Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Changwon Visit

Dan, Colin and I went down South to Changwon to visit Jeremy and Brandon. Jeremy used to live here in Yeonsu-dong. Brandon currently lives in Gwangju, about 3 hours from Jeremy's place in Changwon. So we all came together to hang out and catch up.

We left Incheon on the bus Friday night at 11 p.m. The trip both ways takes about 4 and a half hours. We got there at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning and met with Jeremy and Brandon. We went to Jeremy's place to have a few drinks and hang out.

On Saturday, we got some lunch, but then went back to Jeremy's place to rest up and hang out. That night we went to a couple bars, but kept it pretty low-key. On Sunday, we watched some UFC fights, then hopped on the bus at about 3 p.m. We were back in Incheon by 8:30 p.m.

Check out the pictures here!

More On South Korean Gaming

CNN.com has yet another story on Korea's Internert addiction. 

I'm still not sure where I stand on this issue. While I think Internet addiction is very real, I wonder how much of it exists here, as opposed to any other country. I mean, is it more than other countries? Most importantly, I'm too lazy to look up any statistics.

But this issue gets a lot of coverage because of the tragedies that come from it. From the story:

'Some recent extreme cases of Internet addiction have made for some shocking headlines: Earlier this month a three-month-old baby girl succumbed to malnutrition while her parents spent 12-hour stretches in an Internet café playing the role-playing game Prius Online, police said.

In another tragedy last month, officials said a 22-year-old man returned to an Internet cafe to continue playing immediately after he murdered his mother, who had complained about his gaming habits. Physical exhaustion after long computer sessions has also caused deaths.'
I get it. In these cases, certainly an addiction looks to be at play. Of course, maybe these people were simply nuts in the first place.

The story mentions the 25,000 PC bangs giving kids unlimited, 24/7 access to kids even -- or maybe especially -- when they're outside of the home. What's funny is that the story mentions a price tag of about $1.10 per hour. Well, the PC bang in my building has a price of ... wait for it ... 44 cents per hour!

The government has a bunch of programs they're already using and even more in the works. My advice would be to introduce them to a more addictive substance at an earlier age to counteract the Internet addiction. But what could they use??? I have it: Soju!!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

North Korea World Cup Profile

I've been waiting for this excitedly. Here is the team profile for North Korea's World Cup squad.

This is the team's first World Cup finals appearance since a quarterfinals run in 1966, which saw them upset Italy 1-0.

They're up against a devastatingly brutal Group of Death, being drawn with Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast. Yes, that is a favorite to win (Brazil), an incredibly talented squad with potential for a deep run (Portugal) and the best African squad (Ivory Coast). Ouch.

The North Koreans only gave up 5 goals in 8 qualifying games, but they weren't playing teams with anywhere near the talent of their World Cup opponents. However, my buddy on my university roller hockey team always said: "If you don't give up any goals, the worst you can do is tie." Can three ties get them out of their group?

That's unlikely, but it would certainly be a good showing for the team.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Losing Hope In Sailor Search

It seems that rough waters and strong winds are making rescuers lose faith in finding any of the 46 sailors still missing after a South Korean Navy ship sank on Saturday.

There's still no conclusion on what sank the ship, but that shouldn't be the focus right now anyway. Keep these guys in your thoughts.

The site has some pretty heart-wrenching pics, so prepare yourself for it.

Yu-na Falls to Asada

Unexpectedly, Kim Yu-na, Olympic figure skating gold medalist, lost this weekend at the World Championships to her Japanese rival, Mao Asada.

Mao Asada

Apparently, due to the grind of the Olympics, many figure skaters choose to skip the World Championships in an Olympic year. Kim chose to attend and paid by making some costly errors, allowing Masada to overtake her for the first time in quite awhile.

I will surely have to hear about this for the next couple weeks, along with whines of cheating and unfairness. But fear not, Korea. I'm sure this isn't the end of your golden girl.

Naval Ship Sinks

I went on vacation this weekend to visit some friends in the south of the country (more on that later). While there, we learned what most of you already know -- A Korean navy ship sank in the Yellow Sea.

Here's a story 1 and here's a story 2.

The news stations down here were initially reporting that it was attacked by a North Korea war ship or coastal fire. The ship sank on Saturday near Baengnyeong Island, which is very close to the Northern Limit Line (NLL) that separates the international waters between the north and the south.

That wouldn't be a totally far-fetched assumption.

From the story:

'The NLL was the scene of fatal naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002. The two Koreas also exchanged naval gunfire in 2004 and 2009.'
And on top of that, North Korea recently said, once again, that they were ready to launch nukes at any time.

Since those initial reports, however, the tune of this story seems to be changing. We're now hearing it's possible that something on the ship malfunction and it blew itself up. There are also reports that the ship hit a floating mine.

Whatever happened, only 58 of the sailors have been rescued, while another 46 are still missing. The important thing right now is trying to save whoever they can still. Although, the water was only slightly above freezing, so chance of survival after a couple days is pretty slim.

Everyone back home, please keep in mind: We are all still safe over here. There have been conclusions jumped to immediately, and then repealed slightly. If you know of anyone teaching over here, you don't have to worry as of yet. All is still fine while the government is still searching for answers. If you're going to pray about anything, pray for the people still in that water or possibly trapped inside the ship.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

World Cup Upsets

This is a cool story about some big time World Cup upsets. It includes the US, South Korea and North Korea. Nothing wrong with that.

Copycat Border Crosser -- Equally Insane

I guess it was only a matter of time until another person went into North Korea after Robert Park did it in December.

Whack-job Park was captured but later released back to the United States -- as if anyone wanted him there.

From the story:

'North Korea announced Monday that Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 30, would stand trial after entering the country illegally. The trial date was not mentioned in a brief report in state media.

It was not immediately clear why Gomes, who taught English in South Korea, went to the communist country. However, activists in Seoul said he was an acquaintance of Robert Park, a fellow Christian from Arizona who crossed into North Korea on Christmas in a bold bid to draw attention to the country's human rights situation.'

The facts on Gomes:
1. He taught English in South Korea. I'm glad he's giving all of us a nice reputation.
2. He went to two rallies in Seoul for Park and was seen "weeping."
3. He's from Boston and is a devout Christian.

My opinion on Gomes:
1. This is unchanged from my opinion on Park. If he wants to go to North Korea so badly, they can simply keep him.

This story definitely qualifies for birds

How Powerful Is Samsung?

At least one person thinks their power is beyond control of their home country's government.

A campaign is currently being run to boycott Samsung because of certain illegalities taken by the government toward the company, in order to help it prosper.

From the story:

'When the Samsung management scattered about a slush fund of astronomical proportions, government organizations repaid the debt of gratitude by covering up all manner of illegalities and improprieties. The autonomy of a modern state “ruled by the authority of law” came crashing down. The fact that so many calls for direct action through a Samsung boycott campaign have erupted, chiefly through the Internet newspaper Pressian, can be attributed first and foremost to the rage citizens feel about being betrayed by the state.'

'Without a doubt, the illegalities and improprieties of Samsung’s management, their accounting manipulation, tax evasion and labor exploitation will be even more untrammeled in the future. The only source left for the power to contend with the omnipotence of Samsung, a conglomerate that does not even have a labor union, lies with the consumer.'

So here's a question to anyone who might be more familiar with this than I: How different is this from the US government bailing out the major financial institutions after they squandered the public's money and cooked their books???

Star Struck

An article in the Chosun Ilbo says young Koreans' obsession with celebrities is a troubling sign.

From the story:
'Twenty years later, kids.daum.net, a popular Internet portal for children, surveyed 10,478 kids about their preferred profession as adults and found that 41.6 percent or 4,364 of them wanted to be singers. When combined with the 892 (8.5 percent) who chose actor, 50.1 percent of the children surveyed wanted to be entertainers. Only 110 respondents said they wanted to be scientists, ranking 19th out of the favored professions.'
I see no problem with kids wanting to be entertainers. Of course, I come from a country where celebrity obsession is at a maximum. I think the star culture is ridiculous, but if a kid wants to be a singer or actor, why is that a problem?

Pyongyang Restaurants ... Just Not In North Korea

Here's an interesting article on slate.com about North Korean restaurants that are established outside of the country. They're fairly common in China, but this one is in Cambodia. These restaurants are established to help bring some cash back into North Korea.

This story is funny because it says that while the restaurants are busy, they're mostly filled with South Korean tourists.

From the story:
'The predominantly South Korean clientele claps and cheers, requesting reverb-drenched renditions of Korean pop classics.'
Like the workers sent to help on the World Cup stadiums, this is probably the closest thing a common North Korean citizen can get to a dream job, and it's still just doing their duty for the man in charge.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Bamboo Dance Academy

Bamboo opened up a new academy in Siheung, about 20 minutes from my current studio. We celebrated with food, drinks and dancing. We also did the traditional gesture of bowing to a decapitated pig's head in order to ask for good fortune in the future.

They asked me to participate to represent the international interests of the academy. I did it at the New Year's party as well, but that was just an open pig's head. This was the first time I'd done it as part of a thanking ceremony. It was cool that they involved me in it.

I will add some more pics of the actual event as soon as my Bamboo friends post them on the cafe message board. Until then, here are some basic shots of the new studio. It was built by one of the dance members. He did a great job.

Check out the pics here!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

So That's Why I Felt Sick

This weekend, Korea got hit by its worst yellow dust burst ever recorded, accoridng to The Korea Times. My allergies are bad enough, but when this terrible yellow dust rolls in, it hits me hard. I was definitely feeling sick this weekend, and this is clearly the reason.

From the story:

'The Korean Peninsula experienced its worst case of yellow dust ever recorded Saturday and Sunday, leading the weather administration to advise people to take extra care as more is expected this month.
A KMA spokesman said the dust storm was initiated in the Gobi. ``Dust from Neimenggu (Inner Mongolia) and the yellow soil of the Hwangho River valley (China) have also contributed to the record amount of pollutants in the air.

Another dust storm is heading here from the inner part of China, likely causing more dust across the nation by Monday,'' he said.'

Because of my already crappy allergies, I should just try to stay inside and wear a mask all day. Stupid yellow dust.


Maybe. But the timing is certainly perfect.

Two articles in The Korea Times are about sex crimes.

The first says that foreigners who committed a sex crime cannot enter or re-enter Korea. Apparently, in the past, there was a simply a waiting period before the criminal could come back and start again.

From the story:

'Foreigners convicted of such crimes were previously subject to deportation, but could re-enter the country after a five-year waiting period.

Since the regulations came into effect last month, two foreign residents confirmed to have committed sex offenses in the past were deported and permanently banned from entering the country again, according to officials.'

Also in The Korea Times today, is a story about a group of Koreans who are being charged with numerous sexual crime charges in Canada.

'Ha and both Lees face a total of 67 charges that also include administering drugs for sex and making child pornography.

The multiple alleged assaults involved four female victims ― three women and an underage girl ― who are said to have met the suspects through a Korean community church in the greater Toronto area.'
 Like I said, the timing of these two stories is simply perfect.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Going Out With A Bang

I made another pun, because a North Korean official was executed last week by ... firing squad! I didn't realize those things were still around.

Apparently, Pak Nam-ki, who was the chief for planned economy, took the heat and the blame for a failed currency reform. The story goes on to say that this act was done to quell some unrest that is happening in the wake of the power change between the ailing Kim Jong-il and his son.

From the story:

'The last straw for Pak's fate was the perception the policy blunder was going to affect the succession process, Yonhap said.
South Korea's defense minister said on Wednesday that Kim was struggling to keep the North under control as he tried to ensure the succession of power to his youngest son. But there is public unrest in the aftermath of the currency measure, which built on prevalent general social discontent.'

Yikes. Sounds a little more dicey than normal up there. Is the situation ripe for a rise of the proletatiat???

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jockey Suicide Article Raises Wrong Questions

A Korean jockey, Park Jin-hee, 28, was found dead on Friday. Her suicide note says she couldn't stand the pressures applied to her by some of the horse trainers.

From the story:

'"I'm an optimistic person. But the racecourse changed me to be like this. It took away a lot of things from me and pushed my self-esteem to rock bottom," she said in the note.

She said she could no longer cope with the intense competition she faced as a jockey.'
So she couldn't cope with the intense competition she faced as a jockey -- as a COMPETITIVE ATHLETE.

When I was in college, I dated this girl who was really hot, but for a variety of reasons made me miserable. You know what I did? I killed myself. Oh no ... wait ... I ended the relationship.

The headline of this story, as well as some of the writing in it, claims that people should be questioning the "ugly side of horse racing." Or, maybe, people should be questioning the ugly side of Koreans killing themselves when they face pressure.

I get that this chick loved racing horses. That makes sense to me. But if the pressure was too much, she should have quit. When I first arrived in Korea, I felt sympathy for these people. I still feel sympathy for their families and friends. But I've grown cold toward the people who commit suicide. Maybe I've just become a jerk (very likely), but I'm tired of reading these stories and seeing blame placed on everything except for the society of acceptance toward suicide that exists here.

North Falls to Mexico

In a battle of absolutely terrible places to live, the Mexicans beat the North Koreans 2-1 on Wednesday.

Mexico only played a handful of its projected World Cup starters, but this is still a pretty decent result for North Korea. They could gain a bit of confidence from it, and that's worth their effort.

Monday, March 15, 2010

North Korean Laborers Helping On World Cup Stadiums

Apparently, a thousand or so workers from North Korea are in South Africa right now helping to build World Cup stadiums.

I love this passage:
'Some 1,000 construction workers from reclusive North Korea, which maintains strict control on its citizens' travels, have been sent to help renovate stadiums across South Africa, the Seoul-based JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported Monday, citing unidentified sources.'

The AP article makes a point to say that the Korean newspaper cited unidentified sources. That's pretty funny. At least a South Korean official confirmed it.

Anyway, it's not so far-fetched to think that 1,000 North Koreans are working in South Africa. Apparently, the country ships out workers in order to get some more cash. These have to be coveted jobs. Even though it's not a fun job, it has to be great to get out of that country.

Too bad all the money they earn goes back to the 'State.'

This is the first time the North Korean national team has qualified for the World Cup since 1966.

First Salsa Performance Video!!!

The video is posted! I got the video of my first salsa performance up on Youtube today. Those of you without access to my Facebook page can check the video out on Youtube. The performance took place on Saturday, March 13, 2010. The video was taken by Popper Gopens, and my lovely partner is my girlfriend, Jeong Mi Park.


Korean Football Blog Now On The Blog Roll

I post a fair amount of soccer/football stories, but never go too in-depth on them. Well, thanks to a new K-Blogging buddy, you can get all the analysis you could ever want on Korean football/football players by checking out the Korean Football Blog. It's conveniently linked on my blog roll on the left side of the page. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Salsa Performance A Success!

My first salsa performance took place at Bamboo Salsa Academy on Saturday, March 13, 2010. Popper Gopens came to watch the show and also took pictures and video for me. My partner is my girlfriend, Jeong Mi Park.

There were a ton of people there and they were all very supportive with their cheering. One of the owners, Fafa, even interviewed us afterward. The show went really well and we were all spot on. I had a really great team and we had a lot of fun training together over the last 6 weeks or so.

It felt great to actually show off what I've been learning. It made all those sleepy days at the elementary school worth the late nights of practice.

There will be a video posted very soon.


Kissinger Hospitalized in Seoul

One of the legendary (infamous?) minds of American politics and diplomacy, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, was hospitalized in Seoul this weekend. He was also released this weekend, so he's apparently doing well.

From the second story:

'Kissinger's condition was "not serious" while he was being treated at Seoul's Severance Hospital and he had recovered after a day of medical treatment, spokesman Han Jin-ho said.'

I Hope They Have A Happy Life Together

A Korean man married a pillow. Seriously. Maybe it's less painful on his fists when he beats her???

Korean Style Of Dining Becoming Popular?

An article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says family-style dining is a good way to try some new dishes. Family-style is the way Koreans eat almost all of their food. It involves ordering dishes that everyone, for the most part, agrees upon, and sharing them.

I've grown accustomed to this way of eating, considering of been here for almost a year and a half now. And I even understand it as far as eating traditional Korean food goes. But it's still strange when we're in a western-style restaurant and Koreans do the same thing.

For example, Jeong Mi and I got Burger King today. She cut our burgers in half so we could share them. It's not the first time I've experienced something like that, but it's certainly the most recent.

This way of dining is kind of fun with a big group of people, because you'll have a pretty large selection of food to choose from. But if you're only with one or two other people, and only like one of the three dishes ordered, then you're kind of out of luck. They're going to eat that dish that you like, so you won't get a big portion of it. They'll also eat the dishes they like, which you'll have no interest in. Then you get to split the bill. Just one small negative to it.

Notice in the article that a Korean restaurant in Oakland is mentioned. That's just appropriate.

The North Gets Mixed Results

The North Koreans got a 1-1 draw and a 2-1 loss last week in games against Venezuela. While Venezuela did not qualify for this summer's World Cup, they're a tough opponent, and these aren't bad results for the North Koreans.

The Importance Of Knowing A Second Language

After a bus crash in Arizona last week, a bilingual 4th-grader helped paramedics and emergency workers by translating for non-English speaking passengers.

From the story:

'"This kid stayed calm and was brave more than any other veteran I've worked with," said Kenneth Leslie, a paramedic who, with his partner, was the first to arrive at the scene.'

This is a cool story because it highlights the importance of knowing a second language. In America, the best language to learn is definitely Spanish, considering the amount of Mexicans who have come to America. If you're in an Asian country, learning English and Chinese are the top priorities.

Those of us fortunate enough to have this opportunity teaching ESL should see this as a goal of ours. If one of my students is in an emergency situation, will they be a help or hindrance? Maybe this is an idea for a lesson one day. Put the kids in a high-stress simulation and see if they can pass. It can't be anything too serious. But maybe set up a scenario where another student is "hurt" and see if they can call an ambulance successfully.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

South Koreans Now a Dark Horse

After their convincing win over the Ivory Coast last week, South Korea is proving itself as a dark horse to make a run in the World Cup this June. It's going to take a huge effort to even get out of their group -- which includes Argentina, Nigeria and Greece. But if they play like they did against the Ivory Coast, they certainly have a shot.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Who Is Average Kim?

Statistics released by Seoul City Hall and Statistics Korea on Monday paint a picture of the avergae Korean living in Seoul. That stats also include price changes from the '70s to now.

The highlights of the average person:
- A 37.6-year-old married office worker who works 46.4 hours per week and has a bachelor's degree
- Earn 3.6 million won per month and spend 2.8 million won per month (That means I'm making less but saving more than the average Seoul resident.)
- 42 percent of Seoul's housing consists of apartments
- 7 percent of housing is actually a house

Some price changes:
- Bus fares have jumped 25-fold from 40 won in 1977 to 1,000 won today, and subway fares have gone up from 30 won in 1974 to 1,000 won as of now. (Note that by using a transporation card, you will only pay 900 per ride.)
- The saddest news for Koreans, I'm sure, is that Soju cost just 120 won per bottle in 1975. A bottle today will set you back 1,200 won. That's just highway robbery.

'Wonder'ing How

Apparently, 'Alice in Wonderland' raked in a ton of money this weekend and was the 6th-largest debut of all time. It also broke the record 'Avatar' held on the 3-D and IMAX screenings.

Jeong Mi and I saw the movie on Sunday night. We checked it out in 3-D, which I think is the only reason I would go see it. The 3-D novelty was kind of fun, but the movie itself is still just 'Alice in Wonderland".

The way they translate the title in Korean is to call it 'Ii sang han nala Alice.' That translates loosely to 'Strange Land Alice.' Jeong Mi made a joke from the Korean version of the title, saying "Strange Land Alice" is a just strange movie.

Unless you're going to see this in 3-D or IMAX, or unless you have a big crush on Johnny Depp, there's no need to see this movie.

North Koreans Short ... On Food

Okay, that was a pretty tasteless joke. But I followed it with that priceless gem of a pun.

Anyway, a South Korean think tank is estimating that the North will be short of feeding its people this year by about 1.2 million tons of food if international aid isn't received. The country apparently needs 5.23 million tons of total food to feed their population, according to the Korea Rural Economic Institute.

I'm surprised that story didn't mention that the lack of international assistance is mostly because of the nuke deal that looks like it will never happen. But I suppose that's a story unto itself, isn't it?

Another Video Game-Related Death

It's one thing when some idiot dies after spending too much time playing a video game. That's his own fault. Granted, games can be addictive, but he made the decision to initially start playing that game. There's no one to blame but himself.

But this is atrocious. A Korean couple's gave so much attention to a video game, that they let their own baby die. Oh, by the way, the video game involved raising a virtual baby. WOW.


From the story:
'They admitted to feeding their child rotten powdered milk, frequently spanking her, and leaving her at home during marathon sessions at the "PC bang" gaming clubs that are a staple of Korean gamer culture.'
This is a pretty stunning story. But it's not totally surprising that this would happen in Korea, considering the prevalence of PC rooms and gaming. Just to reiterate how intensely they feel about PC rooms -- guys take their girlfriends there on dates. You know, instead of banging.

In an older, but related, story, The high court of Korea has approved purchasing virtual items in video games as a legal transaction.

In the story, the reporter interviewed a man who found he was spending far too much time playing, so he decided buying things would be a more convenient way to live his life.

From the story:

'Meanwhile, Lee, the life insurance consultant, said, "The point of paying cash for game items is not about buying actual goods. With trading, you buy the ability to have more fun playing ... and I don't think it's wrong."'

I see no problem with buying virtual items either. Maybe if that couple had bought some virtual items for their virtual baby, their real baby would still be alive.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

He Started It!

In yet another contest to find out whose junk is less small, the South Korean forces are participating in joint military drills with the US today. Not surprisingly, officials from North Korea are angry, and are once again pulling out of denuclearization talks.

From the story:

'The North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station said, ``Considering that they are nuclear war drills against the North in their nature, it will be inevitable for Pyongyang to discontinue its denuclearization process and bolster its nuclear deterrent for self-defense."'

Of course, the US and South Korean officials think this is just balogna.

'The ROK-US Combined Forces Command (CFC) says the annual drills are purely for defensive purposes.

"Like any other CFC drills, they are aimed at improving the joint command's defense capability in the South," a senior CFC official said.'

Why not just let them finish the fighting already. People back home ask if it's scary to live over here. The answer is no. It's just annoying. I've only been here a year and five months, and already it's mind-numbing. No one the South Koreans just try to ignore it.

South Korean Woman Peaking At The Right Time

South Korea climber Oh Eun-sun is leaving this week to attempt to climb the 14th of 14 Himalayan peaks. This will make her the first woman in the world to have accomplished this incredible feat.

While reaching the top is clearly her first goal, Oh will have something else on her mind during the climb.

From the story:

'On her way to Annapurna, Oh Eun-sun will carry in her inside pocket a photograph of Ko Mi-young, Oh's life-long rival, who fell to her death on Mt. Nanga Parbat, the world's ninth-highest peak in the Himalayas.'
With her next-closest rival falling to her death last year, it left her with a comfy lead for becoming the first woman to complete this accomplishment.

Anyone who lives in South Korea knows about the vast array of mountains and the rampant love of climbing that many Koreans possess. This would be a really big deal if anyone did it, but a Korean will accomplish it. That must feel very special for her and the rest of the country.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

South Korea Rolls Ivory Coast

This is just a friendly, but understand this: This is a big win for South Korea. Ivory Coast is arguably the toughest of the African nations that quzlified for the World Cup this summer.

The key to beating Ivory Coast is simply shutting down Didier Drogba, but that is no easy chore. The Koreans found a way to keep him off the scoreboard and came away with confidence-boosting 2-0 win.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

North Korean Team Feeling Good

The North Korean national team got a nice boost in its World Cup preparations by winning the AFC Challenge Cup. They claimed the cup by beating Turkmenistan on penalty kicks.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Koreans Really ARE More Materialistic

I posted a small blurb a long time ago about how I felt Koreans were more materialistic than Americans. It was just a personal observation, but someone commented to say that they would need to see some hard statistics before that claim could actually be made.

Well, I had none at the time. I just noticed the attitudes of the people I met in Korea and how they were different from the people I knew back home.

While this isn't the be-all, end-all of the materialism discussion, a recently released Reuters poll claims Koreans and Chinese are the most materialistic people in the world because of their feeling that money is the most important sign of success.

Money is most important sign of success
Korea - 69 percent
America - 33 percent

Korea Finishes Olympics at #7

South Korea set a new record for itself by bringing home 14 medals from he 2010 Winter Olympics. Canada had the most gold medals with 14, while the USA topped total medal count with 37.

1919 Revisited

The Korea Herald ran a cool pic of citizens doing a small re-enactment of the 1919 uprising against Japanese colonial rule. While it sort of just looks like a bunch of students waving flags, it's a good way to celebrate their fight for independence.

Even More Suicides

An article in The Korea Times takes a look at a recent rash of suicides by what they consider "elite" Korean men. In most of the cases, the article seems to place blame on the pressure that these guys feel through ther jobs.

I understand that people feel pressure through their jobs. That's just natural. But the pressure doesn't make somebody kill themselves. A lack of stress relief besides multiple bottles of Soju hurts. Also, while the article doesn't mention it, it's important to consider that Korean society STILL condones suicides as a way out of stress. If I'm wrong, please fill me in. But in my personal experience, suicide has never been seen as an "acceptable" way out.

From the article:

'But the worrisome fact is that only a handful of workers struggling from pressure at work vent stress in healthy fashion, for example through outdoor pursuits, experts say.

Only 14.8 percent of the respondents said they relax through outdoor activities.

Nearly 50 percent of male respondents chose drinking alcohol and smoking as the favorite way to unwind, the survey showed. The most sought-after means to relax for women was chatting with friends.

"People should change their mindset," Professor Oh Jin-tak at Hallim University in Wonju, Gangwon Province. "It's an undeniable trend that the competition in this society is getting fiercer and will become even tougher. So the first thing people should know is that winning in a contest by outperforming rivals does not necessarily mean the winner will be happy."'

After former President Roh moo-hyun commited suicide in May, corruption charges he was facing were dropped. That just screams of society saying, "Oh, you chose to kill yourself? Well, then obviously you had it rough. But now, because of that, you're A-okay in our book."

I know suicide is a hot-button issue in Korea, as well as other Asian countries. And from what my Korean friends say, most average Koreans wouldn't consider this as a way out. But it certainly seems to be the case for high-profile Koreans, which unfortunately can influence the average guy and girl doing it as well. It's a vicious cycle right now.

College Students Hurt By Heavy Rent

This isn't really big news anywhere, but it's an interesting comparison between Pittsburgh and Seoul. Apparently, students in Seoul are really burdened by heavy rent payments.

From the story:

'Another house owner in the neighborhood of Korea University in Anam-dong, eastern Seoul, charges 260,000 won per month for a small room with a deposit of 300,000 won.'

That is from $225 to $260 per month. That seems pretty reasonable. I paid anywhere from $250 to $325 per month when I was in college. I was living with roommates, too.

However, we have to remember that students working part-time jobs make significantly less money than we do back in the USA. I had a plush job making $10/hour as a paralegal my senior year of college. A student with a part-time job here would most likely be working in a restaurant or convenience store at about 4,000 won ($3.47) per hour. So I can see how this is a bit of a struggle.

Jeong Mi's Dad Turns 60

In Korea, turning 60 is a big event. They have a big celebration for the honoree called a Hwan Gab (환갑), in which family and friends attend to with the person a happy birthday and continued good health.

I was fortunate enough to be invited by Jeong Mi's family to her father's Hwan Gab. This would be my first time to meet her family -- and it was her ENTIRE family (except for her older sister, who lives in Los Angeles. But we're Facebook buddies already.).

Her family was, for the most part, very warm and welcoming to me. Her dad and brother were especially kind. Her mother was nice, but not as warm as her father and brother. I understand I'll still have to prove myself to her. That's fine. I really enjoy getting to know families, and this will be no different.

The celebration included a ceremony where Jeong Mi stood up front with her father, mother and brother and said some nice things about her father. She even sang happy birthday to him in front of the whole crowd. It was quite entertaining. In the pictures, you'll see a screen with birds and a tree. They represent long life, and are an appropriate symbol for this celebration.

The event was held at a celebration hall with a giant buffet. The food was delicious, the drinks were plentiful and the company was enjoyable. All in all, it was a really great afternoon.

Check out all the pictures here and see why I'm so happy.

Winter Camp 2010 Comes To A Close

I'm almost sad to say that our Winter Camp classes officially ended on Friday. I really enjoyed the lessons we were teaching and the students who attended. The fourth graders, our most recent class, were among our best students by far. We ended with our broadcast lesson, and they did a fantastic job.

Now, it's back to our normal -- albeit slightly new -- schedule.

Check out the pics from winter camp here!