Archive for November, 2008

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Gibber ye not! (for a few months)

November 27, 2008

Well, I’m about to finish up at my current teaching job in Ganghwa and I’m supposed to be flying to Thailand on Tuesday with the intention of getting married on the 6th of December. The plan is to wed and honeymoon in Thailand and then fly to South Africa for Christmas and New Year before going back to the UK for a month in January. The return to Korea is (hopefully) going to be around the end of February or the beginning of March.

Of course, I’ve been watching the escalating political crisis in Thailand and outright shitting in my pants at the news that the People’s Alliance for Democracy have occupied the main international airport in Bangkok and more or less shut the fucking thing down. I’m just hoping that alternative flights to Phuket can be arranged if necessary. I can’t believe that, for the first time in my life, I’m actually hoping that an army goes off the hook and kicks the shit out of a group of civilian protesters

Whatever happens, I will be leaving Korea next week and it will be difficult for me to update much here or even write any of the stuff I had intended. Basically, it will be quiet in here for about three months. I thought I could throw a few more pieces up before I left  but I just couldn’t find the time. This had nothing at all to do with my purchasing a Nintendo DS two weeks ago and playing the living shit out of all the wonderful, wonderful games on it. Nothing at all.

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Korea Kapers: Sekshi Scandals

November 24, 2008

I remember when I first arrived in Korea I mentioned that, despite professing a socially conservative Confucianism that frowned upon sexuality, there was a barely-concealed, sleazy underbelly to Korean society. There is a thriving sex industry operating quite openly here.

Prostitute in Yongsan Red Light District

Prostitute in Yongsan Red Light District

Yongsan in the centre of Seoul has long been famous for its prostitutes. It is the site of Yongsan Garrison, the huge American military base in Korea, and it also contains one of the main railway stations of the South Korean capital. Near this railway station there is a street that is lined with small stores that look like glass booths. The stores themselves are made to look like hair/beauty salons (presumably to exploit legal loopholes) and in them you will find women sitting on display atop stools looking utterly bored as fuck. Behind them are doorways in the stores that lead to back rooms where the world’s oldest (and apparently recession-proof) profession goes about its business. The women are all extremely skinny and, to me, they look mostly South-East Asian rather than Korean. I would say they were Thai/Filipino/Vietnamese though I’ve not seen any data that can confirm or contradict if this is the case. They are all clad in these tight-fitting flares that are made too long and under which they wear these massive platform shoes that are kind of like small stilts. These things are about a fucking foot high and look quite bizarre. I haven’t yet come across any kind of explanation for them. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Korea Kapers: Goodbye Mr. Kim?

November 18, 2008

North Korea has recently announced that it intends to close the land border with South Korea from December 1st this year.

The border closure decision had been taken because “reckless confrontation” from South Korea was “beyond the danger level”, according to the North’s official KCNA news agency.

The agency report added: “The South Korean puppet authorities should never forget that the present inter-Korean relations are at the crucial crossroads of existence and total severance.”

Now, I had been hoping to visit North Korea next year. There are two destinations open to tourists (albeit under rather strict conditions), Kaesong and Mt. Kumgang, and I intended to try for at least one of them. Needless to say, this news is something of a pisser.

As to the reasons behind the North Korean regime taking this decision, ostensibly it’s because the fairly-new conservative South Korean government led by Lee Myung-Bak has been antagonising the North with its tougher approach and recent “hawkish” behaviour i.e. co-sponsoring a UN resolution criticising North Korea’s human rights record.

Kim Jong-Il is dead......probably

Kim Jong-Il is dead......probably

Personally, I have my own (under-researched and entirely speculative) theory as to why this unexpected border closure has occurred.

Kim Jong-Il is dead. He died a few months ago, probably from a massive stroke, and this event is just a move by the military regime to attempt to offset the confusion caused by the sudden departure of ‘The Dear Leader’. Kim hasn’t been seen in public for months now and there have been many rumours surrounding his alleged poor health. The North Korean regime, however, insists that he is still alive and in complete control of the country and they’ve released some highly dubious pictures to prove it. I’m not buying it though. I hereby announce that I am officially behind the “Kim Jong-Il is dead” rumours. Now it’s all just a matter of waiting to see what happens next.

Kim’s two sons are thought to be too young and inexperienced to succeed him. Although Kim Jong-Il came to power following the death of his father, Kim Il-Sung, the younger Kim had been groomed for the leadership of North Korea from a young age. In contrast, Kim Jong-Il’s sons seem to spend most of their time fannying around in the casinos of Macau or embarrassing their father by getting caught attempting to enter Japan on a false passport for the purpose of visiting Disneyland Tokyo. I recall reading an article some time ago that claimed China did not approve of the idea of either of Kim’s sons taking the reins when he died. With that in mind, it looks like the smart money is on a general, or a group of generals, becoming the next leader(s) of North Korea.

 

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Happy Peppero Day!

November 11, 2008

My laptop is away being repaired in Seoul and I won’t have any use of it this week. Best I can do is wish everyone a happy Peppero Day from the computer in work.

The kids, Satan bless their little fascist souls, have been rather generous with the Peppero gifts today and I’ve been munching the damn things for hours. They’re like breadsticks covered in chocolate.

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Exhalation & Elation

November 5, 2008

Strange day for a lifelong cynic. I’ve had a lot on my plate recently and very little time to immerse myself in the U.S. presidential election as much as I would have liked. Instead, I just watched what I could on the BBC world news with increasing impatience and niggling pessimism. I really wanted Obama to win but refused to get complacent with the polling data even up to last night.  I was more than prepared for the decrepit McCain and his fuckwit sidekick, the Wasilla Whackjob, to snatch a last-minute victory because I guess I just didn’t have that much faith in people.

Feels good to be proven wrong. Strangely good. I’m puzzling over my own sense of elation today. Watching those votes come in this morning I actually started feeling good about the result of a U.S. presidential election for the first time in my adult life. Wherefore art thou, cynicism?

All that is left is for me to congratulate Senator Barack Obama on his successful election as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Congratulations!

 

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Taken

November 2, 2008

Here be spoilers.

I recently checked out the new Liam Neeson action thriller, Taken, on the recommendation of some friends of mine. They said it was basically a film in which Liam Neeson runs around kicking the shit out of people and that this was precisely why it was hugely enjoyable. I’m happy to report that they were not wrong. Taken delivers.

Time to declare an obvious bias: I am a big Neeson fan and I have been since as far back as Darkman. I like the guy a lot. I like his physical presence, his voice, his hair. I even like the rumours that he possesses an enormous penis.

In Taken, Liam Neeson plays a character that is essentially a kind of ‘Daddy Bourne’. He’s an older, retired version of Jason Bourne minus all the angst and struggle concerning amnesia and rediscovered humanity. Bourne without the complexity. That complexity made the Bourne movies so goddamn good but, as Taken is clearly a product riding on the coattails of the Bourne franchise, you can forgive them for eschewing more interesting character development here in order to serve up a perfectly entertaining slab of ass-kicking with an atypical, yet quality, actor in the lead role. Neeson plays a former CIA field operative who has retired in order to spend more time with his teenage daughter. He also has to put up with Famke Janssen as an uberbitch ex-wife who seems to relish rubbing his face in the fact that their marriage failed and that she has remarried an extraordinarily rich guy who can buy the daughter horses. The ex-wife is soon put firmly in her place, however, when the daughter is kidnapped by some dirty Albanian sex traffickers whilst holidaying alone in Paris and only Brian (Neeson) has the super-spook, kickass skills to rescue her (and massacre the living shit out of everyone responsible for the abduction). Read the rest of this entry ?

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Future Imperfect

November 1, 2008

Recently I was discussing the new big-budget sci-fi flick, Babylon A.D. with a friend of mine. He had seen it here in Korea and found it as bitterly disappointing and poor as almost everyone else that had the misfortune of sitting through it. You might think that Vin Diesel’s presence alone practically guaranteed that the film in question would be an irredeemable piece of shit but this movie had the intriguing feature of being directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, the French filmmaker who gave the amazing La Haine to the world.

I was initially interested in seeing Babylon A.D. also. It looked somewhat derivative of the excellent Children Of Men but potentially enjoyable nonetheless. I quickly changed my mind when I read a quote from Kassovitz himself declaring that he was “very unhappy with the film” and that, due to massive studio interference, it was little more than “violence and stupidity“. Yikes. I didn’t need to be told twice. Read the rest of this entry ?