Happy New Year to all. First year on this blog, started fast but ended a bit slow (in reverse of the real world). I look forward to keeping it going in 2012, maybe all the life changes can provide a bit of decent material to use.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.
So the blog has been in its biggest lull since I started it and I just wanted to say there is good reason for that. I will be writing again as soon as possible, but at this time my mind is somewhat preoccupied with another topic. I’ll let the Wonder Girls give a hint to what’s up…
So to make it official for the world to hear, little more than a week ago we found out that my wife is pregnant. Not much to report outside of that at this point, mainly because at only 4 weeks I believe the little 한미 creation probably looks something like a peanut. Coincidentally, and appropriately, it was the above Wonder Girls’ song that the wife was learning at dance class when we got the news.
Still being a relatively new blogger and equally inexperienced as an expectant father, I’m not really sure how the two will mesh, but I’ll get it figured out and be back musing on the news of the day soon.
Either than or Han Myeong-sook celebrated her aquital by getting a lot of plastic surgery and the Asian Football Confederation chose a really unwieldy trophy for the Champions League, just try to haul that thing around a ticker-tape parade.
Real world school and work has really cut back on my blogging time, but should be cleared up by sometime next week. I look forward to plenty of strong posts in November. Have a few ideas, just need the brain space to flesh them out. Thanks for reading and in the meantime, enjoy the first solo effort of a fully vetted and verified Tablo – “Bad” (나쁘다)
And that’s Rocky the Squirrel, not Rocky Balboa
Well, I have returned from vacation. Richer in experience and no poorer from the casino, so I guess that makes a successful trip. Unfortunately, as much as I love to travel by air, most anytime I take a plane I wind up sick, so I’m dealing with that now. Anyways, on to my topic for the day. As an outside observer who has lived in both countries, I am often asked my feelings about Japan and Korea, their differences and the frequent hot button issues between them. My living preference should be relatively obvious, given my current location, the amount of time I’ve spent in each country, whom I chose to marry and simply that The コリ in 日本 doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as a blog title. That being said, it is still an interesting topic and one I have formed some opinions on over the years.
Now as a man who will frequently think with his stomach, I find an interesting societal comparison in the foods of the two nations (both of which I find delicious). In Japan, as we can see in the left picture, each dish has its place and should be enjoyed separately. The flavors are understated and savory, with just an occasional kick of wasabi giving some spice. In Korea, the dish is still organized, but more as organized chaos. Everything gets thrown together and all mixed up. The flavors tend to be very strong and in your face, there’s very little subtlety with kimchi.
Now how does this vague and poorly put-together comparison apply to society as a whole? During my time in Japan, I felt the country and the culture was very beautiful with a lot to offer, but incredibly organized to a stifling degree. While this organization may make for an incredible public transportation system, living within it was suffocating at times. Just like I couldn’t add soy sauce to my rice, in the classroom I couldn’t add or modify my lesson plans, which were specified down to the minute for each class. Even on the hottest days, I had to be in my suit and tie (dark suit, white shirt, only a red or blue tie as specified on page 156 of my employee manual) because that’s how everyone is supposed to look. On many of these summer days, the humidity seemed matched by oppressive mass of conformity in the air. Additionally, similar to the flavors of its food, the emotions of its people seem equally reserved and held beneath the surface. I know I am painting far too broad of strokes here, but during my time in Japan I was continually frustrated by my inability to discern what people were feeling (and I consider myself a fair reader of people). For Star Trek fans out there, maybe the best comparison I could make is that the people all seemed to have a bit of Vulcan blood in them, with the suppression of emotion as a cultural trait.
Korea, on the other hand, strikes me as a lot like a good bowl of bibimbap. For all it’s disorganization and madness on appearance, everything tends to come together with purpose and combine to make a great dish. Anyone who has spent any significant time living here can tell you that one of the few constants is change. Often, these changes seem without any rhyme or reason (or notice in the case of those expat teachers out there who walk into empty classrooms) and this can be an incredibly frustrated experience, especially for those who like a bit of order to their lives. These rapid changes can also be seen across the physical landscape of Korea (especially urban areas) where the bahli bahli almost overnight transform some dilapidated fishing docks into a modern, techno playground for the 2012 Yeosu Expo. As for the people, while I wouldn’t consider Koreans in general to be overtly emotional on a daily basis, like biting into a gochu pepper, the spice tends to come hard and fast with little warning. Screaming matches are not uncommon and scuffles can erupt even on the floors of the national legislature. This trait is not only limited to anger, though, as in general I find Korean people much more willing and able to express joy, sadness, kindness and everything in between.
Now, all that being said, I would like to turn to what really is the main point of this post, and what I feel is a strong reason why the bickering and fighting continues over seemingly trivial matters. Despite the differences on the surface, Japan and Korea are inexorably tied and remarkably similar. They are, in a way, like brothers (or if brothers is too strong a word, at least cousins). They share not only physical characteristics, but mental make-ups forged from a similar ‘upbringing’ as cultures (feudal, warring territories unified to kingdoms generally cut-off from Western civilization to (slowly) modern democracies and economic forces). In this analogy, Japan would have to be considered the ‘big brother’ due to it’s greater size, population and historical emergence to the world stage. As a big brother, it often feels it knows what is better for it’s sibling and often will try to force the issue. South Korea, as the younger brother, then often feels under the thumb and in the shadow of Japan, causing it to lash out strongly at even the smallest issues. Please note that this comparison is in no way excusing or otherwise explaining the forced annexation of Korea by Japan, but this time period does certainly provide further evidence and context to the analogy. The fact is the nations are too closely tied to simply wash their hands of one another, but a history too scarred completely open up to one another, at least at the current time. I do believe that time will heal these scars eventually, however, and when that happens a new generation of Koreans and Japanese may find they are not so different after all.