Maybe now he can finally pursue that degree in Korean women’s studies
So in the wee hours last night, I hate to admit that I was awake watching Superstar K3 live (but to be fair it was with my wife…even if she was asleep), and unfortunately Chris’ rendition of “Run Devil Run” (SNSD), dedicated to a soul-crushing ex-girlfriend, wasn’t enough to get him through to the top 5. To his credit, Mr. Golightly, whose hair was getting progressively crazier each week (as you can see), didn’t whine, cry or complain about his “huge talent” to the cameras like he did the first time he thought he was eliminated, but seemed to almost expect the decision. Really just as the wonderful 윤미래 pretty much told him strait out at the audition, a completely non-Korean essentially had no shot at this winning the competition, so getting this far was probably enough. Personally, I do find him to be a halfway decent entertainer and if he gets some Korean language skills, could maybe have some sort of mini-career here and at the very least continue to write songs and other behind the scenes work in the industry. So with Chris out, we’re now left with Hipster Brad as the only completely non-Korean face, so he’d better to be ready to absorb a lot more of the awkward English attempts, Nic Cage comments and camera shots focused squarely on the big 외국 schnoz. I do predict Busker Busker is on the block next week, but really there’s no competition anymore as vocal group Ohlala Session has essentially already been crowned. Now I’ll go back to pretending I don’t care.
Iconic CEO deaths cannot save you from the power of Patent 234
Recent weeks have seemed to mark the decision of Samsung to take of the gloves and go on the offensive against Apple, both domestically abroad, in the two companies’ increasingly tangled legal dispute. In my view, the main difference between the two attacks is that where Apple has based their cases on “look and feel” arguments, Samsung is countering with patent infringement suits, something that has much stronger legal precedence. While Apple might not be shaking at the might of patent 234 “resolving the relevant problems without damaging the algorithm of the current standard system”, I do really have to wonder if they’re prepared for what Samsung can bring to bear. As the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, the Korean giant also has one of the largest technology patent collections as well. While there might not be a single smoking gun patent that can kill the whole Apple product line, the shear amount of patents undoubtedly can create a virtual Hwacha of patent cases, where at least one of the arrows can hit the mark. I’m not a lawyer, but I have to wonder if that’s a fight Apple can actually win (not to mention what will happen if their new part manufacturers isn’t up to task). The first salvo has already generated a ruling in the Dutch courts, with Samsung being told their 3G technology patent is open to use under FRAND (Fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) practices for technologies considered industry standards, however also rejecting Apple’s argument that they didn’t violate patents, meaning if the two companies don’t come to agreement giving Apple licencing to use the technology, Samsung could bring it back to court. Not a win for either side, but a definite example of how muddied this case will become in the near future.
Now this party’s official (and I even hear they’re bringing a case of PBR)
On Thursday, Sec. Clinton and the US State Department officially announced participation in the upcoming Yeosu Expo. The privately funded 12,000 sq. foot Pavillion USA will feature “the United States’ unique shoreline through displays and programming that highlight the diverse nature of America’s ocean environments and coastal communities.” The public face and behind the scenes manager for the efforts is adventurer, author and famous grandson Phillipe Cousteau, Jr and will also feature Student Ambassadors, chosen from US universities, proficient in Korean to interact with visitors. Even a shiny new website has been set up to detail the project, http://www.pavilion2012.org/, and twitter as well Twitter.com/usapavilion2012.
Not to sound too Ameri-centric, but I really feel US participation was fairly necessary to making this Expo truly legitimate, so while it might have never been in doubt, the announcement might be a good shot in the arm as the preparations enter the final stages. Honestly, I am also impressed by the scale and depth that is going to be brought by this pavilion, as by all accounts it should be one of the largest on site and having a name like Cousteau involved with an ocean-based event is a big coupe. After many found the USA’s efforts at Expo 2010 in Shanghai disappointing, it would be great to see stronger efforts, even for a smaller scale event like Yeosu. On a mildly related note, the long-running official Yeosu Halloween party is going to be held at the Yeosu Hotel 여수관광호텔 this year, right next to the Expo grounds. Can’t wait to see where the progress has come on the site. (By the by, for those in country, if you have no Halloween plans, how about spending the weekend down here? Quite nice in the fall and a great party. Just bring a costume).
Well I’m on a bus to Seoul and with about 4 hours to spare I thought I’d put together a post. This is from my phone so it might be short and I’ll likely edit it into a full blown post later.
Anyway, this evening the wife will be visiting old friends leaving me on my own in the big city. This will likely give me a chance to indulge in my primary vice, casino gambling. I’ll be the first to admit it’s far from a healthy habit, but one I trust myself to control (plus I tend not to stray far from even either wins or losses) . Casinos in Korea are quite interesting to me because they only allow foreigners, with the exception of Gangwon Land. In fact, by law, Koreans are even banned from gambling overseas although this law only comes into play when some celebrity or public figure loses massive amounts and can’t pay the debt.
Two news stories recently caught my eye (links to come), one dealing with Yeosu where the head of the GNP recently visited and stated he would put out a measure to allow a casino to be made in Yeosu to help attract foreign tourists. Second there is some debate these days as to allowing Koreans to gamble at all national casinos.
Personally, I am for both these ideas. For Yeosu to really become a viable tourist destination, it will really need some sort of hook and a casino along with the relatively cheap golf (for Asia) could go a long way to attracting Asian convention tourism. The second point is a bit stickier situation. While it is fairly hypocritical to allow foreigners to gamble while claiming moral obligation in keeping Locals forbidden, there is an understandable fear of addiction. To save ky thumbs, I’ll give the short version of my stance that can be applied to many subjects. If something can be enjoyed by a wide majority of the population without becoming addicted and harmed, that something should be legal. This means things like gambling, alcohol, smoking and yes marijuana should be legal. While some can become addicted and harmed by these things, most can enjoy them in moderation, unlike things such as cocaine which should remain illegal. While legal, they should still be controlled and taxed to bejefit society in general and also to support help for those who are addicted. Like I said, that’s just the short version as little can really be that plain and simple when it comes to vices. Regardless, I will enjoy my time on the casino floor and win or lose, likely be back for more in the future (all in moderation).
Here’s a quick look of stories and events currently of interest to me:
My news aggregator on my phone this morning lead me to this article in the LA Times. I was somewhat surprised to see it being reported in a Western source at all, but especially reporting it as a plan being implemented rather than one just discussed as I had last heard in Korean sources.
Regardless, I doubt it will really happen and even if it does women-only subway cars are far from effective. This particular plan as stated in the story of only having these cars run late at night doesn’t even address the problem. Without a doubt groping, touching and other pervy behavior occurs on crowded subways and it does need to be addressed, so how does having these cars on the uncrowded, late-night runs help the matter?
Not to mention the fact that while, on the surface, these cars seem like a good idea and may lower the possibility of molestation, it doesn’t address the core issue of some men believing this behavior is alright. It can be argued that these cars give the perverts a pass, accepting that they can’t be expected to control themselves around women and therefor the women have to be segregated. While I can only speak from my perspective (a male one), it also seems like a backhanded nicety, similar to the women only parking spaces at department stores. Women can’t be expected to park in a normal, man-sized spaced, so they need to be given a special area with larger spaces just for them. It may be nice, but it’s a bit of an insult if you really think about it. Additionally, just like the parking spaces, on the subway when push comes to shove (literally) men are going to ignore the rules and use the cars as well.
While I can go on for a good bit on how society and cultural norms need to change in Korea to really improve this situation, the quick solution is not segregation, but rather education, monitoring and enforcement. It needs to be made very clear that subway touching is a crime (via the on-train media) and that those caught will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. These laws should include jail time and examples should be made of the perverts to show others that they won’t be excused. While I know this wouldn’t solve the problem completely, it at least should make offenders think twice.
About a month back, the kblogs lit up with the story of Andre Fisher, a USFK soldier convicted of robbery and sentenced to 2 years in prison. Much of the controversy began with an article in a local paper from Fisher’s hometown with information taken from his family and friends as well as a local news story that quickly followed. Some in the bloggosphere were quick to jump on the “Korea is racist” bandwagon and accepted the story at face value that an innocent man was in prison because of the color of his skin. GI Korea over at ROKDrop, one of the best blogs around the only one really worth reading concerning US military matters in Korea, was one of the skeptics and took an almost unheard of step, actually researching the story (see here and above). Turns out not only did the sweet and completely innocent young man resist arrest and smash up a police car during the Nov. 2010 taxi incident, while he was free awaiting trial (not in prison the whole time as the family claimed) he drunkenly keyed up cars, resisted arrest AGAIN and tore up a police station. Add that to making up people to blame (an English teacher as it were) and I think you see why he received jail time rather than the usual suspended sentence. I wouldn’t recommend trying to point these things out on the “Free Andre Fisher” facebook group, as facts even from those who support the case aren’t welcomed.
Once again I have to thank ROKDrop for really taking the time and getting to the bottom of this story.
Recently, I found out that my very own Yeosu will be hosting the World Roller Speed Skating Championships, an event that I am sure will be remembered for the ages. The link above will take you to the very nice looking website where one can get information about the event, specifically saying “Welcome to 2011 World Roller Speed Skating Championships” over and over. Seriously though, this is pretty interesting and should get Yeosu a bit of notice among an international, if very niche, group. By the numbers dozens of of countries will be participating, going for medals in numerous team and individual events from August 30th to September 5th. This (and other events such as the World Youth Festival that took place a couple weeks back) are really all in preparation of Expo 2012 and while I doubt roller speed skating will do much to raise the profile of Yeosu, it certainly can’t hurt.
Since I came to Korea in ’09, I have lived in Yeosu, Jeollanam Province. I will admit it was by chance that I ended up here, but for a variety of reasons I am glad I did. It really is a beautiful place, even if it is about as far from Seoul (physically and mentally) as you can get and soon may acquire just a bit of international fame as the host of Expo 2012, which will be about the biggest thing to happen in these parts since Yi Sun-sin came down and made some Turtle Ships. In just the short time I’ve been here the Expo has done a lot to change the face of Yeosu, mostly for the better, however even with this event I don’t feel that there is enough Yeosu information out there to guide the would-be traveler. This post will be the first in a, hopefully, continuing series of guides and recommendations mined from the time I’ve spent here. To start, here is a quick run-down of what I think are some main points and must-dos if you make the trip, starting with:
While it’s certainly not Hawaii, the Yeosu area does have some of the best beaches I’ve seen in Korea. As it’s a very contained coastal area, the seas are very calm and the views are always dotted with the nearby islands. In most places, these islands are parts of the same geological formations as the coastline, making for very dramatic views as wooded hillsides dive down to the water and peaks rising back up out to sea. Speaking of islands, there are somewhere around 300 of them that are considered part of Yeosu. Most are tiny and uninhabited, but some are reachable via ferry (such as Sado or Gemeundo) to get even further away from metropolitan life.
As far as where to go, the Yeosu guidebooks and websites will talk up Manseongri (만성리) as it is the only “black sand” beach in Korea, however I put “black sand” in quotes because really it just looks dirty. All in all, I think it’s about the worst example of Yeosu beaches and I would only recommend visiting on summer nights. This is because the beach does have a little boardwalk-type area with small carnival games, fresh seafood restaurants that serve on platforms overlooking the beach and shops to buy fireworks to shoot into the night sky. Nearby, for a much better daytime experience head to Mosagum (모사금 해수욕장) which is just a few kilometers away. This is a small beach in a crescent cove with nice soft sand, good views and plenty of room for swimming.
If you’re willing to spend some time getting out of town and further down the peninsula, then my absolute favorite is Jangdeung (장등해수욕장). This is a long, open beach with great water and USUALLY isn’t crowded, in fact if you’re out of the “beach season” from June-August, you might be one of the only people out there. I highly recommend bringing a tent, building a fire and camping out on the beach here. No one will bother you and it’s a great experience.
Temples and Shrines
One of my favorite things about being in Asia is visiting the various historic and cultural areas such as temples. Everything is just so different than what I grew up around that they are one of the few places I can really feel Korea anymore. There are a wealth of Buddhist temples and shrines in Korea and Yeosu is no exception. Known to most is a place called Hyangiram (향일암), an area on Dolsan Island that has multiple temples and shrines located along a trail reached by climbing 291 stone steps. One of the main buildings (the Gold Temple) burned down last year, but the main attraction here is the nature and setting of the cliff-sides overlooking the South Sea. This is also one of the most popular points from which to view the first sunrise of the New Year and the temple hosts a Sunrise Festival during this time. Be aware that this area can be quite busy with tourists on nice days and requires a good bit of walking and hiking, but it’s a Yeosu landmark for good reason.
For a little more peaceful experience, I would recommend Heungguksa (흥국사) a decent sized temple complex located in the mountains north of Yeocheon. It’s pretty much only visited by locals and hikers and over the half-dozen times I’ve visited there’s never been more than a handful of people. The most popular time to visit is undoubtedly during the spring when the hillsides are in bloom with bright purple azaleas. Year round, several hiking trails begin and pass through the temple and inside are several sights and artifacts from the over 800 year history of the temple where monks trained to fight during the 16th century Japanese invasions.
There a few other locations in Yeosu (such as Odongdo or the new Expo areas such as Yi Sun-sin Square) that are well covered by other resources and they are worth a visit as well. As said above, I will try to add more information and more locations as time goes on.
Hope you are all having a nice weekend. Weather is a bit humid and cloudy here in Yeosu, but the predicted rain hasn’t come yet so can’t really complain. As a quick post I would like to share a bit about golf here in Korea and personally from my experience playing a round a couple weeks ago here at City Park Golf Course and Resort. (accompanying pictures are from said course)
The first thing to know about playing golf in Korea is that it is quite expensive compared to the States, as is the case with most Asian countries. One should expect a minimum expenditure of $150-$200 for a course in the Provinces (away from Seoul) with prices rising steeply as you get closer to the cities and in resort destinations like Jeju. An interesting side note due to this high cost is that when your average Korean person says they are “going golfing”, they aren’t heading out to play 18 holes, but rather to a driving range (the ubiquitous giant green nets found in every corner of the country). Several of these ranges call themselves Golf Clubs as they are only for members and can feature fitness centers and other facilities. I have been a member of one of these for a little while now to try to get my game back in shape and pay a cool 150,000 Korean won a month for the privilege (around $130 USD).
Another possible effect of the high price (and therefor exclusivity of playing) is that golf seems to be a far more formal outing than it has become in the West. This being my first time playing in Korea and having grown up on public courses, I arrived (much to the surprise of my Korean playing partners) in my golf clothes. I came to learn to proper etiquette was to bring to golf attire with you (in a leather, brand name clothes bag that matches your leather, brand name giant caddy golf bag) and change in the well-appointed locker room. My second mistake in this regard was coming in shorts (a nice khaki pair designed for golf) which apparently necessitated pulling out my “ignorant foreigner” card just to be allowed on the course. In my defense the temperature was in the low 80s with a similar humidity number, so really who wouldn’t wear shorts?
Anyways, to get past my faux-pas and on to the interesting differences during the round itself, of which there are a few. First and foremost, at this kind of golf price point you’d fully expect to be provided a cart and you’d be right. The difference is that in Korea these stretch golf carts not only hold all four golfers and clubs, they come complete with a young Korean woman as your driver. Not just for show (although they are quite cute) these ladies are your full-fledged caddy for the round, giving down to the meter distances, reading your putts and cleaning your balls (sorry, no real golfer can resist that old joke when the opening is there). Additional to their caddy duties, they are also the official bank for the group, holding the cash and giving the payouts for the various bets and games of the players, because what is golf without gambling.
In the photos of this post (especially the first one up there) you may notice the street lamps lining the fairways. This is because, not content to fill up the tee sheets just during the day, many Korean golf courses are also open at night. Often times, especially during the summers and on weekends, play will keep going until 10 or 11pm. My own round didn’t finish until after 9pm and while it was an interesting experience, it wasn’t strange or uncomfortable. Korean layouts tend to be very tight and confined, meaning if you’re even a bit off the fairway (and away from the lights) your ball is likely OB anyways, meaning your never (literally) taking a blind shot.
Well as this “quick hit” post is already running a bit long, I’ll go ahead and break down a few more differences in bullet-point form:
- No singles or walk-ons. You can only play on a tee-time made with a full foursome.
- A full meal at the turn before resuming the round. I have to credit the bibimbap with improving my score on the back 9.
- Distances in meters, not yards. Something to keep in mind if you’re playing as a tourist.
Well I hope you enjoyed the post, or at least the pretty pictures. Feel free to hit me up with any questions or comments. I, hopefully, will have more golf adventures to share as time goes on.