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About K-Pop in Europe (an interpretation)

As it may not be common knowledge yet, I was teaching Italian secondary school students in Ireland for a month for pocket money while spending the summer here with Herself and +1. It has been fun.

Of course I explained to them that I did not actually live in Ireland, and that I was a resident of Korea (no not North, South). This got a reaction sometimes, and other times it didn’t. The students I was teaching were nice, with a decent standard of English, but I was lucky to have the higher levels, as there were other teachers who were considerably less fortunate. But anyway.


Letter from Korea, May 2013

Suwon, South Korea
May, 2013

Dear Ireland,

I am Ireland. It’s mad. Over the weekend I became a country. In fact, little and humble me is now my country. I’m touched.

Actually, that’s an exaggeration. I’m not the country, I’m kind of representing the country in a kind of unrepresentative official but not so official way. You see it’s on twitter, and because it’s on twitter the non-believers will only consider it as hearsay, while the twitterati will revel and rejoice at this phenomenon. There are other things too but this will undoubtedly prove the most controversial point.


K-Pop: A Secret Weapon of Korea for Future Cultural Domination?

South Korea Food Report 2: The Rising Cost of Kimchi


Korean Food Trends for Korea in 2012

This is a food trend report prepared by O’ngo Food Communications and KoCTA (The Korea Culinary Tourism Organization. Even though Korean food is gaining popularity all over the world, it is not trending in Korea. There are aspects of Korean food that are gaining popularity, but for different reasons than in other parts of the world.

*Disclaimer these are our opinions on food and we are looking at this issue from the idea of the whole country and it is not solely expat focused. Seoul has a 10.5 million Korean people and only 250,000 foreigners. The opinion of the masses can make or break restaurants here.*


The Seven Wonders of Hype

Seven countries are fervently celebrating their inclusion on the new list of “Seven Natural Wonders” of the world. But is this anything more than hype? And is the organization that put it all together out for anything more than making a buck?


On restless Americans, living in a foreign country and settling down

If I had read this New York Times article before I had thought of teaching English in a foreign country (circa late 2007), I would have found the premise implausible at best. Americans voluntarily leaving their soil indefinitely? Americans don’t do that. Maybe they go off for a holiday in Australia, or they backpack their way across Europe. We get a little jealous of people taking a ‘working holiday’ It’s a rite of passage, or perhaps a way to postpone Master’s degrees and starting families. They always come back to the states however… don’t they?

From the aforementioned article:

Driving from central Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, for example, you see an American heartland slowly emptying of opportunity: roads and bridges crumbling even without the recent spending cuts, once-confident businesses shuttered, “now hiring” signs eerily absent.


On AFEK, a conference, and hundreds of years of Korean experience

Arguably, a moth is drawn to a flame thanks to an intense point of light. To say I was drawn to the AFEK business conference like a moth to a flame is not only appropriate, but apt. Although not a F-visa holder, my presence was courtesy of Mike Yates, who heard my interest and sent on the information needed to gain entry.

It’s a different world, to say the least. At the risk of stereotyping, an E-2 might busy themselves with meeting friends, finding a place to drink, or creating and participating in the expat community. That is all accomplished while working a full-time teaching job, dealing with an ever-changing schedule, and otherwise having the deck stacked against them. Few E-2 visa holders reach a point where they’re able to break out of teaching; the picture in my mind resembles a dying city where many want to leave but few actually can.


Re: 12 rules for expat life in Korea

A recent article on CNNGo recently talked about the 12 rules for expat life in Korea. While I found myself agreeing with some of them, living in Korea requires more than drinking like a fish or learning to dance K-pop (yikes!). If you’re coming to Korea to teach, work as a business person, serve the military, or otherwise hold a respectable position in Korean society, THESE are the 12 rules to follow.

1. Embrace the culture’s take on alcohol, but know when to say when. Going to the bar with friends and co-workers is common, and (if the boss is paying) a chance for a superior to show their position. At the same time, know when enough is enough. You need not refuse a drink, but sip instead of chug, and choose beer over soju any chance you get – the latter is four times as potent.


Expat slang, part 2

Since the first expat slang post, a few new phrases of expat slang have been overheard. Add what you know and enjoy!

Keyboard condom (n.) – the thin, plastic-film-like plastic cover found on Korean keyboards. Often taken off the keyboard by Westerns more interested in typing than fighting with a piece of plastic.

I can’t type nearly as fast with the keyboard condom on.

Typing with a keyboard condom is like typing with rubber gloves on.

Hongdae Standard Time (n.) – the hour to hour-and-a-half difference between the scheduled start time and actual start time of a Hongdae concert. See also Itaewon Standard Time; other versions are heard around the world.


Moving forward: time to talk about a new teacher’s organization

It’s time to move forward.

I do think we need a organization that assists teachers; in fact, I’d be open to sitting in on that future discussion and offering up some ideas. Let’s get the seven or eight or twenty of us interested in moving forward and have a roundtable sort of meeting. Not in a bar, not in a coffeehouse, but a rather sterile, business room of sorts.

To clarify, I’m not talking about shaking ATEK up, using their contacts, or changing ATEK into something else. I’m talking about a completely new organization, because the name ATEK has become irreversibly tainted, and needs to be retired.

I’d also like to point out that this a big endeavor. At the very least you’d need a few people ready to spend at least a few weeks setting things up, working closely to keep things integrated, and then a larger team to canvass the online and offline worlds to spread the word.


punishment.

A friend shared this documentary about corporal punishment in South Korea today and it is so shocking and disturbing I was moved to write about, and infact I am quite embarrassed to be working in an educational system where so many teachers beat their students AND think its okay. It is not okay. Under no circumstances, should a child be beaten, no matter how bad or undisciplined they may be. I have never seen any teacher do this to a student in my school, nor can I imagine any teachers here hitting the kids. I don't even know what I would do if I saw this, it is incomprehensible to me that this is so common in Korea and was lawful until very recently. (I remember when it changed last semester and I was told not to hit my students, I thought they were joking. Turns out we don't have the same sense of humor...)

AT THE CROSSROADS: TO ATEK OR NOT TO ATEK (guest post from Chris D.)

Chris in South Korea note: this is a guest post from Chris D., whose biography is part of the story. Since we happen to share the same first name, please kindly address your comments to Chris D. (the author of this guest post), or Chris B. (yours truly) to avoid confusion. A post written by myself on the same topic is scheduled for later today.


This piece is about the oft discussed and hotly debated issue of ATEK. My goal here is to discuss one issue that is often left by the wayside in the stampede that is nearly always generated by any discussion on ATEK. That issue, in clear language is: What do Foreign English Teachers in Korea need?

A bit about myself before diving into this shark tank of a debate…


ATEK at a crossroads – the fallout post-3WM

Author’s note: if the title of this post makes no sense to you, please read this post to catch up.


The hidden cost of starting over – a tale of becoming single again

The Lady in Red and I broke up on Friday.

It’s not heartbreak, it’s not infidelity, and personally it’s not a shock. I’ll refrain from sharing the story or rehashing the details in such a public forum, but suffice it to say, it’s over. After a year of living together and two years of being together, it’s over. I don’t write this out of spite or malice, but there is an interesting moral that I’ve been reminded of recently.


AFEK opens membership to E-series visa holders

The following press release comes courtesy of AFEK‘s Mike Yates, AKA ‘The Web Guy’:


29 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Chris in South Korea

In honor of my 29th birthday, which I celebrated on March 29th, I thought I’d mix things up and present some things I’ve never shared with my wonderful readers:

1. Although I’ve lived in Seoul in the past, I actually take an hour-long bus ride to come to Seoul these days.

2. I work with Steve the Qi Ranger.

3. I’ve been swing dancing since college, but I can’t salsa dance to save my life. Guess I’m screwed if I ever go to a Latin American club.

4. The building I work in is right next door to the building I live in – it actually takes more time going up and down the elevators than it does to walk between the buildings.

5. I really miss racquetball, but I’m terrible at tennis.

6. For shorter trips, I actually prefer the Mugunghwa (third-class) trains. The seats are more comfortable, go back further, and offer more room than the KTX.


On ATEK and 3WM – an enigma meets a mystery

I’m not sure when I accepted the role of an outspoken, if optimistic, critic of ATEK. Perhaps it was during this article where I offered then-new president Greg Dolezal a few suggestions. Perhaps it was this article talking about the rumblings around ATEK when another human-rights type organization was formed. Perhaps it was when I appeared on a Korea Bridge podcast featuring the new president of ATEK. In any case, it’s been sometime since ATEK has found itself in the spotlight – for better or worse, the spotlight has found them.


On Groupon, the social buying scene, and not being Korean

Next week will mark my three-year anniversary in Korea. With the exception of a visa run to Fukuoka, I haven’t left Korean soil since I landed at Incheon. That certainly doesn’t make me a Korean, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee a residential status. The former is seemingly impossible, and the latter is not particularly of interest.


Korean Mythbusters: makeup, women, and Dae-grrls

I was surrounded by beautiful women on the tightly crowded subway. The two to my left combined weighed less than I do, while the one to my right was perusing her smartphone. My fiancé had found a seat on the other end of the subway car, and I was left alone with beauty to my left and hotness to my right. Poor me.

It was at that point that I realized my stop was two stops ago. I had gotten so distracted by the beauty around me that I wasn’t even listening to the announcements. I found my fiancé and exited at the next stop, cursing and smiling as we walked the stairs to take a train the other way.


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