bookmark_borderPost-45: Looking Back on My Arrival in Korea, Four Years On

People ask me why I came to Korea. I ask myself. The reasons are complicated, but I hinted at the original (general) impetus way back in post-13.

An easier question is “when”:
I arrived, for the first time, almost exactly four years ago, in late April of 2009.

I lacked even basic knowledge about the place in April of 2009. I lacked experience teaching. I lacked experience with East-Asians, besides a few acquaintances here-and-there. And I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.


Four years on, the memories of my first night in Korea are vivid. They are more vivid than many of the things I did just this past weekend! In the coming posts, I will write down my memories of that first night.

bookmark_borderPost-44: One Month of This

I created this weblog (a term I like more than “blog”, which sounds like the word “blah“) just about one month ago.

This is the 44th post. I aimed for 10 posts per week, or 1.43 per day. I have just about kept that pace.

Ten posts per week is an achievable goal, and I’m glad I set it. Still, I may consider significantly slowing that pace in the future, or maybe even increasing it. There will be a period in the fall of this year (2013) when I will probably not post at all for a few weeks, being away from a computer for an extended period as I will be. I will make a post about this plan later.

bookmark_borderPost-43: Tea-Time at Gloster Hill

In post-40, I wrote about what General Paik Sun-Yup [백선엽] had to say about the British serving in Korea in the Korean War. In his war-memoir (chapter five), I found this:

                The British [in the Korean War] were absolutely devoted to the ritual observance of tea-time.
                They dropped everything at 4 P.M. to consume tea and cookies, even during combat. British
                artillery ceased firing for tea-time and then picked up the tempo afterward.

He made those comments shortly after mentioning the battle at Gloster Hill, in which an entire British battalion (800 men) was encircled for three days and compelled to surrender in April of 1951. This led me to wonder if the Gloucester Battalion also found a way to stop everything for tea, at the appointed times, on those three days of encirclement. Gen. Paik implies that they would have.


Caption: Soldiers of the English Gloucestershire Regiment battalion
stop for afternoon tea. In April, 1951, this battalion was overrun
by a massive Chinese attack and only a few of its members
reached UN lines. (Defense Department photo.) [Source]

A short-story or movie (or short-film), based around this surreal premise, really yells out to be created. I’d entitle it:
Tea-Time at Gloster Hill
I imagine it to be a dark-comedy, set in the British positions at Gloster Hill, April 23rd, 24th, and 25th, 1951.

Maybe the story would have three acts, each act depicting tea-time on one of above-mentioned each days.

            Act I: Day-1 Tea-Time — High Spirits — Maybe they can repulse the attack?
             Act II: Day-2 Tea-Time — Defeat Looming — No escape
             Act III: POW Tea-Time [As I understand it, the Englishmen all surrendered before noon on the 25th.
             Maybe the third act we have them on the march north, bound for POW camps. Maybe the Chinese
             commander would have allowed them drink tea on that first afternoon as POWs, as a show of good-will].

I like this premise. Why not?

bookmark_borderPost-42: Unification Tomorrow Through Security Today

Outside a major commuter-train station in Bucheon, I saw this:

Sign seen in front of Songnae Train Station [송내역] in Bucheon / Late April 2013

                       통일 내일이면 안보는 오늘  …is what it says
I recognized three of the four words (among which is ‘unification’, which surprised me) and I looked up the fourth. As I waited to cross the street, I toyed with possible translations. I think this one may be best:
Unification Tomorrow Through Security Today
I don’t really “get it”. What manner of “security”? I also don’t remember seeing this sign before. Is it new, since the recent “tensions” began? Has it been introduced by the new government? What does the placid picture of a manmade pond in Bucheon have to with unification or this undefined “security”?

bookmark_borderPost-41: The USA Circa 1930

A patriotic assembly of some sort, circa 1930, featuring U.S. Civil War veterans.

I am struck by the positive and optimistic Weltanschauung on display. There is a purity, a distinct non-cynicism. (Is there a word for non-cynicism?). / Their descendants today are more cynical and pessimistic. / There are many kids in the audience: If the kids of today were teleported back and attended this event, they’d roll their eyes and think “that high-pitched yelling is so gay“, no doubt.

I will do the best I know how, to get that [Rebel] Yell up for ya.
What few of us old “cornfeds” are left, we do all we can.
We can’t give you much, but we’ll give you what we’ve got left.

bookmark_borderPost-40: The Fall of Gloster Hill, April 25th


Possible photo of the “Gloucestershire Battalion”
from 1951 / Found on the Internet

             “Though minor in scale, the battle’s ferocity caught the
             imagination of the world”, especially the fate of the 1st
             Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, which was
             outnumbered and eventually surrounded by Chinese
             forces on “Hill 235”, a feature which became known as
             Gloster Hill. The stand of the Gloucestershire Battalion
             together with other actions of 29th Brigade in the Battle
             of the Imjin River have become an important part of
             British military history and tradition. [Wiki]

April 25th was the day the Battle of Gloster Hill ended in 1951.

There were 700-800 men in the Gloucester [Gloster] Battaltion on April 22nd. By noon April 25th, all but 40-60 (pictured below) were dead or en-route to NK/Chinese POW camps.


The several dozen men of the Gloucester Battalion
who escaped from Gloster Hill [from here]

In total, it seems that sixty-eight ‘Glosters’ died in the battle, and thirty more died in the POW camps, for a total of 98 dead as a result of the Gloster Hill action. In total, 1,109 UK soldiers died in Korea, so the small Gloster Hill action alone accounted for 8.8% of UK military deaths in the war.

There is a good write up on the battle here, and a series of posts about its commander, Lt. Col. Carne, here, written at the ROK-Drop blog.

I visited the site of this battle last year. Today, it is a leafy picnic area, with a few memorial stones and British flags. I wrote about this trip way back in post-3.

Gloster Hill is near Jeokseong village (적성면) in the Paju region, and is neither easy to find nor easy to get to. The village of Jeokseong [pronounced “Juhk-Suhng”, formerly written as Choksong in English] is a short way north. We got a bus to Jeokseong and walked southeastward to find Gloster Hill. (It is also near a temple and a mountain, and supposedly a waterfall, which I don’t remember seeing).

Here is a Google-map, zeroed-in on the precise spot of today’s ROK/UN/UK flag display that anchors the memorial:


British Veterans marching in
Gloster Hill Memorial Park, 2007 [Wiki]

Standing directly in the path of the main Chinese attack towards Seoul in the First Corps sector was the 29th British Brigade. The brigade’s stand on the Imjin River held off two Chinese divisions for two days and ultimately helped prevent the capture of Seoul, but resulted in heavy casualties in one of the bloodiest British engagements of the war. During the fighting, most of the 1st Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment were killed or captured during a stubborn resistance during the Battle of the Imjin River that saw the commanding officer—Lieutenant Colonel James Carne—awarded the Victoria Cross after his battalion was surrounded. Ultimately the 29th Brigade suffered 1,091 casualties in their defence of the Kansas Line, and although they destroyed a large portion of the Chinese 63rd Army and inflicted nearly 10,000 casualties, the loss of the Glosters caused a controversy in Britain and within the United Nations Command.”  [Wiki]

Last year, I read the war-memoir of General Paik Sun-Yup [백선엽]. He had this to say in chapter 5:

                Another prong of the Chinese offensive caught the British 29th Brigade, attached U.S. I Corps,
                by surprise east of Munsan. The Chinese forces isolated Lt. Col. James Carne’s Gloucester
                Battalion on a hill near Choksong [Jeokseong], whereupon the British fought like wildcats
                for sixty straight hours to defend their perimeter, forging a Korean War legend in the process.

                Some 760 of the Gloucester Battalion’s complement of 800 officers and men were killed, wounded,
                of captured. Had it not been for the sacrifice of the Gloucesters, the enemy surely would have won
                a position from which to threaten the approaches to Uijongbu.

Gen. Paik spent several paragraphs praising the British for their professionalism, also noting that the British were absolutely devoted to the ritual observance of tea-time. They dropped everything at 4 P.M. to consume tea and cookies, even during combat. British artillery ceased firing for tea-time and then picked up the tempo afterward.”

Idea for a short-story or movie: “Tea-time at Gloster Hill. A dark-comedy. Setting: British positions on Gloster Hill, April 23rd or April 24th, 1951. Why not?

bookmark_borderPost-39: Let’s Compete With Korea’s Best Students!!

부천을 넘어 대한민국 1등과 겨루자!!
The above text is displayed on a banner (in bold white letters, on a blue background) at the language institute at which I work. It is displayed in the main lobby area, as well as above the white-board of many classrooms.

The city in which I live and work is Bucheon. “Bucheon is the Best in Korea  is what I’d always guessed that slogan meant, which is wrong. (I recognized three of the five words. My Korean skill is not good enough to understand it fully). This kind of bragging is not uncharacteristic for Korea. The city itself uses these kinds of self-promoting slogans. Anyway, this translation is definitely wrong.

Thursday, I had a class of one, a very low-level 9th grade girl. Seeing the banner again, I decided to solve the mystery once and for all. I asked her. Aided by the limited efforts of this 9th grader, my first real translation effort was this: “Beyond Korea’s Best Competition is Bucheon“. This sounds awkward, so I knew I hadn’t gotten it yet.

My second effort was “Beyond Bucheon, Korea’s Best Level of Competition”. There should be an implied [We have] inserted, as in “Beyond Bucheon, [Our Language-Institute has] Korea’s Best Level of Compeition”. This seems like needless boasting, I thought, although I was satisfied with the translation. Again, this kind of ‘boasting’ is not uncommon here. (This language-institute has had a reputation for ‘poaching’ elite students from elsewhere, and offering them highly-discounted tuition, so the claim is true: Many top students are certainly here).

I was still unsatisfied with the translation, though. What was I missing?

Finally, a Korean friend told me: The last word carries a “let’s”. The best translation (rearranging word-order) may be:

Beyond Bucheon: Let’s Compete With Korea’s Best Students!!
This is a much more positive attitude than the crude bragging of my original translations. The message is: “Don’t just aim for being a big fish in a small pond [Bucheon, a single city], but aim to be a big fish in a big lake [all of Korea]”.

bookmark_borderPost-38: Apples in the Summertime

It is now late April. I continue to be able to see my breath at night. This confuses and bothers me.

I dream of summer.

Rocky Island (“Ho, Honey, Ho”)
(Traditional, sung by the Osborne Brothers)

Apples in the summertime
Peaches in the fall
If I don’t get the girl I love
I won’t have none at all

Going to Rocky Island
Going where I’m gone
See my Candy darling
Ho honey ho

Get up on the mountain
Sow a little cane
Make a barrel of sorghum
Sweetin’ ole Liza Jane

Black clouds a-rising
Sure sign of rain
Get your old gray bonnet
See little Liza Jane

bookmark_borderPost-37: Boy Scouts at 2.7 million and falling


Painting by Norman Rockwell

I’m told that Boy Scout numbers have been on a steady decline for years.

This was true in my own experience:
I was in the Boy Scouts in the 1990s. I witnessed my own troop’s decline as an institution. The troop actually folded, for lack of members, in the mid or late 2000s. The reasons were various. The biggest reason, or so was my conclusion at the time, can be seen in the thousand-words spoken by the paintbrush of Norman Rockwell, over there —->

The typical kid born into the 2000s-USA will not identify with that image. It is an “America” that Whites associate with the 1950s. That was (and I guess still is) its appeal.
I tried to find numbers. The best I can come up with:

2.7 million : 2011’s tally for number of boys in the Boy Scouts. [Official, pdf]
3.5 million : The 1990s tally, when I was involved. [Apparently official / excluding “Learning for Life” members]

In South-Korea, there would be an obvious explanation: A much lower fertility rate in the 1990s and especially 2000s, than in the ’80s, i.e. fewer boys available to join. Not in the USA, where the fertility rate has been stable.

bookmark_borderPost-36: Substitute Holidays are Coming (to Korea)

This year, we were all disappointed to see Lunar New Year’s Day (a.k.a. “Chinese New Year”) fall on a Sunday. Last year, Chuseok (a fall harvest festival) also fell on a Sunday.

Those are three-day-block holidays, on the sacrosanct side of Korean social life. No regular employer would dare intrude upon them.  Well, this year the Lunar New Year “three-day block” ended up being Saturday-Sunday-Monday. We got a single day off (above normal). It was out the door on Friday evening, and back at the desk, as normal, on Tuesday morning! (Well, “morning” used loosely — office hours for us officially begin at 2 PM and end at 10 PM).

The USA, has [I think] a legal mandate to give ‘substitute’ days off (e.g., Monday July 5th off, in lieu of Sunday July 4th). As of 2013, South-Korea has nothing like this. This is one of the many small blemishes on work-life in South Korea. Yes, it may be one of the richest nations in the world, but so often it doesn’t…act like it.

Now, though, the government is proposing adopting U.S.-style ‘substitute holidays’:

Beginning next year [2014], the nation is most likely to have a substitute holiday when a national holiday falls on a Sunday. […..]

Under the bill awaiting its passage, each of the three-day Lunar New Year and Chuseok holidays would be extended to four-day holidays when Lunar New Year’s Day or Chuseok falls on a Saturday or a Sunday. For instance, when Chuseok falls on a Saturday, the nation would take the preceding Thursday off, and it would take the coming Tuesday off when it falls on a Sunday.

An editorial in the Korea Herald pointed out that South-Koreans work 25% more hours/year than the rich-world’s average. One reason is the lack of holidays and lack of vacation time.

bookmark_borderPost-35: A Bowl of Hot Milk and Rice in 1953

On the large sidewalk between Seoul City Hall and Gwanghwamun, it’s hard to miss the dozens of blown-up black-and-white photographs mounted on wooden placards. Walking along yesterday (April 21st, 2013), I stopped to look at a few, as is my habit when I’m passing through there, which I do once every few months or so.

One caught my eye:


Placard in central Seoul [2013] featuring a photo from the Korean War.

Its caption: An aged Korean in line receives a bowl of hot milk and rice from volunteer workers
at one of Seoul’s nine feeding centers. Looking on (background left to rght) George S. Murray
and John P. Kott. Date: April 21, 1953. Photo Credit: U.S. Army by Pvt John St. Dennis

6.25전쟁 당시 서울에는 9개의 음식물 배급소가 있었습니다. 유엔민사원조사령부 소속의
미군들이감독하고 있는 동안 서울의 한무상 음식물 배급소에서 줄 서 있던 한 노인이
차례가 되자 따뜻하게 데운 우유와 밥을 받고 있습니다, 일자: 1953년 4월 21일.
자료: (사)월드피스자유연합

When that I transcribe the Korean, I see that the exhibition is sponsored by something called the “Association for World Peace and Freedom” [my translation]. A search brings me to two websites (first, second) that appear to be theirs. (They are only in Korean).

I thought the caption gave recipient’s name as Mu-Sang Hahn [한무상], but it turns out that word means “charity”.

The photo is dated April 21st, 1953. I walked by it on April 21st, 2013. I saw the photograph sixty years, to the day, after it was snapped by this Private John St. Dennis (who’d be in his 80s now). This got me to thinking about how long 60 years is. Using April 21st, 1953 as a base-date, I bounced my mind back another 60-year block, and then a second. Then I bounced forward two 60-year blocks. Here’s what I come up with:

Situation in Korea, at 60-year intervals
April 21st, 1833: Korea ruled by Chosun Dynasty as a “hermit kingdom”: Weak leadership/kleptocratic tendencies
April 21st, 1893: Chosun beginning to open, but is in inexorable decline, Donghak movement reaching a boiling point
April 21st, 1953: Korea the midst of a civil war; thought to be one of the poorest countries on Earth
April 21st, 2013:  South Korea is one of the richest countries on Earth
April 21st, 2073: ?

bookmark_borderPost-34: Two Weeks of Spring

As I write (early morning, April 21st), the temperature here is listed as 2 Celsius [36 F]. It also says “Feels Like: 0 C“.

No, spring has still not really arrived in force. I don’t understand it. The typical day here has been in the 0-10 Celsius range (30s-40s Fahrenheit) through April so far. [It should be in the 10-20 Celsius range by now].

  • The nightly-low in Bucheon has stayed below 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) all but twice so far this year.
  • The daily-high has stayed below 15 Celsius (60 Fahrenheit) all but six times so far this year.

In March of 2012, I remarked to a coworker from England that the weather should be improving a lot soon. “Right, those will be two very pleasant two weeks, won’t they” was the (gist of) the sarcastic retort I heard back. The oppressive cold of Korean winter gives way to the annoying heat of Korean summer too quickly, was the point. This year, it seems that this “two week” quip may well come true. Why? I have no idea.

A Korean folk tale has it that Winter is jealous of humans’ love of Spring, so it angrily throws one last burst of cold weather at us humans before Spring takes over. I heard this on the only non-military English radio station here.

Koreans even have a special term for sudden spring cold-snaps (꽃샘추위). This one is prolonged, though.

bookmark_borderPost-33: Reminiscences of October 2002

I see that two crude backpack-bombs brought millions of people in New England to their knees this past week, and brought some degree of fear to many or most of the 300-some-million Americans. In that sense, it was a majorly-successful terror attack.


John A. Muhammed
“Beltway Sniper”

My mind wanders. Imagine a group of terrorists such as the Chechen brothers, with as much elusiveness as 2002’s John Muhammed, the “Beltway Sniper”. I remember it well: The “talking heads” all said it was a McVeigh-type. They told us to watch out for white vans. I remember telling myself at the time, This whole ‘white van’ thing may be wrong. Even if it’s not, the chance that the sniper’s white van cruises along anywhere near me [I lived in Arlington, VA at that time], in broad daylight, must be very slim. Getting anxious at the sight of a white van is silly. The italics are what I told my young self. Yet I did get a bit anxious when I saw those vans. The media is powerful — a week or so of conditioning had vindicated old Dr. Pavlov again. I was now scared of white vans!

It turned to out be a Black-American ex-soldier who’d joined the Nation of Islam and legally changed his name to “Muhammed”. He was driving a vehicle that was neither white nor a van. He killed 21 people, and eluded capture for a month. That was October of 2002.

In post-32, I wrote about two coincidences: (1) martial law was imposed in Boston on the same night 238 years apart. (2) Paul Revere and the Tsarnaev terrorists were cornered at the exact same time (1 AM April 19th), 238 years apart.

I don’t mean to ‘compare’ the American rebels of 1775 with a pair of Chechen terrorists of 2013. A more-valid synchronicity to note would be this:

  • October 2002: The sniper terror attacks around Washington, DC (discussed above) occur.
  • October 2002: The Chechen Tsarnaev family arrives in the USA. The family came in on a tourist visa, claimed to need political asylum, and were allowed to stay indefinitely. The future-terrorist brothers were 9 and 16.

Finally, I find it interesting that the younger one’s Twitter account shows he was a bit of a “whigger”. It’s likely he would have protested if you’d called him “White” to begin with, though (a prerequisite for being a “whigger”).

bookmark_borderPost-32: Martial Law, 1775 vs. 2013


Painting of Paul Revere (From here)

It seems that martial law has been imposed by government authorities in and around Boston on two occasions:

The first time: The night of April 18th-19th, 1775
The second: The night of April 18th-19th, 2013.

Yesterday, it was due to a manhunt for the “Boston Marathon bombers”. Everything was “locked down“, a euphemism for martial law. (The euphemism is arguably scarier than the term it replaces, in this case). In 1775, it was amidst a wild political climate which saw Paul Revere ride through towns of Massachusetts shouting “the British are coming!” (forevermore to be learned-about by American elementary school students). Fighting followed.


According to this, Revere was actually one of three sounding the alarm that night, on different routes.

One of the riders passed right through Cambridge.

Cambridge, it seems, was the place of residence of the “Boston bombers”.  On April 19th, 2013, one was killed, and one captured, in adjacent “Watertown”.

Actually, there is a pretty amazing synchronicity:

  1. Revere was captured about 1 AM on April 19, 1775.
  2. The older Boston bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was also located by authorities at about 1 AM on April 19th (of 2013). (Tsarnaev was killed, Revere was not).


Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed
at about 1 AM EDT, April 19, 2013 /
238 years to the day and hour
after Paul Revere was captured

Yes, I was following the coverage of this, at work and at home, as best I could. (I am 13 hours ahead of EDT here). The mood in the USA seemed — observed from afar, I mean — it seemed as if the USA was in a war panic, a kind of December 8th, 1941 atmosphere. Or September 12th.

A Korean I spoke with on the matter pointed out that it was just three dead. (Three “civilians” and, later, one dead policeman). Bad, yes, but hardly necessitating a mass panic. The radio correspondents I was listening to were in a total daze: They said things like “we’ve never seen anything like this!” All regular programming was cut for round-the-clock coverage. Everything was closed. Millions were under martial-law: One million people within a certain radius were ordered indoors under threat of force (true martial-law), and millions more in Greater Boston were intimidated into staying off the street (defacto martial-law) too. Photos of deserted streets in Boston emerged. An entire city, empty. This was astonishing, to me.

Was this level of hysteria an overreaction? I think so, but it is also understandable: This kind of drama builds esprit-de-corps by giving people a shared and memorable experience. That is highly important, and something lacking in the USA in recent….decades, it seems to me.

bookmark_borderPost-31: Watch Out When You Wind Down

The Osborne Brothers: “When You Wind Down”
I like this song. It’s another I cannot find the lyrics to anywhere on the Internet. Why?
In fact, the phrase “watch out when you wind down” does not appear on the Internet as of April 19th, 2013.

I will transcribe the lyrics myself: [Read more]

              Watch Out When You Wind Down / LYRICS
              You climbed the spiral rope right to the top
              But the rope’s straight down when you drop
              Your grass is green but winter turns it brown
              You’re wound up now, but watch out when you wind down~
              When you left I knew I’d have to make a change
              So I found another gal to take your place
              If you come back you’ll be on rugged ground~
              You’re wound up now, but watch out when you wind down
              You looked me in the eye the day you left
              You said “If that’s your best, then you need help”
              You’re looking for a life that can’t be found
             You’re wound up now, but watch out when you wind down
              When you left I knew I’d have to make a change
              So I found another gal to take your place
             If you come back you’ll be on rugged ground~
              You’re wound up now, but watch out when you wind down
              You’re wound up now, but watch out when you wind down
              You’re wound up now, but watch out when you wind down [End]

I see in this song several messages:
(1) Success is fleeting(“The rope’s straight down when you drop” / and the line about grass). “Hic transit gloria”.
(2) Beware of wanting too much, for it’s very possible “it can’t be found”
(3) Don’t get too excited about things in a negative way (“wound up”), or if you do don’t do anything too belligerent — as the woman-subject of the song did — because when things settle down (“wind down”), you’ll probably regret it.

bookmark_borderPost 30: Bitcoin Remorse

The price of Bitcoins has now risen to $100 again.
My Californian coworker, C., who had planned to buy some, failed to buy any while under $70.

I cannot deny I am intrigued, but there are so many things I don’t understand / don’t trust about it. Here is their informational video:

It seems the total number of Bitcoin owners may now be 227,000 in the world. That is the number of “Bitcoin Wallet users”, whatever that means. It was only in the 50,000-range at this time in December 2012. Four months has seen two doublings in the number of Bitcoin owners.

bookmark_borderPost-29: Ending South Korea’s Five-Year Presidency

The current South Korean government will try to revise the constitution to:
            (a) create a four-year-per-term, two-term-limit presidential system like the USA’s, and
            (b) weaken the power of the presidency in domestic affairs.

As of now, their constitution allows a president to serve only a single five-year term. Korean leaders’ increasing unpopularity and seeming ineffectiveness may be due, partly, to being lame-ducks from day one.

Yet, one can understand why the South Koreans established this one-term-limit cap in the 1980s:


President Park (박정희)

18 Years of General Park: On May 16th, 1961, General Park Chung-Hee staged a coup and soon installed himself in power. In 1979, he was shot dead, ending 18 1/2 years of power. Widely admired today, despite undemocratic rule.


Syngman Rhee (이승만)

12 Years of Rhee: Before Park, there was a U.S.-exiled-till-1945, U.S.-sponsored, and rather cartoonishly-cranky old “dictator” named Syngman Rhee, who caused endless headaches for the USA while in power, and who allowed a a bit of kleptocracy to rise up in South Korea. Rhee ruled for 12 years, ’48-’60, until he was overthrown in protests.


President Chun (전두환)

8 Years of Another General: After the assassination of General (then President) Park in late ’79, his crony General Chun Doo-Hwan soon assumed power. He allowed an election in December 1987, perhaps because South Korea was set to host the Olympics six months later. (Yet another former general in that clique won the election and served a five-year-term through early 1993. [1993-to-Present has seen fully-civilian rule]).

Thirty-eight years, three men. Two would’ve stayed-in longer, if events had not forced them out.

So it’s not hard to see why they have a one-term cap. Lameduckery from day one is a problem, though. I think that a three-year, three-term-limit system would be best: Only a president who wins three consecutive elections would wind up a lameduck. It also would allow popular will to be reflected more quickly.

bookmark_borderPost-28: Bitcoin Buyer

My coworker, C, told me that he intends to buy several-hundred-dollars-worth of Bitcoins, an all-digital currency not tied to any central bank. I don’t quite understand how it works. I don’t know whether to be excited or scared.

The value of Bitcoin has fluctuated a lot: It reached over $200 in early April, but is now in the $60 range. Speculators cashed-out. My coworker explained to me that he intends to be a speculator, too. If he buys 10.0 Bitcoins at today’s $66 price (total paid: $660), and the value goes back up to $200, his 10.0 Bitcoins will be worth $2,000+.


Value in U.S. Dollars of 1.00 Bitcoin, March and April 2013


Value in USD of 1.00 Bitcoin, 2009 to Mid-April 2013

bookmark_borderPost-27: Enterbull Instrudent

      The correct answer:
      “I’m interviewing students about what they eat. Will you help me?”

      Answer from a student in JA class:
      “I’m enterbull instrudent about what they eat. Will you help me?”

[Comment: Enterbull Instrudent sounds like it really should be something real].

      The correct answer:
      “Anna, do you want to watch a ballroom dance competition tonight?”

      Answer from another student in JA class:
      “Anna, do you want to watch a balloon dance comefortation tonight?”
[Comment: Whatever a balloon dance is, I’m sure it has a very different ambiance than a ballroom dance].

      The correct answer:
      “He doesn’t get frustrated when we make a mistake“.

      Answer from a student in JA class:
     “He doesn’t get freshedent when we made a mistake“.

[Comment: If “Freshedent” is not the name of a chewing gum, it should be].

These mis-transcriptions all come from dictations JA students (lower-skill-level 6th graders) did as homework. I am having a “dictation contest” with the classes I have for listening, as I have done before.

It would be fun to make a story out of these mis-transcriptions:
On the afternoon of the big balloon dance, I realized I urgently needed freshedent gum. Imagine going to a balloon dance with bad breath! I began to walk towards the store to get some. Unfortunately, to my dismay and shock, an enormous enterbull instrudent obstructed my path….

bookmark_borderPost-26: Little Psy, 50% Saigon Style

It seems there was a small boy dancer in the popular “Gangnam Style” video of last year, who in 2013 is starting to see his own career take off. His stage-name has become “Little Psy“.

Little Psy and Big Psy

One fact, and one fact alone, interests me about this: 
“Little Psy” (Hwang Min-Woo, b.2005) has a Vietnamese mother and a Korean father.

The number of Vietnamese mail-order brides has soared since the mid-2000s. [Chosun Ilbo]

South Korea is still an overwhelmingly mono-ethnic society, but in the 2010s this may be changing: I see that near 5% (22,000/471,000) of babies born in 2011 in South Korea had a foreign-born parent.

Most of the mixed-couples involve a Southeast-Asian “mail-order bride” and a rural Korean man. (There is a shortage of marriage-age women in rural South Korea).

I’ve seen signs on buses and on the subway for mail-order brides from Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, and (mysteriously) Kyrgyzstan. Those businesses are doing well, I guess:

One in every three babies born to multicultural families had a Vietnamese mother in 2011, according to Statistics Korea. Out of 22,000 mixed-race newborns, the largest proportion or 35.8 percent (7,880) were born to Vietnamese mothers last year. Chinese mothers came second at 26.4 percent, followed by Filipina (8.1 percent), Cambodian (5.3 percent), Japanese (3.7 percent) and Mongolian (1.3 percent.)

Overall, a total of 471,000 babies were born in Korea last year […]

They’re now saying that 50% of rural births could be to foreign women by the 2020s.

This all sounds alarming to the typical Korean, who cherishes the “one blood” myth.

On the other hand, this 5% figure is padded: a large portion of the “Chinese” mothers must be Korean-Chinese, and some others may be of Korean ethnicity, e.g. Korean-Americans. These factors would reduce the true “mixed” figure down to 3-3.5% of all the babies born in South-Korea in 2011. And those mixed babies are half Korean. Thus, the cohort born in 2011 has only around 1.5-2% “foreign blood” [which is almost entirely other-East-Asian anyway].

If Little-Psy were not known to have a Vietnamese mother, would anyone have known it from his appereance? I’m certain that most Koreans would claim they could spot such a thing, but I wonder.