Friday, January 16, 2004

the trouble with Kim

We'll start your Kim-ness off with news from North Korea:

An unofficial U.S. delegation to North Korea last week saw a vibrant and thriving capital, with the main market in Pyongyang selling clothes, vegetables, meat and electronics, according to a former State Department official who was part of the delegation.

Shock! Awe! North Korea front-loads Pyongyang to pass itself off as "vibrant and thriving," and people buy that shit!

And this from the trusty Beeb:

Pyongyang has reportedly told the US to make a deal soon or North Korea would spend the time developing nuclear arms.

The warning was delivered to an unofficial team from the United States visiting the Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

"Time is not on the US side," a member of team, Charles "Jack" Pritchard, said he was told.


In other Kim news:

The day started off with a call from the States. The phone conversation at one point went something like this:

DAD: Did you get in touch with Mr. Kim?

ME: Which Mr. Kim?

DAD [to MOM]: Which-- here, you talk to him.

MOM: Did you talk to Mr. Kim?

ME: Which Mr. Kim?

MOM: The one you're supposed to meet-- the one who knows Mrs. Quigg! The only Mr. Kim who matters!


Yes, dammit, I met Mr. Kim today. I hope he's not reading this blog, because I'm going to talk to you about how he farted twice in my presence. That's not the whole story, but unfortunately it's what sticks in my mind, because my mind tends to bathe in the septic tank.

Mr. Kim is the head of his own company, YongMa. YongMa comes from the two Chinese characters meaning "dragon" and "horse," and if I understood Mr. Kim correctly, the characters together mean something like "Pegasus"-- a winged horse. Mr. Kim speaks English very well, and so does his brother who is, not coincidentally, also Mr. Kim.

My mother is friends with a Korean woman whose second husband has the last name of Quigg. Mrs. Quigg and Mr. Kim, it turns out, are long-time friends. Mrs. Quigg gave me Mr. Kim's contact info while I was in the States, so I set up a meeting with him, thinking he'd be wanting English lessons. This isn't what he wanted, as it turned out, and no, you sick bastard, he didn't want me to play the Ned Beatty role in "Deliverance," either.

Mr. Kim looks to be about 60 or so. He's done a lot, from playing amateur baseball to writing and editing a newspaper to working in the Korean branch of a Scottish company. He's Protestant and hates Catholics, though he seemed tolerant of my desire to study other religions, like Korean Buddhism. As with many Koreans his age, Mr. Kim has little love of the Japanese.

I met Mr. Kim at 11AM and was asked to type out my résumé on an office computer. This took me aback, since I was prepared to discuss terms for a teaching gig, but as time went on, it became clear that Mr. Kim and Mrs. Quigg were conspiring to help find me A Real Job. That's fine with me. So after typing my résumé and engaging in some Konglish-y small talk, we headed downstairs with the entire office staff for what was to be a very delicious lunch featuring kalbi, succulent Korean shortribs. Lunch was rather noisy, but that was fine by me. Both Kim brothers talked with me about the history of Christianity in Korea and were quite knowledgeable. I'd actually like to go back and talk more with them about that-- it's better than reading Donald Clark on the subject.

Things were obviously going well for me as far as kibun is concerned. Kibun is something like "harmonious/good feeling," usually referring to group harmony, but also to interpersonal relationships of any size, even just two people. Sometimes kibun simply means "feeling/emotion," as in the phrase kibuni na-bbeuda, or "bad feeling/the feeling's bad." In any case, the kibun between me and the Kims of YongMa was pretty good.

I'm not sure if this holds for all Korean chief executives, but here's a hypothesis: a Korean man, if he feels comfortable enough around other men, may decide he can fart in front of them. My male relatives have been known to let 'em rip while at home-- one Adjoshi in particular is notorious for his flatulence. So maybe there's something to my hypothesis.

Whatever the case may be, Mr. Kim farted twice in my presence: the first time was a minifart before we went down for lunch. I suspect this fart was meant to be clandestine, but not quite-- a kind of "we both know I just farted, but I know you won't say anything" type of fart.

The second fart, post-lunch, was far more robust and featured something I found especially awful: eye contact while in flagrante flatulo-- a gleeful FLATULO ERGO SUM. Yes, during that second gastric episode, Mr. Kim quite casually leaned over, eyeing me all the while, and ripped out something that sounded like the magnified noise of a rusty zipper. I'm not sure how to render it in English letters. Maybe it was a ZZZWEEEEEET. I don't know. I kept my face quite neutral, but inside I was sitting with my two brothers in the downstairs of our house in Virginia, laughing my fool ass off and pounding the floor.

It's a shame that those two auditory punctuation marks are what I took from our otherwise productive four-hour meeting; we actually discussed a whole slew of subjects, none of which I can remember clearly now because, goddammit, all other thoughts have been occluded by those fucking farts.

The upshot of the meeting is that Mr. Kim and Mr. Kim know people who know people. Those people are in places like Seoul National University, and while I don't exactly have high hopes, it's possible I may end up Legitimately Employed, which beats the hell out of my current scurrying existence. If I end up Bathing in Filthy Lucre, well... all the better. I have debts to pay off. At my current earnings rate, they'll be paid off when I'm 80.

The second half of my day featured a load of bullshit involving the FedEx people, who are holding my computer up, and that's really not worth blogging about right now. I'll just let you ponder two green vapor trails: your butt kong-an for the day.


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