Thursday, December 21, 2006

Losing Weight

I started at the beginning of November at 150KG! That is a whopping 330.6lbs. I have made some tremendous progress and I am actually surprised that I havn't put anything on here about it. I've been losing quickly and now I am at 133.8 (295lbs)I expected the initial 10KG would come off quickly just by reducing my intake. I would lose a lot quicker if I had the time to do some cardio workout but I just don't have the time to go to the swimming pool and with my back injury and my feet problems (chronic ankle pain likely caused by bone fragments and repeated injury and aggrevated by morbid obesity) I figure after I get down to about 120KG I should be able to do some walking. I have started to take the subway to private lessons once a week for some exercise. My goal is to get down to 85KG by the end of 2007. More later on the motivations for losing weight.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Academy Killer: The movie

Over at Lost Nomad, there is a discussion about a new movie called “The English Teacher” that is supposed to be out soon. I will have to go and see it just because of the novelty and to see how teachers are portrayed. It should be interesting. As one of the comments queried, I wonder if it is a Korean production or an Indie film or what. Some other comments offered their own ideas for movies involving English teachers in Korea, so, I will offer up my own rough idea for a screenplay or a book or something. Comments welcome

The Academy Killer
It’s a crime drama/murder mystery…kind of like “Seven” but the people who are dying are hagwon directors and English job recruiters and such (am I getting some “hell yeses” from the hagwon crowd out there?) They are winding up dead in some strange and gruesome ways. At first, the police have no leads; it just appears to be a random killing, though they suspect a serial killer because the killer leaves messages and promises more carnage. But it is not until the third killing that that the police see the possible connection to the English teaching industry. So far, all of the messages have been in Korean. Now, the police have what they think is a suspect. A Foreigner English teacher that speaks near perfect Korean is detained and brought in as a suspect. It turns out he was a criminalist in the U.S. before losing his job and making the decision to come to Korea. When his alibi turns out to be airtight, he is asked to assist the police in the investigation. Due to the lack of English speaking detectives they enlist his help to investigate the expat community for possible suspects and to give a fresh pair of eyes to the investigation. A local detective is reluctantly assigned to be the teacher’s ‘handler’ and the relationship that ensues creates both tension and comic relief throughout the investigation. The American’s wife also refuses to understand why he needs to be involved in this matter and this creates additional conflict in him. This investigation goes on with the two ‘investigators’ examining evidence and chasing down leads until they reach the point one of them becomes personally involved and the killer is finally revealed. Ultimately one of them is in a race against time to stop the killer and save his partner.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I was rear-ended at a stoplight on a rainy evening; August 24, 2005 The impact was severe enough to cave in the "battle bumper" on my car and drive it into the bumper of the car. It felt something like this looks (but not as funny).

The next day, I had some pain I attributed to the same kind of pain I used to feel back in my high school football days after a good hard hit. A few days later when the pain did not go away as I thought it would, my wife insisted I go to the doctor. I was x-rayed and MRI'd. It was discovered that i had some cervical straightening and the MRI showed what looked like some slightly herniated discs. I was advised to check into the hospital. BAD IDEA! I actually felt WORSE after 5 days in the hospital than when i checked in. So for 6 months, I was barbecued, electrocuted, injected into my shoulder and back muscles (probably the most painful thing I ever felt), massaged by a vibrating table (reminded me of a few cheap motels in the states), poked with accupuncture needles, laid out on a table and neck-stretched and name it...i have probably done it.
Now, more than 1 year later, I still have almost daily pain. It feels about like someone has the short end of a baseballbat pressed against my shoulderblade and spine. I get headaches about once a week and about once a month I get a doosey of a headache that usually forces me to bed for a few hours. I have been taking pain medication now since the beginning of the year. The pain is not debilitating it is just annoying (How would you feel if somone were walking around behind you with a bad stuck in your back) but the worst thing is the numbness in my left arm and fingers. It comes and goes and it is worst at night when I lie down or when I am working at the computer (something do often for my job as well as for this blog) Sometimes it is a tingling or slight numbness and sometimes it feels like someone is sticking needles in my hands.
So the doctor says that I have an "Internal Disc Disruption" which is sort of like a cracked head gasket. The stuff inside the disc leaks out during certain movements and apparently, that fluid somehow causes the pain (More on IDD here). This condition is not visible on either X-Ray or MRI (not yet) and is apparently not as bad as it could be so I guess I should be thankful since some people have this problem and can't even move. On the Oswestry Scale I hit about a 23-25 most of the time which is a "moderate disability." I can't even imagine what it must be like to have a score above 40. So, when the pain is worse than usual, I take pain medications for pain; right now Zydone, which is really too mild to be much help so I take them with a couple of Tylenol ER and together that seems to help on the bad days.
The doctor told me that with this type of IDD case, 33% of people get better, 33% get worse and 33% stay the same...this doesn't seem too good to me because that means a 66% chance that I could have this pain or worse for the rest of my life and surgery is not recommended in this situation unless it gets worse (Oswestry close to 50)...So basically, I just have to bear it and hope it goes away.
There is one thing that really seems to relieve the pain long enough to make sleeping easier. At the recommendation of my doctor to apply "moist heat" to the effected area. A nighttime trip to the local public bath and a nice long turn in the jacuzzi bath does the trick. I am a regular at the local 'sauna' (which is how Koreans refer to certain kinds of public baths)and use every opportunity I can get to visit area Hot Springs for a bit of relief. Hooray for Balneotherapy! Unfortunately, I can't sit in a bath all day at work so it is only temporary relief.

Friday, November 17, 2006

K-pop onstage seizure

Check out this I-Film link for a vid of a k-pop performance where one of the 'backdancers' collapses and has some sort of seizure and the other dancers and singers just keep on new meaning to the expression "the show must go on"
Fortunately, someone does remove the afflicted dancer from the stage while the others are performing.
If anyone knows anything about when this happened...please let me know.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Free Speech vs. Dokdo (A blogger is censored)

hattip to Marmot

A teacher writing in his blog called Occidentalism has been asked by the president of his university to cease writing about the Dokdo issue.

I had planned to write two more pieces for my series on Dokdo/Takeshima, but the president of the university I work for in Incheon has asked me not to post anymore about “Dokdo” on the Internet. He told me that it was a sensitive issue in Korea and that he had been contacted by individuals complaining of my postings on the subject. He said that he was worried about the school’s reputation.

The president suggested that if I have strong opinions on the subject, I should write about it in an academic paper or hold a seminar rather than broadcasting it over the Internet. I agreed to do that even though I do not think anyone would take a non-historian seriously. Therefore, I will not be posting anymore about “Dokdo” on this site. People who would like to continue to exchange information on the subject can still contact me through my email address.

I am dissappointed that he agreed not to post on the subject though I understand that he may fear the possibility of losing his job if he does not do what the president asks. A couple of good suggestions have been made and one has not. One poster over at Marmot's Hole suggested that he start a sock puppet blog under a different name and continue blogging under an alias. One suggestion that could stir up much needed debate and international attention to the issue would be for him to continue blooging about the issue as he pleases. Let the crazy netizens go after him again and see if the president has the balls to fire him. I think there are enough people on the K-blogs who support free speech enough whether we agree with him or not. If he continued blogging and they fired him then the K-blog community would do as they are doing now, showing outrage at the censorship. Eventually, one of the wire services might pick up the story and before you know it, the issue would be on CNN. Of course, he could then hire a lawyer to sue the university for wrongful termination and make a bundle of money and then he could go on blogging about Dokdo from a beach in Thailand where the netizens couldn't do squat to him.
One more idea, what if in protest, the K-blog community (and anyone else that wants to join in) cut and pasted the articles from his site onto our blogs for everyone to see en masse. Now THAT would get some attention!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

English classes in English by 2015, and I'll be a monkey's uncle.

From the Korea Times

Many Korean English-language teachers are nervous about Seoul’s plan to change the nation’s English education system as many of them would face forcible premature retirement unless they can conduct classes in English by 2015.

As well they should be nervous since too many will be out of a job.
The reaction came after Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Kim Shin-il unveiled plans to upgrade the English skills of students through the intensive training of teachers. The minister is ambitious enough to mandate all English teachers to conduct classes in English by 2015.

Does anyone besides me wonder if Minister Kim can speak a lick of English?
The plan is a tall order for Korean English teachers and many CEOs say the direction is right but question whether the plan can stick to its schedule without causing resistance from teachers.

"tall order" I hate to be the pessimist here but that doesn't even begin to describe the cluster@#@#$ this is going to be if it even gets off the ground. And can anything be done without resistance from the teachers? More specifically the Teacher's Union? Experience says flatly "NO"

``If the government wants to change English teachers, the change should come from English teachers themselves. We teachers will never accept these oppressive changes,’’
said Song Jae-hyeok, an English teacher at MunChang Middle School in downtown Seoul.

See what I mean? I can see the English teachers out on the street now with signs like this that say "No English Do Korean"
Some policy makers criticize the plan for being lacking in detail.

And anyone is suprised by this?
``In this age of globalization, it sounds plausible, but the unrealistic plan gives me a bitter smile,’’ said Rep. Chung Moon-hun of the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP)

What the heck does that mean? Did he say that in English or did someone just show us how well they learned English in school.
The minister calls for increasing by 10 times the budget for upgrading English-language education between now and 2008.

Somebody was going to mention money sooner or later. Is anyone besides me feeling any similarity between this and Former Seoul Mayor Lee's plan to build a canal through Korea?
Kim Chon-hong, director of the team for in charge of the minister’s program, said the government is responding to public calls for improvements in English language education. In addition, Korean companies, he said, demand a high level of English language skills.

Translation: We have to tell them something and make it look good, so we are going to make this overblown proposal that has absolutely no chance of being accepted by the teachers or the budget makers and then we can at least say that we tried and blame it on them.
He said right now Korea is in the middle level in English education skills of the 227 countries evaluated by the U.S. Education Testing Service, but aims to improve its ranking through the new plan.

This actually IS worse than it looks....Did somebody forget that Koreans spend MORE on English education than any other nation in the world? (couldn't find the link but I think it was in the Korea Herald some time ago, help anyone) So that middle level ranking is right alongside of countries that have almost NO access to English education.
He said to date, Korea’s English-language education has been out of balance, focusing too much on reading comprehension and grammar and not enough on listening and speaking skills.

That's the first thing he said that makes sense.
The plan seeks to upgrade the skills of English teachers through improved training, with the government running immersion-training courses for teachers. One thousand English teachers will participate in a 6-month course every year, including a one-month stay overseas.

Sounds great! that's 1000 out of how many? Will they be crammed into a dorm on some college campus in BFAmerica where they will speak Korean to each other when they are not being forced to speak English? And which 1000 will they send? The ones who can already speak English the best? or will they take the ones who need it the most...the low scorers?
`` The year 2015 would be the last year for English teachers who cannot conduct classes in English. We expect social pressure to force out `incompetent’ teachers,’’ said Kim.

Something that should have happened years ago...let's just hope its not too little too late.
Many teachers are skeptical over whether a 6-month immersion course would work. They say that the current English teachers training program doesn’t function well.

Again...look for the teachers to complain about the program and kill it before it even gets off the ground.
``Many senior teachers are reluctant to attend the training programs.

I've taught some of these teacher training programs. The 'senior' teachers have been using Korean to teach English for so long that they just can't imagine any other way. That coupled with the fact that many of them can't make a single error free utterence in the target language makes it unlikely that they would be interested in embarrasing themselves in front of their juniors at a teacher training program.
Most trainees of the courses are young teachers and they regard the courses as wiling away time. Do you think this is useful?’’ said an English teacher who requested anonymity.

This is, of course, one person's opinion but I would venture to say that most of the teachers who feel they are 'wiling' are the one's who can't and don't really want to speak English.
The plan also calls for changes in educating English-language teachers, requiring colleges to teach English teachers in English. It also calls for every middle school to have a native English-speaking teacher by 2010.

If all of the Korean teacher are going to conduct classes totally in English, I don't see exactly why you would even need to hire more barbarian, unqualified, miscreant foreigner teachers (smell that....sarcasm...yum) to cover your proverbial ass. OH...maybe they just want to hire them until 2015 and then let them go?
The government also wants to change the curriculum to include new textbooks, teaching English only in English and changing testing techniques to give more weight to listening and speaking skills.

Good idea...the current texts are crap!!in dire need of revision.
It also wants to reduce the gap in English proficiency between children of the rich and the poor. Under the plan, English-only zones _ similar to English villages _ will be established in rural schools to offer poorer children more opportunities, including courses and materials using satellite TV and the Internet.

A noble plan worthy of exploring...of course by the time they implement all of this country schools will need to start teaching courses in Vietnamese, Tagalog and Chinese.
The plan also calls for gradually increasing the recruitment of native English-speaking teachers. Starting next year with 1,300, it will increase the number of foreign teachers by 500 every year up to a maximum of 2,900 by 2010.

However some question how well the Korean teachers and foreign teachers will cooperate. ``Native English-speaking teachers are not only for the benefit of students but also Korean teachers. But the reality is different when the foreign teachers attend the classes, many Korean teachers stay out of class and take a rest,’’ said Park Won-young, president of Korea Secondary English Teacher’s Association

Translation: Many Korean teachers feel embarassed by their lack of English skills and anyway don't want to deal with the strange behavior of the barbarian in their class so they just prefer to let the foreigner teach the class alone and take a much needed rest.
Rep. Chung pointed out that the English Program In Korea (EPIK) for native English-speaking teachers is unrealistic.
``I question how many foreign teachers who can satisfy EPIK requirements, would come to Korea,’’ he said.

That depends on a lot of factors like how well they are treated, paid, housed and respected as well as how well their 'handlers' keep their promises (e.g. contract).
Overall, I think this program is just a lot of smokescreen to make some politician look good and it has little chance of coming to fruition under the current Teacher's Union Educational environment where it will be met with chest beating, air sucking and weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Transportation in Korea, Competitive but Still Dangerous

According to this article in the Korea Times, Korea is near the top of the list of OECD countries for affordable transportation.

South Korea’s transportation costs are the sixth cheapest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to a report.

Congratulations to Korea in maintaining affordable buses and subways and making it so affordable for people to own and maintain a car. And although the cost of taxis is not near the top of the cheapest list, it is still darned cheap to take a taxi in Korea (even cheaper if you live in the provinces like I do).

One expert even quipped the following:

Korea’s overall transportation cost is relatively low, the sixth cheapest. If we lower fuel prices and keep the low public transportation fares and car maintenance costs, Korea will become the most competitive country in terms of transportation expenses,’’ a researcher of the institute said.

Someone should remind this researcher where Korea stands on the OECD list of traffic accidents. Now, lets factor in the financial costs of the accident rate. THEN it doesn't look so pretty, does it?

As the victim of 5 motor vehicle accidents during my time in Korea; all of which were someone else's fault (REALLY!! and legally) I can tell you that although it may seem like a good thing that Korea's public transportation is cheap and it is easy to own and maintain a car these two concepts are at odds with each other. Why offer cheap public transportation AND cheap driving? Maybe if Korea took a hint from Japan and other small countries and made driving financially burdensome for most of the population, then MORE people would have to take public transportation and there would be a few less idiots on the road making the accidents. Of course, one would then have to address the problem of aggressive and outright dangerous taxi and bus drivers; but I digress.

It's great that the cost of transportation is low here. I definately benefit from the low costs as a driver. My wife often takes taxi's and public transportation so I am happy for those low costs. But if we are going to be a hornblower about our transportation system then we should also factor in the loss of life and limb and the financial, emotional and personal costs associated with that; for example, the loss of man hours at work due to accidents and traffic gridlock. Perhaps it would be better for the government to focus on reducing the number of drivers and improving the overall public transportation infrastructure. Now, THAT would be something to brag about!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Jesus and Driving

I don't know if anyone actually reads this blog. I would like to have some regular readers but if I don't I'll probably do it anyway just to get a few things off my it Blog therapy if you like. If anyone out there is reading, be forewarned that although I am Christian (Missouri-Synod Lutheran) I don't consider myself to be overtly evangelistic and this site is not necessarily for that purpose. So the following falls into the category I'm going to call "Moments of Epiphany" to which I am going to devote the occaisional blog entry whenever the spirit moves me.

Recently, I have been experiencing what I can only call a 'redneck crisis' I was raised in the South and accept that I have a redneck side and even though I rebelled against country music in my youth, I find that in mid-life I'm getting moments when I just want to listen to that Nashville sound. It just feels good to listen to and belt out a country song from time to time. But I have come across couple of songs that I just can't seem to sing.
Those who know me well know that there are few songs that I can't sing. God gave me a fine instrument to work with. My father has frequently admonished me for not using that gift to the glory of God and benefit of myself. Well, American Idol winner Carrie Underwood released a song that I can't sing. A song that has won critical acclaim and become a number one hit from a woman who recently won big at the Country Music Association Awards. The song is called "Jesus Take the Wheel" (click link for the lyrics, Click below to watch the video)

Why can't I sing this song? It's not musically difficult for me, I have the range to take it. But every time, I sing it or even hear it I get choked up, tears well up and then I just laugh at myself because I can't understand the reason that this song moves me so much.
Is it Carrie's voice? No, the emotion she puts it might to tug at the heart strings a little and she has a beautiful voice that is perfect for singing this kind of music, she will go far in Nashville.
Is it the music? I don't think so, it starts off in C...a lot of C...G/B...Am7...etc...nothing spectacularly moving or different from any other country song.
Is it the words? Yes! The words. The words of a woman who thinks she is about to die on an icy road asking the Lord to take over and save her and her baby and ultimately lamenting the fact that she has not been as faithful as she should have been in her increasingly difficult life. I hear her singing about looking at her sleeping baby after the car comes to a stop and I see my own son sleeping in the back seat. That is a moment of raw emotion. But I suppose the real reason that the song moves me so is that I lament my own lack of faith and the song reminds me of that. I realize daily that I have struggles and things in my life that I sometimes feel are overwhelming and I frequently feel that am spinning out of control and on a collision course with destiny. The song reminds me that I don't pray enough. It calls me out on my complacency and lack of devotion to the Lord. It makes me remember that I too haven’t stopped and 'bowed my head to pray' in a long time and as a makes me do just that.
Today, I started talking to my daughter about Jesus for the first time and I'm going to talk to my wife about getting our son baptized (something LONG overdue). Maybe I'm a little nuts for letting a song get me all worked up like that or maybe Jesus is trying to tell me something. What's he saying to you?

The land of delayed Idol

Living in Korea usually means that I either miss completely most of the stateside TV programming or I get it greatly delayed while whatever episode of whatever show gets purchaced and translated. Some shows get on fairly quickly but others are take forever. One of the shows that I wish I could see in real time is Amercian Idol. I am not much for the commercialism of it all and most of the singers don't really impress me that much (just call me Simon) but occaisionally, something comes from that show that I really like. I havn't seen the fifth season of Idol yet but I just heard some clips of some songs by Chris Daughtry and I have to say...If he didn't win, the others must have been awesome...of course, they passed up on Bo Bice in season 4 so I'm thinking that a real rocker can't win. Maybe because many of the people who would appreciate his and Daughtry's style of singing and music are not the kind of people who would watch Idol and even less likely the kind who would actually pick up the phone and vote for him. But he made it and his new album comes out November 21. If you are interested in hearing a real rocker in the making listen to this.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New Template

Thought i'd try out the new beta version of blogger. Seems like it has some cool features but it's kind of a pain to have to redo my links and such with the new blog.

The worlds funniest commercial

This might not be work safe. It depends on how far your boss (and coworkers) sat down on the stick.

I can't wait for the Korean Version advertising for Dagoda or Horrald English Hagwon.
This reminds me of the time I was walking through the local Emart and heard the 20 Fingers song "You Got To Lick It." As I was walking through the store with my 3 year old and my wife I couldn't help but wonder if anyone else but me had any idea how inappropriate this song was for a family supermarket. Other songs I have heard in stores include "Baby Got Back.", and Limp Bizkit "N 2 Gether Now" Definately NOT family fair! If anybody else has some stories like this I would sure like to hear them.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

High-Rise Death Trap

The Stars and Stripes reports about the death of a Korean family who was trapped in their home during a high-rise apartment fire in Yangju and decided to jump to their death. A tragic story that raises some serious questions about fire safety in large apartment buildings and reminds me of a fire in my apartment building just a couple of months ago.
I was awakened at about 6am by someone ringing the front door of our 12th floor apartment. I was sleeping so it took me a few seconds to realize that it was the front door. Before I got to the door, someone was outside the door and I could hear them yelling that the apartment was on fire. It was the apartment across the hallway from mine. I grabbed my daughter and my wife grabbed our son. We were in a bit of a panic and did not know how bad the fire was. At home were an ill elderly woman and her college age daughter. When we went outside, the daughter asked me if she could use my cellphone to call her father (who is a local police officer). At that time, the fire didn't look that bad, there was some acrid smelling smoke and I was worried about poison gas so I handed her my phone and put my daughters face into my shirt and started down the stairs, once we got a little down the stairs, I noticed that no one else seemed to be evacuating and it didn't seem to be effecting any other part of the building, so I took the elevator from about the 7th floor, my wife opted to go all the way down on the stairs. To my relief, the firefighters arrived at about the same time we arrived on the first floor. We watched the smoke pour out of the apartment and wondered if the fire or smoke would damage anything in our apartment. As it turns out, the fire was pretty bad but was contained mostly in the one apartment. The fire was started by a rice pressure cooker that literally exploded (according to the daughter) and caught fire. The kitchen burned quickly and nearly completely (see pix below) and smoke damaged the living room ceiling and walls. The quick response of the firefighters surely saved the day and possibly a lot more damage to our apartment. The worst we got was a smelly house for a day or so and the hallway smelled of smoke for about a week. But the neighbors wound up completely redoing their apartment.

The thing about the way the apartments are constructed here out of concrete, it would take a pretty hot fire to start burning the concrete so it is difficult for a fire to spread from one apartment to another but the smoke damage can be dangerous even in a small fire. One thing you want to make sure about in your apartment is that the door has the proper gaskets to keep out the smoke and that you can close your windows completely if necessary.

Hat tip to Lost Nomad

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Potential Teachers Boycott Teachers' Exam

This just doesn't make any sense from either side of the fence:

University students studying education said Friday that they would boycott the employment test on Nov. 19 to protest the government’s decision to reduce the number of new teachers hired for elementary schools.

It seems to me that these teachers are doing nothing except helping out the education department by making the numbers of potential teachers smaller and therefore and easier choice. These potential teachers need to get out there and ace the tests and show the education authorities that they are making a big mistake.

Why are they making a big mistake you ask? Because the way I see it (and I do see it every other week) 30 to 40 students in a classroom is less like education and more like cattle rustling. The education authorities need to find ways to create more schools and hire more teachers in order to reduce the teacher:student ratio. The creation of more schools and teachers is good for everyone...period. More schools and more teachers means the students get more attention and more chance to learn and succeed. How is it that the education authorities don't seem to seek that as well?

But on the other hand, what do I know? I'm just a foreigner, I couldn't possibly understand the Korean education system and situation, right?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Indecent exposure now legal?

According to this article, some interesting laws have been changed including the laws on indecent exposure.

I remember when I came here in 1996, women showing their navels were subject to receiving a ticket. Even short skirts were considered socially deviant. My! How times have changed (He says with a big smile). I didn't realize these laws were still technically in effect but evidently they are soon to be abolished along with some other interesting laws. Check it out for your self and if you can, please explain to me what "abandoning night soils" means.

Yonhap defends criminals

GIKorea (ROKDrop) caught this one from Yonhap about how Koreans are receiving "unnecessarily" heavy sentences for crimes committed overseas. GI called into question the Korean systems failure to punish crimes against foreigners in Korea (If you haven't heard about the 10 month sentence for rape, you should), I have to go a different direction on the indignation scale though.

In the United States, more than half of the 197 South Korean inmates were serving prison terms of 10 years or longer....

The punishments are very harsh compared to those in South Korea where those convicted on such charges (ed. as fraud and drug related offences) face maximum sentences of 10 years of imprisonment, he claimed.

Actually, the article does not go into detail about the crimes that were committed by the 197 South Koreans in US prisons. So we really have little information to go on in considering whether the punishment received is fair or not. I guess we just have to take Yonhap's word for it that the punishment received is more severe than here in Korea for the same offense.

If Yonhap really wants to impress upon us the inequity of the punishment given to Korean citizens overseas then perhaps they should publish some statistics that show us that Koreans are somehow being punished more severely than citizens of those countries rather than simply convincing us that Korean courts do not punish crime with due severity. How do the punishments in other countries compare to those doled out in Korea?

Maybe the Editors should off themselves.

Lost Nomad has a posting with the usual lively comments on a Korea Times article about a girl who was arrested for failing to stop 3 others from completing a suicide pact that they made over the internet. Now the Times has posted another article on the subject that borders on the incoherent. Here's a taste:

The online Web sites related to suicide are being used as means to look for a partner to die with in suicide pact, sell and buy poison, provide various ways to commit suicides. These days, video files in which teenagers act dying have increasingly been going around on online as acting dying has become a popular form of game amid teenagers.

Believe it or not, it gets worse! Check it out here if you can bear it?

BTW...on the subject of suicide in Korean culture. With increasing societal pressures suicide is on the rise in Korea. Whether people are making suicide pacts on the internet, wrestling with subway trains or taking the tried and true express elevator off the apartment roof, the governments attempts to curb suicide will have little effect until concrete steps are taken to not only educate the public on the alternatives that are available but also to address the social stigma associated with seeking the essential psychiatric medical advice related to depression and other mental conditions that can exascerbate the feelings that lead to thoughts of suicide. If the only way that most people will seek therapy is by being forced to after an attempted suicide, then the people who most need the help will not get it in this life. May God have mercy on their souls.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's not my (de)fault.

I came to Korea in 1996, a little more than a year before the bursting of the Korean economic bubble that is often inaccurately referred to as "the IMF crisis." Back then it was virtually impossible for a foreigner to get a credit card in Korea. In 1998, I started working for a local college and I managed to convince the people at Korea Exchange Bank to give me a shot. I was planning to get married and finding out the hard way that a credit card would be necessary since my savings was practically nil. I tried to fill out an application at the local branch of KEB but the people there told me that it would be impossible to issue me a credit card without a cosigner because I am a foreigner. I wrote a nice but firm letter explaining my thoughts on racial discrimination and mentioning the fact that KEB had branches in foreign countries as well as many foreign investors. A Mr. Gahng called me a couple of days later (a few eons before I expected to be called) and asked me a few questions before he told me to go to the local branch and speak to the manager. I did so and soon after received my first credit card in Korea; without a cosigner.
This was not the first time I had dealt with this cultural idiosyncrasy of saying things are 'impossible' when they are merely complicated or inconvenient for one of the parties. And it was not my last time to use similar arguments to convince creditors to give me a shot. While KEB has been, by far, the most helpful for my credit needs, other financial institutions have extended me credit in the past as well as recently. But on EVERY single occasion, I have met with resistance and the "you're a foreigner" argument. And even though I have religiously and completely paid off all of my creditors in Korea, I still find it difficult to understand why certain types of credit are unavailable to foreigners who hold stable positions in Korea and/or are married to Koreans. Even at my trusty KEB, I was told that a housing loan would be difficult and would require me to pay a ridiculous percentage rate (comparatively speaking) if I wanted the loan in my name. I eventually had to get the loan in my wife's name in order to buy an apartment.
The argument that is most often used against credit for foreigners is our 'transience.' It is automatically (and incorrectly) assumed that any foreigner who lives here will leave here. It is further assumed that when a foreigner leaves Korea, debts will be left unpaid without possibility of collection or punishment. So are we considered a 'bad credit risk?" Based on what statistics? If you don't give credit to foreigners as freely as you give it to Koreans, it is a little difficult to say that we won't pay up when the time comes.

Now comes this little gem from the Korea Times today, there are more than 2.9 million credit defaulters which apparently equates to almost 1 in 8 "economically active" people in default. It would be really interesting to see statistics on the credit that is so parsimoniously doled out to foreigners like myself alongside the statistics of default among the same just for comparisons sake.

Just for those of you out there who might be interested in obtaining a credit card or other loan try KEB first, they have the best track record with foreigners (they even have a card that is just for foreigners).

Korean banking industry is coming around...albiet slowly, but times they are a changing, the best thing I can tell you is to be persistent and patient but above all be polite. It works wonders.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Korean government to punish singing and dancing

According to this article in the Korea Times, the Korean government is going to start punishing women (and presumably men too) for singing and dancing in Karaoke rooms.

Under the new law, however, karaoke room owners will be banned from hiring toumies and arranging toumi services.

Those violating the regulation will be subject to three years in prison or a fine of up to 30 million won.

The law also specifies punishment for toumies _ one year in prison or a 3 million won fine _ and bans people from entertaining karaoke room customers through songs and dances or drinking with them for money.

So, let's say an attractive female office worker is coerced by her male coworkers and boss for a night out after work. They go out and have a few drinks and off to the Karaoke bar to belt out a few "gayo" tunes. Of course, she has had a few too many and maybe she is being more entertaining than she might be otherwise and in walk the police and arrest the woman for "entertaining" in a Karaoke bar. How are the police going to be able to tell the difference between this woman and a 'toumi' entertainer,
"Excuse me, Miss, are you being paid for this?" The policeman asked
"Why..yes I am." answers the not-so-bright and quite inebriated woman.
"Ok, then you are under arrest, come with me."
LIKE SHE IS GOING TO ADMIT SHE IS GETTING PAID! This law is swiss cheese and the people who want to do it are going to get around the law because it CANNOT be illegal to sing and dance in a Karaoke bar.

Previously, women and men toumies have been punished only when they provided sex to customers. But the new law will crack down on them for singing and dancing, as well. we have the crux of the matter....the sex-for-sale hydra rears it ugly heads. If you cut of one, it will just grow back somewhere else. But in the brilliance of the politicians:

However, customers who enjoy toumi services will not face punishments.

How does this make sense? Are these guys just 'innocent victims' of the nookie monster? What...the politicians don't want to self-regulate? Or do they just not want to piss off their wealthy constituency? How does it make sense not to punish the people paying for the 'service.'

And now for the Homer moment:
The police and law enforcement authorities plan to crack down on the services from Sunday. But they are worried that toumies will change their workplace to bars and massage parlors to avoid crackdowns, as such places are allowed to hire women to provide entertainment.

Gee, ya think? What gives you that idea? Could it be that every other thing that has been tried to 'crack down' on prostitution has failed miserably or only succeeded in sending it underground or overseas. (see Marmot's and Nomad for extensive postings on the subject of the sex industry in Korea)

Don't get me wrong, I am neither advocating nor condemning prostitution (maybe later) and I know that most of these girls are prostitutes and will go boots up/skirts down for the right amount of cash. But it seems to me that the government needs to get some balls and go after the heart of the problem (or maybe get some heart and go after the balls of the problem).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Chaebol leaders need to get a clue (or The stupidest thing I've heard all week)

``It’s a tradition of the family that the eldest son becomes the next chairman. There is no reason to change it,’’ an LG Electronics official said.

Duh!? There IS reason to change it if the son is an idiot who will potentially run the company into the ground costing thousands of jobs and the economic stability of the country.

I stand corrected, NORK Nukes are real :(

according to this article, now the South Koreans have confirmed it. Not that I trust South Korean scientists any more than American scientists or government, but I doubt that I will seek out the confirmation of China or Russia on the matter. So, the matter is closed as far as I am concerned but I still revel in the thought that it was basically such a dud that it took almost a month for the NORKs best buddies (or enemies depending on how you look at it)in the south to confirm it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tell Us How You Really Feel Rick.

I suppose I'm just encouraging him by doing this. Perhaps, I should just ignore him and maybe he'll go away but Rick Ruffin posted a decidedly anti-Bush piece to guess where...yep...that's right...if it's unfit to print, if it is spelled badly, if it is totally void of any editing and most of all if it it anti-American you will find it in the Korea Times. Basically, it blames Bush for not just some of the ills of the world but ALL of them. Now, I won't say that I particularly like President Bush, he has made what I consider to be some questionable decisions during his presidency. When he is gone from office, I will not shed a tear (though thoughts of another Clinton in the White House make me cringe too). But C'mon Rick, ALL the worlds ills? I respect you for taking a stand but jeez! Doesn't Osama get any of the credit? Can't we at least give some of the blame to Kim Jong Il? And where do you thing we would be if Al Gore would have been elected in 2000 or Kerry in 2004? Rick, maybe you would like to quit your job as a writer, travel to Pakistan and search for your ideological twin. I'm sure he would welcome you with open arms, perhaps he would have a job for you. Can you say 'boom'~??!

Hat tip to Marmot

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Confirmation of Nukes?

Well, according to the US Government, it has been confirmed that the NORK's tested a low yeild nuke. Now, I guess i am capable of being as patriotic as the next guy and, yes, I do love my country but I have trust issues with the current administration. I am sure we all remember how the Iraq thing (I refuse to call it a mess yet)got started with the US 'intelligence' community claiming that Iraq had WMD and that is basically how they justified the war in Iraq. Now, let me make something perfectly clear, "I SUPPORT THE WAR IN IRAQ AND THINK WE NEED TO STAY THERE UNTIL THE JOB IS FINISHED AS IT CAN BE." (Ok, there, I jumped to one side of the fence and it didn't hurt a bit)But, I do remember Gen. Powell sitting in front of the UN and talking somthing about secret trucks carrying WMD driving all around Iraq and, to date, I have yet to see either the trucks or the WMD uncovered. Fool me once, shame on you...fool me twice, shame on me. I am waiting for some OTHER country like Japan, Russia, or China to come out and confirm that it was actually a nuke before I buy into it completely.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

At best, I would have had to bite off my tongue.

Jodi, over at Asia Pages, gives an interesting account of a multinational conversation on the subject of North Korea and The Great Boobah's nuclear test. She managed to hold her tongue during a convesation that I am sure would have required a glossectomy to keep me from chiming in on the subject. It is nice to see that not everyone hates America. Good Work Jodi!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

NORK’s Nukes (try saying that 10 times fast)

Being a fence sitter, I really don’t have direction on the whole issue. On the right we have rabid screaming for everything from cutting off the whole country from the outside to a full-on ‘pre-emptive’ strike. Then we have the more sensitive but cajone-less left worried about the people the midget tyrant is persecuting and starving to death. If we sanction the North, who really suffers they ask?
Where am I on the issue you ask? Where would any good fence sitter be? I think I’ll just wait for people much smarter and more diplomatic than me to duke it out and fix this; hopefully before it’s too late.
Personally, I have my doubts that they even tested a nuke. I think it would be a Waldoesque move to load up a tunnel with old munitions and detonate them to create the earthquake that he would then claim is a nuke. A similar kind of deception is what started the Iraq war in the first place. Saddam convinced us that he had weapons of mass destruction and did everything in his power to make us believe it because he thought (mistakenly) it would deter an invasion. And if the invasion did happen, he could say it was our own fault and that there never were any nukes. Sound familiar? Except this time he’s gambling that we don’t want to make the same mistake twice. C’mon people, the Bouffant Boobah is goading us. Does he really have the goods?

Why “View from the Fence”?

Today is 2 days after the North Korean’s allegedly detonated a nuclear device. Two days ago, while I was watching CNN, one reporter was walking along the DMZ fence with all of its razor wire talking about what a ‘dangerous place’ and I started to chuckle. Not because I take the situation so lightly, but because I suddenly recalled something my father used to say to me whenever I would vacillate on an issue or decision, “You’re gonna get splinters riding the fence like that.” Razor wire….OUCH!! I’ve been considering starting a blog these days and something just clicked….korea…blog….sitting on the fence…hmmmm…hey!!! Great blog name….voila…fenceriderkorea and “The View from the Fence.” While I’m sure my content won’t be as prolific or exciting as some of the bloggers at Marmot’s or Nomad’s (just to name a couple I read regularly) I will hopefully be able to share some interesting thoughts and news with anyone who happens to stop by. Hope you like it 