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Category: Korean Culture (page 1 of 72)

WSJ: The “token” non-Korean hire

Hey, not meant as a slight.  The writer of the article in question would readily admit it!

So, non-Korean guy (presumed to be white?) applies for a office job in Korea.  During the interview he is asked many highly relevant questions on his qualifications!

“Do you like drinking?” “How many bottles of soju can you drink?” “Do you like kimchi?” “Where do you live?” “How old are you?” “Do you have a girlfriend?” My job interview may as well been held in the backseat of a taxi because these are the questions I would get anytime I travelled (sic) in a Seoul taxi for more than 20 minutes.

He becomes an integral part of the team!

I fell into the typical token non-Korean work role. My team leader struggled with how to deal with me and what work to assign to me. The company wasn’t prepared for a non-Korean worker. All they knew is that they wanted to reflect a global image and I would fulfill that requirement.

Has realistic and achievable expectations!

In order to see the potential returns and benefits of employing non-Koreans the job roles and power placed in these candidates needs to reflect the same respect and scrutiny that is placed on Koreans.

Okay, in all fairness, a lot of foreign office workers are treated similarly in Japan.

 

Seoul goes to war against the noble ginkgo

Seoul Metropolitan Government will be removing 33 female ginkgo trees from high-traffic areas in the downtown area in order to lessen the, ahem, smell pollution:

And the official fight against it kicked off in Seoul during the final week of November. The Seoul Metropolitan Government removed 33 female ginkgo trees – which produce seeds – from areas in the city’s downtown where human traffic is high.

The trees were transplanted to city-run facilities in and near Seoul.

“We chose trees that block people’s passage the most,” Kim Won-sik from the Green Seoul Bureau’s landscape division told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

The city hopes to expand the program by removing female trees and replacing them with male trees—which, ironically, don’t have stinky nuts—in other neighborhoods of Seoul.

I’m a big fan of the ginkgo tree, and don’t really mind the odor. Let’s you know it’s autumn, after all. This autumn, in fact, I learned a couple of (IMHO) interesting things about the noble ginkgo tree:

1) The ginkgo is a living fossil that been around even longer than “CSI”:

Previous fossils revealed that Ginkgo species have remained unchanged for the past 51 million years, and that similar trees were alive and well 170 million years ago, during the Jurassic period. But what happened between the two dates was unknown. The new finds, from the 121-million-year-old Yixian rock formation in northeast China, provide a much-needed missing link between ancient and more modern plants.

2) In the event of a nuclear war, only the cockroaches, ginkgo trees and possibly a few particularly noxious species of Boston sports fans will survive:

Extreme examples of the ginkgo’s tenacity may be seen in Hiroshima, Japan, where six trees growing between 1–2 km from the 1945 atom bomb explosion were among the few living things in the area to survive the blast. Although almost all other plants (and animals) in the area were destroyed, the ginkgos, though charred, survived and were soon healthy again. The trees are alive to this day.

You can find pictures of the trees here.

3) Even though the name “ginkgo” is Japanese, the Japanese do not, in fact, call the trees “ginkgo.” Seems like something got lost in translation:

The older Chinese name for this plant is 銀果, meaning “silver fruit”, pronounced yínguǒ in Mandarin or Ngan-gwo in Cantonese. The most usual names today are 白果 (bái guǒ), meaning “white fruit”, and 銀杏 (yínxìng), meaning “silver apricot”. The former name was borrowed directly in Vietnamese as bạch quả. The latter name was borrowed in Japanese ぎんなん (ginnan) and Korean 은행 (eunhaeng), when the tree itself was introduced from China.

The scientific name Ginkgo is the result of a spelling error that occurred three centuries ago. Kanji typically have multiple pronunciations in Japanese, and the characters 銀杏 used for ginnan can also be pronounced ginkyō. Engelbert Kaempfer, the first Westerner to investigate the species in 1690, wrote down this pronunciation in his notes he later used for the Amoenitates Exoticae (1712) with the “awkward” spelling “ginkgo”. This appears to be a simple error of Kaempfer, taking his spelling of other Japanese words containing the syllable “kyō” into account, a more precise romanization following his writing habits would have been “ginkio” or “ginkjo”. Linné, who relied on Kaempfer when dealing with Japanese plants adopted the spelling given in Kaempfer’s “Flora Japonica” (Amoenitates Exoticae, p. 811).

Japanese-Korean potato chips latest peninsular addiction

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:

(eBay screen capture)

(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)!

“Quo Vadis”- problems with Korea’s Mega Churches

A documentary will be coming out on December 10th that will examine allegations of wrong doings by three of Korea’s largest Christian churches.  Titled “Quo Vadis“(Latin for “Where are you going?”) the documentary was made by Kim Jae-hwan, a self identified Christian, who says he spent $270,000 USD of his own money to make it.

Documentary Quo Vadis’ challenges the mission of South Korean churches

(Photo from Los Angeles Times via Han Cinema)

According to a L.A. Times article on the  documentary:

Kim [Jae-hwan], a Christian, said South Korea’s media have gone soft on the churches because of their significant political influence and financial clout. His goal: to spark what he calls an overdue debate on whether churches have lost their moral authority in a quest to accumulate more congregants and money.

Kim centers his greatest condemnations on Korea’s largest Church- Yoido Full Gospel:

One of the scenes in “Quo Vadis” includes a 2013 news conference in which elders from the Seoul-based Yoido Full Gospel Church, purported to be the largest Pentecostal church in the world, asked embattled senior pastor David Yonggi Cho to step down.

The elders accused Cho of using millions of dollars of church funds to buy stock in a company owned by his son. Despite the evidence against Cho, other Yoido elders argued that the allegations were baseless. Cho supporters who barged into the church gathering included one who reached for the throat of a speaker. A brawl ensued. As groups of suited men shoved one another and threw punches, journalists’ cameras rolled.

A few months later, Cho was found guilty of tax evasion and professional negligence. He was sentenced to three years in prison and fined more than $4 million.

 

The Taxman Cometh – What Would Jesus Do?

The National Assembly’s Strategy and Finance Committee held a  meeting with representatives of various religious faiths (Catholic, Evangelical Protestant and Buddhist) for the purpose of discussing how clergy should be taxed.  Their plan is to levy an income tax of 22 percent on 20 percent of the incomes earned by ordained clergy.  (cite)

Well, out of the three main faiths represented, guess which one threw a fit over the money and threatened fire and brimstone?

Here is a hint: which faith is well known for running a growth-for-profit scheme where the pastor has sole proprietorship of the church and runs some of the world’s most intensive missionary programs, not to mention urinating and defacing Buddhist temples and statues in Korea?

Continue reading

“Topless” and “bottomless” pictures

The latest controversial photo in Korea has 18 modern dance students at Chonbuk National University in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, take a “topless” photograph to commemorate their graduation.

2

(Image from ohfun.net)

So, what’s up with that one guy in the right corner?  What’s his story?

Meanwhile, in ‘Murica:

(Image from NY Daily News)

What is it?  Oh, just attention whore celebrity Kim Kardashian and her technologically enhanced butt out there to “break the internet.”

Is it sexy, funny, over-the-top?  Regardless, the internetz, armed with an iconic image, is rather creative at making hilarious fun out of it.

New WSJ series: “Office Outsider”

Are you non-Korean but working in a Korean white collar office environment?  Then you might be an “office outsider.”

(Image from the WSJ)

A non-Korean gal who worked as an English teacher for two years has gotten a job with a Korean corporation.  She thought she understood Korea as an English teacher, but working in the Korean corporate world was a whole new ball game.

My generic workstation in a room filled with cubicles could be located in any office park in North America. But my prior work experience, as well as my two years of teaching English at a middle school near Seoul, did little to prepare me for the Korean corporate sector.

[…]

When I entered the office on my first day of work, I was astonished to see formally dressed office workers standing in rows and performing calisthenics while the official exercise song (국민체조) played over the intercom.

[…]

My journey began with an interview. While I and the other candidates waited for the interview to begin, an human resources representative who was filling out personal profile questionnaires casually asked our blood type, religion, and alcohol tolerance.

[…]

I have faced some of the most curious, challenging, and unexpected experiences of my time in Korea, and my life, from enduring the months-long new employee training camp to adjusting to the office worker lifestyle. Now I am more immersed in Korean culture than I ever imagined or hoped, and the surprises just keep coming.

Calisthenics for office workers?  Questionnaires asking for blood-type and alcohol tolerance?  Everybody bowing in perfect unison?  Oh, my!

“Office Outsider” will be a bi-weekly column written by the gal in question (I am guessing she will remain anonymous?).  I’m looking forward to reading future installments.

Girl group flashes swastika-like symbol?

You be the judge:

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(Image from iamkoream.com)

This is relatively unknown girl band “Pritz” (프리츠).  It’s spelled “Pritz” because there is no “F” in Korean otherwise it would have been “Fritz.”  Uh, oh.  I think I know where this is heading.

Any ways, more information here.

Languages spoken in North and South Korea diverging?

Perhaps, so.  Well, when a language has been separated for 66 some odd years, there is a danger of that happening.

Apparently, North Korean defectors are complaining that the language spoken in the South has enough differences that it makes integration more difficult.  One defector claims that the language of the South is “completely different.”

This issue isn’t a new one.  There have been attempts by various individuals to come up with joint dictionaries, but the two governments haven’t been as cooperative.

Aside from difficulties for North Korean defectors is the larger issue of divergent diplomatic language.  The North have a different academic heritage than the South with many Soviet and German Marxist loan words entering their scholarly vernacular, whereas the South has kept many Japanese derived Chinese academic words and have adopted many German legal terms and English loan words.  The North has “purified” their language of Sino-Japanese words and haven’t adopted any English loan words (except for those that may have entered via the Russian route).

 

외국 남자들 (foreign men) portrayed as [completely normal] boyfriends?

A rather progressive yogurt commercial:

Commentary and background information given by James Turnbull over at The Grand Narrative.

Are South Koreans ignorant?

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.

The results?

Ipsos MORI Perils of Perception: Index of Ignorance

(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.

FBI to crack down on Los Angeles Koreatown “doumis” (도우미)

In an investigative report by JTBC News, Los Angeles’ Koreatown is apparently rife with young women willing to sell (rent?) their time to eager men looking for companionship in karaoke singing rooms (a.k.a. noraebangs/노래방).

Some of the numbers JTBC threw around are huge.  At least 40 doumi “agencies” each managing 30-40 doumis for an estimated 1,600-1,000 total doumis in an area about three square miles.  Demand is apparently so huge that many of the doumis are non-Koreans or Koreans flown in from Korea to work as doumis for the extent of their tourist visas stays (three months).

For those of you that don’t know, a doumi (도우미) literally means “helper” but is now slang for a young woman who “helps” a business.  There are, for example, those “doumi” dancers that help bring attention to newly opened businesses, etc.  In this context these doumis are taxied into a regular noraebang, not room salon, mind you, to “help” drum up business for the noraebang.   Generally, the patrons of the noraebang specifically asks for doumis from the noraebang’s management who calls them in.  They sing, dance and talk to the patrons of the noraebang.  Generally speaking, there is light petting, flirting and sometimes kissing.  There is, again generally speaking, no sex.

JTBC alleges that these doumis breed casual drug use, gangs and are bringing “disgraceful” (JTBC’s words, not mine) attention to the Korean American community and by extension Korea.  Local law enforcement is keen on this trend and apparently the FBI had gotten involved in cracking down.

Notes

Like many “investigative” reports from Korean journalistic sources, there is a fair mix of fact, fiction and exaggeration here.  The absolute numbers might not be too far from the truth, as well as the “heterogeneous” mix of girls.  The fact that they have to recruit non-Korean girls and Korean girls from Korea sounds about right as local girls don’t ply the trade consistently because of the high likelihood that they will eventually run into someone that they know.

The assertion of massive drug use?  Almost always copious amounts of alcohol, but very rarely drugs.   I honestly don’t know about the gang part but my sources says it’s usually more small scale operations and loose networks of cab drivers, noraebang owners and doumi brokers who are managing the trade rather than gangs.

Busan Film Festival to tone it down

In past years the Busan International Film Festival’s (BIFF) red carpet was a chance for some of Koreans’ more sexy, but less well known actresses, to, uh, show off their talents.  Who can forget past entrants?

Oh In-hye, BIFF 2011:

Oh In-hye

(Image from Chosun Ilbo)

Bae Soo-eun, 2012:

(Image from Seoul Beats)

Han Su-ah, 2013:

(Image from HanCinema)

Kang Han-na in 2013:

(Image from Koalas Playground)

According to Bobby McGill’s on the scene and “in-depth” reporting over at Busan Haps, this year’s BIFF organizers, bending to the will of their militant and angry dry, old hag committee, have announced a dress code of sorts to eliminate the low cut dresses that have walked previous red carpets.

It is reported that BIFF organizers are pleased this year as it would seem that the actresses have heeded the dress code with attire that is a bit more, uh, sedate:

(Image from Korea Times)

By the way, it is just me or does the Busan Cinema Center look like a Cylon Basestar?

BIFF kicked off this Thursday and runs through Oct. 11.

Koreans now drink more coffee than eat white rice.

The headlines are saying that Koreans drink more coffee than eat rice, a statement that’s patently false.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.00.14 AM

(Graphic from I Am Koream)

White rice 7 + multigrain rice 9.5 = 16.5 total rice > 12.3 coffee, no?

However, there is very little doubt that total Korean intake of rice has been decreasing over the past few years, particularly among urban dwellers.

Do North Korean refugee women dream of finding their perfect South Korean meal ticket husband?

What usually comes to mind when one thinks of North Korean women?  Those pretty cheerleaders that the North occasionally send out to international sporting events?  Women who, by very nature of being malnourished, being an average of 2-3 inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts?  Prettier than average Korean women in line with the Korean saying, “남남북녀” (“Namnam buknyeo”), or in English “Southern men [are handsomest], [and] northern women [are prettiest].”

Well, according to The Hankyoreh, at least one matchmaking agency has drawn some cartoons to expound their own stereotypes of apparently economically desperate North Korean women refugees looking for South Korean husbands to take them away from their destitution.

(Image from The Hankyoreh)

The blog Korea Exposé offers interesting English commentary:

A North Korean woman, alone in her cheap government housing, asks, “I want to get married. Where is my love?” She daydreams of being only in her underwear, straddling her ideal South Korean man, and calling out to him in affection, “My dear husband.”

That controversial advertisement by a matchmaking firm specializing in bringing North Korean defector women and South Korean men together was abruptly pulled late last month amid a firestorm of criticism at the way it depicted North Korean women as lonesome, sexually charged, and desperate.

Added bonus?  The same match making agency put out another cartoon explaining the, uh, “benefits” of having children with North Korean women:

(Image from The Hankyoreh)

No brown interracial children!

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