Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

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

Friday, August 31, 2012

So many kinds of wrong

This week's edition: game shows

so many kinds of wrong

Everything you need to explain the low birth rate in Korea is found in this next video:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Yesterday the fam came home all worried about the impending doom typhoon about to inundate this fine peninsula in meters upon meters of water.

June came home with a large box of groceries, and berated me for not taking care of it myself. Why aren't you getting ready for the typhoon?

I didn't hear anything about it. What typhoon? When?

It's coming, we need to get ready.

The eldest was particularly worked up, as she'd seen some kind of video at school which offered tips on how to survive if a typhoon hit. She'd picked up several newspapers, and was insisting we wet them and cover the windows, as it is much more effective than tape for preventing glass from flying about.

While that is an interesting little tidbit that I'm not sure I believe, I was annoyed that they'd had the fear put into them. My gut was telling me to chill, nothing serious will come of it. We're inland. If we were close to the ocean, I'd be all about putting wet newspapers on the windows. I explained that we've got two separate glass doors between us and outside, I'm sure we'll be fine. The position of our apartment and the surrounding apartments also makes it unlikely that we'll be facing any serious issues as far as wind is concerned, as we're facing a courtyard that makes a nice buffer. Relax. If it makes you feel better, I'll lay out some of the camping gear, here are some flashlights, and I'll go pick up some more bottled water.

Sure enough, my intuition was spot on. While it has been a bit windy, and right now it's suggesting that it may get windier still, nothing really serious has hit. Meanwhile, all the kids stayed home from school, and I had a meeting cancelled as the dude said he couldn't make it because of the typhoon. I'm like: what typhoon?

It's true that the south and the west were hit pretty hard; some of the photos I've seen on the web show how nasty it got down there.  Might have been even fun under the right circumstances.  Not so much in Gangwon. The heaviest storm I remember in Gangwon was back in 2001. I remember as at the time a very nice girl drove all the way down from Seoul to get me drunk and take advantage of me. Good times, good times.

Time for some rice wine.


If you haven't been following the news on the Samsung -vs- Apple lawsuits in the US (and just about everywhere else), Apple recently scored a huge victory taking Samsung to the cleaners for copying Apple products.

Having used an iPhone4 and Galaxy S2, I don't think it takes much of a supergenius to realize that the Samsung products do greatly resemble Apple's.  That Samsung had been producing parts for Apple for years also would explain why Samsung might be inclined to simply make a product very similar to Apple's, since merely following the blueprint on something is much easier than drawing one up yourself.  That Korean products have long been considered cheap copies, albeit often improved and more functional, over original designs isn't really shocking news to most adults who have spent any time thinking about it.

Anyway, this morning June was in full on rant mode about how she now hated her iPhone, and that it was terrible that Samsung had to pay so much in damages to Apple.  She insisted she only bought her iPhone as I said it was better than the Samsung product, and then she began to go on about how lacking in functionality her Maps program is compared to her friend's on a Samsung product.

I said she needed to simply download the appropriate app, problem solved.  She got angrier, saying she'd have to pay for it on the iPhone.  Are you sure?  Did your friend have to pay for the app on the Samsung product?  She didn't respond, and I thought it prudent to stop sounding like an Apple fanboy and go to work.

While some may say the result may not be the best for the tech industry in general, as now simple functionality of many products may be hindered, I don't buy this argument.  This next round of tech advances will probably feature complete hands free type gear, a complete redesign of how the tech is integrated into our lives.  Apple may have shot itself in the foot in the long run, since now Samsung, which has gotten huge thanks to slavishly copying foreign designed stuff for years, will now need to do some serious soul searching and change to make new and unique products.

Or they may simply get stuck in a rut, continue copying products, mired in a corporate culture that stifles innovation.  We'll see now, won't we?

Time for coffee.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Today the fam went off to Seoul to go visit June's friend's new cafe. Originally the girls were to stay with me, but at the last minute June took them with her. So I did the only sensible thing when home alone and decided to reorganize the metal shelving units in the veranda.

One thing that should be made clear is that I've been using the back of the van as storage for quite some time now. I didn't appreciate just how much space in the apartment I was saving until I hauled the lot upstairs. A fleeting sense of accomplishment almost made me forget the three or four times I seriously banged my wrapped up finger, but I'm the kind of guy who won't stop until the job gets done. Getting started is another story altogether, but I made myself feel even better when I found a nearly full pack of smokes buried in one of the tarp bags, and a bag of fishing gear I'd thought lost.

But I realized I was missing one of my shovels. I remembered taking it out of the van when I cleaned the floor mats, so took a quick walk over to the car wash to pick it up.

What? Shovel? No shovel here. You must have made a mistake.

I left it leaning against that post. Are you sure? It's a grey metal shovel.

No shovel like that here. I can't help you.

On a lark, I walked around to the back where they have a vegetable garden. Imagine my surprise when I see a grey metal shovel.

Here it is, thanks. Sorry for the trouble.

The woman looks fit to burst: that isn't your shovel, you can't take it. I'm calling my husband.

The husband confirms it is their shovel. She says he's on his way.

OK, sorry, it's true these shovels are fairly common. Still, why did you say you didn't have one like it?

We have many shovels here, I can't keep track of them all. This is our shovel, you can't take it.

Sorry to bother you.

I went home scratching my head. On the way, I stopped at a hardware store and bought another nearly identical to it for 9 chonners. The last one had cost me eight. Ah, inflation.

Surprisingly, I wasn't that upset; it could have been their shovel, and if not if they're willing to get so worked up over 8 bucks, they probably need it more than me. I went back home and finished organizing the shelving units.

Time for bed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

So many kinds of wrong

This week's edition, in honor of my own stoopidity at slicing open my finger with a clasp knife, ijits:

so many kinds of wrong

fast forward to the 2 minute mark on the next one for pure idiocy gold:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Pen marks the spot.
Late Sunday night I had a little accident.  While working away at a piece of presswood with my clasp knife to make smaller chunks for the fire, I must have accidentally pressed the clasp, with the result being the blade cutting deep into the center of my middle finger.

I knew it was bad as soon as I did it.  I immediately grabbed a clean cloth and tied it tightly around the wound.

My first thought: you ijit boy scout.  How the hell did you do that?  Did you forget how to hold a knife all of a sudden?  At least you're in Korea, and blaming it on being drunk will be a-ok.  But that passed when I considered the practical side of things:  it was almost midnight, and the closest hospital was a good hour away.  I was also quite drunk, so driving would probably not be the smartest thing to do.  Did I risk letting infection set in?  I figured I'd probably be alright overnight, as long as I kept it dry, clean, and tightly bound.  So I retied the wound with a strip torn off another clean cloth.  As soon as I removed the initial bandage, blood immediately covered my hand.  I saw a nice big flap of skin; I moved it to it's appropriate place and wrapped the strip around tight.  It was indeed a bad one, and I again considered driving into town, but decided that waiting the few hours until morning would probably be alright, as long as I kept pressure on the cut.

I slept well, all things considered.  It was all well and good that I had had plenty of painkiller before the incident occurred. 

Next morning, I drove into Heongseong, found a clinic, and went in.  The wound hadn't bled during the night, but when a nurse removed the makeshift bandage, the wound again began bleeding profusely.  She nearly went into hysterics when she saw it, which seemed a reasonable explanation for why she was working the desk instead of directly helping the doctor.  I said here's my ID card, can you please tell me where to go.  I got annoyed when she insisted on filling in all the paperwork first, and had difficulty dealing with my number and with typing in general.  Hey, I'm the one with the finger wound here, can't you fill that stuff out a bit faster?  Instead, I remained cool and when she finally finished, I headed up to see the doc.

When he looked at it, he uttered a long woooo.  When the doctor says woooo, you know it's woooo.  He said I luckily missed any tendons or major nerves, but I'd cut down to the bone and would probably lose sensation in the fingertip.  He shot me full of anesthetic, sewed it up, gave me a prescription for some meds, and sent me on my way.

After getting the prescription filled, I went back to the fam van.  Lo and behold, the van would not start.  The starter had been acting up lately, and of course it chose now to finally give in.  At this point, many people would probably begin committing random acts of vandalism to vent; oddly, I was incredibly cool, and instead of freaking, I simply called my insurance provider, who sent along a nice tow truck driver, who towed me to an even nicer car repair shop.  A couple of hours later, I was finally able to leave Heongseong.  The only upshot to the whole affair was when I saw a stunningly beautiful woman; she had an amazingly proportioned body, and had dyed her hair a hot flaming red.  I had many a sinful thought, which were excellent for taking my mind off the shitty day I was having.

I went back to the site.  Once the anesthetic started to wear off, the pain set in.  At first nothing too serious, but whenever I sat or lay down, the pain intensified.  The bandage he had put on it was tight, but as the bottom of my finger seemed to be turning purple, I wondered if it wouldn't be smart to loosen it up a bit.  Sadly I had nothing to replace it with at the time, so endured.  It truly was a zen moment.

I contemplated how best to break down the site: this would be a bit of a challenge, as it usually takes me about 90 minutes if I hustle.  With the splint on my finger, and warning jolts of pain shooting up my arm whenever I tried to exert the hand too much, I knew it would involve a massive headache to get everything all sorted.  This was when some friends called up and said they were on the way.

I figured at that point that no one was going to show, due to all the rain.  These guys are almost as crazy as I am, but I smiled.  Sure, pick you guys up at the bus stop in 40.

We stayed one more night, then broke the site down and headed back to the Wonj. They were as surprised as I was that I'd actually cut myself, especially that badly.  I said it was because of the liquor, and one of them laughed and asked if I was going native, using that excuse, and whether I'd be swimming out to Dokdo next.  All I could do was show humility, since I deserved to be mocked for doing such a stoopid.  The worst part?  I couldn't even drink.

Tuesday gave several hot sunny hours around noon, so everything was dry when we packed up.  Good thing I didn't stay until today, as it's been raining pretty heavy since the middle of last night.

This morning I visited another doc to get the wound redressed.  The pain immediately abetted once he took the old bandage off: it had been too tight, cutting off circulation to the point that I'd had two pretty craptacular nights of sleep, waking up every 20-30 minutes of so, walking around until blood flowed regularly again, then dozing another 20-30 minutes.  Weird dreams.

Anyway, I have to come up with a better story for work tomorrow, as I was supposed to be working from home, not hanging out in the woods sitting around a campfire getting hammered.  It'll probably involve something cooking related and being distracted by one of the girls.

Time for coffee.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Camping 2.9 Flyin' Solo!

So I decided to be a bad drone, take some time to myself, and head out camping.

I'm in a new spot. We came here years ago just after the eldest had been born to enjoy our first anniversary, staying in one of the many fine cabins they offer. It is a pretty nice spot, and where I'm at there is absolutely nobody.  I'm here for the next three hopefully awesome days.

I brought my laptop and other assorted internet gear, ostensibly to get some work done.  Who knows, I may even work at something more than simply answering emails. Sadly, the Egg I subscribed to about a year ago doesn't work here, so I have to tether through my SGII if I want internet access. Works alright, but it will be interesting to see how the bill plays out later this month.

I've sent out some leads to bring others into this camping extravaganza. The fam is at home, so I can let my hair down. So far, there is only one nearly committed. I'll be just fine by myself, which made June and the girls open their eyes wide: how can you camp alone??

I told them how I used to go camping a lot back home, often solo. I'd bring everything I'd need in a pack and hike 10-15 miles out into the woods to get to some of my favorite spots. One of the best had a small waterfall that was a great shower, and the pool was awesome for a nice refreshing dip. The pack was always lighter on the way out, as the canned beer and whiskey bottles were empty.

I didn't tell about the time a pack of coyotes showed up, and how I built a platform a good 9 feet up in the trees to store garbage and to crawl up to in case it happened again. I was tired of the raccoons getting into the trash anyway; sometimes, those fuckers just don't give a fuck what you throw at em, they'll take what they want and go when they're ready.  I didn't tell the girls about the coyotes, maybe later when they're older; it was a fluke and they'll have plenty of time to learn fear. The coyotes had probably been drawn by the chicken I'd been cooking on a spit; luckily I was able to dissuade them by screaming like a banshee, throwing some well aimed rocks, and holding a stick like a gun. Coyotes know guns.

Just finished digging some drainage ditches as it will probably rain fairly hard off and on tonight.

Time for some somaek.

Get Used!

I have so many good friends here, that I love and care for immensely, and it angers and upsets me that they allow themselves to be so easily manipulated.


Emotional manipulation.  You ever read Machiavelli?  At least know, better yet encourage, the prejudices of the masses; when things get tight, just push the magic mob button, and have them react, get riled up, expend their energy in some 'safe' preset way, distract them from thinking too much about what really matters.

What are you on about?

Every country does it.  It just seems so much more crass and obvious in Korea.  Too many emotional buttons to push, granted so horrifically by history.  Still, I wonder how so many intelligent people let themselves be used.  Get Used.  isn't that a brand name?  They changed it to Coax a few years later.  here, pass the bottle.

I think you've had enough.  You're not making sense.  

You want to know what I'm on about?  Are you sure?  You probably don't want to hear what I have to say.  Unadulterated.  It will make you angry, or at least uncomfortable.


OK, I'm going home.  See you later.

Good night waeg.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


condition: salvage
Today after cleaning out the car, I decided to head over to the local car part salvage marketTM.

The fam van needs two new sliding doors, a new door on the back, a new windscreen, and new floor mats.

They had everything I need.  Total cost for the lot: 120 manners, not including labor.

It seemed a bit high.  I'm tempted to drive up to Chunchon to check out a bigger salvage yard there.  I told the guy I'd get back to him, but thought it was pretty steep.

He then offered me 60 manners for my van.  When I told him the engine was replaced 5 years back, he laughed but then upped it to 65.

Nice negotiating skills, waeg.

Now I have to decide: should I buy the parts and get them installed, or should I simply buy a new car?

Decisions, decisions.

Best to think about it over some rye and water.

Floor Mats!

Today I did something nasty that I'd been putting off for awhile:

I cleaned the floor mats in the fam van.

With all the camping, they were pretty damn nasty.   The one in the back of the van had some steering and brake fluid on it, as the respective bottles had oozed out some of their contents.  It doesn't help that they are made out of fabric instead of rubber, which makes them all that much more absorbent.

I went to the local DIY car wash near my place and took the high pressure hose to em, then gave em a good scrub.  I tossed em into a washer they had there set to spin cycle, and watched as they came out pretty much just as filthy as when I put em in.

I considered doing the sensible thing, which was to douse them in lighter fluid, light em up, and chuck em into the dumpster.  At least that would be mildly entertaining.

Instead, I threw them back into the van and went to go look on gmarket for replacements.  Then I started looking at new cars.  I figure what with everything that needs replaced on the van, I should just buy a new one.  Instead, I decided to go to the local salvage yard to check out how much it would cost to get all the things I need.

Friday, August 17, 2012

So many kinds of wrong

Let's start with a little holy spirit, follow through with animals

so any kinds of wrong

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Stolen from here
Lately the company has been experimenting with flexplace, allowing some employees the option to work at home instead of being stuck in the office.  The idea is that employees will be happier, more productive, and it will save the company money on daily maintenance and overhead, what with not running as many air conditioning units, computers, and the like.

So far it hasn't been a huge success.  It's working great for women with children, and younger married men.  Those who are unmarried or older are generally still in the office 8-6 or beyond.

I haven't taken advantage of it.  I've learned that if I spend too much time at home during the day, June invariably becomes annoyed that I'm constantly sitting in my man den staring at the computer.  She thinks this equates not working, and will begin suggesting I get at some home improvement stuff, housework, or take her out places.

What is interesting to note is that the majority of people who are not taking advantage of the program are older married men.   I wonder why that is har har.  People will get on the typical adjusshi about how he is generally absent from the family unit, but I'm a bit more sympathetic: if their wives are anything like mine, the only time you can get some peace and quiet is to stay away from home.  If you work full on and you get a day off a week at best, it isn't unreasonable to think that you may just want to sit quietly in a room and not deal with the hordes at a beach, or run through the mob at emart, or fight through a three hour traffic jam to move 60 miles.

But then, I may just feel the urge to go fishing next week. . .

Dinner Home!

The remains from the 3rd crepe
Tonight I decided to head home early, go all out and make a full course meal for the fam.

I started off with a mixed green salad with tomatoes and cucumbers, served with warm baguette. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing.

This was followed with chicken cordon blue served with buttered parboiled potatoes. I impressed myself with how well I was able to butterfly the chicken breast, folding it over the ham and cheese nicely. This was dusted in finely ground rice flour and lightly fried in olive oil.


For dessert, we had crepes, served with canned raspberries, mangoes, raisins, and of course whipped cream.

The girls clamoring for crepes was what set the whole affair off. They found a recipe in the multicultural cookbook the eldest got at school a while back, and had been after me for the last few days to make some. I decided to make a full go of it, as I was pretty tired of eating kimchi chiggae, rice, and bean sprouts anyway.

So full.

Now there is a nice mountain of dishes.

I'm sure they can wait until morning.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rock Hard!

Today around the watercooler I listened in bemusement as one adjumma called out another over the rock hard firmness of the peaches she'd been hawking in the office:

Your peaches are usually so tasty younger sister! But this year you brought them in too early! You should have let them ripen on the tree longer before picking them!

I know, I know! But if you let them sit a few days they'll be fine! I had to pick them earlier since they go bad very quickly if we pick them too late!

Even if I let them sit they still aren't as juicy! Please bring me some more in a few weeks once they're riper!

This is actually a gripe of mine, how fruit producers will often harvest their crops well before they're fully ready to ensure the maximum profit on their wares. I hate paying 3.5 or 4 manners for a box of peaches that are rock hard, or grapes that are much too sour since they should have stayed on the vines longer. It was nice to hear someone else voice it, and it wasn't just a question of a stoopid waeg not understanding the special Korean situation.

Luckily, we know a few small growers just outside the Wonj who always save some for us and let us know when to come pick them up. Some of the best peaches I've ever had have been from them, but you have to be patient.

Back to work.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Camping 2.8!

As I was able to get out of the planned company retreat this weekend, We've been out near Juchon with a couple of other families enjoying the mountain air.

It seems about a quarter of Gangwon province has also congregated in the same little valley. This has provided mostly amusement, especially the older bunch we saw get seriously down singing their favorite trot favorites at 10000 decibels. The men were really belting it out, splashong the water with great vigor, as the women pretty much screamed in accompany. It was something to behold.

Tired now, but the campfire needs tending.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

so many kinds of wrong

A Thursday edition!

So many kinds of wrong

this next one is seriously awesome:

Sight from Sight Systems on Vimeo.

some Korean content:

Burp from GEUNTAE PARK on Vimeo.

And in case you missed it, the best kpop video I've seen in a while:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


We left Pochon before noon. It wasn't that great a place, despite it being called 'Beautiful Calm Camping Ground'. I got pretty tired of being woken up at 5 AM for roll call at the very nearby army training camp, and it was as hot as sin during the day.

The only redeeming qualities were the beware of the snakes signs all over the place and that the inlaws could easily come out. The sacrifices I make for family.

So we packed up and now find ourselves in better known climes down near hwangdun-ri. The temperature is near chilly and the water very fresh. We'll enjoy the next hour or two before heading back to the Wonj to bake in our apartment.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lemon Cass!

When June's brother showed up for the family camping extravaganza, he joked about how he was unable to find any watermelon, so he brought more beer as he knew I'd probably appreciate it.

I laughed appropriately and said thanks, as he had brought about ten jugs.

I quickly sorted that three of them were near undrinkable, as they were Cass Light and Lemon Cass.

I'm wondering if I've pissed in his cornflakes lately, but here I am near the end of the trip, knowing that once I drink the cans I picked earlier, I'm left with the lemon. We burned through the light last night, so at least I'm spared that as my finale for the camping trip.

I may just have to go to bed early, the horror!

I hope he got a good laugh out of it at least.


The last couple of days have been a full on family camping extravaganza.
After moving to a better spot scouted by yours truly, the gang started showing up. At highest count, there were sixteen of us. Mostly the cousins and the parents in law were on 100%.

It was a pretty good time; got drunk with one of my brother inlaws, and was surprised when I discovered he has a massive tattoo on his back, but more on that later. One of the more amusing sideshows of the trip was how one of my nieces is very obviously pleased with her new breasts.

They just started coming in, and the change in her is obvious: now woman!

She's in the eighth grade, and just really beginning to be fully self aware. Watching her be above most of the kid stuff, feigning boredom and indulgence towards the younger kids was good for a few chuckles.

They've all gone home now. We're heading back to the Wonj tomorrow, as this weekend I've got a company retreat to attend. Back to work, waeg.

But first, some somaek.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Camping 2.7!

As I got off the plane yesterday, I'm now in the mountains north of Pochon drinking soju bacchus cocktails with Guiness Foreign Reserve as chaser. Parov Stellar's Shine is on repeat.

June organized a full on inlaw camping extravaganza. They'll come tomorrow, although we aren't too keen on stayin' where we're at as we're set back a way from the closest stream.

Admittedly, she had to wait for her siblings and parents to make a decision, but bein' the kinda guy I am, I've already laid out a scouting plan for the morrow to find a better spot.

Although the two bottles of soju the very obviously tattooed owners gave me as service has made me more amenable to just staying put. There is a pool which will be great for the gang of kids showing up tomorrow, still we will bake.

Time for another bacchus soju while I look again at maps.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Last night while out walkabout one of the more memorable conversations I had was with a Korean who worked as a DJ at one of the clubs.  He had lived most of his life in Vietnam attending an international school there; in his words Vietnam is a complete shithole filled with sketchy people.  He seemed truly surprised that I worked at a Korean company, at first asking me if I was indeed full time.  He got a weird look on his face when I mentioned that my wife is Korean and I have two kids, and shocked when I said I did not send them to an international school.  He had been living in Singapore for the last 4 years, and our conversation turned to identity.

I love going back to Korea man, at least once or twice a year I go, my girlfriend is there and I love the culture.  Singapore's got no real culture, nothing uniquely Asian about it.

Don't you think it's more a question of how the diverse Asian cultures that make up Singapore make it unique?

No man, it's all based on Western ideas.  Korea has it's own culture, you know that.

I thought: well, actually a lot of the ideology that underpins the modern Korean drive also is drawn from Western sources, the idea of Minjok for example, as well as the drive to reimagine and reclaim traditions from the past, which is another example of a global trend in response to western hegemony and colonialism.  Isn't it a bit unfair to bad mouth Singapore since they are in many ways just doing the same thing that other countries are doing as well?  Besides, what's so bad about using ideas from other places?  Why is this a bad thing?

I got close to actually saying all this, but luckily I was distracted by a round of jagerbombs and decided to let it go.  I wish I could say that I was surprised by what he was saying and at the obviously faulty rationale serving as foundation for his opinion, but I'd heard this kind of thing before, and knew that trying to talk about it using logic and reason would just bring me down.  I remembered that I was out to have fun and it wouldn't serve to waste time talking about such weighty topics in a nightclub.

So I drank the jagerbomb and danced.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Morning After!

Brain hurts.

I ended up hitting the Butter Factory, then I hit another club called Mink.  The cover charge there was a bottle of Moet champagne.  I don't want to look at my credit card bill.

The evening ended at about 6, met with the gang for breakfast at 7.  The evening is hazy, although I definitely remember being driven home in a Ferrari.  Nice car.

Singapore is awesome.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012


After a fairly intense few days, tonight a bunch of the crew are heading out.  I've decided that I'll hang with em for a bit, then cut out as soon as I see an opening.

As we'll be doing the trendy Boat Quay route, I'll head over to The Butter Factory once I get a chance after 10.

Despite how I've got two final meetings tomorrow, as they're in the afternoon I figure I can probably pull it off.  Last real night to go hard here in the S'pore, so there is no duck and cover.

More later.