Sunday, October 16, 2005

Star Spangled Banner

Two of my friends here in Korea are from England. They asked me a few nights ago about the "Star Spangled Banner" and I was telling them the story behind it about the guy who was watching Fort McHenry after the British attacked D.C. to see if in the morning light the flag of the U.S. was still standing. Then they asked me if I knew all the words. I responded that I didn't know if I did and started going through the lyrics to see if I could remember them. By the end of the song I was singing my heart out.

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I really miss America.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Camping like you've never heard it before.

A real quote from “Rising Gangwon,” a guide book about the province of Korea that I live in. This particular segment describes the "Valley and Natural Rest-Forest," and is trying to get more foreigners to go camping.

“Where shall we go on holidays? Imagine immersing our feet in a fresh and cool brook in the valley and leisurely enjoying the cicada’s echoing choir, lazily kicking off the weariness of our lives. Or, fancy taking an undisturbed rest in a tent in the deep green of the forest, in the bosom of Mother Nature…Why not descend into a deep mountain valley, full of quiet and solitude, to satisfy our souls this summer. The thrashing of the water in the brook transforms the world into a sudden childhood scene. How magical! When daylight concedes to twilight, space once crowded in the day becomes the fairy land of twinkling fireflies. The shining galaxy glitters above and the chirping insects all around initiate us into the intimacy of the summer night.”

Thursday, October 06, 2005

How to insult internationally.

Two effective ways to insult a Korean Person.

-"You have lovely dark skin."

(This is the equivelant of telling an American "Your skin is covered in zits and acne.)

-"You look like you might have had some Japanese anscestors."
(Many Koreans don't like Japanese people. Read the following blog to find out why.)

A Brief History of Korea circa 1910 to 1953

From 1906ish to 1945 Korea was under the rule of the Japanese. It is too complex to go into detail here, but being under Japanese rule was horrific. Read more about it and the rest of Korean's history at this website,

At the end of WWII, i.e. when Japan lost the war, Korea was put under the control of the Former Soviet Union and the United States of America. America took the bottum half and the Soviet Union took the top half. That halfway point was the 38th parallel.

In 1950 North Korea attacked with the help of the Soviet Union. They took most of Korea, including the capital, Seoul. South Korea appealed for help from the U.N. and countries started giving their support, including the U.S. with General MacArthur.

South Korea made a comeback and pushed the North Koreans back, retaking Seoul, until China entered the fray on the side of North Korea. Seoul was back in communist hands with China's help. The war continued until South Korea retook Seoul and reached the 38th prallel, right where it had all started. Truce negotionations began in 1951 and in 1953 an armistice agreement was reached, although the two countries are still classified as 'at war.'

This is how people feel about American Involvement in Korean politics and economy and military and the re-unification of North and South Korea.

The older generation likes that America is still involved, they think that if the U.S. were to leave that their economy would fall apart and that they would be under increased risk from North Korea. From the people I've talked to, they say that the younger generation doesn't remember what it was like before the U.S. was here, and how poor everyone was and how much the U.S. helped South Korea. They also worry about North Korea attacking again. They feel very strongly about this.

The younger generation hates America putting their nose in everyone's business. They believe that they are becoming a stronger nation because of their own hard work and that American is taking more from Korea than it is giving back. They want the U.S. to leave.They say that the older generation doesn't truly know what is going on and that they are just afraid of change. They say that once America is gone North and South Korea will have a greater chance of becoming unified again. They feel very strongly about this.

Both generations think that North and South Korea will be one again, but not soon. They refer to North and South Korea as brother and sister. However, the older generation doesn't want it to happen soon. They think that it can only happen through war and they don't want to have to go through that again and they also believe that their economy will be decimated by taking on the poverty that North Korea lives in. The younger generation doesn't seem to have those fears, but they also don't seem to be really alive with passion to do anything to get the two countries back together.

These are just the opinions of the very few people that I have talked to. Mind you that it has been almost all women, almost all have been my English students, all people from the small town of Sokcho, (석초시) and a total of 12 people. So these views that I have stated above may very well be completly false when taken against the majority of Korean's opinions.

My quick opinion of Korea
I am starting to love this country more and more. They've really had a crap time of it, not just the Korean war, but since then there has been many more political disasters. It's sad to go to the beach and see fences topped with coils of razor wire and lookout posts. It's strange to see roads built through mountain passes with huge concrete blocks ready to be toppled onto the road at a moments notice. (They are anti-tank blockades.) It's hard to go to a historical site and see over and over again, "This Buddist Temple was built in 1200 A.D. and..." then at the bottum you ALWAYS see, "the origional structure was distroyed in the Koren war and re-built in 1967."
Something that is heartening though is that in many countries people want to go to America or Canada or England to stay and live and make a better life for themselves. You rarely get that here. People want to go to England or Canada to work or to visit or to study English, but never to stay. Live away from Korea? No. They want to stay and make Korea strong again. They want to see Korea become a world power. And I think they will.