Do you know what North Korean sounds like? It’s South Korean with a Boston accent.
– Conan O’Brien playing “Call of Duty”
– Conan O’Brien playing “Call of Duty”
Hello, I haven’t been around much lately. Sorry, I’ve been very busy and I will probably continue to be quite busy until the end of April. Any ways, I’ve come up for some air recently and figured, why not? Let’s post.
It is well known in these parts that Korea doesn’t have the best record for public safety. In OECD road accident deaths Korea ranks number 2, just below Poland. However, perhaps Korean safety technology is better than Korea’s present safety record? For example, it is widely known that Korean cars generally rank well in crash tests.
In 2005, in my home state of California, there was a horrible passenger train accident that killed 11 and injured 177 people. In 2008 there was another accident that killed 25 people and left 135 injured. In order to calm public fears of train safety, California Metrolink bought Hyundai Rotem cars that apparently featured “Crash Energy Management (CEM)” technology. These safety features include piston-like, push-back frames and couplers that transfer crash energy around passengers to the rear of the train. Sounds fancy right? Will it work?
(Photo from Channel 10 ABC San Diego)
Well, the test came just a few days ago when a truck driver inexplicably stopped in front of the rails, abandoned his vehicle and the passenger train (predictably) hit the truck. Thankfully, there were no fatalities this time and 28 total people injured (four critically, including the train’s driver). Was it the Rotem cars and their “CEM” technology? Quite possibility yes, but an investigation is under way to see for sure.
War is Boring is one of my favorite (and perhaps Mr. Koehler’s as well) non-Korean related blogs. They don’t mention Korea often, but sometimes they do. Their latest blog post that kind of mentions Korea, albeit in passing, is the U.S. Army’s only officially sanctioned drag queen show.
Yes, it happened in 1946 when American troops stationed in Europe and Japan had plenty of local diversions and attention from the USO to keep them entertained. Post colonial Korea? Not so much. How did you keep men of the 7th Infantry Division stationed in Korea entertained, distracted and free from trouble from the local populace? You dress a few men as women and put on burlesque shows.
Photo by Blue Delliquanti.
Say hello to the 허니버터칩 (“Honey Butter Chip”), the latest snack addiction in Korea. Made by the Haitai-Calbee joint venture (Haitai the Korean company and Calbee the Japanese company), they have taken the peninsula by storm.
(Image from JoongAng Ilbo – what the heck is the Eiffel Tower doing in there?)
The chip has sold out in many places, stores are only allowing one per customer, celebrities are instagraming themselves with the product. There is of course the typical response when demand far outstrips supply:
(Image from Korea Times, U.S. Edition)
Yes, that’s right- price gouging.
Get your Honey Butter Chips right here folks. Only $51.75 USD each (S&H included)!
Yeah, what’s his name? Ah, that’s right, Kim Won-jung.
(Photo from Korea Times U.S. edition)
According to Korea Times:
In August, Sgt. Kim Won-jung, while serving his mandatory military service as an athlete in the military corps, made headlines when he sustained leg injuries after getting in a car accident following a visit to a [Thai] massage parlor.Kim Won-jung’s representatives reportedly told media the separation was due to his rehabilitation treatment and differences in personality
A rather progressive yogurt commercial:
Commentary and background information given by James Turnbull over at The Grand Narrative.
Ipsos Mori, a U.K. market research company has come up with an “ignorance” index of the world’s 14 most developed countries. In defining “ignorance” Ipsos came up with nine questions about the 14 countries in the survey and asked an appropriate sample size of citizens of each country the nine questions about their respective country.
(Image from Ipsos)
The questions were basic social facts about each country such as the rate of teen births, people over the age of 65, immigration rates, life expectancy, etc. I took the test (available here) for both the U.S. and South Korean and I got a seven and eight out of nine questions right, respectively.
Japan (number 12) appears to blow Korea out of the water here. Italy isn’t that surprising. The U.S. at number two isn’t terribly surprising either, unfortunately. Sweden, as usual in these type of indexes, outperforms.
They have who, what, huh?
Okay, so the story goes that in the middle of the American major league baseball season the Kansas City Royals were just an average team in a small market with average talent, having yet another ho-hum average season in their bland 45 year history (playoff-less in the last 28 of those 45 years). That was until a foreigner named Sung-woo Lee from far away South Korea came on the scene. Through social media, Sung-woo was a regular fixture on Royals’ fan sites and blogs and exhorted Royals’ fans to persevere, which helped to inject much needed enthusiasm into the traditional fan base. Interestingly enough, Sung-woo’s online participation started as an attempt to learn English by consistently conversing with American baseball fans.
(Image from KMBC, Channel 9)
Native Kansas City residents were curious about this Asian man from a far away country and his interest in their local team. Usually, when a foreigner is interested in an American baseball team, it’s usually a team from one of the bigger markets like the NY Yankees, LA Dodgers or Seattle Mariners, etc. But Kansas City? As a Midwestern town they are not close to Asia or Europe and the “city” of barely 500,000 people does not have the ritz and glamour of a New York or Los Angeles.
But a committed fan Sung-woo appeared to be. He even came to Kansas City in August of this year for a 10 day stay. Locals gave him a hero’s welcome, rolled out the red carpet and showered him with Midwestern hospitality. They named a hot dog in his honor and even had him throw the first pitch in a game against the A’s. But the real news is what happened to the team during his little Kansas City vacation: an eight game winning streak that put them in the wild card hunt. The New York Post called this the baseball “feel good” story of the year. Locals call him the “superfan.” NPR said he’s spread “Korean pixie dust” on the team. Korea Times US Edition called it “Korean Karma.” KMBC channel 9 reporter Kris Ketz simply called Sung-woo their “good luck charm.”
American baseball is a notoriously superstitious sport. The 2002 Angels had the rally monkey, which some believe helped propel a pretty average talent wise team all the way to winning the World Series. Well, not to say that a man and a monkey are the same thing, but it appears the good luck charm thing is happening again this year and this time it could very well be the Royals who benefit. They swept the Baltimore Orioles for the AL Championship yesterday and will either play the Giants or Cardinals for the MLB World Series.
(Image from KoreaBANG)
Saenuri lawmaker Rep. Kwon Seong-dong using company time and bandwidth to explore extracurricular pursuits.
Well, well, what do we have here? A larger version of the picture that the Honorable Rep. Kwon was so intently staring at?
(Image from Seoul Shimbun)
Why, say hello to September 2011 Playboy Playmate of the Month Tiffany Toth.
Today’s WSJ discusses how Korean faces are changing over time. With interracial marriage, plastic surgery and even nutrition factored in, the Korean face is changing. Apparently, the Korea Face Institute has taken computer assisted calculations based on 20,000 photographs and skull measurements (when the time period didn’t have photography available).
Well, actually something he calls “AK-pop” or “American music inspired by K-pop.” Chad Future (a.k.a. Detroit native David Lehre) has even set up a production company, Vendetta Studios, to make music videos and record songs.
Here are a few of them:
Listen, I can’t speak for the anyone else other than myself, but I laughed, I cringed and I really couldn’t get into the music. Overall, I thought his videos and music were a little strange and overwrought. That’s just my opinion though.
The last video, “When You Call,” features a Korean American singer, Jamie Seo, who looks so untypical for a Korean pop star. She isn’t super skinny with long legs, big eyes and aegyo sal. I think that’s refreshing and something that K-pop can perhaps learn from Chad Future.
Any ways, Mr. Lehre knows he’s got a lot of haters out there, but he’s being persistent. He’s been at it for at least 2-3 years (I first blogged about him in 2012) and I have a feeling he won’t be going away any time soon. So, Mr. Lehre/Future, I’ll be honest and say that your music isn’t my style, but it isn’t my business to tell another man not to pursue his dreams, so I wish you luck.
In what may or may not be a sign of changed times, the drug bust of “Dozens of foreign English teachers” has not gone viral even though the intrigue and insinuations are heavy. On Wednesday evening, Yonhap broke the story, which was then carried by the The Korea Times (no not that one) and The Herald.
As usual with these cases, the details are spotty and rather confusing. Two things that stand out for now:
“Shin and his group mostly dealt with foreigners, given that if they are (caught and) convicted of drug related charges, they could be punished and kicked out of their jobs,” the police said.
Well, that’s some policy.
The police investigation showed that the arrested Nigerian drug dealer has taught English at a kindergarten in Yongin near Suwon while he was under the influence of marijuana.
Oh, there is one more thing that bears mentioning:
An American English teacher, who was among those arrested, shaved all his hair to evade a drug test, but he was tested positive in a urine examination, the police said.
He must have watched a lot of CSI or something.
All jocularity aside, perhaps this will not be the usual case of judging all English teachers as evil drug users living in Korea because they’ve been banished from their homes. One can only hope.
Apparently so. Back in 2009 51 Koreans were arrested for illegally selling American MREs. Well, last month more people have been arrested for selling American MREs! Apparently, the people are being arrested not so much for selling the MREs but for selling expired MREs (i.e. after 10 years). Supposedly, Korean hikers and campers like expired American MREs. At $2 a pop for a meal containing 3,000 calories, it is hard to beat the price too.
Personally, I don’t see how Koreans can be all that excited about 10 year old (or older) beef “patties,” faux pork “ribs,” chili & beans, cajun rice & sausage, meat loaf with gravy, etc. However, according to this video, even a Desert Storm era MRE can be edible. Any ways, I just don’t see the aforementioned flavors being all that exciting to the Korean palate. Anyone have some inside information here?
Meet Colin Marshall, a Seattle native who somehow ended up living in Koreatown, Los Angeles shortly after college and currently writes for the British daily The Guardian. Recently, he just wrapped-up a five part series on Korea for The Guardian. An index of the articles is available on this link.
Unlike many commenters and writers on this blog, Colin has not lived in Korea for years. His Guardian series was based on about a week’s travel in the country. He has live in Los Angeles’ Koreatown for awhile and claims he can speak a functional amount of the language. Apparently, he even has a Korean girlfriend (in Los Angeles). This might be a plus or negative for some people. However, when it comes to urban vibe and city planning, Colin might have some experience to speak as he’s traveled to Mexico City, London, Copenhagen, Osaka, in addition to his native Seattle and current home of Los Angeles.
The Korean American magazine KoreAm interviewed Colin about his Guardian articles. It’s an interesting read and he says some rather insightful observations that I think may have a kernel of truth.
In a way, some Koreans here [in the U.S.] are actually more conservative than the ones in Korea.
Talking to the twentysomethings there [in Korea], sometimes they’re way more mature than me, but sometimes it feels like they’re still in middle school.
[English learning in Korea is]… not even about learning English. It’s about getting above the others.
[Koreans burn too]… much energy on competition with each other.
Korea has brashness, which isn’t the same thing as confidence.