Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
There is one place in the world where the decades old quest for zero defect (thanks Panasonic) will bare fruit. This place is Asia’s growling, but sometimes tame, Tiger – South Korea. And it will bare a lot of fruit – square tomatoes and apples the size of Zumas head (post-trial) for the most part. At least it’s food for thought.
Korea is perfect in many ways. Innovative public transport – who needs a car? Fastest internet in the world and definitely one of the highest populations with a university degree.
But perfection comes with a heavy price – to name one: boredom. Just ask the Swiss.
See the perfect apartment buildings: space-saving-high-rise apartment buildings that conform to one simple building plan – no need wasting time on creativity or catering to the individual’s needs.
Beautiful popstars, tv stars, movie stars who’s faces and bodies are sculptured to conform to the much wanted European body shape.
The perfect S-curve (the line formed by ample booty and booby). Eyelids, perky nose and wavy hair. Plastic surgeons make money here. And if you can’t afford a plastic surgeon you can pop into your local 7/11 and by eyelid-stickers. Stick it on and voila – instant eyelids for a pretty night on the town. Padding for your booty and bra are also available.
So, what gives Korea character? Because they do have character – a character that sets them apart from the West. A character that makes me want to be Korean.
They enjoy the little things. Here, being cute, is a good thing. Girls are cute. Guys are cute.
Okay, don’t mis-judge this cute-fad and go buy yourself a Hello Kitty purse or Doreamon socks. Those are for the kids.
Koreans are cute because they can laugh at themselves – loudly. They are fun people – they kid around like they’re everyoung teenagers.
Watch an MC Mong or Wondergirls music video and look closely at their popstar dance moves. Go to any club tonight and as soon as one of those songs start playing at least 18 Korean guys and girls will pull-out all the stops and mimic those moves perfectly. Bless them.
Public shows of affection might still be scarce – heaven forbid you should kiss your girlfriend in public. But Korean men and women pull-out all the stops to show their affection in other ways – gifts, corny cards...
I met one guy who phones his girl before she goes to bed, so he can sing her to sleep.
Watch a Korean game show – they do foolish things, like trying to out-run a row of plastic pillars that are quickly falling on each other, domino-style. He didn’t make it and ended up being crushed (lightly) by three pillars that came down on his head. Good fun.
And men slapping each other on the butt, holding hands in public? Totally normal and a sign of good friendship.
Say what you will of the communist-style apartment buildings, the strange fashion, the obsession with plastic surgery.
Koreans are unique in a way we might never be. And you should love them a little more for it.
Monday, August 18, 2008
The watchtower and red brick wall of the prison enclosure.
The female inmates were imprisoned in these underground solitary cells. Inmates were interrogated and tortured here - these cells were named Ryu Gwan-sun cells after the independence movement's heroin.
The wailing tree outside the execution house. On the way to their death, prisoners would hold on to this tree crying, before being dragged off to the house where they were hanged. A hidden tunnel behind the house was used to secretly dispose of the bodies.
Opening hours: Mar - Oct, 09:30 - 18:00
Nov - Feb, 09:30 - 17:00
Closed on New Year's Day, Full-moon festival, and every Monday (if the Monday is a public holiday, then the museum is closed the following day).
Get there: Take line 3 (Orange line) to Dongnimmun station, exit 5. Walk straight for two minutes. The prison and Independence park is on your left.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Afro-pessimissm (n.) - 1. the perception of sub-Saharan Africa as a region too riddled with problems for good governance and economic development.
"Is this what I'm feeling," my friend asks from Cape Town. She's worried. This feeling does not sit well with a native of Africa.
Afro pessimism. That's what we're feeling. And dammit, it's not like you want to!
And to be in a different country, safe and far away from all the doubt and speculation in SA, you feel a little like a pansy. Like you've become one of those people who left SA because they're running from a horrible place with no future.
And I don't believe that.
But here I am. In Korea. With a perfect transportation system. With a capital city that is the safest in the world. I've seen one homeless person - and he looked reasonably happy, eating a can of tuna with pretty chopstix on his warm blanket in the subway.
I want to go back home eventually, but now I'm a little scared to do that. I'm scared to send money home before I've seen the outcome of the next presidential election (what will it do to the exchange rate?).
And I partly blame the media - the only time news from SA is important enough to air, it is bad news. So, that's all I hear.
Partly I blame afro-pessimism. If you believe something bad is going to happen, it probably will - eventually. And you did nothing to prevent it.
But mostly I blame bad government. But this could be a good thing, because governments are changeable and fix-able.
So, speak up, change, keep the most beautiful country beautiful and don't lose hope. But most of all don't be a pansy.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
This is a true story.