Friday, February 29, 2008
Kim is the first Korean player in Pirates history. Last year Masumi Kuwata was the first Japanese player to wear a Pirates uniform. A former All-Star and two-time World Series Champion, Kim is best known for his submarine slider, for flipping off Boston fans in 2003, for giving up home run number 715 to Bonds, for blowing two saves by giving up three devastating home runs in the 2001 World Series, and for giving up a tie-breaking home run in Korea's final loss in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. I'm sure there are more events worth mentioning, but Jesus Tapdancing Christ, you try sifting through that Wikipedia page.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Saw this guy chained outside last week in Danyang. He's got his box of Nene Chicken and a ramyeon bowl of water. That's about as far on the sidewalk he could get. He barked quite a bit, though when I approached he slunk back under the fence.
Should come as no surprise to anyone here when I say that animals aren't treated very well in South Korea. It's well beyond my abilities to document the situation in its fullest, but you can browse the internet for information on the abuse of dogs, cats, and horses to your heart's discontent. Mokpo resident Ms. Parker wrote a piece on the treatment of cats in Korea for the March issue of Cat Fancy, but it doesn't seem to be available online. Maybe she can hook us up with an online exclusive.
Guard dog in Chungju, last week.
But seeing a few Jindos chained outside last week got me thinking. It's actually a common occurence, as any resident of Korea knows, to see dogs chained outside, usually with a chain too small to permit them to tread anywhere but in their own feces. More often then not, when I see a big dog chained outside, it's a Jindo. It got me thinking about the reverence these dogs are given among Koreans, at least in words and on paper. The dog was designated as Natural Monument no. 53 in 1962 "to protect the superior blood." The Cultural Heritage Administration page continues:
Jindo dogs of Jindo are under the legal protection of "The law for protection and raising of Jindo dogs", and "The law for preservation of cultural properties".
The Jindo is also celebrated for its intelligence and its loyalty. The Jindo County webpage tells us:
The Jindo Dog are much loved by many for its display of superior characteristics to the master. Such qualities are: loyalty, bravery, boldness, fastidiousness, hunting instincts, protectiveness, etc… It is our nations representative dog, also well known through out the world for living up to its reputations. If we examine the superior characteristcs, it can be arranged as the following
and it then proceeds to list, and elaborate awkwardly on: loyalty, returning home instinct, indomitable hunting instinct, not falling to strangers temptation, characteristic of fastidiousness, protectiveness, and bravery and courageousness. The Wikipedia page has more anecdotal evidence and has the feel of an article written by overseas Koreans. And fuck you if you think the Jindo actually comes from China or Mongolia
there are concerns of which the rumors, verbally passed down, is believed to be true by our people: that the ancestors of the Jindo Dog are the Mongol dogs or dogs from Song dynasty, China.
Considering these points, we wish to make clear that the Jindo Dog is our nations native dog as a result of document analysis and scientific research.
The Jindo county page actually spends considerable time making the point that the Jindo is, in fact, native to Korea. Thus the cultural importance many ascribe to the dog isn't that it's designated as a cultural property, but that it is considered to be something purely Korean. If you browse the various pages on the Jindo county site---this one in particular---you'll see that the designation is entirely based on preserving the dog's pure blood, and not necessarily the dogs themselves. Well, unless you actually eat a purebred Jindo, an act which will cost you tens of millions of won. Interestingly, the Cultural Heritage Administration page says that Jindo dogs came from China. Does this mean VANK will launch a civil war to stop the Korean government from distorting Korean history?
Anyway, this month there's been a lot of to-do about the need for preservation of Korean cultural properties: first after the destruction of Namdaemun, then subsequent articles about trees and something else that slipped my mind, damn it. My memory was jogged back to the plight of the dog's in a Daejeon animal shelter that will find themselves (most likely) euthanized unless they can be adopted. It was curious to note that, while people are throwing out all kind of hyperbole regarding the destruction of one cultural property, there is almost no noise about the destruction of another. Perhaps that's one angle to explore for those interested in cleaning up the dog abuse situation here, although I'll grant that there are other factors at work, and if change in Korea were as easy as pointing out facts and hypocracies, then most of us bloggers would be looking for new hobbies.
A pen of Jindos in Gangjin county, 2006.
Thinking about Jindo dogs the other day did remind me of a big "WTF?!?" story from 2006 about the poor treatment of Jindo dogs in the US. The article is titled "Chindo Dogs On American Death Row" and originally ran in the Korea Times and is now available here from Empas. Please read the thing in its entirety, but here's a little taste:
Revered by many Koreans, chindos marched proudly in the Seoul Olympics and were given as gifts to North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il by former South Korea president, Kim Dae-jung but, each year in the U.S. hundreds are either turned out, literally dumped, or given up by their owners, inviting certain death in ``kill’’ shelters where animals are quickly euthanized if new homes cannot be found.Um . . . holy fucking shit dude. It's quite remarkable---but not too surprising, I guess---that anyone in a Korean paper would have the gall to criticize another country for its treatment of dogs. It's an exaggeration to say that there are no dog lovers in Korea, or that only lapdogs are shown any sort of affection, but hell, it certainly seems at times that when dogs aren't beaten, chained, or abandoned, they're eaten. And let's remind ourselves who brought Jindos to the United States in the first place. Gangwon Notes also picked up the story back then.
For a dog the South Korean government recognizes worthy of being legislatively protected, that it faces lethal uncertainty in the U.S. is difficult to accept.
So great is the problem, chindo-enthusiasts there have formed rescue groups: Finding homes for the dogs and educating current and potential owners, shelter workers, veterinarians, animal-control officers, and the general public about the chindo and its seemingly unique character and traits, good and bad.
When chindos first arrived in the U.S. is unclear but since their arrival, initially centered around ``Koreatown’’ in Los Angeles, California, Ann Kim, a chindo owner since 1993, and an `unofficial’ authority on the dogs, suggests that as word of their presence spread throughout the migrant Korean communities, their fate was set on an unintended path of enforced self-destruction.
``Unfortunately, there was less emphasis on carefully and thoughtfully protecting and preserving this breed and more emphasis on making money and satisfying the demands of envious friends and relatives,’’ she said in an e-mail interview with the Korea Times. She added that: ``As a result, there was rampant, irresponsible breeding and considerable degeneration of the chindo.’’
Worth pointing out that the author of the above Korea Times piece is Chris Brockie, a New Zealander who apparently has a history of cranio-rectal inversion. The Marmot's Hole is on the case with "Another English Teacher Needs a Cup of STFU."
Myron Cope---Pittsburgh native, voice of the Steelers, inventor of the "Terrible Towel," member of the National Radio Hall of Fame, humanitarian---died yesterday at the age of 79. His unique delivery, enthusiastic personality, and thick Pittsburgh accent were among the reasons so many Steelers fans muted the volume on the TV and turned up the radio during Cope's long tenure as radio broadcaster. Here's a minute-long video clip of him talking about the Towel:
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has a nice obituary. An excerpt:
His style, simultaneously elegant, robust, and humored, landed him on the original full-time staff of Sports Illustrated, which, with the Saturday Evening Post, became the primary conduits of his work. At its 50th anniversary, Sports Illustrated cited Mr. Cope's profile of Howard Cosell as one of its 50 all-time classic articles. Only Mr. Cope and George Plimpton held the title of special contributor at that magazine when Mr. Cope left due to the demands of his burgeoning radio career, and in no small part due to health insurance concerns as they related to his son, Danny.
Mr. Cope's legendary charitable work, which ultimately led to his being awarded the American Institute for Public Service's Jefferson Award in January 1999, began with his son's enrollment at the Allegheny Valley School, an institution for the profoundly mentally and physically disabled. He served for many years on the board of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Autism Society of America and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, the charity auto race he co-founded, along with the Myron Cope/Foge Fazio Golf Tournament for Autistic Children.
The Terrible Towel, long since a worldwide symbol of Steelers passion and often the Steelers artifact with which Mr. Cope is most identified, is now a trademark that benefits the Allegheny Valley School.
He was a legend in Pittsburgh and he will be missed.
Some Korean comedians have ripped off a routine done by Penn & Teller that exposes how a box trick is done. The Penn & Teller video is here, the Korean video is here, and a video of Penn talking about it is here.
Goes without saying that public figures influence other public figures, and that people borrow and "sample" all the time, usually to put a new twist on something or to pay tribute to the original. But what bothers me in Korean and Asian cases is that there's an effort to pass the copy off as one's own idea. That the public---whether watching comedians, listening to Lee Hyori or Kim Ah-jung, eating snack foods, or drinking Starpreya---will be ignorant of the source and will be deprived of the creative process that went into the original. Having run-of-the-mill gagmen doing this act is a disservice to Penn & Teller, who were innovate in their presentation of the original expose and who have been somewhat innovative in their debunking of bullshit.
Penn joked about suing for kimchi, but I don't think he'd get very far in a country that has little regard for intellectual property . . . ah, unless Koreans designs are being copied by the Chinese (here and here and here, too).
* Edit: Just came across this article in the Joongang Ilbo, "Intellectual property safer in Korea." An excerpt:
"In the intellectual property index, patents and trademark rights carry a lot of weight. Korea, with its developed corporate sector, is protecting them well, though it is relatively weak in the protection of copyrights,” Choi Sung-no, a fellow at the Center for Free Enterprise, said yesterday.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Painted on the side of this store.
The "staff" is partially obscured.
I thought this post was going to be groundbreaking, but it looks like other people noticed it first (here and here), and apparently it's been around for a while.
My dad told me that when he was a kid there was a guy who lived across the street who used to hang a Nazi flag in his basement. He seemed a little crazy. But in that guy's defense he was from Austria and actually was a Nazi. So while he was hateful at least he wasn't ignorant. That was sarcasm.
I'm all for freedom of expression and all that. I'm just curious what view these Koreans are expressing with this mural. Do they respect Hitler for being a strong leader who pulled
Monday, February 25, 2008
In times of national tragedy, there are always those who seek to exploit public fear and insecurity to achieve goals that are not readily apparent. As some in Korea have made comparisons between America’s horrific 9/11 tragedy and the loss of Korea’s precious national landmark, it behooves all who clamor for greater government protection ― possibly at the expense of civil liberties and due process ― to review how one fiery event changed history forever: the Reichstag Fire of 1933.
As in Seoul, a barely coherent man with a checkered past wandered the streets of the German capital with a grudge against the system and allegedly set fire to a beautiful historic structure to seek revenge. An ambitious right-of-center politician promising sweeping changes to revive the battered economy and wounded national pride saw an opportunity and made his move (launching Nazi Germany). It may be wisefor Koreans to review the circumstances of the tragic Reichstag fire for its eerie similarity to the loss of the precious Sungnyemun, for how the desire to avenge such a senseless crime may be exploited by the powerful for unforeseen ends.
For those keeping score at home, we've had 9/11, Katrina, Auschwitz, Cambodia, and Ground Zero. I've got five bucks riding on the progression leading next to Fort Sumter.
Hines Ward, attending the inauguration of Lee Myung-bak today. Stolen from the Korea Times. Looks kind of like Barry Bonds there.
That second one stolen from Naver.
Should it get pulled, and should you care, you can find the video on Naver.
Besides being obsessed with putting things in or through each other's asses, Koreans love poop. There is no cuter manifestation of that than the story "강아지똥." One of my schools last year had each page of the children's book painted on the wall to make a huge mural. Here's a music video comprised of bits of the 30-minute movie:
Saturday, February 23, 2008
This time from the JoongAng Ilbo.
We have had our fair share of tragedy ― the collapse of the Sampoong Department Store and Seongsu Bridge, plus the arson attack on the Daegu subway.
However, cameras didn’t catch the moment of the accident. The fire at Naksansa Temple in 2005 still sticks in our memory, because we saw it on TV.
People could do nothing but watch the pitiful footage as the ancient temple burned and the bronze bell melted in the flames.
Viewers who saw those painful images will never forget them. The sounds of people shrieking as they looked on has been burned into the hearts of the people of Korea.
It's rather bold to suggest that 9/11 was, to Americans, equivalent to a filmed action sequence. Moreover it's outrageous to suggest that 9/11 was, to Koreans, anything more than that. There are numerous reasons why the "Korean 9/11" thing is off base. And then, of course, there's how Koreans reacted to the real 9/11:
Image taken from this "ROK Drop" post. I have more thoughts on the "Korean 9/11" phenomenon that I'll be posting here shortly.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Kim, a 29-year-old sidearm right-hander and native of South Korea, split last season between the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Florida Marlins, going 10-8 with a 6.08 ERA in 28 appearances, including 22 starts. In 394 Major League Baseball appearances, including 87 starts, he is 54-60 with a 4.42 ERA.
Fuck, we're fucked. And yes, since you were wondering, Kim's Wikipedia page is three times the size of Lee Myung-bak's. And that's before including the section about Kim blowing out his arm, as all Pirates pitchers are wont to do. Expect that addition around May or so.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Hahaha, so fucking cute. This otter was found under a bridge in Gangjin's Seongjeon-myeon, where I used to teach every Friday last year. Pictures, story, and humorous captions in yesterday's Gangjin Shinmun.
In other news, Gangjin's local bus terminal burned last Monday. From the picture I guess it's still standing, though the article said that it endured 6 million won's worth of damage in just 15 minutes.
This is the "군내" terminal, which runs buses to the county's outlying villages and hamlets, and not the new intercity terminal. The local terminal is located next to the 5-day market, and if your bus happens to stop at the terminal, the boarding passengers will mostly be old women with their wares.
I also did a little update on my post on Nammireuksa, the temple in eastern Gangjin with the 36-meter-high brass Amitabha statue, so go 'head and check that out. And with that, I will leave you all to your own devices as I go on vacation tomorrow for a week and visit some of this country's sites. For all the bitching that goes along with teaching here, that I'm on vacation about 25% of the time kind of evens things out.
Here's the caption for the above photo that was posted by the Korea Times last evening:
Consolation: A shaman conducts a ritual in front of Sungnyemun gate in downtown Seoul, Monday, to console its spirits and ask for a better future. A pig was slaughtered as a sacrificial offering for the destroyed historical heritage.
Well, I hope that makes everyone feel better. Not as dramatic as the time a live pig was ripped apart in Icheon in protest of a military base, but to be fair people are usually a bit tired on Mondays. In other
In the reversed world of today where the best golfer is black and the best rapper is arguably white, could the best Korean footballer be wearing the colors of the North, not the South?
If the Herald comes out and says that the best hookers aren't, in fact, Korean, I'll crap my pants. Korean papers throw lines like the one I quoted all the time and it's really hard to point out all of them. They're noteworthy not for simply being insanely backwards, but for being completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. An article about a North Korean soccer player couldn't go more than a sentence without commenting on the absurdity of a colored man playing golf and a white man singing black music. If the papers aren't going to employ editors, at least have them keep the sterotypes out of the English-language articles.
Worth pointing out that the North-South match in question will be held in North Korea and will not feature the South Korean flag or the South Korean national anthem, as both have been banned by the Dear Leader.
At a first glance, Ki Sung-hwa seems to be just an ordinary student who will soon graduate from university. The 31-year-old woman may look a bit older than her colleagues as she entered the university later in life. But what makes her graduation more meaningful is the fact that she will be the first married woman to graduate from Ewha Womans' University.
The university used to ban a married woman from entering the school until 2003.
Emphasis mine. Damn. Anyway, good for her.
Monday, February 18, 2008
South Koreans and North Koreans record similar TOEFL scores, despite trillions spent on private English lessons in the South. Radio Free Asia on Thursday said according to a study of TOEFL scores between September 2005 and December 2006 after the TOEFL went online, South Koreans on average earned 72 points out of the full 120 points, compared to 69 for North Koreans.
North Koreans score higher than the Japanese, who record 65 points -- mainly because North Korean applicants are mostly from the elite, like students studying abroad or staff of the Foreign Ministry. Some 6,000 North Koreans took the test during the period.
Ah, yes, North Koreans outscore the Nips. Had to get that in there, didn't they? Some would argue that it's a flawed study since, as the paper says, North Koreans taking the test are relatively well-off, whereas "South Koreans account for 19 percent of TOEFL takers worldwide." But that sort of supports the argument I and others have made: that the TOEFL and other standardized English exams oughtn't be used by so many South Koreans, especially when they're clearly not ready for it. Reversing that trend would mean that, at least, South Koreans wouldn't rank as one of the worst TOEFL-taking nations.
A group of 22 North Koreans who had been returned home after their boats drifted into South Korean waters were all immediately executed by North Korean authorities, a source here said Sunday.
Two fishing boats carrying the North Koreans -- 14 women and eight men including three teenagers -- drifted into the western waters off South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island on Feb. 8 and were sent back home after South Korean interrogators found they had no intention of defecting, the National Intelligence Service said in a press release on Saturday.
More details on The Marmot's Hole and One Free Korea.
Apparently nothing out of the ordinary for the Roh administration. Thankfully we were spared the presidency of Chung Dong-young, the former Unification Minister who was a great friend of North Korea, but not of North Koreans. An excerpt of an interview he gave with Ohmynews, via One Free Korea, remarking on his opposition to organized defections:
[T]he government clearly opposes organized defections. For the people in the North to live their lives in the North with their families is necessary both for individuals and for co-existence and co-prosperity. The policies of reconciliation and cooperation call for humanitarian aid to the North along with strengthening of economic cooperation, and continuous pursuit of North Korea’s participation in the international community. . . . With this in mind, it is not desirable for anyone to organize defections, intentionally bringing people out of North Korea. In particular, this runs counter to the government’s policy of co-existence and co-prosperity. . . . [Incidents like last summer’s mass airlift of defectors] have been unfortunate from the point of the total interests of the Korean people.
As I wrote earlier, it doesn't make me feel very comfortable knowing that Chung gained nearly 80% of the popular vote in Jeollanam-do.
This all comes a few days after the South Korean government acknowledged that it knew its aid to the North was going directly to its military.
I wonder how much attention this will receive down here. Will it trigger the massive outpouring of grief the destruction of
As a teacher, I feel ashamed to tell my children that our country is still experiencing a disaster that would occur in an underdeveloped country.
Will the murder of their "brothers and sisters" by . . . their "brothers and sisters" be awash in hyperbole like "Korea's 9/11" or "Korea's Katrina"? Or is this just an internal, 민족 affair, that requires no comment at all?
Man, all that wood.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Two days ago in the Gangjin Shinmun there was a little write-up about Gangjin-eup's old town wall (강진읍성). There is a renewed interest among some, apparently, after the recent destruction of Seoul's Namdaemun. Gangjin's gates are gone, and the fortress walls are pretty much gone, too. If you walk through town, though, you'll see allusions to the old wall. If you head northwest from the bus terminal, for instance, you'll see several of the shops have 서문 (west gate) in their names. And if you hike on Boeunsan mountain, you'll come across a placard marking the spot of 강진읍성. The first few times I passed it I didn't see any trace of a wall, but upon closer inspection I found a small ridge that runs parallel to the hiking trail for a tiny stretch. Because of the trail, the wall, and the natural contours of the hill, that area resembles a stretch of terraced land. Under the trees and overgrowth there is a line of stacked stones running up the hill, confirming my suspicion.
This bump is how Gangjin-eupseong appears today.
According to the placard, some estimate Gangjin's wall was built in 1457. In 1894 the eastern, southern, and western gates were destroyed by fire.
I'm sure the article has more details, but I don't understand much of it. I'll have to sift through it later. Of course it's completely unfeasable and impossible to restore the gates or the wall, but I would like to see somebody erect placards marking where the gates once stood. I was quite surprised last year to find no mention at all of the gates or the wall in town, save for the collection of 서문 businesses behind the bus terminal.
강진읍성 is one of a ton of fortresses in Jeollanam-do, and one of at least 5 in Gangjin county. Besides 강진읍성 there's Suinsanseong, Manhosanseong in Maryang-myeon,
The H.O.T. podium makes another appearance in the book, this time in front of a teacher. Click the photos for larger versions.
I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more accordian? Bad English and bad accompanying instruments aside, I think this is a case of when good hairstyles go
Older pic of Jewelry as a trio. See, Jeong-ah and In-young can be hot.
Gratuitous. From left to right: New member, Park Jeong-ah, Suh In-young, new member.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Shame on a country for choosing to live that way. Shame on a country for tolerating violence. Shame on a country that is worried more about the threat of violence than violence itself. Allow me just a moment away from K-pop videos to say: "USA, go fuck yourself."
Friday, February 15, 2008
Foreigners never received permission to leave the country. So we had to reconcile ourselves to staying in this country for the rest of our lives. To the custom of the country he invited us accordingly to amuse him with dancing, singing and clownish behavior. Though we fulfilled this obligation with little talent and as little enthusiasm, our performance was to the liking of the king and his court.
Whoa, dude, my first hagwon's name was "Avalon." You can find an English translation of his account here and the portion about "Chollado" is here. An excerpt:
. . . [The governor] sincerely pitied us and wondered why we didn't try to go to Japan. To this we answered that we didn't have the permission to do so and on top of that we didn't have a suitable ship at our disposal. At which he remarked mischievously that in these coastal villages there were enough ships at our disposal.
We assured him that we would never dare to make use of a ship which was not our property, because if we failed then, we would not only be punished for our attempt to escape but also for theft. We said this to make him not suspicious. Every time we said this, the governor had to laugh heartily.
I'm pretty sure the "SaesOng" refered to is present-day Yeosu. As the "Hamel Capsule System" tells us, in a summary of his journal:
Late February of the same year , the superior office ordered to break them up to groups: 12 went to Yeosu (Saijsingh in the original text), 5 to Suncheon(Suintchien in the original text), and 5 went to Namwon (Namman in the original text).
For an interesting write-up about Hamel's ten-year exile in Gangjin, visit this site. An excerpt:
It is also possible that some men met local women and through marriage or otherwise fathered children, whose descendants still live here. The Dutch were given the Korean name Nam. There are several roots for the clan of Nam in Korea, but one originates from around Byeongyeong. And it is from this region, that many people named Nam have typical features like a large body and facial characteristics that may well be from the foreigners in the 17th century. When professor Kim Tae Jin of the Chonnam University in Gwangju did research on this subject, he encountered resistance and a lack of cooperation from the people, as it is regarded as shameful to have mixed blood and not to be of pure Korean breed. Maybe the grand grandparents of these nice old ladies could tell more! Long time ago, before the Korean war, a tall man from Byeongyeong with western facial features called Nam, moved to the north and became a general in the army. It is said that when the North Korean army raided this area, the village of Byeongyeong was spared on special orders from general Nam.
Four Korean farming and fishing communities have become the first Asian members of a network of towns dedicated to resisting the homogenization and Americanization of cities with their omniprent global franchises. Cittaslow International picked the four communities in South Jeolla Province as "slow towns" at its annual meeting in Orvieto, Italy. They are Changpyeong in Damyang County, Jeungdo Island in Sinan County, Cheongsando Island in Wando County and Yuchi village in Jangheung County.
The network praised the four for beautifully preserving tradition and community spirit while others rush into urbanization and globalization. Cittaslow -- from the Italian "citta" for "city" and "slow" as in the Slow Food organization -- is dedicated to preserving the beauty of the slow life. Many towns and villages around the world aspire to membership, but they must meet stringent criteria. Established in Italy in 1999, the network accepts only towns with a population of under 50,000 that pledge to preserve the natural environment, tradition and regional specialties while giving the heave-ho to superstores and fast food restaurants.
That's cool, and I'd actually like to learn a little more about this and what it means for these places. As a naive, snarky observer, though, this just seems part of the trend to designate every part of the country something or other. I just learned that Naju---fucking NAJU---proclaimed itself an "innovative city" back in November, joining the ranks of Jeju, Gimcheon, and Jinju. This in addition to the "Tourism and Leisure City" going up in Haenam, the "Namak New City" initiative in Muan, and the "Offensive County" movement in Gangjin. And I guess we should pretend that these four communities in counties you've never heard of intentionally rejected growth and economic development. Oh well, Jangheung's Yuchi-myeon is really charming, and there's certainly nothing wrong with countryside places embracing the countryside.
A teacher from Gwangju has an opinion piece in the Korea Times here. The conclusion:
Now is the time when we need to value the real meaning of a slow life in our thoughts, behavior, and environment, and stop pursuing the life of fast food and fast living, as it can easily lead us down the path of ``dehumanization'' by isolating us from nature.
All Koreans! Let's return to nature by embracinging the slow life as more natural, human-oriented, and valuable than the fast life, since we are just a small part of the great nature that surrounds us.
Edit: I passed through Jangheung the other day and saw quite a few signs for 유치자연휴양림, some kind of campground I guess. They have a website, and some photos. Come for the nature, stay for the wrestling:
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Don't know if I got that translation right. Anyway, a commenter on the Metropolitician's site tells us that this picture of Japanese tourists in front of Namdaemun is currently the most-viewed story on Cyworld News. Kawaii! I guess some of the comments at the bottom of the page aren't very nice, but that's to be expected. There are a couple of other photos in the set:
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
* Update 1: I thought I'd add a little bit of commentary atop my original post. I realize the Chosun Ilbo piece is merely quoting a few opinions, and does not necessarily represent widely-held views. Koreans are very prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, even in calm situations, and the piece reflects that tendency. While a lot of Seoul residents probably do feel a genuine sense of loss, I suspect we are seeing some of the Korean brand of sorrow, which encourages public displays of mourning. Add that to a penchant for overstatement, to a fiercly protective nationalism, to a well-stoked national sense of victimhood, and to a frequently-seen inability for empathy, and it's not surprising to find people linking arson to terrorism. Maybe the "Korean 9/11" opinion isn't widespread, and maybe it hasn't been adopted as the company line yet, but when I checked the Chosun Ilbo site this evening I did see it featured on the homepage, which is not only stupid journalism but just plain stupid.
There will be plenty of time for the blame game, and this disaster will provide plenty of material for blogs and newspapers for a long time. It's tempting to point out the multiple levels of incompetence. Or to take the public to task for allowing the "I was old, drunk, and angry" defense to fly so often. Or to shake my head at the irony of this disaster in a place that has recently tried so hard to attract tourism. I find myself saying something to the effect of "perhaps this will be a wake-up call" a lot in response to news stories here, but it's worth saying again that I hope this will foster a greater sense of duty with regard to protecting cultural properties. Usually protecting history here means writing an opinion piece for the paper invoking the Imjin Wars or complaining about imagined slights, and that leaves one wanting a more practical approach. Fire and neglect have destroyed lots of historical sites in Korea, and not just during times of occupation or foreign invasion. Anyone who has travelled to parks or tourist attractions know that local tourists haven't always taken great care of these places, and that's more than a little paradoxic in a country convinced of its proud history. Maybe this great outpouring of pride will drive the public to hold those responsible . . . responsible, keep the government accountable for safety and security measures at sites across the country, and encourage people to be more vigilant and consistant in their love for Korea's limited amount of tangible history . . . not simply when disaster strikes, or when newspapers feel it's prudent.
You can read the Metropolitician's take on this "Korea's 9/11" business here.
From a Chosun Daily article titled "Sense of Disaster Over Lost Monument Sweeps Nation":
Koreans were reaching for the superlatives on Monday. "The Korean equivalent of the 9/11 attacks happened while the whole country was watching." "The Republic of Korea's no. 1 National Treasure or no. 1 national pride turned to ashes in an instant."
Get a fucking grip.
Two professors expound on the 9/11 theme:
Baek Sang-bin, a professor of psychiatry at Gangneung Asan Hospital of the University of Ulsan said, "Just as Americans were thrown into a panic after watching on TV the World Trade Center buildings, the symbol of the U.S., collapse in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Koreans now feel a great sense of loss and frustration at the sight of the Namdaemun collapse. The disaster in Seoul didn't pose any threat to their lives. But they psychologically felt the equivalent of feelings the American had in the wake of the 9/11 attacks." If they happen to watch the scene of a disaster with their own eyes, people regard its consequences as happening to them personally and feel great unease and panic, Baek added.As an American living 4 miles away from Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001, I'll wager that no Korean is psychologically feeling the equivalent of what I and many of my peers felt and still feel regarding the 9/11 attacks. Amidst all the finger pointing that is going on, and that will likely continue for a while, I hope people come to terms with how utterly unprotected this psychological guardian was. And in the middle of all this hyperbole and crying-for-the-cameras, perhaps people will reflect on the meaning of monuments, and the symbolic power they hold, and will try to quell the penchant for burning them to the ground.
Ha Ji-hyun, a professor of psychiatry at Konkuk University Hospital, said Namdaemun was one of two national symbols that “protected us psychologically” alongside the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-shin, who destroyed the Japanese Navy during the Japanese invasions of Korea in the 16th century. “People's sense of panic and frustration over their loss of Namdaemun will linger on for a long time."
* Update 2, February 20, 2008: Well, I guess now they're comparing Namdaemun with Auschwitz, the Cambodian killing fields, and Hiroshima, in addition to Ground Zero:
Unlike trips made for recreation or tourism, these trips to the scene of a tragic disaster are made for self-reflection and edification. Representative examples of this kind of tourism are Ground Zero; the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland where Jews were slaughtered; the Killing Fields of Cambodia; and Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the sites of atomic bombings.
* Update 3, February 23, 2008: Now it's the Joongang Ilbo's turn.
* Update 4: Parallels with the rise of National Socialism? Where's the rolly-eye face?
* Update 5, March 5, 2008: I addressed the issue in the latest edition of Gwangju News.
Monday, February 11, 2008
For a neat look at
East Gate seen through the cherry blossoms atop Namsan Park.
The front of Namgomun (남고문).
With gates in the news after the Namdaemun fire, here are a few photos of Naju's two: Namgomun (남고문) and Dongmun (동문터). They are the remnants of Najueupseong (나주읍성), the fortress that once surrounded present-day Naju, Jeollanam-do, back when it was a strategic port city. They are obviously a lot smaller and a lot less-known than those in Seoul, but they still look neat, especially in an otherwise ordinary town. According to the placard in front of East Gate:
The initial construction date of Naju-eup Fortress remains unknown . . .
The current Naju-eup Fortress was completed by Kim Gye-hui, a magistrate of Naju-mok who held office from August 11, 1457 to November 21, 1459. The Maeil sinbo newspaper(July 23, 1913 issue) reported that the fortress's east gate collapsed in 1912, during the Japanese colonial rule of Korea. It is presumed that the south gate collapsed sometime between October 1916 and 1920.
Naju-eup Fortress, like most of the town and city fortresses of the Joseon Dynasty, was built making advantage of plains and hills with Mt. Geumseong Fotress in the background. Its preimter measures 3,679m, and the whole fortress covers some 974,390m2(294,753 pyeong). The east gate was called Dongjeommun, the west gate Seoseongmun, the south gate Namgomun, and the north gate Bukmangmun.
The fortress is designated as historical site no. 337, and both gates are short walks from Naju's bus terminal. Naver's encyclopedia has a few decent photographs here, and Naju's site has kept track of nearby historical sites.
Namgomun from down the street. This is actually the rear of the gate.
Rear of East Gate.
The front of East Gate is masked by a wall, and the wall is bordered by a parking lot and Namsan Park.
Visitors can walk through the East Gate and go on both stories. The gate is in pretty good shape.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
19-year-old Hanse Park faces a life sentence for molesting two children in Vermont. Park was a student at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Rutland, VT, and has "admitted his involvement" with the two children, aged 4 and 6. The Boston Globe has the story in an article that's almost a week old and has largely gone under the radar. A press release from the Vermont State Police is here, and a video news report is available here. I couldn't find any information about when the protests outside the South Korean embassy will be held, but I'll keep you posted.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
It's from last February and is just an excerpt. There are screen captures of other scenes here. God damn, 김원희 really gets on my nerves. She
Failan is a really nice movie, and not just because Cheung is an insanely beautiful woman. And it was also the first Korean movie I ever saw. She plays a Chinese woman who, after the death of her parents, ends up as a mail-order bride for Choi Min-sik, and is sent to work in the village of Daejin in
I don't have my pulse on the Chinese pop scene at all, so I don't know all the angles or what different people are saying. Posting on it is a damned if you do/don't situation, because it's a huge story over there with a bit of local interest here; however, obviously each post contributes to the feeding frenzy. From afar this mess is a testament to the notoriously rabid paparazzi of Hong Kong, and the lengths to which some lowlifes will go. And according to a couple of sources, the guy who released the photos has a ton more. If it's any consolation, looks like Edison Chen will be shamed out of films for a while. He's currently in North America with his 18-year-old girlfriend.
Friday, February 8, 2008
From one of Gangjin county's introduction pages on its site, this one outlining the policy of the region. The Korean reads 공격적 군정, and Naver tells us that 공격적 means offensive or aggressive in a military sense. I take it Gangjin means offensive and aggressive in pursuing opportunities and resources and stuff for the county, but you never know. On another introduction page it is clarified a little:
Change a direction of Gangjin by attracting enterprises, factories and capital investment and finding a way of Gangjin in order not to hand over regional conditions with underdevelopment, stagnation, terrible poverty, disappointment and frustration to descendants.
So there you go.
Poking around the county's site reminds me of an uncharacteristically funny comment from one of my coteachers last year. Her English is pretty good and she was asked to edit some of the English-language publicity material for the annual celadon festival. For some reason, Gangjin is obsessed with advertising "mysterious celadon" or the "mysteries of celadon," and my coteacher complained to me, after the county didn't implement her changes:"Why do they call it mysterious? We know how to make it."
By the way, that festival is actually a pretty good time. If you go you'll have opportunities to make this mysterious celadon, and there is no shortage of photos and video clips of foreigners hamming it up for the news cameras. It's usually held in the fall, but this year it's held in August so I'll probably be out of the country. I don't care about pottery, to be honest, but the county is very proud of its reputation as a major producer of celadon, and many pieces of Gangjin-based pottery are in national museums. I think a big part of the pride also comes from Gangjin's position in the flow of celadon culture from China to southern Korea to Japan. Fame by association with the inherited wisdom of the Chinese, and intense satisfaction in transmitting this legacy to the Japanese, many elements of whose culture Koreans believe to be hand-me-downs from Korea. The Wikipedia page and its discussion (lmao) are careful to make clear that the Japanese abducted Korean craftsmen in the 16th century.
Practically all city and county webpages have English ranging from awkward to incomprehensible. Why don't they use native speakers to help out? Comes down to partly to pride, I think. My offers last year to help with the Gangjin site---I had accumulated tons of information on the county by writing for Galbijim---were not taken up, and I don't expect there are many middle-aged Korean suits willing to take advice on their English from a twentysomething white person. It's also an underestimation of the power of a comprehensive, user-friendly English site. Foreigners have come to expect gibberish from Korean sites, but a well-done English-language site would not only make it easier for tourists to visit, but would also, I think, raise the area's profile above that of other, more Konglishy places. I've sifted through just about all the region's webpages, either for my benenfit or for Galbijim articles, and it's remarkable that practically no English-language versions give information on getting to major tourist attractions. Forget about information on hiking trails, and forget about anything on restaurants and accommodation. Trying to get a handle on a region's attractions requires going through several different sites, mostly Korean-language ones, and unless you know exactly what you're looking for, you won't find it. And I'm a guy who likes to learn the history of places down here, but I can largely forget about that, too. This page on the history of Jeollanam-do deserves a "lmfao" and reads like the Book of Genesis' list of who beget whom. Here's an excerpt, and feel free to skip a bit:
Suggog and Jisan branch offices in Gwangju-city were reorganized and then Pug-gu ward office was created by reorganization of the administrative district in accordance with Presidential Decree No.6930 on Sept.26, 1979. Samil-and Dolsan-myeons of Yeocheon-county were promoted to each Samil-up and Dolsan-up, Gwansan- and Daedeok-myeons of Jangheong-country to each Gwansan-up and Daeduk-up. Ilro-myeon of Muan-county to Ilro-up, Gumil-and Nohwa-myeons of Wando-county to Gumil-up and Nohwa-up, Jido-myeon of Shinam-county to Jido-up and 9 myeons of 6 counties were promoted to up by Presidential Decree No.10050 on Oct.21, 1980.
Gumsung-si was created by integrating partial areas of Naju-up and Yeongsanpo-up by Law No.3425 on July 1, 1981(promulgated on Apr.13, 1981), and Daegeom-myeon in Gwangyang-county, Dodeog-myeon in Goheong-country, Pukil-myeon in Haenam-country.
Unnam-myeon on Muan-country, Jindo-myeon, Palgum-myeon and Sineui-myeon were created in Shinan-county on Feb.15, 1983 according to the reorganization of administrative districts by the regulation to alter the districts of city, county, ward, up and myeon and to alter myeon boundary by Presidential Decree No.11027 on Jan.10, 1983.
Ssangam of Seungju-county was promoted to Seungju-up and Hongnong-myeon of Yeonggwang-county to Hongnong-up by presidential Decree No.11772(promulgated on Sept.26, 1985) on Oct. 1, 1985. Yeocheon branch office was expanded to Yeocheon-si and Gumsung-si into Naju-si by Law No.37985(promulgated on Dec. 28, 1985) on Jan.1, 1986 . Gwangyang branch office was established by Jeonnam provincial Law No.1554 on Dec.30,1986.
Yangsan branch office of Junam-myeon, Goheong-county was promoted Sanae-myeon of Goheong-county and Hoijin branch office of Daedug-up of Jangheong-county to Hoijin-myeon of Jangheong-county, Gumdong branch office of Gumil-myeon, Wando- county to Gumdang-myeon, Wando-county and Bokil branch office of Nohwa-up, Wando-county to Bokil-myeon, Wando-county by Presidential Decree No.11814 on Apr.1, 1986 and the existing Gwangju-city was promoted to Gwangju Municipal city and separated from the province, and the administrative districts of this province were changed into 6 cities ,22 counties and I branch Office,(29 ups, 208 myeons) 96 dongs, 33 branch offices of up and myeon and 6,491 dongs and ris).
Samhyang-dong of Mokpo-si was established by Jeonnam Provincial Law No.1081 on Jan.1, 1987, Songjeong-si and Gwangsan-county were included in Gwangju-city by Law No.3963 on Jan.1, 1988.
Jugpo branch office(area 31.30) of Yeocheon-county and Pyungpoongdo branch office( area 3.34㎢) of Jeundo-myeon, Shinan-county were established by Jeonnam Provincial Law No.1177 on March. 5, 1988 and Gwangyang branch office was promoted to Donggwangyang-si by Law No.4050 and Taeun branch office(area 5.01) of Hugsan-myeon and Goyido branch office(area 0.5㎢) of Ape-myeon, Shinan-county were established by Jeonnam Provincial Law No.1284 on Jan.1, 1989. Sengil branch office of Daeju-myeon, Gangjin-county was changed into Mary-myeon and Sannae-myeon of Goheong-county into Yongnam-myeon on Apr.1, 1989.
Haha, and that's just 1980-1989. LMFAO.
I think the "Offensive County" line has beat out my old favorite, "Powerful Jumping Green Jangheung" from Jangheung county. However the site does contain this line from the town magistrate:
We expect our constant interest and love. Enjoy internet surfing.
The mascot, Pyodongi (표동이). The website tells us: "This character personifies the representative specialty of Jangheung, Pyogo. It is very effective to show soft and friendly image of Jangheung County."
Anyway, Gangjin is a pleasant place to visit, and there's a lot of history and quite a bit to see and do. I hear they might construct a park around the northern tip of Gangjin Bay, so that's about the most "offensive" thing in Gangjin. Oh, except for those several months in 2006 when they flew an American flag with "FUCK" written on it across from the county office as part of the FTA protests. That was pretty offensive, too.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
* I got somebody looking for "Kangjin ESL." Kangjin is an old way of romanizing Gangjin that you don't see anymore. Those looking to teach in Gangjin county will most likely do it through a public school. Every now and again a hagwon will employ foreign teachers, but the most recent one went belly-up in the fall, and its teachers were let go. Apparently some people come to Gangjin via the EPIK program, and though you might read some positive reviews of EPIK on the internet, it's been largely criticized for disorganization, for unfavorable contracts, for disorganization, and for disorganization, and in 2008 there's really no reason for you to put up with that. The recruiter that handles most, if not all nowadays, of the public school jobs in Jeollanam-do is Canadian Connections.
* I also got somebody looking for "Damyang schools." Damyang county is similar to Gangjin in that there are hagwon, but as it's a fairly sparesly populated county, the work you'll want is through the public school system. Canadian Connections can offer you more information about job availability. There is also the Jeollanam-do Education Training Institute (JETI, 연수원), which provides training for Korean English teachers. In the past the camps were operated during school vacations, and local public school teachers would be obligated to work them for several weeks. Now, evidentally, the center will be staffed full-time and will operate year-round. According to some advertisements I've seen JETI pays slightly more than an ordinary teacher, but you'll have to get in touch with somebody else who can tell you the pros and cons of a job like that. I did a small entry on the Damyang camp here. Oh, and Naver tells us that there are presently 26 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, and 5 high schools in the county.
* And, I got somebody looking for "Gwangju Map Windmill," in reference to the Windmill Motel (윈드밀모텔). For some reason it's a very popular motel with foreigners. It's located downtown, in the Chungjangno district, a block or two from the Migliore building. Anyway, the motel does have its own website, available here, and there is a crude map available here. To get to the motel, use exit 1 of Geumnamno 4-ga (금남로4가) subway station and walk toward and past the prominent Migliore store/cinema. The motel will be visible across the street, a little ways past the 광주세무소. You can find a decent map of the area from Naver here, although the motel doesn't appear on it. There are several other motels in that area, in case the Windmill is booked . . . please heed my advice about avoiding the nearby Pharoah (파라오모텔), though.