≡ Menu

Hot Christmas-in-Korea Gift Idea: Long Underwear, Warm Socks

To save energy this winter, Yonhap News reports the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) has decreed that from Jan. 3 to Feb. 22, corporations’ office buildings shall be required to keep the thermometer set not higher than 20° Celsius, or a brisk 68° Fahrenheit, and ban the use of personal electric heaters in the workplace. For those who work in a public-agency building, the plan is to freeze you out at 18° Celsius, or an even brisker 64° Fahrenheit. Dress warmly!

Mornings, especially, should be fun, as MKE has also directed that between 10:00 a.m. and noon, the heat should be on for 30 minutes and then off for 30 minutes, in order to reduce demand at the peak time while offices are trying to warm up after the cold, cold night. Additionally, neon signs must be switched off during peak hours of 5:00-7:00 p.m. and businesses will be prohibited from leaving doors open while running the heat (we’re looking at you, Myong-dong!).

By these measures, MKE hopes to compel a 3-10% reduction in energy consumption at 6000 workplaces nationwide which use more than 3000 gW of electricity per month.

Some facilities, such as airports, public transportation facilities, hospitals, schools, kindergartens, public housing, religious facilities, and traditional markets are exempt from energy-use restrictions. Of course they are. So the subway can be just as hot as it’s always been. Work up a sweat before you freeze your balls off in the office!

I’m not allowed to mention why Korea faces a power emergency this winter, lest I be accused of Raaaaacism! but it has something to do with Bribe Club.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    That will be fun at my office.

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Forewarned is forearmed. I kind of wish MKE would outlaw blaring endless-loop Christmas music on public loudspeakers. That’s started in earnest outside my office, and on the 11th Floor it’s loud and clear and driving me crazy.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    Pussies.

    SWMBO has set our thermo at 18.

    I fight back with my charge account at Smart Wool and Pendleton.

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Like I said, long underwear and warm socks. Thanks for the tip on SmartWool®. I would never have imagined there is a market for woolen thong underwear, but there it is. And I have to admit, looking at their model did make me feel a little warm.

  • holterbarbour

    I’ll believe it when I see/feel it. I don’t know if it’s peculiar to my company or if the whole building is like this, but they only seem to care about temperature regulations in the summer (which prohibit thermostats being set above 25 degrees, I believe). One of our 부장 keeps a thermometer on his desk, and I don’t think I saw it drop below 27 C (~80 F) last summer… or winter. Only this Monday did I stop using a fan at my desk– I replaced it with a cool mist humidifier blowing right in my face instead. All of my coworkers would love to crack a window open, but most days that would be too noisy due to the Ministry of Health and Welfare (downstairs) having attracted a crowd of angry and very vocal protesters outside. While I’m not big on nitpicking regulations like this, I sure hope they enforce this one.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    I’d be delighted if our staff room was always 18 degrees in winter, especially when I first come in. The heater in one of my English rooms can’t get it up to that temperature when it’s really cold and no sun’s coming through the windows.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I’m not allowed to mention why Korea faces a power emergency this winter, lest I be accused of Raaaaacism! but it has something to do with Bribe Club.

    What??? Raaaaacism in Bribe Club??? I’ll take the moral high ground and say it: Bribe Club should only see one color — Green.

    Leave it to Koreans to even muck up Bribe Club.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I’m sorry. Leave it to some Koreans to muck up Bribe Club.

  • brier

    Female office staff in winter with blankets over their skirts and an electric heater blazing nearby, while sipping some hot green tea in the morning is a quintessential requirement. This new regulation will worsen the office 분위기. A bunch of women angry is no fun. How will documents get processed? Indeed any work done at all?

  • gbnhj

    In this case, shouldn’t it be ‘forewarned is forewarmed’?

  • gmm

    If you want to avoid offense, I believe it would be more cricket/gender-inclusive to say “…freeze your balls or twat off in the office”

  • http://geoju.kr fanwarrior

    I really wish public transit would be included in this. At least the buses. You only take a bus outside where you are bundled up. Do we really need them running at 28 degrees when everyone is dressed for winter weather?
    Koreans can apparently take it, but if I’m on the bus more than 5 minutes in the winter, I nearly drown in sweat.
    Same with the subway. It’s a little different, because most stations are indoors to some degree and trips are usually longer, but it still doesn’t need to be 28 degrees there, 22 or 24 should be fine.

  • http://geoju.kr fanwarrior

    and has anyone actually found decent long underwear here? like traditional white long johns?

  • http://tesslerdavis.tumblr.com/ jd

    But the buses need to be that hot, because otherwise how is the stale cigarette stink coming off the guy beside going to get baked into my jacket?

  • http://tesslerdavis.tumblr.com/ jd

    The stale smoke’s affecting my typing, it seems.

    …coming off the guy sitting beside me going to get…

  • nospam

    MKE is full of it. And what does a Ministry of Knowledge Economy actually do? Make the Economy work smartly, or economize knowledge? Looks like the latter.

    How about, just keeping doors and windows closed!

    If the government wants to save energy, start with the building codes. Double paned gas filled windows around, weather stripping on doors and windows that does its job, and insulation insulation insulation.

    Double paned windows have caught on here, but they cloud, so no gas. And the wind howls around my apartment’s 2 year old insulated doors and double paned windows. There’s insulation in my walls but not much. And I think there’s none in the floor or ceiling, because my neighbors heat my bedroom for free every winter.

  • http://koreanlanguagenotes.blogspot.com/ gbevers

    What a terrible name for a ministry! Can you imagine how embarrassing it must be for the minister to introduce himself at parties? “Hi, I’m Minister of Knowledge Economy.”

    Why not simply call it “Ministry of Information and Economic Affairs”? They should, at the very least, put an “and” between “Knowledge” and “Economy.” However, Ministry of Knowledge still sounds too Orwellian for my ears.

  • R. Elgin

    I fight back with my charge account at Smart Wool and Pendleton.

    Funny that. Smartwool does not ship to Korea so I had to send my gear to my sister, who then mailed me my gear.

    You guys are mean to make fun of the Ministry of Knowing. If they really wanted to save electricity, they should have paid attention to the little things that really add up and is in every home in South Korea.

  • hamel

    Oh well, at the end of Lee Myung-bak’s 5 year term, we may not have any more power plants, but at least we have the 4 Rivers that are clean and good now, and Hyundai Construction is healthy-ish again. Phew. Dodged a bullet there.

    Also, it’s a good thing that the Korean economy didn’t grow 747 style, as Lee once promised. Can you imagine the power savings we’d need in winter?

  • John from Daejeon

    You can get SmartWool products shipped to South Korea via companies like Amazon and REI, but they are a bit pricey for Chinese made goods. I guess they are the Apple of the underwear business.

  • JW

    AHAHAHAH This is too funny. Glad I’m still living in the country that’s now expected to become the no 1 energy producer in a few years. Nobody ever told you to leave, IDIOTS!

  • slim
  • dokdoforever

    Korean companies have already signed deals to import shale gas. The first shipment is due in 2014.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/08/lpg-korea-us-idUSL3E8M813Q20121108

  • Bendrix

    These gifts are right up there with ugly sweaters as being the worst to get.

  • R. Elgin

    Amazon does not stock all of the gear that smartwool sells, thus I went to them directly and even paid with my cursed South Korean Mastercard. They are nice folks.

  • Angusmack

    Like #16, I have essentially the same blindingly obvious suggestion. If the government wants to save energy why doesn’t it create and enforce regulations on….wait for it….insulation of residential, institutional and commercial buildings? It isn’t exactly rocket science to figure out that the more r-value you have in the walls and ceilings the lower heating and cooling costs are. Added bonus would be that certain universities (like my esteemed employer who fancies itself a leader in engineering but fails to grasp the above) would no longer feel the need to threaten its employees with 100,000 won fines for using space heaters (which they bought) in their uninsulated, poorly heated offices over the winter break.

  • red sparrow

    Insulation? Proper windows and weather stripping? Closing doors and windows?

    Koreans doing something that involves a shred of common sense has about the same odds as me winning the Powerball… and I don’t buy tickets.

    Anyway, I would love to see how this gets enforced when every other law in the landed is flagrantly ignored with little or no consequence.

  • hamel

    @27

    Koreans doing something that involves a shred of common sense has about the same odds as me winning the Powerball

    Wow! Make hasty generalizations much?

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/shocking Jakgani

    @28

    Wow! Make hasty generalizations much?

    wrote anything useful or interesting lately?

    or still just trying to scare people away and discourage people from visiting this site and writing anything………?

  • dokdoforever

    Korean work places may not be very well insulated, but the 20 story apartment buildings are pretty nice. The verandas keep these places pretty toasty in winter. Our Korean apartment has no drafts and we never even need to turn the heat on. Our 7 year old house in Illinois, on the other hand, was full of drafts.

    My university decided that they wouldn’t turn on the heat unless the temperature outside fell below 5 degrees celcius. We’re also discouraged from turning on the lights in the hallways, so it kind of feels like a large cave.

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/shocking Jakgani

    I remember 11 1/2 months ago, in mid-January 2012, the temperature dropped to -25° C ( -13°F ).

    It was the coldest I could remember in Korea for the past 12 years.

    At the school nearby, I was told by the students that the school would not allow the heating to be turned on in the classrooms, to save electricity/gas – but all the bathrooms in the school had electric heaters running continuously so the pipes didn’t freeze.

    I suggested to the neighborhood students that they should ask the teacher if they could move all their desks into the bathroom and have class in the bathroom as thats where the heating was.

    I think this winter the temperature may drop that low again.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #28 hamel: @27

    Koreans doing something that involves a shred of common sense has about the same odds as me winning the Powerball

    Wow! Make hasty generalizations much?

    Do you think that we did not know that was a generalization and that he wrote broadly to make a point? If not do you think we wouldn’t have known once OP had completed his sentiment, which you omitted in your repost?

    Koreans doing something that involves a shred of common sense has about the same odds as me winning the Powerball… and I don’t buy tickets.

    …and even if readers missed OP’s sense of comic hyperbole, don’t you think that readers would have picked up on his outsized hyperbolic statement applied to every man, woman, and child with even a dram of Korean blood was not meant to be taken literally but as a broad statement on Korean society once OP wrote the following sentence?

    Anyway, I would love to see how this gets enforced when every other law in the landed is flagrantly ignored with little or no consequence.

    …which I believe was OP’s real point.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Perhaps we …which is to say the overwhelming majority, … maybe only most of us, … possibly some of us, … perchance a few others, …ok I’m only speaking for myself here …

    …who notices that Koreans …which is to say the overwhelming majority of Koreans, … maybe most Koreans, … possibly some Koreans, … perchance a few Koreans, …ok, I’m just speaking for myself here…

    …encountered everyday …which is to say the overwhelming majority of days, …, …,

    don’t have the sense to close doors, which is to say the overwhelming majority of doors, …

    …or is it our, which is the overwhelming majority of us, …, …,

    …selection bias?

    I’m leaning, ever so cautiously toward the former.

  • bumfromkorea

    Do you think that we did not know that was a generalization and that he wrote broadly to make a point?

    What the fuck is the point of his sentence, other than to generalize the idea that Koreans don’t have common sense? And if that point you’re talking about involves painting an entire ethnicity with one human trait, then more than likely it doesn’t have a valid point.

    Don’t try to justify your inability to understand the simple concept that Korean (or any ethnicity/nationalities) aren’t “generally” anything that involves common human traits (lazy, aggressive, drunk, lacking common sense, etc.) with that pathetic attempt in #33.

    You literally downgrade yourself from an overarching observation on “Koreans” to personal anecdotes, then somehow writes as if people are supposed to think that ballooning anecdotes to painting the entire group of people is not ridiculous and acceptable writing practice.

  • hamel

    what #34 said!

  • http://tesslerdavis.tumblr.com/ jd

    Would it be ok to make a generalization about the buildings in Seoul, then?

    Generally, they appear to be pretty poorly build.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    Can we also then throw out the generalizations about Koreans being “Confucian”, especially filial or more family-oriented?

  • hamel

    jd: Certainly there are problems with building standards.

    Korean construction companies want to make apartments etc for the cheapest price possible and make the most profit they can. Who doesn’t? But Korean lawmakers continue to let construction firms build apartments that would not pass code in some western nations.

    What am I talking about? Well, in terms of insulation it is good. But in terms of noise reduction, Korean buildings are woeful. I live in a Samsung constructed apartment, and I can hear every time the 5 year old boy above me runs in his house.

    Samsung built the tallest building in the world in Dubai that is a hotel. I bet there is better sound-proofing between the floors there.

    Why do Korean people continue to put up with substandard apartment sound-proofing? Maybe most of them haven’t experienced being inside an apartment with better sound proofing, because to do that you have to go overseas.

    It might change in the future.

  • iwshim

    jeeze – I work in a university and thought Korea had unlimited heat and electricity. My University runs the heat fullbore in the winter; however, the students have am ingenious workaround to the discomfort that this high temperature produces. They open the windows and doors to create a breeze that will regulate the temperature just the way they like it.
    This left me with two possible conclusions:
    1. Korea has unlimited heat and electricity.
    2. Electricity and heat costs of universities are subsidized by the government. (I thought the second one might’ve been an option but I sent several pictures of this phenomenon to related government ministries but nothing happened.)

  • SomeguyinKorea

    In Canada, the only people who set the thermostats anywhere near 24, or even higher than 20, are little old ladies who never set foot outdoors. The idea that 24 is the ideal temperature in winter, when people are wearing (or should be wearing) warm clothes is counterintuitive for obvious reasons. Besides, you want to acclimatize yourself for the colder weather for when you do go outdoors. Going from 15C-17C indoors to -25C outdoors isn’t as big a shock to the system.

    I always point out to my students, who have the tendency of cranking up the heat without asking, that if it were summer, they’d be begging me to turn on the airconditioning if it were 24 in class, and that’s while wearing shorts and T-shirts.

  • gbnhj

    People (Korean and non-Korean alike) generally believe that construction firms here develop the apartment complexes that now constitute the majority of residences nationwide. However, all those projects represent far too much risk. Instead, separate corporations contract with the construction companies to build their projects. These are named in accordance with the construction firm’s brand.

    The public generally perceives that quality standardization exists for all like-branded projects, but in actuality, the level of quality is determined by the developer, not the builder. The developers determine what they can afford, and work with the builder to develop something within that budget, but as you might now guess, their inherent desire for profit guides the decisionmaking process in ways that result in real variance.

    Sometimes the variance is something you can see: the choice of materials used in finishing work; a floor plan which separates apartments as much as possible, or one that clusters them; waste/recycling systems, or a practical lack thereof. Sometimes it’s something you can hear: the cars outside; the neighbors upstairs. And sometimes it’s something that can neither see nor hear: building (and sometimes finishing) materials which meet code but were improperly installed.

    All this variance, from the quality of materials and design chosen for the project, to the way those materials are used in construction, is affected by the profit motives of both the builder and developer. Typically, the builder is responsible for effecting repairs for a 1-2 year period after project completion, with their liability capped at a percentage of the total cost of the project (say, 5% of total).

    Notice that this is a similar period of time for lease and rental contracts; those who rent or lease are far less keen to have a repair work done than those who own. New apartments typically have many, sometimes remarkable, problems. (I have occasionally seen apartments, completed but not yet lived in, with holes in the walls or ceiling – even in the shower. And I’ve often seen expensive finishing materials needlessly damaged by rushed or inexperienced crews.) And if the occupants don’t personally own the place, they may not care, and even if they do, they may not push for the repairs.

    Even if these things are followed up on, they may not be fixed within the 1-2 year period. Typically, the construction company contracts with another firm to handle these repairs, and this firm naturally seeks to maximize its profit by holding down costs. One way to do this is by working with subcontractors who, rather than making an appointment, drop by an apartment when they decide it’s convenient; if someone’s not at home, they may bump your service call to as much as 30 days later without contract violation.

    After the developer’s repair liability period expires, the developer is then responsible to the homeowner for repairs. Typically, developers are far less interested than the construction firms in paying for repairs, particularly for anything cosmetic (and more so if the cosmetic work is expensive). Since some problems only appear after some time, this can be a real challenge.

    Anyway, all of this goes toward the idea that design-, material- and build-quality can be impacted by the construction company, but its variance really depends on the developer. And, since the developers are faceless entities to most people, they can avoid and/or get away with a lot if that’s their aim.

    I’d recommend this approach: if you see an apartment you like, try to find out who the developer was, because they will probably be involved with stuff elsewhere. If you’re interest is in renting or leasing, you’ll likely face fewer hassles, and may well see lower utilities expenses (e.g., the monthly utilities costs for my two-year-old 51-pyeong Songdo home are roughly the same as what I paid for my then-10-year-old 24-pyeong place in Seoul’s Ichon-Dong). If you’re thinking of buying, remember that people naturally like better-constructed and better-maintained buildings, and that will be reflected in its relative market value.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #34 bumfromkorea:

    Do you think that we did not know that was a generalization and that he wrote broadly to make a point?

    What the fuck is the point of his sentence, other than to generalize the idea that Koreans don’t have common sense? And if that point you’re talking about involves painting an entire ethnicity with one human trait, then more than likely it doesn’t have a valid point.

    First, you need to ratchet it back a notch. Second, You should have included the full context (“If not do you think we wouldn’t have known once OP had completed his sentiment, which you omitted in your repost?” in which I explained the point of his sentence.

    hamel, for example, in his next post after so heartily congratulating your morally superior sense of indignity goes on to do the same:

    #38 hamel: Korean construction companies want to make apartments etc for the cheapest price possible and make the most profit they can. Who doesn’t? But Korean lawmakers continue to let construction firms build apartments that would not pass code in some western nations.

    What am I talking about? Well, in terms of insulation it is good. But in terms of noise reduction, Korean buildings are woeful. I live in a Samsung constructed apartment, ….

    All Korean construction companies??? Does hamel mean to literally post that each and every Korean construction company exhibits such shady practices? …and All Korean lawmakers??? Do hamel mean to literally post that each and every Korean lawmaker turns a blind eye to public safety and welfare?

    Before hamel’s “well said” post, I would have mistaken his hyperbolic generalization on an internet chatboard for his broad observation that most generally take as truth. …but since since he is a literalist and based on his personal single Samsung observation that he is comfortable broadly painting all of Korean construction companies and buildings, I certainly know his absolute, definitive opinion.

    //********************************
    I wrote a post that got erased before posting that English does not have a verb tense that allows broad generalizations with the understanding that the generalizations are broad tendencies and observations. The closest way English has is to make hyperbolic statements in plural form about the subject as abstracts (e.g., Koreans have the highest IQ, Americans are heterogeneous, basketball players are tall, pygmies are short.)

    Yes, in English we can fully qualify the statements to explicitly meet your sensibility, and smart politicians who don’t want to be youtube fodder do so, but in the interest of saving bandwidth I’m going to use some common sense and understand the intended meaning.

  • gbnhj

    Hey, sorry for the long post. Skip it if it’s too long :)

    Anyway, paragraph 7 should start with ‘After the builder’s repair liability period expires, the developer is then responsible to the homeowner for repairs.’

  • dokdoforever

    Thanks gbnhj – it sounds like you have specialized knowledge in the field.

  • gbnhj

    You’re welcome. I’m not involved in construction (my time’s split pretty evenly between teaching at a university and running training and educational programs at a few companies), but I am a homeowner as well as an investment property owner here.

    Over the years, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: keep asking questions, even when it looks futile, because eventually you’ll start getting information you can use. As a non-Korean, you can leverage people’s perceptions of you in order to learn what you want to know. You can use courtesy, or feign clumsy cultural ignorance, while trying to learn something. And who cares how many times you hear ‘no’ – the reward for useful information far exceeds that cost. Anyhow, that’s how I’ve learned what I’ve learned.

  • JW

    gbnhj

    Did you ever consider that using people as a means to an end in the ways you describe can be viewed as immoral?

  • gbnhj

    Interesting question, but I don’t see what I do in that way. Is charm immoral? Koreans are well familiar with the use of 애교 , yet that could be characterized as being simply a method for seeking advantage. At any rate, I really don’t think that I’m ‘using people as a means to an end’. That suggests that I fake relationships (fairly dramatically, as it’s written), but I never maintained that.

  • JW

    Huh? “feigning clumsy cultural ignorance” … doesn’t this represent an aspect of a relationship that is indeed fake? Do you do that with your wife or loved ones also?

  • gbnhj

    JW, in case it isn’t clear to you, I was talking about asking some people I meet a few questions about development projects, so perhaps you can cease your concern about my long-term, serious relationships with my wife and loved ones. I do think you worry too much, but if you wish to continue doing so, please feel free. You might, however, consider responding to the question I raised regarding charm.

    When a bored, tired salesperson smiles to a customer entering a shop and sweetly says ‘Take your time looking around’ when what they really want to do is to leave for the day, is that an immoral act?

  • JW

    You’re talking to a person who is favorably disposed to the Christian worldview, which is that all men are sinful and the Devil is firmly in control.

    I wasn’t worried about your long term serious relationships but rather trying to make a point. I think there’s a case to be made that we ought to treat ALL people in our daily social interactions in the same ways that we socialize with our loved ones. You could think of it as another version of the golden rule. Of course I fall very much short of this standard myself.

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Over the years, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: keep asking questions, even when it looks futile, because eventually you’ll start getting information you can use. … And who cares how many times you hear ‘no’ – the reward for useful information far exceeds that cost. Anyhow, that’s how I’ve learned what I’ve learned.

    Especially when dealing with the government or an internal function of your organization that interfaces with the government, don’t accept It’s impossible as an answer. It’s impossible is Korean for “I don’t want to”.

  • gbnhj

    JW, do you think people employ complete honesty with their loved ones? Or that, if they do not, their actions are therefore immoral? Am I immoral, when my wife asks “Do I look fat?” and I answer “No” (because I love her, and know that she’ll feel hurt by a truthful answer about her temporary weight gain)? Am I immoral for telling my father-in-law to come in to our home quickly (because I still respect him and our relationship very much, despite the fact that the last time we met he was crotchety and unkind)?

    I think that, when you can spare some time from thinking about me, you might further contemplate the ways in which we all act, and consider that it is perhaps one’s intention which makes an act necessarily ‘moral’ or ‘immoral’ in nature.

  • JW

    How do your examples relate to what I’m talking about AT ALL? If I were to lie to any of my loved ones purely for a selfish reason, I think that would qualify as an immoral act. It’s also quite weird, since we don’t normally suppose that a person would behave that way to a loved one. In fact, such an action would cause a bystander to question the claim that the relationship is a real one.

  • hamel

    gbnhj #41:
    your discussion about 애교, charm and artifice in everyday use aside, I want to thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us.

    I’d gladly buy a nice imported beer or two to pick your brains some more.

  • gbnhj

    And what ‘real’ relationship do I have with anyone I meet casually and then ask a question?

  • gbnhj

    Hamel, thanks for the kind offer, but as I mentioned above, I live in Songdo. Do you live in Incheon?

  • JW

    So as long as you are dealing with another human who you don’t have a relationship with, it’s ok to lie to them purely for your self interest? You don’t want to go down that road, I don’t think.

  • gbnhj

    I’m not going down any road, JW. Instead, it’s you who have travelled too far the wrong way. I completely understand and accept that you feel that my acts are/ were immoral. I, however, remain comfortable in my actions, despite the continuing interest you have shown in me and my relationships. I suppose that’s it – you and your interest or concern, and me and my lack of concern in yours – unless you some other enduring issue.

  • R. Elgin

    Am I immoral, when my wife asks “Do I look fat?” and I answer “No” . . .

    This is more a challenge to one’s imagination rather than a morality test.
    How many different and useful ways could you answer this question?

    How many better ways could the Ministry of Knowing have handled this energy problem?

  • R. Elgin

    I kind of wish MKE would outlaw blaring endless-loop Christmas music on public loudspeakers. That’s started in earnest outside my office, and on the 11th Floor it’s loud and clear and driving me crazy.

    I really feel for you. I wear earplugs on the bus, in the subway and around certain venues since the street noise pollution is worse that NYC and *that* is pretty bad.

  • gbnhj

    This is more a challenge to one’s imagination rather than a morality test.

    As JW informs, true immorality seems to lie in asking a guy you don’t know about a construction schedule, and then saying ‘sorry’ when he says people don’t usually ask that question, even though you already knew that.

  • Arghaeri

    Don’t accept It’s impossible as an answer. It’s impossible is Korean for “I don’t want to”.

    Indeed this is often the case as is the similar translation, “I don’t know the answer to that, and I can’t be bothered to find out.”

    Which experienced expat in korea hasn’t overcome several “impossible” issues.

  • http://pawikoreapics.blogspot.com/ pawikirogii 石鵝

    one time, i was faced with working with an almost entirely filipino staff. the first thing i did was go and learn some tagolog which i started to use right away. this made a positive impression on them. that’s what i was looking for; i wanted to maximize the chance that they would accept me. as time went on, i learned more about them in books and articles. i did that so i could talk to them about their country. i did it to show respect. i had a very pleasant time and they treated me well even inviting me to their filipino parties. sometimes you use engraciation as a social lubricant.

    i can’t speak for jw but i wonder he doesn’t want to use the word ‘calculating’ to describe gbhj’s behavior. that ain’t no positive word because it implies dishonesty. this man is saying dishonesty is ok if you can get something out of it. this is the kind of thinking we should strive to rid oursleves of.

  • broona

    When I ask my husband if I look fat, or if my newly cut hair looks ok, I expect complete honesty. In fact, I hate it if I feel he is being a bit dishonest. Why would I ask him for his opinion if I wanted a lie?

  • gbnhj

    See #61 in order to discover by example what I meant by expression in #45, and if you still feel that it’s immoral, then I suggest you not do it.

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    When I ask my husband if I look fat, or if my newly cut hair looks ok, I expect complete honesty. In fact, I hate it if I feel he is being a bit dishonest. Why would I ask him for his opinion if I wanted a lie?

    This is a trick question, right?

  • Jieun K

    Looks like the very cultured gentleman gbnhj unintentionally chose a wrong word: feign. I don’t think there can be many contexts where the word casts a positive light on anything.

    Perhaps what he wanted to convey through that phrase is he tried to learn local ways (how things are done) while appearing as non-judgmental as possible.

    Let’s cut him some slack, shall we.

  • gbnhj

    Jieun K, thanks for bothering to take a second look at what I’d written. To better understand what I meant, consider also the sentence that precedes it:

    As a non-Korean, you can leverage people’s perceptions of you in order to learn what you want to know. You can use courtesy, or feign clumsy cultural ignorance, while trying to learn something.

    What I meant was that I simply observe people, and react accordingly. If they seem nice, and seem to react positively or warmly to me, great. And, in the alternative, if they think I know nothing about Korea despite talking to them in Korean, I’ll simply let them continue to think that when all I want is the quick answer to a simple question.

    I’m really not going to bother trying to correct every misperception of me made by people I meet only incidentally. I have neither the time nor the inclination to get them to a point of fully understanding who I am and what I’m about. It’s simpler, more expedient and less socially frictive to simply let them think that they’re ‘helping the foreigner’. That’s the ‘immoral’ act JW seems so concerned about.

  • hamel

    I have no problem with what gbnhj describes himself as doing. Especially when what he is talking about is business and commercial situations, one in which there is usually some degree of guile and artifice used by at least one of the parties.

    Quit it, JW, before you make yourself look sillysillier.

  • dokdoforever

    Face (체면) is pretty important in most cultures – Korea is no exception. Boldly ‘calling it like you see it,’ without regard to anyone’s feelings is one easy way to lose friends and alienate people.

  • JW

    Boooooo, I don’t think I’m making myself look silly. I never said that the degree of immorality is huge for what we are talking about. I think it was C.S. Lewis who said something to the effect that we don’t usually become bad people by committing hugely immoral actions at pivotal moments in our lives. It’s the small and seemingly trivial things that add up.

  • JW

    let them think that they’re ‘helping the foreigner’

    So you are putting in practice the idea of “an eye for an eye” — they exhibited a degree of contempt towards you by assuming that you are an ignorant foreigner, and you returned the favor by letting them wallow in their ignorance and thereby showing YOUR contempt towards those “type” of “Koreans”. I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing, but let’s admit it shall we – it’s a morally corrupting situation for everyone involved.

  • gbnhj

    JW, I’ve already admitted everything, ad nauseam, so from this point you can go on by yourself, but I will say this in parting: exhibiting ignorance is not the same as exhibiting contempt. I never claimed to feel contempt for people in that situation, nor did I claim that they felt contempt for me, and your suggestion that they and I did may perhaps say something about you. You know, with that whole ‘lies told in self interest’ thing?

  • JW

    I will go on, because I have nothing to do right now and this is fairly interesting and fairly important. If what you said is true and they assumed that you were a foreigner who “needs help”, I think it can be fairly characterized that they are showing a degree of contempt for you as an individual person. That’s the sort of behavior that minorities here in the USA get pissed about ALL THE TIME. If you did not feel slighted because of that, that’s fine and good, but then that gives you even less of a reason for you to allow them to wallow in their ignorance. You can just be the upstanding guy that you are and correct them. At least then you can say that you tried.

  • JW

    Btw, I would also like to point out that it’s not necessary for you to FEEL a surging level of contempt in order to BEHAVE in a way that exhibits a general level of contempt for a certain type of people. Those two things do not have to always go together. You may be emotionally inured to that sort of behavior.

  • broona

    No, it was not a trick question, Brendon Carr. Sometimes, you want an honest answer, and whatever the answer may be, it wouldn’t be quite as devastating as you think it might be. I know husbands generally want to lift up their wives, and that’s a good thing, but I don’t need a generic, yeah you look fine answer every time!

  • guitard

    broona wrote:

    Sometimes, you want an honest answer, and whatever the answer may be, it wouldn’t be quite as devastating as you think it might be. I know husbands generally want to lift up their wives, and that’s a good thing, but I don’t need a generic, yeah you look fine answer every time!

    But . . . the last time I tried to lift up my wife . . . I strained my back so badly . . . that I ended up at the 응급실!

  • JW

    Well, I suppose my fiancee is a cool cat then. Whenever I mention that she could use some weight loss, she nods in agreement and says she needs to go to the gym. But of course she never does.

  • Arghaeri

    I can think of some dead weight she could quickly lose to improve her self esteem :-)

  • JW

    Goodness if only you knew. There’s not a thing I can do to damage her self esteem. At the end of the day, if any of my complaints about her got to be too much, she’d leave me and fairly quickly forget about everything that happened between us like it was a distant memory. And I’m ok with that. I really don’t think it’s healthy for people to emotionally dependent to fallible creatures such as ourselves to such a degree.

  • broona

    Guitard, funny response! Hope your wife doesn’t see it, though.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    It’s currently one degree outside and someone’s turned off the heat to the staff room.

  • Pingback: Reminder: Next Week Your Office Will Be Cold | The Marmot's Hole

  • SomeguyinKorea

    “Some facilities, such as airports, public transportation facilities, hospitals, schools, kindergartens, public housing, religious facilities, and traditional markets are exempt from energy-use restrictions.”

    As if neon crucifixes are a necessity.

Next post:

Previous post: