Archive for the 'weird korea' Category

Shameless Plugging

I once again, by the way, would like to put in a plug for a great Korea blog, The Grand Narrative.  If you want to really learn about Korean culture, this is the blog you should read.

Some of my favourite posts (for sake of ease, for the most part I have only linked to the first part of multi-part posts):

Women’s Bodies in Korea’s Consumer Society, Part 1: Their Neo-Confucian Heritage

The Korean Education System and its Consequences for Adults: Part 1

Why Korean Girls Don’t Say No: Contraception Commercials, Condom Use and Double Standards in South Korea

Deconstructing Korean Women’s Attitudes to Lingerie, Bikinis and their Bodies in the 2000s

Koreans, Criticism, and the Korean Language

Why Lee Hyori’s Breasts are a Metaphor for Korean Celebrity Culture

Women’s Bodies in Korea’s Consumer Society, Part 3 (Final): Nation, Family, Self (part 3 is my favourite, though 1 and 2 are good, and linked to)

Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese (and Korean) Woman

Japanese Schoolgirl Sex Codes

The Economist on Japanese Labour Market Flexibility: Lessons for Korea

Flatting, Premarital Sex and Cohabitation in Korea, Part 1: Economics vs Korean Culture

Korea to replace TOEFL, SAT tests…

From Brian in Jeollanamdo:

If you were the Minister of Education and your country consistently ranked among the worst at English standardized tests in the world, in spite of students spending thousands of dollars each for years or decades studying exclusively for them, what would you do? You’d scrap the test, of course. 

Man, talk about shooting yourself in both feet.  Way to go, Korea, way to go.  Good luck getting your kids into schools abroad.  Oh, wait, maybe that’s not such a great idea anyway, considering that almost half of them quit/flunk out of schools abroad anyway.  Maybe you should just stick with buying residency in foreign countries or having your children adopted by American families, both so that you can qualify to send them to an international school in Korea.  For a country that puts so much emphasis on preparing for tests, it amazes me that they do so abysmally.

Oh man, it just keeps getting better.

Meatpuppet Angst


This is probably the best Englishee I have found yet! I cracked up in the middle of the street when I saw this. Loudly. I seriously had tears in my eyes when I handed the guy the money.

I don’t use bags like this, but I absolutely had to get this, to document it. If anyone wants it, let me know.  I’ll charge you the $9 it cost me plus a couple bucks of shipping.


Lunch today was spam.



How to fend off evangelical Koreans…

Korea, for some reason or another, has a tremendous number of various sorts of evangelical Christians.  There are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses galore, as well as your standard run-of-the-mill crazy Southern Baptist you-will-burn-in-hell-for-dancing type evangelicals.  And man, they are really evangelical.  Very persistent, and very bold in stating their beliefs.  In class the other day, we were talking about Tibet, and I mentioned that I have met the Dalai Lama, and one of the students blurted out “Some day I want to meet him and tell him that he needs to find God or he and all his people will burn in hell.”.  Those are her verbatim words.  I honestly didn’t know how to respond to such a thing being said in an academic setting, and so I just nervously changed the subject.

However, I digress.

I mentioned the high number (and high tenacity) of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses at the beginning, and that’s really what this (originally supposed to be humorous) post is about.  I get approached at LEAST 2-3 times a week by one or more of them (they often travel as families, and they all speak excellent English), and I have begun to find it downright irritating.

But recently, I have discovered a really hilarious way to deal with it.

They almost all start off by saying something akin to “Do you have a moment?  I’d like to tell you about my faith.” before they start off on trying to hook you or push their literature into your (generally unwilling) hands.  Well, I have begun to have a bit of fun with this.  After that first question/statement, they generally ask “Are you a Christian?”.  I have begun to answer this with “Well, I’m a Quaker.” (which I consider to be true, these days) when they ask said question.  They almost invariably reply with “What is a Quaker?”, to which I reply…

“Well, do you have a moment?  I’ll tell you about it…”

The look of panic on their faces when they realize their own tables have been turned on them is priceless, and they almost always begin to stutter and then eventually leave.  Yay for beating them at their own game.  It has become quite entertaining, actually.

crossposted to Shut Up and Listen


This is a post from July 18th that got lost in my masses of drafts.  It’s a bit out of date, but entertaining, I think:

As Marc said yesterday, “Life with [me] is always an adventure…”. Yesterday was no exception.

I got off work at 11, because my co-teacher had to go to Gwangju to pick his son up from high school (public schools have small dormitories here for students who don’t live conveniently close), so I came back to the apartment and finished my lesson plans for the camp I work a week from now, and then Marc and I picked something off the tourist map for Jindo and headed there on a bus, after dealing with the stationmaster, who I suspect sees me as a bit of a moron because I can’t read their bus schedule.

We headed to Namdoseokseong, a 13th century fortress that still has all of its walls intact, and a reconstruction of a couple of the buildings inside. The neatest part, to me, is that people still live almost entirely inside the walls, in the village. There were only 3-4 houses that were outside the walls. What was even neater was that the old roads and stone irrigation ditches were still there and still being used, virtually unchanged. I’m pretty sure that none of the houses inside were original, but many of them used the traditional stone/mud/thatch construction that was used for most of Korean history, so it was virtually the same as it would have been. Don’t worry, I will post photos soon.

Where the nuts part starts is actually when we LEFT the fort.

So, we had checked when the next bus left the station before we left, and then figured we’d track how long it took us to get there the first time, and then just add that to the new departure time, to figure out when to catch the bus back. By our calculations, it should have come around 5:15, so we got to the bus stop around 5. A few minutes after we got there, three old women were dropped off at the bus stop by a tractor, so we assumed that was a good sign that we were at least somewhat right about the timing. Nope. 5:15 passed. 5:30 passed. Around 5:30 the women were picked up by a car. That was disheartening. Around 5:50 I tried to talk to some old men who were just sitting around one of the buildings about having them call a taxi. They said, basically, “bus in 10 minutes!”. So I went back to the bus stop, since they seemed to think that it was better just to wait. Around this time, I decided to explore the tidal flats behind the bus stop. While chasing a crab around, I took a wrong step, sunk ankle-deep into the mud, and lost my shoe. I then had to dig around in the mud for my shoe, resulting in one muddy arm and one muddy leg (the other leg wasn’t exactly clean either). I rinsed myself off in an only slightly cleaner stream, and then found a utility sink to rinse off the dirty water. We waited around 20 minutes after I had talked to the old men. No bus. By that time, the men had disappeared. Around 6:30, two cars worth of Koreans pull up, get out of the car with a camera and tripod, and gesture towards us. We assume they want us to take a photo of them in front of the fort, so I agree. As it turns out, they want us IN the picture. Foreigners here are a bit of a spectacle, so this is not the first time I have been grabbed to be in a random photo. It’s a bit demeaning, but whatever. So we let them have us in their weird family/friend photo, and then since we did THEM a favor I asked them to call us a taxi, since their 8 year old son spoke some English. They gladly called, and the taxi finally came around 7:00 and we were back in Jindo around 7:30ish.

I am often entertained by this sort of zaniness that is so pervasive in Korea, though sometimes, such as that day, I do find it more on the frustrating end of the spectrum.  Makes life an adventure though, as Marc found out while he was here.  You have to be very flexible here in Korea, or you’ll go crazy.  It’s something I thought I was good at in the US, but Korea takes it to a whole new level, and I’m still adjusting, two months in.

Here’s a photo from the bus ride there that day:

“Fan Death”

While he was here, Marc and I came up with a phrase that we say whenever we discover something very odd about Koreans/Korean culture (typically some belief or another, typically an ignorant one):  “Fan Death”

Koreans believe that if you have a fan on and the windows closed, you will die, because fans “steal your air”.  There are even warnings on the boxes, and they all have timers with a maximum of 3 hours.  They also believe that if a pet is left alone with a fan in the room, that it will explode.  Not just suffocate (as they believe humans do), but spontaneously explode.  It’s absolutely absurd, and at the same time rather humorous.  Thus, when something similarly odd about Korea comes up, we both look at eachother and say “Fan Death”.  It’s an inside joke, and one that won’t get much use now that he isn’t here, but it does make me chuckle.

Generally, I am very accepting of odd cultural beliefs, but the Koreans have several (such as the examples I just gave) that just reek of plain old ignorance, and so I can’t help but laugh.


And because I hate making posts that don’t contain a photo, here, have a visual-overload one from Marc and I’s visit to Cheongpyeongsa temple in Gangwondo:

Sometimes I think that monks must be into psychedelics…

January 2021

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