I received a letter from the Ministry of Justice at the weekend. It was about the Korean Immigration and Integration Program, which neither I, nor apparently Google, had heard of before. I grew up in a city where it was a given that any communication from local government or schools would arrive in four different languages, but this attempt to reach out towards certain immigrant minorities in a spirit of friendship was interpreted by a fringe element as an invitation to burn English books they disagreed with between City Hall and the Police Headquarters. Later, a good number of them decided that protest was inefficient, and the brilliantly elegant solution to creating an integrated society was to kill everyone who disagreed with them.

Nine Months

My wife and I have been trying for a baby for a year, and were beginning to face up to the possibility that we needed to get ourselves checked to find out if there was a problem. I was facing up to the question of what life would be like if that problem was with me - it would have been bad enough in my own country, but to live in Korea and be the one responsible for a childless marriage was a burden I didn't know how to bear; my paranoia focused on all those deeply held suspicions that a certain section of society here wants to believe about foreigners. My state of mind not helped by the revelation that our newly-wed friend had become pregnant on their first attempt.

In the Glass Box

A phone box near our apartment was vandalised earlier this month, and you could tell this was something a little unusual by the fact that people - especially the elderly - were stopping to stare at it as they walked by. I come from a heavily vandalised country - I'm referring to property defacement by individuals in this case rather than the actions of successive governments - so it wasn't anything worth a second glance to me, except that I realised how out of context it seemed, because now I come to think of it I don't think I've ever seen anything here so deliberately vandalised before.

What's Cookin'?

When I was asked if I wanted to attend a 'non-verbal' performance vaguely themed around the idea of cooking for a Korean wedding, it didn't exactly sell me on the idea although I agreed to go. As I gathered it might involve - amongst other activities - drumming with kitchen equipment, my interest was piqued; I'd been to a taiko performance in England and really enjoyed it.

Are foreign English teachers too expensive, or Korean English teachers too cheap?

I recently had to go to the doctor's office at a major hospital in Seoul. Basic / standard health checkup as required for getting an E-2 (English teacher) visa. Cost to me: 90,000 won, or about $77 USD. At first, I cringed at saying goodbye to essentially a day's pay, and was thankful that this is a once-a-year process. On the other hand, I forced myself to pause and count how many people I interacted with during my one visit alone. I wasn't simply served by one doctor; a nurse took some basic measurements and guided through the payment process; another doctor took a blood sample; another nurse presumably got to deal with the urine test, and another one got to answer the phone when I called for my results.

Zoom Suit

For the first time since I was 18, following the great purge of my possessions known as emigrating, I found myself without a suit to my name. So rather than just buy some casual trousers for our friend's upcoming wedding, slumming it a bit on the day and looking like I don't fit it - again - I instead decided to go hunting for more formal attire.

Question from a reader: your rights and the swine flu

A reader writes in with a question many teachers have been wondering about: the swine flu and our rights.

Do you have any idea about what are our rights when it comes to swine flu? Like for example, my friend got sick, and her school made her go to the hospital, where they injected her with multiple things--she has no idea what--and then gave her several unknown drugs to take. A week or so later, she still had a cough, so they made her go back to the hospital, where they gave her Tamiflu, and her school ordered her to take it. I'm not sure how much you know about influenza or Tamiflu.....but that was the most illogical move imaginable. She even got tested for swine flu, and the test says she doesn't have it!

F2: Forensic Factor

Shortly after I arrived in Korea, I went to the local Beautiful Korea, Wonderful Immigration - KISS office - which when it wants to be less friendly is known as a branch of the Ministry of Justice - in the hope of obtaining an F2 visa as the spouse of a Korean national. In the past, the process had appeared to be nothing more than a formality, but this time there were questions, and it even

Crimes by foreigners going up?

If I had a dollar for every time Korea can't statistics to agree with itself, I wouldn't need to be writing / looking at stories such as these. From the Korea Times:
The number of crimes involving foreigners has risen sharply so far this year, the Justice Ministry said Monday.

About one third of the total were traffic violations, followed by felonies and fraud.

According to the statistics submitted by the Ministry of Justice to the National Assembly, the total number of crimes committed by foreign nationals reached a record high of 34,108 last year, nearly a three-fold increase from 12,821 in 2004.

In 2005, the number rose to 13,584 and surged to 17,379 the following year.

Event Horizon

"Chuseok is one of Korea’s most largely celebrated holidays. It is a time when families and friends gather to share food and enjoy their time together, giving thanks to their ancestors for the year's bountiful harvests." - Korea Tourism OrganizationBut there was no bountiful harvest for me on Saturday - except of misfortune; Chuseok will now also be known as the day I caused the Great Internet

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