Showing posts from October, 2007
Blogging might be light for the next few days as I have relocated south of the river to Seoul National University for a conference on viewing immigration to the United States in international perspective. There are people from all over, it is sure to be interesting.

I am presenting my research into Mexican migrant music in Virginia and North Carolina and looking forward to it. I think I will post my paper if I can figure out how to do it as a posted document and not in this space. I am largely talking about norteno music in NC, mariachis traveling through both states, and the experience of the Gran Jaripeo (Mexican rodeo) in Manassas, VA, and explaining what it says about globalization. I'll be playing some music too, of course.

SNU is the largest university in Korea as well as the premier one. The campus is huge (I haven't seen it yet, just a map). As seems to be the standard for Korean academic conferences, everything is included for participants, lodging, meals, and…

substance vs. appearance

One big difference between the US and Korea seems to be in the sense of self.

American children get undeserved praise at much higher rates than Korean children, and it may be actually bad for their educational achievement.

Are Kids Getting Too Much Praise? - Well - Tara Parker-Pope - Health - New York Times Blog: "An excess of praise may be doing kids more harm than good. A cover story in this month’s Scholastic Instructor magazine asks whether kids today are “overpraised.'’ The concern is that by focusing on self-esteem and confidence building, parents and teachers may be giving real goals and achievement short shrift. The article cites a recent study in which eighth graders in Korea and the United States were asked whether they were good at math. Among the American students, 39 percent said they were excellent at math, compared to just 6 percent of the Korean eighth graders. But the reality was somewhat different. The Korean kids scored far better in math than the over-confi…
How Americanized is Korean society?

One marker might be that they are starting not to save as they did in days of recent yore.

Korea has a lot to do, though, if it is going to match the United States zero savings rate.

("World's biggest spendthrift" is one of those superlatives that perhaps we shouldn't be aspiring to as a nation, no?

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "Korea marked its 44th National Savings Day yesterday, yet with diminished public attention as diversified asset management tools and higher spending have contributed to a falling savings rate in an increasingly wealthy society. The Bank of Korea, which co-hosted the celebration with the Ministry of Finance, said the number of awardees recognized for their contribution to savings totaled just 99, falling below 100 for the first time since the day was designated. The number of awardees was 426 as late as 2000 but dropped to 100 last year.
Prize winners are selected on the recommendation of various financial insti…

a few Seoul scenes

In an old timey way, the newspaper here all post their daily editions page-by-page on boards in front of their buildings in central Seoul. I used to see this in Europe in some cities but not for a long time.

But what is even cooler is that some have large electronic touch screens rather than paper versions, which allow zooming and searching.

The subway stations are great here because there are maps all over the place inside that situate you, so you generally can figure out exactly where you are and where you want to go.

This is helpful since there are no addresses for anything, and you need all of these landmarks to figure out where things are. It is all relative. This is especially challenging in a city increasingly filled with chains. People give directions like "go between the apartments and in the middle of the blck between the Starbucks and the KFC and turn left at the Mr. Seven bar and walk toward the bank." Navigating by landmarks in the US would be utterly impos…
One of my students raised an interesting dilemma today. She has to choose between keeping her Korean citizenship or her American citizenship within the next year, since Korea has a national law (apparently in the Constitution) forbidding dual citizenship. The age 22 is the deciding year.

I must admit I wasn't deciding such weighty things at age 22. I had, uh, other things on my mind.

It is a difficult quandry. I have no idea what the right answer is.

In case you are rolling this around in your head, consider that her parents are both Korean citizens. What to do?

ghosts in the machine

It is true that in this digital age nothing seems to get lost.

I am putting together some slides for a talk at the end of this week in which I mention the Mt Airy Fiddlers Convention, as a Mexican rodeo and music festival is now being held on the same grounds. I left all of my Mt Airy pictures on my home computer, so I have been searching the web to find some decent ones for a slide or two. I remember there being a good site up with pictures from 2006 festival, but still can't find it.

I did finally find this Surry Arts Council page with some old 2001 pictures of a fiddlers workshop that included such old time fiddling giants as Benton Flippen, Richard Bowman, and Kirk Sutphin. I was at that workshop, and even have a great picture of Benton from it (taken by my friend Phil) hanging on my living room wall. And sure enough, I was struck to see my (younger and cleanly shaven) visage in the background of a bunch of these pictures. It was certainly a surprise to come across myself t…
This is our regular supermarket, about five blocks away.

For some reason its sign is in English.

For some other reason, the values of our supermarket are both Quality and Belief.

I was walking across the Ewha Women's University campus and spied something a bit odd.

There was, in a the trees next to the path, a rabbit tied to a tree on a red leash.

He was a big, healthy looking and friendly rabbit. His name was Iluvia.

I know his gender and name because it was written on a note where the lease was tied. I asked a student walking by to translate the note. According to her it says that Iluvia is up for grabs, 7 years old, friendly although a bit shy.

I was tempted to take him home but figured that he wouldn't really fit into the apartment well.

It did occur to me that this might have been a hidden camera experiment.

On a related note, my dogs, being cared for by my gracious parents for the year, are happily killing rabbits and other furry woodland creatures whenever they are let outside. Actually, it is largely Mother Maybelle doing the killing. My dad gives me regular reports. I think the transition back to Norfolk will be rough on the dogs after…
Neither of these are things you want to read.

Though I should note that not driving for a year is saving us many thousands of dollars in gas, which is a relief. [english donga]: "Oil prices hit a record high due to growing anxieties about the supply of crude oil in the international market. Experts believe “the era of $100 a barrel” is not too far away. The Korean won also rose to a 10 year-high against the greenback due to the dollar`s global weakness."
The mountains in Songnisan were as beautiful as advertised.

The drive there takes you through many rice fields and ginseng operations which were interesting to see. I think the peak leaf season is still perhaps a week away, but they were still beautiful. The highest peak in Korea is there, which we were intending to climb on Sunday morning. On the drive to the conference I was informed that the conference was over Saturday evening and we were returning to Seoul (!). It turns out this was a surprise to many other people too. So, I am going to have to return to climb it.

This weekend might not be the day to climb the mountain in any case. There was an absolute torrent of people that grew more sustained as the morning went on. We walked back to the hotel about 11:30 am and could barely come down the path because of the solid wall of people walking up. I have never seen anything like it on a mountain path, though I have seen similar scenes on the Seoul subway.

I managed to forget t…
The conference this weekend was interesting for multiple reasons.

The paper presentations varied enormously given the interdisciplinary focus of the whole. Fortunately, the conference proceedings were printed so if someone was reading slowly (or if a paper was not very interesting) you could read all of the others. In this way, I got to read or hear everything at the conference.

The most interesting papers and discussions for me were on North Carolina Slave festivals and on the globalization of evangelical Protestantism and its relationship to Wilsonianism.

My paper, on extraterritoriality in US foreign relations, did not trigger the sustained argument I was hoping it would, though the formal criticism was constructive. Those who know me know that I am always interested in arguing, but no avail in this instance. (Maybe I was just that persuasive?) My sharp colleague at Sogang has promised me some criticism back here at home, so I am looking forward to that.

In the US, in addition to a…
I appreciate a link and nod from the indomitable Burro Hall, one of my favorite blogs which covers life and much else in Mexico. I have an abiding interest in things Mexican and Burro Hall is one of my favorite daily blogs to read. And, it is the only one that I read that makes me laugh out loud each time I read it. Definitely worth adding to your regular reading.

While in Korea, I have spent a large amount of my time listening to Mexican music and thinking about Mexican music and issues (and food) both in Mexico and in the US. At the end of this coming week, I will be presenting a paper on Mexican music in NC and Virginia at a conference at Seoul National University). I will talk more about that later.
I discovered why there was a traffic stop on a Tuesday night. I learned this from the person who drove me to the conference this past weekend, who showed up 30 minutes late and explained it with the simple phrase 'I was drinking beer last night."

I had read in my ever-trusty Korean etiquette books that here nothing you do while drunk is held against you since, after all, you are drunk. Thus, a boss and his employees go out on a bender and say refreshingly honest things without repercussion. So, following this logic, I accepted "I was drinking beer last night" as a perfectly adequate response. And, let it be noted, I was getting a ride to the conference (with family in tow as well) and definitely was not going to complain. It was a nice ride with very interesting chat to boot.

I figured this gentlemen would know why a roadblock on a tuesday night, and his logical response was that on Mondays people are back to work and expected to be very productive, but by Tues…
Blogging will be light or nonexistent for the next few days, as I am off to the American Studies Association of Korea annual meeting early in the a.m. The meeting is taking place in Songisan. This is a mountainous area (Paekdu Mountains) a few hours south of Seoul, it is supposed to be stunningly beautiful. There is one of the most impressive Buddhist temples in the country there too. I am looking forward to it.
The papers were really filled with numbers today, interesting numbers.

For instance, that 65% of Korean women don't know how to make kimchi.

Nowadays people buy it already prepared and then store it in special kimchi refridgerators. My apartment lacks one.

The past few days there have also been several reports about food safety. Yesterday it was about some kind of cookie that is slightly radioactive. The articles always mention that a few years back Korea was exporting kimchi that had parasite eggs. They slip that factoid into this 65% can't make kimchi article too.

"Parasite eggs" is one phrase that really has a way of grabbing your attention. It should be in many news stories.

Another number I thought was interesting is that the top 1% of Koreans own 57% of the land. More directly, the top 100 landowners own 3% of the land. Even by America-in-the-Bush-era standards that it an astounding figure. I would think that a large part of that is having a massively urbani…

Crimes Against Women at Night Increasing(The Korea Times)

You don;t expect to see this headline in Korea.

Crimes Against Women at Night Increasing(The Korea Times): "Crimes against women at night are increasing and women's safety, especially in taxis, is not guaranteed. In August, two women, who were on their way back home, were kidnapped by a contract taxi driver and found dead several days later. In September, a policeman armed with a weapon sexually abused two female office workers and stole 19 million won worth of their belongings."
I played some old time music this evening with a banjo playing US soldier stationed here, it was a good time. He seems like an uncommon career soldier--in addition to playing the banjo, he plays the fiddle, guitar, and bagpipes (both Scottish and Swedish). He has built his own set of Swedish bagpipes, using military grade cloth for the bag, hand carving the chanter, and using reeds he made himself from reeds growing along the Han River here in Seoul. In non-musical moments he makes mead and does silversmithing. It is nice to learn that the US has this caliber of multitalented soldier here in Korea.
There was an impromptu traffic roadblock in the middle of the main street parallel to my own, with a number of cops stopping cars and administering instant beathalyzer tests. Nice to see, given the inebriation I have witnessed among pedestrians. Unusual, though, on a Tuesday night, isn't it?

The really interesting thing was not the stop, but the fact that the police were all dressed entirely in white uniforms, including white jackets, white utility belts, everything white.

They looked as if they had stepped off of the cover of Cheap Trick's Dream Police.
Halloween approaches, which would be nice to get to ignore this year except that there seems to be some movement to observe it here (if 'observe' is the right word--"celebrate"? "demarcate"? "endure"?).

The likelihood of having to hand out candy is at least diminished. At home, my nieghborhood is marginal enough that kids trick or treat by car generally, and each year I do fear the many implications of "tricks" if my candy is not sufficiently pleasing.

I am thinking of Halloween because one of my students from my history class told me of an idea for a Halloween costume she and a friend had, but she wanted to check with me to see if I thought it was appropriate.

They had hatched the idea of dressing like something we studied from the past for Halloween--a Klansman. Did I think it was a good idea?


A horrifying image, though neither person meant any harm. Indeed, the student I spoke with was in fact shocked to learn exactly how bad …
I rode the bus today, and the bus driver was incongruously listening to a very loungey version of "The Tennessee Waltz" followed by the unbearable "Oh What Night"

stray cats strut

Seoul is set to begin fixing feral cats rather than euthanizing them.

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

This seems like a great idea-- if you like packs of wild cats eating the ripped open garbage bags of food that are placed out thrice weekly.

I do, personally, since I would guess that they do help to supress the rodent population. But if they get the fixed, the cats won't yowl all night, which is a mysterious sound that always takes me off guard.

But isn't it a bit strange that the city will go to the trouble of trapping feral cats to fix them and release them? This essentially means the city desires feral cats. The city estimates that there are 30,000 cats in the city. These are not squirrels, though, or pigeons, or some other common urban animal species that is kind of embedded in the natural environment. (actually, I don't think I have seen any squirrels here at all). These are cats. We might as well have fixed marmots running around. That would be more exotic.

My neighborhood…
We decided to take a break from eating delicious, low priced, healthy Korean food to sample the mediocre, over-priced, and just plain wrong Mexican offerings here in Seoul. The only good thing I can say about the experience was that it allowed me to write the proceeding sentence.

One thing that did amuse us about the dinner was that the freshly made tortillas which the restaurant proudly featured were, in fact, the kind of little wraps used in moo-shu pork. They did not make the transition to Mexican food without protest, be assured.
We've gotten into some complicated stuff on the kayagum. I have my own tuned just right finally, and sounding as good as a new, cheap instrument can I suppose. I've been interested to realize that the pegs on the ends where the strings are tied act as fine tuners, ever so slightly tightening or loosening the strands on the strings to get it tuned right. Quite a graceful system. The teacher says the tuning is more piano like than anything, based on relative tuning than on absolute. At least, I think that was the concept. I have the thing satisfactorily tuned and am resisting putting a brief track on Nunal. You're welcome. Maybe in a few weeks.

I did bring a camera down to snap a picture of the Seoul Arts Center, which is right next to the National Center for Traditional Korean Arts, where the lessons are. The main building in the huge complex is a striking one, built to look like a traditional Korean hat. The whole complex is huge, snuggled up against a mountains.

Another action packed several days have kept me from blogging. Bad for Nunal, but good in every other way.

I was very pleased to be invited to a discussion at Ewha Women's University about a new book comparing the the US and Korean Constitutions. The gathering largely involved the former students of Professor Lee, founder of American history and American Studies in Korea, as I wrote about last week. All of these students went on to get their PhDs in the US and are now professors at various schools in Korea. There were some other historians and Americanists there as well. The afternoon had a very lively exchange that lasted for a few hours, building from two formal critiques of the book to a wide-ranging discussion pounctuated with both disagreements and laughter.

The only thing was that virtually the entire exchange was in Korean, so I understand none of it. Or, almost none of it. The professors (all of whom speak perfect English, as I found in talking to them) would punctuat…
Following the new concept of visiting only establishments at least one floor above street level, we ate at a sushi place in our neighborhood, situated on the second floor between a ground level "Korean Traditional Health Porridge Restaurant" and a coffee shop on the third floor (with furniture made out of twigs).

There are actually two Korean Traditional Health Porridge Restaurant on our street. It is an amazingly popular porridge, I guess. These types of establishment are all over the city. I haven't tried Korean Traditional Health Porridge yet, but Nunal will be the first to know when I do. Porridge hasn't really enticed me for a meal out, I will admit. You might think that Korean Traditional Health Porridge would be of especial interest to Koreans, but these style restaurants across Seoul have English language signs for some reason (those signs being the only reason I have heard of Korean Traditional Health Porridge).

The reason why this sushi restaurant was i…
More on the concept of there being no concept of kitsch here.

I offer up this Korean Air Force recruitment poster from the Sogang campus today, complete with the requisite, kitsch-free large eyed cartoon characters.

Keep in mind that the South Korean air force is a tough and disciplined force with advanced lethal weaponry designed here in many cases (there is even an air show of Korean military products going on this week).

Yet to the kitsch conscious perspective, the recruitment may not exactly scream "man the frontline against nuclear sabre rattling on the last frontier of the Cold War," or something of that nature.

In a coffee shop today I was fortunate enough to come across this unintentionally hilarious (and, perhaps, unintentionally insane) book 'Swagger Low Presents the Hip Hop Project.

yes, of course Swagger Low's Hip Hop Project has a website.

The book is a lexicon and how-to guide to the Korean concept of American hip hop culture. The lexicon features hip hop lingo (or, apparently, what Swagger Low thinks is this lingo, since some of it isn't and some things are actually very strange and even scatological) and then sample conversations using each new term. The conversations are between 'Homie 1" and "Homie 2". The conversations are, simply, priceless. Not least, since the hip hop culture is filtered through an often contradictory Korean mindset, so some of the conversations are recreations of formulaic "hip hop" English discussing doing homework, for instance. (My assumption being that homework is not usually touted as a hip hop attribute). I a…
I have my students here reading some classic hoboing literature from the Great Depression, one of my favorite books: Tom Kromer's Waiting for Nothing (you can read a chapter excerpt here)

The concept of being a hobo was not a familiar one to my Korean students. I have a feeling that the book will be quite astonishing to them, and to their views of the US, which are largely (and forgivably) presentist.

I realized, in introducing the book to the class, that I have an abiding interest in hobo literature.

Indeed, I am not sure you can fully appreciate American culture if you haven't read at least some of it, particularly Kromer, Jack Black's You Can't Win, Boxcar Bertha's autobiography, Jim Tully, etc. Perhaps it is the last resonance of the frontier ethos (not to mention the Frontier Thesis) in hoboing, plus the whole view into the underbelly of the US economy. And, too, the artistic vision involved is important. It is hard to imagine the development of so much cla…
One thing I haven't mentioned yet is the fascinating verticality of Seoul's urban culture.

Life happens at more than groundlevel here, and not just living space either. All over the city there are several floors of bars, restaurants, cafes, stores, and other venues, which means that in terms of commercial space the city is quite a bit larger than it seems at first (if you are thinking of American zoning practices).

It takes some getting used to, looking up and thinking of going to a restuarant several floors up that you can't see into. Often there are several different restaurants on each levels, which means dozens of places in single buildings.

I think that I have not been sufficiently considering these upper (and lower) levels. That is why, for example, I never would have found that basement kayagum seller. See what I have been missing?

Here is an example from my neighborhood: six stories of different bars in a single building.

My wife has been making a point of e…

Chung Named Presidential Nominee(The Korea Times)

There is something inherently civilized about a presidential campaign that doesn't have an official candidate until a couple of months before the election...

...even if nobody is actually voting in the primaries.

Chung Named Presidential Nominee(The Korea Times): "Former Minister of Unification Chung Dong-young won the United New Democratic Party's (UNDP) nomination to run in the December presidential election, Monday, after a month-long primary race marred by a low turnout and alleged vote buying."

old time music from Japan

Back when I started the Nunal Eyeball I wrote about some old time musicians in Japan I had been corresponding with. Now they have a myspace page up where you can hear some of their music: - Old Time Partners - JP - Folk / Acoustic / Jam Band -

what's in a label?

There are couple of controversies brewing. One over Chinese place names for a mountain in North Korea, and a far more momentous and contentious discussion about the Northern Limit Line.

First, President Roh signaled that the Northern Limit Line is just a line, not a border. This was not a welcome statement, especially from relatives of sailors killed defending it:

On Thursday, Roh said the sea line is a “one-sided” military division, not a territorial boundary. The remarks prompted discomfort in the military establishment and anger among family members who have had relatives killed in clashes with the North over the sea border.
The Blue House scrambled to avoid a potential rift with the military yesterday. “There can be different views,” said Blue House Spokesman Cheon Ho-seon, “but there are no differences on the big picture. The government’s position has not changed. The Northern Limit Line is the actual sea border.”
Finding the issue visibly difficult, the defense minister finally sa…
A few pictures from around Seoul this weekend.

A couple different ginseng sellers:

Ginseng is amazingly expensive here. My students have been interested to learn about the coveted value of Appalachian ginseng. The trade in US ginseng to Asia goes back to the late 18th century. Now that I think about it, I really should play the Kentucky Ramblers' "Ginseng blues" to my Southern regionalism class.

Here is a fresh lawn, Seoul style.

Actually, there is green space around, but much of it in the form of mountains. I just realized that there is a quite large mountain with a hiking path right near the apartment, I am excited to check it out. The weather has been extremely nice, clear warm, sunny early autumn days. Koreans tend to dress very warmly for some reason, even though it is quite warm still. My wife has been reprimanded by older woman on the bus for wearing flipflops. They tell her she should be wearing shoes.
Saturday morning my kayagum lesson was especially challenging because of the double pluck, which seems simple until you try to play it. Then, hearing the teacher play it at speed, it becomes something else entirely.

I missed my chance to drive to the kayagum factory and buy one direct for 500,000 won last week, which I regretted. I really would have enjoyed seeing the factory, though spending that kind of scratch on an instrument I can play only in a rudimentary fashion gave even me pause. I tend to think it is always a good idea to buy an instrument early and often when you express the faintest interest in learning to play it. But when starting out on a new instrument it is always good to get the cheapest playable one possible, learn to play on it, and then get something good. Midgrade instruments are usually not worth it. At least, that is my theory.

I was happy, then, when one of the students arrived with a cheaper one he had bought for 250,000 won at a place across the street …
Blogging has been light over this past weekend just because it was so action packed there was no time to to sit in front of this infernal machine.

On Friday I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and having lunch with Bo Hyung Lee, a Professor Emeritus of History from Sogang, and the individual who started the study of American history in Korea. For a time, he was the only American historian in Korea, and he is the author of what was the most widely used textbook on American history in Korea. He is still an remarkably sharp man, it was a very interesting lunch discussing various questions on everything from the Civil War to empire he posed to me and my Sogang colleague Donald, who graciously invited me along to lunch. Professor Lee helped launch ASAK, the American Studies Association of Korea, which hosts a conference in two weeks. I will be presenting at this conference on extraterritoriality and will be posting about it when the time comes.

Then, Friday night my day of feasting …
This is an interesting article about the domain protocols on the internet and the uses of non-English scripts (including Hangul).

The issue raises interesting questions about the role of standards and sovereignty in global exchange. A pronounced shift away from English will, I suspect, mark a serious shift in the pattern of US hegemony in the long run, both in the internet and also in global political economy. In one way, it may be a shift toward more truly network-based models even in the management of protocols, but shifting core protocls creates a trend toward the end of the overhwelming US dominance of the system. Or at least, that is my forecast.

By the way, if you haven't read Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu's Who Controls the Internet?, I highly recommend it. There has recently been a great deal of discussion about Goldsmith's new book The Terror Presidency, which sharply criticizes the Bush administration, but the internet book is also very much worth a read if you are…
A few shots from Seoul today.

This is a corn tea that is very popular. It is essence of corn and water. The bottle is cool even if the concept remains, uh, a matter of preference.

The bottle is a decent quality, screwtop aluminium, and the junk man's great-grandson in me is fighting the urge to save it and use it as a fuel bottle while camping.

This is a picture of the street crossing on my way home, right at the moment of the light changing. I left a bit late and so hit the rush hour (which is heaviest it seems close to 7):

Look at the sheer number of people on both sides. If you look across the street, you can get an idea of the wall of pedestrians coming forward. You might think that there is a Braveheart-level meeting between the two sides, but the street crossings I have seen have been quite orderly.

Finally, here is the lil Buddha sleeping under a mosquito net inside the apartment this evening. The mosquitos are everywhere, even in October. Not an optimal situation for…

a foot in the door, nose in the tent, given an inch, etc.

One might be forgiven for pointing out that as soon as exports are relaxed, this kind of activity generally follows. I think it is a calculus of greed over responsibility. [english donga]: "The Unification Ministry caught a South Korean company smuggling strategic goods into the Gaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea without permission. This is the first time this kind of smuggling has been discovered. A Unification Ministry official confirmed yesterday, “We detected a South Korean resident company in the Gaesong complex manufacturing cloth and thread for use in paraglide chutes. The export of this item is banned. We ordered the company to ‘repatriate’ all the relevant products and materials by the end of this week.” The term “strategic goods” refers to the goods and materials whose export the Wassenaar Arrangement bans due to their possible use for development and/or production of weapons of mass destruction."
I am writing this from my office where, after only about 6 weeks after the semester started, I now have internet access in my office.

I won't even detail the elaborate lengths required for me to get a computer in the first place, because it might sound like I was complaining that it was completely insane that the university did not provide a computer with internet access when I started. But I don't like to complain.

Everything about the computer and the operating system is in Korean, so it takes a good memory to do many things. It is a reminder how insidious this whole computer dependent life is that one can perform relatively complex functions in various Microsoft office products without being able to read anything in any of the pull down menus.

The keyboard can switch to Hangul with a keystroke, which is cool. Totally useless to me, of course, but cool that it is there. Like this, 디니앨 마골리스, is my name. That took some hunting and pecking, I will admit. Much study to do in H…
Out on the Naebu expressway path I finally have tried out some of the machines the city provides for public use. Some are weight lifting machines, some are these kind of twist-the-night-away affairs that exercise certain muscle groups. This one turns you upside down on. It definitely creates an unusual feeling when you return to the right side up.

I am hoping that you don't notice in this picture that, while I am hanging upside down, my child is screaming in displeasure in the foreground.

This is a building in our neighborhood, the "Beverly Hills Vilia" [sic]. I think the concept may be to give the building a grand (if distorted) name and to put this nice mural on the front, and then nobody will notice that it is a hideous box of a building.

I taught another professor's class yesterday as a favor and was interested to observe that when the students broke into small discussion groups, they actually worked hard at discussing their assigned questions the whole time.

In the US, those of you non-teachers might not know, the "small group discussion" can be synonymous (though not always) with the "total waste of class time." Here, the work ethic is much stronger, no doubt about that.

It was also interesting to learn that the TAs here, following Confuician tradition, take role according to age rank rather than alphabetically.

No bull

Not only aren't the bulls killed in traditional Korean style bullfighting, they are paid a salary "in keeping with their status as professional athletes."

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "JINJU, South Gyeongsang ― The fighting bulls of Jinju will now be receiving an annual performance-based “salary” in keeping with their status as professional athletes, the Jinju Bull Fighting Association announced yesterday.
How much each bull will receive will depend on his record in the ring.
The point of giving the massive fighters a regular stipend ― to be spent, of course, by their owners ― is to prevent severe injuries to the animals occasioned by owners forcing their charges to fight frequently in hopes of earning prize money. The current system awards only the winners of the battles and as a result cash-flow for owners is unsteady and the animals may be at risk of stomping and snorting their way into serious harm.
Korean bull fights, unlike the Spanish variety, are fights between two …
Finally one of those Korean etiquette books accurately predicted idiosyncratic behavior. On a crowded bus, as I stood holding a bag, an older woman sitting down took the bag and held it on her lap until my stop. This is a a common thing to do (though nobody offered to hold the bed I carried on the bus a few weeks ago). It is still something of a surprise when someone tugs the bag out of your hands with a smile.

People here have been enormously gracious to Skye and the baby on all forms of public transportation, always offering up their seats. That is good not least since the bus drivers all give fresh meaning to "bat out of hell" and it would be close to impossible to stay on your feet as the driver alternately floors it and slams on the breaks, if not for the fact that you are wedged so tightly in with other people that you are kept standing. All the books advise you that Koreans have a totally different sense of personal space than do Americans. On saturday on the sub…

Koreans, Hispanics Work for Harmony -

This is an interesting article about the relationship (and class issues) between these two migrant groups in Northern Virginia.

Koreans, Hispanics Work for Harmony -

In the Washington area, Koreans make up the largest category of Asian-owned firms. The number of Korean-owned businesses in the region grew by 21 percent between 1997 and 2002, according to the latest Census Bureau figures. In a tight labor market, with unemployment around 3 percent, these business owners have turned to Hispanic workers to bag the groceries and stock shelves, reserving the cashier and top manager jobs for Koreans.

Mini-Marshal Plan Burdensome for Taxpayers(The Korea Times)

A comparative study between the German model of unification with a focus on the economic structures at its core, and their relative success and failures, and what is slowly evolving in Korea would be really interesting and illuminating. Somebody must be working on it, I should think, since it is so obvious a comparison even if it would require a possibly unusual combination of language skills.

And in a similar way culturally minded scholars could really explore some interesting comparisons between the treatment and understandings of the East Germans and the North Koreans in the western, capitalist societies that are absorbing them. Both outside groups are sure to experience alienation, discrimination, and, more abstractly but importantly, a reputation for shabbiness and unsophistication that complicates unification.

Some complications are beginning to emerge:

Mini-Marshal Plan Burdensome for Taxpayers(The Korea Times): "South Korea is expected to face difficulties in securing fu…
This is a photo from the street in central Seoul, which is a business district with big skyscrapers and office crowds and little charm, and this half eaten roast pig on the sidewalk in front of an EZ Pop-Up Shelter. Impromptu pig roast.

As usual there was some festival going on in front of a bank. This one featured a hitherto unknown Korean tradition: belly dancing Korean women and a smoke machine to Korean pop music. Perhaps it goes well with pig.

We didn't eat the pig at this stand, though it smelled great.

Instead we took a break from a near-constant sushi diet (good for the dreams) and continued on instead with the the good fortune to randomly select a grill restaurant specializing only in eel.

I learned how to tell the differences between the pork and beef ones (some serve both) and the ones specializing in "sam gyeop sal," which is kind of like very thickly sliced bacon, quite good. But a place specializing in eel was new to me. (It turns out that if you can rea…
The Korean public response to Little Miss Lark is really quite interesting, and it continues to develop as we venture further afield. The most people we have seen gathered around her at any one time is 7, at a traffic light waiting for a walk signal.

These are people from all walks of life too, not just people of child bearing age who happen to have baby interests at this time or older women, which might be expected. Business men in suits comment on her, college kids, bus drivers all say hello and give big goofy grins.

Today a toothless homeless man had to be restrained from, apparently, giving her a big smooch.

Another man took a picture of her with his cell phone. That would have seemed weird in the states, but was not so weird here for some reason we can;t quite explain.

A Buddhist monk named Jeung Hae was so moved by her that he gave us his cell phone number so I could call him when we visit Busan and his temple outside the city. He was a ncie guy. Fluent in English and also in Sp…
It is unlikely that North Korea is going to be a real competitor with South Korea should peace break out all over the place. More like that 1980s move Gung Ho with Michael Keaton.

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "Before the luncheon, Roh and First Lady Kwon Yang-sook visited an auto plant in Nampo city, about a 50-minute drive from Pyongyang. The plant produces about 1,000 vehicles per year, with 216 employees. Roh and Kwon got in a sedan called “Junma,” manufactured with auto parts from South Korea’s Ssangyong Motors, and started the car. But the car did not move. Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo helped the president, but the car still did not move."
Here is a tank of live shrimp, which are surprisingly fun to watch.

And here is a place near Yonsei that apparently specializes in a new beverage.

Leaders Reach Consensus on Korean Peace(The Korea Times)

Leaders Reach Consensus on Korean Peace(The Korea Times)

This of course being the biggest news here and also among the biggest news elsewhere. All very exciting if it amounts to something.

According to this news report, the Asian (particularly Chinese) media is responding to this agreement much more enthusiasm or even interest than is the Western media.
Visiting a temple complex is a pretty easy way to knock down a bunch of the numbered list of Korean National Treasures, plus fold in a few superlatives and singularities to boot.

For instance, we went to the Deoksugung Palace yesterday, a good day to go since it was Opening of Heaven Day. We missed the pilgrimage to shamanistic sites from Gyeongbokgung, but had a good time at Deoksugung before the heavens actually did open up and it started pouring.

Deoksugung was the home of Prince Wolsan, King Seongjong's brother. Seongjong is the king you hear about most since he invented hangul. This palace complex has been in use in the 1590s. There are some other buildings in the complex as well, and much of it burned in 1904 (maybe by the Japanese?) and other functions as well, including one building from circa 1909 that was the home of the US-USSR Joint Commission for a time. All of thisd gives you an idea of the age of the place, as well as some idea of the overlapping sovereignties t…
I had dinner with the Sogang history department tonight at a Chinese restaurant. The food was significantly different and better than any Chinese food I have had in the US. I gather it was closer to "real" Chinese food. Most of the food was extremely spicy and very good. I have never had sea cucumber before and it was quite tasty, sort of a cross between jello and portabella mushrooms. The most interesting thing may have been the fried jellyfish. Eating jellyfish is something I have never thought of, but it was delicious.
Of course by far the biggest news in Korea today is the meeting between Roh and Kim Jong-il. I don't have anything more meaningful to add to the analysis of this event than the people who are actually trained in this field, but it does have the feeling of something important.

I can also express my interest to learn that the actual border in the middle of the DMZ, which Roh walked across in a symbolic act, is a large yellow line painted on the ground. A map come to life.

Maybe if the US should consider painting the line with Mexico a bit broader people would see it and the migration problem would be solved?