Archive for the ‘korea’ Category

A day in the Life

September 24, 2016

…of a guy trying to make a living as a freelance English teacher.

I don’t think this is a rant but a warning to others who might look for this kind of work in South Korea. To some extent I am, not thinking ‘aloud’ but thinking ‘atext’; working things out on paper. Welcome to the way my mind works. Caveat lector!

Yesterday I left the apartment at 8:30 with the expectation of returning home around 7:00 and working four hours during those ten-and-a-half.  Things didn’t work out that way and I am not sure what the result was.

First, I went to a factory that had been taken over by a multi-national which wanted all or most of the employees to speak English. I was there to administer an oral level test of ten employees.  I was never made aware of all the end results of my judgement. I know  in at least some cases, the students were tested to see what sort of English class would be a good fit. All the people I interviewed spoke about job stress and drinking too much alcohol. It is possible that if an employee’s level did not improve, they might be let go. I’m not saying that will happen but, some of the employees seemed tense. The range of ability was from very low to nearly native speaker level.

After the interviews were done, I spoke with the organizer. She works at a corporate English recruiting firm – does that company description sound right? She had placed an ad on Craig’s List for corporate private teaching and similar work and I had applied. Anyway, the original position was to teach an executive at this company. I was accepted. Then the executive decided he would rather have a Korean English teacher. Then they offered me this level testing gig. Then the executive decided he wanted a foreigner and I might have that job. The level testing gig was moved to a new day. …

The people at the recruiting firm were not exactly jerking my chain. As middle-men, they had to adjust to a variety of schedules and whims.

Another similar company has also hired me to teach a few classes in October that will conflict with teaching the executive. I may have to cancel or reschedule two days. It didn’t seem a big deal to me because of all the rescheduling I had been through at the hands of the recruiters.

We discussed this and the recruiter is delivering messages to and fro to see what to do when I miss those days.

So we separate and I have three hours until my next gig, which is maybe forty minutes away. I buy a drink at a Paris Baguette and type for a while.

At the next job I am replacing a teacher who had to return home for a funeral. I actually don’t know how much I will be paid. I had the time free and feel this is the compassionate thing to do. I do expect to be paid.

And when I get there, I learn they have nothing for me to do and I should go home.  I had already worked there Monday and Wednesday and had a schedule for Friday. No, they tell me, I am not needed because the students had come in the day before. I did not raise my voice but noted that I had organized my day around this work and had traveled a hour to get there and would travel an hour more to get home.

I am not good with money.

In this case, as noted, I wasn’t expecting to receive a lot of money for the work, but I do need to convince myself to fight for the hours to be paid for. It hardly mattered what the rate was, I deserved it for the 2.5 hours I had expected to work there.

I think I will be paid for a satisfactory amount of hours there.

At home two hours early, I checked my email and saw an email from the second recruiting company. This is the company with work in October. They have offered me a two day Presentation Skills in English class and a three day Presentation Skills in English class. They interviewed me for the two day class and offered the the three day one as well.  Both take place a significant distance south, in the same town but for different groups in different locations. The two day event will pay X won and the email I received asked me if I would do the three day class for X won. The pay for two days is good if not worth dancing over. The pay for three days – the same pay or 1/3 less per hour – is still good. Better than sitting at home, not being paid.

I am not good with money. Imagine a Victorian trying to explain inter-racial sex to another person’s children and you have an idea of how uncomfortable I am in walking the line between appearing to be greedy and having a desire for fair pay.

After I finish this post, I will craft an email explaining my point. My main concern here is that the same company is hiring me to teach similar material -but of differing durations – at the same cost. If a sixteen hour course is worth X, then a twenty-four hour course should be worth 3/2X.  A complicating point is that the money offered per hour would not be enough for one hour or even two. It would be worthwhile for four or more because I only travel once and the activity causes only one conflict rather than a continuing stream of them.

On Policing – a rambling exploration of violence

June 10, 2016

What is it like to be a police officer?  On the one hand, there is this letter by a police officer’s wife (heavily snipped):

Dear Officer,

I want you to know that I see you.  I see you choose the booth in the restaurant that allows you to have your back against the wall.  I see you walking to your next traffic stop while you hope that it isn’t your last. … I see your cause and I want you to know that I appreciate it.

I need you.  We need you.  America needs you.  I know that the world isn’t making it any easier for you to wake up with the same passion you had when you first started.  I know the world is making it extremely difficult for you to feel like anyone is on your side.  I know the world is making you feel like the only allies you have can only be found in each other.  I know that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to put your life on the line for a world that has seemingly turned their backs on you.

I wish I knew how to fix it.  The only thing I know how to do is support you.  I’m aware that there isn’t a magic solution that will make the world see you for who you are; the amazing men and women in blue.  I just want you to know that I see you. I need you to know that you are appreciated by a vast majority who is in your corner.  I need you to know that you aren’t alone.  I need you to feel the presence of those who love and support you.  We are rallied behind you and ready to defend your character at any given moment.  You are honorable.  You are courageous.  You are worthy of a nation’s support.

And on the other side, police officer tased teen into coma.

police violence

 

The letter is from the wife of a police officer.  I am the son, grandson and husband of police officers.  If my eyes were better, I might be one myself -or at least have applied. The two extremes posted above, plus the killing of Sammy Yatim by police officer James Forcillo in Toronto have made me unsure of where I stand.

Background on Yatim.  The mentally man stepped onboard a bus and threatened the other passengers with a knife.  They were evacuated, police arrived and Yatim was shot by Forcillo:

On August 19, 2013, James Forcillo was charged with second-degree murder. On July 30, 2014, he was also charged with attempted murder. On January 25, 2016, Forcillo was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, but guilty of attempted murder.

At issue in this case was how much of a threat Yatim was.  The passengers had been removed, but the man had a knife.  How far apart were Yatim and Forcillo? Did Forcillo need to approach Yatim at that time?  It appears he, and other officers, could have waited outside the bus.

I’ll return to this in a moment, but I wrote “unsure of where I stand”.  That is still unclear, even in what line or side I imagine exist to stand on or in.

There is one more bit of history to include. My own father was investigated for a shooting.  This was long ago and I do not know the details. Maybe it is better I don’t.  Maybe the question here is, ‘Am I brave enough to learn family history?’

What I think I recall is my father and other officers had a man in a car surrounded. I think he was an escaped convict or possibly a suspect in a violent crime.  It was suspected that he was armed.  In the course of events (how neutrally I phrase this), the man’s hand dipped out of sight and someone (this is not an evasion – I don’t think anyone knows who it was) fired.  At this point, every officer emptied his pistol.

One important point I can add for the education of any  readers. To fire less than every bullet in a revolver or automatic gun requires more control than firing two or three.  If a person thinks his/her life is at risk, there is no benefit to a halfway measure.  The dead don’t get any more dead so firing more shots than needed has no downside.  In any case of a killing by firearm, the fact of the killing is important and should be legally actionable, but the bullet count is not important.

This is a key difference between the Ontario Provincial Police (and probably police in all of North America) and at least one police group in South Korea.  Here in South Korea, officers are trained (how well, I cannot say) to wound, to aim for a leg or arm.

Back to my father.  The killing was ruled justified and aside from nightmares, my father and the other officers received no punishment.

Training now is far different for police officers.  in the 1960’s, my father was hired either right out of high school or soon afterwards.  Police today are often university degree holders and older hires, late twenties or so, are preferred.

Fifty years ago, a few members from every detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police were sent to Wasaga Beach for a long weekend holiday in May -known as the May two four weekend.  They weren’t there to relax but to rein in the motorcycle gangs that converged on the otherwise quiet village.  I am too young to recall, but my father would return home bleeding at night on occasion.  Who were these bikers to disrespect the law and who were these officers who did not have the confidence to stamp the problem out? For that matter, who were the general public that didn’t give enough support to the police to handle the matter safely for all concerned, especially the police that were wounded in such battle?

I imagine if a similar problem presented itself today, enough force would be found to charge all gang members at the location and people would accept the rationale for the arrests.

Today, police in Canada are armoured more by their badge than their vest or weapons. If a police officer is threatened, the public normally sides with the officer.

They didn’t side with Forcillo and his position was no defence at sentencing.

The mandatory minimum prison sentence for attempted murder with a restricted firearm was never intended to apply to police whose job is to protect the public, a lawyer for a Toronto officer found guilty in the shooting death of a troubled teen argued Thursday.

But the judge who will decide Const. James Forcillo’s sentence for attempted murder said he saw no reason why police officers should be exempt from the minimum of five years behind bars.

“It’s not a licence to kill,” Justice Edward Then said of police-issued guns. “Police officers are entrusted with the use of a gun for a particular purpose. In this case the jury has found that it wasn’t to serve and protect but it was with the purpose of attempting to kill.”

I feel Forcillo’s profession, and it is a profession now, unlike in my father’s day – does earn him special consideration when on trial for actions done while on duty.  I am definitely not talking specifically about Forcillo, as I know only some of the details available to the public. Here is my reasoning.  In the past, and probably still, killing a police officer who had identified himself as such, was a greater crime than killing someone who wasn’t a police officer.  I feel this is fair because police are required to approach danger while others are welcome, even encouraged, to move away from danger.  Making the killing of a police officer a more serious crime was a way to protect people who worked to protect us.  In the same way, giving the police some greater leeway when they use force seems fair.  They aren’t supposed to retreat from danger the way I, for example, am.

I don’t feel the police should get a free ride, should be able to murder with no consequences.  But I do feel reduced consequences are reasonable.

Hmmm. I do feel I cleared up at least one point in my own mind. “But the judge who will decide Const. James Forcillo’s sentence for attempted murder said he saw no reason why police officers should be exempt from the minimum of five years behind bars.” He definitely should not be exempt. But the possibility of a lower sentence should be open.  If the standard sentence is five to ten years, I feel Forcillo should be looking at three to ten years.  He should not be exempt from a long sentence, but his position as a person who could not run away should mean something.

Now, in reading Boingboing, one might come to the conclusion that police already are free of many legal restrictions and punishments we civilians are bound by. That link is to posts tagged with ‘police’ and a few are not relevant but most are.  I can only hope they are American poli… Not, I don’t want any police officer or department to be so poorly overseen. For the police to be protected, the public has to have faith in them.  I have faith but not quite as much as the wife that wrote the letter excerpted above.

I will finish with this thought.    My father was a patient man with me but also an angry man in general.  Kind-hearted, generous and friendly, but so often angry.  I know what it is like to be a police officer’s son and we heard from the wife of a police officer.  I wonder if police themselves are able to talk about such things.  How do they stay professional – or what makes their professionalism break down?

Unfamiliar with the ocean, not stupid

July 9, 2015

In my years as a lifeguard in Canada, I rescued maybe three or four people.  Here in Korea, as a capable citizen who happened to be in the right place, I’ve rescued around ten.

In neither case am I describing technically demanding rescues.  My frequent training at in-services and yearly testing in rescues involving spinal injuries has never been tested nor has my CPR know-how.

To be honest, I do remember rescuing a few people in Canada but the details were so minor that I don’t remember what they were.  Here in Korea, all ten people were riding inner tubes or inflatables when the wind blew away from shore with greater power than the rider could paddle against and so were carried out to sea.

I must admit I  thought the inflatable riders were stupid to put themselves at risk if they couldn’t swim.  An incident in Canada, involving an Ontario man pulled to sea by ocean tides and currents in Nova Scotia has made me consider otherwise.

Despite the callous online comments on last week’s story about an Ontario man luckily rescued after being swept to sea at Peggys Cove, the meme of the “friendly” Nova Scotian is not a myth.

Visitors might be forgiven for thinking otherwise after reading the often heartless remarks that met a Toronto man’s call for more to be done to ensure people’s safety at the iconic location after his friend had nearly drowned when a large wave pulled him from the rocks last Thursday afternoon.

Some examples: You can’t fix stupid. Darwinism. Idiots without common sense. And so on.

As if it’s not possible for someone with no experience of the ocean to be simply completely unfamiliar with the danger presented by the powerful, unpredictable Atlantic Ocean. People who didn’t grow up here and don’t live here, and who may not have seen — yes, they do get missed by some visitors — any of the warning signs, but who, according to the above “logic,” somehow deserve whatever they get.

There is at least one big difference.  Nova Scotia is famous for the largest tides in the world.  The Bay of Fundy is quite a distance from Peggy’s Cove but still runs two metres.

I don’t think I would blame a Korean an encounter with poison ivy because he or she would have no reason to be wary of it.  As a measure of my own (lack of) intelligence, I had poison ivy rashes three times in one year and not as a child, either.

I still think water is a universal.  It’s everywhere.  I don’t think all Koreans get swimming lessons in grade four as Ontario school children do, but they take baths.  I cannot fully excuse a Korean that gets in trouble in the water but I will be a little more tolerant from now on.

 

Summer plans

July 1, 2015

This summer I appear to have a lot of free time.  I hope to work an ESL camp in August and have a few other commitments but essentially I have time to work on my own projects.  Most of these projects deal with writing.

Writing Plans and Goals:

  • 13 blogposts for 6,500 words.  Why 13?  I can’t recall why I chose this number.  Somewhat more than two a week, I guess.
  • 3 short stories: Working titles are 1) Ants, 2) Vampire on a boat and 3) Hyperbaric Chamber.  I’m figuring 2,000 words each
  • Push forward one or all three of the books I have started and let sit.  30,000 words is the goal and I don’t mind jumping from book to book as seems fit. Working titles are 1) Return of the Haloed Hunter, 2) the Distancing Engine and 3) Creationism’s worst arguments
  • 2 letters per week to friends.  Around ten letters and 2,000 words.
  • Perform research and planning for future “Crowded Sky” story. As much as 5,000 words.

To keep the writing interesting, I have made further goals.

  • I want to write over the course of a full day.  That is, at least once in the month write from 12:00 to 1:00 AM, once from 1:00 to 2:00AM …
  • I want to write in a variety of locations.  The local mountaintop has a good table. There are some nice libraries to write in.  I’ll talk about coffee shops in a moment.  Eulsookdo Eco Centre might be a nice place to work in for an afternoon.
  • Soundtrack: I may use Ommwriter which has its own soundtrack but otherwise it will be autoplayed classical music starting with some Janecek and letting Youtube suggest from there. Away from Internet connections, Doug and the Slugs and other 80’s music would work; the tunes are so familiar that they can be white noise or a fun background as needed.

Snacks: I bought snacks for my Nanowrimo writing and I will definitely eat in front of the computer but I need to show restraint here.  My weight is slowly dropping and I want to keep it going in that direction.  Controlling my weight is my greatest concern this summer.

Fitness:

  • 18 runs with an average of 7.0 km.  I hope to attempt a solo half-marathon this summer late one evening and have been working out the course and where to place energy drinks along the way.  I am currently at 96 runs over the past six months so only the weather could prevent reaching this goal.
  • Run faster than a subway train.  The local subway stations Seo-dae-shin and Dong-dae-shin are about 500 meters apart and the train takes 2:35 seconds from doors open at Seo- to doors closed at Dong-.  Further, this route is slightly downhill.  I can easily run this fast on a level surface but Seo-dae-shin is deep underground. I have no qualms or conscience problems about using the escalators but even with that assistance, there is a big climb at the start of the run.
  • Swim 2km at a time. Korean pools are crowded with conversationalists and it is hard to get an unbroken swim in.  I am likely to need to stop a the end of a lane a few times.  Today, I did 1250m, with breaks and could have gone farther.
  • Find 3 snorkeling places in and near Busan
  • For at least 6 days, eat three meals, plus one snack plus one sweet drink.  I snack a lot and plan to spend a lot of time in front of a computer so this will be a challenge.

Education:  I am enrolled in 3 MOOCS.

  • The Bilingual Brain
  • Modern Korean History
  • Archaeology of Portus

Family

  • Teach my son to swim.
  • Go on a weekend trip with the family. I would prefer a swimming site but that is negotiable.
  • Read two books with my son.  I don’t want this to be a purely teaching experience but one we both enjoy.  Tintin is a good contender here.
  • Work on the farm.

 

What is the Korea Times for?

May 1, 2014

Updated:  This is how it should have been written!

 

——————————————

Terrible editing casts doubts on the paper’s raison d’etre (The online version has this error corrected).

coast guard 1

It would be nice if the jerk at the Korea Times did some research before writing his editorial.

In this attack piece the author either has an ax to grind or has no critical thinking ability.  Let’s dig in:

They did save people ― the captain and the crew. It is an ABC of maritime rescue that the crew should be the last to leave the ship not only for moral but for realistic reasons too: they should help the relief squad, mainly by informing them of the structure of the vessel. The Coast Guard should have told the crew to go back to the ship, as was the case of Italian rescuers years ago. Again, the officers said they could not tell passengers from the crew, but the latter would have been recognizable due to their clothing.

Here is the captain.  Would you recognize him as such?  Image from Channel Asia News.  He is wearing a sweater and boxers.  To be fair, they are navy boxers.

We are lost for words after hearing that an officer reported that the Sewol was sinking to the Mokpo Coast Guard by means of a “ax”[sic] instead of using a telephone. More surprisingly, when the Mokpo office received an SOS call from a student, it asked him to provide the “latitude and longitude” of the location.

I’m pretty sure the print edition had the word “fax”.  At 8:00PM Thursday night, the online edition still had “ax”.  Why by fax?  I can’t say for certain, but numbers and letters are more easily sent in print than aloud.  People read faster than they speak.  I could only wish the editorial-writer were lost for words.

Why would the Coast Guard ask for latitude and longitude?  It doesn’t take much thought offer ideas. 1) There were fake calls after the disaster.  It doesn’t seem unreasonable to imagine that there have been other false alarms.  2) The Sewol was way off course.  To be told the ship was near islands and might have hit one would reasonably be greeted with skepticism when there were no rocks on its intended route.

[A] Coast Guard executive stunned people by saying, “We did our best. Rescuing 80 people is no small feat.” The other 94 people were saved by fishermen on vessels smaller and older than those of the Coast Guard.

There was a lot of confusion during the initial stages of the rescue.  The Coast Guard is not blameless and there is always room for improvement.  Still, there were many fishing boats; it was not one vessel crewed by old sea-salts that somehow loaded 94 in their boat.

I approve of a free press and would not want to see it muzzled.  On the other hand, if the author really wants the Coast Guard to be the subject of” a vast and meticulous report on who did what (wrong) with respect to this tragic incident, not omitting even a single and minor mistake or misdeed”, perhaps the Times should suffer the same.  After all “What matters is not a lack of manuals or agencies but those of training and experts” and the Times appears to be lacking both.

 

Ferry with nearly 500 passengers sank near Jindo

April 16, 2014

Terrible news today of a large ferry, around half-full, that apparently struck a reef and sank about two hours later.

Well, there is a lot of good news.  Thanks to massive efforts by Coast Guard and Navy vessels, most of the people on board were rescued.  Approximately 100 more are thought to remain in the sunken ship.

 

From images given by the papers, if those hundred are alive, there are in dire, Poseidon Adventure conditions.

English papers in Korea have good details (Chosun, Herald, Times) but the best work seems to be from the NY Daily.  The photos below are from the NY Daily:Screen shot 2014-04-16 at 4.13.00 PM

Screen shot 2014-04-16 at 4.14.36 PM

korea law and cycling

April 14, 2014

The Korea Law Blog has  a post on cycling in Korea.  There’s a lot of good stuff there but here is a piece:

2. Rules Applying Only to Bicycles

a) To stay on the far right side when riding a bicycle on the road.

b) To get off and drag one’s bicycle when crossing a crosswalk.

c) To refrain from riding a bicycle on the sidewalk.

d) To refrain from operating a bicycle while being drunk, etc.

e) Overtaking through the “right side” is allowed.

3. Rules That Do Not Apply to Bicycles

a) Regular speed limits do not apply to bicycles.

b) Driving w/o a license do not apply to bicycles.

c) Drunk driving (forbidden, but no specific punishment for a cyclist is currently outlined).

d) The ban on the use of cell phones (while cycling) do not apply to bicycles.

 

Via James Turnbull.

Ethiopia is using the water flowing through it.

June 15, 2013

Four years ago, I wrote about trans-boundary water issues in Korea and about one flood that killed six in South Korea.  This slight familiarity with international treaties on the subject made this article in Scientific American about Ethiopia ending a decades-long agreement with Egypt over water use catch my attention.  Ethiopia is part of a new treaty involving five other Nile Basin countries that gives them greater autonomy over water use and leaving Egypt’s 84 million people in some jeopardy.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said on Monday he did not want “war” but would keep “all options open”, prompting Ethiopia to say it was ready to defend its $4.7 billion Great Renaissance Dam near the border with Sudan.

Ethiopia and five other Nile basin countries – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – have now signed a deal effectively stripping Cairo of its veto, based on colonial-era treaties, over dam projects on the Nile, source of nearly all of Egypt’s water.

Canada and the US continue to have good relations regarding water use.  If the subject interests you, here are reports on Great Lakes Water and the Columbia River treaty.

———————

Added a week later:

 

“Some pronouncements were made in the heat of the moment because of emotions. They are behind us,” Mohamed Kamel Amr, Egypt’s foreign minister, told a joint news conference with his Ethiopian counterpart Tedros Adhanom in Ethiopia’s capital.

Why can’t I earn this kind of money?

March 22, 2013

Aside from the illegality, I mean.

From the Korea times:

A Korean private tutor was caught earning more than 150 million won ($130,000) a month, without paying tax, from illegally teaching students in an apartment in the affluent southern Seoul.

He allegedly taught a group of students in a 337 square-meter (102 pyeong) apartment, charging about 10 million won per student per year. This is the first time that a tutor who has taken such a large amount of tutoring fees has been caught.

Let’s see. A hundred and fifty million won a month.  That’s one point eight billion per year.  One hundred and eighty students per month.  How do I compare?

I have 7 classes at about 20 students.  140 students.

Rice production plateauing and more from Marginal Revolution

September 29, 2012

I follow Korean rice farming with more than casual interest.  Because my in-laws are farmers and I have helped plant and harvest rice through a few seasons now, I have a natural concern for things that affect rice production here.  In the past, the Korean government placed tariffs on foreign rice, allowing Korean farmers to sell theirs at around eight-times international market value.

For more on my discussion of rice farming in Korea, look here.

Fro more on the future of rice production and farming, check out Marginal Revolution’s post on the subject of approaching maximal production.  It sounds very Malthusian.

If you have questions for the authors of Marginal Revolution, they are coming to Korea.

Tyler and I will both be in South Korea in early October for the Asian launch ofMarginal Revolution University. Tyler will be speaking at the World Knowledge Forum(Oct. 9-11). The WKF is known as the Asian Davos. In addition to Tyler, the speakers include Paul Krugman, Daron Acemoglu, Malcolm Gladwell, Cass Sunstein, Dani Rodrik, a number of other well known economists and social scientists and a host of political and business leaders.

I am worried about my motivation these days.  I look at the offerings from MRU and think about taking a course, but have not yet clicked on the link to begin doing so.

Aaron Mckenzie, what do you think about MRU?  Ah, not much is going on at that website, nor at Idiot’s Collective. Pity, he is the only blogging economist I know in Korea.