Sunday, November 29, 2015

debate aftermath

Arrived at the Golden Goose office, yesterday, around 1PM. Worked on proofreading until about 3:30PM, then headed out to Korea University. The three of us—my boss, my coworker, and I—piled into my boss's new car and drove across town to Korea University, making it there with time to spare despite bad Saturday traffic. (Want good traffic in Seoul? Drive around at 3AM.) The boss's GPS got us most of the way to the campus, after which we relied on directions from the guys manning the swinging-gate booths at each campus entrance. The building we were after—the Changeui-gwan—was way the hell over in a part of the campus with which I was unfamiliar. It had been years since my last visit to KU (nicknamed "Godae" in Korean: a polysynthesis of "Goryeo Daehakgyo"), and while it was good to be back, I had no idea what was what in this section of the school.

We found the building well enough; the guard had just let us through, telling us we could simply park without needing a time-stamp ticket since we were there for a special event on a Saturday. We parked, walked into the building... and discovered the first major change to our program: the debate we were to be judging had been moved to Room 127 from Room 116. Not a big deal; 116 had been empty when we found it, so we'd already suspected that something was up. When we got to 127, we had to tiptoe in because a Korean-language debate was in progress. We quickly took our places.

Once we had settled in, we discovered the second deviation from the anticipated program: we would be judging, along with a debate, four "individual" presentations. These weren't all actually individual, though: in one case, a two-person team would be presenting. This wasn't a big deal, either, because both the debate and the presentations would be occurring within the allotted time, i.e., from 4:30PM to 7:30PM.

The debate happened first. Two teams of four college students, not all of whom might have been from Godae, locked horns over the issue of "legitimizing" (by which I think was meant legalizing) gay marriage. Unfortunately, right before the debate began, the debate moderator rather improperly asked us judges what our opinions on the topic were: were we pro- or anti-legalization? This was in very poor taste, and I'm sure the statements we made of our positions didn't benefit the mental state of either team. As it turned out, all three of us were pro-legalization of gay marriage, which automatically put the "anti" team on the defensive.

The debate's format was thoroughly explained by the moderator, and she kept a strict rein on the time limits for each speaker. The format wasn't that of a typical US-high-school-style policy/CX debate, but it was fairly rationally laid out. We judges were given scoring sheets, and we all jotted notes as we listened to each side make its points. One student on the anti- side complained loudly about the judges' stated pro-legalization preferences (see why I didn't want to be asked that question?), and I knocked his individual score down a bit because he had wasted valuable debate time bitching and moaning.

My own sympathies were, obviously, with the pro-legalization side, but I did my best to be fair, and in the end, when I looked at the scores I had given, both for individuals and for the groups as a whole, I realized I had given the win to the anti- side. Out of 360 possible points for each team, the difference ended up being a mere 4 points, i.e., about one percent. It turned out that my boss and I had both given the win to the anti- side, while my coworker, an inveterate liberal, had scored the pro- team higher overall.*

We next scored four presentations. The first one was about the cultural impact of exposed female breasts; my boss made some jokingly off-color comments to the assembly that my coworker loudly declared inappropriate; I tried to keep as quiet as possible but got roped into making some comments, anyway.

And then, just like that, the event was over. We had been given two scoring sheets for team debates, but there was only one such debate, which came as a relief to me. Prizes were awarded, bizarrely, to individuals only—not to the winning debate team. In fact, I belatedly realized that the winning team was never announced. While the prizes were doled out by my boss—who seemed to bask in the temporary limelight of this brief event—photos were taken. In the end, I had no idea who won what as I'd never had a chance to get to know the students. It had been an interesting but confusing day, and I got through mainly by just going with the flow, realizing that nothing was going to move smoothly and directly from A to B because, hey—this is Korea, the Land of the Morning Nonlinearity.

My boss drove me to the nearest Line 6 subway stop; we ended up having to pay a parking fee despite what we had been told before re: no fees for a special event on Saturday. Typical. Presumably, my coworker got dropped off later on at a Line 2 stop. We had been given gift bags from Paris Baguette on our way out; I guessed they were roll cakes, given the long, rectangular shape of the packages, but they turned out to be dry, flavorless sponge cakes. Korean baked goods often leave much to be desired.

I trundled home on the subway, transferring to Line 3 at Yaksu Station. Once back at my place, I ate dinner (leftover cottage pie) and watched the opening episode of Season 2 of "Breaking Bad," a show that I'm finally getting into. Expect a review soon.

*If I sound as if I'm implying that my coworker's liberal bias got in the way of his scoring, well, I am—mainly because I've had the chance to spar repeatedly with him at the office on all sorts of matters related to current events and politics, so I know how entrenched he is in his beliefs. Naturally, my coworker offered rational reasons for scoring the way he did, but we all had such reasons, and I tend to think that giving the win to the side we (i.e., my boss and I) didn't prefer was a better indication of fairness than scoring, predictably, for the side with which we naturally sympathized. You could respond that my boss and I scored the way we did so as to appear fair, but then you'd be attributing malice to us, and I can tell you there was none toward either team. I might, however, feel malice toward you if that were your attitude.



Charles said...

The moderator asked the judges to publicly declare their opinion on the issue at hand before the debate began? I don't think "poor taste" really covers that.

I would have probably refused to answer.

Bratfink said...

I cannot figure out why people are so damn concerned about what other people are doing. Don't we all just want to be happy? To be loved? I pray that in another generation those people will wonder what the hell the big deal was about gay marriage. And wonder why we got our panties in such a wad about it.

Kevin Kim said...

Brat and Charles:


R said...

If I sound as if I'm implying that my coworker's liberal bias got in the way of his scoring, well, I am...


And your score came down to 1%?

Seems reasonable that your coworker may have ended up on the other side...

(Never mind me, I'm just catching up on what you've been up to... and making some noise...)

*No ellipses were harmed in the making of this comment...