Sunday, September 30, 2007

Korea Is Not A Conservative Country

Okay, let's just end this one right here and now. Korea isn't a conservative country. They might be conservative when it comes to foreign males dating their women, but Korea is not a conservative country. This is particularly so considering the amount of foreign women imported into the country as "entertainers" or as mail-order brides.

This post from the Korea Beat blog had me dying laughing:

“Korea is a Conservative Country”

As The Grand Narrative suggests, I think we can file that one under fan death and kimchi cures SARS. This advertisement is inescapable if you spend any time browsing the online edition of the Sports Chosun, which surely has made for some interesting over-the-shoulder spousal conversations. Note that you’ll need a Korean citizen’s number to make it past the front page.

Basically, it's an advert for an online sex toy shop.

I'm from liberal California and wandered through a sex toy shop in Hollywood on a dare in high school. I'm so over it. However, Koreans seem not to be over it and feel they need to hide or lie about simply being human, curious and experimental just like any other country that allows it.

I've written about the superficial nature of Korea's "conservative" that causes it to freak out and ruin conferences and a sex trafficking scandal in the past but there are some recent things that have come up that make the hypocritical fakeness crystal clear.

Basically, you have people saying one thing and behind closed doors (or at your local train stations) they're doing something different. When you have most of the females of a country unable to pry themselves from mirrors, forgoing holiday fun and food to not gain weight and to get plastic surgery and balancing on too high heels even in the rain, it's not a conservative country. When you have prostitutes openly on display next to train stations, it's not a conservative country. These women are preening and ruining their feet or gait from balancing on stiletto heels because they get positive feedback for it. These prostitutes are there just to add flavor to the neighborhoods around the train stations. Someone is paying to keep these ladies in business.

Furthermore, I was really shocked to discover how many Koreans are shaking up. Now really, that's not a huge deal as it's very common where I'm from these days. But you can't claim to be a conservative society with pure maidens when Koreans are shaking up with a fair amount of frequency. I don't have any statistics, so I'm just going on the people I know and the stories I hear. I also know that some Koreans are turning to test marriages. That is, they go through the motions but they never officially file the papers. They file those later when the test period has passed and they can tolerate each other. If they can't tolerate each other, they move on as if it never happened. Conservative societies have much more strict social norms in place and don't allow things like this to happen.

Futhermore, as the following articles discuss, Korea hasn't been conservative for hundreds of years.

The first is an article on a porographic play written during the Chosun dynasty period. Here is a snippet from that article:
Chosun-Period Pornographic Play Discovered
"With an arrow put to the string, I have no choice but to shoot it." "How shameless you are! We're almost there. How can I stop it even if you ask me to? Damn this skirt of mine! Why is it here now?"

These are lines of dialogue from an explicit play dating back to the late Chosun Dynasty. Titled “Buksanggi”, it was discovered by Ahn Dae-hoe, a professor of Korean literature in classical Chinese at Sungkyunkwan University. On Saturday, Ahn will publish a paper on the play at a seminar sponsored by the Korean Classical Literature Association at Hanyang University.

The play is presumed to have been written either in 1780, the fourth year of the reign of King Jeongjo, or in 1840, the sixth year of the reign of King Heonjong. The author’s name is given as Donggo Eocho, a man presumed to have been a ruined aristocrat. At 124 pages long, it was written in the Chinese style then current as a story in dialogue. It is the second Chosun-period play, following "Dongsanggi" by Lee Ok.

The second article talks about how Koreans have expressed sexual desire through art. It also links the superficial conservative nature of Korea to Confucianism.

Erotic Art Reflects Conservative Korea's Passionate Side
Korean society is outwardly conservative about sex, mainly due to the Confucianism that has been the nation's governing philosophy for a long time. Yet underneath the stolid formality, there survives a more powerful desire for untrammeled sexual expression that has always found some form of expression in art. What Koreans really thought and felt of human beings, nature and life can be seen in the erotic art that has had a special place in society since ancient times. Remains from the ancient Shilla Kingdom, for instance, suggest that people at the time recognized sexual desire as a natural part of life, just like the ancient Greeks.

Anyway, Koreans aren't as conservative as they claim, so don't believe the hype.

Speaking of hype, I found this load of crap over at the Chosun Ilbo. It's from a couple of years back: What is it about Korean Women that Western Men Like? It's both positive and negative stereotype central.


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Repost: What the Hell is Wrong With Korea?

This is an interesting one which I think fits in pretty nicely into my "they're nowhere near being an international hub" line of posts.

This one is from Foreign Dispatches blog.

They make it so easy to point and laugh sometimes.

What the Hell is Wrong With Korea?

A fairly ordinary American (or possibly Canadian) girl posts a short and rather boring video on Youtube in which, while rambling on about nothing in particular, she mentions in passing that she dislikes Kimchi and finds the strong smell off-putting: nothing to get even the slightest bit excited about, right? Well, not if you're an oversensitive, ultranationalistic Korean, it isn't ... See the video which has even Korean newspapers up in arms for yourself.

Just read the angry responses to her video to see just how brittle the supposed self-esteem of so many Korean "patriots" really is: it would simply be inconceivable that people from, say, Japan*, the UK, France or Iceland would bat an eyelid if someone confessed to disliking natto, marmite, escargot or hákarl, and the other side of the coin to that overblown nationalism which Koreans are so partial to is a ridiculous oversensitivity to even the most minor perceived slights from the most insignificant of sources. This incident is even more pathetic than the repeated bleatings about that pile of guano Koreans like to call "Dokdo": a nation whose newspapers can work themselves into a blather over the passing comments on kimchi of a single foreign girl barely out of her teens is one with a massive chip on its collective shoulders; I know I'm repeating myself here, but there is something outright pathological about Korean nationalism.

*Note, by the way, the complete lack of angry responses by Japanese viewers to what she has to say about the country's cockroaches - a far less flattering thing to talk about than finding the smell of kimchi off-putting ...

PS: Take a look at the enraged Korean reaction to this kid's review of the near universally-panned "D-War."

One choice example:

Hey nigga! I can't see you boy! where are you? Whole black shit on screen, but sounds like some african boy. Where are you nigga?
Classy, isn't it? But that's what comes with idiotically over-identifying yourself with everything done by anyone who shares a passport with you - you find yourself feeling driven to "defend" even complete dreck by resorting to racial insults. To be fair, though, this time quite a few other Koreans make responses which show that the ultranationalist idiots don't speak for all of Korea.
It's just really sad and because this is a nation with a lot of promise. But if they have to be up in arms anytime someone has something to say about their culture, society or food then they have a lot more developing to do. However, that development needs to be in their society. Why is it that Koreans can level all sorts of criticisms at my country but let someone say they don't like the smell of kimchee or that D-War sucks and their oversensitivity send them into mad rants.

One girl thinks kimchee smells and said something about it on YouTube and almost everyone thinks D-War sucks.

As this is a repost, I've turned comments off. Please, take your feedback over to Foreign Dispatches.


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Friday, September 28, 2007

Chris Rock's 2008 Election Analysis

I just heard about this SNL video via a friend on Facebook (danke!)

It's just too funny.

Chris Rock's 2008 Election Analysis:


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Korea's Corporate Environment Declines

Click on the pic to go to the Doing Business 2008 website

Hehehehehe...yes, I'm getting a mean spirited laugh out of this one.

I guess that I just can't let this one go.

In its quest to become an international hub of some sort, South Korea has managed to drop in the World Bank's ranking of the ease of doing business compared to other countries.

If you make it difficult then people are going to move on. I'm not going to establish a business here if you make it difficult.

Believe me, I had to call the gas company today about my bill. How many times do I have to call to have them delete an old bank account off of my damm bill? After trying to call in the morning I finally got through this afternoon to some utterly unhelpful dink. Knowing this is part of life here, I took a deep breath, found another number and, thankfully, found someone who could help me.

Now it's different as I'm a person calling about a gas bill for my apartment and not a business, but multiply that by a foreign branch of a company and I can't image where that ranks on the "pain in the ass" meter. Basically, it's too high up on the scale to warrant coming to Korea when it's easier to go elsewhere. Things get done here but Koreans seem not to understand that inefficiency will turn a Westerner off in a quick second. Now, I know there are issues back home too, but I'm not talking about the USA right now.

Make things difficult and businesses decide to go elsewhere. That also feeds into if you make living here difficult people will decide to take their businesses to a place where living is easier. It's just that when nations are compared Koreans start wondering why Korea isn't getting a big chunk of foreign direct investment...whatever.

Dang...why is that so hard to get and act on?

Korea's Corporate Environment Declines

Korea's corporate environment has worsened since last year, according to "Doing Business 2008", a report by the World Bank released Tuesday. South Korea fell from no. 23 in 2006 to no. 30 this year in terms of how easy it is to do business here.

Portugal undertook the most effective reforms for a business-friendly environment, the report says. But South Korea implemented no reforms that helped improve the corporate environment.

South Korea ranked 110th in Starting a Business, down nine places from 2006; 131st in Employing Workers, down one place; 64th in Protecting Investors, down two places; 22nd in Simplifying Licenses, down from 16th; 68th in Registering Property, down from 65th; 36th in Getting Credit, down from 32nd; and 11th in Closing a Business, down from 10th in 2006.

According to the report, 10 different stages are needed for a person to start a business in Korea, while it takes 17 days and 16.9 percent of per capita gross national income to start a business in the country. In contrast, the OECD averages six stages, 14.9 days, and 5.1 percent of per capita GNI.

For the second year running, Singapore topped the rankings, followed by New Zealand, the U.S., Hong Kong, Denmark, the U.K., Canada, Ireland, Australia and Iceland.

Honestly, Korea has some really good things going for it. But other countries do too.

Step up Korea, seriously.


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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Myanmar Crackdown - People Mobilizing Via the Net

from the Democratic Voice of Burma website (linked below)

Update 7 (Oct 18, 2007 @ 9:32am)

The news on Myanmar is slowing to just a few snippets. However, those are worth posting. My fear is after this surge interest our ADD/quick cut media culture will forget.
United Press International: Myanmar said to be still making arrests
Agence France-Presse: Defiant Myanmar junta says it won't back down
International Herald Tribune: Japan cancels large aid grant to Myanmar

Update 6 (Oct 10, 2007 @ 1:21pm)

Some new articles from the BBC: What Burma wants from the world and Burmese junta appoints go-between.

Update 5 (Oct. 6, 2007 @ 5:46am)

Maybe some hope that the information lines are opening up, not likely, or the Myanmar fuzz is checking to see what's out there on the crackdown, more likely. Anyway, I was checking the traffic on my blog. I noticed I got a hit from Myanmar that chose to stay on the page for awhile. That person found my page via this Google search "myanmar crackdown pics". Interesting.

Update 4 (Oct. 3, 2007 @ 2;44pm)

Videos are now being submitted to CNN by people who fled Myanmar after the crackdown. It's shows what happened to protestors who got caught by the junta. There are a series of these.

CNN: Video of brutal crackdown - Exclusive video smuggled out of Myanmar shows protesters arrested and beaten by police. CNN's Dan Rivers reports. (note: I couldn't view it in Netscape, but Internet Explorer worked fine.)

Update 3 (Oct. 2, 2007 @ 10:56pm)

The UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has been in Myanmar for a few days and has met with Aung Sang Suu Kyi twice. I'm not really updating that because the mainstream news is covering that.

However, here is a good BBC article: Burmese monks 'to be sent away'. It has some good links.

Also, it's disturbing but it's really easy to ignore what's going on without visuals too. Here is a disturbing photo of the dead body of a monk floating in a riven in Rangoon that I saw on CNN International. It's in the BBC article too.

I found it at on the Democratic Voice of Burma website. This needs to be seen, so that the government in Myanmar will be held accountable.


Update 2 (Oct. 1, 2007 @ 11:44am)

An article fromt he Times Online: Bloggers who risked all to reveal the junta’s brutal crackdown in Burma

They provide some great multimedia, background and other related links.

Update 1 (Oct. 1, 2007 @ 8:10am)

These are some videos from Mizzima News website that I discovered today.

No title
Protest in Rangoon: Flag of Fighting Peacock Flying High (1)
There are quite a few other videos and I won't link them all. You can just go to their main video site and click around: Mizzima TV


You know, I feel really bad about myself as I spent Chuseok sitting here watching the reports on the protests and escalating tensions in Myanmar (aka Burma). I don't really care that George W. Bush talked about it a couple of days ago at the UN considering he's spent the almost all of his two terms in office blasting the wrong nations, sometimes literally. However, this is something that needs to be watched, so I'm doing my part by organizing some links in one spot.

As a blogged earlier this year, Kim Dae Jung's request to visit fellow Nobel Peace Prize receipent Aung San Suu Kyi was denied. The protesters did make it to Suu Kyi's door at the start of the protests, but now they're blocked.

For some reason, I really thought the government wouldn't resort to violence - what was I thinking?

I got home tonight and saw an interesting report on CNN International.

They were talking about how the government is cracking down. In spite of this crack down there are some brave people getting pictures out and blogging on Myanmar who are trying to get the word out. I linked both Israel and Lebanon blogs during last year's conflict.

I think it's good to link to these blogs reporting what's going on in Myanmar right now because they really need the world to watch what's going on there.

Here are some links and video:

Ko Htike's Prosaic Collection

MoeMaKa Media

Democratic Voice of Burma

Burma (Myanmar) Blog

On Facebook: Support the Monks' protest in Burma and Myanmar (Burma) Uprising: Worldwide support

The Nightwatchman: Myanmar Will Be You Tubed

Myanmar Blogs All Over the World - I haven't clicked on most of these links, so I'm not sure what's live and what's not. However, I figure it doesn't hurt to link to the list. This way YOU can click around if you're so inclined.

AP article: Cell Phones, Web Spread News of Myanmar

Interesting blog on "hacktivism" in Myanmar: Empowering Myanmar, one blog at a time

Wear Red on September 28th to Show Your Support

Find Companies Doing Business with Myanmar and Lobby Them to Stop: The Dirty List - The Burma Campaign UK

Help support Burma Issues - Their mission is here BI Ideology

Some YouTube videos:

Life under Myanmar's military government - 18 Sept 07

Monks Revolution Continue in Burma


Monks' Revolution in Rangoon


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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Funny Video: Family Guy Gun Safety Video

As you all can tell, I've been up to a whole lot of nothing during this Chuseok holiday!

Now I have to actually get up and do some laundry because I have to work tomorrow. Oh no!!!! That means I have to stop playing Civilization IV for a bit to do that!

Anyway, I saw a link for this funny video and since I don't want to write right now, here is something funny.

Enjoy and watch out for those dangerous minorities ;-)

Family Guy Gun Safty - Funny videos are here


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Monday, September 24, 2007

Click Over: A brief history of scapegoating English teachers in Korea

I'm all about doing nothing, which means just hanging out or relaxing, or traveling during Chuseok.

However, since I'm typing this on my computer in my apartment, guess what? It's all about hanging out and relaxing this Chuseok holiday.

I met up with ZenKimchi and a pair of other friends yesterday. We had a great meal at a new Viennese restaurant in Itaewon, Chef Meiji. At one point, the conversation went to the perception of teachers in Korea and how, in some ways, it's declined over the years and is just pretty bad.

I wouldn't know about the first part. I came here after the Asian Financial Crisis. While I have had people telling me about how great it was, my internal reaction is "so what? Things change." During that time I was completely focused on other things and, for me, it would have been a longshot to even consider teaching English here.

Things did change for me. My parents died. I was beyond sad. I realized that but for the company credit card, expense account and my field days I didn't like my corporate job. I had nothing to loose, so I quit. Also, during that time I had taken the LSAT and applied to law school. A few months later got into law school and moved to San Francisco. I realized about halfway through I didn't want to be a lawyer either. So, needless to say, things changed, as did my perspective and approach. When I finally arrived in Korea, I was full of a lot of optimism. I think that's what helped me adapt and roll with the negative aspects of being here. Living here is good if you're a cynical Pollyanna like me. That basically means I'm a realist but I'm also able to see those positive aspects of being here too. Sue me. To those who have had bad expat experiences in Korea my apologies, but sometimes I actually like it here moreso than home.

One negative aspect is how Koreans generalize to excess. It's probably because being from a society where everyone looks the same and pride themselves on having such a distinct culture that they see foreigners in the same way, as a monolith. Specifically there is a tendency to scapegoat English teachers here. Honestly, I've got a resume that most Koreans would kill for and I've yet to experience too much discrimination because I'm a teacher. Probably, that's due to the "status" of where I've taught as a university/college instructor. That's not the case for a lot of other English teachers because schools range from hagwons to private businesses to the Korean military. There are different ranks and levels of status that go with all of those positions. And, as I've written about before, there are some "interesting" types here. There are the teachers who can't get a job back home. There are those teachers who slip through the cracks because a lot of schools don't bother to verify credentials. These teachers do hurt the reputation of foreigners, but I know more good teachers who have it together than scary freaks or runaway criminals.

Anyway, here is A brief history of scapegoating English teachers in Korea from the Gusts of Popular Feeling blog. It's long and very detailed, so just click over to read it.

Now it's time for me to go shopping and pick up some dinner. Happy Chuseok everyone.


Here is another - The Hankyoreh: Even born in Korea,‘foreigners’ feel sting of discrimination


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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm A Quality Time Waster Prolific Blogger!!!

Update 2 (Oct. 1, 2007 @11:58am)

Maybe it's just rankings season in the blogosphere or something, but Gdog over at The Daily Kimchi put up a list of the 47 most popular Korea blogs and I'm there along with my friends the Metropolitician and ZenKimchi.

The Metropolitician is 2nd, I'm 4th and ZenKimchi placed 12th and 15th.

I feel like one of those award winners. "Um, it's just an honor to be named."

Thanks for putting it together Gdog!

Update 1 (Sept. 22, 2007 @ 3:44am):


I got linked on Top Ten Black Bloggers (September 2007) . One real shout out and one funny shout out in the same week.


OhmyfuckingGod. I woke to to get this comment:

You've just won an award. Dress up --meaning put on your best t-shirt an pick it up!

So clicked on the link and headed over to see what was going on. I and a few other bloggers have been named as the first receipeints of the Quality Time Waster Prolific Blogger Award. The purpose:
These are for those giant vacuum cleaner blogs that suck me in, amuse me and keep me from about all the stuff I should really be doing. Yes, to the casual bystander it's a waste of time, but you and I know it's a quality journey.

It's funny but, really, I'm happy to be called prolific because at least I'm getting something done. Goodness knows I don't clean my apartment. I've also heard from friends in China that they can't read my blog there, so I'm banned in China! That's gotta be good for something? No?

Oh the honor! Click over if you want to read my acceptance speech ;-)

Thanks very much Kanani!


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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Korea Has Fewest Foreign Students in OECD

This is an interesting news snippet. Basically, it says that Korea has the fewest foreign students in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This was interesting to me because I've just made it through a master's program here. For me, it was an easy decision and I felt comfortable doing it because I already had a graduate degree from the States. Thus, I felt insulated from any criticism of Korean universities being sub par in terms of the quality of instruction because I'd already earned my stripes so to speak. Also, for me, it was a way to create a niche. Now when I go to apply for PhD programs, I have specialized knowledge in a specific area. That knowledge is complemented by having lived in the country for awhile.

I've had a few people ask me if I planned to get my PhD here. I point out that if Koreans have trouble getting jobs with a PhD from a Korean university and that most go through hell and high water to get admission to foreign universities then it's not really worth my time either. Plus, honestly, I want maximum leverage and a Korean PhD would leave me with very few options.

What's even more interesting is that Korea is trying to become an international hub. Honestly, I'm still not quite sure what they mean by that. (I don't think they really know either.) Well, in order to attract foreigners you've got to have a society where not only is it easy to conduct business but it's fairly easy to live. That means accomidation, medical care, education, labor and management practices and many other things are on a par to other major foreign hubs.

Korea Has Fewest Foreign Students in OECD

The percentage of foreign students studying in Korean universities is the lowest among member states of the OECD. According to the “OECD Education at a Glance 2007” survey, Korea ranked bottom with Poland at 0.5 poercent in 2005, or 15,497 foreign students out of a total 3.2 million of the country's undergraduates and graduates. New Zealand had the highest percentage with 28.9 percent, followed by Australia with 20.6 percent, Switzerland with 18.4 percent and the UK with 17.3 percent. The OECD average was 7.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the most Koreans went abroad to study in the U.S. (57.8 percent), followed by Japan (23.4 percent), Germany (5.5 percent), Australia (4.4 percent), the U.K. (4 percent) and France (2.2 percent). Tuition was higher than the OECD average. Annual average tuition for four-year national or public universities was US$3,883, the third highest after the U.S. ($5,027) and Japan ($3,920). Korea rose from fourth place last year. The high ranking is because tuition in public universities in Europe is very low or free.

The Education Ministry in Seoul says state support has not risen in line with the growing number of universities, which explains the increasing tuition burden on students. As to private university tuition, the U.S.’ was the highest at $18,604, and Korea ranked fifth at $7,408. The number of students per teacher was 16 in high schools, 20 in middle schools and 28 in elementary schools, higher than the OECD average of 13, 13 and 16 respectively, the highest excluding Mexico. The number of students per class was 32 in elementary schools and 35 in middle schools (OECD average 21, 24), and classified as overcrowded. The annual report surveys the 36 member states comparing statistics on factors like high school graduation rate, per-capita public education cost, teacher wages and others.

I had to put together a report this summer comparing the international schools in Seoul to places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and other cities. There are very few options here and it's common knowledge that within the foreign community a lot of people say that when their kids reach school age they'll have to move. Now there are a few international schools, but they really just don't compare to the range of international schools in other countries in Asia trying to attract foreign investment.

Layer on top of that the difficulty Koreans seem to have in anticipating problems, making decisions on their own and empathazing with the adjustments a foreigner has to deal with living here and you've got a problem. There are some professionals that work with helping foreigners settle here, but there are some changes that Korea itself will have to undergo to make this a place where not only single English teachers can live but where families can settle. Granted, yes, the companies and governments sponsoring these people bear responsibility too, but the infrastructure has to be there or else they'll choose a place that has the infrastructure in place. Considering the difficulties you face when living here as a foreigner and, as I said in this post, I don't see how Korea is going to achieve this goal without some significant changes.

Here is an interesting discussion on the Marmot's Hole about how foreign professors aren't even treated like equals to their Korean peers: Just Treat Us Like Equals: Foreign Professors. I know that as an English instructor on the college/university level my current job is the first job where they try to involve us.


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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tour les Jours Bakery: Fro Ad ;)

Okay, I was heading home last night and got off the bus at the Tour Les Jours bakery near my home. I looked and saw a cute ad with a nappy in it.

Thanks CJ! CJ is one of the big companies here in South Korea, and I like CJ for some reason. They own the Tour Les Jours chain.

Koreans, black folks and bread. It's cute, so I'm sharing.

Forgive the Perez inspired picture comments, but, at least, I didn't copy him completely. I mean I annotated in pink after all.


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Friday, September 14, 2007

Darwin Awards Nominee from Gyeongju!

You see in Korea, they set up random drunk-driving check points and submit EVERYONE driving through to a breathalyzer test on the spot. I always got through when I had a car here. Sometimes, oddly enough, certain cops would just wave me through. Maybe they figured "hey, a black woman in Korea wouldn't be stupid enough to drive drunk". They'd be right on that, but I'm not stupid or irresponsible enough to do it back home either.

The breathalyzers seem to be tuned to a reasonable level, because when I lived in the country working at a SKY uni sometimes co-workers and I would have dinner and drink after work. I'd always limit myself to one beer because my drive home involved a stretch of road where the breathalyzer crew camped out quite a bit. I never got detained for having one beer on my breath, so their equipment seems to be tuned right. Of course, I've never known Koreans to limit their intake to one anything when out drinking, so maybe the breathalyzers are tuned for super-sized fumes ;-)

This headline caught my attention: Man Dies Fleeing Drunk-Driving Checkpoint

A man in his 40s died Tuesday night after he jumped into a river trying to escape a drunk-driving crackdown. The 46-year-old man, who was identified only as Kang, was driving around midnight on the riverside road in Gyeongju, where police had set up a checkpoint for drunk drivers. Kang stopped his car about 100 m short of the checkpoint, ran away and jumped into the nearby Hyeongsan river. He was found dead the next morning. A police officer said, “Kang drove backward about 10 m and jumped into the river without even turning off the engine.”

Police and emergency rescue teams searched for Kang until 2:30 a.m., and finally found the dead body downstream the next morning. Police said Kang was driving without a license since he had been caught for drunk driving three times between 2002 and 2006 and his license was revoked.

The first thing I thought was "Darwin Awards nominee time", but at age 46 and a Korean man, mostly likely he's unfortunately left a wife and kids behind too.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

아이언 팜 - Iron Palm

Graphic snipped from

I'm watching this movie cause it's on early this morning here and, frankly, when it came on I was too lazy to change the channel. However, it's really cute and funny. I wouldn't say it's a cinematic masterpiece but with so much English in it, I "think" I even get some of the Korean parts.

Here is the description from the Han Cinema website. The grammar is horrible, but it's either post it or describe it myself. Here it is. Iron Palm (2002):
A man named Iron Palm arrives at L.A. airport holding a rice cooker. He has come to the States with the sole hope of finding his first love, Jinnie. Five years ago, he and Jinnie were in love but one day, she left for L.A. alone. After she left his life, Iron trained himself in a shaolin way, 'the Iron Palm', to calm his yearning for his love. He would put his hands into a hot rice cooker whenever Jinnie was reminded. That's how he's got 'iron palms'.

Five years have past, and Jinnie cannot live without soju even a single day and now works as a bartender dreaming to open a trendy soju bar in L.A. Jinnie is going out with a yuppie, 'Admiral', who runs his own business and is rich enough to make her dream come true. But all of a sudden, Iron Palm shows up and interferes with her well-planned future by insisting her on marrying him. With everything on the verge of breakdown, and the two guys starting to fight over Jinnie, she suggests an unusual solution.

"How about seeing both of you by rotation? Iron on Mon, Wed, Friday and Admiral on Tue, Thurs, Saturday. Sunday is off, no wonder".

Who is gonna be the man of Jinnie?
Now it's completely unrealistic in many ways. A bartender who breaks her leg, drinks soju constantly ends up homeless, fired and in AA dealing with her alcoholic lifestyle. She does not end up holed up in her very nice apartment for a month being pampered by the two men that love her on alternate days.

Oh, the scene that's on is funny. He's at a tae kwon do school in L.A. showing his iron palm technique and, well, it's silly. It's the silly moments that make you swallow the complete lack of reality going on behind the story.

But it's a movie. It's make believe and for a mindless morning movie, I'll take it.


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White On White Crime at the MTV VMAs!!!

I know this is a couple of days behind the curve, but it's funny to me and I'm in my office with nothing to do but either write or study. Guess which one I've chosen?

I didn't even bother watching this year's MTV VMAs. Outside of Alicia Key's performance I heard that most of it was just shiteous.

The funniest story to me is Kid Rock and Tommy Lee getting into it.

On one forum I frequent quite a bit the issue that's on the menu is this: Had the two men getting into it been black there would have been much more said about this. There would be talk show sessions and all sorts of pundits coming out of the woodwork to opine. In all honesty, I would probably have been talking too.

However, with this one all I heard of it was that Kid Rock and Tommy Lee came to blows at some point during the show. But if that were 50 Cent and Kanye going at it, there would have been a much more serious delivery by the news media.

When I watched CNN International. They put Britney's crappy performance up and then segued to the fight story and they were pretty much laughing the whole time. "Oh those funny Pam Anderson ex-husbands and public fights."

So why is it when two black men have at it, oh, they're so violent but when two white men have at it, there has got to be some reason and it's actually more funny than not?

Well here is the page MTV put up showing the fight (big yawn).

What's funniest is what follows the lame smack down. The commentaries by P. Diddy and Jamie Foxx were spot on. They were joking, but those jokes come from something that we in the black American community see a lot (and I know it's not just limited to black Americans, but that's where I'll draw the generalization line.)

What we see is this: a fear of black anger or aggression. It really does feel like anytime a black person is upset it's due to our inherently violent natures. We're told to calm down. However, let two white guys go at it and well, there has to be a reason.

Guess what folks? Even with black on black crime and even with the crime rate in the black community, when black folks go there THERE IS A REASON. Not all reasons are valid and definitely not all reasons justify the action taken. However, I know when I loose my temper it's not because I'm unhinged and just go around loosing my temper. It's because something or someone has pushed me too far.

There are other bloggers out there who are much more prolific on this topic. Some are even funny: Attack of the GIANT NEGROES!!

Look at Attack of the GIANT NEGROES!! and the stories and headlines that the NYT published way back when. That's serious! Look at that. Read it with the same seriousness you read the NYT or whatever news source now and then tell me that this stuff isn't deeply ingrained into US society and politics.

It most certainly is and the reaction to this fight between these two stars reflects it too.


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

International Hub? Yeah, right!

Okay, this is pretty much a rant, so with that said, let me get to it.

I was on my way home this evening and decided to stop to get dinner. I got off the bus and went to the Shanghai Deli. I ordered some dim sum and fried rice, got my food and made my way back to the bus stop.

Now, as I mentioned before, I try to avoid the rush hour and also the times that school is letting out. I truly think middle school kids worldwide just need to be sent away until they mature, kind of like wine.

The good thing about middle school students in Korea is they're easy to identify because of their shiteous uniforms. The middle school kids in Banpo-dong weren't so bad. Believe me, I've seen worse. However, what just got under my skin was a pair who walked past and one shoved the other in my direction. This happened to me also when I was in Berlin when a bunch of white guys did it. I was no less pissed off then either, so don't say I'm anti-Korea. Someone will have to pay me to go back to Berlin 'cause it was shitty.

This is minor but just so irritating to me. What makes you think that you noticing me and how I'm different gives you any right to disturb me? I can understand looking. I can understand talking to your friends about the foreigner. But I don't understand why your ignorance is EVER my problem.
It's just that if I'm minding my own business after a day at work and I just want to go home, relax and eat my Chinese take-out when stuff like this happens it really irks me. If I'm minding my own business I really would appreciate it if you minded yours. I know enough Korean so that I could hurl a few choice words their way, but to even have to go there is irritating.

Now I know this is nothing compared to stuff that can happen in some areas in the States. I also know that being different in places in the States can be more than irritating. It can be downright dangerous or even fatal, so don't come at me with comparisons 'cause I know.

However, I can still talk about what happens to me and feel the anger that comes with it. This is particularly because, yes, I'm well aware of the mess that goes on back home. I'm also aware that when I get home, I'll have to face certain degrees of it there too because the USA is a race-obsessed country. However, this about my commute home in Seoul today and not about comparative analysis on other societies.

What's funny is if you pay attention to the Korean media there are often press releases where the Korean government has decided it wants to be an international hub. This is because they realize they can't compete against China in manufacturing potential, so they've got to corner the market in something, so smart move. You hear the government is taking on some ambitious plan to attract foreign press and investment. However, it never seems like a lot of these plans look to educate its population beyond crappy English instructors, bozo foreigners on Korean TV or stereotypical depictions of foreigners and foreign society. (To those I know on Korean TV, you're all the exception...maybe)

When you have a society where it's pretty much certain that a foreigner is going to be greeted with gawks, stares, finger pointing, giggles, etc. and sometimes behavior that is just plan offensive, forget ever becoming appealing enough that businesses would ever consider relocating their business and employees in your country en masse. Yes, there are exceptions. But even where companies invest sometimes they're driven out due to the market patently rejecting foreign business. Walmart and Carrefour come to mind as two examples.

Now there are other issues:

* a horrible selection of international schools (I know this as I put together a report on it over the summer.)
* a society that is still very much working on the quality of its university level education system (the way Korean professors react to student cheating and, to be blunt, sometimes cheat would have them fired in the West.)
* a new selection of banking laws limiting foreigner's transactions (rather than just targeting the Korean-speaking Chinese that are doing it.)
* a general atmosphere where excuses are made rather than solutions being sought when things go wrong.
* etc.

No, most companies are going to look to Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore or other locations. Most foreigners are also going to skip straight over Korea and visit China or Japan.

Korea is steadily improving, no doubt, but it's little stuff like that which is rarer in other Asian countries that makes it a location that keeps it from being a serious contender with other Asian hubs.


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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Feet Man Seoul at 이화여대 정문

Okay, I was clicking around the net and clicked over the Feet Man Seoul (linked in the picture above.)

Wouldn't you know that one week after I graduate he and his crew start lurking around 이화's front gate.

It does make me feel good because Ewha students ARE damn fashionable and hella cute as well as damn smart ;)

Yeah, I'm bragging. Y'all just haters ;-)

Here are the posts that made me go "ohmygod! I know that place!"

Street Styles: Savvy Sophomores

Fabulous Fashionista: The Funky Freshman

Street Peeps: Biker Girl!

I just gotta say thanks FMS for big-upping my newest alma mater.


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Friday, September 7, 2007

Oh, Fight!

Update 1 (Sept. 9 @ 2:07pm)DPRK studies has a good analysis and comparison of the English versions of the exchage: What Roh Actually Said to Bush in Sydney

Ohhhhhhhhhhh! Fight!


Since I don't like either one of these heads of state, this headline caught my eye. I honestly can't tell what's going on here. If you've got some insight, bring it.

It could be that they hate each other as much as I think they do.

It could be that Roh was trying to clown and trump Bush which isn't difficult to do.

It could be something else or, of course, a combination of many things.

Whatever it is, it's pretty clear that Roh was pushing him for a reason. Maybe it was to appear tough to his electorate here.

Here are sections of the article that caught my eye.

Bush spars with Roh on Korean war

In a testy public exchange Friday with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, U.S. President George W. Bush said the United States would formally end the Korean War only when North Korea halts its nuclear weapons program.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of a 21-nation Pacific Rim summit here, spending much of their roughly one-hour session discussing the international standoff over the communist North's pursuit of atomic arms.

They agreed there had been progress. But then they had a before-the-cameras back-and-forth that was remarkable in the diplomatic world of understatement and subtlety.

Roh pushed Bush to be "clearer" about his position on an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War. The two Koreas were divided by the conflict, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, meaning they still remain technically at war.

The leaders' tone remained light, but Bush responded firmly: "I can't make it any more clear, Mr. President. We look forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will happen when Kim Jong Il verifiably gets rid of his weapons programs and his weapons."


The tense moments with Roh came as the leaders each made statements to reporters after their meeting. Roh concluded his by questioning why Bush hadn't mention the issue of the war's end.

"I might be wrong. I think I did not hear President Bush mention a declaration to end the Korean War just now," Roh said through an interpreter. "Did you say so, President Bush?"

"It's up to Kim Jong Il," Bush said.

Roh pressed on. "If you could be a little bit clearer," he said, prompting nervous laughter from the U.S. delegation and a look of annoyance from Bush.

They're both pretty much lame duck presidents with very low approval numbers, so I don't really care when it comes to their political futures.

I'd say to Roh that essentially after reneging on the agreement the Clinton administration made with the DPRK in 1995 and stirring things up for about six years that the policy is essentially the same as it was when Clinton was in office.

Now I'm no Pollyanna on this. Yes, the DPRK was cheating and, if you look at the 1995 agreement, there were no clear markers of who was supposed to do what and when. That's a huge error when it comes to an agreement with parties that don't trust each other. However, you can renegotiate. Yanking aid and name calling probably wasn't the best approach to resolve the problem.

It's just now with almost the same agreement the world is a lot more dangerous and the US is much less respected.

Way to go!


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CPR Lessons!

Update (Sept. 22, 2007 @ 8:47pm)

Eeeek! I have to announce that there is no update because I had to miss the CPR training.

Oh well, maybe next year...


This is just completely random but cute. I was heading off to lunch today after finishing my morning class. I saw some students from our EMT department with tables set up and a dummy laid prone. One of the students was practicing CPR on it.

As soon as they saw me I heard them whisper my name. I'm a pretty popular instructor, and I immediately picked up the pace. I knew they were coming after me. However, in heels I couldn't bust out into a full sprint.

One very determined student caught up to me. Her English wasn't very good, so we muddled through in Korean. They'd set up the tables to get people to sign up for CPR training sessions in two weeks. She told me it would be free for me because I'm an instructor there. I said "what the hell?" and signed up.

They were also set up in front the building where my office is located. Specifically, there were students from my class there who tried to get me to sign up too. I told them the date and the time, so they got off my back.

This is going to be interesting because it's the student(s) who'll be teaching me.

In two weeks I'll update the blog with my ExpatJane Learns CPR post ;)


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One Decaf Short Cultural Conflict Latte

I started this days ago, but that dang phone call I got a couple of days ago threw me off my game.

The funny thing is I'm such a techie pinhead that when this was happening I was going to start writing about it right there, but I left my PDA at home. You can't do much with a mobile keyboard is the PDA is MIA. Thus, I had to actually write it on paper and then turn around and type it up! (...gasp...)

It was like seeing a weird mini "Clash of Civilizations" being played out.

I went to Starbucks in the Itaewon district of Seoul. For those of you who don't live here, Itaewon is the icky foreigners section of Seoul. I say it's icky because, well, it is. It's a disorganized jumble of shops that cater to Western tastes. I would disagree that the stores actually do. It's mostly low quality crap and tourist souvenirs. There are some decent tailors and shoe makers (BTW, call Bob if you need a sturdy pair of custom made shoes: 011-234-0461). After refusing to go there unless I had to for years, I finally came around for a couple of reasons 1) it's only about 10 minutes from where I currently live, 2) there are some stores that sell foreign foods and that's a Godsend when you want dried Kiwi or a can of Campbell's Soup without going across town to Costco, and 3) it is great for restaurants. I also used the coffeehouses in Itaewon to study my butt off, so I also have a certain level of comfort there.

Anyway, this is what happened. I head upstairs to lay claim to one of my favorite tables near a plug. The first thing I notice is a quartet of Western (yes, read that as white) expats with a screaming baby. Across from these expats is another pair of expats. Two what appeared to be Middle Eastern men. One of these men was on the phone and talking pretty loud. However, I remember when the Iranian revolution happened and L.A. had a lot of Iranians move there. In general, a lot just talk that way...whatever.

The Westerners expats noticed the volume level too. Now, in the West it would have been very appropriate to politely ask him to lower his voice. However, my read on the situation flowed not from my Western sensibilities but from how the Koreans around me chose to respond. The Koreans just kept on with their own conversations or whatever they were doing and didn't skip a beat.

However, it was this group of Westerners, who weren't all that quiet themselves, who had to start something. Okay, honestly, it was the loudest guy in that group who chose to start something.

Instead of the polite request, he HAD to go there. He said this, "Could you speak a little louder?" I was really shocked that a stranger would say this to another stranger. I thought this was incredibly rude particularly because it wasn't like the group of Westerners were talking in hushed whispers and the wailing kid didn't help either. Plus, a polite request will usually get you much further than a snarky question.

I was so agitated by it I considered telling him to shut the fuck up and mind his own business. However, I figured the situation was already tense enough. Instead, I was a wuss and just went downstairs to order my coffee.

When I came back it was tenser. The baby was crying. The snarky Westerner had gotten up to comfort it by walking back and forth with it. The loud Western expat was still throwing verbal jibes their way. I recall him saying something like someone's parents should have used a condom. I don't think he was talking about the wailing bundle of joy he was holding but maybe he was also a jerk to babies (who knows...) There were mutual jeers and taunts from both sets of expats and generally it was a bad idea for me to go there to study.

Eventually, the Middle Eastern men left and the Westerners followed. However, it just seemed to be an unnecessary and hyper-confrontational way of dealing with something that a polite request would have taken care of much more easily.

It was just another day in the Land of the Morning Calm.


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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Do You Know Bibimbap???!!!

Okay, I got up a bit early this morning. I was exhausted last night and turned in early, so there you have it. This morning I got up, logged into Facebook and made bad move in a round of Scrabble on Facebook with ZenKimchi (he's probably going to win because I didn't think it through). Anyway, that lead me to clicking around his blog this morning.

I read his post on a 곱창 귀 (Gobchang Gui) restaurant he'd found. I was just so jealous because I miss the big family dinners with intestine dishes, seriously. I was raised on downhome southern cooking and you don't get chitlins and hog maws at McDonalds. In fact, the idea of mass produced McChitlins or McMaw-nuggets just makes me simulataneously giggle, grimace and gag.

Anyway, there were somethings he talked about in his post that irked me a bit. So I commented at length and when I do that I realize it's something I ought to blog about myself.

Realize, for me, a lot of this is theraputic. I can talk about it here. I can think about it from my perspective and leave comments open to get other perspectives on a question or issue. It's better than forums where people tend to be more trollish than not, get personal way too quickly, and usually lack the desire or ability to really discuss the issue.

This is the thing. I've been here for awhile. I realize that when I'm dealing with your average Korean (if there is such a thing) that they have no idea of my background, upbringing or length of time here. What they see is a foreigner and with that, they associate all their ideas of what being a foreigner means to them. Unfortunately, that means I'm often in situations where I give a cold blank stare and shutdown versus showing how irritated their assumptions are to me.

A lot of those assumptions surround food. When I first came to Korea I was really confused as to why Koreans no matter where they're from and how you met would suggest the same dishes. Usually, if you're in a new situation, the Korean(s) in charge will suggest a meal. If you turn down the offer for the Korean version of pizza (don't do it) or dongcass (breaded welfare meat patties...ugh) and say you want Korean food, the suggestion is usually bibimbap or some version of Korean barbeque. Now after eating that over and over, honestly, it gets a bit dull.

Usually, the question is "Do you know bibimbap?" Well, ask me that question now and the person is likely to have me look at them, sneer and just walk away. Okay, not really, but it's really what I want to do. Usually, I'll say that yes I know it. I grew up in L.A. for goodness sake! I "knew" bibimbap years before I imagined I'd ever be in Korea much less live here for any length of time.

I stress to my friends to toss things up a bit. First, ask their foreign guests what kinds of foods they like. Second, LISTEN when the person answers and take that into account. Third, then take that person to any other kind of restaurant but a bibimbap or Korean barbeque restaurant. Of course, the exception would be if the person says their favorites are one of those or that they're having a craving for one of those foods. Also, I understand that in some situations, it really is about going through the motions, doing what you need to do and going home. This would be the case with that first faculty meeting, big orientation dinners or something like that. Okay, go predictable in those cases, but if you're friends and you're trying to show someone your culture then really show them your damn culture.

If I were showing someone new to L.A. my culture and give them a literally a taste of my life, I wouldn't take them to McDonalds or any big chain restaurant. That's not my culture or my life. I'd take them to a soul food restaurant (a few come to mind already) or one of the many ethnic restaurants that are my favorite back home in L.A.

I say this because I knew there had to be a bigger variety of food in Korea. I knew that all Koreans weren't sitting around eating kalbi every night. I wanted to know what the other varieties and types of foods were out there. This country is a peninsula, so there had to be all sorts of seafood dishes as well as rice and meats. Along the way, of course, I've learned a lot. I've been taken to and experienced a lot of unique types of Korean food.

However, there is still that dynamic of "take the foreigner to a safe" restaurant.

That should really fly out of the window when it's learned that a foreigner has been in Korean for awhile. It should particularly be tossed when the foreigner speaks the language (or is, at least, trying to) or is trying to make a life here. I'd say even if the foreigner is fresh off the boat, a FOB (as I've learned from my kyopo friends), take a chance and show them something that isn't bibimbap or barbeque.



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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Denial Much? It's Not Just Korea...It's Everyone!

Update 2 (September 9 @ 2:15pm)

I didn't watch it, but a lot of people who did say that the KBS "exposé" on foreign teachers in Korea and their bad, bad, bad behavior was more balanced than not.

View from the fence: KBS on criminal teachers
ZenKimchi: The (Latest) KBS Anti-Foreigner Show

That's great! Really, there is no sarcasm there. It only helps to renforce the point I've expressed a few times over that, in general, Koreans appear to have a much faster learning curve on issues like prejudice because, mostly, it stems from ignorance and not mallice.

However, it still irks me they focus so much on what foreigners are doing but often turn a blind eye to what their own are doing. I mean in a country of over 40 million people where the foreign population has just now topped the 1,000,000 mark, their time would be much more effective chasing down the bad Mr. Kims out there.

This fake degree stuff would plummet with both foreigners and Koreans if Koreans simply took the time to verify credentials. People would still try to cheat, but they'd get sorted out more often than not.


Update 1 (September 6 @ 7:04pm)

This got me so riled up that with my friend's help we opined on academic fakery and our opinions on it last night: Podcast #31 - Academic Fakery and the New Jack Hustle

Check it out and then go on to comment on how wrong, judgmental, or stereotypically American we are!

Cheers! ;-)

Okay, I got a phone call today that was really bothersome.

My academic advisor at Ewha GSIS, who is a foreigner here, is listed on the Ewha GSIS website as having a PhD from both Trinity College in Dublin and Georgetown in the US.

Now this is through no fault of his own, but because the people entering the information at Ewha couldn't either 1) be bothered to get the information right or 2) intentionally chose to write something inaccurate he's got an overzealous reporter on his trail.

A reporter at the Korea Times called me today to ask me questions about this. He asked me if my advisor misrepresented himself. I told him that, to my knowledge, he had not. I told him that, as an Oxford, Kent, and Trinity grad, my professor would have no reason whatsoever to inflate his credentials to get a job here.

I also told him that I have a J.D., and that I've had a couple of situations where the schools I've worked for have taken it upon themselves to change my information. Instead of listing me as a J.D., I've been listed as an M.A. or even a PhD. I also have a friend, Mike aka the Metropolitician, that this has happened to also.

I told the reporter that's probably what happened with my advisor.

He then asked me who made the error. My reply was how was I to know who made the error. However, what he should do is to contact my professor and the schools to check. Since this type of mistake/exaggeration is common here, it was essentially harmless because he did attend Georgetown while he was pursuing his PhD at Trinity. That's easily confirmed.

Again, I told him he should contact my professor directly. The reporter's explaination was he feared that my advisor would "lie". That ruffled my Western feathers a bit because it shows me this fake degree stuff is turning into a witch hunt rather than a true quest for the truth.

I know leading questions when I hear them. Of course, I contacted my prof to tip him off and he replied letting me know that he'd spoken to this reporter twice today.

Since I got the call, got questions seemed to be asked to clearly steer me into a specific answer and I know the Korean media can be less than professional, I've decided to head them off at the pass. This is strictly preemptive because I've seen this way too many times. Nothing has been written or published yet, and it unless he finds evidence of clear lying, it should stay that way. Basically, he needs to find another target.

I'm all for investigating and I'm all for disclosure when it's proven that someone's intentionally misrepresented themselves. However, just as something recently took off about Daniel Henney (linked below). It's seem the same madness is being directed at my professor.

I hope that this reporter doesn't decide to publish anything suggesting my advisor lied. However, dear aggressive reporter, if you do, be warned you're definitely stretching here.

Honestly, why not write about the cultural and structural reasons why this happens so often? That would be a better story and might actually turn the tide in Korea to changing the situation rather than denial where they get to say "well, see??? Those nasty foreigers do it too." Well, some might but it doesn't go as deep as it does here and we know that too.

My feeling is that because it's hit the international press (New York Times and Associated Press) that whole "shame" thing has kicked in and now Korean reporters are scrambling to show it's not just us, you all do it too.

Reporting and fact-finding is cool. However, witch hunts aren't.

Now I've got to run off to record a podcast. I'll update this with more links later.

As stated, they even tried to string up Daniel Henney. The fact is liberties are often taken regarding academic qualifications here in Korea but the issue is if the person lied or not. If they didn't, there is no story and no amount of leading questions will generate one.

Go after the real liars, dear reporters.

Oh, speaking of Korean reporters who want to distract people. Yet another TV special about all of those depraved English teachers out there. It's so lame that you can just click over for commentary: Sex, Drugs and English Teachers. The Marmot actually saw the show. I didn't bother.

Some articles on the education issue here in Korea (sometimes not direct research but Korea is mentioned):

Asia Times: Life and Death Exams in South Korea
Asia Pacific Education Review (2002, Vol. 3, No. 1, 125-135): The Relationship Between Students’ Perceptions of Classroom Environment and Their Academic Achievement in Korea or here
Shanghai Star: GRE computor test to be ended in China, S. Korea
The Educational Forum: Cheating in Middle School and High School


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Monday, September 3, 2007

Trends in Nationalism in South Korea

This is interesting. The Chosun Ilbo has an article titled New Trends in Korean Nationalism. I was really excited and thought I'd read something really good.

However, this is the WORST article I've read on this topic. That's not to say I've read a lot of articles on Korean nationalism, but damn, this sucks ass. I know this stuff and, really, by the fourth paragraph, my eyes were glazing over. On top of it, it's got TYPOS. Damn...just damn.

It's either blog it or save it to blog later and then forget about it.

My goal is to read it and then reinterpret it for the lay person. You can try it too.

THIS is English language journalism in Korea. Shitty, no?

Enjoy...if you can.

New Trends in Korean Nationalism

South Koreans' attitude toward the U.S., as seen in the latest hostage crisis in Afghanistan, was markedly different from the anti-American sentiment vented during the kidnapping and beheading of Kim Sun-il in Iraq in June 2004. Despite some minor protests, the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement is proceeding apace, with anti-American, pro-North Korean voices much quieter than they have been.

Several academics say the 20-year-long marriage between the Left and nationalists born in the democratic struggle against authoritarian governments in the 1970s and 1980s is coming to an end. That means farewell to the defensive, registance nationalism produced by Korea’s history in the 20th century. Foreign experts, by contrast, worry that Korean nationalism is becoming more aggressive.

Prof. Kang Won-taek of Soongsil University defines this trend as a transition from Korean nationalism to South Korean or “Republic-of-Korea” nationalism. But Kang says it would be missing the point if we regard it only as a trend of nationalists turning to the Right. According to Kang, this new South Korean nationalism owes something to the advent of a “post-386” generation who are IT- savvy and aware of globalization, and to a change in South Koreans' perception of North Korea and a more realistic understanding of the situation the Korean Peninsula finds itself in.

Prof. Kim Ho-ki, a center-left academic at Yonsei University, says the spectrum is more complex. The Right, he says, is divided into nationalists and post-nationalist or pro-market forces, and so is the Left, while in between there are centrist nationalists and post-nationalists.

The conventional nationalists on the Right stress a patriotic view of history. Rightwing post-nationalists, led by the novelist Bok Geo-il, are backed by businesses that emphasize globalization. The conventional nationalists of the Left are pro-North Korea; leading figures are Baek Nak-cheong, a professor emeritus of Seoul National University, and Kang Man-gil, a former Korea University professor. Over the past 20-odd years, this group has exercised the most powerful influence on intellectuals, their ideology a major influence on the Kim Dae-jung administration.

Leftwing post-nationalists include Prof. Jin Jung-kwon of Chung-Ang University, Prof. Sohn Ho-chul of Sogang University, and Russian-born scholar Park No-ja.

"As far as large social currents are concerned, it's clear that both intellectuals and the general public are now moving from leftwing nationalism to rightwing post-nationalism,” Kim Ho-ki said. “But we’ll need more observation and research to see what the new nationalism will look like."

Prof. Jun Sang-In of Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Administration says leftwing nationalism is conspicuously losing its influence among the populace, “decisively because people are disappointed by the leftwing governments of the past decade." Shin Ji-ho, the president of the “new Right” organization Liberty Union, said, "In my view, the Chun Doo-hwan regime played a role in integrating the Left and nationalists into a formidable force. And the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments have played the central role in producing a new force based on a combination of post-nationalism and the Right."

So what will it mean if the leading ideology is moving from leftwing nationalism to rightwing post-nationalism? Where will the 386 generation of former student democracy activists, who became the main proponents of leftwing nationalism in politics, turn now? And will the new South Korean nationalism -- the product of a combination of the Right and post-nationalists -- be a sort of patriotic globalism, or will it remain mired in ultra-nationalism and a chauvinism based on the ideas of “pure blood” the UN has recently criticized? The struggle for the intellectual soul of South Korea is on.


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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Video: Jill Scott - "Hate On Me"

It's been a long time since I've added a music video to my blog, but I haven't forgotten about that. It's just that I've been really busy and, most important, I haven't really seen much worth adding. However, I'm surfing around the music sites and brace yourselves...the vids will follow. If you're curious, right now I'm regressing a bit and listening to the Foo Fighters 'cause Dave Grohl...well, ah, Dave Grohl = awesome.

If you don't like this video you've been sipping on way too much of this:
Speaking of hate, the video is "Hate On Me" by Jill Scott.

Jill Scott is always fierce. I have to admit with so many manufactured music acts out there, she's the real deal. It's nice to hear something from someone who can sang. Not sing, but sang!

Here is the video. Enjoy!


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Being Claimed

There is a thread on a similar topic on a forum frequent. It's interesting, but it's not talking about being claimed in the sense that I'll discuss it here. However, there are some similarities and it's what got me thinking about this. That topic is on why black Americans tend not to identify themselves as African. Now I'm not going to get into that here, but it did get me thinking about something else today.

I had to go to the hospital to get my blood drawn for my monthly check-up. Commuting in Seoul is pretty much easy to do now that I know the layout of the city. However, even now, I'll switch up the route just to learn something new or in the hopes of finding a new shortcut. I also try to time things where I miss rush hour or the hours when school lets out.

Today, I completely forgot about that and was on the bus with a bunch of middle school students and they're still just as irritating as I remember them being when I was a middle school student. Honestly, I hate that age so much that, if I have kids, I'll probably really dislike them when they're in middle school just because they'll be terribly insecure and endlessly stupid.

What that means is I have to deal with gawks and stares and sometimes just completely stupid behavior. In Seoul it's not too bad, but if you're on the not-so-well-off side of town it can get irritating because those kids, well, let's just say their families haven't racked up the frequent flier miles. They're not very cosmopolitan. Their grandmas are probably going to gawk too. Although I go to a university hospital, it's on the not-so-well-off side of town, so I'm used to the locals over there. But it got me thinking about being "the other" and about this topic on that forum.

That lead me to the topic of being claimed in the sense of dating and relationships. First, let me say I'm going to be walking in the minefield of broad cultural generalizations here. So I know there are exceptions and outliers. All of this is based on my perceptions and perspective, so take it as that and not as a scientific study.

With that said, I've pretty much consistently dated outside of my race more due to circumstance than anything else. Here, I'm predictably surrounded by white man/Korean woman couplings. Nothing against it; it's to be predicted in the expat community here. I mean if I were a white guy with an Asian girl fetish, I'd get myself a job in an Asian country too. Also, some guys don't arrive with that preference, but due to sheer numbers Korean women outnumber Western ones. However, that's not really the issue. It's just primer to say I've seen and heard lots of cross-cultural, white man-Korean woman, dating stories.

I hear the men in these couplings sometimes bemoaning what they have to go through in a society that isn't overtly accepting of foreigners dating Korean women. However, since a lot of Korean women want to date foreigners and because Korean women seem more willing to marry out of their race, it's an interesting question. At least it seems that way to me, but black women are the most conservative about dating and marrying outside of our race. At any rate, dating a Korean woman is an easy thing to do if you're a white guy here. All men have to do is know a few phrases in Korean.

I've seen guys being coached in the basic lines. Something like "you're very pretty/beautiful", "what's your number?", etc. and the more aggressive Korean women will take it from there. Of course, there are less aggressive ones too and that's going to require a bit more skill and knowledge in terms of language and culture. Honestly, I've seen men fresh from the airport, two steps from the Elephant Man in physical attractiveness, and sometimes very on the low end of the IQ scale scoring women way out of their league. Sometimes the mismatch is so clear it's comical. There are also couples who are wonderfully matched, but the mismatched couples are pretty easy to spot.

What's interesting to me is I'll hear white guys complain that the women they're dating will hide the fact that they're in a relationship with them from their families. This is particularly the case with women who come from well-off families because I've heard of Korean women from less well-to-do families basically being cheered on when they discover she's "caught" a white man. I have one well-to-do Korean friend who was told by her father that if she marries a foreigner she's cut off and he'll never speak to her again. I didn't think he was serious, but she bought it until she recently got a white boyfriend. She was beside herself for awhile thinking her father was serious, but I told her to just tell her parents because they're going to find out sooner or later. She 'fessed up and all is fine on the homefront. In fact, with her parent's begrudged acceptance she's fallen off the face of the earth and is firmly in the dating zone with her new guy. I'm estatic that she's happy.

However, I've heard all sorts of craziness about Korean women not claiming the white men they're dating. I've heard guys bemoaning their plight when their Korean girlfriends and even financees won't tell their parents, siblings, and, sometimes, not even their friends. It's like having a double life. I could never have a significant relationship that I kept secret from the people close to me. That's probably what had me encouraging my friend to tell her family about her guy. I actually felt offended for him and, as he's not been in Korea very long and the fact that I also have a general read on his character, I figured he would be offended too. He's a great guy. He adores her. She adores him. Thus far, I see them as a great match.

I also know I could never be in a relationship where a man didn't want his family and friends to know he was dating me. What's interesting to me is that if that was a situation that I was in and my non-black boyfriend wouldn't tell his family and friends that he was involved with me, he wouldn't be my boyfriend for very long.

Why? Because the fact is I'm black and that's very much part of who I am. I think that since the US is so race focused that I'd view him telling his family and friends about me as something significant. I would understand the problems he'd have if he's from a conservative family, but I would want him to face the music and tell the people he loved that he loved me. I feel so strongly about this that if he didn't acknowledge me, I'd end the relationship. BTW, no, I've never had that problem. Even with one ex who claimed his dad was a raging bigot, he took me home to visit his parents one Christmas. So I have had that awkward "Guess Whose Coming to Dinner" situation. I'm very good socially, so I usually leave with the parents liking me more than they like their own kids.

In contrast, I know of quite a few white men here in relationships where they're hidden. The excuses that I would find simply unacceptble they accept: "She doesn't want to disappoint her family or parents", "She's scared of how her family will react", "She doesn't feel the time is right", "Her mother/father is sick/old and she doesn't want to make the situation worse/kill her mother/father", etc.

That got me thinking about what the difference might be. Are they just naive, pussy-whipped, punk bitches or is there something else going on here?

Why it's so easy for them to accept these sorts of excuses? If it was a man I was dating, I'd tell him to grow a backbone or go get himself a new girlfriend closer to his family's preferences.

I think one aspect is the gender roles and differences. Men are expected to be bold and strong. They're expected to be rule breakers when it's an important issue. Basically, they're supposed to be brave knights that are noble to the cause and save the day.

In contrast, women and, in particular, Asian women are seen as fragile things that need to be protected, educated and saved. Now I don't agree as my female Korean classmates and friends could give just about any man a run for his money. However, there are many Korean women and women in general who play up the helpless maiden routine. But the image of the Asian woman isn't the main topic here. I bring it up just to say that due to that image I think they get more chances.

Another issue is a white man might be reluctant to push being claimed for fear of appearing to have a colonialist, superiror or intolerant mind-set. I think this is because since they're from the dominant culture in a rapidly globalizing world there is no sense of being the "other". At least, that is, not until they get here. When they get here some revel in the attention. They're rock stars in a sense. Others aren't so arrogant about it. Either way, I tend to steer clear of them these days. In the past, I've been out in a group and have seen the ugliest most horse-faced white guy in the group be described as "handsome" by particularly flirty and nowhere near drunk Korean women. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you know something is up when 9s are hitting on 2s. I'd argue that a lot of that is a result of cultural dominance.

It's just an interesting question to me. A situation that would simply be unacceptable to a person of color is completely acceptable to these guys. It's interesting and, all I have to say, is better them than me.


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