foreigners

In the Name of the Father

Having chosen a name, my wife and I went to District Office to register our son's birth. And of course, we immediately ran into difficulties.

I believe that the children of some male foreigners in Korea take their father's surnames, so I didn't think we were treading entirely new territory with our decision to give our son a Korean first name and my Western surname. However, the first employee at the District Office said that she didn't know how to enter it into the computer. A supervisor was called, but he didn't know either.

Specifically, the problem related to our desire to register my son's first name in Chinese characters. This would be fine for 'the computer' if his surname had Chinese characters, but it only has the Korean character transliteration of the Western surname. Picking Chinese characters for names is hard, and I don't have a Chinese version of my surname. So 'the computer' said no.

Don't blame the foreigners - an interesting look into Japan's English educational system

From the Japan Times comes an article on the JET program. The entire article is worth reading, but I've copied and pasted a few juicier parts.

The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, touted as the world's largest cultural exchange scheme, has brought thousands of non-Japanese into the country to teach at local boards of education. These days, with many government programs being told to justify their existence, a debate is raging over whether JET should be left as is, cut or abolished entirely.

...

The debate, however, needs to consider: 1) JET's misconstrued mandate, and 2) Japan's psychotic — yes, psychotic — system of language teaching.

...

Your Name Here

It's normal for Westerners to name their children once they are born - or even before. In fact, the traditional Catholic dogma of my upbringing almost demands it insofar as an unchristened babies are left in limbo, or at least they used to be until the infallible Church changed its mind three years ago. But leaving organised religion aside, it seems sensible that a baby should have a name, rather than simply being 'the baby' or any other range of personal pronouns.

Access Denied

Twenty minutes after my son was born, I was finally able to take my first picture of him... through the glass partition of the 'Baby Center'. But that was more than my wife, who despite being awake wasn't able to see him again until 4pm Sunday afternoon - eleven hours after the birth.

I said a mistake was made in those precious few seconds after his birth, and it was that my wife handed our baby back to the impatient staff at their beckoning, and not to me. I would have liked to have held him. But they wanted to take him away and clean him up. It didn't seem unreasonable and I didn't think it was going to have the consequences it did.

Holding the Baby

Body Language

When I returned to this country last September I was given a one year F-2 visa as the spouse of a Korean national. One day I hope to be able to graduate to an F-5 visa - permanent residency - under which I'll no longer have to report to the Immigration Service at regular intervals amongst other benefits.

On our place in the Korean world

Every now and then, an article gives me hope for a future life in Korea. A life that isn't dependent on doing whatever an employer wants to stay in the country. A life that won't be spent teaching English to kids that would rather be playing. I've had the fortune of reading two such articles in the past couple days, and feel obliged to share them with you. The first, an excellent essay by the Metropolitician (NSFW for language, but highly worth the read), is more a commentary on doing the right thing and Korea's struggle to do just that; the second is a call for Korea to embrace its foreign workers - calling them the "new engine for economic dynamism".

Fish Out of Water

We never set out to own animals in Korea, but they seem to find us. First we rescued hamsters from a snake. Then we rescued a dog from some people who didn't really know how to care for him, followed by another dog from some traffic - although we managed to find that one's owner. And now, it's fish.

The Face of the Enemy

If we sit by and become complacent and put our heads in the sand, we're complicit. - Shelley Morrison

Last Sunday was a public holiday here. Memorial Day, held on the 6th June each year, commemorates those who have died for what has become the Republic of Korea.


Comédie!

Another weekend another festival. This time it was the Busan International Performing Arts Festival, or 'BIPAF'. Invariably all festivals in Busan are inexplicably 'International', but this one genuinely warrants the name in that it involved productions from France, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, as well as Korea. We travelled to the 'Busan Cultural Center' in Daeyeondong, Namgu, to see a performance unambiguously titled 'Comedy' by the - according to the announcer beforehand - 'world famous' Nasser Martin-Gousset Company otherwise known as 'La Maison'. I can't speak to the veracity of this claim, but Nasser Martin Gousset does at least have a page on the French version of Wikipedia.

The Republic

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

My wife and I are members of a newly formed social group in Busan. There are a lot of groups like this in Korea variously meeting up for cultural activities, going out and engaging in charitable activities. The new group plans to do all three.

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