Downtown Gwangju





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Inured to the Slaughter

As the world’s lingua franca, English has the unique privilege of standing athwart the globe while the denizens of each and every continent attempt to scale it, bowie knives in their grins, and carve their way to the top.  Many get there, but the gravity of the task is heavier for some than for others.

Certain breeds of man can make no sense of this receptacle of Shakespeare and Smith.  They stand in its shadow awestruck and, when the enormity of it dawns on them, they launch their primitive slings and arrows at its marble ankles.  It’s comical to see at first, but eventually the marble wears.  It will one day topple over, which will only increase the ease with which they savagely lapidate its recumbant remains.

Here on the front lines of English’s dolorous death by a billion tongue lashes, it seems we’re close to reaching peak lambency.  English is a garbled feast upon the maladroit tongues of Koreans everywhere, and it’s not pretty.

What sucks is how inured one can get to the non-stop mutilation of the world’s most butchered language.  There’s no longer anything funny about when an ajeossi, in his 20th year of English education, says “pee” in place of “fee,” or “bitch” instead of “beach.”  It’s nothing more than a chunk of marble in the gutter.  The Italians smirk when their language is misspoken.  So do the Russians.  But all I can do is shrug.  I’m inured.

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Release the Hounds!

There’s this beautiful but neglected 독서실 near downtown Gwangju that’s been on the old avocational trespassing list for a while.  The grounds are unkempt and, at least from a distance, the building stands perfectly quiet.  But once inside, the house was flanked by dogs that lazily sensed something wasn’t right.  Besides, faint, ancient voices could be heard babbling behind the paper-thin doors.  Sorry, folks.




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Retconning as a Korean Leadership Strategy

Among the most crucial components of Korean leadership is retconning.  Often overlooked as a mere gimmick used to simultaneously save the boss face and jump-start workplace activity, retconning, or the post-hoc distortion of prior events, is to me the fuse of Korean dynamism leading straight to the nitroglycerin at it core: ajeossi caprice.

A common case is when your Korean boss, who’s usually easy to spot because he’s the one whose starched collar is ceaselessly emitting scintilla of moxie and vim, bursts into the office and asks everyone why a certain Sisyphean task has not yet been completed.  The staff, bewildered, reply that no such task had ever been announced.  To this, the boss huffs that changes had already been made and that things should have been done already.

These scenes of leadership retconning are the pyrotechnics of the Korean workplace.

The most intoxicating of these perversions of planning and sequence was when a boss once berated his staff for not adhering to procedural changes made over a three-day weekend, and then, when they asserted their sincere ignorance, he said it was their fault for not knowing because they chose not to come to work on the scheduled national holiday.  This he said with a straight face.

Leadership retconning—bringing you one inch deeper into this ancient, inscrutable culture.

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The Fuzz and the Führer


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Faces of Hagwon – Part II

shocking-faces-of-methTrisha Montgomery clearly had problems already when she decided to pack up and fly to Korea to teach English.  But Korea brings out the worst in us all.  Who you truly are at your most base biomechanical level will rise to the surface like a bloated corpse here.  Deep down, as the image shows, Trisha knew there was a hidden David Bowie somewhere inside yearning to be free.  Now, in Korea—this peninsula-shaped cubicle farm—she has unleashed her inner Ziggy Stardust and embraced her role as an E-2 Entertainer for Korean children.  Every class is her stage and every student her biggest fan.  They smile and clap for 45 minutes and when it’s all over they tell her how great she is.  She’s a rockstar making two grand a month.


Whether or not Seth Gessen got better or worse over the course of his perma-sojourn is really up for interpretation.  Known to his Korean coworkers secretly as The Substitute, Seth teacher came to Korea and went straight into teaching at a university in Busan, which ain’t all that bad of a gig.  But that’s exactly the problem.  He’ll be here until he either dies or his job is pulled out from under him.  Whichever comes first.  He’s leaning with all his weight on the ultimate TEFL crutch and it’s turning him into a mediocrity.  His future looks same-same.

Faces of Meth 15Amanda Fowler was a gal on a mission when she came to Korea.  Fired-up from her recent MA thesis on the intersectionality between patriarchy and privilege among Whole Foods customers in her homogeneous hometown near the Canadian border, she was going to come to Korea and launch a preemptive strike against the Korean patriarchy by educating its young in the ways of gender equality.  She clearly has the jawline for gender equilibrium, but as you can see, the battle’s taking its toll.  Still, she takes it on the chin (heh).  That fanatical missionary spirit that might have gone into spreading Christianity back in her great-grandmother’s day is up against an entire muddy tide of Korean norms that are slow to change.  If all else fails, she can channel her energies into converting a Korean man into her own personal pedestal polisher.

meth3Trevor Morris’ only issue is that he became even more hipster while living in Korea.  He was last seen freecycling homemade beer while looking like a homeless Nazi lumberjack somewhere in Daegu.

Ironically, of course.

He refers to himself in third person as “The Original Digital Nomad,” and when asked his citizenship, he says “Global, man.”  He is an obnoxious SWPL to the core, and Korea has only enabled him.

Faces of Meth¬ 2005 M7 300 DPI

Mitch Mickelson is over it.  He spends most of his time on the book of faces ingurgitating every status update from all his “””friends.”””  Everyone appears to be doing way better.  Their hagwons have shorter hours, more generous bosses, higher pay, better students, and easier curricula.  Their social lives in Korea are better, too.  To cope, he masturbates the envy away while looking at cuck threads online.  He feels like he’s the only one of his peers who’s assed-out in life.  It’s left him jaded.  He has almost no Twitter followers and consequently resents the day he was born.  He’ll be back in Oregon this fall.

faces-of-hagwon-photo1Courtney Knowles didn’t know what hit her.  After two years of repeating “Yes, I do love kimchi,” her soul was as gone as a vacuum-aspirated fetus.  (Yet save the animals!)  She came to Korea a devout vegan, but soon found it impossible to live a healthysmug vegan lifestyle in her middle-sized Korean city without consuming meat.  Her health went south, she lost all her status among her truevegan friends back home, and she took to the bottle (Berninis, of course).  Now all she can manage to update on her travel blog are pictures of her students smiling with letters they’ve written to her by force.

Faces+of+meth_53cf58_5005571No comment.

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Mountain Ruins, Damyang





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