Thursday, February 25, 2010

One Nutty Korean Takes His National Pride Too Seriously

Kang Tae-yong, a 35-year-old South Korea, threatened to blow up the Australian Embassy in Seoul because the judge who disqualified the Korean speed skating team is an Australian. The same judge also disqualified another Korean at a previous Olympics.

Of course, the Koreans will tell you that it was Apolo Anton Ohno's fault.


Inevitable -- Kim Yu-na Wins Gold

Look up the word "inevitable" in the dictionary. You know what you'll find? No, not a picture of Kim Yu-na. That's just ridiculous. But you will find the definition of the word "inevitable," which is exactly how Kim's chances of winning gold could be described after her short program earlier in the week.

Not only that, but she broke her own world record with a new score of 228.56 points. Yes, that's 18 points higher than her old world record.

Many of the articles about her talk about all the pressure she faced being the favorite. I understand that that pressure can be great. I was the kind of chokers in high school. And Canada's men's ice hockey team hasn't been dealing too well with the pressure thus far. That being said, they are in the semi-finals and look to be a lock to make that gold-medal game.

But the pressure isn't nearly as much as people think, in my opinion. If she were skating in Korea, then I could understand. But not only was she on the other side of the world, but she was on her home training soil. She spends at least 3/4 of the year now living and training in Canada. So she probably had a 3-hour plane ride to get to the games. Other Korean athletes training in Korea faced anyway from 20-30 hours, depending on layovers.

Regardless of my rant about the pressure, she's cleary the greatest skater of this current generation, and warrants discussion already among the best of all time. Congrats to Kim, even though I'll hear about it from every Korean I meet until I stab myself and end my misery.

South Korea World Cup Profile

Here is the Sports Illustrated team profile for South Korea for the upcoming World Cup. Anyone who follows soccer on a regular basis, will know that South Korea has a tough road to plow, considering their group consists of Argentina, Greece and Nigeria.

Bryan Armen Graham, the profile's author, says the most important game for the Koreans is their first match against Greece. This is true for sure. Greece is the team that South Korea has the best chance of getting three points against. But that doesn't mean it's easy. Though this isn't the same Greek team that won the 2004 European Championship, they're still a tough squad.

South Korea plced first in their qualifying group, but they come from a region that is worse than the USA's region. That's saying something.

Korea had a very memorable run to the semi-finals on their home turf in 2002, which culiminated in a last-place finish. Anything can happen, but South Korea's chances are not looking great in this one. Of course, their group was a monster in 2002 as well, and they fared just fine.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What Goes Around Comes Around

Koreans experienced joy and heartbreak thanks to ridiculous speedskating rules.

Lee Seung-hoon won the men's 10,000 meter gold Tuesday when his opponent, and reigning world record holder, failed to change lanes at the appointed time/location.


But today, in a soul-crushing blow, the FOUR-TIME DEFENDING CHAMPION South Koreans were disqualified in the final of the women's 3,000 meter relay. The Koreans crossed the line first, but were disqualified after a judges review. Making it more painful, is that China was then awarded gold. The US benefited as well, picking up the bronze.

I walked in to talk to Ridia today and found her with tears in her eyes while sitting at her desk. She was watching the race, but she hadn't yet found out they were disqualified. She was crying tears of joy, waiting for the review. When she found out they lost, she immediately stood up and left the room, most likely for a little more crying. Nationalism is a very strange thing in Korea, isn't it?

First Dance Performance Delayed

I wondered if this might happen and I'm not surprised. I found out Tuesday that my dance performance will be delayed for two weeks because the other students aren't prepared yet. I have the routine down solid, but an extra two weeks can only make it better for me. And I want it to be the best.

Winter camp is finally coming to a close after two grueling months, with a couple varied weeks in between. We're finishing up with the fourth graders. They've been a fun group to work with this week.

It's the fewest we've had in a grade level so far. I suspect that has something to do with this being the last week of school vacation. A lot of kids are probably on trips.

We get a three day weekend because Monday is a special national holiday. Known simply as 3-1, the date refers to a movement that took place in 1919 in which Koreans started to stand up to Japanese occupants and push for their independence.

Check out a Wikipedia article about it right here.

As March begins, we get back into our normal routine with some slight changes. We'll now teach 4 morning classes, instead of the usual 3. But that knocks out afternoon classes down to 2, instead of the usual 3. I kind of like it better this way. Ridia came up with the schedule, and as of now, it feels like it will be a more efficient way to use our time.

Other than that change, things will be back to normal.

Ridia said we had more kids sign up for the afternoon classes. Apparently, they really enjoyed our winter camps and wanted to learn with us some more. This is a great sign for us, and makes us look really good to the principal.

The weather is turning to Spring, thankfully. It's rainy today, but the temperature is nice and comfortable. Hopefully my ridiculous utilities bill will come down, and my comfort in my house will go up.

This week after vacation has flown by, and I'm thankful for that. I certainly didn't want to slog through this week after having some rest. Dance has been good all week, and classes have gone well.

I'm pretty happy right now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kim Sets Record ... Takes Early Lead

Yeah, she's that good.

While it's technically not over yet, Kim Yu-na has basically locked up the gold medal for South Korea in women's figure skating by setting a world record with a score of 78.50 (ed.) points in the short program. The long program is still to come, but Kim has a comfy 4.72-point cushion over her biggest rival.

Monday, February 22, 2010

President Obama, Please Stop Talking ... Forever

Obama once again praised the structure of the South Korea academic system, even going as far as to say the US should implement more after-school programs. Obama has a huge boner for South Korean schools, and it's a bit difficult to see why.

No more talking, please

From the story:

'In March last year, only one month into his assuming president, for example, he called for the United States to look to South Korea in adopting longer school days and after-school programs for American children to help them survive in an era of keen global competition.

Obama's remarks came as a surprise to many South Koreans at that time as the country's education system has been under constant public criticism due to its lack of creativity and heavy dependence on private tutoring.

South Korean bloggers were not necessarily euphoric about Obama's renewed comment. A blogger commented that the South Korean government should give Obama an award for elevating Korea's international image. Another said, "It's good to be complimented. But I fear his frequent compliments on the Korean education might mislead some South Korean politicians to really believe that the Korean educational system is good enough."'

There's a lot going on there. I will never claim that America's educational system is perfect, but when I was growing up, standardized testing was still minimal. Of course, these days, students face a ton of terrible standardized tests. I don't think most teachers have given into soley teaching to ace the test, but it's moving that way. When I was a reporter, various school boards encouraged teachers to focus only on things that would help the test scores improve. After all, good test scores = more government money.

The problem in Korea right now is that they have already reached the point where students are studying basically just for the test. It's all memorization and no creative thinking.

That problem is addressed in yet another Korea Times article, right here.

From that story:

'Korean students still spend most of their study for rote memorization, while companies complain that new recruits lack problem-solving abilities.

The fundamental problem lies in that school tests are still based on multiple-choice questions that prompt students to choose the "right" answer from the preset choices, dampening their creativity to solve unforeseen problems as adults encounter in their real life.'

I think this is a real problem in society. America, while never finishing super-high in rankings, has a lot of creativity under its belt. Look at all the famous inventors and ideas that have come from America, if you need an example.

Like I said, it's unfortunate, but America seems to be going the way of Korea. This is NOT good. Both countries need to find a better system. I have no clear answers for them, or else I'd probably be swimming in my coin-filled vault right now.

But as that blurb states, companies find that their employees are having trouble solving problems. The reason is, of course, that in real life, there's no multiple choice section for which to cram.

Lengthening a school day has no benefits if the students just sit their memorizing. So President Obama, for the sake of the future, please never talk again.

Kim Dae-jung Leaves Some Cash To His Family

This story about former President Kim Dae-jung, who died last August, says he's leavng the equivalent of $1.09 million to his family.

The fact that he's leaving a fairly large portion of cash to his family isn't too interesting. After all, he was president of South Korea as the country hit it's stride in manufacturing and global trade. It's what his family is using the money for that is pretty neat.

From the story:

'Lee plans to spend the inheritance to support projects that cherish the spirit of her deceased husband, a life-long pro-democracy leader, Choi said.
He served as president from 1998 to 2003 during which he held the first inter-Korean summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

After the summit in June 2000, he won the Nobel Peace Prize later that year in recognition of his lifelong fight for democracy and reconciliation between the two Koreas.'

So with his struggle to reconcile with the North one of his main passions, will his wife do anything with that money to help improve those relations? It's not a ton of cash on the global stage, but she might be able to make an impact in Korea if she is smart about it. We'll see what she does.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

All Is Very Well

After my little vent session a week or so ago, things started to turn around and everything is going incredibly well right now. I'm currently on vacation, which is just extraordinary. I was really starting to get stress and this was totally necessary. Not going on a trip does not bother me at all, because I have a bunch of other things to keep me occupied.

The first is, of course, dance. We had a couple days off for the new year, but thanks to vacation, I've been able to focus a bit more on it this week, rather than worrying about getting home so late and not getting enough sleep. That lack of sleep would cause me to have a bad practice every couple of weeks and totally draw blanks on the routine. But as of now, I'm feeling pretty good about the patterns.


All the good stuff during my break has involved dance and my dance friends, actually. On Friday, after class, a group of about 10 of us went out for some dinner and drinks. It was really great to hang with them outside of class. I got to practice my Korean a lot, which has improved dramatically over the past couple of weeks, as my comfort level increases.

As the group dwindled Friday, four of us ended up staying together and out even later to continue the fun. I started to really get to know them well, including Jeong Mi Park, who will now have a more steady role in my life.

On Saturday, I got to just hang out and relax. We had no dance because of the new year. I was originally invited to Jeong Mi's house for the celebration, but her family had some things to deal with, and I had to accept a rain check.

On Sunday, I met with Jeong Mi and my dance buddy Eun Sang, who happens to be the only dance student who speaks English well, or really at all. The three of us went to 'The Lightning Thief" and had lunch together. 

Then, we all met up with 6 more training/performance team members and went to a salsa club in Seoul. It was a lot of fun. I danced with all my girls a couple of times, but then they encourages the guys to dance with random chicks, and I pretty much froze. Everyone there was so good, and it's hard to get out there for that. But I got to see a lot of new moves and talented dancers and had a wonderful time.

After that, the group of us went back to Bupyeong and got dinner and drinks. We really had a fun time. And I let everyone know that I really liked Jeong Mi. Apparently, they all had a sense that the two of us were already a couple.

Monday was a total recovery day after getting home at about 6 a.m. in the morning.

But on Tuesday, Jeong Mi came to my house and I made her lunch. It was Kraft Mac 'n Cheese and chicken breast with peppers. Haha. That may not sound fancy to you, but it's been a long time since I enjoyed some Mac 'n Cheese.

That day is important because after that, we talked and decided we really enjoyed each others' company and became a couple, officially.

Now, this is huge for many reasons. The biggest is that she does NOT speak English. When I dated Vicky, I was studying Korean, but we based our communication on English. This is totally opposite. We have to base our communication on Korean because there's no other option. Haha.

What's nice is this girl and I seem to have a really good connection as far as communication goes. My Korean is now good enough that most people get what I'm trying to say, but Jeong Mi truly understands me for whatever reason. And she's able to explain her thoughts to me in a way that I always understand. It's a really nice connection.

It means that my Korean studying is currently proving itself invaluable, while also improving every day. It's a really cool feeling to meet someone you connect with so well, even though I'm speaking my third language with her.

Everyone at dance is really excited for us. We're all a tight-knit group, and it's so much fun to be a part of it.

So that's the big news as of now. I'm taking things day by day, but since that venting post, everything has been coming up roses for Aaron. Happy and healthy. That's a good start to a new year.

So Much Sporting

The Chinese team stuck it to the other Asian nations by taking home the East Asian Championship. Should other countries worry? No. Not even a little bit. But congrats to China.


China is also jumping on the Koreans in speedskating, a sport that the Koreans have dominated in recent years. Nothing like getting in the head of your opponent. You know I love that. 


Speaking of getting in heads, Koreans HATE Apolo Anton Ohno. Why? There are two reasons. He is a threat to them, and he blames them when he doesn't win. Haha. Wonderful.


But I'll throw them a bone here, as Lee Sang-hwa pulled off a huge upset to win a gold medal this week.


And they get that previous bone because Shani Davis is America's current Wonder Skater. Davis defended his gold from 4 years ago in the 1,000 meter race. Number two in that race? A South Korean.

Welcome to 4D

It seems that the only place in the world where you can currently find the Fourth Dimension is right here in South Korea.

A theater close to Seoul is showing Avatar in 4D. That means you get the movie, as well as a shaking chair, smells and splashing water.

A group of my friends went to check this out and said whether you like the movie or now, the 4D part of it was really fun and worth the trip.

An Actual Informative Article About Native Speaking Teachers

Kang Shin-who throws us all a curve ball with what appears to be an actual news article regarding native speaking teachers in Korea. This one isn't just busting balls and filled with lies. As far as I can tell, he may have done a little legwork this time.

The story says that instead of trying to punish or deport foreigners who illegally give private tutoring lessons on the side, the government is trying to figure out a way to implement taxes on them.

"Kim Chul-woon, director of the Private Institute Monitoring Team at the ministry, said, "It is hard to control the mushrooming illegal private tutoring, so it would be better for immigration offices to allow foreigners to tutor privately and impose taxes on that income."

The National Tax Service also supports the idea of opening the tutoring market to foreigners and making them pay taxes on the money they make."

Now, I could be mistaken, but that appears to be a logical solution to what is now considered an annoying problem for both the government, teachers who want to make some extra cash and students who are willing to pay for it.


Judges Told To Behave Themselves???

This goes back to a series I've been following with the help of Asadal on a certain level of respect being maintained among Korean culture. After a 69-year-old man was urged to behave himself in court by a judge, some members of the "media" have been discussing weather or not the honorific words and phrases in Korean society are becoming a thing of the past. Check out the other posts here and here.

The Korea Times put out an editorial on the situation and unsurprising sided with the old man.

"A recent complaint by a 69-year-old plaintiff in a civil lawsuit reminded the public of how he was humiliated by a 39-year-old judge at the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul last April. According to the National Human Rights Commission that conducted a probe into the case, the judge told the plaintiff, ``You are acting like an undisciplined child. Behave yourself." The judge made the remarks when the plaintiff repeatedly spoke without his permission.

It is generally improper for a young person, no matter who he or she is, to utter such words to the elderly. It runs counter to traditional Confucian values in Korean society, which call for respect for your elders. The plaintiff claimed that his human rights were infringed upon by the judge's harsh words. And the commission accepted his claim and recommended that the court issue a reprimand to the judge for his use of the inappropriate expression. The chief of the court did what he was told by the rights panel."

Dear Korea,
     Hi! I'm the year 2010! Have we met yet? I would love to be your friend, but you've got a few issues you need to sort out first. Please call me when you figure out what you're doing with your life.
The Present

Weapons at the G20???

An editorial in The Korea Times points out that certain concealed weapons may not be detected at ports of entry and are now being traded freely among bad guys.

The G20, scheduled in November in Seoul, will bring some of the world's most influential leaders out for discussions. Korea is always trying to establish itself among the global elite, and is taking the best precautionary measures it can to make sure things go well.

"They are made from such materials as zytel and grivory, both reinforced plastics. Some of them have blades over 18 centimeters and can inflict fatal injuries.

They are classified as "pseudo-knives" in Korea because they are not made of metal, and so can be possessed without legal permission.

Making them even more problematic is that it is highly likely that terrorists could smuggle them in, considering that current checks are not fool-proof. Only 10 percent of arrivals undergo thorough checks by hand and metal detectors fail to provide 100 percent detection."

While they have some work to do to ensure people's safety, they've got some time to get things together. They're going to be just fine. Although, the protests will be massive. Yikes.

Vacation Update

Hello everyone. Over the last week or so, I've been neglecting my self-imposed responsibilities to keep updating this site with fresh content. The reason for that is quite simple: I'm on vacation. This is the first real vacation I've had in Korea besides a couple long weekends. Unfortunately, due to some timing issues and other commitments, I can't use it to travel. So I've been hanging around locally and just relaxing. After my big "venting" post, it has certainly been helpful.

Over the next few posts, I'll put up a few groups of stories that I have found interesting and bookmarked, even though most of them are old news now. Then, I'll close it all off with a little update on dance, school and personal life. So check it all out!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Plane Crew Deported

Thailand officials will deport the 5-man crew of the plane that was held in Thailand after it stopped for refueling, enroute from North Korea. The Thai government says it's not in their interest to prosecute the men, and will let their home governments take care of it. The government of Thailand has dropped the charges.

Check out the video here.

Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day Sharing the Stage

This year, 설날 (Lunar New Year) and Valentine's Day both fall on the same day. I hate to say it, but I don't really remember what I did last Lunar New Year. I don't think I was with Vicky's family.

The reason I say that is because the Lunar New Year is one of the two big family gathering holidays here in Korea. The family's usually go to the home of the eldest brother of a family. Of course, it's just as common to go to the grandparents' house as well. Either way, they gather, do 세배 (a formal bow of respect to the elders), receive a little pocket money for that bow and then eat dinner with the family.

At the Bamboo Lunar New Year party, they had a pig's head set up on a table with 10,000 won bills stuffed in its face. The one girl who I currently love showed me how to do the bow. It's actually the first time in Korea I did an official 세배.

Valentine's Da y here is a bit different than back home. I'm sure I wrote about it last year, but I'm not sure where or when. Anyway, in Korea on Valentine's Day it's tradition for the girls to give gifts to the guys. Next month, on March 14, the guys give gifts to the girls.

I didn't expect anything this year, considering I'm single, but the kindness of my Bamboo friends came through again. Four of those beautiful girls brought in chocolates for the guys. Two of the girls gave homemade chocolate. Now I know to prepare for next month.

The row with my latest reprimand is blowing over. Thank goodness for that. Ridia and I vented together at the Hambak Welcome/Farewell teacher party. The food was good, and I rocked the singing room as usual. I brought in two 100s and four 99s. not too shabby, on a scoring system that doesn't actually mean a thing. Haha.

I'm going out drinking after dance tonight with some of my classmates. I'm so excited because the chick I currently love is coming. She speaks no English. I think I like her more because of that.

Fafa, one of the owners of Bamboo, invited me to his home on Saturday to celebrate the Lunar New Year. He mentioned it earlier in the week, but hasn't brought it up since then. It would certainly be fun to join him. It was a really nice gesture on his part.

I don't know I mentioned this already, but my first performance will be the last Saturday of this month. I'm super excited.

So even though the school thing sucked this week, all is continuing to go pretty well this year. Happy Valentine's Day and Lunar New Year to everyone!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kim Yu-na Raking It In

It's no real surprise here, but an article on Yahoo Sports lists South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na as tied for first in most money earned last year by Olympic athletes.


Any Korean who becomes the best at his or her respective sport has trememndous opportunities to make tons of cash considering the major corporations that are currently boosting this country.
So it makes perfect sense that she's rolling in green (That's dollars. I guess in won she'd be rolling in blue, green and yellow.). Anyway, it's an interesting article.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Big Time Venting

Yesterday, I was called into the English Dept. head's office for the third time this school year to be reprimanded. It was also the third time tha I was reprimanded WITHOUT ANY JUSTIFICATION.

A recap:

Number 1

The first time Julie (English Dept. head) called me into her office was less than a week after I arrived. Our former co-teacher, Grace, was quitting, and everyone was stressed to extreme capacity and taking it out on the native speakers. Welcome to Korea (1).

I was introduced during morning announcements with another new, Korean, male teacher. I didn't know who he was though. So at lunch, I pointed to him and asked Grace, "Who is he? Who's the new teacher that was introduced with me."

I could tell she didn't fully understand what I was asking, but I didn't realize how dumb she was. Even if she didn't know who he was, she could clearly see me pointing right at him and asking who this particular person was.

Well, Julie came to me later to ask me who told me about the new English teacher and about who told me Grace was quitting. I told her that Grace informed me she was quitting, and no one told me about an English teacher.

Julie then insisted I knew who the knew English teacher was (even though one had NOT yet been hired). She even went as far as to interrogate me about what other Korean teachers I've been speaking with lately.

Finally, I was able to convince her that I was asking about the man who turned out to be the volleyball coach.

Number 2

The second scolding is worse than the first, because I was doing something which I was actually instructed to do.

Julie forced Geoff and I to do a teacher's class. We went to the designated spot and waited. The teachers were not there, but Koreans are notoriously late. The day before, for the same class, they arrived 20 minutes late. Well, we were there for 30 minutes, and passing time by talking to Katie, who is another native speaker.

Well, Julie saw us sitting there and was furious. She asked why we didn't go back downstairs, and demanded to know what we were doing.

I told her we were waiting for the teachers. They were late the day before, so we were just waiting for them to come.

She told us that next time no one shows up, we should go back to our office.

But I'm willing to bet that if we went back to out office, we would get yelled at for not waiting for the teachers. It's a no-win situation. Welcome to Korea (2).

Third time's a charm

Once again, Julie asked me if I had time to chat. So yesterday, I went to her office and heard a laundry list of false statements and insults.

First, she said the head teacher told her I was always "hanging around" the classroom. I'm not even 100 percent sure what that means. She then informed Julie that I always left the classroom during class time to "Twitter." Yes, that's exactly what she said.

I angrily told her I was offended and insulted and that I NEVER leave the classroom for anything like that. The only reasons I leave the classroom is to make copies and get pencils and erasers. That's it.

To make this lie even worse, the head teacher has no way to even see me in the classroom. My classroom is connected to my office, but neither can be seen from the receptionist's desk. And she's never actually come into my classroom. So where did she even get this shit from? Welcome to Korea. (3)

Then, Julie brought up the fact that I'm now opting out of lunches. I was told from day one that I could opt out of our school lunches. I have to pay something like $44 equivalent/month to get a school lunch every day. And it's food I don't like. It's always rice, kimchi, a gross soup and some meat. Maybe once a month we'd get chicken. Other than that, I wasn't satisifed at all.

So after our winter camp, during which we brought out own lunch, I decided to opt out. It's cheaper for me to bring my own lunch and I can eat food I like.

Well, Julie said the principal asked why I haven't been at the cafeteria. She told him, rightfully so, that I don't like the food.

So yesterday, she said I should really think about getting the school lunch again. I told her that was absolutely not possible in any way.

She then said I shouldn't look so upset when I do go to the cafeteria. She told me that it's unprofessional to show my emotions. Maybe I could just give a fake smile, she suggested. Welcome to Korea (4).

She then went onto apologize about the classroom leaving accusation and say our talk is not a big deal.

I told her, at this point barely able to keep from screaming, that our talk was a big deal and I was incredibly insulted. I was called unprofessional and accused of being a poor teacher. At one point, she even said she was disappointed in me and that I had a great opportunity here and I shouldn't blow it. That's exactly what she said.

The fallout

I don't know fully yet what it will be. I'm in my fourth month at this school and I've been reprimanded three times for absolutely no reason except whatever fairy tale is in their heads.

To make matters worse, we have ANOTHER goddamn school dinner tonight. But for this one, we're forced to pay 20,000 won ($20) to attend. I told Ridia I would go but I wouldn't eat or drink. I have dance class tonight and I don't want to go anyway.

Well, Julie informed me that she paid 20,000 won for me. I told her there was absolutely no way I was accepting that. She kept insisting that I can't pay her back and that I could owe her a favor. As soon as I heard "favor," I went down, grabbed money and brought it back up to her.

As much as I don't want to pay to go to a dinner with bad food and terrible employers, the last thing in the world I want is Julie to hold a favor over me.

This is the big problem with Korea. I was having a pretty good time here so far this year. I obviously had some complaints about the shitty way this school is run, but I was able to brush it off.

But it's getting closer to the last straw for me. I'm an adult. I'm the best teacher that they have. I work very hard to make sure the students have a good in-class experience.

I refuse to be treated like a child. And I won't accept they're excuse of: "This is just Korea culture." I don't care if it's culture. It's childish and it's petty and it's illogical.

If the people of this country ever hope to be taken seriously by the rest of the world, they'd better change their fucking culture. I do my very best to fit into Korea and accept things. But the way they treat native speakers, whom they desperately need at this point in time, is totally unacceptable.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Check Out Asadal

A very friendly and well-informed K-Blogger, who runs the blog 'Asadal Thought,' added some comments to my post about the decrease in honorific word usage. He allowed me to pick out some of his comments to post on here as a follow-up. Instead of picking random things out, however, I'll be posting most of it.

So here's what he had to say:

As for the judge example, I think they were wrong to translate “beoreuteopda (버릇없다)” as "rude," because it's actually stronger than that. A "beoreut" is actually a habit, or a manner, which makes it more similar to saying "you've got no manners," which I think is more a comment on a person's character than simply a comment on someone's actions at a certain point in time.

That said, I agree with you that a certain level of manners and politeness should be required in court. It's interesting the article never actually mentions who the guy was. When I read it first I got the impression he was the defendant, but looking back over it it never actually says this. Surely the actual defendant would have better sense than to be rude to a judge. But still, rude is rude, and I also agree that the judge seemed to be well within his rights to reprimand him. Perhaps there would have been a better way of doing it though, as it's not very becoming of someone in such an official position as a judge to be telling people they have no manners. Maybe a good old "such behaviour is not acceptable in court. I will have to ask you to refrain," would have been better.

It's true that recently officials have got a bit of a reputation for unnecessary rudeness, and as an outsider I might be inclined to put that down to an abuse of the authority and respect bestowed upon them by their position in a Confucian context. I've written about the altered nature of Confucianism in the Korean education system before in this post, and I think a lot of it's relevant in a wider Korean context as well.

As for judges, I think they should really use the most formal, neutral words. After all, the principle requirement for their job is to be impartial, and it's hard to do so if you're speaking to people in a way in which you know can be considered rude.

He followed that up, as well, with a better explanation of "imnida" (입니다) an "yo" (요):

Neither is more polite than the other. Therefore, a student using the "yo" form to a teacher is not being rude. They are being informal but polite, and this is considered appropriate. The other form you mentioned, that drops the "yo," is known as the impolite informal, but it's important to note that if it's used in the appropriate situation - such as to a friend or someone close but younger - it is also not rude or improper. Then you have the honourific forms, which involve using the honourific infix, shi (시), which is irregular in the "yo" form. This means that the verb to do (하다), becomes in the honourific forms of each form: 하십니다 (honourific polite formal), 하세요 (honourific polite informal), 하셔 (honourific impolite informal).

Use of the first set of forms depends on the situation - who you are talking to, where you are, etc. Use of the second set, the ones with the honourific infix, is determined by who is doing the action as well as the situation. So, if I was talking to a close friend, asking them when their parents are coming, I could say "언제 오셔?" I've dropped the "yo" because I'm talking to my friend - the situation doesn't require it, but because it's their parents who are doing the action I'm inquiring about, I also include the honourific infix.
So as you can see, he knows what he's talking about. His blog has a lot of really great cultural posts that are definitely worth checking out. I've added him to my blogroll, on the left, so you can get in on his thoughts, as well.

South Korea Warm Up Against Ivory Coast

South Korea will face the Ivory Coast next month in London as a warm up to the World Cup. This is certainly a good test for the Taegeuk Warriors.

Ivory Coast is one of the strongest teams in Africa. Even though they famously flamed out at this year's Africa Cup of Nations, they're still considered by many to be a darkhorse as the first possible African World Cup champions. At the veyr least, I've read at least one soccer writer who pegged them to get to the finals.

Ivory Coast matches up well against any team in the world (except maybe Spain) with the fire power they have up front in Didier Drogba. But the rest of the squad leaves a lot to be desired. If the Koreans can control the midfield -- which they should be able to do -- they could easily sneak a 1-0 win on this one.

However, if they let balls get up front to Drogba, they won't have much of a chance.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nut Job Released

North Korean officials are, for some strange reason, releasing Robert Park back to the United States. Park, 28, was caught Dec. 25 when, like an idiot, he crossed into North Korea from China on a missio to bring God's love to the North.

Park originally said he wouldn't leave until all the political prisoners were released. He seems to have changed his tune a bit, if the article is accurate.

From the story:
'In reporting the release, the Korea Central News Agency said, "The relevant organ of the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] decided to leniently forgive and release him, taking his admission and sincere repentance of his wrongdoings into consideration."'
Well, that's a pretty weak missionary, isn't it? He went in with this big goal of his, and ended up giving that up pretty quickly. I'm not so sure Jesus would've ever let this guy crack the Big 12, or even the top 100.

Another interesting piece of the story:
'KCNA earlier carried a lengthy account of what were said to be Park's misunderstandings about the North and how they had been proved wrong since he had crossed the border.
During an interview with North Korean authorities, he reportedly told investigators that "he was taken in by the false rumor spread by the West and committed a criminal act in the end."'
Ah, now it's starting to make sense. He was taken in by false rumors from the West. So, let me get this straight, and keep in mind that I'm being totally sarcastic and cynical. This crazy, embarrassing excuse for a human being wondered into the North on this grand mission from God. But, he was apparently treated quite well by the officials and citizens.

So, he decided that maybe all that stuff about political prisons, people dying of starvation and other terrible stories are just myths that the West thought up for no good reason.

Well, that makes perfect sense to me. But, one quick questions ... Do we have to take this guy back???

Honorific Words Decreasing?

A Korea Times column says there is a big decrease in the use of honorific words in the country. One of the trademarks of the Korean language is the fact that different endings on words and phrases signifies the level of respect and honor it shows the person to whom you're speaking.

There are three levels. One is super-polite, where "im ni da" is on the end of everything. This is the one that would be used for grandparents or bosses. The next one is formal but not overly polite. This is the one that puts "yo" on the end of everything. It can be used with friends who or older than you or carry a higher job title.

The last one drops the endings altogether and simply uses the word or phrase itself. Sometimes, "ya" is put on the end of this one because it is more comfortable for Koreans to end statements and words with that sound.

The weird thing is the anecdote the column uses to display its proof of a drop off.

From the column:

'This concern was highlighted recently when a 39-year-old judge reprimanded a 69-year-old man during a trial, saying the latter was behaving “rude.”

Many Koreans found the “young” judge’s remark very “inappropriate.” The oldman indeed may have behaved in an ill-mannered way. But in the Korean language, the term “beo reut eop da” (rude) is exclusively used by an older person in rebuking someone who is younger. For many Koreans, the judge’s remark was unacceptable because the role was reversed and he was 20 years junior to the oldman.'
 I understand the guy was older, but -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- a judge is in a position of authority and should be the one commanding the most respect in that room. It shouldn't matter that the man was older. And for that matter, he was on trial and probably was being quite rude.

I don't know how society used to be, but I can tell you that students ALMOST NEVER use the polite forms of words. Ninety percent of them only use the casual to teachers, other adults and authority figures.

Koreans my age and a little older still know to use the super-polite with their bosses and other superiors, but I don't hear them use it when speaking to their parents or grandparents. I understand that it's family so they're very close, but by conditioning them not to use it like that, it only makes sense that it becomes less frequent.

I use the formal "yo" almost all the time. With my very close Korean friends, with younger Korean friends and even with students most of the time, I use the "yo." I realize I don't have to, but it puts me in the habit of using it. That way, if I am talking to a boss or grandparents or someone like that, I'm conditioned to be polite.

It's true that many foreigners learning the language don't do this. Now, many of those who learn only learn survival words and phrases. They understand that there are different levels of formality, but they aren't concerned with learning it, using the fact they're foreign as a way to excuse themselves from it.

It does make me cringe when I am with someone who uses a Korean phrases without an honorific ending. I don't want to be grouped in as someone who doesn't respect the country enough to be polite and formal. Of course, that's why I try to do most of the talking when it's to Koreans. Haha.

Brian Deutsch Leaving Korea

A fond farewell goes out to Brian Deutsch. Brian is a fellow Pittsburgher and the current premier KBlogger in the land. A link to his blog can be found on the left side of my blog.

Everyone should go check out the profile done on him by The Korea Times. It's certainly worth reading.

Brian served the foreigner community very well with his blog, and certainly there is a huge hole to fill when he goes.

Thanks for everything, Brian!

Chinese and North Korean Officials Meet

China, the one country with any real diplomatic ties to North Korea, sent an envoy over this week to have a discussion. Though an official statement has not yet been released about the topic, South Korean agencies have relayed their ideas.

From the story:

'On Sunday, Wang and North Korean Workers' Party officials held talks in Pyongyang and exchanged views on strengthening ties between the communist neighbors and "matters of mutual concern," the official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief dispatch. ...
 'South Korean media, including the Yonhap news agency, have reported that Wang's trip to North Korea appears aimed at pushing the communist North to rejoin the six-party talks on dismantling its nuclear program in return for aid and other benefits.'

Realistically, China probably has the best chance at persuading the North back into nuclear dismantling talks. The North sees the Chinese as an ally, whereas they see the US as an enemy.

But at the end of the story, North Korean officials reiterated that they would like to build a better relationship with the US. I suppose the best way for North Korea to go would be to get on the good sides of the world's two reigning super-powers. Not a bad move, there.

Floating Island Makes Headlines

A small story about Seoul's man-made island in the middle of the Han River was on Yahoo News. The island will be party of an entertainment complex. There hasn't been much talk of it in the English-language news over here yet, but I'm sure when it nears completion, we'll hear more about it.

From the story:

'"We hope that the floating island will serve as Seoul's new landmark," a Seoul city government spokeswoman said.'

World Cup Prep

Japan and Korea will be preparing for the World Cup in the East Asian Championships being played currently in Tokyo. China and Hong Kong will also be in the tourney, though not in the World Cup.

For the World Cup, Japan has been drawn in Group E against Cameroon, Denmark and the Netherlands at the World Cup finals while the Koreans are in Group B with Argentina, Nigeria and Greece.

I expect the Japanese and Koreans to meet in the final of the East Asian Championships, with Korea prevailing.

South Korea World Cup Flashback

Here's a great story on of South Korea's second appearance in the World Cup back in 1986. They were drawn in a tough group that included Argentina.

Here's what Maradona had to say about playing the Koreans, whose current coach, Huh Jung-moo, was a member of that 1986 team.

'"I remember Huh very well, of course," Maradona recently told the Argentine media, after South Korea were drawn with Argentina, Nigeria and Greece in a tricky-looking group for this summer's tournament. "In 1986, the Koreans played taekwondo - not football - against us. I still remember Huh."'

That's a pretty funny statement. The Argentinians and Koreans will meet again this summer. It should be a slightly different match, but don't expect a different result.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Salsa Video #2

And here's salsa video #2 for me. I'm going to an extra class on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help prepare me faster for performing.

This video was taken this Tuesday.

Check out my salsa moves here.

Lunar New Year Party

Even though the Lunar New Year isn't until Feb. 14, Bamboo Academy celebrated it last weekend with a performance and dance party.

The performance showed off the Gold Team, Ladies Team and Shango Team. They were really incredible. The place was packed with people, there was a ton of food and drinks and there were a lot of talented dancers.

The party was a blast. There was one small problem for a guy like me. It was hard to get out on the floor to dance. There were so many talented dancers who were there, that it made me feel bad about my feeble skills.

Now, I know I shouldn't be comparing my skills to theirs, considering I've only been doing this two months, but it's hard to ask a girl to dance right after another dude showed her awesomeness. That's like dating a girl who just broke up with Peter North.

It was a great time, nonetheless. Here are some videos. This is the Gold Team and Ladies Team and the Shango Team. Thanks, Jay, for taking the time and getting these up for me!

Gold Team

Ladies Team

Shango Team

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kim Jong-il Created New Race of Subhumans???

Here's an article from a very left-leaning Slate on the wackiness of Kim Jong-il's incredibly depressing empire. There's a lot of talk about brain washing and totalitarianism. It also talks about racist nationalism. Hmm ... this is starting to sound familiar. Haha.

The one super-interesting part of the article is the picture of the Korean peninsula at night. It's pretty easy to see where the border is.

Korean Men Getting All Dolled-Up

This is a hilarious story about how many Korean men are starting to wear makeup.


I have no problem with a little product in the hair, skin lotion to keep you looking fresh and a little cologne. But I think it's a bit weird for guys to be applying any kind of foundation or blush or eye shadow. Though, I will allow eyeliner, because I am super emo.
Hilarious quote from the story:

'"Men are interested in looking good, too. I thought men also had the right to enjoy their life, looking good with cool makeup on," said Kim Doo-ha, director of Loft:D.'
He talks about men wearing "cool makeup." HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

There's a reason most men don't wear makeup. It softens your appearance and makes you appear more feminine. I'm not perfect in any way, even though I did go to Handsome Boy Modeling School. (It was the best $60 I've ever spent. If not for Handsome Boy Modeling School, I'd probably be a model in some Balkan country ... still.)

Yet, this is one of Korea's current cultural trend. The celebrities -- especially singers -- all look very feminine. In some cases, it's hard to tell who is a chick and who is a dude.

Oh well. Welcome to Korea. Cue Buffalo Bill dance (the killer, not the football team.)

He's wearing makeup. It must be cool!

And P.S. -- The girls still want a masculine guy. That's a fact.

US Trade Losing Out In Korea

This story in The Korea Times is pretty much a tribute to Captain Obvious, but it is interesting in terms of financial issues, especially within the current financial crisis that will continue for awhile.

It is a brief explanation of how the US is losing a lot of ground in trade when it comes to Korea and most other Asian countries. With the emergence of China, the re-emergence of Russia and the always-solid (in recent decades) Japan, Korean officials are shifting their trade focus to those three giants.

From the story:
'South Korea was able to rise from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War on the back of international aid, most of which came from the United States.

The world's largest economy imported Korea's agricultural products, garments and other manufactured goods from the 1950s through the '70s on favorable terms to help the Asian nation outpace the Communist North Korea.

The U.S. also provided Korea with flour and other basic necessities at lower costs to help it feed its people. It was the country's largest trading partner over the past five decades.

But its influence in what is now Asia's fourth-largest economy has been diminishing rapidly over the last 10 years, with Korea expanding trade relations with China, Russia and other emerging economies.'
 This is not something that will cause a huge reaction anywhere, really, because it just makes sense. When the US began it's trading with the Koreans, China, Japan and Russia really didn't exist as economic powers go. But as those countries rise in global supremancy, it is just natural for Korea to look to them more, as opposed to the US, which is 7,000 miles away.

This Is Just Painful

National soccer icon Park Ji-sung scored his first goal of the season in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday.

The worst part is that it was against Arsenal, and could damage their title hopes significantly. In my former academy, all the students knew of my love for Arsenal. They would give me a very hard time about this.

Private English Lessons

Here's another story from crack Korea Times "reporter" Kang Shin-who. It's about native speakers giving illegal private English lessons outside of their private or public school job.

From the story:
'Asked whether he knows that such tutoring is against immigration regulations, he said, "I don't understand why it could be a problem. Most of my friends are doing part-time jobs like me."

Many foreigners are unaware that private tutoring is illegal. Under the Immigration Law, E-2 visa holders and foreigners on tourist visas are banned from making money through giving private lessons'

Now, this clearly is an issue here. It is against the law, yet a lot of native speakers do it to make extra cash. Regardless of how the people in this story feel like it's not a big deal, it is illegal under Korea's visa regulations.

This might be a legitimate story, as well. I find it hard to believe that this guy found three people willing to potentially incriminte themselves by agreeing to an interview for this story. Even though they use fake names, how hard would it by for Kang to go ahead and turn them in. He's made his dislike for foreigners fairly clear with his body of work thus far.

Of course, many native speakers who come here to teach are giant idiots. Last year, a poker game got busted in a native speaker's house. Gambling is illegal here. One of the accused poker players said Korean police should respect HER culture of gambling. Yes, that makes sense (sarcasm).

Yes, it sucks that giving private lessons is illegal, especially when people so clearly want them and are willing to pay a premium to get quality extra lessons. If you do it, you run the risk of being deported.

The chances of you being found out are slim, though I've hd two friends already who were reprimanded for their extracurricular lessons. One of those friends was threatened with deportation. He was forced to quit the extra job and pay the money back.

If you decide to give private lessons, good luck to you. I'm in the camp that sees no problem with it, yet I still recognize that we're breaking the law by doing it.