Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The photo.

A Dave's poster brought up an interesting point (scroll to the bottom of the page). The photographs of the naked child on the balcony were taken by the foreign neighbor across the street. It has run on the TV reports and has accompanied all the news articles. But it is marked as copyright of Ohmynews. As the foreigner didn't write the article, did the Ohmynews reporter usurp the rights to the photo when s/he was alerted to the abuse? Will the photographer be given any compensation for them? Will she even get credit? Did the photographer sell the pictures, or did they automatically become property of Ohmynews? I'm not sure how something like that would work with open source journalism, whether in Korea or in the States. It's not that unusual to see home videos or private photographs used in news stories back home, and I wonder where credit/copyright goes in those cases. I'm not saying the photographer ought to be looking to make a buck, but if money does go to Ohmynews for the rights to the photograph, shouldn't that money be hers?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Foreigners expose abusive daycare center.

Last week a Dave's poster snapped pictures of toddlers being locked outside, naked, in the January weather by people at a Seoul daycare. A couple of posters and spouses got together, went to the police, and eventually to the media. An article ran in Ohmynews and was on the front page of Cyworld today. I just saw that Naver picked it up (same article), too.

The Dave's thread is here. The media reaction starts on page 7.

* Update 1: Definitely worth pointing out that the police did nothing. From one of the posters involved:
The conversation with the police basically went like this:

"Do you have kids going to this daycare?"
"Do you know someone who does?"
"Then why do you care?"

The cop then told my wife she couldn't report the crime because she hadn't witnessed it, even though she had the pictures.

* Update 2: Koreabeat has posted a translation of the article floating around. The name of the daycare has been left out, owing to some screwy libel laws. You can find it if you dig through the Dave's thread. The people at the daycare initially denied the charges:
Park Ahmugae, the owner, angrily said, “the 25th was our sports day, so nothing like that happened. This is an untrue rumor which should not have been spoken. Who says we used naked punishments? Somebody is speaking nonsense.”

Another employee at the daycare denied the allegations. “How could such a punishment have been used on such a terribly cold day? This isn’t the 19th century, I would feel sick just to hear of such a thing.”

“I could sue you for slander,” the employee said. After reproaching the reporter, the employee raged, “old people have no work to do, don’t you know we’re running a day care? Doesn’t Oh My News have anything better to do?”

* Update 3: The networks will be having short pieces on the story tonight, as the poster involved was interviewed several times. The first one to air was from SBS, although it made no mention of a foreigner or that the story was broken by her. You can see a 41-second video report on the SBS site, although it wasn't the one that just ran on the 8 o'clock news.

* Update 4: Korea Beat has appended an Ohmynews update to their original story. In spite of the denials earlier in the day, the nursery has now admitted abuse took place. The latest piece is pretty tough to stomach, and I really hope the "severe punishment" coming from the Yongsan-gu Office (don't know what that is) will be more severe than we've seen with other cases of teacher misconduct. Here's an excerpt from an interview with the 25-year-old woman who carried out these punishments:
“I didn’t make him take his clothes off, he did that himself. And how could I have put a little girl out into the cold in just her underpants? I didn’t do it for very long.”

L added, “the responsibility is mine and I will put in my resignation. Though I cannot work with kids again I hope that the school will not be closed.”

The initial Ohmynews report, and the Dave's post, say the school is for low-income families, so hopefully its clients aren't left without a place to go.

* Update 5: Video from KBS (click 동영상보기). Contains a short soundbite from the foreign witness.

* Update 6: I also saw the report on MBC, though it doesn't seem to be available online. They had more with the foreign witness, although they didn't do a great job of masking her identity. They didn't give her an "Alvin and the Chipmunks" voice, like they did the Koreans, and there was only a subtle blur on her face.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out: whether the teacher and school are held responsible, or whether they'll get slaps on the wrist. I (naively) hope this emboldens others to take a stand on abuses they see around them. Foreigners know the risks that go with intervening in domestic squabbles, bar fights, or animal abuse cases, and I'm not really talking about them. It's too risky and too dangerous, and from this story, the Metropolitician's, and others, we know that the police are unreliable and generally incompetent. I'm actually talking about Koreans, and I wonder if this incident will inspire some to come forward and stand up to what they believe is wrong. The original poster on Dave's, after all, wasn't the only neighbor of the school, and almost surely wasn't the only person to witness these abuses. But the foreign witness was the only person to come forward. From the news reports and the netizen reaction, we can see some Koreans are upset about this abuse case, and I wonder how many of these commenters are pissed that nobody else in the neighborhood did anything. Moreover, this isn't a case that can easily be intpreted as foreigners imposing their own value system on Korea . . . cases of animal abuse or domestic violence, on the other hand, are often written off as cultural differences that foreigners just can't understand, and in which they oughtn't interfere. If the teacher and the school get off with a light punishment, however, or no punishment at all, it will probably prevent others from coming forward in similar situations in the future.

And I don't mean to cheapen the situation, but it's worth mentioning a point Zen Kimchi made. He's right when he wrote:
I wonder if [the media] get the irony that it was one of those foreign English teachers (which they broadly portray as pot smokers and molesters) who exposed the practices of this Seoul daycare by taking this picture and posting the details on Dave’s.

No secret that Korean teachers behaving badly get better treatment in the media than foreigners---foreigners behaving badly or otherwise. I'll go out on a limb and predict that, whatever happens here, this woman and this school will get off much more lightly than a foreigner would in a similar situation. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if her excuse---she was mad---is enough. I'm not trying to start a pissing contest between "us" and "them" because we wouldn't win it's not appropriate in a story like this. But I hope that in all the hoopla the whistleblower isn't simply relegated to "witness" or clever foreigner, but that it's made clear that she exposed this nasty abuse in the first place. That when others were content to live and let live, and not intrude on anybody's or any school's privacy, the only person to desire any sort of change was the foreigner.

Special thanks also go out to the other Dave's poster. I'm wary of using their IDs, but you know who they are. He and his wife took the original post to the next level and got results. I still can't believe the gall of those police officers, who didn't want an investigation to interfere with their 8-hour coffee break. Now that's an angle I wish would get covered.

* Update 7: The post on Dave's has been pulled is back, minus a few pages of flaming.

* Update 8: See Korea Beat's translation of an interview with the foreign eyewitness and whistleblower.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Kosuke Fukudome invasion begins this spring.

The Chicago Cubs probably should have chosen a different way to market their first Japanese player, though. Opposing teams are hoping the 30-year-old rookie will prove to be a chink in the Cubs' armor. *cough*

Friday, January 25, 2008

My visit to Zhang Ziyi's hometown.

그래도 사랑해요.

I spent parts of 13 days in China, dividing my time between the cities of Beijing and Xi'an. Looks like there were a few big news stories in the Hermit Kingdom, and from a blogging perspective, it was an inopportune time to be away. When I got back to the City of Beautiful People last night, I was surprised to find my plants thriving, and relieved that they were the only living creatures in my apartment (until I found a roach in my bathroom this morning). All in all I was quite glad to get on that Incheon-bound plane yesterday.

Overall the trip was pretty disappointing and frustrating. I know that CNN, Discovery, and National Geographic all rant and rave about Beijing and its glory in its run up to the 2008 Olympic Games, but I found it a fairly dull city. In spite of its large population, the city is relatively lifeless, and although it has some notable historical sites within its borders, its not a terribly interesting place. But the image of Beijing we get from the media represents a new sort of Orientalism. You really can't describe an Asian city these days without using "vibrant," "lively," "hopeful," and "mixture of tradition and technology." You could pretty much take any overview of Beijing and substitute in Seoul, Bangkok, Tokyo, Singapore, and Taipei without missing a beat. Investors squeal with delight at the thought of untapped Asian markets (not a euphamism), while tourists marvel at the pockets of branded traditional culture mixed in with rapid urban development. Its a new exoticism that is mirrored in the way Chinese view their tourist market, in my opinon at least.

I wonder whether I made a mistake travelling by myself. On the one hand I was free, in theory, to do whatever I pleased and visit whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. On the other hand, though, I wasted so much time and energy (and probably money) getting from place to place that perhaps I should have sacrificed some freedom in order to have someone else deal with the aggravation.

There's a surprising lack of English in the two cities I visited. I had higher expectations for Beijing, seeing as the Games are some 200 days away, and as we can read about Beijing's supposed rush to improve the English by this summer. However, I found it extremely difficult to get around and to make myself understood. Taxis, restaurants, police, clerks, and the young people (my age) I approached were all incapable of any sort of English. I'm not talking about conversation, I'm talking about basic things like numbers, directions, and requests. And so I don't sound like a British imperialist or a snobby professional tourist, I did come equipped with a smattering of Chinese phrases, a comprehension of some written characters, and a bilingual guidebook. Even more irritating than the absence of English in the general public was the complete lack of English marking the major tourist attractions. For example, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which is the second-most popular section of the wall outside Beijing. There are lots of buses running to Badaling, the most touristy part, but armed with my guidebook, bilingual instructions, and internet advice, I hoped to get to Mutianyu. It took trips to two bus terminals and five ticket windows before I got on the bus, and there was no English signage or English help along the way. I wasn't trying to get to some backalley noodle shop, I was trying to visit the most recognizable site in the entire country. Nowhere near the terminal or the nearby subway station was it indicated where to catch the bus to Mutianyu. Moreover, the maps in the subway were entirely in Chinese, so when I didn't recognize the characters I had to match them up with the ones written in my guidebook and hope I was on the right track.

Life's like that sometimes. At the Little Goose Pagoda, Xi'an.

The first bus terminal I visited on my way to Mutianyu had no idea what I was on about, even when I showed them the directions I had written in Chinese from the hotel. They put me on a bus back into town that dropped me off at a depot for tourist buses to Badaling, and getting off the bus I was swarmed with people clucking "Badaling Badaling Badaling." Turns out I went to the wrong bus terminal, as there are two outside that subway station and I made a wrong turn somewhere. I finally got to Mutianyu the next day, after finding the right bus and paying the special foreigner price for a taxi from Huairou to the wall, and for most of my hike along it I had the wall completely to myself. It was the only time in China that it was completely silent. But in hindsight I wonder if I should have just paid a little more and gone to Badaling, and avoided all the aggravation that came with trying to travel alone.

All alone. Except for the guy who took the picture.

There were similar difficulties in getting to the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi'an, probably the second-most recognizable feature in the country. My guidebook, the guy at my hotel, and the internet all said that I could catch a bus from in front of Xi'an Railway Station, although to this day I have no idea where to find bus # 306. There are scores of buses that stop in the several blocks in front of the massive train station, and none of the shopkeepers or ticket takers I asked could tell me where to catch the bus to the Terra Cotta Warriors. There was no English anywhere, of course, which was infuriating as most visitors to that city are likely going to visit the warriors. I did eventually find a cluster of minibuses to the exhibit, although they were tucked away and their parking lot was not marked in English.

I shouldn't say there was no English at all. But most of the English I did hear was shouted at me by hawkers. Hawking is the national pastime. I'm not using hawking as another word for spitting, but even if I were I'd still be right. Anytime I was anywhere near anything at all of note---from a tourist site to a temple to a store to an intersection---I was approached by hawkers. Approaching the Great Wall at Mutianyu, you first have to go through a ten-minute gauntlet of hawkers shouting at you, and there are even vendors on the wall itself. The majesty of the view was diminished a good bit by hearing "Haro, wanna beer? wanna coke?" after each tower. There were vendors at a number of points inside the Forbidden City, and there were even vendors inside shrines at the temples I visited. I didn't see the notorious Starbucks in the Forbidden City, but I don't think anybody can seriously make the argument that it would detract from the sanctity of the site. I quickly avoided anything resembling a market street because that meant having to deal with screams of "haro habbarooka" (Hello, have a look) and I thought I was walking through a pet shop filled with mentally-challenged parrots. Likewise, stopping at a busy intersection or pausing anywhere near a tourist attraction was an invitation for rickshaw rides, post cards, or other wares.

I know some people consider that a charm, and will interpret the catcalls as evidence of English in Beijing. And I know that souvineers and tourism go together like peas and carrots, and that it's not necessarily a Chinese thing. But I found the harassment pretty unwelcome, especially since it was so methodical. After making the 90-minute trip to the Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit, for example, you have to walk twenty minutes through a garden, dodging tour guides who block your path, grab your arm, and follow you down the sidewalk. You wander around the exhibition for thirty minutes, and then exit into another garden staffed aggressive hawkers. After evading them for ten minutes you then spend another fiftenn minutes moving through an outdoor mall as vendors crowd around you shoving their wares in your face and shouting at you to buy whatever they are selling. You spend more time dodging vendors than you do at the actual site, and the same holds true for a number of other locations I visited. It really saps the strength and, even if I were in the market for souvineers---for which I'd still pay four times what a Chinese would---any interest was shooed away by their aggression.

Even more annoying was the prevalance of the "Beijing Tea House" scam and its variants. Based on internet recommendations, I decided to stay at a nice hotel for the first leg of my trip. It was a couple of blocks from the Forbidden City, and next to the most fashionable shopping area in the city. Literally after walking out the door, though, I'd be approached by pairs of women interested in "practicing their English." The first time I chatted for a few minutes, but when they wanted to go have a drink I knew what was up. This would happen several times a day in the two blocks between my hotel and the nearest subway station. Women would approach with some line---"Hello," "Excuse me," or "student here?"----pretty routinely. One time they even tried it with another guy with them. As I do in Korea, I ignore any English thrown at me, and it was interesting to watch that, after ignoring their advances, they'd quickly disappear into a store or among the crowd. A few times I got asked if I "wanted a lady" or a massage. Again, this wasn't at a red light district. It was outside a five-star hotel in Beijing's equivalent of Apgujeong.

I hit those women with their own pimp.

I grew to feel that everything was a scam. Restaurants, taxis, buses, hotels, and vendors all charge foreigners much more than they do their Chinese customers, and my guidebook talked about the two-tier pricing system present at many places in China. I even got ripped off at the Confucius Temple in Beijing, where the woman at the ticket window short-changed me. I was an idiot for not noticing a pretty routine scam at the time, and I guess it's pretty telling that I got cheated at the Confucius Temple, of all places, but I didn't appreciate the irony at the time. It felt like not a day went by when somebody wasn't stealing from me. That was reinforced in Xi'an when, after a pretty decent day, I was walking through the underpass at the heart of the city. I felt a tug on my chest and turned around to find all three pockets of my bookbag open and a guy pulling his hand out of it. There was nothing of value to him, and he didn't take my notebook or my Korean textbook, but I was still pretty pissed off about it, and I felt like an ass for not feeling him poking around back there earlier.

The price-gouging, the scammers, the hawkers, and the lack of English all led me to conclude there is a very distorted version of white people held in Beijing. Granted, I make more money in a month than many Chinese people earn in a year, and I do represent a walking wallet to them. The widespread belief that foreigners exist solely to be scammed, though, did not endear me to the country or its people. You can talk all you want about their past encounters with imperialists and drug pushers, but I'm really not interested in that. But what I at first thought was asshattery later seemed to me to be a way to control the China foreigners see. Even in recent memory, only select portions of the country were open to outsiders, and by making it so unworth one's while to go it alone, tourists are implicitly encouraged to join tours or tour groups that present a carefully chosen itinerary. Likewise, the lack of English around town and especially with relation to the tourist sites kind of pushes the average tourist into going along with the bus trips you'll see advertised around town. In retrospect, though, and because Beijing itself isn't terribly interesting, I wonder if I shouldn't have just done a small package tour like the one offered around the holidays by Kangsan Travel. Actually, had I realized they had a tour this Seollal, I would have just signed up for it, especially since I got my plane tickets and visa through them anyway.

Very disappointed.

Though it was a pretty rotten two weeks, I should add a little disclaimer. International travel is a privledge, and one I didn't expect for myself 3, 5, or 10 years ago. Hell, I never thought I'd get out of a dead-end job back home, and shitty time or not, it's nice to see first hand how other people live. Visiting the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Summer Palace, and other sites is something few Pittsburghers will ever experience, and few Western Pennsylvanians will ever have the opportunity to visit Korea, China, or anywhere in East Asia. China is an experience that any resident of Asia ought to . . . experience, and I'm a little wiser after having been a dumbass.

Central China got a fair bit of snow. It was the first significant snowfall I'd seen since early 2005 in Western Pennsylvania. This is at the Little Goose Pagoda in Xi'an. It was damn cold, but the snow was a very nice touch.

That said, I don't have a very favorable opinion of that country right about now. I was turned off by their treatment of foreign guests, and I'm not basing that on one or two isolated incidents. When back home I will probably think twice about helping the confused Chinese tourist or the lonely Chinese exchange student. Well, it'd be cool if some of these issues were addressed in time for the Games, but China seems more interested in upping its propaganda rather than addressing the root issues. And the one person who can effect change in China, Zhang Ziyi, is unable to read my wisdom and soothe my sorrow because my blog, like all blogspot blogs, is blocked in China.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Have fun horrifying the locals.

In what will be my last post for a couple of weeks (going to China), here's a hilarious e-card site I came across, just in time to send my brother a birthday card a day late. From Someecards.com:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lack of planning in Korean soaps.

"Dave's ESL Cafe" poster and fellow Jeonnam resident agentX put up an interesting piece from the Dong-A Ilbo about the extreme lack of planning that goes into making Korean dramas. The two-week-old article reads, in part:
No other countries broadcast more dramas than Korea. Perhaps because of Korea’s emotion-rich ethnicity, Korea offers all kinds of dramas, including morning, daily, weekend, Monday and Tuesday (Wednesday and Thursday), and special dramas. Despite the richness in quantity however, drama producers have to bear with substandard production conditions. A prime example is the so-called “page script” system that gives actors lines for the day’s shooting only. Sometimes actors and actresses do not receive scripts until after they finish their makeup. These “page scripts” arrive by fax or e-mail, page by page. Worse yet, they are sometimes transmitted by mobile text messages sentence by sentence.

Since actors and actresses have to act their parts without knowing what will happen next, it is hard for them to identify with their characters. Furthermore, they cannot rehearse with their counterparts beforehand because everyone is busy memorizing their own lines. Acting by “page script” often means they have to stay up all night, sometimes pushing them to breakdowns. For the producers, they are kept in the dark about the shooting location until the “page script” is released. Since this allows no time to ask for cooperation at the locations beforehand, producers sometimes damage properties on location, such as cultural assets. The biggest problem with “page scripts” is deterioration in drama quality because the flow of the story may be interrupted at each page.

Funny stuff. The assault the article mentions in the first paragraph refers to an incident between actor Yoo Dong-geun and staff members of an SBS drama. Yoo was pissed b/c the last-minute stuff had stressed out his wife, who also stars on the program. From a little piece on the incident and Yoo's apology:
Yoo was enraged because the scripts were turned in late, which exhausted Jeon. He visited the set and had a bust-up with two of the producers, Kim Yong-woo, who took four weeks to recover, and Lee Chang-woo, whose jaw was hurt.
Yoo went into hiding after the incident. Kim and Lee, supported by the SBS Producers’ Association and Producer Journal demanded that Yoo apologize and admit responsibility.

GI Korea's "ROK Drop" profiles things in Wando county.

ROK Drop recently profiled Wando, pictured above.

For those few who know what or where Wando even is, the blogger on ROK Drop has done a few really good profiles on the area recently. Take a look at

* "Places in Korea: Wando-eup"
* "Places in Korea: Gugyedeung Pebble Beach."
* "The Legend of Jang Bogo."
* "The Movie Sets of Wando Island" (my favorite).

The entries will probably seem more attractive in the summer, when Wando and its scenery is a little more pleasant.

Japanese homes in Maegok-dong.

For those into this kind of thing, here's a picture of one of the few Japanese-style buildings in Maegok-dong I mentioned in my second-to-last post. This one is located just up the alley (south of) Maesan High School (매산고), and has seen better days.

Here's another old house in the area that may or may not be in the Japanese-style, I can't really tell. It's a block or two south of Suncheon Hyanggyo (순천향교, one of the Confucian academies), so not actually in Maegok-dong, but I thought it looked neat, regardless.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

January 2008 Gwangju News.

The January, 2008 issue of the Gwangju News is out, and you can read my articles on the Neil/visa fiasco, the Yeosu Expo, and the Muan International Airport here. You can also view a piece on the Korean presidential election, which reads, in part:
Conservatives openly support the goals of the shareholder class above the needs of the working class. In the United States those for-profit "needs" are now the main reason new laws are made, and must be catered to, by Democrats and Republicans alike, to gain media acceptance, media coverage, and media endorsements. Thus, the U.S. system is entirely corrupted, and few laws are written that are not in direct response to the needs of the wealthy. Multinational corporations, the American Medical Association, and Jewish Political Action Committees have cornered the U.S. government into abandoning 186 different environmental laws, supporting absurd, tragic wars in the Middle East, and enacting trade laws that allow American corporations to seek out and take advantage of the cheapest possible labor, regardless of the harm it does to American workers.

This is a piece on the Korean election, by the way, which was slipped in two weeks after the deadline. How . . . unfortunate.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Missionaries in Suncheon

An earlier incarnation of Jungang Church, est. 1907, in Maegok-dong. The photo was stolen from here.

I've rushed this entry a bit, and wasn't as thorough as possible in a few spots, because I wanted to get something out before I go out of town for most of the rest of January. I've been sitting on this post for over a month, and I'll have to do a little more digging later. This also isn't meant to be exhaustive or authoritative . . . I was just curious about some stuff around town, that's all.

I first wandered through Maegok-dong in late-November, when I was looking for some information about a monument to the Yosu-Sunchon Incident that was supposed to be there. Maegok-dong is just west of Suncheon's Old Downtown, just across the Medical Rotary (의료원 R) from McDonald's and Bukbu Market. I don't know the exact boundaries of Maegok-dong, but it occupies 1.42 square kilometers and includes the medical rotary in the south, the university in the north, and in between reaches a few blocks west of Jungang-ro (중앙로). According to Naver it had a population of 10,309 in 2001, but according to the Maegok-dong website, that number decreased to 7,421 four years later. In 1931, Maegok-ri was incorporated in Suncheon-eup (eup/읍 means town), and when Suncheon-eup became Suncheon county in 1949, Maegok-ri was elevated to a dong/동, a larger administrative division.It's an interesting little neighborhood, with lots of little alleys, homes seemingly piled on top of one another, a couple of Confucian academies, a few crumbling Japanese-style homes, and several big schools. (Okay, so it's probably like a lot of other Korean neighborhoods, but I'm easily amused.) Anyway, turns out it was also one of the first places in the region to host American missionaries.

(Top) A picture of a village in Maegok-dong, circa 1913. Really remarkable. I stole it from this Naver blog, but I wanted to upload it myself in case the other blog went down. (Bottom) Old picture of Western-style buildings in Maegok-dong. The one on the left was a hospital that is no longer there. This photo, along with about a dozen others, are on dislpay in an alley across the street from Suncheon National University.

A timeline* at the Historical Museum of Korean Christian Mission (sic) (한국 기독교 선교 역사 박물관) in Suncheon says that missionaries were first dispatched to the southern region---the two Jeollas and Chungcheongnam-do---in 1893. In February, 1893---according to the timeline, anyway---Reverend William Davis Reynolds and Reverend Lewis Boyd Tate arrived in Jeonju and stayed for two weeks. Dr. Alexander D. Drew, M.D., arrived the following year and was the first medical missionary to the country. The timeline continues to mention that Reverend Reynolds and Tate toured the Jeollas in March, 1894, making trips to Gunsan, Yeosu, Suncheon, Mokpo, and other lesser-known towns and counties. In March, 1897, Reverend Eugene Bell established Yangdong Church (양동교회) in Mokpo, apparently the first church in the Honam region. In 1901 Fredrica Straeffer started teaching girls in Mokpo at what would become Jeongmyeong Girl's High School two years later. Incidentally, that school's website has a small gallery of pictures from the early 20th century here. Also in 1903 in Mokpo, the Youngheung School, known today as Yeongheung High School (영흥고등학교), was established. In commermoration of the 100th anniversary a few years back, the school put together a newsletter with a bunch of articles (in Korean) and some pictures of campus buildings through the years. It is available as a .pdf file here. There is also a gallery with 81 pages of photos of people, events, and buildings through the years, available here.

Getting back to Suncheon, the timeline is actually a little vague about initial efforts in the city. As mentioned the two early missionaries made a tour of the Jeollas and stopped in Suncheon in 1894. The next mention is in 1909, when "John F. Preston and Rev. William D. Reynolds suggested a station in Soonchun." The following year, Deacon Yoon Soo Kim (김윤수) bought ten acres of land "which was named Mai-san-deung"---매산 등, currently occupied by the three Maesan schools and the old seminary---"with the help of Mr. Eok-pyung Kim of Soonchun-Eub Church (now Soonchun Central Church)." If you happened across Suncheon Central Church (순천중앙교회) in December, you'd know that it's celebrating its "101th Christmas" (sic), and the church website confirms that the church was founded in 1907 by John F. Preston. The building that stands now was finished in 1983, but in front of the main entrance is a small statue with a plaque of J. F. Preston.

Another old picture of Central Church, the second incarnation, I believe. I don't remember where I stole this.

Reverend Preston would have a hand in founding three other local points of interest: Maesan Middle School (매산중), Maesan High School (매산고), and Maesan Girls High School (매산여고). All three are private Presbyterian schools founded in 1910 by Preston and Robert Thornwell Coit. Maesan Middle School made the news last year when a bus crash claimed the lives of 5 students on Jirisan. There are a few older Western-style buildings on the campus, although I don't know exactly when they were built, and quick searches for cornerstones turned up nothing. If you start from Jungang Church and walk past the clinic and up the hill, you will first pass the middle school, then the girls' high school, then the high school. In between the girls' high school and middle school is the site of the old seminary. On the campus of the middle school, bordered on two sides by a construction zone, is a large Western-style building presently used as the library and probably for other things, too. The girls' high school has two Western homes, one on each end of the playground. The most dominant feature on the high school campus is a large, brand new gymnasium that you can see from a few blocks away.

(Top) Large building on the campus of Maesan Middle School. (Middle) Old, one-time house at the entrance of Maesan Girls' High School. Currently the "교목실." (Bottom) Old building at the opposite end of Maesan Girls' High School.

I mentioned the clinic and museum, located right behind Central Church. The clinic (순천기독진료소) was established in 1960 by Lois F. Linton and is located on the first floor of a Western-style brick home. On the second floor is a small museum with a collection of photographs, letters, and other artificats of and from early missionaries not only to Suncheon but to other cities like Gwangju, Yeosu, Mokpo, and Jeonju. On the third floor is a cozy little apartment with furniture dating to the mid-20th century. I was pleasantly surprised by the museum, and its worth a visit if you're in the area. There isn't much English, though, and I'm sure the trip would have been much more useful could I understand more of the displays. Anyway, when you get there you'll have to first stop into the clinic and ask them to unlock the door.

The clinic and museum, behind Central Church (중앙교회).

The clinic there is one of three related tuberculosis (결핵) care facilities set up in Suncheon by American missionaries. There is also a "rest village" (요양원) a bit east, and the "Lois Village" (보양원) in Haeryong-myeon. You may be able to glean a little more information from the official site, stoptbkorea.com. A couple blocks west of the schools is a care facility called 애양재활원. I haven't been able to find any information online about this at all, and I don't know what it does or what, if any, relation it has to the other care centers in the area. There are a few Western-style buildings on the site, though, although I don't know how old or authentic they are.

A building at a care center (애양재활원) a few blocks west of the three Maesan schools.

While doing a little write-up on Missionary Wilson's House in Gwangju I came across some familiar names. For example, the Reverend Thomas Dwight Linton served as principal of the Honam Theological Seminary from 1973 to 1978. That seminary was formed when the Honam Bible School, the Suncheon Maesan Seminary, and Gwangju Night School merged in 1961, and is known today as Honam Theological University and Seminary. The HTUS campus includes a small hill, on top of which is a cemetary where many early missionaries and their family members are interred. Among those at that cemetary is Eugene Bell, who first arrived in Korea in 1895 and who established the aforementioned Yangdong Church in Mokpo in 1897. His wife died in 1901 and is buried at the Foreigner's Cemetary in Seoul. One hundred years after his arrival in Korea, the EugeneBell Foundation was established to provide medical and developmental assistance to North Korea.

It was founded by Dr. Stephen Linton, great-grandson of Eugene Bell. He has a very sloppy wikipedia page here. His brother, Dr. John Linton, is director of Severance Hospital International Health Care Center at Yonsei University, and is one of the most notable foreigners in the country, if you could even call him a foreigner at this point. There is a little interview with Dr. Linton here, from the Tour2Korea website. [Update, March 11: Thanks to The Marmot's Hole for the tip about an article in the Washington Post on Dr. Linton and his work in North Korea.]

Another group with familial ties to the original settlers that provides assistance to North Korea is Wellspring, a project out of the Western Carolina Presbytery in North Carolina. The "Ruling Elder" is James Linton, another great-grandson of Eugene Bell. The Wellspring homepage says that Mr. Linton's father founded some 165 churches in Korea.

The relative youth of these "old" buildings in Maegok-dong is something that struck me when I first learned about all those buildings on campus, and even back when I visited the Wilson House in Gwangju. These structures date to the early-20th century---the Wilson House to 1920---and are some of the oldest buildings in the region. But all the houses in my grandparents' neighborhood in Pittsburgh are older than these buildings, and I chuckled a little when I realized I was taking pictures of buildings that wouldn't attract the slightest bit of attention back home. That's the way Korea is, and because of wars, invasions, natural disasters, and neglect, it's not uncommon to have family members older than historical sites here. In fact, I'm older than the present-day Nagan-eupseong Folk Village, although there have been different versions of it for 1300 years.

* A lot of the names and dates in this post are based on the timeline. When possible I've tried to check against other online sources. I'm inclined to trust the timeline, although because the romanization and the Western names are a little inconsistent, and some known facts aren't included, we can't be sure that other information is completely accurate.

Lima Time.

Jose Lima will pitch in South Korea next season. He's "the most famous foreign player in [Korean baseball] history," I guess, but otherwise it's not too newsworthy.

I did get a chuckle, though, at this comment from Deadspin:
South Korean reaction: WoW.

Why don't they just shoot him and steal his shoes?

A Golf Channel anchor said last week that young players should "lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley" in order to let others compete. Wow. They should gang-rape that dumb bitch.

In addition to ghetto fab* chic, shitty public transportation and an inconvenient amount of convenience stores, another thing I don't miss from back home is the ubiquity of the insincere apology, where people "regret their actions" (because they were caught), or "apologize for what happened" (because their agent told them to), or "realize it was an unfortunate incident" (because there was a media backlash), or "are sorry that people were offended" (because they still aren't too sure what they did wrong). Jesus Tapdancing Christ, at least have the guts to stand up for your hateful convictions. We've all met Koreans who believe the most vile things about outsiders, but at least they don't insult your intelligence by trying to convince you they've completely changed their outlook, and reversed 30 years of indoctrination, in about four days. Not sure what's worse: that people do this, or that others believe them.

*I was going to write "ghetto fabulism," which makes perfect sense, but turns out fabulism is a different word.

My name is tricky.

From a Korea Times article yesterday, emphasis mine:
And finally, I feel that it was unprofessional and in very poor taste to refer to Mr. Deutsche as ``Mr. Germany" (Mr. Deutschland). Mr. Lee, as a lawyer you are trained in the use of rhetoric and aware of the utility of flashy verbal showmanship against those who are ``emotionally motivated, ill informed, and who cannot logically arrive at conclusions.'' You are a representative of Korean foreign affairs and if indeed it is your goal to dispel the attitudes of Mr. Deutsche and like individuals, then using ad-hominem assaults to paint them as village idiots does not serve to further that goal.

You'd only use "Deutsche" if "German" is being used as an adjective in front of a feminine or plural noun (in certain cases). I guess the most common occurance is "Deutsche Bank"---it still grabs my attention when I hear this on TV---because "Bank" is feminine. I guess that's how he got confused, but if you're gonna publicly call somebody out for misspelling my name, please avoid making the same mistake in your letter to the newspaper.

LMFAO. It's turning into grade school all over again. If the next guy calls me Dutchy or Douche, I'm pulling out the bamboo sword.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Another "Only in Korea" moment.

(HT to Scribblings of the Metropolitician)

The fun begins at 0:43, but the video's short enough you might as well watch the piped-in music, the chit-chatting, and the photographer up in everyone's business.

You know, there's something extremely ridiculous about Korean TV commercials for wedding halls and advertisements for white wedding gowns. Women fawning over something they don't understand, simply because they saw it in a movie or on TV, awash in the glow of their own smug self-satisfaction, and looking about as natural as a pug on Halloween (yes, that sentence is a texbook case of structural ambiguity). About the same degree of ridiculousness associated with Korean "pizza" or other poorly-done imports. Well, nowadays the trend for Western-ish trappings at weddings is so entrenched that people are just keeping up with the Kims. The Western-ish ceremony is just for show, anyway, not only a display of wealth but also an opportunity to reenact the stereotypes associated with Westerners and their exotic rituals (ceremony, photographs, and sex). The white gown is just part of an elaborate costume party marketed as the height of sophistication. Just goes to show that you can't buy class, as if those familiar with Korea's nouveau-riche needed another reminder.

Even the white-trashiest of my relatives never had dancing girls perform at the ceremony. Perhaps that's where things went wrong.

So the usual suspects don't attack me for blindly hating Korea, I might as well add that the wedding business back home is a nightmare, too, an opportunity for women to spend lots of money on themselves before getting divorced in 28 months. Because they don't invite me I've been in Korea for a little while, I haven't been to a wedding back home in about six or seven years, and it's a wonder that anyone can even take the ceremony seriously anymore. With the popularity of teenage pregnancy, adultery, and divorce, it's obvious few care about the institution of marriage anymore, but at least there's some reverence for the ceremony, and I know that if my great-aunt Su-bin ever pulled shit like that in the video, she'd get beat worse than a truant student.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Philandering Chinese broadcaster confronted on TV by his wife.

The story's a few days old, but it's news to me. A well-known Chinese sportscaster was launching the "Olympic Channel" when his wife, also a recognizable sportscaster, came on stage to talk about his "improper relationship" with another woman. The clip was edited out of the broadcast but made its way quickly around the internet. You can get the full story here from the Daily Mail, and can watch the video---rather unremarkable unless you understand Chinese---on Youtube here.

Korea Times: "Ddangkkeut - The Edge of Korean Land"

Stele overlooking Land's Edge, stolen from here.

The Korea Times has a profile on Ddangkkeut (땅끝), Haenam County, that ran on December 27. It is the southernmost point on peninsular Korea, and from the nearby mountain Dalmasan (489 meters) you can see some of the islands that comprise Wando County.

The article is surprisingly good, and talks about a few of the sites around 땅끝마을, the village on the southernmost tip of the peninsula. It does not mention 땅끝관광호텔, a hotel in the shape of a turtle ship.

View of Land's Edge from nearby Dalamasan mountain.

It does mention Mihwangsa, a nearby temple you ought to visit if you're in the area. You can do a temple-stay there, although some sources say it's not available in English. Regardless, when I was last there the attendant spoke excellent English, and her adolescent son was fluent---and didn't speak any Korean---because he grew up in North Carolina. There is a write-up on a temple-stay experience available here from Tour2Korea, a profile that also includes prices, directions, and nearby attractions.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Penguins win Winter Classic.

The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in a shootout to win the "Winter Classic," an outdoor hockey game yesterday. 71,217 people were at the game, held at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, making it the largest crowd to ever watch an NHL game.

Sidney Crosby before he scores the game-winning goal in the shootout. Look, goalie Ryan Miller is wearing a cap he made from a hockey sock. Interestingly, both goalies had played in outdoor hockey games before.

I mean, most to see a game in person, in a stadium, at one time. But I think about 70,000 saw the game on TV. It was competing against the Capital One Bowl (Michigan vs. Florida) and the Gator Bowl (Virginia vs. Texas Tech), plus whatever other activities take place on New Year's Day. The NHL is pretty much irrelevant in the US this point, and is less popular than golf, tennis, NASCAR, and pro wrestling. Game 3 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals was the lowest-rated prime-time program in the history of NBC. Hard to believe, because what American doesn't care about Anaheim vs. Ottawa?

Ty Conklin stops Henrik Tallinder.

I stole the last two photos here, from Yahoo Sports, but unfortunately they don't organize the photos into separate galleries. I'm sure some will turn up later. Anyway, as you can see it was snowing, and the players wore retro jerseys. Throwback jerseys in professional sports and on rich black people are terribly overdone, but the Penguins' blue jerseys (1968-1972) look really nice in this situation.

Buffalo and Pittsburgh were chosen to play in the 2008 Winter Classic last season, when both teams were really good. This season both teams are at the bottom of the Atlantic Conference, but are both still over .500. And Sidney Crosby, last season's MVP, is still considered among the best in the game. Shame I've never seen Crosby, Malkin, Stall, or any of the younger guys play. Last time I lived in Western Pennsylvania the Penguins' big stars were Brian Holzinger and Luke Richardson Rico Fata, and the team was really really close to leaving town. It's been a pretty nice turnaround for a team and for a fanbase that, not too long ago, didn't really care that the team would soon be playing in Las Vegas, Kansas City, or Hamilton.

Hockey fans aren't coming to this blog for the latest in NHL news, so there's no need for all kinds of links here. I just wanted to add that you can re-read a live blog of the game from AOL Sports here and from Barry Melrose Rocks here, if you're interested.

Interesting side note, I haven't seen a hockey game since June 5, 2006, when I ventured into the shithole that is Itaewon. That was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between Carolina and Edmonton, and you may remember that Edmonton was up 3-0, that Carolina eventually tied it 4-4, and that, after Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson went out with an injury, Ty Conklin came in with a few minutes, misplayed the puck with 32 seconds left, and allowed Carolina to score the game-winning goal. Pittsburgh fans are not confident about the goaltending situation this season.

The Sabres' mascot makes merry with the home crowd. Browse photos on Yahoo Sports.

Edit: Eh, what the hell, here are a couple more links. The first is little write-up from one of my favorite bloggers, Mondesi's House:
But in a day filled with Brady Quinn commercials and images of Lance Armstrong managing a Dick's store, Sidney Crosby once again managed to steal the show. The Flawless One even overcame the only visible part of his game that might need work, the shootout, to bring back a shootout victory and two hard-earned points to Pittsburgh. For Penguin fans, it was the perfect way to ring in the New Year.

The second is a little photo gallery from ESPN.