Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gathering over 300 million views on Youtube, Gangnam style by Psy is slowly taking over the world. Dubbed "the new macarina", this video spread like fire, and now there are parodies in every country possible and range from London Style to Indian Style.

Its obvious how it has affected outside countries, but how has this affected the country in which it started?

First, what is Gangnam? Gangnam is an affluent neighborhood here in Korea.  People drive fancy cars and is home to many VIPs. The lyrics themselves play with that motion of what people thing of Gangnam. 

Before Gangnam Style caught on to the world, it was an immediate success here in Korea.  I remember the day it came out, I watched it several times thinking how catchy it was.  It soon though became viral in Korea and it was blasted on every street corner. Before I knew it I had accidentally learned the dance, simply by seeing it everywhere in Korea. Any event I would go to would play the song, and people would all dance to it. Everyone. Kids and grandmothers included. In fact, there are classes where older ladies learn the dance to get into shape.

Now that Gangnam Style has gone worldwide, Korea is using this opportunity to hopefully spread it's influence. How many people even knew about South Korea before Gangnam Style? Chances are most American didn't know a thing. I'd even bet many of them thought Korea was still a third world country, or that South Korea was communist.

As for the citizens themselves, I doubt there is a Korean that doesn't know about it. Psy is literally in the news every single day, for breaking various records here or in foreign countries. South Koreans are very proud of Gangnam Style's success.  Not only does is spread Korean influence, but it shows a fun side of Korea too.  Now you can walk the streets of Myeongdong and even buy socks with Psy's character on it.
I believe that this video has opened up a lot of opportunities for South Korea, especially in the music industry. People were afraid the Korean music industry had already hit its peak -- but this video shows that it still has some more strength left in it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Korean Weddings

I had the great opportunity to go to my first Korean wedding recently.  My co-teacher was getting married and I was invited.  At first I panicked because I didn't have any sort of appropriate clothing, and the best skirt I had was white and layered. I'd always heard to never wear white at weddings.

After talking to my friends though, I found out that all those customs are only american, so you are free to wear any color to Korean weddings.  I wore all black and it was perfectly fine.

The wedding hall was of course very beautiful and decorated how I thought it would be, except for the fact that there were also round tables there beside the rows.  What surprised me first was that the Indiana Jones theme played for a brief moment to start the wedding.  The surprises didn't stop there. People talked through the wedding, the whole time. People were talking, playing on their phones, kids were running around... The final surprise though was when the cake was revealed. It was a tiny cake on these pedastools, with laser lights on it, and to complete the futuristic looking cake, dry ice smoke started pouring out of it...

Besides that weirdness though, it was a very pretty wedding.  My co-teacher was simply beautiful, and two of our students sang at the wedding for her! It was incredibly cute. 

The basic rundown of it was that we showed up and took pictures with the bride. After that we signed the guestbook and gave our gift, which was cash. At Korean weddings you give cash in envelopes, you give either $30, $50 or $100 depending on your relationship with that person.

Afterwards, the officially ceremony began. It was very quick, and afterwards there were large group pictures.

Then, one of the best parts, the buffet. When you give your money you get a meal ticket and it's usually a very big buffet.  It was a mixture of western and korean food.  I had lasagna for the first time since i've been here in Korea and it was amazing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


This is just something random~ The cereal boxes here transform into cereal... triangle boxes... ? I suppose it keeps the food fresher.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Seodaemun Prison

I visited the prison located in Seodaemun near my place.  It is a very famous prison, as it marks the colonization period where Japan ruled over Korea. The prison was used for Koreans who lead independence rallies and tried to overthrow the Japanese government. 

There were many prisons located all over Korea at the time, though they say it was as if the whole country was a prison due to the Japanese rule.

They showed the various means of torture to get information out of prisoners.  It was particularly interesting since I've been recently watching a drama called Gaksital, which is placed in this time period.  So I was able to see the real instruments that were replicated in the drama.

They had torture devices such as fingernail torture, the nail box, and the standing box. The nailbox was a box with nails protruding in it, and a prisoner was placed in then the box was rocked back and forth.  The standing box was a box designed so that the prisoner couldn't sit or in any way support themselves, so they were forced to forever stand. 

This is a map of all the major prisons of Korea during the Japanese occupation.

 Above is a woodblock of the Korean flag. In times of rebellion, prints of the flag were dispursed among citizens.
 Some Engrish. "Take a look at the quiet"
 This is the nail box mentioned above. Of course back then there was no glass covering.
This is the standing box mentioned above.

 These pictures are of the prisoner's yards. When allowed freetime, they could stand in these tiny spaces that are triangular in shape.  They were made in such a way so that one person could watch over them easily from a high vantage point.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ewha Woman's University

Korea has a lot of beautiful campuses, but Ewha is one of the best.  Ewha is the only woman's university in Korea, and is the biggest women's university in the world. It was created by an American missionary.

This downward slope is especially amazing, as inside the walls are classes! That's right, there are classes being took underneath those beautiful gardens on the side.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Korean TV

If any of you are curious as to what kind of set up you get with your TV, here's what its like.

You have your regular korean channels, shopping networks, all the same like the US. They also have a few English channels, like the History Channel, BBC, CNN, CNBC. There is also Arirang, which is a Korean channel for English speakers. There is also a kids channel that shows kids shows in English.

One thing you can count on in Korea is that there is always a CSI episode on somewhere...

You can find english movies occassionally, with korean subtitles.

There are a TON of channels dedicated to learning. I'll be flipping through and see all these test questions and teachers explaining problems... it's really weird actually.

Everything else is pretty normal, they have channels where you go to just to listen to music and so on.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Water in Korea

This is a rather odd topic.

When I moved into my apartment many months ago, my co-teacher asked me what I was going to do for water consumption. I was prepared for this.. however things didn't go as planned.

You see, in Korea there is a myth that the tap water is bad for you. It's simply a myth that dates back to the time when it actually wasn't as clean as it is now.  However, despite the government constantly publishing test results that the water is perfectly clean and fine, the myth persists and people don't want to drink the tap water without boiling it.

I knew this before coming to Korea, so I told myself I wouldn't fall into the trap of buying bottled water so when my co-teacher asked, I replied confidently that I would just use the tap water.

She flipped. She insisted that it was a bad idea and despite my telling her of my research it was so ingrained in her that I relented. 

I still use the water for everything else, cooking, cleaning, etc, but I buy big jugs of bottled water to drink. It's really not that expensive, but tap's probably cheaper.  I guess one of the reasons I gave in is that my apartment is really old compared to every one else's and the sink doesn't look too great.

So, that's the issue on tap water. There's one more water to talk about, rain. I made the mistake one time of saying i'd just walk home in the rain when I forgot my umbrella.  It was a light drizzle and I don't live far.  However, this also caused my co-teachers alarm. They explained to me that the rain here has acidity to it, and that if I got wet my hair would start to fall out. Call me a skeptic, but I really doubt my hair will start falling out from some rain. However, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So, I now check the weather regularly just in case.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Learning a new language

I get a lot of people ask me "So, are you fluent in Korean yet?".

The short answer: no.

While immersion into a society is the best way to quickly learn a new language, there's a problem. I'm an English teacher.

This means I'm expected to speak English all the time.  Don't get me wrong, I still try out a little Korean here and there with my co-workers, but since I work with other English teachers, their english is just fine and they'd much rather use it with me to help their own skills and pronunciation get better.

This is also the case in the outside world. I'll use Korean with shopkeepers and the like, and they will use English back to me.  (Not necessarily good english..) Korean isn't a widely used language, so they assume I don't know beyond a few simple words.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind this... my Korean skill is actually very low so if someone did try to have a full conversation with me about something besides the weather I would probably get confused. However, it does make me become very lazy when it comes to learning Korean. 

We don't realize how lucky we are as English speakers.  Its a global language. Everyone knows at least a little English.  So, we can get by practically anywhere without a real need to learn a native's language.  A majority of the foreigners here in Korea put little to no effort in their Korean, and they really don't need to.  Sure, it makes things like banking a hassle, but if you have a Korean friend then problem solved. 

So my Korean isn't improving as fast as I'd hoped it would, but I am slowly getting there.

As for learning the language itself... it has its ups and downs.  For example, Korean uses a lot of american words like computer (Cahm-pyu-tah) or coffee (Caw-pee).  They also have an alphabet system... but it's not a romanized alphabet system.  I can read it just fine, but it takes me a lot longer to process. A lot longer.

This should be a no brainer, but I realized that things do not translate directly. A lot of times there is a word that exists in one language that doesn't exist in another. A good example is that in the Korean language there is a word for two people who are not in the friend zone yet not yet dating either.  You know that awkward place where you like eachother but it's not official? Yeah, there's a word for that. I've been asked by my students if i'm in those types of situations. 

There's also having to understand Konglish, which is how american words are used in korea. Most are fine, like coffee, but then you get a word like manicure. I think, oh, you went and got your nails done. Nope. Manicure in korea is any time of anything on your nails or toes. So when people asked if I got a manicure when I had only painted my nails, I said no, and they gave me weird looks.


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