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Category Archives: Korea Blog

Korea Blog: Notes on the Camp of the Pyongyang Pub, Where Seoulites Eat and Drink Like It’s North of the 38th Parallel

North Koreans aren’t especially hard to come by in Seoul. Here and there around the city I’ve had the chance to attend a few talks given by defectors from the other side of the border, the most recent of which happened as part of the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. That day’s North Korean […]

Korea Blog: An American in Taiwan — with a Korean Tour Group

South Koreans couldn’t go freely abroad until 1989, at which point the repressed desire to do to so turned into potent fuel for a still-blazing travel industry. This industry has a media side, producer of books and television shows in a quantity and variety surprising to even the most travel-minded foreigners. It also has a […]

Korea Blog: Learning Korean with Duolingo, the Mercilessly Addictive Language App

Over the past few weeks I’ve plunged into addiction: an addiction to Duolingo, the language-learning app that has claimed more than a few formerly normal lives since it launched for the public seven years ago. Or perhaps the word “normal” is excessive, given that the population most susceptible to Duolingo addiction distinguishes itself precisely by a […]

Korea Blog: Old Man Gobau, the Unflappable Comic-Strip Star Who Witnessed South Korean History

Start asking Korean high-school students what career they want, and — assuming they’re giving the honest answers rather than the prestige answers — it won’t be long before someone says they want to be a comic artist. Or rather, they’ll probably say “webtoon” artist, that being the term of art for the form of comics […]

Korea Blog: When Expats Podcast (or, the Pleasures and Sorrows of Teaching English)

Before I moved to Korea, I prepared for the experience in part with podcasts, both Korean shows to further familiarize myself with the language and English-language ones made by Westerners already in Korea. But that was half a decade ago now, and all the Korea expatriate podcasts I’d enjoyed — Seoul Syndrome, Chance and Dan Do Korea, […]

Korea Blog: Our Language Battle, Korea’s Surprisingly Addictive Game Show of Vocabulary, Expressions, and Proper Spacing

If you want to understand a society, watch its game shows. The principle behind that advice has come to light with the advent of such entertainment sources as the Game Show Network, on which Americans can catch clear, sometimes too-clear views of the foreign societies that are Americas of decades past. You don’t stay tuned […]

Korea Blog: The Making of a Korean Monster in Kim Sagwa’s Bloody High-School Novel “Mina”

I often wonder why Korean kids almost never kill their parents. Not, of course, that I think Korean kids should kill their parents, but given all the stories one hears of the psychologically debilitating pressures faced by the youth in this country, and then how much of the time the agents of that pressure are […]

Korea Blog: High School Student, New Bride, Working Girl: The Social Uniforms Project Gazes Straight at Modern Korean Femininity

I’ve got a trip to America planned next month, and even though I’ve only lived in Korea for three years, I now know more or less where to expect the moments of reverse culture shock. They begin with the uniforms, the contrast in which makes itself felt right away at the airport where I land. […]

Korea Blog: Revisiting “301, 302,” Park Chul-soo’s Stylish Film About Food, Sex, and Other Horrors

Different foreigners who move to Korea struggle with different aspects of life here, but it’s safe to say that none warm up immediately to the ways of Korean food-waste disposal. The country’s ban on food waste of any kind from its landfills necessitates that it be disposed of, and thus stored, separately from the rest […]

Korea Blog: Stuffed Animals, Dust Masks, Pet Food, and Sex Toys, All Side-By-Side in Korea’s “New Shopping Paradigm”

Ask Seoulites in their twenties and thirties where they shop, and much of the time you’ll get an answer along the lines of, “I buy everything online.” The density of every kind of store here in the capital seems exceeded only by the popularity of avoiding stores entirely by buying things online. You can’t argue […]