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Archive for March, 2007

Porn Stats

Posted by Brian on March 30, 2007

More porn statistics than you can shake a stick at here.

South Korea is listed as #2 in the world in terms of revenue (America is ranked #4), and #1 (by a large margin) in terms of per capita revenue. Who knew?

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Superpower Classic

Posted by Brian on March 28, 2007

After seeing this post over at The Marmot’s Hole, I decided to sign up for Superpower Classic, a forum-based nationsim. I’ll be playing Finland, an interesting country to play because of its proximity to Russia and location on the periphery of Europe.

I plan on running Finland as a strong voice for human rights issues and world peace. To prepare, I’ll be doing some reaearch on Finland and other Finnish things. For example, I just learned that Finland has a female president.

Posted in Gaming | 3 Comments »

Strangest classroom experience ever…

Posted by Brian on March 25, 2007

Today in class, I went through the strangest experience I’ve ever had in a classroom.

Towards the last 5 minutes of a low level class, one of my male students asked if he could have a few minutes to address the class. Figuring it was some sort of school project, such as a survey or presentation, I said sure and gave him the floor. To my surprise, he stood up and went to the front of the classroom, pulled out a piece of paper, and shifted his position so he was facing one female student. He then began reading from his prepared notes.

“Sunmi, it’s been 2 months since we started studying together. I’ve learned how special you are and I think I love you.”

He then went on for a few more minutes with some mildly poetic musings on her kindness, generosity, and beauty, closing with one more “I love you.”. Once he made it through his notes, he broke into Joe Cocker’s You are so Beautiful to Me, then into a Korean ballad that I didn’t recognize.

It’s important to note at this point that I never noticed anything special about these two students when they were together, and that they were *not* a couple prior to this confession. It came completely out of left field.

Sure, it sounds somewhat romantic, perhaps like something you might see on a Korean drama. But it was really weird and very uncomfortable for those of caught in the middle of this gushing display of professed love. When he first started his routine, we thought it was some silly gag, so a few of us chuckled. Then, when we realized he was deadly serious, the other students put their heads down and stared at their desks. Meanwhile, I tried to say calm and respectful while sitting behind the student. The female target, poor girl, was obviously embarrassed beyond belief; I’m surprised she didn’t up and flee the classroom in panic. But she sat there as best she could and made it to the end.

He finished his confession of love at the 50 minute mark, bringing the class to a finish. Still stunned, all I could do was ask if there were any questions. No hands were raised so I fled the classroom as quickly as possible in order to avoid the fireworks that I assumed were about to break out.

Unfortunately, while the guy obviously has balls of steel and a romantic streak in him a mile wide, I can’t help but feel he was way out of line doing what he did. He put the girl and the rest of us in a very difficult position and no doubt has successfully created a very awkward classroom environment for the rest of the week. That’s assuming everyone shows up, of course, which I seriously doubt at this point. If the girl says “no,” will she want to be partnered up with this guy for an activity, and vice-versa? Will the other students want to be caught in the middle again? I might be more lenient if he had done it on the last day of class, which would have made it easier for everyone to say goodbye without a lot of hurt feelings. But as it is now, I have 4 more days of class to go through with these kids.

My supervisor agrees  that I should have stepped in as the teacher and put a stop to it before it got out of hand. I think he might be right, so I plan on talking to the girl tomorrow (assuming she’s there) to make sure she’s OK and maybe offer an apology for letting it happen. And if she’s not there, I just might call her.

I’ll try to update this post tomorrow after I hear how it developed after I left.

BTW, how would you have handled it?

Update: Well, I just finished that class and, to my surprise, both the pursuer and pursued showed up. Things were very awkward in class so I abandoned my lesson plan halfway through and went to game mode. We played one fo my favorites, the Category Game.

I spoke with the girl after class privately and told her that I was just as shocked as she was and that I was sorry I let her get put on the spot like that. She said she was OK, but that she didn’t like the guy that way so she had turn him down. Ouch!

One commentator below said that I should have asked the guy what he wanted to talk about before giving him the floor. This is an excellent bit of advice and something I will be sure to do next time.

Posted in Personal | 7 Comments »


Posted by Brian on March 23, 2007

I got my tickets for 300 tonight. I’m seeing it with a friend at the new Megabox theater in Shinchon. After seeing a lot of movies in America while there for 7 months, I had forgetten what it was like to be able to buy a pair of movie tickets without busting your budget. When the girl at the Megabox told me the price was 14,000W, I almost felt like reminding her that I needed two tickets!

And don’t get me started about the price of movies in Japan!

UPDATE: 300 rocked big time! I can’t help but question the tactics of the Persians, though, who seemed to have decided on a battle plan inspired by lame kung-fu movies, with underpowered units after underpowered units being sent into the Spartan grinder.

Posted in Movies/TV | Leave a Comment »

Tolerate Intolerance?

Posted by Brian on March 22, 2007

After reading Chris Hedges’ American Fascists and Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming, two books about the militant Christian Right and its efforts to expand its political reach, I find myself genuinely frightened by these people. They really are out to take over this country, and would no doubt gleefully take over the entire world if they could somehow get their hands on a super-powered pagan-busting bomb. They really are the American Taliban.

Hedges raises the interesting philosophical point, via a quote from Karl Popper, of whether or not there should be any limits to what is actually tolerated in a society that prides itself as “tolerant”:

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

As a proud liberal, I consider tolerance to be a first-order virtue, but should my commitment to tolerance be unlimited and unconditional? Will I “tolerate” myself right into being a persecuted minority in some near-future dystopia run by Christian fascists? It’s a tough question.

Hedges gives the following bit of advice for dealing with these people:

“Debate with the radical Christian right is useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want a dialogue. It is a movement based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion. It is not mollified because John Kerry prays or Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school. Naive attempts to reach out to the movement, to assure them that we, too, are Christian, or we, too, care about moral values, are doomed. This movement is bent on our destruction. The attempts by many liberals to make peace would be humerous of the stakes were not so deadly. These dominionists hate the liberal, enlightened world formed by the Constitution, a world they blame for the debacle of their lives. They have one goal – it’s destruction.”

Especially scary is that these people vote, and that the Republican candidates actually bend over backwards to appeal to these types.

Posted in American Issues, Books | Leave a Comment »

Builders or Fighters?

Posted by Brian on March 20, 2007

There’s an interesting discussion going on around the Korean blogosphere about the value of the contributions made by Korean troops in Iraq. To kick it off, Andy at the Marmot’s Hole linked to a piece of online journalism that looks at the rapid development of Northern Iraq, of which the Korean Zaytun Unit is playing a part. Andy makes the point that the Korean troops are there to “aid development,” and they are doing a good job it. GI Korea responds by pointing out just how very little the Korean troops have actually done, saying that a good amount of the development that is going on would proceed as planned with or without a Korean troop presence in the area. Josh at One Free Korea chimes in as well.

I happen to agree with GI Korea’s take on the matter: Korea’s contribution to stability in Iraq has been minimal at best and their deployment there was motivated by political concerns rather than humanitarian or security issues. It was a quid pro quo agreement between America and South Korea, with SK tying a troop dispatch to Iraq with American concessions to North Korea. And this wasn’t the only case of a “coalition” “partner” receiving certain goodies in exchange for giving the Bush administration’s efforts a veneer of multi-lateralism as they pushed for an attack on Iraq. Korea may have the third largest contingent among the “coalition” “partners,” but they are still turtled up in a relatively peaceful part of the country and can’t even guard South Korean aid convoys. Nor can they patrol their own perimeter; the Kurdish Peshmerga do it for them! Meanwhile, the rest of the country continues to suffer from out-of-control violence and dozens of American soldiers are dying every month along the way.

As GI Korea said, if Korea wants to help in development then some sort of Peace Corp outfit can be put together with a much better skill set than the current soldiers have. As it is, they are doing the Iraqi people and themselves a disservice by having the men, training, and means to make a real difference in the security situation there but refusing to do so.

Posted in Korean Issues | Leave a Comment »

Just work harder…

Posted by Brian on March 20, 2007

There was a tragic story in the Korean news a few days ago about a young boy who was kidnapped and killed as part of a plot to get his wealthy parents to hand over 130 million won to the kidnapper. While it is an indefensible action, I do take issue with one facet of the Korea Herald’s criticism of his behavior:

The motive for the kidnapping and killing is inexcusable. He had a debt of 130 million won. Instead of working extra hard to repay his debt, the kidnapper, in his 20s, chose what he thought was an easy way out. Kidnap a rich boy, get a ransom, and pay back the debt. The boy would be killed so as to make it a perfect crime. It is unbelievable that such a plan was conceived by a physically fit young man with a son of his own.

One hundred and thirty million won comes to about $138,000 in US dollars. Now, according to the World Bank, Korea’s average national income is about $15,000 US dollars per person. Doing the math, assuming an average salary, he would have to work 9 straight years and turn over every penny of his income to the bank in order to pay off that debt. Saving half of his income, it would take 18 years to pay off that debt. With a son of his own, saving a quarter of his income might be possible, but then he would be paying off his debt for 30+ years. With such a bleak future, it’s no wonder he saw his kidnapping scheme to be the easy way out.

I’m not defending his actions, of course, but the KH editorial strikes me as quite insensitive to the realities of the working class in Korea. A 130,000,000W debt is a huge debt to pay off… it’s not simply a matter of clocking in a few hours of overtime each week and clipping a few more coupons for a few years until the debt is settled. I can only imagine the pressure this guy was under… and that’s the kind of pressure that would drive a man to murder.

Posted in Korean Issues | Leave a Comment »

You “come together” first…

Posted by Brian on March 19, 2007

Here’s Tom Delay on Meet the Press (shouldn’t he be in jail now?) lecturing the left about the need to “come together” at times of war:

Well, I–it, it is my opinion that when you go to war, we ought to all come together. You can debate going to war, that’s a legitimate debate. But once you have our soldiers and our, our young people dying on the battlefield, we should come together…

Here’s Tom Delay back in the 90’s criticizing Clinton’s use of American troops during the Kosovo operation:

I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our overextended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today.

This quote, and others like it, can be found here.

Delay is a flaming hypocrite and Russert should have had a “gotcha” quote ready and waiting.

Posted in American Issues | Leave a Comment »