All posts filed under: Personal

2019 Update

Hi everyone! It’s been ages. Really. I’ve started a new job – in human rights, turned down the PhD offer from Edinburgh due to funding issues (the UK is very, very stingy on non-UK funding), and started taking classical singing, drums and modern dance lessons. This year I’m hoping to revamp Real Koreans, and to continue writing about Korea, but to also write more about me in general, and about my life as part of the Korean diaspora. I’ll also be submitting a co-authored article on South Korean feminism and gender (in)equality to an academic journal – Exciting! This year, I’ll be travelling to (for work and fun) Austin, Texas Berlin, Germany Cologne, Germany Oslo, Norway Reykjavik and elsewhere in Iceland Seoul, South Korea Taipei, Taiwan The Hague, The Netherlands Somewhere in Poland And maybe to South India Otherwise, I hope you’ve had a Happy Independence Day (if you’re in Korea, and a very happy Karneval (if you’re near the Niederrhein). Cheers! Advertisements

Parallel 38/Part III

Parallel 38/Part III Remember I told you I was split two ways: My grandmother’s father was a Freedom Fighter in colonised Korea When we were Korea Not Korea, South/North Not Korea, Republic of/Democratic People’s Republic of Not South Korea/North Korea Like we see on the census slips and dropdown boxes Just Korea He and his country fought back against the Japanese The people who told us We could not use our own names We could not utter our own language We could not wear our own clothes But we must dress like the white man Because that’s who they learned their tricks from A sadomasochistic cycle of submission and domination On 15th August, 1945 We were made a free country On 17th July, 1948 We declared our Constitution On 15th August, 1948 We became a Republic And when my country became a Republic my great-grandfather became a criminal Because he was A Communist One of Them Granny said, then they came and took all our land and our money Overnight I went from going to …

Parallel 38/Part II

  Parallel 38/Part II For three Christmases I had a German lover We spent Summers sitting on the balcony grilling Bratwurst Christmases eating deviled eggs and saying, Mahlzeit New Year’s Eve shooting firecrackers into the sky and screaming and kissing He told me Did you know It took twenty years For us West Germans and East Germans To marry amongst ourselves In the same numbers As we married foreigners We’ve been told our whole life, look at this country across the world Remnants of the Cold War, testaments to ideological warfare Your twin We know how it feels When people walk all over us with their dirty boots and say Thank us, beg us, revere us For pitting your people against your neighbours Because they’re wrong in the head And implant a seed of doubt for the coming three generations They tell us Look If the Germans can do it, you can You hardworking Koreans who rebuilt your country The only OECD foreign aid receiver turned donor, at the turn of the millennia But they …

Parallel 38/Part I

This is part one of three in a series I wrote while watching the Inter-Korea Summit broadcast on JTBC. Parallel 38/Part I It is only natural for me to be split Two ways It started when foreigners split the country of my mother and my father Two ways Took a yardstick and swung it across Arbitrary lines of their own science And called it Peace Order Necessary Told us we were free To run around in our little divided up cage Asked us to play nice and to obey In return we would get Democracy Freedom Reparations For what they did to us, raping our souls and pitting us against one another Threw money and milk and honey our way Put their feet up Told us This is freedom You have newspapers You have shipyards the size of mountains You have free elections and banks and delegations in The Hague Leaving out the part where they Split up mother and daughter, brother and sister, grandfather and grandson Dug up trenches along the heart of our …

2018 Oslo Freedom Forum

I was hired to work as an interpreter to the North Korean delegation at the Oslo Freedom Forum for the second time (the first time being 2016). This year also marked the 10th anniversary of the Oslo Freedom Forum. In a nutshell, OFF is a a forum and a community of people dedicated to protecting and improving fundamental human rights around the world. It’s fun: There’s always an art performance, and since a few years an ethical fashion show (whose models are human rights activists and speakers from past years), booths by tech companies who offer services which can be used to protect civil rights activists in repressive regimes, and lots of opportunities for people to connect. Human rights activists have a platform to voice their hopes, obstacles, and plans. Philanthropists come to learn more about projects activists are currently running, to ask in-depth questions about what they need, what they plan to do, and what their current challenges are. Entrepreneurs can pitch their technologies to activists and the general public. This year, I was …

London, Baby! feat. Childhood Friends

  [Image description: An iPod with the screen “Bermondsey Street” by Patrick Wolf is playing, against the backdrop of “Bermondsey Street” sign at a London Tube stop] 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 …

Week 2 in the Netherlands – Tall People Problems! (Not a First-Hand Account)

Hanging out with your everyday 180cm girl and 195cm guy, y’know. Today I met another girl who is 180cm tall – I really am in Holland! By now I’ve met so many tall Dutch men that 195cm is sounding like the average man, but tall women are still amazing to meet. She talked of the terrible growing pains she had, of wearing sneakers all the time for her boyfriend even though she loves high-heels, and about having to fit in strange ways to be able to sit on the metro. The first really tall person I’ve met was my cousin’s cousin who is 193cm, and who at that time was really into wearing New Rock Boots (which add 5cms). This was back when I was visiting Holland ten years ago, in 2004! When I met him he was also standing on the top of a couple of stairs, so the visual impact was considerable… Our conversation today opener today? “You’re still really tall!” “You’re still really short!” Closing sentence: “Maybe we see each other in ten years …

Where do North Korea and Porn meet on the Internet? On an South Korean IP!

  The pop-up screen from the National Police Agency Early March, I went to a launch party for an NGO called Arirang Institute. It’s mostly Americans and some Koreans working on cultural and reunification studies. What was fascinating was that the NGO is legally registered in the US, and that most members are not Korean. Oh, I should clarify, accessing information on North Korea here is illegal – if you try to access NK-sourced websites you will get a screen with a police badge that says “You were stopped from accessing this site because either (1) You are breaching national security; or (2) You are accessing porn sites, or gambling sites” (Yes, it’s illegal to access porn sites too!). One of the founders, Mike, who is studying for a PhD at the North Korean Studies University in Seoul, told me that the library does have all those books from North Korea (about Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s ideology, propaganda textbooks, and such) but no one is allowed to bring the books out or make personal copies – they can only read them …

Why Korean Soldiers Are Banned From Reading Chomsky and Ha-joon Chang

    Left: Guerrillas of the Samsung Empire, Pressian Books, 2008 Right: Bad Samaritans, Ha-Joon Chang, 2007 In 2008, the National Ministry of Defence was found to have produced a list of 23 “Anti-governmental” books and  officially banned them from  the military. An investigation found that under this regulation, all Korean soldiers are banned from reading and possessing them, and are subject to having their possessions searched when returning from a holiday (Pressian) (Reminder: All Korean men above the age of 18 must serve in the military for 2 years). The Seoul Central District Court ruled against the first lawsuit filed by 11 publishers and 11 authors in 2012, and the Seoul High Court against the lawsuit by 11 publishers and 11 authors in 2013 (News1). In both cases, the publishers and authors claimed 200 million KRW (200,000 USD) in damages caused by this censorship. However, the High Court said this action could not be classified as a censorship nor as a violation of the freedom of press, since (a) the books were not banned from …