Elwood 5566

A Peaceful City, Feb 28th, 2001 (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in Comparative, Korean Accounts Part 1, taekwondo by 노강호 on February 28, 2001

Once a week at the taekwondo school we practice tae kuk kkwon (태국권). During one class Pak Dong-soo performed a set which took several minutes to perform. It was really quite beautiful as he moved slowly from one position to another without and wobbling and with absolute grace. The next day we did a weapons training session. Increasingly, I am beginning to see martial arts training in Korea as the training ground for boys prior to their national service. The lessons on fairly relaxed and there is a lot of banter between students and instructors which of course, I don’t understand. There are a number of girls who train in the school and they don’t take any crap from the boys. Sometimes I seem to detect more aggression between the girls and boys than between the boys themselves.

two fourth dan boys in my local taekwondo school (2012)

One aspect I really like about being in Korea, and something other foreign teachers also mention, is being able to go out in Korea without being on your guard. Although I have lived in Wivenhoe for two years, I have only ever been into Colchester in the evening on two occasions. The atmosphere on the High Street, in the evening is threatening and aggressive, crowds of marauding youths, with slaggy, cheap girls who regardless of weather wear flimsy clothes. Then there are the aggressive men and youths who strut around swearing, usually drunk and looking primarily for sex and if that can’t be found the frustration will be vented by a punch-up.  You daren’t make eye contact with these men or lads as to do so is to challenge their pathetic sexuality. God! So many straight men are disgusting and even many of my straight friends are quick to disassociate themselves from them. We British like to believe we are an educated society but by and large this is a myth. The masses are just as stupid and ignorant as they have been in the past and it is for political reasons they have been kept this way. I am not claiming Koreans are superior, most of the world is full of stupid people but it is wonderful to walk the streets of a busy city without fear of being assaulted or abused by football yobs, drunken louts, lads looking for trouble. Despite the fact I live above two bars, neither of which close until well after midnight, I haven’t witnessed a brawl or argument or even heard drunken revelry.

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
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A New Rice Cooker (Teacher) Arrives from Australia – Sunday December 10th (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in Food and Drink, Korean Accounts Part 1, Martial Arts by 노강호 on December 10, 2000

At the taegeukkweon this week, (태극권 – is a Korean form of tai chi which is taught twice a week as part of  my  taekwondo classes), one of the boys was hit with a padded stick used to simulate a club attack. I don’t know what the boy had been doing but the instructor, Mr Park, struck him three times across the back of his legs. The boy, aged about 12, started crying and had his head bowed and Mr Park seemed to be telling him to stand in the ready position. The boy ignored him and so he was beaten. Eventually he complied and the class continued.

a rice cooker and a teacher share a lot in common in Korea

On Thursday, Mr Jo asked me if I would go to the railway station with him to meet a teacher arriving from New Zealand. He wanted me to go there at eight in the evening and as I wasn’t going training, I agreed. Nothing in Korea is simple, at least not in my school and after waiting at the school to be collected by Mr Jo, I discover she isn’t arriving until nine. Nine-thirty arrived and still there was no sign of Mr Jo and then Miss Pak, the school secretary, told me she was arriving at eleven. Next, Mr Jo arrives with a change of plans and sent another teacher to collect the new teacher  and decided to take Nana and I for dinner. We went to one of the many restaurants near the school, a sort of cross between a drinking house and a restaurant and there were western style tables to sit at. Before the drinks arrived at our table Mr Jo started telling us about some of his plans and I quickly sensed something else was afoot (note – Koreans initiate business meetings through food and drink). I had originally arranged to meet this Korean woman, a teacher in the school, for dinner, at 10.pm, her name is Pak U-chun (박유천 – 12 years later, she was to become my boss). As soon as I told Mr Jo I was supposed to be meeting her he telephoned her on his mobile and cancelled our meeting. He then decided we should meet at 10.am but I was supposed to be giving Dong-soo (박동수) an English lesson then. Nana suggested I phone him and cancel the meeting but I quickly retorted that I didn’t have his phone number. Nana’s next suggestion was that I should simply not turn up for Dong-soo (박동수). Jo got up and went to the toilet and I told Nana that I didn’t want to cancel my plans on the whims of Jo. When Mr Jo returned, we agreed to meet at 10.45 next morning.

If I was pissed off with Jo, I was even more pissed off when the meal arrived as it was totally Klingon and disgusting. What I thought was a purple bean curd (note – probably my early under standing of acorn curd, 도토리묵) and octopus turned out to be raw lived and stomach. Then there was this thick, white gloopy soup which resembled ejaculate. The liver and tripe I passed aside and the soup actually made me gag. However some recognizable meat and vegetables arrived for us to cook on the pot at our table and this was quite tasty (note – I’ve gradually become more accustomed to Korean food but there are still some foods I don’t enjoy and raw liver and stomach or good examples).

As we drank more soju (소주), Mr Jo’s plans began to unfold and it transpires that he wants Nana and I to go to his new Letterland school tomorrow to start planning the Letterland system. The trouble with the Korean way of business is that you have to be very careful about committing yourself through the influence of alcohol and do you even have a choice?

By the time we left the restaurant we’d drunk several bottles of soju (소주)  and beer and despite this Jo drove us to a noraebang (노래 방)  almost adjacent my flat. We spent several hours here singing and I must have ordered 7 or 8 rounds of beer. Next morning I had a bad hangover and had lost my voice.

(note- I’ve learnt that a number of Korean bosses treat you like a ‘rice cooker’ and once you have a problem or don’t function as they want and you’re simply replaced with another wayguk. Others bosses are quite the opposite!)

 

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Further References

When the Cuckoo Dies (Bathhouse Ballads, June 2010)