Thursday, September 30, 2004

North Koreans at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing

Big news last night about the daring entry into the Canadian Embassy in Beijing of 44 North Korean defectors. Being Canadian, I just hope our officials don't screw the situation up. Reports from The Marmot and another blogger named myrick suggest they may though.

With a title like: Custody of N.K. Defectors Under Discussion in Beijing in the Chosun Ilbo, I am already worried.

This picture from the Ilbo shows that it was a pretty daring break-in. I wish them all the best.

North Koreans scaling the wall of the Canadian Embassy in Beijing Posted by Hello

Problems for small businesses

Chuseok is normally an important time for Korean businesses, much as Christmas is important for North American businesses. This Chuseok was a bad time for Korean small businesses and there has been much in the papers about small businesses defaulting on their loans. The papers, and local wisdom hold that the poor economy is what's harming the businesses.

I have a different explanation, but I cannot back it up with articles or examples. I, and any foreigner who spends a few months here, will see new businesses appear and disappear regularly. I do not understand exactly what a 'feasibility study' is, but I would take the effort to find out and perform one before starting a business of my own. Koreans seem to test by doing; starting a business without any real consideration of demand or location or other vendors of the same product or service nearby.

Another problem seems to be trying the make a place seem successful. Here is the president's office of an English school I worked at that went bankrupt after a few months. No, I am not the president, I just wanted to pose.

Posing in the president's office.Posted by Hello

This seems pretty luxurious for a company that couldn't pay rent!

Foreclose on the businesses or not, what they really need is some sense and education about how to actually run a business.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Local festivals

I would always get frustrated with the Korea Herald for announcing festivals or special tourism events only a day before the event started. Here I am now, doing the same.

This Friday, the Songi Mushroom Festival starts, here in Yangyang. Songi, or Pine, mushrooms are a phallic-shaped delicacy in Korea and Yangyang's have been scientifically tested and shown to be the best. Okay, I don't know what that 'scientifically tested' bit means, but that's what locals tell me.

The best quality mushrooms can cost 250,000 won a kilo (I guess that's $100.00US a pound). The lower quality mushrooms are, well, mushroom shaped, with a large umbrella. As the quality, or possibly the age, increases, the umbrella shrinks and they become more phallic. Visitors to the District office might be surprised to see what first appears to be a giant gold penis in a glass display case, but it is only a mushroom.

Yangyang tourism staff enjoying Songi Mushrooms Posted by Hello

The festival runs Oct. 1 to 5 and I found the highlight last year was being taken up a nearby mountain to 'hunt' for Songi mushrooms. Actually, it was more of an Easter Egg hunt, as the mushrooms had been placed there earlier. We were told that the mushroom were in the right kind of locations, in the downslope shadow of a pine tree. You have to register for the hunt but foreigners can probably jump the queue a bit.

I have to admit that the Songi hunt was a nice time outside but I wouldn't have come to Yangyang just for the festival. If you are planning to come anyway, you know, visit Seorak Mountain and such, a few hours at the festival wouldn't be misspent.
_ _ _ _ _
Now some festival news in good enough time that you can make plans to arrive.

The Yangyang Salmon Festival is October 23-24 this year.

Now, I don't understand why salmon in Alaska and Western Canada run in the spring and summer but Korean salmon run in late fall; but they do and the festival is a fun one.
--I guess Great Lakes Salmon run in the fall, too. Anyway, ...

You can eat salmon until you are sick, if that for some reason interests you. It's good, cheap and plentiful. The best part of the weekend, though, is catching the salmon by hand.

I think that all my aunts back home are involved with the Humane Society and similar animal rights organizations. I also believe in animal rights, but chasing after salmon in a shallow stretch of river enclosed by nets on a warm fall day is a lot of fun, a real guilty pleasure that I hope my aunts forgive me for.

Catching salmon Posted by Hello

I was tempted to catch the salmon and throw them over the net to freedom but but didn't think they'd get very far. The river is even more of a gauntlet than in the past. I think the salmon hatchery and research centre near the mouth of the river has a net across and 80 or 90% are stopped there and collected (the centre has tours and information on salmon biology, last year with English-speaking guides). Then come the fishermen who don't use lures and bait but huge treble hooks and a strong rod to snag the fish. The worst are the ones who stand on the bridge and watch the salmon in the clear water, snag them and reel them up to the bridge, most breaking free to fall, gutted, back into the river. The salmon I caught was actually caught elsewhere and delivered by truck to the festival site.

Still, a friend who is quite a purist when it comes to fishing and does use lures and such, caught a few a km upstream of town.

I hope I haven't painted too grim a picture. I really do recommend coming for this festival.

_ _ _ _ _

Yangyang has a traditional 'O-Il Jang', a fifth day market. Every calendar day with a '4' or a '9' is market day. I always wake up early for market day -because the damn cattle auction takes places from five to seven AM right beside my apartment. There is a lot of produce and such and some antique-y things or crafts for sale as well. During the festivals, there are a few dozen extra vendors.

Yangyang Gun (district, not weapon) has an English website but the dates are from last year.
An English speaker working for Yangyang Gun tourism gave me some information about the salmon festival at 033-670-2516.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

How to be a farmer: a checklist

My Chuseok was a good time but a pretty busy one. I spent two 4-5 hour days picking Chinese cabbage and three days sneezing from the farm dust.

I learned a little about farming and here is a checklist for farming in Korea.

1) Get a Kyong-ung-gi and a funny hat.

These two-wheeled tractors can do anything you need on the farm. You can pull various plows and trailers, pump water and, well, that's all but it's a lot for a little tractor. If you don't have an appropriately funny hat, you can use a normal hat and wrap it with a towel - a whole new meaning to my late father's non-pc term, 'Towel-head'.

2) Use the tractor to carry pesticide, a tractor sized load of pesticide.

pesticide, not frosting!

I'm not sure if this is my in-laws' cabbage plot or not but I've seen him use similar amounts elsewhere. This is why Korean wash and peel all fruit and vegetables.

3) Use clear or black plastic or vinyl for everything you can think of. You can make temporary green houses and also cover the garden rows in the spring. The black plastic keeps the earth warm and prevents weeds from getting sunlight. When you are done, pick up what you can but if you miss some, or a lot, leave it. Let nature take care of it.

garbage in trees Posted by Hello

4) Despite my being a smartass, farming is tough work. Some time ago (I have no idea how long it takes cabbage to grow and we were picking young cabbage), the in-laws planted several rows of cabbage, and each position in the row had a few cabbage plants growing. I helped pick some of the cabbage, leaving one plant in each position. I spent two days of 4 to 5 hours picking until my back ached. Then I squatted and picked more until my legs hurt, repeating this until I began to whine to my wife who was in equal pain but is a little tougher than I. Here is some of the field:

big-ass cabbage field

5) If all else fails, do as I suggested in a previous post about rice and sell the land so a factory can be built.

building on rice fields Posted by Hello

The fields in this part of Kyeongsangnam-do are now almost completely surrounded by these factories. Every time I visit, I see a few more, and this time, I saw several that were repaired from last Chuseok's Typhoon Mae-mi.

Their grandfather's grave

Grandfather's grave Posted by Hello

In a previous post, I wrote about the scarcity of grave sites in Korea and promised further investigation if I didn't think my in-laws would find the questions too ghoulish.

Well, I found it too ghoulish. I joined in with the bowing and tried to be respectful but, I'm sorry, it didn't mean much to me. While bowing at my grandfather-in-laws' grave, my brother-in-law spent a little more time than needed to merely follow the forms. I felt it meant something to him so I didn't press with questions.

Anyway, this is my in-laws' farm and there are a few graves of their ancestors there. They have plenty of room among the persimmon. The grandfather and 'mother on the other side were cremated and are kept in a local temple.

While getting a ride to the airport, we passed a huge traffic jam in only one lane; the lane to a cemetery so they do have them in Kyeongsangnam-do, which I questioned earlier.

Finally, in looking at news reports about Chuseok, I found most newspapers used the term 'tomb' while I prefer 'grave'. I always thought tomb referred to a larger or fancier place than grave did.


Here's wishing you a Happy Chuseok, unless Chuseok shouldn't be considered 'happy'. Then, a Solemn Chuseok to you. Whatever, maybe the proper descriptive should be 'frustrating' or 'exhausting'.
From the Korea Herald:

For many others, and especially housewives, the Chuseok
holiday is an unwelcome return of stress - time-consuming
journeys to visit parents and relatives as well as preparing
food for ancestral rites.

"I'm still undecided whether I should go to see my

parents-in-law living in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province,"
said Seoul housewife Yoo Sun-ock. "It's usually a five-hour
trip from Seoul to Mokpo, but during the holiday season it
will take as many as 14 hours because of traffic jams. Even
thinking of fighting the mass traffic irritates me so much."

I had a similar distance to travel but flew as the two airports involved are close enough to my home and my in-laws' home to make it feel like door-to-door.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Same student, one week later. Three other students woke up or were jostled by classmates before I could photograph them. Posted by Hello

Finally a Korean News Source discussing 'Fan Death' as a myth

UPDATE: Welcome to wikipedia users. I'm not sure why you were sent here but you are in luck: The wikipedia article on Fan Death also quotes Dr Yeon dong-su, a professor at my university (really, I didn't write the wikipedia article). I recorded an interview with him in Sept of 2006 and you can find it here.

Most foreigners in Korea eventually learn about 'fan death'. Koreans will straight-facedly explain that using a fan at night in a closed room could kill you. They give two possible reasons; hypothermia and lack of oxygen. There have apparently been TV shows with doctors scientifically describing how it happens.

Strangely, it only happens here.

From the article in the Joongang Ilbo:

Another stiflingly hot summer has come and gone
in Korea, and with it, the risk of dying by electric fan.
If you've never heard of death by electric fan, you're
probably not from here. Every summer, mainstream
Korean newspapers carry reports of people dying after
sleeping in a room with the electric fan on and the doors
and windows closed. A search of the jouncing Ilbo's archives
reveals stories about fan death dating back to the early 1970s.
A July 9, 1973, story describes how a 20-year-old man was
found dead in the morning after going to sleep with two fans
turned on and the rooms windows and door shut. The story
also describes a mysterious jar of chemicals found in the room
but does not explain what it was. A wider search of Korean
newspapers shows that each summer from 1990 to 2004,
about 10 stories related to someone dying in the presence
of an electric fan were published. Some of the deaths were
chalked up to electrical failure of the fan and related fires,
but many of them said the victims died from suffocation
or hypothermia because the windows and doors were closed.

Further in the article, a man from the land of cold, in what may be the coldest city in the world was quoted:

Gord Giesbrecht, a physical education professor at the
University of Manitoba in Canada, is a leading expert on
hypothermia. He said he has never heard of fan death or
anything like it. "It's hard to imagine, because to die of
hypothermia, [one's body temperature] would have to
get down to 28, drop by 10 degrees overnight. We've got
people lying in snowbanks overnight here in Winnipeg
and they survive," he said.

There was another article at an online newspaper called 'ulsanpear' and listed as but the link isn't working for me now.

I'm an Uncle!

I already was a uncle through my wife's family. One of her sisters has a daughter.

But now it's on my side. Bronte Elizabeth was born on Tuesday in Alaska. She is healthy, has red hair and was 7 pounds, 7 ounces (about 3.5 kg) at birth.

You might wonder about the name. My sister is a high school English teacher, what more can I say? I saw an article in The Onion, a satirical newspaper that listed the names Asian-Americans were giving their children (John, Michael, David, Nancy, Jenny,...) and the names WASP Americans were using (sequoia, Ariel, Bronte, Scout...) Here is a link for the onion but the article I mentioned is long gone, unless you want to pay.

Yes, she lives in Alaska. My mother is in Ontario, Canada (actually now in Alaska for a few weeks), my sister lives in Alaska, I am in Korea and my father is in Heaven (and possibly still in his urn in a closet in Canada).

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Where will the dead go?

From the Joongang Ilbo:

Grave Days on the Horizon

By the end of this year, we will run out of space
for graves in both Seoul and Daejeon. By the year
2012, most of the nation's other cities and
provinces will experience a similar problem. Not
a single city or province has any plans to allot more
space for burial grounds. As it becomes increasingly
difficult to hold on to our traditional burial culture,
it is time to explore fundamental alternatives. ...

...nowadays a considerable number of people are
choosing cremation as an alternative.

Firstly, I'm not sure what 'space' they are talking about. I guess they are describing cemeteries but enterprising Koreans have known for years that cemeteries are only one option with the slopes of Gwanak and other mountains being other legitimate choices.

In fact, I am extrapolating. When teaching an adult student in Masan, Gyeongsangnam Province, I learned that while burying a body on the slopes of Muhak (the local mountain) is illegal, once it is done, the police don't have the right to dig it back up. If you do it without being caught, the body can stay. Having seen Muhak and other mountains randomly dotted with graves, I think this is true at least in practice, even if the laws themselves are not exactly as I've described.

My in-laws ancestors were laid to rest amongst their persimmon orchards and I don't actually know of any proper cemeteries in the area. We'll be paying them a visit next week so perhaps I will ask around if I can do so without sounding too ghoulish.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Rice, Rice, Rice, Rice, Rice, Rice, Rice, Rice, Rice...

When Korea joined the World Trade Organization, they had an exception for their rice industry. For several years, Korea was allowed to keep it's subsidies for local rice production. That period ended recently, or should have, or will soon once the appeals and delay tactics run out.

According to a friend, Korean farmers have been receiving subsidies equal to about 8 times the market value.

The Joongang Ilbo has an article on the subject.
From the article:

Despite inroads made by bread, burgers
and bakeries, most Koreans still feel a
persistent tug from their millennia-old
staple, rice. And although Korea is a
breathtakingly high-cost producer of
the grain, a mix of tradition, nationalism,
convictions that the soil makes a difference
in taste and some clever marketing have
put most Koreans behind government
efforts to stave off world trade requirements
to import rice.
Rice persists, in diets and in language. The
Korean language has a different word for
eating rice and eating other food, and there
are different words for raw and cooke
rice. A common polite greeting translates
as "Have you eaten rice?"

This article resonates strongly at home due to our connection with rice. My father-in-law is a Gyeongsang rice farmer (and a wonderful man who is very patient with his foreign son-in-law. This is not mere flattery- he'll never read this). My brother-in-law's email address starts with 'riceismylife@...' and I once complained about eating plain rice to hear the retort, "Rice is never plain" from my wife.

Go and buy some (Korean) rice now. Preferably from Gyeongsangnam-do.

So, rice, and the value of rice, is hugely important for my Korean family. What will the end of subsidies do?

Well, the price of rice will fall ("duh"). My big prediction is that land prices will drop, collapse, plummet. Kimhae and Kimpo rice fields (and home to two major airports) are adjacent to Seoul and Pusan, two huge and struggling-to-grow cities that are hunting for space to growth. If some of the Kimpo rice fields go on the market, Seoul can leave it's nibbled-at green zone alone.

As for my in-laws, mother- and father-in-law are aging and could possibly retire. They could give their eldest son a ten year warning: "Get married quick and buy a place with an extra bedroom for us." Unfortunately, this would lead to at least one case of insanity. The parents have been busy, heartbreakingly busy for their whole sixtyish years. I would love to see them take it easy but they couldn't be happy that way. No, they will work their farm, probably changing their crop ratios and selling a few fields but staying put and trying to remain self-sufficient.

I believe that most rice farmers are my in-laws age. The youth of Korea, and the world, are not interested in farming. What happens in Korea is happening to the world.

I am no economist. I understand the basics of free-trade but not how they can regulate how a country attempts to be self-sufficient. Staples like rice, and wheat should be controlled by the local governments not an international body. What happens if only three Asian countries are supplying rice for the rest of Asia? Is that possible?

I have one more prediction. Korea will find a way to make a new subsidy. It could be called 'disaster relief'. Last year Typhoon Maemi crashed through my in-laws farm and trashed all the crops, or most of them. They were eligible for some relief money. As I think about this, global warming will create more storms so this subsidy/relief may be more likely than not.

In his book, 'Eat the Rich' or possibly 'Parliament of Whores', P.J. O'Rourke talked about US farm and forestry subsidies. After 60-80 years of subsidies, he said there was no improvement in the lives of US farmers. You may not think O'Rourke is the best reporter to quote but he's the only one I've read on the subject, so get your own blog! Anyway, I started this post by mentioning stall and delay tactics and hunting for ways around the WTO directive. The US can do it, so maybe Korea can, too. One way or another, farming will continue to be a nasty, boring, exhausting business

Friday, September 17, 2004

Signs of fall

It's early fall and some farmers have already started bringing in their rice and vegetables. Here is a multi-lane road with one lane taken up for perhaps 500 metres with rice.

This seems to be early. Most of the fields are still unharvested. And yet, this is not the only place that I passed rice spread out to dry. Closer to town, the entire bike lane is carpeted. I want to be sympathetic to the farmers and I know how tough their work is but I almost rode right through the rice out of spite. They couldn't leave a metre on the side for cyclists?

drying rice

I would normally worry about the car exhaust settling on the rice but I think the farmer considers that a trade-off for the pest control cars provide. I watched for a while as a flock of pigeons landed about two metres from the rice, walked up and just began to feed as a car chased them away briefly. They landed two metres away...

There were also many places with hot red peppers drying. That would be a more vibrant picture; strange that I would pick this one.

drying fish.

Even the fish were spread out to dry. Actually, life in the ocean is pretty tough for these little guys. I watched from shore as larger fish chased them to the surface and a mixed flock of gulls and terns picked them off on the surface. These in my hands, and a few hundred others, escaped in the wrong direction and beached themselves. I worked for a few minutes tossing several back in until the most relentless predator approached.

I guess this beaching is a common thing. You know how it is with Koreans and fresh fish. One guy appeared in rubber boots and a bag and collected a few hundred, I would guess.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

I have resorted to shooting students that sleep.

Not interested in English? Posted by Hello

This is not a proud day for me. I have finally resorted to bringing my camera in to class to take pictures of sleeping or phone-using students. I am now trying to shame students into wakefulness. What's next; making students write, "I will not sleep in class." or "I will not use my phone in class." 50 times?

None of my teachers or university professors would have called me a dedicated student. Still, I never slept in class. The phone thing is moot of course, no phones were even marginally portable in the 80's.

Last semester, I had about 9 students miss their midterm or final written exam, meeting me just after the exam and giving the excuse, ' I slept in'. What is wrong with these people?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Not yangyang, not a nuc

I tried to put two pictures in one post. It didn't work, I'll have to try again some other time.

Here is a map showing where the explosion took place. In the Digital Chosun, the province is named Ryangyang. In the Korea Herald, below, it is named Yangyang. This is a common problem going from Hangeul (Korean alphabet) to English. The Korean 'Ry...' sound is very difficult for English speakers to pronounce and some simply accept the 'r' as silent. The reason I am writing about this is I live in Yangyang District in northern South Korea. Mom, or any other friends reading this, there was no explosion here.

The map comes from digital chosun Posted by Hello .

In fact, as far as I can tell, there was no nuclear explosion at all. A nuclear explosion would create an EMP that would be easily measured some distance away. No electro-magnetic pulse, no nuc.

As for what the explosion was, or why it happened, I have no idea. Hey, citizens of Korea, maybe chanting 'Yankee Go Home' wasn't such a good idea, after all.

Update: I am pretty smart, really. However, I do often act without paying enough attention. For example, this location is Ryanggang, not Ryangyang. The second syllable is 'gang'. It doesn't sound much like yangyang after all.

Here's to actually reading what I plan to post about.

A nuclear test?

From the Korea Herald:
A huge explosion rocked North Korea's Yanggang Province bordering China last week,
spouting a cloud of smoke more than six kilometers in diameter, but Seoul and
Washington brushed aside fears of a nuclear weapons test.

Posted by Hello

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Random thoughts

It's late and I'm tired but I don't yet feel like sleeping. Here are a few random thoughts.

BUGS music is Great! For anyone outside of Korea, at Bugs, you can listen to a wide variety of music but you cannot download. It's free. I don't know if there are other services like this. I want some more Canadian content but there can't be that many out there banging down doors for 'Doug and the Slugs' so I guess I can accept their absence. I'm listening to CCR right now. Every now and then, Bugs is threatened with legal action so a few chart topping albums are shown but the music is blocked. The new Barenaked Ladies album was available for a month or two before being blocked. By that time I had the CD so I was set. All of Lou Reed's music is blocked but there's one Velvet Underground available. Here is the site: It's in Korean but it's fairly easy to navigate. At the right- top is a search box. Type in a band or album or song and see what comes up. Click a few boxes and eventually you'll get music.

I went running on Wed and Thurs. I'm taking today off, and probably tomorrow, too. There is a 500+ metre stretch of flat-topped levee near the apartment that I run on. I got up to 10 laps and began wondering how much that '+' was; how far was I running? I ran there on Wed and on Thurs I ran on a track at my university to compare times over a known distance. Big mistake for this only 'young at heart' guy. I managed a solid six km but none of it was fun or smooth. The previous run had been both so I'm back to wondering.

You may wonder why I run on a track or levee at all? Here I am in one of the most rural parts of Korea with roads safe for running and I'm looking for a track. At least I don't ride the elevator to get in my car to ride another elevator to use a running machine. At high school and university I swam competitively and the training involved 60 to 200 lengths of the pool each practice. The repetition doesn't bother me and I don't think that many people run for the view. I sure don't. Running is more like meditation for me; a repetitive act that leaves my mind free.

I guess there's not that many thoughts up there. How much of a surprise is that, really?


Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I just finished a two hour class and I was a big hit with my students. Is that a good thing?

I teach at a university far from Seoul. That's a sort of euphemism; In Korea, Seoul is the sun-source of education and my university is in the wintry distance. To be charitable, Pusan and a few other big cities have good universities but they are even further away. Anyway, this is a lower tier university, a school of last resort. There are a few strong departments - and if a student is reading this, you must belong to one of the stronger ones (I hope that keeps my foot out of my mouth), but only a few.

I see each class once a week and I don't feel that anyone can learn a language once a week. I emphasize that students must practice away from class and my big goal in class is to make English clear and fun. To make it clear, I use a lot, an awful lot, of body language and really ham up the emotions. This makes my teaching style almost indistinguishable from a comedy act- perhaps not a great comedy act. I think I do a good job of modeling the grammar and the conversations but does the humor overwhelm the lesson?

I do notice that my stronger classes laugh more and seem to enjoy the class more than my weaker, Bump-On-A-Log classes. I hope that if they understand enough to laugh, they are learning.

Well, we'll see tomorrow. I have three BOAL classes - and one good one (notice my foot-out-of-mouth skills!)

Monday, September 06, 2004

DVD woes

Starting with a short rant tonight.

What the hell is it with DVD regions? I received a season of the Simpsons a year ago and watched them happily. Then I watched several Korean movies and other movies bought in Korea and now, no more Simpsons. How did I learn about this? For my birthday, a short time ago, I scored the full trilogy of Lord of the Rings movies - 10 or more hours of viewing pleasure. I don't know how long the 3 movies would be because I can't play them.

I looked at software fixes but none seemed to work. Maybe they would have if I'd used them before the player locked into one region.

We may someday look at a region-free DVD player but it's not worth getting any DVD player for our 20 inch TV. I decided to get a peripheral DVD r/w player for my computer. My computer was bought just a month or two before the read/write option became standard so I am hoping the new drive will be useful for more than just region 1 movies.

My wife is Korean and I guess that if and when we move to Canada, she will occasionally receive DVD from home so this DVD regions problem doesn't look like it will go away soon.

I don't really think many people will read this but if you do, I have a question: Was I the only one to not know about this? The only one to be upset by it?

- Oh, you can tell this is a rant because I used the word, 'Hell'.

I have another complaint, while I'm talking about computers and such. I am an English speaker living in Korea. For some reason, Air Canada sends me information on flights from Toronto to Florida and Korean Air sends me news about deals on flights to Korea. I have a Hewlett Packard printer and get monthly emails from them... in Korean. When I registered with them... well, I forget what I did for sure, but I know I would have looked for language options. I think they sell HP Printers in English speaking countries.

Is it impossible for multinational companies to tailor their PR emails to their clients? I am sure that English speakers in Korea are a minority but almost all of us use Korean Air. You can't drive or take the train and who travels by boat these days? And does Air Canada not think that people will use them to fly TO Canada?

I like Korea. Really. And I can accept problems due to language barriers with people on the street. It's my responsibility to learn Korean, not theirs to learn English if I plan to stay for any length of time.

Still, I thought a problem that globalization was to fix is matching the customer's language with the product's information.

I've had this blog for a few months now but I had just signed up out of curiosity. I posted my first blog a few days ago. One person found my blog and commented so I guess someone might see it after all. If you do and have suggestions, I'm open to them.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Back to work

I have a pretty simple job: teach Korean university students a little English. It's not an easy job, but it is short.

After a long summer vacation, I have just finished my first week of teaching the second semester. Today was the toughest. The engineering students, and I had three classes of them today, learn things in a more analytical way than language allows. At least, I sure hope they can learn something! Or that they have some reason for the blank stares they gave me today.

I am aware that the reason could be me. Still, on the first day, they should have some life in them.

Anyway, after work I relaxed with a visit to the local swimming hole. One of the advantages of living in a rural area is that there are a few places where one can really swim. The ocean beaches are out as the lifeguards get frightened when you are more than 5 m from shore. About halfway between my apartment and my university is a small dam and the upstream side is quite deep: 10 feet or so. 10 feet is a big deal on this river; most of it is naught but a foot deep. The deep stretch is long enough to allow a long swim. I went about 100 m upstream then swam back again. I'm blaming the current for being so tired after one lap. My swim-coaches would have laughed at a 200 metre swim. After, to explore, I switched my goggles for mask and snorkel and looked around. Two boys were collecting snails; after looking in their bag I kept going and found a freshwater crab. I think they're pretty rare; certainly it was the first I'd ever seen. It had a good warren of rocks to hide in so I couldn't watch it for too long.

In Yesterday's post, I wrote about learning about Korean politics. I think I've changed my mind. The relocation issue - Making a southern region the political capital- is pretty weird.
In the Korea Herald I learned that the conservative party (GNP) leader

" ... Chairwoman Park Geun-hye apologized again for her party's
approval of the capital relocation bill last year, saying it stemmed
from political calculation. "

Later I see:

" The conservative GNP held the majority when it steered the
bill through. Later, in the April general elections, it lost the majority
to the liberal Uri Party. "

So, when they were in power, relocation seemed a good idea. Now that they aren't, it's a bad idea. Of course they lost the election when they tried to impeach the president so bad decisions seem to chase them around relentlessly.

I am still trying to find a subject to write about. Will this blog be a diary that I, for some strange reason, share with the world? Will I be able to write about politics as if I have a clue? Will this blog simply be a way to create a writing style of my own? I've decided to stop worrying about this and write about whatever I feel like. After ten or so entries I hope I see a common thread and I'll make that my niche. I'll loose an arrow and wherever it lands, I'll make that my target.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Taking Stock

Well, one of my goals with this blog is to document my efforts to learn about Korea. What do I have to start with?

From where I sit at my computer, I can see four different Korean language textbooks. I also see a guide to Hanja (Chinese characters which Koreans use for special situations and are the roots for most Korean words) and two children's guides to about 100 simple hanja. Online, there is a great site that teaches Korean. Sogang university offers courses online and I think you can use the results for advancement in brick-and-mortar courses they offer. (and I learned how to link. Woo-hoo!) Bensmatrix appears to be a good place to start learning hanja.

Oh, for any others interested in learning hanja; be careful which country you need it for. My understanding is the Chinese government found traditional hanja to be too difficult to teach to a large audience so they now use simplified characters. Korea has it's own alphabet but also uses traditional hanja for job titles, proper names and the like.

Anyway, it's clear that I don't need to buy any products here. I guess I need to take mental stock to see if I have the dedication to see language study through.

I have a fair understanding of Korean history. Due to an interest in martial arts, I've read about local wars and local heroes, notably Lee Soon-shin (Koreans hate it when you call him 'Sun-shine'!). I've visited perhaps a hundred temples until I finally have temple fatigue.

One thing I know little about is recent Korean history. I've lived here for three presidents (김영삼, 김대중 and 노무현) but I don't know anything about Korean politics. It's time to reread more of the Marmot and other politically focused blogs.

Finally, and perhaps speaking more to my own interests, I want to learn more about Korean wildlife - there are squirrels and rats and magpies and ... I have hiked up a few mountains here; Hallasan, Chirisan, Soraksan, Bukhansan, Gwanaksan and others. I would especially like to climb one mountain that seems to have travel agencies in every city. I need to learn more about 'Budongsan'.

Well, time to stop writing about it and start doing it. More later.


My friend Mark (left) and I (with Spiderman tie) on-set for Arirang TV's, The Contenders.
Mark and I were the Muso team. We won four games before being trounced, smashed, destroyed in the fifth game. Here is my first attempt at linking:

I can't seem to just have 'here' in blue like the established bloggers do. Something to look into.

We won gift certificates at a Seoul travel agency. I'm not sure how to use mine yet.