Thursday, 31 January 2008

Seoul, the World Capital

I was asked by a friend to get more information about cosmetic surgery in Korea. I think it has to do with me being in contact with Koreans who don’t mind talking about such thing on an open manner. While looking for something for her to read I came across this article at Gusts Of Popular Feeling. have a look at the article.

Korea at this point seems to be absolutely obsessed with looks. You have no idea how often I’ve been asked if by Person A if Person B, standing right next to the Person A, is beautiful. It’s as if this somehow makes a difference to weather I would like them. It is also really embarrassing to for me, because lest just say that I don’t agree, should I say yes or no? I am not going to lie about it, so no matter that I think, I just shrug and say, “I’m not answering that”. If they give me a look then I explain that it embarrasses me and is thought to be in considered, maybe even rude, where I come from.

I have no problem agreeing that someone is good looking, but on my own terns, when they are not there and asked about, or when they are there and I volunteer the information. Add to that me seemingly having a very different opinion or what is cute and beautiful most East Asians in any case, and you can see why I normally don’t say anything to people who don’t know me well.

I asked my children to write a report on Harry Potter a while ago. The one girl actually seems to equate how handsome Harry is with the quality of the film, and maybe even the quality of the acting.

I don’t see how these questions or the obsession with plastic surgery will stop as long as Korea is a place where the celebrities, and more specifically, their looks, are the things to be aspired to.

(You would be amazed by the number of stories of talented singers who are not even heard at the auditions because they are not pretty. Conversely, your be amazed by the god awful singing of some of the so called pop stars.)

*Please note that statements in this Blog are not intended to make anyone look bad. I do not look down on Koreans. I'm merely describing how amusing I sometimes find people and I am mostly describing it to other Westerners. Feel free to come to South Africa and tell the world how crazy we are because heaven knows, we are.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

SA's Wating for Vader

(The headline stinks, don't you think?)

Part of living in Korea is having access to amazing internet speed. Unfortunately that means I spend way to much time in front of the computer. I’m not always on the internet, but just about everything I do I get from the internet somehow. I listen to music, live sport, watch TV, get book, you name it, I do it. I don’t hack, mind. I don’t know how.

Yesterday I found this picture and it’s not directly relevant to the power problems in SA, but still, it’s about electricity in a way. Also, it just made me laugh…

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Seolbong Slip and Side

Continuing the backwards march, we reach the first day of the snow and the first adventure for a long awaited photograph. This time it was the Buddhist Temple at the top of Seoulbong Mountain. Have I mentioned this already? It really feels like I did.

The blind in my place supposedly provide a little bit of insulation, so I don’t really open them that often these days. The other thing is that I forget to close them by the time I turn the lights on and then the whole world can watch me stroll out of the shower.

I did eventually pull the shades aside for a quick peak outside. I was greeted with snow, and we all know how much I love snow. Snow, the thing that will not just make the photo on the mountain possible, but maybe even cover, possibly, an iced over lake.

I took one step to the left and sat down at my computer, typed in the URL for MSN Weather and went to my saved city, Icheon. It told me “There will be snow for three day,” and it was so. Three days off snow. Three Days! And that was the whole area, including Seoul.

You already have the results of the Seoul trip, so I’m not going to bore you with that.

I hopped straight into a shower, got dressed, sat down at my computer for some games and TV and waited for the next day. See, with so much snow, I will be able to get better photos with everything is well covered.

The next day I was off to the mountain. It was surprisingly warm and I was sweating like a pig under al the layers of clothing. Nearly dying up the mountain didn’t help me sweat any less. I don’t think we moved so fast when I went up there with June last time. Maybe that was my problem.

I got to the top, but I’m sorry to say that the photos of the temple were very disappointing. I got better shots everywhere else. After taking a few there I thought it might be a good idea to take a photo of Icheon from the top of the mountain. Erm, yes, the temple isn’t all the way to the top.

It started well, but I soon realised that this part of the climb will be slippery and a even little dangerous. Soon after that the realisation that I have to come down dawned on me. I stood, thought about it, and said to myself: “ADVENTURE!”

I’m not going to bore you with all the detail. I’m just going to tell you that I fell three times, flat on my arse, and at one point I was taking steps, but not moving. I was running in place in a slippery patch, just like a cartoon character being held back. I couldn’t stop laughing at myself

I eventual made it of the mountain, half soaked with a few nice photographs and a story to tell.

Monday, 28 January 2008

The Sacret Garden

As already mentioned, I went to Seoul to see if there were any decent snow photographs to be had. More specifically, I went to get a shot of the Sacred Garden at Changdeok Palace.

I actually ended up getting a many other interesting photographs. This is mostly because I had a fair idea of where we were going, so moved ahead of the crowd to take photographs without people there to bother me.

Most importantly I got intended shot. I’m sorry to say that I edited it, but I have to pay to get in there and I have to pay to travel to Seoul and then the palace, so I’m sure you will forgive me editing away the wet spots on the snowed over water. Other than that I only did the normal colour correcting and darkening or brightening in a few needed places.

The second photograph is of a little gate that leads to the palace’s female servants living quarter. We were in the men’s section at the time.

I know this isn’t much of a story, but I didn’t go to so to be an adventurer. I went as a amateur photographer. Tomorrow I will post a few pictures and a short description of the Seolbong adventure. I’m posting a little backwards, but hey, sometimes I feel like doing it that way, and it makes the editing easier.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

A Little Culture

It was snowing for three days in a row at the beginning of the week, so that meant my chance had finally arrived to go up Seolbong Mountain to see if I can get a decent photograph of the temple in the snow.

I was considering whether I should do a post on that first or on my visit to Seoul. See, it was snowing in Seoul as well and I wanted to take a photograph of the Sacred Garden at Changdeok Palace. I think I’ll do a post on the Seoulbong Slip and Slide for Monday.

To get to the point of this post, I wanted to show a bit more of the cultural heritage of Korea. At Gyeongbok Palace they now have the Palace Museum. I am honestly not sure if it was there before, but I don’t remember it from a few months back.

I first heard about it when I noticed some of the items Changdeok Palace were missing. I was told it was moved to a new museum. Gyeongbok Palace was closed so the site for my second “planned” photo of the day was off limits, so I thought I might as well go have a look at the museum.

There is quite a bit to see there, all of it relating to the royals in some way or another. The two things that struck me most ware the items I include in the post.

The one photo is a portrait of King Taejo, painted in the late 1800s. Contrast the style to portraits from Europe at the same time.

The second photo is of two embroidered patches. I took separate photographs of and combined them in to one. Of interesting here are the images on the patches, not just the beauty.

I often hear Korea being revered to as The Tiger. I wasn’t able to find more information on why the tiger, but I suppose it is the same as the lion in Europe and Africa. It symbolizes power.

The crane is a symbol of longevity in Far Eastern cultures and you see it everywhere on Korean ceramics. Since Icheon is one of the centers of ceramics in Korea, I see it more that most, I suppose.

Friday, 25 January 2008

High schools to teach in English from 2010

I promise no news from other places tomorrow. I was going to post something very diffident today, but this one is a real "YEA!(on the English subject part)" article. I might be here for other reasons as well, but I do actually want to teach the children something and have them use that in the outside world.

The Korean Herald carried this article this morning...

High schools to teach in English from 2010

High schools across the nation will be required to teach selected subjects in English from 2010, officials on the presidential transition committee said yesterday.

English classes must also be conducted exclusively in the language beginning that year.

The committee is expected to hold a public hearing next Wednesday and formally announce the plans early next month.

English-language classes will be introduced in model schools in rural areas first within this year, a measure that is hoped will the English education gap between rural and urban areas.

The program will then be adopted in public boarding high schools and autonomous private high schools, and will be expanded later to ordinary schools, officials said.

The committee is looking at running English-based classes for math, science and other subjects in which language differences will have less impact on student comprehension.

"(The new government) will conduct a sweeping reform of school curricula, textbooks and teacher-related systems from 2010 so that students who take the new English proficiency test in 2013 will be sufficiently prepared for college education just with public education," an official at the committee said.

The incoming government announced on Tuesday it would eliminate the English section in the current state-run College Scholastic Aptitude Test in 2013. Instead, the authorities will conduct a new TOEFL-style English proficiency test four times a year.

The committee expects the English immersion programs to help relieve parents of the financial burden related to private English classes - estimated at 15 trillion won ($15.8 billion) a year.

Meanwhile, concerns are rising about the practicality of "immersing" students in classes where they will learn other subjects in English.

"To create the right environment where teachers are capable enough to smoothly lead a class in English, and students can understand the lesson, is of paramount importance. Rather than discussing whether the policy is good or not, we should create the conditions first, which is fairly difficult, at present," said Cha Kyung-whan, a professor in the English education department at ChungAng University.

"It would be very difficult in the actual subjects, although the policy itself looks really ideal. Even in a highly advanced class, only one-third of the students understand my English lecturing. Teaching other subjects in English would increase the anxiety of the students and make them shy away from the subjects, while those who are good at English enjoy the classes. This could, in turn, exacerbate the social gap," said Kang Dong-heun, an English teacher in Incheon.

By Song Sang-ho(

I would love to just link to their site and give them the hit they deserve for publishing this, but they are running a script that prevents me from getting the link.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Possible new E-2s

The E-2 Visas status is a big deal for us here in Korea. E-2 is the visa that is given to your standard Native English Speaker teaching in Korea. Professors and the like get other E visas.

I came across this article that claims the government might relax the rules for E-2 visas to include some Asian countries. I have no problem with that. There are indeed people who speak English at a very high lever in many Asian countries. That goes for most countries in the world.

The problem I have thought is what I see as the main reasoning for this possible step. Asian teachers, they say, are often better trained than the Natives, especially in grammar. Grammar?

Why do we have Korean teachers? I often hear, and rightfully so, that the children have better grammar than us Natives. The difference is that we can speak the language in an understandable way and know things that you don’t learn in books.

Many of us are able to imitate accents to various degrees. That’s good for explaining pronunciation to children. Many of us have travelled or are just very interested in the Dialects of English. We can explain to you why BS does not just stand for Beer Station and why Morning Glory is more than just a stationary brand. shows how these little “problems” pop up everywhere.

I admit that many Asian teachers would be able to do this, but normally this comes only from an immersion in the language where you hear and see it every day, all day. This doesn’t happen in most Asian countries.

I have a fiend from India whose English, I feel, is much better than mine. It should be because she has a master’s degree in English, but then I think of the little Koreans oscillating their heads and spewing the Indian accent. Not that it will be any funnier that a Korean with a hard Scottish or Irish accent, mind you.

Just out of interest you can see why Korea only takes teachers from their current list. The numbers of First Language Speakers are, comparatively speaking, very small in most other countries. Have a look at this list.

In two other interesting articles you can read that Seoul Upgrades Center for Foreigners and that the New Administration Struggling to Tackle English Divide

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Shorten that Article, Man.

I know I sometimes drone on about things, but I do actually try to make the posts shorter. Look at my efforts on someone else's published article. The original article about Korean Pharmacies is in Korean, so I'm using the good old Korea Beat translation.

Here is their version. When you're finished with that, read my version below and tell me if I really needed to say more.

"Be careful with medicine. When you get a prescription from a hospital, don't go to the pharmacy next door. Also, look for one where they tell you what they're giving you. At the very least they should tell you about possible side effects. If they don't then either they're not the pharmacist self or they just don't care about you."

My article took 10 seconds or so to read, ne?

As a side note, if you ever get lost in Korea, go in to the pharmacies. Very often they speak decent English and can help you out.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

My Favourite View

My favourite View

Every now and then, not nearly often enough, I get a window at pops up from my Windows System Tray. It’s blue, like most Windows Live Messenger windows are, and it says “Camel Likes Kimchi has just signed in”.

Rarely do I waste any time to let is disappear on its own. I usually click it immediately to open a conversation window where I can say “Hi”. This conversation window is one of my favourite sites in the entire world. I like it even more that the sight of the snow falling outside at this moment and for the next three days. The top right corner of the conversation window looks like …
Unfortunately the window doesn’t appear nearly often enough and sometimes it is there for only a few minutes before disappearing.

Monday, 21 January 2008

S Diary (S 다이어리)

During the week I was in Yongsan to find a hard disk case. I was there with a friend and we went to brows in DVD shop. I her to recommend one or two Korean films to me and his film is one of the two recommendations.

The film, as you can see from the title, is called S Diary. I suspect it might mean Secret Diary, but I’m not so sure if it’s that obvious to a Korean reading Hangeul. The other option is Sex Diary. Luckily I like romantic comedies, because this one is definitely for the girls.

The film starts off with some really quirky and creative visuals and then flows in to a story of a girl, Jini, who falls in love with a series of men over a few of years. All three of them tread her really badly in one way or another which lead to the break-ups.

After her hart is yet broken again she wants to know why and asks them. They tell her in ways that hurt her even more. The story then proceeds with her efforts to get back at them.

I am not sure how refreshing this was in Korean Cinema, but it is something different from what I’m used to. There are a few jokes that are only good for drunken University students, but there are a few really odd scenes that make up for the tastelessness.

Not intended to be funny in the way I was it, was her surprise a the C size bra. I think of C as the bigger average, but C is huge on a Korean girl.

The girl herself is nor gorgeous, but very pretty in her own way. What I like about her is that she is not the normal skinny arse Korean girl. There is one shot of her naked back, and it’s so nice not to see ribs. He acting sometimes made me laugh, but like most East Asian films there was the inevitable over acting. The other actors varied in their performances, but nothing was bad enough to put you off the film.

I am already picking up Korean words as I listen and it is interesting to listen to the politeness level they use towards various people. It’s not always what I would expect. The English Subtitles don’t express that and I have no idea that the significance might be. I will have to watch it with a Korean and have them tell me if it means anything.

All in all I found the film very enjoyable and I will definitely watch it again.

Make sure you watch all the way to the end. It is one of the nicest endings I’ve seen in a ling time. Not what you would want before you see it, but you are definitely left satisfied afterwards.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

The Neighbour’s Money

As I was doing my morning scan of the new sites I came across this article. I now this has nothing to do with Korea, but I suppose for me this is a bit like North Korean gossip is for a South Koreans. “Look at what the fool dictator has done to his county…”

Zimbabwe has released a Ten Million Dollar (Dr Evil voice, in Austin Powers) bank note. Wow, I want one. I wonder of I'll be able to get one from the money changers when I go home.

The most I have ever paid for a meal was something over one million thingemegigies in Indonesia, but I read that a hamburger in Zimbabwe costs n the region of Z$ 15 000 000. If you’re not a millionaire in this country then you are truly poor.

I suppose it was only a matter of time. The inflation in this country is in the order of twenty-five thousand percent, that it 25 000%. We are talking daily price changes at that level people. You know, if I wait till my next contract is up then I can get my Z$10mil for half the price.

At the time of writing…
1 South African Rand = 4,397 Zimbabwe Dollar
1 South-Korean Won = 32.5 Zimbabwe Dollar
1 US Dollar = 30,668 Zimbabwe Dollar
1 British Pound = 60,318 Zimbabwe Dollar
…rounder to the closest 0.5 It won’t matter in one hour.

Here are two quick articles from and and the all the dirt at

Friday, 18 January 2008

So Cold!

Last night was absolutely freezing!

Yea, I know. 0 Degrees Celsius is freezing and the temperatures have been hovering just under it for the last month or so, but last night it dropped to something like -10. The forecast reckoned that it would have felt more like -18 after factoring in the wind and such.

The problem with this is threefold. Firstly it’s difficult to sleep when you’re cold. At least it is for me. I keep waking up to get the blanket in the right positions and plug up the gaps where the cold air is flooding in.

Secondly, its holiday and I am using this time to attack people in the online game I’m playing. Because there is no work today I can set my alarm and wake up at 2am to launch an attack. If I don’t do things like that that then the timing of the multiple attacks are out. This meant I have to get up when its -18 degrees outside, sit there for five to ten minutes to make sure I get the timing right and then get back in to the cold bed.

The last problem is my poor hamsters. I have head it said that hamsters don’t like temperatures under 15 degrees and I’m sure my house war much colder than that last night. The Crazy One was likely running all night to keep warm, not because he was being a normal stupid hamster.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that I have two hamsters. They are more entertaining that TV some days. Also, they are also cuter and softer than most TVs.

It seems like the poor things will have more of the same tonight.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

90's Rap

I was reading this post and was wondering if the music videos of the 90's were as bad as that from the 80's. Naturally, for me, I thought of Vanilla Ice and by extension MC Hammer.

Here are the results of my 10 second search on YouTube. If you don't like this rap then you're to old, or to young.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Seat of the Soul

Remember the post a while ago about how Korean are crazy because their brains are in their chests? I have more info in that department. I have found out that their ears are containers for their souls. Sure, you can make an argument that these earmuffs were produced in Korea, but they are being sold in Korea. To me that is the same as agreeing with the notion...

Just in case you're unable to make out the writing there, it says:
"KEEP WARM YOUR SOUL! IT'S EAR MUFF. designed by artbox made in china"


*Please note that statements in this Blog are not intended to make anyone look bad. I do not look down on Koreans. I'm merely describing how amusing I sometimes find people and I am mostly describing it to other Westerners. Feel free to come to South Africa and tell the world how crazy we are because heaven knows, we are.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

English Science and Mathematics.

I read a story on a Blog that translates Korean language news stories in to English for people like me who are totally inept with that language. You can find the whole article here.

The article describes how, for the first time ever, there will be a school that will present Science and Mathematics in English only without using Korean at all. I know this sounds amazing, and for people who are first language speakers it is cool, but for someone who grew up speaking another language and went to school in that other language, all I can say it "WHY?!"

Why do you need to rape your own language like this? You don’t need to force people to give up their own language like this. Today it’s Math and Science, next it’s everything (There is a school for that already). Improve their English, don’t make them English. It’s just useful language, not the mother tongue of god.

I firmly believe that popular media will get much better results. The government, and possibly the population as well, are so hung up on Formal Education that they fail to the see possibility of teaching the whole country, not just the children. Have a free government sponsored English TV channel.

I know you will say "But we already have those." No we don’t. We have channels where the audio is English, but most Koreans read the subtitles. They don’t listen. Take it from someone who can listen to my mother tongue and read English at the same time (We do this all the time in South Africa). You need to be very good to learn anything this way. You need to be able to understand the words and context, translate it, read the Korean and then compare the two, all at the same time. Unless your English is already good, you’ll be reading the Korean and ignore the audio. It’s easy to notice Koreans who don’t read the subtitles. They can actually speak decent English and know quite a bit of the usable everyday slang.

At the moment Korean TV airs the same English films for 3 to 4 months running. I have almost completely stopped watching TV because I've actually seen everything. This new channel should put some money into getting descent, up to date films. Needless to say sitcoms and such are needed as well. It should show these WITHOUT the subtitles. This will, hopefully, get the people to want to watch the great new films and they will be forced learn by the most natural method available, listening and association. That how people have been doing it through the ages.

I hope this channel will also remember that only Americans speak American English. The rest of the English speaking world uses something closer to British. Children need to be made aware of this. They tell me I’m wrong in writing “-se” and not “-ze”. Only America does that.

Side note…
This month I’m going to put serious effort in to learning Korean. My TV will be, almost exclusively, on Korean channels. Korean channels, if you haven’t guessed by now, don’t have English subtitles.

*Please note that statements in this Blog are not intended to make anyone look bad. I do not look down on Koreans. I understand that they are only doing their best.

Monday, 14 January 2008


Arirang is supposedly the most popular and best-known Korean folk song amongst Korean all over the world. Arirang is an ancient Korean word with no direct modern meaning. 'Ari' means "beautiful" (For example 아리따운 native Korean word means "beautiful", "lovely", "charming") 'Rang' can mean "dear". Because of those words, arirang could be interpreted to mean "beautiful dear". I have also heard it said that Arirang has no meaning.

Many variations of the song exist, but the original form is Jeongseon Arirang, which has been sung in Jeongseon County for more than 600 years. The more well known form it the Bonjo Arirang from Seoul. It' also referred to as Gyeonggi Arirang. Bonjo Arirang is a recent version and was made popular in the 1926 film called, surprisingly, Arirang.

I thought it might be interesting to also include the lyrics, so let's start with the Lyrics in Hangul:

아리랑, 아리랑, 아라리요. (Arirang, Arirang, Arariyo.)
아리랑 고개로 넘어간다. (Arirang gogaero neomeoganda.)
나를 버리고 가시는 님은 (Nareul beorigo gasineun nimeun)
십리도 못가서 발병난다. (Simnido motgaseo balbyeongnanda.)

The English Translation:

Arirang, Arirang, Arariyo.
I am crossing over Arirang Pass.
The man/woman who abandoned me [here]
Will not walk even ten li before his/her feet hurt.

Ten li is about 4km

Other uses of Arirang

The use of Arirang pops up everywhere. You have restaurants, shops products and a host of things that use this word as part of its title. My first encounter with it was Arirang TV

Saturday, 12 January 2008

What’s with old people and perms?

It seems that in every country in the world old people think heavy perming is nice. Somewhere between age 55 and 65 they get it in to their heads that the natural styles that they’ve been wearing since forever is just not good enough and that everyone else is missing something. A heavy perm is obviously the way to go.

As I was waiting in town for my bus yesterday I saw an old lady in one of the other buses. Her hair was permed so heavily that she looked like she should be black.

Remember the hairstyles they had somewhere between the late 60’s and early 70’s? You know, the Afro that seemed to go everywhere at once. Some had big Afros and others had small Afros. This lady was sporting a small one.

You have to keep in mind that East Asians don’t normally have a decent natural curl in their hair, so even a light perm draws attention. A full on black Afro just takes the cake though. I so wish I could take a photograph, but alas, she was gone before I could even start to get myself ready for a shot. It was a scary sight that I would have loved to share with you.

One other thing. In SA old people add this strange light purple tint to their hair. Here I’ve seen a few old women that just went too far with that. They were sporting dark purple hair. It’s rare to see people with grey hair here because they all colour their hair at the slightest hint of decolouration, but normally it’s black. Those Purples were just weird.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Hi-Mart Advertising.

In general Korean advertising sucks. I admit that it’s very bias view for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t understand the language yet and by extension not much of the cultural content of the adverts and secondly, South African is renowned for the quality of it's adversing industry.

Never the less, there are a few ads that I like for various reasons. Most of the Hi-Mart adds fall in to that category. Some of them I like because they are actually really good and funny and some I like because they are so ridiculous, visually at least. Over the next view weeks I'll post some here along with what I managed to find out about the content itself.

Today's clip uses the story of a generous rich man who gave his possessions to the poor and ends up getting even more. This I found out yesterday when I asked a Korean who happened to be with me when it appeared on TV.

What I like most about the advert though it the girl. She is in the whole current series of adverts. I like her because she’s quite cute, but more than that, she makes me smile. Look at the way she protects her laptop from the poor people. And look at her face. I can’t help but see what she's thinking. "NOOO! POOR PEOPLE! GET AWAY! IT’S MY LAPTOP!" Something that I don’t really understand thought is why she hits the guy with a stick, or something that I think is a stick. It's OK thought. She looks cute while doing it.

Also have a look at the end of the clip. Why on earth are they all sitting on the roof working on the computers?

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Korean Age

A day or so ago one of my co-teachers asked my age, but specifically, my Korean Age (Eastern Age). Without thinking twice I replied "Thirty Two" but after a few seconds and a glance from my other co-teacher I realised that we were in a new year and therefore I had to add one year to my age. For the rest of this coming year I will be Thirty Three years old.

“How can this be?” you might ask in amazement. “Surely that's two years to many.” Fear not for I will explain Eastern Age. When you're born you are One year old. No questions asked. It’s just the way it is. Every New Year’s Day you gain one year. Isn’t that easy?

I was born in July 1976. On the day of my birth I was One year old. On the first of January 1977 I turned Two and in 1978 I turned Three. Thirty years on and I turned, you guessed it, Thirty Three.

Normal birthdays as well as a 100th day for a baby are celebrates as per norm. New Year is just used for the expression of functional age.

There you have it. Not only have I hit the big Three Zero already, but I'm way in there already, according to Eastern count.

This system is completely contrary to Western women’s notion that somehow your age should be as low as possible, even if you have to lie about it. I would like to take this opportunity to state that this habit of many women rate a 9/10 on my stupidity scale. If your old AND beautiful ,then shout it out. If your supposedly younger and don't look it, then you need to worry.

Wednesday, 09 January 2008

Number of Native English Teachers Doubled

The number of native English speaking teachers has almost doubled over a year. According to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, Tuesday, 3,808 foreign nationals were teaching at elementary and secondary schools across the country as of September, 2007. It marks a nearly double-fold gain from 1,909 in 2006.

Among them, about 1,700 are teachers at elementary schools, some 1,400 at middle schools, and about 650 at high schools.

The ministry wants to hold steady the total number of foreign teachers at schools for the time being. But it will increase the number at middle schools up to 1,850 by the end of the year, further to 2,400 by 2009 and to 2,900 by 2010.

Regional schools had fewer foreign teachers than those in Seoul areas. More than half of schools in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province have secured foreign teachers, while less than 20 percent of schools in North Chungcheong Province and North Gyeongsang Province have them.

US Teachers Biggest Group

By nationalities, teachers from the United States formed the biggest group with 1,602, or 42 percent of the total. Canada came second with 1,150, followed by the United Kingdom with 336, New Zealand with 218, Australia with 207 and South Africa with 166.

In 2006, Canadians formed the biggest group with 737, Americans came next with 684, followed by New Zealand with 140, Australia with 133 and U.K. with 131.

According to the Ministry of Justice, E-2 visas have been issued to 7,022 Americans, 5,319 Canadians, 1,688 British, 683 Australians and 734 New Zealanders.

The statistics show that almost 30 percent of E-2 visa holders from Australia and New Zealand taught at schools while about 23 percent of those in the same category from the United States and Canada did so. The rest are worked at private language schools or other institutes.

"We have not analyzed the trend yet but we assume that teachers from Australia and New Zealand prefer to work at schools rather than private language institutes," ministry official Kim Han-joo said.

Native English speakers who have bachelor degrees can get E-2 visas and education offices in cities and provinces or schools hire them.

By Kang Shin-who
Korea Times Staff Reporter

*This article was copied from the Korea Times website. I copy it in order to add my own formatting and also because it's happened before that I linked to the site only to find that the page moved or removed. For the original page, try this link

Tuesday, 08 January 2008

Fire Tragedy

Lack of Safety Measures Blamed for Loss of 40 Lives

It is a tragedy that 40 workers were killed and 10 others injured in a fire inside a refrigerated warehouse under construction in Icheon, 80 km southeast of Seoul, Monday. Undoubtedly, it is a typical example of accidents that could be prevented if proper safety measures were taken. We express our sincere condolences for the deceased. Our hearts also go out to the bereaved family members and the survivors of the accident.

Regrettably, most of the victims were day laborers who lived from hand to mouth. What's more heart-wrenching is that 13 of the dead were ethnic Koreans from China who came here to find better-paying jobs. It is deplorable that the deadly fire shattered their Korean dream.

The tragic blaze took place one month after the nation's worst oil spill hit the pristine seas off Taean on Dec. 7. The Hong Kong-based Hebei Spirit oil tanker released about 10,000 tons of crude oil into the waters after a drifting barge crashed into it. The collision might have been avoided if the two vessels and the local maritime office took appropriate steps in advance.

Negligence of safety measures is apparently blamed not only for the oil spill but also for the warehouse fire. The two accidents show how sailors, workers, companies, and the authorities have ignored safety regulations. Many innocent people, including women and children, have fallen prey to poor safety measures over the past decades. Such ill-fated accidents included deaths from rides at amusement parks, fires at nightclubs, karaoke bars and even summer camps for children, and the collapse of buildings and bridges.

Survivors of the 1994 collapse of the Seongsu Bridge over the Han River can never forget the accident. Thirty-two were killed and 17 others injured. A much worse tragedy occurred in 1995 when the Sampoong Department Store in southern Seoul disintegrated suddenly, killing 502 people. Whenever such accidents took place, the government and related agencies vowed to enforce stricter measures to avoid a recurrence.

However, it is quite regrettable that the nation has failed to learn a valuable lesson from the previous cases. The government and regulators have come under attack for lacking the will to strictly enforce safety regulations. Corrupt ties between bureaucrats, construction firms and other business operators are also cited as one of reasons for repeated accidents.

Going back to Monday's blaze, the warehouse owner and contractor reportedly failed to properly install fire prevention equipment and ignored safety regulations. Firefighters presumed that inflammable vapor from the basement's engine room caught fire, setting off three consecutive explosions. It is as if we hear the screams of the victims when looking at the video clips of the gutted warehouse. We hope no such accident will take happen again.

*This article was copied from the Korea Times website. I copy it in order to add my own formatting and also because it's happened before that I linked to the site only to find that the page moved or removed. For the original page, try this link

Monday, 07 January 2008

Korean Accent

I was trying to find a recipe for Kimchi Chigae on the internet and thought it might be interesting to see what YouTube will turn up. I found this clip, but thought it might be more interesting as an illustration of the Korean accent.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not dissing Koreans here. I'm just saying sometimes I have no idea what they are trying to say. It's suppose to be an English word, but only they know what it is. At least here they have a legitimate reason to do this. In South Africa we have "English" news readers who say things only they understand.

The lady in this clip has a very clear understandable accent, but you can still pick up small things. People who don't live here will likely pick up much more. I'm so used to it I don't always hear it. Listen for these right at the beginning already...

"I'm going to makE Kimchi Stew. So many people haBE (have) requested..."

Sunday, 06 January 2008

Almost Empty New Year

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I might be heading to Seolbong to see what’s happening there. I'm sad to report that I didn't see anything in terms of festivities. I tried to find information about any programs on the internet, but found nothing there either.

The day wasn’t a complete waste, though. I decided to walk a different route to Seolbong Park and stumbled upon a Confucian School that was supposedly opened in the fourteen hundreds. There had been some restoration work, but most of it is still original. It is one of Icheon’s historical landmarks. It’s amazing to think there are countries that had schools and universities before South African was even a country on the world map. We had people, but they were in no way concerned with much outside their tribal area.

After scouting for a few photographs, which there wasn't, I moved onwards to my original destination. The park, being mostly deserted, had the benefit of allowing photographs without people cluttering up the frame. You know by now that I don't like people in my photographs all that much.

The only active part of the park was a small square that was lined with plastic and filled with water. The water, frozen by the cold weather, make an excellent play area for the children. The people who set it all up were renting out small ice sleds/luges for the children. The children were then either pulled by someone else or were dragging-pushing themselves along using two spiked poles. Don’t you just love watching children play with spiked poles? LOL

After getting a few interesting photographs there and around the park, I headed in to town to get something to eat, but not before staring at the frozen lake.

In front of the park is a small man-made lake. Because the water flows slowly, the water surface was frozen, not just the edges, but right across the lake. It’s strange to see rocks floating on water. I was very tempted to see how thick the ice at the edges really was. Because there was no snow and the ice was clear, it looked almost like normal water and I would have been able to imagine myself walking on water. I could have been great. (That was for you, June)

I include only three photos here to illustrate the post. They have minimal editing, but I'll edit some more photos later to put on Facebook.

Saturday, 05 January 2008

The New Year and the New Year

I've decided to take it easy with the blogging for a few weeks, so this is my very first post of the new year, or the last post of the old year, depending on how you view it.

Not only have we just entered the New Year of 2008, and wonder how long it will be before I stop writing 2007, but we will also start the Lunar New Year tomorrow. As far as I can figure out the Korean New Year and Chinese New Year is at the same time.

Korean New Year, Seollal (설날), is supposedly the most important traditional Korean holiday. I expect there to be a few festivals or other kinds of celebrations around and I think it might be a good idea to go see if anything is happening in Seolbong Park tomorrow. I might have to go on Monday and Tuesday as well since the holiday lasts for three days.

The Korean New Year will always be close to the Gregorian New Year because it's the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice, unless there is an inserted eleventh or twelfth month in the lead-up to the New Year. In such a case, the New Year falls on the day of the third new moon after the solstice. The next time this occurs is in 2033. I'm not sure how this works, but I suspect it it something similar to the Gregorian Leap Year.

Tteok guk is commonly served during this holiday. The dish is comprised of a soup to which are added thinly sliced rice cakes. Eating this dish is believed to grant the consumer luck for the year as well as a few extra years of live. A few ingredients are added for seasoning.

I include a photo I found at I must admit that, keeping in mind this is a it specially prepared photo, looks pretty much like any other dish...