Thursday, November 21, 2013

Korean Talk Show: Taxi episode 312

One night a few weeks ago, I was walking down the street in Itaewon and I saw a small crowd with a few cameras. Pretty much all Korean dramas are filmed in Seoul, so I stopped to take some pictures. Then I could show them to friends of mine and find out about it.

Fast forward. My ex girlfriend sends me a message and says to me, "My friend in California sent me a message and said she saw you on TV." I never met her friend but she recognized me just from our Facebook pictures. She told me the show was 'Taxi' and that I was caught on the beginning of episode 312.

I dug up the episode and at exactly 1:21 they catch me on camera for just under 1 second. So... I'm famous!

I did send the iphone pictures to some friends and they recognized the Korean man. He is a famous talk show host. They did not recognize the woman.

TVN's Taxi is a talk show where they have famous Korean stars on as guests, but they interview them as they drive around in a Taxi, instead of in a studio.

I'm not sure why they do it that way, but maybe it allows them to have more guests and film more easily because they can pick up the stars and drop them off, so it's more convenient for them. That's just my guess!

Here's a link to the TV show that I'm in:

There are no English subs on that link, sorry! If you search google or Youtube for "TVN Taxi" you can probably find an episode with English subs pretty easily!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Couples Clothing ~ CRAZE (UPDATED 10/9!)

In Korea, a lot of Korean couples - married or dating - enjoy matching.  Where I'm from, it's frowned upon. And not everyone in Korea enjoys it or does it, but it is by no means an uncommon sight!

This old beer commercial has always stuck in my mind. It's a series of commercials where men are caught doing things which men 'aren't supposed to do' because it's not considered "manly".

In this commercial, some guys are having a BBQ, and one of them shows up wearing matching shirts with his girlfriend.

Couples clothing does not go unnoticed by westerners in Korea. A former coworker of mine snapped these shots of couples in the act and created a photo album. She titled it...

"Gruesome Twosomes"

 Matching pants, shirts, and shoes!



 Seems like the girl got the raw end on this one...

 But usually it seems it's the guy who wears a woman's shirt.
This guy... well, absolutely NOTHING he has on matches.

 And a couples bike, too.

Looks like she just bought whatever he happened to have in his closet...

With matching popped collars. Looks like the guy suspects he's being photographed. haha

Running is mental!
With matching shoes, capris, and shirts... and luggage?

The guy won this couples clothing choice battle, I think.

When families do it, seems kind of nice. 

 To me, it looks like they both are getting a bad deal with these shirts.

They really... (to be continued) the... (to be continued)

 ...popped collars! (finished)

I love it when they even match shoes... haha

 In Korea, these actions are frowned upon.

I don't quite understand it, but some Korean guys actually lead their partners like this guy is doing.
In USA, that is very domineering.

I actually kind of like this one.

Where's her baseball cap?


 MANY MANYs. shirts, jeans, open jackets.




Is it just me... or does she look a bit young for him?

 And I believe this guy is a foreigner. haha

He put his foot down when it came to matching her color...

 I'm so glad he doesn't have a ribbon like hers!

I guess this is a popular couples shirt style...

See above.

Many who fall in love in Korea succumb to the Couples Clothing Craze! But what about you? Do YOU like it? And would YOU do it for the one you love?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Korean Urban Legends: Growth and Death (UPDATED 11/21)

Westerners are often surprised to learn about two wide-spread beliefs in Korea that stand in sharp contrast to what we believe. 

Fan Death
1) If a person sleeps in a closed room (closed meaning no doors or windows are open) with an electronic fan running, that person could die.

Jump to Grow
2) If a person plays basketball or jumps rope when they are still growing, it will help them to grow taller. (perhaps this could be spread to any activity involving jumping!)

In Korea, both of these are commonly spread and accepted by Korean people. Speaking with some, they will affirm these things as facts. 

Fan Death
Of these two urban legends, this one most certainly is not true. Fear and warnings of Fan Death are unique to Korea (although sightings of Fan Death warnings are reported in Japan, too). Origins of this are unknown to me, but the Wikipedia Fan Death page can give more background information.

I have grown up my whole life using electric fans in closed rooms during summer and sometimes year round. The humming of the fan has helped me sleep well. So from first hand experience, I know something is wrong with this belief.

The real culprit in this belief is the media. As recent as 2011, newspaper reports of a Fan Death incident have appeared. Fan Death is a concept pushed by Korean newspapers; and Korean people generally believe what is written in newspapers. I want to note, however, that reputable Korean sources, experts from two of Korea's leading universities, do not accept 'Fan Death' as a reality. Slowly, this belief and the internet, combined with external skepticism, is where the crap hits the fan. (see what I did, there?)

UPDATE 2 (11/21): 

Here is what SNOPES.COM has to say about Fan Death:

Also, there's a famous blog called "ASK A KOREAN", where he delivers a powerful yet controversial post that Fan Death is REAL. Before you dismiss it, read his argument and presented evidence CAREFULLY!

Jump to Grow
 Recently I broached these subjects with a girl in her early 20s. When I asked if she believed these things, she said, "of course! Why?! Aren't these facts?" She told me that even experts in Korea, meaning doctors who specialize in growth or something related, often recommend playing basketball or jumping rope regularly to help children grow. And this isn't uncommon at all. A young grade school boy I know was taken to a specialist to learn how tall he could be able to grow, and what he might be able to do to achieve his growth potential.

On another occasion, I mentioned that I would be writing about these things to a Korean friend of mine. I asked if they were aware that many Korean people believed these things. I worded my question like that, and the response sounded a little defensive, as in: 'of course I'm aware of these facts.'

This urban legend is more about miscommunication combined with the effects of word-of-mouth errors or lack of understanding. It's not true to say that jumping doesn't help a person grow. It's just not true to say that, specifically, JUMPING helps a person grow. Rather, it's more accurate to say that EXERCISE helps a person grow.

For young people who are still growing, three main factors are very important in stimulating and fostering growth: sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Basketball will help people grow, and so will jumping rope, and so will dancing, and so will playing soccer, and so will stretching... but it's not specifically related to the 'jumping' as much as it's related to just getting exercise.

Jump to Grow: Additional Research
For Americans and other foreigners living in Korea, it can be easy to miss these kinds of beliefs - particularly if you don't speak Korean. Since I teach sixth grade at a very reputable private elementary school, I recently took a poll of my students during break time. At that age, since they are growing, they hear a lot about it. I asked how many of them have heard that basketball or jumping rope makes a person taller. They all looked at each other and agreed - they all have been taught that fact. I asked "where did you hear that?" They answered: teachers, parents, and doctors. It's a well known fact in Korea. Some of these sources are aware that exercise is the key, and not necessarily basketball or jumping... but some of those sources genuinely believe that the physical act of jumping stretches a person out to make them taller.

Well, I'm not writing to jeer about urban legends which Korean people generally accept but which westerners don't agree with. After all, every culture or society has beliefs that are popular or common, and we accept even without proof.

I myself am a Christian, so I have my share of beliefs which I take on faith as being true without having experienced their truth, myself.

Responding to Korea's Urban Legends

The uncertainty of Korea's fan death is certainly better than my home country's reality of fan death. A person should take care, when touching on these topics with Korean people, so as to avoid sounding condescending or offensive. In short: don't be a jerk. These beliefs seem silly to Americans, sure, but nobody likes a person who raises themselves above others by talking down to them on any subject, whether the arrogant person is right or wrong.

Korean people are very concerned about height. In Korean culture, if a person is under 180 cm (about 5'11") tall, they are considered a "loser". It can be quite a sensitive subject which causes stress on the younger generations. A guy I know who teaches 5th grade at an elementary school had his kids write about goals they have for their future. A very large number of those kids wrote that they had a goal of becoming taller... and not being a "loser" is a very real idea on their minds.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I'm Hurt!!! Call A Tow Truck!!!

Recently, on two separate occasions, fellow English teachers and friends of mine in Korea have made comments about ambulances and tow trucks in Korea.

In Korea, when an ambulance is driving down the road with the lights and siren on, you won't see all the cars moving out of the way... at least not like you would in my home country (USA). Cars in Korea hear those sirens and generally the reaction is "FREEZE!". If the ambulance can go around the cars, it will. But if it can't... then it's stuck in traffic. I've seen a lot of EITHER situation.

On the other hand, when there's a car wreck, the tow trucks are not only there within a few minutes, but they are very aggressive drivers and they have flashing lights and loud sirens, also. It's illegal for vehicles in USA to 'pretend' to be emergency vehicles, so Korean tow trucks would be illegal.

So my friend says, "if we get into a car accident, have the tow truck drive me to the hospital..."

While that is a hilarious notion, let's not get ahead of ourselves. There are plenty of logical reasons for this.

1. Tow trucks compete for business. First tow truck at the scene gets the business. So they compete for this.

2. Tow trucks, or their companies' locations, can be more numerous than large hospitals and ambulances - especially in a huge city like Seoul.

3. Ambulances are obviously better equipped to deal with injuries... haha

4. Although tow trucks may be faster and more aggressive at getting to the scene, that doesn't mean ambulances are slow or insufficient. 

The differences can be funny and the concept is fun to bring up, but in the end it balances out pretty well and gets chalked up to cultural differences that are probably neither better nor worse than where I'm from.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Summer Vacation Is Over!!!

Just a quick update - I'll be back to posting regularly! My busy summer vacation is over and I've got a number of interesting and upcoming blogs to post!

Hope you had a great summer, too!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Trouble-making Foreigners

On June the weekend of June 22-23, I took my first trip to Busan, which is on the southern tip of Korea. From Seoul to Busan, by bus, it takes about 5 hours. By train, it's about 2hrs 47min.

In truth, I went to see my girlfriend, who lives in a city not far from there. I stayed in the Haeundae Beach area at a hostel. It is a beautiful city, and carries a lot of traits that other coastal cities have - but this blog post isn't a review of Busan (plus I didn't see enough of it to even do a proper review - it being the second largest city in Korea).

Haeundae Beach, Busan, Korea: 1:15am, Saturday, June 23rd:

This night, I did something stupid, which ended up carrying no consequences, but MAN was I boiled over! I had just spent a great day with my girlfriend, she went home, and I was walking back to my accommodations from a nice night-walk on the beach.

Sometimes Haeundae Beach looks like this:

But the weekend I went, it looked like this but with a few more people:

There's a nice road that follows the beach coast, and there's a main road that runs into it, forming a T-intersection, that I needed to follow to get back to the hostel. As I waited to cross the street, suddenly fireworks started going off all over the intersection in the middle of the road - high and low.

They were roman candle fireworks, the kind you can buy from street sellers in Korea, hold in hour hand, and the tube shoots 10 timed fireworks which go about 25 meters and then explode.

Cars driving down the road had to slow down to a crawl because of the dangerous situation, and I saw at least one of the fireworks hit the windshield of a car as it was slowly driving, while another one it the door of a parked car along the street.

I was pretty shocked. The light turned green, so I crossed the street to one side of the T-intersection and passed the cart of the woman who was selling the fireworks. She wasn't there, though. She was across the street, angry and yelling, where I saw a group of foreign guys. They were white, well built, and had short buzz cuts which are typical of the American military. Naturally - I suspect they were off-duty soldiers... BUT I have no way of knowing that for sure.

There were 5 or more of them - and each of them had bought a few roman candles and were launching them into the street at cars and into the air, high and low and everywhere. They were whooping and hollering, as everyone stood there staring at them.

Some people were astonished. Some people were a bit afraid and stayed inside buildings. Others, like the seller - like myself - were just angry!

I just stood across the street from them, extremely angry, staring at them. Most of them ran out of fireworks and wanted to move on. The crosswalk turned green, so they started walking towards my side of the street. Two of them hadn't finished their fireworks but didn't want to be left behind, so they quickly lit the roman candles and threw them into a nearby bush!

The fireworks shot out from the green bushes at random angles. All the people stayed away and just watched in astonishment. They shot towards the street, ricocheted off the buildings and bounced on the ground. Then the stragglers jogged across to catch up with the rest.

After crossing, they began walking the opposite direction was in, so I shouted after them:

"Hey! What do you think you're doing?!"

They looked back at me. So I said, "you make ALL of us look bad!!!" They kept walking away but began calling out curses at me. So I shouted, "GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM!"

And that's pretty much were it ended. I was too angry to consider the fact that there were 5 of them and that they were all bigger than me. I wanted to say more, but left it at that.

The next day, as I was searching for a place to have lunch, I saw them again. They didn't see me (or didn't recognize me), for which I was glad, but I am embarrassed that I didn't snap pictures of their faces for my blog. I would LOVE to expose these guys. I only got pictures of them from down the road as they walked towards the subway station.

These are the guys. The girl with the red pants is with them, but she wasn't with them the night I saw them. 

Korea isn't the most foreigner friendly nation. Not by a long shot. Korea has a history of wanting to be left alone, and closing itself off from outsiders. Older Korean people are weary of outsiders, and believe we bring crime and drugs to the nation. As a foreigner who lives in Itaewon: While I don't believe we foreigners do more harm than good... I am extremely disappointed when I see people giving substance to such base stereotypes. Guys like these are a huge part of the problem, and when I see stuff like this, it makes me especially angry.