Wednesday, June 06, 2001

the end

I left Korea two days ago. Two great two months, and it leaves me with nothing to write about in the near future. I suppose people won`t be too interested in articles about reverse culture shock, rants and all that so I better improve my staggering Japanese instead of sitting in front of the laptop. I`m in Tokyo again, for six days, meeting my girl and enjoying the time as good as possible before I have to go back - I`ll miss a lot:

Kimbap, Haeunde, natural well-springs, low living costs, internet "bangs", faster-than-light service, tea houses, curious Koreans, chamchi sandwiches at the theater-bakery and the tight scedule every week that kept me from getting lost in the internet again. ;-)

Hope you liked it, check my homepage sometime in the future for new journals. I`ll add a special picture page as soon as I solved the problem of webspace, accessible from here or the main page.

Sunday, June 03, 2001

meeting friends

My last day in Korea. I used the time to buy many souvenirs and meet with friends, namely Lee Jaeyon, Bak Hye Gyeong and Lee Jeeyoung. I`ve studied Japanese in Kyoto together with Jaeyon, with Hye Gyeong was my first regular Korean exchange partner two years ago, and Jeeyoung is a good friend of my girlfriend, we met in Seoul last year for the first time. And no, she didn`t make me eat dog meat. ;-) It was nice to meet them again.

new glasses

My old glasses reached already the age of 5. It was time for new ones, and I heard in Korea it's cheaper. Well, I waited too long, being it already sunday I thought I could forget it. I have to leave tomorrow, so this my last full day in Korea. Walking around with Jaeyon, I asked if it were possible to buy glasses. Yepp, he said. But it's sunday. Doesn't matter, shops are closed on sunday in Germany only. Nice. The second surprise was the price at the shop, even frameless specs with springs were sold as low as 30.000 Won. Try to get something like that in Germany, you easily pay 100.000 or more. Then I thought, I'd have to take them a they were because creating the right glasses for my eyes would take a few days. Nope. They checked my eyes and told me to come back in one and a half hours. Now that's service!

Saturday, June 02, 2001


O.k., two more days. We signed in in a little hotel in Insadong, which is one of the touristic centers of Seoul. Insadong has a lot of attractions like little tea houses, traditional or modern, quiet restaurants with all varieties of foods and souvenirs street sellers. There's nothing that you can't find for your friends and family. If you look around, you'll find some restaurants with rather exotic foods, for example one selling pure fish eyes. Yu-u-u-k. Better try Pajon or Bibimbap, that`s good food.

In the afternoon we went to a temple in the middle of Seoul. Entering the place, it was much more silent than any place before on that day. There was some kind of procession going on, later with a few female sabulnori dancers. At another temple adjactend to the first one, I saw a statue that looked like some kind of devil, completely in red. Reminded me of Lucifer and a certain janitor in Kyoto...

German lectors union

I attended to one last conference this morning. The German lectors union had their meeting in Soul's Goethe Institute. It was strange to have so many Germans around, for the first time since last year`s April. I could understand everything, response to every question, ask without hesitation and converse much quicker than in any other group in the last months. A little foretaste for my return to Germany. The conference itself wasn`t too interesting, but one of the speakers was good. Some guy representing four scholarship organizations in Korea talked about his work here. He spoke faster than a machinegun, his figures of speach made everybody laugh and in some respect he was like the stereotype sergeant. I also met Mrs. Dueppel-Takayama from the DAAD branch in Tokyo and had an interesting conversation with Mr. Streichler from the German embassy about his work. This year I started to inform myself about the foreign service, so I was curious about his life and work. Later that afternoon a few people from the group met in the house of one of the members. Having seen apartments only, I was deeply impressed about his house. It was very traditional, with an atrium in the middle, a Magnolia and many antic statues around. He`s working at a museum, and it looks like that kind of work pays off very well.

Thursday, May 31, 2001

last day in Jeonju

My, I was saying goodbye to a lot of new friends the last few days. Sad, but I'll meet new people somewhere else. It's just important that I don't loose contact to everybody here. In the next four days I'll be in Seoul, but I'll get back to the journal, if neccessary, in Germany. I planned to visit the border to North Korea, but I have to go to the airport on Monday afternoon, the tour takes too much time that day. At least I have a good reason - beside others - to come back to Korea.

timer for girls

I don't know who came up with that idea. Yesterdy I was looking around in front of the university for presents for the hostfamily. I found something again that left me speechless a few weeks ago: A timer for girls, but with one specialty. On every day the girl could keep track of the size of her hips, her breasts, her arms, her legs, etc. etc.
The layout seemed to point at girls at the age of maybe twelve, maybe more. When I have kids later, shoot me if I ever buy something like that for them. Please.

Tuesday, May 29, 2001

last professors meeting

Lately, I have a certain feeling of urgency and time pressure - I think the time to do what I want to do in Korea doesn't fit into the half week thats left. There are many people who I met, who would like to see me again, who would like to do something together, but I'm afraid I can't fit all expectations. Tonight, the professors who practise English together gave a farewell party. During the discussion before the dinner, we talked about the Korean custom of eating dogs. Some are edible, some are not - but as a Vegetarian, I wouldn't touch pork or beef neither. Is there a difference between eating a snail, insects, dogs, cats, cows or fish? Not really, beside the taste I think. Some professors ate dog meat, and a few were objecting the way how the dogs are treated and killed. Western media was critizing that customs many times, and during the Olympic Games in Seoul they government forbade dog meat serving restaurants to prevent any Korea-bashing. When did democracy kick in in Korea again?

Monday, May 28, 2001

fortune teller

I have an appointment with a real fortune teller tonight! Before you cry out of disbelief, let me explain: I'm not superstitious, not even a little bit. As an Atheist, I'm pretty much sure he's only going to do one or two estimated guesses and that's it. What can he read out of a person's birthdate and time? Not much, but this thing works with a lot of communication and reading of body language, keeping the predictions as interpretable as possible. We'll see.

The reason why I decided to meet one of those people is, that the tradition of consulting with a fortune teller is still strong in Korea. Before a marriage i.e. the bride and groom send their birthdates to the fortune teller who then determines if they fit together or not. Youths are not that involved into that tradition, but the parents still insist on such advices. I'm curious about tonight.

another meeting with students

Today I had maybe my last meeting with a group of Korean students. They were not actually from the German department, but from education. Professor Park, who was yesterday inviting me to his house, was translating most of the explanations as the students' level didn't suffice for a discussion. Anyway, they had a few interesting questions, we covered right wingers as well as martial arts, the army - called Bundeswehr and why I didn't go there yet - long hair, the students life in Korea and Germany, my private life (*sigh) and a lot of other fields. I hope I could give the students a more diversified picture of Germany than what you can read in newspapers.

One short remark aside: All students in that class were female except one guy. Education is for women - but then, where are all those female professors? I see only guys. ;-)

new forum

I managed to get the Ultraboard forum script working, so from now on, you can discuss everything you like in a decent atmosphere: Just click here

Saturday, May 26, 2001

invitation to dinner

I missed the soccer game between Werder Bremen and the local soccer club in Jeonju, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors! Shit happens, but I'm not that much of a real soccer fan either. Well, nevertheless, the day had one highlight: Professor Park, who I met a few weeks ago, invited me and Ms. Choi to his home for dinner. His wife was cooking a real feast, I rarely eat so good - and so much. After the dinner, we talked a lot about Germany. After a while, I felt that he knows much, much more about it than I do. When I was younger, my parents used to travel to a different European country every year. I haven't seen so much in my home country. Professor Park must have been everywhere in Germany, he showed us ring binders full with pictures and post cards from famous places. I should travel around when I get back, so that I can say at least something like

oh, yeah, I've been there, too... cozy place

when I meet foreigners who know Germany inside out.

random rant

It's not that I know many Korean laws. In fact, that might not even be neccessary, depending on money and status only, it looks to me like you can do everything in this country. As democracy has to be anchored in peoples' minds, especially after decades of dictatorship and before that, being under Japanese rule that developement needs some time - but beside that, there are laws who just make me laugh. Tolerance for other cultures, yes, but read this one first before you crucify me:

2001 was the year in which the government abolished a law: It stated that women are not allowed to smoke outside. Smoking inside was fine. Can you believe that? Sounds like this stems from the dark-ages and not the 21st century. I noticed on April 11th, that there are no women smoking outside, and that the image of a smoking women is bad. People, I'm a guy who supports the Norwegian idea of gender-equality, just take a look at their parliament. Also, although, I'm against smoking in general, don't get me wrong here: In the first place I'm shaking my head about the idea itself. This law must be well grounded, and when I find out what it is, I'll post it here. I can't think of a reason except some bureaucratic jerks in the government had a bad day. After looking for it on the net, I found another example. There's a pretty harsh article about Animal Law, too. If you like dogs and cats, don't open the link. Another article about the gay community in Korea mentiones a funny law in the first paragraph.

In a discussion with students in class, the men said they think that women shouldn't smoke. The reasoning was "it's the law" and "it's bad for babies" - despite the fact that most women are not really always pregnant, not to mention second-hand smoke from men. Now, I wonder if there are laws like this in Germany which I agree to unreflecting. I bet there are some, but I can't think of any.

a teacher's homepage

If you plan to teach in Korea, look at this page, the texts are funny and very useful: Teach Korea

Thursday, May 24, 2001

cab driver

I had to teach today all four hours, one in the morning at nine, and one at two after lunch. I woke up as usual, but I wanted to do something before class, so I took the cab instead of a bus. The cab driver was really curious. After he found out that we could talk, he didn't stop anymore. His first question was

Do you like Korean women? Who doesn't. ;-)

Do you have a girlfriend? Yes. Then a long aaaah follows - I'm slowly getting used to this. When I explain that she's Korean, an even longer aaaaaaaaah follows, international relationships, now that's exotic.

Do you think Korean women are beautiful? Well, my girlfriend is. (diplomatic, isn't it?)

He asked me a bunch of other questions, but fortunately we didn't have to drive too long so I arrived at the university before he could ask me intimate questions or grab my John (as it happened in another case) to compare. Nice driver though, he didn't want the full fare.

People around here are never, never afraid to ask the private questions first and then let the rest follow. If you mind answering such questions, pretend not to be able to speak English.


I'm back at Rits! Music on the campus... In Japan, I first experienced what speakers can do on campus. It's noisy, pounding like crazy on your little sensitive ears and the program isn't that good either. In Korea, I saw a few of those speakers on light poles at Chonbuk and Paichai university but until know I never heard them at Chonbuk. The Paichai university used those speakers to play the university's anthem twice a day. Let's hold hands.

Tonight, I walked around the campus a little to think about events of the last days and weeks. Then suddenly I heard Sting's Message in a Bottle, filling in the melody of birds and the roaring of speeding cabs on campus. You don't need a walkman anymore, that's service.

P.S.: natsukashii is Japanese for a situation in which one experiences a sensation which reminds him of something that lies in the past.

Tuesday, May 22, 2001


Lately I enjoy reading english magazins like Time or the Economist. In Time Asia, I read an interesting article about Eurasians in Asia. Once despised, they now have the media in their hands. Veejays, singers, news anchors, their international looking faces are what the masses want to see. To look more western is fashion, so it's no wonder that Eurasians fit into the picture. They already have given by birth what so many Asians crave for. I didn't watch much TV since I left Japan in March, so I turned on the TV and left it for a few minutes. In that short time I saw at least three Eurasians - natural or surgically enhanced - singer on V, a music channel, and another one in an educational program for learning English. Wow. I felt informed. ;-)


Everybody knows the saying, different cultures, different people. Now, there's one trait of Korean culture that I want to write about. It's Nunchi, the ability of a person to guess or foresee what somebody else wants, needs or excepts. It also stands for the abilty to understand without verbal communication. Those things exist in other cultures as well, but Koreans put an emphasis on this ability. Three examples:

Three people in one room, two share a secret. One of those two says something or communicates through gestures to the other a hint to that secret, and the other person eacts in a way that the third person doesn't find out what's going on. So, that second person has Nunchi.

You walk on the street. In one area you see many cars parked around, but no people. A person with Nunchi would for example understand in a second that everybody is in the nearby church for a mess.

You got lucky, somebody gave you two cards for a soccer game. You go home and ask your brother if he would like to join you. He doesn't say no to the offer, but if your Nunchi is strong or good enough, you can notice that he actually doesn't want to go.

I find it hard to read a Koreans feelings or opinion, as they are tought not to reveal their real feelings. Also, as a European my set of gestures, behaviors is different from Korean ones, so I sometimes just don't see it. I wonder how it is for Eurasians.

Monday, May 21, 2001

interview with a North Korean

A rare chance: A North Korean came to the university and talked with students about the situation in North Korea. I don't speak Korean, but my room mate translated the main points for me. She was a doctor, whose uncle, a newspaper journalist in Pyongjang, has been punished because of his critical views about the government. Her parents, once wealthy, have been sent to a small town, where they were left starving. As a doctor, she earned 150 NK Won a month, one kilogram of rice cost 130 NK Won at that time. People everywhere in the country were and are still starving, only in Pyongjang the streets are kept clean from misery. Three years ago, after she married, she visited her parents and found them in such a bad condition that she decided to defect to South Korea via China. She managed to walk over the border in three days, and even returned once to fetch the rest of her family. Her husband didn't agree though and stayed in North Korea. She mentioned that 98% of all North Koreans believe that South Koreatried to invade North Korea in a joint venture with the United States, which is great example of history manipulation. My room mate told me that he expected more insights about the life and new information - but as she lived for three years in South Korea, and after being in a South Korean re-education camp she might not tell everything.

She also talked about her life in South Korea. In the beginning, she had problems to read many signs because English is often used in advertisement. Also, she found it difficult to buy food in the markets because there are so many different brands of the same product - the freedom to choose was a new experience.