“Subtotals $4.50 and $8.80 for XF tax do not match.” WTF, United Airlines?

United Airlines claimed they were offering “future flight credits” for flights booked during a time period before the coronavirus outbreak hit the entire United States. But if you try to use their so-called credits, you might find they don’t work terribly well.

Upon searching for a flight with United’s “future flight credit” option, I was told that United was “unable to process” my request because “Subtotals $4.50 and $8.80 for the XF tax do not match.”

Whatever the fuck that means.

Apparently you can only use your credits for routes where all the random technicalities about taxes and regulations line up perfectly.

United is unable process my request because of a $4.30 difference in taxes.

No wonder United ranks second to last in the Wall Street Journal’s 2019 Airline Scorecard.

Korean season starts!

The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) kicked off its season on May 5, which is Children’s Day, a popular holiday South Korea, with a fan-less game between the NC Dinos and the Samsung Lions. NC won 4-0.

KBO games are being broadcast on ESPN 2, and highlights are shown on Sportscenter. Live games begin at 5:30 am EST on weekdays at 1 am EST on weekends. ESPN initially tried to acquire the rights for free but eventually settled on paying an undisclosed sum.

ESPN’s KBO schedule for the first few week shows that top teams like Doosan, the defending champs, LG, Samsung, and Kia are frequently being broadcast.

ESPN’s broadcasters call the games from their homes, and, in the LG-Doosan game I watched, they included many interviews with American players who have played in Korea, players’ wives, and Americans with expertise on Korean baseball.

Pitcher Josh Lindblom, who signed with the MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers in December 2019, won the 2019 MVP award while going 15-4 as a starter for Doosan, was among those interviewed. Each KBO team is allowed to have three foreign players.

Not only are there American players with MLB experience playing in the KBO, there are also more than a dozen Koreans who made it to the MLB.

Many players from the older generation of Korean stars did not play in the KBO. The most successful Korean MLB player of all time, Chan Ho Park, who went 124-98 with the Dodgers and other teams, only played the final year of his career in the KBO after a 16-year-career in the MLB. Current player Shin-soo Choo, who made his MLB debut in 2005 and made the All-Star Game in 2018, also started out his professional career with the Mariners. Of the three current Korean MLB players, only Hyun-jin Ryu, who posted a 2.98 ERA for in seven seasons for the Dodgers and now signed with the Blue Jays, started out his career in the KBO.

I will be following the KBO throughout the season and hope to attend some games after I arrive in Korea in July, should the games eventually be opened to spectators.

Octoberfest Cancelled

Due to coronavirus, Germany has canceled Octoberfest. The event would have taken place from mid September to early October. It was a “difficult decision,” Munich Mayor Markus Soeder said, but it had to be done.

“The risk is just too high. You can neither keep your distance there nor wear a face mask. Living with [coronavirus] means living cautiously until there is a vaccine or medication.”

Germany has nearly 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus now, and Octoberfest brought over 6 million visitors to Germany in 2019.

While new coronavirus cases have approached zero in some countries that have flattened the curve successfully, like China and Korea, and will likely do so in much of the world during the summer, there is concern that another outbreak could take place in the fall and winter.

Patrick Rincon, a contributor to BombsDollars.com, collaborator with me in my travels, and sometimes co-author along with me of travel articles (see our work in Roads and Kingdoms), was planning on going to Octoberfest this year.

He talks with me on YouTube and shows off his German accent:

The cutest Nanjing aunties! — New YouTube videos on coronavirus

I’ve been hard at work trying to come up with content for you during this coronavirus lockdown period, and luckily I still have lots of exciting video from China and Asia, even though I am currently in the United States. So I present some of it here: my experience meeting some vivacious young (at heart) women in Nanjing Youth Cultural Center in February:

Election Results: Korean Democratic Party wins landslide supermajority

As I wrote in The National Interest,

As of 1 am Korea time, Korea’s public broadcaster Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) projected the Democratic Party to be on track to win about 174 seats, while the opposition United Future Party (UFP) would win about 109. The target for a super-majority is 180 seats. [Note: The Democratic Party has since been confirmed as winning 180 seats.] Projections leave only about 17 seats for minor parties and independents, a huge drop from the 55 seats won by all third-party candidates in 2016.

The partisan-regional divide was exacerbated. The Democrats dominated the west side of Korea, while the UFP painted the east pink. The Democrats are expected to win nearly 100 of the 122 seats in the Seoul Capital Area, which consists of the city of Seoul, Incheon, and the Seoul suburbs in surrounding Gyeonggi province. 

Read my full article at The National Interest.

I also made two videos about the election and the TV graphics. The first imagines what American election coverage would be like if the networks used the same kind of graphics:

The second is in Korean:

Koreans begin voting now!

Korea’s 21st General Election has started. Korean citizens will vote for the 300 members of their National Assembly. I have been blogging about the election, the candidates, and polls at www.KoreanElectionBlog.com.

My prediction, which I made at the blog, is a little on the high side. I said the Democratic Party of Korea, the current plurality/ruling party, would win with 160 seats, while most Korean newspapers are predicting in the high 140’s (which would still be enough to control).

Watch me and American University Adjunct Professer Lee Jong-eun discuss the election:

We will both be talking about the election results on Facebook and Twitter tomorrow night. Follow our socials:

Asia Travel Writer – Mitchell’s Facebook

Bombs + Dollars (foreign policy) – Facebook

@MitchBlatt – Twitter

Lee Jong-un’s blog

Lee Jong-un’s Facebook

I publish “Drinking Asian Liquors” compilation

Over the years, I have enjoyed trying out new and interesting drinks from around the world. Sometimes I film myself drinking them. Sometimes I narrate. Here I cut together some of the best videos I have done before of myself trying Chinese bai jiu, Thai Mekhong, Japanese gin, and medicine wine.

You can subscribe to my YouTube channel here to see my regular new videos: Mitchell Blatt, Asia Travel Vlogger

Coronavirus updates: Trains to Wuhan resume, schools to open soon

  • China has issued a temporary block on any non-Chinese citizen from entering China. Visas appear to still be valid when the block is lifted.
  • China closed movie theatres across the country after briefly reopening them.
  • Primary and secondary schools are scheduled to reopen in early April.
  • The first trains from outside have arrived in Wuhan, according to CGTN. Wuhan’s quarantine will be completely lifted on April 8.

Outside China

  • U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he is considering implementing quarantines on the hardest-hit regions, such as New York.
  • This comes after he withdrew from a considered $1 billion deal to produce ventilators.
  • Travelers report they are stuck in the airport in Malaysia for 2 weeks after trying to travel to Thailand despite a travel ban and being sent back to Malaysia, which also has a travel ban in place.
  • All beaches in Phuket province of Thailand have been closed.

It’s springtime in China. The rapeseed flowers are blooming in Gaochun, Nanjing.

Gaochun, a rural suburb at the very southernmost tip of Nanjing, bordering Anhui province on its south, is famous for its beautiful yellow rapeseed flowers, which are in bloom now. I had written on my blog before:

South of urban Nanjing, the fields have just turned blazingly yellow this month. Rapeseed, which is used for cooking oil (canola) and cattle feed, is one of the major agricultural products of the fertile Jiangnan (江南, which means “south of the [Yangtze] river”) region. China is the number two producer of rapeseed in the world (behind Canada), producing 15 million tons in 2016. Taking the high speed train between Nanjing and Shanghai, I would see the yellow go by every spring.

Gaochun is one of the best places to see the flowers in easily-accessible fields. Walk or take a bike along a paved road through the fields, and get off to walk within the fields. Nearby, white-walled homes complement the timeless aesthetic.

Now I received the above video from a friend in Gaochun. Enjoy.

Washington and New York have more coronavirus cases than China

U.S. has more coronavirus cases than 24 of China’s provinces

Italy has half as many cases as Hubei

As coronavirus continues to increase around the world, I was interested in looking at the severity of the spread of the virus in different regions. As I was living and reporting from Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, at the time, I realized that some people I talked to assumed the spread of disease was uniformly terrible across China.

At the beginning no other country had it, so Nanjing having any cases made it worse than other places in the world.

Jiangsu ended up having a total of 631 cases (0 deaths) in a population of 80.4 million. In terms of cumulative cases, that puts it behind Canada and just ahead of Japan. Overall, most of China’s provinces were worse than countries in Southeast Asia like Thailand and Viet Nam.

Case data comes from Johns Hopkins’ online dashboard.

(The chart is missing Chongqing municipality, an oversight. Chongqing had 576 cases in a population of 30.5 million, which made it a little bit more severe, at 18.9 per million, than where the U.S. is currently.)