Elwood 5566

Rubbish on the Streets but no Tweeny Slags

Posted in Comparative, Korean children by 노강호 on May 29, 2012

Friday evening, 8 pm, and I’m walking home from work. Adjacent to me are two school boys aged around 15. They’re eating either ddokpoki or fried chicken gizzards from a cups, each boy armed with a wooden skewer on which to spear whatever it is they are eating. Finished, they simply drop the cups and skewers on the pavement; there’s no guilt or scanning the street for potentially disapproving citizens because in Korea discarding your litter on the pavement is acceptable. A few moments later, one of the boys glances over his shoulder and notices I am a foreigner, our eyes connect and I mutter something to the effect of ‘bad students!.’ I love the way Korean kids respond to being addressed as a  ‘student’ and the way that it takes precedent over any other labels such as ‘teenager’ or ‘boy’ or ‘girl.’ I find ‘teenager’ such as vacuous label and one largely commercial in origin and the equivalent to being labelled a ‘consumer.’

I’m waiting for some form of verbal challenge and am about to add how Korean streets are dirty but the boy totally disarms me. ‘I’m sorry,’ he says in English as he waves with one of those camp Korean waves that emanate solely from the wrist. As one of the boys turns back to reclaim their rubbish, I turn a corner. With some cars between us, the boys are unsure where I’ve gone. I watch carefully because I’m expecting them to simply chuck the rubbish back on the pavement once they think I’ve disappeared – that’s been my experience of similar confrontations in the UK. However, dutifully, the boy finds a rubbish bag on the side of the pavement and discards it therein.

I continue walking until I’m back in their line of view upon which both boys wave at me, smile and reiterate their apologies. God! I lover Korea! It’s this kind of behaviour that makes it difficult for me to return home.

start of a short rant…

I’m sorry, but back in the UK a high percentage of scum, anti-social kids simply couldn’t be called to order by a caring citizen without hurling back some form of abuse, or even violence. Indeed, a great many parents, all scum, would berate the adult telling their vile brat what they shouldn’t do. Poor old Britain is broke and despite the street parties and revelry currently being dutifully performed in order to celebrate our archaic Teutonic monarchy, it’s a dirty, violent, backward and boring nation. If you mention how rotten Britain is to many Brits they get upset or go into denial. I can understand this stance because if you live in shit you don’t want your face rubbed in it. Thank God Britain is class riddled because at least there are some enclaves where decency pervades. It’s a known fact that hoodlum kids don’t loiter where Mozart is played. But you can’t mention this either as Brits don’t like reminding how divided and unequal their society is and PC-ism with all its guff about how we are all equal is the ruling mantra. Ahhh! I’m ranting. Oh, and in Korea, there’s not a tweeny slag in sight and certainly no shop selling the Devil’s Panties (ie, thongs), or pole Dancing kits to pre-pubescent girls. More examples of British degeneracy!

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.


Cultural Clashes – March 25th – 2001 (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in customs, Education, Korean Accounts Part 1 by 노강호 on March 25, 2001

I am still giving Ji-won a lesson on a Saturday evening. His father, Pak Jun Hee  is the same age as I and so we have a very good relationship. A new teacher, Lisa, had arrived from the UK and we decided to take her out to their restaurant and during the course of the evening Ji-won asked her age, Koreans always want to know your age. Lisa, who is possibly nearing retirement, was visibly offended and tried to explain that this was a rude question. Of course, asking ones age is a necessity for Koreans as they need to ascertain where to place you within a hierarchical structure and to address you both in terms of behaviour and language. In order for Koreans to form relationships with westerners, especially ones who fall outside their own peer group, they have to invent relationships in order to ratify a friendship. So for Ji-won, I am his teacher, for Ryo Hyu-sun (료휴선), I am his older brother and I have to refer to him as ‘dong seng’ (동생) and correspondingly, he has to refer to me as ‘hyong je’ (형재). When I thank Ryo Hyu-sun (료휴선) I have to use informal style language whereas towards me he uses formal language which is used from a junior to  a senior. When I thank him I will say ‘komapda’ while he will thank me by saying ‘khamsa hamnida’ (감사합니다). Needless to say such linguistic etiquette makes learning the language all the more difficult.

Ji-won  is a keen student who at the moment is going to school from 7am until 9pm. He will stick to this regime for the next two years. Last week there were classes at Di Dim Dol hakwon which started at 11.15 in the evening. It amazes me how we moan about child exploitation in the west and yet Korean children lead such hideously pressured lives. A fifteen year old boy jumped out of a tower block here last week, and died all because his maths teacher had been disappointed with his ‘average’ maths score.

At the restaurant Ji-won and I sat talking for several hours and then his father came over with some soju and sashimi. Pak Jun Hee  often brings sashimi and I think he considers this a treat for me – which it is. However, while I enjoy sushi (초밥), which is small slices of fish on a small ball of vinegared rice, Korean sashimi I am not so keen on. This is a full platter of various cuts of raw fish and the skill of a sashimi chef is dependant on how long he can keep the fish alive as he is slicing off its flesh. As with Korean barbecues, this fish is eaten with a variety leaves, garlic cloves, the Korean equivalent of wasabi (고추 냉이) and red pepper paste (고추장). One places a small selection of fish in a leaf and adds the other ingredients, wraps it and then eats it. Among Korean friends it is quite acceptable to place food, by way of hand, into you someone else’s mouth.  Pak Jun Hee made a massive ball, of sashimi, and mostly fish, which I could only just fit in my mouth and I very nearly puked. I can take a little raw fish but not half a pound of a cold, raw seafood cocktail. Lim Sun-hee, who is Pak Jun Hee’s wife could see I was a little distressed but I pretended it was the heat of the wasabi and everyone laughed. Koreans find it very amusing when you find their food too spicy. The ball was so big I couldn’t just swallow it so I was forced to chew that cold flesh into swallow-able portions. Pak Jun Hee’s has invited me to go to Pusan with him on August 23rd, which is his family’s ancestors’ day. Then he will go to his family tomb on the mountain and pay respects to his dead relatives. It is a very private affair and I am quite privileged.

I have taken a short break from taekwon do as I have had constant problems with my left hamstring. I think I need to strengthen it as stretching weakens the muscle and maybe it needs a little building up. I have started some special exercises which I do in the lunchtimes before I go to the mokyoktang.

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.