Month: June 2014

June 23rd, Wednesday

A large middle-eastern man gets on to the elevator on the 13th floor at Seoul National University Hospital. As soon as he gets off, an old man says to his friend: “Fat arses like that should freaking take the stairs”. On the 11th floor, a woman and her friend get off, and say in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear: “The stairs at hospitals are off-limits”. The old man gets off on the 9th floor, and again, as loudly as before, says to his friend: “Whatever. I’m sure there are some freaking stairs he can use. Lazy arse…” Korean people are very interested in other people’s businesses.

Jeonju – Royal Portrait Museum

Last week I traveled through Jeollado with my mother and a friend of ours. Our first stop was Jeonju, a  city in Jeollabuk-do (Jeollado is divided into North and South). It’s famous for the Hanok Village, which has kept traditional Korean architecture and foods to an art form. My mother’s friend runs two Hanok guesthouses and a modern guesthouse there, so we visited all three. Courtyard of an art gallery Traditional roofing of a shop One of the main museums in Jeonju Hanok Village is  Oejinjeon, the Joseon Royal Portrait Museum. Since I love history, it was great for me to visit it. Although all the portraits except for that of King Taejo are reproductions or approximations, it is interesting to see how they may have looked like according to royal records (or photographs, in the case of Gojong and Sunjong). Portrait of Taejo Lee Seongkye Image source: Hankook Ilbo for Kids Originally, there were 26 portraits of Taejo, but all of them except for one were destroyed during the Japanese invasions of 1592-3. The piece on …

What We Call “Tin Attitude” In Korea

Why compare a people to a cooking pot? A tin pot boils up but also cools down in a second, making it ideal for cooking and eating at a fast pace. It’s also very cheap compared to other metal alloy products. Koreans employ the term “naembi geunseong” (냄비근성) to criticise the hot-headedness and emotionality of their own people. We get emotional and all egged up about something, but as soon as it loses its novelty we forget all about it. We lose our sense of logic and rationality, and resort to ad hominem attacks. When serious crimes are reported, people take the issue (too) personally, and yell “This is wrong! Who is responsible?!” which quickly amounts to “Down with the mayor! / President! / chairperson / head of ministry in charge!” “This country is so backward, my god, we should all be ashamed to call ourselves a developed nation!” and “Korea is a bad country!”. This attitude is displayed by the people, the media, the politicians. We all boil up, and then all cool down. Then we …

Why My Friends Are Forced To Study Christianity At University

t Ewha Woman’s University with banners announcing Hilary R. Clinton’s visit Image source: Ewha Media Blog Because Christian missionaries founded the first universities in Korea and somehow private institutions’ right to setting their own curricula is given priority over people’s freedom of religion. The prestigious Yonsei University (1915, founded by Horace Underwood), Ewha Woman’s University (1910, Mary Scranton), and Sogang University (1960, Society of Jesus), among many others, were founded by American missionaries. Chapel is mandatory at Yonsei and Ewha – 2 years at Yonsei and 4 years at Ewha. All Yonsei students must also elect one course on Christian thought in their first year. Which in my view is an infringement on personal freedom of religion, but somehow it isn’t given priority. Most Korean universities that are considered prestigious have a long history originating sometime around the beginning of the 1900s – a time when Korea was forced to start opening up to the outside world and to Christianity, starting with the 1882 US treaty (including the notorious most-favoured nation clause). It was around this time that Koreans started opening …