Monday, April 18, 2011

A look at last week in K-Land

So if you are living in Korea and especially an English teacher with EPIK in Korea who obediently followed your PoE/MoE's directive to open a Nonghyup account because they are the biggest bank in Korea and thus very reliable, you will already know that the biggest and pretty sensational thing that happened last week in Korea was that Nonghyup's servers crashed, disabling most transactions requiring any kind of electronic jiggery-pokery above a basic command. Now, everyone knows that foreigners like to complain - usually very loudly - about things that inconvenience them but luckily most hadn't realised that Nonghyup had been having problems all week in different areas until everyone's chequing cards stopped working on Wednesday evening. Even better, it got fairly quickly resolved, but it was a bad week for a lot of people, such as the teacher at my work who was stressing she'd lose her savings and wouldn't be able to pay for her father's chemotherapy. But if you don't speak or more importantly read any Korean you may very well have found the sudden rejection of your card very surprising indeed as you probably didn't realise that the Korean SMS you got from your bank was about this and not just the usual loans spam.

But really, you were the lucky ones, as those of us who do, and especially those of us who do and are inclined to panic slightly at such revelations (i.e. me) got the text message on Wednesday evening and immediately rushed to an ATM to confirm that yes indeed the world was ending and we were all going to be stranded in Korea without a won to our names and unable to ever recover our hard earned savings. Now just to give some context, to me this was a real concern after the problems one of the biggest banks in Australia, NAB, had last year on a payday just before the weekend that led to thousands of people not getting paid, getting paid ridiculously small amounts, getting charged for repeated transactions, etc. Luckily bankbook withdrawals were still working (which I'm sure probably lead to a huge drain of cash resources from Nonghyup as everyone panicked and tried to withdraw as much as possible just in case) but of course these only work at a) Nonghyup branch ATMs and b) if you HAVE a bankbook so it was a worrisome 24 hours before I could get to one that took bankbooks and supplement the w18000 (about AU$16) I had in my wallet to see me through the weekend. Luckily the problem was fixed by Friday afternoon, and other problems like with electronic transfers and internet banking etc were fixed by the weekend. According to the Marmot over at The Marmot's Hole, this was caused by a fairly simple command sent from a worker's (possibly hacked) laptop. Worrying in oh so many ways.

Anyway, that was last week's Big Thing. In other areas of scandal, a video that's been causing a lot of kerfuffle in the K-pop world is Ra-Nia's "Dr Feel Good". But no, it doesn't seem to be the lyrics with lines like "Dr, Dr Feel Good, come make me feel real good" and "strap me down into my chair" (most Korean versions sub it as "sit me down into my chair") that are causing the concern - rather, it's the '쩍벌춤' (cheok-beol-juum) or "wide leg spread dance" moves (aka "skank dance") that have led the video to be banned from many music shows. See 0:37 of the video beneath for an idea of why these moves might be considered rather suggestive. Although to be fair it looks a lot skankier when they do the dance live here than on the official music video.

 James over at The Grand Narrative of course does an excellent critical analysis of this clucking and much ruffling of feathers over this "compelling song with powerful sound and an addictive refrain" [파워풀한 사운드와 중독성 강한 후렴이 돋보이는 곡이다] and references other bands who have done similar dance moves, although none probably as explicit as this one. I'm actually curious now to see what my students think of this - well, the girls anyway, the boys are way too predictable - after seeing how popular Miss A's "Bad Girl Good Girl" was last year and having to watch my 15 year old students innocently do what I consider the inappropriate and slightly disturbing moves for children that age to the song at our school's performance day. But this is probably not appropriate either. Having said that, I did teach the 1st year girls (about 13 years old) in my Super Duper English group the word "stripper" to properly discuss the Miss A song, although this was immediately followed up by the comment "they look like worms" (because of their stripy outfits) so I am fairly sure that the word didn't in fact make much of an impression on them ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

By the way, bravo to Korean political correctness on Music Bank for describing the Brave Girls as apparently inspired by "'80's style black music".

Anyway, that's what's been happening lately. It's also the cherry blossom time of year again, so expect some pictures when I get around to taking a stroll with my camera. I actually watched that 1993 classic "the Secret Garden" (based on Frances Hodges Burnett's classic of course) on the weekend so I have been somewhat inspired. There are of course numerous cherry blossom festivals around, the most famous being in Jinhae, but they are pretty spectacular in Cheongju along our Mushim-Jeon ("Absent-minded Stream') that runs through the middle of town and make even a taxi ride in rush hour traffic a more beautiful and tranquil thing.
벗꽃 from last year at Songrisan
I did also spy a very small-scale cherry blossom festival thing near Geumseok Intersection/Bridge (near the 금석교 bus stop). I think it's behind the fitness centre there (don't remember the name sorry) but Google maps is telling me that it's actually behind the Ilsan Wedding Plaza. Anyway it's near the bridge/intersection and apparently there's a whole bunch of streets named around the Cherry Blossom or Cherry Tree (or whatever the English name for 벗나무 actually is) around there too. I'm going to go check it out sometime this week so I'll let you know how it goes :)

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