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April 23, 2019


You are a treasure! It's fascinating to see South Korea through a Japanese lens, with the American lens coming after.

Looking forward to the next installment!

Agree with CaseyL that this is wonderful, lj. Just a quick comment for the moment, on this:

A friend said that I might just have been in Japan too long and not caught up with the rest of the world, which is true, but I still find it strange to use a card to pay for a latte or a taxi or a candy bar.

I'm with you there. They will pry the cash from my dead, cold hands, and one of the last shreds of possible anonymity with it.

I've got my reservations about obligatory military service, but it makes teaching at university a lot easier. Having roughly half the boys with that experience, there is a lot more seriousness than their counterparts in Japan.

I recall a similar lack of seriousness on the part of many students from my own college days. I don't think the critical factor is military service per se.

Rather I think it is a matter of whether the students have had some experience (almost necessarily outside the school environment) where they were forced to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. In short, an enforced reality check -- which doesn't happen when the only situations you have experienced are home, high school, and college.

Professors have long noticed the difference in attitude of students who attended college after working for some time. As I recall, the usual explanation was "older and therefore more mature". But the difference isn't age as such. It's the kinds of experience the student has had.

Agreed, this is excellent, and I look forward to any further instalments, should you have the time.

How about Subway - is that as common as it is in Korean dramas, or is that simply excessive product placement ?

Completely agree on the excellence front.

The UK/London is famous for the ubiquity of CCTV as well, I wonder how it compares with Korea? And of course I'm fascinated by (and hoping for more of) the food-related stuff.

Like Nigel, very much looking forward to the next instalment!

Due to the ubiquity of dashboard cameras in cars in Korean dramas, I thought it might be a legal requirement. On checking it seems the cameras are a defense against staged accidents and insurance companies give car owners a discount for installing them. The cameras are often used as a plot device since, apparently, they're often on even when a car is parked.

It's been 20 years since my sister and her family lived in Daegu, but the stories she still tells are cleaning the soot from the outside air off the inside sills every morning, and her chronic sinus infections that cleared up in three days every time she got back to the US. How's the air these days?

One of my clients taught school in Korea years ago and her memories of those years are the few not yet stolen from her by dementia. She especially remembers the pink cherry blossoms and how sweet the children were.

Thank you for this interesting article. I know very little about Korea; you make a good tour guide!

North Koreans come to South Korea expecting a country where their language is spoken. But SK language is peppered with some many English and other foreign words, they often find themselves at a loss.

Thanks for the comments. Agree with wj that it is not military experience, it is any experience outside of school. The thing is, what sort of experience (outside of progressives dreaming about a required service in the Peace Corps/Americorps) would it be possible to implement so that everyone has to do it? (and the fact that it is only the boys creates some problematic notions in regards to women/equality/feminism)

CCTV, I've not seen comparisons, but this article talks about their prevalence in Korea

from the article
CCTV cameras are not the only surveillance method used to track crimes. With seven out of 10 Koreans using mobile phones, tracking call records and locating the owners of the handset has become a convenient method in fighting crime.


Since the start of the year, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has been granting a 5 percent discount in automobile taxes and a 2.7 percent discount in auto insurance fees for drivers participating in the 'No Driving Day' campaign, which requires them to leave their vehicles at home for one day a week.

The drivers participating in the program are required to install electronic tags on the front windows of their cars, which allows traffic authorities to track their movement.

The electronic tags attached to cars, enabled with radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, will broadcast information from the cars to readers the authorities have installed at major traffic points in the city.

This article
The number of closed-circuit cameras installed in public locations in South Korea has more than doubled to nearly 800,000 over the past five years. Including private spaces, that figure balloons to eight million cameras in a country with a population of 50 million.

I've not watched Korean dramas (I really should have to work on the language, but now that I'm here, there is something pathetic about getting wrapped up in something on the screen when I can get out), so I see Subways, but they aren't anything like starbucks or even McDonalds here in Japan, so I suspect there is some product placement going on as does this writer

There's a post there about how much Koreans can be influenced by pop culture that I hope to write in a few months.

And yeah, the air was pretty bad when I got here, and it was apparently particularly bad this year. My throat has been scratchy and I've gone with masks, but I wear glasses, so they have a tendency to fog up.

Finally, about language, I'm sure that is true. My father, when he visited me in Japan 30 years ago, couldn't understand young Japanese, but when we went to an prefectural rest facility onsen full of 60 and 70 year olds, he could understand them with no problem. Again, one advantage in Japanese written language is that foreign words (and therefore new borrowings) are identified by the katakana script, but that is not available for Korean.

How does Korean script deal with the tonality of the language?

Hartmut, the script just gets across the sounds, there's no (I think) prosodic information there. Though I'm coming up blank with a language that does have prosodic information in the script.

This is a great post, LJ! I look forward to seeing more from you about this cross-cultural adventure.

Speaking of which, one reason I kind of dropped off the radar around here recently is that I fell into a Chinese drama (Guardian 镇魂 and can't get up.

And in two weeks Mr Dr Science gets a robot hip, to go with his 2 robot knees!

lj, Vietnamese uses the Latin alphabet but with
tons of diacritics to indicate tone.
It's an exception though. Must be a real pain to type on a normal keyboard.

You are right Hartmut, I didn't think of Vietnamese even though I've been studying it off and on for the past 10 years. I tend to study it (and Korean) like Kurt Vonnegut (I think) described someone learning a language (and it may have been Korean), the person treated them like bird songs and just responded in kind (I'd be indebted if anyone could find that quote, so I know I'm not just making it up)

With Thai, you can read the tones off the script because they pattern with particular letter combinations, so even in the absence of diacritics, there is some tonal information there. Korean isn't a tonal language, but Middle Korean was tonal and some of that was retained in some dialects so you have a pitch accent system like you have in Japanese, where some words can be distinguished (HAshi vs. haSHI/chopsticks vs. bridge) but regional accents/dialects can have an effect.

Anyway back to learning Korean, I was trying to pronounce the phrase
엊떻게 지내세요/eo-tteoke jinaeseyo, and the last word sounds like it is french je ne sais yo, which is how I remember it, so the half remembered phrase about learning a language like it was birdsongs strikes a chord.

I may have mentioned this, but I've been using the app Drops
which isn't designed specificially for Korean (in fact, I was talking to a bartender about her 주서기/juseogi and she said that isn't a word (it's the thing that you use for juicing lemons and I thought it was a juicer, but https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juicer>wikipedia said that it is more precisely called a reamer) (unfortunately, I forgot the Korean name she told me, so another bar crawl is in order) But it is unfortunate because a mixer is a 믹서기/mikseogi and the gi suffix is often attached to things that are tools it seems.

And I bring this up because the Drops program always puts up words so that the final part is prominent. If it did it in English, (and it may do this), when it gives you parts of words, it would always have the -er/-or suffix as a building block so you get to a point where you identify those syllables and always put them at the end, which is interesting, but it has me thinking that there is more regularity then is actually there.

For that matter, even English orthography has some ways to indicate tone. They are generally called punctuation marks (e.g "?"), but viewed from a distance, what they indicate is tone.

I hadn’t realised the birthdate in Korea is almost as low as that in Japan:

The partnership between Vietnam and South Korea which has arisen in the last decade is a remarkable story:

No doubt South Korea and Vietnam are glad for each other now. With the US being feckless, any neighbor of China is going to be thankful for every relationship they've got.

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