Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Friday, December 19, 2014


Today around the watercooler I overheard the following conversation between two interns:

I just don't want to end up like my mom!  It's so lame! She had so much going for her, but then to come back and have to get married like that. . . I mean I love my dad, but it's such bullshit! I'd never want to end up like that!

True, but come on. . . most guys will just turn around and say it's the same for them: they have to live up to stupid ideals as well.  It doesn't help at all to think of them as the enemy, that's sooo old school.  Like that guy in planning and development: he knows the score.  He doesn't feed me the same 'oh when are you getting married' schtick that I hear from so many of the old dudes.  

Yeah, but it is pretty easy to suss out the ijits from the chaff!

They both laugh.

I head back to my office for coffee, and wonder how many times I'll have to deal with interns being ijits in their own right, all while resisting the urge to bash my head against the wall until something starts to come out.  But then I do have a coworker or three who think it appropriate to lecture me and all on how calling a woman 'hot' is, like, totally inappropriate.  God forbid that a woman wants to accentuate her physical attractiveness!  If you dare to call attention to it, you are so WRONG! This coming from supposed Ivy League grads that usually get brought in to doll up the company rosters. . . .

Makes me think a good cull may not be such a bad thing.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Today around the water cooler a waeg coworker said: you should listen to this band. 

It reminded me that I should look at less porn at work, as I'd spent several hours reading about the demise of Detroit.  Still, all I could think: Nick Cave hanging out with Joy Division laughing at The Walkmen with Public Image Limited watching in the background.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Me and My Big Mouth

Sometimes people say all kinds of crap without thinking about it too much.

This blog is a case in point.  I just speak my mind, when I should just sit quietly.

Usually, when someone mentions something about my surprisingly good chopsticking skillz, I fall back on my tried and true scripted response.  Occasionally though, some will make some inane pseudo scientific comment, and the scripted response goes out the window.  Today it was about how Asians are more genetically inclined to chopstick better. The standard narrative is how this explains why Asians in general are better at tasks that require small implements or machinery, especially related to genetic engineering.

It was at lunch when Ms. Sohn ventured into this typical small talk venue: Wow Mr. Waeg! You chopstick so well!  waaaaa~~! Wow you do use your chopticks differently! I did not know that about chopsticks! So amaze!  You know, Koreans chopstick very well, it is in our blood!

Usually any salty waeg can easily negotiate this scenario, yet when she went on about the inherent genetic aspect of chopsticking I felt my eye twitch. Before I could stop myself I said:

Ah yes, the genetic chestnut!   Did you know, Ms. Son, that the first person to advocate that theory was a Japanese scientist trying to explain why a Japanese team had been able to successfully reproduce an experiment that had eluded the scientific community for some time?  He basically said that because Japanese had a genetic affinity with chopsticks, only they were able to replicate the results.  Still, you can't help but think this is part of the Japanese national narrative to mitigate the loss in WWII: we Japanese are better at this than westerners!  Westerners can't know this, since it isn't in their culture or their blood!  Instead of looking at what rational explanations may exist for the failed experiments, he chose to instead say it was due to genetics and culture, feelings.  It was actually quit trendy about 20-25 years back for Japanese scientific researchers to add a little extra to their presentations, saying that they had succeeded at negotiating this very difficult task that required manipulating small instruments since the Japanese had genetically enhanced chopstick skills.  Really? You didn't know?  Oh yes!  There were even articles bemoaning the loss of chopstick skills in the face of ever encroaching western imperialism, since the love of all things western meant an end to pure chopstick expertise, or the end of something truly unique and beneficial to Asian cultures in general.

Things around our corner of the table got a bit awkward until someone brought up sports, and then balance was restored in the universe. But I'm sure Ms. Sohn is butthurt.  She wouldn't look at me and is obviously stewing.  She was simply trying to make small talk and be nice, and instead of just playing nice I became asshole incarnate.  Who knows, maybe as Koreans negotiate their love of all things western they'll realize that the exotic is just that, and that Koreans aren't the only ones who have thought a particular group was cool, suave, prestigious, simply because they were different. . .maybe they'll learn one day that Americans used to think the French were awesome for example, and that Koreans aren't as unique and special as they think they are.

Now, I do believe that stupidity is a universal constant, and I'm hoping she won't hold a grudge against me and that her panties aren't in a knot about it.  Still, I'm sure it'll be some time before Ms. Sohn attempts to engage me in conversation. From experience, these types of conversation never end well, and it's best to just smile.  When will I ever learn?

Friday, November 7, 2014


Last weekend was quite busy: Halloween on Friday, then a trip down to Andong with a few other families for an overnight stay in a Hanok and a tour of the area.

I'd carved up a couple of pumpkins quick for the kids' Halloween party on Friday; as usual, we had the party at one of the many indoor playgrounds that are so common today. I decided on a lark to bring the pumpkins with me to Andong the next day; they actually seemed to fit well the ambiance of the hanok. The jack o lantern is an old folk tradition from Ireland and other parts of Europe; they would serve to guide the kind spirits to the Halloween festivities, while scaring off the malevolent ones. I explained to the girls this is why at Halloween you dressed up and used the pumpkins, since at the party you'd never really know who was a human and who wasn't. In a country like Korea with a strong folk religion and shamanic traditions, it seems odd that such a practice didn't really take root here, but then pumpkins and squash are a fairly recent introduction to this finest of peninsulas.

The pumpkin was a huge hit, with one of the other families vowing to do the same next Halloween. I showed them several pictures from the internet of awesome carved pumpkins, so now it seems we'll be having a contest next year. I am so going to win.

The night at the hanok was pretty nice. In the morning we went to visit Dosan Seowon, the school that Toegye built (the dude on the 1000 Won bill).  I was most impressed with the museum showcasing artifacts from Toegye's life: I got to see his one and only spittoon and more importantly, his broom.  The youngest was acting up so I threatened to smack her bottom a couple of times with Toegye's broom, promising to buy the replica that would no doubt be offered for sale in the souvenir shops outside.  Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that none of the shops had a replica of this most hallowed of brooms; in fact, most of the shop owners looked at me like I had three heads when I asked them where I could find one.  I mean, come on!  If you're going to show me Toegye's one and only broom as a highlight of a display on artifacts from his life, why aren't there replicas for sale??  Preposterous!

 Anyway, a great weekend was had by all.  Time to get some work done.  Listening to the latest Godspeed You! Black Emperor album makes it go faster:


Several months ago I came out of my apartment to find that my car had been vandalized; it wasn't the first time such a thing had happened, and at the time I pretty much chalked it up to just a bunch of kids screwing around. However, I've had to reconsider this position: not just my van, but June's car has since then been repeatedly vandalized. Someone has been putting out cigarettes on the cars, dumping coffee and other garbage, smearing unknown goop on the doors and windows. It finally came to a head a couple weeks back when someone took to ripping up our mail, leaving the pieces strewn about around the mailboxes.

Why someone would do this is pure conjecture, although if I were to hazard a guess I'd say it's because someone is envious of my beautiful wife and children; they must have a shrew of a wife and fat porky disrespectful kids, so when they see me and mine they just naturally get bent out of shape. I understand them.

While I can empathize with what may be their rationale for messing with my shit, it's obvious that we can no longer stay in this area. It kind of sucks anyway, being rather shabby and old, with few decent green places for the kids to play; also, it is rather far from June's business and the girls' school. That June hates the area because there are too many fortune tellers and shamans around doesn't add much to the idea of staying, nor does her saying that she will die if we continue to stay here. So move it is!

I am looking forward to the change of scene, although I have no idea how the hell I'm going to pay for it. The van died a while back as well, so I also need new transportation; where the hell is all this milk and honey I'm supposed to be receiving for living as a waeg on this finest of peninsulas?? All I see is a rapidly diminishing bank account and fewer years ahead to fill it up so I don't have to eat only kimchi rice and seaweed when I'm old.

Ah well, at least in the short term it will be a positive change for all of us. The new digs are pretty new and in a nice part of town, lots of green spaces. And the move is a great chance to toss out piles of old junk, although having a yard sale would be fun. Sadly, Koreans just aren't into that kinda thing.

Time for coffee.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Some weird shit. . .sick beat though.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Credit in the Straight World!

Waeg!  how are you?? been so long, thanks for accepting my friend request!

He had felt some trepidation at accepting the request.  But as Waeg these days is more interested in earning credit in the straight world, he clicked yes. Besides, he was curious.

He remembered her from years past.  Obviously intelligent, but lacking the will and focus that would give her the 0.2 points more necessary to earn a top spot for admission to SNU.  When asked by her mom years back, Weag had not sugar coated the pill: she'd never be that top student getting into that top school. She was smart, but needed a more hands on engagement with life.  Her parents responded somewhat uncharacteristically: they didn't send her overseas, or pay for a ringer at a top hogwon to pave her way through math and English into a top position.  Instead, they seemed to take Waeg's advice to heart: they bought her a harp.

Waeg remembers it vividly: this monster of a musical instrument showing up, and the expensive lessons that followed.  Soon, she no longer had time to take his lessons. 

Fast forward ten years.  She had gotten into one of the best music high schools, and then acceptance into an SNU music program.  Waeg was not surprised, as her parents were loaded, and her mom only cared about grooming her to be the brood mare for a scion from another well to do family.  That's the way things rolled pretty much everywhere when concerns for family are paramount.  In her case, buy an instrument that is ridiculously expensive that no one else plays. Who the fuck plays the harp?  Make the right amount of donations to the right people, and rejoice at being 'selected'.

But as he looked at her photos now, he wondered: why, despite the plastic surgery on an already attractive woman with impeccable social standing and background, did she look so. . . unsatisfied?  Incomplete?  Sad?  Waeg writes despite knowing the answer to be obvious: she was always astute enough to know that following what adults told you in elementary and middle school is what is. . . but when faced with lessons on how to make valid decisions based in self understanding, elicited by top hogwon teachers to add verisimilitude to a good college essay, and realizing that the vague details represented have no substance and only serve to ghost an essay for admission . . . and during the process you see things you'd never seen about yourself, yet being told that engaging this train of thought should inspire anathema, since you must win, and you will, but still, it nags, since the persona the hogwon bunnies create is such a total fiction, and who exactly are you anyway? You've never gone out and lived and know only what has been prescribed since grade six, so really, you have no idea. .  .  the look in her eyes spoke that same old story in those photos.

Waeg laughs, as he knows she will lose the existential angst sooner rather than later.  It's a moment that is usually quickly overcome, since family and friends will encourage her to revel in her success, in her plastic surgery, in the attention she'll receive from appropriate suitors.  She had made it after all, so live the life that this entails.  Yet from experience, Waeg knows it won't be enough. Later in life she'll either meet him or his ilk in some random dating app, and while it won't be good for either one of them, she actually may entertain for just a moment why she should raise her kids in the same manner.  She'll tell her story which has been told many times before, blame society, blame her parents, blame the penicillin she takes to clear out that nasty infection she picked up from random Joe Kim taxi driver.  She'll never know why she can't get over it, why she even thought it in the first place, but her daughter will marry someone higher on the social ladder, since well, that's how things are, and what they are meant to be.  To think otherwise is foolish and blind.  Till then, she'll keep herself safe and true, yet not knowing that she's exempt from earning:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Regular Programming will return shortly

Saturday, August 23, 2014


We got home around 1 AM local time. The only one who could sleep was the SO, so I've been working on this duty free single malt while catching up on emails, Facebook, watching X-Men Days of Future Past with the girls, Judge Dredd by myself, and generally wondering what I'm to do next.

I find myself back in the land of the morning calm, where I've rarely experienced the kind of calm I did visiting friends and family.  Sure I may be romanticizing the shit out of it, but here, example:

There is much to say.  But this is the F5Waeg speaking, so let's start it off with this vid featuring a sex deprived Asian American dude who brings the party.  I love all the ugly people. Hello summer of 2014!

There.  I couldn't stop laughing after watching it.  Not to belittle the Asian American male angst and frustration at not getting laid enough, since well, dude, been there!  Still, it was amusing to think of while I played croquet with the girls.  The set cost me 24.99 at Toys R Us.

Friday, July 25, 2014