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South Korean Student Defects to the North

According to sources, a seventeen-year-old South Korean high school student has defected to North Korea. The sophomore student, Lee Sang-han, escaped in the early hours of the morning from his hotel, while on a one-day two-night class trip to China.South Korean Deunification Ministry official, Ahn Mei-eun, said that this is the first occurrence of a defection by a South Korean student to the

Obama blames swine flu on George Bush

President Barack Obama today placed blame for the outbreak of the Swine Flu on the previous administration of George W. Bush.In a quickly called press conference Obama claimed that it was no coincidence that scientists believe the Swine Flu made its way into America over the Texas border.Speaking without the aid of a teleprompter the president said, "There has been a great deal of, uhmm,

Another reason K-pop deserves no respect

Sure, it's fun, its flashy and the tunes sometimes get stuck in your head for days on end, but basically, it is just fluff --lacking any artistic integrity. The process of putting it together the equivalent of manufacturing a can of coke.OK, I have become my father, but check out this clip of the ultimate perversion of pop music, Korea's nine-girl make-up mavens, "Girls' Generation."During a

Plagiarized Thoughts on my Newfound Mortality


Middle age
refers more
to landscape than to time:
it's as if you'd reached

the top of a hill
and could see all the way
to the end of your life,

so you know without a doubt
that it has an end—
not that it will have,

but that it does have,
if only in outline—
so for the first time

you can see your life whole,
beginning and end not far
from where you stand,

the horizon in the distance—
the view makes you weep,
but it also has the beauty

of symmetry, like the earth
seen from space: you can't help
but admire it from afar,

especially now, while it's simple
to re-enter whenever you choose,
lying down in your life,

waking up to it
just as you always have—
except that the details resonate

by virtue of being contained,
as your own words
coming back to you

define the landscape,
remind you that it won't go on
like this forever.

"Foreseeing" by Sharon Bryan, from Flying Blind. © Sarabande Books, 1996. Reprinted with(out) permission. (buy now) Recycled from The Writer's Almanac.

The Sad Saga of My Left Testicle

My love affair with the Korean medical system came to its full fruition this weekend as I had surgery to repair various vascular components of my left testicle. This medical episode has been ongoing throughout my first year here and has been described in various post that I haven't the energy right now to hyperlink. I spent the night before I got here in the emergency room with this problem and have been treated for it twice since and several times before. Basically, for those not already sick of hearing about it, the blood supply exiting the left testicle has to go through the kidney to get back into the stream and in something like 40% of all men this causes a problem, especially when the affected individual is physically exerting themselves. The problem is further aggravated when these activities occur during warm weather.

As I enjoy moderate physical exertion (climbing, biking, walking, quoits) whatever the weather, I have become rather frustrated with the situation. I have had swelling and pain pretty much all of the time for the last couple of years and five times it has become bad enough that I have sought medical assistance. This week I finally said enough is enough.

The surgery was technically described as the "excision of the varicele and hydrocele of the spermatic chord." The procedure itself was quick and painless. I passed out when they put in my IV beforehand, but the injection for the spinal block wasn't that bad and I was awake throughout the surgery and felt nothing but some pushing and pulling. I was in quite a bit of pain for the first few hours but then they gave me a shot in the ongdongi (butt) that put my whole pelvis to sleep.

I began to worry, however, because they had dropped about 2 liters of saline on me by that time and they kept asking me if I had peed yet. Between the lingering affects of the spinal block and the local I couldn't feel my pee mechanism and I knew that another wrong answer was probably going to result in the dreaded catheter so I did what anyone else smart enough to know the difference would do: I lied. I told them that I had pissed like a horse and felt great. The following morning, still having not peed in reality, I lied again and told them I didn't have any pain and refused the local butt shot. At this point I got feeling back and could consciously open my urethra.

Some interesting differences about the Korean hospital experience:
  1. "Do It Yourself." There is an amazing degree of self-help expected of patients at the Korean hospital. I was given silverware with my first meal and thereafter I was expected to clean it after each and keep it in a secure place for the next. If you want a bath: "There is the shower room! (Hope you brought a towel)." Thirsty? There is a water cooler in the patient's lounge down the hall. Need to use the internet: two coin operated terminals in said lounge (W100 [.07 USD] for 5 minutes). PJs come with the room but if you didn't bring slippers those will cost you W2000.
  2. "Help Yourself." If you press the "help" button every nurse on the floor sprints down the hall to your room figuring you must be dying. I only saw a light come on once in the 48 hours I was there. They never even told me where it was. There was an astounding amount of cooperation and assistance in our little room. Yujin and I helped the guy recovering from a major abdominal surgery and he reciprocated by letting me watch two innings of baseball (remote control control was apparently dictated by seniority).
  3. "If you can't 'Do It Yourself' bring your family." (Or your girlfriend) Every bed had a fold-out cot underneath and the majority of patients had at least one relative attending 24-hours a day. In some cases entire families were there. Yujin, godsbless'er, wanted to stay but I got her to go home on the pretense that the cat needed care. (Still, she once again saved the day with Snickers, snuggles, and smiles, even smuggling in a Big Mac when I had pegged out my kimchi-eat-ometer.) These family members did everything that in many cases would fall to CNAs in American hospitals and nursing homes. The nurses were there for medical assistance only.
  4. Needles. I would say that over 90% of the hospital patients were on IV drips. Into this went everything that wasn't intramuscular (that went in the bottom). I didn't get a pill to take, not one, until I was discharged. (I cheated and took three Advil I had in my hangover kit during "Operation Urethra.") The hospital I went to specializes in treating foreigners and the nurses were ready for my squeamishness. They told me that Koreans are used to shots and I believe them: when you go to a pharmacy for a prescription here they ask you if you want pills or an injection. They love the needle here.
  5. Speed. I walked in to the hospital and when they asked me what was wrong i pointed and was sitting in front of a urologist in three minutes (you take a number!) I entered the operating room at a trot and was there for thirty seconds when they maneuvered me into a fetal position and stuck a needle in my back. The last thing I felt down there was my pants being jerked down. I then heard an electric shaver and some sounds like someone sorting silverware. I asked a guy standing there (I think the anesthesiologist) when they were going to start the operation and he said they were finished.
  6. Money. I have remarked on this before but I am continually astounded by how much you get for your money here. It makes the American medical system seem like a huge hoax. Two days room and board, sonogram, x-rays (chest and ab), complete blood work, electrocardiogram, urologist, anesthesiologist, surgeon, operating room, and all meds: less than $500 USD. And I think my co-pay was over 50% because this was elective. In contrast, the one-hour visit to the ER the night before I left is over $2000 now and the bills are still coming in.
All in all it was a wonderful experience. I may go back soon and have them look at the other problem area(s). Stay tuned.

The Week We View: All the news that's fit to miss

>American scientists announced this week that they have unraveled the entire genome of the cow. Much to researcher's surprise it was found that American bovines have a genetic predisposition to Mad Korean disease.>The recession spares no one: It was reported that Paul McCartney has seen his fortune shrink $125 million in the last year thanks to falling property and share values. He must somehow

Barbie Does The Seoul Podcast

Shortly after announcing to Blog Land that I had been invited to join a discussion on Busan e-FM (90.5 MHz), the folks who do The Seoul Podcast asked if I'd be interested in joining them for a recording on April 21st. My initial response to this was to point out that words are hard and that I rarely say anything of value. They saw no reason for that to stop me and swore that they don't say anything of value either.

Confession: I had never listened to The Seoul Podcast prior to being invited on the show. I was only aware that The Seoul Podcast existed in the first place because I occasionally check out Zen Kimchi. And the only reason that I've heard of anything in the Korean Blogosphere, period, is from talking to my friend Diana. It's not that I'm not interested in what other migrant workers in Korea have to say, or that my sphere of dweebery doesn't extend to the Internet. It's just that between doing this, following hockey, running a mediocre tennis messageboard, keeping up on my 15 shitty television shows of choice, What's Alan Watching?, Unreality Magazine, Television Without Pity, and checking the daily news to make sure that nothing important has blown up that day, it hadn't dawn on me to find the time. Now that I know better, I may or may not find the time. Change is hard.

Regardless of whether or not I start making an effort to keep up on some of the better Korean blogs out there, I had a great time recording The Seoul Podcast with Joe, Stafford, and Jennifer. They're a fun group. Between planning a weekend group flash and discussing various asshats, they did actually say some things of value. In other words, they told me a fib. I'm willing to forgive them for their little white lie, if they forgive me for falling asleep on the floor and saying about two words over the last 40 minutes of the show. I fell asleep on the floor because I had been awake for almost 19 hours; not because The Seoul Podcast folk weren't thoroughly entertaining. It wasn't them, it was me.

While I imagine that I don't come off much better than I did on the radio (I have an mp3 of that which I can email to anybody at home who desires to listen; I refuse to listen to myself), the show, Seoul Podcast #52, will be posted on The Seoul Podcast sometime over the next few days. Feel free to use this space to comment on the show or mock me for being me.

Condom ads unprotected from Chinese patriotism

A German ad campaign which features a sperm that resembles Mao Tse Tung has Chinese netizens and some government officials in a tizzy. The ad series also features Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden in starring roles as the dreaded sperm.The irony is wonderful: Sperm increase the population, whereas the Hitler-Mao-Bin Laden trio sought, and are seeking, to diminish it --at least certain members of

Funky Friday: Sexy leaders. From Gandhi to Obama to Park Geun Hye

Another meaningless controversy is stirring over the May edition of Washingtonian Magazine running a cover shot of the then pre-presidential Obama shirtless. You have no doubt seen the photo already, though it has been slightly altered --with the shorts he is wearing and Obama himself, given another color.The argument from the Right is that it is disrespectful to the Presidency. Fair enough,


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