Friday, April 29, 2005

Don't call him "Sunshine"!

Yi Sun Shin was born on April 28, 460 years ago. He was an interesting man who sacrificed everything to defeat the Japanese after they attacked Korea in 1592. He recieved no thanks during his lifetime and was jailed at least once.

His main failing is embodied in the modern expression, "Those who don't play politics suffer for it". - Actually, I don't know if that is an expression, but I'm sure I've heard something like it.

I read Nanjung Ilgi, Yi's war diary (in English), and perhaps becasue of an over exact translation, he comes off as a whiner and mama's boy. Note to my Korean readers who would otherwise hunt me down and have me deported: I'm blaming the translation or the problems with a modern westerner trying to understand 16th century Korea. Anyway, he is always, "I miss my mom", "My stomach hurt so I slept all day", "I miss my mom"...

This picture is from the Times:

April 28th parade for Yi Sun Shin Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 28, 2005

More wild winds, More fires!

Yangyang had another fire today and as with the Naksan Fire, the winds today were crazy.

Yonhap News:
The fire was moving fast toward the east coast town
of Jumunjin after burning its way through a house, a
public health center and eight other buildings, officials

About 1,600 people, assisted by four helicopters and
dozens of fire engines, were battling the blaze but
encountered difficulties due to strong winds of up
to 25 meters per second, officials said.

The Nomad linked to me because I was able to visit the scene of the previous Yangyang fire but this one is quite a bit south of me and I won't get there until Saturday, if then.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Nomad, and I'm sorry to let you down.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Whistling in the dark. The bright lanterns being put up for Buddha's birthday make a strong contrast to the hectares of black trees around Naksan's still-gleaming Bodhisatva of Mercy. Posted by Hello

close up of Naksan's giant Bodhisatva altar. Only the altar sustained any fire damamge. Posted by Hello

So embarrassing... a flat tire after 30km, I was almost home. I had to let 2 busses pass because they were too full. Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Not my car, by the way.

4-Wheelin'? No, a result of last week's Yellow Dust (황사). Posted by Hello

Taxing bribes: Korea's solution to corruption

Saturday's Korea Times reported that the income tax laws are being revised to "levy taxes on bribes that are found to be taken."

I started by simply being a little shocked by the article (but only a little, I've been here a while) and it took a while to find my specific concern in the article. It's in the "...that are found..." part.

I guess I thought if the politician were found to have taken a bribe, he or she would be criminally punished and the real problem would be learning about the bribes in the first place. I hope there is already some form of punishment for officials when they are found to be taking bribes; is this just another, additional punishment?

From the article:
Under the revision, politicians and public officials
who receive money as bribes or for influence-peddling
are subject to pay income tax on the bribes.

Currently, bribes for politicians and officials
are not the subjects of taxation.

``The current law is so unfair in that ordinary
people are subject to pay taxes on bribes they
take, but politicians are not,'' said Rep. Song
Young-gil of the ruling Uri Party who served
as a member of the subpanel of the National
Assembly's Finance-Economy Committee.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that
bribes and income from influence-peddling
are subject to taxation, despite confiscation
or penalty tax, he said.

So, 'ordinary people' have to pay tax on their bribes already. Does this include professors, for example? (By the way, I'm clean by ethical choice and by circumstance; who'd want to bribe a conversation instructor, when the university pumps up the marks already?)

It was explained to me once that bribes are very common here and called 'Lunch money' or 'apple boxes' (사과상자). Actually taxing the bribe reminds me of the first time I saw the word 'kleptocracy'. The author had to pay a bribe, so he asked, and got, a receipt for his expense account.

I really can't say whether taxing bribes is a step forward or not, but I guess it evens the paying field between politicians and 'ordinary people'.

Finally, a minor quibble, a small editing flame:

Meanwhile, an ad hoc advisory committee on
political reform under the National Assembly
speaker said that it is considering revising the
Political Fund Law to allow individuals or
supporter groups to donate up to
300 million won ($300 million)
to a lawmaker a year.

I'm very excited to hear that 300 million won equals 300 million dollars!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I thought the restaurant chain would be more excited (I'll never attempt to photoshop again...until I learn more than three features). Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The story I missed- defecting fisherman

If anyone reads my blog on a regular basis, they might've rushed here after hearing about a Sokcho fisherman defecting to Norht Korea. Let's see why I should have posted on the subject:

It happened in Gangwon Province and my blog's title includes the word 'Gangwon'.

It happened in Sockho and I live in Sokcho.

My wife is a member of the Korean Coast Guard and the person involved was a fisherman and he left Sokcho by boat.

My only excuse is my special source in the Coast Guard office (Mrs. Gangwon Notes), is in Pusan for training and has been for three weeks.

From the Korea Times:

A South Korean fisherman, who crossed the eastern
sea border in the East Sea aboard a vessel into the
North last Wednesday, was transferred to investigators
on Monday for a joint investigation of his defection,
government officials said.

The fisherman, Hwang Hong-ryon, 57, resident of
Sokcho in Kangwon Province, was picked up by the
country's maritime police at around 3 p.m. near the
Northern Limit Line in the eastern waters from North Korean authorities.

Two 250-ton patrol ships were sent the area to receive
Hwang and pull his ship, named Hwangman-ho, to
Sokcho, the officials said.

``I'm happy to be back,'' Hwang said after arriving
at the port around 5:40 p.m. ``I was so intoxicated
when I went over to the North.''

If I can add anything of substance next week, I will. Until then, check the Marmot.

Complaints about firefighting

The Joongang Ilbo has a short article about angry residents of Yangyang county complaining about firefighter negligence.

As you may remember, the fire was almost out around 11:00am, Tuesday, April 5. Apparently, the helicopters then went to a different fire (I believe in or near the DMZ) and everybody relaxed...just in time for the fire to spread wildly and burn Naksan temple, and, more importantly to the residents involved, 200 homes.

The residents blame the helicopter crews for leaving and the crews blame the on-the-ground fire fighters and the wind.

A spokesman for the Korea Forest Service stated that helicopters are only used to combat the major fires and once they were knocked down, the helicopters were needed more in Goseong. This makes good sense to me. Even a slow moving helicopter can't be expected to have the accuracy needed for small fires. That is when the team of "up to 6,000" firefighters on the ground need to hunt and knock down any hotspots.

Forest fire fighting would seem to be a simple (but dangerous, I'm definitely not saying it isn't dangerous) job. You advance in a line and any place that is too hot to touch needs to be soaked.

It isn't. I was a junior ranger for The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in 1984 and we were constantly reminded about a group a few years previously that had been well equipped and sent to fight a fire and most of them died. Equipping people without training them is almost useless.

I don't know how to fight fires. I don't know if Oranckay does, but he does echo the complaints of the Yangyang citizens who lost their homes.

Seeing the firefighting skills of the soldiers on
television was also depressing, though
obviously every little bit helps. However little.

I guess I agree that someone made a mistake. I saw bus loads of soldiers and many water tankers just parked at Naksan National Park's parking lot. Scores of soldiers were sleeping. I don't blame them for sleeping, they'd been fighting the fire since 11:00pm the previous night and aren't expected to post themselves. However, someone should be held at fault, or at least have really learned something about fires. To be generous, the wind was crazy that day; it shifted around and was ferociously strong. I saw firefighters at two fires with several hundred metres of untouched ground between them; it looked like the fire was really jumping.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Cycling Gangwondo's coast, 1/3 of the way.

I have been pecking away at cycling along the coast of Gangwondo. Last year, I was riding a mountain bike, very sturdy and dependable but slow and, actually, unnecessary. Almost all of my riding has been on excellent paved roads.

Anyway, the mountain bike was fine for getting into town and back but uncomfortable and, again, too slow for really long trips. I managed to ride between Hajodae and Seorak Ipgu, the main entrance to Seorak National Park. Some day, if I get even one comment asking for them, I'll post photos and suggestions for that stretch of coast.

I returned home to Canada for Christmas and came back with my road bike, the one I crossed most of Canada on a few years ago. Now, with a fast, comfortable bike, I'm able to do some bigger trips.

On Saturday, I headed north, hoping for Hwajinpo, with the plan of staying the night and going to the Unification Observatory Sunday morning, before heading home. Hwajinpo is much closer than I thought, about fifty kilometres. Conversely, bicycles are not allowed on the last 12 km to the Observatory.

Luckily, at the 12km point is a vehicle registation point for those heading further north and the friendly information booth attendant asked some motorists to drive me to and from the Observatory.

After the observatory, I returned to Hwajinpo, or possibly Daejin and spent the night. Sunday, I visited the Aquarium in Hwajinpo and went home.

Below are pictures, more details and a few suggestions for others planning a similar trip. On this trip, I hugged the coast as best I could. In future posts I will try to describe a few inland routes, which will probably make the trip more interesting. In really future posts, I hope to write about getting to Gangneung and even Donghae and Samcheok.

Sokcho to Wang-gok Village Posted by Hello

To the Observatory Posted by Hello

The things I carried Posted by Hello
Not shown: I am wearing cycling shorts and regular shorts, and a T-shirt. The padded cycling shorts make long trips more comforable but I am now a large-bellied man and wear nylon shorts for vanity. I wore socks and packed two more pair as I like to change socks to keep my feet comfortable.

Youngnang Lake Posted by Hello
I left my apartment and went to Youngnang Lake where a Hwarang training centre or theme park (I don't know which) had just opened. The Hwarang-in (exhibitors, competitors or park performers) were demonstrating mounted archery. I took some video but am having trouble with my movie maker software. Luckily, I had this photo (Below, from Naksan Temple, of all places) showing some unarmed combat training.

Hwarang Practice Posted by Hello
The Hwarang were knights of the Shilla Empire with similar goals and ideals as the Arthurian knights. Hwarang were a little more bookish, with quite a scholarly requirement and modern readings (in English, maybe the original Korean has a different emphasis) make them sound more like boy scouts than soldiers. On the other hand, I think Powell started scouting as a kind of training for soldiers.

From Youngnang Lake (which has a kayaking club!- flat water sprinting), I took Highway 7 north. Whenever I could, I took sideroads into the various fishing villages to get off highway 7 but I didn't know the area well enough to really hunt for alternate routes. I'll post them later as I do find them. Highway 7 had a broad, paved shoulder most of the time and I felt safer there than on many Canadian roads (Shame on you, Ontario for your shoulderless highways!). The highway is fine, with good paving, and if you are in a hurry, take it. Well, right now, you have to take it because I haven't shown you where else you can go.

After a village called Oho, I passed a pleasant lake, then turned off the highway to visit Wang-gok Village. I'd been there a few times in the past but it is really worth stopping at. For those who obsess over every kilometre, it was 1.5 km off the highway.

Wang-gok was spared during the Korean war and the Korean governement now offers the villagers incentives to keep their houses in the traditional style. There are many thatched roofs here but the effect would be better if the electrical connections were underground or somehow disguised. The effect could easily be a movie set, except for the over-abundance of overhead cables and TV antennaes. Oh well, I don't want to take from the vilagers quality of life.

Wang-gok Village Posted by Hello

Wang-gok Village Posted by Hello

Wang-gok Village Posted by Hello

From Wang-gok, I went back to the highway and mostly stayed on it the rest of the way. My tourist map (terrible for finding backroads, next time I will pay for a map) did show an inland road heading north but I felt lazy and stuck with the easy road. I did manage to go through fishing villages and be away from the highway for a few kilometres at a time but mos tof my trip was on the highway. On the map, you can see the town of Gangseong and the road goes a fair bit inland in a semi-circle loop returning to the ocean. I tried to find a straighter, more pleasant passage but the rivers seemed to have only one or two bridges so stay on the highway here.

After Gangseong, there is only a few tourist locations and the unification observatory so traffic really eases here and the highway drops to two lanes.

When you see signs for Geo-jin (거진, or 거진 11리해수욕장) follow them and the coast for the next few kilometres. You will eventually go inland and skirt a lake, reaching Hwajinpo. I spent more time in Hwajinpo on my return so I'll talk about it then. However, when you see the aquarium, there is a dirt road (maybe paved in a few weeks) on the right. Take it and it'll lead you into Dae-jin.

Take the dirt road on the right. Trust me. Posted by Hello

At the Observatory registration centre, I learned that I could not cycle the last 12 km. As I was talking to the information booth attendant, two Korean gentlemen came in. The attendant was able to arrange for them to drive me to the Observatory.

The men were Mr. Go and Mr. Lee. Here we are with the DMZ and North Korea in the background.

The men who drove me to the Observatory Posted by Hello

Mary: "Pray for me or the tank will fire!" Posted by Hello

The Buddha and Mary praying for their Northern flocks Posted by Hello

Observatory view Posted by Hello
At the registration centre and when getting out of the car at the Observatory, I almost fell down, my legs were so weak. At the end of the day, the odometer showed 64km, not far on mostly level ground. I am really out of shape.

After being dropped off at the registration centre, I rode south about 2 km to Dae-jin and stayed the night at the Ggot-saseum Minbak (minbak are like hostels, I guess). Hmm, the sign says Hwajinpo, maybe that's where I stayed ;) Most of the minbak were closed, waiting for the summer. This one was 25,000won, probably a somewhat better price than I could find in the summer.

Ggot-saseum sign Posted by Hello

Ggot-saseum pond Posted by Hello

At the Ggo-saseum MInbak Posted by Hello

Sunday morning, I stopped at the Hwajinpo Aquarium. It was well worth the 5,000 won admission. Although they have many aqauriums, one diarama (SP?) caught my eye. It was too dark to photograph but the interior had many bright fish on the walls. It was exactly like I want my son's room to look like (if I haven't mentioned it before, I'll be a father in July!).

You can walk over the shark tank and look down into it. Some of the rays were patrolling the surface and I was able to reach over and touch one. On the floor below, you walk through a plexiglass tunnel and watch the sharks overhead.

A sad face? Posted by Hello
By the way, the eyes are on top of the ray. We are looking at the nostrils and mouth in this picture.

Fishermen? No, soldier cut-outs! Posted by Hello

Remember, when I said I hunted for a better route around Ganseong? That was when I saw these guys. I really did think they were fishermen at first. Sorry, my camera focussed on the fence and I didn't notice until I got home.

On Sunday, I dug in a little on the bike and just came straight back home. Oh, in Sokcho, I followed the coastline (with more success than in Gangseong) and took the Gaet-bae ( a small human powered ferry) across a channel. I may post pictures of it another day.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Jogging in the spring

I haven't been going to the health club much later but I have been running outside and it's much better. When I ran on the treadmill, I too frequently looked down to watch the readouts. I watched the seconds tick by, the Kcals burned increase and the distance slowly stretch out.
When I run outside, my head is high and very occassionally look at my watch. The result is much less sweat on my face and in my eyes.

Sokcho has some great running paths along it's lakes (the Young Lang Lake trail is beautiful, although too flat for a serious runner -not me) and down the coast. I hope I can keep up my running as my enthusiasm has declined a little.

MSNBC has an article about the health effects of drinking too much water while running. I was a little worried as I drink a great deal of water everyday. The article was full of cautions and warnings about hypnonatremia, the fancy word meaning the opposite of dehydration. From the article:

They found hyponatremia was most serious in runners
who gained substantial weight — 4½ pounds to 11 pounds
— from drinking lots of water along the route. Extremely
thin runners also were at high risk. Runners who drank
sports drinks, which contain very little salt, were not less
likely to develop hyponatremia.

Bonci and Almond said a good way to prevent problems
is for athletes to weigh themselves before and after
training sessions. If they gain significant weight, they
should cut back on water intake until they find the
right balance — long before race day.

The goal is simply to replace water lost to sweating.

Now, I was worried that I might drink myself into hyponatremia, but not now. How can someone gain two to five kilograms from drinking water? That's a lot of water!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The end of Arirang's The Contenders!

Friday was the last Contenders episode.

My friend Mark and I were on the show for 5 games, We had four great games and then were crushed, destroyed, beaten senseless in the fifth. Here is a link for our first game.

Mark and Brian on the Contenders Posted by Hello

It seems to be a bit of a mystery why the show was cancelled. Mark and I had hoped to return this Fall and try again.

Paik Eun-young and David Hwang, good luck wherever you end up. You did a great job onstage and before the games, calming us down and easing our fears. You made the game fun.