Sunday, January 30, 2011

360 Video

This is too cool not to share.  Start the video and then stop it, give it a couple minutes to load and then select full screen.  Start the video and then click on the picture and drag your mouse around to experience the awesome.  There is so much potential with this.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stuff Waygooks Like #7 - Floor Heat (온돌)

One of the best things about having an apartment or home in South Korea is having heated floors.  Especially in the winter time, you will find excuses to read, eat, chat, watch TV, or sleep on the floor because Korea can get so cold.

Ondol 온돌 (also referred to as Gudeul 구들) is nearly ubiquitous in all homes and public gathering spaces in South Korea.  Everyone knows that heat rises, so the most efficient way to disperse heat in a home is to release it through the floor and allow it to rise up through an entire room.  It is much more cost effective than a space heater or other Western style heating methods.  Koreans figured this out a while ago, too.  The earliest use of ondol has been found at an archaeological site in present-day North Korea (circa BCE 1000).  In an excavated dwelling (움집) that was discovered in Unggi, Hamgyeongbuk-do, there is a clear vestige of gudeul.  Koreans claim that they developed the world’s first central heating system.

The traditional type of ondol was created by cooking stoves and fireplaces beneath the floors.  The burning of fuels to create the heat was either sporadically or regularly done (2 to 5 times a day), dependent on frequency of cooking and seasonal weather conditions.  With the traditional type of ondol, floor spots closer to the furnace were usually warmer and often reserved for elders and honored guests.  Some historians even say that the traditional flowing hanbok attire was designed with hot floors in mind.  The women’s version of the hanbok in particular tends to form a “tent” around the individual, trapping the heat radiating up from the floor.

The conventional ondol had problems, such as overheating of specific floor spots, carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from burning coal briquette, irregular distribution of heat on the floor, and environmental pollution. For these reasons most modern Korean homes started to have modern versions of ondol floors heated by circulated hot water from water heaters, or an electrical heating system of dielectric heating or induction heating since 1960s.

"Korean Tacos" My Ass!

One of the top complaints that native English teachers from North America have about Korea is their lack of Western food in two areas: sub sandwiches and Mexican food (tacos!).  It is 2011!  Why can I not buy anywhere in my city (I don't live in Seoul) a slightly toasted chicken breast sub sandwich or a burrito supreme?

I saw this article in the Korea Times and just cursed to myself.  The title is "Korean tacos take America by storm".  Shouldn't Korean tacos take Korea by storm first?  Then this super taco storm can go and conquer foreign markets.  Why is there an article about a popular "Korean" food that does not exist anywhere in Korea...

NEW YORK — A warmed tortilla piled with chunks of marinated short ribs, cheese, lettuce, salsa, kimchi and onions — there you go, a classic Korean taco served straight off a truck.
For some, this doesn’t sound right. But followers of the wildly popular Korean-Mexican dish know — kimchi and tortilla just go together. 
The fusion taco, first born in Los Angeles, is now popping up everywhere across the U.S. as a go-to street food. From bulgogi burritos and kimchi cheesesteak sandwiches to spicy pork tacos, the mix of flavors just keeps growing. And so is the size of its cult following.
Waiting in line for an hour to order is no surprise for any experienced Korean taco eater.
“That’s almost part of the fun,” says Neil Perkins, who lined up just before lunch in Soho, New York, to order from Korilla, the city’s first Korean taco truck. “I wouldn’t do this if the food wasn’t worth it. No way.”
Because all the best food you can buy is always served off the back of someone's truck...
Julianne Lee, another patient patron, added, “It’s just brilliant. I know all of these flavors, but to combine them together. It’s just awesome.”
To get a taste of this awesomeness, not only do fans have to line up fast, they first have to hunt down the truck.
Most of the Korean vendors on wheels post and promote their ever-changing whereabouts on Twitter and Facebook so customers can find them — another thing the taco trucks are known for besides their flavor. 
So who started all this?
Roy Choi, founder of Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go, the Korean taco pioneer that rolled onto the streets of Southern California in 2008 and fanned the smash-hit taco trend.
Since Kogi, more than three dozen taco trucks have been launched and scattered across the U.S., selling tacos and burritos for as little as $2 a piece.
Named everything from Kogi, MoGo and Yumbii to Calbi, the list of competitors keeps getting longer. And the newest one to join the ride is about to debut in New York City.
Dubbed Kimchi Taco, the truck is already grabbing attention from the city’s picky foodies and media.
“We’re excited to bring Korean food to the masses,” says Phillip Lee, who is opening the business with Youngsun Lee, both who have years of experience in New York’s competitive restaurant industry.
The reason why Korean tacos are so popular, he explained, is because they’re so approachable.
Lee says traditional Korean barbeque sold in restaurants is well-liked by the general audience but the price is too high for everyone.
“We’re just tweaking and marketing Korean food so that consumers can feel comfortable and give it a try,” said Lee. “At the end of the day, people want something that’s good. That’s what a Korean taco is.”
I don't care if you just add some kimchi to it.  If people in Korea do not eat it (or cannot find it), then it is not Korean food.  How about this founder guy bring some of these trucks over to Korea... get some Koreans to eat some of their famed native food... I'm not bitter... ugh... yes, I am...


I am going to begin posting more information on my blog intended to be informational and factual about Korea.  Every time I state a fact, I am not going to line source it.  My blog is not a scholarly journal.  If you are gathering research online and found my blog, note that I am just one man and capable of mistakes.  I will do everything I can to be accurate and honest, but there is nobody double checking or proofing what I type.

If I obtained the information or facts from another website, I will be happy to link it.  Other than that, I will be referencing my personal library of travel or culture books that I have accumulated in the last two years since coming to Korea.

This is what I have and frequently reference:

Bartlett, R., Robinson, M., Whyte, R.; 2007. Lonely Planet Korea
Constantine, P.; 2004. Making Out in Korean
De Mente, B.L.; 2008. Etiquette Guide to Korea
Hoare, J.; 2005. Culture Smart! Korea
Le Bas, T.; 2008. Insight Guides South Korea
Lee, C.H.J.; 2008. Frommer's South Korea
Vegdahl, S., Hur, B.S.; 2005. Culture Shock! Korea
Yoo, M.J., Lee, J.H.; 2008. 100 Cultural Symbols of Korea

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Daily Show Says "Sorry, We're Not South Korea"

Obama gave his State of the Union Address and mentioned South Korea four times.  Jon Stewart of the Daily Show picked up on this and ran with it.  The clip is embedded and here is the full episode.

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His comment about South Korea's military needs being met by the United States was a little off... but whatever...

South Korea Mentioned Four Times in Obama's State of the Union

United States President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address this week and mentioned South Korea four times.  The posted video is the speech in its entirety and here is a link for the official transcript.  He mentioned South Korea has better teachers and faster internet.  He also said Korea is an important military ally and trade partner.

[... mentioned at 0:22:54 ...]
Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. (Applause.) We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. (Applause.) And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math. (Applause.)
[... Mentioned at 0:26:47 ...]
Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”
[... Mentioned at 0:30:53 ...]
To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 -– because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home. Already, our exports are up. Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs here in the United States. And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs. This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans -- and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible. (Applause.)
Now, before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American jobs. That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks. (Applause.)
[... Mentioned at 0:50:34 ...]
Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean Peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

KPOP Korral - [Seo In Guk] - Take

I am unable to find much information available about this guy, Seo In Guk (서인국).  I was just skipping around on Youtube and came across this music video of his.  It appears to just be a long commercial for a new cell phone in Korea.  But I actually enjoyed the song and the video and thought the modernization was clever with the use of cell phones, F1 racing, and coffee shops.  The video is a remake of the 1984 song "Take on Me" by the Norwegian pop band A-ha.  Yes, the original was about a girl getting sucked into her sketch book, and while in the remake a girl is looking at sketches on her phone is a little strange, I'm still into it.

Here is his remake, Take (테이크):

Here is the original:

Koreans Ignore Government Plea Not to Travel for Lunar New Year

South Korea is still trying to get a handle on its large outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease.  Last week numerous government officials were appealing to the public not to travel for Lunar New Year so as to help contain the outbreak.  There are no numbers on how many Koreans are expected to travel within Korea, but because of the formation of the five-day weekend holiday this year, an increased number of Koreans are set to travel abroad.

Over 580,000 people in the county are expected to travel overseas by air during next week's five-day Lunar New Year holiday, airport officials said Thursday, with carriers reporting near full flight bookings.
According to an estimate by the Incheon International Airport Corp., 588,902 passengers are expected to go abroad between Feb. 1 and Feb. 6. This is 13.9 percent more than last year, when the holiday was only for three days.
This year's Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on Feb. 2-4, is followed by a weekend and can last for nine days for those who can take off the preceding Monday and Tuesday.
The country's two leading air carriers said 90-100 percent of international tickets have been sold already.
For Korean Air, international flights bound for Southeast Asian countries and Oceania are 99 percent booked and those for China and European countries are 90 percent booked.
Asiana Airlines said its return flights to Seoul from Southeast Asian countries, Japan, China and Oceania on Feb. 6, the last day of the holiday, are all sold out.
The number of overseas travelers for the Lunar New Year holiday has been on the rise, increasing from 331,783 in 2006 and 471,619 in 2007 to 516,743 in 2008. The figure dropped to 451,457 in 2009 but rose to 517,242 in 2010. (Yonhap)
The increase in the number of Koreans traveling abroad for the holidays this year is also probably a strong indicator of economic recovery for Korea.  The Won has regained much of its value against foreign currencies since 2008 and Koreans are willing to travel to foreign locations to spend their holiday time.

High School Graduates Expected to Keep Clothes On

In America, high school graduates might prank the school just before graduation.  Some kids might go to the graduation ceremony and be completely naked under their gown.  Teachers houses might get egged or toilet papered.  Apparently, Korean high school grads have their own hazing and self-deprecating rituals as well.

For parents, aunties and grandparents, middle and high school graduation day is a time for pride, nostalgic tears and celebration.
But for the high school students themselves it’s a step toward freedom, and as graduation day approaches next month, authorities are going to prevent graduates from celebrating too freely, raucously or butt-naked. Schools, the police and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology have all vowed to prevent the rowdy and ribald demonstrations that occurred after last year’s graduation ceremonies across the country.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education announced Monday it will deploy all teachers in the city to patrol their own schools as soon as graduation ceremonies finish. According to the office’s announcement, teachers will cooperate with police officers in their patrols, and at least one official from the office of education will be sent to each school to observe the graduations.
Oh yeah, because nothing will stop an 18 year old boy from doing something like a disapproving glare from a teacher who no longer has any authority over him from a school he doesn't have to go to anymore.
The shock of last year’s raucous graduation celebrations brought on the restrictions. In Goyang, northwest of Seoul, about 20 senior boys and girls took off their clothes and posed naked for photos after their graduation ceremony. The pictures spread rapidly on the Internet. 
In Cheongju, North Chungcheong, male middle school graduates held a street march clad only their underpants, while 30 students in Busan went on a rampage on Heundae Beach, pelting each other with flour and eggs and ripping girls’ clothes off. On Jeju Island a dozen high school students took seven middle school graduates to a beach after their graduation, ripped off the graduates’ uniforms, underwear and stockings using scissors and razor blades, poured mayonnaise and corn syrup on their bodies and threw them into the icy sea. The attackers graduated from the same middle school. 
There’s a history of raucous graduations in Korea, even uplifting ones. During Japanese colonial rule from 1910 t0 1945, high school graduates pelted themselves with flour, and ruining the school uniform was considered a protest against Japanese authorities.
In late 1990s, students expressed their sense of freedom by dying their hair or intentionally tearing their uniforms, but as time went by, such demonstrations became more aggressive and even violent. 
“When I graduated from high school back in 2001, throwing eggs and flour at each other was a matter of course,” recalled Lee Eun-seon, 28. “Students who were considered to be going overboard were those who smashed the windows of teachers’ cars. But when I read the news about the violence after last year’s graduation ceremonies, I was shocked.” 
Experts say students from schools known for rough corporal punishment get particularly violent upon graduating.
“A uniform is a symbol of oppression to a student,” said Lee Ji-hwan, 36, head of the Horeb Youth Cultural Center, which runs a major camp for students in Gangwon. “Ripping or destroying it releases stress and expresses a sense of freedom.”
In an effort to stop students from desecrating their uniforms, numerous schools have started programs in which students are asked to donate their uniforms to juniors who can’t afford new ones. Kuwol Middle School in Incheon has let its graduating students wear formal clothes on graduation day instead of uniforms. [...]
Some say parents and authorities take graduation day rowdiness too seriously, and point out that graduation is the end of one phase of life and a moving on to the next. 
“Students want to mark the day by doing something eventful and express their sense of freedom,” said Lee of the Horeb Youth Cultural Center. 
Most middle and high schools in Seoul will hold graduation ceremonies between Feb. 9 to 11.
I see no reasons why middle schoolers would be doing any of this.  Not sure what exactly they have to celebrate about.

Korean Teachers Found Guilty of Campaign Donations

Last Spring there were national elections in South Korea.  It was all new and interesting to me, and I was curious how the process worked and what voting was like in South Korea.  However, very few of my Korean coteachers seemed interested, involved, or informed.  I asked one of my Korean coteachers who she was planning on voting for, and she told me she had never voted in her life.

Maybe there are just apathetic citizens, but apparently it is against Korean law for Korean public school teachers to get too involved in the political scene.

The Seoul Central District Court yesterday found 260 of 272 teachers and public servants guilty of making donations to the minor opposition Democratic Labor Party.
The court, however, acquitted the public servants of charges that they joined the DLP, citing “lack of evidence.”
Korean law prohibits public servants and teachers from engaging in political activities, and they were indicted on charges of giving money to the DLP.
The court handed out 300,000 won ($268) in fines to 223 teachers and public servants - including Jeong Jin-hu, former head of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union - and slapped 500,000 won fines on 37 people, including the civil servants’ union leader Yang Sung-yoon. 
“The defendants argue they didn’t join the DLP, [but they did] pay money to support the political party,” the court said. “But [a law allowing public servants to donate money] was abolished in 2006, and they violated the political fund law and the public-servant workers’ law.” 
The court, however, suspended 300,000 won in fines for three defendants. It also cleared three other defendants who argued that their husbands donated money to the DLP under their names. The court decided to hold off on handing down verdicts to six defendants who were no-shows at yesterday’s trial. 
Hundreds of teachers and civil servants were indicted last May on charges of joining the DLP and donating 115 million won to the party since 2005. [...]
I suppose parents support these laws because they want teachers to be as politically neutral as possible so their biases do not affect their children while in school.  Another reason could be that tax dollars pay for the salaries of public officials and some oppose people being able to use their personal salaries to fund political campaigns.  

It also seems convenient for the majority party that these civil servants are all trying to support the minority party.  Forbidding such an extremely large percentage of the population from being allowed to participate in the political process reduces their voice in government and ability to elect people to represent them.  Yes, they can still vote, but it seems like showing up to vote is only the last part in a difficult and long process to get a candidate elected in most democracies.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rush Limbaugh Speaks Chinese

Rush Limbaugh is one of the worst human beings who ever existed.  Here is his latest exhibition of bigotry and embarrassment.  How is it that this is one of the most influential and important men in America politics?  Rush also says in the video "Whenever I hear Chinese or Japanese..." So what he is saying goes for Korean as well I'm sure.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Rush Limbaugh Speaks Chinese
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It's one thing to do the stupid voice.  But Rush wasn't even making a useful point.  Who cares if there wasn't live translation of President Hu Jintao's speech.  If he said anything inappropriate, it obviously would have been caught on camera and later exposed.  Does he really think the President of China is going to go off script to insult the United States while being hosted at a state dinner?  The guy is just paranoid and racist.

In this same episode of the Colbert Report, Stephen marked the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy's "Ask Not" inaugural address and exposed how the conservative FOX news channel would have attacked him for trying to inspire people.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
50th Anniversary of JFK's Inaugural Address
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Stuff Waygooks Like #6 - Buddhism (불교)

Buddhism is one of the world’s great religions. It is third in size behind Christianity and Islam with somewhere between 500 million and 1.6 billion people world-wide identifying themselves as Buddhist or loosely identifying by practicing some Buddhist beliefs or rituals. However, the religion is highly concentrated in only Asia. Most people from the English speaking Western world do not personally know anyone who is Buddhist. Upon arriving in South Korea, many waygooks enjoy exploring the rich and soul-searching depths of this ancient religion. 

It is difficult to accurately calculate the number of Koreans who are Buddhist because self-identity varies from tradition to tradition. Many Korean Buddhists also take a relaxed attitude towards formal worship. Today, about seven million Koreans self-identify themselves as Buddhists with another ten million or so that probably share some Buddhist beliefs mixed in with Christian, Confucian, or Shamanistic beliefs. Many tour guide books will say it is about a quarter of South Korea’s population. There are about 25,000 clergy of both sexes and there are 7244 accredited temples scattered in picturesque locations throughout the entire country.

Buddhism is a missionary religion that spread from China into Korea some time during the 4th century, eventually becoming the state religion of all three of the ancient kingdoms of Korea – Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla. By the time it reached Korea, Buddhism had altered from its original form in India, absorbing elements of the local folk traditions of the countries into which it had spread. By the 7th century Buddhism was well established, as seen in the numbers of great temples which had been erected throughout the peninsula, the numbers of monks who went to China and India to study, and the important role which Korean monks played in the spread and development of Buddhism in Japan.

Buddhism continued to flourish during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), existing in a complementary state of harmony with Confucianism. By the end of the Silla period in the early 10th century, Buddhism had effectively taken on the form which we see in modern Korea. Monastic Buddhism is predominately of the meditative Seon school (better known by the Japanese term Zen), whereas popular Buddhism, the Buddhism practiced by the laity, belongs predominately to the Pure Land traditions. The all-encompassing doctrinal Dienai school (jeondae in Korean) remained important for a few more centuries, but the meditation and Pure Land schools came to form the core of Buddhist practice in Korea. The Seon school is based on the idea that suffering is caused by attachment to things of this world, and that release from suffering can only come through the abrupt realization of the illusionary nature of things. Methods of meditation and monastic life are meant to bring the monk or nun into a state of sudden enlightment.

It wasn’t all the familiar Buddhism of ascetic monks, however. Some monasteries became wealthy and owned large estates and thousands of slaves, and some monks dressed in silk robes, rode fine horses and indulged in wine, women and song. When the Joseon Dynasty began in 1392, the height of Korean Buddhism abruptly came to an end. In addition to fundamental spiritual conflicts, the Confucianists, who were high up in the Joseon government, resented how much of the nation’s money was being used by Buddhists to build elaborate statues and hold increasingly expensive rituals. They believed that Buddhism was a serious drain on the country’s economy, so in 1390 King Taejo removed Buddhist monks from his government, expelled them from the capital, and confiscated Buddhist property. The building of temples in the capital was forbidden and the number of monks and nuns who could live in monasteries, and how much land they could own, was tightly regulated. Buddhist practices were forced out of the cities, begging was made illegal, and Buddhist funerals were outlawed.

Far from being pacifists, Korean monks frequently came to the defense of their country. Many mountain fortresses throughout the Korean peninsula contained temples and were garrisoned by warrior monks. Toughened by their Spartan lifestyle and trained in martial arts, monk warriors played a major part in resisting the Japanese invasions in the 1590s even though Confucianism had become the state doctrine and the new rules treated them as lowborn and no better than beggars. With the demise of the Joseon Dynasty at the end of the 19th century, and the annexation of Korea by Japan, Buddhism’s fortunes changed dramatically. The redevelopment and modernization of Buddhism is due to the work of both traditionalist monks, and to the work of modernizers who looked to the laity as the core of the Buddhist community.

Conciously or unconsciously, the modernizers of Korean Buddhism in recent decades have looked to the rapidly growing Protestant Christian community in the country both for inspiration and as a competitor. Many features of contemporary Korean Buddhism reflect Protestant practice, such as the emphasis on lay groups, institutional outreach in the forms of schools, universities, print and broadcast media, as well as popular liturgical practices that use Buddhist words to the tunes of well-known Christian hymns. The modernization of Buddhism has allowed its return to an important place on the Korean religious scene.

Because Buddhism was forced out of the cities during the Joseon Dynasty, temples that survived tended to be in more remote, mountainous areas. Today, these are often prime tourist destinations, and so in recent years, some temples have been taking in visitors for short stays, to experience, however briefly, the life of contemplation and ceremony practiced by the monks. Foreign visitors in Korea do not have to learn or follow any special protocol when visiting Buddhist temples. They should simply be polite to any priests they may encounter, stay out of areas that are not open to the public, avoid being loud and rowdy, and in general behave in a respectful manner. Ordinary visitors to Buddhists temples do not go “inside” the inner sanctums of the temples. Instead, they walk around outside, admiring the architecture of the buildings and the images of deities that are enshrined in the temples and visible from the public areas.


Cute Father-Daughter Duo

Found this on facebook.  I thought I would share it.

Here is the viral Youtube video they made that got them noticed:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pakistani Mother Enrolls in First Grade

OMG.  Hearing about this makes you just thank mercy you were born in a part of the world where education is a right and not a privilege.

Rukhsana Batool doesn't quite look like her fellow first graders at an elementary school in this village in northwest Pakistan.
Batool towers over the rest of the children, she is covered in a white burqa - the full length Islamic veil- and she is a 25-year-old married mother of three. [...]
Now, when the school bell rings, she walks into class and sits next to her two favorite classmates - her two sons, age 4 and 5. [...]
Here's the video:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

KPOP Korral - [GD & TOP] - Knock Out & High High

GD (left) and TOP (right) are two of the five members of the Korean boy band group Big Bang.  In the group they go by the names G-Dragon (G-드래곤 aka 권지용) and T.O.P (탑 aka 최승현).   These two are actually childhood friends and often practiced rap and dance together in middle school while dreaming of being pop stars.  They separated during high school but were reunited by YG Entertainment when they were formed together with three other members to make Big Bang.  All of the members since 2009 have been working semi-independently and releasing solo songs and videos.

GD and TOP released a whole album, but the two songs with videos worth checking out are Knock Out (뻑이가요) and High High.  They definitely look and sound different from the usual KPOP.  Not a lot of hip hop electro funk in Korea.

I did notice a lot of foreigners in these videos.  I guess using English is no longer enough to be edgy in their songs, they have to physically have English speakers present in the videos for the kids to get excited.

Heavy use of the Playboy logo.  I still don't know what to make of that... I don't think most Koreans realize that symbol stands for sexual promiscuity.  "Playboy" in Korean actually only means a man with many friends.  Not quite the same as in English...

Am I the only one who thinks T.O.P's new look makes him look like James Marsters' character Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Ask a Waygook - What Does a Provided Apartment Look Like?

The biggest chunk of anxiety for most people who choose to take a job teaching English in South Korea is wondering where they will live and what their apartment will look and feel like.  The range of living conditions a new teacher could potentially be dropped into are quite large.  The place a new teacher is given is what they most undoubtedly will have to make the best of for their entire year.  If they choose to renew their contract and stay a second year, options then become available to find a new or nicer apartment.

I took pictures two years ago of the apartment that I was given when I first arrived in South Korea.  It was not a great place, but I could have done much worse thinking back about it.  I have since left this apartment and moved into a new two-bedroom place that still falls within the housing allowance provided to me in my contract.

Most contracts signed by native English teachers specify what will be provided in the apartment.  It will most likely be a one-room studio apartment.  Schools usually provide in the unit a Western style bed, a television, a gas range, a washing machine, a table with two chairs, a closet or wardrobe, and a refrigerator.  Not usually included (but sometimes provided anyways) is a desk, a microwave, and an air conditioner.  Some utilities might be included in the price of renting the unit, otherwise they are the responsibility of the native teacher.

Your apartment will either have a single key lock or have a digital code on the door.  New apartments have digital code locks, one to get into the building and the other for your unit.  Older buildings will provide you with a key to your unit.  Korean delivery guys love to stick flyers on your door.

When you come in there will be a small entrance way.  Koreans never wear their shoes in their home and there is usually a place to put your stored shoes.  There is also an extra lock for the door when you are inside.

The door on the right that you see in the picture above is to the bathroom.  Most Korean bathrooms are wet rooms and everything in the bathroom is capable of getting wet.  The shower is attached to the sink and you are supposed to shower standing in front of the mirror in your bathroom.  There is a drain for the floor under the sink.  The door frame to my bathroom was actually too narrow for the washing machine to fit through, but normally the washing machine should be in there.  Many units have the washing machine in the bathroom, but they can also be in the kitchen area.

This is looking into my room from the entrance area.  You can see my frig on the right and my washing machine on the left and my bed straight ahead.

Koreans do not have bed sheets.  Good luck finding fitted sheets in Korea.  They have quilts and comforters and they are all bright colors with girly designs.  This is the manliest blanket I could find.  This bed is slightly wider than a twin sized bed but not as big as a double.

This is the standing, movable closet I was provided.  Nothing too exciting.

This is the washing machine.  It has two lint traps inside and does an excellent job washing clothes.  Next to nobody in Korea has a real drying machine.  When you arrive, you will have to buy a drying rack and hang your clothes to dry them.

This is the sink area.  There will not be a garbage disposal.  Korean sinks usually have a catch filter in the drain that can be removed and cleaned whenever necessary if bits of food go down the drain.

This is a standard gas range.  You will not be given a stove.  Two burners is the norm.

The fridge I was provided was tall and included a freezer, but it was narrow.  Enough for one person, but other teachers have been provided smaller refrigerators or even full sized family ones.

Here is the TV provided.  I only used it the first month I was in Korea while I was waiting for my internet to be hooked up.  Korean television will be strange, but there is usually at any given time three or so recent Hollywood films being played on different channels.

Any questions?  Leave a comment.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

PBS News Hour Spotlights "Education Fever" in South Korea

I already mentioned that the PBS News Hour spent a week focusing on current events surrounding South Korea.  All of the reports they filed were very informative and interesting to watch.

The last report that Margaret Warner filed was about "education fever," in South Korea.  Recently, Obama has publicly praised the achievements of the South Korean public education system, but this report got it right and managed to balance out Korea's educational success and the strain and pressure it puts on the society from being so competitive.  Worth the watch!

Korean Special Forces Rescue Ship and Kill Somali Pirates

Looks like Lee Myung-Bak was able to look and act tough for this crisis and flex some military muscle.

Korea says its forces have retaken a hijacked ship from Somali pirates and freed the 21-member crew. 
Lieutenant General Lee Seong-ho, of the Korean Joint chiefs of Staff, says naval special forces stormed the MV Samho Jewelry early Friday, after trailing the hijacked ship for days. He told reporters the commandos rescued all crew members while killing eight Somali pirates and capturing another five. He says the South Korean captain of the freighter was shot in the abdomen during the rescue but is expected to recover.
Friday's operation took place in the Arabian Sea, about 1,300 kilometers northeast of Somalia. The ship was heading to Sri Lanka from the United Arab Emirates when it was hijacked last Saturday. The vessel's crew includes 11 Burmese nationals, eight Koreans, and two Indonesians.
President Lee Myung-Bank, who authorized the operation, said it shows that Korea will not tolerate attacks on any of its people.
Somalia pirates have made hundreds of millions of dollars hijacking ships in recent years. The European Union's anti-piracy force says the pirates are currently holding at least 30 ships and more than 700 hostages.
Nobody wants to be a pirate.  These people live in some of the worst conditions in the world and they are just desperate.  Reminds me of a South Park episode when Cartman hears about the resurgence of pirates and decides to go join them.  Full episode here or here are the highlights.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Facebook Spam - Korea Style

I participated in a one week special immersion camp for twenty girls who were in the 1st grade of Korean high school.  They were all fifteen years old.  When the camp finished, many of them created a facebook account just to friend and stay in contact with the native English teachers for the camp, so a couple of them friended me on facebook.

I was tagged in a note concerning the "East Sea / Sea of Japan" debate and think it is quite humorous.  Here is the note:
The Japanese people say, 97% of the world map marks' Sea of Japan ' so give up. But Korean people say, 3% of the world map marks ' East Sea'so we will start fighting. It doesn't take even 20 seconds to turn this. Just sacrifice a little time. Let's show the power of the Korean netizen to Japan.日本の人?は話す。世界の97% の地?はそれに印を付けて?念すると同時に' 日本海' 。しかし韓?の人?は話す。示す世界の開始' 東海' の3% の地?はこれをよく好むこと! それは回り、湧き出る! 20 初めてそれはつかまえられない。時ただ時間は日本にショ?を韓?の..netizen の力かなり投資する
I'm guessing the "It doesn't take even 20 seconds to turn this." means "it doesn't even take 20 seconds to repost this", but I got it.  Different language and different culture, same kind of facebook spam that doesn't actually make a difference in any way.  Funny the note that is being spread is in English and Japanese, but not Korean... probably because there aren't any Koreans out there that still need convincing?

Here's my take on Dokdo:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

PBS News Hour Spends Week in South Korea

Margaret Warner of the PBS News Hour spent the last week in South Korea and filed reports concerning all the issues of late relating to South Korea, North Korea, and China.  Definitely worth your watch for a good summary of the the general news of the last couple months on the penninsula:




What Are Young Japanese Men Doing Wrong?

I recently posted about Japan losing its sex drive:
A survey conducted by O-net revealed further evidence of the growing prevalence of Japanese herbivorous men -- or soushokukei-danshi -- who are not only shy when it comes to seducing women, but have little or no interest in them.
According to the survey of 800 people who turned 20 years old this year, 83.7 percent of Japanese males said they were not dating anyone, while 49.3 percent said they had never had any girlfriends. 
More surprising was the news that in a separate survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare published by the Japan Family Planning Association that 36.1 percent of Japanese males, aged 16 to 19, had no interest in sex whatsoever -- up from a 2008 record of 17.5 percent.
CNNGO found a fun list to explain some of the common things about Japanese men that are a turn off to Japanese women.  They are translations from POUCH:
So what's the difference between the guys who do have girlfriends and those who don’t?
Here are the best answers from lifestyle site POUCH, which listed the kinds of behaviors that don't rate on the seduction scale.
15 behavior traits of young Japanese men that turn off women:
1 - Cutting in conversations to talk about himself.
2 - Dressing up only in black clothes.
3 - Letting his fingernails get dirty.
4 - Trash talking women on blogs and social networks (indicating his misogynistic tendency).
5 - Lacking confidence.
6 - Letting his parents overprotect him.
7 - Not knowing when to step forward and pass a couple flirting ahead of him on the street (indicating his inability to be decisive).
8 - Hesitating to open a door if he sees his neighbor do the same (easily chickening out).
9 - Going outside in his sweats (lacking fashion sense).
10 - Being lackadaisical about anything except some weird stuff he’s really into.
11 - Trying to caress a girl's head when he gets drunk.
12 - Getting ecstatic when his hands are in contact with the hand of a cute shopping assistant who is just giving him change.
13 - Thinking of himself as too handsome to be satisfied with his potential girlfriends.
14 - Taking an extremely long trip by bicycle rather than using public transport.
15 - Thinking of accidental eye contact with a girl as her romantic interest in him.
Ha ha ha ha... some of these are pretty much every teenage boy before he loses his virginity though...

NMA World Edition also has a video...

US Citizens Now Free to Visit North Korea Anytime

I frequently wonder if I will ever be able to see North Korea.  In my life time, will the Koreas ever be reunited?  Many young Koreans say it will never happen, but never is a long time to keep two groups of people apart who share so much in common.

In the meantime, North Korea's bipolar tendencies have kicked in again and tourism visas to visit North Korea as part of package, guided tours are being allowed again for United States citizens.  At the rate North Korea is escalating militarily with its neighbors, it only makes sense that they should decide they might want a few Americans citizens at any given time staying in some state run equivalent of a Holiday Inn in central Pyongyang.

CNNGO has the story:
North Korea has eased travel restrictions on U.S. tourists, hoping to boost its coffers and also improve the cash-strapped country's image.
U.S. citizens had previously only been allowed access during the spectacular mass games, held last year in August through October. Now, travelers from the United States will be allowed to visit North Korea on official guided tours any time of the year. [...]
Pyongyang's overture to the United States coincided with a request to discuss resuming tours with South Korea. 
Last year, Koryo Tours took 282 U.S. tourists to North Korea compared to about 700 to 800 non-U.S. Westerners. Less than 2,500 U.S. citizens have visited North Korea since 1953.
According to Bonner, the real game-changer is that "Americans will be allowed to join with other Western tourists in exploring the rest of the country and not just areas just across the border." 
"We don't think this would have occurred under the last American administration." [...]
Despite the easing of restrictions, the same main rule still applies -- any tourist to North Korea must be accompanied by official guides. 
"They're not 'guards' but 'guides', and they're trained," Bonner said. "They're not there to rip you off, but to inform you about their country. The guides are the closest contact tourists are going to have with the North Korean people."
Bonner said the locals like to drink, so if they like you and get a chance to share a drink with them "then you can really get to know them."
Along with getting to know the North Korean people and guides, a trip to North Korea provides a chance to see some interesting museums, like the War Museum in Pyongyang with its 360 degree, 10-meter high wall painting showing a fight during the 'Victorious Fatherland Liberation War.' The scene shows the Korean People's Army retaking a village from the U.S. Army. [...]
Under the new travel regulations, U.S. citizens can now come during the spring and autumn, with April and May being a typically popular period. In April, the country celebrates the birthday of Kim Il Sung, who founded North Korea in 1948 and was its first leader.
August through October, tourists can catch the extravagant Mass Games in Pyongyang.
The Mass Games is a performing arts and gymnastics event featuring tens of thousands of performers participating in a spectacle of colorful, intricately-choreographed shows. [...]
North Korea's new openness is not without caveats, interlopers with agendas will not be tolerated and tougher restrictions are placed on journalists. 
Recent examples of unapproved excursions include the case of the two American journalists from CurrentTV who were detained in 2009, and more recently, a missionary crossed the DMZ (which divides North and South Korea) to allegedly "bring a message of Christ's love and forgiveness" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. [...]
I edited a lot out, but you get the idea.  I would be interested in going... but I still do not see how the risk of being permanently detained by North Korea goes away if they for whatever reason decide they are having a bad day.

North Korea has an Amusement Park!

I found this on CNNGO, but apparently North Korea has one amusement park, Kaeson Youth Park in Pyongyang.  It has existed for a while, but it was recently renovated and reopened last spring.  It features new (Italian made) rollercoasters and is open daily from 7pm to midnight.

Barry Neild wrote a piece for CNNGO about theme park aficionado Stefan Zwanzger being allowed to visit the park.  Here is a small part of the article:
Zwanzger visited Pyongyang in October as part of an organized tour that -- in addition to an endless parade of statues and museums honoring the dictatorial dynasty of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung –- took in Kaeson and the city's more elderly theme parks: Mangyongdae and Kaesongsan.
Like many outsiders visiting a country that the United Nations says is barely able to sustain its closely controlled population, he says much of what he saw was "depressing."
Inside the amusement parks it was a different story.
"When you watch the locals on the rides, it seems like the happiest place in North Korea," he says.
"They're exactly like us, they scream the same way on the fun rides and they make exactly the same faces on the roller coaster when it's dropping on the first loop."
The rides themselves are another revelation, says Zwanzger. Roller coasters apparently not being subject to the international embargoes that have added to the country's isolation, Kaeson boasts several new Italian-made rides.
He describes one year-old ride as "probably the most cutting-edge installation in the whole country." Given the North Korea's parlous economic state, it's a joke that probably isn't far from the truth.
The ride is a "belly-down flying" roller coaster that hurls passengers suspended in four-man carriages around a bright orange track.
Check out the article for more of the story and additional photos of the park.  I also typed in the park name to google and found this video on yourtube.  Very strange that this place exists when you consider how impoverished the country is.  I wonder what kind of restrictions are in place for people to visit here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Koreans Urged by Government Not to Travel for Lunar New Years

South Korea is currently battling its largest outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease.  It has the farming industry and the government in a panic.  Korea was in the headlines last week for choosing to bury 1.4 million pigs alive in the hopes that they could contain the outbreak.

Foot and Mouth Disease is a severe plague for animal farming and can easily be spread by humans farm-to-farm that come into contact with farming equipment, vehicles, clothing or feed.

Each year the Chinese Lunar New Years celebration is the largest annual mass migration of people on the planet.  People living in big cities return to their ancestral farming villages for feasting and festivals.  The Korean government is concerned that all these people mixing between farming villages and cities will further spread the epidemic amongst the farm animal population.

SEOUL — Officials in South Korea's southern regions have urged people not to return to home towns there for the Lunar New Year holiday for fear of spreading the nation's worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
Millions customarily travel to home towns to celebrate with their families the major traditional holiday, which falls this year on February 2-4.
But southern regions that have largely been spared the outbreak said the holiday may be a critical point in preventing a nationwide epidemic.
Lee Hong-Ki, mayor of the southeastern county of Geochang, appealed to President Lee Myung-Bak to persuade people not to travel to or from regions unaffected by the disease.
Other regional governments including those for South Jeolla and South Gyeongsang provinces also advised people not to travel but to call relatives instead.
"We understand people miss families around this time of year, but this is like a battle situation where everyone's cooperation is critical," a South Gyeongsang provincial spokesman told AFP.
"Family reunions can wait until the outbreak is over."
Authorities have ordered the culling of about two million livestock, 15 percent of the nation's cattle and pigs, to contain the outbreak that started last November.
Foot-and-mouth disease affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and sheep.
For some reason I am uncertain if a government plea to not travel would stop most Koreans.  People like routine here and they already never take holidays.  It would be a tough sell to convince people not to return home to their villages for the most important holiday of the year.

Twitter is Now Available In Korean

Twitter of course already existed and was accessible to Korea, but now Twitter is targeting South Korea and looking to expand its usage by providing Korean language translations and services.  Just be careful what you say on Twitter.

From SFGate:
Twitter Inc. has just added Korean, the seventh language for the San Francisco micro blogging service. Twitter is already huge in Japan, and South Korea could also be an important market. About 70 percent of Twitter users are outside of the United States.
Twitter announced the news in this blog post and sent us this English translation:
Twitter use is growing in all corners of the world. In the last year, one of the fastest growing countries for Twitter is South Korea. There are now ten times as many Twitter users there than there were just a year ago.
As of today, Twitter will be even easier for Koreans to use. Among other updates, and Twitter's mobile web site are now translated into Korean.
By making Twitter available in Korean, people will be able to more easily connect with people and accounts that are most meaningful to them. There are plenty of great Korean users to follow already, including:
-- @oisoo posts witty Tweets, some of which were published in a best-selling essay last year.
-- @moviejhp shares insight on his life as a movie actor. You can find comedian and TV show host @keumkangkyung and TV anchor @kimjuha on Twitter.
-- Super Junior band members: @donghae861015, @heedictator, @siwon407, @shinsfriends, @special1004, @allrisesilver, and @ryeong9 are on Twitter.
If you want more ideas for Korean accounts to follow in politics, business, technology, sports and other areas, check out these lists, organized by topic. (Make sure your language is set to Korean to see Korean accounts.)
Twitter has also updated the popular Korean versions of Twitter for Android and Twitter for iPhone. And, we want to thank our partner Daum for displaying top Korean Tweets on their homepage and making it easy to find friends from your Hanmail address book; and LG U+ for working with us to make Twitter available via SMS in Korean for their subscribers (shortcode is #1234).
If you already have a Twitter account, you can change your language to Korean by going to the Settings page, which you can find under the dropdown menu in the top right corner of To keep up with the latest information about Twitter in Korea, you can follow @twitter_kr for updates from Twitter HQ, @dowoomi for Twitter support, and @toptweets_ko for top Tweets from Korean users. To share your feedback on Twitter in Korean, you can include #twitterkr in your tweets.
With this launch, Twitter is now available in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Korean. With 70 percent of Twitter accounts belonging to users outside the U.S., it's important for us to make Twitter available in as many languages as possible, and we hope to support even more by the end of this year.
I wonder if they would even bother with Mandarin.  China would probably just block them immediately if they even tried to access the world's most spoken language.

Japan Is Losing Its Sex Drive

Two years ago there was an interesting article in Slate Magazine about the rise of "Herbivores" in Japan.
Japan panics about the rise of "grass-eating men," who shun sex, don't spend money, and like taking walks.
The article was about Japan, but much is applicable to Korean men as well.  Basically, as the economy in Japan stalled, the standard of living for young Japanese men stopped going up.  Japanese men stopped caring about money, their careers, and being dominant alpha-males.  They lost interest in chasing after girls.  Coupled with the rise in technology like personal computers, video games, and the internet, lots of guys prefer to stay home and play by or with themselves than go out and meet women.

This article was in the Huffington Post this week:
Now for some frigid news from Japan that has nothing to do with winter temperatures: a new government-commissioned study finds that young Japanese men are losing their interest in sex, yet another warning sign in a nation notorious for its low birth rate.
According to the AFP, a whopping 36.1 percent of teenage boys between the ages of 16-19 said they had little to no interest in sex, and in some cases even despised it, more than twice the 2008 figure of 17.5 percent. Futhermore, the survey, conducted in September 2010, reportedly found that 83.7 percent of Japanese men who turned 20 this year were not dating anyone, while 49.3 percent said they had never had a girlfriend. Girls, it seems, are suffering from a similar lack of heat: 59 percent in the same age group felt the same way, up 12 percentage points from 2008.
Kunio Kitamura, head of the clinic of the Japan Family Planning Association which took part in the survey, said the data confirms a wider social belief that younger Japanese men are becoming "herbivorous," a label attached to passive men who do not actively seek women and sex. Many younger people were opting to delay starting a family due to the perceived burden on their finances, lifestyles and careers. "The findings seem to reflect the increasing shallowness of human relations in today's busy society." Kitamura is quoted by CNN as saying.
The study, which reportedly surveyed 1,301 people aged 16 to 49, yielded a handful of other surprises: 40.8 percent of married people said they had not had sex in the past month, up from 36.5 percent in the 2008 survey and 31.9 percent in the 2004 survey, while nearly 50 percent of married people older than 40 years old said they have not had sex in the past month. Some participants claimed work fatigue and reluctance to have sex after childbirth, while others said they "can't be bothered."
"Obviously, the most important reason for Japan's declining birth rate is that people are not having sex," Kitamura told the Telegraph. "Combined with the rising number of elderly people, this population imbalance is a major problem."
Korea is not as bad, but the situation is similar.  Children are expensive and many families cannot afford them.  Then if you factor in married couples with sixty hour work weeks, they are never home or in the mood to do it.

This article did not mention it, but the rise in internet pornography HAS GOT to be another factor.  Japan and Korea are the world's second and third largest consumers of internet pornography and if young men are playing with themselves at home on the computer, then they aren't going to the clubs later than night to find some girls.

Wikipedia Turns 10 Years Old

Wikipedia was launched on January 15th, 2001.  It is the world's fourth largest website.  It is non-profit and supported by a half a million volunteer base of editors.  It has over seventeen million articles published online in over 250 languages.  It is one of humanity's greatest accomplishments.

Wikipedia plans to open their first offices outside of the United States in India.  I found a video of an Indian news company covering Wikipedia's anniversary and this new office opening is another clear indication of India and China's rising power in the world.

KPOP Korral - [T-ara] - Yayaya

T-ara (티아라) is a girl group formed by Mnet Media.  This is another one of those girl groups that debuted in the last year or so and their publicity team claims they trained for three years before releasing their first album.  You know... I watch these videos and I just don't understand how training for what they do could possibly take longer than three months.

T-ara first caught the attention of most people with their adorable costumes from live performances of Bo Peep.  In 2010 I posted their video for Crazy Because of You and named it one of the worst videos of 2010 for being impossible to watch with all its crazy camera cuts and zooms.

Their latest music video release is "Yayayay" (야야야).  I think it is a funny video because I am not native American and I do not take offense to this.  However, I could see how this song and video could be taken as culturally insensitive.  On the plus side I am hoping that native American fashion does catch on with Korean girls here and hopefully I'll be seeing more Indian head dresses on the streets.

There other more recent hit was "Why Are You Being Like This."  Eat Your Kimchi's break down of their videos was hilarious.  Given the titles of their songs, it does make T-ara look and sound like a bunch of psychotic stalker ex-girlfriends.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Huck Finn To Be Censored 219 Times

I remember having to read Huckleberry Finn in my junior year American literature course.  They handed out the books and told us all that this literary masterpiece contained a controversial word and that we should all be mature about it and think about how that word has changed over time and what it means to people in our society.  It seems high schools are afraid to try to teach this lesson to kids in America's hyper-sensitive climate.

NewSouth books plans to release a new edition of Mark Twain's book and replace all instances of the N-word with "slave."

NWA Animations has this one:

I also thoroughly enjoyed the Daily Show's discussion on the matter:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mark Twain Controversy
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

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