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3There is a halmoni (old woman/grandmother) I always see on my way to work. She is too frail and too old to fend for herself, but she sits in front of a cellphone shop everyday, selling vegetables to passersby. I bought vegetables from her a few times and left her a little tip. I couldn’t just give her money. I know that she would not accept money from me, because that’s how they are in Korea. Even when the person is in need or too weak and too old to work, he will not beg for money. He will work hard for it.
One day, I invited halmoni to eat with me, but perhaps she couldn’t understand my not-so-fluent Korean or she couldn’t trust a stranger, so she refused. I would usually greet her and she’d smile back at me. If there is one thing that matters to a Korean elder the most, that would be respect from a younger person in the form of a slight bow or a jovial greeting of “Anyeonghaseyo!”
Last week, when she saw me, she called me out and told me to sit in front of her. She said that she was going to give me some vegetables for free. I said I still have some in the house, the ones that I bought from her, but she insisted and kept asking me to sit down and wait.
As she was getting the vegetables ready, I sat there, looking at her, hoping that she is not really alone in this world, that she has children or grandchildren who care for her or visit her sometimes. I remember my mother-in-law telling me: “Those old people you see in Korea who sell vegetables on the street or collect empty boxes and scraps are not poor. They are probably richer than us. Working is a hobby for them. Don’t feel sorry for them.” How I hope that my mother-in-law is right… that the halmoni I always see doesn’t have to work that hard to make a living… that to her, sitting there for hours, rain or shine, to sell vegetables is just a pastime… that even if she doesn’t work at that age, she will have food to eat and enough money to get by.
When halmoni gave me the vegetables which she carefully wrapped in a plastic, she held my hands and said thank you before I could thank her first. She put a bracelet on my arm and smiled at me with such warmth and kindness. I said thank you and told her what a beautiful bracelet she gave me. I bid her goodbye and headed home.
As I was walking, halmoni‘s voice kept reverberating in my head: “Are you the one who gave me money?”
“I bought vegetables from you before, Halmoni.”
“No, no… you gave me money. It was you.”
“Come here, come here. Sit, sit here. I will give you vegetables. Do you like vegetables?”
I thought that I was helping halmoni, but no, I wasn’t… she was the one helping me to realize that a nobody like me can be a somebody to someone.


Poetry Plus+ 41 Photos & Videos

After an eight year hiatus, Poetry Plus+ returned to Busan on June 27, 2015. 

The night included music, spoken word, theater, film, humor, & visual arts on all the big screens.

Check out photos and videos below.

Korean Media on US Same-sex Marriage Ruling

Right before heading to sleep last night, my boyfriend and I heard the great news. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the entire USA! We woke up to a number of fantastic memes and posts from friends celebrating this landmark decision. Huffington Post Korea, my go-to news source (yes, I know it is biased) had a very affirmative headline with a "YES" in big bold letters. 

It’s the 50th Anniversary of Japan-Korea Normalization, and Abe Conceded…Nothing

Sometimes Japan just brings these troubles on itself…

Anyone who’s read this blog for awhile knows that I get a fair amount of flak from Korean nationalists who tell me that I should stop pointing out how South Korea manipulates Japan and history for its own domestic purposes – no one denies it, mind you, they’re just furious when I point it out – or that I am too friendly to Japan, and so on.

So this post is for you.

A Tale of Two Co-ops

So, although B and I are now living in a little golmok 'hood where, let's just say, having a bike with a basket is going to come in real handy, we are just a short bike ride away from a particularly schmancy part of the city which is overflowing with organic shops and food co-ops, which is exciting for me, because it's not a thing that has been a reasonable option given the places I've lived previously.

No Public Route for Queer Revolution's Pride Parade?

The Pride Parade is this Sunday, June 28th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the evening. After all the difficulties we had to deal with to get the parade accepted in the first place, I just want to send out one more congratulatory message to all of the organizers of pride this year who made sure the Pride Parade could take place.

Cook show craze is sweeping Korea

Guess who is the hottest entertainer in TV these days in Korea. K-pop idol? Sexy actress? No! It’s CHEF! From 2006 when Olive TV, the only food life style channel in Korea, was launched, various cooking programs starring professional and amateur chefs have drawn viewers’ attention more and more. The term ‘Chef-tainer’ has been coined recently, reflecting their growing popularity in show business.

MERS Monitoring Board



Originally Published by Korea Medcial Hub

  • 6,729 Under Quarantine
  • 165 Confirmed Case
  • 23 Dead
  • 4,492 Finished Quarantine 
  • 24 Discharged


Update: 2015 June 18 09:00 
It decribes MERS-diagnosed patients' moving routes and MERS outbreaked facilities.


These are some useful websites that show statistics on MERS, patient profiles, and interactive datamaps. They are all in Korean though. If you have any question while reading any of them, comment on this posting. I will answer to your comment as far as I know. Thanks!

*Source for map & MERS monitoring board: The Central MERS-CoV Control Office of the Ministry of Health and Welfare

- See more at:

The MERS Panic and Painfully Obvious Need to Clean-Up the Korean Regulatory State




I wrote a story about the South Korean MERS panic for this week’s Newsweek Japan (available here). Basically, I make the same argument as my friend Se-Woong Koo from Korea Expose (which you really need to start reading). The panic shows just how much South Korea needs to get its act together on public safety and competence in government.

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