In July 2015, I left Korea after 8 years (10 years total) and returned to Wivenhoe, in Essex, UK. Why? I’m still asking myself! Korean life was so relaxed and familiar but I missed my friends and family back home. I think I would have stayed in Korea permanently if it had been possible for foreigners to buy property or to live in the country without having to exit every 3 months and return with an updated visa.
Hardest of all, was saying goodbye to my gumdo Master, Kwon Yong-guk. I had trained with him everyday for almost four years. When I eventually stepped on to the Seoul-bound trained, in Daegu, we both had tears in our eyes. However, leaving Korea in 2015 was quite different from leaving in 2001; with the internet and the likes of Facebook and Skype, staying in contact is easy and I video chat with him most weeks. In 2001, the primary mode of contact was via e-mails or the likes of Messenger and a Christmas phone call, Seoul to UK, in 2000, cost me £80.
Before I left Korea, I already had an inkling of what I was going to miss, and I very much do. Most of all I miss Koreans. In particular, I miss young people. Korean towns and cities are filled with children and teenagers and street life is enlivened by their routines. Further, Korean culture is coloured by the broad range of amenities provided for them: PC rooms, Kids Cafes, jumping rooms, noraebang (singing rooms) and play areas in restaurants. Even amenities which in the UK would be predominantly for adults are equally frequented by children and young people. Where in the UK, do you see children or teenagers eating together, unsupervised, in anything but the likes of MacDonalds or KFC? And of course, in Korea, children haven’t yet been indoctrinated and corrupted by the idea that their bodies’ are a source of sexual attraction to lusting adults and especially lusted over by those who were formerly trusted, such as relatives, teachers, politicians and the clergy. Britain is now a very scary place for the child and indeed any adult whose interactions with a youngster are misinterpreted. Indeed, so central to the British psyche are concerns of child sexual abuse, to the point of obsession, that it suggests either a very unhealthy national preoccupation, or worse, one that is rooted in the human condition.
Then, I miss Korean men; ever since I experienced life in Germany, I’ve always found a great swath of the British male population to be horribly brute. Indeed, to be fair, male or female, the British character is typified by vulgarity, aggressiveness and violence. This character is predominantly a product of the working-class tradition of which it is currently politically correct to deny the existence or influence of and yet we see the class dichotomy paraded for entertainment in the likes of Downtown Abbey, East Enders and the intrigues of the royal family. Few Brits would deny the existence of a British upper class, but to correspondingly talk of a ‘working class’ has become as socially uncomfortable as flying the Union Jack over your house. I have met Koreans whom I dislike but I’ve yet to meet a Korean man who is brute or vulgar, let alone a brute or vulgar female. It is wonderfully liberating to walk busy streets surrounded by predominantly feminine men or youths rather than having to negotiate the complex variations of the British psyche where one man is a gentleman, the next, some slob with his hands stuffed down the front of his trackies and the next some male looking female who is foul-mouthed and muscled.
I miss being really clean, ‘clean’ in the same way you can be in Korea and I’m not claiming all Koreans have the same standards. Swimming pools, spas or sauna are not a daily part of British life. Unless you live within 20 mins of a bathing complex, most of us don’t enjoy water or cleansing as entertainment. On the contrary, bodily hygiene in Britain tends to be functional procedure especially as many British homes don’t have a bathroom suitable for cleaning your body in a truly comprehensive manner. And Korea is bursting with restaurants, coffee shops, street food and markets. In six months back in the UK, I’ve eaten out twice. It’s simply too expensive to eat out at a decent restaurant twice a day. Of course, I’m living in a large village rather than in a city but even if I go into town, population approx. 122.000, there isn’t a great deal to do and the quality of resources and culture is impoverished. One big problem with Britain is that so many of the things you would do on a daily basis in Korea, and without a second thought, are not just expensive luxuries in the UK, but by comparison, are second-rate. Trains are slow and dirty even when they are high-speed intercity trains but no British trains are truly ‘high speed’ because the ancient infrastructure limits speeds to 125 mph, maximum.
There are some pleasant aspects of being back in the UK though I don’t feel they compensate for living in both an impoverished culture and among so many with brute and vulgar sensibilities. I enjoy damp air, green fields, eccentricity (which in Korea is frowned upon), birds and houses with gardens… and that’s about it. I actually thought I’d be able to be more positive but on reflection that’s all I can muster.
I have no doubt my posts here will commence with ones of a comparative nature before they broaden out into other topics.
Any of my Korean students will fetch me a cup of coffee if asked and occasionally they will buy me one from one of the numerous coffee shops in my area. I’m reminded of the time, when as a new teacher in my first post, I had taken a coffee into my classroom and when I came to drain the dregs discovered a couple of drawing pins lurking therein. I only took cups into my classroom on a few occasions and quickly decided it was dangerous to drink from a cup left in the presence of students. I also learnt to check any seat before sitting as upturned drawing pins were also a common means of abusing staff. Even a jacket I once left on the back of my chair was removed, thrown on the floor with my opened wallet and bank cards discarded on top. I can narrate these events to Korean students and they will be mildly shocked but there are some ‘stories’ I wouldn’t dream of attempting to narrate as they are simply too shocking for naive Korean sensibilities: boys masturbating under desks, on one occasion a boy flashed his dick to a female colleague, or girls giving boys oral sex in view of the staff room.
Recently (now a year or two ago) however, an event occurred in a British school in which a boy stuffed his penis and testicles in a female teacher’s coffee mug, took a photo of his exploit and then posted the photo on his Facebook account. The teacher subsequently drank from the cup before discovering what had happened. Unfortunately the only major link I can find for the article is at the Sun, Britain’s crappiest, and most widely read daily newspaper. I originally read it on MSN News. Incidentally, another incident in the same week involved a girl putting laxative in teachers’ coffee. I had difficulty telling the cock and sac story to all but a few very close Korean friends and certainly couldn’t explain it to a class of Korean 16 year olds whom I can mortify by simply sucking my pen. They would not be able to comprehend why any student should behave in such a manner and would see only disgust and depravity in the act. However, I could easily tell it to British 13 year olds many whom would find it funny and a valid reprisal to make on a teacher. Indeed on the MSN comments associated with the news report, some individuals questioned why a teacher would have a cup in the classroom while some simply claimed a teacher deserved such treatment.
I wondered where those ESL teachers come from who claim Korean kids are as bad as British kids given there are so many blogs and books written by full-time British teachers who are appalled by the current standards. Indeed, it’s usually only school managers and those who’ve had to prostitute their personal integrity to gain promotion, those who live in self-denial in order to maintain their sanity and preserve at east a little self-respect, or the lucky few in truly decent schools, who will deny that something is seriously amiss. I could form a small club with the number disgruntled teachers I know and I’ve known a number of excellent teachers who’ve left the profession because it excessively frustrated them. The idea of returning to British shores to teach fills me with dread.
Britain is not the worst country in the world so why pick on it and not a really bad country? The point is I’m not incensed by the inadequacies of other countries! I don’t’ own their passports: I’m British and I’m forced to write that on official forms and documents. When it comes to learning we encourage students to accept criticism as a means of bettering their ability but many people erect a brick wall when it comes to the criticism of their nation. I’m not unpatriotic, conversely I am patriotic. (Indeed, at one time ‘patriotic’ encompassed the criticism of your country as it was borne out of good intention and the desire for your country to better itself). And of course, I have been socialised in the UK, I speak English, I have an ancestry in the British Isles. Everything about me is British and more specifically, English.
When I have lived abroad for long periods, especially in radically different cultures, I start yearning for England: English mist, damp mornings, English rain, green grass, decent tea, an English Christmas, Oh!… and the wonderful sounds of Elgar, even though I hate the nationalism it has come to represent. I miss those orchestral marches with their majestic dignity that is so vividly depicted by the characteristic combination of clarinets in their rich chalmeau register fortified by the cellos and in the background the pizzicato pulse of basses. There is no hurry, the pace is relaxed and only the British have quick marches which are so leisurely you can almost hear the snort of immense cavalry horses. And when the little timpani roll climaxes with the brush of cymbals, a thrilling, gentle ‘tushhhh,’ an orgasmic tremor, evoking a tiny tinkle of brass, breast plates, dangling swords and medals, how staggeringly imperial! The culmination of an epoch of world domination depicted not by Sousarian vigour; its thrashing cymbals, blasting trombones amidst the bling-bling sparkle of patent leather, staybright and plastic, but by sublime subtlety. And what of roast beef, bitter, lazy English villages and English eccentricity? When I’m away from England, Britain, for too long, there is a yearning, almost at the genetic level which reminds me of my roots and kindles what little allegiance I have. I too am British and this memory, this imaginative kindling is my England and ultimately the place, for better or worse, I feel at home. In this context one can argue it is very patriotic to voice a concern that it has a scummy façade, that it is not aspiring to be better either in terms of its physical being or in the nature of its citizens.
©努江虎 – 노강호 2013 Creative Commons Licence.
Yes, it’s vacation time and I’m off to the UK. I don’t intend writing any posts while away and when I return I’ll only being posting here on a monthly basis. After a number of years in Korea over a twelve-year period, I’ll only be repeating myself and currently I’m spending time at my site on Haidong Gumdo, at zen-sword.com
I currently need to write one more post to make the total number of posts over 3 years, 500. Have a great summer!
©Amongst Other Things – 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
I’m due for a month’s vacation in August. If there are any English language University teachers or ‘Kyopos’ in Daegu who would like a month’s work during August, here’s your opportunity.
I have worked for five years in a small hagkwon in the Song-so area of Daegu, not too far from Keimyoung University. The students, in classes of between 4-10, are aged 7-16. The school is very friendly and the boss, who has been a close friend for almost 13 years, is great at working with westerners and is very supportive; no unannounced developments or meetings sprung on you without warning, etc, etc.
The school has around 120 students and 4 other teachers. The teaching hours are from 3-8pm, Monday to Friday.
The school is on both major bus routes and a few minutes walk from the Song-so Industrial Complex subway network. For a University teacher, this would be a great opportunity to make a month’s extra cash without using up all of your lovely, long vacation. I envy you!
Interested? Respond here and I’ll get back to you with more details.
©Bathhouse Ballads – 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Following up on my recent post (Fulfilling a Promise to my Mother, March 22nd, 2012),
March 22nd, 2012), which focused on ‘filial piety,’ I recently stumbled upon two divergent posts on the subject. One is an excellent and touching explanation of filial duty while the other concerns the filial piety of Korean celebrities. I do not doubt that many western celebrities provide cars and houses for their parents; I believe Justin Bieber recently bought his mum a house, but what is interesting in the second account is the sense that filial loyalty is a gauge of one’s character and devotion. Maybe it’s the translation, and the article is brief, but they almost seem to be bitching about who is the best son.
Both posts are re-blogged in their entirety.
Traditional Chinese filial piety culture (中国の親孝行文化/中国孝道文化)
According to Chinese tradition, filial piety is the primary duty of all Chinese. Being a filial son means show respect to one’s parents during their lifetime and–as they grew older–taking the best possible care of them.
A story can best illustrate the concept of filial piety. During the Chin Dynasty (4th-5th Century CE), a boy named Wu Meng was already serving his parents in exemplary filial piety although he was just eight years old. The family was so poor that they could not even afford a gauze net against the mosquitoes. Therefore every night in the summer swarms of mosquitoes would come and bite them. Wu Meng let them all feast on his naked stomach. Even though there were so many, he did not drive them away. He feared that the mosquitoes, having left him, would instead bite his parents. His heart was truly filled with love for his parents.
Filial piety is a good virtual of Chinese people, and people from other countries should also learn from it. Parents gave us birth and nurtured us, therefore we have the obligation to respect them and to take care of them when they can no longer take care of themselves. Western countries have complete social welfare systems to support people financially after they retire, but older people often face loneliness; they long for somebody to talk to them, especially their children and grand-children. We should try our best to spend more time with them, talk to them, and take them to family gatherings and trips to the nature.
Filial piety can benefit our society. It can make our family tie stronger, and children can learn a lot from our attitude to our parents and from their grandparents. They can realize how important a family is to a person, and develop a strong sense of responsibility to their families and friends. For example, when it is necessary to stand out to defend our families and even the nation for danger, we will not hesitate to do so, because we know how important our families and our country are to us.
In short, the most important custom from my country that I would like people from other countries to adopt is to be good to their parents. It is not only ensure that our parents can be taken good care of when they are getting old, but also help our children to develop good virtues and spirits.
(Published 0n 19th Oct 2011)
Re-blog 2 from: 2Elf4Suju
Kyu-hyun showing his filial piety : bought the apartment for his parents, new car for her Mom & guaranteed for his Dad’s Korean academy in Taiwan
On 7 March’s broadcast of MBC’s ‘Golden Fishery- Radio Star’, MC Kyuhyun shared the filial piety that he showed to his parents, and boasted to guests 2AM that he guaranteed his father’s business, attracting much interest.
When the MCs asked “What have you done for your parents?” as 2AM were answering about buying cars, houses and other presents, Kyuhyun added that he didn’t lose in the area of filial piety. He mentioned that he bought “A 40th storey apartment in Wolgokdong” as a present for his parents.
He added, “The car that I’m driving now used to belong to my mum, so I got her a new car as a present. I also guaranteed the Academy that my father opened in Taiwan.” which got the attention of everyone.
(Cho Kyu-hyun is a member of the K-pop boy band Super Junior, and sub groups Super Junior-M and Super Junior-K.R.Y.)
권수빈 for Newsen
Chinese translation by hyunlove
Translated to english by @kikiikyu
(Published 8th March, 2012. http://2elf4suju.wordpress.com/
- Traditional Chinese filial piety culture (中国の親孝行文化/中国孝道文化) (encocoen.wordpress.com)
- 120308 [News] Kyuhyun showing his filial piety : bought the apartment for his parents, new car for her Mom & guaranteed for his Dad’s Korean academy in Taiwan (2elf4suju.wordpress.com)
I’m in the process of moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, hence the strange formatting, missing photos and links. In a few days time the new site will be up and traffic will automatically be redirected. Don’t ever believe a migration is easy ! And that’s within WordPress. For some reason, media files do not necessarily upload themselves and if they do the loose their attachment. Yesterday, I manually uploaded and reattached 998 photos. I intended paying for a ‘guided transfer’ but they’ve been fully booked for several days. Fingers crossed!
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© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.
There are plenty of degenerates trawling around the internet looking for ‘interesting’ tid-bits. Sometimes I’m one of them but I’m not degenerate, my interests are cultural and academic – honestly! The great thing about WordPress, is the access to a large amount of statistical data and this was certainly absent from Blogger a few years ago and which prompted me to switch platforms. Every now and then I look at the ‘search terms’ people have used to access Bathhouse Ballads and it’s depressing; because I’ve written about ‘girls knickers’, ‘penises‘, ‘skinship,’ ‘circumcision,’ ‘corporal punishment,’ ‘showering,’ ‘shitting,‘ ‘pissing,’ ‘teenagers,’plus the mention of ‘sex,’ ‘gays,’ and lots of stuff on ‘bathhouses,’ many search terms are from those looking for something seedy. And all mixed together, the permutations are extensive, I’m attracting some weird searches.
Here are my favourites:
Chillies on his willy – rather a bizarre search term but why not go the whole hog with chillies that look like willies.
Boys stripped to the waist – clearly a frustrated waeg! Go to the bathhouse and you can see them naked! Actually, better still, have a wank!
Girl’s Knickers – interestingly, the only word I don’t think I’ve ever written in this blog is, ‘vagina.’ So, girl’s knickers? Like used, unused, soiled? And by ‘knickers’ I guess you mean the shapeless baggy things as opposed panties or the Devil’s Panty – ie a thong.
Dirty Gays – now is this an opinion or do you mean gay people with dirty hands?
Bathhouse Ballards – I actually have 16 entries with this spelling.
Boy flesh – Look at Jay Park and have a wank!
Bathhouse squirt – another bizarre entry. Is this a small person or does it refer to some strange practice?
Little kids nude skinship – you can find all you need under 변태 성욕.
Jimjjilbang Penis – well, you’d be much better searching for this in Korean rather than badly spelt English (jjimjilbang).
Korean kid saw me poop – please tell me it didn’t arouse you? Actually, I used to know a boy who used to invite you into his house to watch him shite? He was very sexy but watching someone crap is not just a freaking turn off, but puts you off your food!
Little man cok poto – clearly from a Korean which is ‘pine.’
And my favourite…
Water forced up arse in spa – yes, you need to take a trip to Wonderful Spa Land, Wolbae in Daegu. They have an amazing set of massage stations one of which you sit over and it lifts you up. If you hold onto the sides and pull yourself down you can manipulate the jet to provide a very intimate probing. My Korean friend and I had quite a laugh doing this and the interesting thing was, that he had never previously thought to pull himself down onto it. Mind you, he’s getting regular sex so he’s clearly satisfied. Wonderful Spaland also has 4 excellent chest massage water jets but you’d have to mount these or bend over in front of them, which might attractive some attention. These will certainly provide a deep aqua invasion and you’ll probably need to expel your intake on the toilet immediately after. Good luck!
Interestingly, Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, is a popular search term especially considering this painting depicts all forms of human vice and ‘perversion.’
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
A few weeks ago I posted an article on the fantastic coffee available in a small shop near E-Marte, in Song-so. The article was Seduced by a Gutamalian Beauty. Though I’m no expert in the field of either beverage, I mentioned how the art of making a perfect cup of tea, seemed somewhat random compared to coffee which, if you follow the correct procedures, produces a decent cup on demand. I refrain from describing such coffee as perfect as I don’t really know what I’m looking for; currently I’m a white belt level at ‘coffee cupping.’ However, the University of Northumbria have recently published their research on pursuing that perfect ‘cuppa’ and pinning down the process which produces it.
There have always been brewing methods but there was always disagreement about the exact sequence of the various stages. Thanks to the students at Northumbria, we now have the ultimate method which I will trial when I’m next in the UK. I’m a snob and making British tea demands British ingredients and British milk.
I do have one gripe, however! Tea bags! British tea made with a tea bag! Where is the method for making traditional British tea with loose leaf tea?
Daily Telegraph. Sunday 26 June 2011. How to make the perfect cup of tea- be patient
And if you are interested in the art of tea, you can read George Orwell’s, A Nice Cup of Tea, published in the Evening Standard, January 12th 1946.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
The importance and status of teachers in Korea is reflected in existence of a Teachers’ Day, May 15th (스승의 날). Traditionally, teachers receive carnations from students though gifts of soap, rice cake, fruit or simply small tokens such as candy, are common. If the celebration falls on a weekday, teachers may go on outings and schools often close early or don’t open at all.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.