Thursday, November 29, 2007

How to register with (airplane tickets and online shopping)

Here are steps foreigners can use to register with Please be aware that, when ordering plane tickets, you cannot pay online. Rather you book the tickets online and will receive a phone call confirming your purchase and giving you payment information. Too many people have bitched to me about that, as if I recommended that policy to Interpark in the first place.

1) On the main page, click on 로그인 (login). You'll see a string of words/tabs on the top of the page, and 로그인 is on the left.

2) Since you don't have a name or a password, click the left tab under the password box labeled "회원가입."

3) After clicking you'll have a license agreement in front of you. Under each section you'll need to click the button "동의함" for "agree." At the bottom of the agreement is a spot for your name (고객명) and your ID number. You will input your name and the ID number on your ARC. Your name should be as it appears on the ARC (not case sensitive, though), and your ID number should be 13 letters if you're not a Korean citizen: 123456-1234567. Then click 확인.

4) If everything checks out, you'll now see an information page. In a box to the right of your name is a place for a login ID. Pick something. Then, you'll have your ID number. Below that is the spot for your address. This is a little tricky. Click on the box and you'll have a pop-up. In the pop-up you'll have a menu with "우편번호" (mail number), "동" (ward) "군구" (county or district) and "도시" (city). You'll use one of these tabs to find your mail number. My address is quite short, so this is what I did: I selected 군구 and typed in 강진. Then I got a list with a ton of administrative divisions. I found mine (동성리, which is the next spot in my address). That's all you're looking for: the next spot in your address. Then, in the next box you can type in additional pieces of your address.

5) Below the address are two spots for the telephone: first is "home number," next is cellphone. I just put in my cellphone for both, as I don't have a landline. Next it asks if you want to be receive SMS notification with your order information. The one below that asks if you want to be notified via SMS of sales, events, and such. Click 수신 for yes (수신하다 = to receive a message), or 비수신 for no.

6) Next, pick a secret number (비밀번호). Type it again. Below that you'll see a series of "hints." Choose one, and in the box to the right, type in the prompt that you'll receive via email.

7) Next, type in your email address. Type in the first part first, then select the domain name. Below you'll see four boxes, and it's asking you if you want to be notified of: shopping information, movies, CDs and DVDs, and travel. 수신 for yes, 비수신 for no.

8) Below that is a space for another address: this is where they'll send the stuff. If you want your home address to be used, retype in your 우편번호.

9) Next is business phone number. If you choose to have stuff sent to your school, maybe type in the number of the receptionist. If not, you can use your cellphone.

10) Next is birthday, and it's asking you if you're using the solar (양력) or lunar (음력) calendar. Chances are you're solar.

11) Next is marital status. 미혼 is single, 기혼 is married. You can enter in your spouse's information, if you wish. 배우자 is "spouse," and there's a slot for his/her birthday.

12) Next is information about your career (직업), salary (월평균소득) and number of children (자녀수). To the right of salary is a menu for the highest level of education completed. 대졸 is for university, 대학원 이상 is for graduate school. Below that is information about your vehicle. But, you can leave all of those boxes blank, if you wish.

13) If you've forgotten anything, a pop-up will show you where. You'll also get a confirmation email . . . hang on to it.

14) If you want to browse flights, click the 여행 tab at the top.

Again, be aware that you can't pay for tickets online. I pulled this post from because I got too many complaints---from people who can't navigate the site themselves, go figure---that it was misleading, so I decided to leave them to their own devices. Anyway, what will happen is you'll book the tickets and will get a phone call a short time after. If you don't answer the phone you'll get a text message with an account name (a jumble of letters like "adsfjal").

Also, be aware that the prices for airplane tickets do not include tax.

I'm not big into internet shopping, but if you are you can find a lot of good deals on interpark. There are various coupons available, and a point card program, too. They even have a decent selection of English-language books. Interpark is also often used for concert tickets, so it might be handy to have an account just in case.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Local Link Dump (Yeosu, Beolgyo, Lotteria, 등)

** Yeosu was awarded the 2012 World Expo a few days ago. In the first round of voting its 68 votes beat out Tangiers' (Morocco) 59 and Wroclaw's (Poland) 13. Because nobody took two-thirds of the votes, a second round was held, in which Yeosu scored 77 of the 140 votes to Tangiers' 63. According to an International Herald Tribune article, the 2012 exposition will be of the three-month variety that focuses on a particular theme. Yeosu's is "The Living Ocean and Coast: Diversity of Resources and Sustainable Activities."

That is both the result of, and the reason for, some massive development in the region. In October the merger of Suncheon, Yeosu, and Gwangyang was announced, and the 2010 union will result in a city of over 720,000 people. In 2011 the KTX high-speed rail will reach Yeosu, making the city a roughly three-hour ride from the capital. I'm no economist, so the potential economic effects of the Expo are over my head, but according to Jeong Hak-geun of the Yeosu Exhibition Bidding Committee:
"The World Expo can bring about 11 billion dollars’ worth of production effects and over 4.3 billion dollars in added value, as well as 90 thousand more jobs. The World Expo can generate just as much economic benefit as the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup. By hosting the World Expo, Korea can take its economy to another level. Also the city of Yeosu can take the opportunity to upgrade the city’s infrastructure and emerge as the coastal city of the future. Not only that, the entire southern coast region could undergo extensive development, which would encourage regional development and revive the local economy."
A guy on Dave's said that Yeosu airport might take some international flights (sort of a little confirmed here), and another guy said that the city will revamp the area around Dolsan Bridge and Jungang-dong, so you can put as much faith in those statements as you would any other thing on Dave's. I'd personally love to see them build a nice boardwalk on the waterfront that arches from the west end of Dolsan Bridge, around Janggun-do island, past the ferry terminal and Jinnamgwan, and nearly to Odong-do island. Now, walking from that side of the bridge to the nice little pedestrian area on Jungang-no in Jungang-dong involves a 30-minute trek past unsightly shipyards, markets, unoccupied buildings, and more markets. The markets add character, and ferries are important, so I'm not in favor of sweeping them under the rug. However, that could be such a pretty, vibrant area, with a view worth making the trip for.

If they do go ahead with the merger, I'd like to see them put in a light-rail that connects the bus terminals and/or the main points in each city. I'm talking out my ass a little, because I have no idea how much intercity travel currently occurs, or how much (if any) demand there is for more efficient transportation. Moreover, given the sprawl that characterizes both Gwangyang and Yeosu, and given that the new city will be larger than Busan and Ulsan combined, I suspect it would be difficult to build a new public transit system to meet everyone's needs. I do know, though, that I've never made the 21.4-mile trip from the Suncheon Intercity Bus Terminal to the Yeosu Express Bus Terminal in under 45 minutes. A light-rail would remind me of a subway, and since I like subways, I'm unilaterally deciding to go ahead with my plan.

They are working, though, on tons of expressways that will increase connectivity between Yeosu and Gwangyang, Suncheon, Jeonju, and Gyeongsangnam-do throughout the next eight years. But since I hate driving, and hate the traffic caused by other people driving, I am not throwing my support behind these projects.

It looks like they will also build a big, distinctive landmark, similar to the Eiffel Tower I guess, in celebration. I'm all for distinctive architecture and for actually having a building taller than the blocks and blocks and blocksandblocksandblocks of apartments.

There's no shortage of hyperbole and melodrama in the papers. From the Chosun Ilbo:
The earnest hopes of the residents of Yeosu, with a population of less than 300,000, ended up moving the world. Overcoming the pain of defeat, Yeosu was chosen as the host of the World Expo 2012.
From the Korea Times:
It was a rare good news at the crack of the dawn. Yeosu's successful bidding for the 2012 World Expo was further encouraging as it, albeit temporarily, outcast the relatively gloomy atmosphere due chiefly to the stagnant presidential campaigns replete with seemingly less qualified candidates. Signs of an economic slowdown originating from the mortgage crisis in the United States have been depressing the nation and its stock market. We believe it was a result of ``total diplomacy'' with the government, businesses and the Yeosu citizens having combined forces over the past 500 days. They deserve acclaim.
I like to roll my eyes at slogans and Konglishy public relations, and part of me does find it kind of silly that little ol' Yeosu aspires to be an international city. Good for Yeosu, though, and I don't want to piss on their parade. I really don't expect to be here in 2012, but when I read about the exposition in the papers it will be a nice reminder of my time here. I expect, if I do stay a little while, to see a lot of exciting changes and developments. (I'm really just pulling for a light rail, a boardwalk, and a Burger King, though).

** If Lee Myung-bak is elected, the Chungcheong provinces will become a hub of science and business. (Korea Times)

** Wonderful headline: "Wow, lots of guys had sex with a 15-year-old" (Sports Hankook Ilbo, translated by Korea Beat)

** While trying to find stuff about the Yosu-Suncheon Incident (여순사건), I came across this page (some unpleasant photographs) and found a picture of the area around Beolgyo's Rainbow Bridge, presumably taken in 1948. The old thatched-roof cottages really stand out against the hillside. The bridge today is, for some reason, divided into two sections: the older stone arch and the newer flat part. Apparently it was divided in the past, too, and in the picture below the "newer" section looks pretty ricketty.

Contrast that with a photo taken in October, a short distance away from the above.

** After carefully weighing all the evidence, Professor Emiritus at Yonsei University and Korea Times columnist Park Kyu-tae boldly proclaims "I think that the pros of the Internet far outweigh the cons." (Korea Times)

** In Suncheon, Lotteria restaurants outnumber McDonald's by about seven to one, and in Jeollanam-do it's 19 to 4. Many foreigners are staunchly anti-Lotteria, and I avoided the place my first two years. But, for the sake of variety, it is nice to go there once in a while, and some of the things there are pretty good. My favorite is the Hanwoo Bulgogi Burger, which is a very tasty sammich. It only has 644 calories (more than a Big Mac), so you can eat four and still be under your daily recommended dosage.

Does anyone else have such a hard time formatting their blogspot entries? I've edited this thing about five times, and the spacing and placement of pictures still isn't correct.

A reaction to Kang Eun-hee's "Korean English Teachers."

Okay, so I know that debating a Korean English teacher is like playing dodgeball against a fat kid. It's just that since I read this Korea Times piece a few days ago, I've been mulling over a few points. I've written a few drafts on the topic of English education, the most recent of which is about 2,300 words, without even getting to some of the objections I have to the article. For the sake of brevity I'll touch on a few things here and save the longer manifestos for later.

You know, I'm sure she's a nice enough lady, and I should cut her some slack because she's old and she's probably just happy to get her name in the paper. And, yeah, her piece is but one of, like, 3 million about quote-unquote English education that appear in the KT and the other rags each month, so on the one hand her article is nothing special, but on the other hand, it's the frequency with which such tripe is printed that is frustrating.

The piece is here, although I'll quote it below and write a little bit of my commentary.

Last year one native English teacher was assigned to our school. Our school became livelier than before. Especially on Halloween the students made much ado about candies.

Our satisfied principal publicized it to the parents on a gigantic scale, but after a few months we returned to the daily routine.
I don't understand why giving candy to students is exclusively the domain of foreigners. I don't do it in my classes, and any student who expects a treat for doing their job runs the risk of getting beat with my bamboo sword. But, in all honesty, I understand the arrival of a foreign teacher is a big deal, but it's a bit much to put the success of a holiday on a single person. Moreover, it's out of line to base an entire philosophy on one encounter with a white person.

Her disappointment at returning to the daily routine makes it clear that she views the foreigner as an attraction meant to be seen and enjoyed, and not as an essential component to the school.

One day I started to wonder if the temporary employment of native English teachers could fulfill our expectations: I have arrived at the conclusion based on my experiences.

In the long run, the expansion of intensive training programs for Korean English teachers is more urgent financially, than the employment of native English teachers.

Yes, training Korean English teachers does make sense. Though I do work with some wonderful people this year, I have encountered my fair share of dumb-fuck English teachers in the past two years, and am convinced that these unqualified teachers---who do the lion's share of English teaching anyway---do much more damage than the comparatively few inexperienced foreigners.

Based on what one of my coteachers has told me, it looks like there will be more opportunities for Korean English teachers to have intensive language and education training. According to him (so not sure how true it is), teachers have the choice to spend a semester studying at a university in Seoul, or spending a semester abroad. For teachers in Jeollanam-do, they have the opportunity twice a year to spend a month attending a training seminar in Damyang county.

Additionally, Korean English teachers are aware of the importance of the quality of English education and the emotional effect it has on the students.

Oh shit, she all done up and done it. If I may be so bold, I will suggest that a vigorous public smear campaign against foreigners and foreign English teachers has been more detrimental to the emotional well-being of Korean students than any of their imagined offenses. Based on what follows in Kang's piece, I would also suggest that "emotional effect" is another way of saying "kids are afraid to speak English (because I will hit them) so don't make them talk."

We will probably waste the national treasury in the long term, unless the government invests a lot more in training Korean English teachers rather than depending on the temporarily employed native English teachers.

The yearly cost for employing one native English teacher is approximately 45 million won in our school. The amount is almost as much as the gross income of a 25-year veteran Korean teacher (excluding the pension).

*Sigh* No need for hyperbole. Hiring white people will not waste the national treasury. Building a cross-country canal will do that. Relocating the capital from Seoul to Chungcheongnam-do will do that. Hell, ridiculous and misguided spending on poorly planned English Towns will do that. A foreigner in every school probably won't do that.

I dislike talking about money and salaries, especially when it comes to comparing mine to my Korean counterparts. There are too many factors worth considering. I get free airfare. They get holiday and performance bonuses. I get accommodation. They sometimes do, too, and they earn a higher salary. I have less work (sometimes), but they have more vacation time. I don't know what she's talking about with the 45 million figure, but I'm almost positive it's wrong. Even if my apartment were to cost a staggering million a month---which it doesn't, thanks to 전세---and even if you factor in the cost of a round-trip ticket, that hypothetical foreigner would still earn $200 more per month than me, and $600 more than a rookie. (I didn't figure in deductions like health care.)

I suspect what happened is she included other aspects of the budget, including the cost of creating and maintaining a "language lab," into that figure. Every school I've been in has had a fancy language lab, filled with computers, books, different listening devices, and a big TV. (In all of my schools, though, the equipment in the lab has been inferior to that found in other rooms). Anyway, it's unfair to include the cost of a language lab or an English Camp when calculating salary, especially when so many contributors to a Korean teacher's salary are left out. I hate pissing contests like that, and I really wish it weren't such an interesting topic of conversation for some.

American English teachers accept many financial preferences. They are exempted from income taxes for two years and the rate of the pension and the health insurance is lower than ours.

Again, she has her wires crossed. I think any minor financial advantages are offset by things like not receiving performance bonuses, or adequate yearly salary increases, or not getting bribes, etc. And I'm not sure why she singles out American teachers. I have no idea about the pension or health care figures, though.

Even the overtime pay is different. While they earn 20,000 won per teaching session, we get only 6,000 won. This is comparable to the 13.5 million won a trainee at the Korea National University of Education (KNUE) gets for six months.

The 6,000 won figure is wrong. The 13,500,000 figure, when divided by six, is comparable to what a foreign teacher receives each month. At just over 2.2 million per month, that's more, in fact, than many experienced teachers stand to earn.

One year intensive English training programs seem to be enough because we've already learned a lot about the methodology, grammar and reading from our former education. That means only two-thirds of the expenses for one native English teacher can create high value.

Again, I agree that training Korean teachers is a smart idea. I'm not sure we can talk about value, yet, because it will be necessary to hire foreign teachers for these Korean trainees. What she's talking about sounds similar to what's already in place. Some foreign teachers in Jeollanam-do, for instance, spend 9 or 10 months a year teaching in a public school, then spend a month or two training teachers in Damyang county.

I don't want to be (too) mean, but let's not overvalue the training in methodology, grammar, and reading the Korean teachers have already received. I don't deny that some are very enthusiastic about their subject. But, with few exceptions, the methodology consists of reading aloud from a textbook, of translating the day's lesson into Korean, and of punishing students who happen to get in the teacher's way. The myth of the Asian grammar expert is unfounded, in my experience. It's true that Asians study grammar throughout their school years, but do they actually learn it? I have a decent understanding of grammar---I've forgotten a lot since college---and I've never met a Korean teacher who has stumped me or who has known something I have not. Hell, some of them have been studying English longer than I've been alive. Moreover, how many Koreans have you met that could produce even the simplest grammatically-correct sentence?

It's not easy for the native English teachers to understand the student's personality or his or her level of former learning achievement. One of the most important effects on the students through education is in the emotional aspect.

Of course it's not easy. We are sent half-way around the world and put in front of a classroom with no training, with no curriculum, and with no support outside of "do what you want." This is one of the most glaring deficiencies in the system.

What also gets me is the sudden importance of "emotional aspects," or "emotional well-being," or "self-confidence," or whatever, any time English education comes up. Somehow, with the import of communication-based teaching and student-centered learning, the idea that students need to be coddled has come into vogue. Oh, not in all classes, mind you. Not in geography class, or music class, or gym class, and certainly not in a Korean English teacher's class.

Every foreign teacher will struggle with the "fun vs. functional" dichotomy. Should I spend my time playing games, giving candy, being their friend, and ultimately looking like an ass? Or, should I spend my time doing educational stuff, trying to actually teach something, and (at least to some) looking like a prick?

The teachers have to take into consideration the background or the character of each student. However this is difficult for our native English teacher, because she teaches more than 800 students, i.e. twenty-one classes each week. One day she asked a student who couldn't read or write to the front of the class to do some activities. The abashed student cried.

Actually, in my case I have 46 different classes (plus one workshop and one "English club") and about 1,700 students. After three months I know a few of their names. Not bad, considering I see them once or twice a month and have no seating chart. Any background information will be invaluable, but it's unrealistic to expect what amounts to a guest speaker to know anything about the students s/he will see 6 times a semester. I think "take into consideration the background or character of each student" means "don't yell at them."

I have, I'm ashamed to admit, embarassed a couple of students with development issues. In my defense, how the fuck am I supposed to know? They don't talk. Most students don't talk. The co-teachers don't say anything to me. Sometimes it's obvious who is painfully shy, and I try my best to work with them (because they are often capable, but just need personal attention to do the work), but there are times when I have no fucking idea, and I'd appreciate it if my embarassed coteacher wouldn't blab to the Korea Times about my dumb ass.

Additionally, if the native English teacher does not have any background knowledge of the Korean culture, they have difficulty relating to the students.

I agree that knowledge of Korean culture and a little of the Korean language is invaluable, and I can't imagine doing my job without either. I have had to speak Korean to my coworkers this year and last, and a knowledge of how their language works greatly helps me in adjusting my lessons to their needs.

Most foreigners who arrive in Korea will have no knowledge about its culture or its language. This is another area where a supportive co-teacher or a healthy welcoming committee would be helpful. In my experience, however, I haven't even had coworkers able to communicate with me, let alone explain particular cultural nuances to me.

I will add that the lack of knowledge about English-language culture has been astounding. For some reason, the word "please" seems to have been left out of the curriculum for the past 40 years.

Most of our students enjoyed the class with the native English teacher because many of them rarely had the chance to talk with foreigners; also the class structure allowed them move around freely compared to the formal grammar classes.

However, to their grief, they soon ran out of English words they knew and started to lose interest and in turn became stressed. The effect of the native English teacher employment is noteworthy in the short term.

See, I'm not sure why grammar can't be fun. And I'm not sure how what foreigners fundamentally do is really any different from what Korean teachers fundamentally do. When I make a table or a chart, or design an information gap activity, I'm hitting the same points as the Korean teacher. I don't scour the entire lesson and dissect every sort of sentence as some of my colleagues do, but by doing what I do with the main points, the students are moving around, using the language, producing sentences, and having a decent time. When I was growing up I learned English without the benefit of daily lectures in Korean, and I turned out all right.

If the students run out of words, TEACH THEM MORE. Jesus Tapdancing Christ. Waitwaitwait, don't teach them more. They already have weekly vocabulary tests and have workbooks filled with hundreds of words that they will never use. Why not spend a little more time showing them how English works, and how to utilize the lists they've collected. There's no sense in forcing them to memorize "pneumonia" or "hemorrhage" when they say things like "teacher, leg sick."

Show them how to use the language. Teach them what an adjective is. Have them describe their friends. Have them describe their friends' warts. Show them verbs. Have them build sentenes. Have them build questions. Have them role play. Type up a few sentences or paragraphs, stick some mistakes in there, and have the students fix them. Read a story but make mistakes and have the students correct you. Make surveys. Make information gap activities. The possibilities are endless. But until some people realize that there's more to English than tests, and a greater point to vocabulary than writing translations, they'll never learn. Jesus, if you look up "transparent" in a dictionary, you won't see "means the same as 투명한."

And learn how to fucking use the word "noteworthy."

Though we are not sure if the native English teachers help us curb soaring private education expenses as the government asserted, we can't deny that many Korean English teachers are motivated to improve and many students share in the benefits of having opportunities to acquire live language.

Presidential candidate Chung Dong-young believes placing a native speaker in every classroom will help curb private education costs. I dunno, demand is high.

What gets me is how many Koreans write this type of sentence. "Though [unrelated point] we can't deny that [good thing about Koreans]." It also works with "It's true that [Koreans are good], [unrelated point]."

Education issues and decisions should be dealt with considering the long-term outcomes. The government must make investments ― with long-term plans ― in the training programs, and create highly qualified Korean English teachers who can
keep up with the requirements of the times.

Her ultimate point is that more effort should be made in educating Korean English teachers. Why she wrote this tour de force questioning the abilities of foreign teachers, I don't know. There are a number of reasons why the long-term status of foreign teachers in Korea is in question.

First, there are objectionable and offensive policies in place that hinder a foreigner's ability to make long-term plans here. There is a ceiling on salaries, and salaries have been stagnant for years. There are limits on university and college professors, who are largely prohibited from gaining tenure and the benefits that come with it. More recently and most importantly, there are new visa regulations that will require further paperwork and expenses. Not only are these new rules inconvenient and pricey, they are blatantly racist and xenophobic, and I don't see how a teacher can, in good conscience, agree with the premise that he or she is a criminal.

Second, there is no curriculum in place for middle and high schools, and no viable long-term plans for native speakers. While one presidential candidate talks about putting native speakers in every classroom, another talks about training Korean English teachers, and other provinces are keen on phasing out native speakers all together.

Finally . . . well, this isn't unrelated to number one, but it just deserves its own paragraph. Trouble is brewing when this comes out the mouth of a country's immigration department:

The Korean Government will prevent illegal activities by verifying requirements of native English teacher and tighten their non-immigrant status [...] [and will] eradicate illegal activities of native English teachers who are causing social problems such as ineligible lectures, taking drugs and sex crimes. English teachers, who disturb social order during their staying in Korea such as illegal teaching, taking drugs and sex crimes, will be banned from entering South Korea.[...] [They will] prevent illegal English teaching activities and the taking of drugs and sexual harassment of English teachers, [...] teachers who disrupt the social order by taking drugs, committing sexual harassment and alcohol intoxication.

Maybe I make too much of these "the sky is falling" stories, and many of them turn out to be political posturing or the venting of hot air. But, when the government issues thoughtless things like this, I feel it's cause for alarm.

I will add the obligatory "idon'thatekoreaandiusuallylikeitherealot" postscript to protect myself from the usual suspects. However, sometimes teaching here can be tough. There are some fundamental dichotomies that influence how we do our jobs, and there are no quick and easy answers to them. What makes things worse, though, is that too few people are asking the questions.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Start of Christmas season.

The first Christmas tree I've ever put up by myself.

Here's a picture of a Christmas tree I bought a week ago. It's 3 or 4 feet high, cost 20,000 won at Kim's Club, and came in a set with the lights and decorations you see here. I put it up today, Thanksgiving weekend, the time when a lot of folks put up their decorations back home. Thanksgiving is the start of Christmas season for me, although the halls of Lotte World were decked with seasonal decorations when I went three weeks ago.

The kit I bought from Kim's Club.

Since I have a romantic view of Christmas, I found it hard to trim the Charlie Brown tree without Christmas music. There are 11 different channels of continuous Christmas-related music and audio programs available from AOL Radio, and I prefer "XM Holiday Traditions."

I also enjoy German-language Christmas carols, my favorite being "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen," one of the most beautiful songs around, in my opinion. There's a video of it on Youtube here, by The Young Tenors, and a nice choral arrangement by the Windsbacher Kinderchor is available here at about the 1:30 mark. The best version I've heard is by the King's Singers, though I recommend downloading it from Limewire or another p2p program, because the Youtube version isn't so hot. Christmas is about the only time of the year when I regret being so lacksidasical about my German studies in high school and college.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Local Link Dump.

Plenty of items in the news to illustrate why I hate this country sometimes. A few pieces from Jeollanam-do as well.

* The blogger "Metropolitician" (Michael Hurt) was arrested the other day for assault. Mr. Hurt called the police after being harassed during a photo shoot by a drunken man, but when the police arrived the man claimed Mr. Hurt had kicked him. Bloggers all over Korea have picked up the story---there are posts from the Marmot, Lost Nomad, and Gusts of Popular Feeling---and the underlying lesson to be learned is that foreigners should expect no protection from the police or the law here in Korea. In the Metropolitician's words:

That's why I don't think I've ever been more a mixture of humiliated and enraged in all my life. Because not only was I not doing anything at ALL wrong or unlawful, but I was actually just trying to play upstanding citizen, which got me arrested and charged with assault.
* In the above-mentioned post by Gusts of Popular Feeling there's a link to a Pusanweb thread, which in turn contains a translation of a press release concerning the rationale behind the new E-2 visa regulations. The money shot, as quoted by GOPF:

The Korean Government will prevent illegal activities by verifying requirements of native English teacher and tighten their non-immigrant status [...] [and will] eradicate illegal activities of native English teachers who are causing social problems such as ineligible lectures, taking drugs and sex crimes. English teachers, who disturb social order during their staying in Korea such as illegal teaching, taking drugs and sex crimes, will be banned from entering South Korea.[...] [They will] prevent illegal English teaching activities and the taking of drugs and sexual harassment of English teachers, [...] teachers who disrupt the social order by taking drugs, committing sexual harassment and alcohol intoxication.
Any idiot can point out the hypocracy of that memo with a few google searches, and it's not worth the effort to do it here. You know, in spite of the theme of today's post, I actually like it here, and am considering staying another year. But if these new regulations go into effect, I can't in good conscience renew my contract. I neither want the headache of having to fly to New York (on my own dime) to have my documents processed, nor can I tolerate such outright racism and xenophobia as spewed by the Korean government and its mouthpieces. I'm not sure if they're trying to lose all their teachers to China, or what.

* So the Truth and Reconciliation Committee wants the US to pay for a bombing run that killed 51 villagers in 1951, but the South Korean government maintains that North Korea should not have to apologize for actually invading the country in the first place. Nor, it seems, is it in a position to denouce the shocking human rights abuses carried out presently north of the 38th. According to the Yonhap piece,

So far, Seoul has abstained or been absent in voting on North Korea-related resolutions out of concern that criticism of Pyongyang might complicate inter-Korean relations and efforts to negotiate over the North's nuclear program.
Aside from the whole government-led smear campaign against foreigners, my biggest complaint about this country is the treatment of North Korea.

* A high school student from Damyang county, Jeollanam-do, committed suicide on November 15th after being arrested for copyright violations after downloading a novel from the internet. (Naver via Korea Beat)

* No famous foreigner can step foot in Korea without wearing hanbok and playing the stooge. I was going to type something like "Maybe we should make every famous Korean in the US wear a blue Union uniform and pose for an old-timey photo at Six Flags." But that would be awesome. And there are no famous Koreans in the US. Here is Pete Sampress and some other guy, Venus Williams, Britney Spears, Nicholas Cage, Amerie, and Paris Hilton. Yes, the Naver article called Williams "Black Pearl."

* The Catholic Archdiocese of Gwangju had something to say about the "Our Lady of Naju" statue, a figure of the Virgin Mary which is believed to weep blood. According to the article, those who put their faith in the veracity of the miracle are embarking on a "departure from the orthodox faith based on a false belief system." I can't find the link now, but apparently a doctor was called in a while back to test the blood, and he determined the Blessed Mother has Type B blood. A Korean doctor, obviously, who probably believes that with the recent cold spell the statue runs the risk of becoming infertile.

* Who the fuck writes this shit? As if we needed another editorial about the 2012 Expo.

* Based on Mr. Lim's body of work, I'm convinced "Harvard Korea Institute" is as related to Harvard University as Suncheon's "Benz Motel" is related to the German motorvehicle.

* And apparently this Korean English teacher of 30+ years found nothing strange about her email address (scroll to the end of the article).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Newest Truth and Reconciliation Committee is in the news.

The Marmot's Hole posted a little entry today linking to an article on South Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Committee, and its efforts at investigating some 1,222 probable incidents of mass execution without trial. The entire article is really worth a read, and can be found here, but I'll just point out a few paragraphs pertaining to Jeollanam-do.

Chung Nam Sook, 80, said that in December 1950, soldiers of South Korea's 11th Army Division stormed his village in Hampyong, in the southwest of the country, to hunt Communist guerrillas. North Korean collaborators had already fled, but the soldiers rounded up the remaining villagers in a field.

"They told us to light our cigarettes. Then they began shooting their rifles and machine guns," Chung said. "After a while, an officer called out, 'Any of you who are still alive can stand up and go home now.' Those who did were shot again."

Despite seven bullet wounds, Chung survived by pretending to be dead under the heap of bodies. In July, the truth commission called the killings at Hampyong a "crime against humanity" and told the government to apologize and build a monument for the victims.

Both sides in the war were accused of killing large numbers of unarmed civilians and of using terror to force people into compliance as villages across the country fell and were retaken.

For instance, South Korean police officers disguised as a North Korean unit entered villages at Naju, near Hampyong, in July 1950, and when people welcomed them with Communist flags, killed 97, the commission said.

As their town changed hands between the rival armies, villagers who had lost family members were quick to settle scores. More than 50 years later, families still hold grudges.

This part of the country has had a violent 20th century. Before the Korean War, thousasnds were killed in the Yosu-Sunchon Incident (여수사건) of 1948, which was a response to the Jeju Massacre some 7 months earlier (for which President Roh apologized in 2003) which claimed between 14,000 and 30,000 deceased or missing, according to "The National Committee for the Investigation of the Truth about the Jeju April 3 Incident." You can find placards around Suncheon that point out the sites of notable events during the rebellion (in front of Suncheon Station, for example, or behind the language center of Suncheon National University).

Anyway, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee is apparently just involved in research and investigation and, according to the IHT article quoted above, "unlike the South African agency, Korea's commission has no power to prosecute crimes or grant immunity."

It does, evidentally, make policy recommendations, as the Marmot's Hole ran another story on the very same Truth and Reconciliation Committee. They have recommended that the Korean government take steps to demand compensation from the US for a 1951 bombing in Gyeongsangbuk-do that killed 51 villagers. In the Marmot's words,

I was thinking 36,000 dead, 92,000 wounded, 8,000 MIA and half a century of security guarantees backed up by US troops might be compensation enough. Apparently, I was wrong.
Lest anyone forget, a month ago President Roh said that North Korea should not have to apologize for past transgressions. According to him (via Yonhap):

“There is a disparity between (the South) asking (the North) for an apology and inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation. I want to ask advocates of a North Korean apology if they are opposed to inter-Korean peace,” Roh was quoted by his spokesperson as saying in a meeting with foreign correspondents based in Seoul.

“North Korea’s apology (for past wrongdoings) is a difficult question. In case of the end of a war, the loser is supposed to atone for the war damage and be liable for making an apology. But North Korea did not lose the war. It is not legally realistic to demand the North’s apology,” said Roh.
Yet another Korean truth commission, we should remember, cleared 83 of 148 Koreans war criminals---as found by the Allies---of responsibility and wrong-doing for their actions in World War II. 37% of Allied POWs perished at the hands of their captors---among whom Koreans were especially notorious---yet that commission found that these men were victims themselves, "saddled," as the Marmot put it, "by the Japanese with responsibility for the abuse of Allied POWs, and hence had to suffer the “double pain” of forced mobilization AND becoming a war criminal." The links to the original Korea Herald article and Michael Breen's Korea Times rebuttal are broken, so instead I'll just quote what Oranckay had to say on it:
What annoys me is that one hears sympathy for men who would be called collaborators if they had been working in prisons that held fellow Koreans during colonial rule. Their prisoners were (largely) white, however, so they are afforded as much understanding as possible. And they get to be called “victims.”
These select few incidents reveal an inability for accurate self-reflection that you often find in matters of history. It's worth revisiting an October article by top Koreanist Dr. Andrei Lankov (via The Grand Narrative blog):
Every foreign resident of Korea is exposed to a number of habitual Korean statements, which reflect Korean ideas about themselves and their nation. Many of these beliefs are true, some are not so well founded, while others are strange — like, say, the well-known tendency of Koreans to boast that their country “has four distinct seasons” as if this is something unusual and unknown to most other countries of the globe.

One such oft-repeated statement is that Korea has always suffered invasions and wars. Koreans often say, “Our history has been tragic, for centuries we have been invaded by powerful enemies and suffered in their hands greatly.” Every visitor to Korea is bound to hear such a remark sooner or later, and most people tend to take it at face value. This statement might correctly describe Korean history of the last one hundred years, but it is hardly applicable to earlier eras.

But why did such a view develop? There might be few reasons, but I suspect that Korean intellectuals of the 1950s or 1960s were shocked by the turbulent nature
of the last hundred years of Korea history (to be more precise, the period between 1865 and 1960). This came as a sharp contrast to the tranquility and predictability of earlier times. This shock made Koreans believe that their history has always been that difficult and hard. And, of course, Korean nationalists used these feelings for their own gains. But this is another story.
. .
We also see this opportunistic attitude of Korean nationalists when it comes to the topic of Japanese collaborators (친일파) and comfort women, although a complete analysis of either issue is well beyond the means of this humble blogger. Suffice it to say, there is a lack of transparency when it comes to Korean history "as told by Koreans" that ranks it right up there with the best the Chinese and Japanese have to offer. I'm skeptical about the potential for any truth and/or reconciliation that may arise in the hearts of the majority of Koreans as a result of any of these committees.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Train Stations in Suncheon

There are many things I have not yet done in Korea during my sheltered existence. I have not been to Jeju or Mokpo. I have not been to a 찜질방. And I have never taken a train. I'm sure it's easy enough, and I guess plenty of foreigners do it, but I've just always found taking a bus pretty convenient. The English-language Korail site is a joke, with an incomplete and outdated map and no timetables. The Korean-language site isn't much better, although at least there's an improved way of searching through schedules. Not that it matters much, as foreigners aren't able to buy tickets online, thus defeating the purpose of using an online booking system. Since I would have to physically go to the station to get the tickets, there's no reason for me not to just take a bus.

Anyway, in a small attempt at reducing the disinformation out there about trains and train stations, earlier this fall I edited the "Jeolla Rail" template on Galbijim, and took out nearly twenty stations that are no longer in operation. The template has since been reverted to its unabridged form. Eight of these defunct stations are within the Suncheon city limits. From north to south (between Guryegu Station and Suncheon Station) are:

* Bongdeok Station (봉덕역), in Hwajeong-myeon.
* Goemok Station (괴목역), in Hwajeong-myeon, 1936-1999
* Gaeun Station (개운역), in Seo-myeon
* Dongeun Station (동운역), in Seo-myeon, ?? - 2005
* Seongsan Station (성산역), in Haeryong-myeon, 1952-2005
* Pyeonghwa Station (평화역), 1968-2004
* Dong Suncheon Station (동순천역), 1936-2004

And from the southwest from Beolgyo to Suncheon Station is:

* Guryong Station (구룡역), in Byeolryang-myeon
* Wonchang Station (원창역), in Byeolryang-myeon

The only operational station in town is Suncheon Station, a few blocks from the Intercity Bus Terminal. The station was rebuilt in 1960, and is accessible by just about every local bus in town. According to an artist's rendering inside, it looks like they're building a new one. (There's some construction going on next door, I wonder if that's it). You can see the picture here, if you scroll down. Suncheon Station is, incidentally, a good place to go if you've decided to visit Suncheon without doing your homework. Outside of the station to the left is a Tourist Information Center (관광안내소), where you can get all kinds of maps, brochures, and bus schedules.

Guryegu Station is also in Suncheon, but I don't really consider it "in town" because it's . . . not really in town. It's on the outskirts, across the river from Gurye-eup, Gurye county, north of the old Bongdeok Station.

According to an article from the 경상신문, 15 stations in Jeollanam-do closed in 2005, although I have to doubt the veracity of stuff in the article, as some of the locations are wrong (Yulchon Station, for example, is in Yeosu, not Suncheon, and Yangbo Station isn't in Suncheon, either).

Anyway, there are quite a few websites about train stations, and it's easy to find photos with a Naver search. (기차 as in train) is a good one, and it has a mirror Naver cafe, from whence I stole a bunch of photos for this post. I Love Train is another one. When I do Naver searches for these defunct railway stations, most of the results are from these two sites, or from blogs that borrow the information. Here are a few photos that I turned up, and *goddamnit* since I can't do captions without screwing up the layout of the entire page, I'll tell you now that, from top to bottom, is Seongsan Station, Pyeonghwa Station, Guryong Station, and Gaeun Station.

Visiting and photographing these old stations must be a popular pastime here. I tried to participate, and on the first day of the Chuseok break I visited Yulchon Station in Yeosu. It's old and tiny, and although there were two people working in the office, I don't think passengers use it any longer. Around that time I decided to visit Seongsan Station, as I thought it was within walking distance of my school. If you check the Naver map here, you'll see that it's in the middle of an apartment complex, which is entirely possible if the area was built up after the photo galleries were taken. Only after wandering around for an hour and returning home did my dumb ass follow the railroad tracks on the Naver map and find that Seongsan is further east, in the middle of nowhere.

There are photo galleries available for most of the stations in Suncheon. You can see more pictures of Seongsan Station here and here. One for Dongun Station is here and one for Gaeun Station is here. Two for Bongdeok Station are here and here, and there are two for Pyeonghwa Station, here and here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Movie theaters in Suncheon.

* 7/16/09 Update: I updated the two movie theater links. Please leave a comment or email me if you find other broken links; otherwise, I'll have a hard time keeping track.

There are two movie theaters in Suncheon: Primus and Lotte. Primus Cinema (프리머스시네마) is next door to Suncheon City Hall in Jakcheon-dong, and is attached to the area known as "Old Downtown" by a fancy, newly-constructed pedestrian street. Apparently it was the former location of 맘모스극장. Anyway, this Primus Cinema opened on December 18, 2003, has 8 screens, and has a Lotteria on the ground floor. You can see what's playing now on their website. It is accessible via a ton of buses--- it's roughly 10 minutes behind the Intercity Bus Terminal on foot, and about five minutes from the bright, crowded Old Downtown shopping area. It's the tallest building in the area, and is easy to find after dark because there are multi-colored lights ringing the top.

Lotte Cinema (롯데시네마) is basically across the street from the Homever latest Home Plus. You can find out what's playing and get showtimes for Suncheon by clicking on 전라/광주 on the map on the homepage and then selecting Suncheon. Buses 64, 71, and 777 pass by the theater and stop near Homever, but weather permitting you could make the 10-minute walk from E-Mart or the 15-minute walk from Suncheon Station.

There are a few other theaters in Suncheon that aren't operational any longer. I've tried to get information on them, to the best of my ability, but haven't been able to find much. One is the old 국도극장, in Old Downtown. The building itself is still there, and is next to the Lotteria, partially obscured by an abandoned clothing store. The ticket window is still there, and at the time of the theater's closing, general admission prices were 5,500 won. Another is 황금극장, also in Old Downtown, in a presently vacant building. According to the guy on Naver, there were two screens there. I've found references to a few others---순천시네마극장, K2 시네마, and 코리아극장---but my Korean isn't good enough to figure out where they are/were.

[Edit (12/04/07): I just put up a little post about 국도극장, in "Old Downtown."]

Beolgyo Walking Tour.

Although I already wrote a blog entry about Beolgyo, I've decided to copy-and-paste the article I wrote for the Gwangju News' October issue that contains the little walking tour I typed up, since somebody asked about it. I uploaded the information to Galbijim in October, but all those pages are gone and it's too much effort to try to redo them right now. There are several other, better sources for Beolgyo out there, and I recommend visiting the profiles done by Robert Koehler and Antti Leppanen if you're interested in actually learning something. Anyway, here's the article and the pictures that ran with it. My flickr page has more, and it also has a photograph of a large tourist map that was hanging outside a restaurant. I was only able to find 7 of the 16 mentioned sites, however.

Walking through historic Beolgyo

Beolgyo is a place that doesn’t get much attention these days. The town of 19,000 in Boseong county is east of the famed green tea fields, south of Suncheon, and just next door to the Naganeupseong Folk Village. There’s a good chance most readers have passed through without taking notice, as Beolgyo is one of many bus stops between Mokpo and Yeosu.

Beolgyo’s fame has waned, perhaps intentionally. During the Japanese occupation of Korea, the town became an important link between Yeosu and the rest of Jeolla. The remaining colonial-era buildings represent for some the oppressive economic and political circumstances of the last century. Beolgyo was also the site of violent anti-communist turmoil in the late-1940s, and many were executed here as part of the crackdown against the Yeosu–Suncheon Rebellion of 1948.

Yet the town still does attract visitors interested in Japanese-style architecture and those eager to retrace the footsteps of the famed, controversial, 10-volume novel Taebaek Sanmaek (태백산맥, The Taebaek Mountains), written in the 1980s by Jo Jeong-rae. It, and the 1994 Im Kwon-taek film of the same name, traces the ideological conflicts that plagued the newly-formed Republic of Korea. Many of the town’s colonial-era sites bear placards explaining their historical significance and relationship to the novel.

Those interested in wandering through Beolgyo’s history will likely start at Beolgyo’s bus terminal. After exiting, walk down the station’s driveway and turn right. After a minute or two a sign for Daegwang Preschool (대광어린이집) will appear on the right. The preschool is set on a hill in what was once Hoejeongni Church (회정리교회), built in 1935. Continuing along the road, turn right at the main thoroughfare that runs parallel to the stream. After a few minutes the Rainbow Bridge (홍교) will appear on the left. Originally constructed in 1729, the crescent-shaped stone bridge has been rebuilt several times, most recently in 1984. Across the bridge is a cluster of maroon-colored buildings belonging to Pogyodang Temple. Four small buildings on the site surround a small garden. All four feature vivid paintings that incorporate, besides the five traditional colors, silver and gold. Chinese-style depictions of flowers and birds adorn the fronts, while intricate images of dragons, deities, and lotus flowers decorate the awnings.

Hoejeongni Church, now Daegwang Preschool; Rainbow Bridge; Main Hall of Pogyodang and its awnings.

After leaving the temple, turn right and continue past a small clock tower. After a few minutes the large, gray Beolgyo-eup Office will come into view. Behind the office is a large staircase that leads up the hill to Buyongsan Park. Walking through the grassy expanse and up a small hill will lead to Palgakjeong (팔각정), a two-story, octagonal pavilion that affords views of downtown Beolgyo and the outlying lake. It takes about ten minutes to reach the pavilion, though the hike may be extended if visitors wish to see Yeonyongsa (연용사) temple or the remains of a mountain fortress some 3 kilometers away. [Note: The 등산안내 maps make no pretention to accuracy, so I couldn't find Yeonyongsa after about 45-minutes of looking.]

Downtown Beolgyo from Buyongsan.

Catacorner to the Beolgyo-eup Office is a grocery store, and across from that is another example of Japanese architecture that has survived these decades. Continuing past the market will lead to a senior-citizen’s community center. With a white façade and a sloping red roof, this building was formerly known as the Financial Collective building (금융조합), and is a typical example of architecture of the day. The next example of Japanese architecture is a few blocks away, in front of Beolgyo South Elementary School (벌교남초교). It is the former Namdo Inn (남도여관), a two-story building which looks inconspicuous today with a clothier in the ground floor, but which figured into Taebaek Sanmaek as the lodgings of the police counterinsurgency forces.

Financial Collective Building; Namdo Inn

Down the street is Beolgyo Station, partially obscured by taxi stands and trees, but still prominent and striking because of its sloping, tiled roof. The station was built in 1930 and is one of a few colonial-era train stations still in operation in Jeollanam-do. If facing the station, turn left and make your way back toward the stream. Cross the river via Buyong Bridge (부용교), also known as Sohwa Dari (소화다리). Built in 1931, in the 6th year of the Japanese Sohwa era, the simple, unassuming concrete bridge was the site of executions of communists and their sympathizers by the Korean military in the late-1940s. It is one of many symbols of tragedy and suffering that remain in Beolgyo after 60-odd years. Crossing the bridge will put you near a cluster of apartments that you passed after leaving Hoejeongni Church. Continue up the street again to return to the bus terminal.

Buses from practically all towns in Jeollanam-do will reach Beolgyo. From Suncheon, take bus 88, or visit the Suncheon Intercity Bus Terminal and buy a ticket for 2,100 won there. From Gwangju, buses bound for Nokdong (녹동) leave twice an hour, and stop in Beolgyo along the way.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Trying to squeeze water from a stone.

I’ve done a lot of thinking, and have written a number of draft posts on this topic, and I’m curious whether a centralized information source like the Galbijim Wiki is useful to the foreign community. I’ve spent countless hours writing content for it over the past 14 months, but the latest shutdown—as well as a few other developments—has made me question its purpose. I’ve always supported the idea of an open encyclopedia to collect information spread out over a number of pages and forums, and to synthesize information heretofore unavailable in English. A big complaint I’ve always had is that foreigners here generally have no interest in pooling their knowledge into a single source, but would rather blog and photograph on their own, and ask and answer the same redundant questions over and over on the forums.

But I realize that complaint is a little misguided. Foreigners do share their knowledge. Korea groups are all over, and there are lots of Korea-related message boards. And foreigners around here do make the occassional well-informed blog entry on a particular mountain, temple, beach, or other point of interest.

While they share knowledge they, don't, however, pool it. Ownership of ideas is very important, which explains the popularity of blogging, and which is why people refer to the Galbijim Suncheon page not as the Suncheon page but rather Brian's Suncheon page. And, as I see it, foreigners don’t value facts as much as they value impressions. That is, a Galbijim article might lay out population figures, might list restaurants and bars, might give directions to parks and movie theaters. But foreigners aren’t interested in what or where things are, but rather how things are, and opinions are invariably bound to their owners. While I have been bemoaning the lack of interest in Galbijim or (message board for Jeollanam-do teachers), I haven’t been paying enough attention to blogger or facebook, where hundreds of foreigners in South Jeolla are participating). The problem for Galbijim, then, is that its content is written by only a handful of faithful contributors, and the Jeolla content is generally written entirely by me. The nature of an encyclopedia means that I can give you all the facts you’ll need, but I can’t (explicitly) give you my impression. When an encyclopedia entry is written by a single person, there’s no reason to hold it in higher regard than a blog entry, and when an encyclopedia entry is written by a single person, there’s no reason to think it any different than a blog entry.

I had always hoped more people would get involved with the wiki. I’ve written elsewhere that, since a lot of the Jeollanam-do placements are among the first foreigners in their areas, who better than them to profile their part of the country? But the interest just isn’t there. I never understood why people would collaborate on a message board, and would comment on one another’s blog, and would join thirty different facebook groups, but wouldn’t work on a wiki page. I think the big reason is that the wiki looks more like a personal project than an open encyclopedia. They’re partly right, and if you search through the “recent changes” you won’t find many made by people other than the administrators and Bundanggumin, the resident Bundang . . . resident. Encyclopedia entries don’t have the personal touch people like, and even after all the work we put in, there are still people on Dave’s asking “What’s Suncheon like?”

When the wiki came back a few days ago from a three-week shutdown, it lost 1,700 articles, about 28% of the Jeollanam-do pages, and several dozen photos taken by me. I haven’t decided whether it’s worth it to rewrite or retake them. For Suncheon-related material alone there's Galbijim, there's "Suncheon Crowd," there's "Suncheon City ESL Teachers," there's "Suncheon Drinking Club," and there's, to say nothing of Dave's ESL Cafe, or blogs, or the websites and mailing lists for nearby cities and towns. Of that list, Galbijim is probably the sixth most popular--there are probably some blogs that get more traffic than the Galbijim Suncheon page--and that's before 75% of the content was wiped out. I’ve, unfortunatley, spent a lot of the past year trying to create a foreign community in Jeollanam-do. Create a community, in the active voice, through Galbijim or through, where I’m also a moderator, rather than letting a community be created. Communities must form organically, and the trend is currently blogger and facebook, where impressions and opinions are encouraged, and where the public and private coexist.

Well, the latest Galbijim implosion reminds us that information isn’t immutable and eternal, but exists only when there are people to give it. Bonghwasan is still there, even if the page isn’t, and is ready to be rediscovered and rewritten countless times by countless people. My page on that mountain was a combination of other pages, filtered through my personal judgement and preference. An encyclopedia pretends to authority, but its authority is, in turn, dependent on its contributors and the faith of its readers. I don’t know if encyclopedia can thrive when it depends so completely on a single judgement or a single set of preferences. When I started putting together content for Galbijim over a year ago, I set out to eliminate some of the redundancy found on forums and blogs, and to synthesize the information spread far and wide into one source. I wonder now if people even perceive the redundancy. I think they prefer it, and that makes me question whether there is such a thing as a one-stop Korea site.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Love motel story

I've posted this elsewhere, but since I'm busy not working, I figured I'd post it again here.

Last April or May I was spending the night in Gwangju, staying in the Pharoah (파라오모텔), about a block from the more popular Windmill Motel. I got back to the room and was trying to turn off the lights to go to bed. As you might know, in motels the buttons that control the many lights are often on a single box near the TV or on the nightstand. Well, I pushed all the buttons and managed to turn off all the lights but one. The biggest one was still on, and I tried pressing the buttons again, hitting different combinations, checking the walls for switches, and finally pulling the key out of the wall to see if I could reset something. After a few minutes of this I resigned myself to sleeping with the light on. I then got a call from the front desk telling me to try the remote control.

Brand New Muan International Airport

The Muan International Airport (무안국제공항, MWX) opened last week (November 8th), but will operate at a fraction of its capacity until at least the middle of next year, according to a Korea Times article. It has replaced* Mokpo Airport, will take over international flights from Gwangju International Airport next June, and is expected to have some 1.8 million passengers in 2008. This newest airport, the third-largest in the country behind Incheon and Gimpo, is slated to have 42 international flights per week and 8 domestic flights per day, but currently only 9 and 7, respectively, are working. Reasons given for the delay are the lack of restaurants and convenience stores, customs and immigration stations, and insufficient transportation from Gwangju to Muan.

The airport was apparently under construction for 8 years, and as I mentioned in an earlier post there are articles that say the airport was supposed to open as early as 2004 (I saw one that said 2003, but I can't find it now). So the current delays are face-slappingly mind-boggling. According to a Korea Times article from November 2, the highway between Gwangju and Muan isn't scheduled to open until June, 2008, and that the KTX may eventually pass through Muan. I don't understand why the transportation issue wasn't the first hammered out, instead of being among the last. All of the issues mentioned in the initial KT article I linked are pretty serious deficiencies, and I guess by "open" it is meant that airplanes are physically able to take off and land.

President Noh was there to help open the airport.
"Muan International Airport will become a new milestone in the development of Gwangju and Jeollanam-do. Together with Incheon International Airport and Gimhae International Airport, it will further elevate Korea's status in the global air
logistics sector," said Roh.

The airport is a large component of the Namak New City project, which will swell the resources and population in Namak-ri, Muan county. Namak became the capital of Jeollanam-do in 2005, replacing Gwangju, and though Samhyang-myeon (삼향면, which contains Namak-ri) had a population of 8,768 in 2001, Namak is expected to have a population of 150,000 when the project is finished in 2019. Besides the airport and the new provincial office, other development thrusts include parks, cultural centers, and of course apartments. No, I haven't had any opportunity to talk to anyone over there about the New City or the airport, but the website does say
When selecting Namak-ri, Samhyang-myeon, Mooan County, Jeonnam as the place of New Provincial Office which, we think, would be the best place to be corresponded with the developing direction of 21st century Jeonnam, andthe function and the status of Jeonnam Provincial Office in the era of Local self-government., make it the turning point to develop Jeonnam, and set up the developing plan to maximize the potentiality of the regional development
so there you go.

I do have a soft spot in my heart for all these grand development initiatives taking place throughout Jeollanam-do. There's also a "Tourism and Leisure City" in Haenam, with hotels, casinos, a theme park, a convention center, and an F-1 racing track. And the Gwangyang FEZ, which I don't understand at all. I guess it's partly because the enthusiasm and activity here contrast with the failed urban renewal programs in downtown Pittsburgh. But, when an entire country is smaller than Pennsylvania, it's easier to develop in a hurry, and eventually poliiticians will make it rain on the neglected corners. And it does make me chuckle a little to note the frequency with which 신도시 gets thrown around.

Anyway, according to the founder of the feast:
"Honam is now experiencing turbulent changes due to the emergence of China, political democratization and because it is overcoming of longstanding isolation. The changes will offer Honam new opportunities for prosperity," said
You can have a look around the airport's official website here, although I don't put much stock in it yet. The English page, for example, redirects to the Gimhae Airport's website, as does the duty-free shopping section. I suspect the airport will have similar amenities as the Gwangju International Airport, which means you'll have plenty of opportunities to buy giant wooden tables and lewd paintings. I get a kick out of these tiny airports, and it made me smile when I drove past the little airport in Sacheon.
* I don't know if Mokpo Airport is closed yet or what. Naver encyclopedia and the Mokpo Airport's official site don't say anything about it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gangjin: Its people and their places.

I'm in the process of writing profiles on some of Jeollanam-do's places and things. I've decided to break up the entry on Gangjin county into a few smaller posts. This one deals with three of Gangjin's most famous residents and the places associated with them. Next I will write a little about the notable temples in the area. Please see the end of the post for information about one of the secondary souces I've used here.

Gangjin is one of Jeollanam-do's 17 counties, and is about an 80-minute bus ride south of Gwangju. A few noteworthy people have passed through Gangjin over the centuries, giving the area a little more character than would normally be granted an otherwise plain county. Granted, Gangjin is "famous" for celadon pottery (청자)---actually, legimiately known for it, so the quotation marks aren't really necessary---but I'm not very interested in pottery. Biographies are more interesting, in my opinion, and the most famous person to have Gangjin mentioned in his is Jeong Yak-yong (정약용, 1762-1836), penname Dasan, a notable writer and philosopher during the Joseon Dynasty. A Neo-Confucianist and pioneer of the Silhak school, Dasan was exiled to Gangjin for nearly 18 years, from 1801 to 1818, and some of the places associated with his stay have become regional tourist sites. Another notable writer is Kim Yun-sik (김윤식, penname 영랑, 1903-1950), born in Gangjin, and known for writing poetry in his native Jeolla dialect. A third luminary is the Dutch explorer Hendrick Hamel (1630-1692), who was shipwrecked off of Jeju island and, with his surviving crew, was taken into custody and eventually imprisoned in Jeollanam-do. Hamel would spend nearly 7 years in Byeongyeong-myeon, Gangjin county, before eventually escaping to Japan. More about all three men can be found below.

Also, according to one site, President Roh Moo-hyun's grandfather was from Gangjin. I really have no idea how reliable that is--accurate information on Korea written by Koreans is very hard to come by--but such an upbringing might lend some credence to the charge of "North Korean lackey" sometimes thrown at Roh. A guy once told me that baseball player Lee Seung-yeop's father lives in Seongjeon-myeon, but I sort of doubted that until I ran a google search just now and I guess it's true.

Evidentally the Royal Asiatic Society has tours that sometimes come through the southern part of the country. They are doing a "Land of Exile Tour" through Gangjin on November 17 and 18, with (it looks like) trips to Dasan Chodang, Kim Yun-sik's birthplace, and some of the celadon kilns.

There are a few different sites associated with Dasan, the most notable being Dasan Chodang (다산초당), where he lived in exile for 12 years (some sources say 10 or 11, though). He reportedly composed over 500 works during his time there. Dasan Chodang is set on the foothills of Mandeoksan, a 409-meter-high mountain in Doam-myeon. On site are two houses (one for Dasan, one for his followers), a cottage, a pond, and an observatory called Chun Il Gak (천일각) that overlooks Gangjin Bay. There is also a rock a few meters west of (behind) Seoam (서암), his followers' cottage, on which two Chinese characters are written. Of his time in Doam-myeon, Dr. Kim Byung-kuk, a native of Gangjin, has written:

"Collecting abundant young tea leaves, in early spring, he indulged in drinking tea, the redolent fragrance of which has been identified with the lofty ideals of his thought" (6)
According to placards at the site, the structures were rebuilt in 1975-6 by the county.

Chun Il Gak pavillion and Gangjin Bay, at Dasan Chodang.

There are trails that crisscross the mountain and that connect Dasan Chodang to Baekryeonsa (백련사) temple, formerly known as Mandeoksa (만덕사). It has been suggested that a monk living at Baeknyeonsa influenced Dasan's writings on Buddhism during his exile. Other nearby attractions include the Camellia Forest of Baeknyeonsa, Dasan's Relics Exhibition Center, and Okryeonsa temple. There is also a really cute tea house in front of the relics center named 꽃이야기. Buses go to the temple and to Dasan Chodang fairly regularly from the terminal in Gangjin-eup, but both times I've been to Doam-myeon I've had a hell of a time getting back. I recommend jotting down numbers of call taxis before you go (you can find two taxi stands outside the terminal), and if you can't get a bus back, call a cab or have somebody at the temple or Dasan Chodang call for you. Oh, and I ought to mention that hiking from Dasan Chodang to Baekryeonsa (and back) is a fairly leisurely time, but hiking to the top of Mandeoksan from that linking trail is a bit steep and challenging. If you want to hike to the top of Mandeoksan, start from the path just next to the bathrooms at Baekryeonsa. Much easier.

(Top) Gangjin Bay as seen from Baekryeonsa. (Bottom) Map of hiking trails on Mandeoksan.

Back in Gangjin-eup there are two other sites linked to Dasan. One is Goseongsa (고성사) temple, on the west side of Boeunsan (보은산) mountain. Dasan came to Gangjin in 1801, set up his study Boeunsanbang 보은산방) at Goseongsa in 1805, and stayed there for roughly two years (6). He befriended a monk here named Haejang, ten years his junior, and composed ten poems in his honor. Dr. Kim writes, in the overzealous manner that characterizes his pamphlet,

"the intellectual companioship of Ta-san and Hae-jang is one of the most warmhearted comradeship (sic) recorded in history and symbolizes the meeting of Catholicism, Confucianism, and Buddhism" (6).
Goseongsa is a pleasant little temple, one of two large ones on Boeunsan. There are two ways to get there. One is to hike: trails begin behind the police station and behind the apartment complex located to the south (right) of Yeongrang Saenga (mentioned below). It should take roughly 25-30 minutes to get there, and the way to Goseongsa will be marked as you move up Boeunsan. A second option is to arrive by car. That may be the more convenient option if you plan to visit other sites in Gangjin during your stay. Street signs will point the way to Goseongsa.
The other Dasan-related site in Gangjin is located about two blocks from my old place, and was built in the spring of 2007. It is known as Seoeuije (서의제) and was Dasan's home and study for roughly his first 4 years. Dr. Kim has a few sentences on a "Sayijae," and there are some similarities between it and what I know of Seoeuije, so I will assume they are one and the same. According to Dr. Kim:
In the winter of 1801, [he] arrived at Kangjin but the people in the street tried their utmost to distance themselves from him as if he was a carrier of an epidemic disease Only an old lady inkeeper was kindhearted enough to accommodate him with a room. Ta-san named his room as "Sayi-jae" which meant "the room in which four righteous manners should be performed," namely "thought" should be clear, "countenance" should be dignified, "speech" should be deliberate, and "motion" should be measured. These four yardsticks were self-imposed in order to
discipline him strictly (5).
It's a pleasant enough park today--a couple of buildings, a pavillion, and a little pond--though it's a little harder to find. If exiting Yeongryang Saenga (mentioned below), turn left onto the road and walk for roughly 5 minutes. You'll pass the police station on your left, and about a block away you'll come to a four-way intersection and see 동서빌라, a tudor-ish building to your right. Make a left at the four-way intersection (or make a right to visit my old place) and make a right at the next alley a few meters away. Seoeuije is a few buildings down the hill on your left.

A pond and buildings at Seoeuije.

It's also worth mentioning the second major temple on Boeunsan, known as Geumgoksa. I hiked here from my old apartment, some 5.5 kilometers, although I probably wouldn't do it again. Geumgoksa, which translates to "Golden Valley Temple" is a slightly larger site than Goseongsa, and is known for a couple of things. There is a 3-story stone pagoda, five meters tall, designated a regional cultural property. The temple has an interesting opening, flanked on both sides by huge stone cliffs, and the rockiness of the hills around this valley is one big reason why I wouldn't hike to this temple again. Buses run periodically to and from the temple---people at the restaurants in front of it can help you there---but I recommend driving, in the springtime at least. The road that begins at the Gangjin Sports Complex and runs past Geumgoksa is lined with cherry trees and is a very scenic drive when the flowers are in bloom. This road ultimately leads to Byeongyeong-myeon, site of another notable Gangjin resident, Hendrick Hamel.

On the road to Byeongyeong, springtime.

Hamel was shipwrecked off of Jeju in the 17th century and held in Gangjin for some 7 years (his crew also spent time in Yeosu, Suncheon, Namwon, and Namhansanseong in Seongnam). From 1656 to 1663 he was held at 병영성지, known in English as Byeongyeong Sacred Site (evidentally), former army barracks that today are about a kilometer long and are just about the only thing worth seeing in that part of the county. Hamel and his men, though, have left an interesting legacy. You really ought to check out this site, which suggests that the Dutch mariners taught the locals irrigation techniques and how to make a certain type of wooden sandals. They also may have contributed to the genepool:

It is also possible that some men met local women and through marriage or 0therwise 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.
There has been a fair bit of diplomatic friendship between Korea and Holland on account of Hamel's residence here. And, according to the above-mentioned site, there have been plans to redevelop the wall and the village for the past few years (at least), although neither he nor I have found any signs of progress yet.

The final site is located about 400 meters from the bus terminal, and I'd consider it to be the best-known attraction in Gangjin-eup. Yeongrang's birthplace (영랑생가) consists of three buildings, an assortment of different trees and shrubs, and stones on which some of his more famous poems have been carved. Yeongryang was the penname of Gangjin-born poet Kim Yun-sik (김윤식), a man most active in the 1930s and 1940s, and most acclaimed for writing in the Jeolla dialect. When I last visited his birthplace the loudspeakers were playing recorded versions of some of his poems. His best known poem is "Till Peonies Bloom," and a nearby motel is named the 모란모텔, perhaps as an odd tribute.

Snow falling at Yeongrang's birthplace.

There is another home of a notable artist a short walk away. 금서당 is located on the hill behind Yeongrang's birthplace, and as you exit 영랑생가 you will see an arrow leading you left, up the hill. I do not know much about this site, and I don't know if anybody is living there now--I would guess so, though--but there is a placard in front of the house that will help those proficient in Korean. I do know that it was the birthplace of artist Kim Youngryeol (aka Wang Hyang, 1923 - ), and that there are a few comical totem poles at the yard's edge.


There are a few other things worth seeing in Gangjin, but for the sake of readability I will save them for another entry. I do want to mention, though, that the Gangjin Celadon Museum is a fairly popular attraction, as is the harbor at tiny Maryang-myeon. The scenic little village of a few hundred people is one of my favorite spots in the entire county.

A little note about "Dr. Kim" and the page numbers in this entry. Last year I was given a little photocopied pamphlet containing, in English, ten little chapters on Gangjin's notable people and places. It was written in 1994 by Kim Byong-kuk, Ph. D., and is entitled Kangjin and its Cultural Legacies (Anthology). On the photocopied cover it says Seoul Institute of International Economics, but I have no other publication information, nor do I know if there are other chapters beyond the tenth. If anyone is interested in seeing it, send me a private message on Dave's ESL Cafe or Galbijim, and I can snail mail you a copy.
Gangjin-eup, as seen from atop Boeunsan.