Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Repost: 'Beyond the book: page 1379 of Deathly Hallows...' from the Gypsy Scholar

I'm having much more fun read tonight than writing.

Since I usually end up writing way too much, that's a good thing.

This one is from the Gypsy Scholar who is another expat in Korea. It's about the Deathly Hallows and it pokes fun at well, you'll figure that out after you read it.

Good one Gypsy Scholar!

Beyond the book: page 1379 of Deathly Hallows...

(Image from Wikipedia)

Though still a little-known fact, the latest Potter volume contains more than 759 pages.

No, I don't mean those those seven blank pages nor the "About the Author" page, another blank page, the "About the Illustrator" page, or that last visible page, on art direction and the choice of font.

Nope, not those.

I mean the part of the book that extends into another dimension, much like Doctor Who's TARDIS, which is bigger on the inside than on the outside. In those pages beyond our earthly dimensions, Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows never seems to end.

It is, indeed, a hypertext, unbounded in all directions and linked to every other text in the universe, a veritable universe of discourse.

I've reached page 1379, where Voldemort fully melds with the Antichrist, something I've been anticipating for several volumes now as Voldemort has taken on ever-more-serpentine qualities and thereby grown ever-more Satanic. Turns out, then, that the entire anti-Potter faction among evangelicals has been utterly wrong the whole time about Rowling's supposed 'anti-Christian' magic. In these hypertextual pages, the Christian imagery grows ever more obvious. Those evangelicals who had opposed the Potter phenomenon for its 'pagan' worldview will just have to learn to read it in much the way that they've learned to read C.S. Lewis, seeing the deeper magic beneath the witchery and accepting the pagan details as vehicles for a Christian message, as Elisabeth Gruner has been arguing for some time.

Deathly Hallows is simply another expression for the valley of the shadow of death, so we should fear no evil...


Sphere: Related Content

Repost: 'My personal view on the current hostage crisis' from the Marmot's Hole

I've really wanted to chime in on the Korean hostage crisis in Afghanistan, but I've stayed away from it simply because it's ongoing and my views are pretty matter-of-fact and sterile. I'm really about not stirring up what is already a very emotional situation for many Koreans. Also, I've heard that those who have strong opinions like me have been taking it too far saying things like maybe they should die or that the government shouldn't try to get them out. That's silliness even if you disagree with them going there.

The talk has been so tough that people have asked Korean bloggers to just back off of the harsh talk. I think the dialogue should happen because Koreans need to do it. It's a democracy and people have a right to their opinions whether you like it or not. However, as it's not my country this is not a topic that I'm comfortable opining about until it's all settled. Here is a piece from Time.com on it: Korean Missionaries Under Fire

With that said, there is a balanced opinion on it at The Marmot's Hole. I'll just repost it here in full. I'll turn comments off 'cause if you have something to say, you should take it there, but maybe this will give some insight into the questions about why people would willingly go into a war zone.

My personal view on the current hostage crisis

A lot has been said regarding the hostage crisis, among them the irresponsibility of the 23 that went on the so called medical mission to Afghanistan. Now why would 23 men and mostly women decide to go on a mission which most of them, despite the somewhat insane pictures taken at the airport, knew would be akin to a suicide mission?

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go far to find an answer, because based on my own personal experiences with Korean Christians, it wasn’t difficult to figure everything out.

Now I have to add that not all Korean Christians are like this, but the Korean Christians who are level headed are in the minority. Unfortunately the majority have the following tendencies;

1. The need to convert everyone around them.

This seems to be the case with almost every Korean Christian that I have gotten to know. The first question is usually “Do you go to church?” If the answer is “No”, then the sales pitch begins with lobbying on why I should believe in God and Jesus Christ, which leads to pushing me to go to church (”Are you free on Sunday? Be here by this time”) and eventually leads to comments like “why aren’t you coming to church?” or “attending the church is good for your future” or “if you attend our church then there are girls waiting in line to date you.” Some like our CIO take a more direct approach, by gathering his reports and saying “I order you to go to church with me” and in a Korean company, if your boss orders you, you don’t have much of a choice.

Personally, if I want to believe in a religion and follow its teachings, I would rather do it without people ordering/pushing me to believe in that particular religion, and what really angers me, is the Korean Christians’ penchant to ignore the wishes of the person whom they are trying to convert.

This is in contrast to American Mormon missionaries whom I had an opportunity to meet during my college years. They were eager to show me the Mormon beliefs and teachings, but at the same time, they were willing to step back and let me decide on my own. At the end, it was nice talking to them, but I decided that the Mormon church wasn’t for me, and the missionaries respected my decision.

Which brings me to this story. One of my college hubae, was an active member of a certain church with an Ancient Egyptian sounding name, and saw me talking to the Mormon missionaries. He asked me if I was planning to become a Mormon. I answered no. He sighed with relief and said that I had made a good decision. He also added that out of curiosity, he had read the Book of Mormon, and that there was a nasty odor from the hand that touched the Book, and from this he concluded that the Mormon church was not a proper church, and that it will decay.

At the same time he said that I should join his church, because his church was the true church. Yeah right.

2. The desire to be a recognized among the congregation.

Inside the church, there is a sort of pecking order. On one side are the church veterans, who have considerable influence inside the church, hold officer positions, and are well known among the congregation. On the other side are the less well-known members, who hold junior or no positions in the church. The not so well-known members aspire to be become the part of the well-know group and thus gain higher positions and influence in the church.

The reason? Some Koreans do go to church because they believe in God and Jesus Christ, but there are some Koreans who go to church as a means to an end. To them a church is a place to meet people, who might help them get lucrative contracts, jobs, plus help them out during rough times. In order to create the above mentioned network, one has to gain recognition and influence, by becoming an officer of the church.

In Korean churches, whether or not a member rises into a higher position is not judged by whether or not his or her religious beliefs and convictions are strong, but by the amount of activities that he or she has participated. This includes overseas volunteer work such as the one that the 23 were involved in Afghanistan. And from what I’ve heard from Korean churchgoers, participants of this type of work get the most points.

This means junior members feel that they have to volunteer for such work.

So now we have the two big factors that led to the 23 to embark on their fateful mission to Afghanistan. The desire to convert Muslim Afghanis to Christians, regardless of the fact that the Afghanis may not be interested in converting to Christianity, and the endless line of “volunteers” to carry out the mission.

But one may ask, why Afghanistan out of all places? Well I don’t think Afghanistan is the only country that has become practice ground for the Korean Christians. If one were to go to the Emirates and Korean Air waiting lounges at Dubai International Airport, it’s easy to notice a huge group of Korean Christians going back to Seoul, after completing their mission. And from the looks of it, they are probably transiting from countries in South West Asia and Africa. I don’t know about the other countries, but I think Afghanistan was selected because of the fact that the central government is weak, which means that the “volunteers” can go to a certain village and do their stuff without worrying about the local police. And also, because the majority of the local population is not well off. Provide them with good medical service, they get friendly with you and may be willing to listen to what you have to say. Which makes it easier to say a few words about the merits of Christianity.

Also, the fact that there was no security when the group were on their bus can be explained. They probably didn’t ask for security not because they were irresponsible, but probably because if they did, it was a matter of time before the Afghan police figured out what they were doing, which means being put on the next plane to Dubai.

As I mentioned above, the 23 members have been criticized for embarking on their foolhardy mission. But IMO, the responsibility of the entire fiasco should also rest on the shoulders of the church elders, who may have taken part in the planning and recruiting of “volunteers” for this ill-fated mission.


Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Politics, Sports, Business, Ethics

Here is a funny cartoon I saw in today on the commentary section of the CS Monitor's website.


Sphere: Related Content

Friday, July 27, 2007

Another Review: Harry's Final Fantasy: Last Time's the Charm

What I really like, and have never shared is Powell's Books Review-A-Day feature.

Basically, they post one book review daily from various newspapers and magazines on their website. I have them emailed to me.

This way you get the scoop, so to speak, on new and notable books coming out.

This review is about my Dear Harry.

Unlike Kakutani and the New York Times, the Washington Post, where this review is from, seems to have taken Rowlings request so to heart that they've posted their review almost a week after the book's release. Even though I've finished, it's still interesting to read.


Oh, and yes, there are spoilers...

Harry's Final Fantasy: Last Time's the Charm
A Review by Elizabeth Hand

[Ed. Note: This review contains spoilers! Well, maybe not the biggest spoilers you could think of, but if you really don't want to know anything about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, then you probably want to stay away from anyone talking about it: friends, strangers, your children....Even here at Powells.com we had to ask a number of people till we found someone brave enough to prepare this review for our site!]

All great writers are wizards. Considering the mass Harrysteria of the last few days, who would have been surprised if they had logged on to YouTube at 12.01 a.m. Saturday and seen J.K. Rowling pronounce a curse -- "Mutatio libri!" -- that would magically change the final pages of her book and foil the overeager reviewers and Web spoilsports who revealed its surprise ending?

Yet Rowling's spell remains unshattered, despite the broken embargo: It's hard to imagine a better ending than the one she's written for her saga after 10 years, more than 4,000 pages and close to 400 million copies in print. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows may be a miracle of marketing, but it's also a miraculous book that earns out, emotionally and artistically.

Was it worth the wait? You bet.

I was a somewhat reluctant Potter convert. Rowling's debt to the great 20th-century English fantasists -- J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, E. Nesbit, Alan Garner -- made her work seem less homage than unabashedly derivative. Still, I read the first five books aloud to my two children, and also listened to Stephen Fry's delectable audiobooks (more than once). I found Rowling's prose style clunky (though Fry made her words sing like Shakespeare) and her storytelling workmanlike in the early books.

But Rowling's darker, more resolute vision in Prisoner of Azkaban won me over. By Book 6, my kids were teenagers, and I no longer had reading aloud as an excuse. I was hooked. So Friday night I lined up at midnight at my local bookstore, along with a hundred other readers, and scored my copy of Deathly Hallows. Sleepless, over-caffeinated and teary-eyed, I finally finished it on Saturday morning.

Tolkien continues to cast a long shadow over Harry Potter's world, along with C.S. Lewis, but the writer most evoked by Deathly Hallows is Charles Dickens. Rowling's enchantments have always lived easily in a secular world, rooted in mundane details of Muggle life and wry, careful accounts of wizards who work side-by-side, if unobserved, by their non-magical neighbors. Like Dickens, she has a gift for marvelous names -- Severus Snape is as brilliant a moniker as Magwitch or Ebenezer Scrooge -- as well as that of making the everyday seem at once familiar and extraordinary. Her magical world is grounded in small, meticulous observations -- that liminal train platform at King's Cross; the disgusting flavors of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans; the wearying bureaucracy of the Ministry of Magic -- that can make her invented world seem as real as ours.

In Deathly Hallows, the thin protective veil between the Muggle and Wizarding worlds is torn away. Voldemort no longer lurks in the shadows: His forces have infiltrated the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry itself, intent upon practicing their form of wizardly genocide. Half-blood wizards and Muggles are designated Undesirables, and Harry Potter is "Undesirable Number One." Muggle families like the Dursleys and the Grangers resort to a kind of Wizard Protection Program to escape being tormented by Dementors, and a mass escape from Azkaban Prison is hushed up by a corrupt Ministry of Magic, which has embraced the Orwellian slogan "Magic is Might."

Against this grim backdrop, Harry and his closest friends, Hermione and Ron, become fugitives. All three refuse to return to a Hogwarts where the murderous Severus Snape is now Headmaster, after having killed the beloved Albus Dumbledore at the end of Book 6. The aftermath of Dumbledore's death is not easily resolved. In his will, he left three enigmatic objects to Harry, Ron and Hermione, artifacts that they hope will aid them in locating the hidden Horcruxes, which contain Voldemort's divided soul, and so defeat him.

But their quest for the Horcruxes leads them into the stranger and darker territory of Dumbledore's past, and a dizzying labyrinth of betrayals and counterplots that both reverses and deepens a reader's understanding of everything that has happened in the previous volumes.

Deathly Hallows is exhilarating but also exhausting: Rowling's prose suddenly shifts into high gear, and the spectacularly complex interplay of narrative and character often reads as though an entire trilogy's worth of summing-up has been crammed into one volume. The novel's breakneck speed is reminiscent of John Buchan's fervid The 39 Steps. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a far bleaker, unapologetically adult novel than its predecessors, which now have the feel of a long, picturesque prologue, rather as The Hobbit is a prelude to The Lord of the Rings, with subplots involving goblins and warring factions who behave like orcs quarreling over the injured Frodo. But the echoes of Tolkien and Lewis are sometimes too obvious. The locket that is one of Voldemort's Horcruxes exerts a malignant power over its owners, inevitably evoking the One Ring, and the story owes too much to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Yet Rowling trumps even Tolkien in the sheer humanity of her characters. She nimbly and unsparingly dissects the master-slave relationship of the wizards to their elf and goblin helpmeets, and the arrogance of the sorcerers -- even ostensibly good ones -- toward their ordinary, human counterparts. And the maturation of Harry and his friends is as moving as it is realistic: Their romantic and emotional bonds are frayed and sometimes appear to be severed, but Harry and Ron and Hermione stumble on, dogged and damp and quarrelsome as real adolescents.

"The rain was pounding the tent, tears were pouring down Hermione's face, and the excitement of a few minutes before had vanished as if it had never been, a short-lived firework that had flared and died, leaving everything dark, wet and cold. The sword of Gryffindor was hidden they knew not where, and they were three teenagers in a tent whose only achievement was not, yet, to be dead."

Beloved figures die in this book. But it's part of Rowling's greatness that she permits her surviving characters to grieve, and they -- and the reader -- are the better for it. Rowling understands that grief is part of what makes us wholly human, along with the ability to love and forgive and show remorse.

And while magic is ultimately seen to have limits -- Death has its dominion, even at Hogwarts -- love does not. Rowling's major theme throughout the Harry Potter books is not the power of magic to maintain the wizards' social order, but that of love to create and sustain a community, to establish a sometimes fragile but remarkably resilient network of families, good, bad and indifferent. Parental love triumphs over even death; the love not just of biological mothers and fathers but of godparent and grandparents. There may be no broken families of divorce in the Harry Potter books, but there are blended families made up of orphaned children, Muggle and magic alike -- another trope Rowling shares with Dickens, who also understood the anguish and longing of the awkward, unlovable child shunted aside by his better-off, better-looking peers. The much-maligned loner Snape does not come onstage until the latter part of Deathly Hallows, but when he does the book becomes his: Snape's fate, more than Voldemort's, perhaps more even than Harry's, is the most heartbreaking, surprising and satisfying of all of Rowling's achievements.

I cried at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It's that rare thing, an instant classic that earns its catharsis honestly, not through hype or sentiment but through the author's vision and hard work. One gets the feeling that J.K. Rowling is as relieved and joyous as we are to reach this point at last; that she's grown and suffered and struggled through the last 10 years, just like Harry. Just like us.


Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More Koreans Fall Victim to Crime Overseas

The Interiror of Korea's Incheon International Airport (Random trivia: Incheon Airport is the 2007 world's best airport according to the Official Airline Guide.)

This is interesting.

More Koreans Fall Victim to Crime Overseas

As increasing numbers of Koreans travel overseas, fears grow that they are becoming targets of abduction by foreign militias and organized crime groups since they are seen as rich. “Some Korean tourists are inviting trouble by showing off their wealth abroad. There is a widespread belief that Korean tourists carry cash instead of credit cards and traveler’s checks among foreign organized crime groups,” said Prof. Lee Chong-hwa of Korea National Police University.
I agree with this completely. In Korea, it's very safe to walk around with wads of cash. Seriously. This is because the highest bank note is the 10,000 won bill (around $9 to $10 USD depending on the exchange rate.) And, Seoul and Korea, in general, is a pretty honest place to live when it comes to issues like theft. They might be dodgy on other issues, but if you drop your wallet or accidentally leave you cell phone on a bus seat, a Korean is more likely than not going to be honest in that situation. That leads to a general atmosphere of being more trusting.

Where I'm from not being very vigilant about your money at an ATM is inviting someone to trail behind you and jump you. It's also why back home I'd maybe have $20.00 cash on me and would mostly rely on personal checks or credit cards. If someone steals your card you can get a new one. If someone steals your checks, which happened to me in San Francisco, you can report it to the police and not be responsible. However, if someone takes your cash you're just out of luck. I'm just someone who is from the big city and who has been the victim of theft a few times: cars and an apartment broken into, checks and valuables stolen, etc. Luckily never a physical crime, so I'm grateful 'cause I know most "stuff" can be replaced. I still have a higher alert meter even though I've lived here for awhile. I tend to look over my shoulder more and just be more cautious in general.

I had to teach students in the Japanese Tourism department this last term. Even though they'd just taken a class trip to Japan, quite a few had no idea what traveler's checks were and why they would be preferable on certain types of international trips. I'd say to Japan not so much as it too is a pretty honest place. However, when I travel to other spots, I like the security of knowing if my purse or wallet is lost or stolen I'll get my money back. I brought some checks into class so they could see what they looked like up close. I had a student ask why have these instead of cash. I explained that if I took his wallet full of money then he's just out of luck. However, if I take his wallet full of traveler's checks and credit cards he could get a quick refund or replacement, depending on the company. It sunk in for them then. I also stressed that they need to keep the traveler's checks receipts in a different spot because the receipt is essentially your claim form.

I just think it's interesting to watch. In general, Koreans tend to be much more trusting and open in public re things like money and status symbols. Like the article says they do flaunt their new money and the status that comes with it. That makes them targets. In contrast, most people I know back home, even if they are rich, don't go out of their way to wear their net worth on the sleeve.

Flaunting your status here is a relatively safe and common thing to do here in Korea. It ties into a lot of aspects of their culture where what you see is taken very seriously. In contrast, when I worked in a clothing store in the Beverly Center, some clerks learned real fast that simply because someone wasn't flaunting their money didn't mean they had none. I do worry for some of my friends when they travel abroad. I gave a girlfriend of mine a crash course in Surviving European Pickpockets 101 before she left for Europe recently because I was worried.

Plus, I've heard stories of some Koreans traveling, acting as if they were in Korea. Examples: leaving a hotel room door unlocked to chat with a travel companion in the next room and coming back to a missing suitcase which had cash and travel tickets and about a Korean girl who'd traveled to Paris, had her stuff nicked by the famous Parisian pickpockets and ended up crying her eyes out at the base of the Eiffel Tower. I know that I even let down my guard at the Musée d'Orsay the last time I was there and another tourist was kind enough to tell me that she spied my bag being opened out of the corner of her eye (nothing had been stolen...thankfully.) However, I didn't want to hear a similar story from my friend.

I think a lot of it has to do with the high amount of new money and the Korean tendency not to discuss unpleasant topics. They've definitely got to start talking about them more as more Koreans start to travel abroad.


The end of the article, I chose not to quote because there may or may not be a significant correlation between the US, crime against Koreans abroad and terrorism. The same argument should also hold for Japanese traveling abroad, and I haven't seen the numbers for them. I would agree that it doesn't lessen their chances one bit. However, framing it that way sets the stage for blaming the US any and everytime Koreans have some misfortune abroad.


Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Afro, Braid and Dread Wearing Koreans - I Love It

Regular readers know I wear my hair natural. Now that's not a big deal if you don't know the history and politics behind nappy hair. In fact, it was insulting one time when I was out socializing with two white guys who said "oh, we wear our hair natural too". This was after I'd had a bonding moment in a bar in Seoul with a black guy I met who was wearing dreads.

Let me tell you a black woman wearing her hair natural meeting up with a black man who wears dreads is significant because most black men keep their hair closely cut to their heads and most black women, it seems, either straighten it with chemicals or heat or cover it with weaves or wigs.

Let's just say that while almost every race of people have no problems wearing their hair as is, in black culture it's looked upon as odd and subversive. That's not to say that other races don't seek to change, enhance or otherwise just play around with their hair. It's just a bit different when the texture of your hair has literally been vilified.

Now this comes from Africans being held as slaves, colonization, the Tignon Laws (postbellum US law which required black women to cover their hair as not to "offend"), and the eventually internalization of the "super coily Afro hair is bad" aesthetic within the black disapora. However, I've blogged about some of these issues before (hit the archives or the Blogbar to search - use "nappy" as a search term and that should pull them all up if you're curious - they're both in the sidebar on the right).

This is cool.

There seems to be shock that Asians are have now taken on Afro hairstyles. There is a thread on a forum I'm a regular on where people are just beyond shocked. It's rather funny considering I've been seeing it for awhile and just never thought it was that huge of a deal. However, I can't deny that it's a trend that is spreading, but I say fine with me as imitation is the highest form of flattery. I noticed it from the time I arrived here years ago. I saw Koreans with braids break dancing at the top of Busan Tower. When I wore braids as my signature style I also saw Koreans getting them and saw other shops opening which displayed pictures of Korean models with Afro hairstyles.

Well, there is a salon called Bombhead in Seoul. It has three locations: Bundang, Kangnam and Chungdam.

So for all you fashion and trend plebians, here you go. Have fun browsing.
I chose a few pictures but the Bombhead.com site has tons. Just go to the "Nappy and Special Hair" section and click to your heart's content. I just wanted to share and smirk a bit while I'm at it.


Sphere: Related Content

Ojinga for Days!

I was just clicking through the news and saw this headline: Voracious Jumbo Squid Invade California

I immediately thought "hey, this wouldn't be a problem in Korea. They'd just catch them all, dry them and have them with beer!"

Catch 'em, pack those big ol' squid on ice, and ship 'em here!

Ojinga, 오징어, for days! It's just in time for festival season here!


Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Police Verifying Academic Credentials

Here come the po-po!

Since this connects to my post on Koreans faking their degrees, let me take this one on. Now that it's international news that Koreans routinely forge their degrees and get away with it, the police have been called in to investigate the authenticity of the degrees of teachers working at cram schools in the Gangnam district of Seoul.

For those who aren't familiar with the culture. A cram school is where parents will send their kids who are preparing for college entrance exams. They tend to bring in foreigners from prestigious schools for students who are getting ready to write the SAT. There is an equivalent track for students choosing to stay in Korea because, honestly, it really does matter which school you go to. In fact, these cram schools are so effective (or, thought to be effective) that Koreans from overseas send their kids to Seoul to attend these rather than the prep courses back home in the States.

I taught at one of the big three universities named in the article, but I was at the satellite campus. The difference in morale between students in Seoul versus students at my campus was clear. The students at the Seoul campus were optimistic and pretty happy. The students at my campus were morose and sullen because the status of the satellite campus was not strong. I thought it was odd at both the Seoul campus and my campus had the same majors. I always thought the easiest way to resolve it would be to shift some departments completely to the satellite campus and others to the main campus. So, for example, if you wanted to be an English major, you'd go to campus A, but if you wanted to major in music you'd have to go to campus B.

Another Korean university has it set up that way and guess what? There is at least one department, but I think more, at their satellite campus that people fight to get into, thus the rep of their satellite campus is pretty much equal to (or might even exceed) its Seoul campus. This is easy, but it probably won't happen at my former employer because the old guard will not want to cooperate with such a change.

Anyway, what that means is, from the Korean perspective, there are only a few Korean universities worth going to and the system isn't working to expand the number of spots. This attitude also applies to foreign universities too.

So here is the article. We'll see what difference it will make.

Honestly, the corruption flows so much deeper than this and I don't disagree that people with faked credentials should be uncerimoniously tossed out on their lying butts.

However, why not put the onus on the owners to check? They're the ones profitting massively off of these schools. Also, why not take steps educate the public?

I see this as slapping a band-aid on a broken leg. Also, since a Canadian was recently tossed in jail for 6 months for faking his way into a teaching job, I wonder what punishment his Korean equivalents will get?

Police Checks Authenticity of Degrees of Instructors

Police began investigations over authenticity of degrees of 3,000 instructors at cram schools in the Gangnam district of Seoul on Monday.

The move comes amid the recent scandal of Shin Jeong-ah, a professor of arts at Dongguk University who forged bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees.

Since the investigation will be conducted on all the instructors in Gangnam, Seocho and Songpa districts, it is expected to send shockwaves across the nation.

According to Songpa Police Monday, it acquired records on degrees of 3,000 former and current instructors at cram schools and institutes in Gangnam District Office of Education and Songpa District Office of Education from June 30 to July 12 and has been conducting investigations ever since.

``We received a report in mid-June that there are many teachers in Gangnam area who have forged school degrees to get employed as instructors, duping that they are from prestigious universities,'' said Ko Byung-chon, an official at Songpa Police Station. ``Based on the data we have acquired, we are currently checking if they really graduated from the recorded schools or not.''

Yang Ki-hoon, an official at Gangnam District Office of Education, said that police officially demanded cooperation with their investigation over all the instructors registered in Gangnam District Office of Education and copied all the data regarding teachers' educational backgrounds.

The police will primarily focus on investigating instructors who claim to have graduated from prestigious Korean universities like Seoul National University, Yonsei University and Korea University.

Authorities will punish teachers who have forged degrees.

When instructors are employed at institutes or cram schools, they must submit their final school record to employers. While institutes keep a copy of the records, the education district office in the corresponding area keeps the original copy. However, district offices of education are not required to check authenticity of degrees. According to the law, one can gain employment as an instructor at private institutes as long as he or she has a minimum of a two-year college degree.

Police and experts point out that there are more than 100 Web sites that issue forged school degrees, leading to rampant forgeries.


Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, July 22, 2007

LAist: Koreatown Photo Essay

코리아타운, "Koreatown", pic in hangeul shamelessly lifted from Hello Pasadena

Oh, this makes me homesick.

I saw this on The Marmot's Hole blog yesterday and I just have to share it.


LAist - Neighborhood Project: Koreatown


Sphere: Related Content

Details Matter

A lack of attention to detail is the kind of stuff that happens in Korea quite frequently.

I'm not one-hundred percent sure why. My theory is it has a lot to do with culture and the learning style developed here which encourages students to memorize and regurgitate information rather than process it and piece it together on their own. It also probably has a lot to do with the hierarchial nature of society here where doing what you're told is more valued than initiative and problem solving skills.

What that means is you're virtually guaranteed in every situation that details have been overlooked or not even considered. This means there is pretty much always a situation where unforeseen problems arise because no one has thought far enough ahead to consider the various contingencies. There are exceptions and it's one reason I love my job. I've never experienced an administration in Korea that is so organized and detail oriented. However, a lack of attention to detail occurs more often than not here. When I first arrived that irked me to no end because I tend to be very detail oriented. I've learned to just roll with it and shrug when all hell breaks loose, but acceptance of it doesn't change my character.

So wouldn't you know I was reading an article today in The Korea Times online on a philosophy conference which will occur in Seoul. However, they left out a cricial detail: the year. The article says the conference will happen from July 30th to August 5th which shocked me as I'd heard nothing about one. I then found the conference's website and it will happen NEXT year. Okay, that makes more sense, but factor that to almost everytime you do something and you can see just how irksome those types of oversights can be.

Here is the article. If you can find any hint that it will be next year, let me know. I mean I could be my error, but I don't think so.
Seoul to Hold Meeting of Philosophers

Seoul will hold the largest international gathering of academic philosophers from July 30 to Aug. 5.

Co-hosted by the Korean Philosophical Association and the International Federation of Philosophical Societies, the 22nd World Congress of Philosophy will host thousands of philosophers from all over the world.

The weeklong event, which will be held at Seoul National University, aims to help participants share their academic achievements and friendship, the organizers said Sunday.

The quinquennial event is expected to draw more than 3,000 prominent philosophers from some 150 countries, such as Alain Badiou and Luc Ferry of France, Peter Sloterdijk and Vittorio Hosle of Germany and Judith Butler of the United States.

South Korea is the first Asian country to host the event. Over the past 107 years, all of the previous world congresses were held in Europe or the Americas.


Sphere: Related Content

Friday, July 20, 2007

Constipated? Have a Beer ...With Fiber!

Hite's exfeel-s photographed on an unidentified toliet (picture lifted from ZenKimchi)

Update: July 25, 2007 @ 1:08pm

A review of said fibrous beer from ZenKimchi himself: S-Hite it's Hite-S


Here is a great picture of Hite's exfeel-s beer. This is a new low calorie beer that has fiber. This is one step down from the low calorie Hite Exfeel. Yes, I said fiber. Here is the slogan:

Stylish Beer With Fiber

It's marketed as a beer that has dietary fiber to help you loose weight. However, folks can get a little stopped up in the Land of the Morning Calm.

This is true. I once worked at a camp where what they fed the kids was horrible. The camp was run by young people who, well, had not a clue about nutrition. So it was rice, meat, sodas, candy, yogurt, sweet breads and goodness knows what else but nothing healthy with fiber. We tried to tell them this couldn't be sustained over three weeks, but who were we? Clearly, just silly foreigners.

I can't blame it all on the camp, however, they WE'RE the ones responsible for the students. However, we were on a college campus and the meals were being provided by the school's cafeteria. You'd think the people there would have brought up the fact that what they were serving wasn't a healthy diet. However, clearly, being paid was the objective and sod actually providing healthy meals. Well, after a week or so a kid had to be taken to the local hospital to be, um, unstopped up.

If this is happening with children, then you know adults have this problem too. The solution: beer with fiber! I mean who would actually want to eat, um, veggies and grains? What about a balanced diet and exercise to loose weight? Nah...beer. Beer with fiber! That's the ticket. (Sorry, I just can't turn the sarcasm off this morning.)

Anyway, only if paid enough money and being already quite drunk would I try this. However, maybe some of the braver souls over at RateBeer.com will. I'll update this blog if they do.

ZenKimchi's blog from a few days back: Beer That Makes You Poo and MORE

Oh, The Chosun Ilbo has an article highlighting products to suit consumers’ wishes. This includes items such as a Hite beer (called “S”) that has extra dietary fiber. They claim that it’s to help people lose weight. But we all know how it will accomplish the task.

And it’s too much of the stars aligning just right that they are planning to call it “S,” as in “S Hite.”

So now, literally, “Hite makes you shite.”


Oh, Korea just cracks me up sometimes.

I'll stick with my Hoegaarden for now (it's about the best white beer you can find at most bars here) or the Shepherd Neame Bishops Finger (can you believe my former vicar turned me on to this brew? I love that story.)


Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, July 19, 2007

They're Just Now Recognizing This?

In Korea there are all sorts of scams and frauds surrounding education. For good reason as education is seen as the way to the top.

These scams and frauds range from cheating and plagarism being pretty much accepted as normal and not punished to people faking their degrees.

I thought it was odd when I was first hired to come here that they didn't go out of their way to verify my degrees. I asked if they wanted information on my school's registars and I got "no" for an answer. I did, however, take it upon myself to take my degrees to the Korean consulate to, at least, have them authenticated by the person there.* However, that's still not verification with the schools themselves. However, since my credentials are real, I just have my schools send sealed transcripts directly to new employers just to head off any possible scandal or questions.

They've gotten more strict now with foreigners although there are still stories about some foreigners in hagwons, schools and colleges or universities with no credentials at all. However, it seems Koreans are still getting away with this left and right. There are recent scandals that indicate they've yet to subject Koreans to the same level of verification.

A few recent stories:

I'll chime in to say that one problem is, no matter how talented or skilled you are here it's crucial to have the degree too. Otherwise forget it.

It's similar on some level back home, but not to this degree. In the States we have Bill Gates, who went to Harvard but dropped out to start Microsoft. For all of his brilliance, I'm not sure how far Bill Gates would have gotten here without graduating and relying heavily on his network of university connections. The inverse is also true. That means you meet and deal with a lot of educated fools who are simply inept.

There is also the aspect of culture where rank is still very important. Big university names means big respect. That I noticed at my first job teaching at a university in the South Jeolla province. There was a lot of the "we're not as good them" stuff going on around me. My naive American "all people are equal" programming couldn't really absorb what they were saying and I didn't understand it then. I do now.

Here is the Chosun Ilbo's take on this:

How Degree Frauds Get Away With It
In Korea, it is not rare for academics or instructors to come to fame based on false academic certificates or backgrounds. A scandal surrounding the fake degrees of prominent Dongguk University art historian Shin Jeong-ah suggests there must be many others who lie about their achievements and get away with it. Part of the reason is a culture that relies excessively on glamorous-looking degree certificates and a system incapable of sifting the grain from the chaff.

◆ How fakes succeed

In March last year, some 120 people were indicted by prosecutors for buying fake master's or doctoral degrees from a Russian conservatory of music. Each paid a broker about W20 million (US$1=W915) for the fake degree certificate. All they did was visit Russia for a week. Many were lecturers, and some were even professors. They went so far as to organize a Russian Music Society based on their flying visit.

Until 2002, Hwang In-tae was a famous TV panelist on the strength of a bachelor's degree in economics from Seoul National University and experience as a CNN reporter and a fund manager at Magellan Fund. None of it was true. His highest academic qualification was a few subjects in a high-school graduate equivalency exam.

In 2004, a private university in Seoul hired a 37-year-old American as an assistant professor of English on the strength of a master's degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from Central Michigan University. Both were fake. Early this month, police arrested a professor at Gwangju National University of Education for having registered a doctorate from a regular U.S. university with the Korea Research Foundation, although the degree came in fact from a non-accredited American institution.

◆ Loopholes in verification

Despite the flood of scandals, measures supposed to prevent falsification of degrees or academic background offer many loopholes. The Education Ministry vowed in spring last year to establish an ethics department within the KRF to strengthen supervision of degree holders. But no such department has opened yet. Some American degrees such as JD (juris doctor), DMA (doctor of music arts) and D.Min. (doctor of ministry) are not subject to the KRF's listing. That makes them easy targets for con artists. In addition, there has been no study of how many degree-related frauds there have been and how they succeeded.

According to the Higher Education Act, holders of foreign doctoral degrees have to report to the KRF under the Education Ministry within six months after their return home. They are supposed to make entries about their personal information and degrees on the KRF webpage first, and submit copies of their certificates and theses later. The KRF then reviews the documents and issues receipts, and publishes the theses in the archives of the Korea Education and Research Information Service.

But the KRF only checks if the necessary documentation is received but does not verify certificates' authenticity. And even if graduates fail to report their degree to the KRF, there is no disadvantage. "The system aims to check how many holders of foreign degrees are working in the country, not to verify their authenticity,” a KRF official says. “Colleges or universities should check and verify the theses of their recruits. That's their responsibility." But, as seen in the case of Shin Jeong-ah, this has proved useless.

Park Sung-hyun, a professor of computer science and statistics at Seoul National University, said, "The culture where many people are bent on succeeding by all means, is leading many people to falsify their academic background. Each school has to strengthen its degree verification system."
Honestly, the excuses seem a little flimsy and the solution is a bit too much.

What do you need with another level of bureaucracy? Find the school's information (the Internet makes that very easy), check whether the school is accredited with a reputable organization, pick up the phone and call the school's registar to find out what the process is to verify degrees and make it regular procedure.

Believe me, I've got a JD from a first-tier school* and US law schools on all levels take their reputation very seriously. It would help if Koreans made a habit of listening to the advice given to them by foreigners on how to do it. Rarely does that happen. US law schools would be more than happy to cooperate and verify graduates. They're not in the business of scamming people. Well, the legitimate ones aren't.

I know that back home frauds happen too. However, back home there are human resources departments that go out of their way to verify academic credentials, so this stuff is much more rare.

A great blog on this phenomenon: Diploma Mill News

* That was also done because there is horror story after horror story about Korean employers hold people's real degrees hostage; mine are safe and sound back home.
* US News and World Report's 2008 rankings

Oh, the incident Kalani mentioned in the comments below: O.C. impostor outwits Stanford (how on Earth did she think she'd get away with this?)


Sphere: Related Content

Tonight: Manchester United vs FC Seoul

Manchester United star players including Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mikael Silvestre leave the arrivals halls at Incheon International Airport on Wednesday.


I forgot about this! I got an email a couple of weeks ago, so I'll be watching this match tonight with some of Britain's finest. From there, I'll head to pick up the last Harry Potter book in the series.

Woot! Woot! It looks like it will be a fun evening.

Here is the news story that reminded me they're in town.

Manchester United Land in Korea
England Premier League champion Manchester United arrived in Seoul on Wednesday to a massive welcome from football fans. Led by manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the team arrived at Incheon International Airport at 2:40 p.m.

The champion team are on an Asia tour that already saw them play a friendly match against the Urawa Reds of the Japanese league. They plan a friendly against FC Seoul at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Friday.

Sir Alex, dressed in black suit and red tie, was first out of the arrivals hall, followed by star players in red T-shirt and navy sweat pants such as Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, Edwin Van der Sar, Ryan Giggs, Christiano Ronaldo and Rio Gavin Ferdinand. Owen Lee Hargreaves and Luis Carlos Almeida, who joined the club this summer, were also there.

Incheon Airport was teeming with football fans from the early morning. Fans thronged the airport, from college students wearing ManU uniforms and singing anthems to middle schoolgirls holding presents for the players. The 1,000 Korean fans sang songs, beat drums and chanted slogans to welcome the players.

Kim Gwang-woo, a 26-year-old member of an online fanclub, said, “It feels like a dream and I can’t believe they arrived in Korea. To us, four nights and three days (the time ManU is staying in Seoul) are like a festival.”

Lee Ga-ram said, “I came here from Busan to see Manchester United. I’m about to start my military service, and a Manchester United game is the best present to myself.” Close to 100 journalists were busy capturing the exciting atmosphere on video and cameras.

Sir Alex, in a press conference at the Shilla Hotel, where the team is staying, said, “Park Ji-sung told me that FC Seoul is a strong team.” Though Park can’t play in this game, Koreans can see the team’s new members Hargreaves and Nani in action, he added. FC Seoul manager Senol Gunes said, “FC Seoul consists of young players, and they will play a good match against Manchester United with its experienced players.”

The team leaves Seoul on Saturday for two more friendly matches in Macau and Guangzhou.

FC Seoul
Manchester United


Sphere: Related Content

Michiko Kakutani's Review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"

Update: July 21, 2007 @5:10pm

Well, I have the book, but I'm still rushing to finish Book 6. Anyway, Rowling did a reading of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Here it is: Bloomsbury presents J.K. Rowling reading from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at the Natural History Museum, London on the 21st July 2007


Update: July 20, 2007 @8:07pm

Huh? I got an email from a friend today:

In fact, it seems that there is a review of the book already. It seems that the New York Times found a bookstore that was selling the book. They bought it Wednesday.
Well, let's put it this way. If I'm the owner of a New York City bookstore, I'm not saying no to Michiko Kakutani. However, I never thought it would be an issue. Her review merely stirs up more anticipation about what happens. At least, that's my read on this.

However, Reuters reports that Rowling isn't pleased one bit: Rowling angered as NYT reviews last Potter.

Someone help me understand this one. I'm totally into the secrecy, but Kakutani didn't reveal anything of substance and the book has been on sale for weeks.

The NYT has published four letters on its website on it, and honestly I'm with Tricia Lugger. I was glad to read the review and it didn't give anything away. Rowling herself said characters were going to die.

Eh, [...shrug...] it's done and I get to get my copy in four hours. Woot! Woot!


I'm on a blogging roll today. My excuse: it's a rainy day and blogging is always much more fun than cleaning my apartment. However, yesterday it was a four hour lunch with a friend. I'll do anything to put off cleaning my place.

I got an email today that my local bookstore will be open on Friday at 12:01am for people who want the book. (I'm intentionally not linking them 'cause their customer service is crap). I've yet to put in an order with them, because, like I just said, their customer service is crap and the big Korean chain Kyobo Bookstore will have it too. However, since this bookstore is in the foreigners' area of town and I can go drinking beforehand, I've decided to place an order today (they warned they only have 100 books left.)

The cool thing is we're a day ahead...ahahahahahahaha! So I'll have it in my hands before most of you. However, what I've done is get my copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince to read because, as I mentioned, I've been too busy to finish it.

With that said, here is the reason for this post: the New York Times' Pulitzer Prize winning queen of literary criticsm, Michiko Kakutani, has reviewed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I just got it in my email.

So, um, stop here if you don't want to know.

I'll let her do the rest of the talking as I'm sure there are soon to be more Harry Potter posts from me in the very near future.
For Harry Potter, Good Old-Fashioned Closure

by Michiko Kakutani

So, here it is at last: the final confrontation between Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, the “symbol of hope” for both the Wizard and Muggle worlds, and Lord Voldemort, He Who Must Not Be Named, the nefarious leader of the Death Eaters and would-be ruler of all. Good versus Evil. Love versus Hate. The Seeker versus the Dark Lord.

J.K. Rowling’s monumental, spell-binding epic, 10 years in the making, is deeply rooted in traditional literature and Hollywood sagas — from the Greek myths to Dickens and Tolkien to Star Wars — and true to its roots, it ends not with modernist, Soprano-esque equivocation, but with good old-fashioned closure: a big screen, heart-racing, bone-chilling confrontation and an epilogue that clearly lays out people’s fates. Getting to the finish line is not seamless — the last portion of the final book has some lumpy passages of exposition and a couple of clunky detours — but the overall conclusion of the series and its determination of the main characters’ storylines possess a convincing inevitability that make some of the pre-publication speculation seem curiously blinkered in retrospect.

With each installment, the Potter series has grown increasingly dark, and this volume — a copy of which was purchased at a New York City retail outlet today, although the book is embargoed for release until 12:01 a.m. this Saturday — is no exception. While Ms. Rowling’s astonishingly limber voice still moves effortlessly between Ron’s adolescent sarcasm and Harry’s growing solemnity, from youthful exuberance to more philosophical gravity, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is, for the most part, a somber book that marks Harry’s final initiation into the complexities and sadnesses of adulthood.

From his first days at Hogwarts, the young, green-eyed boy bore the burden of his destiny as a leader, coping with the expectations and duties of his role, and in this volume he is clearly more Henry V than Prince Hal, more King Arthur than young Wart: high-spirited war games of Quidditch have given way to real war, and Harry often wishes he were not the de facto leader of the Resistance movement, shouldering terrifying responsibilities, but an ordinary teenage boy — free to romance Ginny Weasley and hang out with his friends.

Harry has already lost his parents, his godfather Sirius and his teacher Professor Dumbledore (all mentors he might have once received instruction from), and in this volume the losses mount with unnerving speed: at least half a dozen characters we have come to know die in these pages, and many others are wounded or tortured. Voldemort and his followers have infiltrated Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, creating havoc and terror in both the Wizard and Muggle worlds alike, and the members of various populations — including elves, goblins and centaurs — are choosing up sides.

No wonder then that Harry often seems overwhelmed with disillusionment and doubt in the final installment of this seven-volume bildungsroman. Harry continues to struggle to control his temper, and as he and Ron and Hermione search for the missing Horcruxes (secret magical objects in which Voldemort has stashed parts of his soul, objects that Harry must destroy if he hopes to kill the evil lord), he literally enters a dark wood, in which he must do battle not only with the Death Eaters, but also with the temptations of hubris and despair.

Harry’s weird psychic connection with Voldemort (symbolized by the lightning-bolt forehead scar he bears, as a result of the Dark Lord’s attack on him when he was a baby) seems to have grown stronger too, giving him clues to Voldemort’s actions and whereabouts, even as it lures him ever closer to the dark side. One of the plot’s key turning points concerns Harry’s decision whether to continue looking for the Horcruxes — the mission assigned to him by the late Dumbledore — or whether to pursue, instead, three magical objects known as the Hallows, which are said to make their possessor the master of Death.

Harry’s journey will propel him forwards to a final showdown with his archenemy, and also send him backwards into the past, back to the house in Godric’s Hollow where his parents died, to learn about his own family history and the equally mysterious history of Dumbledore’s family. At the same time, he will be forced to ponder the equation between fraternity and independence, free will and fate, and to come to terms with his own frailties and those of others. Indeed, ambiguities proliferate throughout “The Deathly Hallows”: we are made to see that kindly Dumbledore, sinister Severus Snape and perhaps even awful Muggle cousin Dudley Dursley may be more complicated than they initially seem, that all of them, like Harry himself, have hidden aspects to their personalities, and that choice — more than talent or predisposition — matters most of all.

It is Ms. Rowling’s achievement in this series that she manages to make Harry both a familiar adolescent — coping with the banal frustrations of school and dating — and an epic hero, kin to everyone from the young King Arthur to Spiderman and Luke Skywalker. This same magpie talent has enabled her to create a narrative that effortlessly mixes up allusions to Homer, Milton, Shakespeare and Kafka, with silly kid jokes about vomit-flavored candies, a narrative that fuses a plethora of genres (from the boarding school novel to the detective story to the epic quest) into a story that could be Exhibit A in a Joseph Campbell survey of mythic archetypes.

In doing so, J.K. Rowling has created a world as fully detailed as L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” or J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Middle Earth,” a world so minutely imagined in terms of its history and rituals and rules that it qualifies as an alternate universe — which may be one of the reasons the Potter books have spawned such a passionate following and such fervent exegesis.

With this final volume, the reader realizes that small incidents and asides in earlier installments (hidden among a huge number of red herrings) create a breadcrumb trail of clues to the plot, that Ms. Rowling has fitted together the jigsaw puzzle pieces of this long undertaking with Dickensian ingenuity and ardor. Objects and spells from earlier books — like the invisibility cloak, Polyjuice Potion, Dumbledore’s Pensieve and Sirius’ flying motorcycle — will play important roles in this volume, and characters encountered before like the house elf Dobby and Mr. Ollivander the wandmaker will resurface, too.

The world of Harry Potter is a place where the mundane and the marvelous, the ordinary and the surreal co-exist. It’s a place where cars can fly and owls can deliver the mail, a place where paintings talk and a mirror reflects people’s innermost desires. It’s also a place utterly recognizable to readers, a place where death and the catastrophes of daily life are inevitable, and people’s lives are defined by love and loss and hope — the same way they are in our own mortal world.


Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Kin Cider Zero, Finally

As my readers know, I'm an insulin dependent diabetic (type 1). I go out of my way to specify "insulin dependent" because you just don't know how irritating it is to discuss it and then have someone say "my ______________________ (fill in the blank: mom, dad, uncle, aunt, grandmother, grandfather, etc.) is diabetic."

Okay, yeah, they're diabetic, non-insulin dependent (type 2), but it's a different version of the disease. There are tons of similarities but my version is not because I was not eating healthy and not exercising. It's because early in my life my pancreas simply stopped working.

In Korea there are people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but they're not very vocal about how it impacts their lives or about what products would make their lives a bit easier. In fact, oftentimes they'll go out of their way to not reveal it. That's one big reason I was left face first on the desk during class last term. People thought I was just sleepy or even drunk but not ill. I think that relates back to the fact that being different or having something "wrong" with you is bad here, so people don't discuss it. My nurse asked me if I told people that I was diabetic. I said of course I did. She explained that another patient of hers is a student who doesn't tell people. In fact, because of this, his university made sure that his roommate was also diabetic so they could take care of each other.

What that means is there aren't many sugar-free or diabetic products here. There are basic things like insulin, test strips, insulin pump supplies (although not a broad selection of pumps) and needles, but I've never seen glucose tablets for insulin reactions (hypoglycemia) here. And that's the main reason I've gained about two dress sizes since I've been here. Thank goodness for Harley Pasternak (he has diabetic brothers) - I'm working on it. Basically, I'd rather have higher than average blood sugar than aim for tight control, pass out and have people around me be just clueless. I've managed to get supplies by picking them up when I leave the country, having a friend do it or now I have a mail forwading service who just sends me what I need.

Anyway, I've found sugar-free drinks through certain sources here. But I was in E-mart yesterday and needed to get juice to carry with me in case of an insulin reaction and saw this:
I've always argued that sugar-free products could be introduced here and peddled as diet aids since Koreans are so uncomfortable with making acceptance of disease a priority. In general, Korean women are obsessive about their appearance, which is great for the men here, but that means there is a huge market for products like this. Well, with the release of Coke Zero it seems the Coca-Cola folks have followed up with Kin Cider Zero ("cider" in Korea means it's lemon-lime, like Sprite). Now this is great because the only sugar-free drink here was Coke Light (Diet Coke) which has been replaced by Coke Zero. It still won't replace my special "vendors". They've literally been life savers providing sugar-free drink mixes, sweetners and drinks.

However, it's great to see that we have another addition, and for the benefit of slim Korean women and, more importantly, us diabetics, I hope to see more.


Sphere: Related Content

Star Wars Dorks Rule

Don't Chew The Gum
July 19, 2007

Remember this goodness? No? Then I'm not sure we'll get along.

July 19, 2007, 06:59 AM


Sphere: Related Content

Skype = Pervert Central?

Obscenity Turns English Students Off Skype

Some subscribers to the Internet chat and telephony service Skype are spreading dirty language and videos, knowledge-hungry users complain. Many Korean students use the Skype messenger program to practice their English conversation. Skype provides services in 28 languages to almost 200 million people in approximately 220 countries. Since launching services in Korea in 2006, Skype has managed to sign up a lot of people. Although other Internet messengers also provide chat services, voice and video calls, Skype allows users to select options for chat partners.

One college student said, "It was good to make foreign friends easily with Skype. I improved my English proficiency by chatting with a French friend." But some strangers are sending her pornographic videos and making obscene jokes through the Skype messenger. “I’ve started to become prejudiced against their countries,” she says. An 18-year-old schoolgirl, who signed up with Skype to practice her English with foreign friends, said, "Most foreigners using the Skype chat service seem to just want to meet girls and make filthy jokes. So I felt bad and deleted the program just two days after installing it."

An official from Auction, which manages the Korean Skype services said, "It’s impossible to monitor every Internet conversation. We are aware of the problems, but we can't take responsibility for them. In the future, we will discuss possible solutions to the problems such as word filtering, throwing abusive people out of chat rooms or making a blacklist.”
I thought this one was interesting. I'm on Skype and, for similar reasons, I rarely use it. If someone I know knows I'm on it or finds me on it and then sets up a time, I'll log on. Otherwise, it's a rare day indeed that you'll see me logged into Skype. I go as far as writing on my profile that if I don't know you don't even bother with adding me as a friend. I do this to just steer clear of boring "conversations" with people I don't know, "conversations" with people who want to learn English (tons there and I've denied every request) and the "talk dirty online" people.

That last category is what has young Ms. Kim all in an uproar.

However, I take issue with foreigners being cast as sexual deviants when there is more than enough of that here too.

Her quote also shows a very low level thought process. She has now judged their countries because she's met a couple of freaks on the Internet?

First, I can go into Skype and change my country, so you can be from anywhere but say you're from Canada or someplace else.

Second, she can use Skype with the knowledge that there are freaks out there and take steps like I have to avoid them online.

Third, I don't hate Korea because of Cho Seung-hui, Woo Bum-kon, Kim Jong-il or his father, Rev. Moon Sung-myung, the scores of Koreans who launched into anti-Americanism over the tragic accident in 2002 where two girls were killed but ignored the fact that North Korea had intentionally killed four South Korean sailors or that drunk Korean adjoshi (older man) who cornered me and made a grab for my breasts on a train mere months after I moved here (no link for that one, but thanks to the train attendant I fetched to get drunk man away from me.)

Fourth, it's just stupid to generalize on such a low level. Maybe it's fair to say Americans tend not to care much about other countries or cultures. It, however, is not fair to say that all Americans are bad people. That seems to be what Ms. Kim is doing regarding whatever countries these foreigners are from (how much do you want to bet that the US is on that list?)

Maybe it's because I come from a country where ALL groups have both good and bad. I'm also aware that people, in general, do this which is why I tense up when there is a crime that makes the news and hope "don't let it be a black person." Of course, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. If the person is black, I know that he or she doesn't have any connection to me but people not inclined to thinking too deeply, I'm sure, disagree with me.

I just notice that this is something Koreans do a lot in the context of foreigners. It's clear from how this article was slanted: foreigners = bad sexual deviants (some are, no doubt), Koreans = innocent, hard-working people with a thirst for knowledge (also, some are but some spend loads of time playing computer games).

Now if they're serious about snatching that "hub of Asia" title from Singapore they're going to need to reduce that tendency because, as it stands, there are plenty of other locations in Asia that are more conducive to a better lifestyle and friendlier environment.


Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pierre Gagnaire? That's Pretty Cool

Score for the folks at Lotte.

Le restaurant de Pierre Gagnaire is coming to the Lotte Hotel Seoul.

Pierre Gagnaire Restaurant to Open in Seoul

The world renowned French chef Pierre Gagnaire, called the "Henri Matisse of the culinary world", will open a restaurant next spring at Lotte Hotel Seoul.

Lotte Hotel said, "We signed an agreement in Paris recently to that affect. The restaurant chain also named Pierre Gagnaire exists only in France, Japan and Hong Kong, and so its advance into Korea points to the country's high marketability."

The restaurant has earned the top three-star rating from the prestigious Michelin guide and was named the world's third best by the British journal "Restaurant" this year.

The 57-year-old Chef Gagnaire is recognized as a leader in the global trend of molecular gastronomy.

Lotte said it had struggled since January to win the deal and that the French chain has finally acknowledged its endeavor.

The hotel said the famed chef will visit Korea regularly to showcase his food and personally develop menus.
I saw Chef Gagnaire recently on Talk Asia on CNN discussing food with with Anjali Rao.

For what it's worth, that will be really exciting. However, the nouveau riche in Seoul might actually ruin it (or make it the kind of fun you shouldn't have in a crowd, that is, a lot of snickering). If I'm still around when it opens, I'll let the frenzy around it settle before making a reservation.

The nouveau riche (and not so riche) here still haven't figured out the difference between straws and plastic coffee stirrers. I kid you not.

However, with top tier gastronomers like Gagnaire setting up shop in Seoul that should change fairly quickly.

Plus, I can't talk. I just tried this product for the first time while reading the story. Yep, an instant 포테토밀, potato meal. (That is just "potato meal" written in Korean.)


Sphere: Related Content

Korean National Elitism and Beef? An Editorial

Editorials - A New Thing.

I think it's important to see Korea from the perspective of people here. However, I'm one of millions of people in this country and my perspective has always been unique. This has been the case even at home in more progressive than not California and it means that, more often than not, my perspective isn't a mainstream one.

I'm one to skip editorial sections which is probably the reason I was so late getting into blogging. However, today I made an exception. Well, not really, I clicked on a link which wasn't marked "editorial" and it ends up it was one. It was an issue that I'd studied this past term and decided to give it a read. I think I'm going to try to post some editorials from Korean papers just for some alternative strong voices. I know mine is strong. I also know that variety is a good thing.

This one is interesting because it's on the US beef issue which has been elevated to nationalistic heights here in Korea. That along with rice has been stirred up with nationalistic sentiments which essentially make Koreans who want less expensive food tantimount to tratiors. There is a slogan right now by Nong Hyub, National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NACF), that is something about being Korean means eating Korean grown or raised food. Hell, if that's the case then there are a lot of people who aren't whatever their ethnicities might be because with globalization, I know that I'm eating food produced from all over.

Basically, it's bullying which is actually quite common here in Korea. It's done under the guise of harmony or other notions and brought up when someone is doing something others don't like. However, slinging cow poo at people isn't harmonious, so it's just plain bullying now. When the average person has to work 14 hours to afford a kilogram of beef, maybe, just maybe the issue is more emotional than not.

Anyway, here is an editorial that was on the English version of the Chosun Ilbo's website.

Activists Show Contempt for Low-Income Consumers

Last Friday, the first day U.S. beef finally hit store shelves in Korea, the Korean Alliance Against KorUS FTA and members of other anti-FTA groups stormed into shops selling the products and held protests that included throwing cow dung to block sales. The protesters threatened to boycott shops selling American beef and forced managers to sign written promises they would not sell the U.S. beef. It was like watching an extortion racket.

As a result, seven out of the 53 stores owned by Lotte Mart, one of the first superstores to put U.S. beef on their shelves, ended up halting sales of U.S. beef. Some of them received complaints from customers who had come planning to buy American beef.

Despite all of the commotion, Lotte Mart saw sales of imported beef triple from Friday to Sunday. At Lotte Mart outlets where sales weren’t disrupted by protesters, all of the U.S. beef sold out, and even sales of Australian beef rose by 40 percent. That just shows how much consumers wanted affordable beef. American beef is half the price of Korean beef of the same grade and about 20 percent cheaper than Australian beef. Consumers simply ignored the shock tactics used by a handful of activists claiming U.S. beef was infected with mad cow disease.

Whether or not to buy U.S. beef is a choice that consumers should make for themselves. It is not a matter in which anti-FTA groups, with their own political agenda, should interfere. What have they ever done for low-income Korean consumers? Do they have the right to take away consumers’ rights to buy affordable beef? The actions of the anti-FTA groups are far more serious than a simple violent disruption of business. They reflect a lack of conscience. The protesters threw cow dung on the counters of butchers selling U.S. beef, but in the end, they were hurling excrement at low-income consumers who simply want more affordable beef.
I knew I was loyal to Lotte Mart for a reason. I'm glad they're selling US beef and that's not because I'm from the US. I actually don't like beef that much.

More links:

AsianOffBeat: Koreans Launch Anti-American Beef Campaign with Cow Dung
ROK Drop: Demand High in Korea for U.S. Beef
The Korea Herald: U.S. beef receives warm response at Lotte Mart
The Metropolitician: Hot Fuzz Sunday, Or Why Korean Protesters Get No Sympathy From Me


Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, July 15, 2007

U.S. High-Schoolers Get First Anglo Teacher of Korean

This is a great story. L.A. has its first Anglo-American teaching Korean in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Not much else to add as the article covers the story well.

U.S. High-Schoolers Get First Anglo Teacher of Korean

David Hanes has become the first Anglo-American to teach Korean to Korean-American students at high school. He is to start teaching at Los Angeles High School.

Hanes passed the Korean teacher examination administered by the California state government last year. He arrived in Korea last week to attend a training Course for Korean language teachers in the U.S. co-hosted by the Foundation for Korean Language and Culture in the U.S.A, the International Korean Language Foundation and the Ewha Humanities Center at Ewha Womans University.

“I’m going to teach a class for second- to fourth-generation Koreans who can speak little Korean and hope to teach advanced Korean in the future,” Hanes told the Chosun Ilbo. “I’m a bit worried that Korean-American students will form a low opinion of me if my Korean’s not good.”

Hanes, who became interested in Korea when he lived in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, started learning the language at the Korean Cultural Center six years ago. Now he has a teacher’s certificate himself.

Ailee Moon, the president of the Foundation for Korean Language and Culture in Los Angeles, says, “The Korean teacher examination is so difficult that even Korean-Americans often fail. It’s really great that Hanes as a foreigner passed the examination.”

Hanes likes foreign languages. He majored in Russian at UC Santa Cruz and went on to get a Spanish teacher’s certificate. Ten years ago, he started learning Chinese, and now he also has a Chinese teacher’s certificate.

He is learning about contemporary Korean society by reading books and watching Korean soaps since teachers have to cover politics, economics, society and culture in Korean class at U.S. schools. “Lately I’ve been reading the Korean comic book ‘Kid Gang.’ I want to set an example for other foreign teachers as the first non-Korean teacher, and I hope many others will follow suit.”


Sphere: Related Content

Another Subtle Diss Against The Natural Beauty of Black Women

I was searching around to update my Kiri Davis post and found this at Black Voice News Online: Another Subtle Diss Against The Natural Beauty of Black Women

Not much to say. I've already said a bit on this topic already: January, May 7th and May 14th. You all know how I feel - somehow I've managed to become quite passionate on this issue. However, I think it's an important one because it's so very important to have a positive self-image. This is particularly true when the world you're in tends to view you negatively due to your ethnicity.

The content of our character still has yet to be the primary determinant of how we're seen. Quite sad, no?

Here it is:

African American women have been told their natural hair was ugly so long until very few challenge the assertion. The hair care industry earns billions annually by fostering this deception. Soft & Beautiful brand of hair care products has named film actress Sanaa Lathan named "Miss Soft & Beautiful 2007." Lathan is known for her bold, yet sexy roles in the television series Nip Tuck and movies such as Love and Basketball, The Best Man, Brown Sugar, Out of Time, Something New, and Raisin in the Sun, which will air later this year. This award from Soft & beautiful is said to recognize role models: however, I suggest that the award is a subtle (either conscious or subconscious) stimulus to keep Black women attached to chemically relaxed hair. The success of such promotions is guaranteed to keep Alberto-Culver the manufactures of Soft & Beautiful a multibillion company. Lathan was selected based on a recent Sister 2 Sister Magazine Internet poll. Readers chose Lathan from amongst a list of other straightened-haired or hair weaved beautiful celebrities, which included, Beyonce, Tyra Banks and Queen Latifah. Black female celebrities known to wear natural hairstyles were not among the list of candidates for the coveted Soft & Beautiful title.

The following quotes were taken from the Internet: "I'm so honored to be named Miss Soft and Beautiful 2007," Ms. Lathan said. "It is such a delight to be recognized by the women in my community. A huge part of my life intention is to uplift women. This means so much. Thank you."

"The Soft & Beautiful woman displays grace and dignity, has a wonderful spirit, fit body and healthy, soft and beautiful hair," Sheryl Adkins-Green, Vice President of Alberto-Culver Multi-Cultural Marketing said. "Sanaa's look, especially her soft and silky hair, and her persona are admired by women everywhere. We're delighted she was chosen as 2007's Miss Soft & Beautiful."

In a recent Oprah Show Kiri Davis the teenage documentary filmmaker of aired a segment of her eight minutes film A Girl Like Me, which revealed that Black children had an inferiority complex regarding the Blackness. Ms. Davis used a Black doll and a white doll to conduct the test. The children thought of Black as ugly and white as pretty. Oprah later stated that she had visited one of her two schools in Africa and discovered that all the children had white dolls. When she asked the administrators why the young girls didn't have Black dolls she was told that Black dolls are hard to find, even in Africa.

Oprah who also wears her hair chemically straightened or weaved didn't acknowledge that, in part, it is because of the celebrities glorifying chemically straightened and/or weaved hair that contributes to Black children fostering negative images of their innate beauty. However Oprah's noble but superficial resolve was to personally see to it that all of the children at her schools receive Black dolls. I think such a resolution is tantamount to sending band-aids to AIDS victims. African and African American children need to see more Black female celebrities displaying their African heritage instead of sending the false message that beauty is only achieved through drastically altering their appearance.
Thanks to webmistress at Nappturology 101 for letting me use the photo above.


Sphere: Related Content