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by Chris Tharp
I have to admit to reveling in the ongoing drama of “Nutgate,” in which then Korean Airlines vice president for cabin service Cho Hyun-ah threw a weapons grade conniption when, on a flight from New York to Seoul, an attendant in first class had the audacity to serve her macadamia nuts in the packet instead of upon a pristine plate. Not content just to dress the offending stewardess down, she unleashed a torrent of abuse upon the whole staff and ordered the taxiing plane back to the gate, where she had the chief purser ejected for dereliction of duty. Almost as puzzling as Ms. Cho’s seemingly cruel and petty outburst is the fact that pilot went along with her demand, breaking aviation safety law in a pathetic attempt to save his own ass. He knew better than to defy HER will. After all, her father, Cho Yang-ho, is the chairman of Hanjin, the conglomerate that owns Korean Airlines. Hyun-ah was backed up by serious, hard power. If she was so willing to bounce the purser over a nut discrepancy, what fate could await a pilot who disobeyed a direct order from Her Highness? Knowing his place on the strata of Korean social power, the pilot bowed down his head and turned that plane the fuck around.
This story quickly went viral and is still being covered worldwide. Part of it is the absurdity of the narrative: Such a brouhaha over nuts, really? The whole affair seemed so silly and random, but the bullying behavior of the central antagonist colored it with a much darker hue. It shone a light on the seeming untouchability of the 1%, that not only do the uber-rich have all the money, but they consider themselves above the law. This especially tapped into the zeitgeist here in South Korea, where people have been watching the families of the nation’s chaebol (conglomerates) act like modern day aristocrats for decades now. Enough was enough, and it didn’t take long before liberals and conservatives alike were calling for Cho Hyun-ah’s head on a pike.
There is more than just the will to punish bad behavior going on here. We love a good villainess and are very willing to cast Ms. Cho in that role. Throughout my lifetime the media has periodically turned its lens onto those out-of-touch, wealthy women that we love to hate, fire-breathing female figures who live in diamond palaces and run roughshod over the help. Remember Leona Helmsely, aka “The Queen of Mean”? Zsa Zsa Gabor’s infamous slapping of the traffic cop? Or the racist outbursts Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Shott? Cho Hyun-ah is just another notorious woman crowned with the time-honored title of Megabitch. The fact that she’s Asian only ratchets it up to another level. Now she is no longer just a Megabitch, but a fully-fledged Dragon Lady. I haven’t seen a real-life Dragon Lady elicit such levels of vitriol since the days of Imelda Marcos. I wonder how many shoes Cho Hyun-ah owns?
None of this should come as too much of a surprise. After all, Ms. Cho’s English name is ‘Heather.’ Heather Cho. Anyone who grew up in the 1980’s can testify that pretty much any girl name Heather was considered to steeped in venom. This notion was so widespread at the time that they ended up making a hit movie about it. I wonder how Ms. Cho came upon that name. Did she choose it herself? Or, more likely, was it assigned to her by an English teacher who knew what made her tick?
Teacher: So… Hyun-ah. What English name would you like?
Hyun-ah: Hello teacher… I want to be called ‘Sunny.’
Teacher: ‘Sunny?’ Hmmm… let’s see… Oh, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. That name’s already taken. We’re just going go ahead and call you ‘Heather,’ m’kay?
One thing I like about Korea is that if you’re a public figure and you really fuck up, you have crawl out in front of the whole nation and perform a giant mea culpa. There is no stonewalling, no subterfuge, no hiding behind layers of lawyers and publicists. You are forced to put one foot in front of the other and hike the walk of shame in front of a battalion of camera-wielding journalists, where, voice a-trembling, you repeatedly whisper ‘I’m sorry’ into a wall of microphones and then bow. I think this ritual of public contrition plays an essential role in a person’s rehabilitation while also serving the public’s need to stick the offending celebrity in the pillories and launch volley after volley of virtual tomatoes. Cho Hyun-ah did this just days after the whole incident went public, and something about it was immensely satisfying. There she was, in her stylish black jacket and grey scarf, strands of loose hair rakishly blowing over her seemingly makeup-free face, while she mumbled her apologies in a barely-audible sigh. The rest of us sat there smugly while she choked down spoonful after spoonful of steaming, fecal-flavored bibimbap for all the world to see. I was absolutely enraptured and never wanted it to end.
What’s even better was that her dad, Cho Yang-ho, apologized too. One of the richest men in the nation hauled himself in front of the cameras and confessed his heartfelt regret that he didn’t do a better job in raising her. I was both impressed and dumbfounded. Here we had a father taking responsibility for the behavior of his grown, 40-year old daughter, basically admitting to the fact that he had overindulged her growing up, recognizing that this may just have some bearing on her actions today.
Can you imagine if this happened back home? If the parents of our most awful citizens came forward and apologized on behalf of their spawn?
“On behalf of our family and the whole nation of Canada, I’d like to offer my most sincere apologies. It’s time I faced the fact that my son Justin is indeed a malignant, no-talent puddle of shit. We are very sorry for encouraging him to go into music, but even sorrier for having him in the first place.”
“We’d like to express regret for buying our daughter Paris a Caribbean island for her 8th birthday. We should have just gone with the pony.”
“Perhaps I shouldn’t have paved the way for Jr. to go into politics. It wasn’t prudent of me do to so, since it resulted in two illegal wars and a gutted economy for the benefit of his cronies. I’d like to apologize, but… screw it, let’s just keep blaming it all on the negro.”
The whole notion of parents apologizing for their adult kids is very Korean. Most Koreans take this idea of collective responsibility very seriously. North Korea takes it to the extreme, where several generations of one family will be thrown into the gulag over the supposed sins of just one member. But I’ve seen it here in South Korea, first hand. In 2007 a student massacred 32 people in a mass shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech in America. Early reports told us that the shooter was Asian, but for some time his exact ethnicity was unknown. Koreans were tight lipped on the story, presumably praying inside that the murderer was anything but Korean. Please Japanese. Please Japanese. When it turned out that he was indeed a Korean kid, for days I was subjected to deeply felt apologies from Korean friends, acquaintances, and students, with many of them directly apologizing on behalf of their entire nation.
“I am so sorry he was Korean. We are so ashamed.”
“It’s okay,” I’d say. “You don’t need to apologize. Really.
“But I am sorry.”
“What? Did you send him money to buy bullets?”
Cho Hyun-ah was detained on December 30th and is now holed up in a cold, South Korean jail. She has been indicted on five different charges and faces up to 15 years in prison for her nut meltdown. Her father stripped her of all her positions within Hanjin’s companies, and seems very willing to sacrifice her onto the pyre of public outrage. I wonder how long it is before they brand the word BITCH into her back with a hot iron and force her walk to walk naked through the freezing streets of Seoul. She’s getting her commupance and then some, but I have to admit that I actually feel sorry for her. The satisfaction that so many of us get by knowing that she is suffering is not an attractive human emotion. It’s ugly, because at times we’ve all been terrible people. Our willingness to spit in Ms. Cho’s disgraced face runs counter to Christ’s “Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone,” which you don’t have to be a Christian to recognize as one of his finest moments. That was also a situation involving a very unpopular woman. Hmmm… I sense a pattern here.
Spurned by the public, fired from her jobs, abandoned by her father, facing hard time… what’s a former heiress to do? Well she’ll have to serve whatever sentence is handed down, but when she comes out, I have a business idea I’d like to pitch her way: I think she should open an S & M dungeon. Just picture it: The whole thing is done up like the first class cabin of a jumbo jet. She is dressed in a skin-tight PVC catsuit, along with an Nazi SS cap and patch over one eye. She sits, legs crossed, in an airline seat and carries a bullwhip. The slave is lead in on a leash. He wears a chief purser’s uniform with the whole of the crotch cut out. A leather gimp mask covers his face. A ball gag occupies the cavity of his mouth. A butt plug in the shape of a miniature Boeing 747 is rammed deep into the recesses of his ass. In his trembling hands is a pack of macadamia nuts. At Madam Cho’s feet is a plate made of the purest white porcelain.
“It puts the nuts on the plate.”
“It puts the nuts on the plate.”
“PUT THE NUTS ON THE MOTHERFUCKING PLATE!!!”
This works for me. Maybe it will for her as well. After all, doesn’t everyone deserve a shot at redemption?
Korea’s cities can be obnoxiously monotonous at times. And thanks to the country’s fixation with capitalism, everywhere on the southern half of the peninsular looks pretty much the same.
Hoods intends to show that Korea’s real urban beauty is hidden where the veneer of modernity is at its thinnest.
This is Seomyeon…
I hate the crowds, the pretentious clothes shops, the corporate coffee shops, and the horrific traffic. I hate the massive roads that butcher the downtown and force pedestrians to filter through the awful underground mall. I hate the crowds that the subway divulges here every three minutes. I hate the towering grey buildings which suck the colour from the sky and flash their advertisements at you from on high.
I hate the pot-holed, uneven, leaflet-strewn and puke stained streets. I hate the toxic fumes that emanate from the gridlocked cars and the vile stench of human effluvium that occasionally wafts up from the drains. I hate the kitschy night clubs and their soul-crushing music.
I hate Seomyeon.
But in this veritable den-of-shit there are a few places where rampant capitalism has yet to soil.
One such place is 68th Street.
The narrow streets down here, though they do tend to reek of deep fried fuck-knows-what, are less crowded and do not involve pissing around underground.
Who know’s what she’s cooking, and as a vegetarian, I doubt every much it’ll do me much good to know, but she was lovely and seemed to enjoy my foreignness / photographing.
Inflatable signage! Do these things actually draw the punters in, or are they only there to temp drunk idiots to knock them down?
There are other parts of Seomyeon where you can escape the neon madness and gratuitous advertising, but you’ll have to search deep within its bowels.
Goodbye Seomyeon. I’m getting outta here
서면. Written in English as Seomyeon. Pronounced Soh Mi’ Yon. Listen to the locals and you’ll get used to it.
Remember! The Es are silent. Avoid saying See Oh Mee Yon like a complete plonker.
I've particularly enjoyed 여섯 빛깔 무지게 (6 Light Rainbow). The podcast, with the support of the Incheon Cultural Foundation, brings in human rights activists, translators, film directors, etc to talk about queer related issues. In the first episode, translator 조동섭 (who has translated Brokeback Mountain as well as other queer-related books into Korean) and host 이정우 talk a great deal on the evolution of Jongno and other queer areas of Seoul since the 1980s.
To explore other podcasts, just try typing 퀴어(queer) or 게이(gay) into the search box over at podbbang and you are sure to find something new to listen to.
Glad to be back to write this blog after so much hectic during the end of the year before.
Well to cut it short I am writing about my experience about my new year celebration-the one that I celebrate the way Korean celebrate it- well here is the story.
I went to Nampo-dong area around 11pm to see the fireworks and the charity bell ringing in the Mt.Yongdu park, the area was awfully crowded to the point that you have to queue for around almost half an hour to get to the park. And it was freaking cold but the line was that long. I got up and heard the 33 times charity bell ringing which supposed to mean as the bell of peace.
Then we went until we saw bunch of flying paper and lantern and when we almost went down the fireworks were there!! it was beautiful and worth to watch.
Down in Nampo-dong the street food vendor seller were still open and it was too crowded to eat so we opted to rush to Haeundae and take a nap before the important event on the next dawn.
Turns out event the subway is closed but you can take the bus for that day since they make the operation hours longer than the initial time.
We arrived back at Hauendae around 2AM.
After waiting for around half and hour, at 7.32am the sun was rise but we couldnt see it properly yet as there was heavy cloud just at that side of the sun, finally around 7.49am we could see the sun properly.
Trust me it was worth to see!!
January 4th the 1st weekend of the 2015
There was polar bear swimming festival in Haeundae beach!
Not only Korean spotted but believe me or not around 30% were foreigners that tried to swim in the cold winter Haeundae beach!!
You have to pay the registration fee for 20000KRW but you got some merchandise and of course the experience of it.
Well I couldnt participate because I had no idea that we have to register for it but watching it form a far was an interesting things to do.
|Polar bear swim festival|
|well I bit you guys my adieu for now, wait for my new experience and my new post and see yaa again!!!|
These are my top albums of 2014 in no particular order. I listened to these albums on repeat, I love them, and they defined this year.
Sleep Party People - Floating
Slow Magic - How to Run Away
The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream
Conor Oberst - Upside Down Mountain
Tycho - Awake
Alt-J - This Is All Yours
Future Islands - Singles
Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2
Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots
Tove Lo - Queen of the Clouds
About the girl
Thank you so much for visiting and reading.
You might be surprised what you will find
People more willing to say yes than no
A thousand doors to where you want to go
Strange new places, unfamiliar faces
Sprinkled with only the slightest traces
Of home, of the past
Try to make the moment last
Because after you blink
There’s no time to think
Of what you would’ve changed
Left out or rearranged
The present is fleeting
It’s here and it’s gone
Breathe in, the night is greeting
You, breathe out and it’s dawn
Don’t look back, no regrets
Move on but don’t forget:
Life is a journey, full of ups and downs
With wanna-be kings all vying for the crown
Of success and wealth, of things that don’t matter
As much as the stuff that could heal or tatter
Your soul, like love or a human connection
These are the signs that give us direction
But to follow your heart, you must let it lead
So give it the very release that it needs
When you open your heart and you open your mind
You might be surprised what you will find.
Whether you’re thinking of coming to Korea, on your way to Korea, or you’ve lived here for years, the question frequently comes up: Should I study Korean in Korea?
This commonly comes up among people who will be living in Korea as some point. The thing is, the answer is different for everyone.
To help solve this mystery, first we will answer the top ten common questions that come up.
Then, we will let YOU be the judge. Let’s get to it!
1. Do I Need to Study Korean in Korea?
You can get by in Korea as an English speaker and never learn Korean. Plenty of people have done it and have lived in Korea for many years.
Rest assured, you likely won’t starve or get stranded. Whew!
It more accurately comes down to how many inconveniences you’re willing to tolerate.
Most people want to have a certain quality of life or type of experience in Korea. So to answer this question more accurately, you need to factor in three main things:
- Where you live
- Why you’re in Korea
- What kind of experiences you want
If you live in a big city such as Seoul or Busan, there will be more English speakers than in the countryside. On the whole, people in these areas can communicate in English better, even if it’s limited.
If you live in a smaller city, knowing at least basic Korean phrases will help tremendously.
Next, you need to decide why you’re in Korea. Is it only for a few months to work on a research paper, where you interact with very few people while living in Itaewon (the international area of Seoul)? Or will you be making the rounds in the city, shopping online, and taking trips on weekends? Your reasons why you’re in Korea will help you decide how much you’ll actually need to be studying Korean.
Lastly, you need to think about what kind of experience you want while you’re here. Think about a time in your future, about your final days in Korea. Maybe this is 20 days or 20 years from now. What kind of experiences did you want to have? Did you want to interact with Koreans, be a great tour guide when friends and family visit, and order like a pro at the cafe? Or were you happy living a Westernized version of the Korean life?
There is no easy answer, it comes down to your own personal preferences. The main thing you want to avoid is looking back with regret. Going into the future and looking back on today will help you understand how you feel about this point.
2. Do I Need to Study Korean Before Coming to Korea?
No, but it sure helps!
There is no question that learning Korean in Korea makes it easier than in your home country. You’re around the Korean language all day long, so even if you want to avoid it, you can’t. It’s great for keeping you immersed in studying, even when you don’t realize it!
This is especially fun once you learn to read Hangul (Korean alphabet). You’ll find yourself reading signs, menus, and advertisements everywhere you go.
If you plan to be at least conversational in Korean, it makes sense to learn the basics before you arrive in the “Land of the Morning Calm”. This includes Hangul, key phrases, basic grammar, and the most common vocabulary words. This can all be learned by yourself without a tutor or instructor. By learning this ahead of time, you will be able to hit the ground running as soon as you land in Korea.
Instead of spending your first few weeks in Korea learning the basics, you’ll be out spending your few few weeks practicing the basics! This will be a much more effective use of your time.
3. Is Korean Difficult?
This point is greatly misunderstood.
People think that because you are learning a new alphabet, Korean is difficult to learn.
The Korean alphabet consists of 14 consonants and 10 vowels blended together to make words, similar to English.
The Korean alphabet is not a picture-based language like Chinese. Therefore, English speakers can understand Hangul quite easily.
Sentence order and pronunciation is different than English. The sentence order of Korean is different because the verb is at the end, so it takes some getting used to. The pronunciation is actually simpler than English in many ways. For example, since there are fewer consonants you don’t have as many sounds as in English. There are some new sounds to learn as well, but it’s not a tonal language such as Mandarin or Cantonese.
In short, take a deep breath and relax! You can learn the Korean alphabet in less than 60 minutes!
And you can be having short conversations within a few hours.
4. How Can I Learn Korean?
There are various ways to learn Korean. It depends on how and what you want to learn.
At the very least, you need to learn Hangul (the Korean alphabet). You’ll need it in order to read, write, and to pronounce words correctly. Some people try to get by with using the Romanized versions of Korean words, but that usually ends in disaster. Much better to get it right from the start, especially when you can learn Hangul in less than one hour.
After you get the basics down, you can decide how far you want to take it.
Anki is a great SRS flash card program that you can use to boost your vocabulary and phrase knowledge. You can download pre-made decks, or enter Korean phrases and vocabulary of your choice for customized studying.
You’ll hear a variety of different Korean study methods depending on who you ask. The most important part of figuring out how to study is to choose a method that you enjoy. That way, you’ll be most likely do the work!
5. Where Can I Use Korean?
South Korea and North Korea both use the same basic Korean language, but there are different dialects. The North Korean version tends to use the formal version more often than the Southern dialect. If you’re thinking of taking a trip to either place, the basics will work wherever you go.
Even though Korean isn’t a national language outside of Korea, there are a surprising amount of places you can use it. There are roughly 5 million Korean speakers outside of Korea, as well as Koreatowns spread all over the world. If you go to a Korean restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand, you may find yourself speaking Korean with the Thai and Korean staff!
Look for signs in Hangul the next time you travel. You may have more chances to use Korean than you think.
6. How Much Korean Do I Need to Learn?
Many people overestimate the amount of Korean they need to learn.
Instead of learning massive amounts of the language because you may need it some day, it’s much better to focus on the 80/20 principle. This principle says that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The same holds true with Korean. 20% of the Korean language is used 80% of the time. If you focus on that 20%, you can learn Korean fast.
First figure out what you want to use your Korean for. Next, find the Korean that you need to study in order to get there. Then, make sure you know that material well so you can use and understand it easily.
One simple example of this comes from the Hangul Hacks series. If you know the verbs “있다” and “없다”, you can make statements and ask questions about many things. These verbs get a lot done with a small amount of work. Models of efficiency!
7. Is Learning Korean Worth the Time Investment?
It’s only worth the time investment if one of the following are true:
- You enjoy it
- You use it
Many people learn Korean because it’s a fun language. It’s unique, distinct, and very scientific. A large number of people study Korean in Korea simply because they enjoy the process.
Others learn Korean because it helps improve their lives. Whether that means shopping online, taking a taxi, ordering at a restaurant, calling for a repair person, dating, or chatting with the in-laws, it should be something that you will actually put to use. Some learners like to know Korean to avoid inconvenient situations, such as having to ask a Korean friend to talk to your landlord. Or maybe you want to know what your spouses parent’s are saying about you!
On the flip side, many expats live in Korea for decades and can barely speak any Korean. It’s not a necessity, and you can get by without learning it.
In the end, it will come down to what kind of experience you want to have. Most people who simply “get by” have vastly different experiences than those who are able to interact with Koreans on a daily basis.
8. Pros of Learning Korean
- Interact with Koreans
- Find the best deals and discount
- Make more friends
- More dating options
- Avoid miscommunications
- Avoid embarrassment
- Show that you appreciate Korea
- Add life skill set to resume
- Increase job opportunities
- Understand Korean songs, TV, movies
- Richer life experiences
- Independence from relying on others
9. Cons of Learning Korean
- Time consuming
- Costs money
- New alphabet to learn
- Few Korean-speaking countries
- Must be willing to make mistakes
10. Why Doesn’t Everyone Study Korean in Korea?
It’s not for everyone.
Some people aren’t interested in Korea, Koreans, or living in Korea. In that case, it’s hard to justify reasons for studying.
Also, the big cities in Korea have international areas with many businesses catering to English-speaking residents. If you live in Itaewon in Seoul, or the Kyungsung University area in Busan, you may wonder why others are wasting their time studying the language. After all, you can get by with only using English in those places.
Those are some interesting points. Definitely learning Korean isn’t for everyone.
You need to evaluate this for yourself.
The most important part of this evaluation is to make sure it’s equally weighted. So many people come to Korea, and live a very limited and narrow version of what their life could be like if they learned how to communicate in the country they live.
To make sure you don’t fall into that trap, be sure to talk to people from both sides. Talk to those people who didn’t learn Korean, but are living the life you want. Ask a lot of questions.
Then, talk to the people who did learn Korean who are also living the kind of live you would like to have. Figure out how they did it, and what the benefits are.
After you’ve heard from both groups, you’ll find it much easier to make your decision. Having done this homework will make you much happier with your choice. Most importantly, you can feel confident that you’ll look back on this time without regret.
Why are you studying Korean? Let us know below, we’d love to hear from you!
Photo Credit: Martin Lopatka
Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series: http://www.90DayKorean.com/learn