Monday, April 30, 2007


Seems that there are other foreigners in Korea with the volunteer spirit. Good on 'em! My offer still stands for anyone out there with teaching skills; if you would like to volunteer to teach English in your area (even if it is not Daegu). I can help you to contact the right people and make it happen. If you are interested in other volunteer work, contact your local 'dong' office and they can usually point you in the right direction.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Let's SpeaKING???

You'd think that with the number of native speakers enslaved working at YBMs all over Korea they would be able to find just ONE who would willingly take two seconds to look at this advertising slogan and tell them how utterly WRONG it is and on how many different levels. Someone, somewhere must have thought this was a really clever use of the last part of the word "speaKING" which was (from the Korean in the ad) to tell the reader that they can become an "English Speaking King." The really sad thing is that too many of the target audience for this ad will actually understand EXACTLY what is meant by this poor excuse for English and think it actually IS clever. Then they will start using "Let's" with gerunds and other nouns to say really annoying clever things like, "Let's kisSING", "Let's Well-BEING" or "Let's DrinKING".

Note also: The symbols next to the woman's face that proclaim the years of quality awards received by the product that is YBM. How can you argue with that? It MUST be a good place to learn Konglish English, right?

In case I have erred and there is some obscure usage for a gerund with 'Let's' please let me know. Until then...look for more in the new "AD of the week" section.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Uni Lecturers: You may want to rethink that PhD you're gettin'

Last November, the Korean government passed a law that was intended to protect contracted workers by requiring employers to make an employee permanent after they have worked two years. The law has basically backfired because now the employers are firing their long-time employees to avoid making them permanent. Now a new wrinkle in the law means:

...employers will not have to give certified professionals,
including lawyers and doctors, and university lecturers with PhDs regular-worker
status even if they have been working for a company for more than two years. The
act also exempts office assistants and postpartum-care assistants.

How this makes any sense at all is known only to the people who passed the laws (and those that may have bribed them to do so) but what is interesting about the law is the part about university and college lecturers. If you have an M.A. you are covered under the law and should be made permanent after working for two years (no grandfather clause as I understand it which means 2 years from last November) but if you have a PhD. you are not protected.

I am going to wait and see how this effects the lives of the foreign lecturers around Korea. My guess is that the universities will do what has already been done wholesale to Koreans nationwide: let them go before the 2 years are up to avoid making them permanent.

That said; I think now might be a good time for foreign university lecturers around Korea to start an organization of some kind in order to take collective legal action should this become reality. As this law starts to take effect a lot of us could find ourselves looking for a job every two years. While some may not have a problem with this, I believe there are a lot of us out there who have been in Korea for a long time and have put down roots in hopes that we will be able to stick around and make a life for ourselves and our families without being forced to be transient.

The idea of compulsory tenure for foreign lecturers seems to be at a crossroads. There have already been some disturbing trends of unis suddenly setting contract limits and letting long-time foreign lecturers go for spurious reasons. On the other hand, I have also heard of a few people who have received or been offered tenure in some tertiary institutions here when they jump through the usual hoops. The stories vary widely but it seems to me that they should not. There are rules that govern the allotment of tenure for Korean professors and those same rules should be applied regardless of nationality.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm halfway there !!!

I finally made it above the 35KG mark. That means I'm half way to my goal. It has been a rough ride and a lot of ups and downs and I'm a little bit annoyed that it took 3 weeks longer than I had hoped to get there. I now sit at 114.2 as of this morning.
I know it will come off more slowly as I get closer to the 100KG mark (and painfully slow between 100 and the goal of 80KG) so I know I'm going to have to start some kind of exercise soon or it will just keep coming back. As I mentioned in my sidebar, I really want to get a recumbent trike to tool around in but the finances just aren't there right now.

My two cents on Cho, Seung-Hui and the VTech rampage

I have been watching the news since the incident and it seems that the foreign press has picked up on the apparent Korean collective shame (along with shock, dismay, paranoia and a host of other really neat adjectives) regarding the incident. In particular, I am personally dismayed at this seeming shame shared by the Korean psyche. Perhaps the problem is that I am not Korean so I cannot possibly understand the true feelings of the Korean collective. I grew up in the culture that truly created this monster and the one that bears the real shame for this tragedy: The culture of guns and violence that lives on the fringe of every suburban or rural hamlet across America. Cho was a apparently a fringe individual; a ghost in the hallways and invisible to most until it was too late. The system tried to reel him in but they were too little too late apparently; so much for hindsight.

Some of the media have discussed the Korean cultural aversion to mental health issues as a potential catalyst in this disastrous event. I have long been a proponent of the need for this country to take a good hard look at attitudes toward psychotherapy and counselling and this event certainly does not change my mind on that issue. The fact that the killers parents were raised in this environment certainly seems to suggest that they probably would not have approved his mandated need for counseling. So far, I have heard little about his parents except that they took the family from Seoul to the US many years ago to make a better life for their kids. Their story seems typical of the thousands of families that have done the same over the years since then and apparently those other families have not produced such killers. So how can we blame the Korean cultural ideology that seems to have produced a healthy percentage of the finest students in the United States simply because of one bad seed.

So I would like to offer a hearty dose of absolution for Koreans who feel shamed by this incident and those who feel that it may reflect badly upon Koreans in general. This feeling my seem justified under the circumstances. Paranoia of racial reprisal is a real threat in certain parts of the US and I can sympathize with those who feel they want to bring their children back to the relatively gunless shores of the ROK. But best way to view this is perhaps a healthy dose of denial. To me, Cho, Seung-Hui was NOT Korean; not any more than the Columbine killers were. Because this is not about race, this is about violence, guns, alienation and an additional failure of the system to act on a problem that was recognized long ago.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Teaching for Free - Why do it?

ATTENTION ENGLISH TEACHING F2 VISA HOLDERS (and anyone else who is able):
I am officially recommending that if you have a couple extra hours a week to give free teaching in your community a shot, it is an excellent idea. Many communities have cultural and education centers that offer classes in things like yoga, Chinese, knitting, and other hobbies and activities but English is conspicuously absent from the lists. So, if you are interested and are not sure how to go about it in your community or where to go, please comment or email me and I will try to hook you up.

WHY do it? Here's what I thing (If anyone cares :)

1. As long-time residents and/or F2 visa holders, we have a stake in our communities even if we don't plan to live here forever. The more we make our presence known in a positive way, the better outlook the community can have on the foreign community at large. This benefits both sides.

2. We have all read the negative stories about some foreign teachers; drug users, philanderers, pushers, child abusers, perverts, gangsters, etc. The press seems to try and paint a negative picture of English teachers whenever possible. The only people who are more undeservedly vilified in the press than English teachers are the soldiers of the USFK. Here is an opportunity to turn some of this negative press around.

3. I have heard that in Seoul some of the foreign communities do have a high rate of presence in their communities. But out here in the provinces and outside of these communities, foreigners are fewer and farther between.

4. Having a presence in your community helps level the playing field by giving you a voice in that community when discrimination rears its ugly head. Discrimination is a fact of life for foreigners in Korea. But you will find that the people who work in the local offices are much more understanding and helpful than the average Joe Kim in this situation.

5. For uni and college teachers - volunteer work is something that Korean professors are obligated to do and if any of us EVER expect or would like to have tenure...well, I won't say it get the picture.

6. Volunteerism is highly respected in Korea (as it should be everywhere) but it is highly UNexpected that foreigners will get involved in this way.

7. I know that the USFK has several volunteer organizations that do great work in their communities that include English teaching in orphanages and these are great. So I know that I am not the first to do anything like this. But I have never heard any stories of foreign teachers getting involved in their neighborhoods. I would like to see that change.

8. ____add your own thoughts in the comments section. :)

Other potential benefits include:

1. Private lessons - If you teach private lessons (most F2 holders I know do) you will be surprised at how a class of 20 or so housewives can drum up lessons without even being asked to do so.

2. A presence in the community, particularly with people in local government, will make you a valuable asset to your school. Something that 1 or 2 year contract holders can appreciate.

3. If you teach an evening class, you may find that you are offered more side jobs than you can handle. (How many of you would like to be so busy that you actually have to turn down 50,000 won-plus per hour jobs?)

5. It cannot be expected in a volunteer class, of course, but you may find that you are paid a 'transportation fee' that is more than your school pays you for overtime.

I haven't been doing it for very long but I really can't see any seriously negative aspects to this type of volunteerism. Even if you never get any of these benefits, you still get the benefits of being know and respected as a person who cares about your neighbors and your community. So, once again, if you would like to take the step to be more civic minded then please comment or email me with your questions and thoughts.

If anyone reading this has any other stories about volunteering in Korea (particularly English teaching), I would love to hear them.

Teaching for Free - Unexpected Developments

I walked into the ward office about twenty minutes before class this week and was flagged down by the “team leader” and invited into the area of the office where the important meetings usually take place. I exchanged niceties with an expectant looking gentleman who was introduced to me as the director of the local cultural center. As soon as I heard who he was, I must admit that the warning bells in my head started going off. Was this guy going to start asking me to teach somewhere else for free?

As it turns out, the Dalseo-Gu Advanced Cultural Center is looking to add English to the list of classes that they offer to the community and this gentleman was looking for some assistance in that respect. Since I can speak some Korean (woefully little after 11 years) they wanted to discuss it with me. I explained that my schedule was too busy this semester to take on any other commitments for teaching. Then, the “team leader” asked me if I could help them to find another foreigner teacher. I explained that unfortunately between school and family commitments I don’t have very much contact with other foreigners (except my much loved readers and fellow bloggers :) and the others on my campus have E2 (school sponsored) visas. I also explained the visa situation that most foreigners face when trying to teach extra classes of any kind. Anything but an F-2 (family sponsor visa) holder would be hard pressed to get permission to teach such a class. I also explained that, in my opinion, there probably would not be too many foreigners out there who would be willing to teach free classes.
It was then that they explained to me that the classes were not free. Much to the contrary, they are very lucrative to the point of being almost irresistible, but the pay depends on the number of students enrolled as the teacher is paid a (very healthy) percentage of the fees paid by the students. I said that I would post this information on my blog and a couple of other places I know about in hopes that some native speaker out there might be interested in taking it on.

There is a sort of catch though. They aren’t looking for just any foreign teacher. They want someone from the community (Daegu and/or DalSeo-Gu) that has, in their words, “a title” like a foreign professor from a local college or university who would be able and willing. By having a recognizable title, they can hopefully draw more students and keep the class going. Makes sense, right?
SO….if anyone out there reads this and you are in Daegu, drop me a comment or an email and I can try and hook you up since I am currently unavailable for this venture.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Enough with the Persecution Complex Already!

The things that pass for news these days! The Chosun Ilbo laments the current view of Koreans in recent Hollywood movies:

The most egregious example was the movie "Falling Down," directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Michael Douglas. It was released here in 1997, a full four years late, due to opposition from civic groups. In the early part of the movie, a recalcitrant Korean shopkeeper is subjected to a tirade by Michael Douglas’ Angry White Guy. "You come to my country, take my money and don't even learn my language?" Douglas asks. "Do you have any idea how much money my country has given your country?"

And I suppose that there are no Koreans that would do that, so the portrayal of an individual Korean as having this type of personality is just unrealistic, right?

I could say a few words about the way foreigners are treated in the Hallyuwood. I could say how the US Army was demonized in Koreas biggest hit movie "The Host". I could say how local television news programs continuously portray foreign English teachers as unqualified, philandering drug-dealing good-for-nothings. I could go on an on about the lack of even a slightly interesting foreign character in ANY Korean movie or drama. Then I might segue into a tirade about how whenever foreigners ARE cast on big or small screen the dialogue that is written for them is unrealistic and exaggerated. Then I could mention the apparent lack of acting skills found in the foreigners cast. I could go on and on about SES and their public anti-Americanism. I could, go on...but I won't. I hate to state the obvious here but there are people both good and bad in all races. Hollywood and Hallyuwood are cut from the same cloth. Get over yourself!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Something Important to Think About: An Inconvenient Truth

I don't consider myself to be a liberal (though my father would likely disagree) and I am certainly not one that runs around telling everyone they have to "save the planet" but I just got done watching the Academy Award winning documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth" and I have to say that if you are at all unaware, curious or intrested in the global warming issue you really need to take the time and see this film.
The man who would be president, Al Gore, has been travelling all over the world sharing the basic message that we as a planet of humans are in BIG trouble. He paints a pretty grim picture of the future in his presentation of what he claims are the FACTS about global warming and I must admit he is considerably more believable than Michael Moore or those idiots from "Loose Change" Throughout the near feature length film he presents a variety of intellectually stimulating information that will really make you at least think if not start doing something about it.
There are certainly detractors, naysayers and those who just plain old don't like Al Gore at all (not the least of which I am sure are the oil and auto industries) and I am still trying to sift through all of the information to decide if what he says is as worrisome as he would like us to believe. But nevertheless, the documentary is presented in an way that will at least make you more aware of some of the issues you probably know about as well as some that you may not. And if you are like me, some of it will be shocking to say the least.

Watch the trailer:

Friday, April 06, 2007

Blogger News bar question for anyone

Google has this cool new feature where you can put a news reel in your blog but when i try to use it it only comes up with Korean news. My blogger and my blog is all in English but my news is in Korean. What gives? Anyone know how to fix this or do i just have to complain to google.

Teaching for free II

A few weeks ago I posted about a volunteer teaching job that I started at the local 'dong' office (read more here). Unexpected turn of events: the office decided to start paying me a 'transportation fee' as they do with all the teachers that do work there. It turns out that this fee works out to 15,000 won per hour!! That's more than my own college gives me for teaching overtime classes and only 5,000 less than they pay for 'continuing education' classes. Go figure.

The class is going great. There are about 25 or so housewives who have stuck it out so far and they seem to be enjoying the class.

Not fast enough with the camera

I really gotta practice taking pictures of the things I see around town with my cellphone camera. I saw something that would have made a great picture of just how silly things are with the police. I was sitting at a traffic light waiting to go straight with 2 lanes next to me, 15 cars deep waiting to turn left. The taxi in front of me bypassed the two lines of left-turning traffic and went to the front of the line placing him in front of another car that had done the same thing and wound up squarely in the middle of the crosswalk. Now, this in and of itself would not have been so suprising or upsetting since I see it every day but there was a police car sitting on the sidewalk on the same side of the street. To top this all off another police officer walked across from the opposite side of the street when the crosswalk light changed. He walked right between the two erring cars without even looking crossly at them. I beeped at him and when he looked at me, I indicated the two cars and shrugged my shoulders; blank stare and he walked away and got into his squad car (assumably for a nap). I really wanted to get out and let him have it but there was no where to park and I did not want to risk that he would decide to start giving tickets with me. I just wish I would have taken a picture.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I hate to say I told you so (not!)

I posted a few weeks back on the subject of weight loss and "why Koreans are becoming fatter" and it seems that those in the know agree with me.

Nocturnal snacks are doing serious damage to the health of Koreans, experts say. It’s not easy to keep a resolution to go on a diet when it is possible to have fried chicken or smoked pork hocks delivered within five minutes even at 1:00 a.m. just by making a phone call. But experts warn that nighttime snacks
are emerging as one of the country’s leading health threats.
In my post I cited night eating (which the linked article calls 'dysphagia')and the Korean night eating culture as a (or even 'the') major cause of the expanding Korean waistline and it looks like I may be on to something. I can certainly tell you that my own battle with dysphagia has been successful so far. I am now down 35kg which is half way to my goal and I credit the larger part of my success on my 'no food in the mouth after 6pm' policy. I can also tell you that just like any good 'holic' (is there a 12-step program for dysphagia?) I have had my relapses where I have consumed food at night and each time it has happened, the scale tells the tale the next morning; usually to the tune of 1 or 2 kilos.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Yellow Sand goes above 2000 in Daegu

According to the 18th Medcom site (check the sidebar) the yellow sand level for sunday hit 2019 which is INSANE? I have to wonder if the reading was accurate. Evidently the monitor did not record for several hours after the peak. However, if you look at the picture from my office window below, you might start to believe it. I was only outside for a few minutes and from inside I thought it was just another rainy, dark day but I could literally taste the sand in the air. When I got home I felt like I had been playing in a sandbox all afternoon and so immeditely upon returning home I washed my hands and face, changed my clothes brushed my teeth to get the nasty taste out. According to the advisory levels chart, 1000 is "hazardous" 300-500 is considered unhealthy!

On another but related note: most mornings (afternoons and evenings too), the managment office in my apartment comes on the public address system and tells us about some person selling things in the parking lot as well as important things like water tank cleanings, planned electricity outages, servicing of elevators, etc. They even tell us of other items of news like the singing contest in the local park last Saturday evening. Something that would be of great use to everyone, I'm sure, is if they would come on and WARN us not to go outside because of the dust. I had no idea since I don't watch Korean news that much and on Sunday, I don't really read the news either.

There really needs to be some kind of system to warn of these things, no?

Here is the view from my office window at about 5 pm yesterday.

Here is what it looks like today.

And this is not from my office, but it is from the same campus and in the same general direction last Friday when the level was near zero. (with the same camera and setting) Notice that you can see the mountains in the background and the buldings far in the distance.