Thursday, April 29, 2010

Perfect Crime

An AP article is describing the sinking of the South Korean warship as the "perfect crime" by North Korea. Now, it doesn't come right out and say North Korea did it, but the headline and story certainly lead readers to believe that the North is having a party and taking credit for it.

The article says that it's the perfect crome for two big reasons. One is that the South probably can never prove it. The second reason is that even if it were proven, then the South can't afford to get into another war with the North. Of course, the Korean War is still on, but they just don't want to get into a fight.

This article has a lot of information, but it's all just jumbled together with no real central point. I can't imagine how hard it was for the editor to even come up with a headline for this.

Soccer and Politics: Never Far Apart

The Zimbabwe African People's Union is planning to protest the North Korean team in Africa because of something that happenen 30 years ago.

From the story:

'The Zimbabwe African People’s Union party said Thursday some in Zimbabwe’s western Matabeleland province have not forgiven North Korea for training troops who crushed an armed rebellion in the 1980s.
Tens of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe died during the five-year Matabeleland uprising.'
I certainly can understand people being upset about something like that, but there are two issues here. One is that this was 30 yeas ago.

More importantly, the North Korean players didn't ask to be born in one of the biggest toilets in the world. Protesting an athletic team isn't going to even make Kim Jong-il blink (if he's still capable of blinking). This seems like a waste of everyone's time and isn't fair to some athletes who just happen to be respresenting a terrible country.

Climbing Controversy Continues

I wrote in my last post that even though Oh reached the summit og her latest mountain, there was some controversy about whether she reached the peak of all the others.

A story today from ABC News casts a lot of doubt by offering some evidence that is clearly NOT in her favor. The evidence includes a picture taken from below the peak, two accompanying sherpas who won't support her and the Korean flag found some 200 feet below the tp of the mountain.

We'll see how this all goes. I was trying to offer a positive view about Koreans, which is something I rarely do on her. I mostly vent about frustrating things. I hope this works out for Oh, but I don't think there's a strong chance of that happening.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh Beats Number 14!

Big news today from the climbing world. Oh Eun-sun became the first woman to climb all 14 of the highest peaks in the world.

From the story:

'Oh Eun-sun, 44, arrived at the final, steep stretch of Annapurna in the Himalayas 13 hours after she left the last camp to beat a Spanish rival to the record. Her feat was broadcast live in South Korea by KBS television.
At the top, she pulled out a South Korean flag, waved, and then wept before throwing up her arms and shouting, "Victory!"
Officials said Annapurna was the last of the 14 peaks above 26,247 feet (8,000 meters) Oh needed to climb to set the mark. She reached the summit — 26,545 feet (8,091 meters) above sea level — 13 years after she scaled her first Himalayan mountain, Gasherbrum II, in 1997. She scaled Everest in 2004.'

The story goes on to say that Oh's rival questioned if she actually climbed all 14. Don't worry, jealous Spanish lady, I also don't trust Koreans. But this time she's backed up by an internationally recognized mountaineering organization.

Congratulations to Oh!

A Sad Note For Asian Pop Stars

The Onion is reporting that because of the economic downturn, Asian countries have been forced to lay off about 700,000 pop stars. This is devastating news for the "Korean Wave." Also, suicide watch!!!

The brief, as it appears in The Onion:

'SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—In what is being called the worst development to hit the Asian pop star industry in years, the floundering economy forced several Pacific Rim nations to lay off some 700,000 pop stars this week, sources close to the young, perky entertainers reported. "Although we still have more than 2 million pop stars left working, this is a devastating blow," entertainment industry analyst Bak Jae-bok said. "Sadly, the space-age Korean teenybopper and Japanese cowboy sectors were hit the hardest, and may take many months to recover." Bak went on to say that several Asian entertainment corporations are now looking to outsource their red-haired, leather-jacket-wearing teenage boy workforce overseas.'

Classic World Cup Pics

Here's an entire sticker collection with pictures of the teams involved in the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Check out those haircuts. Is it weird that Korean haircuts haven't changed at all??? Does that mean they're always in style? Or never???

Still Preparing For The G20

It's coming to Seoul/Incheon area this summer, and I HATE protestors.

But here's an intersting quote from the column:

'"As a country that is located between developed and developing countries and that suffered poverty and also remarkable economic growth in short period of time, South Korea appears to be a right nation to play such a mediating role," a Seoul official said on condition of anonymity. "We believe it has played the role quite well this time."'

Oh Going For The Record

I haven't seen an update on this yet, but South Korean Oh Eun-sun is all set to tackle the 14th of her 14 peaks. This is a cool story. Her closest competition, Spain's Edurne Pasaban, is easily a week behind her as far as timing goes. But depending on weather, anything could happen.

As the Koreans would say in terrible Konglish: "Oh! Fighting!"

North Seizing Property

It seems North Korean officials are seizing property at the Mount Kumgang tourist resort.

There are stories here and here about it.

Shouldn't South Korean officials be thrilled about this? I mean, who wants to go to the North on vacation?

From the BBC story:

'A North Korean tourism official said the properties were being confiscated "in compensation for the damage the North side suffered due to the suspension of the tour for a long period", KCNA reported.

The five facilities to be seized include a fire station, a duty free shop and a Red Cross-built centre to host family reunions.

The official said the properties would be returned to state possession or "handed over to new businessmen according to legal procedures".

All remaining assets will also be frozen and South Korean personnel expelled from the resort, said KCNA.'

There's a ton of underlying themes involved in this. If you're reading a Korean travel blog, you're familiar with them. So I won't bore you with them. It's just another line drawn in the very dirty sand.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Torpedo Blast Assumed To Be At Fault

South Korea's defense minister, Kim Tae-young, said investigators are ruling that a non-contact torpedo blast was likely the cause of the sunken warship. Officials and investigators are saying that a bubble jet caused by a nearby-detonated torpedo would be enough to send a shockwave through the hull, ripping it apart.

This is a bit confusing for anyone who hasn't watched the South Korea news lately. Fortunately for me, my girlfriend was at my house last night, and put the news on. It also provided some good comedy. More on that in a bit.

The minister isn't coming right out and blaming the North. That's a pretty smart move considering how high tensions are right now. Even though the North is a terribly poor nation, their military is quite capable.

The news channel showed computer-generated graphics of how officials theorize the ship sank. It showed a picture of a torpedo coming close to the ship, and detonating somewhere below it.

The blast creates a water jet that shoots up through the water and into the air. The power of this jet, officials think, is what made the ship go down.

But just to make sure any English-speaking person would think they're dummies, they wrote their Korean "버블 제트 (bubble jet)" as "bubble zet." Hahaha. They wrote it with a 'z.' Jeong Mi didn't get this at first, but saw the humor as I explained there's no such thing as a "bubble zet." As a major news organiztion and broadcaster in South Korea, one would assumed that SBS could hire someone to check that out before putting it on TV.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Herd Mentality In Korea? No Way!

Was that title obvious enough???

Anyway, an unnamed analyst in Seoul took a shot at Korea's "herd mentality" culture to explain how it can create bubbles in various industries, depending on what's happening at the time.

This time, it was set off by word that mosquitos are carrying a viral disease. That caused bug repellants and other related products to jump up by 50 percent over the past week.

The analyst said:

'"Koreans are susceptible to herd mentality. When their neighbors do or believe something, many of them just follow suit. I regard Internet witch-hunting, real estate speculation or regional dominance of a certain party to stem from such a perspective."

Even the country's top financial regulator warned midway through last year that herd behavior can end up generating asset price bubbles, thus wreaking havoc on the economy.'

Haha. What a slam! The article doens't say whether the analyst is a Korean or foreigner, but I like to pretend they interviewed me for the story.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Assassination Plot Stopped

Two North Koreans posing as defectors were yesterday for being connected to a plot to assassinate a former high-ranking North Korean official who had also defected to the South.

Here's the scoop on that former official:

'The defector, Hwang Jang-yop, a former North Korean Workers’ Party secretary, has bitterly criticized the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, since his defection in 1997. Mr. Hwang tutored Mr. Kim and helped create the country’s ruling philosophy of juche, or national self-reliance.

Mr. Hwang, now 87, lives at a secret site in South Korea under police protection. He occasionally emerges to give a speech or a lecture, as he did recently in Washington and Tokyo, and his talks are typically replete with biting assessments of Mr. Kim and the North Korean government.'

North Korean officials hate Hwang and have threatened him in the past. This time, two army officers posed as defectors in order to find Hwang and "slit his throat."

It's just another chapter in this bitter rivalry. But Hwang has dodged the bullet this time.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lee Pissed About Sunken Ship

South Korean Preisdent Lee Myung-bak has sworn to find out how that Navy ship sank, and will take action if it happens to be the fault of North Koreans.

Of course, let's not forget, that they are only assuming the North was involved, by way of a torpedo or possibly a leftover mine. Most officials initially thought there was an internal misfiring of some sort that caused the ship to sink. Now, however, a chief investigator apparently thinks an external explosion is more likely.

His nose was crying, too.

North Korean officials commented Saturday to deny any involvement (duh).

Lee apparently cried while reading the list of sailors who died.

'"The country that you loved will never forget any of you," he said.'

Did they really love Korea? Who knows? But I'll bet they hate it now. After all, Koreans don't join the military here because they "love" their country. They are forced to do roughly two years of service. Doesn't sound like love to me.

I do like the North Koreans' official response:

'Pyongyang's official state media quoted a military commentator as criticizing Seoul for linking North Korea to the blast. The commentator accused Seoul of seeking to shore up sanctions against the North and to muster conservative votes for upcoming mayoral and gubernatorial elections.
"It is a trite trick of the stupid to hatch plots and stoop to any infamy under that pretext whenever they are driven into a tight corner," the report from the Korean Central News Agency said.'

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Four Goals Snap Losing Streak

Incheon United won in spectacular fashion this weekend by beating the Pohang Steelers 4-0. All four goals were scored by Yoo Byung-soo, most likely booking his place on the World Cup squad.

Pohang are the defending Asian Champions League winners. Incheon was on a five-game losing streak before this victory. At this point in the season, Incheon is sitting in 8th place our of 15 teams. FC Seoul is in first after a big win this weekend.

Bambo In Bucheon

My good friend from dance, Eun Sang, opened his own Bamboo Dance Academy on Sunday in Bucheon. Just like with the Siheung academy, we all went to Bucheon for a congratulatory ceremony and some dancing.

Unfortuantely, I didn't dance too much. I'm drained from my allergies. But it was nice to once again spend time with my dance friends.

I'm very excited about my friend opening his own academy. He asked for my help with things like advertising, as well as possibly teaching a kids' class on Saturday.

That all sounds great. As long as I can squeeze things into my schedule, I'll do everything I can to help him out.

Check out some pics from the event!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Video Of Ship Raising

Here's an interesting video from Reuters of the South Korean warship being raised out of the water.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sunken Ship Raised

Crews raised the broken naval ship that sank about three weeks ago off the western coast of the country. Divers reported seeing "many" dead bodies.

Of the crew, 58 members were rescued, while 44 are unaccounted for. Officials think most of the bodies are still trapped inside the hull.

Another Nuclear Summit Planned

Or maybe it's just a broken record?

A summit is scheduled for 2012 in which ... wait for it ... North Korea will be urged to disarm their nuclear program!!!

Issuing the most naive comment of the year was Korea University professor Yoo Ho-yeol:

'"It will impact North Korea in that they'll have to listen to what the international community is demanding. This (pressure) might cause them to comply with the six-party talk resolutions," Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University in Seoul, told The Korea Times on Wednesday.'

Oh, I see. This time, the North Koreans "HAVE TO" listen.

Yoo Ho-yeol -- Yeah, he was actually serious when he said that.

Entertainment Industry Wants To Commit Suicide

Okay, well, half of them do, anyway. A story in The Korea Times says 40 percent of Korean actors/actresses have considere suicide.

I don't even know what to say. Is this shocking to anyone ... at all???

 Park Jin-hee is apparently majoring in "obvious."

My friend discusses suicide with some of his classes and likes to point out that wealth doesn't make happiness. That's a tough lesson to prove to materialistic Korean kids. He uses the arguement that when we read in the news about people killing themselves, it's always someone with money.

He concedes that the poor people who kill themselves don't get any media attention, but that helps his cause.

The article is about an actress' masters degree paper. From her findings:

'Respondents were quoted as saying, "I am sick of being alive. I want to die" and "I want to commit suicide and have often thought about going through with it." About 20 percent of them actually bought pills or other harmful devices to kill themselves and another 20 percent said that they have confessed to others about their urges.'

Pretty heavy stuff.

The Search Ended

This is from a couple weeks ago, but it's important to make note. Resuce teams have stopped their search for the remaining missing sailors involved in the sinking of the Korean naval ship.

There's not much to say here. It's a sad thing that happened. Whether they ever tell us their official ruling on how the ship sank, I don't know. But it's a tragedy.

Koreans Can't Handle Their Liquor -- But There's A Silver Lining

I love this article defending Korea as a less-than-previously-thought heavy-drinking country.

The article says that the OECD ranked Korea 11th in amount consumed among 16 nations tested. Here's the rub for a guy like me. The amount of alcohol you drink isn't as impressive as being able to control yourself when you are drunk.

Koreans have to be near the top of countries where passing out on the street takes place. You just don't see things like that in America. For a prime example, check out Black Out Korea, a blog specifically created to detail Koreans' weakness.

Video Game Lockdown

Yahoo is reporting a story that the South Korean government is planning on a certain amount of time during the night/early morning when teenagers would be unable to play video games.

The "nighttime shutdown" is an idea from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism that will allow the teenagers to choose one of three 6-hour blocks to lose access to games.

In many country's, this would just be annoying, but video games really are a way of life here. My friend who lives in my building thinks our Internet connection slowed way down when a PC room a few floors below us cut their price down to 500 won (less than 50 cents) per hour.

Every so often a story comes out in the news about a South Korea dying, or neglecting someone else to the point of death, due to vide game addiction.

Bein born in 1983, I spent my entire life in a world where video games existed. So I have no problem with them, though I can see how someone can get hooked. All I have to do is observe all my buddies playing Call of Duty all night to be convinced of that.

But during the cold months here, the kids don't have much else to do. They study for most of their day, and then go home to a family that is literally living on top of itself. Most Korean kids share there bedrooms with at least one other sibling. I can see how a PC room can provide them with a little time to immerse themselves in their own little virtual world.

But now that the weather is getting nice, they should be hanging outside. I know I will be.

All Four Korean Clubs Advance

The Four Korean clubs that have qualified for the Asian Champions League this year have all advanced to the next round. The sad thing is I only know the two mentioned in the article, and those are the two obvious ones.

Pohang is the defending AFC champion, and Suwon is a threat every year in the K-League. The article doesn't mention the other two teams. On the AFC web page I found that the other two teams are Jeonbuk Motors and Seongnam Ilhwa FC.

I guess I learn a new fun fact every day, huh?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

G4TV Goes To The DMZ

Morgan Webb of G4TV took a little trip up to the DMZ. Only the clip is available and it doens't explain why the video game/pop culture channel wanted to check it out, but it's a pretty cool video and worth taking 3 minutes of your precious day to watch.

My observations and nitpicking:

Now, I haven't been to the DMZ yet, but plan on going in the next couple months. Only one of these observations applies to actually being there. The US Army office says the position the South Korean troops stand in is meant to be intimidating. Take a look at it closely. It appears more ... ummm .. I don't know ... homo?

Webb loses some credibility for saying she needs some Soju at the end of the video. It's not because she shouldn't talk about alcohol while reporting. It's because Soju is terrible. She, therefore, has unreliable taste.

Last thing is her pronunciation of Pyeongyang while discussing the train station. If you're ever in Korea, and want to sound like a dummy, pronounce it the same way.

Anyway, check out the vid!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bamboo MT -- Best Weekend Yet

I went on Membership Training with my Bamboo Salsa Academy friends this weekend and it was one of the best pension trips I've done yet. We rented a big log cabin in Ganghwado, about an hour north of Incheon. More than 50 people showed up for the fun.

When we first arrived, we played choku, which is a game that combines volleyball and soccer. Needless to say, I love it. For one of the series, we put 50,000 won on it, and my team, of course, won the series in a sweep.

After that, we started grilling the samgyupsal and other typical Korean foods. That's also when the drinking started. That's a good thing, because the games came next.

We choose four teams of about 10-12 people each. The first game was the 007 game. It's a speaking and pointing game where you try to make your competition say the wrong thing or make the wrong move. Next was a game where you had to blow on a balloon to keep it up in the air. They first did groups and then solo. I did the dolo run for my team and won the points for us!

That was followed by a quiz game, in which my friends just dragged me from side to side, depending on the answer. Next we did a charades-type game. My team choose me as our respresentative. They acted the clues out and I answered -- in Korean! I only got 5 of them right, but that still got us third place. So -- not last!

After that was the best part of the night. It was the Bamboo drag show. I wasn't my team's representative, but you'd better believe they wanted to see me do it. And guess what -- I looked good. They had all the contestants come down first and get judged. Then, they played special music as I made my entrance and danced to an entire song. It was really fun and everyone enjoyed pointing how much I really looked like a chick. I even committed myself to it to the point that I shaved my beard for it!

After the show, the music started playing and everyone started dancing, drinking and hanging out.

The next morning, we got up and I went for a little walk around the countryside with Jeong Mi. We then ate breakfast, cleaned the log cabin and headed home.

On our way home, we stopped at what will become the newest Bamboo Dance Academy. It's being opened by my best Korean friend, Eun Sang. He even asked me to teach a children's class on Saturdays. That sounds pretty awesome. After the competition is over, I definitely want to be a part of that.

So it was a pretty great weekend. It was easily one of my best weekends in my entire time in Korea. The only downside is I caught a little bit of a cold. But it's worth it for all that fun.

Enjoy the pictures. They're going to blow your mind!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Korea's Communist History

The Korea Times has an interesting article on the formation of the Communist Party and it's history in Korea. It's a bit too much for me to summarize, but it's definitely worth checking out if you enjoy history.

Firefighters Can Issue Parking Tickets

This is one of the cleverest uses of city employees that I've heard yet. Firefighters haven't recently been given the green light on issuing parking citations.

The reason, accoridng to the story, is that illegal parking in narrow alleyways can prevent firetrucks from getting to a fire quickly. This is true, and a good enough reason to give firefighters this ability.

But it also comes down to a safety issue in other aspects of driver and pedestrian life. If you follow any Kblogs, it's pretty commonly complained about that the drivers here are inconsiderate A-holes. Yes, it's practicall a fact.

In my time here, I've felt safe in a car with maybe three Koreans. Whereas back home, I've felt unsafe with maybe three people.

Almost no one follows the traffic or parking laws here. Cars blaze through red lights, and park anywhere they want -- including in front of fire hydrants. And don't forget about scooter drivers going on the sidewalks.

If people follow the actual traffic laws, this may be a little less dangerous place for someone who is walking to the grocery story or to work. Getting people to park legally, instead of jutting out into the street or in intersections, could be a big step in the right direction.

In the time I've been here, I only have seen one intersection where cars are commonly cited for illegal parking. Everywhere else, it seems the drivers can get away with leaving their cars anywhere they please.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First Wyverns Game of 2010

We didn't make the home opener, but Jeong Mi and I caught our first SK Wyverns baseball game of the season on Tuesday. It was the first time she has ever gone to a baseball game.

She packed sandwiches and beer, and we had a really good time.

SK lost, as they always do when I go. It was also freezing after the first three innings and Jeong Mi was feeling under the weather. Despite that, we had fun, and we'll definitely go again as soon as we can.

Check out the pics here!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Suicide Discussions

This is one of the first columns I've read on the high rate of suicides in South Korea. It comes from Kang Kyung-hee of The Chosun Ilbo's news desk.

Kang is worried that the suicide rate here could reach an all-time high after the brother of an actress who committed suicide also killed himself.

From the story:

'The news should perhaps prompt Koreans to re-examine their belief that the country's history of overcoming challenges has made its people exceptionally strong.'
This comes on the heels of an article in Joongang Ilbo that lists South Korea as number one in suicides among countries in the 30-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Kang lists her ideas of why suicide is so common here, and goes on to correctly call suicide a national mental health issue.

'The difficulty of making a living, unbearable stress, unsupportive families, vulnerability -- there are any number of reasons for suicide, but on a collective level, the situation has gone past the point where the blame can be sought only with individuals.'
Kang says "a number of indexes" rank Finland as number one, but the chart from the Joongang Ilbo shows otherwise. Either way, this country is still in the midst of an issue that needs to be fixed. At least Kang is coming out to publicly recognize it. So what's the next step?

South Korean Warship On The Hunt ... Sort Of

A South Korean warship has caught up to some Somali pirates, as the pirates have recently hijacked a tanker with 5 South Korean and 19 Filipinos aboard.

The warship is under orders not to engage the pirates at all, but are monitoring the situation closely.

From the story:

'The South Korean anti-piracy unit consists of the destroyer and 300 personnel including UDT/SEAL forces. It began operations in Somali waters in April last year to escort the country's cargo ships.

About 500 South Korean cargo ships sail through the piracy-stricken Gulf of Aden every year, and some 150 of them are believed to be vulnerable to hijacking due to their size and speed.

If required, the unit is also supposed to monitor, inspect, stop and seize pirates' vessels as part of the Combined Task Force 151, under the command of the Combined Forces Maritime Component Command based in Bahrain.'

It's unforunate that the ships aren't supposed to engage the pirates. I realize they're looking out for the safety of  the hijacked crew, but wouldn't this be a perfect message to send to the pirates? "Hey, if you try to hijack a boat, we'll blow your faces apart."

This would be a huge move for the Koreans, considering the tragic and unfortunate incident that recently took place off the coast of South Korea.

Some Cram Schools Shutting Their Doors

It seems that the economic slump is taking a toll on the private academies that students are babysat at -- I mean study at -- after school.

From the story:

'According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, the capital has about 28,000 private education institutes for primary and secondary school students, registered with the office, this year.

However, a recent survey has found that 2,600 hagwon or 9.3 percent have closed.'

Now, all these schools won't close overnight, but they do face a tough road. Between the economic downturn and the Lee administration's dislike for the academies, it's no longer a Native English Speaker's market.

I'm fortunate to be here, and at a public school, already. By this time next year, the contracts academies will be offering will probably pay less, and may require more work. There are more people trying to get these jobs, as they are slowly slipping away.

Of course, academy owners will love knowing they have even more control over their Native English Speakers. I'm sure they're just hoping they can stay open long enough to take advantage of it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cultural Taboos - Learn Them

Jason over at Kimchi Icecream posted an extensive list of cultural taboos that you would be best to avoid during your stay over here. Keep in mind that he notes -- and I agree with this -- that not all of these are absolute in any way.

He says he hasn't followed every guideline, and I certainly haven't. For example, he lists one about always joining your fellow co-workers for meals and things like that, and not to say anything bad about the food. He's totally right.

But I have opted out of the school lunch and bring my own every day, so I don't even go to the cafeteria anymore. There is one reason for this, really -- I don't want to pay 2,500 won every day for food that I don't like. I even made that clear when they asked my reason for opting out.

Not, they told me from the beginning that it was okay to do this, but when I did, some people weren't so happy. The head of the English department sat me down to try to convince me to start getting lunch again because it looked bad. Well, that might be the case, but I'd rather look a little worse than pay for food I don't want to eat.

Anyway, I'm also adding Kimchi Icecream to my sidebar. Jason goes into a lot of topics in-depth, and it's all worth checking out. Thanks, Jason!

Great Salsa News and A Good Weekend

The arrival of warm weather is good news in and of itself, but I also received some wonderful news from my salsa academy. I have been invited to join the competitive team, which I accepted without hesitating.

I have a strange way of thinking that when I do something, I want to do it at the highest level. I'm certainly not the best at everything, but I always want to work hard and be as good as possible. So this salsa competitive team is the next step for me to becoming a good dancer.

The competition is in June, and we're doing a dance that a previous bamboo team performed. You can check it out again, here.

There aren't more days added to my dance schedule, but the practices will be more intense. It's a more complicated dance, and I need to work very hard -- even on my basics -- in order to do this well.

On Friday night, after getting my good news, Jeong Mi and I went to a Jimjjilbang. It's the first time I've been to one, even though I've lived here a year and five months now. A jimjjilbang is basically a public bath house. There are showers, hot tubs, saunas, body treatments and massages available. They're also equipped with entertainment like TVs, game rooms, restaurants and , of course, alcohol.

We went to the only one in Yeonsu-dong. Ridia, my wonderful co-teacher, advised against it because it's a few years old. That means it's not as up to date with the best, new stuff. But it was our only option at that time of night.

It was a fun time, too. I was a bit confused at first, but after I figured it out, all went smoothly. The first step is to separate into the mens' and womens' sides. There, you shower, bathe and have the option of getting in the sauna and hot tub. After that, you head down to a commons area to meet. Jeong Mi got some body scrub, so I ended waiting for her along for about an hour. That was the only downside. But I read a book and listened to some music, so it was relaxing.

The price is good as well. For both of us, and including her scrub, it only cost 16,000 won. I still don't see the draw to the extent of Koreans going all the time and spending entire days/nights there, but I could see myself going once a month or so to relax.

Here is the web site for the place we went. It's called Jambo Fitness Sauna. Warning: It plays annoying music and I couldn't find the off switch.

The rest of the weekend was good as well because of the nice weather. A group of us played basketball Saturday night, and beat three different Korean teams who wanted to challenge the Americans.  And on Sunday, we had a nice game of football.

On Sunday night, I wrapped up the weekend by meeting Jeong Mi for dinner and a few drinks.

As far as weekends go, it doesn't get much better than that.