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Dear Korea #133: I Don't Know You

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Though how long it takes ranges from person to person, it seems as if the issue presented in this comic is one that affects very obvious looking expats at one point or another. As someone who doesn’t look too different from the locals, I’ve been lucky enough to not have experienced this myself, though I see it happening to my friends on a regular basis. While I can’t speak for anyone else, from what I’ve gathered, most of the people I know generally don’t mind having a conversation with strangers who want to practice some of the English they’ve learned. Heck, considering how most of them are teachers, this is kind of a good thing. That being said, there is a time and a place, and a forced dialogue in the middle of dinner or a date is apparently not ideal.

Jen Lee's Dear Korea

This is Jen Lee. She likes to draw.
She also likes green tea.

Got any questions, comments, or maybe even some delicious cookies you want to send through the internet? Feel free to contact us at dearkoreacomic at gmail dot com.

You can also leave comments on the comic’s Facebook Page!


The Great Korean Gym Debate

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As many of you probably remember, I've been working diligently to shed weight while in Korea.  I didn't get a scale until April or May, and I figure I ballooned when I first arrived in Korea seeing as I had brought a bunch of Cadbury Creme Eggs I never ended up giving out (which I obviously finished within about a week and a half).  I was also in transit moving to my new school, didn't have pots and pans yet, and hadn't really figured out how to cook tasty meals using a glorified hot plate.  
I had been working out at Eco-Gym from March 2015 just up to my Shanghai vacation over Chuseok (September 25th - 28th).  Things were going pretty well and I had been losing weight steadily even if it was a little slow for my liking. 

Enter Velocity Fitness.  This fitness franchise was set to open at the beginning of October 2015 in Hwamyeong.  Look at us - getting a Subway Sandwiches and a snazzy new gym reminiscent of Good Life Fitness all in the same month.  Things finally started to be turning around for our little out of the way suburb.  What could be next, a Thursday Party location?  Maybe a Sharky's Nakdong River location?  The sky seemed to be the limit - I mean, Koreans do have a tendency to build up!

I was so excited to be in a new gym with my friend G.  Whenever the creepy Adashis at Eco-gym would leer at us on the bikes or during our squat routines we'd look at one another and chant "Velocity...just think of Velocity..."  Sadly for me, Velocity never came and would never come.  We were told the new gym would open the first week of October, which meant there was no reason for me to buy another Eco-gym membership as upon my return from Shanghai I'd have a beautiful new fitness facility to enjoy.  No such luck.  We were told that the opening day was being pushed back to the 15th.  No problem.  Jillian Michaels and I had done great things together through her "30 Day Shred", and I wasn't about to put back on all the weight I had lost by this point.(I'm estimating about 25 lbs from my heaviest in Korea).  I cut way down on calories and started doing 2 or 3 workout videos a day just to keep edging down.  When Velocity told me that the day had been pushed to October 26th, I was really peeved but just kept going.  

Fast forward to Saturday, October 24th.  While enjoying the fireworks at Gwangalli Beach, I received a text message in Korean from the guy who had registered G and I (in perfect English).  I used my translator and found that November 6th would be the new grand opening date.  That was the last straw.  After having the day pushed back 3 times with no guarantee in sight that this would be the last time, I spoke with the sales rep last Tuesday, saw the facility in such disarray that November 6th was a pipe dream, and got my deposit back.


A colleague of mine takes her fitness quite seriously and mentioned to me that her gym might be cheaper than Velocity (and, of course, was already open).  She called SPO+ Gym on my behalf and got some details for me. She even generously offered to go with me to speak with a manager there.  It's a block away from Velocity (so 3 blocks from my apartment) and was over $100 cheaper for a year.  I also negotiated a yoga class every week as well, so there's really good bang for my buck.  I got back into the gym last Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, skipped Sunday, and went back today (Monday).  The gym is fantastic and I've been spending anywhere from an hour and a half to just over two hours every visit.  With my year-long membership I get access to the entire gym plus my yoga classes, I get a locker, uniform (and laundry!), and towels, as well as access to the biggest sauna/ steam room I've ever seen.  SPO+ Gym offers spinning classes, Vinyasa, Aerial, and Hot Yoga, Zumba, an Adidas fitness course, and a few others I haven't yet translated.  They also offer Personal Training from Korean fitness competitors (bikini and bodybuilding/ women and men) should I ever feel like learning some new moves.  I also really dig the friendly faces of the staff who circulate the entirety of the gym, making sure to throw an "안녕하세요!" your way every 20 minutes or so.

When I get on the treadmill, there are floor to ceiling windows offering an 11th floor view of the stunning mountain vistas I so enjoy in Hwamyeong.  The walls are plastered with motivational phrases like: "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it", "Just keep running" (my mantra every time I'm on that dang treadmill!), and my personal favorite: "Just do squats".  Ladies, that booty isn't going to grow itself - get squatting!

I'm now down 35 lbs from what I gather to be my heaviest weight here, am 5 lbs away from the last time I fit into my graduation dress, and am 14 lbs from my graduation weight.  I can fit into a pair of jeans that I bought in Vancouver in 2008 and haven't fit into properly since 2011 (yes - I realise I'm crazy for keeping some of these things, but if your favorite pair of jeans is still in good condition you keep 'em).  I usually eat the same things every day Monday - Friday, modify on Saturday, and have my cheat day on Sunday.  

Typically I'll have either a yogurt cup or a 99 calories granola bar for breakfast before the gym.  For lunch I'll have an egg scramble with onions, peppers, broccoli, and sometimes zucchini sauteed in half a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil.  I'll add a portion of either ham or chicken breast, calorie-controlled colby jack cheese, and 2 eggs and then serve it up on a bed of mixed greens.  

I have a snack of protein powder and water halfway through the afternoon (I order Cellucor brand protein powder from iHerb every couple of months - it usually arrives within 3-4 days.  The Cellucor brand actually tastes really great just shaken up with water and it's 130 calories with 25 grams of protein - one of my kids thinks I reeeeeeeally like coffee ^^).  For dinner, I usually have some rice, chicken, and mixed greens again.   I aim to take in 1200-1300 calories in order to continue to lose weight.  This is definitely on the low side (never go under 1200 calories, women!  You'll start storing what you take in as fat) but I do feel full and I'm trying my best to listen to my body to find a balance.  I get in 45 minutes to an hour of cardio 6 days a week plus 45 minutes to an hour of weight training.  Sundays are for me, and if I want to sleep in I will, and if I feel like hitting the gym then I can (but I usually don't).  If I want to have pizza or fries on Sunday then that's the day to do it.  Monday morning rise and grind starts all over again.

While I'm really bummed about Velocity Fitness and not being able to work out with the group of local buds that have also joined, I'm really happy to be back in the gym and working on my fitness level in a space that isn't also my kitchen, living room, and bedroom (I have a studio apartment).  A few of my friends are interested in joining SPO+ Gym, but sadly G is sticking to her guns with Velocity (she got a pretty stellar contract renegotiation so I don't blame her, but it seems she was the only one who got any benefits because of the delays upon delays).

Had you told me a year ago I'd be rockin' a crop top for Hallowe'en 2015, I would have called you Bananas.  I genuinely thought that because losing weight in Toronto had been so incredibly difficulty I'd just kind fat forever.  It's not easy and I don't think this lifestyle ever will be, but I'm enjoying it more and more each day.  I love getting up and walking to my new gym.  Getting a good sweat on is one of the best parts of my day.  I crave hitting all my macros and cooking with tons of vegetables.  The routine I've developed over the past few months has given me a sense of calm as well as a sense of fulfillment.  As of this past weekend, I'm also enjoying the attention I most certainly was not getting back in Toronto.

Are you losing weight in Korea?  Have you found a gym that revs your engine every time you walk through the front door?  Have you developed a plan you're sticking to, but need a support system?  Let me know in the comments section! xoxo

Busan Climate Action Film Festival 2015, Nov. 6~7

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Busan’s newest film festival to provide information in an entertaining way on the topic of how best to deal with global warming impacts.


부산시청자미디어센터 – Busan Community Media Center

1472, U-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea

By subway: Centum City Station, Exit 4;
walk straight for 5 minutes, or 2.5 blocks;
it’s on your right, opposite the big building with the KNN sign. – (051) 749-9500


Friday, 6th of November

6-6:50pm – Film festival launch: Busan Veggie Fest
7-8:45pm – An Omnivorous Family’s Dilemma – 8:45-9:30pm – 
Q&A with director

Saturday, 7th of November

1pm – Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
3pm – Bike , City   5:30pm – 
Q&A with director

Welcome to the
BCA Film Festival 2015 launch party
Busan Veggie Fest!

The movie,
the launch party with jazz music,
fresh-baked home made vegan treats for dinner
and a Q&A with the director of Omnivorous Family’s Dilemma.

vegan party snack food

Busan Veggie Fest

supported by Robert Coates music,
three of our favorite local restaurants,
and Hamyang Apple for fresh organic apple juice.


2015 Busan Veggie Fest 

is a single-use plastic-free venue, and a BYO cup and plate event.
Vegan “finger food” & canapes will be served
for which a napkin/ serviette will generally be sufficient.
Please consider bringing your own cup for tea, coffee, organic apple juice, or water.


잡식가족의 딜레마
An Omnivorous Family’s Dilemma

Official Trailer. English subtitles included in Busan premier 6 Oct., 2015



소에관한 음모: 예고편
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Official Trailer
*한국어 자막을 보시려면 화면
오른쪽 하단에 있는 CC 박스를 누르세요

ALL tickets MUST be bought in advance. *
Korean bank account holders
buy tickets here (영어문서).
International bank and PayPal
account holders buy tickets here.

Please include all ticket holders’ names in your IndieGogo purchase.

 Due to Busan Community Media Center policy,
order tickets online or by bank transfer,
and pay before arriving at the venue.

How to Say ‘Goodnight’ in Korean

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Let’s talk about how to say “goodnight’ in Korean.

Although several phrases will be taught in this lesson, it may be best to pick one formal and one less formal expression and practice trying to use those expressions as much as possible.

In addition to knowing how to say ‘goodnight’, you may wish to use the expression ‘see you tomorrow’ (내일 봐요 – nae-il bwa-yo) in certain situations too.

Here we go!

*Can’t read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!

Formal ‘Goodnight’ in Korean

1. 안녕히 주무세요 (an-nyeong-hee joo-moo-se-yo)

If you have studied ‘How to Say Goodbye in Korean‘, then you will be aware of the word 안녕히 (peacefully) already.

The next word, 주무세요, is to formal version of 자다 (to sleep). In order to show respect in Korean, you not only need to add ‘시’ into expressions, but you also need to change certain words.

From the lesson on saying goodbye, we learned that 계세요 comes from the honorific version of 있다. Likewise, if you want to say ‘sleep’ in a formal setting, then you should use the word 주무세요. Use the expression 안녕히 주무세요 when speaking to people who are your senior or who are a generation or two older than you.


2. 편안한 밤 되세요 (pyeon-an-han bam dwe-se-yo)

Another expression you can use is 편안한 밤 되세요. This comes from the verb 편안하다 (to be comfortable) and the word 밤 which means ‘night’ so the expression’s literal meaning is something like ‘have a comfortable night’.


Standard ‘Goodnight’ in Korean

1. 잘 자요 (jal ja-yo)

The verb 자다 means to sleep, and 잘 means ‘well’ so the expression 잘 자요 means ‘sleep well’. You can use this expression to say goodnight to somebody.


2. 좋은 꿈 꿔요 (jo-uhn kkoom kkweo-yo)

There are several Korean verbs that usually are made up of two separate words. 꿈을 꾸다 is one of these, 꿈 means dream so literally 꿈 꾸다 could be translated as ‘dream dreams’, but you should see the two words together as an expression meaning ‘to dream’. 좋은 means ‘good’ this expression means something like ‘dream some good dreams’.

Use these expressions with people who are of a similar age and rank to, but you don’t know too well.


Informal ‘Goodnight’ in Korean

1. 잘 자 (jal ja)

2. 좋은 꿈 꿔 (jo-uhn kkoom kkweo)

If you are speaking to somebody that you are close to, who is the same age or younger than you, then you can drop the 요 from the end of the regular expressions.


Bonus: ‘Did you sleep well?’

When you see somebody the next day, you can ask them if they slept well.

Formal ‘Did you sleep well?’

1. 잘 주무셨어요? (jal joo-moo-sheo-sseo-yo?)

The verb 주무시다 has been put into the past tense and asked as a question.


Regular ‘Did you sleep well?’ 

1. 잘 잤어요? (jal jasseo-yo?)


Informal ‘Did you sleep well?’ 

1. 잘 잤어? (jal jasseo?)


Now you should have a good understanding of how to say ‘goodnight’ in Korean.

잘 자요!

Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series:

Korean lessons   *  Korean Phrases    *    Korean Vocabulary *   Learn Korean   *    Learn Korean alphabet   *   Learn Korean fast   *  Motivation    *   Study Korean  


Please share, help Korean spread! 



East Asia’s History Wars: South Korean and Japan (Yes, once again)

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Newsweek Japan ran a story last week on the continuing history disputes in Northeast Asia. I love that cover (left). Here is internet link to that issue.

I was asked to contribute regarding South Korea. My essay, originally in English, is reprinted below. While the essay admits Japan’s many needed changes on this issue – Yasukuni, historical memorialization, etc. –  that stuff was more for the contributor on Japan. I was to focus on the South Korean side.

If you’ve read my work on this before, you’ll note some my regular themes. The debilitating competition with that mendacious, duplicitous regime to the North means that South Korea often feels compelled to try to ‘out-minjok’ the North by going over the top on Japan (read this, for example). The US alliance with Korea and Japan also saps any incentive for either side to compromise; there’s no external pressure to improve ties.

Increasingly though, I am thinking that the Korean NGO sector plays a big role too. By constantly pushing history issues to the front in the relationship with Japan, they insure that these issues effectively frame the relationship with Japan. This means little progress happens, and South Korean politicians are too afraid to take them on. No one wants to look like a friend of Japan in SK politics. There’s no upside to that. But recall that most Korean and Japanese actually want a working relationship – a cold peace, even if a warm peace is impossible, instead of the current cold war.

So increasingly, on the SK side I think (and probably on the Japanese side too), there must be some of kind reckoning with the NGOs. South Korea’s political class is going to have to say at some point that we will only go so far down this road, but no further. This will take some courage on the part of Koreans, to break with spell of unbounded nationalism. But I can’t see the relationship improving without more moderate voices, willing to call out stuff like this.


The interpretation of regional history in East Asia is hugely contentious. The area’s well-known international disputes – over territory, North Korean nuclear weapons, China’s dramatic rise and so on – have spilled over into the politicization of memory that makes local reconciliation even harder. Nowhere is this more bitter and disappointing than in the inability of two democracies, Japan and South Korea, to come to rights.

Traditionally, Japan’s historical troubles with China are given pride of place in these debates. Japan’s imperial behavior was much worse in China than in Korea, and China is of much greater importance to Japan. But as a nondemocratic oligarchy, China’s moral legitimacy to press Japan over historical interpretation is greatly compromised. The Chinese Communist Party is responsible for far more Chinese deaths than Imperial Japan – a fact well-known outside the region, but which communist China will never admit. (The same applies to North Korea.) It is also quite obvious that Chinese elites instrumentalize the Japanese empire for domestic regime legitimacy. Hence, most democratic leaders skipped China’s bombastic World War II commemoration parade last month.

Japan and South Korea – Fellow Democracies

But South Korea is different, because it is a fellow democracy. Much social science research suggests that democracies normally have friendly relations (NATO, for example). Japanese-Korean bitterness is genuinely unique among democratic states and attracts a great deal of attention. Last year, President Barack Obama himself stepped in to arm-twist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-Hye to sit next to each other.

The root of that tension of course is the Japanese colonial period and the continuing inability to Japanese conservatives to clearly say that the elimination of Korean sovereignty and cultural ‘japanification’ were morally wrong. Japan, like many western states, was never colonized, so perhaps the ferocity of post-colonial nationalism is surprising. But less Japanese waffling on the aggressive designs of the Empire would help.

But South Korea could help too, by focusing on just how much Japan and South Korea share – culture, political values, national security interests. The persistent emphasis on history in the relationship with Japan insures that the association is framed competitively. And while Korea has legitimate concerns with Japan’s remembrance of the war and the colonial period, western analysts, including President Obama himself, have encouraged a forward-looking Korean stance for decades.

Koreans seem to realize this too. Polling has repeatedly shown that Koreans want a better relationship with Japan. In my experience with Korean academia and policy figures, I have heard again and again that Korea and Japan should be working together on the really serious issues of the region, such as North Korea, or China’s increasingly capacious territorial claims. Whether Koreans and Japanese like it or not, there are allies of a sort in that the both share a formal treaty relationship with the United States. Koreans also are far more dependent on Japan, in the case of second peninsular conflict, than they might like to admit. The flow of US resources into Korea for that fight cannot take place without the Japanese ‘way-station.’

But three roadblocks stand in the way of historical reconciliation:

The Nationalist Competition with North Korea

In previous volumes of this magazine, I have argued that North Korea terribly distorts the teaching and use of history in South Korea. One outcome of that is an unnatural focus on Japan in the otherwise long span of Korean history.

North Korea poses not only a physical threat to South Korea’s survival, but an ideological one. It too claims to be the only legitimate government of the peninsula. It damns South Korea as the ‘Yankee Colony’ who has betrayed the minjok (the Korean race) to foreigners, globalization, the Americans, Japanese and so on. This forces South Korea to respond with its own loud nationalism. It too must demonstrates its nationalist bona fides in defense of the minjok. Given that both states were forged in the wake of Japanese imperial control, their origin nationalisms – especially North Korea’s – focus on independence from Japan. Such ‘anti-imperial’ nationalism is not unusual for postcolonial states (in Africa or Southeast Asia, for example).

What is unusual is the persistence of this anti-imperial – in this case anti-Japan – nationalism. It has not faded, because there are still – 70 years later – two Koreas competing against each other for Koreans’ allegiance. So long as each faces a national legitimacy competitor in the other, each is regularly tempted to reach for extreme rhetoric to de-legitimize that other. Given that Japan is the villain in the founding narrative of both states, ‘anti-Japanism’ is an easy, emotionally resonant instrument. North Korea routinely accuses South Korea’s conservative elite (with some justification) of collaboration in the colonial period, while it lionizes its own founder, Kim Il Sung, as an anti-Japanese fighter (he was somewhat, but not as Pyongyang advertises him). This, in turn, puts enormous pressure on South Korean elites to respond. Elevating the comfort women and Dokdo to the center of relations with Japan blunts the North’s collaborationist critique of Southern elites. So essentially this is a nationalist contest: who can ‘out-minjok’ the other? In this, Japan functions as a national identity whipping boy for South Korea, a national ‘other’ against which South Korea can build a nationalist identity to compete with North Korea

The US Alliance with Korea and Japan

The US alliance with Japan and Korea serves the security of both countries. But it almost certainly has the curious, unforeseen effect of freezing Japanese-Korea historical tension in place.

Social science research has suggested that in periods where the US threatened to leave the region – the 1970s especially – Japanese-Korea relations improved. Conversely, when the US sends strong reassurance signals, relations slip. The odd logic here is what the insurance industry refers to as “moral hazard”: when a person is insured against the consequences of his bad behavior, he is, ironically, less likely to avoid that bad behavior. Car insurance, unfortunately, makes reckless driving more, not less, likely. In this instance, the metaphor means that when the US commitment to Korea and Japan is very clear and strong, Japanese and Korean elites feel comfortable enough to indulge their worst instincts about each other, because they do not need one another.

In the Korean case, the US alliance means there is little pressure to improve relations with Japan. So long as the US is providing for national defense, why get along with Japan? There is no need. Were Korea standing alone, it would need Japan to help with North Korea and China. But the American alliance obviates there; there are no costs to South Korea’s occasionally extreme rhetoric, and no incentive to carry the political costs of reining the nationalist groups (below) who thrive on the conflict.

Korean NGOs

Finally, in recent years there has been a growing research focus on the (rather toxic) role that Korean NGOs play in this debate. As Korea has democratized, third sector non-profit groups have exploded. While many fit the traditional, liberal-humanitarian NGO mold, enough nationalist groups have also arisen that they now provide substantial political opposition to Korean-Japanese reconciliation. The NGOs, for example, sank the 2012 Korea-Japan military intelligence pact (GSOMIA); they have relentlessly pushed the comfort women issue, both at home and increasingly abroad; they provide the explosive op-eds in Korean newspapers that provoke heated news coverage in Japan. The nationalist who recently attacked the American ambassador to Korea with a knife came from this activist-patriotic hot-house milieu. Due to the American alliance though, there is little need to rein these anti-Japan groups. So long as South Korea does not need Japan, no politician will take the risk of calling out these groups. (Lamentably, the same applies in Japan.)

Moving Forward

The first two points developed above – the competition with North Korea and the American alliance – are structural factors. These are large, deeply institutionalized dynamics, and their effects are not easily tied to one individual or group. Nor are they easy to change (which is why the Korea-Japan historical debate never seems to go away).

On the other hand, the rising NGO sector in Korea has far more ‘agency.’ That is, the role of individual choice, and the possibility of change, are far more evident. And here the Korean government could genuinely change the dynamic if it stood up to these groups and argued for less competitive relations with Japan. Should Korean elites wish a better relationship with Japan – as I believe they do – they will eventually need to go public against the nationalist NGOs. Japan has its own role to play – on Yasukuni, history textbooks, and so on – but on the Korean side, there must, at some point, be a reckoning with NGOs. The Korean political establishment must delineate a point beyond which NGO demands are a bridge too far. But I do not see that happening soon.

Filed under: History, Japan, Korea (South), Minjok

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University


Heezy Yang Mini Showcae: Moloko Plus in ITaewon

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Moloko Plus, a not-gay bar on homo hill, will be hosting an art showcase featuring works by artist Heezy Yang. Pieces will have a focus on Korean politics and LGBT issues.

As of now, the exhibition should run from November 6th for at least two weeks. If seeing LGBT Korean art is not a good enough reason to get you out of the house, apparently Moloko Plus also gives a free shot to every customer. Not bad. Moloko Plus is open from 9 pm til the early morning.

For more information, check out the event's FB page as well as Moloko Plus' page.

Organic Farming in Korea–Beating Pesticides, Parasites and Pathogens

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By Clinton Stamatovich

Korea has seen a shift in awareness of the quality of its produce lately after the Korean Organic Farmers Association (KOFA) reported a high quantity of pesticides used during farming procedures. The misuse has led to the government projection of expending half of the current amount of chemicals in the future. This recent discourse has exposed issues in organic farming in Korea to a wider audience and prompted implications to better suit the county’s unique landscape and improve economic and environmental sustainability.

Organic farming appeared as a notion in Korea in the early 1970’s. Independent farmers, rather than government farms, took the foreground of the movement. Today, the Korean Organic Farming Association counts over 80,000 organic farms. John Paull, in Korea Rediscovers Organic Agriculture, says, “South Korean organic agriculture increased ten-fold from 2004 to 2009…” Also in this time period, farms and producers multiplied.

In a survey by the Agricultural and Science Institute in 1992, “…it was revealed that about 50% [of organic farmers] applied chemical fertilizers and/or pesticides, although at reduced rates,” under the “broad definition” of organic farming discouraged by the KOFA. One reason for the abuse of fertilizers and pesticides in Korea has been for the goal of becoming self-sufficient in the production of rice and the proliferation of other crops.

Overexposure to the high degree of chemicals and pesticides in Korean foods has resulted in skin diseases in children and a high rate of cancer, says Seoul Eats.

Quick action has been taken in public relations by the Health Ministry to inform individuals that eating healthy, paying attention to where products originate, and restricting junk food consumption are recommended. Seoul Eats says, “Last March, the health ministry also banned junk food sales at schools and their surrounding neighborhoods.”

From the late 1980’s and into the early 1990’s, agriculture in Korea readjusted motives to concentrate on competiveness with the opening of markets internationally. From the mid-1980’s on, the Korean government distributed money to various plans, strengthening their agricultural sector, such as the “Agricultural and Rural Structure Improvement Plan” ($47 billion), the “Comprehensive Rural Development Plan” ($ 17 billion), a structural adjustment plan ($37 billion), and the “Comprehensive Plan on Agriculture and Rural Communities” ($104 billion).

Steps have been made by the National Agriculture Products Quality Management Service and the Korean Food and Drug Administration to classify farm products according to chemical levels. A green label is “grown without chemicals and chemical fertilizer for the past three years.” A blue label is “grown without agricultural chemicals.” An orange label is “grown with ½ chemicals.”

Definitions of Organic Farming

Before and since its gradual move to public sphere, organic farming has generated no definitive definition in academia, scientific circles, or governmental classification. “There seems, however, to be a loose agreement that organic farming emphasizes the use of organic materials in place of chemically synthesized fertilizers and discourages the use of agricultural chemicals for the protection of crops,” says Chong-Woon Hong of the Agricultural Science Institute and Rural Development Administration, in “Organic Farming and the Sustainability of Agriculture in Korea” (1994).

In 1993, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) of Korea categorized two types of organic farming as “narrow” and “broad.” The narrow definition is utilized as a legal mechanism to draw the attention of consumers and distinguish purely organic products from others in the market, whereas the broad definition suggests chemicals and pesticides have been used, but in combination with organic practices.

Farms in Korea that produce under the ideology of the narrow definition of organic farming dodge the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, but overcompensate with organic manure and biological products which effects negatively their quality of soil. Seoul Eats says, “Unfortunately, most of the “green” farming done in South Korea is “environmentally friendly (2.5 percent),” rather than organic (0.2 percent). Under the definition of “environmentally friendly,” farmers can still use chemical pesticides and fertilizers, but in smaller quantities.”

“What was striking is that the majority of the farmers were not practicing organic farming for the sake of higher profits, nor because they were seeking to follow sound farming practices. A sizable number of farmers opted for organic farming simply to avoid the dangers involved in using pesticides,” says Hong.

A chart compiled by a joint survey by the Korean Rural Education Institute (KREI) in 1990 and ASI in 1992 suggests the top reasons of adopting organic farming by Korean farmers was to avoid the dangers of pesticides and the encouragement by KOFA.

By 1997, Korea introduced the Environmentally-friendly Agriculture Promotion Act and in 1999 offered direct payments to those with produce grown organically or with the lessened application of chemicals, further prompting farmers to produce organic produce for financial gain. “Evaluation of Agricultural Policy Reforms in Korea” (2008), a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says, “About 27,000 farm households who produced low-chemical, chemically-free and organic products received total payments of KRW 11.4 billion in 2006.”

Though Hong believes a rudimentary issue in the endeavor to promote organic farming has been the lack of consideration directed toward economic characteristics, many more problems have materialized concerning the overall health and quality of organic produce and how it negatively effects the environment.

Long-Term Issues with Organic Farming

In the 1990’s, Hong found that organic farmers also overused organic manure that would yield crops high in plant nutrients and nitrate and render soil with higher electrical conductivity. “As well as the possible eutrophication of surface water with accumulated phosphorus from the soil, the accumulation of nitrate in soils leads to a deterioration in the quality of underground water” (Hong, 1994).

However, when omitting pesticides completely to adhere to the narrow definition of organic farming, many Korean crops bore significantly less usable produce numbers, with 100 percent of cucumbers being infected with mildew and cabbage suffering higher attacks by pests. A paradox developed in which both chemical farming and organic farming looked as if long term outcomes would not be sustainable.

“At least for the time being, Korean agriculture cannot completely abandon conventional farming and the use of agricultural chemicals” (Hong, 1994).

The study of organic farming shifted in the 1990’s when the focus was redirected to refine farming procedures that utilized components of organic farming in more advantageous ways. Hong says research topics included the long term study of plant nutrients in organic manure, the production and manufacturing of organic manure from by-products and organic wastes in a sustainable manner, customization of farming techniques dictated by different agricultural zones (“In Korea, it is anticipated that the differentiation of farming according to geographical zones is a probable option for the development of agriculture, to cope with the new socio-economic circumstance of the coming years”), and making organic farming systems profitable (Hong, 1994).

In order for sustainable, organic farming to work in the future, attempts would have to be made to use organic by-products in correlation with the agricultural system in place to decrease chemical fertilizers and strengthen soil make-up with bio-farming, which would, in turn, contribute to the protection of the environment.

Ostensibly, the cultivation of rice on terraces and flattened platforms in hilly areas would seem sustainable and environmentally friendly, using the land to its full extend, but Hong argues doing this is a disadvantage because the small areas of rice are not cost effective and these specialized rice plots require heavy chemicals and can result “…in pollution of upper streams.”

The Rise of the Meat and Dairy Industries

Agriculture during the 1970’s concentrated on new fertilizer and farming equipment, effectively halting food shortages experienced in previous years. When Korea progressed from an agrarian culture to an industrial one, processed foods and dairy production increased and beef and pork became readily available.

Meats have steadily risen in consumption and popularity. Michael Pettid, in Korean Cuisine: An Illustrated History (Reaktion Books, 2008), writes, “The consumption of meats such as beef and pork also increased markedly in this decade: in 1961 the per-capita consumption of meat was only 3.6 kilograms, but by 1979 this number had exceeded 11 kilograms per person.” By 2005 the OECD reported various animal products (livestock, eggs, chicken, pork, beef and veal, and milk) consisted of 33 percent of agricultural production. “For example, the value of pork production has almost tripled in the last ten years, while the value of beef, milk, egg production have almost doubled, and chicken production has increased by 40%,” (OECD, 2008).

Korea’s government statistics website suggested an increase in production costs of calves (6.3 percent), Korean beef cattle (1.3 percent), beef cattle (1 percent), and milk (9.3 percent) from 2011 to 2012.

In the Agricultural Policy evaluation, the OECD advised decreasing the milk quota in Korea in order to reduce the need for subsidy on manufacturing it as a major factor to be dealt with.

Examinations of water quality in recent years have found that organic farming is still a leading source of pollutants such as nitrates, phosphates, and phosphorus (OECD, 2008). Excess of these substances point predominantly to the mounting pig and poultry production numbers. According the OECD, “Agriculture accounts for nearly 50% of total water use and, with growing competition for water resources nationally, agriculture is under pressure to manage water more efficiently.”

Not only are Korea’s water sources abused, but the overproduction of manure has expanded to larger bodies of water, “Around 44 million tons of livestock manure was produced in 2006, of which 2.6 million metric tons was dumped into the sea causing harmful effects on coastal fisheries,” (OECD, 2008).

The Bitter Harvest Report

The Nation says in the 1970’s (when dairy and meat production skyrocketed in relation to newly implemented factory farming) Korea was considered an agrarian economy with farmers making up half the population compared to today’s 6.2 percent with the contemporary Korean population opting for urban living. Asia-Pacific Economics reported that, “This also resulted in the increase in the proportion of the farm workers aged 60 years and older.”

The Nation explains that with the globalized food production system having gone through the process of liberalization in Korea in recent years, even farmers have left and become residents of the city.

The government discarded quotas and tariffs in 1994 after Korea joined the WTO and the Agreement on Agriculture, with farmers protesting the WTO and free trade agreements favored by the government.

Recently, with dwindling numbers of native laborers and with many active in the organic farm community aging, Korea has looked to Southeast Asian countries for migrant laborers for farming. In a report issued by Amnesty International, these workers have experienced excessive working hours, little rest, unpaid overtime, unsuitable housing, and violence from Korean employers and overseers.

Charlie Campbell, in an article for Time, writes, “…the rights group says that the Seoul government is directly complicit in ongoing abuses through its Employment Permit System which involves some 20,000 migrant agricultural workers from poorer nations such as Nepal, Cambodia, and Vietnam.”

This system set in place by the government enables trafficking and forced labor in a country recently considered a first world status. Under the EPS employment policy, employers can fire foreign workers without just cause and also wield over them work release forms that must be signed by the employer in order for the migrant worker to change jobs, which, Campbell says, leads to exploitation.

In the report entitled “Bitter Harvest” issued by Amnesty International, accounts of physical violence have been recorded in which Korean employers beat migrant workers for sitting down or attempting to take a break. Employers breach contracts by neglecting pay, paying late, or in installments.

A major issue stems from the inability to professionally address the problem: “When I complained to the job centre, the caseworker just called my boss and accepted at face value the promise he made to her. She did not follow up so nothing changed,” says a Cambodian migrant worker in the Bitter Harvest report.

Migrants were pressured not to bring up complaints to the labor boards and to apologize to employers, undermining the severity of the crimes and breach of contracts committed by employers, and displacing the immediate difficulties and human rights of the workers.

Amnesty says employers rarely faced any legal repercussions or sanctions for exploitation and mistreatment of employees. “The Korean authorities have effectively cornered the migrant workers into abusive conditions by turning a blind eye to the blatantly exploitative work practices and letting the perpetrators off scot-free,” said Norma Kang Muico, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific migrant’s rights researcher.

Amnesty International has issued a series of changes for which they urge the EPS to utilize.

Future of Organic Farming

Despite issues in environmentally and economic sustainable organic farming, Korean organic products have fared well overseas. “The Asian market continues to show high growth in terms of organic food production and sales. Organic crops are grown across the continent, with some countries becoming international suppliers of organic commodities. Retail sales were about 780 million US dollars in 2006,” reports Organic Monitor.

In 2011, in consideration of the rising pollution issues caused by the surge of livestock and their overproduction and mishandling of manure, Y. Joo and K. Lee of the Rurual Development Administration proposed an option to help manage the problem appropriately. In “Livestock Manure Recycling in Korea by Anaerobic Digestion,” they suggest “…anaerobic digestion, whereby animal manures are converted into high energy fuel (biogas) and into fertilizer and feed.”

Also reducing parasites and pathogens, the Flexible Dome-Type Anaerobic Digester, organic materials are disintegrated biologically (anaerobically) by microorganisms (biogas) under specific heat and moisture conditions creating reusable products.

As for the tons of excess manure being dumped into the ocean, in June of 2007 the Korean government proposed a strategy to diminish the procedure, eventually halting the practice indefinitely.
At home, for the cost of a membership fee, consumers in Korea can shop at iCoop, an organic cooperative of farmers and associates who produce organic, viable foods at cheaper prices than larger grocery stores. A new restaurant in Namcheon, Busan, Jack and the Beanstalk, sells 100 percent plant-based, organic, and non-GMO foods as well as imported, organic items. Also in Namcheon is a vegetarian friendly, organic café called Ecotopia. Health food stores and health-conscious restaurants have been appearing in larger Korean cities in recent years, although slowly.

The Korean Women Peasants Association (KWPA) controls 26 small producer communities. Among these producers are My Sister’s Garden farms that grow and distribute weekly produce boxes of organic products. They ship the boxes to individuals and organizations such as children’s centers where they hope to make a connection with the contemporary child and the rural landscape of Korea only 40 years ago.

The KWPA aims to focus their energy on local, small farms to promote sustainability and independence. The organization has also initiated a seed protection program to prevent corporate regulation of native seeds in Korea, which have largely been controlled by Syngenta or Monsanto.

Hansalim appeared in the late 80’s, with similarities to a farmer’s market in the west, which intended to establish a relationship with producers and consumers again and remove the retailers. Hansalim attempts to notify buyers of the ecological and environmental benefits of local foods such as carbon saved by purchased local food and the amount of energies saved.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs says, “The export of Korean agricultural products to Malaysia shows amazing growth, with a volume of USD 76.7 million as of October 2014, which is a 32.2% increase year on year.”

“This year’s Korean food exhibition is large-scale and the 1st event of its kind in Malaysia to showcase Korean foods only.  Around 150 various items will be introduced from fresh produce including kimchi, gochujang (red pepper paste), kim (roasted seaweed) and rice to processed foods such as beverages, baked goods and ramen (instant noodles),” (MAFRA).

Recently the OECD familiarized Korea with regulations of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, as well as promoting available consumer information concerning organically grown foods. The OECD’s report says extensive investments have been distributed to agricultural improvements including distribution, processing, production, and efficiency, consolidating the overall infrastructure.

Organic farming in Korea is not straightforward in its procedures, workers’ rights, or definitions, creating unsustainable products and exposing produce to either too little or excess chemicals. However, with the pubic more informed about their products (thanks to the OECD), farmers focusing on economic and ecologic sustainability (thanks to the GAP), reducing chemicals by 50% of their current application, cutting the over-manufacturing/production of organic manure and using natural/biogas manure to decrease production costs and waste (in turn strengthening soil make-up), a greater promotion in the ideals of Hansalim, and immediate persecution of those committing physical violence and mistreatment to migrant workers, Korea seemingly has the capacity to become a very efficient, sustainable hub for high quality organic foods.


Clinton Stamatovich graduated with a degree in Journalism from Indiana University South Bend. He teaches English in Busan, South Korea and works as a freelance journalist and illustrator. His articles have appeared in Groove Magazine and Busan Haps, and his poetry has been published in the University of California, Berkeley Poetry Review and Indiana University South Bend’s Analecta.

The post Organic Farming in Korea–Beating Pesticides, Parasites and Pathogens appeared first on 3WM.

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    The Closed-Page–The Provincial Policies of Korean Dailies

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    By Iwazaru

    One of the reasons we started 3WM (and DDD before it) was to provide a platform for writers whose work the traditional dailies usually rejected. During this most recent hiatus, through spring and summer of 2015, I have been advising high school students on researching, writing, and submitting op-eds to Korean dailies with the hope of getting them published. The submission process proved confounding and frustrating from the beginning. First, none of the students got any reply from the editors at the Korea Times, the Korea Herald or the JoongAng Daily. Not a “thank you for your submission” or a “at this time we cannot find a place for your work.” Nothing.

    When I followed up on this failure to reply, I also got no reply. So I called and, in several cases, no one answered the phones at these papers. Finally, I reached an editor at the Korea Times who said he had not gotten the emails. “Send it again,” he said. Editors at the other papers said the same thing. Eventually, after following up on follow-ups, some of the students had their work published. But the process remained the same: submit; no reply; follow-up by email; no reply; call, often without an answer; editor says he did not receive email; send again; maybe see it published. Perhaps the worst experience occurred with the Korea Times when, after trying to reach the editor, another editor shouted into the phone, “Who is this? Don’t you have his direct number?!!!” Then, when I tried to explain that this was the number I had, he shouted, “LISTEN! LISTEN! You can call him tomorrow. LISTEN! I have work to do!”

    Then there were the responses from the Herald’s editorial staff. Below is one that has not been altered.

    Dear Mr. Rodgers,

    thank you for your continuing interest in The Korea Herald.

    Regarding the latest sumission, unfortunately we are unable to find space for it.

    And we would appreciate if you understand that we very rarely and exceptionally publish

    articles written by high school students.

    Thank you very much for your understanding.


    The Korea Herald.

    보낸 사람:
    보낸 날짜: 2015년 9월 7일 월요일 오후 12:08
    받는 사람: opinion; 천시영
    제목: Follow-up– Reader’s View Submission: Regionalism

    Good day to you, Editor.

    I am writing to follow up on the submission that I made last week. Please let me know what the status of the submission is and if there’s anything else that you need from me.

    Best regards,

    These days, if you take the time to read the Herald’s Opinion pages, you’ll find almost all the content is syndicated with a dearth of local voices. As I said in my reply to the rejection email:

    I find it baffling to now receive notification that the voices of Korea’s youth are “very rarely” and “exceptionally” published. Is a strong and relevant submission dismissed solely because of the age of the writer? I now notice more and more filler (syndicated) articles lining your opinion pages with less and less from Koreans. I recently shared a piece [column] by Kim Seong-kon with my students and another by Kim Kyung-ho, both written about Korean society and the youth. Would a student’s response to these serious issues be given short shrift because it’s coming from the very youth that the elders are writing about?

    Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a reply.

    Meanwhile, the Times was willing to publish clearly dubious/satirical pieces, which eluded the attention of the editors but not of the expat community and ultimately elicited an apology titled “Letter to our dear readers,” penned by the chief editorial writer whose email address is “” I have little doubt this is the man who shouted at me on the phone.

    At the same time, the JoongAng (and the KT) rejected the following two submissions–one about unethical snack packaging by Korean companies, the other about regionalism during MERS–saying “next time please,” to the first and “topic and quality problem” to the second. Nonetheless, it was more than willing to run a xenophobic and hated-laced submissions by a writer who identified himself as  “Steven, Resident in Seoul” (for obvious reasons).

    Bottom line: Nothing has changed over the past decade. And with that, 3WM carries on, knowing that the status quo stands with the traditional media here, that the establishment keeps playing the same tune, aware of but opposed to any alternative views on the basis of ageism, sexism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, et al.

    Rejected Op-Eds

    Companies Fill Bags with Air, Not Snacks–How Korean snack makers are stiffing customers with air instead of snacks. (By Junhyung Han)

    United We Stand, Divided We Fall–How the MERS virus exposed the deep regionalism across the peninsula. (By Junsung Kim)




    The post The Closed-Page–The Provincial Policies of Korean Dailies appeared first on 3WM.

    Disappearing Text ESL Vocabulary Game

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    ESL Vocabulary Game

    Disappearing Text ESL Vocabulary Game

    Skills: Reading/Speaking
    Time: 5-10 minutes
    Materials: Whiteboard, marker and eraser

    Disappearing text is a fun ESL vocabulary game that also works on English grammar. Write one (or more) sentences on the board reviewing new material from that class, or from the previous class if you’re using this as a warm-up activity.

    This can be done as last man standing or last group/table standing. Begin with all students standing. Have them read aloud what is written on the board. Remove one word (or phrase) at a time, and have them repeat the entire passage as it was originally written. As students make mistakes, they must sit down and are out of the game. The winner is the student or table that remains standing the longest. If you are using this as a filler activity you can stretch the game by playing more than one round.

    Like this ESL speaking activity? It’s from 39 ESL Vocabulary Activities for Teenagers and Adults (the link will take you to Amazon).

    Teaching Tips:

    Before you begin, let students know the order of play (table 1, table 2, from left to right, front to back, etc.) to keep things moving along in an orderly fashion. If the game seems too easy, remove more elements at one time (for example, two words instead of one), or in random order. On the other hand, if it seems more difficult than you expected, remove items in order (from beginning to end or end to beginning.)

    If you have more than about 15 students, you should have them play in teams according to the seating arrangement (pairs/groups/tables). When one person on the team makes a mistake, then the entire group is out. This will shorten each round considerably. Since students are less likely to be engaged once they are out, you will want to keep things moving.


    1. Write a sentence on the whiteboard. Optionally, have a PowerPoint prepared.
    2. Have the entire class stand and read aloud what is on the board.
    3. Erase one word or phrase at a time and have the class repeat the sentence in its entirety.
    4. Anyone who makes an error must sit down, until there is one student, group, or table left standing.

    Disappearing text is from the book 39 ESL Vocabulary Activities For Teenagers and Adults. Get 38 more ESL vocabulary games and activities just like it.

    Guaranteed to make teaching vocabulary less terrible than it usually is.

    The post Disappearing Text ESL Vocabulary Game appeared first on ESL Speaking.

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