Friday, December 29, 2006

snow shoed

Walking in Pavan Park, north of Lethbridge.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

consider yourself informed

This is the English Only Zone, also know as the EZ zone (though clearly redundant). We teach in the building on the left, and we all live in the dormitories on the right. One building for the girls, and one for the boys. I've probably mentioned before that I live in the girls dormitory. As you might imagine, this is some sort of dream come true. You can also see our cafeteria in the foreground. I live, eat, and work in this small area. There is no real reason to leave.

Sometimes I do leave for a bike ride though, as I did on Sunday. This is an old section of residential Jinju that is packed into a valley away from the river.

The power distribution in that area seems to have been inspired by some of the Indian cities I've visited.

This is obviously a bad picture, but I took it to illustrate an interesting phenomenon that might be unique to Korea. This appears to be a village. There are no other buildings withing five kilometers. Is that where the farmers that tend to those green houses live?

There seems to be a system in Korea whereby the government plans and contracts the construction of every apartment building to Hyundai, Samsung, and the other conglomerates. Individual apartments are then sold off by the government. Contrast this with our system, in which a developer proposes a building, sells the units at a price set for profit, and begins construction.

Korea's system allows for a housing allocation system, which was recently adjusted to benefit families with three or more children. This is part of the governments campaign to bring up the birthrate. If you didn't know, Korea is a country full of dinks - that is "dual income, no kids".

I'm serious, it's part of the Korean vernacular.

Anyway, you really have to see these blocks of apartment complexes to believe it. In bigger cities there are countless areas that contain thirty or forty absolutely identical highrise apartments. These buildings are all cookie cutter copies of each other, and they are built simultaneously! The only difference between them are the giant numbers that are painted on each one to help you distinguish between them. 101, 102, 103... I imagine that Hyundai and Samsung have apartment catalogues containing five or six apartment models for local governments to choose from. Imagine how cheap they are to build compared to an independently designed and contracted apartment building. If I were so bold to pull a number out of the air, I would say that they can build them for half the cost. No need to pay for independent architectural and engineering work on every building - and I guarantee you that the boys building the apartments above have built 50 others just like them. They probably come with a manual. Step 1....

This picture also captures something interesting about Korea. This is a section of the world map that is displayed in front of the EZ building. You will notice that an area of the map above was cut out and replaced. The name "Sea of Japan" was removed and replaced with "East Sea". This is related to sentiments over Japan's former occupation/colonization. Many people feel that the body of water separating the Corean Penninsula and Japan should have a neutral name... though there are also quite a few Coreans who think that it should just be called "Sea of Corea".

What's that you say? Corea? Interesting that you should ask about that.

Many Koreans actually write the word "Corea" in reference to their country. This is also related to the Japanese occupation. The argument goes that the Japanese began to romanize the name using a K, while previously a C was used. Something about making sure that Corea did not precede Japan at any international meetings (it's alphabetical see?). This has become a national issue, and strong rallying call of many a Corean nationalist.

I should note that my use of the word "Korea" is in no way an endorsement of Japanese colonial ideas or actions. In fact, I don't think that anyone's usage of the term is - apart from the Koreans who have made it an issue. That's just my value judgement though.

Those interested in the history of the Korea/Corea distinction might read about it in
this interesting article, which includes historical evidence (read: cool old photos) including postage stamps, passports, and stationary suggesting the dubious nature of the claim that it was the Japanese that changed the romanization. You might also read these interesting articles about the Sea of Japan naming dispute and a letter writing campaign that some Korean students launched to bring international attention to the claims. Turns out that National Geographic has listed "East Sea" as an alternative name as a result of their efforts.

This is a pretty average scene from the countryside in this area. Tree covered hills and well farmed valley floors spotted with farmer's houses, green houses, and little family temples.

And finally, you should all know that someday I will live in a house that looks something like this one. That or a Chinese style courtyard home.