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Korean Phrases Ep. 21: “착각은 자유다”

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This week we cover a brand new Korean idiom.

Learn what the idiom "착각은 자유다" means.

So "착각" means 'delusion', and "자유" means 'freedom', then what does 'delusion is freedom' mean?

I'll also be making another post here in a few days about my new book, so stay tuned for that as well.

Without further ado, here's this week's new video!

Korean Phrases Ep. 21: “착각은 자유다”


 Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean





Philippines: Too Dangerous for Koreans?

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The news of the death of a Korean student in the Philippines hit the headlines this week and sparks worry about the safety of Koreans living in the country. The 21-year old student, who had been living in Manila with her brother for several years, was abducted last month. She was last seen riding a taxi in Pasay City on March 3. On April 8 (Tuesday), her remains were found in her captor’s hideout. The police were able to arrest one of the suspected kidnappers. The taxi driver is also a suspect.

According to The Chosun Ilbo, the Korean community in the Philippines “is blaming local police for mishandling the investigation, and accusing the Korean Foreign Ministry for standing idly by”. Some Korean netizens are already “generalizing” the Philippines as being dangerous. One of the writers of The Korea Times has branded the Philippines as adeath trap for Koreans as if every Korean going to the country has a sniper aimed at him.


Korea Joongang Daily reports:

Since 2009, there have been 40 Koreans killed in the Philippines as Koreans have poured into the country to start businesses, study English and play golf. Between 2009 and 2013, 44 percent of some 160 murder cases of Korean nationals abroad occurred in the Philippines, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Two months ago, when my husband and I were in the Philippines, a 65 year-old Korean tourist was shot dead in my hometown (Angeles City). Last week, a 45-year-old Korean businessman was gunned down in a restaurant in Angeles City while he was having dinner with his family.

Last year, 13 Koreans were killed in the Philippines and four this year.

In an article from The Korea Times, Professor Kim Dong-yeob of Busan University of Foreign Studies said it is more likely that Koreans are behind the crimes.

…the majority of cases involving Korean victims are contract killings. Many Koreans flying to the Philippines have a reason to flee Korea. Many are gang members escaping law enforcement. What they end up doing is paying people to swindle money from Koreans. businessmen, students and tourists.

Photo taken from

A photo of Cho Yang-eun’s detention taken from Philstar

The Korea Times gave Cho Yang-eun, leader of a mafia called Yangeunyi  and one of South Korea’s most wanted fugitives, as an example of criminals who have fled to the Philippines to escape capture. He was caught in Pampanga in November 2013. This reminds me of the news about Koreans kidnapping fellow Koreans in the Philippines a few years ago.

It saddens me that despite the possibility of Koreans masterminding the crimes in the Korean community, fingers are all pointed at Filipinos.

A certain Prof. Park made this statement in The Korea Times: 

You can own a gun in the Philippines. Also, it is a Catholic country, meaning people probably feel freer than those visiting Malaysia or Indonesia which are Muslim countries. And take Thailand, for example. They have better protection for foreign tourists.

I think it’s unfair to assume that everybody can own a gun in the Philippines, (that’s why crimes are rampant) and what does being a Catholic country have to do with crimes?

While we Filipinos understand Koreans’ concern for the safety of their fellow Koreans living in the Philippines, we hope that our people will not be blamed for every crime that involves tourists in our country, and that the Philippines will not be thought of as a “death trap” for foreigners. The Philippines is not the only place in the world where crimes happen. Many Filipinos were angered and disheartened by the news of this poor Korean student’s demise. Many Filipinos seek justice, too. I assure you, despite the country’s frailty and corruption, the Philippines is still a country surrounded by a lot of good people who value the life of others.

From Korea with Love




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Mystical Horoscopes!

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                                                                         By Eli Toast           

Eli Toast stares into the sun so you don’t have to

Aries: March 21-April 21


Dear Aries, If all you do is hang out with thugs and gang-bangers then you can be certain that at some point a carnival will come to town, but it’ll be a magic carnival that sells golden fruit, and when it does, you’ll be with your gangster buddies sniffing glue and staring back into time, way back, to right before the Big Bang when the cosmos was little more than a rustic molecule farm. Then who’ll be laughing? Not you. Because all the children who ate the carnival’s golden fruit will be playing tennis on a beach while you’re getting drunk and growling at other pink-faced weirdos in a condemned smelting factory.

Taurus: April 21-May 21


Taurus, life should be more than a collection of episodes perpetrated in the wet darkness of mean blackouts; all dankly sorrowful and cluttered with memories as doughy and blue as corpses breaking the surface of the blear: doll-eyed and bruised, bloated and gassy. At it’s best, life should be an equitable split between beach bikini bonfire parties and horrendously uplifting rom-coms. Know the difference, because knowing is half the battle.

Gemini: May 22-June 21


Hey Gemini, when was the last time you were seized by a gelid frisson of animal panic? How many times have you destabilized your guts by hopping on your trillion-dollar snowmobile after eating too many breakfast steaks? The squeal of you innards can literally be the shibboleth that grants you passage into the industrial cloud factory, but only if the amplifier is plugged in and turned up enough to make your teeth explode.

Cancer: June 22-July 23


One of the saddest things you can ever see is a small parking lot on the edge of some blighted urban sprawl being reclaimed by nature, Cancer. Watching the botanical versions of white-trash (like Perennial Broadleaf and Sculpin Dickweed) muscle through the asphalt to create a dismal topography of lame crests and valleys littered with frayed bone-white cigarette filters whose exotic beige wrappers have long since disintegrated. Random variegated squares of acid-rain sodden paper lying flat as vomit, advertising annihilation into the inky void. Keep that in mind as your bones slowly turn to powder and your life ineluctably progresses towards compost.

Leo: July 23-August 22


The next time you are sitting alone winnowing sorghum, imagine the vectoring screech of the falcon bruising the hot-blooded sky and the tangy loveless sun sitting there stupidly like a scoop of orange sherbet melting on the hot baby-blue vinyl of an abandoned dune buggy’s roll bar, or, the swamp belching large organic puffs of brackish mist into a bruised sky, or, the rotten jungle just sitting there black as pubic hair composting right in front of your face. You Leo, are the vectoring screech, the tangy wad of justice, the succulent flatus. Your heart is a butcher’s knife on fire, chop like a barbarian on cocaine.

Virgo: August 23-Sept 23


Once there was a dude who recited an endless litany of bromides. Among them was the famously rinky-dink: “everything happens for a reason.” He didn’t say these things because he believed them, but more to fulfill a vague sense of obligation to what he perceived as his personality. This guy was straight home cooking and everyone knew it. So Virgo, you’d be wise to be a bit more mindful with your hokum.

Libra: September 24-October 23


It’s pointless, Libra, to sit around and  pretend that everything you say is an un-meditated nugget of nonchalance. Don’t make the same mistake thousands others have made by getting caught up in a heartless roller coaster scam. It will seem like things won’t explode, it will seem as though time spent behind your calculator will be pregnant with gentleness and warmth,  but someday you’ll get gruesomely tangled in a mess of barbed wire and because of this you’ll never get to visit that famous volcano your old man was always going on about.

Scorpio: October 24-November 22


Dear Scorpio, legit heart-worms smell like Minestrone and soy sauce. Back in the olden days heart-worms were referred to as “the condition that smells of soup” or in Latin: “Ad quartum decimum dicendum quod elit.” This is a massive oversimplification of medicine and yet another example of how corporate overlord pig-dogs try to break the backs of their subjects. Smash the system–try to shoot down the next helicopter you see.

Sagittarius: November 23-December 21


Look Sagittarius, I’m sorry for parking my Chariot of Guts too close to your Marshmallow Zone, but it’s not like I went all ape-shit and looted your electronics store at the Slauson Swap Meet. Can someone say

 Capricorn: December 20-January 20


Life is an unnaturally glistening, endlessly rotating hot dog sandwich. So, Capricorn, next time you’re mad-doggin in the kitchen throw some fresh garlic in your cucumber salad and make that bad-boy really pop! and If you believe in your heart and always follow your dreams while being true to yourself and fighting for what you know is right and staying strong no matter what life throws at you, God will make you an extra special ice-cream sandwich.

Aquarius: January 21-February 19


Before you retire for the evening, Aquarius,  you might want to pray to whomever it is you pray to that ants and cattle don’t team up and decide to take over all the farms in the world, because if that happens you can pretty much kiss everything you hold dear goodbye.

Pisces: February 20-March 20


Up on Barbecue Mountain you can look halfway around the word and watch as a dollop of molten acrylic from a burning national flag drops into the  eyeball of a bonafide lunatic. He’s at the effigy burning party that you didn’t get invited to (hence you being alone atop Barbecue Mountain, Pisces). And look there, at the pie cooling on the window ledge of a pastel farmhouse being stolen by a hungry convict who has managed to lose his shackles. (He’ll dunk his entire goddamn fist right into the middle of that sucker, hopefully in the munificent shade of a non-judgemental Oak tree). What to make all of these wonderful narratives unfolding from your lookout on Barbecue Mountain? That’s up to you, but you should probably refinance your mortgage, that is if you have one, if you don’t, then you have nothing to worry about.







Requirements in running a money making hagwon

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The following list is not going to be exhaustive, please add you own concepts that I forgot or neglected.

1. Marketing Genius

Before anything else goes, how you market yourself is going to be the single biggest influence on your success.  Ultimately, teaching English is teaching English.  It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how many qualifications you got, or even the experience in teaching you have acquired.  First and foremost, know how to sell the idea of teaching that mothers are looking for.  It isn’t as easy as it sounds.

2. Develop a full package

To retain students, you are going to need some level of substance in your offer.

a. Curriculum; you need to get stuff into parents hands so they can see some results.  Probably why a lot of sham schools are successful is because they are effective in keeping up the appearance.  I neglect most of this. :)

b. Results: Blow your results into the biggest possible proportion.  If one little kid wins even a class competition somewhat related to English.  Make sure everyone knows you made it happen.  Let’s forget the efforts and sacrifices of the kids.  I neglect this.  The only ones touting around should be the kids who made it happen by sitting in a boring classroom and going through the hard work to make a difference.

c. Homework: Make sure you do not loosen your grip on the kids even at home.  Mothers will love you if you can pile up tons of homework on top of their daily schedule of sitting in your classroom.  Let’s forget the basic principles of Decreasing Marginal Utility and long term negative effects of lack of sleep.  This is a mentality I have yet to defeat.

d. Teachers: Blond and blue eyes are the most effective teaching tools available.  When the children are mesmerized by the perfect cut, there is no other way than to be instilled by his flawless English.  I am blond and I have green eyes, so I know how effective they are.

e. Internet: Apart from all the paperwork they take at home, let’s not forget the online component that allows parents to micromanage their kids even more effectively.  Keep those grey cells working, the prodigy has to show itself one day.

f. Reporting : Make sure the parents are informed at the click of a button or the flick of a wrist on how their kids are stellar in their performance.  Sow no doubts about your effectiveness, but do keep parents afraid of the future.  If their children do not achieve A,B and C by X time, they will miss out on the gravy-train!

3. Networking

Try to join as many community services as you can to bolster your image.  Try not to spend any energy or money actually helping people, that will take it away from running your business effectively. The more people see you, the more people want to be you.  They just have to go to your school. Don’t forget to talk to other small businesses like yours, but not quite the same, to see if you can barter students with each other.

I actually wanted to make this post a bit more serious, but it got out of hand.  What I am trying to say is; When image is the effective tool in being successful as a school, and parents do not take the mental/physical health of their kids to heart, all they are doing is paying for an empty box, not only in cash, but also with the future of their kids.


Another Queer Weekend

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This Saturday, Bar Carmen in Kyeongridan will have a Very Gaga Saturday. Check out their facebook page for more information.

We've also got a quick preview on the performances:

Other than that, I haven't seen any posts on queer events in Seoul. Anything I'm missing?

I Watched Korean Girls Eat on YouTube

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I don’t even remember how I was tipped off on this story, but apparently there is this strange craze in South Korea where people tune in to watch girls eat food.  This shouldn’t be a huge surprise seeing that people will tune in to watch anything – even if it’s just BAD.  But to sit and watch someone eat a meal just seems ludicrous, as Mike Tyson would say.

Having said that, I found myself sitting in front of my laptop watching these K-girls eat their food. It’s what boredom and morbid curiosity will do to you while you’re teaching in Korea.  There’s lots of free time.

But there I sat watching.  And after I made it through the entire video, I realized – “I just watched someone eat their dinner”.

All this zaniness is trumped by only one thing; the WAY these girls eat.  When they’re eating noodles, like ram-yeon or ja-jang myeon, they take their chopsticks and grab a big bunch of noodles, swirl it around and around to get more on the sticks, and stuff it in their mouths. But that’s not where it ends. See, when I eat noodles, I get a big bite and then chomp the noodle off.  And chew.

These girls continue inhaling until they reach the very end of the noodles.  And when they’ve finished one bite, about 1/4 of the dish is empty. I’ve never in my life seen anything like it. I don’t understand why they don’t just bite of the noodles and chew.  No, they keep going until the very end of the noodle disappears.

Honorable mention goes to the amount of food they prepare and the amount they actually eat in one sitting.  One girl, “pinka”, makes enough food for 10 people, so hopefully she has post video parties or something.

Now I’m sure people are going to say, “this is just how Koreans eat!”  Well, you know what, that’s not how Koreans eat.  I’ve never seen Koreans eat like this before.  Except for these girls.

As a slight disclaimer, I can say that a lot of it seems like embellishing and overacting for effect. As they are preparing the food and then ultimately eating it, they seem to be tuned into an online audience watching real-time. Though it’s well known that Koreans do like to smosh loudly to show favor with the food they’re eating, I think these girls are just kicking it up a notch.  Nonetheless, it’s still crazy – in a mesmerizing kind of way.

The most insane part of all of this is the fact that some of them are reportedly making several thousand dollars a month showcasing their devouring skills. What did I miss along the way?

The post I Watched Korean Girls Eat on YouTube appeared first on The Red Dragon Diaries.

the Red Dragon Diaries

ESL, Travel, and Judo!

Korean Teenagers and Well-Being

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Over the past two years or so I have written frequently about what a stressful and depressing life Korean teenagers are having in Korea, so it was to my surprise that South Korea came third recently in a study of well-being in teenagers from different countries.

In the linked article above, I do think the title is a little deceptive, in that although well-being and happiness are linked, they are not the same.  I would argue strongly that South Korea is not an example of a country with especially happy teenagers, and I'm sure many would be on my side.  Korea's notorious suicide statistics and a recent poll finding that about half of all teenagers have contemplated suicide, would also seem to contradict the notion that South Korean teenagers are the third happiest in the world.

It is interesting to see how the study was compiled and how it favoured Korea in the parameters it measured:

"To create the index, the researchers looked at 40 indicators to assess "citizen participation, economic opportunity, education, health, information and communications technology (ICT), and safety and security" among the world's youth (defined as people 12 to 24)."

Listed in among the factors quoted are some of the really fantastic things about Korea. There is no doubt that in some departments Korea has done many things right, especially the last three; health (in young people), ICT, and safety and security.  General organisation and efficiency in Korea is also something I find much better than in many countries, particularly my own.  Life for teenagers in Korea is certainly convenient, well-organised, and relatively free from dangerous temptations and situations.

However, the problem with fairly narrow studies like this is the lack of attention to detail and the message it may send out.  Education is a perfect example; while I am sure Korea scored highly for education (it regularly tops world league tables), Korean education of the young is something that significantly contributes to unhappiness.  One can't help but also notice that if you keep students cooped-up in a classroom all day (and on many occasions, all-night), of course they'll be safer.  Just like house cats have less danger and tend to live longer than those that are given free reign to go outside and come and go as they please.  But what kind of cat would you rather be?

Economic opportunities is another thing to be careful in making assumptions about happiness, because while Koreans do have opportunities and in my experience finding a job is much easier (for Koreans and non-Koreans) than in my own country (Korea has the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD), work life in Korea is stressful.  Koreans work some of the longest hours, taking away time with family and friends and time for relaxation. Hierarchies at work also cause troubles, giving their bosses too much control of their lives.  Young people are always at the bottom of these hierarchies, often leading to the worst of working conditions, and the lowest levels of respect and job satisfaction.

But even if it was crystal clear that South Korea was doing a better job than most other countries with regard to the well-being of its youth, does this mean it is doing good enough?

What has always fascinated me about Korea is that its problems are so obvious, and what's more Koreans are so aware of the problems they have in their society, they just seem powerless or unwilling to change them.  It is not a question of Johny foreigner coming over here and noticing the problems they can't see, in my experience very few Koreans are ignorant of the issues they have in society.

In a heartbeat South Korean society could make things so much better for young people if they simply took some of the weight off their shoulders.  The obsessive compulsive nature of education in Korea is the major culprit of unhappiness.

Even small steps would make a great difference; students could still study long hours for example, just give them less homework and encourage more sleep.  As I said in last week's post, why are Korean high school students sleeping only 4 or 5 hours a night? Surely, a healthy amount of sleep would improve their performance and make them happier at the same time.

The study on well-being actually does show some huge positives for the way Korean society has been organised.  Korea is so close to being a place that is really great to live.  There are many ways in which Korea trumps other places in the world to live, but fails in ways that are so unnecessary it becomes frustrating to be a part of it all.

In my own personal opinion, there are a few key issues that would really make Korea a wonderful place to live if they could change their ways slightly:

1. A less rigid adherence to respect culture hierarchies.
2. A greater respect for worker's rights (and individual rights generally).
3. Less concern with petty status games and jealousy.
4. Being less OCD when it comes to education.
5. Being less nationalistic.
6. Enforcing laws (e.g. traffic laws).

Korea has always struck me as a nation of extremes in these regards; it would only take a little adjustment of each of these factors and one might see Korea rising to the top of more positive tables and statistics, like those concerned with well-being, and lifting off the bottom of the less desirable measures of societies, like suicides.

Reading the Korean War

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I don’t profess to be an expert on much, such is my modesty. Even though I’ve lived in Korea for over nine years now and am invested in the country through family, I can’t really attest an authority on much of the country’s history. This is certainly an embarrassment as I’m supposed to be a history graduate.

When I first arrived in Korea I read Michael Breen’s The Koreans, and it was the kind of book that just seemed to give enough of everything so that, if you were curious about some other aspect of the country, you could easily be wise enough to make the wise decision on some follow up reading. I think I finished that book in 2006, if not 2005, when I first arrived here.

That’s quite a long time to spend learning about a country without reading much on it. This indeed may be a problem which much of Korea’s expatriate experts, in that we spend a lot of time here and profess to be armchair experts on the condition of being in Korea, yet we hold very little knowledge beyond a decent gogi jib and our opinions on ActiveX and Internet Explorer. I say this because this is basically me, and while I know there are plenty who know more than most, I can imagine there are plenty who know less than me.

It was in some respects an accident that I picked up Andrew Salmon’s books on the British, Australian, and indeed Scottish and Irish involvement in the Korean War. Around this time last year I was very fortunate to represent the Irish community in Korea when I laid a wreath at the unveiling of a memorial for Irish people who fell in the Korean War. Throughout the process of arranging the memorial, Andrew Salmon was a constant figure advising on the experiences of the Irish in the war, specifically the Royal Ulster Rifles, who suffered some of the highest casualties of the British and commonwealth units in the war. Throughout the process and after his first book To the Last Round was lauded as a must read.

Reading about the British involvement for me, while being Irish, brings it a little closer to home. While we are at all attempts proclaiming ourselves radically different, a commonality exists in many respects. Maybe this stems from a certain familiarity with our neighbours, one that is more realistic than a television impressed notion of Ameicanism.

I went online to check the books out, and here I found a second book of his Scorched Earth, Black Snow which I saw was from earlier in the year. So being a history graduate and knowing the importance of the period before the period we’re talking about, I decided I’d give that a read first. So I tapped away at the screen of my iPad, and before I knew it I had a digital copy downloading away.

That being said, I didn’t actually get around to reading the actual book until I was in Thailand this winter, about eight months later. So shoot me, but I’m a distracted soul, and admittedly one who really hadn’t been reading as much as I would have liked. But I think I’ve been doing better of late. Good books have helped.

After reading both of his books I contacted Andrew himself and asked him a few questions about the writing of the books. I has always interested me how authors who work full time as writers fit in the time to write a non-ficition book, and especially one on history which requires extreme levels of not only dedication but beyond meticulous research. Pick up either of his books and you will understand what I am talking about.

In an email Andrew explained that most of these books were written ‘after midnight’, and that the writing was ‘personally and professionally satisfying, but financially non-remunerative’. This is probably something that scares many away from writing books, this constraint on our time is not recuperated in our wallets – not that I’d know, I’m just saying.

Throughout both books there is extensive first hand reports from those who fought in the battles and slit trenches. From the Busan Perimeter to the heroic holding action at Pakchon in North Korea, relieving the 1st US Marine Division in Chongsin Resevoir, and the of course the slaughter and defiance from the battles along the Imjin River just to the north of Seoul, so much of these books comes from first-hand experience you cannot discount their authority. It seems at times that it’s unfortunate that there weren’t more pages in the books.

‘I started with the regimental and veteran associations’, Andrew Salmon explained of how he made this possible, ‘the nature of these groups is that, if they trust you or like you, once you speak to Chap A, he recommends Chap B, and so on ad infinitum. I was surprised at how open most of these guys were. I think 99 percent of them had never had anyone ask them about their experiences in the “Forgotten War” and as they are now in their twilight years, they wanted to speak, to get their war on the record for posterity. Many of them volunteered material that I was initially hesitant to ask about. For example, the account of one atrocity – the murder of a Korean civilian by a soldier who simply wanted to test his rifle (told in To the Last Stand) – was told to me, without prompting, in the back of a bus, in the company of several other veterans. None of them contradicted him.  I am pretty sure these kinds of incidents stuck in their minds, and they wanted some kind of release’.

Like these couple of incidents, there are so many images and memories specific to individuals which not one person who would there would attest against. I wouldn’t say you get numbed to atrocity, but after some time you kind of stop being amazed and just accept it as a circumstance.

Of all these incidents though two much discussed ones come to mind which I couldn’t help but be frustrated or shocked by – the first was the accidental napalming of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, or Jocks, which was perhaps as brutal and unfortunate an incident of friendly fire as you’ll come across, and the action of the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars as 29 Brigade withdrew from their Imjin defensive positions – not only was it the first time these newly touted tanks had a chance to really operate, but it was in such desperate circumstances that you had to wish they could have done more.

Of course throughout these books, it must be expressed, there is descriptions of rampant slaughter described and it is hard at times to remember that the Chinese who were mown down could have been as desperate as the men whose experiences I was reading about were. It was a time that we can be grateful to have lived after.

With more and more devices providing reading experiences, writers are being coerced into providing a more diverse package. I read my copy of Scorched Earth, Black Snow on my iPad, and as I read I followed 27 Brigade north with Google Maps. I tried and failed to find their positions on the Naktong bridgehead, but as they moved on to Seoul, and then North Korea and along the main highway through Sariwon, Pyongnyang, Sukchon, Anju, and of course Pakchon and on to Chongju, feeling eternally like this was going to lead to one great bloody Borodino – if only it was so glorious. You knew something was going to happen but you couldn’t really tell how or when it would, but when they captured that Chinese soldier while on patrol you knew that something was about to happen that they would have little control over.

‘I wish my publisher had added film of one of those as part of the eBook package’ Andrew said, ‘that would have given the reader a huge amount more visual material to look at, but I don’t think technology has been well-leveraged or well-deployed by traditional media managers’. For the digital age, this is the advantage that eBooks have, and it is one being leveraged by the media, just not publishing. ‘As a print journalist, I am being asked to become a photographer, a film recorder, a presenter, a film editor as well as my core task’ Andrew continued. ‘The upside is that one has to upskill. The downside is that I am not being paid more’. If we expect so much of the media, perhaps publishing will follow soon, but we shall see how high the quality will be.

And perhaps it is our expectations that are dragging so much for nothing from everything. With the internet, nobody expects to pay, and this is where our problems start. ‘The Internet is killing journalism and publishing’ Andrew continued, ‘though it has to be said, the blame for this long, slow, death really lies at the hands of the management of the newspaper and publishing industries, who have failed to come up with financial models that will guarantee the future of traditional media’. This is something that is happening, but it is slow, and expensive, and a learning process. ‘In the future, when online media has matured, we will look back on the first two decades of the 21st century as the critical, transformative period. Alas, it has been bloody; the number of working journalists has fallen horrifically. This is not good for media but – without wishing to sound alarmist – it is not good for democratic governance either.’ A stern warning indeed.

In terms of the books, I’d recommend them to anyone. Enthusiast or casual interest, these books should be read, not only because of what I have said above, but also because they have kindled an understanding and gratitude for our present situation, and made me appreciate my extended family further.

What struck me more than anything in these books was not the descriptions of war and sacrifice by foreign troops, but the images of a poor and agricultural society made destitute by the destruction wrought from the international deliberations over its territory. The people who lowered themselves so dejectedly, who fought their own demons, who fled, who stayed, who starved, but who stuck around and dug in sacrificing more to build up what is truly a remarkable miracle, 21st Century Korea.


On the reception his books have received Andrew Salmon told me this:

‘[The responses have been] universally positive: Mainstream media - including The Times, The Daily Mail, and BBC History Magazine  – have been kind. I’d add that “To the Last Round” has 130 five-star reviews on Amazon UK, which is an unusual number for a non-fiction book, and which I am particularly pleased about. The only negative review I suffered was from the writer of an expatriate magazine here in Seoul. What is most gratifying is the response from veterans, who have said: “You have captured it – this is what it was like!” One, the late Colonel Mervyn McCord, said in an Amazon review, “Anyone suffering from PTSD should not read this book – they would have a relapse.” I have also had endorsements from two “true” heroes – Derek Kinne, George Cross and Bill Speakman, Victoria Cross. That kind of response is deeply gratifying’.


Andrew Salmon’s personal blog/website is (this particular page on the site is worth particular attention in my view)

The books can be purchased online here

Images all courtesy of Andrew Salmon via flickr.


L2W: Double Justice Standard, NK Drones, & Students Staying Home

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1. National
1) The fairness in Korean justice system under question
Koreans must feel proud about a prisoner who has higher wage than Bill Gates. The Supreme Court began reviewing the prison labor system after a huge public outcry over a court’s decision to allow Huh Jaeho, the owner of once Korea’s 52nd largest company,  to pay off 25.4 billion won (U$23.5M) fine by spending 49 days in a prison labor house, making paper boxes. This means 500 million won a day for Mr.Huh, while the ordinary prisoners are paying off only 50,000 won ($46) a day.  As the controversial ruling was given by the judge who has been stationed in the same district for 29 years, which might have led to improper connections with local big wigs, the Supreme Court is making a system in which judges are to move to new locations after serving certain years in a city.

The injustice in Korean judicial system was high lighted in 1988 when four prison escapees took a girl in hostage in Seoul, protesting why they should get 17 years of jail sentence for 5 million worth theft, while ex-president Chun Doohwan’s brother got only 7 years for 7 billion won embezzlement. All but one killed themselves in a live TV broadcast, shouting “No money, much guilty. Much money, no guilty.” (無錢有罪. 有錢無罪) If they were Americans, they would have shouted, “One law for the rich, another for the poor!”

2) North Korea drones flying over South Korean air space
Korean got worried with the discovery of three North Korean drones in different locations in the last two weeks. What is disturbing is that one of the drones had pictures of Blue House (Korean Whitehouse), and many are wondering what if the drone had bombs with GPS locked on the Blue House? The drones were made of foam core fiber glass, powered by 4-cylinder engine, and equipped with Canon DSLR cameras without real time transmission function. The military thinks the drones had crashed returning to North Korea due to lack of gasoline or engine trouble. North Korea has not claimed the drones were from North Korea, but ridiculed South Korean military for letting drones fly freely in South Korean airspace.

 Arms dealers should flock to Pyongyang as the North Korean drone that flew over the Blue House without radar detection would cost less than $25,000 to make. Why pay 150 million dollars for an F-35 stealthy fighter from LockeedMartin that basically has the same capability as the North Korean drone?

2. Economy
1) Less Koreans students studying overseas
According to a government statistics, the number of Korean students from elementary school to high school studying abroad has halved for the first time in six years. It rose from 4,397 in 2000 to peak at 29,511 in 2006, began to slide after Leman Brothers crisis to 14,340 in 2012, marking a 51.4% drop in six years. Experts attributed the decline to the ongoing economic slowdown, and a growing awareness that studying overseas with better English skill no longer means a leg up in landing good jobs in Korea.

The term ‘Goose daddy’ was coined in early 2000 to describe a father who lives alone and makes money in Korea to send their kids abroad for study with his wife because a goose tends to take care of his babies without trying to find another partner when he loses his spouse. A close friend of mine from Hyundai has been a goose with his two kids and wife in Vancouver for over 15 years. I nicknamed him Super Goose.

2) Philip Morris to move production from Australia to Korea
AFP reported Philip Morris plans to close its 60 year old factory in Melbourne, Australia by the end of this year and relocate it to its facility in Yangsan, Korea.  The decisions came after the Australian government’s decades long drive to carry out anti-smoking policies such as forcing cigarette companies to display strong health warnings on cigarette packets. There will be loss of 180 jobs in Philip Morris Australia from the shut down.
 There is a strong bias against women smoking, and it would be like a woman hanging an “I am spoiled” sign if she smokes in public places. My boss in the U.S. was once very much surprised to see so many men smoking in the streets in Gangnam, but no women smoking at all. He should have checked female toilets in a nearby Starbucks.

3. Auto Industry
1) New Sonata unveiled
Code named as LF, the new 7th generation Sonata was unveiled in Seoul, featuring 2.0L Nu engine and 2.4L Theta engine. Well aware of foreign competitors mostly priced around 30 million won, Hyundai put its price tag at 29.9 million won for its top version. Hyundai has boasted that advanced high-strength steel with tensile strength of more than 60Kg (132Lbs) per square millimeter is used in 51% of the new Sonata’s structure, enhancing frame strength by 41 percent. Since its 1st generation launch in 1985, Hyundai has sold nearly 7 million Sonatas so far. Hyundai plans to sell 228K Sonatas this year, and 380K next year.

Sonata has the longest model name in Hyundai. Ever since its launch 1985, Sonata has kept breaking the predecessor’s sales record without exception. Will the new 7th generation continue its proud tradition?  Yes and no from my 28 years of automotive experience. Yes, if it sells well. No, if it doesn’t.


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