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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Oh, the Timing was Perfect!

One evening, last week, as I was walking back to my apt. building from the academy, something happened.

I was walking up behind two youngish (20? 23?) Korean women. They were chatting with each other, in Korean, loud enough that, even from behind, I could hear them.

Just as I was about to pass them by, one spoke to the other--as in maybe "my friend said to me so I said to him . . ."--in a rather loud voice and in clear English. What she said was, "You son of a bitch."

At this point I was even with them/passing them, and, as the timing was perfect, I turned to them and mock exclaimed "What?" as if (I pretended) the insult had been said to me.

The young woman who had spoken the words covered her mouth with both hands, then said, in English, "I'm sorry!"

I was laughing too hard to reply, as I entered my building, but I did tell her it was "ok".

Funny, and I bet she considers her words more carefully in the future . . .

Sunday, 17 January 2010

CNN "Discovers" Haiti

Yesterday CNN was trumpeting the "news" that its reporters had "discovered" a mass grave site in Haiti, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

That focus very much disgusted me, as it suggested that there was some sinister event involved, as in past wartime atrocities.

This is obviously not war, but rather a natural disaster.

With reports of 30,000-100,000 dead, I believe it would be utterly stupid, if not physically impossible, to avoid mass graves.

Where is the news in this? What is the "discovery"?

With their continued (today you can read about the "Mass Pits [that] Hide Haiti's Dead") exploitative coverage of this tragedy, CNN has shown, once again, that all they really care about are the sensationalistic features of the story and, ultimately, the profits that such "reportings" support.

Shame on CNN.

Alphabet Sticky Board

Some of my friends in Korea, a couple who are both teachers, set this up in their apartment, where they do some teaching.

They pasted a large mat on the wall and individually cut out the alphabet letters so that young learners can exercise and experiment with their growing English language abilities.

Pretty cool, huh?

Note: the socks drying in the foreground are just that, drying, and they are there because of the Korean "ondol" heating system, which basically provides underfloor heat ( To put it simply, the socks dry faster when they are lying on the floor:)

Apartment Recycling--The Way it Oughta Be?

Here are some pics of my apartment building's recycling area. Grungy, yeah, but it makes me think that more places should have the options for recycling that we do.

Here, we can sort trash by:

*General (green)

*Biodegradable (blue)


*Glass (2 types)

*Plastic bags



Now, I'm not sure where it all winds up, so I can't claim that the system is great, but it is nice to think that my efforts to divide my trash/recyclables are worthwhile.

The Crane Vase

Here's another advertising image, this one of a historical product, one of South Korea's National Treasures: a 12th century Goryeo porcelain vase.

Picture Me

While I think my university professors would have wanted me to ask, "Do you think there is a possibility that this advertising image uses sex to sell its product?", all I could really think about was, "Hmmm . . . I think that camera is nicely positioned in the middle of the picture.":)

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Speaking of Snow . . .

Time magazine published a report in its January 18, 2010, edition that, "Seoul received 11 ft. (3.3 m) of snow, the most it had seen since 1937".

11 feet!


Even though it is only a short walk to school, that would have been tough, were it at all true.

Are there any fact checkers at Time? And even if there aren't, couldn't the person typing the copy maybe have thought that 11 feet in one day would be something of a universal record, perhaps something so far beyond belief that we could not even attribute it to global warming?

Monday, 4 January 2010

Snow Day

We got a far bit of snow last night/today . . .

Friday, 1 January 2010

Korea's New Year's Resolution (Hypocritically Applied)

The Wednesday, December 30th edition of The Korea Times contains an article entitled "Corrupt Officials to Be Barred from Reemployment". It highlights a legislative bill that would "restrict the employment of public officials dismissed for corruption". No small thing as there is a lot of white collar crime and high-level corruption in both the Korean public and private sectors.

In the same newspaper, on the front page, is another article. This one is entitled "Former Samsung Chairman Lee Gets Presidential Pardon". The Samsung conglomerate, if you are not aware, is the world's largest in terms of revenue, pulling in $173 billion in 2008, and accounts for more than 20% of South Korea's exports. It is also Korea's largest "chaebol" or business family (others include Hyundai and LG).

Lee Kun-hee, the third son of the company's founder, was convicted in 2008 for tax evasion and breach of trust after selling shares below market value to his children and allegedly creating a slush fund to bribe prosecutors, judges, and politicians.

Why, you ask (as surely you do), would Korea create such a clear situation of hypocrisy for itself?

The answer: the winter Olympics. Korea has tried twice, and failed twice, to win the bid for the winter Olympics. They lost to Vancouver for this year (2010) and to Russia for 2014 (after Putin got personally involved). So Korea is trying again for 2018.

It's a matter of national pride. Korea jointly hosted the World Cup with Japan in 2002, will host the G20 meeting this year, and will host the 2012 World Expo. Since it has an inferiority complex, Korea sees such world hostings as both a way to improve its international status and also a way to measure it.

Thus, the winter Olympics bid is a VBD (very big deal). Gangneung, one of the big cities (relatively speaking) in the province (Gangwondo) where the Olympics would be held is where I first lived in Korea, and I remember some of my middle school students telling me that they were pulled out of school to go and clap and cheer for the Olympic reviewing committee when they came to town.

So, where does all of this put us? Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that Lee--the corrupt guy (who was pardoned before, by the way, for another episode of the same type of thing)--is a member of the IOC, the International Olympic Committee. Or was. He resigned after he was convicted. Apparently criminals aren't good role models for the Olympics.

Has the light bulb clicked on yet?

The President of Korea was asked to pardon Lee to "ensure" a successful bid for the 2018 Olympics. The belief is that Lee, once pardoned, and therefore free of his criminal taint, can rejion the IOC and secure Korea's place in world history by nabbing the 2018 winter Olympics bid. Quite a feat for one person. But apparently the Korean president thinks the possibility exists, because he did pardon the guy a few days ago. (Or, more likely, Mr. Pres. is worried about the political backlash coming from not freeing Lee.)

In my mind, this situation is going to go from bad to worse. It was bad enough a year or two ago when many residents of Gangwondo started complaining that the regional government was bankrupting the province for the continued Olympic bids. Now it's clearly worse since the national government is violating its own thin principles of accountability: pardoning a habitual criminal because he is rich and influential is just plain hypocritical.

I know, lots of other countries do the same thing, and it really is no big surprise, but to see such matters orchestrated this way is too cruel.

And then there is the other thing.

I thought about this last year, at the same time of year, when I took a bus that passes the proposed site of the winter Olympics (PyeongChang). Last year the place barely had any snow. This year (four days ago) it had none. Zero.

Kind of hard to have a winter Olympics without snow, and even Korean engineering would not be able, I think, to artificially produce enough for the events to happen.

Thus, my prediction is this: either Korea will lose the bid--due either to lack of snow or to clear influence-peddling--or it will get the bid and be shamed due to the lack of snowfall. Either way it will lose. And the people of Gangwondo, who have paid the most for this folly, will forever remember their betrayal by the government.


Happy New Year!