Thursday, October 30, 2003

Refugees and Anti-Americanism

OHHHH I feel safe now, there are refugee camps in the South to handle Northern refugees. Apparently the Korean government puts the flood at around 1500 people. Well this makes sense, considering about a million of them are in China. There cant be that more refugees in North Korea right?

Actually given the way the Korean government is these days, I wonder if SK and NK will have a shooting contest on who can get the best score as waves of refugees "who hope to destroy the progress the two glorious Koreas have made towards unification."

Two stories remarkably similar, but illustrate the subconscious anti-Americanism prevalent in Korea. I remember seeing this article last week. It said businesses estimate a 10-15% rise in the won. It was treated as no big news, just a little sidebar in the business section. Now yesterday an American economist gave a speech and said exactly the same thing. Yet this is front-page news. Note the tone of the reporting, it is not an observation of the value of won relative to the dollar, it is an American "calling" for the won to rise.

On second thought I don't know if this is anti-Americanism or just corruption. A widely know PR practice is to have companies pay for front page ads. Perhaps the organization who sponsored this little speech gave a little extra to make sure it was at the top. I wonder if Korea's press really understands what a slippery hole they are in.


Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Odd Insults

I have been mulling over a comment made a while ago. A few months ago while my wife was still pregnant, My wife, her sister, and I had an argument (Long story why, but some of you can guess the subject). In the heat of the argument my sister-in-law said something that made me burst out laughing because of its sureal quality. She said (oddly in english), "Ya' know I hope your baby looks like me!", and stormed off.

I started to sport a puzzled look, and then burst into laughter. As my in-law stormed off in a huff, I asked my wife about the comment. She explained a Korean superstion that held that a baby will look like whoever the wife is mad at during the pregnancy. Which makes me wonder, when Korean say, "Your baby looks just like you!", is it a complement, an insult, or a sign me and the wife need marital counseling.

To add to the Korean mother-in-law file, I got a new request for my wife "Can you wear a t-shirt when you go to bed". Apparently when my mother-in-law barges into our apartment without warning or invitation in the morning, she is uncomfortable that when she opens the door, I am drinking coffee in just my PJ bottoms. I am considering starting to sleep naked just to piss her off further.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Journalistic Integrity

I had to take a very close second look at my JoongAng paper today. I was afraid that I picked up North Korea's Rohdong Shinmun. Two things stuck out like sore thumbs.

First was this fawning obit of NK's Kim Yong-sum . One of Mr. Kim's duties was handling affairs with South Korea. This singular piece pretty much sums up my frustration with South Korea on the issue of NK. The article is a gushing orgy of good feelings towards the man. Nowhere in the article does it mention he organized (or at least turned a blind eye to) international blackmail, kidnappings, assignation attempts, airliner bombings, and the general oppression and sickening behavior with North Korea itself.

These days I do not know what is more disgusting to me. The behavior of North Korea, or the multitudes of South Koreans have turned their backs on their true brothers, the people of Norht Korea, in order to get warm fuzzies from the thugs in power. Its just literally sickening to me to read pieces like this in a South Korean paper, or seeing South Korea giving more and more aid to the North.

On a lighter side, the JoongAng not only has the same propaganda as the Rohdong Shinmum, but the same hypocracy and double talk. On one page of my paper is this glossy endorsement of the BMW 530i . By my estmate Ms. Cho, the author, problay netted about 300,000 won from the Beammer people for her effort. I turned the page away from Ms. Cho's paid literary orgasm over her stickshift, to the opinon page. The headline for the op-ed page was hilariously and hypocraticly entited "The Cycle of Corruption Must End". Is it just me or is it double-over-laughing-rolling-in-the-streets hilarious that as a courrpt group of people like Korean newspaper men think they can take the moral highground all of a sudden?

Say it with me this time, "Korea puts the K in Kwality" Since when does a Hyundai Tiburon qualify as "Race Car" anyway?

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Flawed Systems

Last January my friend over at Catharidae had a nuanced observation about Hines Ward, a wide receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ward was just selected to his first Pro Bowl. Because Ward is half Korean, the local newspapers trumpeted in their nationalistic way that he was the first Korean to be sent to the Pro Bowl.


Now this makes us who live her smile, because half Koreans are never really considered "True  Koreans" by the native population. Furthermore, if Ward lived in Korea being half black he would be considered amongst the lowest of the low. Cathartidae nuanced thought got him worked up, and I though it was rather perceptive. Ward’s abilities were not derived from the fact he was Korean, nor per se his Korean mother raised him. Wards success had much more to do with the American system than anything Korean.


A few months ago a similar thought occurred to me. I was on the number 2 bus in Seoul. This bus goes to one of the places I work, and in the area are a large girl's high school and two large girl's middle schools. I got on the bus and the inside was plastered with ads for a company. Nothing out of the ordinary with this, they were real Korean ads as well. You know the type, filled with so much writing and information in such small type it makes a 1"x1" crib sheet you used for a history test look like a minimalist work of art.


I looked closely at the ads, and found they were not for some miracle diet cure, or for some dentist, but the bus was plastered with ads for phone sex, yes that's right its not a typo, phone sex. At first I was shocked, and then a little dismayed as I wondered what kind of message this sent to a bus load of 12-18 year old girls. Then I was angry.


I was angry not because of the ads, nor the company, as some prudish people may be. I was angry at the system. It took more for this ad to be placed, than just the company existing, and choosing to advertise. The placement of this advertisement required approval from somebody at the bus company. Furthermore it took more than one person to approve it since I would assume that many people had to agree for an entire bus to be donate to such ads. Bottom line the system in place produced and placed these ads, not just some maverick company.


Today I was dismayed by the failure of two other systems in Korea. Both were advertising failures. In these cases it was the failure of the contracting company, the ad company, and possibly many others.


In case none of watch CNN, there is a new Korean tourism campaign. It is pretty much like the old one, the same montage of footages showing "Modern" versus "Ancient". If you have seen the old one, you have seen the new one (Yawn!). What struck me though was the tag line at the end of the ad. The big payoff for the clich? ad was:


Korea, Reach Out to You


For those of you who have been here too long, or otherwise, this is Konglish passing as English in its finest. In the ad Korea is actively promoting itself. The tag line is properly done, with much more impact, with the word reading "Reaching" Once again I was fuming with the failure of the system. The Korean Tourism Authority, and what ever Ad agency did this.


Today on the subway was a similar thing. This was an ad for the city of Seoul. The same brain trust that inadvertently gave us the 60's inspired slogan "Hi Seoul!". This as an ad for some video game competition with the English tag line:


Hi Seoul, IT's Dream City


Again my question is not who wrote this Konglish nightmare, but rather WHO SAT BACK AND SAID, "THAT SOUNDS GOOD! LET'S USE THAT!!!"


For all you defenders, yes I can get the intent. "IT's" supposed to be "I"nformation "T"echnology, and therefore "Seoul, Information Technology's Dream City" But you still cant sit there and say, "See you understood it, there is nothing wrong with it.", because the ultimate effect of the ad is not the intention. I do not think "What a bunch of clever people", but "What a bunch of asinine morons who think they're Oscar Wilde."


My pique is making me go off on tangents. I do not necessarily want to make an overly broad conclusion about all this. Getting this back to the Hines Ward opener though, makes me think this. This navel gazing by Koreans on why so many people want to leave Korea is usually argued in terms of numbers. The problems are rendered in costs, education, opportunity, etc. Perhaps some of this energy should go into considering the Korean system people want to leave, not just the statistics.