Year: 2015

Belgium after Paris attacks

To this day, soldiers patrol every town in Belgium. Shopping malls, railway stations and large public gatherings (such as Christmas markets) are guarded by the military and local police force. As per Korean government advice, I assume this will continue into the new year, at least until February. Even the small city of Liège has patrols at Guillemins station as well as the Mediacité, Place Saint-Lambert and Belle-Ile shopping complexes (where I do my groceries). Christmas festivities and any gatherings are particularly well surrounded. I was in Brussels on the night of the Paris attacks. Scheduled to take the Toefl exam at Selor on the morning of the 14th, I was rudely awakened at the hostel around midnight. A group of French-speaking Belgian students had stormed in, taken their mobiles out and started to listen to the news on full volume. Most of the other guests being non-French speakers or asleep, their hushed talks about “Paris”and “mon dieu, I cannot believe this” had me thinking there was probably some protest going on in the French capital. …

Umberto Eco’s Middle Age History: For Men Only, says leading Korean publisher

Sigongsa publicly apologises for ‘not having thought the event through’ Yesterday, leading Korean publishing house Sigongsa published an official apology. The apology concerned the release of a new two-volume translation of Umberto Eco‘s “Introduction to the Middle Ages“. The publisher announced that they would hold a special event – a writing competition whose prize included copies of the Middle Ages translation as well as the opportunity to write an all-expenses-paid book review. Women need not apply. The event, as advertised on Sigongsa’s Naver blog As soon as the event was published, female aficionados of Eco, Middle Age history, and of  Sigongsa demanded an explanation regarding their discriminative attitude – what’s the link between Umberto Eco and misogyny? Sinagong is a highly influential and well-reputed publishing house in South Korea whose range includes both domestic and international authors. They publish translations of many famous foreign authors’ works, including Fifty Shades of Grey, British magazine Cereal, Ito Junji’s horror comics, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, the John Grisham collection, and a series of classics by Jane Austen, Cervantes, Dumas, Goethe, Saint-Exupéry, Shakespeare,  and Virginia Woolf. The unforeseen attack …

2014-2015 in retrospective: 2. The Good

The highlight of 2014-2015 was meeting my Alaskan friend Jamie and my (very) German (but really, Prussian) boyfriend. So now Alaska is in my future travel plans – who would have thought – an Alaskan in Lyon? I travelled with a friend from Korea to Nice, Amsterdam and Berlin for Halloween. I visited a Portugese penpal in Geneva and I had my first raclette. A Finnish penpal showed me around Berlin and we took a photo together at the Dom. A third penpal, an American PhD student at King’s College let me crash at her central London apartment and even paid for my breakfast the day I was leaving and my bank cards stopped working. Meeting Koreans was not what I’d originally planned, but a friend from high school was on exchange at Kiel, in the North of Germany. We went to Bonn and went crazy over Haribos. We also underestimated the height of the Cologne Cathedral and decided to climb up all the way to the top on a whim (“It doesn’t look so tall compared to …

2014-2015 in retrospective: 1. The Bad

Shopping district in Lyon I left Seoul on September 11, 2014 (even today, flights on 9/11 are cheapest within a 10-day radius). It was a 24-hour trip with a layover in Doha. There was 30kg of baggage in an American Tourister. It was a long way from Charles de Gaulle to Gare du Nord to Amsterdam Centraal. For the first time, I was jetlagged – not just on time. I was sick for two full days – chills, cramps, headaches, cold sweat. I think my Dutch relatives have ever had jetlag, but they just let me be. France was that much of a stress. It was a country whose language I spoke quite well but a completely foreign land where I knew nobody, whose social system didn’t seem coherent, and whose culture I wasn’t particularly interested in (Sorry France, I’m not interested in cuisine classique or nouvelle, wine or the Parisian catwalk). I only went to France because I wanted to improve my French. Although I respect French culture as much as I do most other cultures …

Updates coming soon

Image: Of Monsters and Men at Ancienne Belgique I’ve been trying out Blogger for  a while now, but I think I’ll stick to WordPress. I like the themes and design flexibility, despite the fact that Blogger is free. Sorry if you’ve been waiting for new posts – they’re on their way! In the meanwhile, I’ve been to see the awesome Of Monsters and Men and Chvrches at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels. I’ve taken the Toefl iBT exam for the 10th time in my life, to a disappointing drop in score (119 to 116, on a scale of 120) –  perhaps due to most of the night being highly animated by Belgian students watching live broadcasts of the Paris attacks on November 13th at the hostel. Regarding my studies, I’ve had the chance to hear the highly influential scholar Sheila Jasanoff at a conference here, but otherwise deeply disappointed by the floor-wiping quality of education and lack of any coherent administrative system at the University of Liège. There’s a reason it doesn’t ever appear on the QS or the THE. Seriously, don’t come here, ever. …

KBS Family Reunion Broadcast nominated to UNESCO Memory of the World Register

This post originally contained a YouTube video, which was later removed by the uploader. The Archives of the 1983 KBS Special Live Broadcast “Finding Dispersed Families” – the longest live broadcast in history is nominated to UNESCO’s International Memory of the World Register. “Originally planned to run for 95 minutes, the programme was soon overwhelmed by the stories of South Korean families separated by the chaos of the Korean War, and ended up running for a record-breaking 138 days (450 minutes/4 months). People filled the walls and floors around the KBS building with their stories, and some managed to miraculously find their family” It is notable that this 1983 programme reunited family members within South Korea only – and have no relation to the South-North families reunions the Pyongyang regime uses as a political lever these days. After the Korean War ended in 1953, South Korea as a nation was a mess. Most of its infrastructure had been bombed, people had migrated here and there, mostly towards the South (Busan) from Seoul, and on their way …

K-Pop to Double Eyelid Surgery (VICE, 2012)

Interesting video with a fresh perspective. Covers: Seoul Fashion industry Plastic surgery Changing customs Interview with two K-pop groups, one famous, one less famous. Seoul cityscape: night fashion market, interactive digital devices in the subway Interview with a Korean punk. I repeat. A Korean punk. Quotes: “[…] The Internet, which South Korea pretty much rules” “You’re the most polite punk I’ve ever met, you’re a gentleman” “If my boyfriend and I wore matching underwear in Britain, we’d be the laughing stock of the country”

Where’s All This Racism Coming From?

“These are all ‘flesh’-coloured” (Korea Broadcast Advertising Corporation, 2006) At university, a then-friend of mine once said “No, Koreans are one blood, one people. Immigrants and mixed-blood children are not and they’ll never be Korean“. I said: “But, what if these immigrants live here for decades? And mixed-blood children are born here and raised here?“.  After a while, he repeated: “Yes, but we are one people, they’re not our people” The worst part is, I cannot label him as an outlier of public opinion. Koreans generally do treat foreigners very differently from fellow Koreans. But why? And is it really racism, or ignorance? Or something else? In a society where the indigenous people look more or less the same, physical difference marks outsiders out in a strikingly visual way. The first caricatures of Westerners drawn by the Koreans and the Japanese show similarities: “Their eyes were blue like demons, and they had a lot of white hair, making them look even more beastly” is what I remember from a history lecture back in university. Most Koreans don’t see …

London, Baby! feat. Childhood Friends

See what I did there? Bermondsey Street at Bermondsey. A while ago, I couchsurfed for a week in London at an American friend’s flat (this post was scheduled for publishing, but somehow didn’t). It happened that a couple of my friends from university as well as childhood friends from India were in or around London (Brighton). So, I met them every night I was there. One friend, who switched form Political Science to Acting, took me to the Arcola Theatre for a Ghost From A Perfect Place (intense!). Another took me to a pub after work. And my host took me to an English breakfast (incl. the infamous ‘black pudding’ and too-crisp bacon) and to the Borough Market. To me the Netherlands and England are not unfamiliar places. Yes, unfamiliar in the sense I don’t know them because I haven’t lived there, but yes familiar because I am familiar with the people (NL) and with the langauge (UK/NL). I was also hosted by a great girl who is pursuing her PhD in Neuroscience, so I …