Tag Archives: translation

Subjectivity

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There’s a documentary program called “3일” (3 Days) in South Korea.  They pick a place, and shoot the people’s daily life for 72 hours.  It’s quite fun program.  Last weekend, they filmed the program in Gimpo Airport.  Among the people they filmed, there was a couple.  A woman was departing, but man was staying.  The man didn’t look too happy.  The man was devastated after letting the woman go; and the woman kept crying behind the gate.

They are 조선족 (Chinese-Korean) couple who initially came to South Korea together for a good life (there are ton of Chineses, especially Chinese-Koreans coming over to South Korea for a better life; think of Mexican immigrants in the US).  The man got a work visa, so he could stay, start his journey toward the “Korean Dream.”  The woman couldn’t.  Her visa expired, and she now had to leave.  The man was still on his work visa (not ready to sign up for residence status), and since he was still in his initial stage of settling down, he couldn’t marry her.  The woman asked him to go back to China together; but obviously, the man refused since he would risk too much.  After all, he just got his cornerstone to build his dream and good life.

I shed tears.  I could identify so much with both of them.  I’m sure they worked hard, and I’m also sure they are good, honest people.  The devastation.  The feeling that there’s nothing you can do, and the knowledge of that the decision has been made by factors that is totally out of your control, are terrible.  Honestly, I don’t think I have not gotten over it completly yet.  There’s still a fear within me, especially because I will be heading to America soon again for higher education.  That’s why I worry too much and researching frantically.  I was in a same situation.  Someone I liked very much and I had to depart, because I couldn’t stay and he wasn’t ready to start a family.  Okay, that wasn’t the biggest for reason of our separation, but it had its part in the whole situation.

My mom was watching the program with me.  As she watches the woman sobbing, my mom said: “well, though seperating from someone you love hurts now, but it all gets better later on.”

I don’t disagree with my mom’s comment, but as I hear it, I felt as if there is a large river flowing between us.  Everyone has different responses.  Everyone’s experiences are different.

But in moments like this, I felt so lonely even though my family is right next to me, because I know I feel differently from rest of the people here. I know others would not understand.  So I don’t/can’t tell them.

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Decision Made

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I’ve been busy with additional documents and catching up my online pre-law class.  Sorry blog and readers.  I don’t know how the things will turn up, but for now it’s not great.  Yes I bombed my LSAT.  And the recession is making everyone to fly into law school and LSAT.  I was rejected from 50% of the schools I applied.  I haven’t heard or am waitlisted/held in other schools.  And all the schools I really want to go held me.  Sometimes I don’t know whether I am heading to the right path – but then, I don’t really have other option do I?  The economy is bad here as well, and Korean firms don’t like me.  Working surrounded by Koreans is suffocating.  I don’t have green card or citizenship.  I can’t just go to US or Hong Kong and get a job.  I used up all of my LSAT slots, so I can’t take it until 2014. On a good side, I did get into all of my safe schools but…they are safes.  I don’t know.  I just don’t want to be in that situation again – where I can’t even apply for a position because I don’t have the residential right even though I fit in their job description, or job offer canceled at the last moment. So…that’s pretty much what was my life like.

Right, now to the main story.  Though I rant a lot about my father, a small portion of my mind has been wishing that things will get better eventually.  As of today, I gave all my hopes and expectations on my father.  He is so full of himself, and it’s impossible to have any kind of conversation with him.  I know he’s doing what he can, and I have a lot of respect and gratuitous for him supporting his family.  He deserves massive credit for it.  BUT, other than that part, I despise everything else about him.  I want to keep some distance from him (which, clearly, isn’t working well).  I can’t wait until I frigging leave here.

Here’s what happened.  Last night, my father called me to dinner table.  Not a good sign, but oh well.  He asked about how’s my admission going.  So I told him.  Then he asked about my GPA and test score.  Not the most glorious numbers, but I told him.  I don’t know how the story progressed, but what started with “what do you think? do you want to go law school?  are you sure you are not dazed with just images of lawyer?” soon became how he thinks I’m impolite, disrespectful and..all that old shit again.  So I just put my mask on again, just said yes, yes, okay, sorry.  I can’t fucking believe he still brought up that incident before my LSAT. And still never thinks about my position. I am the one who actually took the test and wrote and sent all my applications.  No one can be happy/upset/disappointed as much as I do.   Sounds like he doesn’t think so, because he is to concerend about how he doesn’t get respect and stuff.

Then both my mom and dad insisted me to say something.  Really? I know better than that.  I asked, “well, what do I have to say?  You won’t listen nor understand…”  Again, they asked why. Well, they asked.

“Whenever I say what I think, dad always says I’m either rude, impolite, or disrespectful.  When I make a small complaint, mom always says I can’t think like that, but instead grateful and there are hundreds of other people out there who is like me so I shouldn’t complain.  If I get same replies over and over, what’s the use for me to say my opinions?”

My mom somewhat understood.  Father insisted he has never done that.  Bullshit.  The minimum I remember is 3 times.  When both my mom and I pointed that out, only then he apologized, with massive unnecessary excuses of “I don’t remember saying such things.”  All and all, everything looked like it’s all wrapped up nicely.

But it wasn’t.

It started off as a good day.  I spent too much time taking online lessons and making my notes, so I decided to take a day off.  My mom and I went to a local outlet.  Everything was built in “American size” (=not packed like Seoul) so it was very good.  Father came back, and all hell broke loose again.

Apparently, he was upset that I didn’t say clear apology for that goddamn incident.  Jesus Christ.  Any average person would think it’s all the story of past, especially after a conversation with a nice wrap up.  So I just went usual, saying okay, okay, sorry, sorry.  But he went on and on and on, saying how he should have really give me hard time on that moment.  I’m pretty stressed these days again, and I couldn’t just frigging believe he’s still on it. So I finally said:

“Look, I am sorry about how I responded.  But don’t you think you could just hold it until my test ends? And spank me or handle stuff in any way you want?”

Yeah, I should have just held my tongue.  He got furious, saying that now I’m trying to “teach” him.  What? What the?  He also said I was really rude to him when he asked some computer stuff to me.  I really don’t think that is true, because knowing is temper and learned from experience, I did my best to not to raise my voice when helping him out.  I think it’s just his sense of inferiority.  Somehow it was wrapped up and I kept watching the show I was watching.  Then, 10 minutes later, he yelled again and made an ugly scene.  So I started that okay okay sorry routine again.  Then he said I’m being sarcastic and I don’t mean it.  Jesus,  What does he want from me?

He also said I’m being rude, that I keep glaring his eyes.  First, I wasn’t staring his eyes.  Second, I fucking grew up in the States, where it is rude to NOT look at someone’s face/eyes when talking.  If he sent his kid to the States, has that much admiration to a foreign country, and watches plenty of American TV shows, he should’ve known it.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I said that is so not true.

“Look, you seem like you think conversation as figuring out who’s bad, who’s good and whose fault it is.  I think conversation is stating each other’s thoughts, and just respect that difference – at least that’s the starting point.  So I say what I think, as you asked.  Then your response is how I’m being rude and disrespectful.  How can we actually understand each other if we can’t even agree on where to begin?”

It looked like he eased down a bit, but then it was all about himself, again.  How he feels lonely, sometimes sad, working hard to support family so I should treat him well and just try to understand him more. Okay, fine, points taken.

I understand sometimes it’s lonely to have no one to say hello and goodbye, or prepare your meal.  It’s nice to have them.  BUT isn’t that most part of the life?  It sucks, and sometimes it gets terribly lonely, but in the end, there will be no one (or very few number of people) there to babysit you, so you’d better know how to handle the situation.  I hate to say this to my own family member, but the whole thing sounds like him playing the baby.

But if we wants such a treatment from someone else, shouldn’t he first try to put his feet in other’s shoes?  For instance, he always says I and my mom shouldn’t cut in when he’s talking.  But he ALWAYS cuts in when my mom and I are talking.  Who is he to say cutting in is impolite?  How can he actually understand someone if he’s lens to the world is wrong/right and filled with sense of inferiority?  How can he expect to someone to actually apologize, when he doesn’t even remember his faults (or refuse to admit) yet acts really annoyingly picky about other’s fault on him?  How can he expect someone to be good to him when he is so full of himself?

I don’t want him making all that visual gestures of niceness and friendliness, like holding my hands.  Stop.  That’s just vain.  Just look yourself around, and try to change your mind and behavior.

So as I wrote above, as of today, I give up all of my hopes on father.  Which actually feels pretty good, because now I don’t have to be frustrated or worry.

Wall

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I always feel as if I am talking to a wall whenever I “talk” with my dad.  We are a pair of parallel lines.  I think I already wrote this for a million times – how he wants me to explain something, to have a “conversation,” or asks me about my thoughts; and how I state my thoughts; and him picking on me, usually saying how my way of talking doesn’t suit his preference, or how I am being rude.  Then I try to explain.  Then again he thinks I’m rebelling or something (I’m too old to be a ‘rebel.’ Please.).

If you have been reading my blog (thank you), you know what my culture-conscious solution is.  I just zip my mouth, say yes to whatever.  Then the household peace is realized.  My dad complains about it, saying how I don’t share stuff with him.  I don’t intend to do it, at least for a while.  Because, if I do so, there are things he doesn’t know, which leads me having to explain.  And if I do the “explaining…” you know what will happen (for the reference, read the earlier paragraph).

Here’s what really put me off.  He wasn’t the kind of dad who calls/e-mails his kid frequently, unlike some parents who sent their kids to boarding school.  Not even once I envied them or upset at my dad.  I didn’t get into any trouble.  I managed my daily life.  I did better than average.  All was good, without him directly intervening.

Then, all of sudden, after I moved in with my family, he complains how I don’t share stuff, and tries to execute authority on me.  If I were still a teenager, sure, I understand.  But I’m well over the legal adult age.  I have work experience.  His experience and my experience are two completely different thing.  I respect that.  He doesn’t seem so.  How can you share something and understand each other, unless both parties respect each other, and recognize they are different?

Long story short, here’s what happened today:

While I was busting my brain with LSAT and applications, he said maybe it’s a good idea to take a course in accounting, or finance whenever I’m free.  I agreed, and looked up for some courses.  It turns out all hagwons I could find were either for government certification exam, or using Korean SW (which, of course, is not used in countries other than South Korea).  What I wanted was a general intro class.  I felt exam prep courses are too serious for me, and learning only some Korean finance SW seems to be too limited and waste of money.

Then, I heard that though getting a job in the States might be tough, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan can be different story.  As someone going for an occupational school and dying to secure employment in international Asian places out of South Korea after graduation, I thought learning Chinese can be a good option.

After weighing my options, I went for Chinese.  Yes, learning about accounting and finance is very helpful.  However, it’s not my immediate need, and it is less related to my goal.  Besides, I couldn’t find any courses that suit my needs.  If I get a job and luckily start to build my career, the finance/accounting knowledge will be handy only then.  Maybe I will be in MBA.  Who knows.  I’ll need them if I happened to specialize in tax/financial law.  But that ‘s not going to happen soon – I’ll be one of those pathetic 1Ls who are just struggling to stay afloat.  What I know is, it all starts AFTER I graduate and get a job.  And for now, my priority goal is to get a job in international Asian places.  I will have a bit more edge in the market with foreign language skill (which, by the way, I already speak two).

I was talking with my mom about potential Chinese courses.  All of sudden, my dad called me to come to his room.  Ooops, not a good sign, here it goes again.  Clearly he wasn’t too happy about my decision.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he said “are you not respecting what I said?”  He didn’t.  Instead, he kept going on, trying to convince me that I need to take finance courses.

Math is all about logics.  Wouldn’t you need it for case analysis and such? Wouldn’t you need it since you are going to law school? Like, case analysis, tax laws, and business law.”

– Er, well, pre-law courses I’m looking at are much more directly related (and if academic math is that helpful, I honestly think it would be better to go to academic math hagwon instead of accounting hagwon…obviously I didn’t say this out loud).  And, all that tax and business specialization happens after 1st year.  1st year, you just take common subjects and none of them are finance related.  I’m not even in school yet.  I don’t know what I’m going to specialize in, and I think taking finance and accounting courses then will be far much more useful.  I’m going to take Chinese courses, because there seems to be much more job openings in places under Chinese influence.  And that’s my priority at the moment.

What about the speech courses?
– It’s only about 8-10 sessions, once in a week and I can get discount.  I can do it while taking pre-law courses.

As you can imagine, he started to preach about my way of talking.  Dear God.  How I just cut in, make him uncomfortable as if I am teaching something, how listening improves the mood, etc.  If I need a speech class for that sense, he needs to be in it, too.  His speech is flying everywhere, so many times my mom and I have to “what ? wait what? what’s your point?”  And he cuts in all the time.  And he preaches.  I guess it’s okay when HE cuts in and not listen, but I can’t cut him in and not listen.  Another thing that puts me off.  Why does he keep pointing fingers at me, especially on things he knows no better than I do?

He concluded saying “I know less than you do in this field.  But I’m uncomfortable to ask because you just pour it out, as if you look down on me.”

Honestly, I’m satisfied with it.  If he really want my answer or explanation on something he doesn’t know, it’s him who needs to start to listen and not cut in.  From the beginning, I have had no intention to “look down” on my dad.  It’s him who feels that way – like hundreds of other Korean men.  Few days ago, I read an article by a chef and a high-end restaurant owner.  They all agreed how Koreans get angry whenever someone tries to correct/teach the proper table manner with good intention.  Quoting from them: “it’s the inferiority complex.  For some reason, not knowing and someone merely pointing it out is translated to ‘oh, right, this guy is slighting me!'”

I do pour it out and I do cut in my dad.  Why? I usually spend a lot of time thinking through, and usually have my answers ready when someone asks for my reasoning behind certain decision.  And I don’t want to have a long conversation with someone who regards my statements and reasonings as “being impolite.”  I guess it’s kind of “you asked, here’s your answer, done.”  I don’t want any nonsense stuff raining on me just because of someone’s authority.

If he knows that I know a bit better, than maybe it’s better to leave me to handle this.  After all, it’s my burden and it’s something I can’t just pass to others.

I wonder when he would accept that his world and my world are completely different, have even a minimum understanding of why I act “impolite,” and stop rubbing his values in my face.

Why is it me always have to say sorry?

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You’ve probably heard stories about Asian dad.  Though exaggerated, it does have some grain of truth.  Tell me about it, because I am living with one, and I bet you know some of the past troubles if you’ve been reading my blog.  Sure, he’s not the worst and he’s doing his best.  But what drives me absolutely crazy is that…there’s no “communication.”   He says it’s conversation/communication.  Well, not really.  It’s more like him lecturing. 
Tomorrow’s my big day.  So I prepared everything and planned what I will to today before going to sleep.  My parents know it is my big day.  I will be fu*king anxious and touchy for all day (and, readers, it will be easy to infer that I will go nuts if something doesn’t go like my plan.  We all do, no?)  It will be a long day tomorrow, meaning I will need a nice snack.  There’s a particular bread that I know which would be a good snack for a day like tomorrow, so I bought one and came back home. 
What if my dad eats it away, like he always does?
The thought has occurred, but I soon thought, naaah.  He knows it’s my big day tomorrow.  He really wouldn’t think it is coincidence that there is a single loaf of small chubby bread with potato fillings on the table, from a store that is not near from our home.  He knows better.  Besides, after doing the same thing over and over, he developed a habit of asking “okay to eat this?”  Yeah, it will be alright.
As I was preparing my early dinner, my dad came.  So we ate together.  He didn’t ask for more food.  Usually, he goes to his room or watch TV after dinner.  That’s what I expected. 

I dropped by my room to check my materials for tomorrow.  I came out, and could not believe my eyes.  The bread bag opened, my dad munching a good half of the bread away in one bite, saying “this is greasy.  Ew.”  You can imagine how I got really flipped.  Or how my face would have been turned white.
“Why would you eat that!?  It’s my meal for tomorrow!  You know what’s coming up!”
My dad looked like a bit startled, and said he will get another one, but I really did not care.  He can’t tell the difference between bread shops nor where’s the place.  Or what kind.  I was pissed, and all I could do was wishing that the bread store is still open, and the bread I got is still there (it’s Saturday and breads are sold out quickly on Friday and Saturday).  I just slammed the door and ran out. 

 Fortunately, I was able to get the breads.  While I was angry because of his thoughtlessness, I knew it would be better to not to make a big deal about it (it’s hard to stay calm and relaxed before big day, and that was my primary aim for today – to stay calm and go to bed in a relatively good mood).  Alright, if he’s there, I’ll just joke about it or keep myself quiet.’
He was in his room, so I thought “right, no big deal, I’ll just play some game and watch TV and go to bed.”  He came out from his room, as if he is going somewhere.  All of sudden, he said to me, “don’t you think you have something to say?”
Oh no.  You got to be kidding. 

According to the Asian rules of indirect communication, that is roughly translated as “you did something bad and you’d better apologize for it.”  But hey, here’s my question.  One, though I was pissed and it affected my mood control before big day, is it really that much of a big deal?  Two, if this really is a something to decide guilt and innocence, is it my bad?  For both questions, my answer is no.  In addition, it is my big big day tomorrow.  And he’s picking on a fight.  Fuc* me.
I simply said (speaking in honorifics), “look, I got the breads again, so it’s all sorted out.”
Guess what his response was: “Oh, so it’s just that simple, huh?”
I was like OMFG LEAVE ME ALREADY ALONE YOU ALREADY SCREWED MY MOOD CONTROL BEFORE MY BIG DAY but of course, instead of saying it, I said, “Yes, indeed.”  He left.
I mean, is it really a big deal though I’m not too happy about the incidence?  Does he want to set his “authority” that badly?  Even before his daughter’s big day, in a situation like Eminem’s Lose Yourself lyric?  (“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow”).  So as you can see, I ended up blogging because I needed a release.
Honestly, it’s not just my problem.  A Korean-American friend of mine once told me: her parents would just break into her room without knocking.  That part is understandable.  Well, but whenever she’s startled by this sudden break-in, somehow, SHE has to apologize for nothing.  She’s not on drug or sneaking some boys in.  It’s not a big deal, but if someone has to apologize for this situation, it really should be her parents.  But somehow, she ends up apologizing.  It drives her nuts.
Another Korean-American friend of mine has a lot of similar stories with me regarding his dad.  He understands his dad isn’t the bad guy and he is doing what he can.  BUT still, it irritates him whenever his dad goes “we need to talk,” but really he means “I will give you a long lecture and you don’t dare to speak back to me.”  So, my friend found a nice solution, just like mine: whenever his dad says something , he just shuts and say “oh, yes, you are right, I’m sorry.  All good?” 
Dad might get some authority and keeping of his face and no-talking kids, but not a communication.  So Asian dads, don’t ever complain about how your kids are shutting you away and you feel isolated from the family as time goes by.

Living in the World They’ve Never Experienced

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A friend of mine – let’s just call her Jane – is a so-called “international student” in America, working on her MA and PhD degree at U-Penn.  Recently she finished her MA and went back to America to work on her PhD.  As Jane’s mom drover her to the airport, they started chatting.  The topic soon went to her MA graduation:

Jane’s Mom: You see, the professors’ gowns were really pretty.  I guess Harvard is actually a better school than Columbia or U-Penn, indeed.  Like, the Columbia and U-Penn gowns were all strange blue and not as pretty as I thought.

Then Jane started to cry, saying

Jane: What, are you ashamed of me because I went to U-Penn, not THE Harvard?  Did you want me to go to better school?  I could have gone to Harvard, and I picked U-Penn because you talked about tuition all the time!!!

Her mom is not very sure what she did wrong (or, I suspect she thinks her daughter is being sensitive).

As someone who went to boarding school away from parents for many years, I can totally see why Jane was so hurt.  Living away from family and going to school bring lot of stress.  All the other kids can just call up their parents, and they will be there in a day or so.  Not us, though.  Our family is 13+ hour flight away from school, so you are pretty much on your own.  There’s no safety net and we know it.  On the top of that, non-citizens constantly have to update and care about all the regulations and stuff, especially because it is getting so much tighter and tighter (all thanks to Bush and Islamic extremists – go to hell, all of you).  Of course the local kids don’t have that.  After all it’s their country.  This goes on every single day.

On the top of that, the Korean culture is all about connecting their kids’ school name with keeping the family’s face up, and indirect communication.  Parents complimenting or supporting their kids’ choice is scarce, when compared to western countries.  I don’t know for how long my mom pestered me for not going well-known (in Korea) Ivy schools and choosing a lesser-known (in Korea), mid-sized college.  I had to repeat that I want to be where I like for four long years, and I want to do what I want in college.  Well, if it worked at one shot, I didn’t have to repeat myself, right? And honestly, I can’t really think of times when my mom complimented me.  I can think of so many times of her screaming at me, though.  Which I will blog in detail later on…

Long story short, parents, please keep in mind that your kids know how Korean culture is all about school names and keeping up to the family expectation.  And also do keep in mind your kids are living in a world that you have never experienced and will never know every day, with great amount of stress, knowing that they don’t have safety net like other kids around them.  Please do not think they are all fine.  Just let them be and let them relax in peace.

Snippet of Borderline Case

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As I walked back from the public library to the bus station, the gigantic franchise bakeries on the main street were throwing opening special events.  One was Paris Baguette and another one was Tour les Jours.  In front of Paris Baguette, a bras band made of three or four white men was constantly playing tunes, wearing uniforms as if they are one of the Paris Baguette crew or bakers.  Of course they are not.

In front of Tour les Jours, they, too, had a random white guys in front of the newly opened store.  Also in Tour les Jours uniforms.  But I doubt they are actual staffs. Either way, the stores hired some random white boys for a one-time event boys.  Like how old Harrods department store used to have exotic animals to attract more customers.

I couldnt’ help thinking how they are like caricatures of foreigners in South Korea: good ornaments, looks like they belong ,but not so in reality.  But who cares, they are 외국인 (foreigners).

Then what about me?  I look like belong but not so in reality.  I might be a good ornament, but less so because my passport, looks, blood and names are not foreign enough.  I can’t really tell which is worse or better.

“Sorry, You are Disqualified Because You are Not Foreigner”

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So while I am struggling with the endless battle with LSAT, my friend called me about a possible part-time position.  I was not too keen on it, but hey, at least someone thought of me and that is a terribly nice gesture.  And earning a few more wons won’t hurt me, right?

Friend: Well, they are looking for a native speaker, or “foreigner” for the position.
Ceberus: What?  For the English-Korean translation part-time position?
Friend: Yeah.
Ceberus: That. is. insane.
Friend: I know! I told them they won’t be able to find a “foreigner” with a good-enough control on English and Korean.  But as I heard about the position, I thought of you.  You grew up in the States, speak good English and Korean, right?
Ceberus: Yeah I guess so.  So should I write to this person in English of in Korean?
Friend: Er…both?  ‘Cause that shows you are good at both languages?
Ceberus: Er…I’ll just write in English, since you said they want a “foreigner.”  You know it always helps to be foreigner in Korea, as much as you can.
Friend: AH, TRUE.

There goes my resume.  Which clearly shows my extensive experience on dealing with foreigners, foreign documents.  And I have seperate block for my freelance translation/interpretation.

Oh, and my friend did not have a clear idea about job description (after all, the job wasn’t for her company – it was for her client company), so I also asked them to give me a job description.

The job description never came, nor the reply.  Naturally, I thought the position is bygone.  Well, as I munch down my lunch today, my cell rang. It was the company.

Company: Thanks for the resume.  But we are looking for the foreigner, I mean, native speaker for the position.  I think there was some kind of misunderstanding.  And you are Korean, so unfortunately, we believe you are not the best match for our position. 

And then “we hope to see you again if there is another opportunity” blah blah shit.   Yeah thanks whatever.   Oh and I never thought being a “foreigner” matters that much in terms of job performance.  I didn’t even bother to argue, since my friend already said that they are looking for a “foreigner,” and I am very well aware of Korean (Asian in general) companies’ fantasy on having a foreigner in their office.  Oftentimes, it’s usually a white person from North America.  Never mind that there might be some other Korean who speaks better English AND Korean than that person – it looks cool, who cares?  But if they are really looking for a “foreigner” who can actually translate Korean – English, I say their chance is really, really slim.

It reminds me of how I wanted to join FBI, CIA or MI-5 back in the old days.  The things looked good, because many of these organizations are always short in people speaking good East Asian language.  I happen to speak 2 East Asian languages quite fluently, and my educational background is a good match.  However I had to give it up quickly.  All of them were only accepting US citizens and UK citizens.  No surprise, they are still short in people who can do that.

It’s not my first time, nor this is something that happens only in Korea.  Maybe there was a miscommunication.  Nevertheless I hate this bullshit.