(some images taken from my flickr page)
Here's a look back at the year of K-Blogging:
(and of course, let's punctuate it with music that made me happy this year)
Band of Horses: The Funeral
Matt at The Korea Herald asked me to do a top ten expat stories of 2009, which you can read here. It got me thinking, first of all because lists are fun, and second of all, because I like to take a look back at things in December, so I'm going to give you 2009 in countdown form. I wrote a personal reflection list that you can read here... though I work hard on these personal reflection posts, they're usually the ones that get the fewest reads. Oh well. If the seven people I love the most are the only seven who read it, that's OK with me, really. All the rest is just icing:
The top ten K-Blog Stories of 2009 - the most significant, or talked-about topics on the 2009 K-blogosphere
1. The Korea Times - beginning with strife, and ending in a train-wreck. We should have seen it coming with Jon Huer's series of off-base, un-founded, or just generally ridiculous series of columns. Few commentators on Korea have stirred up so many forehead-smacks, or baffled, upset, or angry comment threads. Bloggers wondered why this guy, who seemed to be writing about an imaginary Korea, got a regular column, while their letters to the editor were going unprinted. In the late Summer, Huer called off his column series, apparently tired of all the negative feedback. Meanwhile, Kang Shin-who seemed to be trying to redefine journalism as a means to grind one's axes, and cause strive in the communities about which one wrote: his misquotes and distortions, which came so frequently, and reflected the same prejudices so uniformly as to make them seem intentional, rather than simply a case of carelessness, along with as his seeming hair-trigger readiness to give quotes to the webmaster of a hate-site - the Anti-English Spectrum - gave the impression that he had a hate-on for English teachers, and in response, it has become common knowledge among English teacher bloggers and NET blog-readers not to give interviews to a guy named Kang Shin-who, and generally to avoid the Korea Times altogether, as its reporting has mostly demonstrated contempt for the English teachers in its audience, and its only response to the criticism directed at it was not an apology, or a retraction: it has been a resounding, childish, "Are not, either!"
At the same time, The Korea Herald has moved into a clear lead as the preferred newspaper for K-bloggers looking to see their names in print, thanks in large part to Matt Lamers' excellent work as editor of the paper's Expat Living page.
2. ATEK and AFEK
For a few months this spring, discussion about ATEK heated up into a total free-for-all, with heated opinions on both sides. While the legitimacy of ATEK as an organization was much-discussed, the personal lives and characters of a few of the key players also got involved, in a way that moved off the comment boards and not only into real life, but into people's employment and legal situations. Update: AFEK, which started out as a snarky repudiation to ATEK, is developing into a community of F-series visa holders to be watched, and which could be capable of great things, and ATEK now has somewhere around one thousand members (as of January 2010.
3. Ben Wagner and Andrea Vandom
Ben Wagner has never been a member of ATEK, though one of ATEK's first public moves was putting its support behind Ben Wagner's complaint to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Prof. Wagner's argument that in-country HIV tests violated English teachers' human rights, and actually worked against the proper protection of Korean children, led to Andrea Vandom refusing to submit her health test results, and a constitutional challenge to the HIV test for English teachers. In June, Ban Ki-moon and other human rights heavyweights called Korea out for its stigma-inducing AIDS testing regulations, and on World Aids Day, 5 other migrant workers' groups also filed complaints to the NHRCK about HIV tests.
4. Benojit Hussain - general wisdom on the K-blogs was to walk away if somebody tried to get into it with you, but Bonojit bucked that advice, and went to the law, leading a Korean judge to award him Korea's first ever civil settlement for a racist attack -- something there isn't even a law for yet. It also caused Korea to take a look in the mirror, as regards racism here, and attracted international media attention, as well as prompting a big discussion on numerous blogs, and a wide variety of opinions on the topic.
5. Korea In the International Media - Barack Obama mentioned Korea's education system, Korea's single mothers were covered in the New York Times, Bonojit Hussain's case also made international headlines. Roh Moo-hyun's suicide and Kim Jong-il's succession, and arms dealing made the kind of worldwide headlines Korea doesn't like, but meanwhile Korean actors starred in a few hollywood movies, and a few Korean singers tried to expand the Korean Wave to America.
6. Jon Huer - some were annoyed at his articles, some were annoyed that The Korea Times would print them, many simply didn't recognize the Korea he described in the regular column Jon Huer wrote for the first half of the year. For whatever reason, and though someone who knew him once assured me he comes across a lot better in person, Jon Huer's articles often just seemed like he was making Korea up as he went along, and rubbed a lot of expats here the wrong way, especially when Mr. Huer applied his "blanket statement" style to expats. His columns ranged from positively ingratiating to harshly critical, even condescending and orientalist, but the one thing most of them shared was a tendency to generalize wildly, often in ways that made his readers wonder what country he was describing, and why he thought it was Korea, and where he got his views, and how long it had been since he'd updated them. (English teachers with backpacks? Seriously? Happy new year: hope you have a good 1995, Mr. Huer.)
7. Swine Flu, Kimchi, and Festival Cancellations - there was the quarantine, there were rumblings of painting swine flu as a foreigners' disease, there were a number of highly entertaining "in Quarantine" blogs, and then, suddenly, finally, there was soap in the dispensers, and people covered their mouths when they coughed and stayed home from work if they felt sick. Well, not that last part, but still: sanitation awareness hit an all-time high this year, and that without a single mention of hazardous materials, downer cows, or spinal fluid. American beef quietly found its way onto Korean market shelves
8. Korean Stars go Global - Boa, Jeon Jihyun, WonderGirls, Rain's abs, and Lee Byung-hyun all tried to make their marks in America, with varying degrees of success. The Wondergirls were the first Korean band to chart on the Billboard top 100, Ninja Assassin got critically panned, but that was because of the Wachowski Brothers' failure to consider story an important part of filmmaking, Blood: The Last Vampire vanished like a dirty secret, without even a courtesy nod from the Kimcheerleaders who rallied behind D-Wars, and not that it's really saying a lot, but Lee Byung Hyun was possibly the best part of the summer craptacle G.I. Joe.. This was fodder for the Kimcheerleaders, of course, and the "Do you know Chee Eye Cho?" questions came fast and furious, while expats weighed the relative merits of the new phase of the "Korean Wave".
9. Rise of the K-Comedy Blogs - This was Dokdo Is Ours' first full year of operation, after starting in the middle of last year, and while comedy blogs (especially ones that frequently update) are hit or miss, some of the high points were memorable. Later in the year, Koreangov hit Twitter in a big way, and finally opened a K-comedy blog of its own, while a few other K-comedy blogs had a few kicks at the can, and faded, and other bloggers managed to crack the K-comedy quicklist simply because the topics were so funny: it may well be that next December, we'll be looking back at 2010 as the year of the rise of the K-boy dating blogs, as a handful of hilarious blogs about hooking up with Korean boys suddenly burst onto the scene this fall. Read more about Korean comedy blogs here.
10. The Marmot Hole Comment Board Implosion - Dongchim once called The Marmot Hole "Dave's For Ajosshis" and as the year wore on, the comment threads there got to be more personal, and less informative. The back-and-forth came to a head in December, when Robert closed comments entirely for a while; we should have seen this coming, with commenters like King Baeksu and Linkd leaving, with the return of Pawikirogi, and, worst of all, with the fact, as the year went on, fewer and fewer fresh voices and new commenters bothered to read, or add, to the comment discussions at what was once far and away the most lively and interesting comment board in the K-blogosphere. Nobody's going to eclipse The Marmot Hole's popularity any time soon, though for relevance, Brian in Jeollanamdo got to most stories sooner than the Marmites did in 2009. Now that moderated commenting is back on at The Marmot's Hole, who knows what the new year holds, but the challenge of maintaining a lively comment forum that doesn't get bogged down in personal attacks or axe grinding remains an elusive happy medium in Kblogland.
Stay tuned for The Top Ten Blogoseyo Moments of 2009... coming soon.
and here's a song called "Dragon's Lair" by Sunset Rubdown, a band starring Spencer Krug, a favorite indie artist of mine, from their album "Dragonslayer" (get it?)
anyway, here's the song. It's long, but I love how it builds.