5 Day Work Weeks?

There’s a push on to drop from a 6-day work week to a 5-day one in Korea, and it surprises me to hear that there’s a fair bit of resistance to the idea. Some of the most vocal opponents are Christian organizations. Dire predictions of the collapse of the country are being sounded, some of them coming dangerously close to verbalizing the kind of chauvinism that usually runs below the surface here. An example : “We know fully well that the present status of churches in western countries (whose congregations are dwindling) is not unrelated to the five-day workweek system.” Not unrelated, indeed. Idle hands are the devil’s boxer shorts.
In a related note, the male half of the young couple (a bit younger than us) who live in the apartment across the hall, has been spending no more than 5 hours a day at home for over a year, apparently. This five hours includes 4 hours sleep, and is the total time he is not either commuting or working. He makes less money than I do, and he’s happy to be doing it.
Sometimes, my mind reels. Other times it just kinda sashays around, coyly.

"Culture shock"

“Culture shock, then, is thought to be a form of anxiety that results from the loss of commonly perceived and understood signs and symbols of social intercourse. The individual undergoing culture shock reflects his anxiety and nervousness with cultural differences through any number of defense mechanisms : repression, regression, isolation and rejection. These defensive attitudes speak, in behavioural terms, of a basic underlying insecurity which may encompass loneliness, anger, frustration and self-questioning of competence. With the familiar props, cues, and clues of cultural understanding removed, the individual becomes disoriented, afraid of, and alienated from the things he knows and understands.”
-Peter Adler
I recognize that I’ve been overwhelmingly negative-sounding in the last while when I speak of Korea, and I know why. In time, with a few more non-smoggy days, I’ll get better.


It’s interesting how the Korean laser-like focus on appearances, frequently at the cost of much interest in substance, manifests itself in some areas of life and not others. People are generally fastidious about their personal appearance. The face they present to the world must be as affluent as possible. Women are still almost universally obsessed with potions and pomades to regain youthfulness, despite the enviably graceful way that they tend to age. (Although it must be noted that chain-smoking, soju-swilling men tend to age fairly badly). The surface appearances of appropriated western or Japanese cultural items are mimicked rigorously, but the meaning behind it is almost entirely lost, or deliberately subverted. A stage performance of heavy, industrial Nine-Inch-Nails-like music by a pvc-clad singer is backed up by a troupe of dancers.
But this careful attention to surface appearances diverges radically when it comes to your surroundings here. Piles of garbage are everywhere, as are puddles of vomit, even in residential areas, that attest to the excesses of the night before. Construction is slipshod, somehow temporary in appearance. Windows, even on shops that have opned that very day (such as the 3rd generation wireless mobile shop at the subway station where I live, which opened last night) are streaked and dirty, and left that way. Litter abounds, and people casually throw more atop it. Men hork and spit great nasty oysters of mucous on the sidewalks, everywhere, which makes it not only traditional, but downright mandatory to take your shoes off when entering someone’s house. Industrial filth and noise back onto residential beehive towers at random. Streets are unnamed, and addresses as we are accustomed to in the west simply do not exist. Traffic rules tend to be a matter of ‘whatever feels right’ rather than any enforceable set of regulations.
So why is this? Why is there this enormous gap between the attention paid to detail and appearance at one end of the spectrum, and what would seem to be a complete lack of it at the other? And why is it so obviously different than the (perhaps cliched) approach of the Japanese, who ostensibly have a greater focus on harmony and order in their surroundings?
I don’t f–king know.

'inner wildness'

Interesting thoughts on Japanese ‘inner wildness’. To an extent, a similar kind of thing applies here in Korea, but there is a greater tendency to act out here, and emotional displays and public sentimentality are de rigeur. Value is placed on honesty of feeling, and directness of expression of that feeling, but only between peers. The Confucian vertical striation of society, built into the language and the socialization as it is, means that most of the time in people’s lives outside their homes, they must behave in the manner expected.
Ahh f–k it. Lecture mode.
Koreans love to drink – they are called by some the ‘Irish of Asia’. Part of the reason for that is that emotional connections are vitally important here, but often, thanks to the rigours of behavioural expectation, those connections can only happen with the lubrication of alcohol.
That’s cool with me.

North [Korea]'s totalitarian regime

North [Korea]’s totalitarian regime has given the title of hero to a woman who gave birth to eight children, a woman who donated 500 pigs to military units over 20 years and soldiers who supposedly jumped into a fire to save a portrait of the nation’s late founder, Kim Il Sung….Last week, the country named a 15-ton pneumatic hammer as a national hero for “producing many parts necessary for railway transportation and the industrialization of the country,” according to state-run media.
There’s f–ked-up, and then there’s just silly.

Minor, mildly amusing fragments

Minor, mildly amusing fragments :
At Carrefour today (the French Costco, near as I can tell. God knows why they’re here in K-land), noticed some condoms (from Japan, as all condoms sold here are) whose brand name was ‘Long Time’. Given the whole ‘Love you longtime, GI’ Asian whore meme that seems to be everywhere, perhaps not the wisest choice.
Two related notes – it’s enormously gratifying (pun intended) to find that ALL Japanese condoms (that I’ve seen anyway) are teeny-tiny and not really big enough to fit on even my stolidly average-length knob.
Carrefour in Korean characters is pronounced Cah Ruh Poo. I would find that funny.