Thursday, December 20, 2007

Weekly G-Spot 4: It's Election Season

In the spirit of the season....let's discuss the word elect:

Elect is a usually a verb that means to choose someone by voting. However it can be used as an adjective:

Yesterday, we elected a president. However, until he is actually installed as the president, he is referred to as the 'president elect.' Meaning that he has been elected by the people but has not yet begun to perform his duties. We can use this for other political positions such as governor, mayor, and senator.

Be careful because we usually do not use 'elect' in front of a noun (like most other adjectives) to talk about someone who has been elected to a post by voting. Instead, the usual adjective form is 'elected.' MuHyun Roh is the elected president until MyungBak Lee, the president elect, takes office.

One final note, a person who is chosen in some other way than actual voting is not 'elected.' We have other words like chosen, picked, and selected for other methods.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fly the friendlyhalf-nekkid skies

I don't know about the rest of the blogging community in Korea (which I know to be predominantly male) but I'm seriously considering taking a trip on Ryanair (wherever they go).

These feminist groups can call me a sexist, chauvenist, misanthrope or whatever they like. Whether you are male or female, eyes need love too. Besides, its for a good cause....what more reason do you need?

Hattip to Nomad for sending me to the vodka-swilling passenger where I found this link.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Weekly G-Spot 3: Partitives

A student once commented to me that although he could easily understand and use singular and plural very well, the use of partitives (words used to refer to a group of something) was a frequent consternation. Hosts of students of English have marveled as the battery of vocabulary memorization necessary to properly learn how to refer to things in groups. So, I dedicate this G-Spot to partitives.

To form a partitive we use the word 'of' plus the plural form of the object to which we are referring. Certain words are commonly used to refer to a variety of things or groups of people and while this is by no means a comprehensive list, it does offer some options that can be used.


For amorphous Groups of people you can use the following:


If the group of people or things have a certain shape then the following can be used. In general, these words make sense because the word used represents the shape or position of the objects:

Circle or Ring - refers to a group of things or people that form a circle or similar shape
Jumble, Scatter, Scattering - refer more to the lack of shape in the group
Sprinkling - would look like a bunch of nuts dropped on a table with no certain pattern.
Pile, Heap, Mound, Mountain - refer to how things are gathered in a representative shape.
Column, Row, String, Stacking, Line - suggests the way in which things appear to be ordered.

If groups of people or things have some kind of movement or if they occur with a certain frequency then the following can be used:

Hail, Barrage, Shower - suggest things coming from above or possibly being thrown.
Flood, Stream, Tide - normally refer to water but with groups they suggest a fluid movement of the objects or people.
Rash, Spate - something that happens suddenly and in large numbers.
Series - something that happens with some regularity
Volley - might suggest a short but controlled 'bombardment' of something (a volley of gunfire)

Perhaps the most diabolical group of partitives comes when discussing animals. Most animals have an appropriate partitive that is 'correct' however most can be referred to as "a group of _____" if you lack the vocabulary and in truth most native speakers would only be able to name about half of the following so don't stress about it too much:

an army of ants
a swarm of bees
a flock/flight of birds
a herd of cattle, deer, elephants
a litter of cubs, puppies, kittens
a school of dolphins, (fish)
a shoal of fish (not common)
a pack of hounds, wolves
a flock of sheep
a troop of monkeys
a gaggle of geese
a swarm/colony of insects
a pride of lions
a gaggle of geese
a murder of crows
a parliament of owls

(for more on birds, which are perhaps the most difficult, look here)

Some other notables for objects besides animals that you might see often:

a company of actors
a troup of actors
a wad/roll of banknotes
a fleet of ships
an army of volunteers
a gang/band/pack of theives
a flight of steps/stairs
a bunch/cluster of grapes/bananas
a bouquet/bunch of flowers
a squadron of fighter planes
a team/panel of experts

(source:Collins Cobuild "English Usage" Dictionary)

It should be noted that certain words do have 'connotations' or 'nuances' that would make them impractical in some situations and poingant in others, for example:

An army of nuns entered the church in supplicant prayer. - would seem to suggest to the reader that they are somehow organized and might even imply that they are somehow angry or militant; a situation that might seem comical to the reader in the context of 'supplicant prayer.'

on the other hand:

The professor had a mountain of papers to grade and a hoard of students waiting outside his door to hear about their final grades. - Uses a couple of descriptive partitives that not only suggest to the reader the scene but perhaps the feeling and even a certain urgency.

This is stylistic usage that usually comes from years of reading and/or writing literature.

For the illiterate, hard-of-hearing, and hole-dwellers

How many ways does it need to be said? Korean students can't speak English. Another bit of brilliant reporting from KT.

Almost half of Korean undergraduates have difficulty speaking English, according
to a recent survey of 1,041 students at a local university, conducted by
``Incruit,'' an online recruiting-specialized company.

About 40 percent responded that they understood English when it was spoken quite slowly, while 11.9 percent said it was impossible to communicate in English. About 39 percent said they can speak English but not fluently, while just 1.8 percent said they
can speak English fluently.

``With companies giving more weight to English speaking proficiency in recruiting procedures, job seekers including undergraduates should focus their English practice on improving their speaking ability,'' said Lee Kwang-suk, chief administrator of Incruit.

OK, one more time for the cheap seats: KOREAN STUDENTS CAN'T SPEAK ENGLISH! (generally speaking, of course) Despite having studied it for 10 years, they can listen well if it is spoken slowly but they cannot speak it. For those of us in tertiary education, it is an everyday conundrum; many students have been taught with so much emphasis on written tests and wrote learning that trying to introduce new ways of learning into the system is often an exercise fit more for a dentist than a teacher.

As for the survey....dubious at best. Taking a survey at only one university definately skews the numbers. The numbers would be MUCH higher in certain parts of the country and a little lower in certain high ranking universities. The name and location of the university is not mentioned in the article and that leaves me with a suspicion that the survey may have been conducted in Seoul. A more useful survey would poll students from universities and colleges (and different tier schools as well) from across the country. THEN we could accuratly portray the situation. Quite frankly, from where I sit, its much worse than than the article suggests.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I wonder?

I feel really bad for the folks on the west coast who have likely lost their livelihoods for several years before it will be able to recover. But I can't help but wonder in the face of this adversity, how long will it be before these wind up in your local supermarket...cleaned up and marked down of course.

Seafood just got a lot more expensive.

How the Korean Media Works

I've been sitting on this one a while but a recent "rant" by the Metropolitician just reminded me of how the Korean media lacks any sense of journalistic integrity. So, I must relate a story of something that happened to me a few months back:

On 11 Jul 2007, I was asked to participate in a taping for ?????? (I want to....sooooo bad I want to say the name but I don't want to wind up in the same boat as ZenKimchi was last year.) A Ms. Kwon (가명?) called my wife to ask if I would be willing to participate. She spoke to my wife to insure proper understanding of the issue (my wife is Korean). I was asked to help "verify" the abilities of a man in Daegu who had taken the TOEIC 14 times with a perfect score. Though I asked more than once and received an indeterminate email, the details of the “interview” were kept cryptic. Prior to my arrival, as any professional would, I prepared. I prepared a brief test of spoken English to verify that his speaking ability was on par with his test taking ability.
When I arrived, much to my chagrin, I was asked to take a 20-question head-to-head TOEIC-type test with this man for the sake of showing his ‘amazing test taking speed.’ I refused to participate in such a ridiculous display, the purpose of which is dubious at best and potentially embarassing. Teachers make tests, they don’t take them and such a test of speed has absolutely no educational or practical value and could leave the unwitting viewer with the impression that somehow speed has to do with ability. Does it seem reasonable that a college professor would be asked to do such a thing on national television? On top of it all, imagine my surprise when I arrived and learned that the man was an American citizen “Kyopo” being passed off as someone with an amazing ability. Yes, he was an exceptionally fast test taker (another reason I would not test against him) but the fact that he is a native speaker is a fact that was amiss in the final cut of the program and was never mentioned before I agreed to participate. I am sure the audience would find this omission distasteful.
Not wishing to have wasted my time, the PD/cameraman, the "Korean" man and I decided to try and film something closer to what I was told to expect. In hopes that they might use some of the footage. However, Friday July 13, 2007 when the show aired, none of the footage was used in the feature. I was not advised in advance that none of the footage would be used. In order to make the taping, I cancelled appointments and wasted an afternoon preparing for nothing except to waste my valuable time. I agreed to participate gratis because I thought there might be residual benefits from being seen on TV as 'the expert.' Family and colleagues were advised prior to the taping that I would be on the show. Imagine my embarrassment when I saw no sign of the time spent.

Needless to say, I was miffed. Enough so that I sent a bill for services rendered to the producer who lied to me in the first place (expecting to receive the exact same nothing that I did). I also learned that a Korean professor from a local college was asked to participate. After being told what he would be doing, he refused. I guess the PD had in mind something that she wanted to portray and the facts of the case were just totally unimportant. And the more I read stories like the aforementioned from the Metropolitician, the more I realize that there is little or no journalistic integrity in the Korean media.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Weekly G-Spot 2: THE definite article

Last week the subject was the indefinite article a/an. This week, the author of the View from the Fence thinks that the definite article deserves the attention of the weekly G-Spot.

It is THE most used word in the English language and it is perhaps the most elusive point for many a language learner. In its most basic form, "The" is used before a noun (or noun group) that refers to something that the speaker (writer) and the listener (reader) both have knowledge of; either because it is common knowledge (like "the sun" or "the moon") or because it has already been mentioned.

When 'the' is misused, as it often is by not only Korean learners but learners from the many languages that do not use articles, it can drastically change the meaning of a sentence or confuse the listener. For example:

"I like to read the book" - suggests that in the world, there is only ONE book and I am talking about that one....I assume that you know that book too.

This of course, really makes no sense but it does have meaning. If perhaps, the word 'the' were capitalized along with book (The Book) it might suggest a particular religious text like The Bible or The Koran. But in such a case, the listener and speaker would both have the schemata necessary to understand which book.

Another way that 'the' is used is when we are talking about a countable noun in singular form and we want to refer to the item in a general or 'global' way. For example:

"The computer has change the world." Makes use of two definite articles. The first one refers to all computers or computers in general. The second refers to something that is known to everyone on earth...the world
If you were talking to Luke Skywalker standing on Tatooine, for example, you shouldn't say, "Luke, Look at the moon!" because he would probably reply,
"Which one." since Tatooine has multiple satellites.
You might even have a difficult time saying something like, "Computers have changed the world." because he would probably respond,
"which one?" or "don't you mean the universe?"

A common mistake for Korean students is the use of the definite article in front of the names of places.
"I come from the Daegu" is one that I hear A LOT!
There are situations where 'the' can be used in front of the names of places.
1. When the name of the city is used as an adjective in front of another noun; like in the name of an organization like: The Daegu Metropolitian Opera.
2. In front of the names of groups of islands like The Maldives, The Phillipines, or The Seychelles.

A couple of other special rules:
1. The use of 'the' in front of the names of musical instruments is optional. "I play piano." and "I play the piano" are the same.
2. Do NOT use 'the' between a preposition and any of the following: home, college, hospital, prison, school, university, or church. (but there are exceptions to this as well. Don't you just LOVE the diabolical nature of English?)
3. Do NOT use 'the' with the names of meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
4. Use 'the' with superlatives: "VFT is the greatest blog in the world!!"
5. Systems or services use 'the.' The bus, the train, the subway, the electricity. But again, these are things that the listener should 'know' about.

There are SOOOO many rules (and exceptions to those rules) about the use of definite articles and learning them all and trying to apply them in common conversation is an act of futility. Native speaker and those who learn to speak English fluently learn to use the articles without thinking about them.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is 'the' refers to something known to your interlocutor.

Monday, December 03, 2007

My How times have changed: Dasepo Naughty Girls

There was a VERY good read over at Gusts of Popular Feeling on a movie called Dasepo Naughty Girls (at least it was mostly about that with a tangent or two) and it just gave me some inspiration for a couple of Korea long-timer anecdotes on the subject of Sex and the Media in Korea.

First, I came to Korea in April of 1996. At that time, I recall seeing some Korean dramas and wondering why every time the lovers would come close to kissing, the scene would change or fade to a commercial. I asked my director (I was one of the few who actually made friends with my hagwon owner) and he said that it was 'against the law' in Korea to show people kissing on television. I also recall that a certain drama featuring two married people who were in an intimate relationship that involved NO PHYSICAL CONTACT yet the scandal over this drama was all over the place because the two people were in dissatisfying marriages and decided to (as my director succinctly put it) "share their minds." Needless to say, after growing up coming home to my mother watching "Days of Our Lives" or "General Hospital" I was dumbfounded at what I perceived to be a puritanical society. Of course, I was out in the country and my exposure to the sexual underbelly of Korea was limited but it was obvious that the average Cho Blow was pretty up in arms about it. Nowadays, on both the big and small screen it seems that a lot of these barriers gone well beyond destruction and can scarcely be remembered.

Second story, About 4 years ago, I was teaching a couple of middle school boys and the subject somehow wound up on a picture that one of their classmates had shown them of his sister in the shower (apparently without her knowledge either that the picture had been taken or that it had been distributed). And I recall being disturbed because a middle school student not only had a phone (which back then was not as common as it is today) but had used it for such a sinister purpose. Now, after reading the aforementioned article, that seems to pale in comparison to the way the cellphones are being used today to film things that only a few years ago would have been shocking beyond all comprehension.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Are you worried about offending our Korean hosts' cultural idiosyncracies?

It could be MUCH worse.
A British woman teaching in Sudan is facing cries for her excecution for a cultural snafu. Though it is more likely that she will be held in prison for 15 days (more for her safety than anything else) and then deported (again for her own safety). What did she do? She allowed the children in her class to name a class bear that was part of a school project after a popular student in the class.
What's wrong with that, you ask? Well, that child's name happened to be Muhammed. And in a predominantly Muslim country under Sharia Law that is evidently a big no-no. It doesn't matter that it was the kids who named the bear OR that a child in the class has the same name. The teacher is responsible according to a large number of protesters; some bearing knives, pipes and clubs, that were gathered outside the prison where she is being kept and calling for her to be excecuted by firing squad.
This is just another case of radical Islam hijacking the religion for their own twisted agenda. They want to say how this infidel intentionally named an animal/toy after the prophet Muhammed when all she did was name it after a child who coincidentally had the same name at the request of the class. Lack of cultural sensitivity aside: she is not Muslim, how could she be expected to know the ramifications of such an innocent act and what do these radicals think that the prophet Muhammed would wish to do with this person. The real wonder is why would a co-worker decide to turn her in for it.
Of course, we do not know the real intentions of this woman. Perhaps, she really did do it on purpose and this other excuse is just a way to pull one over on the Sudanese authorities. Either way, does it really justify calls for excecution?

One thing we can certainly say about our Korean hosts: for all the faults we like to try and pin on them (justified or not). It could be much worse.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Weekly G-Spot 1: Unraveling A and An

I decided to start a series of posts in the English vein. Each week, I am introducing the "weekly G-Spot" That is Grammar Spot (got you to look though didn't it). Partly as an exercise to keep myself fresh in it and partly as a help to some of my more dilligent students who are reading my blog. For the expatriate crowd: don't be afraid to read the G-Spot because there is a good chance you will learn something about English you might not have known otherwise. Or a way to explain something to someone that you didn't think of before. I'll try to keep in interesting for all. Please remember that I am NOT a grammarian and do not claim to know everything about the English language so take this information for what it is worth to you. Also, if you find that you would like to see something in particular focused on here, please leave me a comment and I will try to get to it when I can.
Cheers, fencerider.

This week's G-Spot: Unraveling A and An
Probably one of the most elusive aspects of English for anyone seeking to learn it as a second language is the proper use of 'a' and 'an' (indefinite articles). Here are the basic rules

1. Use a or an the first time you mention a person or thing in a conversation.

2. After you have mentioned it once, it becomes known to the interlocutor, you can then begin using 'the' to refer to the same person or thing.
A war is being fought in Iraq. The war had dragged on for several years.

3. They may only be used with singular countable nouns.
4. If you use an adjective with the person or thing, place the indefinite article before the adjective(s).
I drive an ugly, old, beat up Carnival.
5. If a thing is not singular (that is, if it is non-countable) then you should NOT use any article.
My favorite food is an Italian food.

What do 'a' and 'an' mean?
There are two ways I use to explain it. First, it is called an 'indefinite article.' Since 'indefinite' means 'not sure' we can say that it is used with something that the listener does not know about (until it is mentioned). Second, I find an easy way to explain the meaning of the indefinite article in context is 'one of many.' That is, in the universe there are many of this particular item, I am speaking (or writing) of only one of them.

When to use 'a' or 'an'?
If the following word's first sound is a consonant...use 'a'. If the following words first sound is a vowel...use 'an.' An important note her is that the letter is not as important as the sound as evidenced by words like 'uniform' which begins with a vowel but the sound of that vowel is /yu/ and the presence of the 'y' sound makes it a consonant (a uniform). The same applies for the use of an article in front of a silent letter like 'h' in 'honest' (an honest man).

1. a is also sometimes used to mean 'one' when used with numbers, fractions or measurments.
Then, add a half teaspoon of molasses.

Here's a link to a quiz on indefinite articles from the Internet TESL Journal

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wrongly Accused Blogger: Metropolitician joins the list

First it was ZenKimchi getting accused of things he didn't do and getting dragged through the inJustice system, now the Metropolitician is dragged into the quagmire. It reads like something out of a Stephen King short story...a true nightmare. Basically, minding his own business and he gets verbally and odiferously assaulted by a drunk adjussi and then when he calls the police to get the guy to quit bothering him....HE GETS ARRESTED because the drunk off his kiester Korean guy said that the M kicked him and left a bruise. M has been printed and booked and I would assume is in need of some legal counsel (though he did not specifically appeal for it on his blog).

Now, I'm not one for sticking up for someone when I don't hear both sides of the story, so if you understand Korean, you can hear the real B.S. in a recorded conversation with the mephitic sot. There are some real dire consequences if this conviction sticks so I certainly hope he can beat this wrap totally. Unfortunately, the ill-smelling inebriate does not appear to have any money and therefore can't be sued for the likely financial damage that M will need to keep it off his record.

My advice, M...get legal counsel now! Contact anyone you might know or who might know someone who is a high ranking police officer to try and help you take care of this before it gets out of hand.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why the Anti-Discrimination Law Must be Amended.

From the time I heard that the Korean Government was going to pass “Anti-Discrimination” Legislation I was skeptical; if not hopeful. How could a society such as this with such deep-rooted biases against even its own ever hope to pass legislation that would somehow protect those who need it most? Of course, my reasons for hoping for the passing of this bill were somewhat selfish. As a foreigner trying to raise a family in Korea I am keenly aware of the ways in which such a law could make life easier for me and mine.
But since I have been in Korea for a long time, I think I can sort of ‘step outside of myself’ a bit and challenge myself to find reasons why the government would choose to delete the 7 contentious items from the bill. It is said, to really understand someone you must walk a mile in their shoes. So, I am taking a moment to really try and understand, item by item, why it is necessary to remove these items from the Korean perspective. Prof. Gill Wonpyeong’s wise words (albeit something may have been lost in translation) have given me the necessary mindset from which to spew forth:

Family type –
Because it is important that we make sure that the people that we work for are only the most moral of people. We should not be forced to hire someone, regardless of their qualifications, if they are estranged from their spouse. It does not matter if a woman’s husband cheated on her and left her with 3 kids to feed, it must be her fault in some way and society must punish her for that by making it difficult for her to work a decent job with other decent people. This is particularly important in a society reaching a 35% divorce rate. In addition, we certainly don’t want to have to work with someone who comes from a broken family because we know that if someone comes from a family like that they must be messed up, crazy or both, regardless of their qualifications.

Nation of Origin
Businesses don’t want to pass this one possibly because they know that the ramifications would be far reaching in the area of employment. Employers would no longer be able to pay people differently based on the color of their skin….this would force many businesses to shut down because they simply could not afford to pay their workers. This can’t pass because that would mean that we would have to actually pay out a little more of our profits to those dirty-looking ASEANs. We have to keep their wages low to make sure that they will want to return to their home countries with the thanks that they were able to work in such a profitable environment. Never mind that they lost their right hand due to lack of a safe working environment. They should be glad that we gave them a chance to earn more money in a month than they could in a year in their own country. Also, we wouldn’t want to actually pay them enough money that they could live in the same neighborhoods and send their mongrel children to school with our own children.

I didn’t originally know that this would be included in the bill. If I had, I would have known right then and there that there is NO WAY IN HELL that we can allow this because we have to maintain the purity of our 5000 year language and its 400 year old script that is the most scientifically logical and greatest invention of the most auspicious king that ever lived. And we certainly can’t have foreigners demanding that they be made aware of their rights in the law in their own languages. That would make it impossible to railroad them into confessing and making sure that the bloated statistics that we feed to the newspapers about foreign crime on the rise are kept accurate. Of course, we must maintain our linguistic superiority at all costs.

Sexual Orientation
Prof. Gill may have neglected to mention a few important points in this regard. This item cannot stand because we certainly wouldn’t want to have to actually accept the fact that there are homosexuals in our society. We must make sure they stay in the closet. After all, if they were allowed to come out of the closet freely how terrible that would be for all people. How could we continue to work side by side with someone knowing that they might be after our ass after working together for 10 years? How would we even be able to enter the bathroom for fear that we might be raped by one of these animals? Of course, the women homosexuals should be protected because of the benefit they provide for the lonely working man’s need for a little girl-on-girl action. Unfortunately, if we allow that then we would also have to reciprocate and that would be disgusting. So we just have to keep it all in the closet.

Medical History
This is related to Sexual Orientation because there is a need to discriminate against those who are HIV positive. We must make sure that they die quickly, and alone and penniless, without taxing our medical system. We must also insure that those who have some history of even the most treatable of mental illness should be kept away from the workplaces. How can we work with peace of mind knowing that the person next to us might be transferring their neurosis to us through some sort of evil mind control?

Educational Status
This one is a little hard to understand. Why put this in there at all. Educational discrimination is the backbone of Korean politics. How else would you get to know the people you need to know unless you went to the same school? Passing this portion of the bill would mean the end of discrimination based on the school you attended and everyone knows that it would be bad for society if we couldn’t make sure that we all worked with people of similar caste.

Criminal Record –
Because regardless of the fact that someone has paid their debt to society, everyone should be able to feel free to make sure that this person returns to exactly the same place in society that they came from. We have to prove our theories of ‘once a thief, always a thief’ by forcing them into such destitution that their only resort is crime and then we can put them away for life.
There is also the problem that when the head of a family commits a crime, his or her family census register shows the crime and even a grandson of a living criminal should be forced to work in only the most menial of jobs, regardless of his skill or education because he must be made to pay for the sins of his patronage.

Finally, if this bill were to pass unaltered, the litigation would be endless. Koreans cannot be expected to just change their system of discrimination and bias that has existed for five thousand years. Korea really doesn’t want to become a global society. It would just be too much work. Anti-Discrimination is not in line with a number of the most basic tenants of Korean Society. For Koreans, it is natural to discriminate and examples of this train of thought are found in daily life. So, why bother to change it.

Note to the hopelessly stupid (and Prof. Gill, just in case he is more confused than I think he is): The previous was intended to be sarcasm.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dancing Flight Attendants

UPDATE: Evidently, someone either took offence or the girls just decided to take it off line because the video has been removed. Hope you caught it while it was still on. Its a little funny because there was some discussion about putting a higher quality video online in a hurry but I guess that never materialized.

Ok...this is just TOO good not to write about. There was some discussion on another blog (can't find it now) about the song "Tell Me" by the Wondergirls. Most of it centered around the fact that it made several people want to jump out of a window or made their skin crawl from watching the gyrations of 14 year old girls. Now, if you haven't heard this song yet then you must have been under a rock somewhere because even if you don't like Korean pop your students are probably singing it in the hallways along with the taxi and bus drivers and the ajummas in the market.

So, for those of you who refuse the video due to its parasitic qualities, some of my students in the Stewardess Training Department at my school just made a rather entertaining UCC video of themselves dancing to the song. I have the 'from-the-horses-mouth' scoop: evidently, some girls were messing around in their stewardess uniforms and one made a video and uploaded it to the Internet without telling the others. It has, as of this morning, more than 100,000 hits and rising. It is currently the most popular video on several of the search engines in Korea (search: 스튜어대스 텔미).
The young lady in the front of the group is a student of mine who takes a special early morning conversation class. She came in looking all depressed today because of the uploaded video. She just didn't want all the attention and had no idea that it would be uploaded. (I know, I had my doubts about the veracity of that at first. But after an extended discussion, I believe she honestly didn't know). At any rate, they are now talking about making a higher quality video to supplement the already popular download. I am still waiting for the real stuff to hit the fan as the day progresses. (updates to follow if any)
There appears to be two sides of the issue. Several netizens posted disparaging comments about the girls (Don't you hate trolls) and of course, as anyone would be, they are upset about some of them. There is some concern that the image presented in the video is not an 'appropriate' flight attendant image and could wind up hurting the image of the school.

I have to disagree, personally, I believe that it is perfect timing (almost too perfect) to attract attention to the school at a time when young high school stewardess-wannabes are deciding which of the few colleges and universities offering a training program they will attend. The girls were just having a good time before class and the roughness of the timing of some of the steps makes it pretty obvious that it was impromptu. There is nothing inappropriate about it and anyone who says differently is just a cantankerous, curmudgeonly old gasbag. I think its entertaining, I also think that the girls involved should receive kudos and maybe even a scholarship from the school for the free advertising and profile/image boost.
link is here

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Got Blacklisted?? Get Even!!

There has been a discussion recently on the Koreabridge Korea Job Advice Forums about a blacklist that has been posted by the Korean Foreign Teacher Recruiting Association. This is a list of foreign teachers who for some reason have been deemed unworthy to get a job in Korea. The site is entirely in Korean and there does not appear to be any method for teachers to offer a rebuttal for what they have been accused. Teachers are listed by their full name, gender and country of origin. In the entries they even put their Alien Registration Card Number AND their passport number along with other personal information and their 'offence.' Attempts to have explanations or rebuttals added or to have names removed have seemingly been met with silence.
One teacher who felt wrongly accused and added to the list contacted the Job Advice Forum and was given several suggestions for places to go for help. The poster finally decided to go to the Seoul (Korean) Bar Association where they received help in English and a lawyer who was evidently gung-ho to prosecute the case. I'll post the note below for those who cannot access Koreabridge.
In the end, the teacher's name was simply removed from the list at the teacher's request. No law suit was filed and that appears to be the end of it for this teacher. However, there are many other names on that list. Some of those people may not even be aware that they are on a blacklist. So, if you are a teacher who thinks that you might have been put on a blacklist, then you should check out the site.

IF YOU ARE ON THE LIST: guilty of what you are accused or not, you can sue this organization for libel and according to the information below, you would NOT have to pay anything! PLEASE, Contact the Seoul (Korean) Bar Association. Directions are included in the post below.

From Koreabridge Korean Job Advice Forums:

i went to the korea bar assoc on monday afternoon - they have an english interpreter there from 2-5 pm on mondays - she was very very nice, very sincere the lawyer was adamant i sue and he wanted me to sue right then and there!! he wanted to sue the school and the website - !! wow i was so impressed but i told him i was worried it could affect me getting a new visa so we talked some more and he had his asst call the website owner - well, they just laughed and didn't take it serious that anyone would actually sue!! in the end, he convinced them tho, don't know what exactly was said (obviously) but my name is no longer on the site. but it's not over yet, there are SO MANY teachers' names on there - i can't imagine why some koreans think this is ok - it's NOT!! it's so totally bullsh*t i really hope more people hear about this so this guy has to take the website down, it's really ugly. oh by the way, if i had let the lawyer sue, i wouldn't have had to pay anything (really!) so it's definitely worth it to go there if you have a serious problem. seoul bar asso, mondays from 2-5; seocho station line 2; exit num 8, go straight take first (almost immediate) left, go about 30 meters, on the right there's a large stone building which is on the corner, the entrance is around the corner and actually says "Seoul Bar Assoc." in english.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Pumpkin Grits

So, I'm sitting there with all the pieces of the pumpkin and thinking, "What can I do with all of this." Seemed a shame to waste it. So, I decided to make some Korean-style Pumpkin Porridge (HobakJuk) with the pieces. But the amount of porridge made was not enough, so I decided to thicken it up a little to make it go around. Et voila: Halloween Pumpkin Grits.

You need:

Pumpkin meat chopped into small thin pieces. (about 3-4 cups)
Water enough to cover pumpkin
Dark Brown Packed sugar (2 tablespoons)
Quaker Instant Grits (3/4 cup)
Glutinous Rice Powder ( 3 tablespoons, more makes it thicker)
Salt (1 teaspoon)
Butter (1 tablespoon)
Molasses (1/4 teaspoon)

1. Place the pumpkin pieces in a large pot with enough water to cover them.

2. Boil until the pumpkin is soft.

3. Drain off excess water and place pumpkin in a blender

4. Puree the pumpkin and return to the pot on low heat stirring occasionally.

5. When it begins to boil, Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of packed brown sugar.

6. Slowly stir in 3 tablespoons of glutinous rice power (찹살가루). Add more rice power for thicker porridge.

7. Slowly stir in the 3/4 cups of instant grits making sure not to make clumps.

8. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the grits are softened and thickened. If they come out too thick (too much rice power or grits) then add some water 1/4 cup at a time or so until the desired consistency is reached.

9. Melt in the butter (add more butter for flavor as desired)

10. Serve piping hot in a bowl with a dollop of molasses (or maple syrup) for a little extra down home flavor and garnish.

Can I get a YEE-haw!!


Every Halloween, I take a little time to entertain and teach my children (my real ones) about pumpkin carving and the tradition of the jack-o-lantern. My daughter is 5 year old now and she is starting to understand a little bit about ghosts and goblins and scary-things-that-go-bump-in-the-night so, I told her that the jack-o-lantern should be scary so it will scare away all of the boogymen (and women, important to be P.C. don'cha'know) on Halloween. But she said that it is just to scary and she wants daddy to make a 'heart' jack-o-lantern. So, we made a deal that the scary side would face out the window to scare away the evil spirits and the heart side would face inside to give us a little chuckle now and again. The result: Jack-the-bipolar-O'-lantern.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

One year of the view

I'm a little late on the exact date which was 12 October. It's been a fast year and I looked back and was a bit shocked at how much I have written. I know I'm not the most read blog on the Korean Blogosphere but to all my faithful readers and to those yet to come...DaeDanHi Kamsahamnida...Thanks loads!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Today's Vocabulary: Gyrate

Gyrate - 1. To wind or move in a spiral course 2. To revolve quickly and repeatedly on one's own axis

Observe an example:

Now if that ain't gyratin' I don't know what is.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alarms in the night

I was soaking in the warmth of sweet sleep and my wife came in.
"Hey...wake up!! what's that noise?"
"What the...Huh?"
"C' sounds like an alarm and I smell you smell smoke?"
Ok...I'm awake but still groggily searching for my glasses. I staggered to the window now noticing the siren like noise that caused my wife to stir. At first, I thought it sounded like a car horn. But it could also be a fire alarm like the one we heard when the apartment across the hallway caught fire. I smelled no more smoke than I would normally smell in the city at this time of year. I tried to triagulate the location of the sound but could only figure it was coming from the apartment across the parking lot. I saw no smoke billowing out of any of the apartments. I looked at the clock-3:34am.
"It's not coming from this apartment. Call the security guy and tell him to investigate it."
"shee-lo!" she said sheepishly in Korean to let me know that was not something she was inclined to do. She closed the windows and went back to bed. So, I picked up the phone to call the guy downstairs.
"No answer...probably sleeping at this hour." I thought to myself. "Forget it, go back to bed." So, I walked off to bed cursing the time of night and lamenting the thought of getting up in a mere 4 hours. But as I laid in bed, the sound that I couldn't even hear whilst bathing in sweet sleep was now an incessant dog whistle beckoning me to seek out its source. I put on my shirt and sandals and announced, "I'm going downstairs to find out what it is."
"OK, I'm going back to sleep." My wife advised.
"I can't sleep now." I said as I closed the door. Once on the first floor, I found the security guard sound asleep. I knocked on the door and spoke "Adjusshi!!"" I repeated several times envying him his sound sleep and then as I walked off in the direction of the noise which was now obviously coming from the basement parking lot.
The mystery was revealed. Just as I had thought it was a stuck car horn. It was one of those 'bongo' pickup trucks that drives around with a PA system on the top announcing to the world that there were fruits and veggies to be had. I chuckled as the thought crossed my mind that this truck just doesn't know when to shut up. As I drew closer, the sound got louder and then almost deafening. I tried the doors - no luck. I banged on the hood, stupidly hoping that the sound would stop with a jar. Then, I looked for a phone number on the dash. Sloppily written with a sharpie on a compact disk was the driver's phone number. I searched my pockets and realized that I didn't bring my phone. The sound was incessant and had now grown into a full-blown headache. The thought of sleep now long gone and replaced by an urge to take a couple of Tylenol and brush my teeth.
I knew, without any doubt, that if i did not do something about this, I would be hearing that sound all night and sleep would be out of the question. I turned around to go and get my phone and noticed a door. I remembered that I had seen some security guys walking in and out of that door from time to time but thought, "Surely not. Who could hear that and do nothing" as I turned the doorknob and pushed the door open to find two crumpled figures asleep soundly on a heated floor.
"Adjusshi!" I demanded attention gently, "Jo Ghee Yo!!" and then realized that someone who could sleep throught the blare of a car horn not 10 meters away would not likely wake up with gentle chiding. "AADUUSHEEEEEEEEE!!! JOGEEEEYOOOOO!" I made my best attemt to be loud but reasonably polite sounding and one of them stirred and woke. It was not immediately evident that he was coherent of the sound coming from the parking lot. So, lacking the proper language skills, I just opened the door and pointed. He blankly looked at me like "What do you want me to do about it." Though he dare not say that to me. I told him he should try to call the owner.
"There's no phone number. " He said and led me to the conclusion that somehow he had known about the noise and deliberately done nothing.
"There IS a phone number on the dash." I said in Korean and walked out as he was still digging for his phone. I came back and gave him the phone number and he called. No answer. And indicated his resignation to leave it alone. Frustrated with his lack of concern, I just turned to leave. The other security guard was still either asleep or feigning during the entire exchange. "How the hell can he sleep," I commented a bit rudely and left.
Back in my apartment, the sound that was barely audible when I had first been stirred was still ringing in my ears enough to make it difficult to sleep. I remembered the phone number and called. Someone picked up the phone.
"YoBoSayYo" I greeted --- no answer. So, I hung up. I sent the best Korean message I could think of "Car....problem....go see!!!" I waited and then fumbled through the electronic dictionary in my phone looking for the words disconnect, battery, and horn after that I sent another message. This time I received a call a few minutes later.
"Who is this." demanded the Korean-speaking voice.
"Finally, someone responds." I thought and then said in Korean, "Your claxon is honking."
"What." I assumed that claxon was somehow not the right word though I recall that is what they called it.
"Do you drive a 'bongo' parked in the basement of Woobang Apartments?" I managed to make a full sentence in Korean.
"Yes." came the terse answer. I was annoyed by the curtness of his answer until I realized that I probably would not like being called at 3:45 in the morning even if my car was making a problem.
"Your car is noisy. Please see to it." I was not using the polite form anymore.
"Alguesseumnida." The voice replied understanding and hung up.
I was fairly confident that the sound would be taken care of and it was perhaps that confidence that led me to lay in bed and waiting for the sound to cease. I imagined a person getting out of bed and getting dressed and going to his truck. It seemed like it was taking forever but I could still hear the ringing in my ears. I wondered if the ringing was just my imagination as a variety of other early A.M. sounds seeped through the closed windows. I got out of bed again to see if the sound had stopped, but it had not. I closed both outside and inside windows, knowing that it would make the house stuffy. It was 4:40. I laid down and eventually fell asleep with a pillow over my head. When i woke up the next morning, the sound was gone and the house felt like a sauna. I hope his battery ran out.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kristi Lu Stout on Korea

The last few days, I have been watching my favorite eye candy CNN anchor singing the praises of South Korea. In the CNN special report "Eye on South Korea" Ms. Stout is travelling around Korea (with Eunice Yoon and Ji-Ae Sohn) and giving various reports on the state of everything from the 'ubiquitous' connectivity and the gaming industry to the 'ultramodern' shipbuilding industry. Unfortantely, that eye seems to be looking through a pair of rose-colored glasses.

I know there are a lot of great things in Korea and basically, I love this country. I make my home and my family here. However, although some of the reports are interesting and will undoubtedly do some good for the Korean economy and the human interest stories will obviously appeal to an international audience while they will leave the Korean population writhing in masterbatory ecstacy. The whole thing feels like an extended "Sparkling Korea" or "Seoul of Asia" commercial singing the praises of the South Korean culture and economy without any of the balanced reporting that can help encourage reflection on improvements that need to be made.

Hey Kristy, in case you read this, I have an idea: instead of just slathering over the high rate of connectivity and showing the gamers in their glory on the stages and on the televisions of the nation, why don't you focus a little on the internet and gaming addiction that is ruining lives all over the country. Instead of 'oohing' and 'aahing' the shipbuilding industry and hi-tech gadgets, why not add a little balanced reporting and show the plight of the migrant workers of Korea who do a lot of the work neccessary keep the industry alive. While you're at it, you could focus a little on the state of English education in Korea and maybe have a story or two about the hagwon industry and crooked directors. This would segue nicely into a report on racial discrimination and the treatment of mixed race children.

I guess "Eye on South Korea" is not about balanced reporting. If we want some real grit we need to call Christianne Amanpour or Anderson Cooper. Ms. Stout is just too sweet looking to be able to handle any of the tough reporting and probably would be best sticking to the pollyanna side of the news anyway. In the meantime, I'll just turn the sound down and enjoy.

P.S. - If you get down to Daegu, look me up, I'll buy you a couple of drinks and fill you in.

UPDATE: At the advice of an anonymous poster, I would like to offer my apologies to the lovely Ms. Stout (great name though, eh?) as they did add some stuff on cyber addiction and the gap between the rich and the poor in Seoul according to the reader. I was too busy to watch this morning so I, unfortunately, missed it. Assuming that these pieces have the equivalent enthusiasm that the brighter pieces have and are not just stuck in there to appear balanced then I apologize.
PSS: I'd still like to fill you in over a beer, Kristi:)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Baek-in Pedophiles in Korea???!!!

Say it ain't so. Interesting discussions over at Marmot's, ROKdrop, and Lost Nomad
You take an environment of legal laxity as is found in Korea and you are bound to attract some of these freaks. Problem is that they don't look or act like freaks. They are often very good with children and exactly the kind of person that children's hagwons are looking for; a director's dream. As the father of a 5-year-old daughter, I worry every day that she is going to run into someone like this guy...whether Korean or Foreign the odds are just too great to not be on edge.

I am reminded of a complaint that my wife waged with me one day. She commented on a foreigner that was standing next to the entrance to the place my daughter goes to dance class. My wife said that this guy looked up and d0wn my daughter in such a way that it really upset her. Not to be overly boastful, I realize that I'm just like every other proud father in my love of my daughter but I know that she is exceptionally attractive (child model) and a very tempting target for a Korean pedophile because of her caucasian appearance. So, of course, I'm watching eyes and behavior with the paranoia that only a father can have.

It would be interesting to hear from other fathers out there, particularly those like myself with mixed race children: Do you think you are more paranoid here than you would be back home? Do you worry, like I do, that your lack of langauge skills would aggrevate a potential situation? I personally don't know how I would have stopped myself from opening a can of whoopass on the guy my wife saw looking at my daughter like that. But that is a foreigner, the cops wouldn't really give a hoot....what if it was a Korean man? What could you say, what could you do? What if your daughter's bus driver or swimming coach molested her?
All comments welcome.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's gochu time

I'm a little late on this but it seems that some people in my city apartment have decided that being in the city won't stop them from the usual countrified things; setting the peppers and something else (I think it's either rice stalks or mugwort) to dry in the sun. It sure makes for an interesting and colorful picture anyway. Little bit low quality due to the cameraphone.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

About the Waekookin mall

So, we have this new online mall called that sells mostly IKEA furniture. I'm thinking, great, maybe i can get that (Fusion) table i wanted to get. I saw it on another Korean site and it was about double the price from stateside and I just wasn't willing to pay that much for what is usually supposed to be cheap DIY furniture. So, I went to the mall to see if it was there and it wasn't. Then, I sent a message to see if they had it or could order it for a reasonable price. Below is my question:

Is it possible to get IKEA's Fusion table here for a reasonable price?...the
korean retailers seem to be marking up more than 100% and i'm just not willing
to pay that for what is supposed to be affordable furniture.>

The response took just a day or so, but was dissappointing to say the least:

Sorry, We don't have it in stock. Maybe you're right but here is Korea.>>Thank you,

This kind of response just puzzles me. Seems polite enough at the end, but those words " is Korea" just get me all hot under the collar. Particularly when dealing with businesses that claims to be 'foreigner friendly.' A company whose motto is "For your better life in Korea" and whose very name suggests that it exists to serve the foreign community seems satisfied to teach me about living in Korea. I can understand that they do not have the table I'm looking for and I can accept that but to come back with "here is Korea" just makes no sense. But having been in Korea a long time, I am used to communication difficulties and thought it might just be a communication problem. Nonetheless,I asked for some clarification:

Perhaps you could explain what you mean by "Maybe you're right but here is
Korea." Do you mean that I should EXPECT to be marked up 100% because this
is Korea? Do you mean that Korean businesses are normally usurious? With
this reply are you suggesting that this practice is ethical or justifiable? Is your glib
response simply a result of your desire to take advantage of the foreign community without using the appropriate global business practices? Perhaps it is just a lack of English communication skills. Please help me to understand this brief and enigmatic statement so I may share it with the foreign community as I am sure they would like to know where you stand on the subject of ethics.

Was I too harsh? I sent the previous message on 7 October....Thusfar, no answer has been posted. I guess they must be busy.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's difficult to be more racist and bigoted than this...

Something for my new WTF department: has some shocking pictures of some placards with some very provocative and racist language right here in Korea. Yes...I know...its difficult to fathom but they must be seen to be believed. Simply outrageous and offensive to say the least.
I can't help but wonder if the people who placed these signs have any possiblity of being sued by the people whose names (first and last!!) have been made public in such a way. Would the Korean high court be inclined to recognize the linguistic and cultural implications of the language used and would they be able to apply the slander/libel laws when the source of the slander is not Korean?

The End of Racial Discrimination in Korea?

According to the Korea Times, the Ministry of Justice is going to begin punishing direct and indirect discrimination on the basis of race, sex and nationality. If true then it's the best news I've heard all year. But one suspects that the new rules touted by the Ministry of Justice will be kept and enforced about as well as the traffic and parking rules.

What this could mean for Korea's hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers is a legal leg to stand on in order to get better working conditions and pay. It would mean the college and university teachers like myself would be entitled to the possiblity of tenure (assuming proper qualifications) and the pay that goes along with it. It means that banks and credit institutions could no longer refuse housing and unsecured loans to foreigners as has been the common practice. One would also assume that it would have some effect on the problem of foreigner ID numbers and their uselessness relative to that of Korean ID numbers (for example on websites).

If, and we are talking a big 'if' here, it can be properly implemented and if the Human Rights Commission does not get as bogged down in legal wrangling as one would reasonably suspect, then this could be a big step forward for Korea. It will be interesting to see how some of the ultranationalists both in the street and in the assembly will take this (certainly not lying down).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It must be the adrenalin

Talking on the cellphone and driving has been one of my pet peeves ever since a fellow doing the same while making an illegal U-turn knocked me and my motorcycle into oncoming traffic and a parked car. (not to mention that I suspect the fellow that gave me my neck injury also was talking on the phone) Of course, there is also the far too frequent fellow driver who just seems to be driving slower than everyone else and as you pass buy wondering if the guy is having a heart attack or something you notice that he is either talking on the phone or watching television or both. It is getting to be a real epidemic. And I say that because it IS a disease. One that the government has a responsibility to stop.
Korea Beat scoops a Yonhap news story that 70% of Korean drivers talk on the phone while driving even though 53.4 % of them believe it to be 'very dangerous' (read the rest at Korea beat).
Every so often, I just have to scream at a student who is driving around the campus talking on the cell phone (particularly when he/she just about runs over everything or one in the way.) and they just look at me like 'duh' and keep right on doing what they were doing. In addition the article cites driving while watching TV another problem.
Here are a few possible solutions:

1. Force higher premiums for insurance on people who have been involved in accidents that involve TV or Phone. (MUCH Higher)
2. Have the police actually do something like, stop drivers when they are talking on the phone. I've seen it a time or two but not enough.
3. Start taking pictures of these people and send them the ticket in the mail just like the speeding tickets.
4. The government could make the penalties for talking on the cell or watching TV while driving actually hurt instead of just a slap on the wrist.
5. Automatic 100% fault to any driver involved in any accident while talking on the telephone. (see Korea Law Blog for some ridiculous information on the way 'fault' works here.)
6. Have police automatically confiscate and destroy telephones and TVs from drivers who are caught in the act. Due process not needed...just take them out, put them under the wheel and tell the driver to go home and sin no more:)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Before and After

I try to keep my few readers happy so, upon request, I have posted a shot of myself before and after the weightloss. The after shots are today and todays weight is officially -50KG!!!!!(cheers from the cheap seats) I am now under 100KG which is a milestone. I'm not going to go on here trying to say i am now skinny or anything, I need to lose another 20 kg for that I think.

What is kind of funny to me is that I can see a difference, but the difference is not that dramatic to me. It just doesn't seem like 50Kg when I look at it. Aside from the belly, I guess it really shows in the face and neck though. Sorry the face is blocked out...i'm shy:( I'm just not ready to expose myself to the world yet.)
Three pics to pereuse:

1. Summer 2006 At 150Kg (about a 64inch waist)
2. Spring 2007 At about 115 or so. (about a 45 inch waist)
3. Current 5 minutes ago at 99.5KG (wearing 38inch for the first time in more than 11 years) Cameraphone shot, sorry about the low quality....maybe i'll post another one at 90Kg later this year I hope.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Top 10 reasons NOT to lose 100lbs. in Korea

For those who still need a excuse reason:

10. Now that you comfortably fit in an economy class seat, so you no longer have a legitimate reason to beg for an upgrade.

9. You no longer have an excuse to park rear-end first since you can squeeze out of your car just like everyone else.

8. Due to the combination of being lighter and eating less (particularly at night), you get drunk faster (No, wait…is that bad?).

7. Thanks to gravity, the loose skin only has one direction to go. If you are over 40 you may notice to your dismay that you have developed a ‘turkey waddle’ and not just on your chin.

6. Being told you look ‘belly good’ gets old unless you get a thousand spot every time someone says it.

5. You have to buy new clothes every 2 months (fine for a company exec or CEO but not so good on a teacher’s salary) and you have to throw out tailored clothes that you had made 6 months ago. Of course you could wait another year and maybe you can use the fabric to double the size of your wardrobe.

4. You will be cornered in the elevator by every person you have ever seen (but who have never spoken to you before) to talk about your weight loss.These people to whom you have never spoken will illustrate, pantomime and use their best Pidgin English to explain to you just how grotesquely fat you used to be. Imagine Pictionary with a 17 floor time limit.

3. No one will be paying you for telling them your secret to losing so much weight.

2. That nice comfortable groove your rotund ass made in your office chair is no longer ergonomic.

1. The cheapest clothes are in a size that you realize you will never reach until 6 months after death.

Obviously, the reasons for losing...ahem...outweigh the reasons for keeping your fat ass fat.
108lbs and counting...50kg is right around the corner~~!!!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rice vs. Cereal for breakfast

A classic confrontation of East and West takes place in my kitchen regularly. I usually wake my daughter and get her ready for school in the morning while my wife sleeps with our 2-year-old. Whenever I try to feed my daughter rice in the morning, she always moans and complains and just plain old doesn't want to eat it no matter how I fix it. But ask her if she wants a bowl of Cherrios and she will woof them down like a good old-fasioned hoover. So, I'm thinking, it's not like I'm feeding her Lucky Charms or Chex Choco or something ladened with sugar like that. Just plain old Cherrios, the same kind I ate when I was a kid and the same kind that is enjoyed for breakfast by millions of American and Canadian kids who have been growing up just fine in the meantime. But if my wife hears that she didn't eat rice and kimchi for breakfast, I might as well have given her a nice big bowl of arsenic and cyanide because in her view, cereal has absolutely no nutritional value. Even when I show her the side of the box and all the stuff about 'vitamins and minerals, balanced diet, etc' it only enrages her further.
Now, I am not stupid enough to try and say that Cherrios is somehow better for my daughter than a nice bowl of rice and a few bites of the 'miracle banchan'. But, I would think that constantly chiding her to "eat" every 5 minutes and taking 30 or 40 minutes to down a small bowl of rice with egg and kimchi is more stress than it is really worth. And I really don't want my daughter to grow to be one of those Koreans adults who thinks they will die if they go a day without rice and kimchi. Surely this kind of breakfast browbeat has something to do with the reasons some people think like this.
My wife points to the fact that so many Americans are overweight and she wants to make sure our daughter does not grow up to be overweight like most of my family. O.K. no argument with keeping my daughters weight down but what arguments do I have in my favor. "Even Oprah said cereal was bad. " How can I top that logic?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

KBS on criminal teachers

Last night, KBS aired a "60 Minutes" program focusing on criminal foreigner teachers . They started with the drug users and dealers, then moved on to those with fake degrees, and finished off with teachers working with no qualifications at all. The bulk of the program was about the misdeeds of the teachers and the illegal things they do to get their jobs (and while on the job); no big suprise there. I was actually suprised that they made an attempt at balanced journalism and focused a little attention on the Hagwon directors and recruiters that make it possible for these people to find jobs. They also showed some good teachers in their classes and gave a little attention to the fact that there are many good teachers in Korea both foreign and Korean. But the focus was well-centered on the misdeeds of the foreigner teachers (hey, they gotta get the viewers somehow). I couldn't understand everything but I definately did not get the impression that they were being particularly prejudiced or just bashing foreigners in general. This may just be my lack of understanding Korean since I am not fluent and my wife did not get to watch all of it with me. If someone else got a different impression (evidently the Metropolitician did), you are welcome to make comment on it below. This is not really about the quality of the reporting. I'll leave that to others.

That said; as I was watching the story unfold, I found myself incredibly annoyed at the foreigner teachers who cheat, lie, use fake degrees and work without proper documents as much as I loathed the Hagwon directors and recruiters because basically it is THEIR FAULT that English teachers (myself included) are paid so little in a country where English Education is a multi-billion dollar industry. The internet is inundated with advertisements for recruiters trying to find teachers at any cost so they can make a little money. According to the KBS feature, they don't even seem to care if the person has no education or experience teaching (suprise?!).

If, and this is a big if, the Korean government could stop the hiring of unqualified teachers, then there just wouldn't be enough teachers to go around. Hagwons would close right and left and the pay for good and qualified teachers would rise. But, that is how this all got started in the first place. The glut of hagwons needing warm foreign bodies to teach the classes.

But the government won't do what is necessary to keep out the unqualified and the other riffraff because, even if they could, the hagwon directors association would scream bloody murder and the parents would be screaming at the government because of the lack of English study facilities. The fact is, there are just NOT that many qualified teachers who are willing to come to Korea to teach for the mediocre pay and cultural aggrevation that is most often perceived.

I can tell you that if I knew of a person who was:

  • working illegally or
  • with a fake degree...
  • using drugs on or off the workplace (not only is it a crime and a cultural no-no but it effects the way you teach, period)
  • dealing drugs to ANYONE (especially students)
  • I suspected as a pederast or other type of abuser
I would not hesitate to turn them in to the authorities. Call me a prude, tattletale, race traitor, hypocrite, whatever you like...these people are costing me money and quickly changing to negative the traditionally positive and respectful view of teachers in Korea and they are stunting the progress of English Education here. If that makes you stop respecting me or reading my blog, so be it. Catch you later. I'm gonna watch out for what's mine.

Message to Immigration: If you need any help to sting some of these miscreants. I'm in.
Message to Illegals without degrees or quals: If you want to teach English here or anywhere, get your qualifications, go to school, take a course, learn about teaching language and get it right.
Message to others in Illegal activities: Don't assume that foreigner you are drinking with, or the guy you meet on the train and think is 'alright' is what you think. It might be me pulling your chain just long enough to get you busted. Entrapment laws in Korea are a FARCE! they won't help you.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Back to the free teaching

Started back on the volunteer class (see labels "volunteer stuff" for more on this) and about half the class is returnees (or returnettes if you prefer since they are all housewives and women) and the other half is new students (even 2 men!!) most of which will fit in nicely. However, more than a few of the new students are what I call "왕초보" or, for lack of a better term, 'absolute rank beginners' with practically NO skills whatsoever. I am teaching the second half of American Headway Starter (8-14) this semester and many of these will have a hard time keeping up. I have already had at least one student concerned about wasting the first half of the text.
Since no good deed goes unpunished, I have discovered that the proper paperwork was possibly not filed at my school for last semester and now all my good work has possibly created more problem than good for me at school. Professors have to file a permission form to teach 'outside' classes. I thought this was all taken care of by the previous "team leader" at the dong office but apparently that is in question and permission for this semester has not been requested via an invitation from the teaching place. So now I have a headache to deal with.
Again, anyone interested in teaching a volunteer class at your local dong or gu office, let me know and I am sure I can help you arrange it (or at least tell you how). If you are an F2 holder, it is a really good way to get to know your community and make some important contacts as well. For me, it has really been worth the couple of hours a week for the networking it has accomplished. Drop me a comment or email if you want information.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Korean Redneck Wings

I recently tried a recipe from Zen Kimchi's Food Journal for Baba Ghanoush. I too overdid the garlic since I was using pre-chopped garlic and did not know exactly how much to add. Evidently, 2 cloves makes a lot less than I thought it did. That said, it was quite tasty and goes well spread on a fresh baguette and a glass of white zinfandel. And being the reciprocal sort of fellow that I am, I decided to post another fusion recipe that I took a while to come up with and have been using to satisfy folks from both sides of the big pond. I call them Korean Redneck Wings.

  • 1 kg chicken wings/drummettes (I like to use the drummettes (봉))

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (I find 오복 works best)

  • 1/2 cup honey

  • 1/4 cup molasses (difficult item to find in Korea, probably only on a US military base)

  • 2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce (McIlhenny is my brand)

  • 2 tablespoons Korean red pepper paste (고추장)

  • 2-3 tablespoons Korean red pepper powder (고추가루)

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger (Fresh is best but powder is OK too)

  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic

  • sesame seeds (garnish)

  1. In a large bowl mix soy sauce, honey, molasses, Tabasco sauce, red pepper paste and powder, ginger and garlic.

  2. Add chicken to the bowl and mix well, making sure to saturate all of the drummettes.

  3. Cover and place in the refrigerator for approximately 1 hour.

  4. Heat oven to 180C

  5. Place drummettes on an ungreased cookie sheet (I have also used a casserole dish successfully but the wings tend to come out a little too runny)

  6. Cook for 50 minutes. At 10 and 20 minutes brush with remaining sauce. At 25 minutes, turn them over. At 30 and 40 minutes, brush with more sauce.

  7. Garnish with sesame seeds
This is what was left after my wife got done with the rest of the kilo of chicken.

You would think that with all the Tabasco, red pepper and garlic that these would come out really spicy but they don't (from the perspective of the Korean palate!). Even if you increase the red pepper and garlic as mentioned. If you want fire wings in the same vein, you would need to find the fire pepper (ask for 땡초가루 at the store or market) and use that instead of the regular kind. That should melt your epiglottis nicely. I know the molasses is a bit of a task to find if you don't have a contact at the nearest base. If you find a place to buy it on the economy, please drop me a comment; I'm all out and my wife is begging me for more wings.

These are great with cold beer (as if there were any doubt). If you have friends over, make sure you double or triple up on the recipe. I made 2 kilos worth for my family (6 adults and 3 and 1/2 children) and they disappeared in about an hour along with 6 pitcher bottles of Cass.

Other variations include using leftover sauce to cook chicken strips (less oven time) to put on a nice green salad and using the same sauce for full-sized drumsticks (needs more oven time). I even used the same sauce for making squid side dishes (오징어구이안주) which met with approval from young and old.

Enjoy and be sure to drop me a comment if you give it a try and let me know how it turned out.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Hostages Released but at what cost?

If you are stupid enough to believe this, then it didn't cost a thing (in terms of money anyway).

The office of President Roh Moo-hyun Friday indirectly denied news reports
alleging that the South Korean government has paid a hefty ransom to the Taliban
in return for the recent release of South Korean hostages.

"There is no secret agreement with the Taliban other than the already announced
conditions for the hostage release," Roh's spokesman, Cheon Ho-seon, said in his
daily media briefing.

We've all heard this kind of denial from public officials in the past so take it with a grain of salt. I just wonder how long it will be before the lie is uncovered on this one.
At any rate, they have 'promised' to bring home the few troops that South Korea has there and additionally will not send any more missionaries into the country (Which I expect to be enforced about as well as the traffic and parking laws) yadayadayada....WHAT A BUNCH OF WUSSES....tell me I'm wrong! Make me eat my words Prez Roh!!

This is the only time when I could say that I wish the propensity for breaking contracts found in many aspects of this society would manifest itself. Why not? We told the Taliban that we are going to give them everything they want (except money...puhahahahahaha) and get what we want for a while (hostages back) then do to the Taliban exactly what has been done to thousands of foreign hagwon teachers for years....break the contract....and just to show 'em who's the hagwon owner boss:
1. Try to ascertain where the Taliban that kept the captives are by questioning the hostages and then send an additional 2000 combat troops into the areas to hunt down the Taliban (and get our money back) and hold them hostage for a month or so and make them watch D-war, 동방신기 (DongBangShinGi) and 바다 (Bada) for a couple of days, they'll be so confused they won't know what to do.
2. Then, just to be spiteful, have the government sponsor two or three planeloads of proselytizers to go there and administer some humanitarian aid under the protection of another 1000 or so troops.

Why should we do that? We promised that we wouldn't?

1. Because a promise made under duress of this sort is not a promise it is a survival instinct and therefore needs not be kept.
2. The Taliban is not a government entity and to even give them the political time of day is wrong in too many ways to count.
3. Because there comes a point in the history of a country where it is time to at least ask for a kiss before lubing up and bending over for this kind of thing. (first the NORKS, then the Nigerian militants, and now the Taliban, who's next?)
4. Otherwise it's just to bloody embarrassing

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Top 20 reasons to lose 100 lbs. in Korea.

As a bit of a celebratory shot...having reached the 100 lb. mark:
Though I'm still fat by most anyone's definition, some things have gotten better. Not all of them are specifically related to Korea...just to losing large quantities of weight. So, without further adieu: TOP TWENTY REASONS TO LOSE WEIGHT IN KOREA.

20. Summer seems just a little less stifling (a little mind you!)

19. Your mother-in-law actually TELLS you to eat more

18. The thought of joining your colleagues for a climb up the local ‘mountain’ no longer strikes fear into your heart.

17. Your wife’s need to keep the house at a constant 30 C no longer makes you fear winter

16. You get to buy new clothes at the market.

15. You can actually walk down the aisles between the students

14. You actually have a LAP again

13. You can hold both your children on you LAP at the same time

12. You can sit (almost) comfortably in a school desk.

11. You can carry your children Korean style (riding on your back with hands locked under their behind)

10. The scale at the local sauna can actually tell you how much you weigh now.

9. You no longer have to call home for a care package of underwear once a year. You can finally buy a pair of underwear at E-mart

8. You hear the word “DoongDoong” (fat) a LOT less in public places.

7. You can get in your friends car without asking him to pull away from the curb so you can open the door without grounding it to the sidewalk.

6. Shock value. You have lost more than the average female college student weighs. 흑!

5. You now ‘fit’ in your Korean car. Your belly no longer touches the steering wheel and someone can actually sit in the seat behind you.

4. You no longer displace large quantities of water when getting in the public bath. This results in the secondary benefit of not having to endure the looks of the attendant and other patrons when this happens.

3. Kids now pet your arms instead of patting your stomach. Buy a bottle of Veet and you will become pretty much invisible.

2. You don’t set off the ‘over limit’ alarm in a half-full Elevator anymore: thus avoiding perhaps the single most embarrassing moment in your life.

1. Your wife tells you your ‘gochu’ looks bigger (According to Oprah’s Dr. Oz, men gain 1 inch per 35 pounds (15.8KG) -- that means almost 3 more inches!!

If anyone has any more to add, please feel free in the comments.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blogosphere uber alles!!!

I noticed that my post on my Korean bumper car driving experience has been translated in its entirety and posted on a site German site called "Travel Notes" It apparently has articles about travel from various worldwide blogs. My German is both rusty and weak to begin with but it appears that there are articles from all over from this prolific blogger who appears to post 3 to 5 articles or more per day of translated posts mostly dealing with travel. If I'm off on this, or if I have missed something, someone please let me know. Now I know that in Germany, my blog can be called "Ansicht vom Zaun"

Gotta love the internet and this blogosphere we live in...and just in case the blogger from Travel Notes is a regular reader: tausend dank!!

Also worth noting (but admittedly not quite as exciting) is the trackback from the already world- famous GIKorea ROK Drop. Hooah!

And now for a moment with nature

Anybody out there know what kind of spider this is and if it is at all poisonous? It sure does look menacing and it was the biggest spider I have seen around here (about 3.5 inches across). I just happened to have my 'dica' with me and this picture came out pretty good.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

D-war: the round-eye view

To hear the Korean media hype D-war, you would think that it was quite a cinematic experience. The thought that media hype equals cinematic quality is an idea that I got over a long time ago, regardless of the national origin of the movie. But I am willing to give any film a viewing, especially when it is not coming out of my own pocket. My wife, her brother and his wife and I decided to go and check out a late night movie last weekend and though I preferred to go and see the Transformer movie, the others had already seen it, so I was trumped and D-war was 'obvious' choice since most of the other theaters were showing that KwangJu Massacre movie which would be WAY beyond my language ability.

The Lowdown -- Warning: possible spoilers (?)

The 'plot' brings an old Korean legend into the present day with a story about a serpent (with its evil army) battling it out with a 'good' dragon. Having missed the last time around in Korea, 500 years ago, they are both seeking the sacrificial maiden with a birthmark on her chest while a reincarnated guru and his student are assigned the task of protecting her by taking her to 'the grand cave' for a sacrifice to the 'good' dragon.

The key to watching this movie is a healthy dose of 'suspension of disbelief.' Perhaps there are some things lost in the translation between the Korean and English, but it just seems like the plot is all over the place and we are asked to just 'accept' too much that doesn't make any sense, like why the dragon, who is capable of instantly flipping a car hundreds of meters into the air or slithering up the side of the Liberty Tower can't seem to chase down what looks like (and likely is) an old Hyundai Excel on a straight stretch of suburban road. The absence of any late model or luxury vehicles in L.A. is also a bit distracting for anyone who has ever been there (or even seen it in another movie). Why this good-looking TV reporter (Behr) wears a ridiculous-looking pendant around his neck everywhere he goes is also a mystery. Obviously, it is all made clear to us in the end...sort of.

I was expecting this cinematic blockbuster and what I got was kick-ass Hollywood-style computer graphics show on top of a bad B-movie with a few washed up television actors topped off with the 'I-am-Korean-and-everybody-told-me-I-couldn't-do-it-but-i-did' self-aggrandizing, nationalistic cherry at the end of the movie.

The acting by both the Korean and American actors was poor; probably owing to poor script writing more than the abilities of the actors. Leading man, Jason Behr the may be used to cheesy scripts from his television drama days but he couldn't get a handle on this Limburger. Robert Forster, who has been around since the beginning of time and has even been nominated for an Oscar lent a pivotal roll as the storyteller and reincarnated protector and was probably the most convincing roll in the movie. Sarah, the sacrificial maiden for whom all the chaos is wrought, is played with amazing lifelessness by relative (and probably henceforth) unknown Amanda Brooks. This movie is full of mostly television actors, like Elizabeth Pena , that you will probably recognize from the fringes of various dramas and sitcoms. I couldn't find much information on the Korean actors that helped to set up the thin plot at the beginning of the movie, but the performances were no better than the American actors. Again, I blame most of this on the poorly written script and one would suspect that a director who is as stubborn as he claims probably did not allow much freedom to the American actors to make appropriate changes. It is also worth noting that the director was a comedian in his former incarnation here in Korea. This might also help to explain some of the ridiculous dialogue.

Another distracting aspect of the film is the battle sequences. The evil army was well portrayed with graphics but the 'American' forces did not resemble closely enough what we would expect for the situation, again likely due to the limited budget and the need to keep the number of extras to a minimum. However, as Hollywood has shown us in movies like Troy and Alexander, much can be done with graphics to show larger forces than are economically feasible. The small number of forces brought out to fight against the mammoth serpent attacking downtown L.A. or the evil cannon-toting dinosaur army just didn't seem realistic considering the reality of U.S. forces available in the area (see map below). I suppose the director couldn't afford to scramble any air power from Edwards, Pendleton, or Palms or troops from any of the hundreds of other bases in the area.

So, who should go and see this movie? --Kids would probably love it as it resembles an episode of Power Rangers on a combination of meth and crack. Computer graphics-philes will love this movie since the most spectacular thing about it is the object of their philia. Others with time and money to kill might find it entertaining just to count the number of Hyundais in LA; be sure to buy lots of popcorn.

Finally, I can understand that the budget of this movie and its directors access to the necessary materials to make this movie a top notch production may have been limited and it makes sense for anyone trying to promote a movie to go full-bore and try and make your movie seem like a masterpiece that's worth the money. Hollywood has mastered the art of present a dud as a diamond. However, other than the graphics and perhaps it's directors stick-to-it-iveness, there is little else to applaud about this movie. The fact that more than 5 million people have seen it may be more due to hyper-nationalistim and a desire to support the gumption of its Korean director who I'm sure will not lose any sleep over what I or any other round-eye thinks about his movie