Just When You Think You're Out... Now with alt-texty goodness!

So I figured I was done ranting about Korea, and I am after a manner of speaking. This is a rant in Korea's favor. I'm watching motherfucking Anthony Bourdain and I have to write this or punch out the TV and then go to the hospital to have my had stitched up compliments of Lutron, who has apparently not canceled my Blue Cross. Class act, those guys.

So I've noticed some common elements in every travel related article/show/blog about Korea. They are as follows.

1. Everything in Korea is wonderful.

2. Kimchi is the spiciest thing on the planet. It is so goddamn fucking spicy that anyone who eats it instantly goes blind. And then dies. From the fucking spiciness. Also everyone in Korea eats it all the time.

3. Seoul, the capital city and entirety of the country, is positioned on the southernmost tip of Korea. The only place to go from Seoul is north, to the DMZ, at which it is appropriate to act as though this is the first time you were ever made aware of the Korean War.

4. Soju is this wild, wonderful, delicious nectar! See: 1.
4. a)Also there is nothing else to drink yourself drunk on.

5. Korean restaurants are all as modern and plastic as a McDonald's.

6. Korean cuisine consists wholly of kimchi, bulgogi, fish-head soup, BBQ and one AND ONLY ONE other from this list: silkworm bugs, nasty chicken pieces, or bibimbap.

7. There are Norae-bangs, (Karaoke joints) and DVD-bangs, (DVD joints) all over the place. There are no other types of bangs. There are also many other things to do.

8. People drink a lot! Sometimes in these, like, tents.

There's nothing wrong with broadening horizons, and if you're only going to be there for a couple of weeks, Korea is a cool place to check out. But every one of the things you see in a show about Korea is bullshit, as detailed in the following point-by-point rebuttal.

1. This isn't a Korea thing, all travel shows act like this with all countries. No one would make a show about a place just to bitch about it, and no one would watch if they did, but am I the only one who hears condescension in the obsequiousness that get lavished on any place featured in a travel show? Everyplace is perfect, everyone is wonderful, etc. etc. I dunno about anyone else, but this is how I speak to children. Yea our culture is materialistic and shallow, but people are, on the average, the same anywhere you go. Half the places I've been in have had a homegrown "Dancing with the Stars" playing on the dive bar TV.  Every culture is extremely shitty in at least one way. (When in doubt: StatisWhat has two thumbs and is NOT the most racist thing on this page?   Me! For once.tically speaking, your culture's police force will probably truncheon the living shit out of you for making the above point.) Yet all travel writing acts as though every other culture in the world is populated entirely by impossibly generous, wonderful, hedonistic holy men/women. Find me one Lonely Planet article about a culture that does not contain three of the following words: (Hospitality, Spiritual, Generous, Ancient, Smiles, Magical, Lust-for-life, Laid-Back, Know-How-To-Party and if we've recently bombed the shit out of them: Hope-For-The-Future). People are the same in Korea as they are in America, Russia, Haiti, anywhere you could name. A little dopey, often douches, far from perfect, but on the balance ok. Yea Americans suck, and yea you'll meet cool people if you look. The same holds for everyone - it's called the human condition. I understand feeling like we need to apologize via fawning compliments to the rest of the world, becuase of colonialism and mercantilism and Cromwell and and slavery. But don't forget: that was WASPs, and everyone hates them anyway. Traveling is fun, but for god's sake, you should be allowed to comment on the fact that you can smell shit everywhere in Korea and not be a racist.

2. I read an article by Brooks or Friedman or Rich or some Op-Ed dick-at-large* about how Engrish would change the way "proper" English is spoken, because since more people worldwide speak it badly than speak it well, badly would become the new well (Those of us who taught English know it would become the new finethankyouandyou). I imagine an ideawhore like that was the first white guy to sit down to a plate of kimchi. "Very spicy" they told him. After a bite he thought "...Well, it certainly is seasoned, I guess that's what they mean, but who the hell am I to correct someone on the use of my own language?" And so the myth was born. And of course, since we must never, ever, ever, never ever, nerver, never imply a foreigner is incorrect (see #1), it has now become unassailable. Kimchi isn't bad, but no one has ever had to chase it with bleu cheese to get the burn out of their mouth.  And yea, Koreans eat Kimchi with everything, we eat bread with on or in almost everything.  It's the kind of boring fact you mention once and move on to the interesting stuff, which never happens because:

3. Fuck Seoul and every pampered, damp-assed, entitled wey-gook in it. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful town in the same way as New York is. And Seoul weygooks are all whiny, solipsistic posers in the same way lifelong Manhattanites are. Here's the thing about Seoul. It's not fucking Korea. Korea is getting pointed at in the streets like you're John Fucking Merrick. Korea is asking "uh-dee CGbuhwee" and getting "No English" back. Korea is eating the same 6 foods every day until dog becomes a viable alternative.This is what everyone in Seoul looks like to everyone who's not  Korea is fleeing to every nook and corner of the country on the weekend until the true nature of you confinement becomes despairingly clear. Korea is not arguing with a Nigerian over the price of a belt buckle. Korea is not not learning Korean "Because, like, everyone speaks English already, you know?" Korea is not never wondering if you've wandered into a mob bar and should wander back out again, nowish. Korea is not trying to decide between burritos, gyros, or Indian buffet.  And I'm not bitching about my experience.  Being a conspicuous, befuddled, completely alone foreigner for a year is how I managed to get through Russia sans getting stomped without knowing how to say even "hello" until I got off the plane.  It would be nice to show how the other half lives. (Literally, as 23 of 48 million live rural, or as it's known in Korea: lruulrlrlurl) And seriously, Yes-the-DMZ-is-the-main-attraction, Yes-the-Korean-War-was-horrible. But standing on the line, pinching your face up and saying "This really makes you think you know? Really drives it home." should be punishable by bludgeoning with a fucking history book.

4. Soju is Satan's taint-sweat. It's gasoline in a bottle. Scratch that, it's watered-down, sugared-down gasoline in a bottle. It's an oily rag from becoming a molotov cocktail, and firebombing something with it is much more responsible behavior than actually drinking it. Tony-B couldn't say enough good stuff about it when the cameras were rolling (#1 again), but the whole next day of shooting, until the evening, could not shut up about how hungover he was. He wears a thumb ring and is sarcastic and makes constant mention of his bad-boy status, so I suppose he's something of a bad-boy, which means the average viewer chalks his ass-dragging up to his incessantly referenced hard partying lifestyle, but those of us who've had it know. Drinking Soju doesn't so much get you drunk as give you a minor stroke, though it can be hard to tell the difference until the next morning
4. a) God-Dammnit someone drink Baekseju on camera! That shit is great, just as strong, and it's not made by going to CVS and rebottling the rubbing alcohol. Now I know the idea is to "educate" people, but is anyone really educated by talking about kimchi and soju? If they don't know about it already, fuck 'em. It's time to cut the Sarah Palin's of the world loose. If they want to know what were talking about let 'em read a fucking book for once.

5. The Korean restauratuer's superstition, somewhat like that of baseball players on a streak, is that renovation is bad luck. A traditional Korean restaurant is wooden, chairless, and inexplicably always empty. If the toilet isn't a hole in the ground in an unattached building out back, you aren't eating in a Korean restaurant.

6. See 4.a) Fuck's sake people, let's start assuming some accumulated knowledge on the part of our audience. Anyone who hasn't at least heard of Kimchi, Bibimbap and Korean barbecue is probably not going to be watching a food show about Korea in the first place, n'est-ce pas? Koreans do have some wierd cool food, I bitched about the sameness of the cuisine because the good stuff is about five times as expensive as the regular shit. There are restaurants dedicated to tofu, octopus, deep sea monster fish, hell, Makkali places! Twelve bucks gets food and rice wine enough to make me feel good about having come to Korea. The food is never the same, i.e. Kim's Kitchen for those of you who've been there, and is always crazy. Piles of spiced up tofu, whole fried fish, pancakes PANCAKES holy shit the pancakes I almost forgot! Korean pancakes are awesome, and I have yet to see anyone eat one on TV. They're all too busy explaining to the putative 3-year-old mongoloids who are the audience of all television what kimchi is and how spicy it is.

7. Ok. There are Norae Bangs. There are DVD bangs. If you teleport when you get drunk as I do, you might find yourself in a video arcade or holding a replica AK, mid burst, in a shooting gallery. You probably won't though, because there are three things to do in Korea. Sing in a norae bang, screw your girlfriend in a DVD bang, and waste your whole life in a PC bang. I would love to meet the cinematographer on this show because I have not seen the word "PC" in any "Yep, we're in Asia alrighty" shot of buildings covered in the Korean moon man letters. There is a PC bang for every man woman and child in Korea and they are always packed. If you're good at mental math you've already gotten the joke, I'll wait here while the rest of you go back. Of course, that's only a slight exaggeration. Koreans love PC bangs as much as they love Kimchi, if not more, but you will never see the inside of one on TV because ten grown men sitting silently and chain smoking while they play WOW next to eight hyperactive kids on the same computer screaming about who gets to play the mariocart ripoff next is the most depressing thing on the planet earth, and several other planets besides.

8. This has more to do with this article than the show but oooooooohhhhhh GANG! Am I getting sick of this kind of shit! This is not travel writing. This is jerking off about how well traveled you are and how many wild places you've checked off your big list without bothering to stay long enough to learn anything about the place. This cumdumpster rattles on and on about shit that anyone who's visited Korea has already seen about ten minutes after getting off the plane, interspersed with free advertising for his dickhole friends' blogs. In the New York Fucking Times! These ballbags only get away with it because essentially no one's ever been to Korea. The equivalent would be "My buddy at www.newyorkfelcherabouttown.com invited me down to New York City, or as they call it: 'New York.' Imagine my surpise when we stop to eat - right there in the street! My friend bought me a "dirty water dog" from a man on a cart! I'm so fucking well traveled! Do I win? Have I won yet? Do I have more cred than anyone else?" Jump in the Han and, if your skin doesn't melt off first, drown. Anyone who's spent a year in Korea could pull a more interesting, funny, insightful article out of their ass in about five minutes on any random hungover morning than what passes for travel writing. I could probably do it, if I bothered to edit and didn't express myself mostly through harangues.
Fun Fact, The Mustache is the face's
*This has nothing to do with the main topic, but I had to get it off my chest: can we round up all these people in some type of camp, or if that the word "camp" offends, jail? At what point do people lend you their credulity so that any sort of nonsense, ass-backward bullshit idea you come up with is taken as "outside the box thinking." These men are charlatans and assholes. Brooks simplifies everything to absurdity, Friedman makes up contrarian bullshit, and Rich is just an ass. Any "big" idea that attempts to lay out the forces shaping our world politically environmentally or economically in a simple enough format to become a bestseller and get your mustache on television is by definition pseudo-scientific middlebrow horseshit. The world isn't easy folks, and this half-wit doesn't have any answers.

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Back to Normalcy

Since none of the hijackers of this site are in Korea anymore, I decree this blog will go towards the mainstream of blogdom, i.e. ripped off content from other, funnier sites, in lieu of anything original and or interesting.

I've been enjoying these too much to not mention them, and I hope they continue long after the inauguration:

Bush Tumbles Wildly Down Washington Monument Staircase

Crocodile Bites Off Bush's Arm

Bush Passes Three-Pound Kidney Stone

Bush Dragged Behind Presidential Motorcade For 26 Blocks

Bush's Eyelid Accidentally Nailed To Wall

Single-Engine Cessna Crashes Into Bush

Nothing quite like mean-spirited kicking a of man after he's been down for almost two years. The last decade wasn't a total waste, we'll always have Bush to kick around...

Revenge is a dish best served after you've practically forgotten all about it.

Oh yea, my boss back in Korea was a shitbag. Almost slipped my mind. I've intended to put some mean stuff up on the internet about those dickholes for a while now, and I procrastinated so long I almost forgave and forgot. What a nightmare that would have been. Anyway this isn't going to be funny, it's just so that if anyone is thinking about going to work there and googles "Iksan YMCA" like I did lo those many months ago they'll actually have something to go on. The place isn't on black- or graylists because only because no one updates those anymore, so this is a public service, sort of like how we raised the word dykepile to prominance in google searches.

First off. Iksan is a small, economically depressed town in North Jeolla which is frankly a bit of a backwater province. This has a lot to do with Koreans' own internal prejudices about the place and its people instead of something intrinsically wrong with the folks, but just be aware that if your recruiter tells you that it is a bustling city of 300 thousand people a short trip from Seoul, it is not. All true Korean cities are enormous, if there aren't over a million people, it's really more of a town than a city. It's also 2 hours and a half from Seoul. By bullet train (KTX). It is reasonably close to Jeonju, a fun town, and as one of the few foreigners in Iksan, you'll be given a lot of license to act like an ass with no consequences, as the people won't know what to do with you. It was also originally named Iri, but was consolidated with a bunch of tiny towns and villages and renamed. The population of the city proper is around 150 thousand.

Secondly. The nominal head of the YMCA, Mr. Lee, is a kleptomaniac in the clinical sense of the word. He can't be near someone else's money without taking a piece for himself. He tried every scam in the book, amateurishly, and almost landed himself and his wife in prison over it. However, since Koreans hate causing embarassment, and nothing is more embarassing than being called a thief and sent to jail, the authorities seem content to give him a do-over every time he sends his round-eyes packing and brings in a fresh set.

He started by deducting everyone double the official income tax rate, and pocketing the difference, essentially skimming 3% off everyone's paycheck. Since Iksan is a small pond and he is a relatively big fish, we could get no help from the local tax office, and eventually had to take our case to Seoul. When he got a call from the national tax office, he began lying like crazy, telling them a) he wasn't deducting extra from our paycheck, although everyone had the stubs to prove he was, b) claimed he had already given the money back, which obviously was seen through in about the amount of time it took the words to get out of his mouth, and that c) he was going to give the money back, which he did, after telling me I was fired for calling the authorities on him. I told him to Ja-Di-Ga, in so many words, and that was that.

Next he had us work three weeks of unpaid overtime, to the tune of four thousand dollars a head. Negotiations over THAT took us until the end of the contract. Long story short, the teachers had neither the ability nor the spine to present a unified front, half the teachers gave up and got nothing, half of the teachers caved for two hundred dollars, and I was able to shake him down for a cool nine hundred for myself.

After that we learned that he wasn't paying into our pension fund. The first three months he paid in nothing, and following that, he paid in whatever he felt like, for whoever he felt like. Some people would have nothing put into their account one month, the full amount the next, and a fraction the month after, while others who were making the same wage had completely different contributions each month. Despite the brazenness with which he did this, we had to bring it to the attention of the Pension office that our salaries weren't going through perfectly normal wild fluctuations from two thousand to zero every month, we were being embezzeled upon (from? at? towards?) This is what nearly landed him in jail. Funny thing is, he did the same thing to a pair of teachers the year before, except one was ethnically Korean, spoke the language, knew the customs, and was as sick of his shit as I was. She and her boyfriend got their money paid them plus damages, all we got was our own money back.

Finally, he announced that through an unforseen scheduling conflict every Western teacher noticed the first week, we'd have to go home a few weeks early. We all needed a change so we happily accepted, but what the YMCA didn't tell us is that Korean law only obliges an employer to pay you your year end bonus if you work 365 days exactly. The plan was to "pro-rate" our bonuses, but word leaked before zero hour, and with two thousand dollars on the line most of the teachers were able to locate their balls. we got our money and got out.

Third. No one is interested in helping you. As you may have noticed, none of the local authorities have the wits or the will to stop him, and you have to be doing their job as well as yours. If you are a weygook, you aren't really a person. He had to pay a fine for stealing from a teacher who looked and spoke like a Korean, but he was only told to give the money back when he took from us. The Korean liasons at the YMCA are terrified of losing their job, which in that country, and especially that area is a big deal, and Koreans are very averse to conflict. This means that the liasons will not pass along "troubling" messages to the boss, lie to your face about the YMCA's aims and actions, and even in one instance, spy on you to curry favor with management, even if they are also being stolen from. As for the fellow teachers,

Fourth. You will be working with the biggest bunch of twats, lunkheads and deviants you've ever seen in one place. Anyone can do this job, and anyone does, including some nasty wierdos. One of the teachers found himself in some serious trouble when he was caught teaching adjectives by rating the girls looks and showing them pictures of bikini models. The fourteen year old girls. He followed that up by cursing out a schoolboy, which is a HUGE deal in an Asian, respect based country. He'd been giving everyone the heebie-jeebies for while, and as this happened about two weeks into the first time we'd been actually monitored the questions of what he did for an entire semester when no one was looking were even more uncomfortable. To wrap the story up, he was not fired because it would have been inconvenient to fill his place on short notice.

The Iksan YMCA: Perverts, kleptos, and doormats. I'm sure it's similar in many schools in South Korea, and anywhere you go you'd be rolling the dice on ending up in a situation just like this one, but this one is a sure bet for bullshit and headaches.

The lessons to take away form this is: Mr. Lee will steal from you any way he can. When you ask for your money back he will plead poverty, play childish interpretation games with your contract or out and out threaten you with firing. No one is interested in coming to your aid, and since I imagine that we will soon be the internet's premier search result for both "Iksan" and 6 girl prepubescent dykepile anecdotes, you can bet your ass you'll have to deal with more creeps than we did. Good Luck!

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