Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Welcome back, Clam

My other blog, Ask the Expat, is rolling along quite well, but I miss this one as well, so I'm going to pick it back up. I'm also going to pick up "Musings Over Makkoli" so I can make fun of other bloggers as well.

While getting my daily dose of war history, I came across an excellent paper by Professor Richard C. Kagan of Hamline University. He titled it, DISARMING MEMORIES: JAPANESE, KOREAN, AND AMERICAN LITERATURE ON THE VIETNAM WAR and I recommend that you take a look at it.

It's quite long and I'm going to mention a couple things about it soon.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ask the Expat

Ever since the US election ended, I've tried to refocus some of my attention back towards Korean issues and have found it trivial and tiring. The K-Blogosphere is already so polluted with everyone writing the same thing, that I decided that I have had enough of it.

That being said, I am not abandoning Korea or the scene, but I will alter my focus.

I have been an expat in Korea for nearly half a decade and have seen just about everything. On top of that, I am the creator of the largest ESL Teacher group on Facebook where I constantly field questions on everything ranging from immigration and teaching to kayaking and rock climbing. There really is nothing that has not been addressed.

So, rather than relying on the sometimes confusing design that Facebook and other forums offer, I decided to answer each question I receive in detail. I'll usually answer your question on the blog within 24 hours and if I don't know the answer, I'll point you to someone who does.

I also understand that this is very similar to Ask a Korean, but I figured adding a helpful twist to it for us expats wouldn't hurt.

So, if you wanna check out Ask the Expat, then there's your link...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Texas Secedes from the Union...finally.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided that his state has had just about enough of the Obama administration and Democratic rule and has declared Texas as a sovereign... something.

“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” Gov. Perry said. “That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.”

Of course, Palin and Glenn Beck approve.

The real question is how do we rescue the more liberal-minded Texans? Would they stay and form a internal resistance, like the French Resistance during WWII? Or would we need to form an underground railroad to shuttle them to safety? What happens to the NASA space center in Houston?

My ideas:

1) Let Texas go and we build one of those fences they love so much around them.

2) Encourage Mexico to reclaim it.

3) Allow them to elect W again.

Honestly though, I doubt that Perry could point to even one specific change that has negatively impacted Texas. Could someone please name ONE single Republican that is not acting like a little baby nowadays?

As Jon Stewart said, "You're in the minority. It's supposed to taste like a shit sandwich."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Koreatown vs. Little Bangladesh: The Dokdo of America

The Korean-American community in California has had their hands full recently. It hasn't even been a week since Susie Kim was shot and killed in Santa Ana and now another Korean-American, Joseph Han, has met the same fate.

The details surrounding those shootings have yet to surface as the investigations continues, but Korean-Americans are facing another threat. Their bastion in LA known as Koreatown has been invaded by the pesky Bangladeshis.

"The Bangladeshi American community says that its numbers have swelled to more than 10,000. Last year, proponents filed a petition with the city to designate the area from Third Street to Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue to Western Avenue as "Little Bangladesh."

The problem with this is that the inhabitants of Koreatown have never had to file a petition before. (They have now.) The law didn't protect such enclaves, but offered only de facto status and since no other migrant community has threatened their "sovereignty" they saw no reason to do so.

In the last 30 years or so, a six-square-mile area west of downtown Los Angeles has become an enclave of some 50,000 Korean-Americans, the largest concentration of Koreans in the country. The district is now commonly known as Koreatown. But on the city’s official maps, Koreatown is nowhere to be found, because until 2006, Los Angeles had no formal process for designating neighbourhoods. Korean civic groups say they always simply assumed that the area was officially Koreatown."

The amount of Bangladesh's living in LA as per the 2000 Census was a measly 1700, but now some estimates are closer to 10,000. That's a huge increase that has been fueled mostly by natural disaster, poverty and civil war.

Let's take a look at what we're talking about here. Below is a wider view of LA with Koreatown highlighted.

Now, here is a closer look at it with the area that was petitioned to become "Little Bangladesh".

That's a pretty big slice right out of the center of Koreatown and the local Korean community is angry.

"It means power," she said as she hemmed a pair of pants inside the dry cleaners where she's worked for a decade. "Koreatown is already established. . . . Why can't they find another place?"

Besides the obvious rants that some Koreans aren't great with multiculturalism, she brings up a good point. It's clear that the Bangladeshis want to capitalize on the progress that Koreatown has made and kind of bypass the whole process of creating a migrant district. LA is huge. There are tons of places where rent is also cheap, but they chose Koreatown and it's very center at that. If the Bengladeshi population continues to grow at the rate that they have been for the past decade, then the location of Little Bangledesh certainly poses a threat to Koreatown. If the proposed location was, say, on the outskirts of town, then its growth wouldn't necessarily threaten Koreatown as much.

I totally side with the Koreans on this one. They moved to that area over 40 years ago. Since then, they have opened stores, dry-cleaners, restaurants and other businesses. It's been a cultural destinationa and a haven for Koreans for decades. During the LA Riots, they defended it from thugs, gangsters and looters. They have shed blood for that district. They deserve to be able to retain the naming rights to the area. The City of LA should not ignore the shared experiences that have bound the Korean-American population to that area.

Luckily for the Koreans, I do not see this passing. I hope that LA would not shit on their Korean community like that.

If it does pass and "Little Bangladesh" does get recognized by the city, then Koreans have a couple options. They can try to bully the Bangladeshis out or they could work together and try to collaboratively promote the area.

Not a great month for Korean-Americans in Southern California.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Field Trip to the DMZ"

ROKDrop and One Free Korea have this PBS video up. I thought I'd psot it here.

Shouting for their mothers was the saddest.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Hyundai Nuvis: It's Pretty Damn Cool

It looks like Hyundai's got a few fresh ideas.

The 11th concept car penned by Hyundai's California Design Center in Irvine is called the Nuvis. Sporting gullwing doors, the Nuvis is noteworthy for two reasons: First, its hybrid drivetrain will find its way into the next-generation Hyundai Sonata, and second, Hyundai says the concept's styling hints at what the Santa Fe's replacement could look like.

I must admit that I don't know about much cars, but this one sounds pretty cool. I like the gull-wing doors and the big entrance to the back seat. I've had a two door before and it was always a pain for my passengers to get back there.
"The large gullwing doors open to a luxurious 4-seat cabin with a "cascading" floor and ambient blue lighting. The seat fabric is made from 100-percent reclaimed soda bottles, while the seatbelts were made by Harveys Original Seatbeltbags (they make handbags out of seatbelts); Harveys also provided two matching handbags for the Nuvis."

I'm not sure about the seat fabric being from bottles, but it sounds "environmental". Still, the best part is that it's a parallel hybrid. That's cool.
"...the Nuvis can be driven in all-electric mode, gasoline-engine-only mode as well as any combination thereof. Engine management software automatically shuts off the gasoline engine when the Nuvis comes to a stop, improving overall fuel mileage and providing zero emissions, while Hyundai's Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) restarts the engine once pressure is applied to the accelerator pedal."

This concept video -while a little overdramatic and blue- sold me.

Did you see that steering wheel? That's sweet. On a side note, did one of the guys in the video pronounce "Hyundai" (현대) as "Hundai" (헌대)? I guess it's better than Hun-DYE (헌다이) as it so often is in America. I'm still not sure why they didn't spell is Hyundae from the beginning. It would have saved some trouble. But, I guess it's the same as the name issue -any effort will suffice.

They did manage to add an extremely useless high-tech bragging point component to the car's computer system.
The Nuvis's instrument panel streams information throughout the cabin, with passengers able to access each other via Methode Electronics TouchSense technology that links all four seats; after all, why go to the trouble of actually talking to one another?

This is a great time for Hyundai to introduce a new concept like this. Aside from the recession, they obviously have America's attention and should take advantage of it and keep on riding the wave.

Not that you care, but my wife and I bought new bicycles today. They're foldable and totally sexy.

2NE1's New Song: Lollipop

At first I hated it. Then I liked it, but by the end of the song, I decided that I hated it again. It kind of reminds me a little of DISCO by 엄정화 which was equally fun at first, but also grew irritating by the end of the first listen. Even though this one might be my favorite Lollipop-based song, I don't think Lil Wayne or The Chordettes should be worried.

The lyrics are repulsive and the hair is absurd, but in its defense, it does have a fun 90s-era dance beat to it. Then again, that's all Big Bang-related groups do, so this is nothing special. I think K-Pop needs to start taking some cues from Heavy D & The Boyz or move past its current, but already tired sound.

Would I add to my MP3? -no. Will I ever listen to it again? I hope not.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Americans Love Teabagging. Do you?

You've heard the news. Americans love to teabag.

Best quotes:

"It's going to be teabagging 24/7 by the time of midterms"

"Who wouldn't want to teabag John McCain?"

"Tea bag the fools in DC."

"Let's teabag Obama."

"Teabag the liberal Dems before the teabag you."

Despite what the right-wing media is saying, no one thinks that this is a movement organized by the people. The average person knows what teabagging is.

Who would you like to tea bag?

Asian-Americans Must Adopt English Names -OR- Rep. Betty Brown is a Racist

At least that's what a conservative Texas lawmaker wants.

AUSTIN — A North Texas legislator during House testimony on voter identification legislation said Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”

The comments caused the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday to demand an apology from state Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell. But a spokesman for Brown said her comments were only an attempt to overcome problems with identifying Asian names for voting purposes.

The exchange occurred late Tuesday as the House Elections Committee heard testimony from Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Ko told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting and other forms of identification because they may have a legal transliterated name and then a common English name that is used on their driver’s license on school registrations.

Names that are "easier for Americans to deal with", huh? By making this statement she is essentially classifying what is and isn't "American".This line in the sand is dangerously alienating to huge groups of Americans.

Does she see American as a white country full of Jones', Smiths', Williams' and this guy?

Cause this is how I see it. (And yes, that is from California Dreams.)

Last year alone, half of the new citizens in the US were Hispanics -mostly from Mexico, Cuba and El Salvador. Does that mean they need to alter their names as well? Of course it doesn't. That would cost her the Latino vote.

There is nothing easy about pronouncing names from around the world. Sometimes you get it right and sometime you don't, but just because you can't say it accurately, doesn't give mean THEY should change their name to accommodate your ignorance.

Personally, I don't like it when my students (especially adults) take English names. I know a lot of them see it as a nickname while their mothers spend hours online trying to figure out which one is good enough or popular enough, but your name is your name.

My name is George and in Korean it is written 조지 and pronounced "Jo-ji". Do I get upset when my name is pronounced like this? No.I understand where I am. I know it's a little uncomfortable for Koreans to make the "R" sound when saying my name. I'm not offended though. The Asian-American community is not going to be upset if their name is pronounced a little incorrectly, but making them change it under the guise of voter identification should not be an option.

Take the immortal Kim Yu-na for instance.

Her name is 김연아 which should be written and pronounced as Yeon-ah, but most people in fact pronounce it 김유나 or Kim Yu-na. She has been called Yu-na Kim over and over again, yet is not bothered by it. My brother-in-laws name is 김영승 or Kim Young-seung, but when my family was over here, they called him Kim Young-song. Did he care? Not at all. In fact, he was happy that they were trying.

Ultimately, this Texas lawmaker is gunning for voters in a state that is filled with ethnic diversity and racial tension. She's stoking the fire here and decided to throw the Asian-American community under the bus (again) since they have long been considered "Natural Republicans" and are a sure thing. (Not true by the way.)

She really displayed here intelligence with one of her closing statements.

"Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

Really? Is that what the Chinese-Americans wanted? They wanted people to learn Chinese so everyone can properly pronounce Chinese names? What a racist c**t.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Korean Cops and Traffic Laws for Expats: Some Advice

I'd like to offer some advice to any expats out there who also have a scooter, motorcycle or even a car in the form of a simple story.

One of the powers of being a motorized bike driver in Seoul is the ability to ignore all traffic laws. The unstated rule among us is that if it's clear, go. It's certainly not allowed by the law, nor is it safe, but the bike culture here is based on speed and efficiency (a trait that many facets of Korean life lack). Most of the drivers out there are delivery drivers who carry huge loads and packages on the back of their bikes and a speedy arrival translates to more income.

I always laugh when I'm sitting on my scooter in the middle of these leather clad delivery road warriors. They're always smoking and are usually filthy looking. I, on the other hand, am much cleaner, listening to "Take My Breath Away" and wearing a suit. I look pretty damn out of place, so I laugh. The only other motor scooterists in suits are the entry-level guys who can't afford a car yet.

To the story...

The other day, I was waiting at an intersection for a green light that never seemed to come. My fellow drivers were only adding to my impatience by constantly revving their engine as they inched closer to running the light. Finally, the coast was clear and we all ran the light. That's usually how I judge it. If they go, I try to blend into to the mix and dash across the intersection. Most of the time, we're in no real danger, but if even if we were, we certainly wouldn't we give it a second thought. That's what we do.

As free or innocent as we usually feel, this time the police, who were literally hiding in the bushes, did not seem to agree. They had set up little red-light trap. Since I have a scooter, I have quicker acceleration than most motorcycle deliver guys, so I was leading the back (which I imagine looks equally as funny). The fuzz emerged from the shrubs and darted into the street waving batons, directing us to the side on the road. I thought about ignoring the officer's orders, but decided it would be best to pull over and see what they had to say.

I stopped the bike, pulled out the key and waited to be questioned and, I presumed, ticketed. An officer who looked like he was in his mid-forties approached me and asked me to remove my helmet. Up until this point, he assumed I was a Korean man. He was prepared for that, so when I took off my helmet, he was noticeably shocked. It totally threw him off his game. He paused and just started at me. After an awkward 30 second love-stare, he began Korean.

He tried to make it simple for me by speaking only in nouns with no verbs or anything "tricky".

"운전 면허증(drivers license)."

I knew what he had asked for. Simple context was more than enough. I understood, but did I want him to know that?

"뭐라고" I responded.

He said it again.

This time I just shrugged and pretended that I didn't understand a word he was saying. In frustration, he walked over to discuss the situation with his fellow officers. I watched them out of the corner of my eye. He was trying to find someone who spoke English. Besides the fact that they were busy dealing with other angry drivers, I could tell that none of them did. I don't think the Academy requires TOEIC scores.

He walked back over to me. He was looking at my license plate, or at least where my license plate is supposed to be. He pointed at it and said something I actually couldn't understand.

I shrugged.

Again because context is quite helpful in tricky situations, I fully understood what he was trying to say.I assume it was, "Where is your license plate? You should have a license plate!"

I shrugged.

After a few minutes of silent frustration, he looked at me and told me to carry my drivers license.

I shrugged.

"GO!" he fired back.

I did.

My first thought was that if this was America, I would have gotten a ticket and my lack of communication skills would have only made it bigger. No American police officer would do such a thing, but this guy did.

Either way, this officer had options. He could have found an English speaker if he wanted to. He could have asked for my ID card and tried to give me some sort of fine. He could have pushed harder for my drivers license or plate, but he didn't. It was easier to let me go than to go through the trouble. It boils down to the fact that these officers are underpaid and lazy. On top of that, he's not a Gangnam cop, so bribery is off the table, so it was just easier for him.

What did I learn?

Pretending not to understand a word (although a little embarrassing) got me out of a ticket and maybe more. Not having license plate on the bike (it's in my storage compartment under my seat) made it impossible to track. I was essentially a unregistered dude that somehow ascended to a level of greatness where traffic laws don't apply.

My advice to other expat motorcycle drivers?

Take off your license plates and play dumb. Forget all the "perpetuating a stereotype" or "being rude" talking points and play the game. It pays off.

Will this work everytime? No, but I assure you it won't hurt.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Seoul Traffic Lights

Wow. Was that almost two weeks away from this bad boy? Sorry...

As you know, I am brave enough to drive in this accident-ridden city and cool enough to drive a motor scooter. The other day, I discovered something about driving here.

When I go to work, I leave at the same time everyday. I take the same route and have even timed how fast I need to go in order to hit every light perfectly (70-80km/hr), so a drive from Gangnam to Jamsil takes twelve minutes rather than thirty. It took a few days to master, but I had it down well.

On April 1st, I did the same thing I always did. I left the house at the same time and was at the appropriate traffic light at 12:35 -just in time to beat the light. Well, this time, I was off. The light was not green like it always had been. I figured it was a fluke and waited it out. After all, the lights are on a cycle and I'll just pick up the next one in a few minutes.

So the light turned green and I sped on in my normal James Dean fashion, but was stopped at the next light. This pattern continued the entire way there. I have to go through nearly 20 lights to get to Jamsil and I got caught at every one. My commute took thirty minutes and I was late.

The next day I tried again and again was duped. The following day, I tried to leave a little earlier, but still couldn't manage my drive so I hit the lights accurately. Remember, I drive a scooter, so besides being very cool, I don't ever get caught in traffic. I drive on sidewalks, alleys, between buses, on the other side of the road and anywhere else that gets me to my destination faster. The traffic is not a hindrance.

The only thing I can assume that happened was the the City of Seoul, in a surprisingly clever move, changes the patterns of the lights every month so that motorcycle guys and taxis don't game the system which could lead to increased accidents as we believe we can predict the flow of traffic, therefore leading to carelessness and more accidents.

It's smart and I have yet to figure out April's system, but I will soon and then BAM! it'll be May.

Touche 서울...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Paul Krugman Song

There's been a lot of talk latetly about whether Krugman is making his forecasts for the press or out of sincerity, just as there has been a lot of talk about whether Geithner is qualified for the gig.

Here's a song about how some people might feel...

Dokdo and Dry Cleaning

While a little over the top, I admit that it makes picking up dry cleaning (the first time) a tad more interesting.

"...last year, when Chang-Duck Jeon, president of the Korean Dry Cleaners Association, assumed the role of publicist: He ordered 250,000 “Dokdo bags” from a South Korean manufacturer and solicited orders from the approximately 3,000 Korean-owned dry cleaners in the city. About 100 of them ended up stocking the bags."

I'd like to see Dokdo advertisments on condoms, tampons and toothpaste personally and, judging by the logic used to here, I just might get my wish.

He came up with the idea in July, during one of the semiregular flare-ups over the islands, which are now administered by South Korea. Mr. Jeon could not remember exactly what had set him off, but that month, the Japanese Education Ministry asked teachers and textbook publishers to make sure Japanese students understood their country’s claim to the islets.

Yes! Dispute equals dry cleaning bags!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Korea Times: Tap Water Blues by George Hogan

Sorry for the delay these days. 14 hours of teaching is hard. I did manage to squeeze in the time to submit my KT article this week...

They actually printed one that I sent in a week ago, so I guess I'll have another one this week. Maybe not.

Here it is...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Foreigner Dating Assistance

I think we're doing just fine, but Sunoo wants to make some more cash and have proven they have no shame lying for profit.

Maybe I've been in Korea too long and suspect that everything is somehow "anti-foreigner", but this one seems a little suspect.

Sunoo, the country's second-largest matchmaking firm by market share, last month kicked off a matchmaking site for foreigners, becoming the first local agency to offer services to non-Koreans.

With an online registration ( fee of $20, members can instantly access Sunoo's client database of 15,000 men and women ― 200-300 Koreans who speak English and currently 50 foreigners residing in Korea ― explained Erica Oh, global team manager of Sunoo.

The article goes on to talk about safety and other concerns with managing foreigners, but I see this as an effort to put foreigners in relationships with anybody else BUT Koreans. Besides, Korean women can't actually fall in love with foreigners. They just want to study English.

Am I losing perspective?

Photohunt: Spring Break Recession

It looks like the global recession is starting to slow party-life in college.

Spring-breakers, mostly from Canada, enjoy themselves at the beach in the resort city of Cancun, Mexico Wednesday March 4, 2009. The U.S. State Department and universities in the U.S. are warning college students headed for Mexico for some spring-break partying of a surge in drug-related murder and mayhem south of the border

I assume they're all Canadian because Canada has Spring Break earlier. Canadians should know that Mexico is America's playground, not theirs. They can go to Daytona Beach and hang out with the locals. They'd fit in more there anyways.


The image on the top is the original and the bottom one is the edited image.

Can you spot the edit?

Rules: You must clearly identify what I edited. It could be color, size, add-ons or anything, but it will only be one edit.

Running Tally:

Sid, USA: 3

Sarah, USA: 2

Brian, ROK: 1

Korea Beat, ROK: 1

Jeffery Hodges, ROK: 1

Korean Tap Water

Last night a car engine backfired close to my bedroom window, jostling me from my seemingly deep slumber. Nonetheless, I welcomed the unexpected wait-up call as a chance to rehydrate my body with the usual cathartic chugging of the nearest bottle of purified water. I stumbled out of bed and clumsily made my way to the fridge, peered inside, but did not see any water. I scanned my dark apartment in hopes of finding a forgotten bottle lurking under the couch. To my dismay, I saw nothing. Frustrated, I opened the cabinet, took out my favorite orange glass and filled it with tap water. As I drank, I imagined all the bacteria and pollutants flowing into my helpless body. The odor and flavor were only adding to my fears that I was drinking contaminated water, but I had to drink something. After I finished, I realized that this previously dormant distaste of tap water was a direct product of my enculturation into Korean society.

Shortly after arriving in Korea, I decided to invite a few friends over to my apartment. At some point, I stood up to get some water and, like usual, I held my cup under the tap and starting filling it up. In almost perfect unison, all of my friends instructed me to stop. They informed me that drinking tap water in Korea wasn’t safe and that I should simply go to 711 and buy bottles. From that moment on, the fear was instilled and now, three years later, I very rarely drink the stuff. And if you ask the average Korean, they will say the same.

For years, the City of Seoul has been tirelessly trying to encourage its water consumption. They’ve staged taste tests, publicized purity results and are currently sending teams of water specialists to homes around the city in hopes of calming the masses with quick, on-the-spot purity tests. All of these efforts are aimed at squelching the concerns of the citizens, but will they work?

If you ask a Seoul-ite whether or not they drink tap water, you will certainly get a ‘no’, invariably followed by a list of complaints. They’ll say the taste or smell is too strong and somewhat metallic. They’ll cite that the water comes from the polluted Han River or they might even mention that the water pipes in their home are made from copper which, of course, is toxic. All of these concerns are valid. The catch is that all of these concerns have been addressed by the Seoul government and most of them have even been solved.

During the rapid development of this nation, water quality laws were relaxed in an effort to encourage industrial development. Damaging as it might have been for the environment, this measure boosted the economy drastically, but it also created widespread sentiment (which still exists today) that the Han River is contaminated by both point and non-point pollution and therefore should not be consumed.

It makes sense and they would be right if they were drinking from the lower sections in Seoul, but they’re not. “90% of the water intake occurs at 5 upstream pumping stations and 10% takes place at the Paldang Dam.” Once that water is collected, it then goes to one of six purification stations, all of which have received international awards for efficiency and reliability.

Additionally, most Koreans are certain that their pipes are old or corroding which will certainly lead to health difficulties. However, since 1995, close to “95% of corrosive water pipes have been replaced” and the government is “working tirelessly to replace any remaining pipes”. In fact, the same teams that are going door-to-door are also armed with pamphlets encouraging citizens to install new water pipes at a governmentally subsidized price.

So, why aren’t they drinking it?

Like all people, Koreans are creatures of habit. For decades, they have understandably avoided tap water because of the hazards it presents. Yet even now, when it has been proven clean and drinkable, tap water is only used for washing and tooth-brushing. It might be the taste, the fear of contaminates or general health concerns, but I chalk it up to universal distrust of the government among Koreans.

People have written volumes on Korean distrust of government, so there is no reason (or space) to delve into that here, but I would like to offer some simple advice. If officials want citizens to start drinking the water, then they must stop relying on tests and publications and take a more proactive approach. Rather than drinking bottled water at press conferences, try slugging back a few gulps of Seoul-brand tap water. Leading by example is not a knack that politicians have mastered, but I can’t imagine anything easier than picking up a glass of water and taking a sip. And to tell the truth, it’s not even that bad. Give it a try.

*** This will be in KT next week ***

Monday, March 16, 2009

Phish Lights Hampton Up With "Dudes"

There is nothing surprising about this. I'd say 100:1 is an exaggeration, but it doesn't matter.

Phish shows and jam bands don't really attract women, but there's nothing revealing about this. No one goes to these shows to meet women. They go for the music. They go to dance. I'm not sure why the author thought this to be unique, but he did.

The article also linked this photo.

What's telling here is the age of the fans. I, too, was one of those kids out there. I fondly remember my tye-dye shirts, hemp necklaces and long hair, but I always knew that I was the youngest. The whole scene has changed a lot in the past 10 years and most of the original Phishheads and jambanders have grown up (or moved to Korea), so these dudes are the next wave. (H/T to Coug)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Anmyeon-do Trip

We're taking a little trip down to Anmyeon-do today. It should be a little cold, but we have a nice cabin and will do what we can to stay warm.

I'm going to try to check out the remnants Taean Oil spill as well.

Have fun.

Here's a little weekend reading on the benefits of legalizing marijiuana to stimulate California's economy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ban Ki-moon Calls US a "deadbeat"

There was some anti-Americanism in there after all. I love baseless insults.

The White House objected Thursday to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's description of the United States as a "deadbeat" donor to the world body.

Why is the US deadbeats? Because they don't donate enough to the UN?

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Ban's "word choice was unfortunate," given that the U.S. is the largest contributor to the United Nations. The United States pays 22 percent of the organization's nearly $5 billion operating budget but is perennially late paying its dues.

That's right.

Korean baseball just isn't that good...

They might have won the Olympics, but they lost to the Padres.

South Korea's baseball squad suffered a 10-4 loss to San Diego Padres, a Major League team, at an exhibition game Wednesday, dimming its hopes for the second round of the World Baseball Classic slated to begin Saturday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

I don't like Korean baseball. There's way too much scoring, horrid pitching, swaths of errors and overly excited non-fans who only cheer because they want to be part of a chant.

**Update: Korea also lost to the Dodgers.

Japan wants to buy Jeju

This won't go over well.

Japan's opposition Democratic Party President Ichiro Ozawa has floated the idea of buying South Korea's Jeju Island on the strength of the yen's rise against other currencies, Japan's news outlets reported, quoting a former chief of Japan's largest labor organization.

I understand that Japanese men might be traveling to Korea more for sex tourism due to the strong yen, but this is a little too much.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Korea Times Article: Korea-Japan Tunnel

Here's another one for you...

Check out the mug.

Obama, The People and The Economy vs. The GOP: Who's winning the debate?

When is the GOP going to stop blaming the failed economy on Obama? They won't. They can't. They see this as their only oppurtunity to change the story, but unfortunately for them, most Americans haven't finished the old one. That being, the failed GOP-run economy.

The GOP isn't fooling anybody. The people clearly know who's to blame and it's not Obama. Americans seem to understand something that the GOP doesn't: It takes awhile for the economy to recover. A fact that I imagine the right used to understand and who are trying to exploit their own mess for votes in 2010.

Most Americans remain confident that the U.S. economy will be stronger in five years than it is today, but most also expect very little to change in the next 12 months.

The numbers are largely unchanged from early January.

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans say the economy will be stronger in five years than it is today, while just 17% think it will be weaker by then, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

They are not going to assume that the current state is a result of failed Obama policies. They remember the last 8 years. They know where this came from. So when quacks like this guy...

It is no wonder that markets are imploding around us. Obama is giving us the War on Business.

Imagine that some hypothetical enemy state spent years preparing a “Manchurian Candidate” to destroy the U.S. economy once elected. What policies might that leader pursue?

He might discourage private capital from entering the financial sector by instructing his Treasury secretary to repeatedly promise a brilliant rescue plan, but never actually have one. Private firms, spooked by the thought of what government might do, would shy away from transactions altogether. If the secretary were smooth and played rope-a-dope long enough, the whole financial sector would be gone before voters could demand action

...claim that it's Obama's fault, the American people are not listening.

But when will they start to blame Obama?

Now, match that to when economists think the recession will be over.

If that plays out, it'll be a huge win for Obama. Since people have such low expectations for the economy, they understand that it'll take some time. Compare that to most economists and it appears that Obama will easily weather this storm and it'll mount to another EPIC FAILURE by the increasingly obsolete GOP.

Bristol Palin is now a baby mama and I don't care

Oh, I can't wait for the spin on this one.

Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin, the teenage daughter of Gov. Sarah Palin, have broken off their engagement, he said Wednesday, about 2 1/2 months after the couple had a baby. Johnston, 19, told The Associated Press that he and 18-year-old Bristol Palin mutually decided "a while ago" to end their relationship. He declined to elaborate as he stood outside his family's home in Wasilla, about 40 miles north of Anchorage.

They decided "awhile" ago, huh? If it wasn't during Palin's failed bid for VP, I assume the exposure didn't help much either. Of course, Drudge doesn't mention it and I bet that O'Reilly won't bring it up either because then he'd have to eat his own words.

As I mentioned during the campaign, what if it was Obama's daughter who was unwed, pregnant and now and single mother? Would the right leave it alone?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Job, Less Sleep, More Dark Circles: Welcome to Korea

I've started my part-time job again, so I'm going from an eight hour work day to nearly fourteen. While I'm adjusting this week and next, my writing will be a little intermittent as I am trying to nap whenever I can. Right now, for instance, I have an hour break. And since I only get five hours of sleep a night, I need the extra time.

I'm going to sleep now...for an hour.

Monday, March 09, 2009


It was becoming clear that Tin was not too fond of the photo journal that I had started making about his time in Korea, so I will not post the others. I was hoping he would see the humor in it, but it didn't go that way. I figured it was hit or miss.

Instead, I'll post a few photos that sum it all up.

The Wedding

The Mountain

The Kids
The Piano
The Protest
The Best Man

The Costumes
The Boys

The Jet Fuel

The Dye

The Swap

The Result

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Photohunt: Korean Volunteers

This weeks "Photohunt" is from the Chosun Ilbo. The official caption is "Volunteers pose after hanging blankets they washed for poor families in Busan on Thursday." Seems like a nice gesture. A little odd, but nice nonetheless.

The image on the left is the original and the right one is the edited image.

Can you spot the edit?

Rules: You must clearly identify what I edited. It could be color, size, add-ons or anything, but it will only be one edit.

Running Tally:

Sid, USA: 3

Sarah, USA: 1

Korea Beat, ROK: 1

Jeffery Hodges, ROK: 1

Friday, March 06, 2009

Want to rip-off Journey?

How many songs ripped off Journey's Don't Stop Believing? (for FB, click here)

It works pretty well, too.

"Green" Koreans Arrested (because of Americans)

I don't condemn, nor do I condone these guys, but still am preplexed by those who think using or doing drugs in Korea is a good idea. These guys were asking for it if you ask me.

Four men were arrested Thursday for planting and smoking marijuana in their apartment and sharing ``tips'' online. Two others were booked for buying their plants for consumption.

Not the smartest growers, but at least they were wise enough to include an American in the project, so they can pass the blame later. Furthermore, what kind of idiot teacher would get involved with these goons knowing they were posting their methods on a blog?

Thirty-year-old Yeon and two others, including one American English instructor, shared his information and bought marijuana seed from Britain. They grew the plant in a closet on the veranda of his apartment in Haengdang-dong, Seoul, for five months and smoked the derived drug.

Would this have made the news if an American wasn't involved? I doubt it. Of the 1,170 Koreans arrested in 2007 on marijuana charges, I don't remember seeing anything in the paper.

Robin Williams in the Hospital

I really hope he'll be okay.

Robin Williams needs heart surgery and must cancel the remainder of his one-man comedy show, "Weapons of Self-Destruction," his publicist said Thursday. The 57-year-old actor needs an aortic valve replacement, Diane Rosen said in a news release. Williams' representatives would not say when the comedian was admitted to the hospital or where.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Korean Soju Soars as American Beer Floors

Rather than my usually amazing in-depth analysis, I found two articles that I wanted to mention. As the economic recession worsens, more and more people choose to tighten their belt and cut out some luxuries they deem unnecessary. For instance, my wife and I have started socializing less at bars and more at home and were surprised to discover how many others enjoyed doing that as well. (Drinking games anyone? We've been practicing.) Fortunately, our jobs are secure for now, so we're not that concerned yet, but since we plan to move to the US next year, the exchange rate is something that we do stress over.

Nonetheless, it's interesting to look at what industries remain "recession-proof". Most assume that in stressful times, the alcohol and tobacco industries will remain pretty steady if not more profitable. People get stressed, so they drink and smoke. Simple. In Korea, the trillion won ESL industry is one of the fastest growing
industries still, but it's certainly seeing signs of contracting as schools cut costs, suspend teacher pay and even close down. In fact, my KT article next week will address the issue of adult 1:1 English institutions and why they are especially having a hard time right now.

I digress (and plug), The Financial Times reported that in Korea, soju sales were jumping dramatically.

"Stung by the bitter winter and depressed by the flagging economy, South Korean businessmen head for the convivial glow of street tents where they order eels and chicken gizzards and drown their sorrows in soju, the national fire-water.

Soju sales are soaring and foreign companies are considering buying into one of the few Korean industries to relish the economic crisis."

I'm not sure I agree that most of the soju is being drunk in the tents, but it certainly helps illustrate the bleak state of the economy. I live on the main drag in Gangnam, so I get the opportunity to witness these guys a lot. I can say that they are certainly drinking more these days and since many of them are getting laid off (and hiding it from their family), I totally understand.

What I don't understand is the following statement.

"It's an energy drink for Koreans. When Koreans are in distress, they drink soju, then get up the next morning and work hard," Mr Ahn said. Contentious as it may sound, soju does have a reputation for not causing hangovers.

Yeah, first of all, it's contentious as hell and secondly, I have had many rough hangovers from soju. Call it what it is! They're stressed out. Don't give me this energy boost garbage. People are losing their jobs and he's painting soju as a cure-all. Now is not the time to stump for soju. It's a time for people to be working harder and not boozing, so they will remain productive at work. (And yes I am aware that a "productive Korean worker" is an oxymoron, but I stand by my statement.)Beer and wine are not doing so well in Korea either.

Wine bars were sprouting like bamboo shoots and dotted hip streets and back alleys. Now, with the economy tanking, people tightening their purse strings and the won losing value, they are going under in droves or opting for other lines of business, unable to make ends meet.

I've always thought that there were too many wine bars in Seoul anyways.

``This used to be a good business ― you get more from selling a decent bottle of wine than a dozen or more bottles of soju,'' said Choi, who says sales have dropped nearly 40 percent since the first half of last year.

``However, people are not buying good wine anymore and there are days when I don't even get five customers. I have to think about converting to selling beer, maybe even a grill joint for pork belly or baby octopus,'' he said

Then again, there are way too many pork belly joints as well. On side note (HT to GI Korea), US beef is still flying off the shelves just like it did when they started importing it last year RIGHT AFTER the mad cow hysteria subsided.

Things in the US seem to be fairing a little differently. Besides the fact that Americans wouldn't immediately turn drinking Budweiser into an act of patriotism, alcohol sales seem to be going the opposite direction than in Korea.

From 538:

Rather than pretend to know anything about this trend, I'll let you read it from Nate.

As you can see, there has generally not been much of a relationship between alcohol purchases and changes in GDP -- the correlation is essentially zero. Nor have alcohol purchases historically been any kind of lagging or leading indicator.

But something was very, very different in the fourth quarter of 2008. Sales of alcohol for off-premises consumption were down by 9.3 percent from the previous quarter, according to the Commerce Department. This is absolutely unprecedented: the largest previous drop had been just 3.7 percent, between the third and fourth quarters of 1991.

But if beer is no longer doing well (I guess we'll have to take a look at Q1 of 2009 to confirm), then what is?

It's not just beer, either. Sales of jewelry and watches were off by 7.2 percent in the fourth quarter, the third-largest drop ever recorded. Casino gambling receipts are down about 8.5 percent from a year ago, far and away the largest decrease ever over four consecutive quarters.

What's doing well? The movies. The movies, also historically a recession-proof industry but not a counter-cyclical one, are doing terrifically well. Motion picture theaters increased their revenues by 10.9 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the Commerce Department. But the movies are not typically seen as extravagant. You don't feel guilty after purchasing a movie ticket; you feel kind of wholesome

There you have it. I have to wonder that if Americans had something as similar, acceptable and pervasive as soju then it too would booming. I do think that Korea's business/drinking culture is a big part of this and the lame "It makes Koreans work harder" hogwash doesn't fly with me.

Is it acceptability or availability that makes Koreans consume more?

More Usless North Korean Threats

The problem here is that some people don't seem to understand that weaker countries and people who lose elections don't get to set the terms.

First, is the GOP and Rush Limbaugh (which I don't need to talk about as it's been all over US news)and second is North Korea.

A day after warning Washington against launching military exercises on South Korean soil, North Korea focused its rhetoric Thursday on its neighbor and warned of "powerful" retaliation if Seoul goes ahead with joint drills next week.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries are slated to begin 12 days of exercises at sites across South Korea on Monday — a joint annual effort the allies call routine defensive drills but that the North has condemned as preparations for an attack.

I understand that douche bags like Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung allowed Kim Jong-il to dictate ROK's penisular policies and that KJI is rightly angry that Lee Myung-bak isn't an apologist, but guess what North Korea? You're the weaker nation and you don't get to make the call. The South isn't going to invade unless provoked, so shut it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Korea Wants Foreign Media to Lie

I think the Golden Rule should be applied here. If you want the foreign media to play nice, then it's time the Korean media to stop cruxifing foreigners every chance it gets.

``Korea has fared well compared to other economies despite a plunge in global demand,'' Han told a weekly Cabinet meeting. ``Korea's current account recorded a surplus of $330 million in February, an optimistic sign that the economy is doing quite well amid a worldwide recession. However, such positive aspects are often ignored in media reports,'' he said.
Breen puts it best.
``If the government considers reporting on Korea to be misleading, it should improve its communications rather than criticize the media.''
Do unto to others, Korean media...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Literal Versions of Classic Music Videos

Literal versions of popular music videos have been getting a lot of attention on Youtube and other related sites recently. It's pretty simple: People sing over the video with their own lyrics detailing what is actually happening in the video. The best ones are from the 80s and 90s when people still made creative music videos.

Here's the literal version of Ah-ha's "Take on Me".

I like this one alot too. Tears for Fears is great anyways, but this makes them even better.

Here's a little "Under the Bridge" by RHCP.

I just found this one today while I was snooping around. It's much better than the original.

And I'll end with Billy Idol.

Watch them. Laugh.

Korea and Western Bands

Honestly, I don't know much about the band "Travis" besides that they're Scottish and played in Seoul last week. I didn't go, but I listened to the song "Closer" a few minutes ago and was totally bored. How many more generic bands from the UK do we need making this type of Radiohead throwback music?

My distaste for the sound aside, I do like that they came to Korea and that Korean fans were totally into it. Just like Jason Mraz (another one I don't care for), Korean fans seem to be catching on to Western music that isn't just a choreographed dancing/singing group.

Still, one of the problems with Western music in Korea is found in the first line of the KT article.

"Paper airplanes flew around the packed Olympic Hall, as Scottish rock band Travis performed ``Closer" in the middle of their concert in Seoul, Sunday evening."
The show was on a Sunday night. Sure, it was packed and that's great, but the timing of so many of these Western attractions is awful. I remember seeing that Prodigy played in Jamsil last 3pm on Thursday.

My thoughts on this is that if Korea wants to start attracting more Western acts here and become a destination for non-Asian tourists, they are going to have to open up and when it comes to music, they need to copy Japan.

Take a look at this site called I used this in the States all the time. It used to just have jamband dates on there, but now they have pretty much everything.

Here's part of Japan's list:

There are over 100 shows in the next two months. On there are nearly 60 popular western bands ranging from "Of Montreal" and "Beck" to "Bad Religion", "Sum 41" and "Dragonforce". Now, I don't know/like any of those bands, but Japan has also hosted many of my favorites during my three years in Asia.

Here's Korea's list:

So what is Korea doing wrong?

To be continued later, but the member's of Travis know part of the battle.
"We'll be going soon, but we'll be back soon. We'll tell all our friends and other bands that they have to come here, too. See you soon," Healy said."

I have no doubt that they'll come back. It was a sucess for them. The question is will others?

Johnathan Krohn Loves Puberty

What the hell is this kid talking about?

Besides the obsessive arm flailing and absurdly empty speech that the goons in the audience seemed to eat up, it's safe to assume that his parents wrote his book?

I like how the GOP is running through their potential leaders as quickly as possible. Jindal, Palin and Steele certainly got the axe recently and this kid is just going to be another mindless pundit peddling the same tired faux talking points that the GOP has been spewing for the past 20 years.

Keep 'em coming!

American Conservatives Love Porno

Just last week and in October, the KT had an article about Korean kids as young as 11 and 12 viewing and subscribing to online pornography. This week, an excellent report came out about American online porn consumption (pdf).

"...this paper focuses on the consumption side of adult online entertainment, and in particular on subscriber demographics and consumption patterns of those who subscribe to such websites."

I am more concerned with political/religious affiliation here than anything else.
"Social critics...often argue that the rise of Internet pornography is contributing to a coarsening of American culture. Do consumption patterns of online adult entertainment reveal two separate Americas? Or is the consumption of online adult entertainment widespread, regardless of legal barriers, potential for embarrassment, and even religious conviction?"

We hear from the right wing nuts that America is becoming more and more of a cesspool of sexual deviancy and perversion, but coming from the party who mastered extremism, manipulation and hypocrisy, I know not to take it seriously. These are the same goons that want gay marriage banned to cover for their penchant for gay sex.

It appears that while most of the industry is centered around California, most of the viewing is going on in traditionally red states.

And here's the kicker.

Subscriptions are slightly more prevalent in states that have enacted conservative legislation on sexuality (regression results on file with the author). In the 27 states where “defense of marriage” amendments have been adopted (making same-sex marriage, and/or civil unions unconstitutional), subscriptions to this adult entertainment service are weakly more prevalent than in other states (p 0.096). In such states, there were 0.2 more subscribers to this adult web site per thousand broadband households, 11 percent more than in other states.

As shown in Table 4, subscriptions are also more prevalent in states where surveys indicate conservative positions on religion, gender roles, and sexuality. In states where more people agree that “Even today miracles are performed by the power of God” and “I never doubt the existence of God,” there are more subscriptions to this service. Subscriptions are also more prevalent in states where more people agree that “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage" and "AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior.”

And one final thought.

" Visitors from the “red”states that voted for Bush in 2004 are more likely to visit wife-swapping sites, adult webcams, and sites about voyeurism."

But when I look at this list, I'm not surprised.

Korean Fortune Telling

There’s a cafe near my place that offers over-priced coffee, lavish furniture and, at this particular place, free fortune telling. The outside is overly garrish. The bright red paint and gold trim distracts you from the 1950's American theme, which is totally lost upon most customers. Once you find your seat, a waiter comes to your table, takes your order and then presents you with a list of fortune telling options. We could choose from tarot cards, palm reading and "Saju" or "사주" (which uses your birth year, month, day and hour to predict why you’re so darn special). We opted for the latter.

Ten minutes later our coffee arrived and shortly thereafter, a chubby man in his mid-thirties approached the table, opened his collapsible chair and plopped down. He started by asking 고s birth information and then referred to a old, tea-stained book that was filled with ancient Chinese charts. It was in these charts that this man told us what I already knew: that this type of thing is what douche bags do for money. He tried his best to sound official, but it was just a waste of time. He told me that I don’t have any women in my life and that I had to marry a Korean woman because I couldn’t find a woman in the States. Luckily, I have been in Korea long enough to realize that this is a stereotype of foreigners, so I didn’t take much offense. He also told me that I needed more sleep, should exercise more and eat better. So, he told me things that ALL people need to improve about themselves and that makes him “gifted”. Garbage. It reminds me of that South Park episode where they are making fun of John Edward. “I’m getting an “em” or a “na” sound”.

(Full Episode here)

고 seemed to like it though. Of course, she says she doesn’t believe in the stuff, but was jazzed enough to try it again after we left the café. In Gangnam, these little tents are all over the place. There are at least 8 separate places I can go to have my fortune read in my neighborhood alone. So again, we braved the cold and set out to find another place. I guess we were going on a cross-checking mission to see if the facts and methods of the two snake oil salesmen were similar. I have always protested going to these places. Some of my students go to these places and the information they receive dictates their decision-making heavily (especially among women). Before this, I had always imagined that 고 and I would go in there and the little racist woman would look at me, make some bogus claim about how bad I am or that we’re not a good match and that that info would be stored somewhere deep in 고s psyche, only to come out during an argument. Of course, that was when we were only dating. Now, I don’t care as much. I’ve already hooked her.

I digress……This specific tent was quite small and sported a big sign that read “사주 3,000원”. Fair enough. We opened the plastic zipper door and entered the gas heated booth which, of course, reeked of propane. I tried to unzip the door and vent a little after we sat down, but was quickly corrected by the wily fortune teller. The fumes were so thick and acrid that my eyes were suffering as much as my lungs. She started the same way as the last guy: birth year, month etc… I tried to look as pleasant and friendly as possible in hopes of getting a positive review.

She started with 고. She said that 고 wouldn’t work with a Korean guy, might obstruct people who own their own business and will be better off living outside of Korea. I guess I should have taken that as an endorsement, but it really sounded like a differently worded version of the “can’t hack it” stereotype that the other guy said about me.

Then she moved onto me. She started with my vast intellect and other equally schmoozy traits, but then went right in for the kill. She also claimed that and I quote (and translate), “You do not and have not ever had a girl in your life.” I asked her to expound a little more and what she said actually made a little sense. My wife and I did a little reflecting and discovered that maybe they’re not too far off. I prefer male friends. She was not saying that I’ve never had women who were important to me, but that since I have only one woman who is important to me, I tend to push all other females away. This is true. If I think about it, I have forged most of my close friendships with males. This works for with my marriage as well. My wife, for instance, is a guy’s girl or a man’s woman. She does better with males than females and since most of my friends are males, it’s a good match. Still, this woman didn’t know that. She was just going for the “can’t hack it” stereotype and luckily I filled in the gaps myself.

The woman also said I would be rich by 41 and that 고 and I needed to have start having kids next year. I like the rich part, but there is no chance of babies though and I’m pretty sure that we both agree that 3 years will the best time to start popping them out.

Most Koreans, when asked (by me), say that they don’t believe in this type of thing. I think most Americans would say the same thing. But you’re telling me that in Gangnam alone, hundreds of people are lining up at these places, waiting for an hour in the cold, just to hear something that they don’t believe in? If I were to look at the demographics of those in line, I would say that 85% of them are under 30 and most of them are with their significant other. They are there looking for something and it’s not “just fun” as I so often hear.

Which brings me to my final thought: These fortune-telling women swing a lot of power --much more than they know. And in a nation where people are searching for reasons NOT to like the person they’re on a blind date with, I have to wonder just have many relationships these women have ruined.

Oh and by the way, it cost of 20,000원. What a douche.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Song of the Week: "Music, Us" by STS9

Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9) is one of those bands that fit perfectly into every situation. Here is "Music, Us" from their New Years run (05-06) at the Tabernacle in Atlanta.

I'd also suggest songs Somesing, Open E, and an old classic, "Call Into Tap In".

My first exposure to these guys was in high school. I was downloading music on Napster and stumbled upon "Moonsockets". It's by no means one of their best. In fact, I'd say it's nowhere close, but I liked the free flowing vibe and started investigating more. By the end of my glory days with music (I moved to Korea in summer '06, therefore ending a 9 year streak), I had managed to see these guys over a dozen times in a few years and each time I always had an amazing time.

Honestly, many of my STS9 shows are pretty clouded. I remember the energy of the shows being unrivaled, but that's about it. Hmmm...

Sid or Rodge, any help here?

Iran is Sensitive

I'm not one of the hawkish goons out there that thinks Iran is a sworn enemy, but I will call them sissy's for this.

"(Iranian) cinema officials will only have the right to have official sessions with... Hollywood movie makers when they apologise to the Iranians for their 30 years of insults and slanders," Javad Shamaghdari said.

"The Iranian people and our revolution has been repeatedly unjustly attacked by Hollywood," he said, citing '300' and recent Oscar nominated movie 'The Wrestler' as among offending films."
Being from the country that is always the target of anger, aggression and hate in film, I just don't give a shit what Iran wants. Get over it, girls.

And how do you explain these?

I do like the music though.

Grow a pair, Iran.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Kyoto and Korea

Without touching on the politics surrouding the Kyoto Protocal, I would like to know where Korea ranks on this list.

I wonder if Korea was omitted because they are just right in the middle. Still, they're aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2015 and I would like to know how they're doing. It appears that there has been some reduction, but a side-by-side comparison would be nice.

RIP Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey died. There really was never a better show than "The Rest of the Story" and no one will be able to recreate what he brought to the airwaves.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Geoje-Karatsu Tunnel is a Winner for Korea: Part 1

The debate has raged for the past thirty years. Experts, nationalists and ordinary citizens on both sides of the Sea have offered supporting and dissenting research, projections, and opinions. Political posturing has overshadowed much of the debate as everyone imaginable has opined endlessly, questioning the feasibility of such a project. “Is it worth it?” “Will it be safe?” You name it, and it has been called into question. Well, it looks like those days are waning and, finally, plans are beginning to materialize and the question “Should Korea and Japan build a tunnel that links the two nations?” might just be answered.

In early January of this year, a research committee was tapped to start drawing up “specific construction plans” for the project. The proposed route would connect Geoje Island near Busan to Karatsu in northwestern Japan by an undersea tunnel (209km). It would be the longest undersea tunnel in the world and one of the most impressive engineering feats of the 21st century. (The Channel Tunnel is only 50km long)

For many Koreans though, the thought of such a connection invokes memories and emotions of a dark and violent past under Japanese colonial rule and under no circumstances would I ever suggest that those feelings are not justified. They are. This is understandably a very touchy and delicate issue which has clearly been reflected in its 30 years of rocky debate. I don't think comments like this are justified.

"...project's opponents say Korea would gain nothing from a tunnel, and it would only end up helping Japan advance into the continent. Choi Yeol, a professor of urban engineering at Pusan National University, said, "An undersea tunnel would add a Japan-size sphere of influence to the southeastern region of Korea. But Japan could extend its sphere to the Eurasian continent. That means the two countries would have disproportionate spheres of influence."
I do think, however, that bridging the two nations would not only set a course towards a more trustful relationship between the old foes, but would also diversify South Korea’s economy, ease trade costs, tourist industry and improve its image around the world.

Some say the project carries a 200 trillion won price tag and, considering the state of the economy right now, even discussing such plans smacks of irresponsibility. Others point out the absurdity of building an undersea tunnel in a hotbed of seismic activity is enough to scrap the entire plan. Both of those points are valid and will need to be addressed, but if the project is deemed feasible and safe, the benefits severely outweigh the drawbacks.

South Korea has tried tirelessly to push their current “Korean Sparkling” tourism campaign. Seoul is getting facelifts and feverishly vying for a larger share of the northeastern Asian tourist industry, but is still seeing very little fruit for their troubles. The industry in essentially centered around Seoul and, for many reasons, is simply not attracting a substantial amount of non-Asian tourists.

As of now, Korea is locked in a battle of trying to prove itself as a world tourist destination which is clearly demonstrated by the slew of sales angles presented in their promotional commercials (here, here and here). The tunnel could potentially provide some direction. If the tunnel is built, Korea will no longer have to focus its resources on introducing Korea to the world’s tourists. Instead, they can appeal to the tourists who are already Korea-bound.

As we know, Japan is a well-established tourist destination and by easing access from Japan to Korea, it unlocks a passageway for tourists in Japan (as well as Japanese citizens) to come to Korea with little hassle. Not only would the headache and cost of air travel be eliminated, the lure of riding on the largest and most modern undersea tunnel would certainly be enticing enough that many tourists would certainly include a few days in Korea on their itinerary. And with the arrival city in Korea being somewhere other than Seoul, more opportunities for Korea to establish itself as a multifaceted tourist destination will be opened. Cities like Busan and Daegu will experience booms as well as smaller “unknown” cities all around the peninsula.

A properly managed influx of tourists is certain to have long-lasting effects on the nation’s image. This is one of the best ways Korea could maximize its exposure. By having a steady flow of tourists from around the world, Korea will have the opportunity to impress upon them just how modern, exciting and even business-friendly Korea has become. Gone will be the days when Korea must make its case as a vacation spot to the rest of world. All corners of the nation will become lively destinations and hotspots and as more people discover all that Korea has to offer, the government will finally start spreading its resources more evenly among its cities. Universities will open or move campuses, business would relocate their headquarters and finally Korea would become a country with more than one city.

The possibilities are endless and the advantages that Korea will receive from such a project would create positive ripples that none of us can fully predict. The battle ahead is still long and there will be a lot of political mudslinging and banter along the way, but I sincerely believe that Korea and Japan will come to an agreement, and that that will be a victory for this nation.

To be continued...