Saturday, May 16, 2009

Holy Huh? Korean Cosplay

Last weekend, as we headed towards the convention center hosting the 7th Seoul International Rice Cake Festival, we began to notice some oddly dressed people. For instance:

No, it was not Korean Halloween. Unbeknownst to us, the convention center hosting the Rice Cake festival was also the gathering ground for Korean cosplayers. Cosplay is generally best known as a Japanese phenomenon, in which young people dress up in costumes of varying degrees of elaborateness representing characters from anime, manga, video games, movies, and the like.

When we got there, the costumes became even more epic, from the girly... the the classic....

to the "would-be-arrested-wearing-this-in-the-USA."

And then of course, to the "Holy huh?"

If anybody knows any of these costumes, I'd love to hear who they are representing.

We debated the ethics of posting these pictures without having spoken to the individuals but decided to do it because a) it was a public street b) it was too good not to post and c) if we post a picture of you wearing a cow suit on a ski slope, why not a picture of you wearing a chicken suit on a bridge?

Honestly, they looked like they were having a lot of fun, and there are much less wholesome things for teenagers to be up to on a Sunday morning. Still, an unusual thing to run into when you're just looking for some rice cakes.

Oh, the Korea. You never know what's coming next!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gettin' Crabby on the Subway

Apparently, as part of a tourism campaign for some seaside Korean backwater, they decked one of the subway trains out in a bunch of fake plants and giant plastic crabs. The one above was bigger than my head.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) has released its 2009 Factbook. Some quick hits on Korea:

Just under 39% of the population has a "high evaluation" of their life as a whole (USA - 74%, OECD average, 62%)

Some low-scoring categories: (I believe the question asked if this had happened to you the previous day)
- only 66.6 percent felt they had been "treated with respect"(USA 92.4%, OECD average 89.1%)
- 44.7% felt that they had "learned or done something interesting" (USA 62%, OECD average 53.3%)
- 20% said they had experienced depression (USA 10.3%, OECD average 10.1%)

Korea also placed third from the top (or bottom, if you want to think of it that way) with the third highest surveyed suicide rate: around 18.7 per 100,000 overall (USA 10.2, OECD average
11.9), with 28.1 for men and 11.1 for women. Only Hungary and Japan had more suicides than Korea, reminding me of something Justin was told on the school trip to Japan. Apparently subway suicides (jumping in front of subway trains) are so pervasive in Tokyo that there is etiquette for how to go about doing it: you are expected to remove your shoes before doing so, as a courtesy to investigators who must determine whether or not you were pushed.

As we suspected and have observed here, Korean report working more hours a year than people from any other country, including such traditional workaholic powerhouses as Japan. Koreans report 2316, whereas the Japanese work a mere 1785. (For comparison: USA 1794, actually ahead of Japan, and the OECD average, 1768). The surprise second-place finishers? The Greeks, at 2150. The good news is that Korea has improved since its list debut in 1980, when they reported a whopping 2876 hours a year, or 55 hours a week

Correlation does not equal causation, but here, it makes one heck of a good case for itself.

I didn't have a chance to look at every single category, but in the interests of fairness, I will also try to report a few positive stats for Korea.

- They are 6th lowest in terms of generating municipal waste (the trash and recycling systems here kick butt)
- They have outstanding reading proficiency across the board (although as mentioned here before, this may have something to do with an educational system that entirely prepares them for taking tests; I wish there were a way to see their ranking in producing essays or such)

Anyway, it's food for thought. Now back to my overdue lesson plans!

Korean Technology Update: It's Always Something ELSE

Yesterday, Nana treated you to a reprise of our ongoing struggles with Korean technology, culminating in what was then the latest in a series of mishaps--namely, the untimely death of our refrigerator.

Well, it's barely 24 hours later, and lo and behold--our dryer has died.

It's looking like it could be a very expensive/dirty/hungry week.