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9 hours 39 min ago
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Why ‘Women Cross the DMZ’ Was a Bad Idea: The Threat of Moral Equivalence

11 hours 46 min ago
Why ‘Women Cross the DMZ’ Was a Bad Idea: The Threat of Moral Equivale



Gloria Steinem is in the middle with the sunglasses and yellow sash. To her left is Christine Ahn, the primary organizer.

I have to say that I am amazed at how controversial this ‘march’ across the Korean DMZ became. My essay below speculates on why this obscure event – which will almost certainly change nothing, because the geopolitical split between the Koreas is now deeply baked-in – nonetheless provoked a huge fight among Korea-watchers for the last month.

The march got coverage on CNN, the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and a whole host of other places. A lot of the relevant links are in my essay below, but here are a few more, so you can make your own mind:

the ‘Women Cross DMZ’ website (watch the introductory video by Ahn on the homepage)

Christine Ahn and Gloria Steinem on Twitter 

Josh Stanton, arguably the march’s most vociferous critic

I also thought this recently published critique was a good one. The author writes, “ironically, the symbolic crossing has provoked a stark division between its few supporters and many more detractors.” That is my impression too. While march supporters were passionate, the backlash (of which my essay below is a part) struck me as greater and quite widespread.

Now Ahn says they are going to try again next year, so I guess we can we argue about this every year now. Hoorah!

The essay below the jump was first published here, for the Lowy Institute.



“On Sunday March 24, a global group of female peace activists crossed the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Led by Gloria Steinem, the American feminist icon, and Christine Ahn, a Korean-American activist of some notoriety for alleged excuse-making for Pyongyang, the march stirred up a surprisingly sharp debate within the North Korea analyst community and sparked a backlash rally by South Korean conservatives. I argued against the march and received hate-mail for it (best put-down: ‘your stuff is older than Kim Il Sung’s rusty pistol’), while anti-march protestors told the marchers to “go to hell.” For something so apparently minor and innocuous – I strongly doubt the march will open the North or change the basic confrontationalism of the South – the whole debate got remarkably heated. For a good case for the march, try this, and against, here.

I see four undercurrents that lead to this surprising outburst from all sides:

1. Traditional democratic right-left Cold War divisions remain alive and well in the Korean debate.

In the West, much of the debate over how to respond to communism has faded into intellectual history. That acrimonious and largely unresolved split between right and left has, thankfully for all, receded. On Islamist terrorism, by contrast, there is much more consensus, with the debate structured mostly between hawks and ultras.

But in South Korea, it feels like time stands still: it is still 1982, with an evil empire, replete with gulags and economic collapse, threatening nuclear war, and all the macarthyite paranoia that breeds in response. Just as in the West a generation ago, conservatives here see the left as appeasers, if not traitors, while left-wing parties think the South Korean right is unhinged and bellicose, driving North Korea into belligerence. Most notably to me is the replication on the left here of almost exactly the same tortured debate on communism which roiled the Western European left throughout the Cold War: is recognition ‘appeasement’?; a persistent admiration of socialism ‘in theory’ while ‘real-existing socialism’ is grudgingly rejected; a far-left party that is openly pro-communist; the constant challenge at the ballot box to convince voters they are not tools of Moscow/Pyongyang; and so on. The march has brought these underlying divisions forcefully to light.

2. Moral equivalence is the main challenge to the march.

My primary concern throughout the march debate was the appearance of moral equivalence between the two Koreas regarding both culpability for the continuing division, and the moral character of the competing regimes. Ahn has spoken of “parity” between them. In reality, North Korea is the worse on both counts, and that cannot be re-stated often enough (a point I tried hard to make in my Al Jazeera English interview on this).

Fault for the continuing division today lies almost exclusively with North Korea, or to be more specific, a North Korean elite terrified of post-unification justice and the loss of their privileges, if not lives. During the Cold War, culpability was arguably equal, as each camp sought a different version of Korea that had some ideological defensibility. But today, that is long over. All the other Cold War-divided states (Germany, Yemen, Vietnam) are re-united, and the bankruptcy of the socialist alternative is apparent in all those cases, as it is in Korea. There is really no reason anymore for North Korea to exist. The game is over. The steady hemorrhage of North Koreans out of country against enormous odds, the gulags, and the massive internal military presence all suggest domestic illegitimacy. Given a chance to vote freely, is there any doubt they would choose other leaders, if not unity with happier, freer, wealthier South?

Similarly, the North and South are not morally analogous competitor regimes who deserve a similar chastising. South Korea is easily the better place on almost every conceivable vector, including importantly, the one privileged by the marchers themselves – the treatment of women. Does it need to be said that South Korea has elections, a free press, due process for arrestees, nothing like the songbun system or the gulags of the North, a female president, and so on? Given how obvious this is, I found it worrisome that the marchers ducked these obvious distinctions in their various press conferences.

3. The North regularly instrumentalizes prestigious foreigners for regime legitimacy.

North Korea, like East Germany before it, has long struggled to attain global legitimacy against what came in time to be seen as the ‘real’ Korea (or Germany). One East German stratagem was the global attention gained from Olympic victories, leading to the world’s most notorious doping program in the 1970s and 80s. In a similar vein, North Korea seeks at every turn to accumulate and record prestigious foreign personages and institutions interacting with the regime in such a way that implies its existence is legitimate. The Kumusan ‘Palace of the Sun’ (the ‘sun’ being the Kim family) houses a large collection of foreign recognitions, as does the Juche Tower. Here too is likely the reason why North Kora seeks out high-profile US visits when US citizens are taken hostage (and why such visits are so rare). Even ‘useful idiot’ Dennis Rodman served this purpose.

In the case of the marchers, critics assumed the North would try to attribute sympathetic comments to them, which it did. This has led to a predictable argument over who said/did what. For example, the North claims the marchers labelled the US “a kingdom of terrorism and a kingpin of human rights abuses,” which Ahn has had to publicly deny. That a high profile personality like Steinem, with her moral credibility, would flirt with such predictable manipulations is unhelpful.

4. North Korea’s terrible record on gender and sexuality heighten the march’s contradictions.

Not only is North Korea the world’s worst human rights violator, a point indisputably established by last year’s UN report which likened its internal repression to the Nazis, but it is particularly harsh for women. The general culture is deeply Confucian patriarchic (habits that are [too slowly] slowly eroding in South Korea). Pyongyang elites – party, military, Kimist – are nearly all-male, and they enjoy the services of the notorious ‘joy brigade’ as well.

Far worse, the treatment of women in the gulags is appalling, almost certainly meriting ICC prosecution – rape, sexual abuse, and infanticide are now well-established. The terrible exploitation of Northern women continues should they escape North Korea. North Korean women are trafficked in China to pay for their and their families’ escape.

This raises yet another credibility issue for the marchers with their pointed focus on the role of women. The most damning criticism I have read of the march came from Suzanne Scholte, head of the North Korea Freedom Coalition: “If they truly cared, they would cross the China-North Korea border instead, which is actually more dangerous now than the DMZ” (in reference to the trafficking issue). That is likely accurate. This march will do little to alter the geopolitics of the peninsula, which has been locked-in for decades, but high-powered feminist attention could have done a lot to press China for better treatment of North Korean female escapees. A missed opportunity…”

Filed under: Engagement, Korea (North), Korea (South), Lowy Institute, Moral Equivalence, North Korea & the Left

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University


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Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Featured Events - The Weekend of May 29~31 and Beyond

Thu, 2015-05-28 12:15
Featured Events - The Weekend of May 29~31 and Beyond



Coming Up This Weekend & Beyond 

  • Table Talk's Last Weekend
    In the short time that Tamara & Devin have run this awesome English Cafe, it's become one of Busan's finest spots langauge learning, drinking on a deck, and eating goodies from carrot cake to paninis. Their doors close this weekend, but not before one last BBQ and a used book sale. 
  • ​Busan to Nepal
    Many bands perform at Vinyl Underground to help raise funds for Nepal relief. 
  • KOTESOL National Conference in Sookmyeong University in Seoul
    Bridging the Digital Divide:Examining Online Language Teaching in Asia
  • Haeundae Sand Festival
    One of the best photo-ops of the year. There's a chance of rain Saturday morning, but the great weather should hold up otherwise. 
  • Busan Port Festival
  • Busan International Outdoor Opera Festival
  • Saturday Yoga in Namcheon
  • Arab Film Festival at Ewha University
  • Seoul Culture Night Festival
      & lots more
  • Next Weekend: Busan Foreign Culture Market

    Check out all Koreabridge Event Listings (and post your own) at:http://koreabridge.net/calendar


Used Book Sale at Table Talk English Cafehttp://koreabridge.net/event/used-book-sale-table-talk-english-cafe-may-2015Repeats every day until Sun May 31 2015 .Fri, 05/29/2015 - 12:00 Busan to Nepal at Vinyl Undergroundhttp://koreabridge.net/event/busan-nepal-vinyl-underground-may-2015Sat, 05/30/2015 - 20:00 Haeundae Sand Festivalhttp://koreabridge.net/event/haeundae-sand-festival-may-2015Fri, 05/29/2015 - 11:00 Landscape & Garden Show Busan 2015 at Bexcohttp://koreabridge.net/event/landscape-garden-show-busan-2015-bexco-may-2015Repeats every day until Sun May 31 2015 .Fri, 05/29/2015 - 11:00 Busan Port Festivalhttp://koreabridge.net/event/busan-port-festival-may-2015Repeats every day until Sun May 31 2015 .Fri, 05/29/2015 - 11:00 Busan Design Market at BEXCOhttp://koreabridge.net/event/busan-design-market-bexco-may-2015Repeats every day until Sun May 31 2015 .Fri, 05/29/2015 - 11:00 Tipsy Talk a.k.a. Drunk Englishhttp://koreabridge.net/event/tipsy-talk-aka-drunk-english-april-2015Repeats every week until Sat May 30 2015 .Fri, 05/29/2015 - 19:00 Busan International Outdoor Opera Festival at Cinema Centerhttp://koreabridge.net/event/busan-international-outdoor-opera-festival-cinema-center-may-2015Repeats every day until Sun May 31 2015 .Fri, 05/29/2015 - 19:00 Laochra Busan GAA - Gaelic Football Traininghttp://koreabridge.net/event/laochra-busan-gaa-gaelic-football-training-march-2015Repeats every 7 days until Sat Oct 24 2015 .Sat, 05/30/2015 - 11:00 2015 Spring Busan Flag Football Seasonhttp://koreabridge.net/event/2015-spring-busan-flag-football-season-april-2015Repeats every 7 days until Sat Jun 13 2015 .Sat, 05/30/2015 - 11:00 Saturday Yoga in Namcheon 12:00http://koreabridge.net/event/saturday-yoga-namcheon-1200-may-2015Sat, 05/30/2015 - 12:00 Dalmaji Art Markethttp://koreabridge.net/event/dalmaji-art-market-april-2015Repeats every day every Sunday and every Saturday until Wed Nov 25 2015 .Sat, 05/30/2015 - 14:00 Global Party at PNUhttp://koreabridge.net/event/global-party-pnu-may-2015Sat, 05/30/2015 - 14:00 Final BBQ at Table Talk English Cafehttp://koreabridge.net/event/final-bbq-table-talk-english-cafe-may-2015Sat, 05/30/2015 - 18:00 Onnuri English Worship Servicehttp://koreabridge.net/event/onnuri-english-worship-service-april-2015Repeats every week until Thu Dec 31 2015 .Sun, 05/31/2015 - 10:00 Redeemer ICC Sunday Servicehttp://koreabridge.net/event/redeemer-icc-sunday-service-may-2015Repeats every week every Sunday until Mon Dec 28 2015 .Sun, 05/31/2015 - 11:00 English Worship Service @ Podowon Church in Yullihttp://koreabridge.net/event/english-worship-sevice-podowon-church-yulli-april-2015Sun, 05/31/2015 - 12:00 Busan Sunday Language Exchange in Seomyeonhttp://koreabridge.net/event/busan-sunday-language-exchange-seomyeon-may-2015-1Sun, 05/31/2015 - 16:00 Free Irish Dance Lessonshttp://koreabridge.net/event/free-irish-dance-lessons-april-2015Repeats every week until Sun Jun 14 2015 .Sun, 05/31/2015 - 18:00 Language cast Busan weekly meetuphttp://koreabridge.net/event/language-cast-busan-weekly-meetup-june-2014Repeats every week until Thu Dec 31 2015 .Mon, 06/01/2015 - 18:30 Wing Night at Eva's Ticket!http://koreabridge.net/event/wing-night-evas-ticket-june-2015Tue, 06/02/2015 - 19:00 Open Mic Night @ OL'55http://koreabridge.net/event/open-mic-night-ol55-april-2015Repeats every week until Wed Dec 30 2015 .Wed, 06/03/2015 - 21:00 Taco Night at Eva's Tickethttp://koreabridge.net/event/taco-night-evas-ticket-june-2015Repeats every week until Thu Jul 30 2015 .Wed, 06/03/2015 - 19:00 Wing Night at Wolfhound Busanhttp://koreabridge.net/event/wing-night-wolfhound-busan-may-2015Repeats every week until Tue Sep 01 2015 .Thu, 06/04/2015 - 17:00 Open Mic Night at Beached Bar (Gwangan)http://koreabridge.net/event/open-mic-night-beached-bar-gwangan-april-2015Thu, 06/04/2015 - 21:30 June Busan Foreign Culture Markethttp://koreabridge.net/event/june-busan-foreign-culture-market-june-2015Sat, 06/06/2015 - 13:00 Eco Art Class: Healing with naturehttp://koreabridge.net/event/eco-art-class-healing-nature-june-2015Sat, 06/06/2015 - 14:00 OngoingBuster Keaton Retrospectivehttp://koreabridge.net/event/buster-keaton-retrospective-may-2015Tue, 06/02/2015 - 11:00 Africa Art Fair @ Walseok Art Hall in the KNN Centum Buildinghttp://koreabridge.net/event/africa-art-fair-walseok-art-hall-knn-centum-building-april-2015Tue, 06/02/2015 - 11:05  ===SEOUL=== Seoul Culture Night Festivalhttp://koreabridge.net/event/seoul-culture-night-festival-may-2015Repeats every day until Sat May 30 2015 .Fri, 05/29/2015 - 19:00KoreaTESOL 2015 National Conference in Seoulhttp://koreabridge.net/event/koreatesol-2015-national-conference-seoul-may-2015Sat, 05/30/2015 - 09:00 Get together and Learn Korean with Local friends in Hongdaehttp://koreabridge.net/event/get-together-and-learn-korean-local-friends-may-2015-0Repeats every week until Sat Jun 27 2015 .Sat, 05/30/2015 - 15:00 Modern Korea: The Land of Extremes’ at Seoul Book and Culture Clubhttp://koreabridge.net/event/modern-korea-land-extremes%E2%80%99-seoul-book-and-culture-club-may-2015Sat, 05/30/2015 - 16:00 Improv & Sketch Comedy 101 Class @ Qu Recreation (Jonggak)http://koreabridge.net/event/improv-sketch-comedy-101-class-qu-recreation-jonggak-may-2015Sun, 05/31/2015 - 11:00 English Language Prayer/Worship Service (Torch-light Ministry)http://koreabridge.net/event/english-language-prayerworship-service-torch-light-ministry-april-2015Repeats every month on the last Sunday until Fri Jan 01 2016 .Sun, 05/31/2015 - 17:00 Arab Film Festival at Ewha Universityhttp://koreabridge.net/event/arab-film-festival-ewha-university-june-2015Repeats every day until Wed Jun 10 2015 .Thu, 06/04/2015 - 18:00  'Joint Security Area’ (2000) at Seoul Global Cultural Centerhttp://koreabridge.net/event/joint-security-area%E2%80%99-2000-seoul-global-cultural-center-june-2015Sat, 06/06/2015 - 15:00  ===ULSAN=== Ulsan Simin Church English Worshiphttp://koreabridge.net/event/ulsan-simin-church-english-worship-may-2015Repeats every week until Wed Dec 30 2015 .Sun, 05/31/2015 - 12:00 ===OTHER=== Chuncheon International Mime Festivalhttp://koreabridge.net/event/chuncheon-international-mime-festival-may-2015Repeats every day until Sun May 31 2015 .Fri, 05/29/2015 - 13:00 
Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Prejudice against Filipinos in Korea

Thu, 2015-05-28 08:51
Prejudice against Filipinos in Korea

I thought that I have lived in Korea long enough to evade discrimination or at least get used to it, but when you are a Filipino living in Korea, you have to accept the fact that there will always be prejudice here against Filipinos, and you just have to deal with it, period.

Don’t get me wrong, life as a Filipina in Korea isn’t that bad. I have made a lot of Korean friends who are kind and unpretentious, worked with wonjangnims who treated me well, and met a couple of Koreans who have much respect for Filipinos and have good things to say about the Philippines; however, there are others whose blatantly racist remarks about my country and its people have made me feel so small, such as:

Oh, I can share a number of personal experiences with discrimination from the moment I came to this country, but to do so will make this article too lengthy and boring to read. I used to cry and complain to my husband about others’ unfair treatment, but I have learned that the best way to deal with prejudice is to NOT LET YOURSELF BE DRAGGED DOWN INTO THE PIT OF OTHERS’ IGNORANCE AND ANIMOSITY by feeling angry or drowning in self-pity. It’s either you ignore them, or you speak up. You can ignore jokes or petty remarks, but if you feel the need to say something, do so. Don’t sound so defensive, though. Speak to enlighten others of their wrong perceptions and not to argue.

They can’t even get it right… T.T

Last week, I started working in a new hagwon. While I was getting ready for my next class, a co-teacher approached me to say that if students ask where I am from, I should tell them that I’m from the United States and not from the Philippines, because as she puts it, Koreans “look down” on Filipino teachers. Although that wasn’t the first time I was asked to lie about being a Filipino, I was flabbergasted at how facilely those words came out of a fellow educator’s mouth. She probably thought that she was doing me a huge favor by giving me a heads up and by lying to the students about my nationality: “Some students were asking (me) where you are from and I said (that) you are from the USA.”

She wanted me to lie, too: “Maybe it’s better (if) you don’t tell them (that) you are (a) Filipino, because if they know (that) you are (a) Filipino teacher, they will not listen to you.”

“If their parents know (that the foreign teacher is from the Philippines), maybe they will not like it.”

As she was gabbling on and on about what Korean students or their parents might think if they find out that the new foreign teacher is a Filipino, I was thinking whether she was really referring to others’ prejudice against Filipino teachers… or she was trying to feign her own xenophobic attitude.

I was fuming inside, but I knew that if I let anger get the best of me, I would prove her right about all the things she previously said. “You know, the first time I was hired to teach in Korea, I was also asked not to tell the students that I am from the Philippines. I had to say that I was a Kyopo. I soon quit that job,”

I wanted to tell her to read my resume and watch me teach, so that her preconceived notions about Filipino teachers will somehow change, but even if I succeeded in changing her opinion of me, there are so many bigots out there who will always see Filipino teachers differently no matter how we try to prove ourselves.

Photo taken from: Pinterest

“I’m not going to lie to keep a job,” I told her. “Besides, I already told most of the students that I’m from the Philippines, and they don’t seem to mind that their teacher is a Filipino.”

She looked at me, slightly surprised, perhaps not expecting that answer. Her last words to me before she left me alone were: “It doesn’t matter.” That was the only thing she said to me that day that actually made sense. I have been an ESL teacher for more than ten years, and I know that to the students I have taught, where I come from doesn’t really matter. I am a teacher who happens to be a Filipino. As an educator, I am damn good at what I do, and there are many Filipino teachers in Korea who are very good, too. It’s just disheartening that in a country like Korea, there are still some who believe that Filipino teachers are not competent enough to teach English, even if they have the degree and years of teaching experience.

An accomplished Filipina professor in Daegu, Prof. Emely Dicolen-Abagat, was also not spared from this kind of discrimination. In the Philippines, she wasn’t just any teacher, she was a respected administrator… but when one of her friends recommended her as a private teacher, this is what happened:

One time, my friend recommended me as a private English teacher to a “Gangnam Omma” to her daughter. We met in a coffee shop in Gangnam and the first question she asked me was, “Where are you from?” I proudly answered, “I’m from the Philippines!” Without hesitation, she tactlessly answered, “I don’t want a Filipina teacher for my daughter. I want a native speaker.” Without letting me finish my coffee, she left. When some Korean moms learn that I’m from the Philippines, they would immediately quote a lower price of tutoring fee compared with westerners.

(Source: abs-cbnnews.com)

If you search the net for teaching jobs in South Korea, you will usually find ads that require NATIVE SPEAKERS ONLY. Some hagwons (academies) will hire Filipino teachers, but will offer the lowest salary. When I started looking for a teaching job in Korea, some hagwons offered me a salary that I thought I didn’t deserve, but no matter how I wanted the job, I DID NOT accept the offer. If you are a Filipino teacher in Korea, please do not accept less than what you think you are worth as a foreign teacher. It’s not merely about money. It’s about being treated fairly.

Discrimination is everywhere. The truth is, we can never get rid of it… but we can learn a lot from it and strive to be better. Because of experiencing prejudice in a foreign land, I have learned to love my country and appreciate my heritage. I have learned to be humble and tolerant of others. I have become stronger in my beliefs.

All the things that I heard Koreans say about the Philippines and Filipinos, whether good or bad, have helped me grow as a person. I may not be able to evade discrimination or get used to it as I have gotten used to kimchi, but now I know that I can cope with it by maintaining my integrity as a Filipino.  

From Korea with Love



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Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

An Interview with Joey Rositano, Photographer of Jeju Shamanism

Thu, 2015-05-28 05:38
An Interview with Joey Rositano, Photographer of Jeju Shamanism

Joey Rositano is not your ordinary expat. Hailing from Nashville, the Tennessee native has called Jeju-do, an island off the southern coast of South Korea, home for the past nine years. 

 But it's not just the island's tropical charms and beautiful beaches that keep him there. Rather, his interests in shamanism, a religion that has all but become extinct in recent years, as well as his desire to protect it and share its stories with the world, have driven him to produce a documentary and publish a book of photographs that document his experiences on the island. Spirits: the Photo Book, which will feature 220 full color images that highlight Jeju shrines, as well as shamanic religious practices that are often carried out by its elderly population, including rare ceremonies performed by haenyeo, the island's famed women divers, to ensure safety while performing their treacherous work. 
The book is set to be released in mid-June and will be available for purchase in Jeju, as well as on Joey's blog and Facebook page. Despite his busy schedule preparing for his book launch, Joey took the time to chat with me for an exclusive Seoul Searching interview to discuss his experiences in Jeju, his efforts to preserve shamanism and the future of the island religion.  What is it that fascinates you most about shamanism? Shamanism is so fascinating, especially an intact system like Jeju’s muism. After immersing myself in the practice and exploring a number of shamanic communities here, I waver between being fascinated by the familiar and the unfamiliar.  There is so much in shamanism that mirrors the world’s major religions. There are points at ceremonies where I feel I am at a religious gathering back home; the emotions, the sense of community is really familiar. Then there are times when it is so clear that the elderly practitioners of muism view the world very differently than I do. It’s really fascinating that people with intensely different world-views live beside each other on Jeju Island, the elderly and the younger generations.   How common is shamanism in Jeju? It’s in every village but to varying degrees. This is a difficult question to answer because we would have to first agree on what shamanism is. I’ll try to answer simply though. As far as fully functioning systems with a living village shaman and regular shrine rites, perhaps around 25-30 villages out of some several hundred villages practice shamanism in its original form. In villages where the line of traditional village shamans has broken, people still worship at shrines and contract shamans from outside to perform ceremonies.  Elements of shamanism can be found everywhere in Jeju, in Buddhism and even in Confucian rites. For example, people in Jeju celebrate the Mountain God and Sea God ceremonies with Buddhist monks and at each family’s memorial services a table is set for the Door God who is one of the central deities in Jeju muism’s cosmology. Shamanic funerary rites are often performed in houses even if the younger residents aren’t practitioners of shamanism.   How is shamanism and the religion's shrines in Jeju different than shamanism on the mainland? It’s really different, though it was more similar in the past. In Jeju, the village shaman, called shimbang in Jeju-eo, a variation of Korean that is only orally spoken on Jeju, is the religious leader of each village. The shimbang is responsible for leading ceremonies at shrines and performing ceremonies in village residents’ homes. These ceremonies are performed to call on the gods to bless a new home, to heal the sick or to ensure the souls of the dead are able to reach the afterlife.  These are just a few examples. The position of shimbang is generally inherited through family lines and the community is organized around this person who has the unique ability to recite the island and village myths. This is no small feat. We’re talking about up to thirty hours or more of recitation in some cases. I understand that this type of village shamanism is more common in Jeju still than the mainland.  Also, the music is quite different as are the deities. The female deities are more prominent in Jeju. Of course, all these practices take place in Jeju’s language. Some of the gods overlap with gods in the mainland but they play a different role in Jeju’s cosmology.  In the 1980s, the Korean government attempted to eradicate shamanism in an effort to shed its reputation as a superstitious, "backward" nation. Even today, it is often viewed by mainlanders in a negative light. Are these sentiments shared by those in Jeju? How is the religion perceived by the general public there? The Anti-superstition Movement had a great effect on shamanism in Jeju. Many village shamans were coerced to give up their practice during that period. Shrines were also destroyed. Yet, the people of Jeju resisted and fought back. That is certainly a theme in the story of shamanism in Jeju.  Outsiders have tried over the centuries to destroy the practice but the fact is the people of Jeju always pick up the pieces and rebuild their shrines. That said, the movement did a lot of damage. It successfully erased shamanism from the minds of the younger generations.  I am constantly educating younger people in the city about muism’s myths and shamanic practice. I’m not trying to be arrogant when I do this. I am always shocked to find out how little they know. So I give presentations at high schools and talk to whoever I can. Many younger people from outlying villages know about muism though, as they grew up around their grandparents. Many of them have had encounters with the village shamans when they were young.   What efforts are being made, if any, to protect the shrines? There are around 400 shrines. A handful have been protected as cultural assets and individual villages have been making efforts to protect their shrines as well. But the overwhelming majority aren’t protected and many are near to being entirely forgotten.  There are people working on this problem in Jeju and there is a sense that it is an eminent problem as so much development is occurring. Recently two shrines have been damaged and both are seriously threatened. I’ve been working with a local group on this issue and have played a prominent role in the case of Sulsaemit shrine, which was desecrated last year. I want to work on an initiative to protect all of Jeju’s shrines. You mentioned that each shrine is associated with a myth. Which is the most interesting you've heard? I really like the myth of Miss Hyun’s shrine on the southeastern side of the island. Miss Hyun, unlike many of Jeju’s deities, is a young goddess, not a grandmother goddess. She was an actual person, a village shaman, who lived several hundred years ago. It is said that she died of grief after discovering her brother’s corpse on the nearby beach. He had returned to Jeju from the mainland with a ceremonial dress for her but then shipwrecked. Today, villagers still hang ceremonial dresses for Miss Hyun in a tree in her shrine. You can see these dresses in some of the photos I included from the book. 
Throughout your research on shamanism, for both your book and your documentary, what is one event or discovery that sticks out the most? There are so many. It seems like every time I go out I learn something new. I particularly like hearing people’s personal stories, stories of miracles or stories of times when people had no one to turn to except the shrine gods.  I have enjoyed getting to know one elderly shaman called ‘Oh Halmang’ (Grandma Oh) in her village. Over three days we recorded about fifteen hours of Jeju’s myths. She’s a very comical woman and often would clarify the plots of the myths by comparing them to situations in Korean dramas. Also, hearing stories from the period of the Jeju Uprising, also known as the April 3rd massacre of 1948, has been very sobering.    In your opinion, what is the future of shamanism in Jeju? Many believe that Jeju’s native shamanism is on its last legs. Many village shamans agree with this view. Ten or fifteen years is generally a number given. Yet, there is a movement building in Jeju. The youth are starting to embrace the mythology and learn a little bit more about the religion. Shamanism is being incorporated into many art forms. Time will tell if this is only a fad.  It isn’t unheard of for a community to rebuild its traditional religion. Estonia is a great example of a place where shamanic shrines and practices were essentially entirely reinstated. It will be difficult though. The training that village shamans go through is very extensive and takes great commitment. There are some new shamans in training now. Anything else?  On Jeju, there is a living example of Eurasian shamanism that is extremely valuable. By examining it, we can get a sense of what it was like to witness the pre-Christian era in places such as Europe as well. I want to bring people’s attention to this and show them that shamanism is not what they think it is. As far as protecting the shrines, it’s time to make some noise.   Interview by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Images courtesy of Joey Rositano. 

Seoul Searching

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Busan to Nepal Benefit Concert (Sat May 30th)

Wed, 2015-05-27 13:44
Busan to Nepal Benefit Concert (Sat May 30th)

facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1613194458917942/

The organization of a local benefit concert to support the relief efforts for the recent earthquake in Nepal is currently underway. As of today, April 28th, the death toll is estimated at 4,000 people. The devastation is astronomical and although we cannot erase the tragedy, we can help. 

Dong Ha has graciously offered the use of his club Vinyl Underground as the set venue. The show will include multiple musical acts, a raffle and a variety of ways to donate to the cause. All proceeds will be sent to a secure 100% nonprofit organization.

If you wish to attend or assist, save the date, spread the word and look here for further details.

Vendors willing to donate to the raffle please contact Violet Lea or Gino Bravo

The Busan collective always has and always will bind and unite for anyone in need. It is a very unique and beautiful aspect of living in this little corner of the world. Give what you can, when you can. Hope to see you at what certainly will be an amazing show and a memorable night. Family style.

Thank you.

directions: from Kyungsung/Pukyoung University exit 3, take your first right and walk 2.5 blocks. Vinyl will be on your right, look for the big banana.

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Upcoming Busan Sand Festival

Wed, 2015-05-27 13:12
Upcoming Busan Sand Festival




This weekend (29th May) sees the start of the Busan Sand Festival at Haeundae beach. The theme for this years festival is children’s stories (fairy tales) and there are some really excellent sculptures to greet the visitors.

For the last week I strolled along the beach to chat to the artists and see the progress they are making.

The first note, is that they are all professional sculptors and travel the world producing their art for all to see.

The sculptors come from Holland, Mexico, Korea, Italy, USA and Canada. To many of us, and I was one until this week, it just seemed that carving shapes in the sand was all that there was to this art form, but how wrong could we be! – I cannot even get a kiddies bucket of sand to stand up.

Surprisingly there is a science to this art, for example there are different types of sand, the sand in Haeundae is particularly difficult because it is Sea Sand meaning that it has been rolled by the waves producing a more polished grain with rounded edges. This makes it difficult to ‘stack’ the grains into a vertical shape, rather like trying to make a wall out of tennis balls. River sand is apparently much better and can be set into vertical shapes.

Putting the science behind us, we now need to stop it from blowing away, being eroded by the weather or just crumbling as it dries out, for this a solution of glue and water is sprayed on to the finished surface to bond it and give some protection from the elements. This siolution is sprayed onto the finished area rather than mixed with the sand, it may provide a little protection from slight rain but being soluble it can still be easily broken down,

By watching the sculptors you get an insight to the degree of difficulty and time required for even the simplest items in the design.

One sculptor was blowing the grains of sand with a straw to ensure the sharpness in detail, another example were the leaves on the trees, each leaf required a single spatula of damp sand be applied per leaf and accurately placed before the sun dried the sand out.

 The toolkits of these artists contain straws, brushes, knives, spatulas just to name a few. A white soluble glue similar to that used in schools is the setting agent that is used by all of the artists and can be seen in the large blue drums.

The designs (in no particular order) are Peter Pan , Aladdin, Hansel and Gretel, Wizard of Oz, The Hares Liver (Korean) , 잭과 공나무 (Jack and the beanstalk)

 The massive size of these sculptures are a sight to behold and even more intriguing is the fact that they are on an inclined plane, meaning that for the details to look correct to the eye, some of the actual sizes have to be enlarged so that the perspective gives the correct proportions, an example would be the size of the hand on Aladdin is actually the same size as his head which is not normally the case.

For the budding photographer wanting to take photos of these structures you will need a wide lens  as much as 14mm and the best time of day would be early morning or late in the afternoon so that the sun doesn’t blow the detail out of the sand sculptures.

This weekend should be a fantastic event and really marks the start of the summer season in Busan. Let us remember to say thanks to the sculptors and Busan City for what will be a jam packed few days.

see more photos on Flickr :


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Buddha’s Birthday 2015

Mon, 2015-05-25 14:53
Buddha’s Birthday 2015

One of my favorite times of the year in South Korea is during the Buddha’s Birthday celebrations. It is a time where you get to see people celebrating something that is not commercialized or tacky. Everything is decorated with a sort of quiet charm and for the most part everything is sort of quiet.

Over the past few weeks I have visited several temples in the area to get footage for an upcoming cinemagraph video project. I must admit that I really did enjoy getting out and shooting at these great temples. I learned a lot from these past few week and I hope that you can get something out of what I learned as well.

Don’t Be Afraid to Return

Often when we are shooting for a particular project we get in the habit of thinking that this is the last time that you will ever get to this place. If you are on a trip, perhaps it maybe true but for most of us living here, you just have to make time to come back. Why I say return is that sometimes the stars don’t line up for you and you just have to come back another time.

Last Friday, I left immediately after work to get to Tongdosa. I was in high spirits and excited to be free from the prison that is “work” However, by the time that I got to Tongdosa, they were closed or rather they were not allowing any more visitors. I was pissed off too because the ajeoshi (middle-aged Korea man) just shooed me away like a stray dog. I stood too long glaring at the jerk instead of hauling ass to the next location. By the time that I got to Beomosa, it was too dark to get the shots that I wanted. So I returned this past Sunday and it was amazing. The sky was much better and the people were so friendly.

Slow Down

I often get so over excited when I am shooting that I stop thinking about the shots that I want to get and instead I just run around snapping away. The problem with this is that I usually finish without getting the shots that I wanted to get. What I found was the best thing to do is to just stop, sit down and just go over in your mind what you want to achieve. I did this while shooting out at Hongryeongsa. I just sat down on a bench and meditated about the shots that I wanted.

Before you snicker and think that I have turned into a new-age hippie, just think about this for a second. Imagine you are at a mountain temple with next to no one around (rare for Korea) and you have time to kill before the light gets good. Why wouldn’t you just relax and let your mind flow for a bit. Organize your thoughts and make a plan. Not to mention, that once I did this, I was much more relaxed and the pressure was off. By pressure, I mean that nagging feeling that you “have” to get the best shot from this location. The pressure was off and I just took it all in.

Choose a Mantra

Going along with the meditation thing, I found that choosing a mantra helped me stick to the theme. I know some of you are probably scratching your heads thinking “has this guy spent too much time at these temples?” The mantra that I was using was “find the movement” because I was trying to get footage for cinemagraphs and not just still photos. When the light gets so nice, my brain gets overloaded. Having a mantra helped me stay on course and get the shots that I wanted.


When I was at Junggwansa, a temple that I have visited so many times that I think the Monks have started to remember me, I easily slip back into my standard shots. Using this phrase “find the movement” helped break my old habits before I spent too long focussing on the lanterns and not enough time finding the repetitive movement movement needed to make the cinemagraphs.

Be Courageous

When I am at places of worship, I am almost too respectful. I got kick out of a cathedral in Seoul once and I really felt bad about it. I could feel the people’s eyes burn through me. I am the same way at temples. If they say “no photos” the camera doesn’t even come out of the bag. However, this also means that I get a lot of the standard shots that everyone else gets.

During a bell ringing ceremony that blesses the temple, people and the spirits around, I saw an old man just walk up with a flip-phone and start taking photos in front of everyone! I could not have cared any less about the people leering at him. I wanted to get a shot of the monk ringing the bell and up until now I was too shy to get it. So, I took this old man’s lead and walked up and got the shots that I wanted. No harm, no foul.

Put Your F***ing Phone Down!

I am not a person who gripes about people on smartphones. I love mine. Perhaps a little too much. The problem with running another site, doing a masters as well as being a husband is that you have to juggle your time wisely because people are always contacting you. I noticed that I got better shots when the battery died on my phone and I left it to charge. There was no temptation to reply to a text or snap off one of those “behind the scenes” shots. I love being able to edit and share shots as soon as I take them but it as takes my head out of the game in a way because I end up checking facebook when I should be shooting. While I was at Junggwansa I missed a chance at a really cool shot because I was checking my phone.

I visit this temple every year. I get the feeling sometimes that the monk have even started to recognize me.

Make a Plan

This year I visited all except for one of the temples on my list and that was because this morning I had a nasty migraine. At any rate, over the past few weeks I visited Baekyongsa (2x), Tongdonsa (2x), Hongryeongsa, Beomosa (2x), Hongbubsa, Seongnamsa, Jeonggwangsa, Bulguksa and the Ulsan Lantern Festival. This would not have been possible if I had not made a plan and stuck to it. Sure, I didn’t make it out to Yonggunsa, but seriously with that mall being built behind it, the road to Yonggunsa is a now a nightmare.

At any rate, I learned that planning for a project like this made me more aware of my time and also pushed me to get out. It also allowed me to focus more on the photos because I was setting time out of each day to do something specific. I had a plan, I knew where I was going and what I had to do. That frees up a lot of brain space for focussing on your shots… if your phone is put away.


I hope that these pieces of advice help you in some way. I learned a lot this past month with regards to my photography. I felt that even though my photos were not ground-breaking by any stretch of the imagination, I still learned so much and that perhaps in the future you will see the improvement too. I hope that you all had a great long weekend!


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SURVIVAL TIP: All about taking the Korean Trains

Wed, 2015-05-20 10:15
SURVIVAL TIP: All about taking the Korean Trains

To travel from city to city in Korea, taking a train is probably the most safest and the best way as a foreigner.

There are several types of trains in Korea.

1. Regular Trains

a) KTX : It’s the fastest train in Korea. By taking this train, it takes less than 3 hours from Seoul to Busan. Although the train fee is expensive, you can save time with high quality seats. If you go to Busan from Seoul by Mugunghwa train or a car, it takes more than 5 hours.

b) Saemaul Train : Before the launch of KTX express trains, Saemaul was the fastest class of trains in South Korea, making the journey from Seoul to Busan in less than 5 hours. Saemaeul trains are distinguished from the more basic Mugunghwa trains by their larger and comfortable seats and the absence of standing passengers.

c) Mugunghwa Train : The basic train which stops at many stations where KTX & Saemaul train are not serving. It is cheap but slow. Also there are standees who don’t have any seat available in the train.

2. Special Trains

a) S-Train : S-train takes people to Korea’s southwest region. This is a new tourist train which launched in 2014. It operates between Busan and Boseong, South Jeolla Province, along the southern coast of the peninsula.

b) V-Train : The ‘V’ in V-train stands for “valley,” as it travels through the remote mountainous areas of Gangwon-do and Gyeongsangbuk-do. It is also referred to as the “Baby Baekho (white tiger) Train” due to the motif on the train’s exterior of a white tiger. It stops at Bucheon, Bidong stop, Yangwon, Seungbu and Cheoram.

c) O-Train : O-train is a central inland region tour train. Its name derives from the word, “One”, as the three provinces (Gangwon-do, Chungcheongbuk-do, Gyeongsangbuk-do) in the country’s central inland region are connected by this circular route. It stops at Seoul, Wonju, Jaecheon, Yeongwol, Mindungsan, etc.

d) DMZ Train : The DMZ-Train allows tourists to travel through Korea’s untouched natural landscape and historical landmark that is the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The train runs twice a day and tickets are available at each station. Tourists can also purchase a “DMZ Plus Ticket” which lets you freely board and depart at any of the stations along the way.

e) G-Train : G-train is a west gold train which has rooms with “ondol”, Korea’s floor heating system. It runs down the coastal area along the west sea. It stops at major travel destinations, including Boryeong and Gunsan.

f) Wine & Cinema Train : In this train, you can enjoy wine and cinema at the same time. The Wine-Train runs between Seoul and Yeongdong every Tuesday and Saturday. Starting from Seoul Station, you go to Yeongdong to taste wine and try wine food spa. Then also stop by Geumsan to look around geumsan ginseng museum and town.

g) Sea Train : This train operates along the coastal of east sea. Running along the beautiful East Coast, every seat is tailored to see the ocean and windows are larger than those in regular trains for visitors to overlook the majestic waves, beaches, and the blue ocean.

Try to enjoy any of these special trains!

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Selfie with the PM

Mon, 2015-05-18 11:42
Selfie with the PM


Today I got to meet an interesting person and world leader!

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Korea after his tour of China and Mongolia. He was greeted by Indians in Korea with a lot of enthusiasm and love.

All Indians and others were invited to view the speech of the PM at Kyunghee University auditorium. At first, the embassy had invited just a few of the Indians to a formal luncheon with the PM but seeing the tumultuous response from the Indians living in Korea, resorted to a bigger venue. The program was free of charge and all were encouraged to register with the embassy by sending an email.

The PM was scheduled to arrive at 1PM. But I reached the venue at 11:30AM. Over enthusiasm, i guess :) It was heartening to see so many saris and colorful salwars amidst the formal suits and volunteers. There were many shuttle buses to help us to the auditorium from the subway station. The sign in process and the security check was so smooth and easy. Only the wait for the PM was so long and exciting.

I guess I was expecting punch lines, double talk and drama (I blame the IPL for this). The speech made by the PM was more factual, clear, to the point and in Hindi. He insisted that the Indians in Korea learn from the technologically advanced Korea and implement in India. He asserted that implementing and educating people to have toilets in every home was a difficult task, but he was going to get it done. He maintained that India is the fastest growing economy and developing nation in the world and he would do more for it with his "Make in India" mantra.

The auditorium and the peopleFree snacks, water and juice on the far end tents. Registration and confirmation at the entrance.  Modi did a costume change between his arrival at the airport and his speech at the auditorium! Big screens on both the sides of the stage gave us a larger than real look at the PM
His talk was not motivating or engrossing but the auditorium was in pin drop silence until he entered with his entourage. Closest selfie I could get of the PM :)Yay! Another selfie with the PM :) 

S for- Selfie with the PM for ABC Wednesday

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Training Day 1: A Terrible Afternoon at the Medical Center

Mon, 2015-05-18 07:34
Training Day 1: A Terrible Afternoon at the Medical Center

I know I said I wasn’t going to post this week because I’d be too busy, but my first day of orientation was a special form of hell that definitely merits a ventpost.

Part of training with my company (that shall remain unnamed) includes, on the very first day of orientation, a medical exam. I never expected that a job position as an English teacher would demand such a humiliating, physically draining medical exam.

For one thing, we were told to fast before the medical exam, so during the morning training session I wracked with hunger. That’s why it was physically draining. It’s no big deal for me to skip breakfast and be a little hungry, but something about the jetlag and the act of being in a completely foreign environment made me SOOOO motherfucking HUNGRYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! I could hardly pay attention to the material we were covering!

Our training session went until 1:30 PM. Which seemed like forever to my famished mind. Then all thirty of us filed in a megabus together and went to medical center. Once we got there, we had to take off all our clothes and change into absurd pink outfits.  Here’s me, looking gross as fuuuuck!

This captures the awkwardness of the moment completely. So hideous. So, so hideous. 

The medical center looked pretty slick on the inside. There were a series of rooms inside with corresponding beige cushy chairs. We all sat down together in those embarrassing outfits waiting for our names to be called. We had to see about six different people. And it took forever. The whole time everyone was starving and awkward, and the vibe of the group was (sorry guys) really not enjoyable. Everybody in the orientation group seems cool, and I’ve found so many people that I have a ridiculous amount in common with. But I’m definitely not a fan of get to know you conversations in the midst of a medical exam. So, if anyone from orientation ends up reading this blog post, please excuse any standoffish behavior on my part!

What was so humiliating about the exam, you ask? Getting weighed in front of everyone. Carrying my pee around in front of everyone. Getting my blood drawn and consequently freaking out in front of everyone. Yeesh.

What’s the bright side of this situation? My instructor and the other trainers for orientation were passionate and knew their stuff. The job still seems fun, and everyone I’ve met who is also going to Cheonan seems cool. And I finally got food today!!!!!! Potato chips!! A triangular rice thingy with mayonnaise and fish in it!!!  A coffee bubble tea!!!!!


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Balancing then and now.

Sun, 2015-05-17 04:44
Balancing then and now.

How is it that something I've done for so long can suddenly feel so foreign? A few weeks ago, Stupid Ugly Foreigner came back to Korea for a wee visit and we met up one Saturday afternoon, me rattled and in a mid-deadline haze, to catch up on -- what, years? -- of conversation in a few hours. It's some strange social mark of our tribe, how we don't meet for months or years, and then turn up at the designated spot and carry on like it's been a few weeks.

As we strolled along toward the tiny burrito shop where the handfuls of fresh cilantro the man who runs it piles on top of the meat and rice can convince me at times to swing by after work-- a good ten minute walk from the nearest station -- just to pick a couple up for B and myself, we did eventually get on the subject of the blogs. Maybe not so odd, as they are how we originally met. He's retired his now, too, and for essentially the same reasons I'm not on mine much anymore. Namely, we don't know how to juggle more than a few types of writing at once.

I am writing food articles now, in addition to slowly plodding along on a project that is only beginning to develop edges. I'll go weeks without anything, and then a slow, dull ache sets in and I sit down, not sure what will come of it, only to have ten pages at a time come rolling out. I'm cautious to hem it in -- it's doing its own thing, and for now, I'm allowing it to.

My daily life is mainly a blur of learning Korean company politics, how to communicate more clearly and delicately in my second language, in that regard, and in many others, deadlines, overtime -- way too many company-comped midnight cab rides home to count. As Friday approaches, I plot grocery lists, order books and records and hard-to-find ingredients, and then, when Saturday arrives, I revel in being-homeness. I cook as much as I can, fed up with quick salads and meals from the company restaurant wolfed down in a rush to get back to the office -- lunch and dinner, about a third of the time. I try to leave the apartment at least once every other weekend to make sure my social life doesn't completely crumble, or to take in something of the outside world other than the inside of a bus or a subway tunnel.

B was unemployed for about a month, searching for a better job than he had before, eventually settling only to quit again within a week. I've been poisoning him with chatter about moving to the country and working on our own terms, and although we both know we need to buckle down and earn the cash to buy the land and house first, it seems to have gotten to him on some real level. So when, at the new job, the 부장 started pacing up and down the space between the cubicles like a jail warden, and the no overtime they promised turned out to be overtime every night (I laughed when he actually bought that, but tried not to rub it in when reality set in), he couldn't hack it, which is not like him. We had a sweet deal for a while, him working a short half-hour bike ride away, home by 6:30 every night, and me, with the time to put dinner on the table. It's hard to let that go.

At the moment, we're fighting with our landlord who has decided in the eleventh hour to hold our deposit for an extra month and a half, which will make it impossible for us to move as we had planned. But when we do move, we will be much closer to the magazine offices and things should get a bit easier. The summer is going to be hard, with no vacation time, but when the fall rolls around, there's a trip home in October for a dear friend's wedding, which may double as a work trip, if I can get an article organized. Of course, Chuseok in September and a long vacation at Christmas, which we may take with friends in Europe if everything goes well. I'm waffling about whether or not to continue with this job for another year after the winter. On the one hand, the experience is valuable and the money is good, but on the other, there is a lot I was able to do in my spare time last year that I'm missing. Like sleep, for example.

The point is, there are options. More than I expected there to be, and for that, I'm grateful. I do worry sometimes about how, over the past decade, my life has been a continuous string of promises to myself to buckle down for just one more year, and then... and then... and then. I'm 30 now, and I'm going to need then to become now at some point soon. But I also know that I'm easily bored, and listless without some goal to work toward. The past ten years have been, for the most part, good ones. B said something shortly after we got married, for no apparent reason -- we were in the kitchen setting the table for a meal, and it just popped out: "Well, we're done now, I guess. Just need to buy a house and have a baby, maybe, and then that's it." I stared at him in horror, because the idea of just finishing life halfway through....

I think the key is to find a balance between being "finished" and always waiting for "then". I'm trying. At least for now, my thens are getting a little closer together. One more week, and then I'll be working on a story again. One more late night, and then we'll have made it through deadline. One more day, and then it'll be the weekend.

But now, it's Sunday afternoon and a little get-together at a friend's house is waiting, and I've got to finish the baking. Then, tomorrow will be Monday. Five more days, and then it will be the weekend again.

I'm No Picasso
This is a tale of the seaports where chance brings the traveler: he clambers a hillside and such things come to pass.In Imminent Danger
Bits and pieces about Korean literature and translation philosophy


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My first 24 hours in South Korea

Fri, 2015-05-15 06:00
My first 24 hours in South Korea

Can I tell you something? I don’t actually like airplanes. Twenty-six hours total in flight. Nightmares, people. NIGHTMARES.

Things got better after the flights (there were three). Since I’ve already been to Seoul, I felt a sense of familiarity at Incheon International Airport, and on the subways.  It was weird after all those hours traveling to feel such a strong sense of returning.

I chose to stay at Dustin Guesthouse, a place I visited during my first trip to Korea. The first people I met were some Southern army boys boasting loudly about their affection for guns. Weird to travel halfway around the world to hear that conversation.

I also met the first person I’ve ever seen from Mongolia, which was, for me, REALLY EXCITING. I know, I know, people are people no matter what nationality. But I’ve always viewed Mongolia as a mystical fairyland, since it’s so far away from America and so full of nature and legends. It’s one of my top destinations–Hawks! Majesty! Adventure! It’s less than four hours from Korea. Hopefully this year I’ll go.

It’s disarming not to know the local language here. I want to give a good impression of Americans by learning enough Korean to appear polite and knowledgable. I also want to be able to get around, and read signs…!

Well, without further ado, here are some tips that will help you get through your first 24 hours in South Korea:

  • Remember deodorant
  • Don’t wear low cut tops…I feel like short shorts are acceptable here but low cut tops are seen as riskay
  • Learn to say “nice to meet you”
  • Chose taxi over subway if you have a lot of luggage
  • Master the art of having a WhatsApp conversation whilst navigating through Wifi pockets
  • Know that if you get up too early, pretty much everything will be closed
  • Most hostels have free bread and butter for breakfast…if you wake up in the middle of the night with jet lag, locate it and FEAST!
  • Hydration is key…I recommend yogurt smoothies and green tea lattes!


Annnd now for a brief photo essay of my first day here:





On the way to getting a power convertor, a razor, and socks…

View of Yongsan


So much adorable to be had in South Korea!



And so much Turkish food.


I’m about to enter the week long rigorous training with my company! If I don’t pass, I go home. I’m really, really nervous. Almost everyone passes, so realistically I probably will. But still. Nerve racking! New people to meet! New rules to learn!


Probably won’t be posting again until I get to Cheonan.


Wish me luck!!!!!!!!!!!!





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North Korea with SLBMs Scares the Hell Out of Everybody

Tue, 2015-05-12 11:36
North Korea with SLBMs Scares the Hell Out of Everybody

Am I the only one who is amazed at how good North Korea seems to be at developing new military technology? They got to nukes despite all sorts of international efforts to block them. They’ve got an apparently pretty successful missile program. They beat South Korea to drones last year. And now they’ve got submarines, and ones that can launch missiles to boot! Wow. We seem to consistently underestimate the Norks – probably because everyone loathes them so much that we keep telling ourselves that the place is falling apart and will implode any day now. Alas, it doesn’t look like it.

I wrote the following essay, below the jump, for the Lowy Institute a few days ago on the SLBM test. My primary fear is that all these nuclear and missile advances raise the temptation for South Korea to preemptively strike before the Northern program really gets out of control in the next decade with hundreds of warheads and missiles. The Israelis did that in Iraq and Syria, and I could see the South Koreans mulling it too.

Increasingly it is impossible to see how this ends well. Where are we going? What is the exit from a North Korea seriously threatening the entire region? Jees…



“The North Korean nuclear and missile programs continue apace. In the last few days, the North tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). Specifically, it was an ‘ejection test,’ to see if the missile’s propulsion was strong enough to break the surface of the water (it was). North Korea is on its way to an ‘assured second strike’ capability. That is, SLBMs can survive even a massive first strike by an opponent and allow the attacked state to nonetheless respond with nuclear force. SLBMs also offer greater range. North Korea has worked on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) but has struggle with multi-stage rockets that could actually traverse the atmosphere at great distance. By contrast, a North Korea submarine on station off the continental United States does not need ICBMs to bring most US cities within range of Pyongyang for the first time.

I see three medium-term consequences to this SLBM evolution:

1. Most importantly, it will drive American paranoia over North Korea to new heights. American cities have thus far been exempted from the North Korean missile threat that looms over Japan and South Korea. So SLBM development does little to change their threat perception and strategic situation. Instead, these SLBMs are clearly pointed at the US. They improve Northern deterrence by signaling that American cities will suffer retaliation if ‘regime change’ is tried.

But I do not think the North realizes how much this will push the Americans toward even more hawkish positions regarding Pyongyang. SLBM deployment will almost certainly lead to more sanctions and the accelerated pursuit of North Korean money in Asian banks. The US will also almost certainly accelerate missile defense development and arm-twist South Korea on THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). And it will push the American defense debate to the right and help ultrahawkish GOP presidential contenders. Is this really what Pyongyang wants? Do they really want John Bolton working for another White House?

2. SLBMs will also push the THAAD debate in South Korea toward deployment, yet another unintended consequence Pyongyang does not want. The South Korean left has managed to forestall THAAD so far, in part by arguing that North Korea is unnecessarily provoked by South Korean hawks and the Americans. But SLBMs weaken that position.

At the outermost limits of rationality, one might argue that North Korea could objectively want some nuclear weapons, given the American dalliance with regime change, and how far behind Pyongyang is in conventional military power. But even by that generous standard, there is still no defensible reason for North Korea to seek ICBMs, SLBMs, dozens or even hundreds of warheads, and so on. Even Beijing sees this. And now, if North Korea’s nuclear weapons are immune from preemptive strikes because they are underwater and impossible to find, then the debate on missile defense in South Korea has essentially been won by the hawks.

3. Elsewhere I have argued that North Korea’s spiraling nuclear and missile programs would slowly push Seoul toward preemption. I have long thought that a South Korea without a missile defense ‘roof’ or its own nuclear weapons would feel acutely vulnerable to North Korean nuclear missiles. And just as the Americans considered preemptive air strikes on Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962 before they became operational, or as Israel did against nuclear facilities in Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007, so I imagine a rising temptation in South Korea to strike before the Northern program really gets out of hand, with hundreds of missiles and warheads.

SLBMs change this in two ways. First, if North Korea can actually deploy them reliably, then the value of preemptive strikes declines dramatically. Under-sea launchers cannot be targeted for preemption; that security is the whole point of SLBMs. At that point, missile defense is the only possible strategic response, and one can foresee an accelerating missile vs. missile defense technological race among the two Koreas and the US.

A second, more frightening prospect is that SLBMs set a timeframe on the North’s vulnerability to airstrikes. A closing window of opportunity might therefore encourage Southern air action sooner, as, for example, it did in Germany in 1914 because of the belief that Germany could not defeat Russia once its western rail system was completed.

Increasingly I cannot see how this ends well. No matter the consequences, the North seems hell-bent on hugely threatening nuclear deployments that in turn will only further entrench hawkish, confrontational elites in South Korea, Japan, and the US.”

For a response to this essay by another author from the Lowy Institute, try here.

Filed under: Defense, Korea (North), Korea (South), Lowy Institute, Nuclear Weapons, Preemption, United States

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University


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A lovely day trip to Petite France and Nami Island (Namiseom) in Korea.

Tue, 2015-05-12 06:17
A lovely day trip to Petite France and Nami Island (Namiseom) in Korea

Although Petite France Village and Nami Island are known as two of the most popular travel destinations in Korea, it’s not easy to get around the places when you actually want to visit, especially for foreigners without a vehicle to move freely.

One of the best and the most convenient ways to reach these places is to take a package trip available out there, which offers a hassle free tour. We’ll show you around how we got to visit and enjoy the attractions! We guarantee you this will be the most thorough review of the day trip adventure. 

(Visited & written by Yoonhee C.)

First, there are two options for departure: Seoul Train Station (Line 1) or Hongik University Station (Line 2).

It takes about 90 mins from Seoul to Petite France Village with the tour bus.

On the way to the main gate of the Petite France, We could see the map of the whole village.

You can get a map (Korean,English,Chinese and Taiwanese) here at the ticket booth. It’s better to get this map to look around the village more efficiently.

Like the name, Petite France, it is a small but exotic French themed village. You can see both the small Tower Eiffel and lots of French style houses (you can also book one of the houses on the website of the Petite France to stay over night). And there is a nice view of Lake Chengpyeong when you reach the right side of the village where the restaurant and cafe are located.

The main theme of Petite France comes from the famous French novel “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint Exupery. So you can see many things related to the little prince. There is also a Memorial Hall for him.

And If you like Korean drama then it must be very interesting to look around here. Lots of famous dramas were filmed here (Beethoven Virus, Secret Garden, and My Love from the Star). There are a lot of props that were used at the dramas and also you can see real autographs of the actors and actresses.

There is also photo zone that you can take pictures becoming Kim Su-hyun and Jeon Ji-hyun.

There are a lot of nice photo zones or spots where you can take memorable pictures even if you are not that interested in K-drama.

There are a variety of places to visit inside the village including their own exclusive theater for marionette, cafes, restaurant and outdoor places to have a cup of coffee, eat and take a rest. You can buy souvenirs related to the little prince like post cards, orgel at the gift shops.

And we headed to Nami Island which took about 20 minutes. When we arrived to Gapyeong Wharf, the tour guide gave us ticket to take the ferry.

Around the wharf, there so many Dakgalbi (Chicken Barbecue which is famous in Chuncheon) restaurants that you can try like below. On Nami Island, there are many restaurants and cafes but it’s a bit more pricey.

We took the ferry to Nami Island which takes about 5 minutes. But in other case you can also go to Nami-island by Zip-wire (It’s around $40).

When we got off the ferry, there was a supermarket near the gate where you can purchase snacks and drinks.

When we walked a little bit more from the gate, we reached the Unicef Child-friendly Park. People were preparing for singing performance. Around here there are so many places to sit so we took a rest listening to the live performance.

There are also many leisure activities like riding a bike or you can also take a small train where you can easily look around Nami Island. So we could see lots of families and couples who were enjoying the ride together. And pets are allowed on Nami Island so you can see and bring pets also.(But in the case of Petite France pets not allowed.)

Nami Island first became popular because of the famous Korean drama Winter Sonata (겨울연가, 2002). You can see the the bench where Bae Yong-Joon and Choi Ji-Woo played with snowman. 

And nearby the Winter Sonata scene spot, there is a field where you can meet the famous ostrich called Ggangta.

Nami Island is also known for the beautiful Metasequoia Road. You can just walk here releasing stress. Also there are many small and big museums so you can wander around wherever you want. There’s also a camping site and shower facility.

Overall, we think this is a good tour for people who want to run away from the busy city life for a day and take a rest peacefully in the suburb of Seoul.

The most convenient part was the fact that we did not have to think about the transportation to go Petite France and Nami Island and also about buying tickets! The tourist bus took us both to Petite France and Nami island and the tour guide gave us tickets for them. And you can also freely talk and enjoy this tour together with the other foreign visitors.

a service for travelers to easily share and discover the latest hip & hot travel spots from all over the world. 
We are currently focusing on Korea as our destination and plan to expand to other countries gradually. 

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Kopino Reunites with Her Korean Father: An I-Witness Documentary

Mon, 2015-05-11 14:06
Kopino Reunites with Her Korean Father: An I-Witness Documentary



Photo taken from: gmanetwork.com

Kopino (코피노) pertains to children born to a Korean father and a Filipina mother.

Two years ago, I wrote an article about “The Sad Plight of Abandoned Kopino Children in the Philippines” after watching an I-Witnessdocumentary about Kopino children searching for their Korean fathers and the good Samaritans who are helping them.

The good Samaritans are Mr. Bum Sik (Cedric) Son, a Korean, and his Filipina wife, Mrs. Normi Garcia Son. They founded Kopino Children Association Inc. to give Kopinos under their care free education, shelter, moral support and most of all hope for the children to see their father.

On Saturday, May 9, a day after children in Korea honored their parents by celebrating Parents’ DayI-Witness featured the poignant reunion of a Kopino and her father in Korea whom she hasn’t seen in six years.

Below is the full episode, entitled “Remember Me”, which was uploaded on Youtube by user Kapuso Ako:

Get your tissues ready. This father-daughter reunion will move you to tears.

These are links to a four-part episode uploaded by user I WANT PINOY TV:

If you don’t mind the cuts, these links have a wider screen for better viewing.

As of now, the Korean government and the Philippine government don’t have programs or organizations that cater to the needs of Kopino children. In fact, there is no data on the number of Kopino children in the Philippines abandoned by their Korean fathers. The problem is rather personal, so most of the children and their mothers don’t have anywhere to turn to, except to seek help from non-profit organizations such as the one founded by Mr. and Mrs. Son. Hopefully, there will be more Mr. and Mrs. Son’s who will reach out to Kopino children and help them achieve their utmost desire… to see their father in Korea.

If you are a Kopino who needs help, you may visit Kopino Facebook homepage. Please do not trust any other organizations. According to Mrs. Son, other groups try to lure mothers of Kopino children to file court cases against the Korean fathers in exchange for a large sum of money. This is never the intent of Kopino Children Association, except in cases where the Korean father refuses to recognize his Kopino child/ren, like what happened to a 27-year-old Kopino Mr. Son assisted recently.  The Korean father, who has another child to another Filipina, abnegated his parental responsibility, so filing of a case was recommended.

The funds used by the organization come mainly from the founders’ own pockets, with help from one or two Korean sponsors who are based in Korea. The capacity to assist Kopinos is limited, but the need to be there for these children is great. The organization needs all the help it can get not only financially, but also to raise awareness and educate the Korean and Filipino society about Kopinos and how we can all make a difference in the lives of these abandoned children.

For those who would like to help by donating to Kopino Children Association, please visit the organization’s website. There you will find a link to the banks where you can send your donations.


From Korea with Love



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Moving to Korea? 12 tidbits to consider...

Mon, 2015-05-04 23:53
Moving to Korea? 12 tidbits to consider...

Over two years ago I considered teaching abroad in either Korea or China, but I chickened out.  After moving from Vancouver to Toronto the thought of packing my life into two suitcases and selling the rest just seemed too far-fetched, and having gone through the process of getting transcripts and copies of a degree notarized for a friend already teaching in Korea I just felt...too lazy.  Now I feel incredibly stupid for not just getting it together and going.  Now that I'm here there are a variety of reasons why I want to stay, and a variety of common misconceptions about moving to Korea I want to dispel. 

1. Korea is "Asia-light" - Truth!

Living in Korea (at least in Busan) is a lot like living in Vancouver, Canada where I spent 5 years of my life finishing up my degree and working downtown.  Throughout the week I spend my days working and my evenings at the gym.  I usually pick up a Kimbap (Korean-style "sushi") or Mandu (a tasty kimchi or meat-filled dumpling) on my way home.  It's cheaper than the subway sandwich or sushi I would get in Toronto, and during the week I tend to keep it simple so I can make the most of my weekends.  Of course, from time to time I'll head out throughout the week for a couple of socials or a night of trivia, but realistically I'm usually in bed at a pretty reasonable hour throughout the week.  On weekends?  I head out shopping, or to a club with friends, to a temple, or to the beach.  Having the beach and the mountains so close is just like being in Vancouver, and I'm thrilled to be able to swim in April!

2. Too much paperwork - myth

Getting your documents together is a pain, but it's not all that difficult.  I had to get my fingerprints done through the RCMP (I'm Canadian) and a criminal background check.  I also had to get copies of my degree notarized and several copies of my sealed transcripts sent.  There were different sized passport photos to get, and a couple of trips to the consulate to make, but I had planned months in advance so while it was fairly time-consuming it wasn't all that difficult.  My best advise is to plan so that you're not in a mad rush to get your paperwork together.  I was working a full-time job that actually had me working really long hours at the time and I still managed to get it all together.  Just start - once you've begun the process you will be invested and won't turn back.  You will need to get a health check up when you arrive in Korea and that will require more paperwork and more photos to get your ARC (Alien Registration Card - your key to multiple visits in and out of Korea).

3. Pack well - Truth!

This year winter fell right into summer (just as it seems to have in Toronto).  Many websites specify that there are four distinct seasons, but so far I've gone through winter (no snow, but holy cow was it ever cold), to diving into the water at the beach to cool off (let's be candid - the first time was in April and the water certainly wasn't warm, but it was refreshing!).  Koreans are pretty modest about their chest regions, so make sure to bring clothes you can layer as in the morning and at night it can be pretty cold but you'll find yourself sweating up a storm midday.  For the curvy girls and tall guys you WILL be able to shop in Korea.  There are a couple of H&M and Zara locations in Busan, and they have Forever 21 in Seoul as well.  I'm able to fit into Korean shirts and skirts but haven't tried pants anywhere other than western stores.  BRING SHOES - if you have above size 7.5 feet you'll have difficulty buying shoes (again - unless you visit the western chains).  Also I find that people here tend to have incredibly fashionable outfits that they pair with running shoes.  I don't understand it, but that'll give you an idea of most of the shoes that are sold here.  If you enjoy a cute pair of heels then bring them - although they might get ruined on the uneven sidewalks...

 - a shirt from my trip to Nampo. - my shoe closet.

3. Dining Experiences will be limited and I'll have to sit on the floor - myth

Um...NOPE!  There are TONS of different styles of food here, and I'm pretty sure I haven't eaten kimchi in at least 2 weeks (well other than the cooked kimchi in my mandu).  I have been to a vegetarian restaurant, several Italian restaurants, a cocktail bar with "Mexican" food, and yes - tons of Korean restaurants which can mean BBQ, fine dining, Makgeolli bars for pajeon, lunch box stops, and so much more.  Korean food is not limited to pork, rice, and kimchi - I promise.  I have yet to sit on the floor in a restaurant.  It's been offered at a couple of places but usually we sit at a table.  Oh, and you'll get good at using your chopsticks - promise.

4. Koreans don't speak English - half truth

Well you're in Korea, a KOREAN-speaking country, so you should probably learn enough Hangul to at least get by.  I learned how to read the alphabet before my arrival (it's incredibly straight-forward) , but it's only since actually being here that I've noticed how many English words are actually just written out in Korean, and which words I need to order food, take a taxi, get directions, etc.  You'll meet a ton of Foreigners here and the Koreans with whom you strike up friendships will likely be the ones who have studied at English Academies (or other teachers!) or who have studied at the English Universities.  If you do know key Korean words you can freak out your students when they're being bad by telling them to stop/ don't do that in Korean (HA-JI-MA) or asking for their homework but adding "Chuseyo" ("Give it to me" - ie. "Please").  I don't imagine that I'll ever have really good conversational Korean, but I haven't had a real moment of panic quite yet without it.

5. Don't work at a Hagwon - myth

There are many horror stories about living and working in Korea, but once I settled in in Busan I have to say I've been really happy.  I have many friends who work in the public school system and teach 15 classes a week but have to stay at their desk when they're not teaching.  They have a standard 8-4 or 9-5 and I believe get paid less than Private English Academy workers do.  I technically work longer hours (some days I start at 10 some days at 12:45 but I usually finish up around 7:30) but I have many breaks where I can go home and make lunch (I live half a block from work) or go to the gym, or read/ take a nap.  There's a beautiful park near where I live too so sometimes I hang out there.  I block out a couple of days a month to get my lesson plans done, and my colleagues are always there to help me as well.  I was nervous that I would be a bad teacher, but for the most part you can use your textbook as a guide and create fun activities to confirm your students knowledge.

6. Pack your own toothpaste, deodorant, and tampons - TRUTH!

I haven't really looked for deodorant or tampons (I brought 5 sticks and 200 tampons) yet, but I know that the toothpaste is a little sweeter and doesn't contain fluoride.  Just make it easy on yourself and stock up before coming.  I brought the little ob brand and just packed them in ziplock bags stuffed in my shoes.  It's not a lot of extra weight and you'll feel more comfortable having your own brands.  Bring some power adapters as well.  It's also worth bringing a couple of towels and your comforter from home.

7. Birth Control Pills are available over the counter in Korea - Truth!

I wasn't able to get Yasmin, of course, but I got a similar combination of hormones.  I don't feel any difference in my personality and haven't noticed any changes in my body because of the pill.  It'll cost you about $10/ pack and because it's over the counter it doesn't fall into the category of prescription medication covered by National Health Insurance, but it's not stressful to get at all, which helps.

 - buying BCP was as easy as getting the Korean equivalent of Coldfx.

8. Dating in Korea is a nightmare for Foreign Women - Myth!

Sure, there are a ton of foreign guys who come to Korea intent on securing a hot Korean girlfriend, but unless you're in a very rural area or somewhere without foreigners you'll have a fine time meeting people.  I've read about foreign women being really lonely because they Korean guys and Foreign guys all want Korean women, but I can pretty much guarantee that if you're in a city you'll find all sorts of people with all sorts of "types".  The great thing about dating foreigners here is that you all share a bit of a bond with other teachers, all teachers have at least a Bachelor's degree, and most foreigners here have a bit of a sexy sense of adventure and taste for new things which makes going on dates really exciting.  Careful about telling your Korean friends though - once you've been on ONE date with someone the general consensus is that they are now your significant other!

9. Your apartment will be a tiny box - half truth

I've seen some horribly small apartments here and some massive ones.  Mine could comfortably fit a king size bed (note: I have a single) and a couch (note: I have a loveseat), but my floors just got redone, I have TONS of storage, the wallpaper is fresh, and my bathroom is pretty massive.  I've seen some very small apartments as you get closer to the city centre, but most of those have double beds and frankly I'd rather be downtown and have a nice sized bed!  My life here is pretty comfortable - sometimes I consider getting a bigger bed but I'd rather spend the money on a trip (it's incredibly cheap to travel).  Perhaps I'll get a foam topper at some point but for now? Nah...

10. The cost of living is really low in Korea - myth!

In comparison to life back in Canada certain things are quite cheap, but if you want fruit, vegetables, meat, or peanut butter be prepared to shell out.  I tend to live on peppers, eggs, mixed greens, cabbage, bananas, and avocados.  Wine and Spirits are more expensive than back home, but beer, soju, and makgeolli are very cheap.  I can go get a healthy kimbap for about $5 Canadian, or a Korean fast food lunch box for about $4 Canadian (definitely cheaper than back home).  Ultimately it's been nearly 2 months and I haven't saved anything, but I also haven't been skimping on good times.  Once I'm through my first 4 months and am no longer paying my deposit on my apartment I'll be able to send a little bit more home.  If you're a bottle blonde consider heading back to your roots.  Getting your hair bleached properly in Korea will cost you megabucks - they wanted to charge me nearly $400 to get mine dyed, although I have heard of people spending $300 or as little as $125.  Not worth it for me.  Either invest in sending yourself some Revlon highlighting kits before leaving or head back to brunette.  I would also advise waiting until you get your ARC to get a phone.  The arrival store will cost you over $80 each month to rent a phone and the plan.  My phone costs me $45/ month and I got a brand new Samsung Galaxy Grand Max.

11. When handing something/ accepting something always use two hands - half truth.

When you hand money to a sales associate at a shop they'll generally be a little taken aback at a foreigner being so polite.  Do it anyway, and smile a lot.  If you don't have your Korean down then it's best to overcompensate with politeness!  Most places will just hand you your change with one hand though.

12. The Korean transportation systems are amazing - TRUTH!

Don't be afraid to get on an intercity bus and just GO!  The systems are a great way to check out temples, neighbouring cities, etc. and the HU-Metro system is really well laid out.  Make sure not to sit in the sections designated for ajummas and adeshis unless you feel like getting reamed out by everyone on board young and old alike!  Ajummas WILL push you out of their way even if there is plenty of room to go around - this happens in the streets as well.  People have this bizarre tendency to stand really close to you.  Just move if you're uncomfortable, but know that it will likely happen again.

So there you have it, friends!  The first of what will most certainly be a growing list of truths and myths.  Anything to add?  Leave me a note in the comments!

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L2W: Wrong Korea, Divorce Increase, & Kpop Econ Boost

Mon, 2015-05-04 12:03
L2W: Wrong Korea, Divorce Increase, & Kpop Econ Boost

1. National
1) Seoul express ‘regret’ at Abe’s lack of apology 
Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung-Se expressed “regret” that PM Shinzo Abe lost golden opportunity to confirm the correct perception of history by failing to properly acknowledge Japan’s responsibility for WWII at Abe’s speech in the U.S. Congress last week. Yun’s comment was made to lawmakers who are concerned about Korea being left alone while Abe and Obama are having nice dinners in Washington last week, and Abe and Xi Jinping are taking smile photo in the Asian-African Conference in Jakarta last month.
The best days Korea and Japan shared together was during 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup to my memory. There was a match between Japan and Belgium, and, surprisingly, I saw all Koreans were rooting for Japan as Koreans took Japan as an ally in a crusade against soccer empire Europe. It is about time Korean president Park Geun-hye and Abe pick up a ball and play soccer together to mend fences.

2) A Kenyan to Pyeongchang got lost Pyongyang 
WSJ reported a story of Daniel Sapit, a farmer from Kenya, who landed in Pyongyang in North Korea to attend a conference in Pyeongchang in South Korea, the host city for 2018 Winter Olympics. Mr.Sapit asked his travel agency to buy a ticket to Pyeongchang, but the agency thought it was a misspelling of Pyongyang. Mr. Sapit found he was in wrong place only after landing in Pyongyang from Beijing, and was able to get out only after $500 fine for illegal entry.
In 2001, Hyundai engineers sent an e-mail to my colleagues in Detroit to have a technical meeting at its R&D center in N.Y. Never heard of Hyundai’s technical center in N.Y., my American friends asked me its address. The N.Y. that HMC engineers meant was NamYang, the city Hyundai’s main R&D center is located near Seoul. Had my friends not asked me, they would have booked a flight to N.Y. I mean, New York.

2. Economy
1) More men likely to divorce 
To Statistics Korea’s marriage data from 1990 to 2010, the chance of divorce among men rose from 10.4% in 1990 to 25.1% in 2010, up 2.5 times over the last 20 years. The divorce rate for women increased from 9.4% to 24.7%. The number of remarriages has declined as more than seven out of 10 couples who divorced chose to remarry in 1990, but that dropped to half by 2010. Experts say the trend stems from a view that marriage brings no great benefits and living alone get easier and more convenient.
My first marital crisis came in August 1989, just three months into marriage in Quebec. While I wanted to buy a humidifier just right for the living room, my wife kept insisting a big one that could wet whole Taj Mahal. We ended up buying what I wanted, but my wife kept grumbling even at home. The humidifier thus had to face the fate of leaving my hand, flying out the window and landing in the backyard broken. My marriage has been O.K. since, except for 130dB whining noise I hear each time I sneak out to play soccer on Sunday.

2) K-pop helps Korean economy 
The economic effect of the so-called Korean Wave created by young Korean pop artists was estimated to be 12.6 trillion won (U$11.6) in 2014, according to Korea Trade Promotion Agency. The figure indicates that Korea’s industrial output rose 4.3% from last year thanks to the popularity of Korean pop stars and goods. The game industry benefited the most, with 2.2 trillion won in production inducement, followed by the tourism industry with 2.1 trillion won and the food and beverage industry with 1.8 trillion won
While people outside Korea were enjoying Korean Wave, Koreans were deep in Britain Wave when Paul McCartney performed in his or Beatles’ first ever concert in Korea on May 2. Over 45,000 fans braved rain to enjoy nearly 40 songs the 72-year-old British belted out. It was 100 times more action filled than Mayweather-Pacquiao fight held in Las Vegas the same day.

3. Auto Industry
1) Hyundai hit by worst quarterly earnings in years 
Hyundai Motor announced its Q1 sales were 20.9 trillion won ($19.3B) with operating profit of 1.58 trillion, the worst in four years. Sales dropped 3.3%t from a year ago and year-on-year operating profit dropped by 18.1%. The CFO of Hyundai said the strong won against Euro and other currencies in the newly developed nations had a negative sales impact in the global market.
Another factor attributing the poor sales performance is the erosion of domestic market by import models. Hyundai and its sister Kia enjoyed nearly 80% market share until mid-2000, but have seen it go down to 60.6% in January this year. Hyundai marketing better come up with good plans to please its domestic customers or they may end up humming what Paul McCartney sang in Seoul; Yesterday ♬.

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Queer News: MoJ says no to the Rainbow Foundation, EBS' My Daughter is Transgender, and More

Mon, 2015-05-04 09:17
Queer News: MoJ says no to the Rainbow Foundation, EBS' My Daughter is A blow for human rights with the decision of the Ministry of Justice to not allow the Beyond the Rainbow Foundation to be established as a legal entity in late April. The official reasoning (bullshit?) is as follows:

The Ministry of Justice administers legal establishment to groups that aim to establish, monitor, or modify policies related to human rights of the country and related human rights groups. This organization has the purpose to promote the rights of social minorities different than the type of organization which the Ministry of Justice can administer legal status to and so was not given permission to become a legal entity. 

Beyond the Rainbow Foundation will appeal this decision.

The Human Rights Watch has asked for Korea to amend sex education guidelines by the Ministry of Education that fail to include sexual minorities or homosexuality, outlining the potential harms this exclusion would bring to society.

Members of the KTU Union Protesting the Ministry of Education's Decision
A court ruled that the online harassment of a Mr. Lee by protestant groups including the Esther Prayer Movement and the Coalition for Moral Sexuality, which included posting pictures of Mr. Lee along with statements such as 'isn't it attempted murder to hide the fact that you have AIDS', were incidents of defamation.

EBS produced a program related to transgender issues on the 28th of April titled My Daughter is Transgender. The father is really reluctant to accept his daughter, and the intense dramatization typical to Korean television makes it not very pleasant to watch. The whole video is available at Daily Motion.

Director Kim Jho Gwang Su, who has been bringing attention to these harms for some time now, has decided to take legal measures against homophobia with his husband Kim Seung-hwan, saying homophobic groups are impeding on LGBT rights.

Director Kim also had a lecture titled 'Being Happy as a Sexual Minority' in Gwangju as the third part of a lecture series. Protestant groups protested the lecture, emphasizing that they worried about infections of AIDS increasing and sexual identity confusion in teenagers. Fortunately, the lecture was held as planned.

In pop culture, Kim Dong-wan, a solo-artist who was once a member of K-pop group Shinhwa and recently on I Live Alone, has talked about being mistaken for gay once by the media who mistakenly described his friendship with a younger friend, emphasizing that he is not gay.

The drama Blue Bird Nest included a segment in episode 22 where mother Chung Su-kyung (played by actress Lee Hye-sook) believes her son (played by Lee Sang-yeob) is in a gay relationship. Unfortunately, it is just another misunderstanding. You can check out the hilariously dramatic clip over at youtube.

More gay mishaps took place in Let's Eat 2, with Dae-yeong and Sang-u mistaken as a gay couple by Ye-rim. Apparently, they have been pushing these lines a bit with a recent scene where Dae-yeong and Hang-mun are chatting in a cafe in a way that amusingly looks like a gay couple to other cafe patrons. Oh, the humor of two men acting in a romantic way .

Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

This Week Out There – Expat Spared, Taste of Home, & Repatriating

Sun, 2015-05-03 10:00
This Week Out There – Expat Spared, Taste of Home, & Repatriating A selection of this week’s expat-related storiesWhatever gets you through the night…

It can be a little lonely out there as a stranger in a strange land, and everyone has different ways of dealing with it. To combat her loneliness and alienation in Spain, 30-year-old British expat Emma Biggins spends 30 hours a week playing the Kim Kardashian – Hollywood game, in which users (most of whom are teenage girls) “compete to get points in a bid to become Kim’s best mate.” Biggins says the game makes her feel “fabulous.” and that she thinks “Kim really is [her] best friend.” Read the story here, or decide you’ve already heard enough and move on.

Filipino Expat Spared Death (for now)


Filipino expat Mary Jane Veloso narrowly escaped execution by firing squad in Indonesia on Wednesday when Indonesian President Joko Widodo granted her a temporary 11th-hour stay of execution after evidence surfaced that she may have been duped into drug trafficking. Time will tell if she is exonerated, granted a reduced sentence, or executed, as were eight other convicted smugglers, including seven foreign nationals whose appeals fell through. For now it appears she will be given the opportunity to testify against Maria Kristina Sergio, the daughter of Veloso’s godparents who Veloso claims set her up by giving her a bag that had over 2 kilograms of heroin sewn into the lining.

There’s no Taste Like Home

The Battleship Burger. Oh yeah.

As U.S. troops relocate from Yongsan Garrison in Seoul to points south, a reluctant U.S. expat marks the passing of the Navy Club, “an eccentric bar-and-grill that was a vital taste of home for generations of soldiers, sailors and civilian expats,” and waxes poetic about the Battleship Burger, “a sizzling half-pound of ground Angus sirloin, topped with America.” Seoul’s changing food scene in the area around Yongsan may make the passing of the Navy Club a quiet one, but the Navy Club will no doubt be missed by many for whom it provided a crucial taste of home to smooth the transition abroad.

You Can’t Go Home Again?

A group listens to a returned expat as he relates his overseas experience.

Repatriating after an extended stay abroad can be tough; so tough, in fact, that many expats (like yours truly) never seriously attempt it, and those who do sometimes end up bouncing back overseas.

Was Thomas Wolfe right when he wrote that you can’t go home again? The followingshort primer on repatriating is a bit more sanguine, and advises those heading back to treat it as they would treat a move to any foreign country. This bit of advice from one commenter stood out:

“Don’t immediately talk about all the places you’ve been, what you’ve done, etc.… This will alienate people,” she wrote. “Keep it low-key, make it like dating, dole out information very, very slowly.”

Sounds about right. I would also add that favorably comparing country X to your home country in any way should be exercised with extreme discretion, especially during Christmas dinner.

And how are you doing out there this week



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by Dr. Radut