Thursday, May 31, 2012

The DVD Room

Korean Adventure (May 2, 2003 Chautauqua)

   So far, in my quest for something to do with my free time, I have considered hacking up defenseless bamboo with a sword, and playing with dolls. I now turn to a more passive form of recreation, that unique Korean creation, the DVD room.

   I think I have informed you before of the PC room, where young Korean males go to play violent computer games, and smoke their brains out. Adjacent to many of them are DVD rooms, where they take their girlfriends to enjoy... a movie.

   They are found on the upper floors of any average office building. Instead of a single space, the area is divided up into a number of (nearly) soundproof cubicles.  The fee for the movie rental is about $5.00. There are snacks available, including popcorn.

   Customers can view their selection on a flat screen that takes up one entire wall, while relaxing in huge comfy chairs or sofas. There is a central area with all the choices, and a desk where the attendant keeps an eye on all the players for the various rooms.

   One of the attractions of the DVD is it makes it possible to view Korean films. They only have English subtitles, but some Korean films are well worth it. They alternate between "art house films" and other, more mainstream, selections.

   The former are described as "fairly realistic films about ordinary people's lives." The latter genre includes comedies, romances, and (above all in recent times) gangster films.

   Korean gangster films differ from what westerners are used to in such features as "The Godfather" or "Goodfellas." Korean gangsters are seen as "less educated," and so "it's easy to make fun of them," says fan Anna Park, a Seoul University student. The typical offering is more of a "madcap screwball comedy," than a gritty depiction of the violent predator of the western versions.

   One aspect of the DVD room should be kept in mind, though. They are generally associated with, in popular imagination, activities that go beyond simply watching movies. According to the Pusan Pop Culture Guide (, "video rooms are notorious in Korea as a place where young couples go to have sex."

   I am always careful about where my eyes are when I go from the lobby to my room. The possibility of being confronted with an embarrassing situation is only a small drawback once the movie has started. Big comfy chair, Dolby surround sound, and a huge screen to see it all. What more could any male couch potato want?

   Stay tuned...

   Some of the information in this article was obtained from a "Korea Herald" article by contributing writer Jeremy Garlick.

What the ... shocking reality?!?!?!?

So, the Korean network MBC aired a show called The Shocking Reality About Relationships With Foreigners. Foreigners are now up in arms over it. It has its own page on Facebook and people, them damn foreigners, are wondering what they can do about it.

This sort of racist shit is NOT new to Korea. I saw a lot of it during my 10 years there. It isn't just confined to their "media" outlets but they do use it to pander to the people. It is interesting to see "foreigners" getting so upset about it now. Where was the outrage when CYJ English Academy in Seoul posted their ad? An ad which their website still uses. Where was the outrage when shows like "Blue Eyed Devil's" aired on SBS a few years back? It was one of many shows when I lived in South Korea that painted all foreigners as drug users who only came to Korea to rape and corrupt the women.

A friend of mine feels that for many this was just the final straw. And in the age of Social Media it is easier to show your outrage. It could be that, although Facebook isn't THAT new. If that is the reason, holy shit it took a lot of racist BS before people got upset. No wonder people get away with behaving badly.

Someone on Facebook pointed out that it reminded them of an episode of The Simpsons. Homer was accused of molesting a babysitter. A local "news" program interviews him and then butchers it up to make it look like he is guilty. If you watch the MBC piece of crap you will see similarities. Like when one "victim" says nothing happened so the commenter says "She is too scared to talk about it."

Once again though, all I could think of, was that none of this sort of crap from the Korean "media" is new. Neither the stupidity nor the racism. All you have to do is look at the Korean Times to see how pathetic the "media" is there. Remember PD Diary and the story the faked on mad cow disease?

It is nice to see people finally starting to get their dander up over this sort of BS by the Korean "media". I just wish it hadn't taken so long for them to catch on to it. Hopefully they can actually make a difference.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Barbie In Korea

Korean Adventure (April 18, 2003 Chautauqua)

   Continuing my search for something to do in my free time, I turn now to the "Flower Doll House" in Seoul. The shop is run by Lee Joo-min, who has turned her interest in the American beauty icon Barbie into a thriving business.

   She began collecting dolls as a past-time, but soon found that hundreds of dolls were beginning to take over her house. Some way had to be found to manage them. Lee decided to set up shop, with the idea of renting out the dolls and their outfits.

   She has more than 300 dolls, of various nationalities, with costumes to go with them. Ken is there, as well. For 3,000 won (approx. $3.50) anyone can rent a doll of their choice, along with three sets of outfits, for three days.

   They can also rent various accessories such as sunglasses, bags, and shoes. Lee completes the experience by packing the rentals in a plastic bag depicting a Barbie theme.

   Public response has been good. "On average, I rent out 80 to 100 a week," Lee said. Customers have come from as far away as Inchon (50 km outside of Seoul). The store has even become a chain, with two more stores opening already.

   The range of customers extends from elementary school girls to housewives in their 40's. There are even college students partaking of the experience to try out their skills as designers on the tiny models.

   Lee believes that discovering how to take care of someone else's property is good for the youngster's, as well as the practice they get learning how to "co-ordinate different colours, and learn to appreciate the value of aesthetics."

   Even if dolls are returned in a damaged condition, Lee has turned it to an advantage. The "physically impaired" dolls are used to represent the handicapped members of society.

   Lee has some lofty ideals, that include "promoting a harmonious and humane society. I want to help build an intimate environment where children can play peacefully with others and understand the value of team work."

   It sounds like an ideal way to pass the time.

   On second thought, maybe not. Maybe I'll go and see a movie. Yeah, that's the ticket!

   Some of the information in this article was found in the “Korea Herald,” in an article by staff writer Yoo Soh-jung.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

R & R In Korea

Korean Adventure (April 4, 2003 Chautauqua)

  The end of my contract approaches, and it will soon be time to go home. It will be a time for a little rest from the rigors of teaching, and I will have to consider how best to occupy my time.

   There are many past-times available here in Korea that may be unfamiliar to the average Man-of-the-West. One such is "Haidong Gumdo," or Korean Swordsmanship.

   This art has its origins 1,700 years ago, on Mt. Baekdu in northern Korea, where the sword-fighting techniques warriors of the Goguryeo Dynasty were learnt and passed down until they reached a man called Jang Baek-san.

   He is described as "a wanderer, moving from mountain to mountain. He was a very spiritual person." The speaker is his student, Kim Jeong-ho, who now has his own training hall in Seoul.

   "The sword technique requires complete concentration." says Kim. "There is no psychological pressure to win. It allows you to unleash your potential through practice. This confidence will extend to other areas of your life."

   Kim sees Haidong Gumdo's focus on sword law, or technique, rather than sparring, as an antidote to the social pressures of modern society, where people need a calm, meditative activity.

   Kim opened his first hall in 1982, and registered as a social organization seven years later. By July 1998, there were halls in China, Japan, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and Mexico.

   Today, there are over 400 training halls in Korea and 600 spread across 50 countries. Participants from 14 different nations recently competed in their championships.

   Haidong Gumdo's rival is Daehan Gumdo, an imported version of Japanese kendo, which is principally interested in free sparring. Instead of tapping each other with sticks, students of the haidong describe "lethal arcs and cuts with a wooden or metal sword."

   Kim likens the technique to driving a real car instead of a computerized version. Haidong Gumdo represents combat, making it too dangerous to actually fight.

   Master Kim Kyoung-don explains that the art is not featured in large game competitions like the Olympics, because it is not a sport. "It is a martial art, one in which a person overcomes his own obstacles through harsh training and has an opportunity to improve, to look back and examine himself.”

"For a competition to be held on an international level, it requires a way of scoring and concrete evaluation that Haidong Gumdo does not lend itself to."

   In their own championships, nevertheless, there were competitions that pitted two students against each other, and they were judged in terms of their technique, smoothness of performance, realism, and creativity.

   I should point out that I myself was part of an award ceremony in October of 2001, during my first year in Korea. I was teaching in the smaller city of Changwon, and I met a Gumdo master on the street. He struck up a conversation, and invited me to a demonstration.

   I was asked to sit up on the stage with the other masters, and I watched as various classes and individuals performed their lessons before a large, invited audience. There were demonstrations of drill practice, and some very artistic severing of bamboo targets by very lethal-looking swords.

   At the conclusion of the demonstrations, several awards and certificates were handed out, including one for yours truly. For what, I do not know, as the entire program was presented in Korean. Perhaps they were impressed with my attentiveness.

   So sword fighting is presented here as one option for me to occupy my time. I have some others in mind, which I hope to share with you, and which I hope you will find entertaining. Next time, I will explore the world of Barbie doll rentals.

   Some of the information in this article was found in the "Korea Herald," in a feature article by staff reporter Matt Hodges.

At the end of this contract, I returned home via Japan, Russia, and Poland. I will describe this trip on "Stig's Silly Walks." 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Korean Adventure (March 21, 2003 Chautauqua
Every once in a while, there was a small featurette inserted into the editorial page of the Korea Herald, called "A Poem For Breakfast." It translated various poems from past and present Korean poets. This was done by the column's "host" Kevin O'Rourke.

It was a very pleasant distraction from the usual rants about the future of Korea, the U.S., and so on. It also provided a window into the culture of this so-beautiful country.

The first poem that I really took notice of was called "Shijo," which I believe is a reference to what kind of poem it is. It hung on the front of my refrigerator for a long time.

Butterflies hover in pairs where flowers blossom thick;
orioles perch in pairs on the branches of green willows.
Flying creatures, crawling creatures, all are in pairs.

Tell me, why am I alone without a mate?

It was written by a man named Chong Chol (1536-1593), who is described as "a controversial bureaucrat whose career was punctuated by periods of voluntary retirement and dismissal from the government. His family had marriage connections with the royal family.”

"The poem is structurally unusual in that the first part of the final 'chang' (line 4) has only two syllables." I just like it because it describes the feelings of a lonely guy perfectly.

The Far Shore
Lights across the river shine through teems of autumn rain.

Fifty, and not a couplet adequate to the bleak prospect.

Hair half white, I wander city streets urgent for food and clothes.

The lights glimmering on the far shore may be my answer.

An autumn tree wetting its head in the dark.

This was written by Pak Mog-wol (1916-1978), who was one of a famous trio of poets who comprised the "Blue Deer Group." His early poems are described as "lyrical evocations of rural Korea, elegant, nostalgic monuments to a traditional way of life.”

"'The Far Shore' is an excellent example...of an ordinary citizen struggling to survive against the background of an impoverished, dehumanizing city life." Anyone who has had to live in any city can readily identify.

Endangered Treasure
I was washing my silks by the willow stream;

a gentleman on a white horse took my hand and spoke of love.

For three months the rain has dripped from the eaves.

How can I wash the lingering fragrance from my fingertips?

Yi Chaehyon (1287-1367), a scholar-official in Koryo, and one of the great poets of the age, held a succession of high-ranking posts at court. This love poem offers the girl's point of view of a very daring gentleman. Another word picture of an age and a way of life.

When She Walked Without Spilling A Drop
I always stood on the path between the ramie fields watching her as she came away from the well carrying the water jar on her head.

Whenever water spilled and trickled down her face, she walked past without as much as a glance,

but when she walked carefully and did not spill a drop,

she caught my eye and smiled as she passed.

It was as if she had planned it that way,

to catch my eye when she could walk without spilling a drop.

So Chongju (1915-2000) tells us how girls showed boys they liked them in old Korea. This "lovely little prose poem... (has) all the intimations of attraction and first love come with a delicacy of touch." Perhaps So is recalling his childhood, and how he had no doubts about the message.

Near Moon Terrace
The cliff face soars countless feet;

the high terrace on top stretches close to the sky.

The Great Dipper scoops water from the Milky Way to brew a pot of tea at night.

The steam from the tea coldly wraps the cassia tree in the moon.

Hyeshim (1178-1234) studied Confucianism and served as an official. After his mother's death, he became a monk . He was officially given high priestly rank by the state, called "national preceptor." This poem is an example of "the soaring imagination of the Koryo poets."

One by one I've gathered up my feelings of love;
I've measured them, bagged them.

They're loaded now on the straight back of a fine strong horse.

Hey lad, give her the whip; send them off to my love.

An anonymous love poem, presumably from the 18th century. Early in the Choson dynasty poets were not quite so open about their feelings. This image of love as something measured and loaded on a horse is unique in Korean poetry.

Let's drink a cup of wine; let's drink another!
With petals from flowers we've cut, let's mark our cups;

let's drink and drink, let's drink forever!

For when at last this body dies, it will be wrapped in a straw mat and strapped to a jiggy,

or, perhaps, it will be borne on an elegantly decked bier,

ten thousand standard bearers shedding tears.

Either way, once among the reeds and rushes, the oaks and willows,

when the sun is yellow and the moon is white,

when fine rain falls or thick snowflakes flurry,

when whirlwinds blow a mournful dirge,

who will offer me a cup?

Need I add: when monkeys whistle on my grave,

won't it be too late for regrets?

Another by Chong Chol, this poem is sometimes described as a shijo and sometimes as the first of his "kasa" poems. Kasa is a unique Korean genre, a sort of poem essay. Anyone who has heard of my weekends over there knows why I like it.

I think everyone can find something in poetry that will call up inner feelings. It is the genius of the artist that helps us to think about our lives, and what they mean. If these poems don't strike a chord in you, at least you know a little how I feel.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What the ... PDA comments?!?!?

A friend pointed out a blog post to me this morning. It is about how someone who was upset with the PDA's of a couple, who are now called Horny Bus Couple by the Korean Nutizens, posted a picture of them on the internet and how it has blown up from there.

The picture looks pretty tame compared to PDA's I saw when I was in SoKo. Going by what the picture taker said it was a lot of kissing with the woman putting her head back and moaning. The PT said it reminded her of porn. So ... the PT likes her porn does she? :)

The couples "reckless behaviour" was so shameful that an old woman changed seats to get away from them. And rather than confront them and tell them to get a hotel room the PT took their picture and posted it. She should have done both. :)

But I digress. What stuck out in my mind were the comments of some of the Nutizens. They ranged from the amusing to the just plain stupid.

미래로: "Oh dear. If only have I met those horny bitch and bastard."

Why? So you could sit in your seat and do or say nothing? Or whack off to them? Yet another internet hero who "would have done something".

안녕하세요: "That bastard’s panties must be wet. It’ll be itchy when you pee."

That is so stupid it is hilarious. :)

soo2002: "That bitch and bastard are sickly horny but don’t have enough money to get a motel room. Even though he seems like one of those bastards who can only manage it for about five minutes…"

A short timers experience talking?

프리오우: "Their identity should be published, so their life will be ruined for good."

And there is the Nutizen attitude that we are used to seeing. Your identity should be published too. :)

moongun님: "What on earth is she doing with that short bastard…?"

Heh ... maybe this will be the next target for the Nutizens. Remember what happened when that woman said short men were losers on national TV?

세상만사 : "Busan, again? They have Japs’ blood, it’s no wonder."

And of course what would Nutizens be without dragging ethnic slurs into it? I am only surprised they didn't start slagging ESL teachers. Just think of the "outcry" if it had been foreigners, let alone a foreigner and *gasp* a Korean.

Internet whack jobs, they are good for a laugh from time to time. And the Korean Nutizens usually top the list.  :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What the ... K-something?!?!?!?

I originally wrote this in November of last year. For one reason or another, life was and is keeping me busy, I never got around to either finishing or posting it. So here it is. Late but maybe still relevant.

A blogger, who shall remain nameless, once wrote that she felt the terms "K-boy" or "K-girl" were derogatory. Another one joined in agreeing. It always struck me as, well, a strange thing to say.

I have used the term K-Girl and K-Boy in the past to refer to Korean Women or Men. Why? I am fucking lazy. Hell, English is a lazy language. We often shorten stuff for no other reason than to say it quicker. Why say cannot when you can say can't.

If K-Girl is derogatory is K-Pop? J-Pop? 

I have a hard time trying to understand just how using K-something is automatically and always derogatory. Neither one of them really explained just how it is derogatory. To me it seems like someone was just grasping at straws to try and bitch about anything. Which is all well and  fine if it at least makes sense.

What the ... spamtard!?!?!?

I opened my mailbox today to find 32 comments to be moderated. each one was identical but in different threads. All were in Dutch and from the same fucktard.

The site is one of many, all spamalicious, for people who need some "quantum healing touch" or such snake oil.

Unfortunately for the Quantum Touch people I have 3 days off soon and will probably be bored for part of one of them. Which means I will be able to devote some counter-spamalicious quantum energy of my own their way. :)

Thanks in advance spamtards for giving me something to do on a day off. :)