Academic Grift

According to the JoongAng Daily, college admissions in South Korea are basically a racket:

“Sungkyunkwan, Hanyang and Kyung Hee universities, which took spots 3, 7 and 9 in the rankings, respectively, skip interview sessions. In doing so, professors cannot orally verify what applicants say they’ve accomplished in their earlier years.

Another problem is that admissions consultation companies prey on these weak points by ghostwriting cover letters in return for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of won.

‘The kernel is to stand out from the bunch,’ said one CEO, when asked how consulting agents forge cover letters. But the trick is to hide the lies by ‘reeling off a variety of stories, to the point where verification is impossible.’”

So, not that much different from America, basically.


Posted in Education, Korea, South Korea | Leave a comment

Tandoori Nomz


Met some friends for Indian food Saturday night.  This place, India Dream, is quite good, around the corner from Beomeo Station exit three.

But they served bread and jam for an appetizer.  Why?  Because Korea.

Posted in Daegu, Food, Photography | 1 Comment

That’s Why I Make The Big Bucks

I just spent an hour explaining the difference between “itch – itchy” and “scratch – scratchy.”

Is it OK that I’m kind of turned on right now?

Posted in ESL, Nerdery, Teaching | Leave a comment

“We Could Slip Away”

Yo La Tengo, “Autumn Sweater”

This semester has been mixed, to say the least.  I feel like I’ve made some changes that have made my adult classes a lot more interesting for everyone involved, including me, but my college classes have been a trudge.

Posted in ESL, Music | Leave a comment


Suki Kim, author of the amazing novel The Interpreter, is publishing a new book about time spent teaching English to North Korean college students, sons of the elite, in Pyongyang:

“In her book, Kim provides a long list of rules that she was required follow while living in the North.

‘Living in Pyongyang is like living in a fishbowl. Everything you say and do will be watched. Even your dorm room might not be secure. They could go through your things. If you keep a journal, and if you say something in it that is not complimentary, please do not leave it in your room. Even in your room, whatever you say could be recorded. Just get in the habit of not saying everything that is on your mind, not criticizing the government and things of that sort, so you won’t slip,’ she writes.

Kim said she often jotted down notes for her book and recorded them later using a computer. However, she never left any data on her computer’s hard drive and kept everything on a USB stick.”

The Interpreter is a dark story of life falling apart for Korean immigrants to New York City.

Amazon doesn’t seem to have a page up yet for the new memoir, but I’m excited for it.

Posted in Books, Korea, North Korea | Leave a comment

Big Brother

Some background: KakaoTalk is a popular app which allows you to text people for free domestically or internationally.

Or at least it was, until recent fears over the South Korean government data mining from it, and KakaoTalk defiantly claiming it will no longer cooperate with authorities:

“Choi Hyun-ho, a law professor at Chungbuk National University, said the messenger developer cannot defy prosecutors’ warrants to tap into chat records according to the law and noted that the authorities can force their way into collecting personal information when necessary.

‘When there is a clash between one’s basic right and national security, it is an individual’s right that is subject to be limited,’ he said. ‘In this case, the prosecutors can forcibly obtain information by dispatching investigators to unlock the data storage because no one is above law.’

One media outlet projected that close to 1.8 million users have abandoned Kakao over the past month. When asked by the Korea JoongAng Daily to verify that figure, the tech giant yesterday neither confirmed nor denied it.”

Compared to most South Koreans, I’m practically a Luddite — I still rock a 2G flip-phone (although I love my iPad).  But it’s interesting to see how fears of government surveillance almost directly parallel the debates over internet privacy in America.

Note: “Advanced Conversation” tag indicates articles I have used or will use to teach my Advanced Level adult class.

Posted in Advanced Conversation, Korea, Kultur, Politics, South Korea, Tech | 1 Comment

Twilight of the Nerds

It was too easy for me to be a little bit agnostic about the #GamerGate thing when it seemed to be a few friendless gamer bros venting their frustrations at the fact that they blame women for everything wrong with their sad lives.

And that was careless of me.  Of course it wasn’t just about one or two isolated, indie female game developers.  Of course it was about rampant structural misogyny throughout a nerd culture that I claim some fellowship with, or at least used to.

Which is to say, it’s all fun and games until a feminist video game critic can’t make a public appearance due to threats of a “Montreal-style” mass shooting:

“Cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian’s scheduled appearance at a Utah State University conference tomorrow has been cancelled due to terror threats. According to Ogden, Utah’s Standard-Examiner, an anonymous email sent to the school threatened ‘the deadliest school shooting in American history’ and a ‘Montreal Massacre style attack’ if the school let a woman talk about videogames. USU’s official Twitter account announced the appearance was cancelled a few hours after the Standard-Examiner first reported the threat.”

In the universal karmic struggle between Team Nerd and Team Jock, my sympathies generally lie with the former (despite riding the bench for my high school baseball team and playing rugby, quite badly, in college).

But the painfully rage-filled misogyny from gamer bros as of late pretty much makes me want to burn my lifetime membership card and wish I’d joined a frat in college.  One of the nerdy ones, natch, but still — I have no sympathy for a gamer subculture that’s unable to put its foot down and root out the cancer of young men who feel entitled to disparage, threaten, rape, and/or kill women who want to be part of the club for once.  Who, in fact, genuinely want to make positive contributions to said club in the form of new games and ideas and discussions.

But hey, you’ll bring some diversity to gaming culture only after you’ve snatched the Flamin’ Hot Cheetohs and 2-liter Mountain Dew from our cold, dead, blistered hands.

And isn’t that such an unfair stereotype — the sexless male nerd.  But I’ve never witnessed a pack of imbeciles so eager to live up to the negative expectations of just about everyone else.

It’s sad and disturbing on so many levels.

Posted in America, GamerGate, Kultur, Politics, Web | Leave a comment

True Fact

Sometimes Tuesdays are even more terrible than Mondays.

(Context: It’s week seven and the midterm is next week.  Lots of my students still don’t have the textbook and obviously never will.)

Posted in ESL, Korea, Teaching | Leave a comment


Dear America: Ebola is a deadly disease but with a scientifically sound, rational approach regarding quarantine and prevention it will kill far fewer people in a year than, say, handguns.

Please stop acting like little crybabies and boost funding for the CDC and WHO already.



Posted in America, Kultur | Leave a comment

Snappin’ Necks, Cashin’ Checks

In South Korea, a decent part-time gig is to be had as a fake wedding guest:

“For my first temporary job I was a paid wedding guest. All I had to do was show up at the ceremony of a bride and a groom who were embarrassed by the lack of people coming to witness their vows.

I was expected to act as if I had known the bride for quite some time, appear in photos taken on the day and eat a free meal.

Around 6 p.m. on the day in question, two young couples and three men and women, who all appeared to be in their 20s, gathered for a briefing.”

Eh, I’ve done much worse things for money.

Posted in Advanced Conversation, Korea, Kultur | Leave a comment