This Week: June 30-July 6
In an effort to get back to regular blogging, we’re going to try this one more time. Here is a collection of links from around the web that have caught my attention this week.
Conflict grows over Yemeni refugees in Jeju-do
Last weekend, a protest and counter-protest were held in regard to the approximately 500 Yemeni asylum seekers who have been stranded on Jeju-do, where a special visa-free program for tourists allowed them entrance they couldn’t gain to the mainland. A petition to the Blue House website requesting that they not be granted asylum has a record 642,000 signatures, and now Jeju-do’s visa-free policy is being debated. Meanwhile, the situation for the asylum seekers is becoming dire, given that many of them are camping on the beach, and as you probably know, a typhoon beat down on the island for the better part of a week, and it is really fucking hot.
Bakeries ditch plastic bags
In an ongoing effort to offset the recycling crisis caused by China’s ban on importing the world’s plastic, which went into effect in January, Korean companies are seeking out more eco-friendly alternatives. This week, both Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours committed to ditching their plastic bags for paper. Government offices are already cutting back on waste by banning paper cups and those plastic umbrella sleeves, and Korean marts have committed to reducing plastic packing waste by up to 50 percent.
New 52-hour work week goes into effect
On Sunday, the government’s new labor law went into effect, meaning that the official workweek for companies with more than 300 employees is now limited to 52 hours, down from the previous 68 hours. Anything over 40 hours requires time-and-a-half overtime pay, but not everyone is feeling optimistic. A lot of people believe the new policy will just result in more unpaid overtime off the books, or basically no change at all. The thing is though, I don’t really get the overtime argument, considering how inconsistent overtime compensation is for the dozens of overtime hours many Korean workers put in per month currently. Meanwhile, people in fields that pay an hourly wage are upset at not being able to make as much money as before, if their hours are limited to *just* 52 a week. I call that a minimum wage problem, not a work-week limitation problem. No one should be struggling to get by on what they make working 52 hours a week.
Half of all single-person households are female and this is somehow news
On Monday, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family released a the results of a report that found that 49.5 percent of all single-person households in Korea are occupied by women. The headline says that women are “thinking less about marriage”, but this was a stats report and not a survey, so I’m not sure where that conclusion comes from. At any rate, women in their 30s continue to lag behind all other age groups in terms of employment, which is probably due to being expected to quit or being squeezed out after marriage and childbirth.
Women boycott consumer activities on the first Sunday of every month
In related news, women are beginning to organize around a spending boycott one Sunday a month to protest gender economic inequality, including the pink tax (the extra money women are often charged for goods and services of comparable value to the ones offered to men and the general population), the wage gap, objectification in advertising, and the extra money women are expected to spend to keep up their physical appearances as compared to men (see: women getting fired/not hired for not wearing makeup, which can cost hundreds of thousands of won a month).
KT Modern Korean Literature Translation Awards
The Korea Times have officially kicked off their annual Modern Korean Literature Translation Awards. They’re taking submissions in both fiction and poetry, and the deadline is August 31. The grand prizes are pretty hefty, but inexplicably, the prize for poetry is less than half the amount of the prize for fiction. Because as everyone knows, translating poetry is a piece of cake. Thanks, KT.
Chungmuro International Music Film Festival July 6-15
If you’re looking for a way to keep cool during this heatwave without running up your electricity bill, and you’re a fan of films and/or musicals, you might want to check out the Chungmuro International Musical Film Festival, which kicks off today. You can head to Chungmu Arts Center, DDP or the CGV Myeongdong Cine Library to catch films like Dirty Dancing, Victor Victoria, Man of La Mancha, Little Shop of Horrors, Fiddler on the Roof and both Hairsprays.
Pompeo to present Kim Jong Un with a copy of “Rocket Man”
What do you really want me to say about this? Because I’ve got nothing.
Around the Web
NY Times critic reviews book about the art of translation
Benjamin Moser goes in on Kate Briggs for the loosey-goosey views she expresses on translation in her new book, This Little Art. Although the review is pretty scathing, I’m not strictly a traditionalist when it comes to translation, and the poet in me is more intrigued by these excerpts than anything. Moser also takes a few swipes at Roland Barthes by way of explaining why Briggs is inadequate, so that’s strike one for Moser, in my opinion.
Refugee crisis around the world
The global refugee/asylum-seekers crisis has simultaneously reached a boiling point both here in Korea and in my home country, and it’s having a major impact on politics in Germany right now, too. In 1951, following the atrocities of World War II, the UN made a commitment, based on the lessons we all had learned from the war, to take the issue of global refugees more seriously. Now, more people have been displaced worldwide in the past few years than any time since the aftermath of that war, and everyone is struggling to keep up and figure out how to handle it. This article by Uri Friedman in The Atlantic takes a look at some of the possible solutions, as well as their downsides. An interesting read for anyone who cares enough to imagine themselves in these refugee’s shoes and think seriously about what can reasonably be done for them.
The Internet remembers Ernest Hemingway
Monday was the anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s death. The literary world lost their annual collective shit (which is a bit morbid, if you ask me), and a ton of Hemingway tributes went up around the web, but my favorite was this one from BrainPickings that outlines his advice on writing, the revision process and a list of books he thought to be essential reading for aspiring writers.
Run a bookstore in seaside Scotland
The New York Times Critic’s Notebook sent a critic to the Scottish seaside village of Wigtown, where bookstores are the main industry. There’s a bookshop there with an attached upstairs flat that you can rent, and while you stay, you’re also in charge of the shop. Reservations are full up until 2021, and there’s a waiting list after that, but I feel like this is something I’d still like to do in three years’ time.
Times publishes list of recipes for a heat wave
And finally, the Times cooking section published a list of 55 recipes for 90-degree days, which is perfect. I don’t mind cooking in the heat, but my appetite shifts dramatically in the summer, so I’m looking forward to giving more than a handful of these recipes a try over the next few months.
Freelance writer and editor. American in Seoul. I write about Korean food. I blog about all food. Last year I wrote a monthly column about traveling to different places around the country to explore Korean ingredients and cuisine. This ignited my interest in local foods and cooking, which I blog about regularly now. I also blog restaurant and cafe recommendations, recipes and some background and history about Korean food.