Finding my voice

My Gangwon Notes blog, the best damn blog never to be nominated by 10 Magazine for a best blog award, had a pretty clear focus: Gangwon Province.  Yes, I also mentioned my homeland, Canada, Korean politics and conservation efforts, a few book reviews, but I stayed mostly true to the title of my blog.

I am now in a new location and it is not undersupplied with bloggers (can you ever have enough bloggers?) and don’t intend to be ‘the voice of Busan’. but what do I intend?  Well, I have mentioned somewhere that I am interested in a few things, but I still don’t feel comfortable with the direction of this blog.  I am in a new location, have a new job and am using a new blogging site, why follow the same  path?  Still, I do enjoy blogging and want to write about something.


today. I looked at these articles in Korea’s English newspapers.

The Korea Herald looked at blood donor rates, which are increasing.

The number of blood donors hit a record high, health officials said yesterday.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2.57 million people donated blood last year, up 9.5 percent from 2008.

Compared with the average over the past three years, the figure is an increase of 14.4 percent, officials said.

The KCDC also reported that the nation’s blood donating population is becoming diversified, with the participation of more women and people aged over 30.

Maybe I had something to do with this. Chris in South Korea recently talked about teaching ESL being a real job.  I agree and try to be professional about my work.  Still, I also award 1% to any student who shows me a recent blood donor card. Well, I did at my previous job, I don’t have as many points to be able to throw one away like that.

I hope my friend at a women’s university in Seoul isn’t having problems after complaints arose over their personal english comprehension test.  I don’t know much about any of the big name tests, but TOEIC is certainly the most famous.  I like the focus this test apparently has (from the Korea Times) :

..”[other] English exams focus highly on reading and listening skills, but our test is to evaluate speaking and writing skills.”

The test was developed with the help of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages for their proficiency guidelines and the Center for Applied Linguistics for their expertise in computerized assessments.

I want to skate more and it’s probably because of the recent Olympics coverage.  Also, Brian Orser did some/ most of  his training near my hometown.  Anyway, he and Kim Yuna are in the news (Dong-a Ilbo):

“As a Canadian, I’m glad Canada won the gold medal in ice hockey, the final competition of the Olympics, but not as much as when Yu-na won her medal.” 

Orser won the Olympic silver medal in figure skating in 1984 and 1988. Though failing to win the gold, he channeled his energy to get Kim to do what he could not. With a smile, he said, “I was finally able to let go of any hard feelings for the Olympics after she won her gold medal.”


Orser came into Kim’s life in 2006. With great affection for his disciple, he said, “I’d say this is the happiest moment out of the four years I’ve spent with Kim. The worst was when Yu-na struggled with injury between 2006 and 2007.”

What the hey is a ‘half-moon bear’? Anyway, their are two new ones in Jirisan now (Joongang):

An Asiatic black bear, protected as endangered species in Korea, has given birth to two cubs on the Mount Jiri, the National Park Service said yesterday. It is the second time that the bear, known more commonly as a half-moon bear in Korea, gave birth after being released to the wild.

According to park authorities, researchers from the Species Restoration Center found the cubs and the mother on Feb. 23. The team made the discovery when the members visited a cave on the mountain.

They were there to replace a transmitter placed on the female bear. The bear was brought into Korea in 2005 from Russia. It was one of the 27 half-moon bears that have been released on the mountain since 2004 to live in the wild as a part of the endangered species restoration project. Only 17 survived. The researchers said two cubs and the mother were resting inside the cave when they were found. The mother’s activity was slower because it was winter hibernation time, but she attempted to protect the cubs when the researchers tried to take a photo.

I’ve followed the re-introduction of bears into Jirisan with interest and more than a little cynicism. Two bears were quickly killed and I expected the rest would soon follow.  I may be proven wrong and I will be happy if that is the case.

I love that Yonhap news used the full name of the ‘boozehound’ in their article, which isn’t about drinking or this guy at all:

SEOUL, March 7 (Yonhap) — Once known as a boozehound among his colleagues, Kim Tae-ju used to have no trouble getting back home by subway, walking through crowded stations to and from platforms no matter how drunk he was.

But these days, Kim, 42, who gave up drinking this year, finds himself bumping into and apologizing to people even while sober, as the government’s new walkway campaign — which requires South Koreans to walk on the right instead of the left in public places — bumps up against an 88-year-old Korean practice.

I have long been interested in traffic patterns, although I have normally looked at automobile traffic.  I would mostly say here, that I don’t mind where Koreans walk but would like them to 1) not walk four across on a sidewalk wide enough to four and 2) to close doors when they go in- or out-side a building.


“I personally think we should have switched the (non-binding) rules a long time ago,” Yu added. “Familiar and comfortable rules are not always the best ones.”

There are still concerns that the right-side pedestrian campaign will cause more inconvenience to disabled or elderly people who carry canes or rely on guide dogs.

“Most of these people carry sticks in their right hands and hold onto the left side handrails when they walk up and down the stairs,” said Yoo Jung-hye, an official at the Korea Disabled People’s Development Institute. “Making them reverse is virtually impossible.”

Despite the growing dissatisfaction among people, the government is firm on the necessity of undoing the country’s 88-year-old pedestrian traffic legacy.

The government cites research that shows keeping to the right could reduce up to 24 percent of pedestrian collisions and increase walking speed by up to 1.7 percent. Because pedestrians can make eye contact with the cars coming toward them when they walk on the right side, the new measures will also reduce people-car collisions to a considerable amount, it believes.

I am amused by the apparent need to emphasize the ‘non-binding’ power of the new rules.  I feel sympathy for the disabled who have become locked by long-formed habit to using the left-side stair railings.  But, I am confused by the final paragraph.  Oh, I am also amused but the “increase walking speed by 1.7%” part.  The confusing part is about reducing people-car collisions.  If people walk by the same rules as cars drive, they will have cars approaching them from behind.  Walking on the left side, into traffic, is the best way to see approaching traffic.


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3 Responses to “Finding my voice”

  1. joe Says:

    From your friend at a women’s university in Seoul, I’m happy to say that nobody has really read the article. I mentioned it just this week to one of the Education department professors over lunch, she was surprised to hear about it. Since that article about Sookmyung’s MATE test is written by the venerable Mr. Kang Shin-who, you can judge its accuracy accordingly.

    Let me point out a few things.

    The exam tests output; students have to write and they have to speak. Students cannot take a cram course and study the test to do better on these skills as they can with the TOEIC or TOEFL tests. This is one reason students don’t like it.

    From the article: “MATE candidates receive a ranking from one to 12 for the speaking part and one to seven for the written section. However, there is no scoring table to provide a comparison with other common tests such as the TOEIC or TEPS. ”
    Of course there is no comparison because neither TOEIC nor TEPS tests for writing/speaking.

    It is an expensive test to administer because every test is checked twice by raters, and if there is a discrepancy in ratings, a third rater checks the test. The raters are paid 3,000 per writing test and 4,000 per speaking. To be certified, one must undergo two eight hour training sessions and accurately rate some sample tests.

    I think it is human nature to put something unpleasant off for as long as possible. The students are human, so they put off taking the mandatory graduation text until their senior year. They have mandatory English classes their freshmen year. That means that most of them forget much of what they learned in class. (Then they blame the exam for being bad, and the university for not preparing them.)

    The exam is free for students the first time they take it. If they fail and have to take it again, then they have to pay for it.

    The article quotes students who say that the university promised to make changes by February, but has not taken any action. This is not true at all. As of this semester, the MATE is given as the final exam for the Freshmen courses. Additionally, the test is slightly shorter, though is assessed following the same criteria as the full MATE. However, the change goes into effect for incoming freshmen for this semester. Older students–the ones who have been complaining–still have to take the full exam. And they will probably put it off for as long as possible.

    The article ends with the statement that Seoul National University has the TEPS, which “has gained wider acceptance.” The only reason it has gained wider acceptance is because it comes from Seoul Nat’l. What the article doesn’t mention is that the MATE, TEPS, and Hanguk University of Foreign Studies exam are all being merged into one exam that is to be used as a graduation English exam for the whole country, one that includes speaking, listening, reading, and writing. If that doesn’t say something for it’s validity, I don’t know what does.

  2. joe Says:

    Here is what I was talking about (From

    Sookmyung University was chosen as the developing university of the National English Proficiency Test (NEPT) at the consortium in which our university, the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Seoul National University, Korean University, and Hankuk University of Foreign language participated.

    The National English Proficiency Test is the test through which the Korean government is planning to replace TOEIC, TOEFLE, and other types of English language examinations. NEPT is integrating the strengths of the Multimedia Assisted Test of English (MATE) of Sookmyung Women’s University, TEPS of Seoul National University and FLEX of Hankuk University of Foreign Language which are the three major official tests.

    Although MATE is the only official English test which evaluates test takers’ speaking and writing abilities unlike Seoul National University’s TEPS which evaluates reading and listening abilities, it has not been actively used outside the Sookmyung campus because of its complicated test taking system. However, we expect that we will play a crucial role in the NEPT developing process, for it is going to include speaking and writing sections in which Sookmyung University has specialized. Meanwhile, we are to come up with ideas to minimize inconveniences MATE causes students to meet the required qualifications for graduation.

  3. surprisesaplenty Says:

    It’s been a while since I wrote this post. I read your comments on the moderation page, then raced here to be sure I hadn’t been insulting. Whew, I’m safe. I, too, like the idea of a test of english creation rather than absorption. Thanks for the update and further info.

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