goods. The only way to reduce this influx of drugs is to shut or slow down trade with Mexico instead of building a border wall.

The partial shutdown of the U.S. government, the longest ever now in its 26th day (as of this article’s drafting), hit another milestone on Wednesday. Ironically, the government shutdown has now surpassed the cost of the desired thousand-mile border wall: an analysis of average federal wages by The New York Times suggests that the present shutdown is costing $200 million a day in delayed wages, or over $6 billion as of January 19th compared to the $5.7 billion that Trump wanted.

On a more humorous note, many people have already shown that a border wall is unparalleled in uselessness; a Mexican politician, in a protest against Trump’s claims that Mexico would pay for his wall, climbed to the top of a seaside segment of the current border “wall”, highlighting the impotence of the wall.

Related image
On the bright side, the wall’s a great place for taking cool profile pictures.

Furthermore, photographers have documented the smuggling of a whole car over the sacred border wall designed to protect the United States by use of ramps, some patience, and impressive driving skills.

Image result for car crossing border wall
Nice wall—but I have a Jeep.

In summary, this border wall has been proven to be a fruitless enterprise. While the idea of an impenetrable barrier that defends the country from any possible threats might appeal to some people, its economic, political, and practical attributes are more than doubtful.

– William Cho (’21)

Images: CBS Miami, NY Daily News, US Customs and Border Protection (respectively)

The Mexican Agricultural Crisis

This is the first installment in a three-part series concerning the issue of forced labor in the Mexican agriculture industry -Ed.

Introduction

Forced labor is a situation in which humans are coerced into some type of work through threats, violence, debt accumulation, or confiscation of important personal documents including passports. Mexico is no stranger to forced labor; the colonial practice of encomienda is more than a painful memory of a violent past, as forced labor has continuously remained prevalent in Mexico even with the end of the colonial period. The Global Slavery Index estimated in 2018 that in Mexico, around 341,000 individuals were living in forced labor, a number that is exceeded in the Americas only by those of Brazil and America (369,000 and 403,000 people, respectively). These statistics can only be thought of as rough figures, and likely low estimates, due to human rights violators’ practices of secrecy. Of these 341,000 individuals, roughly 5% work in the agricultural sector compared to the 69% in the construction sector; however, despite the comparatively small number of workers involved in the sector, the products of Mexico’s agricultural forced labor, or fresh produce, make up 43% of the United States’ total fruit and vegetable imports, with all yearly exchanges adding up to a total value of $12.4 billion. In short, the United States, with its close economic association with Mexico, is also involved in Mexico’s forced labor situation. Increased awareness of forced labor conditions in Mexican agriculture raises the question of what measures are being taken to eradicate forced agricultural labor in Mexico, which will be discussed in this report.

 

The Workers

The agricultural laborers are important factors in the prevention and eradication of forced agricultural labor because they are frequently the ones who report camps that are noncompliant with labor laws. A 2014 Los Angeles Times investigation that involved visits to thirty Mexican agricultural labor camps and interviews of laborers detailed their actions and their motivations. These laborers took these jobs, lured by promises of a “decent” salary for their families. “No fue justo porque llegaron pensando que ganarían un sueldo decente,” remarked Jorge Santiago de la Cruz, a laborer in BioParques 4, a grower that committed violations of basic workers’ rights. These workers are stuck in these camps because bosses illegally withhold the workers’ $8-$12 salary in order to force them to stay longer and the camp is surrounded by barbed wire and guards. This forced confinement of laborers prevents these laborers from reporting their camps’ human rights violations. Some try to escape these conditions despite the dangers of being caught (Fabian Batista woke up in the middle of the night to witness a fellow worker who had recently attempted to escape being bludgeoned by a guard). In the end, Bioparques 4’s violations were uncovered when a few workers escaped and reported the camp to authorities.

The success of these complaints filed by former workers is promising due to the fact that worker testimonies are the way in which most human rights violations at agricultural camps are discovered, but due to the reported incompleteness of scattered individual reports, it will be necessary to seek out the camps to gain a relatively complete picture of the situation if agricultural forced labor were to be eradicated.

 

The Agriculture Industry

The agriculture industry is making an effort called the “Ethical Charter.” This new initiative, presented by a coalition of North America’s biggest produce industry groups, aims to eradicate forced agricultural labor in Mexico by addressing all aspects of a worker’s life in a camp. Although it may seem like a panacea, there has been some controversy surrounding the charter. Emily Miggins, a former sustainability manager at Safeway, called the Ethical Charter the “Ethical Charter Lite” and equated it to “greenwashing.” Similarly, Erik Nicholson, the vice president of the United Farm Workers’ Association, mentioned that it was only designed to please consumers. Reading it, one can fully understand why this charter has elicited such responses. First of all, the charter lacks the detail that would be expected from a comprehensive charter drafted by experts in the field, glossing over the fine points of pre-existing labor laws and failing to mention any audits of camps, allowing camps to have free rein over inspections that happen to them.

The need for this charter is also questionable because the vast majority of supermarkets, like Whole Foods, Walmart, and Kroger, have adopted their own policies about labor standards for their suppliers that adhere closely to federal and international law and require their suppliers to agree to comply with these labor laws and third-party audits. However, these supermarkets have admitted the limitations of these audits, saying that it is impossible to be knowledgeable about all human rights violations happening in their supplier-run camps, taking a somewhat isolationist stance on the issue of forced labor, which probably comes in response to their exposed connections with questionable suppliers. Overall, the Ethical Charter, despite trying to fulfill a necessary job, is little good.

 

The Mexican Government

The Mexican government’s role in this industry is prominent due to the revenue it receives through the numerous cross-border transactions involving produce; the agriculture industry earned about $5 billion in 2012. Even though the Mexican government has laid out laws concerning the rights and welfare of laborers, it has failed in its efforts to enforce these laws, as shown by a 2010 report by the Federal Secretariat of Social Development, the branch of the government that is combating forced labor. The report, in section 2.1, states, “En adición, el desconocimiento de sus derechos, la falta de regulación y la insuficiente inspección laboral conduce frecuentemente a la violación de sus derechos laborales y humanos.” essentially pointing out that the Mexican government is incapable of addressing these problems actively and effectively. The report’s view is substantiated when underlying weak government enforcement was exposed in Sinaloa when one official incorrectly stated that delaying the payment of wages to employees was perfectly legal and when it was revealed that many of the government-run camps in the region were suffering from mismanagement problems. This already-weak regulation is basically rendered useless when wealthy growers enter endless appeals that delay any cracking down by federal investigators. “Nomás se ríen de nosotros…se burlan de la autoridad y de la ley,” said Armando Guzmán, an official in Mexico’s Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare. Due to the Mexican government’s inability to punish suppliers that violate labor laws, it should work with supermarkets so that the supermarkets can know which suppliers to terminate and bring economic consequences on.

 

Conclusion

There are many ways in which various individuals and organizations are working towards the eradication of forced agricultural labor in Mexico. First, some of the laborers that work in these camps are attempting to escape from horrible conditions in the camps and to inform authorities about the situation. Second, the agricultural industry and American supermarkets have released documents concerning labor laws and standards that attempt to reduce violations of labor laws in Mexican camps. Finally, the Mexican government is making largely unsuccessful attempts to crack down on growers who do not obey labor laws.

However grave this problem may be, these separate attempts by the three parties can be easily transformed into effective solutions. Eyewitness information, something that is necessary to starting investigations into camps, can be provided more frequently if information and evidence are gathered at the camps rather than if they only come from escaped workers. New guidelines can be more useful and widely accepted if they are made with a developmental mindset and address more integral aspects of the situation of Mexican agricultural forced labor. Mexican federal attempts to crack down on suppliers that have violated labor laws can be more fruitful if the supermarkets side with and collaborate with the Mexican government. This three-pronged approach– concerned with the three groups of people involved in the situation (laborers, suppliers, and the Mexican government) will help better combat the situation of Mexican agricultural forced labor.

– William Cho (’21)

Featured image: LA Times

Optical Illusions

Your eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them — Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope

Don’t let your eyes deceive you, quips the well known adage. Although the statement, which instructs us to look beyond outer appearances, is meant to be taken figuratively, it’s literal meaning is, quite surprisingly, of some significance (the sword still overshadows the pen as a weapon, however) provided that “eyes” is replaced by “mind.”

Our first encounters with mind tricks took place either during a magic show or on the big screen, when our immature Star Wars-drunk minds voraciously gobbled up the numerous occasions in which the mysterious robe-wearing Jedi convince white-clad dull-witted goons (armed only with the worst accuracy in the universe far, far away) to do their bidding with a flourish of their hand. Like many elements of sci-fi movies, the Jedi mind trick lost all applicability when used in the modern world, but we still longed for a way to make these senseless fantasies into reality. Of course, these thoughts gradually receded as more important affairs supplanted them. In reality, we don’t need any superhumans from the future to beat our brains into submission.

A synergistic cooperation between our eyes and ears yields an interesting phenomenon known as the McGurk Effect. When researchers played a video of a human repeating “bah,” test subjects identified the sound correctly. However, after playing the same audio in conjunction with a video of the same person repeating “fah” the test subjects reported that the sound was a “fah,” not the “bah.” Neat little trick, right? In certain situations, not so much. In another experiment, subjects watched two people chasing each other. While an actor remarked that “he’s got a boot,” some subjects, perhaps influenced by the tension of the situation, remarked that the actor actually said that “he’s gonna shoot.” Obviously, this misunderstanding might lead to some unintentionally bogus legal cases.

Next, look at this. Stare at the green dot and look nowhere else.

After a few seconds, you may realize that the yellow dots are blinking in and out. Then, imagine that you’re driving in the night, staring at the road as cars pass by in sudden, intense bursts of headlight beams and mechanical rumbling. The road is the green dot and the yellow dots are cars. Sometimes, as we can see, it’s not that the driver is inebriated or sleepy, so don’t blame the driver when he/she says that “it came out of nowhere.” This phenomenon, called motion-induced blindness, is caused by the brain’s filtering of what it perceives to be unnecessary information: because the blue grid is moving and the yellow dots are not, the brain filters out the yellow dots. To prevent this phenomenon from happening, airplane pilots are trained to keep their eyes on the move and desist from staring at anything for more than a few seconds.

Although the visual illusions may seem like trivial playthings we get sidetracked by while scrolling through Facebook, they can have serious real-world repercussions.

–William Cho (’21)

Images: Google Images

Meet the Candidates: A recap of the Student Council Town Hall (April 26)


Duke Moon (11) and Jenny Chung (11) are running for the positions of President and Vice President (respectively).

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It’s safe to say that we’ll get unanimous approval for these two candidates.


The position of Media Relations Director is contested between Isaac Kim (11) and Eliot Yun (11). Both debated on the future methods of advertising.

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The debate between these two was interesting as Eliot peppered Isaac with insightful questions. Perhaps the most interesting one that Eliot asked was why Isaac was running for Media Relations Director instead of Community Outreach Liaison or Intramural Activities Liaison when the latter’s goal was to set up good communications with the school. Isaac responded, admitting that he was more proficient at communication with students than the faculty; thus, the position of Media Relations Director was more suitable for him.


Muchang Bahng (11) and Jiyeon Kim (10) are running for the position of Community Outreach Liaison. Interestingly enough, Jiyeon was one of two candidates who chose to speak first and ask Muchang a question instead of taking a question from the panel, making this exchange somewhat unconventional. Muchang had no previous StuCo experience, him being the only candidate not to have served in any StuCo position.

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Asked by Jiyeon, who said that a new opinion from someone not in StuCo about his vision for StuCo events, Muchang stated that it was too early to try planning, but wanted to incorporate the “service element” into those events. However, Jiyeon responded that it was more important to listen to people who wanted more service in StuCo events and increase communication with service learning so that KIS could be more successful through more partnerships and teamwork among students; such ideals, she said, could be promoted at the most basic level by increasing “hype” for the events.


Andy Kim (10), Alex Lee (10), and Peter Ha (9) are running for the position of Intramural Activities Liaison. Peter is the only freshman to run for an officer position.

Exchanges between these three candidates took more of a free form as they challenged each other with questions. For this section, the goals of each candidate couldn’t be discussed fully due to time constraints.

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Vicky Yoon is running for the position of Creative Director.

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The candidates’ speeches tomorrow will be very interesting, to say the least.

-William Cho (’21)

Blueprint is committed to restoring the issues and vision to the center stage of this election. This post is neither an endorsement nor disapproval of any particular candidate. -Ed.

The Orbánesque Problem

Rising up under the shadow of Putin, this world leader may present a big problem.

You probably haven’t heard of Viktor Orbán. As the leader of the small Central-European country of Hungary that many would deem insignificant, Orbán is overshadowed by more well-known European politicians, including the infamous Vladimir Putin. However, his story is, if not more, as interesting as those of the high-profile diplomats in the spotlight now.

Orbán’s political career started out when he co-founded his political party, Fidesz (he still controls it to this day), successfully unifying the democratic students that were persecuted by the government. Until one of its leaders, Peter Molnar, joined the Hungarian Parliament, the youth opposition group could only meet in small, secret groups. However, even though Fidesz became more recognized, its results in the domestic field were disappointing, almost bordering on failure when the party only won a few seats in parliament in 1994. As a result, Fidesz changed its ideology dramatically from liberal-leaning moderate to extreme conservative; many of Fidesz’s leaders left (including the aforementioned Molnar) the party. So where does Viktor Orbán come in?

The young Orbán, dressed informally, became the internationally-known face of Fidesz in 1989 when he, as the organization’s spokesman, gave a rousing speech demanding free voting and departure of the Soviets at the reburial of Hungarian freedom fighter Imre Nagy who resisted Soviet rule. The Soviets left just one year later. While he stood for democratic ideals then, Orbán is the trademark European far-right politician. Through this enigmatic change, the only thing that can be agreed on is that Viktor Orbán is a skilled and successful politician, managing to hold on to leadership in his party and keep his position for more than a decade through times of instability; moreover, he is the 3rd longest-serving Hungarian Prime minister. Now, under his leadership, Hungary is a bastion for all things we can classify as “far-right.” Estranged in their country, far-right activists migrate to Hungary in order to continue their operations more freely without much opposition.

The Prime Minister’s stance on immigration follows the far-right norms, announcing and showing off the barbed wire fences and water cannons installed on his borders, mocking the other Europeans about their inability to stop the flow of refugees and border policies so much that the European countries started thinking about stopping immigrants instead of letting them inn. This extreme implementation of national sovereignty is so popular due to Hungary’s painfully recent history of Soviet occupation that carries no nostalgia for many, and Orbán’s hate for the liberal elite comes from the also-recent economic decline that plagued the country which the Hungarians do not want to experience again.

So, what should we do about him? Even if Orbán may seem isolated, his memberships in the European Union and NATO make him a dangerous force to be reckoned with. Even then, he sticks out like a sore thumb as an ultra-conservative member in a democratic (and also somewhat liberal) organization. Considering that fact, Orbán’s membership is confusing. As a potential Russian ally, Hungary would have faced intense opposition from Putin before joining NATO; this behavior became evident when pro-Russian forces (that were likely backed by Putin’s government) unsuccessfully attempted a coup in Montenegro to stop the country from joining. However, Putin may want to have Orbán (the Hungarian leader criticized E.U. and U.S. sanctions on Russia after Putin attacked Ukraine and applauded the Russian leader’s leadership) in NATO because the latter could present a good way for Putin to covertly influence NATO and even receive information about NATO’s activities without telegraphing any clear intentions. Orbán also has no place in NATO, an organization for democratic countries with goals that oppose those of Orbán’s Hungary. His membership may undermine the legitimacy of the organization and may present significant opposition and obstacles to productive decision-making. What the EU and NATO should do is keep careful watch on Orbán’s activities and keep some pressure on him to intimidate him and ultimately prevent the budding authoritarian from gaining more influence; letting Orbán amass more power could be disastrous for the free world.

-William Cho (’21)

Image: Francois Lenoir from The Atlantic