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.