Archive for the ‘Korea’ Category

Korea’s first refugee-citizen

April 1, 2010

Korea gives out it’s first refugee citizenship, after signing the 1951 Refugee Convention. This first person to become a refugee-citizen is a 38 year old male from Ethiopia, who arrived in Korea in 2001.

You can read about it here.


IF the person who signs your contract goes to jail…

March 23, 2010

Most of the English teachers who work within the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) would have had their contracts signed, or pre-signed by Gong Jeong Taek (공 정 택.) Now this may be an assumption based on my own personal experience, I will say that. But, I have a mock up of my contract, which I had to print out and sign. This was co signed by Mr. Gong.

When I was looking for a specific article regarding my exit allowance I showed my co teacher my document.  He explained to me that Mr. Gong is now in jail for corruption. I have not found any articles stating that he did go to jail, however. I did find that according to this Korean Herald article, he was forced to resign from his post. At the time of the investigation, many principles and education staff were arrested as well. Apparently, he was accepting bribes. These bribes would then determine which candidates would become principles within the education system.

This is from the Korean Federation of Teacher’s Association.

The allegations of widespread corruption and abuse of power at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education reveal an organization that is rotten to the core. What are our children to learn from these “educators?” What kind of education can such a dysfunctional education office offer? It is time for a complete revamp of the education office.

You can find the link here.

I guess all the worry regarding native English teachers, might be diverted for a little while.

Jokbo *Chokbo* Korean Family Tree

February 9, 2010

Yesterday my co-teacher and I were talking about Korea and Canada. He would tell me about Korea and I would tell him the Canadian perspective, or equivalent on the subject. But I was interested in one thing in particular 족보.  My teacher told me that most people (his words were 50%) of Koreans have a book called Chokbo or jokbo.

Jokbo is the western equivalent of the family tree. This genealogy chart was first created during the Joseon Dynasty, which lasted from 1392 – 1910. This chart was created so that others could easily trace ones liniage to the Yangban. The Yangban were the ruling class of the the time.  What surprised me was that people still carry on this tradition. Today being related to the  Yangban no longer holds the same advantages, but it is seen as something of interest. Kind of like saying, “I’m related to Norman Bethune.” It’s interesting, but it doesn’t really help me.

I didn’t really find a lot of information about this book, I assume most of it is in Korean. From what my teacher told me, he said that the book is passed down to the eldest son. I’m not sure what happens if you don’t have a son, does your family tree stop? He mentioned that the girls are written down in the book when they are born, but when they are married they are erased. I would like to know if they get to stay in the book if they do not have any brothers.

He also mentioned that it is a very big insult to say that someones family doesn’t have a Jokbo as this would mean that they came from a lower class. This leads me to wonder whether most people are decedents of the Yongban or did the lower classes begin to create their own family tree, regardless of association.

Aegyo Sal

February 8, 2010

According to the Chosun Ilbo the rate of cosmetic surgery for women in Korea, is the highest in the world.

For whatever reason I am interested in Korea’s obsession with plastic surgery. Guaranteed most of the Korean celebrities have had some sort of  facial tweaking. I’m not certain of this point at all, but I am aware of some cases in which the celebrities become famous before they went under the knife. It leads me to wonder if the idea of surgery came before or after being famous. Most likely the idea was in their head long before their goal of fame came to fruition. Even some of my sixth grade students expressed what areas of their face they would like to have altered.

It can be said that most people would think you were attractive based on celebrity alone.  As many normal looking western people (who then become famous) turn into idols, creating something to be desired. I’m sure that female celebrities in the States face the same amount of criticism as Koreans do when it comes to how they look. The rate of plastic surgery could also quite possibly be on par for celebrities within Korea and the USA. I feel as though that Koreans are more open to talking about their procedures, where as other people try to hush it up.  However, the trickle down effect of looking beautiful seems to effect Koreans more so and perhaps this is because of the openness surrounding surgery.

In particular, 81.5 percent of women between 25 and 29 felt the need for cosmetic surgery and 61.5 percent of that group said they have already had it, suggesting that cosmetic surgery has become commonplace for 20-something Korean women.

This stat was taken from another site, but it comes from Um Hyun-Shin’s doctoral dissertation thesis from Kyunghee University, not too far from this blogs namesake, Jegi Dong. I’ve heard from some Koreans that parents have even suggested to their kids that they should change their appearance so they can attract a good husband. As well, it has even been given as a gift for high school graduation. Koreans getting plastic surgery is not that big of a surprise, and perhaps not that big of a deal. There is something to be said about accepting yourself for who you are, but is better to struggle through that pain, and perhaps never get over it, or perform a surgery and make yourself feel better? I don’t know, depends on the percentage of people that are satisfied after the fact, something tells me they will still have insecurities and will still need to work through their personal problems. One thing that I had considered or joked about was, once this good looking girl and guy get married and have kids, they will be left wondering why their kid is average looking. I wonder what cosmetic surgery does for the process of mate selection and reproduction. Moreover, are they setting their child up for an inferiority complex of their own. “I wish I was pretty like mom” or “I wish I had big eyes like mom.” I guess it’s a good thing there is an easy solution for that problem.

This is a little beside the point, for now I am interested in just “aegyo sal.”  Aegyo sal is a type of cosmetic eye surgery that will give you small “bags” under the eyes. (Click on the link to see an example of some before and after shots). Aegyo itself, means “sweet” or at least that is what it tells me when I type it into google translator. You can hear, mostly girls, speak in an Aegyo tone when talking to a guy they like or parents etc. It’s kind of higher pitched and more drawn out, a cuter way of speaking.

From what I’ve heard people think Aegyo sal makes the eyes look bigger, perhaps draws attention to them. I just thought it was a naturally occurring look, and for some people it is. But, the reason why I find it interesting is because although it doesn’t look bad, I just thought perhaps it wasn’t something to be desired. In fact, it isn’t really. Belpharoplasty is a type of cosmetic surgery that does just the opposite, removes the “bags” from under the eyes. I kind of thought, when I did notice it, that the person must be tired. It’s interesting to know that some people desire that look.

So far I haven’t been able to find the English word for the surgery, but I would like to know, just to see if other people are having this procedure done.


February 4, 2010

Well originally I wanted to write about Korea’s first hospital, which was located on Jeju island. I might find out about that later. Apparently there is a TV drama about it as well.  I was almost also swayed by an article saying that serial killings are on the rise in Korea. Anyway, stick to shamanism. I know nothing about this, and I am just posting what I find on the net. So if I’m wrong, sorry.

In Korean a shaman is called ‘mudang’ (apparently this is more of a derogatory term) or ‘mansin’. In my old town of Taebaek, there was a shamanic presence. From what I could tell, it was mostly situated near or on Taebaek mountain.  Taebaek is considered to be a sacred or holy mountain. There are many of these within North and South Korea. The goal of the shaman is to be possessed by the spirit of the mountain or “mountain God” (산신).

Why become a shaman? My first guess would be, beliefs. It also doesn’t hurt that they are generously rewarded for performing ceremonies.  Whatever their motivation may be, this takes dedication as the spirit of Taebaek is well sought after. In combination with this, Taebaek has some of the coldest and bone chilling temperatures in the country. I have been up their a number of times, a few of them being in the winter. While waiting for a friend at the top on new years day (shortly after sunrise) I felt all my exposed skin starting to hurt, and the other parts that were not so protected started to follow suit. That being said, no matter the weather conditions you can always find someone banging a traditional drum or giving an offering in one of the many alters.

One of the previous Taebaek shamans, after being possessed by the spirit, correctly predicted that the recently deceased president Roh would be elected into office.  After this prediction she became more sought after than the Taebaek spirit. Performing rituals and making predictions for celebrities and businessmen alike. In 2008 she was put behind bars for taking bribes from major corporations. The bribe that landed her in jail was somewhere between 300 – 400 thousand dollars worth. Makes you wonder how much she racked up leading up to 2008.