Suwon, South Korea
I am Ireland. It’s mad. Over the weekend I became a country. In fact, little and humble me is now my country. I’m touched.
Actually, that’s an exaggeration. I’m not the country, I’m kind of representing the country in a kind of unrepresentative official but not so official way. You see it’s on twitter, and because it’s on twitter the non-believers will only consider it as hearsay, while the twitterati will revel and rejoice at this phenomenon. There are other things too but this will undoubtedly prove the most controversial point.
Yes, I’m representing the @Ireland account operated by worldirish.com, and with over 15,000 followers and dropping fast, it’s the largest audience I’ve ever had to express my opinions, and I am probably doing fine. The most significant factor is that I’ve hardly put my phone down since Monday. I am not looking forward to the attention withdrawal symptoms.
I’m the first Irish person to take hold of the account who is based in Asia, but I’m also the first person to manage it from a location really far away, and really foreign. I recall a guy being in Germany early into the project, and there was another fella based in New York, but for all the Irish on a similar time zone to Korea, such as Australia, there have been none. You might think this significant.
I know that because I am far from Ireland I can’t really get involved with many of the current issues taking hold of the country, but that’s not what this week is all about. It’s about me being Irish, having left Ireland, and moved on to a country very far away from home to make a living and to start a family. I, as well as many, many more Irish people have done the same. Many of us have thrived, and of course many have not. But we are all Irish.
So far things have gone well I suppose. I’ve managed not to get trolled too much, while there are some people who just seem to want to take exception to another person’s opinion on a twitter account designed to have a variety of perspectives. Frankly, I don’t really care what they say, but it would wrong to say I wasn’t affected by it. Because, well, I thought everyone thought I was fantastic.
Tuesday had to have been the most intense day so far. I raised an issue I had with a newspaper article which dove into the subject of emigration with references to the great famine. Now I understand about giving an argument context, but this is a regular columnist in a paper of record writing about a well-known and documented event in our history. Context is already ingrained in the society of the vast majority of people who read it. Bringing up the famine is further scaremongering and poorly reflects on the reality faced by people today.
One other thing that got to me was that there is so much talk of emigration from the home perspective, but none from the perspective of those emigrating, or those who have to immigrate into another country. I was heartened by a lot of support shared with the post being starred and retweeted. I noticed that many of those who were doing this were actual Irish people who did not live in Ireland any longer. Emigration is still a topic which many draw strong conclusions on, but regardless of the figures and statistics we will always have to remember that it is always a personal endeavour and those who go through the process do so for their own reasons.
Aside from that things have been fine. A few pictures of my lunch and dinner, as well as being distracted to the point of getting absolutely no work done. Last night I landed myself in the trap of doing a “you know you’re Irish when” thing, but tried to recoup my losses today by explaining my real feelings on Irishness and how individuality is creating a more diverse and open society. That being said, I have been tempted to mention abortion but I’ve veered away for fear of entering a discussion I am out of my depth in.
Overall though this experience has been incredibly positive. I’ve felt engaged with Irish people of such a wide variety of backgrounds, and it is something I’ve never encountered before. People are friendly, curious, and I believe pleased to have further proof of the strength of the Irish diaspora. I’ve shared some bits and pieces about Korea and I hope that over the final few days I can share some more.
So, for another few days I’ll continue staring at my phone itching for more hellos and retweets, and maybe a wee skirmish or two over some topical issue. Tomorrow I think we, as in myself, Herself, and +1, are heading off to some tombs. We’ll sit in the sun, read, play, and I’ll undoubtedly be live tweeting the entire experience. Sounds enthralling. Did I mention there could be some class of a music festival on Saturday?
I am pleased to say that the following essay was printed simultaneously in this week’s Korean and Japanese editions of Newsweek. It think it is critical for both sides to think about the issues I present, and it is pitched to both communities as American allies, no matter how sharp their disagreements.
In brief, I argue that – contrary to the conventional wisdom that US alliances in Asia tamp down conflict by re-assuring everyone that they need not arms-race against each other – US alliances may in fact be freezing those conflicts in place by reducing the incentives of all parties to solve them. The US reassures Asian states not just against each other, but also against their own reckless nationalist rhetoric and racially toxic historiographies. I think the Liancourt Rocks fight is a particularly good example of this ‘moral hazard’ mechanic, as is the recent comment by no less than the South Korean foreign minister (!) that Abenomics’ threat to Korean export competitiveness is a greater danger to SK than North Korea’s nuclear program. That kind of preposterous, reckless myopia can only be explained by taking the US security umbrella for granted.
I realize the argument will be somewhat controversial, even to Americans given that we are ‘pivoting’ to Asia, but I think it needs to be said and genuinely researched. As with my other Newsweek pieces, there are no hyperlinks because this was intended for print:
“Asia is one of the world’s most combustible regions. It is brimming with nationalism, territorial disputes, ideological divisions, and historical revisionism – all substantially aggravated by the region’s new found wealth. A war in Asia a generation ago would have been disastrous, but regional; a war today would involve the world’s largest economies. To soothe these tensions, the United States has begun to ‘pivot’ to Asia. By 2020, the US is scheduled to have the bulk of its navy deployed in the Pacific. Conversely, the US is seeking to wind down its Middle East conflicts. As a ‘new core’ of the world economy, Asia is more important to the US than ever before, and the pivot is to reflect that.
The pivot rests on the local embrace of the US as a powerful outsider, more trusted by each Asian player than they trust each other. The US is not really neutral, of course; it has its own interests in Asia too. But those interests mostly run toward trading issues, such as intellectual property rights or currency regimes. The US is not caught up in the sovereignty and national identity disputes that so divide Asia; the US has no territorial claims, for example. Hence the US enjoys greater strategic trust. The US can stand above the Asian fray and deploy its considerable power to balance threats – most obviously, North Korea, but also, possibly, China – and maintain local equilibrium.
But there is a danger lurking here for the US as well – that it will be instrumentalized by local parties for their own goals. Specifically, US policymakers worry that Japan may use the US as a bulwark to pursue a tough line against China in the East China Sea. For its part, China very obviously uses the US presence in South Korea and Japan as cause to continue propping up North Korea. And Japan and Korea both exploit the reassurance offered by the US to push maximalist nationalist agendas against the other over history and territory. Ironically, US reassurance serves to freeze, if not worsen, the very conflicts it is meant to soothe.
It is hard to imagine, for example, that the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute would still be active after so many years, were it not for US reassurance to nationalists and die-hards on both sides that they would not suffer the consequences of their rhetoric. A war between Japan and Korea in the Sea of Japan/East Sea would be a disaster for both and a geopolitical gift to China and North Korea. Yet so long as the US is allied to both South Korea and Japan, neither side has any incentive to back-down, to compromise on the many issues that divide them.
The flip-side of the usual argument that the US reassures Asian states against hostile moves by others, is that the US presence also locks Asian conflicts in place. The US may indeed prevent Asian conflicts from spiraling toward war, but that very presence also reduces the incentives for all parties to compromise and solve those conflicts. Indeed, these tensions often serve a useful domestic purpose for unpopular national elites with no genuine interest in resolving issues. Whenever Asian governments need to whip up popular feeling, they can always wave the flag over nationalist disputes and distract voters at home from the more substantive issues that plague Asia like corruption, poor demographics, corporate interference in politics, and so on. It is far easier for the Chinese Communist Party, for example, to pick fights with Vietnam or Japan over maritime borders than to actually pursue desperately needed reforms at home. And in South Korea, it was widely understood last year that President Lee visited Dokdo primarily because his poll numbers were poor; mercifully, Korean voters did not fall for that cheap gimmick.
Economics has a term for this problem – ‘moral hazard.’ When a person is insured against the consequences of his actions, he is, ironically, more likely to engage in that action, because insurance makes the risks of the action less than they would otherwise be. The classic example of this phenomenon is a teenager with a driver’s license. Because the teen is likely driving her parents’ car, not her own, and because the car is insured, the teen drives more recklessly than otherwise. Once the teen matures and pays for her own car and insurance, she drives more responsibly. Insurance companies have wrestled for decades with both providing insurance while still incentivizing good behavior. There is no obvious answer.
This model can easily be applied to the relationship of Japan and Korea. Both are insured by the US, explicitly by the presence of US soldiers on their territory. As such, both are somewhat guaranteed against the consequences of their actions. Both can therefore indulge the luxury of conflict with the other. Because the US is handling the larger geopolitical picture – North Korea, China’s rise, the national defense of Korea and Japan – the strategic discussion in both countries can focus inordinately on the comparatively minor issues between them. Dokdo may indeed seem to Koreans like an issue worth going to war over, but in the context of Chinese strength and North Korean nuclear weapons, it is not. Such talk occurs only because Seoul and Tokyo have ‘buck-passed’ the momentous issues to the Americans.
This is both an extravagance and a mistake, despite what nationalist, vote-hungry politicians may say. It consciously avoids the larger issues, abuses the US position here, and misses the reality that the US will not in fact defend Japan and Korea unless they defend themselves first. Without the US in Asia, Japan and Korea would be immediately compelled to work together to deal with issues vastly greater than Dokdo/Takeshima and a war 70 years ago. For all the criticisms hurled back and forth, South Korea and Japan are far more politically similar to each other than to other states in the region. This is woefully under-admitted:
China is a nationalist, aggrieved, one-party dictatorship increasingly bent on regional primacy, and a permanent well of support for North Korea. Russia is an erratic, badly-governed, semi-autocracy happy to see North Korea stymie democracy and liberalism in Asia. North Korea is arguably the world’s most dangerous country with a human rights record ranked lower than the Taliban. By contrast, South Korea and Japan are both liberal, capitalist, human rights-respecting democracies. They should in fact be allies – and would be if the US were not in Asia.
Far-seeing elites in both countries know this fact. As an academic in this area, I frequently attend conferences on this topic, where I hear many cosmopolitan South Korean and Japanese statesmen and intellectuals make similar arguments. And US officials have clearly been hoping for decades that Japan and Korea would put aside their comparatively minor differences to focus on the much larger issues. But elites on both sides are trapped by their countries’ rhetoric in the media and education. Asian media are relentlessly nationalistic: Japan’s disturbing fetishization of Yasukuni alienates everyone in Asia, while a Korean newspaper once seriously suggested that Japanese samurai were going to invade Dokdo. And education systems that teach racial notions of national identity dramatically worsen the problem. If the Han race (China), the Yamato wajin (Japan), and the minjeok (Korea) go back millennia and are rooted in blood, then compromise becomes ‘race betrayal.’ This is extremely unhealthy and precisely the kind of ideological extremism that helped tip Europe into World War I and II.
Further, the US is unlikely to referee or mediate these disputes, especially among allies. To date, the US has tried to bolster the ASEAN states in their negotiations with China. And the US has argued broadly for liberal ‘rules of the road’ in the region – free trade, open seas, floating currencies, open economies instead of mercantilism, and so on. The US wants peaceful dispute resolution; contrary to Chinese paranoia, the pivot is not intended to contain China – although it will become that if China becomes very belligerent. The US is broadly comfortable with Asian regional organizations like the ASEAN Regional Forum. The ARF provides a venue for Asian states, including even North Korea, to debate security issues. The US has also supported trade pacts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would open Asian economies more to one another, hopefully increasing interaction and interdependence.
However, the US will not become a referee for an Asia insistent on militant nationalism, brinksmanship, and conflict, especially among allies who really should know better. South Korea and Japan’s pursuit of their disputes weakens the combined position of democracy in Asia. China and North Korea are cheered to see Japan and South Korea clash incessantly. If South Korea and Japan were to fight, the US would not take sides. Indeed, the US would almost certainly exit the region.
Similarly, the US will not arbitrate or get involved in the details of disputes here. As an American academic in Asia, I am solicited relentlessly on these issues. I am regularly asked what I think of Dokdo, the Pacific War, China’s claims in the South China Sea, and so on. And to my interlocutors’ great frustration, I refuse to answer what inevitably become ideologically-loaded questions. This is the US government’s own policy as well. America has regularly said these conflicts need to be worked out among the parties involved on their own terms. An American solution or adjudication would be politicized by the losing party anyway and rejected as an illegitimate outside intrusion.
Koreans particularly make tremendous efforts to recruit westerners to take up the Dokdo claim. But they should not, as this frequently amounts to manipulating impressionable young foreigners or English teachers in country. These young people have little knowledge of the relevant history but are desperate for cultural acceptance in Korea. They have little sense of what they are arguing for. And in fact, the US government is rather studious in its avoidance of this topic. US diplomats are told not to pronounce on the ownership of the islet.
So what should be done? US retrenchment would indeed force Japan and South Korea to come to terms, and quickly. But China is so vast, and NK so dangerous, this would be a mistake. With those autocracies, there is little to do but confront them when necessary and talk with them as much as possible. North Korea particularly seems hell-bent on making trouble permanently. There is little to be done except stare it down and wait for its collapse. The pivot should continue.
But between Korea and Japan, the US should make it very clear that there are limits to its patience. US weapons sales to each should be conditioned on their non-use against the other. A clear US statement that the US will withdraw from Japan and Korea should hostilities break-out between them would also help. At home, Korea and Japan should reform their education systems to encourage far less nationalistic history instruction. A fair amount of this is mythic anyway; Korea and Japan’s histories are both far more diverse politically than the Hegelian, ‘march toward the modern state’ that is taught today. Finally, some manner of negotiation on Dokdo/Takeshima should commence. Without some joint resolution of this issue, the Japanese-South Korean relationship will never heal.
Asia is a dynamic, critical area that merits the US pivot. But the US commitment is not a blank check, and Asian states – especially America’s allies – need to realize this. The United States will make a reasonable effort to restrain conflict and maintain equilibrium. But it will not umpire an Asia unwilling to bend and compromise. Post-Iraq War especially, America will not become embroiled in a local war over a few islands here or there with little or no demographic and economic interest. Asia has come a long way in the last four decades. Unprecedented growth has alleviated poverty, raised education, and opened Asia to the world. Asia is the emerging ‘cockpit of world politics.’ It would be a shame if Asians were to throw that all away under the spell of nationalism and racism, as Europeans did last century. And if Asians cannot mature enough to work-out their differences, the US is neither capable nor willing to do it for them. America cannot derail an Asia intent on conflict and tension; the sooner that fantasy is dispelled and Asians take greater ownership of their own security, the better for all.”
Filed under: International Relations Theory, Japan, Korea (South), United States
Robert E Kelly
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
I sometimes wish I could walk
through hallways in the dark.
Every corridor in Korea is tripped by sensors
That know my every move.
I want to see what cannot be seen with
These “circle eyes,” as little Leigh said.
She could not stop fixating on them, so fascinated,
Too impossible to comprehend.
I am not “you and yours,”
No matter how much I may or may not want to be.
My quarters are a sovereign American nation
Population of One
Where kimchi somehow spoils faster,
An amazing feat since it’s already rotting.
It’s what I had wanted, a way to get away
My body abroad, while my heart remained stateside.
But, I now delight in the differences
That once scared the shit out of me.
All I want is more, weirder and weirder.
But what is weird, if only different?
What is there beyond my borders
Beyond the balcony where I venture to view
Into so many apartment boxes?
I promise this is no Peeping Tom,
A reference no doubt lost on you,
As so many of yours would be lost on me.
For that, I cannot help but apologize,
Though I don’t know why.
It’s just that I long to look inside your world
Like going to the past, not just photos and film,
But walking your ancient steps as if they were mine.
Such an impossible world,
like giving birth,
an impossible wish.
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, now serving a one-year hagwon tour-of-duty in Jangnim and Dadaepo, Busan, South Korea.
It’s getting warmer in South Korea. It seems as if we will have an early summer. Today, before heading to my Korean language class, I had a sudden craving for 팥빙수 (patbingsu: shaved ice dessert similar to halo-halo in the Philippines), but I couldn’t find any coffee shop or a restaurant that sells it near the center, so I opted for a cold drink instead. I saw some girls enjoying their bubble tea, so I also got me one.
Bubble tea is a tea-based drink that originated from Taiwan. It is also called pearl milk tea, because it comes with chewy tapioca pearls. In the Philippines, we call it Zagu or pearl shake. Other names include boba drink or boba ice tea, boba nai cha or zhen zhou nai cha (in Chinese), black pearl tea, tapioca ball drink, BBT (short for Bubble Tea) and PMT (short for pearl milk tea).
Bubble tea can be fruit-flavored or mixed with milk. Some shops have the fruit-milk tea, so you can enjoy both blends. =)
Here in SK, they have hot bubble tea. In the Philippines, we have only cold bubble tea. I don’t like plain hot or with ice. I prefer smoothie. It’s very refreshing. ^^
In my country, bubble tea or Zagu, as we call it, costs around 40 to 60 PHP (1082 to 1623 KRW) (97 cents to 1.46 USD) depending on the size and flavor. Here in SK, it’s triple the price or more for a small cup!
I have tried caramel, chocolate and taro bubble tea before, but they didn’t please my palate, so today my choice was blueberry yogurt bubble tea smoothie. I love blueberry-flavored drinks! ^^
My choice wasn’t so bad, but I prefer the taste of Zagu. Philippine bubble tea is sweeter, richer and has more tapioca pearls.
Perhaps, I’ll try another flavor one of these days.
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Little known fact, but I make super delicious kimchi jjigae (김치찌개). I make it whenever I have some older kimchi sitting in the fridge (i.e. more fermented or “ripe” kimchi). The stew only tastes as good as the kimchi. I like to make mine with pork, cooked and served boiling hot in a stone pot.
Pictured is 참치 김치찌개 (chamchi kimchi jjigae, tuna). I felt a little funny about ordering something so… let’s say “poignant in aroma” for a date, but… he’s cool.
About the girl
Thank you so much for visiting and reading.
I love the DIY craft sets that I see in lots of Korean shops. I couldn't resist this when I saw it hanging on the shelf of one of our local tat shops. Tash and I call them tat shops as they're packed to the brim with stuff that you don't really need, but as soon as you see it, you find yourself searching for an excuse to buy it. Usually they sell cheap stationary, bags, jewellery, sweets and knick knacks. Hours of my life have disappeared while I look around these shops and drool over everything. I'm surprised that I haven't been bankrupted by these shops yet!
So anyway, when I saw the DIY phone dangles that were coupling winged-poops, I couldn't resist, I'd saved it for months and eventually last week when I had a bit of time, I decided to make it.
The pack came with felt, beads, stuffing, thread, needles, ribbon and something to hang them with. Unfortunately the instructions were all in Korean, but it was still pretty easy to make by just referring to the pictures.
I was pretty happy with the end results, and can't wait to give Nick his new gift, and see him display it with pride...or not!
Seemingly overnight, my 6th graders have transformed from hilarious, intelligent, focused young boys and girls into.. dun dun dun.. PRETEENS. There are hormones everywhere. Oh god, the hormones. I swear I'm going to start breaking out just from being in their presence.
Today is a perfect example. I made the 6th graders a new seating chart (at their request, I might add) and implemented it today. I know them well enough to be able to seat them by ability, putting the strongest students next to a weaker student so the weaker gets help and the stronger gets to reenforce his/her knowledge through teaching. I also always sit them boy-girl, because after the initial awkwardness it usually serves to balance the room out and keep anybody from getting into too much trouble.
The key word in that sentence is usually. When it goes wrong, it goes very, very wrong. I'm still not even sure what happened today. I was calling out seating assignments and getting the usual amount of grumbling and giggling, but then I called out two names and all hell broke loose.
CLASS COUPLE!!!! CLASS COUPLE!!!! TEACHER THEY ARE CLASS COUPLE!!!!!
Oh. My god.
I wasn't about to let some 6th grade drama interfere with my perfectly balanced and calibrated (read: done in 10 minutes after lunch) seating chart, so I laid the smackdown on the class and told them to sit down. But it didn't stop there. The girl, Katie, was so mortified to be sitting next to this particular boy that she actually moved her desk several feet away from his. The desks are put together in pairs, so she was a little desk island in a sea of doubles. She remained this way throughout the class. You would think this was the end of it, right? Wrong. The class continued to taunt them until she was reduced to tears and I had to go full-on Serious Teacher on them. We had to have a class talk about the word "respect" and how we need to be nice to our teacher and be nice to our friends. We (I) talked about how yes, English class is fun and yes, Megan Teacher is fun, but this is still learning time and we need to respect each other.
Shit got real.
This wasn't even the only hormone-fueled incident in class today. I had another pair in the front row who also refused to sit near each other, despite the fact that they were perfectly friendly last week and I see them talking in the hallway all the time. I told them calm down, you're not going to die. Eventually they settled down enough to get some work done, but we barely made it through the lesson and I had to sneakily slip Katie some tissues during the video clip because she was still crying. Now I have to talk to her tomorrow and ask if she really does want to change seats, and if so, figure out a way to do it without causing a big scene and just exasperating the issue.
Oh, the life of a teacher.
It actually occurred to me today that for all that I document about my life here, a surprisingly small amount is dedicated to the people I spent more time with than anybody else: my students.
Because my school is so small, I actually have the chance to be a part of my students' lives and get to know them. They all have English names for English class, but I know a fair number of their real names as well. I have the group of giggling 6th grade girls, Hannah, Alexa, Rachel, and Gina, who come hang out in my classroom after school every so often and challenge me to games on their phones.
I have the 4th grade boy, Trevor, who likes to run in one door, sprint along the far wall, and dart out the other door with a quick "hello teacher!"
I have the 2nd grader, Brandon, who is a sweetheart in the hallways but disruptive in class because he's very bright and grasps things quickly.
I have another 4th grade boy, Andy, who comes and gives me two-handed high fives continuously while we talk.
I have the girl (and the unfortunate subject of today's events), Katie, who likes to duck into my room when she's hiding from her friends (or, increasingly, her male classmates).
All these little faces are such a part of my daily life, and yet there's almost no documentation of them on here. I'm going to start trying to do a few little student profiles each week so that you can get a glimpse of them. It's also partly selfish. When I'm looking back on this year, I want to be able to remember the miniature people who were such a big part of it.
The Korean misadventures of a rehabilitated news writer.
Before the rain started to fall at Beopjusa Temple.
Hello Again Everyone!!
In an all new segment on the blog, I thought I would give some of the back stories behind my travels to various temples and hermitages around the Korean peninsula ever since I started exploring them back in 2003. Some of the stories are funny, some are warm, and some are even absurd. So follow me as I go beyond the pictures, maps, and descriptions, as I explore Korean temples at their best.
During my summer vacation in 2011, I decided to visit a handful of temples on the northern end of the Korean peninsula. One of those temples was Beopjusa Temple in Boeun-Gun, Chungcheongbuk-do, and it’s the first story that really stands out.
Earlier in the day, in early August, we had already visited Buseoksa Temple in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Pushing our luck, my wife and I decided to attempt to see Beopjusa Temple, as well. Keep in mind, we had passed by numerous nice hotels and the sky was blue when we left Buseoksa Temple.
When we arrived at Beopjusa Temple a couple hours later, and unbeknownst to us, there just so happened to be the provincial track and field meet at Songnisan National Park, which is where Beopjusa Temple is situated. At first glance, it didn’t seem all that bad. But not long after, when we went to book a hotel room, they were all sold out. So we went to the next: sold out. And the next: sold out. We got to the point where the only hotel left to us was this really run down motel, and they had one room left that had no beds. So for a marked up 60,000 won a night, we could sleep on the floor. I quickly nixed that one. With no other option but to see Beopjusa Temple and then find a hotel afterwards, we resigned ourselves to this fate.
So still with all our gear in our car, we decided to make our way towards Beopjusa Temple after having parked the car in the parking lot, which was a good 700 metres away from the admittance gate at Beopjusa Temple.
The batteries are out, and I had to switch to the back-up camera at Beopjusa Temple.
Making the most of the beautiful summer weather, we started to explore the temple grounds. After a couple of pictures, the battery on the camera was running low. Rooting through my camera bag, I was sure that I had packed the second battery pack. Wrong! It was nowhere to be found. So after our new camera ran out of its battery at the Palsang-jeon pagoda, and somewhat fortunately for me, I used the older camera that my wife thoughtfully brought with her. However, the quality of the pictures quickly went from an A+ with the new camera, down to a C- with the old.
And finally, to add insult to injury, the previously bright sky quickly became overcast and started to lightly rain. Believing we had enough time to explore the rest of the temple, since we had only seen about half of it, we pushed on. Near the end, and after seeing the lion-based lantern that dates back to 720 A.D., the sky opened up and the rain started to fall heavily. No more than two hundred metres into our sprint back to our car, we were already soaked. Finding a bit of respite under a bus shelter, I told my wife to wait with the cameras, as I made my way back to the car. When I finally did arrive at the car, it was like I had taken a shower with my clothes on.
After rescuing my wife, and still soaked, we still had to find somewhere to sleep. So while Beopjusa Temple is one of the most beautiful temples in all of Korea, nothing quite went right in my adventure to this revered temple.
The clouds started to get stormy!
This is the first post in the series on automated machine translation. The content is largely taken from class notes from a natural language processing course I took a few years ago. Although it will contain some mathematical equations, it is meant to be understood by a non-technical audience. If there are any errors, please correct me.
“Et dixit: Ecce, unus est populus, et unum labium omnibus: cœperuntque hoc facere, nec desistent a cogitationibus suis, donec eas opere compleant. Venite igitur, descendamus, et confundamus ibi linguam eorum, ut non audiat unusquisque vocem proximi sui … Et idcirco vocatum est nomen ejus Babel, quia ibi confusum est labium universæ terræ: et inde dispersit eos Dominus super faciem cunctarum regionum.” - Genesis xi:6-7, 9.
The idea of automated machine translation started with the end of World War II. At that time mathematicians who had cracked the German Enigma code started discussing whether they could use their cryptography techniques to translation. Warren Weaver, a famous mathematician and cryptographer, in his seminal 1949 memorandum proposed the following,
It is very tempting to say that a book written in Chinese is simply a book written in English which was coded into the “Chinese code.” If we have useful methods for solving almost any cryptographic problem, may it not be that with proper interpretation we already have useful methods for translation?
Although Weaver specifically mentions Chinese as a language to translate, with the advent of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union, many saw the need for automated Russian-to- English translations. The fruits of these efforts were seen some five years after Weaver’s memorandum. On January 7, 1954, at its headquarters in New York, IBM held the first public demonstration of a computer developed collaboratively by IBM and Georgetown that successfully translated sixty sentences of Russian texts on various topics to English. Although the computer was relatively simple, having been only programmed with six “grammar” rules and two-hundred fifty words most of which were directed towards organic chemistry terms, these results captivated the public’s attention and kindled other researchers’ interest in the field.
Prominent researchers in the automated machine translation field even announced that the problem would be solved within a decade. The dream of having a computer take speech of one speaker in one language, translate it into another language, and then synthesize a voice speaking the translated text seemed within reach. Such optimism, however, quickly evaporated, as reality set in. In 1966, the Automatic Language Processing Advisory Committee (ALPAC), a committee established by the US government to evaluate research done in the computational linguistics field, published a report on machine translation. In its report, ALPAC expressed skepticism over progress of machine translation. It found that it was not cost-effective, as computers at this time were very large and expensive. ALPAC also questioned its practically, specifically noting that an increasing number of American scientists and engineers, the most likely potential users of such a system, were already gaining fluency of the Russian language and were able to read Soviet scientific journals. The effect of the ALPAC report was to bring about the end of substantial government funding for some twenty years.
Although the ALPAC report certainly curbed enthusiasm in the machine translation field, the field did not completely die and continued on. With the increased availability of computers and growing consumer demand, interest in machine translation picked back up again in the 1980s. Researchers were also encouraged by the successes in the closely related field of speech processing. Today, machine translation services are one of the most frequently used services that some websites provide. Popular machine translation services include Systran (Babelfish) and Google Translate.
There are primarily two approaches in machine translation: (1) rule-based and (2) statistical. These will covered in the next posts.
This work by Kuiwon is licensed under
a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
- Rooftop view of Daegu
- Sinchon River
- School Lunch – Some kind of kimchi, sweet & sour pork, mini fishies with walnuts, rice & dried seaweed, kimchi soup with hot dog slices
- Salmon on lemon thyme cream cheese and toast
- A beautiful school and awesome spring day
- Pier in 월포
- A beautiful school and awesome spring day
- Rainy train ride to Seoul for an audition
- Sampler dish at “Comedor” – empanadas and some chipa (baked cheese and yucca bread)
- “Comedor” Paraguayan Restaurant in Itaewon
- A French trained baker is a dangerous person to know
- Duryu Park, with the Daegu Cultural & Arts Center on the other side of the lake
- Constanza, my Spanish-speaking friend ^_^
- Growing herbs for some cookin’
- Gyeongju Marathon – tried doing the 10k and slightly regretted it
- Garden of Eden at the Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center
- Daegu Gyesan Catholic Church (대구 계산성당)
- Puppy shops!
- Amazon crash a Toga Birthday Party
- Physical therapy due to the 10k (ㅠㅠ)
- Old meets New – My favorite picture of the month
- Best Jogae Gui 조개구이 place! They put the baked sweet potato into cheese as dessert.
- Co-worker’s wedding (The bride was my English co-teacher and the P.E. teacher from my school)
- Roman who moved out of Korea about a year ago. He surprised us with a visit!
I have decided to take a break from the usual and write blog posts on one of the various topics in natural language processing (NLP), a field of study that is concerned with how computers process human language. Applications of this field include automated machine translation, optical character recognition, speech synthesis, speech recognition, and information retrieval, to name a few. I myself have done some research work in speech recognition. The first series of posts will be on automated machine translation. I will try to explain it in a simple manner so that a layman can appreciate and understand it. I will also cover and explain other areas of natural language processing throughout the year, perhaps two or three more times this year.
Daryl Morini, an IR PhD candidate at the University of Queensland whom I know, has put together an interesting global survey for undergraduate and graduate students of international relations. It looks pretty thorough and might make a pretty interesting student couter-point to the Teaching and Research in International Politics (TRIP) report on scholars’ attitudes. Eventually the goal is an article on our students’ attitudes toward the discipline; here is the full write-up of the project at e-IR. So far as I know, nothing like this has been done before (please comment if that is incorrect), so this strikes me as the interesting sort of student work we should support. Daryl’s also made an interesting effort to use Twitter as a simulation tool in IR, so I am happy to pitch this survey for him. Please take a look; Daryl may be contacted here.
PS: That pic is dead-on accurate.
Filed under: Academia, International Relations Theory, Political Science
I’m all about the music. I am up for any concert, just ask. With only a few days left before I leave (tear tear), lately I’ve been reminicing about all I’ve managed to experience while teaching and living in Korea (Are you ready?). I am amazed at how much I have done in such a short amount of time, especially when I think about all the concerts I’ve attended. It seems like ages ago, but at this time last year I was preparing to witness Lady Gaga’s first and very controvercial world tour stop in Seoul. A short while later I joined happy-go-lucky young Koreans lounging on Nami Island for the annual Rainbow Island Festival with Jason Mraz as the headliner.
A friend surprised me the next month with tickets to Korea’s famous pop music countdown show, Inkigayo. I was able to live out my childhood TRL dreams and be schooled in K-Pop all in the same day. Later in the summer I hopped from one stage to the next at Super!Sonic where I was able to inch my way to the front of Foster The People, Gotye, New Order, The Vaccines and other stages. Also, during the summer and fall I spent many a weekend night with a beer in hand in Hongdae park where young creative college students performed for large spontaneous crowds.
Oh, and how could I forget, I basically had a date with Psy last fall. He paid for everything, soju was chugged, and his shirt came off.
After stumbling out of Hongdae’s Rolling Hall a short time ago with ringing ears and sore feet I sadly realized this particular night probably marked my last big Korea concert. But I couldn’t think of a better act to end with.
Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) is a Canadian musician who has learned to successfully mix just the right amount of electronic pop with beautiful vocals to create dance-worthy and uplifting beats. Her Seoul trip was a special one becasue she is a huge K-Pop fan and apparently a few big Korean names, including G-Dragon, were present at the March 23 show.
photo from @supercolorsuper
I may have a year or so on the small yet fiercely blonde music-maker, but her stage precense was uniquely uplifting and powerful. I think one reason I enjoy live music so much is that I love witnessing people doing the one thing they are meant to do in life. Grimes is a musician and she is made for the stage. I left the show with a desire to continue dancing and an even stronger apprecition for my decision to wear flats on this particular night.
Here are a few resources you should check out to ensure you do not miss the next big show in Korea. So many fantastic acts grace Korea with their presence each year, you just have to be on the look-out for information regarding each show.
2) The Korea Gig Guide is a great resource for small and big acts performing in Korea. While browsing this guide last year I stumbled upon the Lady Gaga show information. You can also skim it before venturing out on a Friday or Saturday night to see which bars will have live music.
3) Interpark is kind of like the TicketMaster of Korea. I used this site to buy Super!Sonic, Lady Gaga and Rainbow Island Festival tickets. The site is easy to navigate and you can sign up for emails to inform you of upcoming shows.
Get your music on this summer:
June 7-9: Rainbow Island Festival
June 14-15: Ultra Korea
July 26-28: Ansan Valley Rock Festival (I am so jealous, The XX will be there this year. Check out the promotional video here. It makes me want summer in a bad bad way.)
August: Super!Sonic will return this year, but the specifics have yet to be released. Keep an eye on this page for more information and don’t miss it.
Enjoy. And wear flats.
Filed under: music, seoul, travel Tagged: concert, expat, friends, fun, Grimes, k-pop, korea, music, psy, seoul, summer, travel, YouTube
And Seo In Guk in Reply 1997 with Infinite's Hoya:
In Guk (left) and Hoya (right)I love boys that play gay roles. Especially handsome ones.
Seo In Guk made his debut back in 2009 when he won Superstar K's first season. As he is born in 1987, we could definitely be friends. Maybe with a bit of benefits? ㅋㅋ
I'm excited to see what you do next!
Coming soon to select theaters is the second installment Tai Chi Hero involving a cannon attack on a village and various flying contraptions of a steampunk nature. Delightful promotional matters for which may be found here : Tai Chi Hero Trailer. Do cast your eyes on the poster for Tai Chi hero to be found below. I must say that is a rather fine top hat he is sporting!
Till next time,
STay lightly starched and techno savvy,
About the Author
Matthew William Thivierge has abandoned his PhD studies in Shakespeare and is now currently almost half-way through becoming a tea-master (Japanese,Korean & Chinese tea ceremony). He is a part time Ninjologist with some Jagaek studies (Korean 'ninja') and on occasion views the carrying on of pirates from his balcony mounted telescope.
It's almost like companies in Korea are unable to make a handcream that doesn't come in some specially shaped or themed jar. It makes me want to try them all. This time I thought I'd talk about Tony Moly's shiny Red Apple Hand Cream.
Cost: A tub of this costs ₩9,000 for 30g. That's about £5.30 – not too bad for a hand cream but also not amazing, especially in Korea. Usually you can grab a handcream for about ₩5,000 or even less.
Prettiness: I do like how the apple shaped jar looks, and I can't help being reminded of DKNY's perfume whenever I see it. It's shiny red and looks good enough to eat. It also smells amazingly fruity and fresh, it's not sickly or too sweet! I can't stop smelling it!
Usability: I hate hand creams that linger on your hands for hours and make them feel really greasy and dirty. But this one is really light and absorbs so quickly. Plus the smell makes me want to use it more and more. After using it regularly for a while I have noticed a difference on my hands. I think it helps that the smell makes me want to reapply it again and again.
Overall: I love this product, I might buy it again, but I do think that it is quite expensive for how much you get, and the fact that the smell is so addictive, means that you reach the bottom of the pot very quickly. There are so many different hand creams to try in Korea that have equally as quirky packaging and at a lower price, that I think this will be a one off for me.
I enjoy the Korean chain restaurant, Isaac Toast, as a guilty pleasure. They are relatively simple (and greasy) breakfast sandwiches, but they can really addictive as a late-night treat. The restaurant down the street from where I live is open until 10 p.m., so sometimes I’ll have one even after I’ve eaten dinner.
With the egg, it’s meant to be a breakfast sandwich, but I only like them after a few beers. It’s a unique sort of sandwich, this Korean sandwich, or “toast” as they call it. If you don’t tell the cook how to modify your sandwich, you’ll end up with egg, shredded cabbage, sliced pickles, and some sort of processed meat slapped between two garlic buttered pieces of toast.
I heard that there are over one thousand Isaac Toast restaurants in South Korea, and even some have opened abroad (in the USA and Canada). I understand the addiction, but can’t really explain the appeal.
Check out the Debut album of Monkey 5 on i-Tunes, the first “Whistle Monkey Band” ever in the world. The music would fascinate every hearts.
Follow the Link -> https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/shall-we-whistle-single/id648269972
Monkey 5 is the first "Whistle Monkey Band" ever in the world.
The Band has five mysterious members :
Whikey, Goldee, Liva, Bello and Touyo from an unknown species called ‘PINGKONGs’.
They whistle in chorus and provide unprecedented harmony with a variety of whistling techniques like scat or vibration. Their music touches and fascinates every heart who listens to them.
Monkey 5 has been preparing this first album for a long time with ‘healing’ as its main theme to provide unique healing experiences for those who are physically and mentally tired.
Shall we whistle along with Monkey 5?
The Julie/Julia/Gisela Project
Food & Culture
Skates are cartilaginous fish belonging to the family Rajidae in the superorder Batoidea of rays. Stingrays and skates differ primarily in the way they reproduce. Skates are oviparous, that is they lay eggs. Their fertilized eggs are laid in a protective hard case called a mermaid’s purse.The fermentation
Various cultures indulge in eating fermented fish, but Korea has apparently one of the smelliest. Skate doesn’t urinate like other fish – it passes its uric acid through its skin. When it is fermented, the uric acid breaks down into a compound which smells exactly like ammonia. Fish rapidly spoils, or goes rotten, unless some method is applied to stop the bacteria that produce the spoilage. Fermentation is a method which attacks the ability of microbials to spoil fish; bacteria usually cease multiplying when the pH drops below 4.5.
In Korea, the fish is placed raw into an earthen clay pot and left at room temperature for a few days. Afterwards the uric acid drenching the skin produces ammonia which prevents the fish from rotting. The ammonia causes good and bad bacteria to grow. The good bacteria eventually kills the bad bacteria.
The Mottled Skate was mainly caught off the coast of Heuksando (흑산도) in South Jeolla Province. The island was attacked frequently during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) by Japanese marauders, so the residents were forced to move out. Those people carried several kinds of fish on their journey and most of them spoiled except for skate. [source], The fishermen from Heuksando packed up their belongings and started out on the 5 day journey from Heuksando to Yeongsanpo (Yongsan Port). They brought a variety of fish with them, but it soon all spoiled minus the skate fish, which was preserved. The fishermen ate the fish and enjoyed the sharp tangy taste of the fermented skate. This delicacy was created completely by accident. The people of South Jeolla then began serving hongeo and it became a popular dish eaten on special occasions and at parties throughout the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties.
These days, most restaurants use skate from other countries [like Chile] and it is frozen for a year. If hongeo is from Korea, the color is pink. If it’s not, it’s lighter. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed the mottled skate as Vulnerable. Annual catches by South Korea averaged 2,700 tons in 1991–1993 but only 220 tons in 2001–2003, indicating a 90% population decline over a ten-year period. [Wiki]
Landings of skates in Korea, taken by fisheries from adjacent waters, have abruptly declined. In Korea, skates are usually the species Raja pulchra (Jeong 1999). The average annual catch from 1991-1993 was 2,700 metric tonnes, but the catch in 2001-2003 was 220 metric tonnes (data from homepage of MOMAF of Republic of Korea 2004), reflecting a serious decline in the biomass collected [IUNC report].The sayings
Apparently, the female skate is preferred to its male counterpart because of taste and size. Female skate is bigger and has a better taste, where as the male skate is smaller. Fishermen prefer not to catch them because their penis is sharp, like a thorn and has been known to cut people. Needless to say, for those that have tried eating the less expensive male skate, they will find that even if they add as many ingredients they can muster, the skate penis is flavorless and seen as a culinary useless thing. So in Korea, I’m not sure how popular the saying is, if a guy is useless and underappreciated, then he could be called a ‘Hongeo Penis’ (홍어 거시기) [source].The experience
Korean food is all about preservation, so even accompanying the food with pork, may have provided Koreans with a way to kill off germs on the pig meat, that may have been dangerous to consume alone. Nowadays, I think it’s more of a way to neutralize the smell and throw in some makgeolli (fermented rice alcohol) to help with that as well. Let’s just say I was trying to suck the sweetness of the pork and the familiar kimchi taste out of the whole thing, just so I could avoid the horrible ammonia taste invading my mouth! The worse part? It is not easy to just swallow, skate is a cartilaginous fish, making it too freaken chewy to chew (>_<).The Video
One of the few on Youtube who didn’t seem to mind:
Running into UNESCO volunteers
In the middle of a typhoon You'll Live a Bold Life - From the onset, travelling abroad to teach requires bold decisions and massive change in your life. Uprooting yourself from comfort and routine is likely the hardest decision anyone will need to make when deciding to travel. When you arrive at your destination, you will be challenged daily on whether to live boldly or to retreat into comfort. I know this first hand. It's easy to go back and forth from school and hang out only with foreigners who share similar cultures with your own. To do the difficult thing though, whether learning a language, eating unfamiliar food, or building bridges with someone very different from you will require self-motivation and courage. Travel an uncomfortable path and like the saying goes - it will make all the difference.
I've been able to train steadily in the martial arts - something that has been a passion of mine since an early age. I volunteer consistently and help to coordinate efforts at a large soup kitchen nearby. All this and plenty of time for a nice nap each day!
You'll Enhance Your Resume - No matter how long you plan to live and teach abroad, one thing is for sure. Being an individual who has lived in another culture will only add value to your marketability to future employers. In an ever changing face of the global workforce, showing that you are capable of adapting to cultural differences will give you an edge in finding work. Everyone knows the fear and frustration that living in another culture could present. If you are one who braved it, you'll always earn some respect.
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