Squatting in Luxury, Gwangju

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Great Eats, Gwangju

funny-restaurant-name-photoHat tip to a friend who pointed this out.

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No Country for TEFL Men

bleak-view-photoTake a good look, folks.  That’s the future of this industry of ours here in the Republic of Mountains and Mudflats.  It also happens to be the view from my kitchen window.  The trash is thrown over the wall by people in the neighboring building and then it gets swept into the corner by the wind.  Whoever owns my building (we’ve switched owners twice this year already) is the only person who has access to this moldy corner I see daily, so I can’t clean it myself unless I want to hop the wall.  And so it sits, festers, stinks and attracts detritus-feeders of all types, which then invade my adjacent apartment.  There’s very little natural lighting where I live as it’s on the ground floor and surrounded by tall buildings.  To make matters worse, there’s been almost no sun this summer, so my bathroom has remained wet for days straight.  Mold has spread from the shower to the wallpaper to my mattress and even to my suitcases.  Sometimes my clothes have to remain dirty because if they get washed they’ll never dry.  When they do manage to dry, they often reek of mildew.  Sunlight, vent fans and dryers all seem like distant memories now.

This is the future of the industry, especially for those working in hagwons.  In the near future, the waegs who teach in Korea will fall into one of two increasingly discrete categories: the highly qualified and the minimally qualified.  We already have this today, but even now a minimally qualified waeg can get a teaching job in a university without rising up on some incredibly fortuitous gust of luck.  Believe me, it’s possible, especially if you know the right people, who often aren’t all that amazingly qualified themselves.  I hear Chosun University here in Gwangju is rife with hires who got their jobs through knowing the right people rather than having the right qualifications.  But this will likely change in the near future.  You’ll see fewer and fewer waegs rising from hagwons to universities as the requisite qualifications petrify and upward job mobility decreases.  With the upward escapes sealed off for these desperate souls, that’s when the hagwon racket will bottom out.  I’ve recently plumbed these depths—actually scraped my chin on them—and have miraculously resurfaced to warn you all of what’s ahead.

In the near future, there will be no free apartment provided by your academy.  You will pay for it out of pocket and provide the key money yourself.  This adds heaps of risk to your teaching gig as now you have two sneaky fuckers to look out for—your hagwon boss(es), who will find any loophole through which to screw you, and your landlord(s), who will do the same.  Paying out of pocket, you will get the cheapest apartment possible (see picture above).  These “billas” are almost as unstable as hagwons, so you’ll learn to deal with new people texting you every few months claiming to be the new owner and that you should send X amount of money to X account starting next month.  You’ll need a trusted Korean friend or lover to call these fuckers and make sure they’re not grifters exploiting the capricious nature of Korean ownership.

Benefits will be a thing of the past.  If you’re a stickler for “””health coverage,””” that’s all fine and dandy.  Pay for it and your 2G flip phone yourself.  Talk of bonuses and one-way flight tickets home will have been extirpated from the deal, but you will have already paid your own way to get to the Republic of Mountains and Mudflats, so no surprises there.  Salaries will reach a base of two million won per month.  After paying for your cheap-assed apartment, utilities, phone, healthcare and taxes, you’ll have about a million and a half if you’re lucky.  From there the salaries will only decrease while the cost of living increases.  By that time, contracts will be so barren that you’ll simply sign your name under a graphic depiction of rape.  It goes without saying that taking sick leave or a day or two off will be grounds for having your signed contract photoshopped to include two perps mounting you at once.  Fuck up again and it’ll be three and so on until you get the picture. Good and hard.

You can be sure that armies of desperate college grads will continue to sign up for this slag nonetheless as long as the uni-bubble keeps churning out millions more grads per annum than there are jobs requiring their meaningless degrees.  I hope I’m wrong.  I hope some scythe-wielding reaper will come through and administer a swift coup de grace that takes the head clean off this pedagogical pustule before things get that bad.  I’d rather see the entire industry crash and burn in a year or two than see hagwon contracts gradually level out with those of Chinese construction workers and Sri Lankan laborers.  Such “wage harmony” will not a happy foreign population make here in the Republic of Mountains and Mudflats; Especially unhappy will be those foreign workers who’ll have to risk more and more money just to secure shittier and shittier hagwon jobs—this after spending their fittest years and tens of thousands of dollars jumping through hoops in the hope that their vaunted degrees will get some good ROI after graduation.

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Gwangju’s Only Dick-Shaped, Abandoned Rooftop Pool

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Korea’s Latest KakaoTalk Dating App

Approaching women in Korea is no simple task as talking to strangers is not the cultural norm here, unless there’s money involved.  Usually, people are set up on dates by middlefriends who think two people might be fit for slapping uglies.  But these dates are usually few and far between, and regularly result in dead-ends that only reinforce feelings of romantic helplessness in those who can’t hold down a relationship.  One way to improve Koreans’ dating prospects while keeping the whole thing kimchi kosher is to stimulate matchmaking by middlefriends.  

To increase the number of dates arranged by middlefriends, thereby increasing the chances of romantic success, I’ve outlined a new app that will allow this nation of clannish milquetoasts to both find prospective mates and mutual friends who can act as intermediaries to facilitate dates.

It’s called Meetrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Meetrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr is a matchmaking application that allows users to upload their KakaoTalk rolodexes along with their profile pics and then accept or reject other users’ pictures by swiping to the right (yay) or to the left (nay).  If two people swipe each other to the right then their KakaoTalk rolodexes will be unlocked and synced to see if there are any people they both know who can introduce them in real life.  In cases where no middlefriends exist, or when the middlefriend is some old wind/douche bag, another degree of separation can be applied, provided your KakaoTalk friends are also using Meetrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr and agree to participate.  Middlefriends who participate in the additional degree of separation service will get access to an online basket of discount coupons provided by Meetrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Fortunately, the whole thing is not a rip-off of Tinder because, well, we’re in Korea, where all ideas are considered to be part of the public domain.  Besides, millions more here are already signed up with KakaoTalk than with Facebook/Tinder, so it’s stupid not to use KakaoTalk instead.  I know, I know.  To a Westerner it still sounds ridiculous—like inserting an unnecessary middleman where none existed before.  But we’re in Korea, where the precious few ideas and norms that developed here naturally tend to stay here for obvious reasons.  Don’t ask questions.  It’s a unique culture and simply has to be done this way.  Anyway, by posting this online, I’ve basically forfeited any rights to such an application.  So whoever makes it first gets the spoils.  But remember that I came up with the idea first, unless I didn’t.

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Holy Water, Gwangju

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Amusement Park for Korean Foodies

I can’t help but compare Jeonju’s Hanok Village to a foodie amusement park where people wait in long lines just to eat various “famous” and “unique” foods.  As soon as we got there, we waited in line for 10 minutes to buy ice beers, which were just little cups of Cass with frozen head.  It was a warm-up, like waiting in line to ride the Teacups at Disneyland.  Then, looking for a snack, we waited 15 minutes in line for a weak churro with air pockets for cream filling (Dumbo the Flying Elephant).  After surviving the intense selfie-palooza at the Catholic cathedral (Indiana Jones Adventure), which is one of the prettiest buildings in Korea, we headed for the main attraction and stood in line for 60 minutes for a proper dinner (Splash Mountain).  Then a 15-minute line for ice cream that I’d simply characterize as different (Matterhorn Bobsleds).  After that we went shopping for souvenirs (It’s a Small World), and then walked through a temple/traditional housing cul de sac (Haunted Mansion) on the way out.  I can never tell whether these temples/traditional houses are replicas or originals.  They all look like the same team of 15 ajeossis put them together.

Warning: If you go to the village on the wrong day, you will see people parking on the sidewalk, and then other people triple parking on the street beside that.  Have you ever seen triple parking on a street in any other country that wasn’t a third-world hell hole?  I have the pics to prove it.  Un-fucking-believable.  People got so lazy-desperate that they actually started parking their cars on the center divider line.  No, not lane.  The fucking center divider line.  Parking on the goddamned line between opposing flows of traffic.  You can’t make this shit up.

Bonus: With such a severe paucity of trash cans all over the village (and the peninsula), nearly everything horizontal gets turned into a place to put trash.  The few trash cans that did exist had transformed into burial mounds of garbage because they’d long since overflowed, with trash continuously piling up all around.  I’m beginning to think that so few trash cans exist/get emptied out in Korea because nobody wants to be the one to do it, especially in broad daylight.  Living in filth doesn’t cause people in this society to lose face.  Picking up trash does.

Bonus Bonus: Koreans take those selfie sticks (what I call the 나 막대기) to the next level.  People just walk down the street watching themselves walk down the street, oblivious to the places they came to see.

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