Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good Set of Rules

This blog post is from Scribblings of the Metropolitician. It's simply another K-blog. This post is interesting because it lays out a list of things to do/not do/be aware of. The writer says he wishes he would've known them on his first day here. I second that.

It's a good read about life over here.

Check it here.

Bizarre Foods Hits South Korea

Anyone who knows me REALLY well, knows I LOVE the travel channel.

With that preface, I'm happy to announce that "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern" has a South Korea episode that is brand new as of this week.

Check out the website for some video clips and highlights of the trip. And watch the Travel Channel to see when it might air. This guy hits the cultural stuff pretty accurately. I think it's worth watching so you can see some of the cuisine I have to endure over here.

Here's the link.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Life: Update

Hey everyone. I realize that over the past couple weeks, I haven't been adding to much on my own personal life.

The truth is, things have settled into a little bit of a rhythm, and I haven't had any big new adventures in awhile. I figured the best way to really keep you up to date on my situation is to continue posting these current event stories.

You can read them and come to your own conclusion. What's important to know, though, is that as I read and hear about these new stories every day, it adds to much of my frustration with the culture here. I'm an open-minded guy, but anyone who has followed this blog regularly knows I face a fair amount of stress here while continuing to adjust to life in such a radically different culture from back home.

Here's a little bit of what I've been up to:

1) Last Saturday, Vicky and I went to Seoul and met with two of her friends. But more importantly, we met with my old college roommate Kevin Gallagher. Kevin and I met at Pitt as we shared a floor of a dorm our freshman year at Pitt. We lived together for the following two years. Sophomore year was spent with 6 guys total in a dorm in the quad. Junior year was a highlight, as seven of us got together to split a house in South Oakland.

I saw Kevin briefly last year. But besides that one time, it's been close to five years since we've seen each other. Go figure that we happen to meet up in Seoul.

2) This weekend was really laid-back and low-key. On Friday, Eli and I had a few drinks and went to 능허대 공원 (Neunghadae Park). The park marks where the coast of Incheon used to be, before much of the sea became reclaimed land and building space. It was once a very important port among trade routes between Korea and other Asian countries.

Anyway, it's nice to have a little bit of green space anywhere in South Korea, which is simply paved everywhere in this northwest corner. I'll post park pictures when I get a nice day to take them. The weather was a bit gloomy last week.

3) Today, Vicky and her sister invited me over for a late lunch/early dinner. They made a traditional Japanese dish. It is very much like a pancake with vegetables, squid, crab and some other things that I don't even know. They also made special traditional 떡볶이 (ddokboki - a common rice cake dish) that was apparently eaten in the time of King Sejong. King Sejong is the man credited with creating Hangul (the Korean alphabet) in 1446 during the Chosun Dynasty. He is so highly regarded here that it's his picture adorning the 만원(10,000 won note).

It was really good. It didn't use the red pepper paste that is most commonly used now. It was made with soy sauce, beef and vegetables. No wonder King Sejong liked it.

4) Here's some great news. I found out Saturday that we get May 4 and 5 off from academy. We were originally getting only May 5 off for Children's Day, a national holiday. But thankfully, our leaders at Jungchul were kind enough to give us the four-day weekend. What a relief!

Poor Quality of Life

Here's an article from an English language newspaper that claims a low quality of life in South Korea. It says that most of these feelings start at 15 and older, when stress begins to set in from college entrance exams.

No wonder I also recently read an article citing the 2007 census that said 33 people kill themselves on average every day in South Korea.

Anyway, check it here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Good News From A Corrupt Government

A Korean blogger, called Minerva, was arrested a few months ago after making some doom and gloom financial predictions that came true. Though he wasn't the only one who predicted that, he was the only one who went to trial for it.

Fortunately for South Korea, he was found not guilty today.

Check it here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Koreans on the Internet

This is a Frontline PBS story about how wired Korea is and how it affects the young people. From my seven months here, this is deadly accurate.

Check it here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No Glimpses Available

Vicky and I were at the Seoul Motor Show Saturday when an appearance was made by Olympic figure skating gold medalist Kim Yu-na. So I can tell you from experience that it was impossible to see her. They put her on an incredibly low stage and there were thousands of people packed in.

Here's a pic from the newspaper of her at the show: Check it here.

Some Things Never End

Two news items (calling them news items is a stretch) that will go on in South Korea until the end of human existence.

1) Threats from North Korea - Apparently they're restarting their nuclear plants. Check it here.

2) Ridiculous cries of mad cow disease - Some South Korean company sold American beef during the "mad cow scare." That's in quotes because it's like a fairy tale -- NOT REAL. Check it here.

Of course, keep in mind that this is from The Korea Times, where news must be taken with multiple grains of salt.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cars, Flowers and a Great Weekend

Vicky and I took this Saturday to make a trip to Ilsan for the Seoul Motor Show, followed by a picnic at nearby Lake Park to see the cherry blossoms and enjoy a beautiful spring day.

The motor show was exactly how I expected it to be. There were some flashy exhibits and a bunch of cars I'll never be able to buy. It was a good time though, and cost only W9,000 ($6.75) per person to get in.

We took a bunch of great pictures and saw a lot of cool cars. We had an idea to get as much free stuff as possible, but they just weren't offering that much.

We were fortunate to be there on the day when Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Kim Yu-na made an appearance. As I expected, however, we didn't really get to see her. The crowd was jam-packed even though we started waiting for her entrance about 20 minutes early. The nice thing was that she was right on time.

Vicky tried to get some pics of her entrance, but she came in quickly and was ushered to an incredibly low stage where it was impossible to see her unless you were in maybe the first five rows. We were probably in the 200th row. Haha. They put her up on the big screen, but there wasn't much action. She came in thanks to Hyundai.

While the car show was cool, it was the picnic in Lake Park that was the treat of the afternoon for me. It felt so nice to sit down in a park and have a great picnic prepared by Vicky.

It was super-crowded, but we found a spot that was under repairs, so not as many people were around us. Vicky made a great lunch with sandwich rolls, rice balls, fruit and bacon wraps on a stick. It was one of the best meals I've had in Korea so far.

The best part was that if you didn't look a certain direction, you could forget that you were still in the city. That is a rarity in the northwest corner of Korea.

The weather was beautiful and we had a really relaxing day. The only downside was that the drive home took nearly four hours due to major traffic jams. At least, because of our close proximity to North Korea, we got to see all the guard towers and barbed wire fences along the highway.

I took a ton of pictures. So enjoy them. I hope everyone had a Happy Easter!!!

Car Show and Lake Park pictures

Pittsburgh News Reaches Korea

An editorial from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reach The Korea Times, an English newspaper here. It talks about the tragedy of the slain Pittsburgh police officers in the context of political criticism.

I'm not sure exactly why this piece was chosen by The Korea times. If I can think of a connection, I'll write about it.

Here's the article.

Friday, April 10, 2009

News Flash!!! --- Kim Jong-il Still Dictator!

If anyone wants to have a laugh, check out the article. Kim has been appointed yet again as dictator, ruler and benevolent lord and savior of North Korea.

Monday, April 6, 2009

SK Wyverns Opening Day 2009

On a happier note, a big group of us went to the SK Wyverns home opener on Saturday for the start of the Korean Baseball Organization's 2009 season. We have high hopes again because SK is the two-time defending champion.

Unfortunately, SK got crushed 8-2 against the Hanwha Eagles. But it was a beautiful day, and the beer was flowing.

Interesting note that I may have mentioned last season: You can bring any beer or food into the park that you want. They don't check you. That being said, beer inside is only W2,500 per can. That's less than $2 American. It's really incredible. They also have chicken sandwiches and hot dogs (which are delicious) as well as noodles and squid. It's Korea after all.

The game was packed since it was opening day, but we still got our usual W6,000 outfield seats. That's about $4.50 American. You cannot beat that with a Singapore cane.

I'm going to try to go to as many games as I can. It makes for a great afternoon with your friends. I'm also going to put more effort into going to soccer games. I'm surprised, but I've been a bit more excited for baseball since I've been here. Mostly because I heard Incheon's soccer team isn't so hot. But I already have at least two soccer games planned with Chris, when our respective cities play.

The rest of my weekend was spent with co-workers Friday night, and with Chris, Chelsea and Gina on Saturday night. Sunday was my usual rest day, even with the rocket-launch.

Back to baseball. The Wyverns got the win Sunday against Hanwha. So as of now, they're 1-1. Still 131 games to go.

One last thing about the game. The hot dogs were awesome and delivered by the hot dog man, wearing a sweet hot dog hat and team jersey. The funny thing is, his name was written in Konglish on the back.

For those of you who don't know, Konglish is English words written with the Korean alphabet. So it's not really Korean. It's the same pronunciation as the English, written as closely as possible with the Korean alphabet.

The Konglish on the hot dog man's jersey? "Hot Dog Man." It was beautiful.

Check out the pictures here!

UN Split Among (nearly) Historical Lines

UN Split Article

UN Security Council members

I realize I may have picked a strange newspaper source to relay my thoughts, but as of the time I'm writing this, I couldn't find an American paper with as much info in it as the RIA Novosoti -- a Russian paper -- has.

No decisions have been made on if or how to punish North Korea's actions because of a 10-5 split among the security council nations.

What's interesting, is that the split really goes along historical guidelines, excluding maybe one country in the mix.

As of now, Russia, China, Vietnam, Libya and Uganda oppose a resolution to punish and condemn the North Koreans for their actions. The United States, Britain, France, Japan, Austria, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Mexico and Turkey are all in favor of the condemnation.

Of the five permanent UN Security Council member nations, it is split between Russia and China against the United States, Britain and France. Even though Japan was historically an enemy of the United States, their inclusion with the group is no surprise, considering the serious relationship repair that has taken place between the United States and Japan since the end of WWII.

Among the other detractors, we have an African (self-proclaimed) socialist government in Libya, communist governments in Vietnam and China and the Democratic Republic of Uganda. Uganda is an African nation in which multiple government parties were banned from 1986 to 2005. And we all know Russia is a former communist nation.

Now, it looks like I'm making broad judgments here. And I am, for the sake of people reading back home, and to make it clear that this is simply an opinion piece and my observations.

Either way, the five stalling nations are sure that the North Koreans launched a satellite and it's now in orbit, whereas the 10 nations who want the resolution say it was a clever trick to test ballistic missiles, and the only thing in orbit is the blood pressure of the South Koreans and other world leaders.

What does this mean for the safety of South Korea? Well, right now, there's no meaning whatsoever. The majority of South Koreans I know are so used to more than 50 years of threats, that they've sort of lost their spark.

It's certainly possible that we're in danger, but the overwhelming idea is that Kim Jong Il is far too clever to attack South Korea, knowing his country's destruction would surely be the result. Just because a dictator seems crazy, doesn't mean he's crazy enough to want to lose power.

So family and friends back home, fear not as of now. Keep watching the news and see how the Security Council's situation develops, but stay positive. Remember that old '90s slogan on a bunch of hip, graffiti-ed t-shirts? No Fear!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

North Korea At It Again

This time it's serious. They claim that the South Koreans deliberately gave food poisoning to their soccer team before last week's World Cup qualified between the two countries. Have a good laugh at this.

Food Poisoning or Brain Problems???

Saturday, April 4, 2009

North Korea Missile Launch

Well, it happened.

Missile Launch Article

Unfortunately, I cant give you much more information than you can get from the news. I'll write my own thoughts later today.