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I don’t even remember how I was tipped off on this story, but apparently there is this strange craze in South Korea where people tune in to watch girls eat food. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise seeing that people will tune in to watch anything – even if it’s just BAD. But to sit and watch someone eat a meal just seems ludicrous, as Mike Tyson would say.
Having said that, I found myself sitting in front of my laptop watching these K-girls eat their food. It’s what boredom and morbid curiosity will do to you while you’re teaching in Korea. There’s lots of free time.
But there I sat watching. And after I made it through the entire video, I realized – “I just watched someone eat their dinner”.
All this zaniness is trumped by only one thing; the WAY these girls eat. When they’re eating noodles, like ram-yeon or ja-jang myeon, they take their chopsticks and grab a big bunch of noodles, swirl it around and around to get more on the sticks, and stuff it in their mouths. But that’s not where it ends. See, when I eat noodles, I get a big bite and then chomp the noodle off. And chew.
These girls continue inhaling until they reach the very end of the noodles. And when they’ve finished one bite, about 1/4 of the dish is empty. I’ve never in my life seen anything like it. I don’t understand why they don’t just bite of the noodles and chew. No, they keep going until the very end of the noodle disappears.
Honorable mention goes to the amount of food they prepare and the amount they actually eat in one sitting. One girl, “pinka”, makes enough food for 10 people, so hopefully she has post video parties or something.
Now I’m sure people are going to say, “this is just how Koreans eat!” Well, you know what, that’s not how Koreans eat. I’ve never seen Koreans eat like this before. Except for these girls.
As a slight disclaimer, I can say that a lot of it seems like embellishing and overacting for effect. As they are preparing the food and then ultimately eating it, they seem to be tuned into an online audience watching real-time. Though it’s well known that Koreans do like to smosh loudly to show favor with the food they’re eating, I think these girls are just kicking it up a notch. Nonetheless, it’s still crazy – in a mesmerizing kind of way.
The most insane part of all of this is the fact that some of them are reportedly making several thousand dollars a month showcasing their devouring skills. What did I miss along the way?
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In the linked article above, I do think the title is a little deceptive, in that although well-being and happiness are linked, they are not the same. I would argue strongly that South Korea is not an example of a country with especially happy teenagers, and I'm sure many would be on my side. Korea's notorious suicide statistics and a recent poll finding that about half of all teenagers have contemplated suicide, would also seem to contradict the notion that South Korean teenagers are the third happiest in the world.
It is interesting to see how the study was compiled and how it favoured Korea in the parameters it measured:
"To create the index, the researchers looked at 40 indicators to assess "citizen participation, economic opportunity, education, health, information and communications technology (ICT), and safety and security" among the world's youth (defined as people 12 to 24)."
Listed in among the factors quoted are some of the really fantastic things about Korea. There is no doubt that in some departments Korea has done many things right, especially the last three; health (in young people), ICT, and safety and security. General organisation and efficiency in Korea is also something I find much better than in many countries, particularly my own. Life for teenagers in Korea is certainly convenient, well-organised, and relatively free from dangerous temptations and situations.
However, the problem with fairly narrow studies like this is the lack of attention to detail and the message it may send out. Education is a perfect example; while I am sure Korea scored highly for education (it regularly tops world league tables), Korean education of the young is something that significantly contributes to unhappiness. One can't help but also notice that if you keep students cooped-up in a classroom all day (and on many occasions, all-night), of course they'll be safer. Just like house cats have less danger and tend to live longer than those that are given free reign to go outside and come and go as they please. But what kind of cat would you rather be?
Economic opportunities is another thing to be careful in making assumptions about happiness, because while Koreans do have opportunities and in my experience finding a job is much easier (for Koreans and non-Koreans) than in my own country (Korea has the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD), work life in Korea is stressful. Koreans work some of the longest hours, taking away time with family and friends and time for relaxation. Hierarchies at work also cause troubles, giving their bosses too much control of their lives. Young people are always at the bottom of these hierarchies, often leading to the worst of working conditions, and the lowest levels of respect and job satisfaction.
But even if it was crystal clear that South Korea was doing a better job than most other countries with regard to the well-being of its youth, does this mean it is doing good enough?
What has always fascinated me about Korea is that its problems are so obvious, and what's more Koreans are so aware of the problems they have in their society, they just seem powerless or unwilling to change them. It is not a question of Johny foreigner coming over here and noticing the problems they can't see, in my experience very few Koreans are ignorant of the issues they have in society.
In a heartbeat South Korean society could make things so much better for young people if they simply took some of the weight off their shoulders. The obsessive compulsive nature of education in Korea is the major culprit of unhappiness.
Even small steps would make a great difference; students could still study long hours for example, just give them less homework and encourage more sleep. As I said in last week's post, why are Korean high school students sleeping only 4 or 5 hours a night? Surely, a healthy amount of sleep would improve their performance and make them happier at the same time.
The study on well-being actually does show some huge positives for the way Korean society has been organised. Korea is so close to being a place that is really great to live. There are many ways in which Korea trumps other places in the world to live, but fails in ways that are so unnecessary it becomes frustrating to be a part of it all.
In my own personal opinion, there are a few key issues that would really make Korea a wonderful place to live if they could change their ways slightly:
1. A less rigid adherence to respect culture hierarchies.
2. A greater respect for worker's rights (and individual rights generally).
3. Less concern with petty status games and jealousy.
4. Being less OCD when it comes to education.
5. Being less nationalistic.
6. Enforcing laws (e.g. traffic laws).
Korea has always struck me as a nation of extremes in these regards; it would only take a little adjustment of each of these factors and one might see Korea rising to the top of more positive tables and statistics, like those concerned with well-being, and lifting off the bottom of the less desirable measures of societies, like suicides.
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1) The fairness in Korean justice system under question
Koreans must feel proud about a prisoner who has higher wage than Bill Gates. The Supreme Court began reviewing the prison labor system after a huge public outcry over a court’s decision to allow Huh Jaeho, the owner of once Korea’s 52nd largest company, to pay off 25.4 billion won (U$23.5M) fine by spending 49 days in a prison labor house, making paper boxes. This means 500 million won a day for Mr.Huh, while the ordinary prisoners are paying off only 50,000 won ($46) a day. As the controversial ruling was given by the judge who has been stationed in the same district for 29 years, which might have led to improper connections with local big wigs, the Supreme Court is making a system in which judges are to move to new locations after serving certain years in a city.
The injustice in Korean judicial system was high lighted in 1988 when four prison escapees took a girl in hostage in Seoul, protesting why they should get 17 years of jail sentence for 5 million worth theft, while ex-president Chun Doohwan’s brother got only 7 years for 7 billion won embezzlement. All but one killed themselves in a live TV broadcast, shouting “No money, much guilty. Much money, no guilty.” (無錢有罪. 有錢無罪) If they were Americans, they would have shouted, “One law for the rich, another for the poor!”
2) North Korea drones flying over South Korean air space
Korean got worried with the discovery of three North Korean drones in different locations in the last two weeks. What is disturbing is that one of the drones had pictures of Blue House (Korean Whitehouse), and many are wondering what if the drone had bombs with GPS locked on the Blue House? The drones were made of foam core fiber glass, powered by 4-cylinder engine, and equipped with Canon DSLR cameras without real time transmission function. The military thinks the drones had crashed returning to North Korea due to lack of gasoline or engine trouble. North Korea has not claimed the drones were from North Korea, but ridiculed South Korean military for letting drones fly freely in South Korean airspace.
Arms dealers should flock to Pyongyang as the North Korean drone that flew over the Blue House without radar detection would cost less than $25,000 to make. Why pay 150 million dollars for an F-35 stealthy fighter from LockeedMartin that basically has the same capability as the North Korean drone?
1) Less Koreans students studying overseas
According to a government statistics, the number of Korean students from elementary school to high school studying abroad has halved for the first time in six years. It rose from 4,397 in 2000 to peak at 29,511 in 2006, began to slide after Leman Brothers crisis to 14,340 in 2012, marking a 51.4% drop in six years. Experts attributed the decline to the ongoing economic slowdown, and a growing awareness that studying overseas with better English skill no longer means a leg up in landing good jobs in Korea.
2) Philip Morris to move production from Australia to Korea
AFP reported Philip Morris plans to close its 60 year old factory in Melbourne, Australia by the end of this year and relocate it to its facility in Yangsan, Korea. The decisions came after the Australian government’s decades long drive to carry out anti-smoking policies such as forcing cigarette companies to display strong health warnings on cigarette packets. There will be loss of 180 jobs in Philip Morris Australia from the shut down.
3. Auto Industry
1) New Sonata unveiled
Code named as LF, the new 7th generation Sonata was unveiled in Seoul, featuring 2.0L Nu engine and 2.4L Theta engine. Well aware of foreign competitors mostly priced around 30 million won, Hyundai put its price tag at 29.9 million won for its top version. Hyundai has boasted that advanced high-strength steel with tensile strength of more than 60Kg (132Lbs) per square millimeter is used in 51% of the new Sonata’s structure, enhancing frame strength by 41 percent. Since its 1st generation launch in 1985, Hyundai has sold nearly 7 million Sonatas so far. Hyundai plans to sell 228K Sonatas this year, and 380K next year.
Sonata has the longest model name in Hyundai. Ever since its launch 1985, Sonata has kept breaking the predecessor’s sales record without exception. Will the new 7th generation continue its proud tradition? Yes and no from my 28 years of automotive experience. Yes, if it sells well. No, if it doesn’t.
This concludes the series on non-aristocratic poets of the hamlets and streets (閭巷詩人, 여항시인). I was previously aware that Classical Chinese literacy was not limited to only the aristocratic Yangban (兩班, 양반) elite during the Chosun Dynasty; however, I first became fascinated in the subject after having read about the slave poet Jeong Chobu (鄭樵夫, 정초부, 1714-1789). I knew very little about this subject prior to these posts, and learned quite a lot through preparing and reading about these poets. (There is still a lot I do not know.) I was fairly surprised at how many resources there were on the internet. Here are the list of poems in this series:
- Yu Heuigyeong (劉希慶, 유희경, 1545-1636) - Presented to Gyeryang (贈癸娘, 증계량)
- Yi Danjeon (李亶佃, 이단전, 1755-1790) – Writing About King Gwan’s Shrine (題關王廟, 제관왕묘)
- Pak Yunmuk (朴允默, 박윤묵, 1771-1849) - The Rice Government (糴政, 적정)
- Jang Hon (張混, 장혼, 1759-1828) – At Jin’gwan Temple, Calling a Rime (津寬寺呼韻, 진관사호운)
- Cho Susam (趙秀三, 조수삼, 1762-1849) - Bamboo Branch Songs on the Foreign Barbarians – Mecca (外夷竹枝詞 – 天方 , 외이죽지사 – 천방)
- Cha Jwail (車佐一, 차좌일, 1753-1809) - Seeing a Scroll in the Morning at Songseok (朝見松石軸, 조견송석축)
- Jeong Chobu (鄭樵夫, 정초부, 1714-1789) - A Woodcutter (樵夫, 초부)
- Baek Daebung (白大鵬, 백대붕, ?-1592) – On the Double Ninth Festival, Reciting While Inebriated (九日醉吟, 구일취음)
- Hong Setae (洪世泰, 홍세태, 1653-1725) – Seven Songs of Yeomgok Excerpt (鹽谷七歌, 염곡칠가)
- Im Gwangtaek (林光澤, 임광택, 1719?-1799?) - Scolding the Cat (責猫, 책묘)
- Kim Deukryeon (金得鍊, 김득련, 1852-1930) - In Canada, Riding a Steam Locomotive Towards the East Travelling for 9000 Plus Li (坎拿大乘火輪車向東行九千餘里, 감나대승화륜차향동행구천여리)
- Eo Mujeok (魚無迹/魚無跡, ?-?) – Lamentations of Vagrant People (流民歎, 유민탄)
The list can be found in the exhibit tab at the top of the blog. I have corrected some of these posts, and as requested have added links to Korean translations. I have only done Korean translations for those poems that did not have one. Furthermore, there are many more non-aristocratic poets that I did not get to cover. For those readers that can read Korean and further interested, there are a ton of resources at Naver Encyclopedia’s (네이버 지식백과) entries on Chosun dynasty’s non-aristocracy culture (閭巷文化, 여항문화).
On another note, I have revised my plans for the blog for the remainder of the year. In particular, I would like to focus on the Classical Chinese primer, and would greatly appreciate feedback on that project. In addition, I will work on editing the resources tab above, do a few book reviews, other assorted articles, and might do one more exhibit. Also, feel free to use any post from this blog, but please do properly attribute.
The Diamond Gate at Magoksa Temple in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do.
The next article about lesser seen things at Korean temples or hermitages is about the Geumgangmun Gate, or the Diamond Gate in English. So what exactly does it look like, where is it found at a temple, and what is its meaning?
Like all the other gates at a temple, it’s situated out in front of the main temple courtyard. It is placed behind the Iljumun Gate but before the Cheonwangmun Gate. So it’s the second in the collection of five gates, if all the gates are located at the temple. This gate can also be called the Inwangmun Gate (Benevolent King Gate), or Haetalmun Gate (Liberation Gate).
How the Geumgangmun appears from the outside at Daeheungsa Temple in Haenam, Jeollanam-do.
So what is the meaning behind this gate? If this gate is called a Geumgangmun, which it’s most commonly referred to as in Korea, then its origins are in Hinduism. Geumgang means diamond, which is the hardest possible substance. It can’t be harmed by any other material, but it can cut or break other material. So it’s a symbol of the Buddha Dharma as the supreme truth or wisdom that can’t be contradicted by other ideas. Also, the Diamond Gate symbolizes how a diamond can cut through any delusions that cause suffering.
However, if the gate is called a Haetalmun Gate then the name implies that by passing through this gate one moves from the human world and into the Buddhist world. This inspires an individual to seek liberation from worldly suffering.
The plain looking Haetalmun Gate at Dogapsa Temple in Yeongam, Jeollanam-do.
The Geumgangmun Gate is similar in appearance to the Cheonwangmun Gate. It’s a large gate that is closed in design. There may be various Buddhist-motif paintings adorning the gate, or it can be left unadorned. One such motif is the depiction of two guardians. One of these fierce-looking guardians is called Ha because his mouth is open and forming a “ha.” This is the cosmic syllable symbolizing the beginning. The other guardian is called Heng. He has his mouth closed and his nostrils are flared. He’s called Heng because his mouth is formed like it is making a “heng” sound. This is the cosmic syllable representing the end. So together, Heng and Ha form the sound “om,” which means the absolute. A great depiction of these two on this gate can be found at Naewonsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.
The guardian Ha found on the door of the Diamond Gate at Naewonsa Temple.
Heng found opposite of Ha at Naewonsa Temple.
As for the interior of this gate, and much like the Cheonwangmun Gate, you’ll customarily find four figures inside this gate. The first two figures, either painted or statues, you’ll encounter, which can be fierce or even comical, are Vajra protectors. They protect the temple and those visiting the temple. They are connected with the Vedic mythological concept of a vajra, the thunderbolt of Indra, who is a great energetic power that can blast through all worldly delusions.
A cheerful Vajra guardian found at Dogapsa Temple.
A whole lot fiercer looking Vajra guardian at Geumsansa Temple in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do.
And a slightly chubbier looking Vajra guardian at Magoksa Temple.
The other two images, again, either in painted or statue form, are Bohyun-bosal and Munsu-bosal. Bohyun-bosal will appear on the left side of the gate, while Munsu-bosal will appear on the right. Inside this gate, they appear as infants. They both appear as boys because they symbolize innocent wisdom and eternal youth. Specifically, Bohyun-bosal rides a six-tusked white elephant. He is the Bodhisattva of great vows, great conduct, and benevolent actions. Also, he’s associated with the virtues of Buddhist practice and meditation. Munsu-bosal, on the other hand, rides a blue dragon or haetae (mythical creature that controls and consumes fire). He embodies the perfection of wisdom. Also, he inspires Buddhists to become wiser through study and clear thinking. So the reasons that these two are housed inside this gate are pretty self-explanatory for those wanting to worship at a Korean temple.
Munsu-bosal at Daeheungsa Temple.
Bohyun-bosal found at Magoksa Temple.
Great examples of the Diamond Gate can be found at larger temples throughout the Korean peninsula. Some great examples can be found at Magoksa Temple, Dogapsa Temple, Geumsansa Temple, Daeheungsa Temple, and Beopjusa Temple.
So guess who picked a perfect time to get sick? There’s been this stupid bug going around all of Gwangju, and it chose to attack me this past weekend. Of course, it was polite enough to wait until a little after I was done with work, but I’m still annoyed that it’s here. I wonder if people out of town are getting this as well..
Sorry for the lack actual content this week. Despite my wishes, my roommate fed me all sorts of drugs and demanded that I stay in bed until I was feeling better. I managed to sneak away for a few minutes to draw and write this up. I’m sure I’ll get yelled at for it, but it’s worth it.
I hope everyone else has a nice week! Don’t get sick!
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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Before K-dramas (Korean dramas) became popular in the Philippines, Mexican telenovelas reigned supreme. I remember being glued to the idiot box with the rest of my family when it was time for “Marimar“, sometimes not minding dinner at all. Even my uncles got so hooked into watching Mexican telenovelas that all they could talk about was the beautiful Thalia, the queen of Mexicanovelas in the Philippines.
We had barely gotten over the Mexinovela wave when Chinese/Taiwanese soap operas were introduced to Filipino televiewers. It wasn’t as if we had not seen Chinese soaps before. Chinese action dramas have been appearing on different TV networks in my country since I was a little girl, maybe before I was even born, but not many Filipinos watched them. You know those Chinese dramas where the actors, garbed in traditional costumes, do kungfu and fly a lot during the fighting scenes? I guess they didn’t strike our fancy, because their stories are far from reality. Besides, they weren’t dubbed in Filipino. There were subtitles, though, but who likes to read subtitles when you are watching soap operas?
In 2002, IBC 13 aired the very first dubbed Asianovela (Asian-produced telenovela), “Amazing Twins”. The setting is also Ancient China, but the characters are more realistic than those from old Chinese soap operas. I watched it, because there is more love story in it than action. ^^ It wasn’t as famous as “Marimar” or other Mexicanovelas that Filipinos got addicted to, but it was appreciated by some Filipino viewers.
In 2003, the phenomenal Taiwanese series “Meteor Garden”, which is based on the Japaneseshojo manga “Hana Yori Dango”, debutted on ABS-CBN. Who would forget “Meteor Garden”? It was such a big thing in the Philippines that other TV networks in the country began airing dubbed chinovelas (Chinese telenovelas), most of which were Taiwanese-produced romantic-comedy series. Still, no other Chinovelas could match the fame of “Meteor Garden”. Filipinos, young and old, knew about Shan Cai and the F4 . You could hear “Meteor Garden’s” introplaying on the radio almost everywhere you go and people singing “Oh baby, baby, my baby, baby…”
CD’s and casette tapes of “Meteor Garden’s” soundtrack and songs recorded by the F4 band sold like hotcakes. Many Filipino fans were trying to master the art of singing Taiwanese songs sung by the F4, though they barely understood the lyrics. I was a “Meteor Garden” fan, too. I must have bought all the CD’s and casette tapes of MG. I even got the minus-one, so I could sing “Ni Yao De Ai”. ^^
My bedroom was filled with F4 posters. There was a huge “Meteor Garden” towel hanging on the wall. It was actually my sister’s, who was also a fan. We didn’t want to get Dao Ming Si 's face wet, so we never used that towel. ㅋㅋㅋ
I’m sure that my sister and I weren’t the only Filipinas who went gaga over the lead character, Dao Ming Si, and his gang. The gorgeous guys of F4 suddenly became most Filipinas’ ideal men. (I wanted to marry Dao Ming Si or have him cloned!) Women weren't the only ones who got into the F4 fever, but the men as well. Many young Filipino males imitated the F4′s hairstyles, even Dao Ming Si’s hideous “pineapple” hairstyle which we thought was cool back then. The cast of MG were invited to the Philippines. They even had a concert that was tightly guarded by 500 policemen! Too bad I couldn’t watch it. T.T
Now that I recall my MG days, I become nostalgic. My Mom told me that the series is being shown again in the Philippines. I really want to watch it!!!
There is a Korean version of MG, “Boys over Flowers”, that was televised in my country. They started showing it when I was busy preparing for my wedding. I’ve seen some of the episodes, but I didn’t bother to finish the whole series. I think there’s too much 애교 (aegyo) in it that I totally dislike. Anyway, the Koreanized “Hana Yori Dango” was also a hit in the Philippines, not as much as MG, though.
From Korea with Love