Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Bit of Support

Sean Hayes's take on how the racist minority in Korea and other power structures are preventing Korea from becoming a real multinational player. If they do host the G20 in 2010 expect me to be outside with picket sign, unconstitutional law against daytime assembly still on the books or not.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thank You, Something Awful

SA is a hit-and-miss place, but here are two hits for the Korean audience:

(and as a footnote lemme say Korean allergy medicine makes me feel really funny ... like even if I was still sneezing it'd be cool, man)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Word for Wedgie!~

Sorry, Kim.

엣찌 있게 (et-chi it-ge)

(I actually saved it on my phone as a memo and forgot ... shame on me!)

Kim tells me that this is just a word for "Edgy," as in fashion-forward. Konglishlly speaking, that makes perfect sense. Back to the drawing board.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The WTO and Soju ... an Unlikely Meeting

First, an open letter to the Korean Government:

Korean Government:

Most of the wealthy nations on Earth found their way there through exploitation and protectionism. The European powers and their colonies, America and its taxes and thievery. (America did not join the Berne Convention against intellectual piracy until they--blush--we-- stood more to lose from Chinese piracy than to gain from pirating European works.) Japan through its exploitation of you and others.

Your protectionistic taxes are legendary, even among your own people. The US has called in the WTO to see you tax beer and diluted soju equally, and right they are that you are favoring one beverage over the other, by rates of almost 80%.

But I did not acquire a taste for the cheap stuff to see its price raised! Fight to the bitter end! (Or lower the damn taxes on Bourbon and Scotch, already. Actually maybe that's a better ... no you won't do that, nevermind.)



Second, an explanation:

If you've been in Korea more than a few minutes, you've probably noticed the price discrepancy between the ubiquitous soju (the cheap stuff, not the traditional drink) and beer. Beer: over 1000 won/can, domestic, over 3000won/bottle, imported (one "standard drink"). Soju: about 1000 won/bottle (6 "standard drinks").

(For information on "standard drinks":

If you've been in Korea more than a day, you've probably tasted soju, out of curiousity and the desire to save, and likely been appalled. If you've been here a few months, you may have acquired a taste. Or, as a friend of mine put it when asked if he liked soju: "I like to be drunk." (Notice flavor is not mentioned.)

The price difference--Why?

History and taxes.

The cheap stuff came about just after the war. According to Wikipedia (look, this is a blog, not academia, okay?), the Korean government prohibited distilllation from rice to alleviate food shortages resulting from the ravagings of the war. (

But according to scholars at American University (please ignore the name, it actually is a decent university), this was more of a "leftover" from Japanese colonialism than an action by the postwar government. (, section 2, paragraphs 3-4.)
The Japanese controlled brewing and only licensed to certain supporters, yet somehow soju slipped through the cracks ... the cite I give is not at all clear on why or how and I invite anyone to add to this discussion.

My well-educated friend Kim who, though he does not know the word for wedgie, see, is quite smart, has told me an anecdote: The Japanese government allowed and encouraged certain alcohol to slip through the cracks to encourage drunkenness, and thus complacency, among the occupied people. This explanation makes particular sense when you consider that the name, even, is similar to a similar Japanese product, shochu. ( I wouldn't do it in a paper but it's a blog, forgive me.) Given the numerous historical cultural exchanges between Korea and Japan this evidence isn't much, but it's enough for me to believe Kim and type a bit more.

Point is, soju was cheap and people drank it.

Now as you might now if you've ever encountered people and taxes, people don't like taxes on things they do. They like taxes on things other people do. Tax the wrong thing and you've got an uprising, regardless of the logic or justification.

So if everybody drinks soju, do you tax it? Not unless you want a revolution. But what about those western liquours favored by the rich under Japanese rule and the kids today? Tax 'em to death. 100%. No joke.

This is where the WTO steps in. Soju is cheap because its tax rate is closer to 20%. The US complains to the WTO that the preferential taxation is economic protectionism, which it is in actuality--there isn't any soju importation going on in Korea. And the WTO has since ordered Korea to bring its taxes in line, which the government is (slowly) doing.

So beware, soju drinkers. Soon that green bottle of poison may cost nearly $2.


Archery is Great, but I Need to Remember to Use My Camera

Mmm hmm.

So for the third time, I have gone, camera in hand to the local Korean Traditional Archery Club (name forthcoming when I remember it) and been trained, yet I still have yet to pull my camera out of my bag and take pictures. There's not a whole lot visually of note, honestly. Some grapevines growing to shade the seating area. Standing places and targets. A very nice lounge with quite a collection of trophies spanning 15 years.

What's more important is that there was a traditional archery group in Wonju, and I didn't know about it until months after my temple stay (where traditional archery was part of the fare). It's great. Training is one month (if you come every day) or three if, like me, you can only make weekends. For a couple of hours per day you learn technique from the sabonim and patience waiting for him to tell you do practice more while he works with the many others there.

Sometime in the near future (like when it gets cold and I will be crazy to go), I'll be able to actually fire on the range with my friend Jack, who introduced me (thanks, Jack!). Until then I will be strengthening back muscles, gaining callouses on fingers, and shooting ... nothing ... into the air.

But after a month, when I can actually pull a "real" bow, they'll let me shoot ... the arrow tethered to a rope for beginners. A month after that comes the real fun of missing far away targets repeatedly while my instructor shakes his head, seeing that I only absorbed half of what he taught me.

But hey, it's a start. And they're actually very helpful and patient, to be teaching to a non-Korean-speaker (I speak some but am not "flex your elbow and aim about thirty degrees while holding your breath" level).

Too bad I'm a vegan ... lookout remaining wildlife! I will be able to shoot somewhere in your general vicinity in a couple of months!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mandatory Reading

With more detail on the Anti-English Spectrum, their fraudulent statistics, and their connections than you could ever want.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ATEK Gets All Presidential and I Get Representative; HOPE in Wonju

The controversial teachers' union ( has had its first presidential election and Greg Dolezal is president.

Go Greg. (I've never met the guy but he's done good work in the press arena.)

I'm the Gangwon-do hagwon representative, officially contactable at gangwon [dot] hagwon [at] (the atek domain).

So far I've managed to help one person (actually in another province) with some ammo against his hagwon director who was paying neither pension nor medical insurance nor promised vacation days. Updates on that later.

For why we need a teachers' union, see:
The "mandatory viewing" below
Any tale of hagwon workers getting ripped off by their bosses, sometimes getting sued for trying to warn others, like this one:
And this, for those who thought public schools were safer:

And a hundred others.

Important Event Dates:
Sep 26 KOTESOL Gangwon-do gathering in Wonju (free pizza!)
Oct 10 (tentative) ATEK Gangwon-do gathering in Wonju (probably lots of soju since Jack and I will be in charge!)
Early Nov. (obviously tentative) Habitat for Humanity Build

Anyone who happens to want to volunteer teaching or otherwise, please comment/email. We're using contacts from HOPE and around Wonju/Gangwon-do to try to set up a HOPE-like thing (but less formal, less paperwork). About HOPE:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mandatory Viewing

It takes a few minutes ... but wait until you hear about the Ministry of Justice.

Really people like the group you see are in the minority in my experience ... but we all know what a powerful, vocal minority can do. (Or in this case, has done.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No Word for Wedgie

The lifejacket had under-leg straps, which pulled our swimsuits up into "you-know-where."

Just a week ago, at Ocean World, I swear Park taught me a simple word for "wedgie." (After watching several women in bikinis go down a very steep slide, it was highly topical.)

So I asked Kim, "Kim, what's the Korean word for wedgie?"

"Well, we don't have a noun." (We must note that Kim is getting his Master's in English right now and was reading "English Syntax" on the van.)

"We say 'Butt ate trousers.' "

"Eongdongi-ga paji-rul meogeotda." (Politely: meogeosseoyo. But really, is this a "polite" topic?")

Somebody, tell me a noun for wedgie. It's not that I want to prove Kim wrong. It's that, like intelligent life, or peaceful coexistance .... I know it's out there.

[No picture ... is there an appropriate picture? I don't think so. So no picture.]