Saturday, February 28, 2009

A change in Korean driving patterns coming

A surprisingly good photo from my window, 3AM, two weeks ago.

Firetruck and car blocking access to hydrant at a friend's apartment complex.

The photos don't direct relate to the post below.

There were two articles in the Donga about a court ruling on criminal prosecution of insured drivers. The first, from the 27th is a news report, while the second, from the 28th, is an Opinion piece.

In the past, a driver in Korea with insurance could not be charged for causing an accident, except under 12 specific criteria (among them, drunk driving, speeding and hit-and-run)."[T]he traffic law served the legislative purpose of preventing the number of convictions from soaring and quickly resolving legal disputes" (2). The constitutional court found
the unconditional immunity for a driver violates the constitutional requirement to minimize encroachment on basic rights. The latest ruling was affected by the fact that most drivers are now covered by general liability insurance and that most drivers who cause accidents do not even appear before the victims, leaving all the damage-related tasks to insurers.(2)
“Though there are multiple options in punishment such as formal, informal and suspended prosecution depending on the cause of injuries and the severity of the mistake, giving immunity to an insured driver is against the Constitution because this is overprotection of basic rights,” the court said.

“Korea has an extraordinarily higher rate of car accidents than other (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, and such an immunity case is rare to find. (The immunity rule) tends to make drivers negligent in safe driving or leave what happens after the accident to insurance companies.(1)

I would be interested in what the 12 criteria for permitting criminal charges were.

It seems that drivers were able to walk away from accidents and not be held accountable. I think this is wrong. Ironically, my understanding is that if a car hits a pedestrian, the driver starts off being considered guilty and almost always faces charges. I think this is wrong, too. A drunk stepped onto the highway near Gangneung and my friend missed him. My friend would have been charged had she hit him.

Drivers are either too free of criminal charges or too threatened by them.

I have to admit that my experience with and complaints about Korean automotive culture relate more to low speed driving on back streets and where drivers think they can reasonably park. Still, this decision by the constitutional court seems a step in the right direction for making Korean roads safer.

ADDED Later: Welcome visitors from ROK Drop. There is a new article on the subject in the Korea Times, which I discuss here (honestly, the KT covers it well enough).

Sorry, Mom

My mother will be visiting in April and May and we picked the dates to try to coincide with blooming flowers.

Unfortunately, the Joongang Ilbo has bad news:
With temperatures forecast to be above average next month, spring flowers like azaleas and forsythias are expected to bloom about a week earlier than last year, the Korea Meteorological Administration said yesterday.

I wish I could use the warm temperatures as an excuse, but mom is due here a month late, so the ten days change isn't big enough for me to be let off the hook.

Still, the dates are for when they begin to bloom, they will stay for some significant time afterwards. Also, the cherry blossoms will occur later - hopefully while Mom is here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism and, uh, Manitou-ism, are all crazy-ass religious choices!

I may be in trouble.

UNITED NATIONS - Islamic countries Monday won United Nations backing for an anti-blasphemy measure Canada and other Western critics say risks being used to limit freedom of speech.

...while the draft’s sponsors say it and earlier similar measures are aimed at preventing violence against worshippers regardless of religion, religious tolerance advocates warn the resolutions are being accumulated for a more sinister goal.

“It provides international cover for domestic anti-blasphemy laws, and there are a number of people who are in prison today because they have been accused of committing blasphemy,” said Bennett Graham, international program director with the Becket Fund, a think tank aimed at promoting religious liberty.

“Those arrests are made legitimate by the UN body’s (effective) stamp of approval.”

I can still get away with titling a post as I did because "the current resolution is non-binding, Pakistan’s Ambassador Masood Khan reminded the UN’s Human Rights Council this year that the OIC ultimately seeks a “new instrument or convention” on the issue. Such a measure would impose its terms on signatory states."

I am proud of Canada's response:
“Canada rejects the basic premise that religions have rights; human rights belong to human beings,” said Catherine Loubier, spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.

“The focus (here) should not be on protecting religions, but rather on protecting the rights of the adherents of religions, including of people belonging to religious minorities, or people who may choose to change their religion, or not to practice religion at all."
From and via Pharyngula

Not getting the message

I have to admit my knowledge of USFK is mostly informed by AFKN, so I don't know how different bases operate, or, well, much of anything about their services.

Still, these two reports, three weeks apart, seem to be quite contradictory.

On Feb. 10, GIKorea described how "Long time ROK Drop reader and commenter Mark has decided to take on USFK authorities over not being able to enroll his daughter into school at Yongsan..." It seems that so many Korean children were enrolled at the schools that servicemen (for example, US Army Major Gardner), for whom the schools were built, couldn't get their own kids in.

Today I learned that "USFK Wants Korean Students to Attend Base Schools":
The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) made an official proposal to the Korean education ministry Thursday to allow Korean students to attend schools at its camp in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

The plan was unveiled when USFK Commander Gen. Walter Sharp met Education, Science and Technology Minister Ahn Byong-man in Seoul, ministry officials said.

Again, the latter article is about Pyeongtaek and I don't know about the former. Perhaps it is a different region, or catering to a different age group. Anyway, it sure looks like there is confusion.

More on testing and evaluating

I've discussed evaluation technique a little here and admitted how I need to improve my evaluating skills. Somewhat related is this article about selfish stakeholders (school teachers and inspectors) adjusting evaluation results for their own gain and the student's loss.

The news is bad, but also, the English is interesting.
"schoolteachers and even their inspectors were busy hiding their students' ``real'' downright phony-up of scores." Ah, "...downright faking of scores"? "...downright creation of scores"?
"Most Koreans must simply be hoping ― not so convincingly ― the second year will be different." How does one hope convincingly?

"A more fundamental question, however, should be about the wisdom of continuing the attainment test, which critics say is nothing but the grading of all of the nation's elementary and secondary schools from first to last by a uniform test."
This part isn't funny, it's just a serious question."

Some other serious points:
"President Lee stressed the need for universities to select students with more creative thinking and growth potential instead of those getting the highest marks in tests...

Even if national competitiveness is the keyword in education, what enhances the competitiveness is not endless competition in education, but the education based cooperation and consideration of others, as shown by the countries with the most advanced educational systems in the world, such as Finland.

Surveys say 70 percent of Finnish students have found studying interesting, while 60 percent of Korean students wish they had been born in other countries."

I am reminded of January 30's Science Friday broadcast describing the teaching of science facts (relating here as the easiest manner of test preparation) and the teaching of scientific reasoning. At this time, I am preparing an ESL text content based on biology and cannot think of how to teach scientific reasoning within the course framework. The class will almost definitely be a sort of 'history of evolution' because preparing and running actual experiments (I say 'actual' to contrast with the experiments I did in high school and early university that were repeats of past experiments, whose answers were already known: Actual experiments rather than recipe-following) will be too difficult. Hmm, I have a new respect for science fairs, where students do get to make their own choices and exercises their creativity.


On a different, though still teaching-oriented subject, edutainment may not work as well as I had thought.

This report describes testing whether the telling of interesting anecdotes, which does seem to keep the students paying attention, actually improves memorization of the content. Apparently, it does not.
The students did equally well on the test of general knowledge, whether or not the extra details were interesting. But when they were asked to apply that knowledge, arguably a more difficult task, the students who saw the boring extra details performed significantly better, whether the information was presented in booklet, PowerPoint, or animated form.
So while students can get the general gist of a topic when there are irrelevant examples, they do better at applying that information when those examples aren't very interesting.

Sexy examples, it seems, distract from the learning task. The researchers aren't suggesting that teachers start using boring examples, either -- what's best is to present only information that's relevant to what's being learned. Adding in irrelevant examples, especially the juicy ones, only makes learning more difficult.

The comments at the blog, linked above, attack the methodology as the examples of interesting and boring material were for different fields so there might be more uncontrolled variables.

An ex-coworker told me how his teacher described getting the correct mouth shape for a difficult pronunciation. He said she said (I'm a nerd who is amused by being able to write that phrase) to imagine you mouth is full of worms. That certainly is evocative and memorable but I forget what the pronunciation is for.

Back to the article: it talks about how a teacher, when students were being unruly, would say, "SEX!" and then continue the lesson as everyone suddenly paid attention to her. The article claims that this approach would not work, which means this university would not be as successful as previously thought.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thanks AlaskaMarci and OnTheRoadMartin

Here I am cooking D.L. Jardine's Texas Chili, a Christmas present from my sister, AlaskaMarci.

However, I wouldn't be able to open the tomato sauce without a can opener, a gift from OnTheRoadMartin, an ex-coworker who is still making plans for March and onwards.

The story of the can opener is a funny one. I had thought l lost my Swiss Army knife, a Christmas gift from many years ago from my mother. I bought a new one to replace it, but then found the original knife.

I then asked a coworker, Masuro, if he wanted to buy a knife and he happily said yes. Indeed, he was right at that time looking for a knife.

I told him about the knife I thought I had lost and how I even used it at home as I didn't have a can opener.

The next day, a can opener appeared in my mailbox at work. I thanked Masuro, who looked surprised. Soon, I learned that OTRMartin (ah, he's never On The Rag, he's always cheerful) had dropped it off for me. It seems that he has had an extra opener for years and even carried it with him, asking if others wanted it. He got tired of that, somewhat strange, habit and didnt' go out of his way to mention it these days. After he overheard my talk with Masuro, he delivered it the next day.

Coming soon, The chili!

Not quite sure of the value of this

...but it sure looks cute.

Last week the big fella (no longer the little guy) had his first Tae Kwon Do class.

We were asked, in an entirely friendly and well-meaning way, to not hang around the gym during his first classes as he would be distracted.

I did, however, watch the end of his classes as I waited to pick him up, careful to stand back from the door I peering through, to see him but not be too obvious (foreigners can distract whole classes of children easily).

The first time I watched, he was mostly playing with his belt like a snake. On a later visit, I saw him practice with some classmates of similar age or size. They must have had more experience because they were kicking from what I know as 'fighting stance' (one leg leading,body twisted slightly, hands
up in fists) and jumping on ocassion from left-leg-leading to right-leg-leading. The big fella was just jumping up and down, body squarely facing the instructor.

But, he had a happy smile on his face.

I am satisfied with the instructors and the big fella's training. So long as he has fun with other children, and learns a little, I will be as happy as the litt...big fella.

Oh, these photos were taken at home, if you couldn't tell.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Can cloned wolves reproduce?

Seoul National University is again publicizing it's cloning program. I sincerely hope things go better this time than they did with Dr Hwang's work there.

They have cloned four wolves ( I guess they could be litter-mates as they would not necessarily be brother and sister. Also, are they four cloned wolves or two clones each of two wolves?) and will try to mate them this spring.

``The mating of wolves, even for natural ones, would be a very tricky process, and it would require tight collaboration between the veterinarian researchers at SNU, Seoul Grand Park and Cheongju Land,'' Lee said.
Are they wolves or hedgehogs?

...considering that the mating season for the female wolves comes around in March, we could see some results as early as spring next year."
I am guessing the interview was last year, as the gestation period for wolves in North America is around two months, not one year.

The reason the proposed mating is big news is that the DNA for the eggs and sperm is unusually old, having gone through two full childhoods - the original wolf growing into maturity, then the cloned wolf starting as a fetus and growing to maturity. The wolf might have youthful strength and vigor but the DNA has double the likelihood of mutations.

The wolves are apparently on display:
The female wolves are currently at Seoul Grand Park, while their would-be mates are at the Cheongju Land Zoo in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province.

Finally, an English language note. Most people are aware that third-person singular can be awkward ( "a student can talk about his/her family" or "a student can talk about their family"). I see similar awkward formulations coming if cloning becomes as common as science fiction authors and SNU professors (Dr Hwang is both!) have their way.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Using Teacher evaluations

As a university student, I had a part-time job as a lifeguard. At the same time, I was a competitive swimmer. If people wanted or needed to watch my lifeguarding, swimming or rescue techniques for whatever reason, I was fine with that. Evaluations? go ahead, they could only allow more people to know how good I was at my job.

At my current job, as an EFL teacher at a university, I am no longer as thrilled by the thought of being evaluated. I'm confident that I do good work; I'm just not so confident that I will be evaluated on the things I expect to be evaluated on.

Students do evaluate me and I do well enough. Still, one of the criteria is "book choice". I do not choose the book. Some of the comments students leave on their evaluations suggest they are lumping my performance with that of the Korean co-teacher for the class. Said co-teachers tend to be excellent but, well, they're not me.

The Dong-a Ilbo has an article about student results on a standardized test being used to evaluate teachers. Some of the language is, uh, interesting and I am not always sure what the point being made is. For example:
“The results of the test of scholastic ability nationwide showed that the higher the grade, the larger the number of students who show below-average academic standards. This is a reminder of the important role teachers should play.”
A higher grade means below-average standards?

another example, and more troubling:
“The test results will provide concrete data. This will allow us to create a system that punishes principals if the share of students who score below average is more than 10 percent for three consecutive years,” Lee said.
In the school of Lake Woebegone, "All our students are above average".* I guess, for this test, principals need ten percent to be really below average so the other ninety percent can be above average.

The thing that really bothered me, though:
“The standardized test of scholastic ability for students should be linked to the evaluation of teacher performance,” said Vice Education Minister Lee Ju-ho at Jeongok Elementary School, a pilot school for the teacher evaluation system.

These are elementary school students and they will have to be taught to the test. A teacher would be unwilling to go beyond the test standards as his/her job security is on the line.

On NPR's Science Friday, there was a segment comparing learning scientific facts to scientific reasoning. Facts are the (typically) dry lumps of information that have to be memorized (and are easily tested in standardized tests) while reasoning skills take more time to learn and are not so easily tested. The former is what high school is all about in Korea. If it takes up elementary school as well, there will be no time for the latter.

I think they are evaluating the wrong material, although I cannot say concretely what should be evaluated.
* I found a hundred sites with the quote, but none telling me who is being quoted.

A counter-view

As an atheist, I would prefer a secular society. Most media I consume supports that preference.

It is refreshing to challenge myself with an alternative viewpoint that is well-thought-out.

Allow me to present Jean Bethke Elshtain on TVO's Big Ideas and her views on a middle ground between an entirely secular society and a theocracy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rebuilding Namdaemun will take a while.

In a strange article (mixed Hangeul and English; appearing to be a translators draft more than anything) The Joongang reports that pine trees from Samcheok area have been felled and flown by helicopter to be used to rebuild Namdaemun.

I am no expert but I am pretty sure that lumber needs to "cure" for a while and that curing entails drying for several years. Korean Buddhist temples and the famed 80,000 wood blocks of Buddhist scriptures were soaked in salt water for years before being dried (look for an apparent white stain at the bottom of posts at a temple; that is the salt leaching out).

Maybe the pine collected recently will be for scaffolding or something non structural.

An excerpt from the article:
A Korea Forest Service helicopter transports pine trees (felled) (for use) (in the restoration) (of Namdaemun), (yesterday) (in Samcheok, Gangwon).

“문장의 뼈대가 되는 주성분들로 주어 자리에 A Korea Forest Service helicopter, 서술어 자리에 transports, 목적어 자리에 ‘pine trees’가 각각 왔습니다. 주요 성분부터 흐름을 느끼며 말해 보도록 하겠습니다. A Korea Forest Service helicopter(산림청 헬기 한대가)….transports(운반하고 있다)….pine trees(소나무를)….
수식어 부분을 붙여 보도록 하겠습니다. 소나무들은 (felled) ‘벌채된’ 것인데 (for use) (in the restoration) (of Namdaemun)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Help me get the best job in the world!

About two weeks ago, I applied for the best job in the world. The application took the form of a homemade video. I was rejected because the video needed to be 60.0 seconds or less and mine apparently was 60.1 or so long.

I applied again, it was accepted and you will find a link at the bottom of this post.

The "Best Job" is really a marketing tool by Tourism Queensland to promote their province, their coast and specifically Hamilton Island area. Officially, the duties include swimming and watching fish, cleaning your own pool, some diplomatic duties, promoting the island and making a video blog post every week. Really though, It's a excuse to attract interest to the area.

It is working. They have have hundred of thousands check their website and look into the application process. I think more than ten thousand have applied.

On March second, the selection panel will announce 50 short-listed candidates. At some point after that, the group will be narrowed to eleven; ten that Tourism Queensland select and one chosen by popular vote. These eleven will be flown to Australia for interviews and, well, hoop-jumping.

I think my video is good but I don't know if it is top-fifty good. I consider the selection process to be basically a lottery and I hope mine is good enough to make into the lottery bucket. It is the best I could make and I don't want to give excuses but my old computer and original version of Movie Maker were pushed to their limits. The newer version, free and down-loadable, of Movie Maker doesn't work on my computer: after a refurbishing and memory upgrade, some functionality were lost.

Anyway, I think that voting for the eleventh spot does not take place until after March second. Still, you could rate my video highly if you want. It sure couldn't hurt.

I also suggest looking at other application videos. There are twenty-six that I saw from Korea (evening of Feb 17 -five more days to apply); have a look and give them some love while you're at it.

Note, the videos are little slow loading. Please be patient -with mine, you're welcome to be impatient with the others!

Ashley's video (another entrant from Gangwon)

List of entrants from Korea.

Coincidentally, I see it on Yahoo Canada's home page: a news report with a video link (I think it'll work - it will pop-up, however)

Updated Feb 22: another Gangwon entrant is on the list. Choi.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Water shortages: an update

From an editorial at the Donga Ilbo:

The scarcer the water supply, the more frequent disputes between provincial governments will become. The serious drought this winter season could further fuel such disputes. Korea must enact basic water laws and establish an organization to comprehensively manage water resources if necessary. For the country to come up with legal and institutional measures for this, the central and provincial governments must work together.

Ultimately, Korea must increase its supply of clean water. About two thirds of annual precipitation comes in summer. So the country must urgently increase its capacity to collect and store seasonal precipitation rather than let it flow again. The government must actively consider building dams that can help store water. While carefully examining the impact of dams on the environment, the government should not be swayed by the argument objectively lacking logic and wasting time. Improving water quality through a new state project designed to streamline the four major rivers will be helpful toward this effort. The people should also recognize the severity of the water shortage and strive to save water in their daily lives.

The first paragraph quoted cites conventional wisdom and makes the same statements one could find anywhere in the world. I am concerned, however, by the expectation that legal measures will solve the problem. In addition to the historic examples of the law being ignored in similar cases is the diplomatic situation. Water for inland Gangwon Province and even Seoul itself comes form North Korea. I hope a solution can be found.

It is the second paragraph that I find more interesting. Increasing a supply of clean water might be possible, although the solution suggested (damming) will only supply more water (critically absent is the adjective 'clean').

Quickly, damming has it's own problems. Chiefly, dams silt up so they don't hold much extra water for long but do change areas up- and down- stream in ecologically unfriendly ways.

Alright, back to Clean water. GI Korea might well be the best source for the problem with his '2000 Yongsan Water Dumping Scandal' post. Well, he is more interested in the Yongsan scandal himself, but his main point is that up to 60 gallons of formaldehyde were dumped into the Han River, causing a huge PR mess for the US Army. Around the same time, as the GI quotes, "It is shocking news that 29 timber companies were found to have released 271 tons of formalin over the past three years into streams feeding the Han River, the main source of drinking water for Seoul and Kyonggi Province." (Korea Times, 2nd Article).

Ah, more later. I don't know how ironic this is, but my son and I are going to a Water park, Waterpia.

LATER: We had a great time at Waterpia but my enjoyment was somewhat disturbed by thinking about the water shortages in Gangwon. I think I covered all I wanted to in this post. This is as good a place as any to end.

previously at Gangwon Notes and Brian in Jeollamnam-do.

Quick: call VANK!

A newspaper is describing a sea by it's non-Korean name.

And it's the Joongang Daily.

The North deploys artillery on coast of the Yellow Sea

Seoul developing countermeasures to contend with the potential new threat...

Now, the news is serious and I want people to take it seriously, but, come on, the Yellow Sea? Where's that? North (and South) Korea have the East Sea (on their East Coasts, unsurprisingly) and the West Sea (On their west coasts). South Korea has a South Sea as well, but North Korea does not.

Yellow Sea? Nope.

A little background on VANK, for my mother and others outside of Korea:

VANK, a civic group with more than 15,000 members here and abroad, has been working hard to correct and promote historical facts about Korea on the Internet, textbooks in foreign countries and other publications and media.

A screen capture on Wikipedia: “Liancourt Rocks” comes up when Web users search Dokdo. [YONHAP]
Established in 1999, VANK has been playing a key role in promoting the view that the sea between Korea’s east coast and Japan is properly named the East Sea, not the Sea of Japan, as named in many foreign publications, textbooks and Web sites.

“We are monitoring well-known Web sites like, CIA World Factbook, and other Web dictionary sites, and our members living overseas also let us know if there is anything to be corrected in publications or school textbooks in foreign countries,” said Lim Hyeon-suk, a researcher for VANK.

Currently the group is monitoring hundreds of Web sites of foreign universities, international organizations, media outlets, Internet search engines, Web portals, government bodies, intelligence agencies, research centers and even airline companies. Major monitoring targets include official Web sites of the United Nations, foreign ministries of each country, the U.S. Library of Congress, Yahoo and even ESPN and TV Guide.
Background also from the Joongang (July 18, 2008). Their wikipedia article appears to be this one.

If "Sea of Japan" is incorrect, then "Yellow Sea" must be as well. Get to work, VANK (I figure that if they are 'monitoring hundreds of Web sites', mine must be on the list).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Updating the blogroll

The blogs I link to here on Gangwon Notes hasn't represented the blogs I blogs I actually visit regularly in a long time. Now... it still doesn't but is closer.

It's been a long time since I visited the Asia Pages- does Jodi still maintain that blog? I get a "wordpress protected site" message and am unable to log in. If anyone can tell me what's going on with that blog, I'll either start reading it again, or delete it.

SeoulGlow: Mike, are you updating that blog? It doesn't look like it. I am a big fan of the Metropolitician but I only paid a little attention to SeoulGlow. I loved the interview of Soyeon, the astronaut. I may have to remove this blog from the 'roll.

BizarroBrian (well, he is the opposite of me: He lives in the South west rather than the North east, and he writes material that the has clearly put a lot of thought into) is a much needed addition to the 'roll (Brian in Jeollanam).

The EFL Geek has been a virtual friend to me and this blog for a long time (relative to blogs) and it was good to meet him at the 2008 KOTESOL conference.

Gusts of popular feeling, zenkimchi and robeseyo: well, I just entered them for completeness. Honestly, I enjoy and read them frequently but haven't argued with them as I have with bizarrobrian or submitted material as I have with the geek.

Locally, Sustainable City News looks interesting and paid me the great compliment of "following me" via the blogger widget. Where the Wild Things Are is a great book so could I not link to the guy, possibly living in Sokcho although it's been a while since he posted new content.

Dan Costello was a co-worker of mine and has had a blog about as long as I have, but only now have I added him to the "Gangwon Alumni" list. His content is more focused on business and not so much on Korea (Cross cultural reviews).

I think I am feeling homesick as I added seven new blogs to my hometown section - previously described as Bracebridge, but expanded to Huronia as my mother now lives outside of Bracebridge. These links may be more for my convenience than anyone else's.

So, in the next few weeks I will check on the Asia Pages and others and see what pruning I can do. I am more interested in a small number of links that I read most. I definitely read more blogs than I link to. If anyone else wants on this list -and membership on the list will increase your readership by, well, me, and maybe one or two others, please comment.

Friday, February 13, 2009

deja vu disease

A year ago I had the flu or some other stomach bug. Mostly, I had the regular symptoms: a group that the author James Blish described as "polybathroomflourine", and lack of appetite, weakness and exhaustion, and one other. The symptoms came and went and when an episode began, I became aware of it from the physical symptoms and from a strange case of Deja vu.

My dsecription will sound vague and confusing. That's exactly like the memories.
I would be sleeping and the dream would consistently take the same path; I would be outside, sledding with my son and ... well, the dream had great detail but they didn't last.

When I was awake, the same thing would happen. I would be doing something and remember doing it in the past, but some other clear details that faded when I concentrated on them. Immediately after, I had to stumble to the bathroom.

I am having the same problem now. I haven't been sick but do feel weak and have no appetite at times and am having deja vu episodes through the day.

What the hey?

Nude Beach News

I guess talking about beaches during this time of year ensures people don't forget about them. Still, it seems strange timing to discuss beaches. With or without bathing suits, there would be some sharp nipples at these temperatures.

Anyway, Jeju is considering opening a nude beach.

Jeju provincial government will firstly examine whether the measure would entail any legal problems, and then install necessary facilities for nude sunbathing, including changing rooms, on beaches favored by foreigners. Potential nude beaches include Jungmun Beach, which is connected to luxury hotels in the Jungmun Tourist Resort Complex, and Hamdeok Beach, which is the most popular among vacationers.

"If a nude beach is created in Jeju, it will become the first of its kind in Korea. It will boast openness comparable to famous ocean resorts in Europe and Australia," said Lee Jong-man, Chief of the Marine Affairs and Fisheries Bureau of Jeju Provincial Government.

I see the beaches are intended to attract foreign tourists. Australia, which is mentioned as a model, has lots of foreign tourists (more on that in a later post) but also a domestic population that enjoys topless beaches. The same is true in Europe. I don't think there are that many Koreans who would use the beach - I mean use the beach topless or nude; I am sure there are many who would use it for photography practice.

Indeed, in 2008, a beach near Sokcho was a site for nude photography: Finally on Sunday is a "Sokcho Beach Nude" . Whatever it is, it costs 20,000won, starts at 9:00am and involves nude photos.

There were plans, or discussions for a nude beach in Gangwon, but I haven't heard anything come of them (and I see the link in that post here from 2005 doesn't work any more). Here is what I quoted four years ago: The province's environment, tourism and culture bureau has been toying with different ideas for new tourist attractions, including a nude beach.

``We are going to conduct a series of surveys on tourists this summer about their opinions on a nude beach along the east coast,'' provincial official Lee Myun-ki said.

The link to the Nomad is also dead as he closed his blog a year or more ago. Gee, I could really be talking out my ass for all the working references I have.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Darwin Day!

Photo from
The discoverer of evolution would have been 200 today. claims that Feb 12 won't start for 19 more hours, which is a little US-centric, I think. On the other hand, he was born in England, and it isn't Feb 12 there yet.

Darwinday also lists an event in Seoul, at zenitum at 7:00pm
Happy Darwin Day Celebration with Interactive Arts ( Public )
Date and Time: 2009-02-12 19:00:00

Event Website:

627-1, Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu
Seoul/Seoul 135-908 SOUTH KOREA

Sponsor: Zenitum, Inc.

Albert Kim
Phone: 011-229-5083
...but the website doesn't have anything listed yet. I guess you should just go knock on the door this evening.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fires, near and far

I want to be open minded and not be judgemental, but how could any think setting fire atop a mountain in the dry season, during a major drought be a good idea?

Photo from the Times
Also from the Times (a different article):
At least four mountain climbers were killed and 30 others injured as of 11:00 p.m. Monday in a mountain stampede during a traditional grass-burning event in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province.

A fire set by municipal officials on a pampas grass field on top of Mount Hwawang flared out of control due to an unexpected wind, forcing onlookers to jump off a cliff, witnesses said.

Casualties are expected to rise as more than 15,000 people participated in the event, held every three years to mark the first full moon of the Lunar New Year.

Organizers set up a 50-meter-wide block to protect the spectators from the fire, but the wind was so strong that they did not have enough time to flee the scene, police said.

Another area facing horrible fires, also probably started by humans, but not by officials, is Victoria, Australia. From the Asia section of the New York Times:

Police have so far confirmed 181 deaths as the fires ripped across the southern state of Victoria on Saturday. But the state’s premier, John Brumby, said more than 50 people remained missing Tuesday afternoon.

“These are people who the coroner believes are already deceased but are not yet identified,” Mr. Brumby said. “So this is going to be a significant number, it will exceed 200 deaths.”

Officials declared crime scenes across huge tracts of land where dozens of victims died in their cars or huddled in their houses during the worst wildfires in Australian history.

The Victorian state police commissioner, Christine Nixon, told a local radio station on Tuesday that one of the fires, which killed at least 21 people in the eastern region of Gippsland, was deliberately set, and police “believe there may be more.”

My best wishes to all those in Victoria.

Not at my house

Photo from here.

I was ready today to take the plunge and buy a Mac computer today. I went to the dealer with a list of requests for how i wanted the computer set up and the dealer was entirely willing to help me do that. He didn't have one in stock, but should have one the next day and he would text me later in the day with the price.

Unfortunately, the text didn't have a price but did have bad news; new models are coming in so there are none in the model I wanted. Next month, they will have some.

So, all I can do is wait.

Thanks to Masuro for driving me to the store and translating.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


A friend in Sokcho told me about two men driving home (to Britain) from Korea. I thought it sounded like an interesting adventure and didn't think much more about it.

Turns out, Chris Barrett and Rob Sutcliffe have a webpage and were interviewed by the Joongang Daily before starting out.

They had car trouble in Turkey, finding a Hyundai dealer but the dealer didn't have or service Gallopers. I guess they solved the problem as the last web entry has them in Georgia (Not in the US).

They are having an interesting adventure, but also fundraising for Macmillan Cancer support, UNICEF and Deslexia Action.

Oh, regarding the Gangwon connection; they took a ferry from Sokcho:
"The trip will start at the beginning of September with a ferry trip from Sokcho to Vladivostok. Having checked out the boat, Sutcliffe said, “It looks like a jjimjilbang that’s about to sink.”
I think that's the Dong Chung ferry; I am not aware of any others.

Water shortage in Gangwon!

I don't have much to add to the article but I now realize I need to be careful. I think I am cautious enough with water but certainly enjoy long showers. It is time to shave with the water off, rather my habit of standing in the running shower while shaving.

The article describes problems in Southern Gangwon but we've had similar problems here, typically a little later in the spring.

Here is Maude Barlow(you can find a downloadable MP3 there) describing water problems on a global scale.
Ironically, the local crisis encourages me to drink local (tap) water, as Barlow suggests. You know what they say, think locally, act globally!

I hope President Lee thinks about this if he considers reopening plans for the Kyeongbu Canal.

Updated almost immediately: I see Taebaek is really suffering. Hey, that's the start of the two rivers the canal would have used. (And now I have become guilty of using a real tragedy for my own political ends (oh, that's how you do it).
According to Park, the city has faced the worst drought in 20 years this year and tap water is only available for three hours a day.

“Some schools provide bread and milk for lunches because they can’t cook cafeteria meals,” Park said.

“Hilly neighborhoods receive no tap water supply at all, and residents of such areas are solely dependent on water delivered by car. And yet, the drinking water shortage shows no signs of improving.”

first hike of the year

And it was a short but remarkable challenging one.

Current Hiking Conditions: Muddy and messy!

Readers of this blog may recall that I hiked Chungdaesan, the little mountain behind my apartment nearly 60 times in one year. With that in mind, you might be surprised that I had such difficulty today.

The explanation is in this photo of our shoes.

Actually, they look pretty good; we must have spent a lot of time at the peak cleaning them.

Yes, the warm weather, wonderfully warm, has thawed the ground, making it a terrible mess.

If I had been soloing, I probably would have returned home after starting the hike because of the trail conditions. Kwandongwife doesn't get as many opportunities though, so we soldiered on. She ended up carrying the little guy for a large portion of the hike, with me carrying him only for the short section where we met her coworkers who teased her immensely (I was also carrying a large pack with snack food and clothing).

I also have to admit that we walked on the edges of the trail, widening it and furthering erosion; something I hope I would not have done if soloing.

The take home message from this post is hiking is a bad idea in coastal Gangwondo for the next few weeks.

Here is an article from the Times, written a year ago, that describes Seoraksan, but the pics are from the frozen winter so are not representative of current conditions, which I am sure are messy.

From the peak, we had a nice view of Chungcho Lake (click to bigify) and the pier for the Water Fire Festival is just visible.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Water-Fire Festival

The festival is on for a week, from Friday the 6 to Saturday the 14th. I don't think there's much for adults, but there are a few things. Kids will have a good time.

Last year, my son was terrified of the mascots; this year he didn't run away but still wasn't eager to pose with them for photos.

Last year's Festival.

This book is going on my wishlist!

Who wouldn't want "Chemical Shifts and Coupling Constants for Silicon-29 (Landolt-Bornstein: Numerical Data and Functional Relationships in Science and Technology - New Series) (Hardcover)"?

I hear you can find it at used books stores for, like, $7000 less so that's probably how I'll go.

Really, read the reviews!

Via the Loom.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Thagomizer

I bought the book Dinosaurs: The most complete, up-to-date encyclopedia for dinosaur lovers of all ages, ostensibly for my son but really for myself.

We frequently leaf through the book, enjoying the pictures and trying to pronounce the exotic names. I still plan to read the book but haven't sat down to it yet.

Yesterday, we were reading about the stegosaurus and read a matter of fact account of how the "thagomizer of the stegosaurus provided a powerful defence". The word sounded strangely familiar; where had I seen it before? So, I did read the page and found that Thagomizer is now the proper scientific term for the spikes on the end of a stegosaur's tail and came from a Far Side cartoon (image from wikipedia).That Gary Larson was the coolest guy around.

John Carlson at Prairie Ice agrees.