Thursday, November 06, 2003

the ever-fattening blogroll

Kevin at IA and the Marmot bring my attention to KW Larsen and Jeff the Mormon, with their Koreablogs It Makes a Difference to the Sheep and Ruminations in Korea, respectively. Both now occupy a proud position on my blogroll.

Jeff writes an interesting post about his "blessing and curse," i.e., his command of the Korean language (damn you, Jeff). Choice slice of samgyeopsal:

Koreans [who] could not overcome the seeming need to talk about me would, and usually still do, talk about me in a loud voice as if I was nowhere within forty kilometers of them. Clearly they assumed that I could not speak Korean. Fifteen years ago, there were virtually no foreigners who spoke Korean. Ten years ago, there were very few. However, I have noticed that there are quite a few foreigners these days that speak Korean well.

Unfortunately, I would overhear the most hideous and hurtful things being said about me for absolutely no reason whatsoever. I am an easy target because I am a 5' 11" blond, fat, hairy guy. I have heard such priceless gems as, "Oh my! Look at him! How do you think he has sex? He would kill a woman." "Wow! Look at that huge bastard," is one that I hear frequently. My personal favorite comment about me was heard while I was listening to a mother on the subway trying to silence her screaming brat by saying menacingly, "shut up or that fat foreigner will eat you."

I have developed quite a thick skin about such things. I used to scream, yell, and berate people that would say things like that. I now have the wisdom to just let the people go on saying whatever it is that they are saying and then, as I or they leave, say a single sentence or phrase that will communicate clearly to them that I understood everything they said and found it offensive. If I had continued to allow myself to get worked up into a lather every time someone said that I was fat, I would have died of a brain aneurism long ago. It is much better simply to let them know they lost a potentially valuable customer, a potential friend, or any respect that I should have had for them.

I simply do not understand why this has to happen in 2003 in a country that touts itself as a major international business, cultural, tourist, and sporting hub. It continues despite all of the well-intentioned short-term campaigns to treat foreigners nicely and make this a good place for foreigners to come and spend their money.

I really do not think that the average person on the street in Korea realizes how much damage one stupid, childish, and completely unnecessary sentence can damage Korea's international reputation. It only takes insulting one person to have that person tell others in their own country what a horrible and unwelcoming place Korea is to foreigners.

Jeff just makes me feel behinder and behinder in my own Korean language studies. I don't want to be the foreigner who lives in Korea for ten years and ends up getting by on little more than "market" and "travel" Korean. At the same time, I know the pain Jeff's talking about-- the things you start to overhear as your listening comprehension improves. But that's not a deterrent; it's a challenge.

Just more motivation to keep studying.

KW Larsen's got some good material here (with thanks to the Marmot for pointing this out), regarding the greater likelihood of NK economic collapse than of reform:

Now before we get all excited about the implications of how the objective business community sees things on the peninsula, it might be useful to ask "where were Standard and Poor's and the rest of the gang in the weeks and months before the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997? Did they see that coming too and downgrade their ratings accordingly? If not, is there any reason to expect that their prognostications are any more accurate this time around?

Go thou and read the Sheep and the Mormon, baptizing all in the name of the Vater, and the Sohn, and the Heilige Geist.

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