South Korea: Thy Kingdom for a Beach VI

It’s been two years since I’ve added to this series on finding the best beaches in the muddy province of South Jeolla.  There’s been no slacking off over this time, just a selfish reluctance to share good beaches once I’ve found them.  The beach in this post, however, is one I showcased two years ago, so the cat’s already out of the bag.  It’s Kagye Beach on Jindo Island.  At the time of the last post, Kagye Beach had been ravaged by a typhoon and was in shambles.  Not so this summer.


The good: There’s sand all the way out, so even at low tide you don’t feel mud between your toes; there are lots of food options right on the beach; there’s lots of free shade under the trees lining the shore; there are bathrooms and showers aplenty; the drive down here is pretty; and the water is clean.

The meh: There are more people than I’d like; if you come late, you might not find a shady spot; it takes a solid two hours to get here from Gwangju by car; it’s not the least rocky beach I’ve been to in this region; there are massive, fast-moving, black ants everywhere in the shade and they ain’t afraid of shit; and although the water is clean, I’ve seen cleaner.

Bonus: There’s an abandoned school three minutes from the beach.


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Incredible View of Gwangju

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Nirvana Under Construction

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Piss-Poor Attendance at the Gwangju World Cup Stadium

Damn, Gwangju FC, what happened?  Two years ago, I used to go to games at the local world cup stadium regularly.  Attendance was never great, but these days it’s tragic.  They announced something like 875 tickets sold, though it looked like a third of those ticket buyers were actually present.

The first impression was that I had stumbled upon on a friendly scrimmage on practice day.  The players’ shouts out on the field were louder than the crowd itself—and the crowd was drinking.  It was still a pretty fun game to watch.  The gilf and I like people-watching, so that was fun, too.

Guys, it's not China. The bathrooms are right behind you!


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Billionaires Rotting in the Fields

If you’ve ever played any version of Grand Theft Auto, then you already have a sense for how police function in Korea.  You practically have to beg for them to notice you, and when they finally do, they come at you in steady, comical waves.  And the police in South Jeolla, where billionaire Koreans go to retire in the shade of luscious plum tree fields, are just like police in the rest of Korea, only more so.  It’s fair to think of South Jeolla as Korea on stamina food and snake-blood Bacchus D shots.  We let billionaires rot in the fields.

Just the other night I drove by two ajeossis fighting piss-drunk in the lane of a busy street.  Illegal parking everywhere.  Every tenth car is a blinding flatbed advertising designated drivers.  Everyone’s flipping bitches from outside lanes without warning.  Trash all over the place.  Motorcycles blazing down sidewalks and directly into busy intersections with cross traffic.  Ajeossis pissing everywhere like frightened puppies.  But the police must be bumpin’ Ice Ice Baby all the time because they keep on rollin’.

Rollin’ in my 5.0,

With my ragtop down so my hair can blow.

The girlies on standby wavin’ just to say ‘hi.’

– Did you stop? –

Naw, I just drove by.

We have an anti-elitist, egalitarian vibe out here.  Every man is just a man to the leftist southern agronomists of this region.  Even a decomposing billionaire fugitive can’t get his forensics tests done faster than your average E-2 piss and blood tests get processed.  That’s how we roll.  Now check out the hook while my DJ revol—wait, I think my neighbor just started beating his girlfriend—yep—now she’s throwing frangible household items at him—fuck, they’ve taken it to the stairwell—painful echo chamber—I think he’s leaving now—nope, just smoking and spitting in the doorway letting in fumes—or is he repelling mosquitoes?—I think I hear sobbing into a pillow—now he’s shout-talking into his phone with someone else—where was I?

You really need to see South Jeolla—the pure Korea—where the natives are out of face to lose and the waegs out of fucks to give.

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Gwangju’s Foremost Foreign Insultant

After half-craning my neck to see through the throngs of college students, it became clear that she simply wasn’t there.  Yet again.  Usually she can be spotted amid the crowds of scholars from the sheer fact that everyone else lining the crosswalk behind Chonnam University wears the unofficial youth uniform of horizontal blue- and white-striped French sailor T-shirts.  She’d stand out like a black mamba among this patchwork of Greek flags, if she were only there.

Whatever happened to Chatty Kathy?  I haven’t seen her all year.  Why does the world just open up and swallow the most interesting ones whole like this all the time?  Did the shop owners finally contact her handlers and have her swept off the streets?  Is she hawking fliers now?  Has she been committed?  God forbid.  I never got around to buying her that bluetooth so she could blend in better.  The navel-gazing tailspin I got into while falling off the hagwon carousel must have distracted me from reaching out to ole chatterbox.  Ruminating over the loss, I tongued the ridged roof of my mouth and came away with a synesthetic taste of regret.

The idling pedestrians began to shuffle knowingly before the imminent light change.  My mind was going back and forth between the sudden disappearance of Chatty Kathy and the painfully long goodbye with Mr. Dollar Bills.  Why does my life intersect with these people?  Is it more than just chance?  Is there a reason?  I wondered this with my eyes fixated on a K-girl’s college ass.  Then the light changed, though my eyes stayed fixed.

Before bodies could pour into the street—C R A S H !—a black sedan smashed into an idle taxi two meters in front of me.  The sound was so loud and so abrupt that I was jolted from a peaceful, ass-tinted daydream to fearful shock.  When it was all over, the pedestrians spilled into the street timidly, whispering and looking on with trepidation.  I stayed behind and watched the smoke rise from under both hoods as though in a trance.  And then, standing there completely absorbed and entirely unemployed, an afflatus washed over me.  Suddenly I knew what career was right for me and exactly how to go about getting it.

Instead of trying my luck at another slagwon, I decided to print up fliers with fringes bearing my phone number and this simple message written in both English and Korean:

Relieve your stress by insulting faceless inferiors.  Call the number below to schedule an appointment with your own personal underling and let him have it in either English or Korean!

With so much shit shoveled downstream in this society, I figured I’d cut through the fluff and get to the heart of what people crave: making up for their own impotence by unloading on those beneath them.  Customers get charged 100,000 won to insult me for as many as ten 15-minute sessions a month.  As stated, the indignities can be hurled in either English or Korean, and I make house calls 24/7 so long as they’re scheduled a day in advance.

My clients are mostly middle-cog salarymen, bitter, menopausal housewives and suicidal adolescents whose parents want them to blow off steam in a semi-educational context.  Because I’m a native English speaker.  Clients tell me that others have caught on and are now providing similar services, but that there’s novelty in dishing it out to a handsome white foreigner who makes house calls.  The tendency toward shameless business-model plagiarism is tremendous in Korea, so I’m very sensitive to competitors.  I must stay ahead of the curve or else I’ll have to go back to classrooms where I get the same insults but none of the flexibility in scheduling that private sessions provide.

To stay on top of things, customers who renew get to add insult to injury and beat me lightly on the third session of every month—just not in the face and not in the groin.  Ajeossis love this service.  Sometimes they get drunk and tell me to meet them outside the love motels where they wait for their escort girls to get delivered on the backs of scooters.  They like to beat me a little in front of the girl when she comes rolling up to show her what ajeossis are made of.  I don’t mind.  At the hagwon I’d get humiliation like this from ten students at once, six times a day, and then again from my coworkers and boss between classes, so it’s actually more than a dozen times less shameful this way.

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Another Korean School Returns to Nature

This school is in a beautiful part of South Jeolla where farmland, lakes and mountains all come together.  There are a few things worth noting about this place: 1) In one of the pictures, you can see the froth from a spittlebug on one of the plants.  When I took an entomology class back in college, my professor brought in a stem covered with this foam and licked it clean in front of us to prove a point.  I never forgot the term spittlebug after that; 2) I found my first Japanese tree frog sitting on a leaf at chest level.  I was getting attacked by mosquitos at the time, so that’s the best picture I could come up with; 3) The picture of vast tracts of farmland reminded me that Korea actually has a lot of space in valleys like this, it’s just taken up by farming; 4) Schools like this come a dime a dozen out in the countryside.  As they return to nature, they tell the story of urbanization and aging demographics in Korea.

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