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Sewol Disaster: Why we Must Question some Aspects of Korean Culture

jinjoo2713 (Naver User)
 

In the aftermath of great tragedies, one must be thorough in drawing conclusions about the causes and the way people respond in times of trouble and be careful not to explain away matters on handy scapegoats.  Asking pertinent questions is very much a part of this.


Korea Taking Japanese Grievances Global

By Kevin Hockmuth and George Baca

 For those who have spent even a short time living in the Republic of Korea, it is readily evident that anti-Japanese sentiments run strong and hot. On one level, it makes sense that ordinary Koreans would have a strong sense of grievance associated with the prior Japanese occupation. In the early days of the Republic, elite politicians worked frantically against the accusations that South Korea was home to the “collaborators.” Indeed, anti-Japanese rhetoric has been a mainstay of South Korean politics.

20 Positive Vibes

It’s not a time to be taking things for granted.

My youngest brother of four is in town for two weeks and antics are at large. Plenty of trips to traditional Korean spots such as E Mart and Starbucks have so far resulted.

+1 grows from strength to strength. She’s climbing, jumping, running, spinning, and aside from the constant exhaustion, she is nothing but a joy to watch and serioiusly addictive happy drug.


Easter Sunday, Korea 2014: On family, memory and the ongoing tragedy of the Sewol

lily

It’s a cloudy morning in Busan, another in string of dreary, cool days, but at least I’m up to enjoy it. One of the pluses of my recent motorcycle wreck and subsequent hospitalization is that my sleep schedule has shifted. For the first time in life I can count myself as an early bird, though I doubt this distinction will hold after I’m up and moving 100 percent. Like my mother, I have always been a decidedly nocturnal creature. I am convinced that such proclivities course through our veins, that they’re buried deep in our DNA.


Days after Sewol Tragedy

THE CATASTROPHE

When I woke up today, my husband was watching the news about the sinking of a ferry in South Korea, a tragedy that has brought sorrow all over the nation. It has been four days since the 6,825-ton vessel, Sewol, capsized off Korea’s southwest coast, but rescuers are yet to find hundreds of passengers still unaccounted for, and more and more families receive devastating news as names of victims confirmed dead are announced each day.


What I've Learned From Traveling and Living Abroad: The Short List

April 19th marks the five year anniversary of my big move from Smalltown, USA to the bustling metropolis that is Seoul, South Korea. I've lived out a number of exciting and unique experiences over the past few years that include riding elephants through the jungles of Thailand, working in the slums of India, camping with nomads in the Sahara Desert and teaching English to some of the most adorable children throughout Asia. I've made memories that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.

This adventure has been incredibly fun, but it has also taught me a number of invaluable life lessons: lessons that have opened my mind and my heart; lessons that have changed me; lessons that I'm quite certain I would have never learned in my home country. Conveying all of them (including how to avoid creepy old men, lice remedies and universal charades) would require I write a book, but for time's sake, I've decided to include the more valuable of the lot.

Teach

Teachers-apple-on-a-desk--007

I saw ants wandering the crevasses of the sidewalk on this warm afternoon and realized that my journey here has come full circle. The trees that had lost their leaves, shivered and bloomed have again regained their strength to grow. In the day’s heat, my memories skip around from my first steps into Homeplus through blurry midnight taxi rides. But what I remember most are the students that I teach – the quirky, cute, struggling, hard-working and spirited bunch that I brightly say “Hi!” to every day, between every class. They have made up a large part of my life here, and although Korea has given me so much, these kids have undoubtedly given me the most.


The 52nd annual Jinhae Gunhangje Festival

In early April, I went to the 52nd annual Jinhae Gunhangje Festival (진해군항제) also known as the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival. I don’t mind crowds and always have a good time at festivals in Korea, but surprisingly, I’ve never been to this festival before. It was great!

The city boasts that they have the most cherry blossom trees in the world. There are apparently 360,000 trees blossoming at once, if you’re curious.

Friends were discouraging me from going to the festival. Before I went to Jinhae, people were telling me that it would be too crowded (“everyone will be in your pictures” and “it’ll be so difficult to get there and back”), that the flowers had blossomed too early, and that it would rain. I still went, and I’m happy I did.


How Koreans Celebrate Their 70th Birthday

Last Sunday, my husband’s third uncle celebrated his 70th birthday known as 고희 (gohui) or 칠순 (chilsun) in Korea. Korean seniors have three special birthdays to celebrate: 환갑 (hwanggap or the 60th birthday), 고희/칠순 (gohui/chilsun or the 70th birthday) and 팔순 (palsun or the 80th birthday). Traditionally, the 60th birthday was the one celebrated lavishly, since in the olden days, few people lived to be 60, but now that the average life expectancy in Korea has risen due to medical advancement and better quality of life, some Koreans don’t celebrate the 60th birthday anymore. Instead, the celebration is done on their 70th (or 80th) birthday.

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