Monday, October 25, 2010

Superstar K: Korea Needs 장재인 and 김지수

So "Superstar K" is the Korean counterpart to "American Idol"

Wifeoseyo has been totally enrapt in this show: she had her favorites, and rooted for them, and the final was this weekend.

There's more on the finalists at ALLKPOP

The two finalists were John Park - known by some as the Korean-American American Idol contestant from a previous season, and Huh-Gak, a shorter, less handsome guy, but all-Korean.

Here's Huh-Gak, in one of the performances that hasn't been taken down from Youtube because of copyright violations.

Here's John Park, singing "Man in the Mirror" from a previous episode: his English is stronger than his Korean, and Wifeoseyo says this was the best song of the "Michael Jackson Tribute" episode.

As much as Wifeoseyo liked him, the last thing Korean pop needed was for John Park to win, and reinforce the feeling that, in the same way John Park lost in American Idol, but won Superstar K, that Korean music is a similar but inferior version of western music.

And the two finalists were both good singers and performers.  Heo Gak, the winner, had a touching story and everything, he'll made a decent balladeer once he's plugged into the star machine... but this Korea Times article touches on the best thing about this tv show: The really exciting Superstar Contestants were two other members of the top 5.

You see, two other contestants in the top five were actual musicians, they were something different.  We've gotten used to the superstar idol factory, and the Kpop machine: kids pass an audition, train for seven years in foreign languages, sexy dances, and how to dance in unison and be charming in front of a camera - (echoes of Geisha training, if you ask me)... and a lot of unhealthy stuff seems to be just taken for granted during their training and rise to stardom - as reported by the Human Rights Commission.  And let's not forget Jang Ja-yeon - they never caught/stuck it on whomever she was, um, "servicing"...

Instead, I want to tell you about Jang Jae-in and Kim Ji-su: these two also made the top five, before they got cut.  Jang Jae-in doesn't have a great S-line.  Kim Ji-su doesn't have great abs.  But they play their own instruments.  And whatever song they had to sing, they made it their own.  They were even considerate enough to do a duo for one show, and totally reinvented the song "Cinderella" by Seo In-young (one of my least favorite Kpop stars) - I won't even put her song on my blog... but you can watch it here.

Their rendition is AMAZING.

now, my friend, who knows a lot, reminded me on Saturday that there are lots of Korean popstars that play their own instruments and write their own music: she mentioned Crying Nut, No Brain and Cherry Filter.

That's true.  On the other hand, I don't know if any of them ever hit as broad a demographic as Jang Jae-in appealed to, by getting on this show: Wifeoseyo AND her mother watched this show, and rooted for Jae-in.

So yeah, Crying Nut and Cherry Filter have had their success.  But I think Jae-in has a shot at actually becoming a significant cultural force - she might have the best shot an actual musician has had at contending with Miss-A and SNSD and SuperJunior, in a long time, and the Korean music scene needs a new model for success.  Badly.  My favorite Korean musician/songwriter is Kim Kwang Seok, and everyone of a certain age in Korea makes the same wistful, nostalgic face when you say his name.  I don't know if any singer/songwriter in Korea has had that kind of impact since, but I think Jae-in is young enough, fresh enough, and talented enough, to do that, and to introduce a different model (um, talent) to Korean popular music.

Fact: she's the first young Korean female artist in years where I'd rather buy the CD than watch the video.  Who actually listens to the music for most of these bands, anyway?  You can't see Rain's sixpack when you're listening on your Mp3 player, so what's the point?  Nine Muses isn't even pretending: they're being openly presented as model-idols.

I'm holding my breath.  I'm excited.  Jae-in has the potential to become more than just the Queen of Hongdae, and I hope to all the gods of aesthetics that she does, and that the next time I walk down Jongno street, I hear her coming out of cosmetics shops, instead of another Kpop dance band or gooey ballad.  Kim Jisu?  Same: I'd buy his CD.  I wouldn't just watch his video, and silently seethe when Wifeoseyo watches it.

That's right.  The same way Korean girls need Kim Yu-na to be successful, because she's talented and excellent and she achieved her goal, so that they can have an awesome hero other than "good mother, good wife", K-pop needs Jae-in to introduce a different model for success, so that when kids watch Korean music shows on TV, maybe they decide to pick up an instrument, instead of just practicing their aegyo, doing situps, and taking dance lessons.

That'd be nice.

Halloween Partayzzz!

I've been getting tons of invitations to Halloween parties on facebook and by e-mail...

turns out having a widely read blog means people want me to pass on word about Halloween parties.

So if you're part of the 50% of my readers in Korea, or if you're one of the 50% of my readers outside Korea, but you're planning on visiting Korea next weekend, here's what I've got:

Wolfhound Pub in Itaewon promises to give me a free beer, and maybe even a beef and mushroom pie (my favorite) if I tell you about their Halloween party.  It's a 10 000 won cover, and big prizes.

So, I'm sure it's going to the the best of all the parties.  I'm sure of it.  And you should totally go!  Here's the party facebook page.

Hi Expat has a pretty good rundown of Halloween parties here, which you should look through.  Dillinger's, Sky Bar Lounge, Stompers, and many more are featured on the list.

Freebird sent me an interesting sounding party invitation: they're going to set up a bunch of bands around the edge of the room, and then each band will take turns playing one song each, trading off songs, so that there's a constant flow of music, and the party space has no front row: you can just hang wherever you like.  15000 cover, and the facebook event (including some of the bands playing) are here.

Korea's new to the Halloween game, so it's still a little hard to find a good costume shop; however, so far I haven't been let down by Namdaemun market: go to Hoehyeon Station, and head down to the main stretch, and towards the west end of the market.  See map.

View Costume shop in Namdaemun in a larger map

Got another Halloween party or a link to a listing to tell me about? Leave it in the comments!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prince on the Muppets and Old Spice Grover

So for one thing, I LOVE the muppets right now.

Remember "The man your man could smell like" - that old spice commercial? This one.

Well how about "The Monster your man could smell like" -- here's grover.

And, see, I don't know ANY artist that grows on you as much as Prince does -- the first time I listened to him, I didn't get it.  A while later, I tried again, and "Purple Rain," the epic song, was the '80s song that got me over my previous prejudice against '80s music (I hated '80s music until about 2002), and convinced me to give the rest of it a chance.  Still don't like the synth stuff-- sorry, Duran Duran, but the more you listen to prince, the more you love him.

Sign O'The Times is one of the most complete, impressive musical accomplishments in music: it was ALL done, from writing to mixing, to playing of every instrument, completely by Prince by himself, and it might be the best album of the '80s.  It's certainly in the top ten.  And here is the most charming song on that album (again, one that grows on you), with the muppets.

Other artists that grow on you?

Bob Dylan -- but strangely, he later grew off me.  Too many lyrics being deliberately obtuse - like his songs were a prank on the kinds of people who want to find meanings in them.
Tom Waits & Leonard Cohen - generally, the songwriters are the ones that do this best.
Sigur Ros - at first it seemed ludicrous to me that a band could find international success with whale sounds.  But then one day, I just kind of got it.

Artists I loved immediately:
TV On The Radio
Andrew Bird
White Stripes

and a bunch more.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

1.5 A Month for Rural Teaching?

According to this article, a government agency signed a memorandum of understanding with a bunch of US universities to recruit students to teach in Korea.

The program will bring hundreds of students to Korea to teach in rural schools, and give foreigners a chance to learn Korean culture.

The monthly stipend is 1 500 000 won, and it's run by the National Institute for International Education.


This is a little more realistic than thinking that Korean Studies students and Kyopos would want to teach in the countryside for free, I suppose... and it'd be good for those rural schools to have native speakers in their classrooms, I suppose.

and maybe this program is trying to imitate the Fulbright placement program, which my friend, who went through it, tells me was very successful, and where the pay was similar, but which was successful because of the people it recruited, and the level of training and preparation and cultural orientation they'd received before they even entered the classroom... (more on Fulbright vs. EPIK here)

On the other hand,


if the Korean government is ready to hire people who haven't even graduated, and low-ball them at freaking 1.5 million a month...

can we please, pretty pretty please, stop hearing about low quality English teachers,

when it's become obvious that the gatekeepers don't give a damn, and will lower the bar this low, to get bodies in classrooms?

Is that too much to ask?

It probably is.

One of the greatest Marmot's Hole comments I read, and I wish I could find the source, was simply this:

Lots of foreign English teachers.
Trained & qualified English teachers.
Cheap English teachers.

Korea has to choose two.

Yeah, right now it's an employers' market: the people doing the hiring have more choices now than before, as lots of educators and people with postgraduate degrees from America are looking for work, given the bad economy over there.

But 1.5 a month, for non-graduates?

If Korea really wants to attract high quality teachers in their schools?  How about this:

Designate public school teachers "teachers" instead of "assistant teachers": this way, the years an education graduate spends in Korea count as real years of teaching experience on grad school and job applications, once they go back home.  Or say that teachers who renew for a second year get "full teacher" designation if they want it, or if they meet certain criteria, to count those years on their resume as true years of teaching experience.  Then years of teaching in Korea's public schools would no longer basically appear as black holes on professional educators' resumes, and give professional, ambitious, career educators an incentive to come, or even stay a second year.

That'd raise the caliber a lot right there.

And I haven't even mentioned visa portability yet.

Saying it's a Cultural Difference is the Beginning of the Conversation, not the End

I was just looking over the series I wrote this spring, about how to make friends across the foreign/Korean cultural divide, in which I highlight a few of the common pitfalls in developing friendships between Koreans and non-Koreans.  The series is extensive, good reading (I think), but while editing and cleaning up hanging links, I added this paragraph:

And remember: "It's a cultural difference" is NOT the end of a conversation.  It's the BEGINNING of a conversation.  After saying "It's a cultural difference," it's important to articulate that difference, and how my expectations are different than your expectations, so that we can be understanding and flexible towards each other in the future.

Using "cultural differences" can be a cop-out to avoid responsibility for unacceptable behavior which I, or someone else, is unwilling or unable to actually justify.  Any time somebody starts saying "cultural difference," watch carefully, to see if that same person is trying to get away with something, or to figure out what topic they're avoiding.

That is, if you want to have a genuine relationship with said person.  Otherwise, "it's a cultural difference" end of conversation, can be the sound of a door closing in someone's mind.

Anyway, to revisit a series I put a lot of work into this spring, go check it out.
Table of contents for the series 
Part one of "How to make friends with a foreigner"
Part one of "How to be friends with a Korean"

Most of the advice is basic, "Don't be an inconsiderate jerk" stuff... but sometimes naming specifics is helpful.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Deep Thoughts: Vlog Idea?

I've been batting around the idea of starting a vlog, or video blog, here at Roboseyo.

What say you, readers?

Here is a little teaser of some of the insightful, thoughtful commentary you might come to expect, should roboseyo start a regular video-blog.

Deep thoughts with Roboseyo:


Public School Teachers, Drop a Line, and Female Bloggers, Unite!

Two quick notes:

1. In a follow-up to the piece about articles giving wildly inconsistent statistics about native English teachers breaking their public school contracts, I have two friends who are looking to connect with Public school teachers, either past, or present.  In particular, they're interested in talking to teachers who broke contract, in the way some news sources reported as many as 66(!)% did.  So if you are/were a public school teacher, and especially if you didn't finish a contract, please contact me (roboseyo at gmail dot com), and I'll put you in touch with people who want to talk with you.  If you're worried about your name being out there, I'm sure they'll let you do it anonymously.

(original article from Popular Gusts, ATEK's statement, Brian in JND's post)
More follow-up: after ATEK's statement, and further investigation, Hankyoreh wrote about ATEK's announcement, and then posted a correction of their original article.  This was also reported at Extra Korea, Brian in JND, and Popular Gusts.

2. One of my favorite new blogs is I'm No Picasso, because she provides a smart, engaging, and thoughtful female perspective on life in Korea.  She has a recent post titled "I'm No Picasso.  I'm also No Dating Blogger" where she calls the Korea blogosphere, and particularly the Dave's comment boards, to task for being overwhelmingly male... it kind of reminded me of this video: "X-Box Girls Get Revenge" where at least one of those sexist asses populating the internet gets his comeuppance.

The other thing I loved was this paragraph plus change:

Ladies, my question is, what are you doing? I know you're out there. I know you are insightful and intelligent and well-spoken. I know you have valid things to say about your experiences here in the ROK. Which is not to say that the dating bloggers aren't doing that -- they absolutely are. But that's only one aspect of our experience here. Don't tell me that it's the only way we're capable of expressing ourselves, or that it's the only source of interest we have in paying any attention to each other. Community is what you make of it, and so far, ours hasn't been very strong.
Not that it's easy. You'll all (the women, I mean) know exactly what I mean when I reference the boys' club aspect of life here as a female expat.
Chris in South Korea has a list of female K-bloggers, which he keeps updated, as far as I know, and I once made a call out for female K-bloggers before, but I'd love to hear if there are other awesome ones I should add to my reader, and all y'all female bloggers: heed INP's words, and get y'all connected!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The "It Gets Better Project"

Too many kids in the USA have been committing suicide because they were overwhelmed, or bullied, about their sexual orientation.  That sucks.

But this is really cool: there's this amazing Youtube movement called "It Gets Better" - a fella named Dan Savage started this Youtube account, and opened it up, that people could post messages on there, expressing support for young homosexuals.  The main message is just that: "It gets better" - high school sucks, but somewhere beyond high school, there are people who care, who understand, who don't judge.

I've been watching these videos, and they're touching, and beautiful, and it's heartbreaking hearing story after story of humiliation and ostracization, but it's also amazing watching the whole internet come out in support.  It's lovely.

The ones that got me the most were these ones: the christians.  I grew up in a Christian home and went to a christian school, and a chrisitian university where any gays were deeply closeted, and where you had to sign a contract that, at the time, stipulated that you were not supposed to partake in homosexual practices, like the girl in the video below.  Since then, I've decided, like my friend Melissa, who was one of the first people to nudge me in this direction, that Christians are really on the wrong side in this issue.

It seems like, when you look down the line of history, at other great human rights victories, Christians have been on the ragged forefront, fighting for the disenfranchised - slavery, civil rights, women's rights -- yet this time, the religious right is the antagonist, and that grieves me.

So anyway, spread word about the "It Gets Better Project" because stuff like this reminds me of how much good the internet can accomplish, and it restores my hope in humanity just a little again.

Friday, October 15, 2010

KOTESOL Conference this Weekend in Seoul

KOTESOL is holding a conference this weekend, and you should go.  KOTESOL is an organization focused on professional development for English teachers in Korea, and they're quite well established.  If you're serious about your craft as a teacher (and you should be), this is a great place to sharpen your tools.  If you're planning on being in Korea for a long time, this is also a great place to meet long-term English teachers, and do some of the kind of networking that will help you make the most of your life in Korea, and attain your future goals for living here.

Cut and pasted from the ATEK Newsletter:

From October 16 to 17, the KOTESOL PAC2010 International Conference will be held at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul, with the theme Advancing ELT in the Global Context. More information about speakers, venues, schedule, registration fees and membership is available on the KOTESOL conference page at
Visit for more information about KOTESOL, including how to join or contribute to the organization. Network with KOTESOL members at KOTESOL’s Facebook page!/group.php?gid=2324076718&ref=ts

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is Seoul Ready for the G20?

Foreigner Joy asked the intriguing question, "Is Seoul Ready for the G20 Summit"? over on her blog; have you heard that the G20 is coming to Korea?  Well, it is.

Living downtown, I'm starting to see flags, placards and signs all over the place that the G20 is coming.  Seems some of the higher-ups, or at least the people who hang flags on light posts, are pretty excited about this.

Joy looks at the cleanliness and safety of some parts of the city, and the efficiency of the transportation system, then she references The Metropolitician's post about Koreans who are being trained by their own media to suspect, and maybe hate, foreigners, and concludes that because of the provincial, nationalist mentality of people in Korea, the country's not truly ready to host the G20 Summit yet.

Along that vein, Chris in South Korea chimes in, agreeing that while the hardware is there - infrastructure, facilities, etc., Korean people's mindset is not really global, and that Koreans will treat foreigners as if invisible, until it is revealed that they are associated with the G20 summit, at which point the special treatment will come out: he cites incidents where Koreans were more ready to apologize when their bad service led to upset people, than just to give good service in the first place.

Chris says, in light of the coming summit:
To assume that every Korean will suddenly become friendly to every foreigner they see during the summit is ludicrous. The summit is so far removed from the average person's life that they'll barely be aware what's happening, or where.
Except... that has happened before.  I wasn't there personally, but from all accounts, Koreans, and Seoulites, are pretty good at putting their best food forward when the occasion calls for it: during the 2002 World Cup, every person I've talked to who was there remembers Koreans never being friendlier, warmer, kinder.

No, sir, the question is not how Koreans, on the whole (and I apologize for referring to Koreans as if it were just one person, with just one personality) behave when the world is watching.  I have no doubt that once the cameras are pointed at Korea, most people will do their best to put on a show.

The question, and the true test of Korea's status as a globalized country is this: after the diplomats go home, next time a foreign English teacher does something like this, or this, of if, heaven forbid, an English teacher ever actually is caught molesting their students, what will happen?

Anybody can put on a show for a one or two-week summit.  World Cup 2002 was a whole month of peace love and understanding... but in 2002, in the middle of the happiness and love, there was a black undertone: on June 13, two girls were killed by a US Armored vehicle.  During the World Cup, nobody did much about it, but just as soon as the international soccer fans went home: after the world cup ended on June 30, Korea embarked on a series of anti-American protests called an "orgy of hate" by the Chicago Tribune - that story is meticulously documented by ROK Drop here, in one of their most important posts.

I'm not really interested in how Koreans act during the G20 Summit.  I'm more interested in whether that half-Indonesian kid entering Kindergarten this year is given a chance to fit in with his classmates.  I'm more interested in whether the Filipina bride in the countryside is given information about recourse, in case her husband starts hitting her.  I'm more interested to hear whether, during the office dinner, somebody speaks up to defend the interracial couple across the restaurant, when one of the team members starts grumbling that he doesn't like seeing "our" women with "those kinds of men."  I'd like to know what steps are being taken to make sure that those mixed kids don't fall behind in school, or on the all-important tests, or, since we're talking about the disenfranchised, I'd like to know whether Lee Eun-eui, who won her sexual harassment suit against Samsung is being viewed as a one-time anomaly, or as a sign that such behavior will no longer be tolerated, which other women look to, in order to feel more empowered at work.

Yeah.  The subways run fine and they're on time.  There are a lot of new, very pretty buildings all around the city, and I bet every hotel employee in the whole damn country is learning a few phrases in English, French, Arabic, Spanish and whichever other languages will come in handy.  And those diplomats and finance ministers will be well-enough shielded from street protesters and drunk belligerent ajosshis, I think the question of how regular folks will behave during the G-20 is mostly moot.  International events aren't a good barometer of this stuff, in my opinion: a better measure of Korea's true globalization would be how easy it is for a foreign English teacher to get any or all of these things:

1. A fair shake from the police if a fight breaks out between him and a Korean
2. The approval of his/her fiance's parents
3. Fair treatment according to Korea's labor laws
4. The health care he/she was promised when he/she signed that contract, and a way to press his/her boss if it turns out he/she illegally wasn't registered
6. A smartphone, without jumping through ridiculous hoops from the phone company
7. A membership on any sign-in website in Korea
8. The benefit of the doubt
9. A contract re-negotiation if the labor board finds that their contract is illegal, and
10. Release from a bad contract, along with the right to find other work instead of having to then leave the country

and an even better barmometer would be how easily a Southeast-Asian could get each of these things.  Now, I'll say for sure that it's easier for we waygooks to get most or all of these things than it used to be... but I'll also say that there's a ways to go, because who cares what a visiting diplomat says about Korea (other than quote-starved "Tell us how much you like us!" reporters), really? I'd rather know what the long-term expat residents say, to see how far a country's really coming.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Listen to the Customer, By Gum! Bad Service in Korean Restaurants

Turns out I'm not the only one to be sourly discontent with restaurant service culture here in Korea.  I wish I'd known about this (old) post when I was writing up my screed about Passion 5 (great bakery, HORRIBLE service in the restaurant) -- Joe hits the nail on the head, and touches on most of the same points I did, but better, and more thoughtfully.

It's vindicating to read.  So... Zenkimchi on "Korean restaurants have sh***y service" part one
And part two: "Korean restaurants don't know their asses from their elbows about making customers happy."

To go with my piece: Nice design = crappy service.

I won't feel totally vindicated until I have an apology from Passion 5, in the form I asked at the end of my rant.  But at least somebody agrees with me.

All of this also amounts to further support for why I almost actively avoid foreign restaurants while I'm in Korea.  Why bother?  It's overpriced, often pretentious, and the wait staff (often/usually) doesn't know how to give western-style service anyway.  Why not go to a Korean restaurant, where at least the service is what you expect, and the dining atmosphere and style fit the type of service?

PS: Fatman Seoul also adds a discussion of restaurant service culture in Korea, which is worth reading, here.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Violence in Itaewon; Important Message To Koreans about "외국인, 이태원에서 한국 노인 폭행 '논란'"

So Hi Expat continues to pull out interesting stuff: this time it's a video of someone who seems to be an American GI ("I fought in Iraq for six years!"), punching an old Korean man in the head.  Warning: the video includes swearing and violence.  It's pretty shocking.

It's up on Naver, blurred and stuff, and collecting hits.  (see also daum TV)

This video, and the old lady attacking the young girl earlier this week (see here)

These two videos, in the same week, make me think:

1. Holy COW!  What the hell is happening?  Why is violence breaking out on video, all over Korea?

2. I hope other Korean seniors planning on picking on youngsters see these two videos, and choose to pick on a younger Korean instead of a younger foreigner... because many foreigners haven't been trained from birth that abuse from a senior must be borne silently.

3. The young guy throwing punches at a senior citizen's head: this guy shouts that he has been in Iraq for six years, so he may be dealing with much bigger things, personally, than an annoying old guy who won't back off -- I don't know the story about the old guy, or what led up to this incident...

However, I'd like to take this moment to address any of my Korean readers, who finds this blog post after getting upset about foreign (alleged) soldiers punching Korean seniors in the head:

Important Message:

Hey everybody.  In the comments about this video, a lot of people will say a lot of nasty things about foreigners, Americans, and especially American GI's.  I hope that somebody out there puts in a word for us foreigners living in Korea.  Many of us can't speak or write Korean, so we can't speak for ourselves very well in Korean internet comments.

See, there's a stereotype of foreigners who criticize or mock Korea, who live here, but talk as if we hate it, but really, most of the foreigners who hate Korea leave.  The foreigners who DO live here?  Most of us like Korea a lot.  Most of us are shocked and upset by a video like this young GI or ex-GI, punching an old Korean man in the head.  Most of us are peaceful people who like and respect Korea, and who find healthier ways to deal with our frustrations.

Moreover: we are not responsible for this guy's behavior, and we don't approve of it.  We wish this guy would have stayed home and gotten drunk with his friends at home, instead of going out and making an ass of himself in public, and around strangers.

So please do not think that "all foreigners are like this guy" -- all the rest of the foreigners in Korea would like you to know that almost all of us are not like this guy.

And finally, think of the worst night of your life.  Think of the night when you did something really stupid: something you regretted for a long time.  Now imagine that stupid mistake you once made when you were young, and imagine that someone filmed you having your ugliest moment, and put the video on the internet.  Now imagine that everyone in America is watching that video and saying, "All Koreans are exactly like this person in the video.  All Koreans have the same ugly character as this person in the video."

That judgement of YOUR character would be wrong, wouldn't it?  After all, it was the worst night of your life, and the worst mistake of your life.  And judging EVERY person in Korea by that one video would be even more wrong, wouldn't it?

Please don't judge all foreigners, all Americans, or all GI's by this one video.  That would be wrong.


p.s.: any reader is welcome to translate my message into Korean, and post it on the comment boards where people are discussing this video.  In fact, you're invited to.  I'd like you to.  I'd love you to.  Just give me credit, and a link, and I'm happy.

Update: Marmot's Hole reports, the old guy was willing to forgive the young guy, and the young guy was not a GI.  He WAS thirty one, an age at which there remains no excuse for behavior like that.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

"Apple Hip" - any relation to "Apple-Bottoms"?

A lady in Apgujeong has been selling apples as a promotion for a line of products called "apple hip"

Korea Times Reports

Now, Apple hip sounds like a uniquely Korean creation to me: you see, here in Korea, the word for "bum" or "ass" is often confused with the word for "hip" - as far as I can tell, they're one and the same word to Koreans, in the same way that there's pretty much just the word "neck" in Korean, rather than having separate words for your neck (usually meaning the back) and your throat (the soft front part).  See also: jaw/chin.  Those up on their North American slang know that apple bottom, over there, has a different meaning.

So, let's add "Apple Hip" to the list of english phrases that are weird Korean/Konglish renderings of North-American slang phrases.

Does anybody know more about Apple Hip products than what's in the article?  James in The Grand Narrative writes about "apple hips" in Korea - including these ass-tastic TV ads.  Looks like having "Apple Hips" in Korea (see below:)

Has a very different, um, connotation, than it does in North America:

oh gee. sorry folks. I can't bring myself to post what I got from searching youtube for "Apple bottom" on my blog -- for a PG-13 comparison of an American apple bottom, click here.  To sum up: small waist + big round booty = apple bottom.

I've been told that having an apple face in Korea means being beautiful, but I haven't heard more detail than that: anybody well-versed in Korean beauty talk care to explain why having an apple face is good to Koreans?  My high-beginner students tried to explain it to me a few nights ago (which is why this Apple hip article caught my eye), but didn't quite get it across.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Link Rundown: Wish I had the Free Time to Write these three up Properly

Well, I've got a bunch of ATEK stuff on my plate, keeping me busy with this and that, so I don't have the time to give any of these posts the time they deserve: I'd love to write each one up on its own.

1. HOLY CRAP! In a post reminiscent of a previous one, I'm No Picasso was sexually harassed, and quite nearly attacked last weekend. She came out OK, but not without things getting pretty sketchy.  A while ago, I asked ALTAWATSAC to write an article on women's safety in Korea, and she wrote a great one, which I wish I could link; unfortunately, her blog seems to have vanished.

So, female bloggers near and far: drop me a line, write me a letter, or leave a comment: I'd really love it if one of you would write an update to the now-defunct ALTAWATSAC's article about women's safety in Korea.  I'll link you, I'll tweet you, I'll post your blog on my facebook pages.  I'll tell everyone I know about you, and you can revel in all fifty (give or take) new readers of mine that I'll send your way.

2. HOLY CRAP!  A young lady was assaulted and nearly scalped on the subway when an older lady decided to throw down.  The screamingly outrageous incident was captured on video, and we were all left with a cautionary tale about how ugly it gets when Koreans take the Confucian privileging of seniority as license to treat others like crap.  They're forgetting the other side of that Confucian age thing, if they neglect to live up to the duty of the senior: to be a role model, a mentor, a virtuous example, and to look out for the juniors.

Here's the shocking video.

Write-up at Popular Gusts, who links the always insightful Gord Sellar, riffing on an older article about subway seat entitlement from the Joongang Daily.  Commentary on the video seems divided into those who think the young lady was disrespectful, who think the old lady was a disgrace, and those who think it's a disgrace that others on the subway car averted their eyes and let the whole thing play out without getting involved in the least.  Count me among that third group.  So much for civic-mindedness on the Seoul Subway.  HiExpat may have been the first expat website to get to the video and report on it in English.

Roboseyo predicts that, within five years, in the same way that the "no gays in Korea" meme slowly died a quiet death, the same way the "Korea is one blood" meme has quietly been fading, the "We should understand: he/she's had a hard life" justification for outrageous behavior by older Koreans will run out of gas, and the backlash will begin.  It's not there yet, but starting with the Namdaemun Fire, when "He's had a hard life" paled in comparison to "yeah, but that was f*****g National Treasure NUMBER ONE," I think the backlash is on its way: this video going viral is one example of the quiet backlash developing.

To be clear: many seniors in Korea ARE awesome people, and super-nice.  However, it's a shame that, in the same way a few English teachers get busted for sending themselves pot brownies, and we all look bad, it's a shame that a few seniors are out doing their best to establish this stereotype of Korean seniors all being battle-axes, harpies, and general assholes.

3.  Be A Good Person  Finally, I got a message from a fella named John, telling me about JangHeung Area Childrens Center: he's trying to raise money for Christmas presents for the group home where he volunteers: it's a home for kids whose family lives are missing a few ingredients: one or both parents, or the kind of mentorship and role-modeling that puts a kid in good shape for the future.  He's put a link, which didn't work for me in Chrome (update: link has been corrected), to the Children's Center's website, here: and Brian in Jeollanam-do's covered the same fundraiser, here, and his post includes information on where to send money:  If you're looking for a way to make your Christmas in Korea a little more special, why not do it by making Christmas brighter for a bunch of kids who need it, instead of by tracking down a mini-christmas tree with fake snow on it in Namdaemun.

Finally, if you want me, Roboseyo to have more free time to bring my bloggy bits forward on the internet offering table, here's what you can do:

1.  Join ATEK (
2.  Become a General Member (
3.  Run for the position of Communications Officer in your regional association (PMA) (

And help me share the communications load, so that I can do more blogging.

Particularly, if you have training, experience, or ambitions in Journalism, ATEK communications is a place where your skills, experience, or ambition is greatly needed, would be greatly appreciated, and seriously, seriously, can be an amazing resume builder.  Even if you have none of the above experience, training, or ambitions, believe me, there's stuff for you to do.

Plus, you'll also be helping English teachers.

Monday, October 04, 2010

My three travel tips

So Chris in South Korea tagged me to share my three best travel tips. He shared his own here. Among his tips were to use Koreas super useful tourist help line, packing light, and getting it on in the love motels. Blogger David S Wills, the artist formerly known as... a different k-blog... added his own very worthwhile pointers, and now here are mine:

1. Preparedness: Zippers, layers and liquids. You want to spend all day stomping around your destination; you don't want to get stuck running around, looking for an extra layer, or get laid up with a headache from too much sun/not enough liquids. Carry a day-trip sized backpack or tie a few extra layers around your waist: unless you're traveling Korea in the summer, the temperature in these parts drops at night. A lot. If you travel a lot, invest in some mountain gear brands: they're pricier than your average sweater, but north face, napa, Columbia sports and the like have sweaters that pack way small, are light as a normal shirt, but warm as a spring jacket, especially when layered. A few layers of those (with zippers so you can adjust them, instead of having an all-or-nothing pullover) a bit of wool, and you'll be ready for anything. Doing the same with a raincoat isn't a bad idea during the summer, if this summer is any indication of summers to come. Also on the preparedness train, make sure you have your head covered, and a water bottle or canteen at your belt. Nothing derails a day trip as quick as a dehydration or exposure headache.

Tying your stuff around your waist ain't sexy... but you'll be ready to roll.

2. Buddy up. Everything is more fun when it's shared. That's one of the reasons I started blogging: sharing my experiences with my readers makes them more enjoyable to me. But nothing enhances a travel experience more than sharing it with am actual person. When I'm with someone I'm braver, more adventurous, and more fun, than when I travel alone.

3. Leave the devices home. Your mp3 player puts you in a sound bubble and shuts out the rest of the world. The mobile devices, even the phone, can work as tethers, holding you back from truly experiencing the places you go.  Why listen to the same old music on your player, when a tour bus in the parking lot is bopping with something you've never even imagined before.  Shut the devices off and be present where you are. The most perfect moments I've had as a traveler were the ones where I even put away the camera, and just turned on my five senses --developing a sense for which glorious moments photograph well, and which glorious moments don't, will help you get the most out of your travel memories.  This is especially important when you're traveling with someone: I've been accused by wifeoseyo, essentially, of "blogging" while we were out together, instead of attending to her, my actual travel partner.  Don't be that tool.

Not that it isn't sometimes good to have a camera along, of course. (Notice that wifeoseyo is following all of my preparedness tips in the above photo.)

Two bonus points for free: this one's similar enough to one of David's points I don't feel the need to repeat it in my "real" three tips, but:

Follow your nose. A lot of great things can happen if you loosen expectations, and listen for restaurants, paths and menu items to call your name. Sticking too rigidly to a timetable leads to mechanical travel experiences, while wandering off the map might lead to a totally unique travel experience. The safety flip-side of following your nose is trusting your instincts, but as you become a more experienced traveler you'll get better at reading people and situations.

Finally, remember that if something goes as planned, it's a great travel experience; if things go wrong, it's a great story for later. If that's your approach to traveling, you'll always come away with something memorable and worthwhile.

I tag my well-traveled friends Tamie, Melissa, and Eat Your Kimchi's Simon & Martina.