Sunday, October 30, 2005

Happy Hallowe'en all!

I'll be scaring a few students tomorrow - more than usual and deliberately this time!

According to the Landover Baptists, I might be in big trouble for enjoying Hallowe'en. Oh, don't click on the link if you are "unsaved".
"If you are unsaved, you are not allowed at our church, or
our website."

Sorry about the early post

I thought I could write the post below early and have it up in the evening. I changed the time stamp but it posted this morning (Sunday) anyway. Something more to learn.

The Korean Mail System - ya gotta love it!

This (Sunday) morning, the mailman delivered a package from home. It was dated the 24th so that's less than a week from Canada. Canadian mail usually takes more than a week IN Canada, even inside of one province.

Put this one in the plus column for Korea!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Police Administration sleeper.

Sleep in class; get posted on my blog!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Let's follow Singapore's example (warning: sarcasm ahead)

In a letter to the Joongang editor, someone suggested that Korea change it's English Teaching System to be more like that of Singapore and India.

Korea may indeed find places to improve it's language classes but the writer chose two strange examples; Should Korea be part of a regrowth of the British Empire and be ruled by London? Hey, it worked for Singapore and India.

Open water swimming to return as an Olympic Sport

There will be no women's boxing in Beijing (none official, anyway) but there will be a 10km open-water swimming race.

Although I am over-the-hill for such an event and watching such the race would be even more boring than most speed-swimming races, I am happy to hear about the inclusion of the 10km swim. I have competed a 12km swimming race and in several 1 mile, 3 mile, and 3 km races.

I hope this news reinvigorates a summer sports camp I worked at back home. We'll see how many Camp Chikopi (boys) and Akomak (girls) alumni will be in Beijing.

Tourism to eliminate poverty

I commented earlier on plans to build a canal system connecting Seoul and Pusan (I was not in favor). The use of tourism to reduce poverty is related in that they superficially sound like good, even great ideas, but aren't. Dho Young-shim isn't the first person to think of encouraging the tourism industry of poor countries; the reason it isn't being done now is it doesn't work.

From the Korea Herald article:
Amb. Dho is well known and well regarded on the diplomatic circuit for her work organizing trips for diplomats to different parts of Korea and also managing the "Singing Ambassadors," but there's much more to her job.
I served as a tour guide for a group of ambassors to Naksan temple and Seorak Park. While I have never met her, perhaps, in a sense, I worked for her.

She describes an African project:
"In Nigeria there's a project called 'One Village, One Product' in which we help out a village to create one product that can be sold in the tourism market," said Dho.
The problem is, how many wooden dolls, priced for a mass tourism market do you have to make before you can go to university? How many straw elephants to buy a water filter? Skilled craftsmen can usually set their own prices but how many craftsmen can be in one village? I don't know a lot about economics but I understand that the further you get from raw materials, the more value you have. A few kilos of various ores are valuable as a doorstop. If you make a computer from them, the unit price is as unrecognizable as the computer is from the raw ore. A block of wood has low value. Cut it into lumber and the value increases but is still low. Make a table or other furniture and you have a valuable product. How many people go to Africa to buy mass produced furniture?

Tourism does bring money to a region but most flows back out. If you book a tour to China in your home country, most of that money will go to translators from the city and to the hotels on the route - but the hotels are chains owned by international companies so the money again leaves the rural communities.

There is one kind of tour that does leave substantial money in the areas it goes through; but only if it is done right. Ambassador Dho gets this one right (and it is a tour I would love to do):
One of her future projects is a bicycle trip along the Mekong River. It will start and Laos and work its way through Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), and Thailand. [Brian: not Vietnam?- is my geography off?]

So far there are over 100 riders due to take part in the trip. But the kicker is that local people will be used along the trip route to deliver water, food and other supplies, thus creating small jobs for a large number.
Maybe there are other kinds of tours that would work as well; I am just against big-bus tourism and for self-guided tours.
Very few organized tours do leave the money along the route. This one sounds like it will. But consider the last phrase; 'small jobs for a large number'. Waiters and waitresses in the west can, with tips, make good money. Will the Cambodian waitstaff do so well? The deliverymen? The laundry workers? Assorted ticket takers?

The problem is, tourism is 90% low skill work. If locally owned hotels are used, that will help a little, but not to the point of sending more people to improve their education, for example.

I could well be wrong. I hope I am. Perhaps a supply of constant work will be created and people will be fed and clothed. That is a good first step; I just see it as a bottom rung kind of step with no promise that the ladder extends very far.

An important point here is that I have no better answer. Perhaps, like democracy, her solution is the worst one there is...except for all the others.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The sea was angry, my friend... an old man at a deli, trying to return soup.
(one of my favorite Seinfeld lines)

While I was struggling up the mountain, several people nearby wished they were higher on the mountain.

From the Times:
High waves along the east coast killed four people, including two children, and overturned dozens of fishing boasts on Sunday, police said.

More than 20 houses were also submerged after being hit by the waves.

The 7-meter-high waves swallowed two children, ages four and seven, while they were playing on a breakwater in Pohang, North Kyongsang Province, according to police.

Another man was found dead in Jumunijin.

The Korea Meteorological Administration forecast larger than normal waves but the actual waves were even larger and now the KMA is in big trouble.

I recall they were also critisized for their lack of warning during an earthquake-driven tsunami (40 cm) in the spring. In that case, I don't think they can be blamed as the tsunami waves move so fast. In this case, I don't know. They knew large waves were coming and gave a warning for 4 metre waves. They were off by almost 200%. I am not a meteorologist but weather reports are often off a little and affected by local conditions. I really don't know if they are at fault but it would be comforting to blame someone...I guess.

I want to be sick

I don't even know what comment to make on this article. Read the Nomad for details.

A 45-year-old woman was Monday sentenced to five years in prison for forcing her teenage daughter into prostitution at bars.
The Seoul Central District Court handed down the prison term to the owner of a teahouse in Kyonggi Province for handing over her daughter to bars and clubs for money.

In August 1999, the women, identified as Kim, sent her daughter, then 12, to a bar in Chunchon, Kangwon Province, to work as a prostitute.

PIne beetles on the coast, on the move

I have frequently seen signs on the edges of pine forests saying, "Pine Gall Midge Control Area". I am not sure if the worms in this article cause pine gall and the vector is a beetle, not a midge, but either problem seems troubling and the location is about right; near Jumunjin.

A type of roundworm called a nematode (info here) is parasitizes beetles and pine trees. I am not sure how the beetle is affected by the worm but the worm is known as the "AIDS of pine trees.[because] there is no cure".

The flying sawyer beetle carries the worms but the situation is complicated by humans carrying infected lumber around the country.

From the article:
However, Korean officials believe that humans had more to do with the spread of pine wilt disease than insects, considering that the sawyer beetle moves less than three kilometers from its hatching ground during its life span.

``It is important to control the movement of timber coming in and out of infested areas. We believe that is how the disease spread north in the first place,’’ said Park.

The Korea Forest Service will cooperate with the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Construction and Transportation, to trace the movement of timber in 152 expressway tollgates nationwide.

The management of pine wilt disease is primarily limited to prevention, as there is no cure for it once a tree becomes infested the nematode. Korean forestry officials have been attempting to prevent the disease from spreading by spraying insecticide between May and June, the season when the sawyer beetle emerges, despite concerns about water pollution.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Bataan Deathmarch would seem easy compared to this!

Yesterday, I finished a challenging hike over Seorak's main peak, Daecheongbong. If I'd been in shape and a little better prepared, it might have been fun. In fact, large portions of the trip were fun but by the second half of the trip, I simply left my camera in my pack and marched, doggedly, painfully, grumblingly on to finish the damn thing.

My hiking partner, a coworker of my wife's, in contrast, was full of energy throughout the hike and leapt from rock to rock like a mountain goat.

I don't normally like to hike on the weekend, especially on a weekend when the nation's attention is focussed on the mountain. The news of early snow brought the crowds out and just before we reached the summit, it was buzzed and filmed by a KBS chopper. Actually, the crowds weren't so bad and when we caught up to other groups I had a chance to rest before we passed them.

That's right. Even though I am whining and complaining about how painful the hike was, we passed more than a hundred people.

We started at O-saek and went up the south side of the mountain, reaching patches of snow at about 900m and walking in continuous snow at about 1500m. The last bit of the ascent was not that steep and our footing was secure.

The top was windy but not too bad. Except for the top, I was in shirtsleeves throughout the hike. We waited in line then posed for the required photos (I didn't take any at the top) then hiked down to the mountain hut to eat.

Then we started down the north side. There was continuous snow to about 800 m and patches almost all the way down. The first part of the north slope is steep and we didn't bring any spikes. We had to hop and slide from exposed rock to exposed rock. Also, and I'm not proud to say this; from tree to tree. WhenI had the energy, I felt bad for smashing into the trees but I soon gave up caring.

Here are a few of my pics. I may post more when my hiking partner gives me his (click to enlarge).

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Snow on Seorak, photos at 11 (tomorrow)

From downtown Sokcho, snow can be seen dusting the nearby peaks. I plan to climb to Dae-cheong-bong (Seorak's main peak) tomorrow so if the snow remains, expects photos then.

This is really early for snow, although I normally look for snow from the south side of the mountain. From the south, the first snowfall was around Nov 14, 2003 and Nov 26, 2004. Actually, I forget the exact dates, look here if you really care.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Seaways, Canadian & Korean

Quebec sovereignists want to regain control of the St. Lawrence Seaway

This was the title of a Yahoo article I read at about the same time as this one:

Seoul Mayor Lee Pushes for Massive Cross-Country Canal

While at university I worked at a Welland Canal (part of the St. Lawrence Seaway) museum. Add that to my being a fairly rabid nationalist (Quebec is fine - those damn Bloc Quebecios) and my living in Korea and these articles obviously resonate with me.

About the Korean Canal (The Kyoungbu Canal). The Seoul mayor, apparently as part of a possible presidential candidacy, has been talking up a canal from the Han River to the Nakdong River, connecting Seoul with Pusan by water.

Of course, Seoul and Pusan are already connected by water in a mostly free waterway. The Han and especially the mouth opening into the Yellow Sea might need dredging but that's nothing compared to what the upper reaches of the Han will need.

I am getting ahead ofmyself here. Clearly, I don't like the idea of a Han-Nakdong Canal. I didn't start that way. I admit that as soon as I read the Bloc wanted control of the seaway, I immediately was opposed; that was a gut-instinct, predudice kind of thing. In the case of the Korean Canal, I put really thought into making my opinion although I didn't think that long about it. It just seems such a bad idea upon very short reflection.

Well, lets compare a few canals. I am most familiar with the St. Lawrence Seaway but the Panama Canal is probably the best one to compare to the Proposed Korean one.

First, in terms of speed and size of cargo; the St. Lawrence Seaway is really only profitable for very large cargoes.:

The St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes are thus mainly
used to ship heavy raw materials and limited general cargo traffic occurs past Montreal (a major container port). One of the main reason behind such a characteristic is that general cargo is now shipped through containers and that the railway system is faster to ship containers to eastern and western seaboard
ports than transporting containers through the Seaway. For instance, it takes a little more than 24 hours to transit a container by rail from Chicago to Montreal, while this operation would take around one week through the Great Lakes and the Seaway.

Ships going through canals are always going to be slower than cargo trains and most of Korea's large cargoes are either imported or exported; is there much in the way of heavy ore or multi kilotons of rice that needs to be shipped from Seoul to Pusan?

So, while not being an economist, I don't see how the economies of scale would benefit people using an inland waterway.

Panama is a good comparison for the Kyoungbu as both Canals climb to some significant altitude before descending on the other side. Panama has a natural lake that is used to proivde water at the highest elevations while Korea is not naturally blessed with abundant water for such projects. Where will the water come from?

From the Times:

Lee had deliberately commented on his plans to build a canal
that connects the Han River, flowing through Seoul and the metropolitan area,
and the Naktong River, which flows into the Korea Strait near the southernmost
port of Pusan. He first introduced the idea for the ``Kyongbu Canal’’ as a
lawmaker in 1996.

``The southern part of the Han River and the
upper part of the Naktong River is only 20 kilometers apart. If we are able to
connect Seoul and Pusan through an inner-country waterway, it will cut one-third
of logistics costs and help the economy by creating more jobs and balancing
regional development,’’ Lee said during a breakfast meeting last week arranged
by the Kwanhun Club, an organization of senior journalists.

I have not yet looked at a map but the two rivers come closest in Gangwondo and 20 kilometers can be a long way in such mountainous terrain. Panama had malaria as one of it's biggest challenges but it's mountain pass and the St. Lawrence's escarpment pale in comparison to the mountains in Gangwon for building a canal.

We need to remember that Seoul is the political capital and the economic capital but it is not the industrial capital. Again, what needs to be transported from seoul that needs ships?

Jobs will certainly be created and the country that is already number 7 in the world for total numbers of dams will jump a few rungs to build the canal and Korea's last natural area will be covered in cement for a canal with no real purpose.

Finally, Quebec never owned the seaway the Bloc wants to 'regain'. It was built with Canadian and American money and while I think of it as Canadian, it does, I guess, belong to both countries and not to a single province. I don't know if threatening the Bloc is a worthy way to maintain ties with the province they think they represent but they need to remember that if Canada is segmentable, maybe that means Quebec is too and southern Quebec (where the canal lies) is pretty strongly nationalist.

The story of the canal is a part of the history of my country; it shares that honor with the railways that also worked to link the giant nation together and I have to admit my irrational dislike of the Bloc is strengthened by their grandstanding on a national symbol.

UPDATE: GI Korea is also discussing the Kyoungbu canal and that's where the discussion seems to be. He posts every day; must be a military discipline thing. Anyway, he gets more hits and more comments than I do.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Some Canadians in trouble o'er here

Over at the Marmot, there's a post about Canadians, apparently all claiming to be from Arcadia University, have been working illegally with fake degrees. Well, not so many of them now.

The Globe and Mail has another piece on the “50 Canadian
citizens have been caught in a crackdown this month.” This time, it’s how dumb
asses without a college degree are getting arrested ’cause they don’t have a
degree from Acadia University, even though they told the delightful folks at ROK
immigration that they did.

Original story in the Globe here.

There were two stories at the Marmot but the second one wasn't coming up properly.

If I knew any of these people, I might feel sorry for individuals on a case-by-case basis, but I have no sympathy for people coming here to work without even the minimal required qualification. If this goes on, I may have to cut my hair even shorter and carry a black backpack.

Seorak Festival and mystery leather

What wonderful, all-purpose material is used in these works of art? (Click on the images for a larger picture)

Squid! Korean chewing gum is good for more than making buses fragrant.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bird flu and watchers

I guess that soon the Manchurian cranes will be stopping here on their way south for the winter. They are magnificient birds with great coloration. I don'thave any experience with ostriches but the cranes seemed as big as ostriches, although much slighter. They flew in 'V's and their huge wings semed prehistoric.

Sadly, I cannot recommend you go to Cheorwon to see them.

From the Joongang:

October 12, 2005 ㅡ Koreans will begin to go
bird-watching later this month, but government officials would just as soon they
stayed home and rented a DVD.Festivals celebrating the southward migration of
ducks, geese and other fowl will go on almost as usual, despite official fears
about the danger of avian influenza in the feathered flocks that will soon begin
passing through the nation.


Gangwon province, where about 100,000 migratory birds visit each winter, will monitor migratory bird droppings on flyways there.

This looks like fun

Researchers paddle in a boat on a 200-meter-long lake
discovered within a pseudo-limestone cave in Pukcheju County, Cheju Island. The
country reported Thursday that a research team headed by geologist Son In-seok
has found the lake, which is 7 to 15 meters wide and 6 to 15 meters deep, within
the cave.

(Photo and caption from the Korea Times)

Here are researchers in another cave. I hope Cheju's cave doesn't have killer-virus infected bats!

inappropriate use of sidewalks

I enjoy walking. I walk whenever I can. But walking seems to be discouraged in Korea.

I wrote about motorcycles on sidewalks in Feb. and I found an article in the Herald about a Korean who lived briefly overseas who shares my complaint. I mention that he lived overseas as those who have never left Korea may just accept parked cars and motorcycles on the pedestrianways as expected.

From the article:

Why are we sharing sidewalks with motorcycles and scooters?
Our Seoul government office has just spent billions revitalizing a river and
recently hosted a global mayor's conference. I was there. And I felt anything
but pride. It was embarrassing having mayors (and their representatives) from
Rome and Tokyo sidestepping scooters and breathing in their fumes as they walked
along city-center sidewalks. This doesn't happen in other large first world
metropolitan centers. A motorcycle zipping along the sidewalks of Chicago? A
scooter blowing on its horn for pedestrians to clear the way in London?

I don't usually have such problems in Sokcho but I do see cars parked at the crosswalks. When I start to use the stroller with my son, I expect to have to lift it over curbs as the ramps are usually blocked by parked cars.

I wish I could blame the police (and I frequently mumble about where they could be hiding) but for such a long-term and nationwide problem, I have to beg the voters to take the blame or create pressure to fix the problem.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

sleeping first year student

Sleep in class, get posted on the net.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

which dog did it?

While walking to the elavator this morning, I had to step over dog pee in the hallway. I would like to complain but there are three dogs on my floor so I don't know who to complain about.

Who knew dogs would be so aware of current fashion trends?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hwa am sa

On Saturday, I went on a picnic with my wife and her coworkers from the National Maritime Police Agency (Coast Guard). Completely unrelated to this post, I asked several Coast Guard officers if they could swim and the majority could not or could not swim well.

Anyway, we hiked on the edge of Seorak National Park, near Hwaamsa and it was beautiful. We drove to the main gate to the temple, walked a few hundred metres to the temple bridge, then turned away and went up the mountain and it was one great view after another. Up some steep stairs, takes you to an egg-shaped rock 30 metres tall that you could scramble on. I edged around the side and took this picture of the temple.

The high point of the climb though, is the view of Ulsan Bowi from the local peak, another 20-40 minutes up. Ulsan bowi fills one quadrant of your view and on Saturday, it loomed ominously with the cloudy sky behind it. The other direction has Sokcho and the Sea of J...I mean the East Sea before you.

On the way down, I wanted to see the temple but we had to collect Alex from the baby-sitter so actually visiting the temple will be another trip. Another challenging trip as there are no busses that get get close. The best you can do is take #3 to Dae Myougn Condo and walk about 2 km to the temple. I may make it a day's ride.

It seemed to be one of the most beautiful temples I have ever almost-visited. A stream and gurgling waterfall cross the grounds and, as I have already described, the location is wonderful.

From a goseong website, I learn the temple grounds are over 1000 years old, there is an interesting fable about the dangers of greed and that a VERY challenging marathon is held here in September ( I missed hearing about it at the time). Hwaamsa has it's own website, only in Korean.

The Herald tells me that Seorak colors will peak around October 20th. I am lucky enough to be able to visit on a weekday because the main Park areas will be hideously crowded for the next few weekends. If you have to visit on a weekend, the Hwaamsa area seems less heavily used (until my millions of readers swamp and ruin it. Would you believe dozens? A boy scout with rabies? [goodbye Don adams]).

Pumkin? Really? One 'P'?

In one of my classes, I use a domestically produced textbook. It is published by a famous hagwon in Korea and it isn't Min Byoung Cheol. Anyway, it is full of spelling errors. If the book is to be trusted, fashionable women wear 'high hill' shoes and students can correct errors with an 'erazer'.

I thought this was another error but now I wonder if it is another American/Canadian/Other spelling mistake (Sorry Australia, England, New Zealand, for lumping you together like that). Is the big orange gourd, a symbol for Hallowe'en, spelled 'pumkin' or 'pumpkin'? Google finds websites with either spelling. The Korea Herald has this photo with the caption 'Pumkins for display only'.

The caption below (my coloring):

A Lotte Department Store displays a variety of pumpkins, a popular ingredient of "Juk," light porridge.

The Herald is giving both spellings in one article. Perhaps the editors were not sure and decided to be wrong once rather than twice.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

East Sea of Japan and pollution

Rick Raffin, over at A Yank Abroad wrote about the East Sea/ Sea of Japan and decided that the real controvsy is how much pollution is being dumped into it. A Hai Dong Gum Do friend of mine, Todd Vercoe, wrote about the same subject years ago (as described at A Yank Abroad). To be honest, I've found Raffin's viewpoints to be annoying in the past but these are subjects he is in a good position, geographically, to know about. He lives in Donghae (the same name as the sea) which has two giant cement plants and, though probably cleaner than Pohang, is a good place to see the effects of industry on the water.

After describing abandoned nets, he talks about the ships that carry cement:
These boats that come in and pick up cement at the Halla dock down the beach, and at the Port of Donghae in the other direction, flush their bilges of excess liquid before going out again. The major cause of marine pollution is not oil tankers sinking, but the hundreds and thousands of sea captains worldwide who routinely flush their bilges of excess water, and all the oil and diesel fuel that it contains.

Dumping of bilge water close to shore is an international problem and it is bilge water that brought the Zebra mussel and other invasives to the Great Lakes of Canada and the US. I think one of the invasives is from Asia; the snake-fish, a kind of superpredator that eats fish eggs. I don't know about if there are any invasives of note in Korea's coastal waters.

Raffin also describes the construction of a golf course next to the ocean. He simply complains generally about overdevelopment but golf courses are significant on their own. I recall a study from the 90's that showed Japan in one year having 4 deaths from pesticide and fertilizer use- all were golf course employees. The courses use, I forget, but four times or more chemicals than farmers do per unit area.

While Raffin's article mentions the East Sea/ Sea of Japan issue in passing and is devoted to the environmental problems of the Sea itself, Vercoe's article is the mirror image; most of it describes the name issue and ends with a short note on the pollution. His main points are every country has an 'east' and names don't confer ownership.

I think the first point is more interesting. The name "East___" doesn't tell us where the geographical object is. The North Sea is fairly easy to find. Although it is not at the far north, we could reasonably disregard the southern two-thirds of the globe in looking for it. This is not true with the East Sea. With the name "The Sea of Japan", we can probably turn to the right atlas page in one try.

From Vercoe's article:
Korea should assert such international pressure on bettering the ecology of the water rather than on unimportant nomenclature so that the people from all four nations would benefit in longer lives, better health and a more vibrant marine industry.

Maybe the pollution will cause Korea and Japan to use the names in a different style, much as my wife and I do when our son is good or bad. When he's bad, I will say, "Look what your son did!", most of the time, I say, "Look what our son did.", but if I'm really pleased, it's "Ah! My son!" Korea may say,"Fish stocks are declining in the Sea of Japan." or the converse, "The East Sea is much cleaner than the dirty Yellow Sea."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Checkin' in

Hey all (all three of you).

I'm fine; a little busy. Exams are coming up and I should be preparing them now. I do have one of four almost ready. Alex is relaxing in his stroller but we will have to do Something soon - I can't just roll it back and forth with my foot all day.

I haven't seen much in the newspapers lately that I feel like applauding or mocking or announcing so that's a dry well.

It's been months since I rode my bike out of town, or done any other exercise, so that's not very exciting either.

Should I make this a baby blog? No, I want people to read this.

Anyway, check in when you feel like it; there should be more here in a week or so. There should be...