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My Cocky Korean

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Boston Market has provided my go-to meal for the majority of my adult life...and by 'go-to' I mean when I need something quick, hearty, and relatively healthy (meat, starch, and veggie w/ multiple colors represented). Unfortunately, when I last moved, I didn't base it off of the closest Boston Market location. Fortunately, I've been forced to branch out...

...resulting in my new go-to meal: bibimbap (비빔밥). Again, meat, starch, and veggie w/ multiple colors represented. There is a pretty good Korean restaurant up the street from my apartment where the owner makes most of the food herself...kinda close to homemade! Being a creature of habit, I order the same thing every time I go. So after craving a hearty go-to meal all day today, I walk into the restaurant, get bold, and announce that I don't need a menu. "I already know what I want." I was directed towards my table and confidently tell the waitress that "I'd like the beef bibimbap." That's it. No other questions asked. She wrote it down, and I felt a sense of accomplishment as she walked away to put in my order.

I munched on my banchan (반찬 - defined in a previous post) and waited patiently to hear that familiar sizzling sound from behind me announcing that my hot, delicious meat, starch, and veggie had arrived. I was hungry and had a craving...so while I waited, I could see it and all but taste it already.

Well, I didn't hear any sizzling. Then, the waitress startled my thoughts when she came over with a big, white, COLD bowl of...bibimbap. I felt disappointed and stupid. She gave me exactly what I ordered, so what could I say? I had ordered the wrong thing. See, the thing I love most about bibimbap is that it can come in a piping hot stone pot...hence the anticipated sizzle. The rice gets crunchier and crunchier up against that hot stone as you progress through the meal. That is DOLSOT (돌솥 - stone pot) bibimbap. THAT is not what I ordered. I cockily ordered straight-up bibimbap. I was disappointed. While it was still good, I didn't get that sizzle nor the crunch. I overlooked it. My basics. I now know better. That's what I get for slacking off on my Korean lessons and sauntering up into the restaurant thinking I know WAY more Korean than I actually do. Time to hit the books again!

 

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Spring has definitely sprung!  Actually we have been saving this destination ever since we stumbled apon it online back in the colder months.  The weather is warming up and we are […]

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International Marriage, Part 1

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The following first appeared in the Korea Herald, to whom we are quite grateful:

People everywhere have questions about the law and are often misinformed. In Korea, the problem seems particularly acute for English-speaking expats, owing to a couple of factors. 

First, there are two language barriers: The legal language barrier, as few people really understand the law in their own language, and the Korean-English barrier ― even fewer English speakers are strong enough in Korean to read the laws. 

Second, there are profound cultural and philosophical differences about the role of laws and the justice system, the role of the police, and related concepts. And third, the information is often simply out of date. Korean law changes quickly and often, and though some principles seem to endure, the constantly changing details do not make understanding it any easier.

To try to solve these problems, this column will attempt to give you a basic understanding of your legal rights, responsibilities and options in Korea in various contexts and, when appropriate, discuss the implications. If you are curious about a specific area of law, please let us know and we will try to include it in our column. To begin, we are going to address a very common issue for long-term expats ― marriage in Korea.

We would guess that the vast majority of couples in Korea are either not thinking about marriage or are already married. But should you fall into that middle group of couples who are thinking about tying the knot, there are some legal implications and simple procedures of which you should be aware.

First, we should talk about the benefits. Married couples whose income falls below a certain level can receive a government-backed, very low-interest loan for key money or buying a home. There are discounts on cellular and other services, and you are able to file or receive documents for one another, such as lease registrations and tax paperwork. And there is simply no easier way to get a resident visa here than by being family. 

Of course there are commitments and dangers as well, and we will address the possibility of having to pay support, divide your property and negotiate the custody of children (sadly, dogs are still considered property) in the next column. If you want to minimize such dangers there is always the possibility of a prenuptial agreement ― Korea will recognize certain prenups as valid. This will also be addressed in a future column.

The non-Korean spouse will need to visit his or her embassy and complete a declaration of eligibility to marry, or a similar form with a different name. The U.S. Embassy, for example, has the form online so that you can print it out and complete it in advance. If you apply for an appointment online, the visit to the consulate to notarize the paper should take less than 20 minutes.

Then you will need to get married. The district, or “gu,” office can give you the forms and two witnesses are required. You will also need to translate the declaration from the consulate into Korean. A nonprofessional translation is fine for this, so long as it gets the info right.

With the translation and the original in hand, as well as the Korean paperwork, the couple needs to visit the district office with both parties’ IDs. The process doesn’t take much longer than a visit to the bank. Congratulations, you have now created a new set of legal rights and liabilities, although perhaps you would have preferred for us to stop after “congratulations.”

If you are the foreign spouse, your visa status has not changed. That requires a lot of simple, but seemingly endless, paperwork for immigration. Don’t forget to mention that you want to change visas when you visit the consulate. If you do this, they will give you the necessary paperwork to complete and translate. As for the Korean spouse, if he or she wishes to immigrate to the non-Korean’s country, there will be a whole mess of paperwork costing hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars; the U.S.’ procedure alone could warrant its own article. 

If your marriage has not gone so well, and you’re curious about how to dissolve it, we will address that next time. 

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Dear Korea #118 - This Looks Shopped...

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To those of you that fell for yesterday’s joke, I sincerely apologize. I didn’t think anyone would fall for it. Honestly, do I really seem like the type of person who could do something bad enough to get banned from all of South Korea? Either way, if it helps, I got yelled at quite a bit from close friends in and out of the country who fell for it as well.

Now that the time to prank has passed, here’s the real comic of the week. No pranks in this one, I swear.

When it comes to doctoring photos, Korea seems to do it on another level. After having my picture taken for reasons, I’ve had my chin shaved down, my eyes reshaped, and even my neck slimmed down. I get that the goal of these photo companies is to make me look good for potential job purposes, but I’m not sure if it counts if I don’t look like myself anymore.

This seems to be even worse for my friends who have non-Korean features. They tend to lose their freckles and even have their skin lightened to where they look like they belong to a different nationality. It’s kind of hilarious, yet sad in its own way.

That being said, I wouldn’t mind having some of my neck fat trimmed down that easily in real life.


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.

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The Colossal Buddha

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One of the coolest things that I have seen in a long time happened when I was driving to my new job at Busan University of Foreign Studies. As I was driving along I saw a colossal Buddha statue on the horizon. It was huge! As I drove along I realized that this was infact a temple of some sort and was worth investigating.

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As the blossoms have bloomed in the area and the weather is warming up, I thought that it was time to check out this mysterious gigantic Buddha statue. The temple is a newer temple meaning that it is not like Beomosa, further down the road or anything. Hongbubsa is a beautifully landscaped temple with a huge golden Buddha on top. The best part about this temple is that you can go right up to it and actually get inside of it.

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As Buddha’s birthday comes upon us soon, the temple has already started decorating for the celebration. This is for sure on my list for place to shoot during that time.  It is unusual to see such a large Buddha statue in Korea as this is something that you’d typically see in some place like Thailand. At any rate, I can’t wait to get back out there during the blue hour when the lanterns are all lit up.

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If you would like to join me on this photo outing, drop a comment below and I will put together a photowalk once I get more details and numbers. Hongbubsa is located just off the #7 HWY on your way into Busan from Yongsan. It is just before Beomosa and well if you miss it you are probably blind or in the complete wrong area.


만우절: “April Fool’s Day” in SK

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1Have you received or pulled a prank today? April 1st is April Fool’s Day, 만우절 in Korean. My husband woke up very early this morning, and I thought that he was planning to play a trick on me, but he was just watching the news. Perhaps, he got tired of playing tricks, because we have been pranking each other every 만우절 since we got married. I was tempted to turn off the water heater while he was taking a shower, but I remembered he has a cold. He’s taking a nap right now and I’m thinking of drawing a mustache on his face. A friend is coming later. When she sees him, I bet the reaction will be gut-busting! =)

I am reposting an article I wrote about April Fool’s Day in Korea. Enjoy reading and good luck on the pranks! ^^

 

Originally posted on From Korea with Love:

Back in the Philippines , I didn’t know about April Fool’s Day . It isn’t as popular in my country as it is inSouth Korea . April Fool’s Day (also known as All Fool’s Day ), which is celebrated on April 1st, is believed to have begun in France , but nowadays, people from all over the world follow the tradition of playing practical jokes on one another.

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Last year, my husband played a trick on me. It made me upset, but before I could strangle him, he told me he was just kidding, because it was 만우절 (April Fool’s Day in Korean). 만 (man) means “many” or “much”, and 우 means “foolish”. Put the words together and the real meaning will be “very foolish”.

Today was my turn to pull Mr. Ra’s (my husband’s) leg… and I succeeded! ㅋㅋㅋ … ^^

Here’s my prank which I sent throughKakaotalk:

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I Drink, Therefore I Puke

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by Das Messer

I’d been lucky enough, before expat life, to have never have suffered a true hangover. Many Sundays of my adult life had been spent sympathizing with my groaning brethren, serving them bacon and eggs and scouring medicine cabinets in an attempt to replenish their collective loss of electrolytes, while they sneered enviously at my sprightliness. After moving to Korea, however, I watched helplessly as my golden youth slipped through my fingers and the once elusive hangover became more than a vicarious pain. What follows is an account of both my very first real hangover, and the most tragic one thereafter.

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The Beginning of the End

The morning after. There are a few peaceful moments before I register what I did the previous night at the bar, but as the kettle hisses away, the brain-piercing begins and haunting angst descends. Slight recollections trigger thrashing shame. I only have vague memories of binding the wrists and duct-taping the mouth of my superego, watching her helpless gaze disappear under a wave of Jameson as I proceeded to flirt shamelessly and pound at the tables of men who disagreed with me. Reams of internal rhetoric corrode my already chaffed ego, salting my tender and scored person-hood with crystallized guilt. No amount of head-hanging or face-gripping alleviates the nausea pulsing through me. In the few minutes I’ve been standing and present, my mind has upended itself.  I begin to weep. It was just a drunken night, you were obnoxious, nobody really cares. Stop thinking about it, just drink the coffee.

I sit down and pick up an essay to read, in the naive hope of steadying myself against retrospective vertigo. There is an appropriate time to read David Foster Wallace, but a Sunday morning in the throes of a significant hangover (let alone your first) is not it. It’s too much. All mental energy is feeding physical recovery, my emotional firewalls have been obliterated and this literature asks too much of me now. Perhaps the news will reunite me with my humanity— another fatal error. Whatever daily defenses I have against the anguish of reality don’t exist today, somehow my sense of empathy is off the charts and I begin to panic whilst I read about the most recent gang-rapes and incomprehensible war crimes, famine, poverty, genocide – the general demise of the entire world, whose apocalyptic nature seems to inflate in proportion to personal fragility.

Shame morphs into severe white guilt, later mutating into concentrated self-loathing for being a participant in the human race. Eventually I resign with bitter disgust, and conclude that peace will reign only when humans perish altogether. I’ve been awake now for less than two hours, and I’ve successfully managed to ensure that any enjoyment I may have gleaned from a hot shower and a panini will now be tainted by the notion that there are people being burnt alive at this very moment, and worse, that I spend my life oblivious to it until I’m reeling from over-indulgence.

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This was my first, and certainly not my last, real hangover. I’ve come to learn from hundreds more like this one, that lucidity of the human absurdity and transparent self-loathing peak the morning after a heavy night. We invite bleary eyed debauchery and then we weep from clarity. I have wished through every one of them that I could be gifted with a simple headache or biliousness instead of incessant mental paper-cuts, but all to no avail…until the most devastating morning of my adult life.

The End of the Beginning

 A severe calf-cramp viciously yanks me from dead-weight REM. Opening my eyes seems to invite an entire world of agony directly into my soul. I moan aloud, and the sound of my own voice is terrifying. Everything is viscerally loud–I can’t differentiate between sound and pain– but I’m fairly certain that there’s a spoon scraping away rust on the inside of my skull. Ugh, four pm. Dear god! Why is this happening? Drink water. NO. Don’t drink anything – ever again. Ugh, fuuuuck! Don’t move. If you don’t move it’ll go away. If you don’t breathe the nausea will forget you. Revolt against your body. You are in control. I remain still but it won’t last long, there’s some sort of centrifugal bond between the contents of my gut and the toilet. Throwing up is weak, don’t even think about it. My eyelids flog away ceaselessly, slaving away in the name of moist equilibrium. Why can’t I see? This isn’t right. Am I dying? Jesus. I might be dying. I beg for sleep. Groan, writhe, beg, and sweat.

I am atrophied. Strength and will are hemorrhaging at an urgent rate. My heart rate feels like the white noise of every Nine Inch Nails song. I know for a fact that this is not a natural temperature for a human being to reach, yet I continue to shiver in a puddle of whiskey sweat. At an atomic level I am consumed with absolute, genuine terror at the very real prospect of my looming death. I’ve done it, I’ve poisoned myself. I’ve gone and fuckin’ killed myself – accidental suicide. Why do I do this? Argghh. No thinking.

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Nature resumes control and in a motion that is completely foreign to me I’m ejected onto the bathroom floor to disgorge the most vile and luminescent poison. Terror has now reached a nuclear level. That color is not found in nature. This is toxic. Did I swallow napalm? Is this what it looks like when you melt your liver and then vomit it? I have absolutely no control over the violence gripping my abdomen. My body owns me now, and she is taking the wheel with fury and vengeance. I am condemned from this moment forth; I am nothing but subject to the laws of physics.

My head hangs awkwardly close to the recent evacuation in the toilet, tears dribble down my cheeks and into the globules of bile, warping them to form the face of god himself. In a sobbing fit I realize that prayer is all that will save me now. Please, Jesus, please – I’m so sorry. I realize now, but don’t want to be an addict. I don’t want to turn into my father. I can’t die like this. I couldn’t bear the humiliation of diabetes at 24. I refuse to do this to my parents. Please, lord, pleeeaaase just put me in a coma for a few days and I will be better, I swear.

Even in the privacy of my own home, I am stripped bare and bitterly humiliated at how grossly weak I am. The related etymology of the words humility and humiliation makes sense to me now. The hangover is a force of nature, compelling us to face our fickle reality and brittle flesh. It rips us of the hubris that we are anything more than hopelessly decaying organic matter.

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I recount the story for my friends a week later, sincere and humbled. I explain that I found god in neon pools of puke, and that my once-off devastation (because it is impossible to feel that way more than once without actually dying) led me to decide not to be an alcoholic. “I’ve never, ever felt worse in my entire life. I mean, I even pleaded with the lord!” Ralph looks at me, incredulous: “Really? That was the first time you’ve prayed a hangover away?”



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Double Trouble en Corea

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I'm just gonna leave this here.....

- Gisela V.

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Deuces

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Well, this is awkward. Due to some drama that went down a few months back, it looks like I am officially no longer welcome in this country. Due to legal reasons, I can’t say exactly why I have to leave. Let’s just say that one shouldn’t mix soju with plastic surgery, especially in the presence of CCTV.

Honestly, I’m pretty upset about this. I guess it’s my own fault for letting my bad judgement get the best of me. One moment, I’m planning out my fourth year in Korea, the next, I get a badly written letter from the government telling me that I need to leave.

If you’re curious, here’s a screenshot of said letter. Stupid, right?

Anyways, it’s been fun. Thank you for sticking with me for this long. You guys are the best.


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