Monday, December 31, 2007

Random 80s: U2 - New Years Day

I just got in from some fun New Years Eve festivities (it ended not so promptly with dudes fightin' though...bummer)

But, for me, a fun start to a new year.

Happy New Year to you and may it be your best year ever!


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Random 80s: Chaka Khan - I Feel For You

A party song for a party night.

Have a great New Years!


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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Random 80s: Aerosmith and Run DMC

Aerosmith and Run DMC together - "Walk This Way"

Run DMC - "King of Rock" and "It's Tricky"

Aerosmith - "Angel"


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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Random 80s: Van Halen - Panama

They're an L.A. band (well, okay, Pasadena).

Man, I missed the David Lee Roth days of Van Halen. He was hilarious.


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Sleepy Commuters

As I posted before, I'm currently moonlighting on a temporary job until the end of January.

What's both amusing and reassuring about living here is that when I commute I frequently see virtually the whole subway car snoozing away en route to work in the mornings.

This would NEVER happen back home in the major metro areas, but here it's common. In fact, the evening Benazir Bhutto was assassinated I stayed up very late and the next day I was exhausted. At the end of the day I was out cold during a big part of my commute home. I'll be in NYC this winter and I don't care how tired I am, I WON'T be taking a snooze on the subway.

I decided to snap some pictures of it this morning on my way to work.

And, yes, in the mornings it's usually pretty quiet in the cars too.


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Friday, December 28, 2007

Random 80s: Bobby Brown - Every Little Step and Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Go Bobby, go Bobby!

Go Whitney, go Whitney!



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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Oh God, No!

I don't get into the issues of the Middle East much. Usually, when I do I just link to others who are more knowledgeable on the topic.

However, I've been closely following the news since they announced that the Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto was injured leaving a rally in Rawalpindi today. The worst has been announced. She died as a result of that attack. I have to admit I was scared for her when she went back to Pakistan in October.

I believe I'm moved by her death because I remember hearing that Bhutto was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988. This was significant because she was the first female to be democratically elected female to lead a post-colonial Muslim state. Now 1988 was years before people in the West realized the violent schism developing in the Muslim world.

Honestly, I was hoping it was rumor. Her wounds were severe for sure, so I was truly hoping it was people either intentionally misreporting what had happened or it was just misinformation.

However, I'm listening to Tariq Azim Khan, the Former Pakistan Info Minister, speak on CNN International and he's confirmed that she has passed away.

I'm very sad to hear it.

Rest in peace Benazir Bhutto.

More links:
Council on Foreign Relations: Pakistan After Bhutto
NY Times: Bhutto Assassinated in Attack on Rally
CNN: Benazir Bhutto killed in attack
Washington Post: Pakistan's Bhutto Killed in Attack
Time: Benazir Bhutto Killed
The Sun: Bhutto dies in bomb blast
Times Online: Benazir Bhutto assassination: the blog reaction
Pakistan Peoples Party (Bhutto's political party)
CNN: Commentary: No time for dictatorship (a recent editorial written by Bhutto)
NY Times: Musharraf’s Martial Plan (another recent editorial written by Bhutto)

Here is some video footage of Bhutto leaving the rally and also video of the confusion after the blast:


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Random 80s: The Thomspon Twins - Love On Your Side

Love On Your Side by the Thompson Twins

Great hair!


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Seoul: the Sixth Most Densely Populated City

A View of Seoul from the Yuk sam Building (Six Three Building)

Seoul World’s Sixth Most Densely Populated Area
The Seoul-Incheon area is the world's sixth most densely populated region, the American business magazine Forbes reported Tuesday.

In an analysis of the population density of world cities by the magazine, the Seoul-Incheon area has a total of 17.5 million people on a 1,049 sq. km of land, or 16,700 people per square kilometer. Seoul has a smaller area than New York but twice the population. It also has 3 million registered vehicles, causing serious traffic congestion, Forbes reported.

The most densely populated city was Bombay, India’s commercial center, with a population of 14.35 million on 484 sq. km or 29,650 people per square kilometer. Next was Calcutta, which has a population density of 23,900 per square kilometer. Karachi, Pakistan was third, followed by Lagos, Nigeria (fourth), and Shenzhen, China (fifth). Seventh through 10th were Taipei, Chennai in India again, Bogota in Colombia, and Shanghai.

Asian cities accounted for 16 of the top 20 world cities with the highest population density. Five were in India and four in China. Two African cities and two South American cities also joined the top 20 group.

The picture above shows Seoul Tower which is in Namsan Park. I live at the foot of Namsan Park which is encircles Seoul Tower.

The article above is interesting simply because living here, you realize that there are A LOT of people in Seoul. However, what stands out to me right now is how central Seoul seems to be where the upscale areas are. That's great for me as I'm smack in the middle of the city. I'm wedged between two branches of my favorite Korean department store, Shinsegae. One is at the Express Bus Terminal and the other in my favorite district of Seoul, Myeongdong. Both are just a five minute taxi ride away.

The further out you get to the edges of the city you notice the glitz disappears quickly and, by my observation, it seems these areas are where the less well-off tend to dwell. I think I've got a good feel for it because I come from a working class, lower middle class neighborhood. The good thing about Seoul is you don't feel like you're in any physical danger when you go to the less well-off side of town. I can't say the same for my old neighborhood. Now, I'm not counting suburbs like the affluent Bundang area or the southern area of Seoul like the well-manicured Yangjae area of the city.

The reason this is on my mind is that right now I'm working at a camp at a university on the edge of the city near Gimpo airport. To me, it feels like I'm back in one of the small towns I lived in before I moved to Seoul. The streets are narrow and the colors are very gritty.

Essentially, it's yet to be gentrified. There are no Starbucks coffee houses. The big megamarts like E-Mart or Lotte Mart are more spread out unlike where I live where I have an E-Mart, Lotte Mart and a 24 Kim's Club all only five minutes away by car. The giant (and expensive) apartment complexes are nowhere in sight. The movie megaplexes and the department stores aren't that close either. I can also tell by how the locals are dressed and the fact that there is an old fashioned outdoor market.

In a way, it loosens me up a bit and I'm less hard with the people I deal with. I'm less inclined to give someone a pass if it's clear they live in a ritzer area of Seoul, but these people have less resources, so I'm nicer. Why? Beats me.

I really don't have much of a point. I'm just making an observation. Okay, carry on.


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Monday, December 24, 2007

Cute...Sleepin' Kitten

Okay, clearly, I've been steering clear of Korea-focused posts lately. I think I'm still stuck in a bit of post-semester burn out. So now it's just about posting whatever is interesting whether it's Korea-focused or not.

This certainly isn't Korea-focused but it's sooooooooooooooooo cute. I saw it over at the GalleyGat blog a couple of days ago.

Maybe I should change the name of this blog to "What The Hell Am I Blogging About?"


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Random 80s: Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas

Oh my Duranie heart leaps at seeing this video ;)


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Norad Tracks Santa

This is just hilarious.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) has a website that "tracks" Santa Claus. It also has links to videos on YouTube.

Here is the first one:

It's totally cute. Check it out. Click on the picture to track Santa.

Merry Christmas!


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Random 80s: Wham - Last Christmas

Yep. Wham two nights in a row for obvious reasons.


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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Repost: Epicourageous in Seoul - Matt Gross on the Travel Channel

I'm a few days behind the curve here, but I never claimed to always be timely. Plus, in my defense, I'm just recovering from semester fatigue so have sympathy ;)

Anyway, Matt Gross, the Frugal Traveler on the New York Times, was on the Travel Channel's "25 Mind Blowing Escapes." I heard about it and then found out I could see part of it on Daniel Grey's Epicourageous in Seoul blog. Since I know both of them, I figure they don't mind me talking about it too.

Thursday has come and gone, but a plug is a plug and cable shows ALWAYS get shown again, so keep an eye out for it. The link below goes to a video snippet of the show where Matt talks about the Penninsula Hotel in Hong Kong.

Here is a repost from the Daniel's blog:

Matt Gross on the Travel Channel

Matt Gross will be on the show 25 Mind Blowing Escapes.

Oh, how I wish I had cable in America.

Here's the message from Matt and let's all demand that Matt Gross get his own show!

From Matt Gross:

Subject: If you own a television:

" may want to turn it to the Travel Channel this Thursday at 8pm. That’s when I’m slated to appear as a ranting, raving, eye-rolling talking head on “25 Mind Blowing Escapes.” (Yes, it’s missing a hyphen, but I’m not proofreading anymore.)

This could very well be my breakthrough moment on TV—or my very first moment of nationwide humiliation. Or maybe both. Either way, it should be entertaining. Watch it if you dare!

(And if you like, take the survey at and demand the Travel Channel give me my own show.)

Matt Gross


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Random 80s: Wham - Wake Me Up Before You Go Go!!!

Classic 80s! Another video where I got some GREAT fashion ideas for the cruise.



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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Random 80s: Prince - Purple Rain

Okay, I'm heading home on vacation in just over a month. During that time I'll go on a cruise (I'll tell you more later; it's complete geekiness). One fun part is instead of a formal night, there will be an 80s night.

It's going to be silly, and I've been through the 80s stuff on eBay to complete my look (gawdy pink 80s prom dress = check, big hair = check).

With just a few more weeks to go, I'm getting excited.

This is the first of a series of 80s videos I'll post in no particular order.

I wanted to start with Michael Jackson's Thriller, but embedding his videos is shut down on YouTube. Here is the link instead: Thriller

Instead, I'll start with the Purple One, Prince ;)

Purple Rain!!! Just watching this gives me some 80s fashion ideas ;)


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Friday, December 21, 2007

Crowded Stores!

It's Christmastime and even the online stores are crowded!

I went to the website to pick a gift from a friend's wedding registry and I'm standing in line even online.


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Thursday, December 20, 2007

One Heck of a Brawl Over @ Rachel's Tavern

I'm done with the term! No thanks to the fool who woke me up way too early on Sunday and completely stole a day of grading from me. With my hormones in a delicate balance my sleep patterns are easily disrupted. However, I hunkered down, spent one night in my office and managed to get grades in with 20 minutes to spare. Yeah!

What that means is I'm completely behind on other things like writing projects and reading. I got over to Rachel's Tavern today to see this post: Nice Guys, Feminism and Asian “Women”. It's about how women had better treat their men like gods or else their men would all run into the arms of very grateful Asian women who are fleeing their misogynistic Asian men. The post is critical of this variant on feminist backlash because this whole threat approach that men have is tedious at best. My reply to these sorts of guys is "go...please and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out."

However, somehow the comments turned into a brawl about black women.

I thought that was funny because I was all geared up to chime in on how I see that attitude all the time here in Korea. White men here verbalize it often because it's at least one of the things they feel they have going for them. I'm surprised how often I hear it. One time I was at dinner and the topic came up. I was telling a story about a female Korean friend of mine who had a foreign boyfriend. A white man, who is married to a Korean woman, chimed in to say that Korean women love dating white men. Now in response to a story where the foreign beau was clearly white, okay, I would have let it slide. However, what was funny was my friend's foreign boyfriend was a black man. I'd just not bothered to mention his race and I forget that a lot of people preface stories about black people with that warning that the subject of the conversation happens to be black. However, as I'm black, I don't bother doing this. This guy just assumed the man HAD to be white.

Now sure, as a white man, I'm sure that's HIS perception. Maybe it's not odd that he'd assume this. But last I checked, I was black, so is it odd to also assume I know other black people here? Somehow, in his world, white men had a monopoly on being "foreign". I'm quite adept with the English language. Had I meant "white" I would have said "white", so I thought that was interesting. As someone who grew up in a multicultural city (which, yes, breaks out in race riots from time to time), I find that I really see the world differently in some ways. I make more "white people" jokes now because it's constantly pointed out to me that I'm the other here. That doesn't happen so much when I'm home. I thought his assumption that her boyfriend had to be white and that I was telling a story about a white man was hilarious. It was indicative of the assumptions based on race that just percolate under the surface here and are rarely challenged because the ESL market is dominated by white males. Of course, I challenged it and pointed out that the man I was talking about was a black man.

Anyway, like I said, the comments had taken a turn by the time I got to the post. When I started reading the comments somehow it ended up being a brawl about black women. I honestly don't know how it got there. I think a commentor said something that wasn't well thought out because the person who posted the blog is smart. I was reading the post in a coffee house and wasn't paying close attention to all of it. However, what did catch my attention were the first two comments by Ann, who has her own blog and is a frequent commentor there.

I agree with the gist of what she's saying for sure. I don't think she's overstating the issue as much as she's stating it bluntly and forcefully. I think too often the voices of black women are shushed and silenced, so I'm going to share it here.

Anyway, I've not had time to read all of the comments after hers in detail, but Ann has thrown down in her comment about how black women are perceived and stereotyped. I'm at a point of fatigue regarding it. However, it's more than clear to me being here where there are two types of women: Korean and white. I remember being on the bus when a Korean man was talking to my white female coworker and was simply ignoring me. That was fine as he was drunk, but when he asked her if she was an "American". She said yes and pointed out that I was American too. Do you know this man had the nerve to say "no, I mean an original American." I thought that was funny because 1) the original people living on what is now American soil weren't white people and 2) when you look at the black American population, the majority of black American families have been in the US longer than most white families. There are only a select few white Americans who can claim ancestry from that first wave of British colonists. I can't remember where I read or heard it but basically to make this point a teacher in the US told everyone in her class to stand up. She told them if they had a parent who had immigrated to the US to sit down. She then asked students who had grandparents who'd immigrated to the States to sit down. She continued and the last students standing were the black students. Black Americans come from multi-generational American families, so that "original American" comment made me laugh 'cause that man was simply ignorant, but it shows how much the world at large has bought into the pop culture images that flow out of the States.

I'm a novelty at best in Korea. I've got to admit it's one big reason I don't socialize as much as I used to. With such a focus on race, it's just not plesant. Thank goodness I've found a new network of black people to socialize with here.

Here are Ann's comments (the comments to this post start here):

“It would totally suck to be a white woman or an Asian woman. They are consistently objectified. White women are often reduced to body parts and a hair color and when men of color are involved, a skin color. Asian women are reduced to being submissive “dolls” or “flowers”. Way too much pressure there.”


I go away to get some much needed posting done on my blog, and I decide to stop over at Rachel’s and lo and behold, I see more of all the *love* that some people love to show towards black women.

White women objectified. Yes, the hells that white women have suffered at the hands of ALL MEN in America and the world.

There just ought to be a law against such cruel and hateful mistreatment that white women suffer in comparison to what black women experience in this country.

Black women have been objectified to being body parts:

Having men of all races look at you as if you are a walking life support system for a vagina, buttocks, legs. Having your beautiful gravity-defying hair degraded. Having your beautiful skin color denigrated as less than because it is not a pale, ghastly white.

Which is why so many Asian, Native American, Latino, white and black men run to the defense, protection, and adoration of white women, while they are stomping, stampeding and grinding black women into the ground to get to those white women. Running past, knocking out of the way black women they know nothing about because those same men have not the guts to get to know the black women.

Black women have MORE pressure on them because they are NOT considered women.

Always considered *masculine.
Always considered not *feminine*.
Never considered desirable, sought after——every man’s prize.


White women in no way suffer form the hateful vicious *objectification* that black women suffer through.

And white women know that black women suffer worse hells than all the white women in America.

White women know that THEIR objectification pales in comparison to what black women still face in this country.


White women have been objectified the hell out of, let me count the ways:

-Constantly called “bitch” by every race of men in America;
-Constantly called “whore” by every race of men in America;
-Considered as “unrapeable” by ALL MEN in America (remember, it was never against a black woman’s will when a white man raped us during slavery, Reconstruction and segregation);
-If a white woman is raped, her rapist gets a minimum of 10 years for the assault; A black woman’s rapists gets a *minimum* of 2 years;
-Due to white men creating lies that white women are virgins/pure/chaste (all the time, 24/7), after white men raped every black woman and GIRL in a one mile radius, black women are the most devalued women in this society because of the depraved filth done to them by white men, the perverted filth agreed to them by white women for 400 years (depravities that the poor put-upon *objectified* white woman was spared because her gentle, loving white man brutally and viciously forced his diseased-ridden penis into defenseless black women and girls throughout this country’s sick history.)


If any race of women have been OBJECTIFIED THE HELL OUT OF, it is black women living in America.

Have white women lived the lives of black woman? Do white women even into present day America live the lives of black women? Have white women been called every sick slur that a woman can be called by EVERY RACE OF MEN IN AMERICA? (And I say the word *men* with extreme reservation; only a man who has no balls would degrade a race of women because white Massa said do it.)

How many white women can truly say that they have ever been called bitch, ho, punta, tutsun, melanzana, majate?

How many white women can truly say they been looked at, looked past, looked upon with the worst kind of contempt and derision that any race of women can have done to them? Believe me, it is not a *blessing* in disguise where you are not even considered as being looked at because so many so-called men have bought into the lie of practicing sexualized gendered racist hatred against you just because you are a black woman. Where you are written off before you even open your mouth; where you are looked through like a sheet of glass—invisible—worthless—not worthy of even a nod, a smile, a greeting, a damn fucking GLANCE—because so many so-called men’s minds have been poisoned against you just because you are a black woman.

How many white women can truly say that they come from a race of women whose bloodline is polluted with the filthy, shitty blood of RAPISTS?

How many white women can truly say that they come from a race of women who were considered born sluts because white men decreed it so?

When was the last time white women of all women, were treated like shit on a daily basis?

Written off.

Looked at if they have no right to live, no right to be in this world?

What the hell do white women know about objectification of the most base, the most brutal, the most degrading kind?

I feel that white women and Asian women get it from EVERYONE. Black women get it from black men but, I’ve never really seen other races of men overly objectifying black women. They usually look right past us.”


Of course they look right past us.

They give not a damn about us, so why should they even look at us?

Black women DO get it from EVERY race of men.

They get disrespect.


Looked upon as not women, not humans, because black women are NOT protected in this white-woman-worshipping society.

Case in point.

Two women, a white and a black can both walk into a room at the same time. Both can be beautiful, intelligent, and have the same moral values.

Guess who will be looked upon as the born whore/slut/Jezebel?

The white woman?



Or will it be the black woman?

Which one will be looked upon as the virginal, beautiful, chaste woman?

The White woman? The Black woman?

Unless you have not lived in the United States, dollars to donuts the white woman will be looked upon as a woman, and the black woman will be looked upon as not only NOT a woman, but not human. An animal. Hyper-sexual, slutty animal.

Never mind that the white woman who walked in could have just fellatiated every man in the neighborhood. Never mind that the black woman can be a virgin or celibate.


Because the black woman has never been protected, praised, loved and treated with respect in this country, the lowest-behaving white woman is still considered as having the right to be accorded humanity by EVERY whiteness-worshipping-brain-dead-black-women-hating race of men in America when that same white woman is seen standing next to a black woman.

And that includes:

White men
Black men
Asian men
Native American men
Latino men
Arab men

ALL MEN have been taught to hate black women, no matter who the black woman is they see in their daily lives, and ALL MEN have been taught to bow down to, worship and shore up the worship and maintenance of white woman lies that white men have been vomitting forth for over 400 years.

ALL men treat women as less than human.

But, black women get it (hateful mistreatment, degrading comments, filthy remarks, shitty looks, literally being knocked down entering through a door, looked at as if you are a piece of feces on the heel of a shoe) from ALL so-called men.

Black women get it from everyone.

The face shown to white women by men of all races is nothing like the face that is shown to black women.

Black women stand naked in the eyes of ALL MEN in America, because America, white men, black men (those self-hating-black-race-hating-black-women-hating black men), men of other races give not a damn about the welfare and peace of mind of black women.

ALL men have bought into the lie that black women are NEVER to be loved and adored no matter how beautiful and accomplished they are.

Black women are treated as less than human by ALL MEN.

America hates black women for all that we have survived.

White men hate and fear BLACK WOMEN MORE THAN they hate and fear black men.

Any man who buys into and practices the worship of the lie that white women are better than all the other women in the world (especially the lie that they are better than black women),is not a man at all. He is a weak, spineless, ball-less, gutless wonder.

ALL the women are NOT white.

ALL the blacks are NOT men.

But, damn it…MANY of us are still BRAVE.

(And yes, I am aware how Asian men are *de-masculinized* in this society. I have addressed this subject over at my blog, but they too right along with men of all races treat black women as less than human as well.)

(I guess this comment will go through.)

And lest anyone get the wrong idea, my chastising is not meant for any race of women.

It is the group known as *men* who decide which group of women will be treated as women and as human beings, and which group of women will not be acorded the simplest of respect and humanity, that causes so much hell and pain for all women.

I lay that blame at the feet of men.

But, on the other hand, I do not see MANY white and Asian women being in a mad rush to dismantle the acknowledgement they at least are considered as women.

Many black women cannot say the same.


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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Merry F--kin' Christmas

Okay, I'm still all pissy about my morning wake-up text. I couldn't get back to sleep, so now I'm just biding my time until I can run to get my new favorite dish, salmon and brie quiche, at a local restaurant. They don't open until 11:30am. Also, I can tell, I'm the throes of PMS right now. That makes me, not more prone to anger, but much more likely to call someone on it should they piss me off. The hormones being askew doesn't help. This has taken me getting used to because in my teens and 20s PMS didn't impact me at all...oh, the good ol' days.

Anyway, I was on another forum when I saw a link to this.

For 48 hours the Vancouver Sun will be giving away a free download of Seriously Westcoast, Vol. 2. It's a Christmas album:

Nettwerk Music Group and the Vancouver Sun is pleased to announce another free digital download album. It's Seriously Westcoast Vol.2 - Happy Holidays. Seasonally themed and features 15 songs from such artists as Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan, Medieval Baebes, Jars of Clay and many more.

This special digital album will only be available for a limited time
staring on Saturday, December 15 at 12:01am for 48 hours only.
I think there is less than 24 hours left, so go, go, you fools!


I'm usually a major Grinch approaching Christmas, but, usually on schedule, my Grinch heart melts and I give out candy canes and crap like that. (No, it hasn't taken hold yet.)

However, maybe those Canadians aren't so bad after all ;)


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Drunk Dialing Call Block

Okay, that's it! There are some negatives to being an expatriate. One big one are your fellow expatriates who are often maladjusted in some way. When the weird strikes an expatriate situation it's usually very weird. BTW, I'm not saying I'm free of maladjustments; I know I have my own special selection too. I just think they're minor, but who doesn't?

Anyway, there is someone who is prone to sending me text messages at REALLY inappropriate times. I've tolerated it simply because the messages were so ridiculous they were funny. The subject matter is always some starlet or other - okay, whatever, some lonely dude who is in dire need of friends fixating on some woman on TV or on the Internet. However, the joke grew stale months ago because it's the same damn joke. Unfortunately, he's grown to know my schedule and knows I usually rise early. One morning I he woke me up with this madness and I was livid because I'd had a late night out.

Well, I was snoozing away in my warm bed this morning, and that's very important when the temperature is -3°C, that's 26°F, when I heard my cell phone vibrating. I was thinking "no, way...not again!" Sure enough, there was a message which was time stamped at 4:15am!

Furious, I replied back. That's probably the worst thing I could have done with someone who has lacks to good sense to realize doing this causes people to AVOID you. When it happened a couple of weeks ago and I said he'd woken me up, there was no "I'm sorry", there were only more messages!

So when I awoke this morning to the same ol' shit, I was very much finished with it all.


Joke delivered. It sucks...still.


However, the result is I'm pissed off and awake, and I surf the Internet when I'm up in the wee hours. I found this blog about an LG brand phone that prevents drunk dialing. I only have drunk texting, but it's just as annoying. The offending party has one of those MBA-supported finance jobs, so he can afford a new phone. I think I'll pass this on to someone who can get this to him as I officially have him on ignore now. Okay, I'm going back to sleep.

LG Offers a Phone That Can Tell if You Are Drunk!

Adding new meaning to the term “smart phone”, Korea-based Lucky Goldstar has released a phone in the US this summer with a built-in breathalyzer. 200,000 of the LP4100 model phones had already been sold in Korea before hitting the US market.

When you blow into this phone and it detects you are over the legal limit, it gives a warning and displays a cute little animation of a car swerving off the road and smashing into traffic cones. A wise driver would then stop and hand the wheel over to a friend, or call a taxi. Targeted to hard partying younger people, the phone also has a “Drunk Dialing” call block. You can set certain numbers as blocked at certain times of the night, or if you are too drunk to call.

This is a great feature, there is nothing worse than having a friend replay your voice mails left at 3 AM after one too many. Or getting your phone bill after calling your ex in the middle of the night – when your ex moved to France two years ago!

This is also a great safeguard to keep you from calling your boss or mother while hammered.

The LP4100 has great potential to save lives. Most people will not buy a breathalyzer as a standalone product, but if it comes with a phone, why not?

The phone itself has all the features required by the younger set, and a sleek “sports-car” design. Remember, phones don’t let friends drink and drive!


Update #1 - Dec. 21, 2007 @ 5:34pm

I blocked said fuckwit, but I didn't delete him off my Windows Messenger list.

Woah is me.

Can you believe this fuckwit told me that to avoid such disturbances I should, let me quote this shit "turn ur fone off". To which my reply was "i shouldn't have to...have the common sense NOT to disturb someone". And his reply was "if ur fone is on, ur receiving calls and txts".

Now technically, yes, I am. That's like telling someone to turn off the ringer to their home phone before they go to bed. People have phones for a reason. Should an emergency happen, I want the call, so I keep my phone on. What I don't want is to be disturbed with stupid shit at 4am and most people I know get this. Funny that he doesn't.

I just think it's hilarious that the tried to argue this with me. It just shows that in spite of his education he has no manners and no damn sense. I ended the discussion by informing him it was a non-issue because I call blocked his number immediately after that.

I'm just amused and wanted to share this because I'd NEVER have the gall to take someone on about disturbing them at 4am. The levels of inconsiderate that I've found in the expatriates here is astounding.


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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Myanmar Update: Cambodia's in your corner!

A monk runs from tear gas fired by police on protesting Buddhist monks in Yangon from the AFP.

My Myanmar blog post, but it's seven updates strong, so it's time for a new post instead of an update.

Last week the UN released a report that was very critical of the government in Myanmar. This week Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia praised Myanmar. In reaction, it seems, UN investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro called for Myanmar to enter into talks. It just seems with China supporting it and its neighbors sitting back on the human rights issue, I see no reason why those in power would bother with any talks. Maybe I'm missing something, if so, get me up to speed.

Envoy pleads for Myanmar dialogue
GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) -- The U.N. special investigator for Myanmar pleaded with the country's military junta on Wednesday to engage in a serious dialogue about human rights, a day after U.S. President George W. Bush threatened new international sanctions.

"We know that we have a problem," Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who recently visited the country, told Myanmar's ambassador at a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Pinheiro said he was disappointed by Myanmar's reaction to a report he formally presented to the 47-nation body on the government's deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in September.

The report released last week found that at least 31 people were killed -- more than double the number acknowledged by authorities. Pinheiro said the death toll was probably much higher.

Pinhero's plea came a day after Cambodia's government defended Myanmar's junta. On Tuesday Cambodia's leader said the U.N. should leave Myanmar alone and stop disrupting the junta's progress toward democracy by issuing critical reports on human rights abuses.

"Myanmar has been moving smoothly ahead," Prime Minister Hun Sen said, becoming perhaps the first national leader to publicly praise the country's military junta since its bloody September crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Hun Sen, whose government is regularly criticized for human rights abuses, lashed out at the Pinheiro report released last week. Hun Sen said the report did nothing but "disturb" Myanmar's efforts toward reform.

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill meant to stop Myanmar's rubies and high quality jade from entering the United States. The bill tightens already tough sanctions against a ruling military junta that killed peaceful pro-democracy protesters and Buddhist monks in September.

The House bill would freeze assets by Myanmar's leaders and cut off tax deductions for U.S. companies working in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

It attempts to stop Myanmar from dodging U.S. sanctions through laundering gemstones in third countries before selling them in the United States.

"Burma's generals fund this repression of their own people by selling off the country's natural resources," Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
More links:

International Herald Tribune: Cambodian leader blasts report, says UN should leave Myanmar alone
AFP: At least 31 killed in Myanmar unrest: UN expert


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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

South Korea's Big Oil Spill -- How to help

We've all heard about the oil spill that happened in Taean a few days ago. I got an email from the US Embassy tonight telling people how they can help.

Here it is:

The Korean government continues to confront a major challenge following the large oil spill off the coast of Taean County. So far more than 9,000 soldiers, policemen, and volunteers have been mobilized to mop up the oil and contain the environmental damage.

Members of the expatriate community who wish to contribute to the effort to combat the oil spill can do so in several ways:

1) Donations of goods: Authorities and volunteers need any of the following items you can donate:

-- used winter clothing
-- old towels or any other old cloth that can help absorb oil
-- personal protective gear such as face masks, rain coats, rubber boots, and gloves.

To send donated goods, address them to:

The County Disaster Relief Center
96, Nammoon-ri, Taean-eup, Taean-gun, South Chungcheong Province
Tel: 041-670-2645 through 2653

2) Volunteering:

The Taean County Relief Center is receiving applications from individual volunteers or organizations via telephone (042-670-2645 through 2653) or through its website at

Applications should be made at least one day in advance so that the relief center can assign volunteers to the most-needed area.

Please note that volunteers are required to bring with them their own protective gear including raincoats, boots, and gloves. Please note also that there is no interpretation service available for foreigners, so a basic command of the Korean language is needed.

3) Donation of Money:

Donations of money to assist in the clean-up operation are being received by the South Choongcheong Provincial Government at the following account:

Nonghyup Bank, Account No.: 471-01-002107, held in the name of: The Governor of South Choongcheong Province.

The U.S. Embassy thanks you for considering these assistance measures.

Socius: Expat helping hands for the oil spill

Here is a NYTimes photo slide show the oil spill: South Korea's Blackened Beaches
Time: Korea's Oil Spill Still Spreading
NYTimes: South Korea Cleans Up Big Oil Spill


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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Okay, enough! At least for Americans, E-2 compliance info

Update 3 from the US Embassy in Korea - December 31, 2007 @ 7:00pm


The Korean Ministry of Justice announced that as of December 15, 2007, foreigners will have to submit medical and criminal background checks when applying for a visa to become a foreign language teacher in South Korea. The U.S. Embassy cannot provide a background check or fingerprinting service, and we cannot notarize, certify, or verify the authenticity of background checks or diplomas.

As we understand the new requirements, E-2 visa applicants who are U.S. citizens can obtain the necessary criminal background check either by submitting their fingerprints to the FBI or by applying for a local police check where they last resided in the U.S. Procedures for obtaining criminal background checks in the U.S. are explained on our website at Local police stations in the Republic of Korea are able to take fingerprints that can be sent to the FBI for a background check. U.S. Embassies are, unfortunately, prohibited from taking fingerprints for these purposes.

Regrettably, the Korea Immigration Service (KIS) has placed incorrect information on its website concerning services U.S. embassies can and cannot perform. As of this writing the "New Release: Mandatory Requirements of Criminal Background Check and Health Certificate" on the KIS website contains incorrect information about the length of time it can take to get a criminal records check in the U.S. and also states erroneously that the U.S. Embassy can notarize or certify background checks. We have asked that the incorrect information be removed from the KIS website and we regret any inconvenience or misunderstanding that has resulted from their explanation of our services.

As we receive updated information on the Korean visa requirements, we will post it on our website. The U.S. Embassy website will also continue to be the best source of information about the services that we are able to provide under U.S. law and regulation. If you have further questions, we suggest that you contact the office responsible for the new requirements, the Korea Immigration Service, Border Control Division, at 500-9116, 500-9117, or 500-9118, or consult their website at or the Ministry of Justice website (in Korean only) at

Update 2 - December 15, 2007 @ 8:04am

Okay, this is merely unofficial and ancedotal crap. I went to immigration on Friday to get something done. I asked the person helping me and he said, I quote "몰라요", "I don't know".

I was chatting with one friend who said it depends on who gets elected next Wednesday (the presidential election is next week). I'm thinking that's really odd legislation to be dependent on the next president of South Korea but maybe the legislators KNEW about that technicality when they passed this law because it has been done to shut their constituents up. I also heard that it's been delayed until March of next year.

Also, there is the same belly-aching. I was out on Friday and people were going on and on about how the FBI has a post-9/11 backlogs on criminal background checks and how a person can't even request their own background check, it has to be requested for them. That "it has to be requested by someone else" line is odd to me too as one of the commentors on this very post said he's done it twice, but I don't argue with people talking to hear themselves talk. However, please tell me, how do potential parents wanting to adopt foreign children get it done? Are you saying that foreign orphanages or governments shoulder the burden of getting the paperwork done to request these things first? I'm adopted and I know that even domestically, my parents had to shoulder the bureaucratic and financial burdens, so I seriously doubt that you can't order your own criminal background check.

Anyway, basically, there is a whole lot of talk but no clear policy. When the Korean immigration website is updated, I'll worry about it. For now, I'll go with what my government has written about it and deal with it if and when I must.

Update 1 - December 12, 2007 @ 8:22am

First, I'll post updates to this at the top because I know most E-2 visa holders aren't the brightest bulbs (yeah, I don't like most of you folks.)

I went to the FBI website this morning and found a helpful page.

It gives a link to a document on which they'd want your fingerprints to be rolled when requesting a criminal record check.

Here it is: FBI Identification Record Request (Criminal Record Check)


I've been avoiding the buzz about the new E-2 visa requirements because just about every foreigner who talks about it makes it out to be like the Inquisition.

Come on people. As soon as it was released that Chester the Canadian Child Molester was an English teacher in Korea, you didn't think the legislature was going to respond with some over-the-top solution?

Anyway, someone just made a comment about it, and I'm going to nip this bitching in the bud, at least, nip it in the bud for Americans.

Here is what the US Embassy in Korea has to say on it:
We understand that the government of the Republic of Korea is changing its immigration policies effective December 15, 2007, to require that criminal records checks and a health certificate be submitted with E-2 visa applications or extensions. The U.S. Embassy in South Korea does not provide a records check or fingerprinting service, nor can the Embassy authenticate records checks or health certificates. At this time, we do not have any further information about what specifically the Korean authorities will require of E-2 visa applicants. If you have further questions, we suggest that you contact the Korean Immigration Service, Border Control Division, at 500-9116, 500-9117, or 500-9118, or consult their website:

Below you will find the procedure that U.S. citizens must undertake to secure a properly authenticated criminal record check.

I. Criminal Records Check Information:

U.S. citizens may be asked to present a "certificate of good conduct" or "lack of a criminal record" for a variety of reasons for use abroad including adoption, school attendance, employment, etc. U.S. law enforcement authorities may not be familiar with such a procedure since it is not commonly requested in the U.S. There are a variety of options available to U.S. citizens seeking to obtain proof of their lack of a criminal record.

Federal Records Check: The Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) centralizes criminal justice information and provides accurate and timely information and services to local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies, the private sector, academia, and other government agencies. The subject of an identification record may obtain a copy thereof by submitting a written request to the CJIS. The request must be accompanied by satisfactory proof of identity (consisting of name, date and place of birth, and a set of roll-inked fingerprint impressions) and a certified check or money order for the $18 processing fee. It will take 16-18 weeks for the FBI to process the request. The FBI will not provide copies of arrest records to individuals other than the subject of the record. Requests should be directed to FBI CJIS Division, Attn: SCU, Mod. D-2, 1000 Custer Hollow Rd., Clarksburg, West Virginia 26306. If there is no criminal record, a report reflecting this fact is provided.

Local Police Check: U.S. citizens should go to their local police department where they reside or last resided in the U.S., request that the police conduct a criminal records search and provide them with a document reflecting that there is no history of a criminal record. Local police departments may require a personal appearance in order to conduct the search. The local police department can phrase this in whatever way it deems appropriate. The document should then be authenticated for use abroad following the State Department’s guidance on authentication or legalization of documents. The entire process will vary in the amount of time and money required depending on which state it is requested from. We encourage applicants for E-2 visas in South Korea to contact their state government directly in order to obtain this information.


The U.S. and South Korea are parties to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. The Convention abolishes the requirement of diplomatic and consular legalization for public documents originating in one Convention country and intended for use in another. For the purposes of the Convention, public documents include: (a) documents emanating from a court, (b) documents issued by an administrative authority (such as civil records), and (c) documents executed before a notary. Such documents issued in a Convention country that have been certified by a Convention certificate called an "apostille" are entitled to recognition in any other Convention country without any further authentication. See TIAS 10072; U.N.T.S. 189; 28 U.S.C.A., Fed. R. Civ. P. 44, pp. 323-327 (1992 & West Supp. 1993); Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, Law Digest Volume, Selected International Conventions; 20 Int'l. Leg. Mat. 1405-1414 (November 1981).

Federal Records Check: Documents issued under the seal of a federal agency can be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office. The office is located at 518 23rd St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520, tel: (202) 647-5002. There is a fee of $7.00 for each authentication payable in the form of a check drawn on a U.S. bank or money order made payable to the Department of State. For additional information, call the Federal Information Center: 1-800-688-9889, and choose option 6 after you press 1 for touch tone phones. Walk-in service is available from the Authentications Office from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Monday-Friday, except holidays. Walk-in service is limited to 15 documents per person per day (documents can be multiple pages). Processing time for authentication requests sent by mail is 5 working days or less.

Local Police Check: A local police check must be authenticated in the state where it was issued. The list below indicates where a U.S. citizen must submit a document for authentication. See also 28 U.S.C.A., Fed. R. Civ. P. 44, pp. 328-31 (1992 & West Supp. 1993).
After that it's a list of the various state agencies and a couple of links to the US Department of State.

Anyway, I hope that helps my fellow Americans here.

I checked the website, the new government website for foreigners in Korea, and it still has the old E-2 requirements. I've got to go to immigration this week to get some paperwork processed, so I'll just ask when I'm there. But what I've heard is Korean immigration is well aware that this kind of paperwork takes awhile, so in the interim, they'll issue provisional visas. Fair enough, until the Korean legislature responds to all the Korean business owners who are having heart attacks over this extreme law.

If you must join the whine-fest on this here are some links:
ZenKimchi: Visa Regulation Update
The Marmot's Hole: Hagwons, Regional Colleges Pissed at New E-2 Regulations
and, as usual, I've heard it's a shit-stirrer's and whiner's moshpit over at Dave's ESL Cafe.

Go and have at it.


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Monday, December 10, 2007

Only In Korea

Only in Korea are people so trusting that your taxi driver will jump out of the car at a red light and dash in to the convenience store on the corner.

You see traffic lights are timed badly in Korea. If you get caught at one, usually, you're waiting, waiting, and waiting. Seriously, at larger intersections, which are prone to gridlock, it can take way too many minutes to get through an intersection.

Today, I took an express bus to work and from the bus stop hailed a taxi for the short ride to my office. When it was clear the light was going to turn red, the taxi driver turned to me, pointed to something outside of the car indicating he was going to leave it, I nodded as I figured if things got weird I'd just get out of the car, and he ran off to the Family Mart convenience store on the corner.

I just thought it was so funny to be sitting in a taxi alone at a red light with the meter running. I was thinking about how that would NEVER happen in other cities simply because the taxi driver would be concerned that while he was gone the customer would take the taxi on a joy ride or the passenger would get out without paying the fare.

No such concerns here. When he got back I asked him what he bought. He smiled, told me he'd bought "cigars" and tapped his box of cigarettes. I wanted to take his picture, but I figured he might have been scared I was going to report him or that he'd get in trouble, so I didn't ask. Even without his picture this is one funny story.


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Let The Cultural Exchanges Begin

The New York Philharmonic got an invite to play in North Korea and they've accepted. They'll go next year in February. I got news of this delivered to my email inbox earlier today.

I have to say this is good. Now how much good it will do in isolation is neglible but maybe it will be the start of more to come.

Philharmonic Agrees to Play in North Korea

Adding a cultural wrinkle to the diplomatic engagement between the United States and North Korea, the New York Philharmonic plans to visit Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, in February, taking the legacy of Beethoven, Bach and Bernstein to one of the world’s most isolated nations.

The trip, at the invitation of North Korea, will be the first significant cultural visit by Americans to that country, and it comes as the United States is offering the possibility of warmer ties with a country that President Bush once consigned to the “axis of evil.”

“We haven’t even had Ping-Pong diplomacy with these people,” said Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, the Bush administration’s main diplomat for negotiations with North Korea and the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Just last week Mr. Bush sent a letter to Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s leader, suggesting that ties would improve if North Korea fully disclosed all nuclear programs and got rid of its nuclear weapons. Conservatives have criticized the Bush administration for engaging with North Korea when it has violated nuclear promises, and in the face of recent intelligence indicating its possible assistance to Syria in beginning work on a reactor.

State Department officials said the orchestra’s invitation from North Korea and its acceptance represented a potential opening in that Communist nation’s relationship with the outside world, and a softening of its unrelenting anti-United States propaganda.

“It would signal that North Korea is beginning to come out of its shell, which everyone understands is a long-term process,” Mr. Hill said. “It does represent a shift in how they view us, and it’s the sort of shift that can be helpful as we go forward in nuclear weapons negotiations.”

The Philharmonic’s trip, which has generated some controversy among orchestra musicians and commentators, will follow a venerable line of groundbreaking orchestra tours that have played a role in diplomacy, the most famous one, perhaps, taking place in 1973, when the Philadelphia Orchestra traveled to China soon after President Nixon’s historic visit and amid what came to be known as Ping-Pong diplomacy. In 1956 the Boston Symphony was the first major American orchestra to travel to the Soviet Union. The New York Philharmonic, under Leonard Bernstein, went three years later.

Of the Philharmonic’s excursion, Mr. Hill said, “I hope it will be looked back upon as an event that helped bring that country back into the world.”
Click the link above to go to the NY Times and read the full article.


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Saturday, December 8, 2007

About Time, Idiot

Beyond that, no fucking comment.

Bush Writes First Letter to Kim Jong-il

U.S. President George W. Bush has sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il urging him to declare all his country's nuclear programs. It was the first time Bush directly communicated with the reclusive North Korean leader, although his predecessor Bill Clinton sent three direct letters to the North Korean leader while in office.

The official Korea Central News Agency said the U.S. chief negotiator in six-nation talks Christopher Hill delivered Bush's letter to North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun on Wednesday. The White House said Bush in the letter “stressed the need for North Korea to come forward with a full and complete declaration of their nuclear programs, as called for in the September 2005 six-party agreement.” Bush also sent letters to the heads of the four other nations in the nuclear talks.

A South Korean diplomat speculated the letter aimed at underscoring the U.S.’ willingness to improve relations with the North if Pyongyang keeps its denuclearization promises under a series of six-party agreements. He added that by announcing that it has received the letter, the North “expressed its commitment to the six-party talks, suggesting that it is seriously considering Washington's request.”

A researcher with a South Korean state-run think tank said if the North refuses to fully declare its nuclear activities after Bush's letter, the U.S. could use it as a reason to pressure North Korea.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Song Min-soon on Thursday said persuading North Korea to reveal its all its nuclear activities is “difficult”, adding that efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue are moving “from smooth to bumpy roads.”


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Just Kidding Films...ahahahahaha

Okay, I have to say I'm not sure how much someone who hasn't lived in Korea will get this, BUT if you have, get ready to laugh your ass off.

The whole "Koreans are nice people" while juxtaposed with the anger and insecurity Korean culture has is played out so well here. Plus, as they say, Koreans only beat their wives...ouch.

It's really funny to hear a Korean tell me they're so nice like it's worthy of a medal. This is particularly so when en route to meet that person you got shoved out of the way maybe 3 or 4 times by little Korean women who just had to get on the bus before you. I always reply that, yes, Koreans are nice but there are nice people in every culture.

These guys nail the bizarre ranting ajosshi. How many times have I witnessed the "Korea #1" rants? Many. They're just funny although sometimes scary. I know what's behind it, so I just try to take it in stride. These guys spoofed it well.

More from them:
Just Kidding Films on YouTube
Just Kidding Films' MySpace page

Thanks ZenKimchi for posting this.


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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Something I Like About Korea: Peasant Egalitarianism

I heard that term for the first time in my International Political Economy course last semester. Now that I've graduated and revealed that I went to Ewha Womans University's GSIS program*, I can also reveal that it was taught by MIT educated Professor Byoung-joo Kim.

That was one great thing about Ewha's GSIS program. They were able to pull in professors with not only academic but also real world experience. Now this isn't a post touting the pluses of Ewha's GSIS program, but that was the strongest one for me because, believe me, the department also has its issues.

So let's get to the topic. I chose to use the term "peasant egalitarianism" because it covers the post-Korean War South Korean mentality. The country was decimated. It was also split and families are to this day still separated. The rich were poor and the poor were also poor. In a very fundamental way, South Korea had a rebuild from nothing. What weaved its way into that was egalitarianism.

This definition on Wiki sums it up more succiently than I can manage:

Egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level) is a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as equals from birth. Generally it applies to being held equal under the law, the church, and society at large. In actual practice, one may be considered an egalitarian in most areas listed above, even if not subscribing to equality in every possible area of individual difference.
Layer egalitarianism on a nation destroyed by war where everyone is poor and you've got your peasants.

On top of that South Korea, as we all know, has had the aid and support of the United States which is still here. The US shared technology, helped rebuild the infrastructure, opened its borders and schools to South Koreans and commited its military to the defense of the South Korea. Of course, the UN was here as well as other nations (so no need to comment to point that out...thanks.) I mention this aid because this is a crucial point because this is where South Korea was smart. You can easily see a society where the leaders would divert all that aid to benefit themselves. South Korea has had it's scandals but has been pretty lucky overall it seems in that respect. That money that would have otherwise been committed to its defense was spent on creating a vibrant economy. One thing that is essential to that is education and one thing that shocked and impressed me when I arrived here was the huge number of colleges and universities in small or remote areas. Koreans have an advantage when it comes to their language: hangul
Koreans call their alphabet Hangul. Like English, the letters of the Hangul alphabet represent individual sounds or phonemes. Hangul was invented by King Sejong of the Choson Dynasty, and introduced to the public in 1443 in Hun-Min-Jeong-Eum. King Sejong believed that Koreans needed an easy-to-learn system for writing their own language. Before King Sejong deigned the Hangul, Koreans had either written in the Chinese language or had written Korean using Chinese characters to represent the Korean sounds in a complex system, Idu. The alphabet originally contained 28 letters composed of 11 vowels and 17 consonants.
This means that anyone can read Korean. People don't believe me when I tell them it's easy to learn because they imagine it's like Chinese where the letter is based on a character. You know "this is a man sitting under a tree" and that means ..." Well, hangul isn't like that. It's an alphabet. It's just put together from different angles.

What that means is there is almost no illiteracy here. Mix into that a high respect for education, a society that was smart and actually channelled its resources into education and you get what I saw this morning.
I was en route to work on the subway and I got the coveted end of the row seat. In my car was a newspaper delevery man who had a hand trolley stacked full of papers to drop off to the kiosks you see on the streets here in Seoul. Clearly, taking advantage of his job perk: free papers. That man was standing there reading a paper.

A few seats away was a man dressed as if he was on his way to work was sitting down also reading a morning paper. Now I didn't stop and ask them about themselves. The man with the trolley could very well be one of the many highly trained workers that were displaced during the Asian Financial Crisis. I've met a few who are now taxi drivers or shop owners. That guy reading the paper could have been en route to yet another job interview. However, assuming I'm right about these two men. That's cool.

Of course, the big benefit to ethnically homogenious cultures is no ethnic problems. The problems that Koreans have are with other groups. Yes, there are problems within Korean society but they have an impressive sense of unity. That, along with Confucianism makes it easier for them to take one for the team. The massive economic development they've seen is definitely attributable in many ways to the group unity they have.

Now this struck me as great because there are only a few countries where I'd say education is truly accessible to all. This hits me so because my father was illiterate. The US at the time of his youth was still very much incredibly racist and economically divided not only in its beliefs but in its system and laws. In rural Georgia with a family with 12 other siblings he had to work. That's where economics factors in. I'd like to think that in the modern US a family that large would HAVE to send their children to school or home school them to the state's satisfaction. Going to school wasn't an option for my father.

I'd say race factors into it because it becomes an issue when the children not receiving an education are white but not so much when the children are black. Hence you have a poor family doing the best they can and using all they have at their disposal, including their children, to make ends meet. You can argue that the US still has tons of racial and economic issues. I'd agree, but I'm one generation from people who had it much worse than I'll ever have. To not acknowledge that would be disrespectful to them and to the people who worked so hard to make things better for me.

It also means that in a foreign culture I can see the similarities and differences from another point of view. I do think it's because I'm a minority in my home country as well as here. So certain things are the same and I know those things aren't the same for a good number of my co-workers and acquaintances here. In many ways, this is the first time ever they've dealt with being different or have faced overwhelmingly negative versus positive stereotypes. Now that's not the case for all, but I hope you get my point---it's general, there are always exceptions.

But to bring that generality home here is a story. This weekend I had a discussion with some other foreigners here over various cuts of meat. I said that the cuts of meats most definitely correlate to the struggle a group has had. Black and Koreans have had it hard. Therefore, in both soul food and Korean kitchens you've got animal intestines on the menu: chitterlings int the soul food restarants and 곱창, gobchang, in Korean ones. Now pointing out economic differences and how that factors into other aspects of life makes some people uncomfortable. It didn't surprise me when the white American woman at the table HAD to shot that down because, well, the French also eat intestines. I didn't have the energy to explain that bouchons is also working class food. Also, hello, the French Revolution was very much a class struggle! Hence the French and their motto "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité". The French also have their fair share of economic and class differences today. However, it was something not worth bringing up when you're faced with a white American not willing to acknowledge certain privileges. A friendly dinner is really not the time for a history lesson even when you know the person is wrong.

So, with that said, when I see these positive societal differences. I'm happy to see a nation where the blue collar workers read the paper just as the white collar workers do. Granted, South Korea has a way to go on many issues from women's rights to race and even religion, but when it comes to access to basic education it's pretty fair. For me, that's significant because if my dad knew what was in the paper it was because I or my mom read it to him.

*Why? Let's just say I didn't blend in when running around campus. Now that I'm no longer running around campus if you're going to stalk me, well, you have to find me. With, at least, 7 or 8 international studies programs taught in English in or near Seoul someone was going to have to their work cut out for them.


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Friday, November 30, 2007

Rodney Johnson on Background Checks of Employees in Asia

Regular readers know that I posted a few things about the academic fakery that goes on as well as recorded a podcast with Mike over at The Metropolitician on the subject: Podcast 31 - Academic Fakery. Just click on the "education" tag to find them.

I went to the McKinnney Consulting website to read some articles on Korean culture by Professor Horrace Underwood when I decided to click around and see what else was there.

Lucky me. I found an article which tells companies outright that they MUST take the steps to verify a candidate's credentials. Now this is geared to foreign companies looking to do business in Asia. However, with all the stories of people who've been caught lying about their degrees, it's something that Korean employers must do too.

The Importance of Background Checks by Rodney Johnson

Asia is constantly at war with fraud and fakes. From fake pharmaceuticals to fake purses, to food that was not meant for human consumption, counterfeit items and fraudulent claims flood the market and threaten to do serious damage to the legitimate businesses that both sell the real items and buy the fakes.

But fakes are not limited to just physical goods. The marketplace for labor is also infested with fakes - fake people. Job seekers, not limited to any job title, industry, or level, routinely falsify their resumes, and credentials. The high degree of fake resumes and fake claims of education and ability have led to countermeasures, in Asia and elsewhere, designed to lower the risks to employers.

Many Asian countries put a high value on learning that has been verified by some sort of standard, certification, or award. Certifications act as a form of verification or proof of the verity of any claimed skill or ability. As such, Asian employees are required to earn certifications and titles or various sorts in order to secure employment and advancement.

However, using certification as a countermeasure against fakes is only half the battle, and going only as far as requiring certification documents has created a situation where fraudulent claims are even easier to get away with. A fake TOEFL or TOEIC score is now attainable for a few hundred thousand won and a few days wait. The price may be high, but compared to the years of study that might be necessary to reach the higher score through legitimate means, it is a bargain. For a few million won, a fake certificate of graduation from virtually any foreign school one wishes can be produced, along with a fake transcript - though it is not likely to be needed.

The missing half of the battle is having the will to find out if the claimed credentials are, in fact, held. The reason job seekers feel free to cheat, is because they believe, with some justification, that no one will ever attempt to verify their claims. The risk/reward profile of this situation creates a strong incentive to obtain fake credentials – the job seeker has everything to gain and nothing to lose. The current situation has created an environment where it does indeed make sense to cheat.

While evaluating true ability and skills of an applicant through a resume is difficult, finding out whether the certifications and degrees an applicant claims are, in fact, real, is much easier. All that is required is the will and ability to check. The cost/benefit ratio for employers to check the backgrounds of their potential employees in Asia is very good - for the cost of a background check great risk may be averted. While checking references, and educational background, one may find out that a potential employee has a criminal record, or was fired from a previous job in the same industry for a problem that could be especially expensive if repeated in your organization.

Ask those who provide your personnel what kind of background checks they perform. Ensure they are doing all they can to weed out fake credentials and false claims on resumes. Finally, if you can't get the answers you need to feel satisfied that your workforce is the one you think you've got seek outside help.

Background checks are inexpensive and relatively painless compared to the potential problems they can help avoid. In the end, it could be the unseen lurking problems which undo all your hard work – problems that could have been avoided with a little attention paid to the personnel who handle your precious money, brand, and customers.

Johnson sums up what I've been saying all along: it's NOT difficult to check. Those that claim that's the case really need to find a new excuse. The effort required is usually a phone call, email or letter. That's not hard at all.


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Seoul Tower Alight

Update: January 9, 2008 @ 8:29pm

Here is a video of Seoul Tower lit up by Kolinka:

I'll be interviewing him for my column in the Expat Living section of the Korea Herald. Stay tuned for that and I'll update this post when it's published.

Update: January 4, 2008 @ 10:15am

I got a comment from Kolinka and he left this link: Namsan 2007-12-30

Check it out!


From the Chosun Ilbo: Click on the pic to go to the news piece.

I missed this one.

I live near Seoul Tower and can view it from my apartment. However, this past week kept me busy, so I missed it.

Seoul Tower was lit up by Alexandre Kolinka to symbolize fire, spring, summer, autumn and winter. How pretty. This is what I get for NOT taking an evening walk up to Seoul tower this week.

However, there are no dates on this event on his website, so maybe it will be up for the whole month?
Décembre 2007 – Séoul, Corée

Installation vidéo pérenne, dont le concept initial évoluera jusqu’en 2010. Le projet a été commandité par la Mairie de Séoul.
I'll make sure to find out.
French lighting artist Alexandre Kolinka's 'Electronic Fire' installation lights up on Mt. Namsan for Seoul's 'Museum of Light' project. The work symbolizes, from left to right, fire, spring, summer, autumn and winter. /Yonhap


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Donations Via Cell Phone

Update 1 (Dec. 26, 2007 @ 11:19am)

I was out this Sunday and I had a chance to snap a picture of one of the holiday Salvation Army donation set-ups. The little black box in the middle of the pink display is a place where you can swipe your T-money metro card to make a donation. Now that's clever.


Pic from the Chosun Ilbo website (click the pic to go to the Chosun Ilbo).

This morning I was clicking around on various Korean newspaper sites when this bit of news caught my eye.

As I mentioned in my post about my new cell phone, Korean cell phone technology is incredibly advanced and you can bank from your phone.

One company, SK Telecom, has made it possible to make donations to the Salvation Army during the holiday season. I think that's great.
SK Telecom will set up a temporary service allowing subscribers to donate money to the Salvation Army through their mobile phones free of charge from Dec. 1 to 24. /Newsis
Considering that I think Koreans need to donate more time, money and attention to various charities, as well as establish a social safety net, this is a great idea. I hope it works and donations in Korea to this great charity increase.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Repost: Gusts of Popular Feeling - Horace H. Underwood on Korean and American Culture

Update 1 (Dec. 1, 2007 @ 11:57am)

Well, I'm going to be honest. I reposted this without reading all of the links. It turns out that two of the links aren't correct.

So here they are with the correct links:
Honesty vs. Loyalty: Which is More Important?
Heredity and Environment

Also, while I like linking to things there is always that risk that the link(s) will change. With that in mind I've also uploaded the texts to my 4Shared account. You can access the essays from there too. I just cut and pasted all of Professor Underwood's essays in one file in alpha order.

Here is the link: Professor Horace Underwood on Korean Culture (it's an MS Word/.doc file.)


This is mos def reading for those of us interested in Korean culture and how it differs from American culture.

Horace H. Underwood on Korean and American culture

I found a link to this page in a comment by suddenly susan to this Metropolitician post.

In these articles, Horace H. Underwood the differences between Korean and American culture in a very clear way. They're well worth your time.

Korean Culture: "In" and "Out"
No Men Are Created Equal
Honesty vs. Loyalty: Which is More Important?
Heredity and Environment
Ch’emyon or Social Face in Korean Society


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