Now this is a day and a half!

Lets start with the literal start of the 12th of June….midnight.

I was out with sure friend, eating food, decided to do a bit of odd school video arcade, grab done ice cream from somewhere.  All in all it went really well.  Now, it was getting late, my knee was bugging me a bit, I was feeling lazy so i decided to take a cab.  Trying to get a cab, in Seoul, between midnight and 1am is impossible.  Spook the fuckers wasn’t is long-distance fares and they will ask you where you want to go before you get in the cab.  Their doors are locked so you can’t even get in and then tell them.  They will simply just drive away.  This even happens to Koreans, so its not a foreigner thing.

So after years of complaining, the government finally opened up a hotline that you can call.  Great…..except that when I called, they were closed and it was forwarded to a stand-by tourist hotline person who sounded like I just woke her up and chorus do nothing for me.  So essentially the help line was useless when you needed it most. Thanks Korea.

Ok, so now what?  I decide to call one of the cab companies.  I got the number off one of the local cabs i know that drive around Seoul.  Even withmy bad Korean, the lady knew where I was and where I wanted to go.  I Hang up and wait.  After 15 mins I get a text message that failed to translate worth a damn.

image

I forward this off to my Korean friend, where I was staying, as he was waiting for me. He tells me that the message said there are no taxis in my area.  WTF?  There are literally like thousands driving all over the place!  Mostly ignoring everyone.  Even saw the shady looking mini-van, unmarked, with a taxi “available” windshield light on. 

Ok, now what are my options? I could just keep on trying…..find a motel to stay at….i certainly could not walk back to where I was staying.  Then, out of the blue, one of the Seoul taxis speed in front of me to let some people out.  Well, I wait and while doing so, this other Korean wasps up from the other direction thinking he’s going to grab it.  HA!  Fat chance buddy!  I tell the driver my location and he says ok.  Sweet!  I give him and extra tip and was just fine paying $7 for that taxi ride.

Fast forward sleeping and the bulk of the next day and I get a message from the girl who is doing my tattoo that she can’t do the second part today.  The reason?  Her younger brother tried to commit suicide and she had to go to the hospital to be with her family.  Wow.

Quite the day indeed!

Advertisements

Why Koreans are killing themselves in droves

South Koreans are under enormous pressure to succeed at work, school and in relationships, and to care for their families, fueling an abysmal suicide rate that is the highest in the OECD group of developed countries. About 40 Koreans commit suicide every day, making it the nation’s fourth-highest cause of death in 2012.

From The Global Post

This is a very sad fact of life here.  One of the biggest issue cited is financial burden.  Well that’s no surprise given the outrageous cost to heat a place.  Korea’s public transportation is more than affordable….for those than can afford it.  When you are working for Minimum wage ($4.25/hr) how the hell could you ever possible afford your own place let alone heat the damn thing?  We just moved from Samcheonpo where we had this one room apartment.  The kitchen/bathroom was ‘kinda’ another room but in reality, just a long hallway with a door that closed off one end.

In the 3 coldest months of the year is cost us $250 EACH MONTH just to heat the place….and we switched to small portable heaters that were CHEAPER than the floor heating.

A couple of things thought you need to know.  Korea does NOT believe in insulation.  The walls of apartments, while thick, are only just concrete.  Zero insulation at all.  Now, our place was on the ‘first’ floor.  First meaning the first livable level, the ground floor was a parking lot.

Image

 

Our apartment was the grey building on the left.  You can see the main window and the tiny little bathroom window.

Here is a typical Korean house undergoing some renovations.  Pay close attention to the wall thickness and notice you will see nothing that indicates any kind of insulation use and your floor is right on the ground.

Image

Now here’s where it gets stupid.  We all know that an apartment is basically a cube, 8 sides.  Our apartment only had TWO of those sides NOT exposed to outside walls.  This includes the floor where the cars parked right below.  We were constantly fighting to keep the place at a decent temperature.  We once tried a bigger oscillating heater (kinda like an oscillating fan but just a heating element with a reflective panel behind it).  That worked out nicely for two weeks but one day a service guy came buy and showed me a nearly $400 bill so far!  Fuck me!  Well, when he saw the heater he pointed at it.  Guess they may have been concerned that either there was a problem or we had a grow-op going on :P

So, back to heating.

Our new place ONLY has 2 sides exposed to outside walls (front and back…apartments in bigger/older building run full-width of building…which are generally thin tall things).  So while we will have 6 other sides providing insulation our new place is 3 bedrooms.  In fact, our old place could fit into the master bedroom.  So better insulation, significantly bigger area to heat.  A kind of loss there actually.

Oh, and we just found out that this building has a mix of fuels in it.  See, years ago everyone used to have a tank in the ground/basement where an oil truck would deliver the fuel for heating/cooking.  This place does have natural gas and I just figured it was converted.  Oh no, that ONLY does the gas range (they don’t do ovens typically here, so we basically got a stove top but no bottom.  We fixed that by buying a convection over<G>) and we just learned learned that we DO have an oil tank and guess what….it’s out of oil now.  So no hot water for showers.  Sigh.

We figured this out today and would have the fuel delivered today but we were out shopping.  So he’s coming Monday.  We can only boil water and do the sponge/towel baths till then.  I think Monday I’ll wait till the delivery :)

Now, as for cost, you are looking at about $600 to fill up the tank.  I don’t know the volume yet but I do know that the previous foreign teacher filled up at the beginning of her contract (mumble, would have been nice if she told us that…) so that tanks lasted her a whole year.  She didn’t use the floor heating but supplemented with electrical heater blankets and never used the 3rd bedroom or main bedroom but chose to sleep mostly in the living room on a mattress.

At about $50/month for fuel, that’s not too bad but it’s all relative right?  $50 is about 12hrs of work at min wage and this only gets you hot water and not even a warm place for a year.  This also assumes that you even have a job given the rather high unemployment rate here.  Don’t let the number full you.  Multiply it by 50,000,000(the current population approximately) and then you’ll get a sense of actually how many people that is.

Do I even want to bother adding in the fact that Korea is one of the worst of OCED for gender equality in terms of pay scale?  Ranking a whopping 120th out of 138 countries!

I really have no idea how they are ever going to fix this.  There’s going to have to be a major shift in the working class to get their shit together here.

You think reality shows are bad in North America?

How about one that lead a young woman to hang herself?

Police report the 29-year-old woman, identified only by her surname, Jeon, hung herself with a hairdryer cord in the bathroom of the residence in which the show is filmed…

From South Korean Broadcaster Cancels Reality Show After Contestant Hangs Herself

To be honest, Koreans are overly dramatic to begin with.  They have no sense of self-worth, or maybe they have too much sense?  To the point where if it feels the least bit disturbed, they can’t stand their life any more.  It simply shows an emotional immaturity where tradition has completely come to odds with modern times.  Maybe they will grow up and join the modern world at some point.  Slowly it is happening but one can only hope it happens faster than their suicide rate “highest suicide rate in the developed world, at 28 people per 100,000“.

Oh that number might not seem much to you but do you know how many people there are in South Korea?  50,000,000.  That is 14,000 people per year!  The most publicized ones are like above.  Some ‘media personality’, or the oft-reported university student (KAIST was gaining some unpopular notoriety for this a short while ago.) but my recent understanding is that the majority of those numbers are actually elderly people, living on the fringes of the countryside who simply can’t afford to eat and commit suicide rather than ask for help(another sign of immaturity of the psyche).  You won’t hear much of those people because it makes the country ‘look bad’, despite this being a reality.  Denial will only make things worse.  So in the years to come, there will be heavy criticism against Korea for pointing fingers at North Korea’s treatment of their citizen when South Korea has quite a similar problem of its own.

You know what they say, one finger-pointing out leaves 3 pointing back.

The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea – Korea Must End the Suicide Epidemic

An average of 42.6 people committed suicide every day in Korea in 2010 or 15,566 over the whole year. That translates into 31.2 in every 100,000 Koreans committing suicide, 2.4 times more than the OECD average of 12.8 people.
from – http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/09/11/2012091101353.html

An interesting article about the suicide rate in Korea and yet the author can’t comprehend a simple explanation that would probably help. Korea is undergoing change. Some people simply can’t handle change. Within three decades, Korea doesn’t even come close to resembling what it used to be. I see signs of change everywhere. The old can’t understand the drastically new. The young can’t understand why the old don’t get “it”. Thousands of years of tradition are being stream-rolled over in favour of capitalism and westernization. Doesn’t anyone see the stresses this can cause? So far I haven’t touched upon the soul of a nation that had been disturbed. What they knew is slowly fading and they, as a society, are trying to find a new definition for themselves. What if there is none? How does one find “his place in the world” when the world is caught between the traditions of the old and the demands of the new? Koreans are like children in this modern world. They have shiny new toys but no sense of responsibility because they never had to have any when they were young. A Korean mother did everything for their kids. She made them food, washed their clothes, cleaned their room. Why would they believe that they needed any form of responsibility when it came to cars or technology? I fear this will lead a major credit crisis because once again, unless you are married to a woman who was taught to be the responsible one in the family, they will treat their money liked they treat their phones….purely as a disposable commodity and the “powers that be” liked that very much when the cornerstone of capitalization is debt and NOT freedom. We should also consider what else is NOT taught in schools….creativity. Kids are taught to memorize but never to think. Thinking leads to questioning and Korean society never question its elders because it is considered rude to do so. This is a severely dangerous path when you are not allowed to think and end up being just another robot in the assembly line of capitalism. It limits your belief and ability to think critically as well as from a detached point of view that is so often needed for problem solving. This ought to be interesting to see down the road.