Daily Life in Korea 55

I enjoy walking home in spring.  I enjoy walking outside.  I enjoy that lots of other people are walking outside.  I enjoy the sunshine and the flowers.  I enjoy that my walking is useful instead of recreational.  I am walking to go some place.  And yes, it is enjoyable, at least part of the time, while I am providing my own “transportation”.  But I never go for a walk to “go for a walk”.  That just seems like an inefficient use of my resources.

a new sales tactic

“Selling a rice cooker? How much?”

“15 dollars.”

“Why you selling it?”

“Dying, won’t be needing it anymore.  So you interested in it?  I can knock five dollars off.”

That’s not exactly what I said but I think the feeling was pretty similar.

Daily Life in Korea 54

A Korean man with a badge and some device rang my doorbell.  He said the word foreigner in Korean and then spoke to me in Korean.  He handed me his badge which was in Korean.  I handed it back and closed the door and heard him express his frustration in a traditional Korean noise.

This made me think about how I have lived in a country for almost three years where it is okay to express disappointment and frustration towards people because of systematic roles.  And how when disappointment and frustration are expressed as an attack against an object, regardless of the object’s own state of being, it’s very discouraging and breaks down communication.  At least for me it did, because I closed the door on him.

Daily Life in Korea 48

Today consisted of finally nice spring weather, a sick mother, a student hugging me, learning that students will be quiet if you won’t raise your voice (will to power, baby), and that Korean mothers teach their sons to pee in public.  Yes, I actually saw a mom holding her son’s penis and then shaking it for him – all outside right next to a four-lane street.  There is a reason Korea smells like a giant out-house all summer.  Thankfully your brain quits processing that smell after three days.  Unfortunately everything has traces of urine on it still.

Daily Life in Korea 47

I have been watching the South Korean drama King 2 Hearts.  It is clearly popular as demonstrated by its ratings.

However, it is a bit of a crazy show.  Somehow the line of kings is still going strong in South Korea although North Korea is still communist.  And there is a 3rd annual worldwide military officer competition with delegations from each country.  Apparently American won twice.  Also, there is a sinister Club M ran by some wacko Korean man who thinks he should be the rightful King of Korea based on his heritage randomly being that of Korean.  However, Club M is a manufacturer of weapons bought by countries all over the world and seemingly the most powerful international corporation in the world.  I could go on like the loser second son of the royal family is in the competition with an amazing North Korean female soldier who bests all the guys and just desperately wants to married instead of being a soldier anymore, but that kind of thing is just normal K-drama fantasy.

There are two problems I have with this drama: Korean language usage and the theory the drama espouses that if the two Koreas were left to their own devices, they would unify because they are brothers and understand each other (subplot: foreigners are bad).

Yes, I am biased – I hold an American passport and I have lived in Korea long enough to realize their fear and mistrust of foreigners applies to all people, except for other Koreans.

Okay, in the drama Kings 2 Hearts, a lot of Korean is used.  Koreans from North and South speak to each other easily and the North Koreans even know some South Korean sogs.  But Koreans also speak Korean to foreigners and international audiences …  in fact, at one point in episode 3 a soldier yells at UN forces to speak Korean.  That seems incredibly insane except for the Secretary-General of the United Nations is Ban Ki-moon – A KOREAN!  Therefore, it is plainly logical that Korea has proven itself the dominant power in the world and all people should learn to speak Korean.  (That was sarcasm, by the way.)

Now, the counter-argument could be made that it would be INCREDIBLY OFFENSIVE if a UN task force came to ANY COUNTRY and spoke only English and expected the host country to provide their own translators.  However, I strongly doubt that is ever the case and even in the episode there was a translator to translate what the South Korean prince  yells at the UN task force.  Even some of what the prince says seems to be directed to complaints about strongest countries in the UN forcing their policies upon weaker countries.  But I refer you back to Ban Ki-moon and the opinion that he increased the preference of South Korean officials in the UN after his election.  South Korea of all countries is hardly in a position to claim to be treated unfairly by the UN.
Another argument I could see for the heavy presence of Korean speech is the drama’s audience is Korean.  Except for that isn’t true.  Korean dramas and music are seen as global market products.  They might not be popular in America or Europe, but they are popular in China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.  So, clearly using less English isn’t because the main audience speaks Korean isn’t true.  Besides, Koreans watch entire movies in English with subtitles.  A few more lines in English instead of Korean might be hard for the actors who fumble the words HORRIBLY, but only real Westerners will notice that – not any of the intended audiences.
Now, on to the foreigner debacle.  It is not true that Korea would be unified if China and the US minded their own business.  In fact, either Japan would have erased Korean culture forever or Korea would be unified and a Chinese communist puppet.  That is the only way it would have gone.  If America and Russia hadn’t liberated Korea from Japan – they would be Japanese.  Maybe Korean culture could have survived (there is that holiday they celebrate about their successful protest) and perhaps Japan would have got tired of looking after Korea and given them independence …. but they would have been Japan’s bitches like they already were until Japan said otherwise.  I guess it is easier to look at history and imagine a different, grass-is-greener scenario.
Say Russia and America still divide Korea.  North and South Korea were always going to go to war.  Because Asians like the idea of playing their own colonialism games or just because they are comfortable using force.  Yes, North Korea sneak attacked South Korea.  Do brothers roll out tanks and kill each other?  Over the idea of owning dark-skinned people as slaves-yes!  Also, apparently to force people to become communists and gain land.  So, I think South Koreans are a bit naive about how the North Korean government and people feel about them.  If America hadn’t promised to help South Korea and didn’t have a vested interest in promoting American-French modern democracy in the world to counter the negative influence of communism … well then.  Before America entered, the North Koreans had conquered up to Busan.  After America entered, they were taking North Korean territory (who is the sweet, kind pacifist Korea now?) until China intervened.  So, yes – IT IS TRUE – China and America have no reason to support unification of North and South Korea.  But then again, neither do you Koreans?  You just keep hoping unification happens by the internal collapse of the other government and after you die or have immigrated to another country that wouldn’t be negatively economically impacted by unification.
Maybe South Korea attacked North Korea first (Koreans fighting Koreans here is my point).
Okay, yeah, I understand.  Foreigners done you wrong.  You share history, culture, and poor food choices with the other Korea.  But the other Korea tries to kill you, fool!  Sigh, how many American torpedoes have sunk South Korean submarines lately?  I just want to shake my head.  You can deny reality as much as you want, but North Korea only hates one country more than South Korea – and that is America.  Because South Korea is the American puppet government according to the northern brethren.
Honestly, I think the drama goes to the use of Korean instead of English and the unification is possible as long as China and America stay out because Koreans really do resent foreigners.  If foreigners hadn’t coerced them and enslaved them, they could have achieved more … More like what you ask?  A hermit kingdom that got it’s ass kicked because it couldn’t defend itself.  (The Japanese aren’t better, I am not writing that, I am just saying Korea lost.)  After the South Korea prince insults the UN group in King 2 Hearts and the UN group’s leader miraculously apologizes for not being more deferential, then the prince ignores the UN’s requests and kicks them out (of North Korea).  All the Koreans rejoice because the score is now Korea 1 – foreigners 0.
And that attitude is the problem I have with King 2 Hearts.  The message I get as a foreigner is “Mind your own business.  We might like your donuts and your tourism and your congratulatory praise – but don’t try to have a dialogue with us.  We resent your interference.”  It makes me sad because as an American, I see my country incorporate lots of different ethnicities and voices.  But as an American, I can only be a temporary tourist (or cash cow) in many parts of the world (like Asia).  It makes my opinion almost irrelevant so why should I temper it at all? After all, it is certain to be dismissed regardless.
Future problems with King 2 Hearts may include the idea that they have a shot at winning the international military tournament.
Or why the leader of Club M doesn’t just overthrow both Korean governments in a direct coup d’état.

Daily Life in Korea 46

We were talking about Girls’ Generation yesterday and unfortunately my American neighbor knows all of their names! (He blames his Korean college roommate but I have some misgivings.)

So, Girls’ Generation or 소녀시대 (So Nyeo Shi Dae) is a wildly popular vocal group consisting of nine female members.

So, we were joking about their names being “Sunny, Cloudy, Rainy and Sleety,” when my neighbor added “Meatballs”.  Now Meatballs is everyone’s favorite Girls’ Generation member.  Remember her name is plural.