Tag Archives: world peace

Don’t Be So Wry, Sir.



The above link is a blog post written in Korean.  I would look at his blog from time to time, since he is studying Japanese history, which is closely related to my 2nd major (And also a topic that continuously interests me).  Usually, I don’t really comment everything on someone’s blog.  Everyone is bound to think differently.  If I don’t like it, I don’t have to pick a fight.  Just leave it and do your stuff.
But this post really bothered me.  Mainly:

– That these parents of Korean students in prestigious American university have no reason to “spend frigging +$50,000” other than placing their kids to some financial firm at Manhattan.

– That the Korean students at his prestigious American university are well-behaved and nice, more than he used to think.  Because their parents “brainwashed” them to behave so being pretty wealthy family, and some thinks it’s the way to keep their reputation as “pretty wealthy family.”

First point.

What kind of crooked view is this?

Sure, maybe some Korean parents have such strange desire to place their kinds in some well-known financial firm in Manhattan.  But why make such a big leap of generalization, based on one school in one specific region?  Same can be said for many white American parents of my high school.  I know a plenty of them said to their kids’ college advisor, “I am not going to let my kid apply non-Ivy schools.”  I also know a ROTC guy (not Korean) who was terrified when he got his camp assignment – everyone in his family went ROTC and served in a same camp, and this guy didn’t get in.

I know a lot of Korean international students’ parents who sent their kids to America for a lot of different reasons.  Some just couldn’t handle the intensity of Korean high school students (which also greatly affects parents too).  Some didn’t want their kids to be order-following test-grinding machine (my parents, I guess).  And some had family crisis, such as divorce, so they sent their kids abroad.  Some had kids that really, really wanted to go abroad and study.

So don’t you fucking make such generalization, based only on a small portion of population, limited to a certain area.
Second point:

Again, what the heck is wrong with him?  He just can’t even appreciate someone’s good behavior?  And the reason behind their good behavior is only because they are from wealthy family?

Maybe, unlike myself, he had a plenty of well-behaved people around him so started to take them for granted.  All of the well-behaved, gentle people I’ve ever met were not limited to a certain social class.  The cleaning man and guests at the local homeless center were some of the best gentlemen.  Some of the most impolite, good-for-nothing kids I’ve ever met were from everywhere, from very wealthy family to just average.

At least based on my experience, someone’s manner and behavior have nothing to do with their family’s earning and social class.  If there is one standard that can tell anything about someone’s behavior and manner, that’s their parents’ value and personality.

Honestly, if you had a chance to meet someone who is nice and well-mannered, you are lucky just fucking appreciate it.  Don’t add things in and twist your view, like “oh, of course, it’s just another dirty trick to satisfy their vanity.”

Look, blog writer.  Few years ago, you wrote, as watching 20-something lady so surprised after crashing her Nissan Infinity, you didn’t really feel any sympathy, thinking “well, she’s got rich family, I bet.” Then you found yourself getting greatly worried over your friend’s phone call, saying he was involved in a car accident.  And that you were embarrassed to hold such double standard.

How do you know that Nissan Infinity is from her parents? Maybe it was her dream car, so she worked really hard or got a loan or was on a really good deal lease.

You, apparently, finished your Ph.D in one of the most prestigious universities over 6-7 years.

Shouldn’t you know better?  Generalization is no-no in the States, for most of people.  And, when you are writing things in open blog, you really should be careful of what you are writing.

See, this is why I don’t like many Koreans in America, especially those who came over much later in their life.  They generalize everything.  Everything is either black of white.  They only see a very small part of life.  They can’t just accept things as they are.  And, it’s not uncommon for them to bash on younger people who have international experience, saying “oh, those kids must be so spoiled, rude, just lucky kids with rich parents, blah blah blah” without ever considering the fears and stress they have (and consider them “nothing” compared to their own worries.  Now who’s impolite?).

People like you make us wanting to further distance ourselves from Korea.

Few years ago, a good friend of mine, Susie, shared one of her worries.  Back then, in her early 20s, Susie was going to one of the best schools for biology, so she was working at on-campus bio lab.  Susie is pretty hard-working student, who hates getting involved in politics and arguments.  So she just do her job, say bye, go back to her place and work on her assignments.

There was one Korean MA student (mid 30) in the same lab.  He finished his BA in Korea, and never lived abroad.  For no reason, he started to spread bad gossip on Susie.  He would approach Susie’s lab mate, and say stuff like “Susie’s so rude, she doesn’t greet me properly, it’s pretty selfish to just finish her job and go, blah blah.”  Susie was so stressed out, because 1) she didn’t have nerve to spare on this, and 2) she really could not figure out what she did wrong to him.  She said greetings to him properly, and they weren’t that close.

The only answer we could think of was…that he was just jealous.   He was jealous, because, being 30 something, he was struggling to swim in this brave new world he had never been, let alone language.  Then there was Susie, who was far younger than himself, yet speaks far better language and seems to handle stuff far better than himself.

Honestly, if I were him, I would just ask for help or focus on my damn business.  I don’t really understand him.  But now reading the above linked blog post, I think I know why.  Even if they go abroad and spend long years, they are still very Korean.

Never a Typical Case


Getting so many rejection letters, I think it’s time to rant sort out my thoughts once again.  The tough thing about being a TCK is that you are never a “typical case” in almost anything.

Google up about going to American law school.  There are myriad of articles about how law schools are scamming people, how it’s waste of money, and how it’s worthless.  True.  A lot of American law school graduates are suffering from unemployment, whether they went to Harvard or some unknown, out-of-ranking school (yes, the ranking itself isn’t very trustworthy, I know).

But does that apply to me?  Am I an applicable case to this?  Not really, because I am not an American citizen, though I have American educational background.  If I were an American citizen with family and settled life in the US, I would not have considered going to law school as a good option at this point.  I would rather get a whatever job that comes first.  But I’m not an American.  But I can’t cope with Korean business culture.  I’m in-betweener.

From experience, I know the so-called “common case” never applies to me.  At the end of my college senior year, I had a job interview.  An alum – international like myself – was working there.  I did well in the interview.  I had a plenty of skills matching to their job description.  So, according to the textbook, I should have gotten a job.  That did not happen.  The key was, I am not a citizen.  I graduated from an American college with great reputation.  So even if I did not get that job, I should have received several interview offers.  That did not happen either, because of my vague status.  In States, I was still the “international” whom they had to sponsor visa, or unable to apply at all.

How about in Korea?  Koreans tend to think that if the school’s name is not familiar, it’s not a great school.  In addition, the American schools are valued a bit differently from US; a school that is not very highly regarded in the States sometimes transforms itself a very good Ivy-League-ish school, just because they have a lot of Korean alums or people are familiar with the name.  In Korea, many people haven’t even heard about my school’s name.

The different job interview styles were pretty traumatic for me.  In college, I was trained in American job interview – where you are there to chat, and all is fine as long as you don’t make them think you are a psycho.  But I had to face Korean style job interviews, where everything is very formal, interviewers are able to compare candidates in real time, and most cases where candidates are expected to get the “correct answer” to the questions.  I attended whole lot of interview prep sessions, but certainly I was not prepared to be surprised by the different styles of interview.  I didn’t even know there are different ways.  So no wonder why I ended up shocking Japanese job opening promoter by asking “so, is your job interview more of western or Asian way?”

I know job market in America is horrible now.  I totally agree when someone says “don’t bet too much on getting a job in America as a Korean international after law school,” because I was in a similar situation.  But again, my aim is slightly different.  Many law school students/candidates aim to find a job within America first, and they are citizens.  I’m not a citizen.  Getting a job in America isn’t my priority.  Actually I will be much happier if I get placed into somewhere else.  Many Korean international law students aim to come back to Korea and work.  That’s not high on my list either.  And I just can’t seem to find a solid resource on case like myself.

I have received multiple rejection letters from schools I wanted to go.  It’s irritating.  But, like I mentioned before, being atypical case, maybe not getting into a school that is considered highly in US is better for me.  Maybe I will end up going some school that is not considered very highly in US, but highly in Korea.

What’s most irritating is that there seem to be no resource for me, and I just have to keep on sailing, without knowing what’s ahead – tropical island or shortcut to hell.



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.

Living in the World They’ve Never Experienced


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.

The Shoe Journey #1


Maybe it was that random inspiration little voice talking in your head, maybe it was the compass item to be carried with TCKs as souvenir, or maybe it was because I was way to annoyed by my spatially challenged apartment’s shoe shelf overflowing with shoes.  I really wanted to write about something on my blog, but I couldn’t figure out what to write about.  Today, as I walk down street, suddenly with a lightbulb I thought of shoes.

Yeah, yeah, I can picture the male readers of my blog cringing at the corner, thinking “holy hell, Ceberus was another shoe-crazy woman” and expecting a posting bombarded Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, and other brand names with kill hills you can’t possibly pronounce, let alone wear.  Well, no worries, because it won’t be my posting.  I thought of shoes, because, regardless of your place of birth, background, nationality, school, occupation, etc., shoe is something you can’t completely separate from your life, and one of the few things people have in common all over the world.

That being said, I ought to write my first posing shoes about Dr. Marten’s legendary 1460 8-hole boots:


Dr. Marten, 1460 8-hole in black


My father first became Dr. Marten fan when I was still living in South Korea.  That was before when Dr. Marten started their official exporting to Korea.  So how did he know about Dr. Marten?  Living in the center city, it is very easy to be exposed to cutting-edge trendy stuff, voluntarily and involuntarily.   My guess is, my dad was looking for a new pair of shoes, stumbled into local shoe store carrying their direct import shoes, introduced to these sturdy and comfy pair of shoes, and fell in love with them ever since.

Through him I got my first two pairs of DM.  One looked like 2976 (Chelsea) but with more round, upward toe, black.  Another one was the famous 1460 in black.  When my parents’ friends visited our home, they would joke “so your kid is going to army soon?” upon seeing my 1460.  I wore it pretty much all the time with anything.  When I was leaving to States, I carried 1460 with me in my luggage.  Even in States, I would wear it constantly.  Though lesser than when I first got them, I would still keep them, carry them wherever I go and wear them frequently.

One night in my college junior year, I found I can no longer wear my beloved first pair of 1460 black.  Being DM, it was ever-sturdy; but the sole started to crack everywhere visibly, and where the yellow stitch holds sole together with leather started to crack too.  My toes would get cold.

Only then I realized, that this 1460 travelled everywhere with me for more than 10 years.  In Michigan, in Illinois, in Indiana, in Japan, in Korea.  It ran the grass fields of Illinois with me.  It walked the snow-covered fields of Michigan with me.  It walked the campus parking lots with me in Indiana.  It walked the busy pedestrian roads of Tokyo with me.  It walked around Incheon Airport multiple times with me.  Physically, it was closer to me than my parents for the past 8,9 years of my life. Me and my 1460 black – by then we have been together for 12+ years.   But it has to go – its time came to the end.

So just like that, with a small vacuum in my hand, sitting on my bed, I was staring my old pairs of 1460 on Friday night, with lot of melancholy and emotions swirming in me.

Next day, I took my 1460 to the dorm’s shoe donation box.

Then, I ordered another pair of 1460 black. Unlike old days, this new pair isn’t made in UK.  But it’s still that black 1460.

We all know DM is such a unique iconic shoes for rebels and counter-culture movements.  Kurt Cobain wore it.  Joey Ramones wore it.  Joe Strummer wore it.  When Sex Pistoles and their gangs trashed the club, DM was on their feet. Charlatans are still wearing it and so does Avril Lavigne. Sure, it is special because it is a certain statement: screw you, leave me alone.

Yet DM is special to me because some other reason.  Would my 2nd pair of 1460 black will travel all over, like my 1st pair?  I can’t tell, but I hope so.  One thing I know is, no matter how old I am, wherever I am and what kind of journey I am on, I will carry my 2nd pair of 1460 with me, just like my 1st pair.

Too old to be socialy awkward


I had my first LSAT exam today.  I knew it would be hard, and I had planned to cancel the score for my first exam.  I took it for a kind of “practice.”  Holy moly, it was so much harder and more tiring than I thought.  Game was nearly impossible, reading was harder than I thought.  If I hadn’t plan to cancel my score, you definitely would have seen a lady who climbed one of many bridges of Han River tonight, wearing her bra inside out, screaming that she’s going to jump from the bridge and kill herself on your 9 o’clock news.  I wouldn’t say too much about how was it, because I’ll end up using not-very-clean language a lot.  If you still want to see it, drag from here: it was like a giant big turdbomb smudged on my face.  A total f**kbomb. There, I warned you.  On the bright sight, however, my timing on logic wasn’t bad.  There are questions I couldn’t look at, but I think my timing definetely improved.  And my plans for all the small things – attire, things to bring, etc – was pretty much correct.  The exam site was actually better than my study library.   I am very glad to bring a small bottle of Eucalyptus oil and a bag of espresso bean chocolate.  That woke me up (maybe I need to eat more of them, or with cans of Red Bull).  Anyway…it was the hardest exam I’ve ever done, and I’m worried.  I really might jump off the bridge if I screw my next exam too.

There were lots of non-Korean people for the exam, too.  Which was surprising.  I had to contain myself from randomly joining their conversation.  I’d like to thank my friend for sending a cheer-up text.

Anyway.  The strange thing happened after the exam.  With numerous people who took LSAT and babbling about the questions (too late, people, too late) I headed down to the first floor, completely burnt out.  As I grabbed my bag, and digging dip into my bag for cell phone, a random Korean girl talked to me (all conversations here are in Korean):

“Are you XX? Wait, was it XY?”

It was similar with my name, but whatever-she-called-me was a very common girl’s name in South Korea.  Besides, I couldn’t tell who she was.  How can you?  The girl had a thick makeup, with 2 smokey eyelines with 2 different colors (kudos to her – how can someone manage to have that much of makeup on the day of early exam where you have to get up around 6:15 am?).  And, given the popularity and level of Korean plastic surgery, I won’t be surprised if she had some nip here and tuck there.  If that is true, I would definetely have a hard time figuring who she is.  So, wrong name, unrecognizable face.  Obviously the chance is I don’t know her, and she probably made a mistake.  In addition, I was exhausted.

“Er, no, I think you recognized me as a wrong person.”
“Oh, um, did you not go Notre Dame?”
“I did indeed…?”
“Do you not know me?”
Now leave me alone pervert I’m tired No?”
“Well what year did you graduate?”
“08? Why the hell are you asking?  And who the hell are you?
“I graduated on the same year too?  Do you not know me?”

If I had more vigor, I might have been meaner but I was too tired to be mean.  I just said “No, really, sorry” with awkward smile and stepped out.  Of course, she never identified who she is.

Social Awkwardness Excuse Card - if you can't do it, at least try, like carrying this card

Maybe I’m just really cranky at the moment because of all that pressure and stress I had to go through.  But if I was in her position, I would’ve just said something like: “Excuse me, but but I think I know you, although I don’t really remember your name – are you Notre Dame graduate?  I think I ‘ve seen you around the campus a lot.  My name is Ceberus, do you remember me by any chance?” Or just don’t bother at all.  First, she never identified herself.  Not very nice.  Second, if you don’t remember a person’s name and can’t manage to say you don’t remember his/her name straight, maybe it’s better to not say hi at all, unless you are terribly friend-deprived.  It’s not hard to say that straight away, and even in Korean context, it is considered more polite to say it straight away.  The chance is, she is probably older than I am.  Shouldn’t she know better?  Wait, but I’ve seen a lot of older people who are epic failures in terms of social etiquettes and politeness.  Common sense is not common – I should know better.

I still don’t know who she is, but I have one good guess.  Let’s just call her Myrtle here, and she did something very rude to me.  If she was Myrtle, I would’ve denied my knowledge of her (with all of my heart, get lost!).  I was a covert operation hermit-geek back in college.  One evening, as I chow down my dinner in hurry (I had a laundry to dry and lots of assignments), Myrtle randomly sat on my table and said hi.  It was unusual, because she never did that before.  She insisted that I should move over to table over there, saying there are many Korean students.  Oh yes, I know the routine: since I am Korean, I have to seat and eat dinner with Koreans, no matter how packed my schedule is, or how I’d rather sit with my friends.  But by then, I knew it is better to say yes and sit with them, at least once in a while, so I can avoid making any enemies.  So I did.  I said hello.  Obviously I expected Myrtle to help with greeting and introduction, since she was the one who invited me and knew the Koreans there better than myself.  She didn’t.  I was baffled, but not too surprised.  For some reason, Koreans don’t do this.  You are obliged to come since you are Korean, but the host Korean believes they are not obliged for a smooth mix-up and greeting (and I’m being sarcastic here).  So I decided to just do it by myself.  I kept throwing that questions – what major are you, when did you come, oh such-and-such class is it fun? – but the conversation is just not connected.  I wasn’t that interested anyway.  Meanwhile, my dinner plate was emptied and I really had to go back now.  No more reason to stay.  So I courteously said I have to leave now, and it was nice meeting with all of them.  Then all of sudden, with a big smile, Myrtle said,

“Awkward, isn’t it?  See, that’s why you should join us more.”

Yeah, like you always invited, or tried to take care of me.  What a nice thing to say.  Besides, I was unwilling – isn’t she the one who insisted?  I was too busy to do my job, and she was just not that important.  I just said “Ha!” and left.  If that girl really was Myrtle, then I’d say she has a quiet thick face, if not an utter idiot.  Later I told the story to my dear fellow Korean friend, Soojin.  Soojin said “That’s just the way Myrtle is.  She’s always jealous of people who are hermit-ish and capable by themselves.  She can’t hold back her temper, and most importantly, her mouth is not connected with her brain.  Don’t take it too serious.  I think she’s just baffled because you never join their little club yet doing well.”

Either way, it is even more wearing to deal with someone who is socially awkward, especially after when you are completely burnt out.  Why is common sense not common?  Jeeves, get me some Mint Julep.  I’m tired…wait I don’t have Jeeves.  Don’t they sell Jeeves on Ebay?  I wish they do.

How to do Interview in South Korea – 2


Friday was my second job interview session.  For some reason the specialist guy was nicer than before, and one of the participant was just a living laughter buster (=continuously laughs out loud when she is nervous or frustrated) so I was able to enjoy it a bit more than last time.

If you are familiar with American style hiring process, you are rarely required to write a personal statement (unless you are applying for school).  There are companies asking for it, but majority of companies do not need this.  Instead you need to turn in your cover letter.  Sometimes you are asked to send your writing sample, or answer some more question in written format, no more than 2-3 questions.  Obviously, in South Korea, it’s completely different.  Depends on the place, you are required to make a hand-written copy of resume.  Sometimes the employer asks you to do so on the day of interview, at their office.  Why? So your employer can see how well do you handwrite.  It’s good that you have a nice handwriting, but does it really matter for fulfilling your duties as executive secretary?  Okay, if you have completely illegible handwriting, that might be a problem because your boss won’t be able to comprehend your memo.  However, if someone who is keen on time and great at organizing loses out just because she has a messy handwriting, that’s not only wrong but also unfair, in my opinion.  And if the handwriting is that much of a problem, she can be trained later on.

Almost all of Korean companies ask the candidate to write a paragraph or two on your job application.  Usually the categories are: self-introduction, challenges in your life (and how you dealt with it), your experience, your passion, and where you would be at after 10 years.  Now, you might start wonder…”but isn’t that supposed to be interview questions?”  Yes, I do think so, too.  And they do ask it in interview.  Now, if you are going to ask same questions twice, and if you know the answers will be pretty much reiterating the written answers, what’s the point? While I was thinking this and secretly sighing, the specialist guy added: “make sure you have a headline for each questions, before you write out your answers.”  Um…okay, why?  “Many interviewers don’t read your writings.  So, by placing headlines before your answers, you are informing them about what to ask.”

Okay, so all that writings of your blood and sweat are to be read only by HR staffs, but not by the interviewers.  You have to be so nice to tell them what to ask about you.   I understand that many of interviewers are not HR staffs but someone who will work closely with the candidate.  I also understand that majority of Korean companies don’t let you keep a good track of 9-to-6 but squeeze the life out of their employees, therefore many of them would not have time to take a good look at resume and personal statements.   If the company is to ask someone to be an interviewer, shouldn’t it allow the interviewer to have at least one good look of the application?

As we move along the road, one of the mock interview question was this: “how much can you drink?”

Yes, yes, you western readers of my blog, this is a totally nonsense interview question.  But to your surprise, it is quiet common for Korean employers to ask this to candidates.  A lot of “real deal” is based on after-work drinking, and participating the collective drinking session is deemed as a team spirit.  Many businessmen – especially salesperson who need to get the quota before due date, no matter what – ruin their health because of this drinking.  South Koreans finally started to take this as a quiet serious problem, but like anywhere of the world, change is always slow.  After all, this society doesn’t have much outlet for stress release for men, other than gamble, visiting shamans/evangelist pastor, drinking, and/or drinking at escort club, buying woman.

Back to my mock interview session.  I did not know what to answer.  I am allergic to strong alcoholic drinks, like straight vodka shot.  Unless it is diluted with juice or non-alcoholic beverage (like Screwdriver), and/or consumed slowly, disgusting red rash will cover my entire body with extreme itchiness, and for the next 3 months at most I will be forced to eat like a rabbit – no, not even a vegan.  I don’t say about my allergy a lot in States, because you are free to drink at your pace.  In Korea, the very common form of drink is Soju, which has like 20-45% alcohol, and people drink it as a straight shot, on and on.  You could probably tell that this isn’t my cup of drink, literally.  Well then, should I say “Barely, because of my allergy?”  I don’t know, because so many Koreans either laughed about my allergy, if not accusing me for making some silly excuse and bailing out from the great team-spirit session.  Thus I decided to ask the specialist guy – what would be the best answer for my situation?  Yes, some people laughed but now I’m used to it.

Then the specialist said: “Well, you can just say, ‘I don’t really enjoy the drink itself, but I do enjoy the social part of drinking.  And I light up the occasion.’  What they really want to know is how social you are.”

Connecting alcohol consumption with social – how very Korean is that.  Yet to be honest, I am not a fan of hoeshik, or company dinner (this is not your usual company dinner; I failed to find a good explanation, and this is the best I got).  And, it is possible to be a social person without massive shot drinking.  So I got even more confused.  I said, “but then I’m not telling the truth.”  The the specialist said, “who cares?  You can change your answers after you get the position.”  My jaw dropped and there was nothing more to say from me.

I did not have that uncomfortable feeling like last time.  Rather it made me think a bit about how everything I experienced and know about Korean society connect – and also shed some light on why I felt so uncomfortable when having an interview with Korean employer.  In States, the question means itself.  No tricks there.  The candidate can sugarcoat their answers, or just don’t bring up something that is disadvantageous to him/herself.  But the candidate is expected to be honest.  And as long as you can wrap some disadvantages and negatives as positivity, there shouldn’t be major problem.  If something of your answer turned out to be a lie, then that puts you into some serious trouble, possibly eliminating your future job options.

In South Korea, usually the question does not mean what is asked.  Like the Korean language and the Korean way of communication, it often has another question, just like the other side of moon.  I guess in western sense it can be called as ‘cheaing’ or ‘insincere.’  But in return, the candidates are allowed to lie to some degree.  As long as you can get the position, and as long as you are not lying about confirmable facts (schools, address, etc), who cares! Sometimes the ability to improvise a lie is complimented (to some degree I see the point here).  Maybe I am making too much of big deal out of a small thing, but it made me recall the majority of Korean students’ behavior back in my high school, and recent scandals on SAT exam in here.  Back in my high school, Korean boys were notorious for sneaking out and sharing past exams without permission (it was forbidden by school regulation, unless the teacher handed it out voluntarily with permission), and sharing the answers of assignment.  Their attitude was, “who cares as long as I get a nice big A?”   I still remember how they asked me to show my assignment to them on daily basis.  It’s no secret among American college admissions that Koreans’ TOEFL score is not very trustworthy: despite their near-perfect score, they can’t even write a decent paper, let alone talk with their professor.

Very recently, a big scandal on SAT exams shook the ETS and South Korea upside down.  So many SAT instructors here smuggled out the SAT questions, which is not allowed to be taken out from the testing site, and students bought it for the exam.  What a shame.

Sure, everyone wants to excel the exam and take the easy way.  But there are things called “fairness,” “integrity,” and “rules.”  It’s there to be kept by everyone.  In States, adhering to those values and respecting  the rules are valued and counted, even if your skills suck ass.  But in here, rules are generally seen as obstacle that can be beaten by tricks.  While integrity and fairness is respected in South Korea, it is respected to a lesser degree: you will find more people who disregard these values, saying “those who stick to honesty and fairness are idiots, kind of.”   Seriously, if Koreans can have a common respect of law and rules, I bet this country would be about twice better and foreigner-friendly then now.

I know this is all process of learning, and I try my best to think every step in positive way.  I know it will help me in the future.  I know, through this, I will be one of the very few people who can explain Korean culture well in English.  I know that being TCK is a kind of mission, which can improve the human races’ understanding to each other, and I also know I’m not the only one who is going through this.  But to be very honest, I am often tempted to give it all up, throw a middle finger to everything, and run away to a random grad school.   My headhunter said it is really nice that I speak fluent Korean and English.  I agree.  However also because of that, people just push it right on my face.

Free English Teacher?


An article submitted to JoongAng Daily‘s Opinion section, written by Park, Jae Young, the editor of Korean Doctors’ Weekly.  He pretty much said everything I wanted to say.  Originally written in Korean.  English translation done by myself who is totally not a professional translator, so please don’t throw me any rotten tomatoes for mistakes.  If you are to take this posting to somewhere, please cite the sources.  Thanks.

A native English-speaking language instructor, who is teaching at a local hagwon, told me a story.  He assigned a short English writing homework to his students.  Topic: the number of foreigners living in Korea is increasing.  What’s your opinion?

Original: http://news.joins.com/article/aid/2010/01/18/3600343.html?cloc=olink|article|default,

Two kinds of opinion were most visible on the submitted writings. “They come in and take Koreans’ job away, I don’t like it,” and “we get more chances to practice English for free.”  He was stunned.  The English teacher, who is white American national, added, “I have experienced racial discrimination here and there ever since I came to South Korea.  I can only imagine what would it be like to live here as black or Southeastern Asian from the third world.”

translated by https://kumasim.wordpress.com

I, too, was shocked as much as he did for two reasons. First, his students’ English skill was better than I thought.  I did not get to see the real copies of their writings, but according to what this teacher told me, their English skill exceeded my expectation.  Second, their thoughts on foreigners startled me.  Students who assumed immigrant workers from Southeast Asia, Africa or China upon hearing the word “foreigner,” thought foreigners as someone who take the job away.  On the other hand, students who imagined white native English speakers clearly see them as “free English instructor.”  Is this really what they think? Or did they ask their parents what to write for the sake of homework?  Whatever the answer is, this is worrying.  The Koreans’ prejudice against foreigners is already becoming a major social problem; and now I could see that prejudice will be bequeathed to the next generation.  Gloomy future.  If majority of opinions were “we should be thankful because they do all the dirty and dangerous works for us,” I would be less distressed.

The people of South Korea take loads of trip abroad and watch loads of foreign-made movies and TV shows.  Besides, South Korea’s oversea trading volume is gargantuan.  It has not been a long time since the last group of  South Koreans worked in oversea, facing many hardships and racial discrimination.  Moving out to foreign country is not an extraordinary affair anymore; today, it is common to see someone who has relative living in a foreign country. But why do we keep ignoring foreigners, if not exploiting them?

Many researches show South Korea has a very low score on international competency.  This is true for not only the country itself, but also for universities, business firms and other categories.  Would having millions of advanced English speakers bring this score up?  Can changing regulations and system, based on so-called “global standard” help?  Or, how about perceiving foreigners as friend or colleague, rather than alien from outer space?

At this point, the foreigners make up 2.2% of South Korean population.  As of Seoul, the percentage rises to 3%.  Cities known for high competency – New York City, London, Hong Kong – have each of 34%, 31%, and 40% of foreigner population.  Unless there is a big change of tide, we will be exposed to more foreigners in this land, and it will be even more so for next generation.  If it is difficult to stash away our prejudice, then maybe we should do our best to not to pass this prejudice on to our children.

Two way road


From my personal experiences, and also according to my acquaintances’ anecdotes, it is just so hard to have a good, healthy and rational debate with Koreans (some say Chinese, too).  I am not talking about how Asians and Westerners differ in building their logics.  A lot of Koreans just cannot detach their emotion from what is discussed, let the topic be sexual minority, recen politics or childbearing.  In addition, Koreans seem like they just have to shove this “South Korea is #1 in everything” idea to everyone else’s throat.  To many Koreans, if you question that, you are flat wrong or flat stupid, because (to Koreans) it is universal truth and they have a mission to make sure everybody agrees with them.  They just can’t bear a single negative opinion on their home country (yet it seems like they have a tad more tolerance of white European foreigner saying negative things than their fellow Korean-looking foreigner saying it).

Making the matter even more complex, I am a biological Korean who does not feel that much attachement to South Korea, grew up in typical American way – speak up and be yourself! – and have very objective parents.  In college, I was anxious when another Korean student started bashing on Japan.  If I stand up for Japanese, I’ll be the witch.  Stuck between American and Korean pals put me in a complex situation.  The Korean student wants to spread his mission mantra; American either disagree or unwilling to listen this mantra.  And I was in dilemma: I want peace, but if I say “let’s talk about that one some other time” or “Errr…I don’t think so,” I’ll be the most wanted person among the Korean community.  On the other hand, if I join the “South Korea #1 in everything” mission, I’ll probably become just another “that Korean girl.” Oooh, what do I do, what do I do?  Can we just all be happy and peaceful together forever?

I am not a pitbull always on a search for something to kill; if I sense the ugly argument looming, I usually cut it out or leave the place physically.  But what if another person gets all emotional and keeps throwing at you, unwilling to accept and see the difference as it is – even more just because I am Korean on facade with native language skill – what should I do?  How should I behave yet be myself, under a culture that frowns upon being direct and firm?  Especially when people like me – who knows the language well and have the looks – tend to get a lot more cold eyes and disadvantages, because I think differently yet have all this external qualities of “one of them?”

As time goes by, more and more I realize that every good work – good communication, good sports score, good craftmanship, good performance – is not a just one man’s work.  Everything has to be in its place, doing its job, giving its best.  Likewise, a good communication is a two-way road; everyone has to be willing to listen and agree, as much as they are willing to speak.  If another person is not ready to agree or listen, it won’t work out at all.

St. Paul is known for his missionary work in Greece.  He converted many not by lecturing, but engaging into a dialogue – he visited the town’s plaza and academy almost every day, having a sincere discussion with Greek scholars.  In the past, I used to think it was possible only because of Paul’s awesomeness.  Now I re-think about this, it was possible because the Greeks knew the basics of debate.  Back in ol’ days, dropping by your local academy or plaza and engage into a discussion was a form of popular entertainment.  They were ready to listen and speak.  Would St. Paul’s missionary work through conversation be that succesful, if he were with hunt-and-gathering primitive tribe in Amazon? (No intention of talking down of the primitive forest-living tribes, I am just throwing this as an example of people who are not quiet ready for debate, listen, and able to accept the different opinion or belief).

The more I think about it, I feel that the good communication does not happen with one genius.  Both sides need to be ready to listen and accept the difference and study how different they are from each other.  If there are more people in the world who are willing to listen and accept the difference and diversity, the world peace can be found right around the corner.  But sadly, as Machiavelli said, “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.”

I guess mankind still has a long and winding road to the world peace.

And why did I get so philosophical, all of sudden?