Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bike News

The Joongang has quite a series of articles and letters about cycling and bike safety this year. Considering the snow today, I am encouraged to read that someone is thinking about warm weather activities.

It is hard to make a set of guidelines for safe cycling as people ride for so many different reasons. Children under, I don't know, 16 or so are in one group, adult commuters in another and maybe farmers and bike couriers (do they exist in Korea?) in one or two other groups.

I want my son to ride on the sidewalk and he is no threat to pedestrians at the speeds he travels (or, typically, the speeds I push him at). The way the bike path curves and bends on a straight stretch of sidewalk is not the problem for him it is for me. He doesn't mind sharing the sidewalk with other users at different speeds, nor stopping at each intersection.

I do. If I plan to ride to Yangyang or even Gangneung (20 and 55km, respectively), I don't want to be dodging pedestrians all the way and stopping at every intersection. I am completely willing to stop at traffic lights and even feel annoyed when drivers try to wave me through.

A traffic cop, he looked like a young conscript, tried to wave me onto the sidewalk and I ignored him (I do feel a little guilty about that, but only a little). In Canada, I was taught that adults cyclists should not be on the sidewalks. I try not to let my Canadian bias' take over here, but it just makes sense to me. If a commuter is going to travel even a few kilometres, he can't be stopping at every single intersection along the way, or there is no value to using a bike.

From the March 13th article:
To encourage more people to ride bicycles, we need more than just bicycle lanes. We need parking spaces, rental stations, repair stations and public shower booths.

Insurance programs for bicycle riders must be developed as well and drivers must learn to be careful about riders’ safety.

The schools must offer better safety education. In 2007, 22 percent of the 8,724 reported casualties in bicycle accidents were children.

It is a dangerous idea to start encouraging children to cycle to school when Korea still lacks the appropriate infrastructure and commitment to road safety needed to ensure that fewer youth get hurt on our roads.

I like the ideas suggested in the first paragraph. I would like to see almost a sort of locker for my bike - I have never had a wheel or seat stolen but the horror stories of such events are in my mind whenever I lock up. I don't know about repair stations but at least high-pressure air. The shower sounds like a great idea: maybe coin operated?

I will discuss the insurance idea a little later.

Letters to the editor agreeing with the importance of this article were printed on March 23rd and 24th. Both letters are fine but don't cover much new ground. The first letter does talk about the benefits of clean air, but I wonder. With the good weather these days, I have wanted to go cycling but have held back for fear of Yellow Dust, which is mostly a natural phenomenon and will not disappear even with electric vehicles or the like.

On March 28, an article about Insurance for cyclists was printed. In general, I think it is a good idea if handled properly (read, "the exact way I want") but could turn into a nightmare of red tape. If cycling insurance takes off, I can foresee a time when it becomes mandatory; a required tax with the purchase of a bike. Further, one would need proof of insurance, which means carrying a licence or papers of some sort. I want to be on the road a lot and could see the need for insurance, but many other probably just ride their bikes from their apartments to Expo Park, with only a short period of high traffic risk.

I rode my bike across most of Canada (Woo-hoo- 100th time I've managed to fit that into a post!) and have made a few longish trips in Korea. I've had problems but they've all been mechanical. I am more interested in bike travel education than insurance to make Korean (and Canadian, for that matter) roads safer.

Finally, and ironically as this is the older article, there will be a bike festival in Seoul:
The Seoul Metropolitan Government and the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly hold a large-scale cycling festival for over 10,000 people on April 25.

The eco-friendly event is part of the city government’s push to get more people on bikes as a means of protecting the environment, easing traffic congestion and promoting health.

They also agreed to team up on a public relations drive to encourage biking and promote the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit 2009, which will be held in Seoul. has info on a bike tour and festival on April 25th, although no information from city hall. Indeed the Seoul City Hall website seems to be showing sports events from 2007 or 2008, with no bike or cycling festival listed.

I will keep looking and perhaps I can meet some fellow cyclists in Seoul on April 25th.

Surprise: more snow

I thought the last snow had been at the beginning of March. Surprise.

I don't expect this to last long: it's pretty wet stuff.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Winter on the mountain, one inspiring story, one sad.

The inspiring story:
A group of Korean organ donors and recipients successfully reached the 6,189-meter-high Island Peak in the Nepalese Himalayas on Dec.22. The Himalayan Expedition Team, called 'Life-Shared Group,' is the first of its kind in the world to climb one of the most popular trekking peaks of the Himalayas.

Some of their training was local:
The team trained for 12 weeks beginning September 2008, walking along the ridges of Mt. Bukhan, Mt. Dobong, and Mt. Seorak, and departed for the Himalayas on Dec. 11. Some members suffered from altitude sickness upon making it 3,500m above sea level, but their sense of mission helped them remain intensely focused.

Now, the sad story. A 51 year old climbing guide, checking and preparing an ice route for visitors to climb, was killed in an avalanche.
Police said that Kim was found to be buried in 1.5-meter-thick snow believed to be fallen from the top of 40-meter-high Yeomju Fall at Seorakdong.

Kim is alleged to have been killed, while checking the ice quality of the fall, after arriving at the foot of the fall 10 minutes earlier than the climbing club of 10 Hong Kong police officers. He was assigned to assist the Hong Kong police officers in their climbing, according to the police.

something strange about the latter article. In searching for Mt. Seorak at the Korea Times, I was shown (I shrank the unimportant bit):
Mount Seorak - National Parks of Korea (1)
Clouds hang humbly below the peaks at Mount Seorak, located in Yangyang, ... Mount Seorak, or Seoraksan National Park, is known for its stunning peaks, ...
Buddhists Angry Again Over Temple Entrance Fees
``I visited Mt. Seorak in Gangwon Province last November to enjoy its full-fledged autumn foliage but was forced to pay the fee,’’ said Lim Hyun-chul, ...
Chase Away Winter Blues at Hot Springs
Seorak Waterpia, located at the foot of Mt. Seorak, Gangwon province, is one place where you can soak in an open-air hot spring tub filled with hot spring ...

The Korea Times Nation News
A mountain guide was buried to death in bulk of snow from an icefall at Mt Seorak in Sokcho, Gangwon Province, Saturday morning, police said. ...

But the article was not secure (Not an "https:-----" site). Strange. It took a little work to find the article. One other article above has an "https:" prefix, but the others don't.

S/He's firth!

Around this time last year (has it been longer than that?), I started seeing 'Dr You' products everywhere. I've tried many and they are pretty good. I am not sure how the chocolate pies are health food, but they are good. They are very good. Maybe, compared to other pies, they are "firth".

Thursday, March 26, 2009

World championships events: Gangwondo can do them

Women's curling world championships are currently underway in Gangneung. I haven't seen them, but I am sure they are well organized. I have heard that non-standard stones are in use at the championship and some wonder if Korea chose them to give the local team an advantage.

There are two articles in the Joongang Ilbo about big sports events. One is exclusively about being, again, a candidate for Winter Olympics (this time, 2018), while the other compares running a big event, like Women's curling to running the Olympics.

Honestly, I haven't read either one, although I may yet. I did read the title of the one focusing on the next Olympic bid: Third time lucky for plucky Pyeongchang resort:
‘It’s about letting the world know we are fully capable of hosting international competitions.’

I think the world knows Koreans are capable of most anything. The concern for me is having hills big enough and having enough snow for the games to take place and, in my opinion, Korea probably meets these two standards, but only probably. I would vote for a country with similar organization skills but colder weather over Korea without much hesitation.

Friends went skiing through the winter and I'll ask them about snow conditions and report on the subject again but with a little more firsthand knowledge.

Andrei Lankov on bicycles in Korea

I confess that I have not followed Professor Lankov's articles in the Korea Times, but I know he is a favorite of the Marmot's Hole's writers.

In today's Korea Times, he discusses the history of bicycles in Korea.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sorry, mom

I am learning how to use my new camera.

So, it seems that the trees are blooming in late March and not late April.

My mother will visit soon, arriving in mid- April and leaving in early May. She specifically asked me when the flowers would be in best bloom and I said late April.

Now, the trees are not yet in full bloom but the azaleas will soon be and the cherries, like the ones above, as well. Those are cherry blossoms, aren't they? I am more familiar with the whiter blossoms. Either way, Korea is quickly reaching peak beauty. Luckily, that peak is quite high indeed and Korea will remain a remarkable place to visit until late April or even later, so my mom will still have a good visit.

I remember a haiku contest at my university for elementary school students. One student's entry read something like:
I don't like the spring,
rain, mud, I can't play outside.
Come quickly, summer.

Man, that kid's haiku-fu is so much greater than mine! anyway, I have the last line right and it is so desperate a plea that it has stuck fifteen or more years.

And that is a Canadian (well, definitely an Ontarian, probably more widespread) spring. Korean springs are the highpoint, rather than lowpoint of the year.

Was the Pope right about AIDS in Africa?

A Facebook friend linked to an article in Il Sussidario titled: as a liberal, I say the Pope is right.
Dr. Green, the above-mentioned liberal, explains that condom use encourages more risky behaviour. He has the background to know what he is talking about: Dr. Edward Green is Director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard School of Public Health and Center for Population and Development Studies. He is a medical anthropologist with 30 years of experience in developing countries and in the fight against AIDS.

I wish I had commented earlier because I suspected this might be the case - but now no one will believe I was so insightful.

I thought the Pope might be right about condom use increasing the spread of AIDS because of reports of using 'protection' in other areas causing increased risky behaviour.

Hockey and football players are known to hit harder now that they have more and better armour. In the book,
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), by Vanderbilt (which I will get to reviewing some day), the same problem with safety features in cars. Anti-lock brakes allow people to go faster around corners, so they do, rather than maintaining the same speed and having fewer accidents.

Green also points out that condom use, in Africa, is often reserved exclusively for casual sex; unprotected sex with a spouse is still the norm.

I am not a fan of the Pope and I am not convinced that he is right, but I can see that he might be.

I can't resist; highlight below for the inevitable off-colour response:
The Pope should be knowledgeable on the subject; the Church has worked to cover up the results of illicit sex for years.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Slow, or Failed, Cities?

From the Joongang: "In Italian, citta slow means a slow life." Other places have it translated as "slow city", which makes a little more sense to me.
What is a slow city? From the slowmovement website:
Fired by the success and support for Slow Food the Italians set about initiating the Slow Cities movement. Slow cities are characterised by a way of life that supports people to live slow. Traditions and traditional ways of doing things are valued. These cities stand up against the fast-lane, homogenised world so often seen in other cities throughout the world. Slow cities have less traffic, less noise, fewer crowds.
The slowmovement site is not entirely thrilled by this:
Towns in Italy have banded together to form an organization and call themselves the Slow Cities movement. In their zeal to help the world they have formed what amounts to a global organization that sets out to control which cities in the world can call themselves Slow Cities and which cannot. This is not a movement. Social movements are movements from the bottom from the community. The seachange movement, the organic movement, the vegetarian movement, the homeschooling movement, are examples of movements. No-one controls them. No-one assesses you to see if you are allowed to call yourself a seachanger or if you can say you are a vegetarian.
From the Joongang:
The Cittaslow Association selects a slow city after visiting candidate cities, which has to pass a total of 24 assessments.

For example, the population of a would-be slow city should be less than 50,000, and the natural environment should be well preserved.

The city should also have its own locally grown organic products, and the city should not have big-box chains or fast-food chains.

Any city that is selected must undergo reassessment once every four years to ensure standards are maintained.

Here is a bit of nationalism:
Korea has five slow cities, but China and Japan, two of Asia’s most-visited tourist attractions, don’t have any.

Twenty cities from these countries have applied for recognition from Cittaslow, but they all failed to make the grade, apparently.

The association said Japanese farming villages don’t have their own character because they are far too developed and organized.

Hooray! Korean farming villages aren't well organized.

Alright, that's enough of the easy insults.

The idea of a slow city needs a little explaining but once the basics are covered, it does sound like a nice place to live. Small town friendliness, cleanliness and, um, local cultureliness all sound great. I have been away from my hometown (Bracebridge, Ontario) for ten or so years and, in brief visits, I feel disappointed by the Walmart and other big boxes (A&P, by contrast, felt like a local store- only because it had been there in my childhood). I would like my hometown, especially if I return to stay, to be the way I remember it; a small town in which I knew most of the people I passed on the street.

The examples in the Joongang, however, include the island village of Cheongsan in South Jeolla (a little poaching, Bizarro Brian):
This is nothing but a poor fishing village. A total of 2,613 people reside on this island. Most of them are senior citizens,” said Park Eun-kyung, the head of the local council.

Elsewhere: Officials from Cittaslow said the island came close to the very spirit of slow life when they went there to evaluate its environment in 2007.

I think the movie Mapado publicized the way Island communities are fading; basically becoming "silver towns" (for the silver haired). I can accept a "city" of 2,613, but it seems moribound tradition is being celebrated here more than low-key comfort.

another region is Sinan County:
Sinan County, South Jeolla, became a slow city because of Jeung Island, where high quality sun-dried salt is produced. Workers labor all day under the blazing sun drying saltwater and raking the salt.

After witnessing the slow process of making salt, officials from the Cittaslow Association kept saying “wonderful.”
I do accept that these places, and other in the article, are preserving important part of Korean culture and tradition and are worth bringing attention to. On the other hand, there is no point being poor for the sake of being poor. As the saying goes, "There is no nobility in poverty".

I know how to work hard and respect people who do so. I don't think that is an end in itself. If salt production, for example, is best and more environmentaly friendly using human labour, fine. If the village is small because it is poor, that is not a great reason to celebrate it.

On a contrary note, at the end of the article, they describe slow food, which does seem productive, at least as marketing:
Along with slow fashion, the importance of slow food is surfacing. Among typical Korean slow foods, fermented soy sauce, red pepper paste, soybean paste and kimchi are gaining attention.

“You have to wait at least two or three years to get authentic soy sauce and soybean paste,” said Kim Jong-ok, a 55-year-old housewife.

Kim is a daughter-in-law in the Sun family in Boeun, North Chungcheong.

The family has been making traditional soy sauce, red pepper paste and soybean paste for the past 350 years.

At one food fair which was held in 2006 by Hyundai Department Store, a 1 liter bottle of Kim’s soy sauce was sold for 5 million won ($3,541).

Transboundary waterblogging

For us in Korea, yesterday was World Water Day, with the theme this year being transboundary or transnational waters. Where is New Zealand compared to the dateline? I figured that since Australia is in a similar timezone to us, New Zealand would be as well.

Anyway, Daniel Collins at Cr!key Creek has a carnival or roundup of water bloggers, including me! Check out discussion of shared aquifers, the Great Lakes, and Korea's DMZ.
UPDATE: Word Clouds are cool!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I don't want to be negative, but...

Korean politics and the management of same are hard to take seriously.

Recently, a law against junk food being sold within 200 m of schools came into effect.

However, the list of outlawed foodstuffs ― those high in calories and low on nutrition ― has yet to be decided, but noodles and fried chicken have already been removed.

So, the law took effect today, but the specific contents of the law are still unknown. It sounds a lot like the early days of the immigration requirements for E-2 visas. There were new requirements in place, but no one knew exactly what they were.

Now, have noodles and fried chicken been removed from school areas or been removed from the provisions of the law? I have no axe to grind either way, it's just confusing grammar. I figured junk food would include chocolate, well, anything, and most soft drinks. There might well be discussion over Powerade and the like; so-called health drinks with who knows much sugar and the like in them. Fried chicken seems a little high-end for snacking kids.

Island reef job

Around Christmas, Queensland, Australia basically started a lottery, disguising it as a job. That job, to live on a tropical island, in the Whitsunday region of the Great Barrier Reef, not as a hermit but in a very pleasant cabin in one of the most exclusive resorts in the world. Oh, and be paid $100,000 for the privilege.

I applied, as did 34,000 others. Fifty were selected for the shortlist (I was not one). Ten will be selected by Tourism Queensland and one by popular vote to go to Australia for interviews in which one will be chosen.

Today is the last day to vote. I see a Canadian has 50,000+ votes, while the two Korean contestants have around 8000(for the girl) and 2000 (for the guy). Not sure if the gender is significant.

I thought that the country that put Rain as entertainer of the year would be of more help to the Koreans. If you want to help out, for a Korean or another, click here.

Oh, today is the last day to vote, but I think they are on Canadian time, so you may have until tomorrow around noon in Korea.

Take the train from Seoul to Sokcho

This sign was next to a table of petitions for an express train between Seoul and Sokcho.

I'm too sick right now to comment or even think deeply about the subject, but here goes.

In my six years in the area, I've seen evidence of the old rail line slowly disappear. The old line seemed to go from Gangneung (where I guess it turned inland) into North Korea. There are still many supports for bridges, although the bridges themselves are gone.

If or when the border opens up, I can easily imagine the value of a rail line here and to points north, but right now, not so much.

We already know that nobody wants to fly here (search "airport" on this blog, if you're interested - I'm saving my energy for vomiting).

It would be nice get to and fro in comfort, and especially to have a bathroom available, but it would be strange to have a rail car all to myself, aside from New Year's eve or the like, I guess.
Oh, the photo was taken with my new Sony DSC T-77. I handy little camera that I bought a few days ago. Thanks for suggestions on what to buy - I am not sure if I followed any or them.

Friday, March 20, 2009

First, I was a little athy...

Then I became athier. After some time, I was the athiest!

Also, in unrelated news, I am an atheist and today is apparently Atheist Pride Day.

Wow, a whole lot of special days this spring. We've had White Day/ Pi Day, and Atheist Pride Day. Coming up are World Water Day (focusing on Transnational waters) and one of my favourite special days, April Fools Day. I'm having trouble coming up with a good prank.

Heros honoured

Bizarro Brian linked to an article in the Korea Times describing how "The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs designated four people who died while trying to save other people's lives despite danger as righteous deaths".

Two of the honoured died saving others who were drowning and one tried to save a drowning person but failed.

I was a lifeguard for nearly twenty years and a competitive swimmer before that. First, I can agree that these people were heroes: they attempted to save another at great risk to themselves. I do admire their courage and sacrifice.

On the other hand, I was taught, and, as an instructor, I teach, to "protect the most important person" - That important person being me, the prospective rescuer. If the rescue is too dangerous, then you are likely to need rescuing yourself - making two victims for the next person to attempt to help.

It's easy to say, "Stop and coldly evaluate your chances" but probably harder to put that advice into practise.

I think I have to admire these selfless people who lost their lives helping others, but I just wish Koreans could swim a little better.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

World Water Day 2009: Transborder water

Cr!key Creek, via All My Faults are Stress Related has invited bloggers to post about water basins and aquifers that cross political boundaries for World Water Day (March 22).

Quoting Cr!key Creek:
There are hundreds of water basins and aquifers that straddle our political boundaries, at both international and national levels. Neighbours stick their own straws into the same glass. This has historically led to both conflict and cooperation.

"Over the last 60 years there have been more than 200 international water agreements and only 37 cases of reported violence between states over water."

In the spirit of World Water Day, and in an effort to contribute towards transboundary cooperation, I propose that all us waterbloggers (and other bloggers too!) dedicate one or more of our posts that day or beforehand specifically to transboundary water issues. What's more, I further invite you to email your posts' URLs to me at crikeycreek/gmail/com once they're up so I may link to all of them from one central location, and thus provide an archive of the collaboration.
The UN website has this to say:
The world’s 263 transboundary lake and river basins include the territory of 145 countries and cover nearly half of the Earth’s land surface. Great reservoirs of freshwater also move silently below our borders in underground aquifers.

With every country seeking to satisfy its water needs from limited water resources, some foresee a future filled with conflict. But history shows that cooperation, not conflict, is the most common response to transboundary water management issues.

© World BankOver the last 60 years there have been more than 200 international water agreements and only 37 cases of reported violence between states over water. We need to continue to nurture the opportunities for cooperation that transboundary water management can provide.

We share the responsibility for managing the world’s transboundary waters for current and future generations.
Gwynne Dyer is not so optimistic that cooperation with continue to be the norm.

Shared water is a big deal everywhere. We Canadians, especially from around the Great Lakes, constantly hear rumours of American plans to to try to pump or move Great Lake water to the southern Midwest, as their underground aquifers are drying up, leaving farmers with nought but sinkholes.

Here, president LMB's canal system could be jeopardized... ah, I'll leave that dead horse alone.

Here in South Korea, two-thirds of the Imjin River basin is in North Korea. A September, 2008, article in the Korea Times describes the effects a dam the North Koreans are building across the river.
``If [the imjin River] dam is completed, the amount of water flowing into the Imjin River in the South is expected to decrease,'' Kim said.

Beside the decreased water flow, Rep. Kim said water quality has worsened and flood control is at risk.

Kim urged K-Water to take adequate measures to secure the water supply.

The lawmaker also asked the government to sit down with their North Korean counterparts to discuss mutually beneficial use of water resources.

``The water resource issue should be addressed through inter-Korean dialogue,'' he said.

The lawmaker said the government should quickly complete the ongoing construction of the Peace Dam near the North Han River, which is designed for flood control in Gunnam, Gyeonggi Province.

Kim's conclusions are based on a dam, completed 2003, on the North Han River: A Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-Water) report found that the amount of water reaching the Hwacheon Dam in the South has decreased by 43 percent following the completion of the Imnam Dam.

``The water resource issue should be addressed through inter-Korean dialogue,'' he said.

The lawmaker said the government should quickly complete the ongoing construction of the Peace Dam near the North Han River, which is designed for flood control in Gunnam, Gyeonggi Province.

Flood control is also an important issue in Flood Runoff Simulation Using Physical Based Distributed Model for Imjin River Basin. In this article, from the Journal of Korea Water Resources Association (Volume 12, #1, 2009/January, by Bak Jin-hyeok and Heo Yeong-taek), researchers attempted to use indirect means to estimate water levels and flows reaching South Korea. The methods are indirect as South Korean researchers are not welcome on that side of the border. The main tool used is hydrological radar.

I was only able to read the abstract, as the full article is in Korean (and didn't jump out at me on Google - I found the journal at my university's library). It appears that the radar measures rainfall. The result was not completely successful but peak flow was accurately predicted.

To complete my review of news regarding rivers crossing the DMZ come the, um, quaintly titled A Dragon Swamp is a Microfilm, which Taped a History of Nature. Fish Hunting of the North Korean Soldiers (Internet translators make reading fun!)
The article starts:
Visitors at the armies near the boarder (sic) area are carrying water bottles these days. The visitors of border area armies at places like Inje, Hwacheon, and Yang-gu run to the wells as soon as they are done with visiting their sons. They get to see their son and bring some clean water back. The scenery of people carrying water bottles is a new phenomenon caused by contaminated water supply in cities. The soldiers at DMZ must be happy with the water they are getting. It is free of the danger of carcinogenic chemicals such as Benzene or Toluene. The parents of soldiers at DMZ are even told that they should have no worries about their sons who reside in such a clean area.

This news may not be true as the water comes from North Korea, and, as the water is leaving their area of influence, they have no pressing need to keep it clean.

South Korean soldiers have the rivers under constant observation against infiltration by North Korean soldiers. Strange things interest the soldiers and intelligence officers. A rubber shoe, size 230mm, floated down and civilian habitation in the basin was deduced.

More seriously, a mass of dead fish floated down Seohwa Creek (near Inje, Gangwon - no date given) and concerns over poisoning were quickly raised. Eventually, it was decided that North Korean soldiers had gone fishing with explosives.

Interestingly, several rare fish were found among the dead. An animal called "tongari" was also mentioned - not in the river but in the area. It is brown, has a waving tail and looks 'cut' (probably 'cute'). However, it has a stinging tentacle.

The behaviour of the two groups of soldiers is to be expected: the North Koreans, at the point where the water leaves North Korea, don't waste much concern with how they treat the water while the South Koreans, at the beginning of the river for their country are not allowed to dip a toe in the river.

College professor and bicycle commuter killed by bus

I'm late in noting the story. From Korea Beat.

A math professor in Gwangju who had commuted to work by bike since 1987 was struck and killed by a kindergarten bus. The bus driver suffered from kidney failure and the medicine caused drowsiness or exhaustion, causing him to lose control of his bus.

The Joongang Ilbo (Korean) has an article describing him as the cycling professor. Sounds like someone I would like.

Wobbling weakly through my work day

I gave blood today. That and yelling to be heard over the roar of fighter jets training overhead have exhausted me. Time for a nap on my sofa before I take the shuttle bus (and nap on it) home.

Oh, the answers to the questions are two "Yes" and the rest "No". The last question is whether you have been out of the country in the past three years. Stating yes on this one is typically not going to disqualify you from donating.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bad news for swimmers

I often hear of sharks appearing on the south and west coasts in the summer and making their way north through the summer but never heard of any in Gangwon Province.

The El Camino Packer has found a Korea Times article telling us exactly that. Click either link to see the 4 metre shark caught near Donghae. At 1.5 tonnes, I wouldn't want it around while I swam.

The El Camino Packer loves surfing and likely wears a dark wetsuit; the combined silhouette resembles a seal and is the staple food for great whites. He should be especially careful.

I may obey the lifeguards and stay within the buoy-line this year, especially if the buoy-line includes a shark net!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Leisure games? The PR guy seems cool.

This is Um Hong-gil, the first climber to climb all sixteen of the peaks over 8,000m in the Himalayas. He has also "been named the public relations representative of the Chuncheon 2010 World Leisure Congress and Leisure Games" according to the Korea Times (but photo is from a previous article).

I have a degree in recreation and leisure studies, so you know I am going to defend the field of study (a great deal of the coursework was in management). Still, I am not sure what leisure games are.

I know there are lifeguard games, in which lifeguards perform simulated rescues, judged on time and technique...

Ah, I'll let it go. I have to pick up my son from the daycare.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Students work to save the economy, the Chosun reports and bloggers mock.

The Chosun Ilbo has an article about high school girls rolling up their uniform skirts to show more leg. The Ilbo has both complained in the past about Foreigners being oversexed and many photos of these girls in their short skirts. Bizarro Brian (I just like the name- if you don't, Brian in Jeollanam, I will stop) and Korea Beat quite rightly comment on the article.

However, what if there is a good and important reason, both for the shortened skirts and the reporting of same?

Skirt Lengths and the Economy

Rising skirt lengths are a symbol of youth, playfulness and women's liberation – but are they also related to a nation's prosperity?

Believe it or not, there is a long-standing theory that skirt length is linked to booms in a country's wealth: the better the economy, the shorter the skirt (and vice versa).

Possibly related: XKCD has a comic about correlation and causation and confusion between the two.
This post is slightly longer version of the comment I left at Korea Beat in the above linked post.

Attention: All Sokcho readers!

I've received word that today is the last cheap day for locals at Waterpia!

Don't panic. This report is unconfirmed, although terrifying.

From the same source, it appears that Waterpia will offer a year-round 40% discount to locals, in place of the two cheap days a month. Such a discount, at current rates, would make entry to Waterpia about 20,000 won. Today, it is 9,000 won.
The above two photos are from visit Korea.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

10 things I like about my job

A coworker said (with some justification) that I was surprising negative about work considering that I had signed new contracts for seven years. Again, there is some merit to my coworker's claim, although I think it has more to do with our relationship at work then my native feelings. Still, the coworker struck a nerve and so here are ten things, in no particular order, I like about my job.

On Tuesday I have a full day with seven hours of classes. The classes, through the day, just keep getting better, with the three pm students appearing to be eager to learn right from the first day. The earlier classes are alright, but take a lot of energy to keep moving. The final class energizes me.

My office is large and comfortable, with a sofa and a sink.

The staff who keep everything organized, do, in fact, keep everything organized through the semester. They seem to run to help any teacher who has computer problems in the language labs. I think they are underpaid and I fear they are overworked but they are cheerful and friendly.

I don't work that much. I put this point in the middle as I didn't want to emphasize it much. It seems a little pathetic to say a good thing about work is that there isn't much of it. Still, I definitely enjoy having a long vacation; I will go to Canada this summer for a month, and still have a month to relax at home. I will have significant time off around Christmas. Throughout the year, I have a lot of time to spend with my son. I like that.

Interesting and likable coworkers. The ESL business in Korea involves a lot of transients, which means making friends is a challenge. Still, my university has a lot of long-term foreign teachers and we are fairly tight-knit. A lot of new teachers arrived this year and what I have learned of them, I like.

Freedom in teaching. For the most part, I have a lot of control over what I teach. There are exceptions but I am mostly happy with the confidence the university has in me and my choices. I can be as creative as I want.

I teach the same chapter of the first year book six times in a week. Lat year, I taught the same material to nine classes every week. Some people find this boring, and sometimes I agree, but mostly, I feel I am improving with every class. In January, my son and I watched a magician perform, and he had clearly rehearsed thoroughly and almost every move he made was deliberate. That's what I want my class to be like (minus the cruelty to birds, of course. I promise that I will not harm any birds in my class).

I have seniority at the university in my department. It's nice to be sought out and listened to.

I don't think you can beat the location. Well, it's possible that more beautiful places in Gangneung exist, but you can't beat Gangneung or the East coast of Gangwondo. There's no place in Korea I would rather live.

There's a surprisingly good English library on campus. Most, or all, books are at least twenty years old but many journals and magazines are current. This point reminds me to return to the library and have a look around tomorrow.
bonus: I might SCUBA dive with the university club this year. I have looked into it in previous years and either they've been unwilling (for language reasons primarily) or my schedule hasn't allowed it. I want to dive again.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Bear cubs in Jirisan

Once again, I was wrong.

In August, 2005, when bears were released into Jiri National Park, I predicted a quick and messy end to the experiment.

It soon appeared I would be proven right and that quickly.

However, some bears do remain and their numbers have increased by at least two:
Two female Manchurian black bears gave birth to cubs in the wild around Mt. Jiri in January after being released from captivity in 2005, the Ministry of Environment said, Monday.

The discovery represents the first time the bears have reproduced in the wild without the need for medical assistance, the government said.

The Korean National Park Corporation said both mothers, named Janggang and Songwon, are doing well. It was said that they have been sheltering in a cave since December after mating in May.
Congrats to the new mothers and I hope to continue to be wrong about the fate of these bears.

Oh, some Bear safety advice for Jiri hikers.

Via Bizarro Brian

Soccer and Olympics

I don't normally watch soccer, or any sport, but on a clear, spring day, I could think of few better things than sitting out in the fresh air watching Gangwon FC kicking Jeju's butt. I did not, in fact, watch them, but I hope to see some future game. I will have to make finding the schedule homework for my students.

Ho-hmm. Pyeongchang wants to hold the 2018 Winter Olympics. I hope their bid goes better this time than it did the previous two (three?) times. I know they applied for the 2010 and 2014 games but I don't know if they did in 2006 as well. During my March 1 run in Sokcho, I noticed that the organizers were handing out Pyeongchange 2018 headbands for the run.

I am worried, though, that as a Canadian, they might decide to be upset with me when Vancouver hosts the games next year. I will just remind them that I am from the East and the El Camino Packer is from Vancouver - they should focus their crankiness on him.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Creativity is needed.

The Joongang has yet another article about Korean airports losing money, including some that could never have been considered profitable. Uljin airport and Yangyang airport, on the East Coast, are in locations that are far too rural and their construction must be the result of porkbarreling.

I was surprised to learn that Incheon itself is losing money. Its bad news when a major hub for Asia isn't turning a profit. I'm willing to put that one down to the current economy, as a possibly temporary situation.

Uljin and Yangyang, however, are likely to never be profitable as airports.

Uljin is a little ways from here and I've haven't visited it. The Yangyang airport, on the other hand, is one that my wife once worked at, offering tourism advice to arrivals. I have also flown to and from it (me and five others).

Now the Yangyang Airport is huge, roomy and constructed of beautiful granite - I would say marble, but I don't know the difference between marble and not-marble. After writing the post, I looked for photos online and I don't see much stone. I am convinced that the arrivals floor (first floor) has a lot of stone but the departures floor (second) has a more modern roof.

On the grounds, are some very well-constructed but very short roads.

Security is taken care of.

Now, considering the building alone, I first thought wedding hall. Parking is limited but that could be improved.

Concert hall? Again, it has the aura, with the stonework, but major renovations would be needed.

What ideas can my readers come up with? Remember, you ideas don't have to turn a huge profit; the premises are losing 28 million won PER DAY! Management should accept any idea to reduce that.

Photo one found here.
Photo two found here
photo three found here
Photo four found here
Photo five found here (really, here at Gangwon Notes).

I wish Health and Welfare Minister Jeon Jae-hee the best.

According to the Joongang, two university freshmen died recently in Gangwon:
One freshman, identified only by the surname Kim, 19, was found dead on Feb. 28 after falling from the fourth floor of a resort motel while on an overnight outing for freshmen in Pyeongchang, Gangwon. Police said that Kim fell after he drank until 3 a.m.

Another death took place in the city of Gangneung, Gangwon, where one freshman, surnamed Park, 19, was found dead in front of his dormitory on March 4. An intoxicated Park fell from his eight floor room. He had been drinking with 20 peers during an initiation rite for freshmen.

These deaths took place after the Health and Welfare Minister sent letters to university student councils asking them to promote a healthier drinking environment on campus.

This is a serious issue and I wish the families of the deceased the best in this difficult time.

There was one somewhat accidentally-humorous line:
If we don’t take the issue seriously, I personally believe that students are likely to retain their bad drinking habits even after graduation,” she said.

Yes, some adults might very well have bad drinking habits.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

In the market for a new camera

A few months ago, I learned that my camera no longer had the strength, or possible had a slipping belt or other mechanical problem, to zoom in. In holding the zoom down, I would here it try but not get anywhere. Last week, the camera would not turn on without being plugged in. Three screws in the base were loose and I lost two but was able to tighten the third. There is one yellow always-on pixel on the viewscreen.

It was a great camera when I got it and I will try a new battery to get some functionality out of it but the camera is about seven years old - it came out just as digitals were taking off. People laughed when they heard I bought a huge four megapixels camera. "Kwandongbrian [in fact, this was well before I had hear of blogs], are you going to make posters? Why do you want 4 megapixels?"

Anyway, I am now looking at either the Nikon Coolpix p5100 or the Sony Cybershot DSC-T500.

The Sony has a great video feature - possibly the best in it's class. But, it uses touchscreen and some large fingered people have trouble with it. Even for regular-fingered people, you have to look at the screen rather than through it at your subject.
The Nikon uses wheels that you can learn the positions so you can click-click-click and get to the setting you want. The video function is not as good and it is a bigger camera, but I suspect it is better for stills.

Comments or suggestions for a camera that is under 400,000 won and easily portable?

Snowy Seorak

Soon, I will go hiking on a small mountain in the shadow (figuratively, I will be hiking in bright sunlight) of Seoraksan. From this view of Seorak, I see some snow, but nothing like this.
I think this is Baekdam area, March 4. I think the photo is originally from Yonhap News (link managed from Internet Explorer, for a search for Seorak at Yonhap - the picture I see is close but not quite right- perhaps they changed the photo after ROK copied it), which doesn't seem to like Firefox. I took the photo from ROK Drop.

Oh, near sea level, the ground is dry and firm - good for hiking and not muddy as it was only a week ago. I will be in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt but probably no jacket.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I thought it was the non-Buddhists who were upset about the hiking fees.

The title is awkward or misleading, but "Buddhists angry again over temple entrance fees" in the Korea Times describes a problem that began two years ago.

Starting January 1, 2007, National Parks dropped their entrance fees but entry did not become free. Temples on the park grounds continued their fees (which had been about half of the original fee) and often increased them.

People have been upset about paying the fees to the temples when they visit the parks exclusively to hike and do not even go near the temples. More (actually, not much more, but..the same?) from this website at the time.

Finally, a group sued.

A provincial court’s ruling banning temples from collecting fees from mountain hikers has drawn strong protest from Buddhists.

The Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist sect in Korea, is even considering shutting down gateways to mountains owned by Buddhist temples.

The reaction came out after the Uijeongbu District Court ruled Tuesday that Jajaeam, a small temple on a mountain in Dongducheon, northeastern Gyeonggi Province, should return the entrance fee of 1,000 won ($0.65) each it had imposed on 22 climbers, who jointly filed a suit last August.

Commenters at the Korea Times are disgusted that the hikers are upset about such a small amount of money. I understand their (the commenter's) feelings but wonder if the hikers are more concerned about supporting Buddhism.

As a foreigner, Buddhism, even after ten years in-country, is novel and exciting for me. I don't mind giving them a little support.

At the same time, I am an atheist and unwilling to support religion in general and would not be eager to pay the fee if it supported a Christian church, for example. I understand that my viewpoint is contradictory but I hope it is not hypocritical. I am for supporting the temples for purely cultural reasons, even though I do not want to support any religion.

If the weather is good, I'll be hiking tomorrow at Seoraksan and I'll let you know about the fees there.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gangwon KOTESOL meeting: March 14

I received this by email with the suggestion that I could print it out and give it to anyone interested. I suppose posting on this blog is similar.

“Speaking of Speech:
A Conversation Teacher’s Toolbox”

Tory S. Thorkelson
(Hanyang University, KOTESOL National President)
Saturday, March 14th
3:00 p.m.
Sokcho-Yang Yang Office of Education, 3rd Floor

There is little question that teaching conversation is the mainstay of most of the jobs
and programs where Native English speakers work in Korea. While CBI (Content
Based Instruction) and ESP (English for Specific Purposes) may have made inroads
into the EFL classroom, many people still lack a real understanding of how hard it is
to implement, assess, and help students see their own progress and feel they have
input into what and how they learn to speak English. This presentation will highlight
and elaborate on some of the tips and tricks that have helped the presenter succeed as
a conversation teacher for Freshmen university classes and institute classes over a
12+ year career in Korea and 3 years as a middle school teacher in Okinawa, Japan
for the JET program. Whatever level you may teach, Elementary, High School, or
beyond, this presentation will certainly give you something to put in your own

For directions to the Sokcho-Yang Yang Office of Education or further information,
please contact Michael Free (m_d_free [at] hotmail [dot] com)
{Or click to find a map}
*All are welcome*
*Refreshments will be served*
*Please join us for dinner and drinks after the presentation*

new traffic regs- a little clearer now

The Korea Times now has an article about the new traffic laws and it seems a little clearer:
The government, law enforcement agencies and civic groups have waged a campaign to reduce car accidents but have made little progress due to a traffic law clause that exempts drivers with comprehensive auto-insurance policies from criminal charges for car accidents. The Constitutional Court finally ruled Thursday that insured drivers should be criminally liable for accidents which cause ``serious injuries."

There are some "clearly-a-foreign-country" ideas:
But, the ruling will have many side effects due to its suddenness. Drivers might be indicted for inflicting grave injuries that would threaten lives and cripple victims with no chance of recovery, including the loss of eyesight or hearing.
Presumably, this is the goal.

Then comes a real problem with the new regulations:
Not only drivers but also police are confused over how to handle car accidents because of the vague definition of ``serious injuries" the court cited. And, Friday, the Supreme Prosecutors' Office announced a set of guidelines in this regard that are still not clear enough to alleviate the confusion....
[lawmakers will now need to] set a clearer definition of ``serious injuries." They also need to heed concerns that some victims may seek to extend their period of hospitalization as bargaining chips to receive more compensation. Doctors are required to issue fair and credible medical certificates for victims.
The 'serous injury' part of the law was one I missed, but I have a simple solution: Make it "any injury". Speaking as a poor driver myself, if you hit another car or person, you should have to defend your actions.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

First Prize is Hamilton Island, Second Prize is Muskoka

I paraphrased Major General (Ret'd) Lewis MacKenzie in the title. He was running for office in my district and locals became upset that he thought Ottawa was better than Muskoka. He lost the election. Then he moved out of Muskoka.

Anyway, I applied for the "Best Job In The World" and did not make the shortlist. This summer, instead, I will go home and visit friends in Muskoka.

The BJITW was an advertising ploy by Queensland Tourism. They created a sweetheart of a job that was mostly intended to focus attention on the area. The successful applicant would live on Hamilton Island, enjoy him/her-self and make a video blog each week about his/her activities.

I, and 35,000 others, applied. Today, the shortlist of 50 was announced. I was not on that list.
There was one Korean entry, however. A girl named Gina. Go Gina! I have already voted for her. UPDATED: There are two Korean entrants - I missed Juweon. Go Juweon!

Applications took the form of a video, which had to be one minute. My first application was 1:00:5 or something and was rejected. My second application was a tiny bit shorter and was accepted.

For anyone who cares, here they are (Queensland Tourism doesn't care).

I would link to Gina's video but I am having some difficulties with the URLs - they don't change as I change websites. Maybe later. UPDATED: The link is now added. Hope it works.

Oh, and MacKenzie's quote was along the lines of "First prize is Ottawa, second prize is Muskoka" - he wanted to win the election, but Muskoka was waiting for him if he didn't. Of course, he then moved out of Muskoka so I wonder what third prize was.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Kwandongbrian Health Report

For the past few years, I have participated in a seven km run on March 1 in Sokcho. Koreans call any run of five km and longer "marathons" which sounds strange to me, but I guess I am a marathon runner.

To prepare for it, I start exercising in December as the fall semester finishes. I try to exercise year-round but late in the fall semester I tend to be doing nothing athletic. So, each December, I start from around zero and return to some kind of regular program.

Indeed, I was close to absolute zero this Dec 1, despite having a good routine through the summer, until around September 10. I was increasing my running mileage and preparing for the Terry Fox run. The day I learned it was cancelled in Korea I put down my shoes and did not run again for two and a half months.

This year, I joined a health club and have been running and pumping iron for three months.

Each March 1, Sokcho has a seven km run around Lake Yeongnang which has great participation. Several hundred men, women and children do the circuit.

This year, I ran the fastest I ever have around the lake and was close to the speeds I managed ten years ago (for the record, 7km in 33:20).

I am also the heaviest I have ever been. Usually, during the winter exercise period I would lose a few kilos and occasionally see 89.--kg at the end of February. This year, 92 kg was the best I achieved.

Still, I am happy enough about the run, and have learned of another run in mid-April to motivate me. I hope I can find a way to work around my schedule and my wife's to keep running.

Oh, Gord and Sean, get outside and run. Man, I turned into a human waterfall on the treadmill. I suspect that anyone walking behind me while I ran was sprayed by sweat falling from my body and launched by the moving conveyer belt. Outside, the fresh and moving air kept me comfortably dry.

Of course, every March 1 that I have run has had beautiful weather and been unseasonably warm, so that may be a factor in how great I felt.