Confusion on the Gyeongju Bus

This weekend is a long weekend, so we are going to visit a few people in a few cities. While on the bus leaving our first so, there is one last stop before it leaves Jinju. Apparently there was some confusion as one woman and her son were sitting in the seats that someone else had a ticket for.

Although I could follow the conversation, from what I could gather, it seems that there was a ticket change and the woman seemed to be complaining that the ticket office was at fault for not making sure there was an available seat. The driver argued with her and after 15mins, the other lade (and her mother, who was in her 50’s at least ) ended up sitting on the floor at the front of the bus.

I decided to record the conversations to show how the level of tone escalates slowly but luckily it did not get to screaming. I’m surprised that the mother would let the older woman sit on the floor.

Clip 2

Clip 2

Arirang News Category Image Updated: 2013-12-30 PM 10:52:50(KST) Korea develops special education assistant robots for young children

Sooo, now Koreans will learn even less about the rest of the world and probably still say ‘lunchee’

http://www.arirang.co.kr/News/News_View.asp?nseq=155354

Sadly, I suspect this won’t work so well in the ‘real world’ with normal students.  If the education system says you can’t fail a student, then they will just ignore the bot (or make fun/goof around with it) just as much as they do with the current English teachers.  A robot will not change kids attitudes.  Sure it’ll entertain them for a bit but it won’t change their learning habits if they don’t have a fear of failure.

 

What South Koreans think of North Korea

Around the world, the mainstream media hypes up all the words that get thrown around. Words like ‘state of war’ and ‘sea of fire’ because they sound dire and life threatening in the face of a country that has technically still be at war for nearly 60 years. Now we have people parroting such things when someone says “I’d like to come to Korea to teach English.”  The fact that no tours to the DMZ have been canceled, the fact that no warnings from any embassy have been issued should be a good indication that this is all talk when you read anything about what North Korea says.  Not that I needed this, but nothing simply reaffirms in how the media hypes up news just so they can make money from people who make ignorant comments and spread poorly worded news casts and articles that simply do NOT reflect the truth.

Now, all that talks about people outside of South Korea.  What do people inside of South Korea think?  Glad you asked because I was curious too.  I did a quick little survey to give you a bit of insight to a typical Korean person who can speak English ranging from fluent to reasonably well.

What do you think of North Korea? 북한에 대해서 어떻게 생각하세요?

Female 1: “I think North Korea as a very poor brother who I have to take care of. Also he is very strange like middle school boys.”

Male 1: “I have been thinking many times about north Korea is our first ever enemy ever since I serve in military service in 2007 this is because they treat us like enemy so far. I didn’t realize how is big shit going on between North Korea and our country before enter the army. But now I know all they did is totally wrong and we have strongly believe that It will not change unless North Korea stop making problems for us”

Female 2: “people is starving and leaders enjoy rich life. for example leaders driving benz and bmw. when i was in china a few years ago some north Koreans escaped at theirs home and begged for theirs life and family. But i couldn’t any more so i gave some food. i think north Korea is not nation North Korea throw their people out.”

Do think there will ever be a war? 앞으로 또 다른 전쟁이 일어날 것이라고 생각하시나요?

Female 1: “No. I don’t think so because it is not a simple thing any more as both North Korea and South Korea will get huge damage after all. Every one knows it even north Korean people.”

Male 1: “North Korea want to uphold their construction of their own society and figure already out how strong we are with our ally such as UN and USA etc. We both know what will happen if we are under the war so my opinion is that it will not happen.”

Female 2: “No. Never occurrence. Now is not 1950s. South Korea have been strong army and correspondence is growth up than 1950s If war start, all of nations is attack North Korea.My thinkings”

What are your first thoughts every time you hear something big in the news about North Korea? 북한에 대한 소식을 들을때마다 당신은 주로 어떤 생각을 하시나요?

Female 1: “it is just one of normal things to me. We had too many similar cases with North Korea over 5 decades.”

Male 2: “At the begging of time was so scared when something is wrong but I am used to hear that and know that it is their strategy to make us feel scared so now I am not as scared as I was before”

Female 2: “There you go again But we don’t undo to air-raid alert”

If there was one thing you could say to Kim Jong Un, what would it be? 만약 당신이 김정은에게 말할수 있는 기회가 생긴다면, 뭐라고 한마디 하고 싶은가요?

Female 1: “open your world to the world if you want to live longer or people in your county wont be stand any more.”

Male 1: “If there was one thing i could say to Kim Jung Un I wanna say that don’t forget who we were and what we did together before divided into North Korea and South Korea. We fought all together to keep our history and our citizen against of past enemies such as China and Japan. Now you have a power and right to let this conflict pull down. It is your choice and do something . finally I hope you are better guy than any other people though”

Female 2: “we are anymore alone If you communication we will talk with you but if you threat anymore we will fight for south people and nation and peace”

So there you have it.  Real thoughts from people who have lived here all their lives.  The people interviewed are from all walks of live, from early 20’s to early 40s, teacher, ex-military (mandatory server for men in South Korea) and a student.  The only editing was for some obvious typos but otherwise the grammar and structure was left in tact as I received it.

Tell me what you think.  And then tell me where your information comes from.

How I spent my weekend in #Korea (Picture heavy!)

Not all weekends have to be spent travelling to various tourist traps. This weekend was one of my most fun and I didn’t go beyond a 30min bus ride from my place. This was a weekend for exploring our own area. On saturday we went to the other part of Sacheon. First I have to explain that Sacheon is a very LONG city.

Sacheon

It was once two different cities that merged.  We are in the southern section called Samcheonpo while the northern section is called Sacheon-eup(this is an over-simplification but it will suffice).  In the middle is the new City hall.

The day was pretty cloudy and not terribly condusive to great photos but I did manage to find this one shot that looked pretty interesting.

Korean houses

These are typical older houses that are slowly being replaced by apartment buildings.  Korea can really only build up with their geography.  We walked around for a bit, grabbed some snacks and some spicy chicken(not terribly spicy really) and then headed back home.  While nice to see another part of the city, the day was windy and cloudy.  Not overly motivating to stay and see much.  We’ll go back another time.

Sunday we decided to walk to the E-Mart(a kinda Wal-Mart clone).  This was a much nicer day, still a bit windy but much more sunny at least :)  We started at our place (posted this pic before):

My street

And we never take the main street/same way twice if we can help it.  If we had, we would have missed this awesome Buddhist temple on the backstreet!

Amazing painted doorway
Great wall mural
Wall mural

A little further down the street I saw this kind of ‘rose tree’.  I didn’t get a close look but it was nice looking.

Rose Trees(?)

Koreans are big on growing their own food.  This is a dying art I think.  It is mostly older Koreans who do this and it seems to be a left-over habit from the days where you _had_ to do this or else you didn’t eat.  Now that the society has moved into a city, setting up a garden become a bit of a challenge but one they do a pretty good job at utilizing any space they can get their hands on.

Typical city garden

The ground here is literally filled with rocks.  I’d hate to be the one who had to clear all that up.

The city has some interesting ideas for display flowers…in vertical flower beds.

Vertical flower beds

We saw one of man outdoor stores so we stopped by and made a new friend!  Her english was pretty good and she is interested in a language-exchange.  Cool!

New Korean friend

I didn’t bother getting pics of the E-Mart itself because….well, it’s boring.  Think Wal-Mart with prices and lettering in a foreign country and there you have it.  What I did get a pic of was the parking area.

Clean!

A very clean area.  If you look, you will see an area that is set aside behind the cars and before the other floor stops.  You can walk your cart to your car without interfering with the flow of traffic.  Very smart idea.!

When we were mostly settled here, I put up a post on Craigslist looking to meet some friends.

Looking for friends (Sacheon or Jinju)

Hi!

Just moved to Sacheon and my wife & I are looking to make new friends. Foreign or Korean. Our Korean level isn’t quite fully conversational but we are eager to learn and practice more! We would even consider setting up a weekly language exchange if you are interested!

We are a young Canadian couple so don’t let the whole “married” thing let you think we aren’t fun :)

I had forgotten that someone sent me a message from that post.  We became connected on the local(and now international!) KakaoTalk.  We had been casually exchanging messages infrequently but on Sunday afternoon I got a message asking if I would like to go fishing with this person.  To be honest, I couldn’t really who the heck this person was, whether it was male or female(still getting used to names here) and where the heck I met this person.  I was mostly sure it was a guy because earlier that day he sent me a picture of a fish he caught in the morning.  Mentally putting that together, I was slowly narrowing down who this was but I was still unable to figure it out.  I told hm that sure, I’d go fishing with him.  I figured I need to make some local friends and this is as good a way as any.

When he picked me up, I didn’t recognize him and this was annoying.  So, when I got in his vehicle, I apologized and asked straight up “how did we meet?”.  When he said Craigslist, it clicked.  Ok, that settled, we were good to go.  A few minutes later we were at the fishing spot.

Fishing by the bridge
Setting up for the first cast.

I haven’t done fishing in a VERY long time.  These fishing pools were cool.  They were like the collapsible FM antennas but wayyyy longer.  The fishing pole he used must have been about 12 or 15ft long.  I had a smaller one.  We just put some bait on the end and tossed the lines into the water.  I asked how big of fish were here and he said very small, palm sized.  I asked because I saw others who had cast their lines and left their fishing rods sitting on the ground.  Obviously the fish weren’t big or strong enough to drag the rods into the water.  He cast his line in, set his fishing pole down and had to go back to his vehicle for something.  I cast mine in and the moment it hit the water, I got a bite!  Seriously, I pulled it out and was amused by my catch.

Cute little guy
Look what I caught! I think I’ve had colds that were bigger :/

So there I am, all bundled up, with a tiny little fish that is smaller than my wallet.  We weren’t keeping them today but it was fun to experience this type of fishing.

A few minutes later my new friend caught one!

Second score of the day!
Second score of the day!

He asked not to show his face because he was embarrassed how little the fish was.  Koreans can be funny about that sometimes…ok, most times.

Sunset

We didn’t get any more and because there was a rather continuous wind that was just a wee bit too cold for our liking, we didn’t stay long.  We left with me having an invite to diner at his place.  Apparently I am his first friend in 1.5 years of his living in this area.  He said we could practice some Korean and English as well.  Fine by me, we stopped by my place, grabbed my Korean book and then headed back to his place.  I learned some useful phrases (First, second, third…) and I helped him with his pronunciation.  He made Ramien and rice for dinner.

“Really, Really Spicy, Spicy”

He lived in the other area of town so after we had talked enough, I took the bus home.  All-in-all, a good day and weekend for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

#South Korea banks

South Korean ATM (Image courtesy of travelpod.com)

The security in banking here is a mixed bag.  Sometimes it is overlook, other times it is laughable.

In Korea, you don’t pay bills, you transfer money to a company account.  Amounts to the same thing in the end but there is a difference, subtle as it is.

First, just to look at the bank website, you are forced to install their software.  It is a combination off key logger and firewall.  Last year the government finally the banks to let people use a browser other than only that insecure IE one.  This is good news :)

While online, the software monitors your habits, obstensively to make sure nothing ‘funny’ is going on that might compromise the security of the site or your browser.

What is interesting is that unlike North America (or at least Canada), you don’t automatically get internet banking.  You have to ask for it.  It is an added feature with no extra cost.  They give you this security card with a bunch of numbers in a couple of sets of columns.  When you go online, the website will ask for random parts of those numbers.

The card you have will look like this but obviously without the dots :)

Ok, so once you have mastered this little bit, you also need to know that you have to ask for shopping privileges.  Yes, it is also something you have to ask for so that you can use your card to buy things.  It’s almost like “Well, what the hell can you do with your bank without asking for a feature?”  Desposit and withdrawn.  That’s about it.

Now, back home we have these keypads in which to enter in our PIN code so that we can approve the purchase that it was done by us.  Reasonably secure.  Here, Korea decided to get all “high-tech” and go with a digital signing pad (like you see with the UPS guy when you sign for your package).  The sad thing it that it’s a wasted technology.  The Koreans, they just scribble any old line…with their finger nail.  They don’t even bother with the plastic stylus.  Hell, at one restaurant I handed the bill with my bank card (expecting him to bring a machine to my table) and when he brought me back the receipt I asked him about signing.  He replied “I already did for you.” with a pleasant smile!  Yeah, it’s a pathetic system which just means, don’t loose your damn card!  To be fair, it is severely unlikely that anyone would ever do anything and steal money from your account.  That is just not the way things happen here (unlike that time I lost $200 from my account in Canada because I forgot my card in the machine and the cops could care less about it…).

The other day I saw something new and something that every bank machine and bank website should have!

Now this is smart security!

Sorry for the glare, couldn’t be helped.  This simple screen, shown when you chose the option to transfer, would severely cut back on those Nigerian Scams! 419 Eater does an amusing job at trying to strike back but having a screen like this would make a few more people stop and think.

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.

The Troubling English Obsession in South Korea: How Foreign ESL Teachers Can Be Part of the Solution

I found this article on Koreabridge.net.  It is worth repeating.

****

As of 2013, there are thought to be nearly 20,000 first-language English speakers working for public schools and privately owned language programs (hagwons) in South Korea.  Korean parents regularly shell out as much as a third of their household income to get their children in an after school program with these foreign instructors.  As a result, hagwon profits have soared, surpassing US$7 billion in 2009.

For parents, English fluency is seen as an essential aspect of their child’s success in hyper-competitive, 21st century Korea.  For better or worse, they are often correct in this assumption.  Standardized English proficiency tests, such as the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), serve as gatekeepers for the upper echelons of status and achievement in Korea.  It is common practice for top universities and employers to discriminate based on TOEFL performance, admitting/hiring only those with top percentile scores.  As a result, parents are heavily incentivized to guarantee that their child reach English proficiency.  Indeed, failure to do so may very well relegate the child to a significantly disadvantaged economic outlook in adulthood.

On a national level, the willingness to invest heavily in the acquisition of the English language is telling of a powerful cultural shift towards westernization and globalization.  Still, while it is tempting to say that the emphasis on English is simply a bi-product of Korea’s ongoing push for relevance and clout in the modern world, such a claim would be an oversimplification.  In fact, Korea’s English obsession, and focus on education in general, has as much to do with its past as with its present or future.

Confucianism, the driving force behind Korean values, made its way to the peninsula by way of China over two millennia ago.  Included in the moral philosophy of Kong Fuzi (aka Confucius, 558-471 BCE) is the idea that one can (and should) improve him/herself through education.  While the influence of many aspects of Confucianism are diminishing, the emphasis on learning seems to be an exception.  The extreme approach to education in present day Korea is very much a reflection of persistent Confucian values.

As it would happen, the Confucian attitude towards education lent itself fittingly to the 20th century context.  In the wake of the Korean War (1950-53) and the subsequent partition of the peninsula at the 38th parallel, South Korea was a third-world nation in physical and psychological ruin.  With infrastructure destroyed, families divided, and a dire scarcity of natural resources, the prospects for Korean people were grim on all fronts.  However, despite the odds being stacked against them, a handful of visionary leaders saw knowledge as a way out of this struggle.  Just as education is often recognized as a way for individuals to overcome circumstance, so it went on a national level in 1950′s South Korea.  Education was underscored as the means through which Korea(ns) could transcend struggle.  The people bought into this message, and the result was nothing short of phenomenal.  In what has been dubbed “the miracle on the Han”, post-war South Korea rapidly ascended from poverty and destruction to become one of the most robust economies and well-educated societies in the modern world.  Clearly, the education-centric approach had worked on an economic level.  But at what cost?

The South Korea of 2013 is as advanced democratically and technologically as any East Asian country, but the atrocities of the Korean War and decades of brutal Japanese colonization that preceded it remain a stain on the national zeitgeist.  Living in South Korea, one gets the impression that its people, much like their ancestors, view life as inevitably and necessarily rife with struggle.  The result of this resilient stance is a willingness to subject oneself and one’s children to ridiculously long work/school hours and a crippling stress load.  Perhaps not surprisingly, South Korea’s suicide rate is consistently in the top two worldwide.

The problem with “English Mania” and the role of ESL Teachers as part of the solution…

The national obsession with English is merely one aspect, albeit a critical one, of a larger societal push towards global recognition and respect.  That South Korea aspires to be bi-lingual on a national level is admirable, but it is easy to make the case that they have gone too far in their efforts to meet this end.

As a middle school hagwon teacher in 2010 and 2011, I often experienced considerable doubt with regards to my purpose and value in Korea.  I had moved to Korea to become an educator, but in time began to feel more like an administrator of cruel and unusual punishment.

In general, there are three types of students at a middle school hagwon.  First, you have the kids who are completely out of control. They spend their time punching their friends, chatting, and/or throwing paper across the room.   On the opposing side of the coin are the kids who are simply too exhausted to function.  These students spend their time drawing, staring off into space, or sleeping.  Each of these students is a predictable result of drastic overwork. Finally, there are the students who remain engaged and consistently devoted to their studies, despite the mounting expectations and pressure placed upon them.  The first two types of student were very frustrating to deal with, but I did my best to understand where they were coming from.  The third group made the entire experience worthwhile, but the fact that they even existed was always astonishing to me.

If ESL teachers in South Korea are to look in the mirror in any truthful manner, it is necessary to recognize that we play an active role in a system which provides minimal results at an extraordinary financial and psychological cost.  Twelve year old students should not be saddled with 60+ hours per week of schoolwork, but they are, and will likely continue to be regardless of whether or not the importation of foreign ESL teachers remains common practice.

The focus, especially for hagwon teachers, should be to integrate a push for English language proficiency with an overall effort at harm reduction.  It can hardly be denied that Korean kids are overworked and underplayed.  Thus, it is our responsibility as teachers to counterbalance this discrepancy by making our classrooms as stress-free and fun as possible.  Not only will kids learn more under these improved conditions, they may regain traces of a proper childhood in the process.  How can we create such an environment in our classrooms?  I believe these three simple rules can go a long way.

1. Minimize homework.  Korean kids have enough already.  And given that their school grades will always take precedence over hagwon marks, it should come as little surprise that the effort put forth on hagwon homework is generally the bare minimum.  Assigning homework does more harm than good, and often only serves to contribute to the already crippling stress load on the students.

2. Play more games.  No, I’m not talking about hangman.  Scour the web for creative ESL games and you will certainly find them to be abundant.  Borrow ideas from other teachers or invent your own games from scratch.  Done right, games are an extremely effective way to foster learning and encourage fun.

3. Fight the system.  Hagwons generally try to make you think that there is only one acceptable way of doing things.  More often than not, it will be painfully obvious that their approach to education is misled.  After all, hagwon owners are generally non-English speaking capitalists, rather than passionate ESL educators.  If you are being asked to teach in a way that you know to be counter-productive, push back against the system in any way that you can.  Focus on the well being of the students, rather than the bottom line of the hagwon.  That said, hagwons can be resistant to change and intolerant of disobedience, so approach your efforts at reformation with caution.

A choice…

For better or worse, the “English Mania” movement is in full effect in South Korea.  To be sure, we foreign teachers have a central part in all of this, but it is entirely up to us what kind of role we play.   We can do everything in our power to improve the lives of our students, or simply adhere to  the usual psychologically and physically destructive policies.  Either way, we get paid.  For those hoping to leave Korea a slightly better place than they found it, I believe there is a moral imperative to do the right thing.

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Andy Baxley is a teacher, writer, and photographer living in Seoul.  For more of his work,  please check out his blog at The Nomad Diary.

Korean Relationships & Weddings

I know people like to read about how things are done in different cultures and I certainly aim to please in this department.

First, let’s talk a bit about dating.  In Korea, dating is a very serious thing.  One would almost think you were talking about a fiancée and not just the girl you are seeing.  See, I can not ask a girl out for coffee because that is a ‘date’.  Dating, to Koreans, means I am interested in that person, with the idea that sex will eventually happen but never on the first ‘date’.    If I said ‘let’s have coffee as friends’ then the concern instantly vapourizes and the girl is free to say yes or no without any perceived pressure.  Also, if you do end up dating a Korean girl, there is a precedent for formally asking for the father’s permission for marriage.  In North America this is considered old-fashioned but here it’s still a pretty important tradition.  I met a guy on the bus the other day who was on his way to do exactly that.  He was dressed smartly as if he was a businessman, dress pans, shiny black shoes.  He spoke good English and we had a nice conversation about language and cultural mindsets.

Ok, back to the whole ‘pre-marital’ arrangements.  In North America, it is nice to see a guy hold the door open for his girlfriend, carry packages, little thing to show that he is a gentleman and is willing to ‘ease her burden’ because that is what he is capable of doing for her.  What you will never see in North America is this:

Pink Purses and Men

At first, one might think that the guy is simply fashion-brain-damaged but still wants to express his personal choice of sexual orientation but you would be wrong.  Another view is that he is simply colour blind and thought that the ‘red’ messenger bag would perfectly accessorize his Angry Birds smartphone case but without knowing him personally, this is most likely not the case.  The last, and certainly not least, is that he is carrying his girlfriend’s purse for her.  For most westerners, this is completely foreign.  No woman would ever give up her purse and let someone else carry ‘their entire life’ for them.  It’s way too personal!  Not quite so here.  Despite living here, I will never carry my wife’s purse….ever.  Especially if it’s hot pink.

Weddings are in interesting affair here.  I have attended two of them and it still is an odd set-up.  Cheaper certainly but definitely odd.  First, the wedding and the buffet places are usually in the same building, on the same floor if the place you choose is sufficiently large enough for your budget.

“What do you mean, ‘same floor’?” you ask?

Oh that’s easy.  See Korea is a small country.  Many people don’t realize just how small is truly is till you put it into perspective.  South Korea will fit inside of Ontario TEN TIMES and yet the 50,000,000 dwarfs Canada’s 34,000,000.  Hell, the Greater Seoul area has 24,000,000 alone, nearly the entire population of Canada in just one city.  To that end, Korea builds UP and not OUT because space is a premium here.  This also means that there are more businesses in tall buildings.  The wedding we just attended was on the 4th floor while the dinner was in Basement 1.  The previous wedding both the ‘hall’ and the buffet were on the same floor but it was larger in both respects that wedding.

Here are a few pictures from the wedding.

Google & North Korea

This post crosses a few interests of mine.  Namely, Google, North Korea, Conspiracy Theory-made-manifest.

If you weren’t aware, Google’s Eric Schmidt (and ex-New Mexico Governor) Bill Richardson flew to North Korea.

google-north-korea
Schmidt & Richardson watching a North Korean using the Internet. Photo courtesy of WSJ.

Word has it that the Richardson is pressing for the release of Pae Jun Ho, an US Citizen, for “Unspecified Crimes“.

What should concern people is that right now, tensions are a little high after the missile launch and the threat of a nuclear test being performed we don’t have an official GOVERNMENT visit to work things out (although, given the history of such and the following obvious failures…) we have CORPORATE interests gallivanting about the world, making ‘nice, nice’ with ugly neighbours.  Seriously, this smacks of the whole shift from a Democratic rulership to a Corporatocracy.  It’s not like we weren’t warned about this, publicly, in the 70’s.

This movie is one of my favourites and this scene is nearly as famous as the “Mad as Hell” scene.

So, back to my current northern neighbours.  What do you think the outcome will be?  Will Google be allowed inside the ‘hermit kingdom’?  That place where the Internet is so tightly controlled that only a select few are allowed to use it?  Somehow I doubt that will change anytime soon, given how tightly controlled the state media is.  Or should I say manipulated?  Were you aware that North Korea WON the World Cup in 2010?! (Despite Spain actually winning it seems.)

So what to the South Koreans think of the North Koreans?  Oddly not much.  There is a well know pattern that North Korea hypes up some event, threatens ‘Seoul’ with retaliation and then….fails to follow through. North Korea is like the boy who cried wolf all the time.  Sure some ‘spikes’ of interest show up (Kim Jong Il dying, Rocket launch) that get people to talk a little bit, otherwise North Korea is fairly well ignored by the southern populace.

I have met some Koreans whose families originate from North Korea (English teachers from South Africa actually) and they don’t seem any different from any other regular Korean really.  So it’s back to the big, egotistical Military types running the place and making big chest-pounding displays of strength while the rest of the people go ‘meh’.

Getting yelled at

So yesterday I got yelled at for crossing the street and not using the walk way. The Korean woman yelled at me, from 50ft away “Heyyyy!” Then made a pointing gesture sweeping across the sidewalk just down the road. I smiled , shook my head and finished my road crossing. It’s like she never saw anyone doing this before and decided to give the foreigner hell for doing so. The hypocracy amuses me.

Today I had an aujama who kept trying to look at something while going up the escalator. Why is significant? Well I just didn’t appreciate her perm, with greying roots, being with 2″ of my face, nearly slapping my eyes every time she turned her head rather violently. Koreans have no perception of awareness around them.