All posts filed under: Personal

My first racist ‘attack’ in Europe and what I learned from it

Image source: Daum Blog Caption: Choose the wrong option. (the artist is mocking the idea of racism by using a multiple-choice question format popular in Korean education) Last Friday, I was leaving a supermarket when a group of young, white, mostly male, Dutch people ran up to me, took a photo of me, then ran away laughing. I froze, ran into MediaMarkt, the electronics store next door, which I was headed to originally, and stayed there for a good fifteen minutes before I went outside, looked around and made sure they were gone, got on my bike and pedaled back home. I asked myself if what had happened had really just happened. Yes. I saw the flash. I heard them laugh. I was sure. Back home, I sat down and wrote an angry and descriptive post along the lines of: “To the white, male, Dutch youth who just took a picture of me in front of the supermarket on this street, go fuck yourselves, go get cancer, go crash into a train. Same to the people who have …

EAHRNK conference on UN Inquiry into North Korea’s human rights violations

North Korea denies 2014 COI report, accuses witnesses and COI members of conspiracy I was in London earlier in March to attend the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK)‘s conference on the Commission of Inquiry. The conference was attended by South Korean diplomats, North Korean exiles (the EAHRNK chose the term’exile’ over ‘defectees’, which I find to be more appropriate), journalists (British and Korean, including the BBC and YTN – Dan Damon was there!) , diplomatic and NGO representations (including UN Women), and of course, students. Commissioner Michael Kirby, lead author of the 2014 COI report gave a moving speech – I highly recommend you take a look at his speeches on NKHR. Dr. Lee Jung-hoon, Human Rights Ambassador of the ROK and professor at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies gave the keynote speech – very moving, I wish there was a recording of this somewhere. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was also supposed to give a speech – but did not attend. The EAHRNK prides itself in including exiles in its organisation, and …

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. …

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. …

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”

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 …

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 …

Week 1 in the Netherlands – Welcome to Feeling Like a Midget!

At my cousin’s place in the countryside So far I have experienced the following things here in Noord-Holland: – Getting used to the sun setting around 9pm instead or at 7pm – “Korea” North or South?” (it was a very, very old man) – Met a hardcore fan/heavy smoker of ze greens/seen an escort advert on the subway – Been on a boat trip with my uncle demonstrating of how the sluis works – Successfully pronouncing sluis – Understanding tiny bits of Dutch that sound just like English and thinking “Aha! I understood! One Word! Of your conversation!” – Learning to use the words mooi, lekker, and gezellig timely – Having an internal debate between saying “Holland” and “The Netherlands” and eventually going “Meh, everybody in Noord-Holland says Holland, so meh”, Googling it, and then finding angry comments from Southerners – People accepting I can be the cousin of a completely Dutch person and not asking any further questions or having puzzled looks – Seen a “Smoke Your Weed Outside” sign – Had a conversation in English with 60+ Dutch citizens …