Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Local Link Dump

*Looks like the Muan International Airport is finally set to open on November 8. It will replace the rarely-used Mokpo Airport, and looks to take over the flights handled by Gwangju International Airport. At least one writer isn't happy about that. (Chosun Ilbo)

If you look at older reports---like this or this---you'll see that the airport was scheduled to open as early as 2004 (though I came across a report a few days ago that said the target was 2008, and that they were actually ahead of schedule). *cough* Anyway, the airport is part of the Namak New City initiative, which will swell the population and develop the resources of Namak-ri, a small village in a small township. At last census the township had a population of around 9,000, though that is expected to rise to 185,000 by the time the whole thing is finished in 2019. I suspect that a lot of those people will come from nearby Mokpo, though. Namak, by the way, has been the capital of Jeollanam-do since 2005, taking the job from Gwangju. I don't understand why they'd go to the trouble to build a new city, but whatever.

*A nice entry from The Marmot's Hole about a trip to Geomun-do island in Yeosu. The island is way out there, but looks worth a visit. (The Marmot's Hole)

*I hope this list of Ten Surprises of Korea isn't in order. (The Korea Times)

*"The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates the number of illegal Korean residents in the U.S. is around 250,000, the Korean Embassy in the U.S. said Tuesday." (Chosun Ilbo) Remember, the US and South Korea are in talks over a visa waiver program.

*Education departments around the country are (again) making an effort (again) to verify (again) degrees (again) of teachers on E-2 visas (again). I just got asked for mine today, and I politely declined. I have shown my degree no fewer than 7 times since arriving in July, 2005. Lots of threads on Dave's about this latest moral panic: here and here.

*Ruling Party is Reviving Korean Regionalism. (Donga Ilbo)

*Here's a piece profiling some "Hanok hotels," including one in Gurye county. Pretty neat. Some of the prices are comparable to your average love motel, while othere are in pension territory. (JoongAng Ilbo)

*My students have started laughing when I ask them to "tell me" something. Turns out "Tell Me" is the name of a popular song by the Wonder Girls, a pop group with five girls, aged 15 to 19. You can watch the video here. Borderline criminal.

*Here's a 2005 New York Times article about the German Village in Namhae county, Gyeongsangnam-do. I passed through that area a few weeks ago, and it was overrun with tourists. Had I known people actually live there---I figured it was just used for dramas and summer camps---I would have taken less part in disturbing their much-deserved rest. (New York Times) Here's a picture I took of a few houses near the coast.
A lot of places in Namhae, including the house in the foreground on the left, were used as filming locations for the drama 환상의커플. The internet says that means "Fantasy Couple." Is that the best translation?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Photo galleries on Korean blogs.

Koreans like to travel and take pictures. That's nice, because it means that a Naver search on just about any location, large or small, will point to at least a few blogs and cafes about the place. There are photos and often profiles about tons of different villages, temples, abandoned train stations, mountains, harbors, you name it. Another nice thing is that a lot of people post their day's photos in sequence, meaning its easy to retrace their footsteps and estimate driving directions, hiking trails, or itineraries. People looking to visit or live in a particular area of Korea should poke around Naver or another portal site, as you can probably find pictures and information on just about anything. Anyway, I've linked to a few below. I was going to post more, as I've seen tons of great photo galleries, but just like when you can easily find PC방 or convenience stores, except when you really need one, I had trouble finding the links I'd collected earlier.

*Here's a group of women who walked from Suncheon Station to Guryegu Station, some 30.32 kilometers away. Looks like they went along Dongcheon for a while, and it looked like something I'd like to try . . . but after seeing that they walked through the tunnel and along the highway, I dropped the idea.

*This guy as three quality posts on Gageo-do (가거도), an island in Shinan county that looks to be among the furthest removed from peninsular South Korea. It's roughly 136 kilometers from Mokpo. His entries are here, here, and here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Yeosu, Suncheon, and Gwangyang to merge by 2010.

This is pretty big news for me, and I just found out about it while doing a google adventure. I guess news of the agreement broke in early September. In an effort to bolster Yeosu's chances of hosting the 2012 World Expo, these 3 neighboring cities plan to merge, creating a metropolitan area of 700,000 + in three districts. Basically, what that means for me is there will be a lot more work to do on the Galbijim Wiki, haha.

From the Chosun Ilbo:

The cities of Yeosu, Suncheon and Gwangyang in South Jeolla Province are to be merged into a new metropolis-level city. The new city will have an area of 1,856, a little larger than Busan and Ulsan combined (1,820, and a population of more than 720,000. At a debate hosted by Yeosu MBC on Wednesday, Yeosu Mayor Oh Hyun-sup, Suncheon Mayor Roh Kwan-kyu and Gwangyang Mayor Lee Sung-woong agreed to merge the three cities by 2010 to maximize the effect of investments in the region around Gwangyang Bay and create a new, more competitive city.

From the Dong-A Ilbo:

The city is reportedly planning to further integrate with Hadong and Namhae in the Gyeongnam region. That is an ambitious scheme to remove the distinction between the Yeongnam and Honam regions. The immediate objective for the integration of Yeosu, Suncheon, and Gwangyang is to be selected as the host of the World Expo. Currently, Yeosu is far smaller than its competitor cities overseas in terms of population size. The three cities intend to sign an MOU for integration before November 27 when the host will be selected. As the World Expo’s effects will equate to 10 trillion won of output growth and the employment of 80,000 people, it is an opportunity that cannot be missed. Gwangyang has POSCO’s steel mill, which is the largest in the world, while Suncheon has long been a famous education city. Therefore, once integrated, they could be an invincible team. There have been 40 cases of integration of local administrative districts. The Yeosu of today was born by merging Yeosu City, Yeocheon City and Yeocheon County in 1998. Suncheon is the combination of Suncheon City and Seungju County in 1995. Likewise, Gwangyang is the combination of Dong Gwangyang City and Gwangyang County in 1995.

From the Korea Times:

According to Yeosu Community Research Institute, 62.6 percent of Yeosu residents, 65.1 percent of Suncheon residents and 60.9 percent of Gwangyang residents were in favor of the merger.

Again, this is pretty surprising, and will create a very bizarre metropolis. As the Dong-A Ilbo article says, all three cities were assembled countless times by absorbing, realigning, and renaming different towns, villages, and fields. In fact, much of Jeollanam-do is this way, which is why, when you see the banner in your school describing your town's history, there are so many name changes throughout the centuries, as suchandsuch-ri was elevated to suchandsuch-myeon, which was absorbed into someother-myeon, which was divided . . . and so on, until the Japanese came and undid all that.

Anyway, when you drive through Suncheon or Yeosu (can't speak for Gwangyang), you find a lot of sprawl, and a few minute outside of either city you'll find factories, mountains, rice fields, or water. Suncheon, as we know it today, is a product of Seungju and Suncheon towns; Yeosu has three city halls from prior mergers; Gwangyang . . . is boring. So this will be messy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Local link dump

*Foreign teachers are still lazy, incompetent, AIDS-carrying pedophiles. (Scribblings of the Metropolitician)

*Hillary Clinton is "fascinated" by her new curtains/hanbok. (Chosun Ilbo)

*At least one South Korean politician has the right idea about the North Korean Arirang Mass Games. (Chosun Ilbo)

*My article on Beolgyo was published. (Gwangju News)

*A foreigner died at Incheon Airport because the security guard wouldn't let the EMTs through to the baggage claim. Korea Sparkling! (Marmot's Hole)

*Two days ago I saw the movie "Daesopo Girls," based on a controversial comic book. Here is a very informative post that puts the movie in context, and provides interesting statistics on teenage prostitution in South Korea. (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

*A couple of videos of Korean pest control. "How ironic is it that in Korea a fan will kill you, but breathing in massive amounts of pesticide won't." (Mongdori)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

70-year-old fisherman confesses to serial killings in Boseong.

* Update March 21, 2008: He was sentenced to death in February, 2008.

Original Post:

News out of Boseong county, Jeollanam-do. A 70-year-old man has confessed to killing four people in two incidents in August and September. From the Chosun Ilbo:

According to police, on the evening of Aug. 31, the fisherman identified as Oh was preparing for a fishing trip at a dock in Bosung, South Jeolla Province, when he was approached by a couple who asked for a boat ride. They were 21-year-old Kim (male) and 20-year-old Choo (female), both college students from Gwangju.

Oh took them on board and sailed for about 30 minutes into nearby waters. After fishing for about an hour, Oh threw Kim into the water in order to rape Choo. Kim struggled to climb back into the boat, but Oh beat him five times with a hook on a pole, killing him. Oh then advanced on Choo, but she fought back by grabbing Oh's waist. Finally Oh threw her into the water, too, and stopped her from climbing back into the boat with the pole, police said.

Just 25 days later, on Sept. 25, Oh was preparing for another fishing trip at the same spot when he was approached again, this time by two women who asked for a boat ride. Oh took 24-year-old Cho from Gyeonggi Province and 23-year-old Ahn from Incheon on board and returned to his fishing spot where he worked for about three hours. On the way back, Oh tried to touch one of the women. Both women fought back and all three fell into the water.

One woman was swept away by the tide and Oh climbed into the boat. When the other woman tried to climb in, Oh killed her with the same pole, fearing that she would otherwise go to police.

Read the rest here.

I was in Boseong a few days ago, and was hanging around the green tea fields on the evening of his second set of murders. I wonder how many crimes "Oh" committed before these

Monday, October 1, 2007

Beolgyo (벌교)

A few days ago I visited the town of Beolgyo, in Boseong county. It's thirty minutes away by bus, has 19,000 people, and is known for its Japanese colonial architecture, for its violent 1940s, and for being the setting of the novel Taebaek Sanmaek. Before I get into the post, I'll link to two great posts from two great bloggers: (1) this one, from The Marmot's Hole, has good pictures and talks about Beolgyo's history, and (2) this one, from Antti Leppanen, talks a little about the sites mentioned in the novel.

Here's a little background from The Marmot's Hole:

If you’ve got an interest in contemporary Korean history, there’s plenty to see and feel in Beolgyo, a town that is, for all intents and purposes, a product of Japanese colonial policy. The town was developed as a transportation center to ship agricultural goods from the Jeolla provinces to ports like Yeosu. The Japanese also engaged in a number of ambitious but divisive land reclamation products in the area. The Japanese penetration of the region and the colonial projects they pursued intensified class and ideological conflicts in the Beolgyo area that long outlived colonial rule. Jo’s The Taebaek Mountains examines this colonial legacy and the tragic conflicts that ripped South Korean society in the years between Liberation and the end of the Korean War.

Beolgyo’s downtown area is a place only a Japanese colonial administrator could love. Which, in a way, makes it kind of interesting. Like Gunsan, there are a number of old colonial-era buildings maintained as reminders of Korea’s difficult past. The town does get a fair number of visitors who come looking for the different places described in Jo’s book. Many of them, including the old Japanese Financial Collective building, Kim Beom-woo’s home, the Japanese-style Boseong Inn (now called the Namdo Inn), and the Sohwa Bridge, where mass executions took place during the 1948 Yeosu-Suncheon Uprising and, in the novel, rightists and leftists apparently traded turns executing political opponents.

Overall it was a pretty rotten trip, but I'll talk about that below. Here are some pictures, sans captions. For some reason, the spacing and text get screwed up whenever I preview, and what looks like one space here becomes three spaces in the published version. After about four tries, I've given up on explanatory captions, and instead refer you to my flickr page for more information. Here are photos of: Rainbow Bridge, Beolgyo Pogyodang, a Joro spider, an abandoned church, a view of Beolgyo from Buyongsan Park, the Financial Collective building, Beolgyo Station, another Japanese-style building, and Hoejeongni Church.

There are 40-some pictures on my flickr page, and further information about these sites, or about a Beolgyo self-guided walk-through can be found on the Galbijim page.

Anyway, the trip was pretty shitty. The tourist map I was able to find hanging in town said "you are here," but I was not "here." It took me a long time to realize that the map had been moved some 5 blocks away, a big difference in a small town. The map showed the location of 16 sites from Taebaek Sanmaek, though I was only able to find 7. The small mountain, 부용산 (Buyongsan) had maps along the trails, but they seemed more for decoration than for guidance, and basically pointed in contradictory ways. And, I had to put up with pretty aggressive and abusive behavior from some of the local students. Screams of "Fuck you," curses and taunts in Korean, the finger, and having a tennis ball thrown at me made me really happy to finally get back to the bus terminal.

Korean students tend to be disrespectful to foreigners as their default behavior. Unless they are taught to act otherwise, its fairly common to get shouted at, to get pelted with "하이이이이" (mispronounced "hi"), "hello," "hey," "you," "and other misused salutations. I teach my students how to greet me on the first day of school, and I don't tolerate "hi," "hey," "you," "come here," or "hello," nor do I respond to people shouting my name. I've been with plenty of foreigners who consider this behavior cute, or polite, or a demonstration of Koreans' curiosity, or interest in English, or interest in foreigners, and I've seen it explained in journals as a liberating experience, as English does not have the various speech levels Korean does (thus many Koreans incorrectly assume that politeness need not be minded in English). I ignore the "hi"s, and "hello"s, and "나이스투미츄"s on the street, and I always request that Korean speak to me in Korean. Sadly, I've been around foreigners who respond to every piece of shit who yells "hi" at them, and it sort of undermines what I'm doing. Anyway, I'm not sure exactly how the habit of shouting at foreigners came about, but it's one I try not to encourage.

Update: A write-up I did for the Gwangju News was published in the October, 2007 edition. Click here to visit their page, which links to a .pdf file of the October issue.