Showing posts from November, 2007
Korea is high on the brain drain list [english donga]: "Korea is one of the countries that are shown to suffer the most rapid brain drain according to the brain drain index, created by the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland. Korea scored 7.53 (with zero meaning total drain and 10 meaning total influx) in 1996, ranking fourth, but our nation ranked 38th among 58 countries with a score of 4.91 last year."

this fact was a surprise to me. Here I thought that people came to US universities because of their reputation alone.

"...Many countries are struggling to attract brains. The U.S. government spent $1 million on airing TV commercials in China and India to lure foreign students to U.S universities this year. China lures talented people by offering world-class wages, housing, cars and income tax reduction to talented human resources from abroad. India encourages domestic brains in the U.S and Europe to come back by acknowledging dual citizensh…
There are steep little hills all over Seoul, they are somewhat hard to see since tall apartment buildings block them and the main streets all skirt them. Usually, until you go up one, you can't tell how steep they actually are.

They are good for jogging, because if you feel energetic you can pop up one of these hills.

Today I ran up a steep hill, which ended up having a curling small road toward its summit, which was blocked with an enormous Hankook billboard. The road dead ended behind the billboard at an old house. On top of the house, in a widow's walk, I was surprised to see several armed soldiers in some kind of lookout post. This is in the center of a neighborhood, quite far from any military installation.

The hill also had permanent trenches built along the ridge at the top. They were not in use, but they were solidly constructed in a semi circle.

I have no idea why it is all up there, but it was interesting to stumble upon. I couldn't take any pictures since I di…
Turns out that you don't have to be afraid of your cellphone blowing up and killing you.

But you do still have to fear a coworker backing over you with an excavator.
I was hoping, being in a largely Buddhist country, to get to avoid seeing the (or a) nutcracker for at least one Christmas season, but no luck. I pass one every day as i go by the Hyundai store.

I wandered by a large political rally today for one of the nine presidential candidates. I have to admit that I am not sure exactly which candidate it was, given that I can't speak Korean. I felt bad about this. But I do think it must have been one of the more important ones since there were secret service guys all over the place. I also saw many young guys dressed like Sichon-typical students, but with the curly communicators in the ears. I would have taken a picture but I thought that wouldn't be a good idea...

In tomorrow's paper hopefully I will figure out who I was seeing.

The rally featured snychronized dancing while the crowd waited for the candidate. Dancers on stage showed the move and dancers in the audience (dressed in orange, the candidate's colors) danced in the crowd. It was quite racuous and strange, at least my my political rally standards. This footage is bad since I was far back, but you get the idea.
Koreans seem to be really into socks (and I don't mean Socks, America's First Democat, whom the Clintons so callously discarded when Bill left office)

I mean regular old socks. There are socks salespeople on virtually every street corner across the city. I have a number of theories, but none I wish to advance at this time.

16% of Household Heads Jobless(The Korea Times)

Here is an interesting unemployment stat you don't see in the US--registered head of household. The fear is that there is an increase in the number of heads of households not working and instead relying on their spouses' income.

16% of Household Heads Jobless(The Korea Times): "Households headed by the unemployed are defined as ones whose registered representatives do not earn income, instead relying on either the salaries of their spouse, other family members, or government subsidies for their livelihood, the statistical office said."'

Man Killed in Suspected Phone Battery Explosion(The Korea Times)

This is a weird story, front page news here, and given the ubiquitous use of cellphones here, bound to make somebody nervous.

Man Killed in Suspected Phone Battery Explosion(The Korea Times): "A 33-year-old excavator driver was found dead on Wednesday in Cheongwon, North Chungcheong Province, after a suspected cell phone battery explosion, police said. The man, identified only with his surname Seo, was found lying dead beside his excavator in a stone quarry in Cheongwon at 8:40 a.m. by his colleagues. His cell phone was found in his shirt pocket with its battery severely melted and his chest burned and fractured, the police said. It is the first case of a suspected mobile phone battery explosion killing a person in Korea, though there have been several reports of such deaths in other countries."
On the way back from the hospital we saw an amusing site.

These six women were each carrying two large packages of "Kiss" brand toilet paper.

The Kiss toilet paper stuck me as quite funny (in a juvenile way). I came up with several very funny advertising slogans that I am quite sure would have amused a 13 boy. My wife was not equally amused, I will admit.

But it all did seem funnier as we turned the corner toward home and saw this woman on a bike pass us heavily laden with yet more "Kiss" brand toilet paper.

Then we began to see dozens of people also carrying at least two packages of it everywhere, as if the Kiss toilet papermothership had just landed.

It was hard to take pictures of people without looking a bit strange.

This guy had several packages of Kiss in a wheeled cart that tipped over.

We still haven't figured out where it is all coming from.
Since the Lil Buddha is now four months old, it is time for her second round of immunizations.

Seoul has world class health care, with particular skill in obstetrics and pediatrics, with many doctors trained in the US and also ready availability of pharmaceuticals (which is sure to exapnd with FTA, though that is another story. So we felt good about bringing Lark to a doctor here. It turned out to be way cheaper than even going to a doctor in the US. For example, the exam by the doctor was 36000 Won, 36 dollars. That's it. (We also paid the price of the immunizations themselves, of course). In the US, our co-pay is $15 and the doctor proceeds to charge the insurance company a couple of hundred dollars at least, then we also pay for 20% of the drugs too. And we pay a lot each month for the pleasure of being able to pay only a $15 co-pay plus 20%. And, I must say, absolutely everybody we dealt with was more pleasant than most office people I have encountered in American hea…
I once made the mistake of showing the film Crumb to my survey class freshman. It is an excellent and really fascinating film about an artist that I admire enormously and that was historically important too, of course. But I didn't remember the film in all of its, uh, complexities. The response was not one I would seek to reproduce.

Today, in the context of talking about 1950s culture as well as the legal transformation of notions of obscenity, I played a recording of Allen Ginsburg reading "Howl" (and projected the poem) without fully considering the probable impact of the poem, the possibility that some terms might not translate easily, or, to be sure, adequately getting all of my ducks in a row ahead of time to make the poem land a bit easier.

One big difference was that my students at VWC were horrified and very vocal after watching Crumb, while the students here likely were perplexed more than anything.
You don't generally hear much about the 1997 Asian financial crisis in regular conversation in the US (or things broadly economic, save the price of houses or gas, perhaps) but I have been really struck how often people mention it here. Not just academics either.

The crisis was hugely significant for the whole country, of course, and many people periodize their lives by it.

(lots to read of course: you can read up a short, broad treatment of it here and in terms of "contagion" here)
and a critique of "the invisible hand of the American empire" here)

My students mention deciding on specific courses of study because of it, either because of the memory of it or because of the experience of it.

The feeling of economic power here as a result of the vibrant economy, and the justifiable pride in it, has an undercurrent of trepidation, no doubt because the collapse was so recent. It lends an edge in people's perception that is utterly foreign to Americans (aside …
Here is the lil Buddha this morning. For those of you keeping score, she is officially the cutest baby.

a few more pictures

Sunday is the day that Choi's Garden, the restaurant two doors down from our apartment building gets its weekly cabbage needs delivered (and stacked hygienically on the ground). It is quite an impressive sight:

Here is an egg store we wandered past:

Here is a stand that sells life's necessities: leather blazers and fried chicken:

Some pictures from around Seoul

We also hit the Dongdaemun flea market over the weekend. It turns out that the market area around it is the largest market in Asia. Here we are standing in front of Dongdaemun gate (the Great East Gate, first built in 1397 and rebuilt in 1869. The truck is slightly blocked by a truck.

Unlike the last one I went to, this flea market did not have a live traditional Korean band. It had a metal band instead.

I think that maybe stuffed sea turtles might not make it past customs. Many sellers had them, this stall had a whole cute stuffed sea turtle family.

I couldn't figure out a way to get this stuffed peacock home, though I was sorely tempted. Note the sea turtle next to it.

I did find this old kayagum which needs some work but is of a far higher quality than the cheapo one I bought, heavier, higher quality wood, much nicer inlay and finish. Just needs bridges and strings and some set up work and it will be good to go. I will keep Nunal posted as I get this thing up and running, as…
As usual, food is what seems to interest me the most.

The most interesting thing I saw I didn't get a chance to photograph, but will just describe.

We went wandering a few miles north of our apartment, I think still in Sodaemun-Gu where Seoul becomes much less modern and much less westernized. Fewer signs on buidlings are in English, there are zero chain restaurants, the buildings are more run down and jumbled together, crammed up against the hills and some impressively steep rock faces, and overall the area has a vibe of Korea.

We found a very large food market that featured a whole area with live butchers in little stalls. Each offered several different kinds and sizes of chickens, as well as ducks, and rabbits killed fresh for you. The smell was memorable.

The most striking thing was the fresh quartered dog meat in the cases in front of each stand. That is not something I have seen yet here. There were no live dogs that I saw in the stands. Each section of dog was the ribc…

Buddhist tent revival

This is a short bit of a Buddhist tent revival* I happened by in Central Seoul.

*I don't actually know if Buddhists have tent revivals, but it had all the hallmarks of one. It lasted for a long time, the drum beat and the chanting were quite mesmerizing


Seodo Minyo

One interesting section of the concert was the performance of "Seodo Minyo", which is a really powerful style of singing from the area North and West of Seoul called Hwanghae and Pyeongan Provinces. This is the same style I posted a couple months ago that I happened on at a flea market. This performance had one of the great Korean names: "YeonpyeongdoNambongga". I captured a brief bit of it, I think this link will work.
Blogging has been light since things have been busy here and I haven't been at a computer. It has helped that after a week of freezing cold and two snowfalls (that didn't stick but still were disheartening) this weekend was warm and beautiful.

This weekend was also the end of my kayagum class, which has lasted 12 weeks. All of the classes performed in a public concert in the hall at the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts complex, which was fun. The audience was filled, so it was rather intimidating actually. I had missed last week's class since my dad was in town, and so was surprised arrive on Saturday morning to find that our portion of the show started with a tune I had never played! Besides that it went smoothly on the four tunes we played. Be played some lively tunes ("Arirang," "Doragi," "Ban dal", and the one I didn't know, "Nilniriya", which is a great tune I am going to learn). I thought our beg…
Never before having spent Thanksgiving in a foreign country, I was sad to be away from my family, which has used this weekend for a family reunion every year since before I was born.

The weather here is like the weather in southern Indiana, where we convened for decades (grey, rainy, cold), so that felt familiar at least.

There are some places to buy turkeys according to various expat sites (the national bird not being common here as you would expect), but we don't have an oven in our apartment (they are rare in Korea) so we couldn't cook one anyway. Several hotels hosted Thanksgiving buffets, but that seemed like a rather depressing route.

Instead we ate a place down the road that has a large sign in front reading "Roast the Rib of Beef and Pork". Roast them we did and it was a nice Thanksgiving overall.

On the 'power to let', the man behind the curtain, and Team America World Police

In my class today we have been talking about the establishment of US nuclear policy and strategy and one of the students asked an interesting and telling question.

He wondered why the US "let" India and Pakistan get nukes but hasn't "let" Korea and Japan get them.

The question was really an interesting one, primarily since it speaks so clearly about the sense that seems to float out there that the US has the power 'to let' countries do this that or the other at the same time that it remarks on the power differential between the US, Japan and Korea. If you haven't studied American power politics much then it would not be hard to believe that the US is all-powerful world conquerer and world destroyer pulling the levers and the strings and pushing the buttons and whatever other metaphors you want to use at this point. And you would fail to register the system that operates in the place of "letting" and not see why neither Japan or Korea actu…

back to the chopping block

They serve a lot of garlic over here, pickled, fresh, grilled, chopped, and so on. You can buy it by the sack, pre-peeled fresh often for less than the bulbs. At home I have always used an absurd amount of garlic and over here I have ramped up that usage to new levels. Now the NYTimes tells me I need to get to the 8-12 clove a day rate...

Unlocking the Benefits of Garlic - Well - Tara Parker-Pope - Health - New York Times Blog: "Now, the downside. The concentration of garlic extract used in the latest study was equivalent to an adult eating about two medium-sized cloves per day. In such countries as Italy, Korea and China, where a garlic-rich diet seems to be protective against disease, per capita consumption is as high as eight to 12 cloves per day."
My wife created a blog right before we left the states and then was essentially banished from all non-essential missions because of the time incinerator that is parenthood. Now Chic Korea is finally back up, typed with one hand.
It is quite cold and snowing now, though it won't stick.

Lark the lil Buddha is seeing snow for the first time. My wife, Louisiana born and raised, didn't see snow until she was 14!
As a great-grandson of a junk man, I have a sixth sense for good garbage picking.

I was happy to walk by a large pile of trash being loaded onto a truck across the street from Sogang on Sunday and pluck this nice guitar in perfect shape off of the garbage pile. The garbage men were happy for me to take it.

The DMZ was interesting. It is a combination of the tourist splendor of the Wisconsin Dells and the sobering reality of the last totalitarian state on the planet. Plus the tour makes sure you have several opportunities to buy some DMZ swag.

The tour we went on was run by the USO, it is supposed to be the best. The DMZ is only 45 minutes north of Seoul, and the drive up is on a highway next to which runs a double barbed wire fence with manned guard posts every 100 meters. These are looking for North Korean midget subs which come up out of the river.

The actual time spent in the heart of the DMZ in what is called the Joint Security Area was the most interesting. The US Army, which mans the free side of the DMZ alongside Korean (ROK) soldiers, actually leads the tour. We had a US staff sergeant who led the tour, he was funny and seemed both personable and smart and gave a good face to the US command in Korea.

He was armed throughout, as were the other soldiers surrounding the tour.…
Blogging is likely to be light here at Nunal over the next few days, as my dad is in town visiting.

We are going to see as many sights as we can cram into the next few days, the jewel in the crown (for me, since I have seen most of the others around Seoul) is going to be the tour of the DMZ on saturday. I have been waiting to go see that for his arrival, and am looking forward to it.

There are dress rules for visitors there, set by the UN command DMZ Education and Orientation Program, you can read them in this document if you are interested.

To summarize its most salient points, you are not allowed to wear clothing that is "faddish, extreme, torn, tattered, frayed, overly provocative, or otherwise inappropriate." No "gym shorts and shorts that expose the buttocks". No flipflops. No "'gangster' clothes, including oversize/baggy long pants

Geez, I hope I can find something to wear.

The paper yesterday just ran this story mentioning the astounding numb…
The other day, after I gave an assignment and asked for it to be emailed to me, my students here confessed to never writing emails unless it is to "old people like professors," to use their words. The students ("the young") only communicate via IM and texting. Today I marveled at a student who was texting before class, and wished I had filmed it. It was like one of these speed Rubik's cube solvers. Kids these days, and all of that. Then later I read in Slate a piece about the death of email. Which means that I am not the only geezer who noticed it.

moving the base

They broke ground on the new US Army base in Pyeongtaek, which is south of Seoul. The base is moving from Seoul for many reasons, perhaps the biggest is its prominence. The base, though not on any map, is large, and sits on some prime real estate in Seoul and is an easy target for protests. it will be interesting to observe the US-ROK relationship in the coming decades as China's challenge inevitably* looms. [english donga]

* yes, I forbid my students from saying anything is inevitable, but this is one exception I will make.
I finally did get to see the oldest playable musical instrument (Manwuyan) played tonight, having the prefect storm of things happen at once such as actually finding the concert hall without hours of wandering in the dark and arriving on the right date for the show. Things were really looking up since the concert organizer, who spoke perfect English (having graduated from De Paul in Chicago), was extremely friendly and gave me great seats four rows from the front.

To be clear, the organizers kept calling it the the oldest playable musical instrument at 800 years old but these bone flutes seem older by about 7000 years (they are also Chinese, officially "The flutes may be the earliest complete, playable, tightly-dated, multinote musical instruments.") Maybe this is the oldest string instrument or some other superlative, maybe this was just good marketing. (It was all in the Seoul newspapers so it must be true.)

The instrument is never traveling again out of China, and it i…

Sending Troops to Iraq Was Historical Error: President(The Korea Times)

This was a very interesting and candid discussion from President Roh regarding why Korea sent troops to Iraq, the kind of constraints that face any Korean leader, and the realities of the American empire:

Sending Troops to Iraq Was Historical Error: President(The Korea Times): "President Roh Moo-hyun said Sunday that his decision to send Korean troops to Iraq was a historical error, even though he didn't want to history to record him as a leader who made mistakes. ``As president it was an inevitable decision to send troops to Iraq,'' Roh said in an interview with K-TV. ``I realized that this was a time when I couldn't help but make a historical error even though I didn't want to.''"

``Americans could have felt betrayed (if we didn't send troops), which would not have been good thing for us,'' Roh continued. ``Though we reluctantly sent them, I think it was very effective diplomacy.''

Roh gave another example of his reluctant acti…
Here is a better, ariel shot of the anti-FTA protest.

"Pig-fueled birthrate continues to rise"

Now, I know what this means, so the headline make sense. But is still is a good one, no?

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "Pig-fueled birthrate continues to rise"

It being the Chinese year of the golden pig, it is an especially auspicious year to have a child (and to get married).

No wonder Lil Lark is getting so plump, the wee and golden little piglet that she is.

We met a professor from Fudan University in Shanghai at the conference last week who was thrilled that Lark arrived heralded by the golden pig. We expect great things of her accordingly.

yet more eating adventures

I've been riding by this restaurant on the edge of my neighborhood every day enough that it was finally time to eat there. We knew they served fish (given the large sign with the fish) but beyond that, our illiteracy provided no clue.

Following our new semi-suicidal policy, we pointed randomly at the menu (which only had four choices any way) and waited for our destiny to arrive.

Today it was: raw tuna cheek, raw swordfish (which was completely new to the two of us and not even something I knew was eaten), and tuna belly. It was all sliced thick and served so cold it could bring on an ice cream headache if you ate it.

Letting it warm up a bit (it arrived on a tray of cold pebbles that did help radiate warmth over time, it helped too that we were sitting on a heated floor) made it very delicious. We finished a tray and, to our astonishment, they brought about twice as much out. We finished this tray slower and were then shocked to be given yet another. Other items served in an …
The anti-free trade was smaller than organizers had hoped, though 15,000 people did show up and cause some problems in central Seoul. The police responded in typical fashion.

I can't remember if I have noted this before, but the anti-riot police presence is very impressive in Seoul. The US embassy, for example, always has a large number of riot buses and police ready for action right in front.

One of the Fulbright scholars is researching the movement so I am waiting to hear what her evaluation of the protest was.

I have little doubt that the FTA is going to go through, however.
One interesting factoid that I meant to post the other day is that my students in my survey class seem really taken with Huey Long. I have always found him fascinating and like to dwell on him a bit.

One student, who is bright but has never spoken, talked at some length about Long. The Kingfish's message and his success have interested them more than almost anything else we have discussed. And they have only read a bit of his "Share Our Wealth" speech, so it is not as if they have been saturated by him.

Long seems to strike a chord because the students seem him as utterly opposed to what they understand the as the core components of the American capitalist system. For some reason, his message seemed much more strident to them than, say, other people we have read such as Emma Goldman, or contemporaries like Father Coughlin.

Maybe FDR was right, maybe Huey Long was the most dangerous in America.
Today is Nov 11, 11-11, which is Armistice day of course (though it is observed tomorrow in the US, which happens to be my mother's birthday). Since Korea was not involved in the first world war (and since their dreams for independence, in part triggered by Woodrow Wilson's wartime annoucements, were crushed by the Japanese in postwar 1919) that day doesn't seem to mean a whole lot over here.

But, since the date looks like 4 sticks when you line the date up, there is another holiday called Pepero day, which I think is about as much holiday as it is brilliant corporate day. These are chocolate covered sticks, essentially bread sticks with chocolate on 3/4 of them. They are like Pocky sticks.

Today we received a gift of two and a half foot long sticks, which is enough Pocky to choke a mule, in this case named "long stick chocolate."

S. Korea Secures 1st Oilfield in Iraq

Fruits of supporting the American effort in Iraq:

S. Korea Secures 1st Oilfield in Iraq(The Korea Times)

A South Korean consortium led by the Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC) has secured an oilfield with an estimated deposit of over 500 million barrels in the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq.

According to KNOC Sunday, the consortium signed a contract in Irbil, Iraq, on exploration and production sharing of the Bazian oilfield with the Kurdistan Regional Government in the northeastern part of the Middle East country.

With the first-ever deal in Iraq, South Korea expects to set up a bridgehead to advance into the war-devastated country, which boasts the world’s second-largest oil deposits.

Beside KNOC, which holds a 38-percent stake, several private energy development firms including, among others, SK Energy (19 percent) and Daesung, Samchully, Beuma (9.5 percent wach respectively) took part in the project.

Anti-Free Trade movement brings out the crowds

There is supposed to be a huge rally against the US-Korea free trade agreement (FTA) today in Seoul. I am unable to attend because we have planned Lark's Baek-il (see below) but I look forward to hearing about it.

I am struck though by the anticipated numnbers: 60,000 protestors and 45,000 police!

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: Drivers may want to stay away from central Seoul tomorrow as a massive illegal street protest drawing as many as 60,000 people is expected to snarl traffic, police said yesterday.
The organizers of the “Great National Rally,” consisting of civic, labor and student groups, confirmed yesterday that they will hold the protest as planned despite not having a police permit.
“The government should withdraw its plan to block the protest and respect the attempt of the people to express their political opinions,” said Oh Jong-yeol, chairman of the Korea Alliance for Progressive Movements, a co-organizer of the rally, at a press conference. The Korea Confederation of Trade Unio…
In Korea, a child's 100th day of life is celebrated with a party called a Baek-il. One Korean we know told us it was largely an excuse for parents to get together with family and friends to eat and drink while the baby tends to cry or sleep. Since the other major activity for a 100 day old baby is "stare at my fascinating hands or feet", this seems pretty normal. And nothing can be done right in Korea without also eating and drinking, of course, so, we decided to have a Baek-il for Lark and to invite our friends here.

It was a nice chance to get together with people over in our apartment, which at times feels a bit like a Biosphere with the glass walls on one side and the relative isolation that comes with living here.

At 100 days old, Lark was looking quite smashing in her most fabulous outfit:

We served an array of foods, including Korean ones we have come to like a lot (several varieties of seaweed, flying fish roe, peppers and hot pepper dipping sauce to dip the…

한국국제교류재단 문화센터

so many good things going on.

Of greatest appeal to me is that the Mexican Embassy organized an exhibit of Juan Soriano which is sure to be great.

한국국제교류재단 문화센터 Korea Foundation Cultural Center

and there is the world's oldest playable musical instrument playing for the first and last time next week, a Chinese manuyuan, which is a 25 string lute type instrument that doesn't look too far off from a kayagum. This instrument dates to the 12th century and was unearthed in playable condition in 1998 in Yinnan Province. It is about to be declared a Chinese national treasure, which means it won't be used in public performance or ever leave China.

Having misread the announcement of this concert I spent a long time trying to find it with mounting frustration and fear I would never hear the world's oldest playable musical instrument played. As there are no street addresses here (a fact I have noted here before but at which I never tire of marveling) I wandered around with my map o…
There is a famous noodle restaurant a few blocks away from here. This area of Seoul is pretty well known for restaurants, and at night it is so congested down in the restaurant area that you can barely get by. Since everybody parks on the sidewalk, you actually can't get by on one side.

The busiest place is this famous noodle house, and a prof at Sogang yesterday confirmed to me that it was very well regarded. So, off we went for dinner. High hopes, and all of that.

Yup, they do serve noodles. Nobody even asked what we wanted. We walked in and they brought over the bowls of noodles. At least we didn't have to pour over the menu with our dictionary.

The noodles were pretty good too, though that was all it was. Noodles, kind of like flat spaghetti, in a good soup.

The place is also known for its white kimchi, which was very good. That is kimchi without the red pepper, so pickled cabbage basically. With that, so they say, you can live forever.

"Money, Money, Money, the rule and plummet of life"

(That is a Henry Watterson quote, by the way.)

Korea is profoundly still a cash society, which is something of a surprise in a nation so technologically advanced. There are a few exceptions, like the T Money cards used for public transportation, and you can use credit cards around in some places like supermarkets and some restaurants. But most transactions are done in cash. Checks are not used. People pay by bank transfer, and it is not uncommon to have funds automatically deposited in your account, or to pay automatically into people's accounts.

So it is odd that the largest Korean bill is 10,000 Won, which is about ten bucks. You can end up getting quite an impressive stack of them.

The other day at the bank I saw a guy get a tray of bound Won notes that looked like something out of a western.

I thought maybe bigger bills weren't printed to keep down inflation, but that is a completely wild guess.

That all said, it has just been announced that they are going to print some …
I went to a new supermarket today, brought by a fellow professor at Sogagn kind enough to share his wheels with me. It was a huge supermarket underneath the World Cup soccer stadium, a store of the sort of scale familiar to Americans, only with the great and unusual things you find in Korean supermarkets. Mostly this was a matter of scale rather than selection, stuff I have described before, though I was happy to see individually plastic wrapped sushi pieces selling for 390 won (39 cents) each.
"Lines" don't seem to have a whole lot of meaning here much of time, in terms of "waiting in them". Most things are orderly, but Confucian tradition dictates that older folks can exercise their higher status.

The only place there is an orderly line I have seen is waiting for the subway, where people line up behind the little green footprints helpfully placed on the platform floor so you know where to stand. Perhaps the possibility of being sucked under a train sharpens the sense of order.

On buses, forget about it. People, including quite kindly looking older people, will suddenly become extremely, shall we say, assertive in making their way in front of you, in shoving you aside, and generally putting you in your place. And keep in mind that i tend to be quite a bit larger than many people. Nevertheless, today I was squeezed off a rush hour bus so expertly by people cramming themselves into an insanely overcrowded bus that I found myself quite rapidly disg…
One thing I forgot to add yesterday--

The guy I shared the panel with at the SNU conference is an anthropologist researching the Latinization of the South. He is also, like myself, a fanatical fan of Mexican regional and borderlands music, and has written articles describing fieldwork among the new Mexican migrants in the South and also studying the lyrical politics of Los Tigres del Norte.

It figures I had to come all the way to Seoul, Korea to find another gringo with the same interests and with a well developed understanding of, and good taste in, Mexican music.

There is an old saying: The fewer donkeys, the more corncobs.

some other picture from around Seoul today

Here is a tank of octopuses (yes that is the correct plural) outside a restaurant that we ate at for lunch. We just walked in a pointed at the menu randomly (actual communication being an impossibility in this instance) and ended up having a delicious lunch. They killed and prepared our lunch for us right there, hard to get much fresher food.

Only you can get fresher in Korea. The food can still be living. I have been enticed to learn that there are "living" restaurants where you can be served a meal that moves-- tentacles that move, sea urchins that undulate, and so on. I am seeking such an establishment. Apparently most are at the coast.

Here is one of those helpful subway maps, this one helpfully putting "north" facing in the traditional "south" position. Pesky directions.

Here is interesting roof detail from Changgyeonggung Palace in Seoul. These roofs are really magnificent.

Here is the where the King's placenta is buried on the palace ground…