Shhh! Don’t disturb the natives!

S. Korea put to the test for high-pressure exam

South Korea fell silent for annual college entrance exams Thursday, rescheduling flights and restricting traffic as 650,000 students sat a test that will define their adult lives in an ultra-competitive society.

Preparation for the crucial exam starts from primary school, and so does the relentless pressure which has been blamed for everything from early burnout and teenage depression to suicide.

Success in the exam — meaning a secured place in one of South Korea’s elite universities — is seen as the key to everything from future careers to marriage prospects.

With so much riding on the outcome, the day of the test — simultaneously in 1,257 centres nationwide — sees the entire country go into “hush” mode.

The transportation ministry bans all airport landings and departures for a 40-minute period to coincide with the main language listening test.

The military also reschedules airforce drills and live-firing exercises and traffic is barred within a 200-meter radius of the test centres.

Public offices and major businesses, as well as the stock markets, opened an hour later than usual Thursday to help keep the roads relatively clear and ensure the students arrived on time.

Anyone who did get stuck could dial the emergency number 112, and request help from police cars and motorbikes on standby to rush them to the centres.

At Seoul’s Pungmoon Girls’ High School, junior students put up good-luck banners and lined up to shout encouragement as their seniors entered the exam room.

For the equally-stressed parents, for whom their child’s result will partly be seen as a mark of their parental aptitude and devotion, there was little left to do.

Mothers, one flicking through her Buddhist prayer beads, prayed outside the Pungmoon school gate, while others went directly to temples in search for some divine intervention.

The approach of the exam day tends to renew a perennial debate in South Korea about the country’s obsession with education and the pros and cons of the college entrance system.

The bottom line for many is that the examination itself is fair. Everyone takes the same paper, which relies on the multiple choice system to prevent subjective marking.

Security is absolute, with the hundreds of exam setters sequestered for more than a month in a secret location, which they are only allowed to leave once the test has been taken.

They are kept in total isolation, denied phone contact with their families and with everything down to their food waste subject to rigorous examination.

But if the exam treats everyone equally, critics say preparation favours the rich, and can be ruinous for poorer and middle-income families.

According to the Education Ministry, South Korean parents spent 19 trillion won ($17.5 billion) on extra tuition for their children last year — equivalent to about 1.5 percent of the national GDP.

Students average five hours sleep a night as the test nears — a level of physical fatigue that, coupled with the mental anxiety, leads to a discernible spike in suicides around the exam period.

Educational reformers also voice concern over the validity of the exam and the sort of students it produces, pointing to the lack of importance given to creativity or critical thinking.

An editorial in the New York Times on Thursday called the South Korean exam “brutal” and noted that the system goes into reverse after entering college, where graduation is almost guaranteed with even minimal study.

“The paradox is these ridiculous tests don’t necessarily lead to demanding college classes,” the editorial said.

“Rigorous thinking, reading and writing too often is simply not expected. Doing away with rigid entrance exams is just the first step. What needs to be debated is the quality of education once the students are admitted,” it added.


Practical Advice if you want to teach English in Korea

I was browsing Youtube and came across some good videos that explain a lot about being here in general as well as teaching English specifically.

First here’s a cool video that gives excellent practical advice from Tom Gates.(YouTube Channel, Blog)

A smart man and someone who knows what’s it’s like being here and being a teacher.  I’m sure he has his own sets of challenges because one thing he did not touch on was the ethnicity of the teachers.  There is quite a bit of bias against teachers are not ‘white’ or ‘physically fit’.  That’s not to say that all teachers here are skinny Caucasians but there are actually recruiters who actively post with clauses like “if you are not Caucasian, please do not apply” (The one in particular I know of has a lot less tact than how I put it.).  You must understand that Korea has been sheltered for a very long time and even today, they don’t really know what other countries are like.  Their mindset is one of uniformity(reinforced by their rules of society) and my East Indian wife got asked once “Don’t you feel left out in Canada?”.  They really don’t understand diversity and mainly because it’s not really taught in any of their classes.  I suspect that it’s because it goes against their ruling beliefs and thus are surprised when they encounter such things.

Now, there is the whole ‘Asians are hot, I wanna date/have sex with them’ mentality as well.  The above video touches on this topic but Michael Aronson goes into details about dating Koreans.  This playlist of “Dating in Korea” will both give you some more in-depth insight to the dating culture here as well as more details about the culture itself.

Korean School Kids

The kids here really are pushed really hard but that is directly related to the location of population concentration.  Essentially the more parents there are, the higher the competition to have your kid be more educated than the other kid.  There is even a kind of ‘limit’ to how many kids someone could tutor.  I have a Korean friend who tutors some kids and occasionally asks me to help out.  I get to be the ‘guest foreigner’ for them and something to talk about.  I found out that it’s hard to get references to get more students because the parents kind of ‘hoard her’ as they like her and don’t want any other student to have her teaching them.  That way they feel they are getting special treatment and have a great tutor as well.

Still, while in regular class, they do vary in personality.  Anywhere from too tired to work to ‘I got more energy than you can think of’.’  Here is a picture from one of my wife’s classes.  You can see the range of personalities. :)

Yes, the one on the right is sleeping.


Confusing #Koreans and math

There is s an easy way to confuse Koreans and it has to do with math.

You might be tempted to fall back on the apparent stereotype that all Asians are good at math and you would be smart to keep that in mind when you understand how rigorous their education system is at forcing students to memorize way more than any western educational system has ever done.  How many kids did you know that went for extra private math tutoring lessons?  Me, I didn’t know a single person who did.  Yet here, nearly all of the kids do.  They also go to math lessons, English lessons, music lessons as well add taekwondo lessons.  Many do this every night and even on Saturdays.  So the stereotype really isn’t a stereotype when its true.  An episode of the Simpsons elabourated this point rather well.

Marge: One month? That’s a heavy workload for a fourth grader.
Homer: I say this boy needs more homework. (I don’t have to do it with him, do I?)
Principal Skinner: No.
Homer: Pile it on! I want him to be Korean by the time he’s done.

Ok, back to math.  When I was in highschool, I sucked at math.  I mean, I literally squeaked by in marks in the 50s.  Seriously, I just did not study it at all.  Yet, after working in retail for a bunch of years such a skill was just naturally developed for fairly basic stuff.  While I ain’t gonna say I’ll whiz any type of algebra course(shudders), I certainly do well for quick multiplication and division.  What stuns me is how confused the Koreans get while working in retail.  Here is a prime example.  If I go to a store and the price comes to 9,300 won, I will hand them a 10,000 bill plus 300 won in coin.  They are immediately confused why I would do this.  I have to explain to them what I want back.  Two days ago the girl handed me back the 300 won and then proceeded to hand me 700 more won in change.  I kinda stood there with this handful of change in front of her looking like “Umm, I didn’t want a pocketful of change like this.”

There is a problem here, that has happened everywhere else too….capitalism.  For the most part, people only use their bank cards so change is used less than a squiggle on a signing pad.  This process has lent to the disassociation from the cash in your hand to simply making a mark on a pad.  Meaning people don’t place any significance on the money they spend.    So when you actually deal with change/cash, they don’t think like that as much any more and you confuse them.  It’s a very odd disassociation to witness.

30 Days of my new Korean-focussed blog and some major changes in my life!

Well, I said I’d give up all Social Media and focus solely on setting up this new blog for 30 days and I have done just that.  I also said that I would have one new post each day.  This was a little tougher than I thought but sometimes old habits of ‘being busy’ creep back.  Despite a 3-day lack, I made sure I made up for it and even wrote one post in advance!  So I consider that a win :)

Now that I have all my old and new content here, I can focus on expanding my connections and seeing where it will take me.  I still plan on being loosely affiliated with other social accounts but I no longer plan on utilizing them as much as I did.  To be honest, that one single revelation I had about “if you aren’t adding to humanity you are just part of the noise” made a big impact on me.  To this end, I have now enabled all kinds of social sharing, so that my posts can be read by those who don’t read a lot of blogs but I don’t plan on being on them extensively.

Now, that being said, time to update everyone on some changes that are happening very soon for me.  I am moving.  My wife accepted a contract in the very most southern part of South Korea (Sacheon).  This is going to be an awkward move.  Mostly because her current contract ends on the 23rd but the new one doesn’t start till the 1st.  That’s quite a gap of time where we are literally in limbo.  We are fortunate that the new contract recruiter has free storage for our belongings.  This alleviates some issues but the next question is, what about us and our cat?  Still working on this part.

Now, as for the place we are going, well not much can be said about it.  It only has a population of 114,000 and it on the southern coastal area of the country.  I had to go down to that area once and I did like it a lot.  People are significantly less in a rush compared to Seoul.  I would even consider driving there without too much worry.  Driving in Seoul?  Not without armor plating because I’d be sure to run the vast majority of idiots off the road.

I previously mentioned that I was considering University here.  This idea has been scrapped.  Korea has zero mechanisms for ‘adult admission’, especially adults with no prior university education, unlike Canada.  They will not budge on this and the Government has never considered this at all.  This is one, of many, areas where South Korea’s education system fails miserably.

So, I turned to online courses.  Of course, I will would like to attend KAIST.  Their course looks really good and they have a heck of a reputation, despite the number of suicides last year.  I found Open University in the UK.  They seemed to have a decent certificate course that was reasonable in fees as well as course material.  So I emailed them, told them of my situation (Being a Canadian who is currently in South Korea) and got told:

Due to government restrictions on higher education study in some countries, modules that have been approved for worldwide study are not necessarily available in all countries.  For example, in some countries students are not allowed any ‘contact’ with the distance learning provider during their studies; the definition of ‘contact’ taking any number of forms including online tuition.

The modules required for the T12 are not available to students resident in Canada.

Well, that just sucks.  Kinda defeats the purpose of calling yourself a ‘open’ university and brag about being ‘online’.  Yet another failing of educational advancement in modern times.  So, now I am hunting again to find someone to take my money(within a reasonable amount, not looking for some stupid $50k/year program) and be accredited.

Wow, Korean interviewing arrogance

My wife is currently seeking for a new teaching position because her current school decided that their teachers have to have an Educational degree to teach at their Elementary school.  I covered this briefly here but basically it’s a PR move.

My wife had a Skype interview and I had nowhere else to be so I just sat on the bed, out of view, and played a game on my Galaxy Tab and listened to the interview.  The interviewer, a Korean guy who spoke fluent English, was asking some very direct and significantly professional questions.  Speaks to his background and thoroughness but I felt that it was a little too much at times.  Regardless, no my place to tell him how to do his job.  Then came the kicker.  After one hour of interviewing they got onto the topic of “What happens if you were offered another position?  Are we your first choice?”  My wife, answering honestly because she is like that, said “No, you are my second choice.”  He then replied “If we are not your first choice then are we both wasting our time here?”

Wow, what arrogance?!  Seriously?  You only want to interview people who think you are your first choice?  This gets even more wild because he said he has taught in Korea as well.  Makes me wonder if he only ever applied to one school between jobs.  Absolutely ludicrous to think that you should only be interviewing people who want you and only you.

Most people don’t think beyond their own little world.

Update: My wife shortly (like literally 2 mins) after getting off Skype with him, from the recruiter.  The recruiter told her that the interviewer liked her.  Truly surreal.  I told my wife that she should have told the recruiter “Am I your #1 candidate for hiring?  No?  Are we both wasting our time here?”

University in South Korea

Education is one of the major stresses in a Korean’s life.   Even to the point that one of Korea’s top university, KAIST, has experienced quite a few of them and being a high-profile university where education is free, providing you keep certain grades, this has been making news for about a year with 5 students and one professor!

Here students write exams to get into Universities.  Not only does this exam dictate which university you can attend, it pretty much pegs you for life on what you will be able to accomplish…at least, that’s what everyone else will think.  If you think that’s bad, students also write exams to get into certain High Schools!  Oh, and if you have the money, then you can go to one of the Private Elementary schools where you are supposedly getting a ‘higher education’ but really, because it’s a business, they just manipulate the scores to keep the money flowing in from the parents.

Some might think that’s pretty jaded, if not an outright lie, but my wife currently works at one.  She was told that the students HAD to have an average of 90% on their tests.  When one of the tests came back at an average of 78% she was told that the ‘questions are too hard, make them easier’.  So, paying for education does not guarantee a better quality student it seems.

Here is a scan from another test she had to give with the wording to this very effect.

Korean Elementary Exam guideline

So, the education system needs some work, whose education system doesn’t?  Still, with over 100 Universities listed, it’s not like you won’t get in at all.  Unless you are a foreigner, who never went to a college or university and graduated from high school before most of the university admissions staff was most likely born.

I did a bunch of research and it seems that I cannot get into University here as a ‘mature student’ like I could back in Canada.  Here is the list of material requirements for KAIST (one of the only Universities that teaches its courses in English from Undergraduate and on….the rest are Graduate only if you want to be taught in English).

Required Materials*

1) Application Form

  • Complete application online(
  • Print it out and include it in the application package with other necessary documents.

2) Statement of Financial Resource

  • The form can be found in the online application.Select KAIST scholarship, if you are not financially sponsored by government or organization.

3) Application Fee, 80USD or 80,000KRW

  • Please submit a nonrefundable 80 USD or 80,000 KRW, payable to KAIST by credit card or bank transfer after completing your application.
  • You cannot edit your application once you pay the application fee. Please make sure to complete your application before you make the payment.
  • We strongly recommend you to pay the fee by credit card, which is the most simple and fast way to use.
  • Additional charges (i.e. bank charges) should be covered by the candidate.

4) Transcript

  • You are required to submit transcripts from each high school (and college) attended.
  • Official transcripts must be sent directly from your high school (and college) to KAIST.
  • Transcripts must include year by year record of all coursework from last three years of upper secondary school. The last year coursework in process should also be included.
  • If you are to submit a duplicate, the transcript should be authenticated with the seal of the issuing institution or a notary office. Simply photocopied documents are not considered valid.

5) Letters of Recommendation

  • Two recommendation letters are required. One from homeroom teacher and the other from math or science teacher.
  • Print and submit the Recommendation Forms below.

■ Recommendation Form for Homeroom Teacher [ATTACHMENT 1]
■ Recommendation Form for Math or Science Teacher [ATTACHMENT 2]

  • Recommendations on official letterhead will also be accepted.
  • Your teachers may send their recommendation letter directly to the admissions office. Letters should be signed and sealed across the back of an official envelope by the recommenders.
  • Photocopies or recommendation letters via email are not accepted.

6) Standardized Official Test Scores

  • Official Test Score Reports such as SAT1, SAT2, ACT, GCE A-Level, IB, AP, NCEA, high school leaving exam, university entrance exam, or other nationally/internationally recognized exam results should be submitted.
  • Official test results should be sent directly from the testing agency to KAIST. If the testing agency is unable to send the results, submit certified copy authenticated with the seal of the issuing institution or a notary office. Simply photocopied documents are not considered valid.
  • Institution Code of KAIST for SAT score report: 4433
  • You may attach a separate sheet to explain the exam procedure, competition rate, results, etc.
  • Certificate of National or International Olympiad can replace Official Test Score. Submit certified copy authenticated with the seal of the issuing institution or a notary office. Simply photocopied documents are not considered valid.

7) Certificate of Official English Proficiency Test (EPT)

  • Candidates whose native language is not English must submit the EPT certificate. Candidates whose official language is English are exempt from submitting the EPT certificate.
  • Candidates are recommended to achieve above TOEFL PBT 550, CBT 210, iBT 80, TEPS 550, IELTS 5.5 and TOEIC (Listening & Reading 750, Speaking level 6, Writing level 7).
  • For TOEIC, all three TOEIC score reports (Listening & Reading, Speaking, Writing) should be submitted.
  • EPT must be taken within two years from the deadline of the online application.
  • ETS can send your original copy of score report directly to KAIST admissions office. Score reports must be received by the deadline. If you are to submit a duplicate, the EPT result should be authenticated with the seal of the issuing institution or a notary office. Simply photocopied documents are not considered valid.
  • Institution Code of KAIST for TOEFL score report: 0195
  • IELTS takers are allowed to submit a photocopy instead of an original copy of score report. Test score will be verified via Test Report Form (TRF) number.

8) Copy of Passport or National ID Card

  • Submit a copy of your International Passport or National ID card.

Optional Materials

1) Honors and Awards

  • You may submit up to five honors or awards obtained during your secondary and tertiary education.

2) Secondary/tertiary School Profile

  • You may submit GPA rating system, college acceptance statistics, or other information that would help us understand your school better.


This is all the physical proof you need just to be considered as an applicant.  Problem is that the vast majority of those leaves me completely ineligible.  There is NO way that my High School records from 25 years ago are in any way shape or form, a reflection of me or my skills now.  SATs?  Canada doesn’t do SATs.  I was told that if I took one, that would be considered valid but unless I was near genius level on that, my mediocre high school marks would kill any semblance of acceptance to any post secondary education here.

So, this really only leaves me online programs from back home in Canada (or maybe the US).  The whole university process confuses me.  It should be a free course in of itself in order to understand it and the variations that exist.  Maybe I should look at colleges?  In either case, I need to do something while I am here, besides just improving my Korean.

Korean Law?(Update 1, 24/1/2013)

Working as an English Teacher here in South Korea can be quite rewarding at times but you have to have either a lot of skills or know where to get your resources for help.  Teaching contracts here are in a category all to themselves.

First, I would highly recommend you learning WHERE to get help.  Your first stop should always be the Seoul Global Center, NOT Google.  First, most people don’t use the ‘sort by date’ option, so you are more likely to get information that is 2+ years out of date.  Second, you are probably in a position that is SIMILIAR but not exact and the solutions found will not likely apply to you any ways.

Seoul Global Center(SGC), which is run by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, is a comprehensive support center for foreign residents in Seoul.
SGC is a one-stop service center for offering daily living, business activities, administrative services, various educational courses and international exchange events. Also provide basic to specialize counseling regarding legal, labor, tax and real estate related issues to help expats settle in Seoul.

They are the experts and especially critical if you need clarification on what you might think is an issue or not.

In Korea, there is a near incomprehensible belief that you never take a sick day off of work.  Really, there are ZERO laws regarding this.  If you need to take a day off, a Korean will simply use his accumulated vacation time.  Now, the government-run programs (EPIK and GEPIK) are well aware of how westerners work and what they are used to.  So in their contracts, there will be some allowance for sick days (some as low as 3 days per contract year) but when it comes to the private hagwons, it is entirely up to that business whether they include them or now.  This ‘optional’ sick time off bleeds into the public system if you get hired for an ‘after school program’ which is in a public school but contracted out to a recruiter/company because the school couldn’t get the budget for a full-time teacher.

Now we all know that there are old and out-dated laws floating around.  Well, while browsing for ‘sick days’ laws I came across this little gem:.

Prohibition from work in Pit

I’m not even sure I want to know.  Who am I kidding…of course I want to know!  Then I can blog about it!  :)

FYI, GalbiJim is a popular website and has only mirrored the Korean Labour Laws.  It was easier to screenshot that then open up the pdf version and do it.


As if on cue, my wife gets horribly sick and throws up about 4 times last night.  Calls to work in the morning to see if there is anyone who can take her classes, unsurprisingly there isn’t.  So she drags herself into the school, barely makes it thought only to find out that the supervisor, who does teach classes, had NONE and could have helped out but did not.  My wife did leave early as one of the other teachers was able to take her last class….guess what, the supervisor still had no classes to teach.  This ‘must sacrifice your well-being for the good of Korea’ mentality will be their downfall.

Looking to teach English in Korea?

I posted earlier about what to expect under some of the worst case scenarios.  Now here are a few amusing job ads that seem to go with that post.


You really gotta laugh when you see dumb listings like this.  First, smoking is still way too popular here but slowly declining.  Recently the Government passed a new law banning smoking from restaurants.  Now, regardless of any laws, they have to be enforceable and given that the vast majority of restaurants are not franchised, these owners will not alienate their clientèle but trying to tell them they can’t smoke there any more.  Now the bigger chains, the ones that are easy and obvious to control and fine, have done it.  It’s only a matter of time before this really starts to get into the smaller places but I’m not holding my breath (heh) on that to happen any time soon.

Now for the ‘right handed’ thing.  That’s just ludicrous.  Superstitious and severely outdated.

apartment is quite nice except...
“apartment is quite nice except…”

This guy is not helping any.  It is odd that the school is looking for a married woman.  In fact, we suspect that my wife didn’t get many offers because she IS married.  Heck, even one recruiter asked her ‘What happens if you get pregnant?’ as if that has never happened  or could never happen to any other single female who has sex.  Geeze.

“The apartment is quite nice (EXCEPT FOR THE MOLD)” (emphasis mine).

This is both a dumb design on Korea’s building code and subsequent lack of effort to control mold on the tenants part.  See the vast majority of building do not have anything like central air or heating.  They are not designed to allow air flow.  The only way this happens is by opening the window, regardless of the weather.  Although we have learned a well placed fan running on a low-speed will keep air moving around and prevent such crap from growing.  It’s amazing how many people don’t realize this.

Correcting a view

So I came across this article about how Canada can take a lesson from Korea. While the odd point I am in agreement with, there are many things that the writer just completely is ignorant of. I am surprised at this, especially given the fact that he claims to have taught in Korea and ‘written extensively’ about Korea. Guess he is just wearing some very odd shaded glasses. Let’s pick out a few points that are severely missing/glaringly wrong.

“A Korean wave is sweeping the world. The secretary-general of the United Nations is Korean, the head of the World Bank is a Korean-American. “Gangnam Style,” a song by the Korean rapper Psy, has become the most watched video on YouTube.”

Ok, first goof, and one that he admitted, was that Ban Ki-Moon is NOT Korean-American but pure Korean. There was a ‘correction’ listed at the bottom of the article:

“Correction: This article was edited from a previous version that incorrectly said the head of the IMF is a Korean-American. “

Onto the rest of his article.

“In the past decade Korean companies, Samsung, LG, Hyundai and others, have become household names across the globe. The epic battle between Apple and Samsung for dominance in mobile devices is testament that Korean companies stand second to none. In Ontario, Samsung and the Korea Electric Power Corp. are spending more than $3 billion to build wind and solar energy plants.”

I would like to know about his definition of ‘household’ name. See, LG used to be known as Lucky-GoldStar. They used to make electronics products of low-end quality. I recall buying a tape deck ghetto blaster at my local supermarket back in the early 80s that was a GoldStar brand. So LG HAS been a ‘household’ name for a long time. Now, if by household, the writer mean ‘quality’, then perhaps he may be closer to the truth of his words but without that clarification, the words he uses are meaningless and lets people assume things without proper knowledge of the subject.

“The success of Korea is particularly astounding since until the 1960s the nation was dirt poor, having suffered a brutal period of Japanese colonization followed by the devastation of the Korean War. Until five years ago, Canada’s GDP was greater than Korea’s. Now Korea outpaces Canada and the gap grows each year.”

Has anyone ever really looked into what GDP is? I decided I wanted to know the numbers to see this for myself. I got lost and confused because StatsCanada website listed a TON of GDP ratings.

Canada: Economic and financial data (10 tables)
Gross domestic product at basic prices, by industry
Gross domestic product at basic prices, by industry (monthly)
Gross domestic product at basic prices, communications, transportation and trade
Gross domestic product at basic prices, finance and services
Gross domestic product at basic prices, manufacturing and construction industries
Gross domestic product at basic prices, primary industries
Gross domestic product, expenditure-based
Gross domestic product, expenditure-based (quarterly)
Gross domestic product, expenditure-based, by province and territory
Gross domestic product, income-based
Gross domestic product, income-based (quarterly)
Implicit chain price indexes, gross domestic product (quarterly)
Latest statistics (monthly)
Real gross domestic product, expenditure-based
Real gross domestic product, expenditure-based (quarterly)
Real gross domestic product, expenditure-based, by province and territory

So which one did he use to justify this ‘outpaces Canada’ statement? Let’s see if I can find something and not just go by some other random news article that he saw. Well, there isn’t one obvious answer but seems to have a simplified chart.

Canada –

Korea –

Let’s just look at the numbers by year for the last five years.


2006 – 35,600
2007 – 38,600
2008 – 39,100
2009 – 38,100
2010 – 39,400
2011 – 41,100


2006 – 24,500
2007 – 25,000
2008 – 27,600
2009 – 28,100
2010 – 30,000
2011 – 32,100

Well, just by looking at these numbers it is obvious that Canada’s GDP is still significantly higher that South Korea. Was the author talking about GDP “growth”?? In which case Canada’s GDP rose 5500 while Korea’s rose 7600. Sure, that’s higher but given that South Korea is just really getting going, of course it’s growth will be higher that other, well-established countries. This is rather logical and nothing new here. Not much of a lesson here unless Canada abdicates from the world and starts over then it can claim 100% growth rate because it started from zero. THEN South Korea could learn something from Canada right?

“What are the lessons for Canada from Korea’s rapid rise on the world stage?”

So far, nothing but let’s see where this goes.

“First, that post-secondary education is the main driver of success in the global marketplace. Knowledge, both theoretical and applied, is essential in designing and manufacturing cars, supertankers, mobile phones, and making movies and videos. That many Koreans are willing and able to learn English and study overseas, allows them to access the world markets, be it in science, diplomacy or business.”

Ah yes, learning English is a key factor to South Korea’s success right? Sigh. The author seems to have miraculously forgotten that Canada already speaks English! So does the US, UK, Australia…this by no means, is in any way related to a ‘lesson for Canada’.

“The achievements of Korea are the direct result of a skilled workforce, as the country lacks natural resources and has no sources of energy. Canada, blessed with a land mass 100 times that of South Korea, and abundant natural resources, fails to prioritize education. That Canada has no national post-secondary education department or strategy is incomprehensible to all international observers.”

Yes, there are quite a lot of factual and valid points made here. South Korea alone will fit inside of Ontario 10 times and yet Canada only has 10 million more in population that the Greater Seoul area. Education definitely needs some help but having seen both sides of the pond, the education system is sorely lacking equally in both countries.

“If there was ever an argument for constitutional reform in Canada, it is surely to grant the federal government a role in ensuring that the nation’s universities, colleges and private vocational schools operate in a strategic manner in a knowledge economy.”

I can’t necessarily agree that we need the Government to ‘do the right thing’ here and tell educational institutes how to run their business. Sadly, the work that has been done by the Canadian Government so far does not inspire me. I mean, how smart is it that teachers in public high schools are now told that they cannot fail a child? This will make for smarter university students how? No amount of strategy will fix this poor base of students to begin with.

“The second lesson for Canada is that government strategy and support are essential for industries and individuals to compete, and succeed, internationally. A decade ago the Korean government made it a priority to strengthen the entertainment and cultural sector, after concluding that the nation could no longer compete in some manufacturing industries with lower-wage economies.”

Wait, wait, wait. Hold on there. We haven’t’ even established that anything is needed at all and you are already onto some supposed second lesson? So Canada need more entertainment now? Given the deplorable conditions of ‘lower-wage economies’, one would think that working on quality over quantity would be a better way to go. Why is everyone arguing about simply making more money? What ever happened to the welfare of their own citizens? Oh wait, we can’t compare this to Korea because Canada’s medical system would fall apart compared to Korea’s in many, many aspects. Costs of medical attention here is way cheaper for average things. I mean, no one can walk into a hospital, say they have a problem with their foot, get an x-ray done ON THE SAME DAY and pay only $4.

Don’t give me this ‘but it’s included in our health care system’. That only goes to show you how ignorant you are of where you actually pay for it and you can be damned sure you are paying more than $4 for that x-ray. Don’t even get me started on how pathetic the disabled people are preyed upon.

“This decision marshalled(sic) government departments, from education to foreign affairs to finance, to increase national capacity in this sector of the economy. The results are only now becoming apparent, as shown by the sensation of “Gangnam Style.” In its successful bid for the for the 2018 Winter Olympics, government, business and other groups worked together for more two decades, and through two failed bids.”

What I am seeing is more people writing articles simply to ride the ‘Gangnam Style’ popularity. By putting the topic in their article, they hope to garner more attention in the hopes that it turns into revenue. They also try to compare one freaking success that is way outside of the ‘bell curve’, and not the norm, and people think ‘yeah, why can’t we have such a success’. That’s because the majority of industries are self-serving and could care less about real talent than manipulation of what they already have.

“The last lesson that Canadians can learn from Korea is that success depends on reacting quickly to developments. Twenty years ago, when China opened its doors to the outside, Korean firms were the first to take advantage from a billion more customers.”

There we go with the presumption that the readers agree with any of these lessons. Still, the writer is correct but it’s not some awe-inspiring insight. It’s statement that can be broadly applied to any and everyone.

“Korean manufacturers responded swiftly by sending their staff to China to supervise the newly opened plants. Korean students embraced learning Mandarin, in addition to English. In contrast, Japanese and other firms were hesitant, waiting to see if China would truly adopt a market economy. Not surprisingly, the firms moving first and fast obtained the best market share.”

Now here is where I start to laugh. “Korean students embraced learning Mandarin” Really? This is like saying “Canadians embraced learning French.”. Not so much. Chinese has been taught here because at one point in Korea’s history, Chinese was all they had for writing. It’s not like there was a sudden surge to learn, it’s already part of their culture.

“In the past two years, Korea has signed and implemented free trade agreements with the U.S. and the 27 countries of the European Union. Canada, on the other hand, in the past 10 years, managed to implemented free trade agreements with Colombia, Iceland, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Peru and Switzerland. These countries represent so little of Canada’s annual trade that the total dollar amount is a rounding error.”

This may be true but then again, Canada’s prime source of income isn’t exporting goods like South Korea is. An unfair comparison to say the least. That’s not to say that Canada shouldn’t look at such thing, it’s just a much lower priority because we have ‘big brother USA’ keeping up warm at nights.

“Canada, after more than a decade of negotiations, is still uncertain if it wishes to sign a trade agreement with the European Union, India, Korea or any major economy. Watching from the sidelines is not a good strategy in the fast-moving moving global economy.”

Indeed, this is a good observation. Perhaps the Canadian mindset is so stuck in ‘we have everything we need, so no rush to do anything at all’?

“As Canadians become more and more enticed to spend money on Korean goods and services, they might well consider that if a dirt poor country can become rich in 50 years, could not a wealthy country become poor in the next 50?”

The basis of this statement means that everything the author said is true, factual and can completely be applied to a country with different cultures, different geographies, different politics, different everything really. It is also a severely broad statement that can also be applied to any other country.

Having lived in South Korea for over 2 years now, and see first hand how the education system is pretty broken both here and in Canada I wouldn’t take any educational lessons from South Korea at all, ever. For one, they focus on nothing but memorization. The kids don’t have much of a life when they are in school from 8am to 10pm(used to be midnight at times till the Government put its foot down and passed a law to make it illegal to have a private institute open past 10pm). They used to go to school every other Saturday but that too was recently stopped by the Government. This just meant that the private institutes get more business and some school even have longer hours two days a week because they aren’t open on Saturdays any more. No, I will not be recommending a lesson from the education system here at all.

I would never give up the go-cart building, tree-climbing, hide-and-seeking, snow-fort-making evenings and weekends just to be educated by a system that says ‘because I said so’ when I ask ‘why is the sky blue?’ (true story from a friend’s child, sadly this was in Canada). There is an inherent respect for elders. The problem with that is that you NEVER question your elders. Even if it means a potential new discovery or new way at viewing a problem. Innovation simply dies when you aren’t allowed to explore.

Edit: added link to original article in first sentence