Thursday, September 29, 2011

If you do one Festival This Year...

If you do one festival this year, do the Andong Mask Dance Festival.

Here's more information about the festival.

The Official Website

And some (pretty rough) videos from my 2008 and 2009 trips:

The Must-See Fireworks: (read about them at my original andong blog write-up)

Mask-dancey things.

The (UNESCO World Heritage site) folk village where some of the festival happens:

Hopefully the music is better than in 2008...

My boy Evan:

Appeared in Newsweek Korea: On Ajummas and Knee-jerks

So... back in June (i'm terrible at writing these kinds of posts on time) I was translated into Korean and featured for the second time in Korean Newsweek Magazine, in the section titled "Seoul Serenade." The article was a riff on this post I wrote a few years ago. So... enjoy it.

Too quick to judge?

Even when expats don’t speak any Korean, some Korean words creep into our vocabularies, especially words that can indicate something specifically Korean.

One example of this is the words “ajumma” and “ajosshi.” The dictionary says “ajumma” and “ajosshi” mean older woman and man, but everybody knows that in different kinds of conversations, those words have extra, added meanings. When my university-age (Korean) female student had a bad experience with an ajumma one day, she came into class looking upset. When I asked, “what’s wrong?” she said the word “ajumma” with a face, and a voice, that told a whole story in one word. We could all imagine the kind of situation that had happened.

These kinds of stereotypes can come to mind for foreigners, too: we also have stories about ajummas and ajeosshis waiting in line, or at the department store, in a drinking neighborhood. Everybody has a story or a joke about those kinds of situations.

I also have an “ajumma story.” I was on the Seoul subway, at a stop. When the doors closed, I heard a commotion: somebody had fallen through the sliding doors as they closed.

An ungenerous thought came into my mind: “It was probably some rude ajumma throwing her purse to catch the train before it goes” -- Koreans and foreigners all know about that stereotype. I thought, “well, if she got caught in the door and fell, and if she got embarrassed, she deserves it for being so pushy and impatient.”

With that righteous attitude, I turned to look more closely, and maybe to feel some ugly satisfaction at seeing the rude ajumma’s embarrassment...

but it wasn’t the scene I imagined. Three people lifted somebody to her feet, but it was a tiny, thin, white-haired grandmother, with her spine curved like a question mark, so old her feet were unsteady, even with three people holding her. Limping on one leg, there’s no chance she could have sprinted, as I imagined, to catch the subway: she had probably been unable to move her slow, uncertain feet quickly and carefully onto the subway car, and tripped and fell as the doors closed.

Immediately I felt ashamed for judging a stranger without even thinking about her situation, without even bothering to see who she was, before deciding, in my mind, that she deserved to fall on the subway. The old lady apologized to the people around her in a low voice, and the strangers helped her sit in one of the end seats of the subway, reserved for seniors.

I thought about my own attitude: it is easy to dehumanize strangers: I don’t know the name or history of the driver who cuts me off in traffic, I don’t know the family situation of the bureaucrat who gives me more paperwork at the city office, and I don’t know the life experiences that led the shouting drunk in the street to make his life choices. Because I don’t know them, it’s easy to have no compassion, and assume the worst about them.

Because of the language barrier, many expats cannot even speak to the Koreans around them as humans, so the tool that can lead to human connection is not always available. Without connection, it’s harder to develop compassion, and it becomes easy to turn someone into a bad guy, or a scapegoat, and forget they are human beings, just like I am.

As I thought about it, I realized that kind of judgement goes in both directions:

Expats in Korea know that not all ajummas act like the ugly stereotype, and most of us also have lovely stories about friendly, warm, hospitable, sweet, and funny older Koreans we have met. In fact, my mother and father in law are a perfect example of a wonderful ajumma and ajeosshi who show all the great virtues of Korea’s older generation.

And if you ask around, many people met a foreigner during a trip, or in a class, or at an event, who was sweet and kind, who made a human connection. But because of language barriers and cultural differences, those connections can be difficult. Some find it easier to build up an image based on a few ugly stories in the newspaper.

 However, it’s unfair for me to take the worst ajumma story I can remember, and use it to judge every ajumma I see (as I did on the subway that day), and it’s unfair to judge the individual expats living on your street, and teaching your children, according to the most shocking story you saw on TV.

I can’t say if one side judges the other side more often, or more harshly: I’m sad to say I’ve seen judgement go in both directions, but that’s not the point, anyway... I CAN try to change myself, and remember to think about the humanity in people who are different than me. I try to do that every day, so that my Seoul is a city of humans, not strangers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kurry: The Media Mashup Project

Kurry: the Media Mashup Project.

A number of Thursdays ago, I was invited by the fearless and mighty Cynthia Yoo, the nigh-superhuman juggernaut behind, and Tatter and Media’s connections with English language blogs, to attend an introduction of a new “media mashup project” between Yonhap News and Tatter & Media. Personally, I think this is a really cool project.

(what's a mash-up? Originally, it was two songs that seem dissimilar, combined by a clever DJ, in a way that just really, really works, despite the dissimilarity.. that's a mash-up. Mash-up is starting to stretch its meanings to include things other than songs, it seems.)

Outkast vs. Queen

Tatter & Media is a huge network of blogs and bloggers in Korea, and Yonhap News is a news wire that sends Korean news around the world: Korea's Reuters, if you will. Now, these days, both of those groups face challenges in meaningfully introducing issues and events to the world: bloggers, because blogging is a new media which doesn’t carry a lot of clout or credibility in many circles: phone an embassy for a comment and tell them you’re a famous blogger, and then phone them again and tell them you’re from the Washington Post, Reuters, or Yonhap News... you’ll see what I mean.

Yonhap news, and many traditional news media also have a problem: while they have the name recognition to get that interview or comment, reporters at such places often have to complete several article write-ups per day, which means that even if they’d like to, often they don’t have the time to go into depth, and call all those sources that would deepen their reports, or write in a way that includes perspective or background knowledge of the underlying issues, even if they do know about them. And issues drive news stories, not events - news stories that tap into important issues spread, and ones that don’t drop like a tree in the forest.

To worsen that inability to go deep, traditional media also find themselves wildly outnumbered and unable to compete with the immediacy of bloggers, twitter users and the like. By the sheer law of averages, a few twitterers will be right where the news is happening, as it happens: beat reporters still have that dispatch time-lag. Thanks to things like twitter and tumblr, some kinds of breaking news have been pulled, unceremoniously, right out of the hands of those trying to report it. For example: I learned of Michael Jackson’s death and the Japan tsunami through twitter, and the suicide of ex-president Roh Moo-hyun through blogs, and the pictures of the Seoul floods that knocked my socks off weren’t the ones from any news source, but the ones people retweeted from instagram, tumblr, ACME tweet-a-photo, and Facebook status update links.

Another problem lies in the nature of the Korean Internet climate: if you follow Korea tech news even a little, you’ll know how Naver and Daum, the two biggest portals in Korea, utterly dominate the Korean Internet experience. They have recently been blasted for this - one Korean blogger took the portals to task for some of their manipulation of search results, and actually encouraged Koreans switch to Google, and try to break the Korean internet monoculture. Korean portals have been taken to task by others - one example.

One of the accusations against these portals is that they direct people to news articles that have been cut and pasted (perhaps without accreditation) onto pages hosted by the portals, rather than directing readers to the original articles hosted outside the portal’s network. By doing this, the portals keep readers inside their network, and get more eyeballs looking at ads in their own ad network. (By dishonestly (illegally?) copying content.) Previous efforts to get blogs and news gathered into one place has usually involved either bloggers copying content from news sources, or news sources copying content from blogs...often without permission from the other. Neither is an ideal situation.

Enter news Kurry (거리)

(one kind of kurry/geori-this is the picture on the top banner of my blog)

A 거리 is (see the note at the end of the post), if I’ve got this right, the streets or the marketplace, in the sense of English idioms like “He knows the streets” or “Word on the streets...” It can also indicate a street that has a concentration of some one product - the office furniture street (Euljiro 4-ga) or the ddeokbokki street (Shindang) - so the title of the project-- Kurry (I’m not wild about the transliteration, but...) evokes a marketplace for media, news, and insights. The Kurry Project is a collaboration between the many bloggers on TNM, and the journalists at Yonhap News, which will ideally bring the best of both sides into one project:

Bloggers will be able to grab a Yonhap story (legally) and highlight the issues or background that make the story compelling, and Yonhap will be able to (legally) pick up that more in-depth report from the blogger and circulate it (legally) along the Yonhap news wire as a follow-up. Meanwhile, Yonhap gains from the immediacy and depth bloggers and social network news can provide, while bloggers involved in the project have a chance of being picked up by an international news wire, and will be able to introduce themselves, when digging for a story, as “from Yonhap news” instead of “from JennyTheKittyLover on TiStory”... big credibility jump there. Some bloggers will be the “curators” drawing out stories that could be improved with some knowledge or expertise from the combined knowledge of the bloggers involved.

Sounds good, right?

So keep this one on your radar... I’ll be interested to see how it works out.

(read about it in Korean here!)

One of my buddies who's closer to the Kurry Media project just contacted me with a little more to say about the name, to clear up some confusion we've had in the comments, and a bit more about the goal of the project:

Turns out the Kurry is meant to be a kind of a triple-play on words: Kurry can refer to the 거리 - the marketplace of ideas etc., as I described it above; it can also refer to 카래 - Curry, the Indian food, which is a mix of different flavors coming together in harmony, OR the main meaning, as a transliteration of 꺼리, a verb-modifying tag which is used in Korean like this: 읽을꺼리 means something to read, 볼꺼리 means something to see, 말꺼리, something to talk about, etc.. -- the Kurry project is meant to give people something to see, to read, to talk about, or to think about, that is keyed to their interests, rather than just the stuff newswires tell them to be interested in.

So, I hope that clears things up.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Korean Propaganda: North and South

Adeel, from "And With Your Help I'll Get That Chicken" has an interesting post comparing North and South Korean propaganda posters.

So go read it.

The comparison between the heavy-handed way the government talks to its people in the north, and in the south, serves to remind us both that South and North Korea aren't really that far removed, timewise, from being the same country (sixty or seventy years isn't a whole lot in geopolitical terms), and the real point of divergence might have only been as recent as 1987 or 1993, with South Korea's first democratic election, or South Korea's first election of a civilian president.

Though it's definitely different now... listen how similar the song is in this (admittedly old) North Korean tourism ad, to the music your taxi driver listens to, or to the music tracks playing in the background at a noraebang (karaoke room).

Some south Korea Trot music.

Yes, South Korean tourism advertising is better than that...

But the fact South Korea's tourism promotions have all been upstaged by some random tourist who happens to be a good video editor? Not good news.

Seriously, they should just hire this guy.

In general, I've observed that sentiment towards North Korea is mostly generational -- as South and North Korea have become less similar over time, those with less memory of times when North and South were similar feel less reason to hold onto the connections that remain. People under thirty seem to spend more time talking about the staggering economic burden North Korea would be as a province of South Korea, absorbed and needing support, while people over forty have bought into the "one people" thing comparatively more.

One of my students once dropped the interesting thesis that Western technology companies dread Korean unification, because North Korea's cheap labor combined with South Korea's technology know-how would enable South Korea's technology companies to dominate the world markets by undercutting the prices through reduced manufacturing costs.

Meanwhile, a left-leaning, Nork-friendly student I once had argued that if South and North Korea reunited, South Korea would become a nuclear capable nation, which it isn't right now, thanks to North Korea's nuke program, and that would raise Korea's status in the world. Although I suspect this might have been a prepared argument used to justify being North-friendly, as I've since heard that exact same argument, to the letter (or at least to the talking point) from a few other north-friendly people who were smart enough to know their "one blood, one people" stuff had run out of gas with anybody under forty, and perhaps they needed a different line.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ain't No Party Like a Pyongyang Party' Cause a Pyongyang Party is Absolutely Mandatory!

This remix of North Korean promotional footage, set to a party track, is pure genius.

Wish I'd thought of it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mark Zuckerberg is My Crack Dealer

I'm tired of the bimonthly Zuckerberg Hatedown that occurs whenever anything about Facebook changes.  That's all.

It takes 48 hours for everyone to get used to the new layout, and then we all whine again when it changes again.

If my drug dealer decides to stand in front of the Baskin Robbins instead of in front of the Subway, I'M still the one addicted to the product, aren't I? Why waste time whining "Hey dude. I had to wait thirty seconds for that crosswalk. Didn't used to have to do that. So... can I have a dime?"

That is all.

OK one more: Google plus never quite made it. I don't think it will.

And here's why:
Because with google behind it, it never got a chance to make its mistakes in obscurity.

Google didn't do a huge buildup to google docs, but just made it available, and waited for people to discover it was an awesome service. By the time a lot of people were discovering it, it had already worked out many of its initial glitches. With Google's last few social forays, it created a big buzz that a not-completely-finished product simply couldn't live up to.

Plus, Google will never again have that "outsider" cool that helped it in the beginning, that helped Facebook and Twitter get going.

Not to mention:
the SNS market's saturated. Supersaturated.
I don't want to sign up to another linkedin hi5 facebook myspace twitter WHATEVER the heck, have another place to log in, have another login and password to remember, and another place that might get hacked, and wade through overlapping services anyway.

So... until somebody invents the combinator that lets me click on ONE button, and be updated on my facebook, twitter, kakao, linkedin etc. services without having to visit five different places, I'm in. Call it FacebLinKakaoWitteReddit

Until then, I'm happy with what I have.

And no, I'm not signing up for reddit.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Abortion in Korea

My mom was a hard-core anti-abortion activist: she worked, and volunteered, for my town's "Right To Life" and unplanned pregnancy organizations, and a few times, we even took a few young, pregnant ladies who needed a place to stay into our home a few times. She even brought my little brother to the picket lines a few times. I can't think of an issue where I more clearly see, and sympathise with, both sides of the issue, than this one. Frankly, writing this post, this way, might upset some people who are very dear to me, who remain strongly opposed to abortion.

James Turnbull, of The Grand Narrative has a fascinating account of a Korean university student's attempt to procure an abortion in Korea. It includes being lectured about her loose lifestyle by a doctor (I've been told women buying birth control pills at a pharmacy sometimes also get "don't be such a floozy" lectures from pharmacists). It also discusses how the price has gotten way higher in Korea, because government officials think fighting to bring down Korea's high abortion rate (by persecuting doctors who perform abortions) is a good way to bring up the birthrate.

Which is about as wrong-minded as thinking that we can solve the traffic jam problem in Kangnam every day by raising the speed limits on the main roads, instead of by widening roads, improving bus lanes, discouraging the use of cars, encouraging development of telecommuting options, introducing congestion taxes in downtown areas, and building more subway lines. -- Abortions in Korea are a symptom of a larger problem, and fighting the symptoms doesn't solve the problem.

It's a complex topic, but here, in my opinion, is the choice:

1. Make pregnancy prevention education easily available, and make it easy (and non-humiliating) to obtain pregnancy prevention devices (birth control pills, prophylactics, etc.). This training should be for young men and women. Make birth control and morning-after pills over-the-counter. And fine pharmacists who receive a complaint for lecturing a woman on her lifestyle. Make the fine double for every repeat offense. He's a pharmacist, not a priest.

2. Make abortion affordable and accessible -- if you're not going to teach people how to avoid pregnancy, give them a way out of it.

3. Create/improve working social programs, daycare centers, and maternity protection laws, etc, that make sure that parents, and especially single mothers, no longer feel like having a baby will be the death of all her future career/education prospects.

Or maybe all three. Or at least one and three, so that if the religious right really does insist on banning adoption abortion, fewer women end up on that road by accident, and those who do end up on that road, have options.

... or we could go back to exporting unwanted babies, like back in the '80s when Korea was one of the world's largest sources of overseas adoptees. Did you know back in 1998 Kim Dae Jung actually apologized to Korean overseas adoptees. (more about Korean overseas adoption here)

Somebody I love a lot is currently in the process of getting a masters' degree in Canada as a single mother. And I LOVE that in Canada, it's possible for a single mother to aim at a masters' degree, rather than inevitably resigning herself to a career waiting tables. Until single (and married) women in Korea feel like they will still have options even after a baby is born, the abortion rate will continue to be high, and the birth rate will continue to be low.

But go read the story of getting an abortion in Korea. It's a little bit heartbreaking.

In the comments, somebody asked me to link this blog, which is an account of a "foreigner" getting an abortion in Korea.

It's a single-post blog, and it includes the line "I will only list one abortion provider in the Seoul area, because I believe he is worth the travel time" ...I'm sure there are other clinics where one could find similarly compassionate, and English-capable help, to say nothing of those who do not live around Seoul. Condoms break in Busan, too.

If anyone has a link or reference for doctors in other parts of the country, or others in Seoul, or wishes to put some kind of contact information into the comments on this post, so that people can contact them for a recommendation, feel free.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jesa Pizza

You should all go read Ms. Lee To Be's thoughtful blog post about tradition, in light of the picture of a pizza on a jesa table, that made the rounds on Korea's internet recently:

the main gist: we preserve dead things. To make preservation (rather than practice) a goal is also, in part, to surrender the belief that tradition remains relevant to our lives.

The Korean from Ask a Korean! wrote about how to do a Jesa a while ago, and has a (short) response to the pizza jesa here.

I wrote about Jesa once, a long time ago, too, upon reflecting on my mother's death of cancer.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chuseok Weekend, Gae-eun Park, Meetups and A Scare

Music soundtrack: EMA - Anteroom. If Elliot Smith were reincarnated as an emo girl, here's what it would sound like:  Hit play, and then start reading.

Did a few things over the weekend.


Among them:

Ate at Table 34 in the Grand Intercontinental Hotel at Coex with wifeoseyo... and that food was obscenely good.

Met some lovely lovely people on Tuesday, and had a few drinks and a nice walk and talk, near my home. Included in that crew were some of my favorite former coworkers, a few bloggers who shall go unnamed, and one irascible scoundrel who shall not be named, but whose face shall be shown here for the internet to see his shame.

DSCN8847.JPG copy

Now that the baby's coming soon, I have a feeling a lot of my hangout events will likely be somewhere near home, like this one was. Fortunately, I live somewhere AWESOME.

Met some OTHER lovely lovely people on Sunday night and had a picnic on an overpass. And some OTHER other lovely people on Friday night.

Ever meet a person who's just a cool-person magnet? Some people, somehow, always have lots of very smart, or interesting, or funny people around them. My best friend Matt, who left Korea, was like that, too -- you could count on people recommended by him, to be worth the time to get to know them. I'm happy to say I know another person like that.

But I won't tell you who, or you'll all want to hang out with him/her too, and then s/he won't have time to hang out with ME.

Another weekend highlight, though, was visiting 개운산공원 - Gae-eun Mountain Park - on the smallish mountain behind Korea University. It's a park that's not that easy to reach, shows evidence of being fairly recently built, or at least improved, and has a lot of open spaces where you can see some great views of the city, or let your kid run, without losing sight of them.

Spacious. Nice view. Not crowded. Noice.

Because it's not that easy to reach, it isn't crowded, either, the way Han River park, or the Cheonggyecheon always are when the weather's nice, and because there are trees on the mountainsides all around the park (as well as some trails through woods), despite being in the middle of the city, the air's fresher than you find in most places.


There's not quite enough there for an entire date, but it'd be a decent place to take the kids, or bring your camera, or just to chill with your buds. Maybe bring some bottles of wine and get talky. It's big and sprawling enough that a decent game of capture the flag could probably be played. Or, bring picnic materials, a frisbee, a soccer ball/football and badminton rackets and a very, very nice time could be had.

By foot: Go to Korea University subway station, exit 2. Go straight until you pass the GS 칼텍스 gas station, and take your first right. Head down that road until you see a a fork in the road, with one fork going up the hill. Follow road up hill around a bunch of curves until you reach a three way intersection. Go right, and you can't miss the park area. It'll about 35-30 minutes by foot, unless you're slow.

Or (if Daum Maps isn't lying), once you pass the gas station, across the street from the corner where you should turn right, take the small green bus "성북 20" and get off at "개운중학교" stop, and backtrack a little to find the three-way intersection that leads to the park.


The park has most of the trappings of other parks where seniors are fond of hanging out - and the demographic there definitely skewed older - so there are exercise machines (including some fairly new, and quite nice equipment in one corner - I tried it), but because it's up a hill, again, it's not as crowded with the seniors as Jongmyo Park is.

Instead, it looked like this: even on the Saturday of a Chuseok holiday.

There was also a health center, but I didn't really explore that.

Wifeoseyo was very impressed with big rocks that had beautiful Korean poetry carved into them: they're some of her favorite poems, she says.

One little corner of the park even had a little book booth.

The books are multipurpose.

Either this sign indicates there are speed bumps ahead, or there's a suntanning area nearby, too.

This was not the view from Gaeeun Park. It's the view from Bukak Skyway's little lookout point.
But I went there, too, and it was nice.

I also climbed a mountain with a group of people, and had a bit of a scare. I had a crappy breakfast, didn't do warmup stretches, and went too fast at the beginning, leading to a lightheaded spell the likes of which I haven't had before. The other hikers were kind enough to wait for me, and once I took it a little easier, I was OK for the rest of the hike... but that's never happened to me before, and it put a mini-scare into me. After all, when the zombies come, I want to be sure I have the endurance to protect my family, and keep going until they've all been beheaded, you know? A sharp machete is important, but so is a good cardio regimen.

As I pushed, and then passed 30 years old, I discovered that I can maintain the level of health/body type that I had in the 20s (which was pretty low-effort when I was in my 20s)... but it just takes me a little more work each year than it did the year before, and a hardcore dizzy spell on the entry slopes of Bukhan Mountain was a pretty clear sign it's time for me to put a little cardio into my regular routine. And that I'm not 22 anymore.


But other than that little scare, I had a great weekend. How about you?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Nice Galaxy Tab Ad...I Mean, Nice Patronizing Stereotype-filled "Visit Korea" ad...

Warning: there is one slightly NSFW image in this post. It's down where I'm talking about the Netherlands.

So there's this new ad that has been spotted in places like CNN.

Yeah. Soak it in.

I have a few problems with this ad:

First, it looks more like an ad for the Galaxy Tab (if that's what the guy's carrying) than an ad for Korea. Seriously. In fact, it would make more sense as a Galaxy Tab ad - "Samsung is supplying the whole world with tablet Germany" In that context, the ad would have made more sense.

Next, very few people wear their nation's traditional dress when traveling abroad. Even Texans usually leave their horses at home. And maybe even their Segways.

Also, who the hell asks THESE kinds of questions (in their own language) of a random stranger on the street?  "Is it true that you're the 7th largest exporter?" (I don't know how google works.)

Anyway, what would Koreans do if somebody approached them, dressed like Napoleon,

and asked them a question in French?

Here's what they'd do:

(an ad aimed at Koreans - "don't act QUITE so scared when you see a foreigner, or they'll know Korean hospitality is only for non-strangers")

The ad ends with a whole line-up of stereotypes walking towards the camera in some sort of a xenophobe's nightmare.

I've got Dutch background, so should I be upset that there isn't someone dressed like this in the ad?
Should I dress like that (or at least the boy version) when I travel abroad?

Or maybe, like the Arabian belly dancer on the far right at the end of the ad (who almost certainly doesn't even dress that way on the street in her own blessed country)...

I should dress like one of the Netherlands' other famous identifiers. (the source)

Or a Canadian mountie -- after all, one of the Queen's Guard is there.

Other screen shots from the ad, in case it gets pulled from youtube:

Key message: "Even though we think you're all cowboys, we want you to visit our country, Americans."
To their credit, at least the cowboy doesn't have a Russian accent, like those "American" teachers in some of those trashy scapegoaty TV shows.

I wonder how many cowboys know what bibimbap is.

Yes. In some middle-easternern countries, people do dress this way every day. When they travel abroad? Perhaps.

Seems a little elaborate for a travel outfit... then again, I passed a pair of harajuku girls on a street in Hongdae a few saturday nights ago.

"Excuse me. I got lost on the way to the ballroom."

"Galaxy Tab: all the information you need to help random, oddly-dressed strangers"

Here's the whole crew of them in Gwanghwamun Square.

 Including Connor MacLeod

A Hopak dancer (I think)

A flamenco dancer. (correct me if I'm wrong on any of these)

A... shaolin monk, perhaps? Because Koreans wear Taekwondo uniforms when they travel abroad.

Oh. And a tall African wearing a brightly-colored toga. He's in the back row, so I can't tell whether he's carrying a spear, or if there's a bone in his nose. (we've seen worse, but still...)

A mexican with a sombrero. (At least they couldn't find anyone who was mexican, or looked mexican, and was shameless enough to wear a sombrero for the camera)

By the way, the Cowboy's name...
is cowboy.

This brazilian lady was busy: she had to go straight from the parade float to the airport.

I can't quite tell who this guy's supposed to be.

Thankfully, the American Indian (complete with feather, facepaint and buckskin pants) DID end up on the cutting room floor. Barely.
Rest in peace, Iron Eyes Cody.

I think that if everybody else is wearing their national stereotyped clothes, they should put the Korean guy in a hanbok, or at least a taekwondo uniform, for one thing. I don't know how this ad is going to impress anyone enough to decide to come to Korea, when one of the messages it seems to communicate is "Hey. We don't know anything except the broadest stereotypes of your country. So why don't you broaden your horizons by coming to a country where our ad implies that people will expect you to wear a sombrero if you're from mexico." And if this ad were to reflect the actual flows of tourists to Korea, then the elephant in the room is, "Why so few South and Southeast Asian outfits?" Not even an Indian sari? Or one of those fantastic Thai headdresses?

There are other ways to have communicated that these people are from other countries, than dressing them like friggin' Napoleon - flags on backpacks, or you could even have a flag show up on the corner of the screen, or floating above their head like the character info on an online role play game, without diving into this "let's dress foreigners in silly costumes" mess.

I don't know if it quite heads into straight-up offensive territory, but it is definitely, definitely tone deaf. And if my sources are correct, and I'm pretty sure they are, the producers were told this ad was wrong-minded, patronizing and maybe a little racist, on no uncertain terms, and they ran it anyway. So... I guess they were keeping those westerners around to make their office feel international, and not because the people promoting Korea actually care what foreigners think about their "visit Korea" ads.

and yeah, this ad, seen by Koreans, will do a good job of making Koreans feel good about Korea.

But that's not the point of international Korean tourism promotions, is it? And it hardly requires buying ad space on CNN, when KBS or MBC will reach more Koreans anyway. Hell, why not just have the narration in Korean?

Saturday, September 03, 2011


Nothing like a joke at my own expense to end my week.

Mutual facebook friends will recognize the source by the photo next to it, the rest of you will just have to ask, "Who was that masked man?"

and I can only answer this:

Friday, September 02, 2011

Climbed Dobong Monain. Killed My Legs.

Turns out Dobong Mountain is a steep bastard of a mountain to climb. I was out of practice, so it took days before I could do things like stairs again.

But once you get to the top it's crunking beautiful.

Here's a panorama I took last wednesday. Click on the image for a full-size picture.

Don't be a Dick

This came to my attention earlier this week... I think somebody linked it on twitter. Anyway, Phil Plait is a skeptic, but the stuff he says about the ways people try to persuade other people on the internet, are worth a good hard look. Especially if one often finds oneself butting heads with other people.

Summary, and these are as close to the "golden rules of internet commenting" as you can find:

1. it's not what you say, it's how you say it
2. don't be a dick -- back in my "complaining expats" days, I once wrote that "when you talk so harshly, even when you're right, you're wrong, and even if you win the argument, you still lose"

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Best line: "Is your goal to score cheap points, or is your goal to win the damn game?"

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Update on Babyseyo

last friday we went into the hospital for a pregnancy update, and...

that's right. We saw a gochu.

And along the way, I've figured out that, at least in my opinion, there is one situation in which it's perfectly OK and non-controversial to show people a close-up picture of your son's willie:

when it's an ultrasound. Once that baby's out of his mom, it just ain't kosher anymore. (Sorry, Borat. No, I'm not including a link to the picture.)