Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tron Released in Korea Today

I am leaving work soon to head downtown to buy advanced tickets for a showtime of Tron Legacy tonight.  Normally I would not mention a movie release but I have been hearing about and waiting practically a decade for this sequel and Jeff Bridges has to be one of my favorite actors right now.  His other just released film, True Grit, probably will not make it to Korea, so I will have to get my JB fill on TRON tonight.

If you are a Tron fan, check out this awesome trailer parody:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Train Finally Goes to the Airport!!!

In a country that has one of the fastest and most modern railway systems in the world, it took it more than a decade to get its act together to connect its fancy airport to the central train station in the center of Seoul.

I hate taking the bus.  It's about time!  Story in the AP:
SEOUL — South Korea Tuesday officially opened a railway linking its main international airport at Incheon to central Seol almost 10 years after the airport itself began operations.
The 58-km (36 mile) line linking Seoul station and the airport will start taking passengers from Wednesday, the transport ministry said.
Work on the 4.2-trillion-won (3.6 billion dollar) project began in April 2001, a month after the airport opened.
The first section between Incheon airport and Gimpo airport on the western outskirts of Seoul was completed in March 2007.
The 20.7-km section between Gimpo and Seoul station was formally opened Tuesday after a tape-cutting ceremony chaired by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-Sik.
Express trains will take 43 minutes and charge 13,300 won (about USD 12) while normal ones will take 10 minutes longer for a fare of 3,700 won.
The route is currently served by airport buses, which take at least one hour and charge around 15,000 won.
Railway passengers will be able to check in and deposit luggage at a terminal on the second floor of Seoul station.
A transport ministry official said delays to the airport railway were mainly due to budget problems, with more money than expected needed for tunnels or buying land.
The ministry plans to connect bullet trains with the airport railway by the end of 2012 so that passengers can travel from the southern port of Busan to Incheon airport in two hours and 40 minutes.
Incheon, which replaced Gimpo as the country's main airport, has won several international awards.
It will be cheaper and take less time to take the train than to take the bus from downtown Seoul.  Perfect!

Desk Warming With Turtles

It's officially desk warming season for native English speaking teachers in South Korea.  While Korean teachers get to enjoy extra time at home with their families or attend classes and workshops to further their personal development, native English speakers are forced to come into empty schools and sit at desks with nothing relevant or meaningful to do.  Yeah... I guess I could enroll in an online masters program... or I could spend hours on college humor watching funny videos!

I really like turtles, these are some of my favorite finds.

Kim Jong Il Suspends Nuclear Program for Lead in Next Batman Film

From the Onion:


Monday, December 27, 2010

The 10 Best KPOP Videos of 2010

KPOP is the religion of young people in South Korea.  Outsiders looking into Korea might find it fun and amusing, but few may understand the phenomena or real cultural impact until they are immersed in Korean culture.  The songs are catchy and easy to sing along.  The lyrics are often a blend of English and Korea and the language half-breed might make no sense in either tongue.  The singers have rock hard bodies and perfect skin.  The fashion and hair is always on the edge.  Finally, the videos are what make or break the artist.  They include bright colors, double digit back-up dancers, and glimpses of love and pain.  Above all, you are just supposed to have fun watching them.

These are the ten best music videos of 2010 as chosen by an expert panel of Youtube surfing Waygooks. 


#10 - "Turn It Up" by T.O.P (탑)
Release Date: June 21st, 2010

Special Honors: Best use of a monkey in a supporting role - Most likely to popularize mimes in Korea - Best dressed in checkerboard fashion

Big Bang's G-Dragon, Tae Yang, Dae Sung, and Seung Ri all have had their own solo songs.  It was time for T.O.P to release his own.  He went heavy on the bass and used hip hop beats for this black and white hit.  His career almost never was.  YG Entertainment deemed him too chubby to be a pop star when he first auditioned for Big Bang.  He has come a long way since then and is one of the hippest KPOP stars in Korea right now.


#9 - "Lupin" (루팡) by Kara (카라)
Release Date: February 9th, 2010

Special Honors: Most likely to popularize capes in Korea - Least likely to make it out of a haunted castle alive - Best use of never blinking

No KPOP group has reinvented themselves so drastically and so frequently as Kara.  Every three months they tout a "come back" with a new and interesting image.  They can do cute.  They can do sexy.  They can do annoying.  For this song, they hit success with a more fierce looking image.  The song moves fast and the girls look great.  Their other big hit of the year was "Jumping", a fun video in which they do very little actual jumping.


#8 - "BBI RI BOP A" (삐리빠빠) by Narsha (나르샤)
Release Date: July 12th, 2010

Special Honors: Most likely to have to have this song stuck in your head forever - Best use of a red head in black spandex - Least likely for a Korean mother to approve of you watching this music video

Narsha is a member of the Brown Eyed Girls and released a solo album this year.  She had several interesting music videos including "BBI RI BOP A" and "MAMMA MIA".  The former song is definetely one of the most unique songs and videos of the year in Korea.  This video is an electronica number with house beats and the visual imagery is something out of a Tim Burton or a Guillermo del Toro film.  KPOP could definitely use more innovation and edge like Narasha offered this year.


#7 - "I Did Wrong" (잘못했어) by 2AM
Release Date: March 5th, 2010

Special Honors: Most likely to cry in their music video - Least likely to make it through Titanic without crying - Best use of a love pentagram plot line

As far as chart success goes, 2AM was the most successful boy group of the year, with every song they released eventually reaching number one on various KPOP rankings.  All of their songs share a melancholy theme and these guys always find a way to cry in their videos.  This is possibly their formula for success in a country full of Korean teens who hate their academic driven and sleep deprived lives. Their three big hits were "I Did Wrong" (잘못했어), "Like Crazy" (미친듯이), "You Wouldn't Answer My Calls" (전활받지않는너에게).  "I Did Wrong" incorporates both dance and ballad elements using strings, piano, euro beats, and drum.  The video follows the bizarre love pentagram between four boys (a club DJ, a basketball player, a hockey player, a biker), and one Korean girl whose looks are indistinguishable from every other teenage Korean girl in their 4th period social studies class.


#6 - "Huh" by 4Minute
Release Date: May 19th, 2010

Special Honors: Most likely to get carded in a bar - Least likely to actually know how to drive a car - Most likely to suffer a zipper malfunction on their one piece mechanic jumpsuit

4Minute was one of 2009's top rookie groups.  They played it safe and cute last year with hits like "Hot Issue".  Their outfits last year looked like crayola boxes threw up on them and they made sure their bodies were covered to appease Korean mothers worried about their young ages.  In 2010 they made the choice to wear significantly less clothes and they turned some heads.  Their two big hits this year were "Huh" and "I My Me Mine".  Huh is supposed to be a response when you are laughed at, like "Huh! That's what you think!"


#5 - "I'll Be There" by Tae Yang (태양)
Release Date: August 20th, 2010

Special Honors: Most likely to misplace his shirt while going to the corner store for some milk - Least likely to actually "be there" while you watch his video - Best use of a graveyard without getting too creepy about it

Tae Yang is one of the five members of Big Bang who have all released solo songs.  Tae Yang had a good year and many in the KPOP blogosphere awarded him the coveted title of sexiest man in KPOP.  He spends much of this video shirtless and it is hard not to have a crush on a guy who confidently sports a mohawk hair style.


#4 - "Bang" (뱅) by After School (애프터스쿨)
Release Date: March 15th, 2010

Special Honors: Most likely to in fact be the hottest bitches on the planet - Least likely to be able to correctly spell "DEFENSE" at a pep rally - Best use of 19th century Prussian military fashion

This video oozes sex appeal.  It also projects a high level of confidence and fierceness that is rarely observed from a female KPOP group.  Even though it is so overtly sexual, it is in no way promoting the Asian-female sexual stereotypes of being submissive and weak.  This song kicked ass this year and the plethora of live performances available online never tire of being fun to watch.  The live performances (click here or search) are one of those rare instances where they are better than the actual music video.


#3 - "Shock" by B2ST / Beast (비스트)
Release Date: March 1st, 2010

Special Honors: Least likely to be able to tell you how they spell their own group's name - Best use of gratuitous and unnecessary camera effects - Most likely to ask you if they can crash on your couch for a couple days and borrow $20

The group that gained the most popularity this year and proved to be the boy band to beat was Beast.  Their two big hits this year were "Shock" and "Breath".  Both videos gave us tons of stunning imagery to digest and enjoy.  Their advanced use of special effects made their videos stand out and their fashion and dancing were superb as well.


#2 - "Bad Girl Good Girl" by Miss A (미쓰에이)
Release Date: June 30th, 2010

Special Honors: Best use of high heels while practicing ballet - Least likely to remember your name the next time you see each other again - Most likely to tell you to shut up to your face

Miss A debuted in a year that seemed to be flooded with carbon-copy girl groups.  However, these four girls managed to stand out in the thicket of bright colors and plastic faces.  The group claims to have trained for three years prior to their debut, and they must be doing something right.  Both of their hits, "Bad Girl Good Girl" and "Breathe" have made for two of the years most fun and entertaining videos.


#1 - "Oh!" (오) by Girls' Generation (SNSD/소녀시대)
Release Date: Jan 28th, 2010

Special Honors: Least likely to be able to name a single professional football team - Most likely to be robots programmed to destroy the Earth by cuteness - Best use of an English alphabet letter to concept an entire song

Girls' Generation has been on a chart topping rampage for over two years now and no other group has rivaled their level of success or cuteness in that time.  The girls had a busy year releasing videos for "Oh!", "Run Devil Run", "Hoot!" and Japanese versions of their major hits last year: "Gee" and "Genie".  Their lasting appeal and relentless self-promotion comfortably won them the top honor and they remain the group to unseat when it comes to winning the admiration of KPOP fans around the world.  Their live performances were worth checking out as well.

My special apologies to f(x), Super Junior, 2NE1, MBLAQ, U-KISS, Secret, SHINee, and Sistar who all had amazing videos that I wish could have made it into the ranking.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Waygook Blogs Featured on KBS

Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi, Stafford of the Chosun Bimbo, Joe of Zen Kimchi, and Michael from Feet Man Seoul were featured on a segment for KBS.  It was very well done and it is great to see positive publicity for the native English speaking blogosphere.

Check it out:

Eatyourkimchi on KBS from Simon and Martina Stawski on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Public High School for Waygooks to Open in Seoul

South Korea has set the date to open the nation's first public High School for children of immigrant families.

The education authorities will open the nation’s first public high school for children from underprivileged immigrant families in Seoul in March, 2012. 
Officials from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said Tuesday it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the city’s educational office for the establishment of the school. Students will be admitted for free. 
The project was initially proposed by the Presidential Committee on Social Cohesion, which reviews policies for marriage immigrants and their families.
The alternative public school, named “Dasom,” meaning love in Korean, will be built in Jung-gu, central Seoul and provide vocational education to interracial children who have difficulties in attending regular Korean schools. 
“We plan to set up more alternative elementary and middle schools for students from multicultural families,” said Jeon Woo-hong, a ministry director. 
The school will run six classes for some 200 students in need of receiving technical training for future employment such as electronic or electric machines, fashion design, cooking, computers, and fashion design. 
Children will also learn Korean language and culture so they can adapt to Korean life and customs. 
There were a total of 42,676 school-age children from immigrant families in Korea last year. About 7,360 or 17.2 percent of them were not enrolled in or quit schools due to fear of being ostracized, language barriers, lack of understanding of Korean culture or economic difficulties. 
The ministry has introduced a variety of educational programs and some alternative schools for children from multicultural families. However, it is the first time for the government to build an alternative school, exclusively for these children. 
Korea has many international schools, crowded with many Korean students, but the English-speaking schools annually charge more than 20 million won ($17,346). 
The education ministry will cover the construction costs and Seoul City will provide scholarships for all students. The city’s education office will come up with guidelines for admission criteria. 
This school has the potential to do a lot of good, but there are also problems that could result from its creation.  To begin, living in a country that is 98% ethnically homogeneous and belonging to that other 2% is a challenge.  The numbers do not lie, nearly twenty percent of school-age children last year of immigrant families quit school because they could not bare going anymore.  The creation of a school exclusively for children of foreigners will reduce (hopefully eliminate) the feelings that these children have of being outsiders or pariahs.

The language is the biggest barrier that these children have growing up.  If Korean is not the primary language spoken by their families at home, then it is their second and a less familiar language even if they have lived and gone to school in Korea since birth.  Attending a school with other foreign children who are on the same speaking level in Korean will help slow down the pace of regular classes and they might be more able to follow and excel in their studies.

The problems of creating a foreigner only high school are subtle.  The school might receive less funding our opportunities that other high schools in Seoul are afforded.  Korean education officials might equate "special" treatment for this school with "less attention" and the kids could face unintended discrimination.  Attracting quality teachers might be a problem as well, as many Koreans might be apprehensive about working at a school with a poor academic reputation or having classes with students not proficient in reading and writing Korean.

Multiculturalism and ethnic diversity are also foreign and modern concepts to Korea.  Korean children have very few opportunities growing up to speak with and interact with foreigners or people of a mixed heritage.  Removing the few children of ethnic diversity from regular schools just deprives Korean children with valuable opportunities to interact with children from other cultures and ethnicities.  It becomes a lost opportunity.

The school opens in two years, and hopefully it will be a successful experiment.

Asians Sleeping in the Library

I found a funny blog titled "Asians Sleeping in the Library".  The blog descriptions is as follows:
In the United States, Asians are WAY over represented in top universities disproportionally to their ethnic percentage of the population.  They are this way because their parents come from cultures (India, China, Korea) that understand the value of education and they push their children towards academic success.  This often leads to fatigue and exhaustion and they occasionally tend to dose off while studying in the library. It's funny.

Yep... the United States Still Executes Its Own People

The United States still has the death penalty in many states.  It is the only large western democracy to still have it and the United States insists on remaining on a notorious list with other countries that still execute their own citizens.  True, the list does still include South Korea, but the list also includes countries like North Korea, China, Pakistan, Cuba, Iran, etc.

South Korea also hasn't executed a person in twelve years.  However, there currently is a serial killer that is currently scheduled to be executed pending further legal challenges.  (Source)

Anyways, the state of California is trying to get its act together before they execute their first person in five years.  Stephen Colbert had the hilarious story about what happened.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tiny Triumphs - Lethal Drug Shortage
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>March to Keep Fear Alive

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Korean Mother Corners Her Daughter's School Bully

My sympathy goes out to parents with kids who are bullied.  Nobody likes feeling like a victim.  No child should be afraid to go to school or walk down the street.  But it always seems to happen.  Kudos to this Korean mother for trying something, it just happened to be illegal.

A Jeonju court ruled that Mrs. Hong (40) is guilty of confinement, and must pay 3 million won to the mother of the girl who beat up her daughter. Mrs. Hong was furious when she learned of her 16-year-old daughter being bullied and beaten. She knew the assailant, and called the girl over to her hair shop. The woman tried to force the girl to sign a confession that she had beaten the other girl. She kept her confined in the salon 2 hours and 40 minutes to get the confession. Her litigation plans backfired, and instead, she was sued by the detainee's mom. The old adage stands true: It is horrible to see your kid get bullied; but if you get into it, you'll make matters worse. Judo lessons would have been cheaper.
I don't know.  Maybe this girl will leave her daughter alone because the mother does seem a little unpredictable.

Taiwanese Man Runs Over Kids Then Sets Himself On Fire

Source is from RT:
In Taiwan 4 children were injured when a man rammed his car through the gates of a primary school as pupils were arriving. The driver was a 67-year-old who then lit containers of petrol inside the vehicle in an apparent suicide attempt. Teachers and parents who witnessed the incident were able to put out the fire, saving his life. Taiwanese media have reported that the man was having problems with his family.
What is with Chinese men deciding to kill themselves and then trying to take out as many helpless children as they can before they go?  It looks like this guy was trying to kill as many as possible when he ignited his car on fire.

Caution, this video is a tad disturbing.

Happy Winter Solstice 2010

In Seoul the sun rose at 7:43am today and will set at 5:17pm.  Starting tomorrow, the days will again start to have more sunlight and the nights will get shorter.

In addition to being the Winter Solstice, it was also a full moon and a total lunar eclipse from the perspective of people living in North America.  How often does that happen?  The shortest day of the year and the light source from the full moon is eclipsed by the Earth?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Koreans Are Getting Taller

It is a common stereotype that Asian people are short.  Indeed, if you look at the over 65 crowd still alive in Korea there are few that are taller than 170cm (about 5"7).  That is not how it is anymore.  Young Koreans have a very healthy diet supplemented with lots of dairy and meat and they are growing taller and bigger.

An article this week in the Chosun Ilbo titled "Koreans Growing Taller, Thinner, Study Shows":
Koreans are getting taller, lighter and thinner, according to a study released Thursday by the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards. The agency studied the physical characteristics of Koreans in their 20s and compared them to other age groups. 
As Koreans grow taller, their legs are getting longer in proportion to the body. Of two Korean men, one in his 20s and one in his 50s both 175 cm tall, the younger man's legs are 1.22 cm longer, measuring 80.15 cm. The legs of women in the same age group were around 2 cm longer than those of their middle-aged counterparts, measuring 72.08 cm. Overall, the legs of 20-somethings were around 2 cm longer than those of the older group. 
Given that 20-somethings tend to be around 6 cm to 8 cm taller than those in their 50s, young Koreans are taller and thinner, more closely resembling western physiques. The average ratio of total body length to head length is 7.2:1 for Koreans in their 40s but for those in their 20s 7.3:1. "Koreans have grown taller while the size of their heads remains the same," a KATS spokesman said. 
An increase in dieting has caused the number of underweight people to rise in all age groups. In 2003, 11.5 percent in their late 20s were underweight. This year, that rose to 15.7 percent. In contrast, the ratio of obese people has decreased. Among people in their 50s, 50.3 percent were obese in 2003, but this year the ratio fell to 39.4 percent. 
But the proportion is growing among younger men. Yoo Jae-woo, a professor at Kangnam University who headed the study, said, "The rate of obesity among Korean men in their late 20s and early 30s has increased significantly because they spend more time in front of the computer and less exercising."
Overall height seems to have reached a ceiling in 2003, with men on average 174 cm tall and women 160.5 cm. Among women the speed of growth slowed down at the age of 12 and at 15 for men, resulting in only between 4 cm to 5 cm in additional height afterwards. "Until the end of the 1990s, Koreans' overall height continued to grow thanks to better nutrition. That it has remained at the current level since 2003 seems to be due to ethnic reasons," the spokesman said. 
The survey involved 14,016 men and women between the ages of seven and 69 using three-dimensional body scanners.
That is nice to know that their heads are not getting any bigger.  They are really self-conscious about that and they do have big heads already.

Who are the tallest people in the world you might be wondering?  Good question.  The answer is the Dutch.  They are giants... all of them...

Tokyo Considers Ban on Dirty Manga

Manga is a distinct Japanese comic book style.  In Japan, people of all ages read manga.  The medium includes a broad range of subjects: action-adventure, romance, sports and games, historical drama, business/commerce, and increasingly, sexuality.

Many types of modern manga comics depict sexual violence against women.  There is also a slavish obsession with sexualized underage girls.  This had led to pressure on the Japanese government to enact laws restricting their sales and content to protect children.

Is it free speech?  Is it art?  Is it pornography?  Does it actually endanger children?  It is a large buisness in Japan and when dollars are involved, it is hard to convince a government to stop it.

KPOP Korral - [f(x)] - Nu ABO

f(x) (에프엑스) is a five member girl group signed with SM Entertainment.  The name of their group "f(x)" is a play on the mathematical notation for function, with "f" signifying "flower" and "x" representing the female's double X chromosome.  The group includes Victoria (宋茜), Amber (劉逸雲), Luna (박선영), Sulli (최진리), and Krystal (정수정).

The name of this song is Nu ABO (NU 예삐오).

This group also apparently released a version of the song Chocolate Love last year.  The song was made popular last year by Girls' Generation's video and you can see by the lopsided hit count for each video which one was obviously more popular.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Korean Children Deprived of Sleep Because of Studies and Video Games

To anyone who has ever taught in South Korea, this study is not really breaking news.  I teach elementary school, and am shocked when my students tell me they spend seven hours in regular school and then another five hours each evening in a private academy.  

Many do not get home until around 10pm and some say they do not go to bed until they finish their homework, which might take them well past midnight.  This is the life of an average Korean child from about fifth grade until they get accepted to a university.  Mixed in there somewhere, they also try and make time to play computer games like Sudden Attack and Starcraft.

Young Koreans get an average of just 7 hours and 32 minutes of sleep per night, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said Thursday, citing a study by Statistics Korea. 
The nationwide survey of 4,628 people aged between 10 and 24 years old found that 75.3 percent do not get the recommend amount sleep, which is 8 hours and 30 minutes per night according to the U.S. National Sleep Foundation. High school students got the shortest sleep time of just 6 hours and 31 minutes, with a whopping 96.4 percent of them failing to meet the recommended amount. 
The amount of time that young people spending sleeping has been falling steadily for the past 10 years. In 1999, elementary students used to get an average of 8 hours 48 minutes of sleep, but in 2009 the figure declined to 8 hours and 38 minutes. Middle school students saw their time drop from 7 hours 48 minutes in 1999 to 7 hours 38 minutes, and high schoolers from 6 hours 39 minutes to 6 hours 31 minutes. 
Young people in Western countries get about an hour more rest time than their counterparts here. In the U.S., those aged between 15 and 24 spend an average of 8 hours 47 minutes asleep. In the U.K. the average is 8 hours 36 minutes, in Germany 8 hours 6 minutes, Sweden 8 hours 26 minutes and Finland 8 hours 31 minutes. 
Park Nan-sook of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said the main cause of sleep deprivation here is too much time devoted to extra learning after school and computer games. The survey revealed that 8.8 percent of high school students receive private tutoring or lessons even after 11 p.m., and 19.5 percent of youth aged 16 to 19 use the Internet between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
It is not easy to be a kid in this country.

Those Chinese Will Fish Wherever They Please

Chinese fishing boats have been getting bolder and bolder this past year in where they choose to drop their nets.  A couple months ago Chinese fishermen were seized by Japanese patrol boats for fishing in their territorial waters.  Japan seemed determined to prosecute them to deter future poachers.  China then flexed their economic muscles and Japan quickly backed down and released the fishermen.

This weekend there was an incident with Chinese fishermen and a South Korean patrol boat.  The South Koreans wanted to boat so they could seize the ship and the Chinese resisted.  The ship then sank and now some of the fishermen are presumed dead.

Two Chinese fishermen were missing and another in critical condition after their trawler capsized after colliding with a South Korean Coast Guard boat Saturday, officials said.
Four South Korean coast guard officers were also injured as they tried to arrest the crew of the Chinese fishing boat poaching 120 kilometers off South Korea's Eocheong Island, said the Coast Guard officials.
The Chinese fishermen attacked the Korean officers with iron pipes and clubs, they said.
The 63-ton Chinese boat capsized after ramming into the 3,000-ton Coast Guard ship, leaving two of its crew members missing. Eight other Chinese fishermen were rescued, but one of them was in a coma, the officials said.
The Coast Guard took the injured Chinese by helicopter to a nearby hospital for treatment. Six patrol ships, two rescue boats and four helicopters were dispatched to search for the missing, they said.
Illegal Chinese fishing is rampant in South Korean waters despite intense crackdown. In 2008, a South Korean Coast Guard officer was assaulted and drowned while trying to inspect a Chinese boat operating illegally in Korean waters.
With all the tension going on between the North and the South, China might choose to not make a big deal out of this.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Asia's Growth Offers the World More Stable Jobs

There have been several mornings that I have woken up in my apartment in South Korea and thought to myself "Thank god I have a job."  I have a job that affords me my own apartment, health care, vacation time, food to eat, clothes to wear, money to cover my debt payments back home and still enough left over to have some fun.

Al Jazeera filed a report about Hong Kong's growing ethnically diverse professional population as people from Europe and North America are flocking to Asia to find stable work and a more promising future for their career. Asia is the place to live in the 21st century.

Korean Bear Alluded Capture For Nine Days

Here is a funny story.  How did a bear escape from a zoo in Seoul?  And how did this bear exist and survive in one of the world's most densely populated cities without being killed and captured for nine days?

BBC is the Source:
A young bear which escaped from a zoo near the South Korean capital Seoul has been safely recaptured after nine days on the run.
The six-year old Malaysian sun bear named Kkoma, meaning The Kid, was caught on a freezing mountainside in Gwacheon, 6km (4 miles) from the zoo.
Rescuers said the 30kg (66lb) bear was in a good condition despite his ordeal.
Sun bears are known to be aggressive, so walkers had been advised to avoid the area while he was on the loose.
Kkoma is believed to have escaped while a zoo worker was cleaning his cage at Seoul Zoo about 18km south of the capital on 6 December.
There was speculation that he was unhappy sharing an enclosure with his older mate.
Hundreds of officials had been searching for him using dogs and a helicopter, while his adventures were being closely followed in the national media.
"The bear can live without food for about 15 days because he had stocked up ahead for the winter," a zoo employee said earlier this week.
"We are asking mountain climbers not to throw away any fruit and other food items so that the bear can more easily be lured into one of the traps," he told the Korean Times.
Signs of the bear were spotted in the Mount Cheonggye area, including footprints, droppings and damaged food stalls.
"A mountain climber told us that a dozen aluminium cans of beer and other beverage cans were torn apart around the cart. We are positive that the bear was responsible for it,'' said the official.
Traps loaded with honey and fish were set up and the bear was finally caught early on Wednesday.
A zoo spokesman told the Yeonhap news agency that Kkoko had to be anaesthetised before being moved, but the process was delayed because the anaesthetic was freezing in the bitter weather.
Kkoma will be returned to his enclosure after a medical check-up.
Poor thing.  The last week in Korea has been really cold out.

Korea!! F-Yeah!!

I only recently discovered this, but it has over 23,000 hits on Youtube and was posted over a year ago.  The youtube I found it on was allarise.  I'm uncertain who recorded it.  If you have lived in South Korea for any extended amount of time, this video is hilarious and right on.

My favorites are exports, yellow dust, four seasons, and barber poles.

KPOP Korral - [MBLAQ] - Y

MBLAQ (엠블랙) is an acronym for Music Boys Live in Absolute Quality.  They are a quintet boy band that was created by Korean singer, producer, and actor Rain under his label J. Tune Entertainment. The group's members are Seung Ho (양승호) G.O (정병희), Lee Joon (이창선), Cheon Doong (박상현), and Mir (방철용).

Rain wrote, composed, produced and choreographed this song - "Y"

Their debut song last year was a pretty annoying hit called "Oh Yeah".  Kudos for dropping some Spanish in the song.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gwangju Sung Bin Girls Orphanage Bake Sale (Dec 18th)

If you live in or around the city of Gwangju (Jeollanam-do), you should consider stopping by the Bake Sale / Book Sale this Saturday, December 18th.  All sales go to support the Sung Bin Educational Edowment Fund that assists orphans in attending university or vocational training.  That last organized Bake Sale raised almost 3,000,000 won.

Date: Saturday, December 18th
Time: 12:00 - 3:00 PM
Location: The German Bar Downtown

It is still possible to make bake goods or give book donations.  Visit the facebook event and look under the discussion tab to learn about what might be a good idea to bring.  Donations can be dropped off at the German Bar from 10:30 - 11:30 on the morning of the 18th or in the evening of the 17th.  Please mark "nuts" on applicable baked good and divide all food into single portion sizes if possible.

Contact Emily Reesor at 010-2316-1963 or with additional questions.

Japanese Troops to Return to Korea... NOT!

I think the United States is more proud of a "Washington - Seoul - Tokyo" alliance in response to the North Korean attacks than South Korea is.  People within the Japanese government have been pushing to revise their pacifist constitution in response to the North Korean threat and they want to expand their military beyond simple defense forces.  I do not imagine though that South Koreans will be to eager to allow Japanese forced to land on the Korean penninsula again.

Recent comments by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan to discuss with Seoul dispatching Japan’s Self-Defense Forces on the Korean Peninsula appear “unrealistic,” a high-ranking official here said Sunday.
Kan had reportedly told a recent meeting with families of Japanese abducted by North Korea that he would discuss with the South Korean government the issue of dispatching Japanese military forces to the peninsula to rescue his countrymen in case of emergency. 
The remarks by Kan came as tensions are running high between the two Koreas following North Korea’s Nov. 23 artillery attack on a South Korean island. 
“Completely unrealistic,” the senior official at Seoul’s presidential office spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity. “I am not fully aware of the circumstances under which the comments were made, but I am sure Prime Minister Kan was not too serious (about what he said).”
“The suggestion is not being well received even in Japan,” the official added. “I am sure Japan has no such plans prepared.”
Kan’s comments are considered somewhat thoughtless under the current situation when regional powers are cautiously escalating diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula. 
Seoul, Tokyo and Washington “have been discussing stronger military ties” following North Korea’s deadly artillery shelling last month, but it is “not an issue of negotiation,” the South Korean official said. 
Geographically close to the two Koreas, Tokyo has reacted most sensitively toward increased military tensions on the peninsula in the past. 
Calling Pyongyang’s recent attack on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island a direct violation of the armistice that temporarily ended the 1950-53 Korean War, Japan agreed in a trilateral agreement last week to take an active role in increasing deterrence against the communist state. 
That's right.  You tell 'em Japan.

10 Magazine Wants Your Vote For Charity

10 Magazine is having a poll online and wants people to vote for a deserving charity to receive almost 30,000,000 won in publicity and product.

You can still vote as long as it is before this Tuesday, December 14th, at 11:59pm.

Commander Yi Sun-sin Statue Doesn't Look Korean?

If you have done a sightseeing tour of downtown Seoul, then you have probably snapped a picture of the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin.  He is Korea's most famous military leader and fought off Japanese invaders in the 16th century.  The statue is currently being repaired in a factory in Incheon, and many Koreans want to see the image of the statue altered to possibly more reflect his Korean heritage before the statue is put back.

Source in the LA Times:
Reporting from Seoul — For four decades, the statue of Adm. Yi Sun-sin has gazed out from its pedestal in downtown Gwanghwamun Plaza, sheathed sword clutched proudly in the fighter's right hand as he grasps the waistcoat of his battle uniform with the other.
The Joseon Dynasty naval commander who notched several victories over Japanese invaders in the late 16th century is considered, hands down, Korea's greatest hero, rating numerous commemorative landmarks nationwide.
Here in the capital, residents and tourists alike gaze in awe at Yi's towering effigy, with its backdrop of the presidential residence and northern mountains in the distance.
But not everyone approves.
Those critical of the statue ask: Isn't the admiral's armor, which hangs down to his feet, more Chinese in style? And the sword, they say, looks much more Japanese than Korean.
Perhaps worst of all, they note, Yi holds the sword sheath in his right hand, which in the Joseon era could have been considered a sign of defeat, not glorious victory.
A battle of words recently has raged in South Korea as historians and civic activists have called for the government to revise the statue. Defenders say the admiral is fine just the way he is. He reflects the artistic interpretation of the 1960s, they say.
Many observers point out that the controversy is driven by the power of national icons to affect new generations of admirers. But dissatisfied critics of the statue contend that the inaccuracies are comparable to having the Washington Mall's Abraham Lincoln clutch a Confederate flag.
I hardly doubt they are the same.  Considering China and Japan have always been larger and more influencial military powers in the world, is it not possible anyways that Admiral Yi did wear armor that was influenced by the Chinese and did use a sword influenced by the Japanese?  Those guys knew what they were doing.
[...] Statue detractors point to other problems: Yi's face is different from the portrait displayed in the admiral's memorial complex in his hometown and on the 100-won coin. Also, a war drum lying at his feet doesn't fit the image of a courageous battle leader. [...]
Defenders of Yi's statue are equally passionate.
"When the statue was first commissioned, it was made by the current standards and practices, the historical perception at that time," said historian Hwang Pyung-woo, director of the Korea Cultural Heritage Policy Research Institute. "Even bad history is history. We should leave it like it is."
Hwang, though, has his own issues with Yi's statue, which he says should sit on the road named after the wartime hero, not at the current site, which actually commemorates Joseon Dynasty ruler King Sejong. But Hwang calls those qualms minor. [...]
Hwang says the complaints about the statue sully Yi's legacy.
"An admiral can have a sword in his right hand; that doesn't mean he's a losing admiral," he said. "And their claims that Yi holds a Japanese sword and is wearing Chinese armor have never been proven. There's not one record to certify this. So I say, stop the finger-pointing."
Still, the spat shows no sign of ending. Critics have asked Seoul officials for an official interpretation and have called for public hearings. [...]
Everybody has on opinion I guess.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Korean Red Cross Still Often Discriminates Against Foreigners

If you live and teach in South Korea, then you probably received a facebook message or group invite asking for help in donating blood earlier this year to an expat living in Gwangju, Michael Simning.  His situation was also published on many blogs asking for people living in Korea with his rare blood type to donate if they could.  The facebook group Blood Connections has been a growing resource for people living in South Korea to find rare blood type donors.

A very small percentage of Koreans have Rh negative blood and there is a nation-wide shortage.  Many foreigners living and working in Korea want to donate but are kept from doing so.  The Korean Red Cross needs to get its act together and find more and better ways to allow foreigners with rare blood types to be able to donate. 

The Joong Ang Daily published a great story about the situation:
After Jay John’s son Yoo-woon was diagnosed in March with lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, the hospital where he was staying advised them not to count on Korea’s Red Cross to secure the stocks of Rh negative blood needed to keep him alive. 
After exhausting all available avenues, John found a group of donors eager to help on Facebook called “Blood Connection.” With a low population of Rh negative Koreans, the increasing number of foreigners in Korea gave him some hope. Yet finding a foreign donor in Korea that met the Korean Red Cross’ strict blood donor standards was a bigger obstacle than he had expected. 
His son died in April - 35 days after being hospitalized. Yoo-woon’s condition had deteriorated to a point where it was too severe to be treated. 
“I know that the disease was the cause of death, but I keep thinking, ‘What if?’ What if he had enough blood for his transfusions? What if he had lived a couple more days or weeks?” asked John. 
It was a similar story for a woman surnamed Park. In September she was diagnosed with leukemia and started chemotherapy. The problem, however, was that the Korean Red Cross could not meet her need for Rh negative blood. 
“My husband called everyone we knew. As we become more desperate, we posted letters on Web sites looking for blood donors,” said the 36-year-old mother. “I never knew what it felt like to be a minority until I became one. I felt like I was excluded from society,” she said.
The cases highlight the failure of the Korean Red Cross to acquire and maintain an adequate supply of rarer blood types, often forcing family members to scramble for alternative sources of blood. As a result, Web sites have sprung up to connect those in need of blood transfusions with potential Rh negative blood donors.
The most common blood type among Koreans is A, making up 34 percent of the population; followed by O, taking up 28 percent; B with 27 percent; and AB with 11 percent. Only 0.1 to 0.3 percent of Koreans are Rh negative. Around 20 percent of North Americans and Europeans have Rh negative blood.
Korea’s Red Cross requires the nation’s 15 blood banks to maintain specified stocks of O, A, B and AB blood - all common here. But the organization sets no minimum quota for Rh negative blood. 
 Wow, that is a staggering difference in genetic makeup.  Rh negative blood is so rare here that Korea does not even bother mandating that a reserve supply be kept for it.  If you get sick and need rare blood, you are in serious trouble.
The Red Cross says it does not keep track of deaths caused by inadequate blood supply. 
To make up for the shortfall, many foreign residents with Rh negative blood have stepped in to help, but strict Korean Red Cross regulations preclude most non-Koreans from donating their blood. 
Even though the number of foreign donors has increased 10-fold over the last decade - to 2,087 in 2009 - foreign residents and Koreans with Rh negative blood say the organization should be doing more to maintain an adequate stockpile of Rh negative blood. 
The Red Cross in Korea lists three requirements foreign nationals must meet to be able to donate blood. First, non-Koreans must have lived in Korea for at least one year without leaving. Second, fluency in Korean is needed to communicate with nurses. In some cases a translator can be used. Third, identification issued by the Korean government or the U.S. military must be presented. 
On top of that, foreign donors have to jump through numerous hoops. Foreign donors are required to go to the Korean Red Cross’ Web site prior to their visit, print and fill out an eligibility form, and bring it back to the center. At the center itself, almost nothing is available in a language other than Korean.
The Korean Red Cross says that it is not considering having on-site translators or hiring bilingual nurses. Nor is it considering providing documentation in other languages.
The Korean Red Cross asked that questions be submitted in advance of an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily on Nov. 22. “[Our donating regulations] do not discriminate against foreigners. They maintain a safe supply of blood,” said Park Kyung-eup, representative of Blood Service Headquarters, a department of The Korean Red Cross. 
“We don’t really see that it’s necessary to have those documents or services ready at the center,” said a nurse from a blood bank who refused to be identified. “We don’t pay much attention to foreign donors. Chances are, they are not going to be eligible,” said the nurse. “And there are just too few of them for us.”
She said that half of the foreigners who try to donate blood every month are turned away because of inadequate Korean-language skills.
Sarah Crouch, who got in touch with John through the Facebook group to help his son, thinks more should be done to take advantage of the country’s foreign population. 
After going with John to a blood bank in Sinchon, Seoul, from her house in Jincheon, near Daejeon, she was surprised at the reception the nurses gave her. “The nurse said ‘No, foreigners!’ as soon as I stepped in,” recalled Crouch. The nurse did not bother asking if she was eligible to donate. Prior to her visit to the center, Crouch had been aware of the eligibility requirements and knew that she was qualified. After John translated between her and the nurses, Crouch was able to donate. 
“I didn’t exactly understand what she said afterwards, but I could tell that she was not happy to see me there,” she said. The Korea JoongAng Daily accompanied her on her third visit with John to the blood bank on Nov. 6.
It is racism and discrimination in many cases.  Koreans stereotype that foreigners are drug addicts and carry many sexually transmitted diseases.  I am certain many Korean nurses and doctors think foreigner blood is dirty and would make their patients more sick.  People who are eligible and capable have been getting turned away because of ignorance.
Even though Europeans and North Americans have a much higher chance of being Rh negative, Europeans are almost never qualified for blood donation in Korea. Most of the European continent is designated as a “mad cow disease risk area,” which disqualifies them from donating blood in Korea. 
Korea’s Red Cross regulations are similar to those of Japan’s, which require potential donors to be fluent in Japanese. Although the minimum-stay stipulation varies form country to country, the International Red Cross agrees that fluency in the native language is important to get an accurate assessment of donors’ health. 
Some say tapping the foreign population is the only way for the Korean Red Cross to make up for the shortage of Rh negative blood. Suggestions include hiring more bilingual nurses, providing more multilingual documentation and initiating outreach programs to expats who are eligible to donate to raise awareness of the shortages.
Wi Kyung-soo runs - a Web site dedicated to connecting Rh negative blood donors with those in need. Because the Korean Red Cross has failed to secure adequate supplies of Rh negative blood, Wi says people are forced to spread the word through Facebook, Twitter and other online resources. He said it is not an ideal system, but it is better than relying on the Korean Red Cross. [...]
If you have a rare blood type and want to help, you can visit the facebook group and signup.  You might end up saving someone's life or even have your life saved one day.

North Korean Comedy

I saw this on On My Way To Korea and thought it was an interesting to see what passes as a comedic skit in North Korea.  It is also interesting to hear them speak because I can definitely tell they sound different than South Koreans.  I wish I knew more of what they were actually saying though.

KPOP Korral - [Kan Mi Youn] - Going Crazy

Kan Mi-Yeon (간미연) was the lead singer of the group Baby V.O.X from 1997 to 2006 when is broke up.  She has been absent from the Korean music scene for three years but is back with her first digital single.

The name of the song is Going Crazy (미쳐가).  The song features Mir from the boy group MBLAQ.  If you ignore the question of how a 90lb Korean girl can kidnap and keep hostage a grown man, this is a fun video.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

South Korea Might Ban Facebook?

This probably will not happen.  However, members of Korea's Communications Commission have finally managed to notice the world's fourth largest website and they are not pleased about its privacy sharing policies.

Facebook doesn't comply with South Korean privacy laws because it doesn't ask for users' consent before getting their personal data, a South Korean regulator said Wednesday.
"Facebook violates the regulations on protection of privacy in information networks," says Choi Seong Jin, a spokesman for the Korea Communications Commission.
Article 22 of South Korea's "Act on Promotion of Information and Communication Network Utilization and Information Protection" states that an information and communication service provider must obtain user consent if it intends to gather users' personal data.
Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which all Facebook users must agree with to use the service, as well as Facebook's Privacy Policy, cover this topic in detail:
"For content that is covered by intellectual property rights (...) you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook."
Many users, however, don't read the fine print; it's possible that the KCC wants Facebook to explain this to users more clearly and explicitly before they sign up for the service.
Facebook has had its share of privacy-related troubles in the past; most recently, it caught some heat over the launch of its Open Graph.
The company has 30 days to respond to the complaint.
Facebook has 30 days to respond to the complaint or else what?  Legal action?  The only thing Korea can do is ban users and block access to IP addresses in Korea.  Another source gives us more information:
The complaints come as Facebook is gaining popularity in South Korea. It has about 2.3 million members in the country, which accounts for roughly 5 percent of the population, according to figures from the KCC.
Just under two thirds of Koreans use social-networking services, the KCC said. Among citizens in their 20s that number rises to almost nine out of ten people.
South Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world and most homes enjoy fast, cheap, fiber-optic broadband connections.
This is not the first time that the KCC has taken on an American internet giant.  The Korean "Real Name Verification Law" was passed in early 2009 and requires "real-name verification" for Internet services with more than 100,000 different daily users. Under this law, people in Korea must identify themselves with a name and their Korean Identification Number before they can upload video or post comments on any website.

Last year the KCC wrote a note to Google over their subsidiary website, YouTube.  The KCC wanted YouTube to setup a system in which people using Korean IP addresses had to use their Korean ID numbers to create accounts before uploading videos and posting comments.  Korea claims they are trying to reduce internet bullying (which has led to many suicides) and they think they can accomplish this by reducing the number of people posting online anonymously.

YouTube had no way of creating a system to comply with this law.  It was not worth their time to create a system in cooperation with the South Korean government to verify that people creating YouTube accounts are who they say they are with authentic identification numbers.  This is how they responded:
Because of Real Name Verification Law in Korea, we have voluntarily disabled comments and video uploads when using YouTube in Korea with the Korea country setting, so you will not be required to verify your identity. 
You will still be able to enjoy watching and sharing videos on YouTube. You may still upload videos and comments without proving your identity by choosing a non-Korean country setting the top of any YouTube page. 
We understand that this may affect your experience on YouTube. Thank you in advance for your understanding. We hope that you continue to enjoy and participate in the YouTube community. 
Doesn't this law also apply to facebook?  As of right now, Koreans can log onto facebook and create accounts anonymously without providing their Korean ID number.  They can then post videos and comments and do whatever they want anonymously on the site.  Why would the KCC go after YouTube for this, but not Facebook?  Are they really concerned about privacy laws or is this what they really want Facebook to change.

We will find out in a month what the deal is.  Facebook has over 500 millions users worldwide and Koreans account for less than 1% of their business.  They might just decide themselves that doing business here and trying to comply with all of Korea's strict internet laws might not be worth their time.  They always could pull out voluntarily.  Without facebook people might actually get stuff accomplished while at work...

Speed Camera Lottery

A brilliant idea!  It combines peoples' love of the lottery and their desire to be recognized anytime they do the right thing when "totally" could have gotten away with not doing the right thing.
The winning idea of the fun theory award, submitted by Kevin Richardson, USA. Can we get more people to obey the speed limit by making it fun to do? This was the question Kevin's idea answered and it was so good that Volkswagen, together with The Swedish National Society for Road Safety, actually made this innovative idea a reality in Stockholm, Sweden.

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