Saturday, January 27, 2007

I'm back

Actually, I've had the computer back for almost a week now but I'm running low on inspiration. Thanks Melissa for your keyboard and drinks story.

A friend drove me home from work the other day and we passed a truck on its way to fish Hell -there's got to be a way of constrasting humanity's mythical trip across the river to the land of death to fish on a highway but I've already pointed out my lack of inspiration.
Aha! Here's my inspiration- I'll get someone else to do it. Nathan, you know what I want- email a good classically inspired caption for me to post here. Please.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

don't spill orange juice on your keyboard

Well, duh!

Anyway, it will be a while before I can post blogs from home again. I expect to have the computer back on Wednesday but I may have to wait to get out of the doghouse...we'll see.

Oh, if you do spill a drink on your keyboard, its possible to save the keyboard, but you should act quickly. If you wait a day or two, as I did, the acids in the drink can etch the connection causing you to need a whole new keyboard.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Ijen (instep crampons)

A commenter asked about hiking in Seorak in January. I told him (maybe her), he would need 'ijen'. He asked for a picture. Here are mine, with case, from Kobea (click to enlarge).

Wikipedia also mentions instep crampons (1/3 DOWN THE PAGE).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Will 2007 be about the hagwons?

In 2006 we read many stories about bad foreign teachers making trouble in Korea. The first article on the subject I saw this year lambasted Jeju International English Village and its director, Mr Lee (full name given in the article, isn't that unusual given Korea's libel laws?)

The Herald's article is either poorly organized or the whole story is riddle wrapped in an enigma covered in crap (I don't remember Churchill's exact quote but this story is messy and confused).

My summary of case 1:
A teacher had enough trouble at work to call the police. Officers showed up and said there was a sting going on and could she please wait it out. At the end of her contract, she was told there wasn't time to get her money back before she had to fly out of the country. Soon after, the Herald reporters called the officer who denied any knowledge of wrongdoing. The officer claimed he was checking passports and documents. The Herald called the Immigration Department and was told police don't do that kind of inspection. Jeju police (presumably not the officer in question) then said, 'Yes, we do." Finally Director Lee stated that no police had ever visited the village.

I'm trying to figure this out. I can believe both that a teacher might try to cause trouble for a school s/he was leaving and I can believe some hagwon directors are corrupt. I think the latter is more likely.I also believe a hagwon director might be in cahoots with a police officer. Could the Provincial Police Managers really not know the limits of their authority or could the Herald have called a third conspirator?Finally, could Mr Lee and the police officer not keep their stories straight or are they deliberately creating confusion?

My summary of case 2:
Mr Lee also operates "the Oxford English language hagwon in Seoul" where he is accused of tax fraud, forging signatures and non-payment of salaries. Immigration confirmed that the man is under investigation but may be hiding and has refused invitations to come to the Immigration office for questioning. Mr Lee was interviewed by the Herald and stated that he had not moved nor had he been asked to answer questions.

The whole story simply creates more questions.

Concluding the article:
It is well established that Lee and the highly questionable way he conducts his English teaching enterprises have been brought to the attention of the authorities on several occasions. The lack of initiative shown by the police, labor, and immigration departments to conduct a thorough and coordinated investigation is nothing short of disgraceful.

My own conclusion is that I was unduly harsh on the Herald staff. The article seems to be as well organized as possible and I look forward to learning more.

English teacher killed in paraglider accident on New Year's Day

An American teaching in Gyeongsangbuk Province died while paragliding near Gangneung on January 1. Dangelo Carl was paragliding to photograph the sunrise, possibly committed an operational mistake and crashed into the East Sea. The Coast Guard fished him out so I'll have to see if the missus has any information available to the public.
My condolences to any family and I can only hope that he died doing something he loved.

an alternative to skiing

Here is something I would never have considered; riding a ski lift then hiking (rather than skiing or boarding) back down. When I started reading, I envisioned hikers crossing, and screwing up, the ski-slopes but it turns out their are hike-only trails for use.

I really want to ride this Muju gondola (my highlighting): The gondolas take up to eight people. They run from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m. and take riders to a point 2,671 meters above sea level in 15 minutes.
Wow, fifteen hundred meters above Korea's highest mountain! UPDATE: Its a good thing I am an ESL teacher, not a math teacher - as Masan's greatest hiker (strangely enough, this description is without sarcasm) pointed out, Korea's tallest mountain is much taller than 1100 meters. Still, the gondola, as described, does climb seven hundred meters above Korea's tallest mountain. Uh, you trust me, right? Do I need to show my work?

Temple grounds extended to include entire parks?

This is interesting. Beginning January 1, national parks dropped their entrance fees. However, the temple fees jumped to almost the level of the original combined fee.

This is the most surprising part for me. I didn't realize that, in 2006, when I paid 3,400 won to hike to Ulsan Bowi, around half that fee went to the temple. It does explain why the entrance at O-saek,(the hotsprings and far from any major temples) is, again, about half the Seorak-dong rate (closest to Sokcho). If I hadn't read the article, I would have figured the rate had simply dropped a few hundred won.

Some hikers aren't welcoming the (slightly) reduced entry. They don't intend to visit the temples and are upset to pay for them.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Keeping it fresh: Volunteering may be illegal in Korea

This isn't all that recent and many bloggers have commented on this subject already but no one has mentioned any closure or follow-up on volunteering in Korea.

To refresh people's memories, here is an excerpt from the Korea Times:

Foreigners may face deportation or fines if they volunteer at orphanages or organize performances without reporting them to the authorities.

The interpretation came from Joo Jae-bong, an official at the Ministry of Justice. He said there should be no problem with joining a poetry club but that volunteer activites should be registered with the ministry.

``If it 's just a gathering of friends, there should be no problem,’’ he
said. ``But if they are organizing performances, they need to register to do
those things because they are changing the purpose of their stay here.’’

He said the same rule applies to those who wish to volunteer in an orphanage.
Foreigners need to register those activities with the ministry.

Is volunteering at an orphanage the only prohibited or regulated activity?

I recognize that, in not doing any research myself, I am in no position to point any fingers. Well, I guess I have something to do tomorrow after work.