28 June 2008

I Will Ask a Korean: Soccer and Clear Skin

I recently received a couple of questions that may be of interest to the rest of you. (Yes, you random googler who wants to know what to wear to a Korean wedding).

I would hope that all of you are able to find a more reliable source of information, like a wikipedia or something, but if you have any questions about life in Korea or anything that I've written on this blog, please drop your Q in the comments section of this post. I'm happy to bug Heng or Cyndi and ask for a proper response.

The two questions I will address today regard soccer and skin care, which by the way, are possibly two of the most popular Korean pastimes.

Questions #1 submitted by Luna
"I'd like to see a [Korean soccer] game but I'm not sure how to go about getting a ticket, or even where to find the schedule..."

I'm not clear on how to purchase tickets either. Heng told me that you can purchase tickets online at Ticket Link or Interpark, but you'll probably need proficiency in Hangul and a Korean credit card, neither of which I possess. Heng also told me that you can purchase World Cup Team game tickets at Hana Bank, a sponsor of the Korean national team. You may purchase Korean League football tickets at convenience stores like GS25, Family Mart, or 7-Eleven that have a "현금자동지급기" machine. Select "티켓발권." It appears that you may also purchase basketball tickets from these machines.

Helpful Phrase:

축구 표를 팔아요?
Chuku pyo palayo?
(Do you sell football tickets?)

You may find more information about the Korean Football Association at http://kfa.or.kr/

Questions #2 submitted by Fiona:
"How do Korean ladies keep their skin clear & radiant?! I notice this in a lot of Korean girls I've met, including my own high school classmates, and also with the Korean girls I've encountered on beauty forums and such. They don't seem to have a single blemish or bump! Do they have a special skin care routine or is there something special in their diet? I've noticed in your photos of you & your friends that you guys have nice skin too. It would be great if you can share some info :)"

I too am very curious about the seeming radiant and smooth complexions of Seoul women. You have no idea how may times I've surreptitiously stared at a woman's face while on the train, trying to figure out if it's makeup or if her skin is naturally so beautiful. I still don't have a concrete answer, but I have a few hypotheses.

1) It's all in the genes. It is possible that Korean women are just born with great skin, but one only need to look at a gaggle of Korean teens (or college students) to see that not all Koreans are born with great complexions. It's like looking at a live action Pro-Active commercial. As a teenager, her face is glowing with acne, but once she hits her 20s, her face is blemish free and glowing. After informally observing the clogged pores of multiple young men and older Korean women, I would argue that good skin is not intrinsic to Korean DNA. Also, from personal experience, I know that Korean women are not inherently born with great skin. More on that later...

2) It's all in the diet. This is also another possible factor, but given the fact that most Korean women in their twenties subsist on a diet of coffee, ramyun, samgyupsal, and chili powder, though important, I don't think that the Korean diet is the main factor of good skin. (On the other hand, Koreans eat a lot of garlic. Perhaps that's significant?)

3) Minimize sun exposure. As all the whitening products will attest to, Korean women do not appreciate a tan. In fact, they make a significant effort to maintain their fair complexions. This means lots of sunscreen, large hats, or a cute little sun umbrella. As Heng and Cyndi pointed out, protective measures against the sun are important to healthy skin. In other words, don't forget the sunscreen.

4) Moisturize your face. One reason that I haven't gotten around to using Korean moisturizers and cleansers is it because they involve a 100 step process. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but Korean women do like to use a lot of face products. I can't even attempt to describe what is necessary, but Cyndi and I recently looked at a set of Mung Bean facial products and it consisted of two facial cleansers, toner, "skin", essence, eye cream, and wrinkle cream. I think there were more items, but I can't recall all of them. Similarly, whenever I go in for my scaling, they seem to apply an endless amount of product on to my face. My face always feels soft afterwards, so there must be some value to all that product. Unfortunately, I'm currently too lazy and frugal to spend all that time and money. Perhaps that's why my skin is not up to par with the women of Seoul.

5) It's the magic of B.B. Cream. Blemish Balm cream is known to moisturize, heal, conceal, and protect your skin. I'm not sure about the healing bit, but it's certainly good about concealing blemishes. In fact, if my skin looks pretty clear in photos, it's probably due to the B.B. cream. In addition to their use of B.B. cream, Korean seem to be quite adept at using loads of makeup to produce a seemingly "natural" (bare) face. Cyndi and I are still trying to figure this one out.

6) Maybe it's the scaling? Facial clinics and spas are prevalent throughout Seoul, so it seems to me that Korean women regularly receive some sort of professional treatment. If not, masks and other home spa products seem to be quite popular. I've only had a few scalings done, but each time around, my blemishes seem to disappear faster than normal. WARNING: Your blemishes will be red for the first few days after the scaling (because they prodded out all the nasty junk), but the blemishes will soon fade.

7) It's cosmetic surgery/botox. That's what Cyndi and I always say whenever we see a woman with an enviable amount of beauty, but that's because we're jealous haters. :) I don't think that teen girls are getting Botox injections (or at least, I hope they're not), but I know that many Seoul women are not afraid of getting a little toxic protein injected into their face for the sake of good skin. Again, I'm just conjecturing. I have no evidence, but I would not be surprised if a little cosmetic enhancement is responsible for such lovely faces.

So, back to the question at hand, how do Korean women have such lovely skin? The short answer is I don't know, but if I had to guess, I would say that great attention to skin, with particular emphasis on sun protection and moisturizing, are key. Or, maybe Korean women are indeed just born with properly lovely skin, and problematic skin along with mad cow disease are all part of my American passport.

My skin is by no means clear. As Korean cosmetic ladies are always quick to point out, I have "trouble" skin. My skin has cleared up significantly since my early college days, but I still have regular breakouts. I would at some point like to try out the mega skin routine of Korean women, but for now I just use Dan Kern's Clear Skin Regimen.

If you know the beauty secret of Korean women, please do share!!!!

Special thanks to Heng for all the helpful info.

ANNALOG STORYTIME: The Rabbit's Judgment

The following is a translated excerpt from Once Upon a Time in Korea: An Elementary Reader by In Ku Kim-Marshall. If you're wondering about the choppy sentences and odd organization of paragraphs, it's because I've tried to translate the text as closely as possible. The story is followed by my own amateur analysis.

The Rabbit's Judgment
토끼의 재판

Long ago there was a kind-hearted farmer walking along a mountain trail. On this mountain, there was a trap. In this, snare was a trapped tiger. The farmer saw this tiger. The crying tiger said to the farmer, “Farmer, please save me!”

The farmer was afraid of the tiger. But, the farmer felt sorry for the tiger. The farmer asked the tiger to make a promise. “Tiger, if I help you, do not harm me.”

The tiger answered, “Yes, of course. Please help me quickly.”

The farmer found a long tree branch. The farmer lowered the tree branch into the trap. The tiger grabbed hold of the branch, and came out of the trap. However, as soon as the tiger came out of the trap, he tried to devour the farmer. The farmer thought to himself, “Ah! I am an idiot!”

The farmer plotted a ruse.

“Tiger, in that case, let’s plan a trial.” The tiger agreed.

First, the farmer asked the pine tree to help him. The pine tree didn’t like people. The reason being, people chopped up trees for firewood. That’s why the pine tree spoke like this: “Tiger-ya, if you really want to save [the farmer], eat him. That’s why Tiger-ya, even if you caught and devoured the farmer, that would be good.

The farmer was greatly disappointed. That’s why the farmer next sought out a cow. The cow also made a similar verdict. “People make us work day and night. Additionally, they eat us later. Also, people use us for leather. Even with all that, people do not even think of thanking us.”

The tiger immediately tried to devour the farmer. But, lastly, the farmer when to see the rabbit. The rabbit listened to what the farmer had to said, then replied, “Mr. Tiger, I don’t really understand. How did you come out of the trap? Can you please show me once?”

The tiger became angry. That’s why the tiger jumped straight back into the trap. Also, he yelled loudly from the trap. “You idiot! I was like this!”

The rabbit said, “Ah ha, now I know. Then, Mr. Farmer, you should just go. This tiger doesn’t need saving. This tiger doesn’t know gratitude.”

The rabbit went hop, hop, hop, into the forest. Because of the rabbit’s wise judgment, the farmer was able to live. Inside the trap, the tiger cried and yelled, “Please save me!”

I'm not quite sure what to make of this story. On one hand, the message about gratitude is quite clear. I will help you out, but if you screw me over and are unappreciative of my help, then you can very well rot in the trap the next time you're in such a predicament. Okay, maybe that's not the moral, just a personal philosophy.

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the farmer had to ask two other sources before he finally found a "verdict" that suited him. The first two potential arbiters of justice had basically called the farmer an ingrate who deserved to be eaten. Is that what the story advises us to do in life? If at first you don't find an answer that pleases you, try, try, again?

What's with the rabbit? He is indeed clever, but was he being helpful, or simply eliminating a great threat to his personal well-being.

I know that I shouldn't read much into the story, but it's set up in such a way, that you can't help but wonder about any allegorical meaning. I don't have an answer for you, but I do have a couple of take away points.

  1. Never negotiate with tigers.
  2. Don't forget to say, "Thank you," especially to the little people. You never know when some disgruntled pine tree will come after you with an axe.
  3. Cows have feelings too. It is unfair to mark all of them as diseased or "mad."
  4. Rabbits are indeed a thing to be feared. (Just as I've always thought).

27 June 2008

Seoul Taxi Drivers: Equal Opportunity Meanies

If you read my post about taxi drivers, you know that I have a grudge against the overbearing ajusshis that purport to be of service. I had always thought the ajusshis were picking on me because I was a gyopo, but it turns out that taxi ajusshis are liable to lecture anyone -- foreigners and Koreans alike.

My Korean teacher told me that she is often being lectured by taxi drivers. One evening she caught a cab around 2 AM, and the driver scolded her for going home so late. He also barked at her, "Who were those guys you were with? What kind of young woman runs around late at night like that?"

She responded [in Korean], "Ajusshi, even my mother doesn't say anything to me. She knows that I am coming home late...I would like to ride in silence, please. Thank you." Then she promptly popped in her earphones.

The Taiwanese woman in my Korean class also had a stressful experience. She needed to get to the Taiwanese embassy to take care of some important paperwork. That's when the taxi driver, whose brother-in-law is Chinese, launched into a diatribe on how she should just acknowledge that she is Chinese and go to the Chinese embassy. My classmate tried to explain in her limited Korean that yes, she was ethnically Chinese, but she HAD TO GO TO THE TAIWANESE EMBASSY. The Chinese embassy simply would not be able to process her paperwork. The driver was immediately rankled, thinking that my classmate was making a socio-political statement. The woman was just trying to get her visa, for goodness sake.

I can certainly empathize with my teacher and my classmate. I don't wish anyone to encounter such a confrontation during a simple taxi rider. At the same time, it makes me feel a little better to know that the taxi ajusshis are non-discriminatory when it comes to their lectures.

I understand that driving around Seoul for hours on end can take it's toll on your mental and physical healthy, and I understand that many, if not most, taxi drivers are not so exasperating.

I still wish though, that Seoul taxi ajusshis wouldn't feel so responsible for my enlightenment.

24 June 2008

Snack Time

These are the Korean snacks that we're currently munching on... (Don't worry, 이모. Cyndi's being healthy and mostly eating 과일.)

집중력 Chocolates (Concentration Chocolates?). According to the package, it helps you to study and concentrate. I tried a chocolate, but have not noticed any added benefits. At least the chocolate isn't that bad.

This is the latest in the line of "Custard" cakes. I would liken the cake to a Twinkie, just a little less sweet and radioactive. The cakes pictured below are made out of different grains , but they taste just like the other Custard cakes. The name is a little misleading because the filling tastes nothing like custard (which I'm glad about it). The Custard cakes also come in vanilla, lemon, and...

Sweet potato!

This is a classic chip that I've eaten since I was little. They're octopus flavored chips, though they taste nothing like octopus. They're salty, sweet, and very tasty.

These shrimp chips are yummy. I could probably eat a whole bag in one sitting. These chips are similar to the shrimp chips that garnish the Peking Duck dishes back home.

Tips for dealing with the Korean humidity

Having grown up in Hawaii, I thought I understood what humidity is, but after living in Asia, I realize that I had so much to learn. Hawaii may be humid, but we have the privilege of trade winds.

I know that summer's just getting started in Korea, but it's already quite humid. Recently, I've been introduced to two products for the home to combat humidity, so I thought I'd share.

My cousin Nani gave me a few of these cannisters filled with mysterious foam beads that are meant to suck up some of the moisture in the air and help with the damp odor. This particular product is called "Power-Up 습기 제거제."

means "moisture."

We have a washer/dryer (all-in-one) in the officetel, but the few times we've tried to use the drying function, the machine put up a great fit and flooded the floor. We quickly learned to hang dry all of our laundry, which most Koreans seem to do anyway. Air drying your clothes is not so bad during the winter, but with all the moisture in the air, thicker articles of clothing, like denim jeans, take a bit longer to dry, and in effect, may smell a little funky. Heng recommended that I use this detergent because it's 실내건조, meant for indoor drying.

23 June 2008

North Korea vs South Korea

Yesterday evening we attended a preliminary World Cup soccer, I mean, football match between Korea DPR (North Korea) and South Korea. This was my first ever live FIFA game, but more importantly, an opportunity to observe a friendly confrontation between the Motherland and its slightly estranged brother.

Football is a big deal in Korea. I knew this before my journey to the Motherland, but when I entered the packed stadium, the stands seemed to be brimming with an overwhelming sense of emotion and excitement that I had not expected. Despite what recent protests may suggest, Koreans seem to possess a strong sense of nationalism that I have yet to experience in the Homeland. Americans can be very patriotic, but we don't seem to rally behind our country in quite the same way as they do in the Motherland. It was an interesting experience to partake in a soccer game as if the fate of the country depended on the game's outcome.

Of course, this showdown was particularly exciting and emotional because it was North Korea versus South Korea; nothing spices up competition more than a little sibling strife! I did not observe any animosity towards the North Korean team, only an intense support for the South Korean team. I can't speak to the political or social ramifications of this soccer showdown, but in my opinion, this game seemed like the opportunity for big brother South Korea, the better looking, more successful brother, to best the family black sheep. Interestingly, the game was a draw: zero to zilch. I can't help but wonder what if would have meant if the North Korean team had won. It felt rather poignant that neither team had bested the other. Sadly, just like the match, there is still no clear move towards resolution between the two countries.

There were a number of young people waving around large flags that read, "Fair Korea, Peace Asia." I was a bit bewildered by the meaning of their flags, but I later learned that they were promoting reunification between the two Koreas. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a photo, but a large section to my left were clad in white T-shirts bearing a graphic of the entire Korean peninsula colored in blue. The emblem was a call for a unified Korea. They later waved a gigantic banner with the same image. I think it would have been interesting to observe the cheering and comments in the pro-reunification section. Instead, I had to settle for the loud commentary of some very vocal ajusshis.

Here are a few more random thoughts on the match:
  • The North Korean players were beefier and tanner than their S. Korean counterparts. I guess we know who's enjoying the Hanu beef.
  • The N. Korean players all had a similar buzz cut, while the S. Korean players seemed to boast stylish perms or strategically layered hair styles.
  • The typeface on the N. Korean jerseys were distractingly non-sporty. It looked like Times New Roman. Who uses serif-fonts on sports jerseys?
  • The FIFA people seemed to be particularly sensitive to avoiding outright conflict between the two teams. For example, at one point in the game, a N. Korean collided into a S. Korean player. The media people began to replay the collision on the jumbo screen, but then, abruptly cut to a shot of some inactive fans in the stands. Was that a case of shoddy directing or a pointed effort to avoid images promoting confrontation? Let the conspiracy theories begin...
  • My eemo was right. Most of the S. Korean players aren't all that good looking. Or, as she joked, "They're all country (시골) boys. Not very good looking." (No offense to country boys. My eemo was just kidding).
Okay, enough of my rambling. Here are some pics.

These folks in red are part of the specially designated cheering section. These seats go fast, so you have to get your tickets early. The cheering section also feature variations of the taeguki, the emblem on the S. Korean flag. I'm not sure about their significance, but I found the banners quite curious.

The stadium was packed. There would have been more people, but I'm sure that a bunch of them were still driving around looking for parking. I think we drove around for over an hour and a half before Joon Oppa miraculously found some illegal street parking! (수고했어요, 준오빠)

Of course we had to show our support for the Motherland with some red devil horns.

I tried to get some footage of the game, but honestly, my little Luminix snap-n-shoot can only do so much. I did, however, catch a bit of the massive wave in the stands so that you can experience a bit of the fervor for yourself.

Pop Quiz: The Coffee Dilemma

A Korean neighbour stops by your house to deliver your mail, which had inadvertently been left at her home. You begin a friendly conversation, during which you offer her some coffee. She politely refuses. What should you do?
  • A. Take her answer at face value, and drop the subject.
  • B. Bring her coffee anyway.
  • C. A little later, ask her if she wants coffee again.
  • D. Assume that she's Buddhist, and offer her tea as Buddhists don't drink coffee.


I found a copy of the Culture Shock: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette edition on Korea at my cousin's house. Written by a Korean man and his American wife, the guide seems to offer insight on the culture and history of Korea. I can't attest to the book's accuracy, but it's an interesting read nonetheless. The book includes information on life in Korea, the "Korean Way of Seeing," and tips on how to "interact with Koreans." The back of the book also features a "Cultural Quiz" featuring scenarios like the one quoted at the start of the post.

I will be sure to post any tidbits that I find particularly interesting.

Are you ready for the answer to the coffee dilemma? Here it is (verbatim):

In Korea it is sometimes considered rude to accept something right away. So her refusal may well be out of politeness. When someone visits your home, it is always proper to serve your guest something, and serving something is probably more important than if the guest actually enjoys what you serve. The best answer in this case would be C, but is she refuses again, bring her refreshment anyhow. Answer B would be second best. In fact, it is acceptable to bring something to your guest without consulting her first. Sometimes sugar and cream are added to coffee without consulting the guest. Answer A would be considered rude, and answer D is simply true.

I never realized this, but it has always been customary in my family to offer guests some form of refreshments. Cyndi and I are always stuffing snacks in people's faces, whether they wanted any or not. I never realized that our "sharing is caring" ways were tied to culture of the Motherland.

19 June 2008

B.B. Cream

Although I don't wear a lot of makeup, I do like to browse around the various cosmetics stores in Seoul. Korea is a great place to purchase inexpensive, cutely packaged makeup. Korean women tend to favor more high-end department store cosmetics, but dozen of tourists often swarm to Myeongdong to get a small carry-on's worth of cosmetics. The most popular stores seem to be The Face Shop, Etude House, Missha, It's Skin, and Skin Food. Come to think of it, it's easier to find a cosmetics store than a public trash can or phone booth in Seoul.

With my eyelash extensions, my makeup consists of three products. In addition to my moisturizer (don't forget the SPF!), I simply put on some B.B. cream, powder, and blush.

Cyndi and I have introduced a few people to B.B. Cream, and they all seem to love it.

So, what is B.B. Cream?

"B.B Cream" is short for "Blemish Balm Cream. Unlike concealer, it both hides and soothes blemished skin. You can read more about B.B. Cream at this link. I'm not certain if it's helping to "regenerate" my skin, but it certainly does a solid job of covering my blemishes.

Most B.B. Creams come with SPF, so it offers added sun protection for your skin. The creams range in price, but usually start at about 7,000 won. Unfortunately, since it's an Asian product, the creams usually come in just two shades: Light-skinned and Light-skinned person with a slight tan.

Based on Bo Unnie's recommendation, I'm currently using the Missha B.B. Cream pictured below. My sister likes the It's Skin B.B. Cream, but I find that it makes my face feel a little more oily. The various cosmetics shops are very good about letting you test the products, so I suggest that you try out the product in the store (if you don't mind some sales clerks hovering around you).

You can also read this handy review of various Korean B.B. Creams.

Here's a brief demonstration of how to apply B.B. Cream. Basically, just gently dab the cream across your entire face.

18 June 2008

Yes! It's raining!

The rainy season has officially begun in Korea. I believe that in Korea, they call rainy season "summer." Normally, I'm not so big on rain, especially when I have to drive. Today's downpour even has me wondering if I should start building an ark.

Though I'm not looking forward to riding the bus in the rain, I'm very excited to have the opportunity to wear my rain boots!

I came across a bunch of really cute boots a few months ago at a shoe store in Myeondong called "Spai." (I wish I could tell you the exact location of Spai, but even with all the time spent there, I still get lost. It's not that big, so I think you can find it if you don't mind wandering).

EDIT: You can buy the boots at spaimall.com Thanks for the link, Heng!

I bought two pairs of boots. I sent a pair of brown lace-up boots back to the Homeland, but I still have my high-heeled flower print boots. That's right! My boots protect my feet and legs from the rain AND gives me a boost. The boots are also surprisingly snug, which prevents it from looking like work man boots -- that, and the fact that there are flowers all over them. The boots were 40,000 won; more than I would normally pay for footwear in Korea, but definitely worth it.

As my Korean teacher noted, other than children and fisherman, Koreans do not typically wear rain boots. I asked her why given that Korea gets so much rain. She said that Korean women prefer to wear slippers or sandals. I used to wear slippers in the rain, but, as you can probably imagine, they'd SLIP off my feet if the rain got heavy. Rain boots are definitely preferable to slippers when walking in the rain.

My flower boots are a little loud and I will often get stares, but I like to think that soggy footed gawkers are thinking to themselves, "Dang, that's such a good idea right now."

Cyndi purchased a pair of long, equestrian style rain boots from zappos.com. Her brother delivered them to her during his visit in the spring. She too understands the merits of a stylish rain boot.

I know that rain boots may not seem very attractive, but trust me, it's so much better to walk through a puddle than jump over one.

Piggy at 6 Months

Piggy is almost 6 months years old, so I thought it was a good time for an update. Several months back Cyndi took Piggy to get her hair shaved, G.I. Jane style. Piggy looked kind of forlorn and scrawny without all her furry glory. Now that her hair is growing back, Piggy's looking a little more puppylicious. She's gotten notably bigger, most especially her ears. They're sort of out of proportion with the rest of her body.

Piggy is also noticeably Korean. I'm not even joking. Aside from understanding a little Korean (Thanks to Cyndi and Heng), she has a lot in common with other Korean females.
  • She likes spicy food, especially kimchi.
  • She likes to take photos. She's the dicca (digital camera) queen.
  • She likes to look at herself in the elevator mirrors.
  • She loves shoes (to nibble on).
  • She loves bags (to sit in whenever she's tired of walking).
  • She loves lotions (to eat).
  • She has a pretty ferocious bark, but she often uses a sad little puppy cry to tug at your heart strings. I think that this might be the equivalent of what Koreans call egyo.
I suspect that Piggy could even down a shot of soju if we let her. Don't worry. I won't let that happen. We don't need her to turn into My Sassy Puppy. She's already got enough problems.

In honor of her half-year birthday, here's a compilation of pics and videos. I even managed to get a clip of her dreaming. She's very noisy. I wonder what she's dreaming about...

17 June 2008

ANNALOG STORYTIME: "Stupid Ondal and Princess Pyeong-Gang"

CAUTION: This post is longer than usual. Make sure you had a good night's rest before proceeding.

I'm currently on this knowledge binge where I'm trying to edify myself about the language and culture of the Motherland (more than just watching 미수다). I bought a couple of books at Kyobo last week, but I've been distracted by Hana Yori Dango, so I've only recently cracked open the books. As a supplement to my hagwon studies, I've decided to read Once Upon a Time in Korea: An Elementary Reader on my own. I chose the book for a couple of reasons. 1) The book is a good way to familiarize myself with Korean folk stories and fables. 2) The book is simple in grammar and sentence structure, but will help me to build up my sorely lacking vocabulary. Each story is well footnoted and includes a glossary as well as cultural notes.

For further exercise, I'm going to post my own translation of each story.

I had considered trying to jazz up each tale with my own storytelling, but I've decided to translate the stories as closely as possible, as it will allow me to compare and contrast the English and Korean way of writing.

I will follow each story with my own amateur analysis. Heng has warned me that most of the stories in the reader are simply stories without much of a moral, but I've decided to examine each story anyway and try to discover my own take-way-point or two.

Anyhoo, today's story is:

바보 온달과 평강공주*
Stupid Ondal and Princess Pyeon-Gang

Long ago in the kingdom of Goguryeo, there was a young man who lived with his mother. His name was Ondal. His neighbors called him “Stupid On-Dal.” At that time, in the palace there lived a princess. This princess’ name was Pyeong-Gang. Ever since she was a young girl, Pyeong-Gang cried often. Thus, in order to get Pyeong-Gang to stop crying, the king would always say this: “If you cry like this, I will have to marry you off to Stupid Ondal.”

Pyeong-Gang grew up well. It was now the time for her to get married. The king introduced her to good men. But, this is what Princess Pyeong-Gang said: “I am going to marry Stupid Ondal.”

The king became infuriated.

“If you marry Stupid Ondal you must immediately leave the palace. I don’t want to see you!”

Princess Pyeong-Gang packed her bags. She then left to search for Stupid Ondal’s house. Princess Pyeong-Gang explained everything to Stupid Ondal. Princess Pyeong-Gang and Ondal got married. After that, Ondal learned many things from Princess Pyeong-Gang. He learned how to read and write as well as archery and horseback riding.

One day, enemies attacked the country. Everyone started to flee. That’s when Ondal said to people, “Please don’t run away. Let’s chase these enemies out together!”

Ondal received a sword and armor from Princess Pyeong-Gang. Ondal and his soldier fought [the enemy]. Ondal and his soliders and the enemy forces confronted each other on a battlefield. However, no one made the first move. That’s when Ondal stepped forward and started fighting with the enemy soldiers. Then, the general of the enemy army came out. Ondal killed the general with one stroke. The enemy soldiers were so afraid that all of them ran away.

Everyone praised Ondal. The king summoned Ondal to the palace. The king asked, “What is your name?”

“My name is Ondal.”
The king was very surprised.
“Are you really Ondal?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”

Ondal received a large reward from the king. Afterwards, Ondal became a general. Additionally, he did a lot of work (service) on behalf of the country. Unfortunately, Ondal died while fighting the Silla.

- The end -

* I was initially going to type out the entire story in Korean, but given how long it took me to type out the title, you'll just have to settle for my translation or go out and buy the book for yourself.

Firstly, this translation exercise has given me insight into the writing of my native Korean students. Many of my students were good at constructing sentences in English, but could not seem to grasp the idea of transitions or flow in writing essays and paragraphs. It often seemed like they were writing in stream of consciousness. I realize that as an elementary reader, this book may not be the best representative of Korean writing, however, I think from what I've managed to read in magazines or internet articles, Koreans are not as strict about transitions. Organization in writing is more about relevancy than segue ways. This may come as a surprise, but this notion is very freeing, yet hard for me to get used to.

As for the story of Ondal and Princess Pyeong-Gang, whether a specific moral was intended or not, the fact that the story has been passed on for generations suggest that the story reflects intrinsic Korean values. I will totally admit that I am unqualified in making any serious claims as to what we can learn about the Motherland through this story, but I will go ahead and offer my own cheeky thoughts anyway.

Let's start with the fact that Princess Pyeong-Gang took her father's threat literally and married Stupid Ondal. Was this just a tool of irony or is this a caution to parents everywhere? Lesson #1: Be careful of your threats, Moms & Pops. Reminds me of how my friend Isabel used to threaten to become a lesbian whenever her protective Mexican father wouldn't let her within three feet of the opposite sex. Or, maybe this story is suggesting that Korean women like their men dumb and pretty?

What are we to make of the fact that a man labeled "Stupid Ondal" was able to win the admiration of a king and country because of one highly visible act of courage? This story reminds me of a very well-known American folk hero named "W." Good ol' "W" was ridiculed throughout the land for his ignorance and bumbling ways, but through his strong stance against enemies on homeland turf, he was momentarily able to win the favor of the entire country.

I'm curious about how Ondal became known as "Stupid Ondal." Did he have a slow manner of speech? Did he once walk into a wall and was never able to live the incident down? Did one mean kid label him as stupid and the rest of the kingdom just follow suit? Also, does the fact that Pyeong-Chang taught Ondal everything he knew underline the idea that behind every man is an even cooler woman?

Unfortunately, these answers are not available through my Elementary Reader, so you'll just have to conjecture on your own.

I'll leave you one more question to ponder. How would you update this tale? If I were to update this story to reflect modern times, I'd probably change the main character to "Ugly Ondal" who eventually gets plastic surgery and becomes the most sought after actor in all the land.

16 June 2008


If you would like to watch Korean movies or dramas with English subtitles, you should check out mysoju.com, a website that aggregates links (of streaming video) to popular Korean, Japanese, and Tawainese dramas.

Special thanks to JIm for the link!

15 June 2008

More on Daily King's Brown Sugar

You're probably tired of hearing about brunch after just reading my massive Battle of the Brunch post, but it's my blog and I'll talk about brunch if I want to :)

In my comparison of the three brunch restaurants in Jeongja, I hastily judged Daily King's Brown Sugar based on it's dessert menu. In order to keep the comparison fair, this weekend, Joon, Heng, and I went to check out Brown Sugar's brunch fare.

I have to say, not bad.

Daily King's Brown Sugar
Michelan Arcade (Samsung Apartments)
Jeongja-dong, Bundang

First of all, Brown Sugar is larger than I thought. It has a chic second floor decorated with a black and white interior and Roy Lichenstein inspired artwork.

I had assumed that the Brown Sugar menu would be fairly similar to that of Daily King's Diner, but it's actually quite different. For one thing, the dishes are a little more pricey. My Eggs Benedict was a little over 15,000 won! The Brown menu also features a different (perhaps more upscale?) array of brunch platters, omelets (including a white omelet), salads, and sandwiches.

Joon ordered Jay's Platter. The French Toast was fluffy and powder-sugar free! I was also surprised to see a ham steak. There's no Richam at Brown Sugar.

Heng ordered an omelet filled with bacon, cheese, and sausages. Although the sausages tasted like strongly seasoned hot dogs, the omelet was tasty.

I ordered the outrageously priced Eggs Benedict. The eggs were slightly overcooked and the muffin too bread-like, but I was glad to see that the dish wasn't swimming in hollandaise. The side of salad was a strange pairing, but I enjoyed the meal nonetheless.

Based on what I've sampled, I'd say that Brown Sugar is worth a visit if you don't mind the higher pricing. I still, however, deem Butterfinger Pancakes as my favorite brunch diner thus far.

Brown Sugar also has the most complicated place mat that I've ever seen. Maybe you can make sense of it?

13 June 2008

Battle of the Brunch: Jeonja-dong

Crank up some AC/DC because it's time for Battle of the Brunch.

Koreans typically eat rice and soup for breakfast or more recently, cereal or toast. American brunch, however, seems to be an emerging trend and increasing in popularity. (By "American Brunch" I mean, super-sized portions and lots of butter and fried meats.)

There are three brunch places in Jeonja, one of the more uppity neighborhoods in Bundang. Thus, these three diners are the unwitting participants in Annalog's Inaugural Battle of the Brunch.

The three contestants are: Daily King's Diner, Butterfinger Pancakes, and Daily King's Brown Sugar.

Let's begin!

CONTESTANT #1: Daily King's Diner ("The Original American Dining & Brunch")

Hours of Operation:
Weekdays 11:00 AM - 10:30 PM
Weekends 9:00 AM - 10:30 PM

Get off at Jeongja station (Bundang Line) and take Exit 4. Walk towards the right side of KINS Tower towards the Paragon apartments. The Diner building is between Paragon and I-Park. Good luck finding it. The following picture of the building may help you find the diner (Look for that yellow billiards sign).

The Food:
Daily King's features a large menu that includes brunch items, pasta, and hamburgers. We tried the omelet, short stack, and bacon cheese fries.

The Lowdown: I was not impressed by Daily King's. It's been awhile since my visit to this "Original" American Diner, but I do remember the pancakes being dry and lacking in flavor. The omelet was a little soppy and skimpy on the cheese. The cheese fries were smothered in nacho cheese sauce. Blech. I was not impressed by Daily King's, but they do have a large menu so I think it deserves a second chance. I also heard that they serve a brunch buffet.

The "Where's the Cheese?" Omelet

The Un-stacked Short Stack

The (Nacho) Cheese Fries

CONTESTANT #2: Butterfinger Pancakes

7 AM - 3 AM


Walk towards the Sunae end of Cafe Street (카페거리). Butterfinger is located at the bottom of the Interpark Apartment building; across from the GS 칼턱스 gas station; a stone's throw from Kraze Burger.

Compared to Daily King's, Butterfinger has a more compact menu that primarily consists of breakfast platters, omelets, and dessert pancakes, waffles, and crepes (They also have salad, but you don't go to a brunch place to have salad). I should also note that they have mac + cheese and meatloaf during the week days. Mmmm...

The portions at Butterfinger are huge, even according to American standards. I usually order the "Butterfinger Favorites" set which includes a short stack, hash browns, bacon, sausage, and scrambled eggs. I am able to finish the entire plate when I'm at my hungriest, but it's also possible for two lightweight eaters to split a plate (and split a bowl of mac+ cheese!). The pancakes at Butterfinger are buttery, some may say too buttery, but I'm a fan. The omelet is savory and very cheesy; another winner. I also recommend the waffle sandwich (ham, cheese, sour cream, and chives). The only major flaw of the Butterfinger brunch is the sausages. They taste rubbery.

Butterfinger also features a tantalizing selection of dessert waffles, pancakes, sundaes, and shakes. I'm not big on the dessert waffle/pancake trend that seems to have overtaken Seoul. I especially dislike the liberal sprinkling of powdered sugar. A number of late diners, however, seem to dig the dessert waffles, especially the ones buried under chocolate syrup and ice cream. I can't speak to the quality of the dessert waffles, but I can recommend the silver dollar pancakes. They're just so darn cute.

Basic Waffle

Blueberry Pancakes with Strawberry Compote

The Butterfinger Omelet

Blueberry Silver Dollar Pancakes

CONTESTANT #3: Daily King's Brown Sugar
www.dailykingsbrownsugar.com (This is the website listed on the business card, but it does not appear to be working.)

I was unable to find this information, but you can call them at 031.711.5341

Get off at Jeongja station (Bundang Line) and take Exit 4. Turn left (past KINS Tower) towards the Samsung Adena Apartments (towards Migeum). It's about a 7-10 minute walk. It's very close to the Samsung Michelan Apartments. It's located right on a street corner.

They carry a smaller menu than its sibling, Daily King's Diner. Brown Sugar's menu basically consists of brunch platters, waffles, pancakes, and desserts. We tried the French Toast, pancakes, warm brownie, and about a kilo of powdered sugar.

We stopped at Brown Sugar after our monthly attempt at exercising. Unfortunately, we got there past 9 pm, so we were too late to try the brunch menu. I was really looking forward to trying their Eggs Benedict. The option of that dish alone warrants a second trip.

Brown Sugar is smaller than Daily King's Diner and is set up to have a more café feel, including the requisite jazz music. Brown Sugar closes later than the Diner, but I can't recall the exact hours of operation. Unfortunately, the website printed on their business card is not working. Lame.

Based on June Unnie recommendation, we ordered the French Toast. Aside from that blasted sugar cocaine, the toast was nice and fluffy. The pancakes were nothing to write on my blog about, but they were surprisingly tastier than the pancakes at Daily King's Diner.

You can't tell from the picture below, but the brownie slice was pretty huge. The brownie was almost like a chocolate lava cake, but without the fudgey center.

Overall, the dishes were good enough that I am now curious to try out the brunch menu.

Fluffy French Toast

The Ouch! the Plate is Hot Brownie

The Enough with the Sugar Pancakes


Butterfinger Pancakes!

The preferred brunch establishment for Joon, Heng, Cyndi, and Annalog.

Butterfinger Pancakes is the clear winner for multiple reasons (in no particular oder):
  • It's cool modern diner feel; good use of the color orange
  • The wait staff all have quaint English names; some of the wait staff are even fluent in English.
  • The diner has both have indoor and outdoor seating.
  • The have some cozy orange arm chairs.
  • The pancakes are yummy.
  • Macaroni and Cheese.
  • Just the use of cheese in general.
  • They have the wordiest motto I've ever seen.
  • It's relatively easy to find Butterfinger (in comparison to Daily King's Diner & Brown Sugar).
  • Opens early; closes late.
  • The brunch menu is always available.
The only drawback is that Butterfinger Pancakes can get pretty crowded during peak dining hours. It's not very large, so you may have to wait awhile.

If those of you in Seoul wish to try out Butterfinger Pancakes, I hear that there's a diner in Apkujung. Good luck finding it.

I should also note that the pricing for all three brunch places are moderate to moderately high (though no more pricey than Palo Alto Denney's). If you want to eat semi-decent pancakes in Korea, I'm afraid that you have to be willing to pay a little extra.

I've seen a couple of interesting brunch places in Itaewon, so if I decide to do another a brunch battle, I'd likely seek inspiration there. I especially want to try out a place called something like "Gorgeous Machos' American Diner."

12 June 2008

Student Annalog: Humility

One of my primary reasons for spending a year in the Motherland was to improve my Korean. It's been over nine months and I've finally enrolled in a Korean class. I had intended to take a class at one of the big universities in Seoul, but the campuses are just too far from Bundang and my teaching gig consumed more of my time than I had anticipated.

Plus, I'm lazy.

I just started a Korean class at YBM in Kangnam (near Exit 2, surrounded by two Dunkin' Donuts).

No, the irony is not lost on me. The hagwon teacher is now a hagwon pupil.

My listening skills in Korean have naturally progressed as a result of living in Korea, but my speaking skills are still pretty pathetic because I primarily use English with co-workers, relatives, friends, and Piggy.

I'm probably a better fit for the 201 level class, but with my inflated perception of my study abilities, I asked the teacher to let me try out the 301 level. There are three other students in my class. I am most definitely the weakest speaker in my class (though my pronunciation is slightly better than the white dude from Atlanta). The teacher scolded me today for my continual use of English phrases like "Oh, really!?!' and "Oops!" She threatened to level me down, so I've switched to the more Korean sounding "Waaaah," to express surprise. I guess I'll have to use aigoo and aish in lieu of "Oops."

I'm enjoying the class thus far. The teacher is very chatty and will often go off on fascinating tangents. In the process of learning grammar and vocabulary, I've started to learn more about Korean culture.

With the presumption that you're reading my blog because you have some interest in Korea, and not just because I'm so darn tootin' awesome, I've decided to periodically share some of the cultural tidbits that I find most curious.

Without further ado, let us begin today's lesson on HUMILITY.

My sonsaengnim (teacher) recently taught us the following structure:
A/V-(으)ㄹ 뿐만 아니라, N뿐만 아니라 (Not only is the SUBJECT ~A/V, but also...)

The teacher had each of us tell her what we thought of each person in the class. I should note that this was my first day of class, so when she asked my classmates, "Annalog씨가 어때요?" (How is Annalog?/What do you think of Annalog?), there was a bit of an awkward silence.

Finally, one student replied, "Annalog씨가 예쁠 뿐만 아니라 성격이 좋아요." (Not only is she pretty, but she also has a good personality.)

All eyes immediately turned to me as if waiting for some sort of response. I sheepishly replied, "감사합니다." (Thank you.)

The teacher immediately burst out into laughter, then explained that Koreans would normally respond, "아니에요." (No [I'm not]).

Then the teacher proceeded to mock me and imply that I suffer from 공주병 (Princess Sickness), meaning I'm full of myself.

The fact that I said "Thank you" apparently affirmed my belief that I am pretty and have a good personality. (Totally not my intention!)

I always thought that the most appropriate way to respond to a compliment (whether you agreed or not) is to graciously express your appreciation. I used to have great difficulty taking compliments (and still kind of do), so I've had to push myself to simply thank a person for their kind words. Perhaps my discomfort with compliments stems from this Korean notion that individuals must be humble. Now that I think about it, if you were to tell my mother that she raised a good daughter, she would probably reply, "She's a good girl, but she's also lazy and clumsy." My mother's wasn't being critical. She was just being Korean!

The importance of humility also appeared in today's lesson.
If a person says, "여자친구가 예쁘네!" (Your girlfriend's pretty!), the appropriate response would be, "예쁘기는. 보통이야." (Pretty? She's just average).

If you were to say instead, "Heck, yeah! My girlfriend is hot!" you would be seen as arrogant and rude.

Now, you must be thinking, what if my girlfriend is standing right next to me, what should I do? As my teacher explained, it basically comes down to the lesser of two evils rule. Sure, your girlfriend will be offended, but it's better to offend the person with whom you have a closer relationship with.

You could also respond, as Cyndi suggests, by saying, "My girlfriend is not as pretty as yours." Consequently, if the other speaker's girlfriend is fugly, your comment may seem derisive.

Humility probably stems from old school Confucian beliefs, but if Western influence prevails, I'm sure that Koreans will soon be brimming with swagger and hubris. In the mean time, Koreans will just have to resort to backdoor bragging.

11 June 2008

Ask a Korean

Not me. I don't really know anything, but this guy does. Ask a Korean is a fascinating blog where a twenty-something lawyer in NYC (who was born and raised in Korea) welcomes and answers all questions about Korea or Korean culture. His responses (at least what I've read so far) are thorough, well-written, and sometimes quite humorous.

He seems to get questions from a variety of readers, who inquire about a range of topics including the current protests in Korea; what a non-Korean should do when dating/marrying a Korean; why Koreans are such bad tippers; and why Koreans are so into church. I'm sure those are all topics you've been wondering about...

Dance, Pokemon, Dance

While doing some late night shopping at Dongdaemon, we spotted some dancing phenoms. It seemed as if Pokemon, Turtle, and Doolie were dancing to the beats blasting from the speaker -- all on their own. We asked the ajusshi how the little guys had such mad skillz, and he explained (with a coy smile), "It's the vibrations from the speakers."

"Ahhhhh," we replied, nodding our heads.

Then, we gave him 5000 won and picked up 2 pairs of dancing characters.

Perhaps if you take a look at this clip, you'll understand why I was so enamored with the tiny dancers.

When we got home, I quickly tore open the package to see how Pikachu managed to stand upright AND dance along with the beats. As some small part of my brain had suspected, upon closer inspection, I learned that Pikachu's legs were simply made out of yard and cardboard. Then, to our great disappointment, Cyndi pulled out a strand of FISHING WIRE! After taping a piece of fishing line to the back of the character, you must then tie each end of the seemingly invisible line to opposite ends of a box. Once the line is taut, your little character will be able to bounce along to the vibrations from the speakers (subwoofers) -- just as the ajusshi said.

Now, if I were an ostrich, this is the point where I would stick my head in the ground. Sometimes I'm such a dupe. This is why one should not shop after midnight!

I have to give the Dongdaemun entrepreneur some credit. He had a crowd of people swarming around his station.

Annalog is an Olympic Gold Medalist!

I'm not sure if you're aware of this but I am a Beijing 2008 Olympian... for Nintendo Wii that is. The Nintendo Wii has finally been released in Korea, and Heng got one. Yay!

As far as I can tell, aside from the Hangul, the Nintendo looks the same as the one that folks camped out for back in 2007. The only other difference is that Heng's controllers each came with a snazzy silicon cover. Are they now including controller covers with the sets back home?

Heng also purchased the "Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Beijing 2008)."

The Olympic game is more physically exerting than the Wii Sports games. After hours of swimming, running, rowing, and other track + field events, we looked like we had run an actual 100M race.

I don't mean to boast-- Okay, yeah I do. Despite my ineptitude in the physical world, I'm pretty darn awesome as an athlete in the virtual world.

I managed to earn a number of medals, including a couple of gold.

Look at mii in my little track suit. Aren't I intimidating?

10 June 2008

Break Out: Another Korean B-Boy Show

After enjoying Jump!, a comedic martial arts "sitcom," we decided to see Break Out, also featured in the IBK Theater in Jong-No.

Here's the premise: A ragtag group of prisoners are fixing up an old car in the prison yard when a mysterious glowing object falls from the sky. This object turns out to be an unearthly book that impels all in its vicinity to burst into spontaneous dance or beat box. (No, I am not making this up). This fallen object leads to a huge explosion that allows the five convicts to escape. Thus, the show follows the convicts as they try to evade the relentless prison guards.

Had I known the storyline beforehand, I would have thought twice about seeing the show. Unfortunately, the brochure was deceptively vague, so all I knew was that the hip hop infused show was about prisoners on the run.

I'm just going to cut to the chase and say that the show was disappointing. Unlike Jump!, which had a consistently entertaining albeit cheesy story line, Break Out is all over the place. There were a few entertaining gags (I especially liked the bit involving puppets), but the humor was sporadic and gimmicky. The show also tried to get more profound in the last act, but the drama and emotion felt forced.

I probably could have excused the ridiculous storyline, if they delivered on the hip hop. The generic 90s hip hop beats were also pretty awful. If you want a taste of what I mean, just check out the music on the show's website. I'm not an expert on dancing, but after watching America's Next Best Dance Crew the choreography in Break Out seemed lackluster and amateur. The beat boxing also seemed monotonous and interminable.

We took a couple of visitors to Break Out and they seemed to enjoy the show, so I think I'm being overly critical.

I highly recommend Jump!, but if you are still curious to see Break Out, you should note the following discounts:
  • Students with a valid school i.d. get a 50% discount off of shows on weekdays
  • If you wear stripes, you get a 10% discount.
  • If you have your ticket stub from Jump!, you are entitled to a 20% discount.

Import Bacon, Not Beef

Protests against S. Korean President M.B. Lee and the importation of mad cow ridden American beef still rages on. According to the NYT, the S. Korean Cabinet has offered to resign in the face of such heated protests.

I'm shamelessly ignorant about the whole ordeal, so I can't say anything educated about this issue. I will, however, offer up my two cents anyway.

Perhaps if S. Koreans learned that America has things like Bacon Salt to offer, Koreans would more inclined to dampen anti-American (government) sentiments, and allow FTA discussions to resume.

09 June 2008

Slate's Recap of the Democratic Primaries

In case you've been watching kpop videos on MNet instead of following politics back in the Homeland, here's Slate's overview of the democratic primaries in just eight minutes.

A fist pound goes out to Slate Magazine.

Everybody Likes Kugfu Fighting...Pandas

The zoological residents of the Valley of Peace have waited a thousand years for the prophesy of the Dragon Warrior to come to fruition. According to legend, when the time is right, the kung fu master selected as the Dragon Warrior is entitled to the mysterious scroll that holds the secret to being an invincible warrior.

Po, the unlikely hero of the story, is a tubby Panda who secretly dreams of becoming a kung fu master, despite his lack of any martial arts skills whatsoever. With his "father's" exuberant assurance that noodles are his destiny, Po resigns himself to serving noodles as his "father" and "ancestors" have done for generations.

To the surprise of everyone, especially Kung Fu Master Shifu and his team of highly trained fighters, Po is singled out by Master Oogway, the ancient turtle sage (no relation to the Ninja Turtles) as the Dragon Warrior.

Reluctantly, Shifu is forced to take Po under his tutelage and prepare him to defeat the menacing Tai Lung, an extremely powerful tiger fighter who holds a deep grudge against the noble Shifu and poses as a great threat to the peaceful valley.

I'm usually skeptical when it comes to CG animated films that are not produced by Pixar, but after reading a positive review of the film on the Frederator blog, I decided to check it out. Now, if you've read any of my other movie reviews, you know that this is the point when I would usually get all "snarky" ala TWP and mock the movie. I have to tell you, I have nothing to mock. I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

First of all, I found the animation in the film artful and innovative. Though I enjoyed the Shrek series, I've found the animation customary to Dreamwork's films to be too sharp (especially their disturbing depiction of human characters). In contrast, the character animation in Kung Fu Panda was either adorable or vibrant and pleasing to the eye. The facial expressions on the characters were particularly impressive, and really helped make the characters interesting.

Speaking of the characters, the voice actors were perfectly casted -- well, everyone but Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan. Their talent and personality were wasted in the film. They barely had any lines! They were obviously casted because of their ethnicity. I'm sure the producers would have casted more Chinese actors except a) there are only a few well-known Chinese actors b) the other semi-famous Chinese actors were used in Mulan and Dreamworks ain't interested in Disney's leftovers. The film also features the voice talents of Seth Rogen, David Cross, and James Hong, the actor who's been in practically every American film involving Chinese culture since Hollywood first figured out that Chinese people can speak English.

Jack Black as Po was simply lovable. Jack Black can be a little obnoxious when he goes full throttle, but he was equally endearing in both the comedic and emotionally tender scenes. I'm not certain what sort of animal Master Shifu was, but Dustin Hoffman was perfect as the old Kung Fu master. I was especially grateful that he didn't put on the Chinese accent that often afflicts most actors who are cast as the wise Asian elder. I was also grateful to hear a non-sexualized Angelina Jolie. She's usually forced to vamp it up and jut out her lips in every role that she plays (e.g. sexy fish, sexy battered woman, sexy forensic scientist), but as Tigress she was focused and pensive. Aside from Jack Black, I think the standout star of the film was the ferocious Tai Lung, voiced by Ian McShane. I literally gasped (out of fright) when he appeared on screen. He was seriously one intimidating villain.

Actually, I take that back. I think the star of the movie was Po's belly. I laughed at every joke involving the rotund Panda's belly.

Given its star-packed cast and Dreamwork's propensity to stuff their animated films with hip pop culture allusions, I was afraid that the film would be sidetracked by gimmicks. This time around, however, I think they've managed to pull off what Pixar is so adept at doing, producing an animated film driven by an engaging storyline and compelling characters.

The movie also takes advantage of the CG animation technology and produces some highly entertaining action sequences. Some of the humor of the verbal banter and Jack's uttering of the words "awesome" and "bodacious" may have been lost on the Korean audience, but they definitely enjoyed all of the physical gags. I know that obesity is a serious problem, but there's just something so hilarious about a fat panda. I totally heart fat animals.

I read on Popseoul that Cee Lo's version of "Kung Fu Fighter" was selected over Rain's version for the end credits of the film, so I was surprised (though I shouldn't have been) to hear Rain singing during the end credits. That's when I decided to stick around for the conclusion of the end credits, because I vaguely remember reading online about a bonus clip.

I actually enjoyed watching the end credits, because it was accompanied by illustrations of the various characters in the film; a sort of "Where are they now?" The end credits were followed by a very brief clip of Shifu and Po that follows through with a metaphor introduced by Master Oogway. I'll just go ahead and use my superior skills of literary analysis and interpret the symbolism in the concluding image. The concluding image implies..."sequel."

I highly recommend Kung Fu Panda. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that you should watch it on the big screen because in my opinion, it's deserving of an "A." As my students will attest to, it's hard to earn an "A" from Teacher Annalog.

Though the promotional display outside of the Kung Fu Panda theater has me looking forward to seeing this summer's next big animated film, Wall-E, Pixar better watch their backs, because as the Dreamworks people have learned, "Everybody likes Kung Fu fighting" (also, people tend to hate bumbling robots).

Guest Post: Piliksu's Scaling Adventure

As I mentioned in a previous post about scaling (facials) for men, we dragged, I mean, invited our visiting friend Piliksu to ANACLI. Since Piliksu is a dude and has not been living in an appearance-obsessed city for the past nine months, I thought it'd be interesting to get his take on the experience.

He has a lot to say.

I think we may have scarred him for life (Figuratively speaking, of course). ㅋㅋㅋ


I’d like to say upfront that I’m not really into cosmetic treatments. In fact, I’ve only had a facial one other time and that was also in Korea. Nevertheless, I am intrigued with the whole body/facial enhancement process and why it’s such a phenomenon in Asia; this includes full on plastic surgery. What has surprised me is the number of men who have succumbed to this trend and are willing to shell out their hard earned money with the hope of looking as beautiful as their significant others or some famous actress, although I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to have skin as smooth as 林志玲 or 이효리. To be honest, I’ve met quite a few gentlemen in Asia who say they regularly go in for facials, pedicures, and manicures. It’s a little odd to hear them talk about their appointments as if they were meeting up with friends after work to grab a beer. We tough strapping American men normally do not discuss such behavior, much less engage in it. So how was I lured into trying this out for a second time? Well, I was in Korea during a short two day layover and decided to skip out on going to the DMZ and save it for another time. The result was a free day and the two lovely ladies I was with asked me to join them for their regular treatments. I thought, “This is something I never do in the US and it’s unique. Hell, why not? I’m in.”

The dermatology office wasn’t too far from where I was staying. The first thing I noticed entering were several computer consoles in the lobby. JACKPOT! Free internet service, apparently a common perk in Korea. We first met up with the doctor to discuss our “scaling” treatment. As Anna mentioned in her post, scaling is the use of glycolic acid on your face. My understanding is that this acid removes an entire layer of skin. How this can be good for you still baffles me. I have bad skin in general--I blame it on genetics--so removing another layer of it was a little disconcerting. The doctor also concurred that my skin was not exactly up to par. In fact, I believe she was a little offended at its unsightly state, perhaps taking what appeared to be my disregard for skin care as an affront to her profession.

We were lead into a room with multiple beds and were asked to wait…and wait...and wait… and wait… I’m normally a patient person but I think we must’ve been there for over half-an-hour before anyone came in. This made me a little antsy since my time in Korea was very limited and I didn’t want to spend it lying in a dermatology office staring at the ceiling. Eventually several ladies filed in to start the process. I actually don’t remember all the steps in order, but I do recall there was constant application of different types of creams. Some of them smelled kind of funky. This was executed by the clinic’s staff and they tried their best to announce to me, the token non-Korean, each step they were about to perform. Unfortunately, I didn’t really understand what they were saying and couldn’t tell if they were speaking Korean or just heavily accented Konglish. There was also a lot of massaging of the face going on, which felt great, but I found the pressure used to be on the soft side. It was like bad foreplay (note to facial people: stronger pressure is needed to relax those muscles). After much primping by the staff, the doctor came in and began applying the glycolic acid to each of our faces with some sort of cotton or sponge pad. The initial feeling was a wonderful cool minty sensation. This eventually turned into an unpleasant stinging as if someone was tearing at your face with long nails. I’m guessing that was the part where the acid melted away the top layer of my skin. This was the doctor’s only involvement in the whole process which I found a little disappointing. When she finished, the staff shuffled back to continue additional application of random creams and their light facial massages. At one point they began to use some instrument, it could’ve been their fingernails, to squeeze out the oils and blackheads strewn across my face. I found this rather enjoyable since my face felt surprisingly cleaner afterwards.

Next was the mask. For those of you who suffer from taphephobia, I would caution you to be mentally prepared. Not only was my head wrapped like a mummy and covered in some type of green concoction as if being prepared for burial, but I had to lie still for 20 minutes while the mask settled and did its voodoo magic. Anna of course jumped on this opportunity to photograph me in my compromised position (Thanks, Anna... I hope you know payback’s a bitch). With the mask portion complete, I was ready to head out since I thought the treatment was finished. To my surprise, as they were removing the green monstrosity, a laser machine made its way into the room and tanning goggles were placed over my eyes. I was promptly subjugated to several minutes of trance alien lighting. For a moment, I half expected orifice probes to appear courtesy of the staff. Korean friends informed me later that the lasers happen to be the distinguishing piece of the scaling process and the most expensive part. Apparently, it’s the lasers that are the finishing touch in removing the blemishes and wrinkles from your face.

Overall, I found the whole hour long process to be a decent one. My face initially didn’t feel that much different after the scaling treatment. But I did notice the effects a day later. My skin was definitely smoother, but my scars, large pores, etc. were still visible. I heard that to see any real results you have to do a minimum of at least five sessions. So would I do it again? Yeah, probably, just cause the novelty of it hasn’t worn off yet. Would I do it regularly? No, I’m a little leery of regularly applying strange chemicals to any part of my body unless it’s shampoo or soap. Also, I would suggest to other guys to go ahead and try it several times for fun. But unless you’re someone like Takeshi Kaneshiro where looking money is required for your job and the ladies, I’d say go buy a nice car or fancy clothes instead with the $$$ you’d save from routine facials. I would give scaling “three-and-a-half chemical acid masks out of five.” Time to let those dead skin cells gather up and settle in for my next visit to Korea.

08 June 2008

Annalog Eats: Live Octopus!

JIm's Chingu was really interested in trying 산낙지 (san nakji), raw, squirming octopus! We took him to a restaurant in Bundang. I've eaten live octopus once before in Busan, so I knew what I was in for. Chingu, however, was a newbie, so he was curious with a tinge of apprehension. After his first bite, he was soon craving more. He nearly finished the entire plate of octopus all by himself.

If you are into seafood, particularly octopus, I recommend the dish. The octopus is chopped up, but you must be sure to chew quickly and thoroughly for the tentacles may stick to the inside of your mouth or your throat.

I tried the octopus head for the first and LAST time. It was just way too chewy. I was chewing for about 30 seconds when I finally decided to spit it out.

We also tried nakji bokkum, stir fried octopus. Aside from the octopus overload, I also stayed away from the nakji bokkum because it was VERY spicy. Even Cyndi thought the dish was spicy, and she drinks Tabasco for breakfast.

Check out the video to see Chingu's funny reaction to his first bite of san nakji.

Hair Styling Tips from a Myeondong Ajusshi

While JIm was looking at some hair accessories on the streets of Myeondong, we watched with amazement as the ajusshi taught some young Korean women how to put up their hair with a chopstick. I asked him to teach me, and he kindly let us record his tutorial on camera. He taught me how to put up my hair using three different accessories: an ornate chopstick, a long clip (salon style), and two mini clips. If you've seen my hair in person, you know that it's VERY thick and unruly. I was quite impressed that he could secure an up-do with just a chopstick or two mini clips.

If you are interested in learning how to put up your hair, you can check out the video or stop by his stand in Myeongdong. I'm pretty certain that I won't be able to replicate his styling, but I'll certainly try. The ajusshi is usually stationed across from the Cafe Baskin Robbins (near Buffalo and On Tree). I must warn you though, he can be a little overly friendly, if you know what I mean.

He may be a little sketchy, but he's great at twisting hair.