Sunday, 27 July 2008


Tetraphobia is an aversion or fear of the number 4 (four). It is a superstition most common in East Asia. The superstition is held because the Chinese word for four (四, pinyin: sì), sounds very similar to the word for death (死, pinyin: sǐ). The Sino-Japanese and Sino-Korean words for four, shi in Japanese and sa in Korean, sound identical to death in each language. I wonder if I am allowed to say: “I am going to hit you until you are four.”

It is not as I have been searching for more of these, but I am sure they exist. This photo was one I found by chance.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Boot Camp for Mama's Babies

My mother of all people, living in South Africa, turned me on to this bit of Korean news. It is about a Boot Camp in Daebu where parent sent their Elementary school children to go toughen up a bit. I can only only wonder what they did to deserve this. This is, after all, a country where mother literally still wipe their children's arses until they enter school

I search the Internet to find out more, but all the captions are exactly the same. I am waiting on someone to see if the can find more information in Korean on Naver.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Rock On!

There is a general lack of Rock music on the Korean music scene. The few bands who to attempt it seems to be so bad that no one ever hears of them. This lack of real rock is the main reason why I don't like Korean music. Pop with it's pretty girls and boys, both  "bands" and solo with a general lack of musical or singing talent annoy me.

One of my second grade students likes rock music as well, so I asked him what Korean bands are good. His reply was that Korean Rock doesn't exist. Later he showed me a few of the clip on his MP4 player, drawing attention to the various electric guitar sections. I grew up in a White Western culture and like most people even vaguely interested in rock, I know who to look for when it comes to electric guitars. Eric Clapton and Brian May are just two obvious examples. One of my favourite, although not great piece is from AC/DC. The guys plays the intro part one handed.

We ended up paying a few more songs on YouTube. From my side it was Springbok Nude Girls, Lead Zeppelin and the like, and from his side it was all 80s, like Mr. Big. Interesting that he would be so in to the 80s bands. Also interesting is how the hardest rockers are also the best ballad type artists.

I need to nurture this boy. Together we will turn Korea on to decent music and away from that, stuff, they listen to now. *wink*

Thursday, 24 July 2008

What other "Thangs" to you serve?

I found this one at The problem is not so much with the translation, but with the writing of Korean with Roman Letter. A better way of wright would have been "Ttang". Ttang is basically Korean for soup. Never the less, it is still quite amusing. No matter how you look at it, "The internal organs thang" is a winner.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Oh, for Zenu's sake!

It was one of the most disgusting things I have seen in a long time. My little Canon (not a pink one) packed up, mostly because I was abusing the poor thing, so I thought it was time to go find a new one. I did my research last night and decided what I wanted, so I was off to Seoul after I finished my morning classes.

At the bus terminal, as I was approaching the window to buy a ticket, I saw a boy standing there next to his mother. He looked like he was either very early Elementary School or very close to entering it. I noticed him because he seems to be without trousers. I was a little puzzled, but decided to ignore it.

I stopped ignoring it when he stood in front of his mother, turned his hack on her, bent over and put his hands on his knees. It was very clear then that he was not wearing underwear either. The little bastard was bending over, in public, for his mother to wipe is arse, IN PUBLIC! I can’t say I blame the boy all that much. I mean, why would he wipe his own arse when his mother will do it for him?



On a brighter note, I found the camera that I wanted.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

I want to get to know her better

While standing at the bus stop I saw a great t-shirt. My stupid camera is starting to make be angry now and I think it is time to get a new point and click. Anyway, the girl’s t-shirt, on the front, read “3rd Base Coach” in a nice baseball font.

I know not everyone cares about euphemisms and non-native speakers generally don’t even realise what people are saying, but I have always been too curious not to wonder why people say things that don’t make sense. Here is how this one works. Girls are like baseball. First Base is kissing, Second Base it feeling naked breasts, Third Base it feeling virgina and home is intercourse.

I am sure you can see where my mind was going with her t-shirt. If you like euphemisms and you have lived with Korean Konglish for a while, you will do the same. When I saw the back of the shirt I had to laugh. It said: “Who gives a shit?” Am I really that wrong to think the shirt says she will teach me how get there and how to finger a girl properly?

Monday, 21 July 2008

Lotte Warnings

We saw these warnings in Lotte World the other day. As my camera was dead, asked a friend to take it with her camera. Unfortunately she doesn't use the high resolution settings that I use. I suspect she is not in to editing like I am, so I will forgive her, but only this once.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Who is Pinon?

I saw a really nice t-shirt. Unfortunately I didn’t have my handy point and click with me to catch it as evidence. Her shirt said:

pinon is real

lover on


Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Korean Main Stream Music

I find the Korean main stream music scene is very interesting. For starters, there are very few singers over the age of 30. Most Korean bands will make their debut at the age of 19, and sometimes even younger. Currently there is Boy Band called “Shinee”. One of its members is only fourteen years old. Most main stream careers are over age twenty-six or twenty-seven.

The music is generally divided in to five groupings. The groupings are K-Pop, Hip-Hop and RAP, Rock, R&B and Soul, and lastly, Ballads. I will give a quick overview of five well known K-Pop groups.


Super Junior is a thirteen members, yes thirteen, member group. Why they have 13 members is beyond me. The large number of members make is sound like the songs have been cut up to give ever member a line to sing. Some members seem to be in the group purely for their rapping and dancing skills.

DBSK is a six member group and goes by more than one name. They are known as Dong Bang Shin Gi in Korea, Tohoshinki in Japan and their CDs are released under the name TVXQ. DBSK was the first Korean group to have a number one hit on Japan’s Oricon Chart with the song Purple Line. The Oricon chart is the Billboards Chart of Japan. The song was released in both Japanese and in Korean.

SS501, a five member boy band, also finished a stint in Japan. Although they returned to Korea and recorded the single Déjà vu, I believe they will be going back to Japan later this year.

Shinhwa. This is one of the few bands that are still going strong even with all the members approaching their 30s. The group will be taking a two years break because most of the members are starting their military service, but their leader stated that when everyone is finished with the military, Shinhwa will be back. There are no sings of this bunch calling it quits.

SNSD is, in my opinion, the best girl group in the country. Nine members is a lot, but I at least all of the girls are decent singers. Despite their singing talents I feel that they should stay away from RAP. They tried it and it was not worth it. Most of the girls have also partnered with other artists like Kangta, Shingdong of Super Junior and Epik High.

Rap and Hip-Hop

Have you ever heard of rappers or singers for hire? If neither you nor anyone else in your group can rap, then you just “rent” a rapper from another group. Can’t sing? That not a problem at all. All you need to do is “rent” a vocalist. The first rent-a-rapper that jumps to mind for me is Gummy. She did a song called “I’m Sorry”. The rap was done by TOP of Big Bang, but interestingly, nearly every time she does a live performance the rap part of the song is cut out. Where rap is a big issue, the vocalists are often kept in the background. Epik High, an all boy band, did the song “One” with a female vocalist.

Bigbang is supposed to fall in to this group, but to me their music sounds more Pop/Rap. Two of the five guys, G-Dragon and TOP, rap. Whereas G-Dragon is also a vocalist, TOP sends to stick to the RAP.

2008 has so far been the year for Epik High. They have recently realest their fifth album called “Pieces, Part One”. What I like about this group is that they are always saying something with their music. They don’t do just listen-for-the –heck-of-it music. They also join Shinwha as one of the older groups. Tablo, the leader of the group is turning twenty eight this year, Mithra twenty four and DJ Tukutz will be turning twenty seven. Mithra and Tablo are the writers of the group.

Often in Korean music English lyrics seem to be mashed in just to make the song sound cool. The English and the Korean does not seem to have any correlation. Here is where Epic High have something going for them in that Tablo’s English is so good that the English lyrics actually fit in with the Korean lyrics.

There is so much more to say about Korean music, but I will save it for another time. I hope that the little bit that I put down here will show you that Korean music is not as shallow as some people like to believe. (Otto’s note: That would be a *cough*, subtle reference to me.)

*I would like to thank Aska, the KM Lover, for writing this post. I hope you will make it a regular thing.

Monday, 14 July 2008

My pupils are missing

The fun and game that is my school’s class schedule continues as normal this week. I think I can remember, maybe, a hand full of weeks during my more that a year here that weren’t changed. Usually I am informed of the changes roughly 5 minutes before they actually take effect.

What follows in this paragraph is my normal schedule for a Monday. I leave out the meeting before the first period because I don’t attend that because it is all in Korean. I suspect that this is where the changes are announced, but that will still not make any difference to me as THE MEETING IS IN KOREAN and I don’t get a running translation. You would think that one of the three English teachers would just jot down the changes as they are announced and leave me a note, but nope, to much thinking involved there. This is the schedule:

Period One: Class 1-3 & 1-4, Mixed, Higher Level
Period Two: Class 1-1 & 1-2, Mixed, Lower Level
Period Three: Adults, Higher Level
Period Four: Adults, Higher Level
Period Five: Open
Period Six: Class 1-3 & 1-4, Mixed, Lower Level
After School: Nothing at the moment

The mixed class thing is a headache. I don’t see much difference between the various classes and it is hell to assign scores when you have to figure out who belongs in what class.

This morning, five minutes before the start of the first class and long I arrived early to prepare for my Monday after the classes, I was informed that the first and forth periods were cancelled. This was because they were visiting some or another high school. My new schedule looked like this:

Period One: Class 1-3 & 1-4, Mixed, Higher Level
Period Two: Class 1-1 & 1-2, Mixed, Lower Level
Period Three: Adults, Higher Level
Period Four: Adults, Higher Level (no actual effect)
Period Five: Open
Period Six: Class 1-3 & 1-4, Mixed, Lower Level
After School: Nothing at the moment

I looked at it for a minute and then realised what was amiss. My questions were: “Firstly, if students from classes 1-3 AND 1-4 are going, then where are the others students in this grade. Secondly, what happened to my other class that is a 3 & 4 mix? Where are those students?”

It turns out that we reverted to the old system the looks like this:

Period One: Class 1-4, Mixed Level, Same Class
Period Two: Class 1-1, Mixed Level, Dame Class
Period Three: Adults, Higher Level, Same Class
Period Four: Adults, Higher Level, Same Class
Period Five: Open
Period Six: Class 1-3, Mixed Level, Same Class
After School: Nothing at the moment

This means that I now have, after carefully working out how to fix the mess that was last week’s changes, one class without scores for this week’s work. I continuously grade the pupils. This is my own invention in the absence of any official or organised rating system for my part of the English curriculum. Further more, I end up with a class/period where half the pulips already had this week’s lesson.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Seoul to Hire US Cow Shrink

Michael Breen’s recent editorial in the Korea time made me laugh. I writing my thought as I was reading the piece titled Seoul to Hire US Cow Shrink:

With opposition to U.S. beef imports waning, analysts fear that the decision announced earlier this week by the new minister for beef and swine to hire Bucky McGee, the famous American cow psychologist, may create a new wave of anti-government protests.

A ministry official, who asked not to be identified, said that, given the psychological problems with Korean herds in the wake of the market opening, there was a clear need for an expert like McGee.

For Cattle or Koreans?

But he admitted that officials were concerned the people might misunderstand the purpose of hiring a foreigner if the Blue House mishandles the public relations.

Great use of the "foreigner not good enough because he is foreign" idea.

“It is important to convey that this decision is made in the national interest,” the official said.

President Lee yesterday welcomed the ministry's choice. During a visit to an elementary school, Lee told assembled students that a famous American doctor who `”knows how to deal with mad cows is on his way to Korea.”

Of course you need to give political speeches of national interest at schools in Korea.

When children started screaming, reporters asked Lee to go out into the playground where they could hear him more clearly.

McGee is known as the “cow whisperer” for his pioneering work with beef cattle. He achieved prominence in the early '90s when he worked in Britain during the outbreak of mad cow disease.

Earlier in his career, he developed a rudimentary language that allowed him to communicate with cows. Known as Mooian, or eummaemal in Korean, the language is extremely difficult to master.

Mooian! Eummaemal! HAHAHAHAHA.

McGee claims that cows are very similar to humans in their emotions, but they differ in that, despite geographic separation, they speak a common language.

North/South Korea?

"Cows are united, he famously said when asked to comment on the candlelit protests in Seoul. "There is no such thing as American beef."

The ministry has asked McGee to head up the ministry's Bovine Life Coach Department. The department is normally run by a director-general, but McGee is reported to have demanded an assistant minister title plus expatriate housing in Seoul's Seongbuk-dong district. If approved, his package would make him the most highly paid official in the Korean government.

A stab at foreigners there? Justified, if it is.

The opposition Democratic Party yesterday criticized the hiring. “McGee is insulting the Korean people,” said Kim Han-woo, the party spokesman. Asked by a Korean reporter why, Kim said that the question was an insult to the Democratic Party and demanded an apology.

Yes, this actually happens. Issues are created based on Korean-ness. You are wrong and insulting because you are not Korean. Facts should not be use to confuse the issue.

One online publication posted a video taken by Korean students at Montana State Cattle College, where McGee teaches Mooian language, and claimed that McGee had self-plagiarized his lectures. “He said the same thing as last year,” said one student who was repeating the second year after failing his oral exam. “How can he be accepted by Koreans?”

Brilliant! Korea is well known for it’s plagiarism. Gypsy Scholar has a running battle with his students ever year on this issue and the Korean students just can’t seem to understand why it is bad to steal other people’s work. The Self Plagiarism is a reference to the recent resignation of the Education Minister for plagiarising himself.

The Hanwoo Association and the Korea Dairy and Beef Farmers Association have yet to comment publicly for fear of upsetting public sentiment.

Because then we will have 3 months of senseless protests.

The two associations are concerned about a recent spate of incidents involving Korean herds which they suspect may be related to fears about the imminent arrival of American beef.

The Cattle or the Koreans?

“They know American beef is already on the shelves and it's creating some discipline problems on the farm,” said Yu Sang-soo, a farmer in South Jeolla Province, who claimed his cows are both attracted to and repelled by their American bovine cousins.

We loooove white people but YOU ARE NOT KOREAN!

"They admire American cattle," he said. "But American cows under 30 months old show no respect for older cows and that is a problem."


Korean herds are notoriously fractious with cows developing loyalties to sub-groups within herds, rather than behaving as a group. Some groups of younger cows are said to have rampaged through fields defecating on fresh grass.

Again, HAHAHAHAHAHA. I was laughing, again, while creating this post.

Surprisingly, the American embassy opposes McGee's visit to Korea. “Cows may speak the same language as he claims,” said U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow. “But just because he understands their words, it doesn't mean he will ever get what they want.”

That is very Koreans. "We will speak to you, but we are 'not the same as you' and therefore we will fight you ever step of the way."

The top U.S. official in Seoul said he fears McGee may end up doing more harm than good if he tries to impose American thinking on Korean cows.

“Korean cattle won't be cowed, certainly not by an American,” Vershbow said. “I categorically oppose this decision and if the ministry does not reverse it and apologize, I will have to make a grave decision.”

It is strange how apologies in this country seem to cure everything. I can apologise all day, but it does not mean I give a damn or feel guilty.

Breen has been in Korea for a very long time and I think few Westerners understand Koreans as well as he does. He has a way of pointing out the obvious and making you see it anew.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Scary, really scary.

I have known about Digital Photography Review web site for a long time now. My previous two camera purchases were found through it. A few days back I picked up a story featuring something from the site in my Google Reader. This gave me the idea to just add the site as a subscription to Google Reader itself.

Today THIS scary story popped up. Kodak now has a 50 mega pixel image sensor. Here I was thinking that there is probably a 25MP camera out there. I guess I haven't been following the market too closely.

I don't see any normal person actually needing a sensor of this size. I am not saying there will not be some nut job Korea/Japanese/Taiwanese/Whomever walking around with this kind of over kill just to take photos of people on the street or their girlfriend in the coffee shop, but us normal people really don't need this. (My camera is not crap in any way, but I look inadequate when I walk in the streets of Seoul.)

Few human eyes can see more than a 5MP worth of detail, yet people insist on buying the current 10-15MP cameras. I don't blame the companies here because if people will buy it, then why should they not sell it?

I am currently looking for a "new" compact with an 8MP sensor, the extra 3MP just being for a bit of freedom to edit. The nice thing is that you can now get an 8MP or smaller on the cheap and still get great photos. My main camera is the Panasonic DMC-FZ50,10MP, but I actually edit my own photos and often use them for more than online photo albums. Most people have no idea how to do anything other than take the photos off the memory card and then email or save them. Also remember that a 10MP compact and a 10MP Super Zoom is nothing alike in terms of use and general quality.

"So, who then," you may ask, "will be using this?" "The professionals, the REAL professionals. With money to waste", I will say. If you print images on too huge posters and banners or Photoshop models for Cosmo, then you don't want any sort of pixilation, do you? Imagine a blurry Ee Hyo Ree on the side of a building. That will just not do at all, no it won't. She is worth the $40000, I would say.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

More Accents

I found these clips purely by accident while looking at the results from SiteMeter. The first clip is The Matrix with a Korean accent. I think I might be too used to the accent, because it doesn't sound that bad to me. The Japanese in the second clip is hilarious though. The last clip is something you will get in both countries.

The Matrix in a Korean Accent:

Now the Japanese Accent:

Lastly, guess which country:

Wednesday, 09 July 2008

Why the variation?

Over the last week people have been delivering books to the English teachers. I have personally seen three deliveries, but I have no idea how many there really were. Yesterday I asked what it was all about and my co-teacher said it was new text books for them to look over.

This got my attention. I asked for more information and she said that the school will be using a new book next year. Strange, since I always thought all the middle school in the province would use the same text book. Turns out they don’t.

My first thought was that if you give different books to school, how you maintain the same standard in all the schools. Teacher standards, in theory, are maintained by giving everyone the same level of training at university, but there you basically want students to know as much as possible, so the issue is more with making sure the standards are high enough, not the same, and letting the universities do everything else on top of that if they choose to..

In order to evaluate test results you should, I would think, make sure that everyone gets at least the same basic education. This, in my opinion, is done by giving everyone the same book. After that you can’t stop a teacher from giving students more works or doing an excellent job, but at least you can say you gave everyone the same minimum chance. If everyone has a different book, how do you dictate this minimum chance??

My co-teacher said that the government sets the guidelines, give these guideline to publishes and tells them to create books. The teacher can then choose a textbook. I admit that the books will be very similar. I don’t, for one moment, think they will vary wildly, but they will not be the same. Similar is not same and similar will not give you the bottom standard that I was talking about earlier. It will give you a similar standard, yes, but not the same. I found this odd and said so. Why can’t I say so and try to find out more. I have to teach here, don’t I. Am I not affected by this?

(Every day I am starting to see why so many people basically just turn up at work, take their money and go home. Every day this whole job seems more and more pointless. I just home I don’t wake up one day and decide to join the people who just turn up for the money.)

Now, I am not expecting anyone to jump at what I say. I am not even expecting them to care, but I still have an opinion that I can maintain until someone gives me a reason not to hold it any more.

My co-teacher could not understand how I can say the books are not the same. In her mind, if the standards are the same then it is good enough. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but before I could tell her what I meant she started getting upset because for an example I called one of the Side by Side books a text book. According to her, unless the department give it their stamp of approval, it can not be called a text book. That has very little to do with anything, but according to…

Main Entry: text·book

Function: noun

Date: 1779

a book used in the study of a subject as a: one containing a presentation of the principles of a subject b: a literary work relevant to the study of a subject.

I use Side by Side to teach principals, which in this case is grammar. I use it in class. I certainly don’t need the department to give me permission to call it a textbook. Maybe it is a less than great textbook and maybe it is a terrible textbook, but it is still nothing other that a TEXTBOOK. She got mad and said MY concept and HER concept was different.

No, it wasn’t. I accept hers. I suggested that we just add the bit of “Department Approved”. Just because the government gives MY car a stamp does not mean YOUR car is suddenly not a car any more. The same goes for anything else. In the interest of not fighting, and coming to an agreement over a stupid problem, I asked her what she wanted to call the Side by Side textbook. I sill don’t have her answer.

I also still don’t have an answer over whether other schools use the same book because some people believe that the concept of a text book is more important than the simple question of standards and told tell me to find out for myself. Maybe next time an English question comes along related more to culture or politeness than correct grammar, I will just have to shrug and say “We don’t share the same opinions and you are not allowed to probe my mind to correct your concept because I am not allowed to probe your mind to correct my concepts, so Find out for yourself”. If I feel it is important enough I will ask the other native what books they use.

* While I was writing this post I was thinking about standards for teachers themselfes. Apart from the obvious talent of the teacher, the standard will depend on the TEXTbooks resources and the teacher’s own education. Talent varies, obviously and even thought education should be standard, it is not. If it was then we would not get, as an example, things like Ivy League School in the US. Anyway, that should not distract from the fact that the Department should at least try to give everyone a fair chance. OKAAAY! The do try, but surely they cam make things so much easier for themselves by picking one book, and after consultation, prescribing it to the schools? That was all I was every trying to say.

Man! If there were no people in the world who thought about the way things work then we would still have been living in the dark ages. I might not be Newton or Lock, but I am not suffering from an unusually low IQ either.

To think this post replaces my post on the beautiful changes that pop in to my vision over the last week.

Tuesday, 08 July 2008

This is News

Stupidity in the news.

I’m in a slightly irritated mood today, regarding news, at least, and the news reports have been annoying me no end. I have to say that all the stories come from the Chusun Ilbo because they allow me to read through Google Reader. I do get South African feeds as well, but dint even get me started on that.

Let me start with an article that I found through Brian. In a Chosun Ilbo article “Korean-Language Proficiency Drops” last week, this was printed:

The proficiency of Koreans in their mother tongue seems to have declined in recent years as many take Korean-language education for granted and an obsession with learning English has seized the country.

So,erm, Korea is different from the rest of the world? I can’t remember a time when people haven’t complained about language proficiency in the mother tongue, be it the UK, the US, South Africa or Korea. Language is not a static thing. It is a communication tool. If you are communicating effectively, then what is the problem? I can understand if people are saying Communications Skills are going downhill, but Language Skills? Are these people saying they are using the same Korean as people 100 years ago?

The article goes on:

The Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation carried out a study of the results of the scholastic achievement tests of 20,945 third-year middle school students nationwide between 2004 and 2006. It shows that the percentage of students who received good or excellent marks in Korean fell from 14.1 percent in 2004 to 11 percent in 2006. On the other hand, those who received good or excellent grades in English rose from 18.6 to 20.5 percent over the period. The proportion who missed the minimum standard in Korean expected from a third-year middle school student increased from 4.4 percent in 2005 to 7.4 percent in 2006.

How do we know what student’s scores are when they are adjusted? If you are willing to change a student’s who deserves nothing less than 10% a 60% instead then how do you really know what the results are? Adjusted scores are almost meaningless, and for research they are not worth the paper they are printed on.

In 2001, the Korean Education Development Institute released a report on Korean adults’ reading comprehension and compared it with that of other OECD member countries. Korean adults scored 237.5 out of 500 points when tested on their ability to understand various documents such as those containing maps and charts, coming 18th out of 22 countries. Sweden came first with 305.6 points. Korea was also in the middle to lower ranks in comprehending newspaper editorials, poems and novels.

Again with the OEC! What is it with these people? Does the rest of the world not exist? And results from 2001 to talk about the situation today?

Is not understanding newspaper editorials any wonder? No one expects any critical thinking skill from students in this country. People and especially students are told what to think. PD Diary says something stupid and everyone says “We will comply.” I firmly believe that the language classes are a big part of this. Writing essays instead of picking the obvious answer from A, B, D or D alone might just allow students to think a little further than their noses. Doesn’t it amaze you that someone finishes school and then tells you they have NEVER written an essay of any kind?

In November last year, a survey of 330 human resources managers in Korean firms, conducted by employment website JobKorea, revealed that 59.7 percent were unhappy with the level of Korean proficiency of new employees, with 49.4 percent saying they are “not satisfied” and 10.3 percent saying “very unsatisfied.”

Well, let me see. Older people believing younger people’s language is not up to scratch. Imagine that. Younger people don’t have the same standards. What is the world coming to?

Experts say neglect of Chinese characters education in the school curriculum is one of the major reasons behind this. Because 70 percent of Korean vocabulary is made of the combination of Chinese characters, they claim the study of Chinese characters is essential for middle and high school education. However, as English loomed ever larger and Chinese characters began to be branded as arcane, its importance in school curricula dwindled. Prof. Lee Jong-mook of the Department of Korean Language and Literature at Seoul National University said, “The fundamental remedy would be to strengthen Chinese characters education in the school curriculum, and to help children develop reading skills by studying the classics from adolescence.”

I don’t get it. Does this mean that English speaker should now start studying German to understand the structure of English and French to get a vocabulary? Wait, Korean doesn’t use the same structure as Chinese, so along those lines French should be enough for English Speakers to improve their language because it seems that vocabulary IS language.

Centuries later and they still can’t let go of a language they never use? Amazing! Are you Korean or Chinese?

Lack of time committed to reading also contributes to dwindling Korean proficiency. According to statistics on Koreans’ reading habits released by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism last year, adults managed to read only one book per month, and one in four did not read books at all.

Lack of time committed? And when are people supposed to read? A love for reading normally starts at school level. Granted, I only really got in to reading once I started taking the bus to work, but I still developed the love in school. Over here you leave school to go to a hagwon, go home to your bed and wake up to go to school. When do they expect students to read? Further more, if reading more does not have anything to do with the Entrance Exam, then the system will ignore it. Why don’t we hear anyone complain about how the system is screwing itself? Oh, because it is the way things work in Korea. It is Korean style. Well, skattebol, Korean Style comes with Korean Style results.


In an article in the Korean times entitled “Christians Denounce TV Program for Humanizing Jesus

The CCK said: “What the program is trying to say could shake many people's beliefs. It is a violation of individual’s rights to have freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution.” The group reportedly tried to cancel the show.

Otto says: “What?!”

State says: "Oh, that's no problem at all. We won't violate your individual rights any more. From now on Buddhism is the only religion allowed in Korea. Hope you don't mind too much."


Also in the Chosun Ilbo also reports that “Soju Makes Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

And? Who cares except Koreans? Is it really that strange that the name of a product that should be there in any case have been included? Imagine Scotland suggesting it is news that Whiskey is now on the dictionary. Then again, they might just do that. Apparently Soju is “a Korean vodka distilled from rice.” Vodka? Are these people morons? Do they even know what vodka is? Have they ever heard of the words like and spirits. Oh well, at least the article is not about the fools who are still protesting the US beef but still eating dirty Korean beef. (I wonder if pap can be found in the dictionary?)


Again, Chosun Ilbo asks: “Should Subordinates Take the Blame?” The article is about the president who replaced members of the cabinet because of recent events in the country. The fool makes decisions without listening to anyone and then fires other people to make it look as if it was not his fault? Is he so blind to the world that he thinks this will work, or are Koreans actually that gullible to believe this?

Friday, 04 July 2008

Dont Worry, Be happy.

As part of my evaluation for my students, I give them a test every two lessons. That will come to six speaking test for the year. These are other sources of evaluation, but for this post they are not important.

The speaking test is basically students memorising the “Listen and Speak” text for each chapter and then displaying that they can respond with it and use it to ask questions. I would love to make it better, but I have 500 students and up to 40 that I have to evaluate in 45 minutes.

I rate the students on Effort, Knowledge, Pronunciation and Tone. Effort is very important. This reflects whether you studied. I usually change small things and if you know that as well, then you will get 5 point out of the 20 total. Understanding tests to see if you or are you able to change from that the book gives you without dropping the required parts of the sentences, in other words, are you following the book like asheep or not? Pronunciation and Tone are obvious. So far I have been very lenient on that, but I think I need to make it a little stricter now.

As it is now the end of the semester, the English teachers are asking me to provide them with my results. Conversation is 10% of their total mark and here is my first problem with the system. You are studying a language. Conversation, your ability to actually use the language for what it was intended, counts for only 10%? Whatever.

I provided them my scores, but the second and third grade teachers asked me to give the scores to them as A, B, C, D values. My first reaction was: “If everything else are a numerical values, then how are you going to use these symbols for the final mark? Surely they must be converted to a number as well?” Eventually it was determined that I need to give them the results as a numerical values. No biggie. The next time things will be much smoother. Everyone is no clear on what I need to provide and I should be able to use the templates for the inevitable changes as well.

So far there is only the little issue of the 10%. That is no serious problem, but, here is always a but, isn’t there, here comes my BIG issue with the system. As already mentioned, I have to convert my score to one of 4 values. These values are, out of ten, 10, 8, 7 and 6. Yes, you are not reading wrong, there is no 9. Students are not allowed to score 9 for Conversation. Also, you can not score less than 6!

The fact that you can not score less 6 just irked me something serious. They wanted me to figure out how I was going to give the students the adjusted marks. I tried, but in the end I told them “I am sorry, I can not give a student who FAILED my easy test a passing mark with a clear conscience. I will give you my marks and you figure out what you want to assign to that. I will write an Excel Formula to convert it for you, but I am not taking responsibility for this.”

For the tests I had students who would answer the questions “What didn’t you like the movie?” with “Yes!”, and then follow it up with an answer to, “Why didn’t you come to the party?” with “Yes!”. Even worse, I had students who refused to say anything. How can you ask me to give a student who did not even open his book or who did not converse at all a passing score? It is possible to get 10 out of 20 for a test by spewing rubbish with decent sounding words. You will get 4 out of 5 each for Pronunciation and Tone and you will get 1 out of 5 for the other parts. If you are telling me I am not being nice already then, well….

I can see how the cultural aspects pressure the system to let students pass, even if they don’t deserve it. It is a big issue if you have a child who failed a year. He will have to walk around hearing everyone say he is stupid. Koreans are not very excepting of things like this and children are downright nasty here. You will also have to deal with an older student who has no “legitimate” reason to be with younger students. The younger students will refuse to respect his age and this will cause all sorts of problems.

I have to ask, however, if I don’t come to school for a month, will I still get my salary? Does the education department really believe they are going motivate this country to reach their dream of speaking English when the very reason that they bring foreigners in to the system is being undermined by telling student that even if they do absolutely nothing in said foreigner’s class, then they will be rewarded with a satisfactory mark?

I can honestly not see why ANY student even bothers in my class. Even if I give them all 0% for everything from here on, it will have to be adjusted to give everyone a mark of 60%, a passing mark, for conversation. How is this supposed to motivate me to care about the students who don’t even try? I don’t think I am a great, or even good teacher, but I want to be better and I work in improving every day. Why should I even make an effort when it will all come to nothing?

I don’t see how the Education Department can say they really care about the students. The system is set up to make everyone appear to be performing swimmingly, while hiding those who do nothing. This is just another political game in the whole structure that is Korea.

I am sure this practice is not isolated to English. This is from the Korean Times:

More than half of teenagers here do not know when the Korean War broke out or who started it, showing ignorance about the country's history and national security.

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security said Monday that a survey of 1,016 middle and high school students showed nearly 57 percent didn't know the war started on June 25, 1950.

Moreover, 51 percent did not know that the war started with North Korea's invasion of the South. About 14 percent picked Japan as the nation responsible for the war; 13.4 percent, the United States, and 11 percent Russia. About 2 percent even said it was the South invading the North.

This is not exactly an anthem for the school system, but hey, it is close enough...


Thursday, 03 July 2008

Will this happen in Korea?

I am too lazy to check now, but I am 99% sure I mentioned before that I love Podcasts. I am even sure I said, or at the very least, linked to something that explained it better than I can.

The Carnegie Council has a Podcast of, usually, recordings presentations by knowledgeable people in a particular field. This week they have an interview between Michael Zielenziger and Devin T. Stewart with the Podcast entitles "Hikikomori" and Japan's Role in the World, based on a book Shutting out the Sun.

The Podcast deals with young Japanese people who feel completely alienated from society, but seems to fit in to may other countries. Because Japan and Korea at culturally so very close (not the same), I had to wonder if any of this can be related to Korea. I can see some of it, but Korea allows the expression of individuality to an extent that I think the Japanese might only dream of, but in other respects I can see how my Korean friends who have lived in other countries are looking for a way out as soon as possible.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, please subscribe to this Podcast or listen to this episode here.

Wednesday, 02 July 2008

Them Chinks are now Kaffers, are they?

Before starting the post outright, I would like to apologise if anyone is offended by the title. Please consider it in the context of South African history and the point of this post.

It would seem that Chinese people in South Africa, if I understand it correctly, are now legally considered black.

This all started more than a year ago when the Chinese Association of South Africa rightfully grumbled about being classified as Coloured, which means they were disadvantaged under White rule and now they are disadvantaged under Black Rule. In South African politics colour is very important and we have, depending no who you ask, three to 5 groups in the country. By law you fall somewhere on a scale based on previously disadvantaged situations. Effectively this means that if you are Black then you will get preference over just about anyone else. Qualifications, experience and credentials mean nothing in most cases.

I am sure you can see how the groups who are not Black will be grumbling. White Rule meant they were not fairly treated, but now, again, they are not given a fair chance. Interesting how this country, built on racial equality, is so legally racist, isn’t it?

While trying to find articles on Google I came across a reference that says the first Chinese were actually black.

The thing that really amuses me is that Koreans, by extension, are now considered Black. Koreans! The people who “like” darker skin and “adore” black skin. Skattebol actually likes black skin, but I have to wonder what she will say when I tell her that she, with no history in South Africa, is now higher on the legal food chain than me, with ancestors who have been there for three hundred and fifty years.

Tuesday, 01 July 2008

The Accent Revisited

I admit that I haven't really looked for a real Korean accent on the Internet, but Brian posted this one and my first thought was: "She sounds like my girlfriend"

I should clarify. Skattebol does have an accent, but nothing on this scale. She works in another country and speaks English on a daily basis. Also, after spending a few hours with me, or any native speaker, I suppose, her accent becomes clearer very quickly.

What I am talking about is when Skattebol makes fun of other Koreans. We all know that no one does an accent like someone who grew up with it. Do not ask a Brit to speak like a New Yorker. Get someone from around there. Don't ask an American Actor to speak like an Afrikaans South African. They always sound German or Australian. You need to ask someone like Arno Vosloo. His first language is Afrikaans, even thought he doesn't sound it. I am pretty sure he can do a killer mocking accent. I can do a fair one myself because I spoke like that when I was in school. It was my natural accent. Anyhoo...