Monday, March 22, 2004

Monday Koreafarts

If you glanced at the weekly schedule on the sidebar, you saw a slight revision: the Monday Koreablogger roundup has been replaced by Koreafarts. Part of this is a concession to upcoming time constraints: there's simply no way I'll be able to take the time to do a proper Koreablogger roundup after this coming Wednesday, so instead of committing myself to something I won't be able to fulfill, I'm going to devote Mondays to anything Korea-related, which may or may not include Koreabloggers. I hate to diss the folks on the blogroll; I'd like to think I'm loyal to them, but here as elsewhere, the rude penis of practical reality has crawled drunkenly inside the startled vagina of idealism, so I'd rather permit myself the luxury, à la the Maximum Leader, of shorter posts when necessary.

Today I visited Seoul National University to meet with Dr. Park Yoon-soo, the man who gave the keynote speech at that Korean Christmas Party I emceed in northern Virginia this past December. It's been years since I ventured onto Seoul-Dae's campus; I'd forgotten how big it was. It's a good thing I grabbed a taxi from Seoul-Dae Ipgu Station; I would've been pretty damn late otherwise.

Dr. Park, a man in his 70s, is in the grumbling phase of his new job as distinguished guest lecturer on electrical engineering and semiconductor technology. He's been in America the past few decades, and is shocked and appalled by the byzantine nature of Korean bureaucracy. "Forms to fill out and sign, always more forms!" he groused. "I thought I gave them everything they needed before I moved here, and now there are more forms!" Any expat who's had to deal with the Korean Immigration Office knows exactly how Dr. Park feels. Bureaucratic bullshit isn't unique to Korea (Exhibit A: Northern Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles), but the bullshit here is, on average, deeper and more fetid.

"Nothing I requested for my office has arrived yet!" Dr. Park said, shaking his head and chuckling cynically. His office was bare. An American laptop sat on one table; a Korean computer and printer sat on another. There was an empty bookshelf by the table with the laptop. There was a very nice-looking clock on the wall. A whiteboard hung off another wall. Two pegs, for hanging clothes, jutted out of a third. The paint was a lusterless white. The view out the window gave onto the enormous wall of another building across the way. What a soul-deadening space.

At least Dr. Park's teaching load is fairly light-- two 75-minute classes per week. His speaking and writing obligations, however, are heavier: he's expected to write short articles a few times per week and to give special lectures at various universities in South Korea, which means he'll be travelling a bit. In fact, he's off to Chejudo (poor, poor man) this Friday for a lecture. Maybe he'll lay out a Grand Unified Theory about Rocks, Wind, and Women, Chejudo's three treasures.

We ate lunch at a nearby cafeteria-- my first-ever meal of bibim-bap with brown dwaen-jang sauce instead of red gochu-jang. At our table were three other Korean profs who'd taught for long periods in the States. One gentleman, a Dr. Kim, shook my hand and spoke in perfect, unaccented English-- a skill I'd like to attain in Korean someday, though I doubt I will. Dr. Kim, it turns out, spent many years teaching at Lehigh University, where my buddy Steve got his Ph.D.

[NB: Talk about six degrees of separation: I've mentioned this before, but it never ceases to freak me out. Jonathan Frakes, the actor who played Commander Riker on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," is the son of Dr. Jonathan Frakes, who was one Steve's profs during his grad program at Lehigh. Dr. Frakes retired not long ago; I saw him once on Lehigh's gorgeous campus, and yes, he looks like a much older (and more cheerful) version of Commander Riker. This puts me-- what-- two or three degrees of separation away from the massive Star Trek franchise, five degrees of separation from William Shatner, and six degrees of separation from Leonard Nimoy.

I can tell you're not impressed. Eat me.

Actually, I'm only two degrees of separation away from Nimoy: the Air Marshal, one of my closest friends, saw Nimoy give a talk at Virginia Tech years ago. Isn't that right?]

My meeting with Dr. Park was about getting a job at Dongguk University. He told me he'd do what he could to help, but no firm promises. I'm not really expecting much; poor Dr. Park is still dealing with the shock of Seoul-dae's dingleberry-flavored bureaucracy, and I don't think he's going to have much time to focus on my paltry hobbit-scale needs. Watching Dr. Park, who was so self-assured when I met him in the States last December, look and feel so helpless in what used to be his own culture made me pity him. His situation brought home the fact that professors here, despite their age and prestige, don't always get the red-carpet treatment, no matter what the Confucian ideal is supposed to be.

Let's hit a few bloggers, shall we? And let's try something different, both today and tomorrow: let's do this as a series of haikus.

bloggers "chafe his scrote"
Stavros has no patience for
incestuous links

Kathreb likes her pic
I admit I drool over
women with steel tits

Wooj gets pissed off
thinks Rumsfeld's a fucking prick
I'll let you decide.

topic smorgasbord
Andi rounds up all the news
how was Chiri-san?

our minds are wiped clean--
void of any history
fuck, we're stupid sheep

Al Qaeda's pissed off
claiming they have "briefcase nukes"
they can chew my balls

Chigae in da house
serving up a link buffet
thanks for the shout-out

Infidel at war
also examines China
not just once, but twice!

Oranckay on Noh
ponders Thatcher's underwear
--who's the REAL byun-t'ae?

living skeletons
starving, stultified, oppressed
response? WORK HARDER!

Fuck the Japanese!
That is what Koreans think
and say in cartoons


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