Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let's Get [a] Physical!

I spent the better part of the morning at Mok-dong Hospital (my Thursday schedule gives me free periods from 10:30 to 2:10). Never fear: me, flu? No! I was there to get a medical exam as required biennially by my school--totally different than the medical exam required by SMOE for my contract renewal back in early August.

In addition to a standard work-up, employees in my age group have to be tested for gastric cancer. I assume that next time it will be for a different cancer. The regular check-up is free, but the public health insurance only covers 80% of the cancer thing. Miss Lee was so apologetic when she told me about this, I made sure to have lots of cash when I went in.

Well, my 20% came to W9,320 (about USD 8). I only mention this for the context it provides my friends in America who fear the single-payer system (hell, looks like we won't even get a robust public option). I pay 4.5% of my salary matched by the employer, plus co-pays like this, for modern medical care--computers, X-ray machines, lab coats, that hospital smell. A complete physical took about 2:15, including the exit interview. I finished up Life of Pi while in the waiting areas. Riveting read, awesome ending!

My results? Well, they will mail the full report to me in "less than two weeks", but I did see some of the results when I talked to the doctor.
Bad news: I am overweight, have high blood pressure, and drink and smoke too much. Not that that's news...
Good news: my weight is down 3 kg from August, my systolic BP down 15 points, and the doc informed me the ideal amount to drink is 1 to 2 bottles of beer per day.
Best news: he didn't specify what size of bottles.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Flu Review

I haven't written much about the A-H1N1 influenza situation because, from my perspective, there isn't much to write about. Every year or three, a new, virulent strain of 'flu comes along, and health authorities everywhere scare everyone, try to calm everyone down, then scare them some more by their oscillating predictions of its pandemic possibilities. Occasionally, they actually manage to provide a beneficial vaccine.

So has it been in 2009. Initially called 'swine flu', Korea has taken to calling it 'new flu'--though of course each year's strain is new--and reminding everyone about hand washing, covering one's mouth, and staying away from crowds. Even cancelling some popular events to slow the spread. Despite these efforts, the new flu has been gaining ground.

Mr Hwang informed me on Monday during our walk to school that Young-il got its first case over the weekend, and today three more were added to the rolls of the infected--still, they are otherwise healthy teenage boys, and so I don't fret for their lives. The virus has caused 29 deaths in Korea as of the latest news reports, almost all from the most susceptible demographic groups: the very old, the very young, the already compromised. Is it crass for the more firm-bodied to take heart in this?

President Lee was in the news today for visiting new H1N1 patients, though he has not been inoculated along with the priority groups, saying "he can wait his turn." Good for him ... I hope.

The first round of Tamiflu has become available at hospitals and drug stores, as of yesterday. Today I walked past Hongik Hospital in Mok-dong to see a veritable triage system in place outside. The government plans to vaccinate 35% of the 49 million people in the country. First, you target the health care workers ...

But, back to Young-il, my high school. I read with interest this story: Doctors urge gov't to close schools to curb flu in the Herald tonight.
In a statement released in downtown Seoul, the Korean Medical Association claimed there is a pressing need to shut down schools from next month at the latest.
"Such measures are needed due to the rapid spread of the disease within the general populace and among young school children, and because of the time it will take to complete the ongoing vaccination process," the association said.
It added that the government should keep schools closed for at least two or three weeks.

This brings up a few questions:
  • You better pay me anyway!
  • If students are away from school, will they remain isolated at home? Or will they congregate at PC bangs and hagwons, as usual?
  • The Korean SAT is November 12. They re-route air traffic to minimize distractions during this all-important event, would they really cancel school and/or the SAT?
  • What will parents do with their children anyway? Send them to daycare? Hmmm? (Okay, that's three questions.)
  • What is the wind-speed velocity of Tamiflu?
  • You wear a spankin' new blue muslin face mask every day, but you put your used toilet paper in a trash can rather than flush it down the commode. Huh?

What follows is conservative Dong-A Ilbo's #2 story in today's online version:
Gov`t Statement on H1N1 Flu
Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Minister Jeon Jae-hee looks embarrassed while releasing a public statement following a pan-government meeting on H1N1 flu Tuesday. The statement said, “The H1N1 influenza is spreading fast but if the people trust the government and carefully follow instructions to prevent the disease, the public has no reason to worry too much.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

NK Defectors Fail to Assimilate into Korean Society

As reported in today's online version, the Dong-A Ilbo's Investigative Team
... sent questionnaires to the 470 defectors [from NK who entered the South by way of China through Vietnam in July, 2004] for three months from July 16, among whom 200 answered. The team conducted face-to-face, phone and written interviews to find out their occupations, income, housing situation and life satisfaction.

Alas, all they came away with was about 500 words of plebeian reporting, mainly centered on the economic success (or lack thereof) of the defectors--about 30% are chronically unemployed, and many of the rest face economic hardship due to lack of job skills and training, and the fact that they send whatever they can to family members stuck in the North or hiding in China.
The survey found that most defectors are still wandering around and struggling to survive in the South. Their noticeable linguistic accent, cultural differences, and a public reluctant to embrace them were the main reasons preventing their assimilation.

So much so that some have moved on to other countries, mainly in Europe. One defector who lives in London is quoted as saying, "We always faced hardship in South Korea due to our status as North Korean defectors."

I'm not clear on why this attitude exists among South Koreans, but I noted it too in Kang Chol-hwan's frightening, harrowing and moving account of his years in North Korea's Yodok "re-education camp" and subsequent escape (more here). In summary,
Yeom Yoo-shik, a sociology professor at Yonsei University, said, "This is the first time so many North Korean defectors were selected randomly and surveyed extensively.
"Through the study of North Korean defectors who moved to South Korea over the same period, we can learn what factors are important for North Koreans to adapt to South Korea. As such, the study will be a great reference for Seoul in setting subsidy policy."

Prof. Yeom is probably right, but the fact is that the article that resulted from the "study" provides virtually none of the information needed to understand and deal with the deeper issues of the lack of assimilation.

While I understand the political difficulties involved in taking in defectors, once they are here, it seems to me there is a responsibility to assimilate them: resettlement subsidies are only a beginning. These are people so courageous or desperate that they faced death to flee the barbarous regime just north of here--starved, brainwashed, fearful, hyper suspicious, the culture shock could last for years.

I want to learn about that--what were their first thoughts when they saw a bustling Seoul, the aisles of rice and produce in E-Mart; what do they still fear about the NK machinery; at what moment did you realize you had no choice but flee; what is it like to reject the Dear Leader you were forced to adore; do the songs of worship you sometimes hear in your head haunt you or make you laugh today?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Game 7, KIA Wins!

UPDATE: Now (finally) includes some video I shot at the game. Not much game action, but a good feel for what it's lke to be at the game. Scroll down a little.

Well, I have come full circle with the Korean baseball season. Along with Nick and Andy, I was at Jamsil on Opening Day back in April, and I was there for Game 7 of the championship series on Saturday. With Andy and Nick, and my co-teacher Jerry:

The game had a 2:00 start, and even though we entered the stadium at 12:30, the only seats we could find were deep center field, where we were stuck under one of the KIA banners:

Just kidding, they only hauled that out during the middle first inning warm up. Which is a good thing, because it was a really good game, a suitable ending to a hard-fought series. SK went ahead by three runs by the top of the fifth; KIA struggled back with one run in the bottom, only to give up two more in the next inning. The Wyverns now led 5 - 1.

The Wyverns, who were the league champs the last two years, finished one game out of first to the KIA Tigers thanks to an amazing 17-game winning streak to end the regular season. However, KIA showed the stuff that put them in first by fighting back with consecutive two-run innings in the sixth and seventh that evened things out. I have footage of one of the key hits in my video below.

Both teams have enthusiastic fans, thus making the game all the more exciting. But this game ended in the most inherently exciting fashion possible, a home run to score the win in the bottom of the ninth, sometimes called a walk-off homer, by Na Ji-wan. On the way out of the stadium, I snapped this photo of discarded SK Wyverns noisemakers, piled up like so many broken dreams:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gay Means Happy, Right?

Fair's fair. After panning the Korea Times on Wednesday for a poorly sourced, muddled story, today I have to congratulate them for today's courageous examination of the current state of the gay community/gay rights in Korea.

To get a sense of the status of gays in Korea, you only have to realize that there are no laws on the books concerning homosexuality. But--big but here--this is because the behavior is traditionally seen as so aberrant that no Korean could possibly indulge in it.

Well, Koreans do indulge in it, as do Icelanders, Micronesians, Tamils, Canadians, Lesbians (oh, wait!), Alsatians and whatever other group you may name. To some extent, it's a matter of degree. For instance, the boys at my high school are very touchy-feely with one another, petting, hand-holding, grooming, nut-checking, etc, being common behaviors. Kinsey would call this "homophilic touch".

In fact he does, in the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, along with more direct accounts of homosexuality in Korean history. (My thanks to I'm No Picasso, who linked this source in an unrelated post a few days ago.) For example:
In the Koryo dynasty, same-sex relationships, mostly between males, were very common among the ruling class. In a historical analysis of Hallimbuilgok by Seong, King Chungsun (1275-1325) maintained a long-term relationship with a wonchung (male lover), and King Kongmin (1325-1374) appointed at least five youths as “little-brother attendants” (chajewhi) as sexual partners.

Anyway, the Korea Times article mentions a few of the better-known gay bars in Itaewon (largely a foreigner-intensive district) on "Homo Hill"--not to be confused with "Hooker Hill". I mean, Seoul is all "up one hill, down another."
Older Koreans are far more reticent to come out, or even to speak on the record, with a few notable exceptions. One of the most notable, of course, is Hong Seok-chun, the actor who lost his career when he came out in 2000. He started a business in Itaewon, the now-famous restaurant Our Place.

Right on the sub-main strip, I went to Our Place once with Gavin, but it cost W11,500 for two beers, which is twice the going rate. Cheater, cheater, peter eater. Apparently Hong was thinking that by coming out, he would lead others from the closet into the light. Other well-known figures in Korea who are secretly gay said, "You go, I'm with you!"--but only on the inside.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

'Konglish' A Double-Edged Sword

This according to a whimsically under-written article in today's Korea Times. Konglish, in case you didn't know, is English words in hangeul, spoken following Korean pronunciation rules. For instance, Burger King is 버거 킹, or Baw-gaw King. Toast is 토스트, or toe-suh-tuh. Last week, "toast" was the answer in a word game I played with the first graders. I made them repeat it properly about six times before moving on.

Anyway. By "contributing writer" Ines Min, the article wants to make four points:
1) Konglish makes it more difficult for Koreans to learn English. As evidence, the author provides no studies, journal papers or such, just a quote from Brian Deutsch of Brian in Jeollanam-do fame:
"(The overuse of English) actually makes it harder for Koreans learning English," [...] "They are so accustomed to pronouncing these borrowed words the Korean way that they can't adjust to English pronunciations and meanings."
I think he's right about accent and pronunciation, but meaning seems a much more tenuous argument to make. And it's not made here.
2) Konglish has a corroding effect on the Korean language. Min quotes Eric Kim, who authors a well-known series of English education books, with an example:
"The Korean language did not (originally) have the present perfect aspect," Kim said. "The recent introduction has resulted from the use of English in Korean." This could later distort the traditional Korean way of constructing meaning, he added.
3) Exactly the opposite of 2. Her source is Edwin Sunder, whose Ph.D in education is the closest thing to expertise in the whole story (well, there is an SNU professor, but we are not told in what field):
He doesn't feel the use of English is a problem because in India, his native country, a similar occurrence took place, with English becoming the official second language.
4) Borrowed words add depth (or certainly new words) to a language and promote multiculturalism. Fair enough.

I might note here that if you were to try to remove the borrowed words from English, you'd have nothing left. Remind me to do a post about "pia" someday. Not Pia Zadora, no. The suffix Koreans use to suggest Utopia.

Bonus Photographs: These are not exactly Konglish, but they're something. The first is just a typo of some kind, on a banner three feet tall. The second is part of the events calendar of the brochure I picked up at Seoul Olympic Park:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Few Follow-ups

1) As promised, an update on the week's lesson following the "hell class" of Tuesday, fifth period. I am happy to announce that they really liked it. They bought into it and jockeyed for position to be the next to go back in.

Alas, the seventh period class did not have their best day. They were rambunctious, and are the first class (of 10 so far) to do a poor job of getting the information down completely (I spot-check their worksheets, of course).

OTOH, Mr Wright's two classes of first graders were impeccable. Mr Wright, a grammarian who once spent a month in upstate New York, is becoming a really good co-teacher.

2) Seoul is having its first cold snap of the season. It was 43 F this morning when I left home, and it warmed up to not quite 60 F. The weather gadget says it's 50 F right now. Today was also a strong yellow wind day.

One likes to have a couple of months after turning off the aircon before turning on the ondol (floor heating)--and then, of course, vice versa in the spring. Older Koreans tell me the Seoul winters are quite mild compared to the days of their youth. They accept global warming as fact. Of course, some of them also accept "fan death" as fact...

3) A South Korean historian receives coverage in the Dong-A Ilbo for his thesis that patriotic ancestor An Jung-geun was [gasp!] tried illegally by the Japanese government after assassinating Japanese colonial governor of Korea Hirobumi Ito in what was then Russian-controlled territory in China. The year was 1909. The Russians should have had control, and should have consulted with the Korean government.

I bet he's right. But I don't know that this exactly newsworthy, since there doesn't seem to be anything, um, new in the article. Whenever I read stories like this, I vaguely hear Mrs Lovett's voice in my head, trying to get Sweeney Todd to let go of "... the wrongs what was done to you, Heaven knows how many years ago..."

Just the other day, I was talking with youthful co-teacher Mr Hur about, well, I don't remember what, but we ended up on the American Revolutionary War. He studied American and British Literature in college, not much history, but he confessed he's always been surprised by the close friendship of the US and Britain after such a significant war.

I shrugged and said, "Well, I guess the British don't hold a grudge like the Koreans do!"

"Yah!" he said, nodding sagely, "very different cultures."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Young-il Toy Convention

I have been working for weeks on this lesson plan, and finally put it into the implementation stage today. The idea: an information gap activity taking place at a toy convention where manufacturers' reps are pushing their product on store buyers. The buyers have to find out about safety-testing, incentive programs, recommended ages, etc, and the ones manning the product booths have to find out about the store's price point, customer base, etc. I thought it would be more interesting for high school boys than a pretend supermarket.

I created eight booths, for eight products, along with company names and logos, product flyers and the like. It was a lot of work. Here is the booth set up:

Inexpensive, quality toys with no batteries required are tough to find here, but I managed to get eight items that I could live with, including a magnetic tangram board, a Rubik's cube in a coin bank, a doctor kit, and some plastic animal playsets in little suitcases. If I could have found some marbles, I'd have nine!

The co-teacher picks eight mature students with good English skills to man the booths; the others are given a worksheet with a unique identity, a store and a set of requirements (age range, price, etc) they are trying to fulfill. Of course, everyone has a match, if they can find it.

It's easy to catch a cheater (and there are cheaters, since they believe filling in the sheet is more important than practising English), because if "Sam Spade" interviewed at "Scientific Fun" his info will be on the manufacturer's rep. worksheet.

It went okay, but the real test is tomorrow, fifth period. There's a handful of unmotivated smart-alecks, but they often ruin it for everyone. And my co-teacher is the most inexperienced of the bunch. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another Saturday in Seoul

Usually of a Saturday, I like to go to the park, or watch a sports event, or meet with friends and drink a few beers. Yesterday, I managed all three! I mentioned earlier that I've taken to sitting on a bench at Yeouido Park and reading a book lately, since line 9 has it so convenient. I'm currently reading Life of Pi. With the cooler air moving in, I suspect there aren't a lot of such opportunities left. I took a couple pictures of the spot I choose on this trip; it's a nice oasis in the middle of Seoul's CBD:

From Yeouido, you can take line 5 to Gongdeok and transfer to line 6 heading to World Cup Stadium. Outside exit 2 is a huge amphitheatre, where usually nothing is happening. On this occasion, there seemed to be some kind of high school performance fest. One group was doing a meaningful drama as I walked by so I took a couple photos. It reminded me of a play I did in high school called "The In-Crowd":

They were followed by an all-girl drum corps which sounded pretty good, I thought:

The game ended up a 2 - 2 tie between FC Seoul and Busan I'Park. The game started at 5:00 and sitting on the east side of the stadium, the colors of the sky looked pretty amazing around dusk.

After the game, I met up with Karen and Patrick in Itaewon for some food and conversation. The original plan was to see the game together, but Patrick flew in late. We finished up late, very late, so I had to take a taxi home. Due to the late night rate, it was W18,000.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Service-uh at GS 25

Service-uh is a Korean concept usually associated with restaurants. Now, in the US, if you really enjoy a good meal with good service, you show your appreciation by leaving something called "a big tip".

Well, Korea has turned this concept totally on its head, and--since I'm not in the restaurant business--I like it. What happens is that if a patron enjoys a really good meal, drinks lots of drinks, and maybe orders some extra food, the restaurant shows its appreciation to you!

Via service-uh. Your server may appear with a plate of fresh grapes, or a free order of mandu (stuffed dumplings), or a fried egg. Before you can say, "I didn't order this," she'll smile and say, "Service-uh."

A few minutes ago, I stepped out to the nearby GS 25 convenience store for a bottle of beer. Beer comes in three bottle sizes--500 ml, 1 L, 1.6 L--and approximately three brands--Cass, Hite, and OB. Sure, there are occasional variations, like Lemon, Max, Red, and X2 or something, but the selection is limited unless you trade up to the Asahi or MGD.

I selected the Cass Light and proceeded to the counter. Long story short, well, not short exactly but maybe less long, I ended up with my beer and a bag of something that appears to be named Gu Un Yang Pa (I'm poor at Hangeul cursive, so feel free to correct me in comments--and tell me what it means). The manager smiled and said, "Service-uh."

So, along with my beer purchase, I got a free bag of chips.

Essentially, these are the Korean (Japanese, actually) version of Funyuns, with just as much fun, and maybe a little more yun, in them. So, if you like Funyuns, you'll like these even more. As for me, I'm indifferent to FunYuns, as well as, it turns out, Gu Un Yang Pa.

Oh, I'll eat 'em, but I'm grateful to have the carrot-shaped chip bag clip Greg picked up in our game of five-and-dime Shopping Spree. Who wants stale Funyuns? On the other hand, how can you tell?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Two News Updates

1) The pachyderm at Seoul Children's Grand Park zoo that was accused of knocking out a woman by throwing a stone and hitting her in the head, has been cleared of the charges. According to the story at Korea Herald, police were unable to find any witnesses to the incident, and the elephant failed to confess. The woman and the zoo came to an agreement.

The elephant Tae-San, whose name means something like form of a mountain, or a huge pile, seems to have come through the trauma largely unscathed, and is in fact something of a minor celebrity:
The news even contributed to attracting new visitors to the zoo, as people wanted to see the famous elephant, said a zoo official.
"Visitors would recognize Tae-san from television and approach the cage to have a closer look or take photographs, none of them seeming to be afraid of him," said the zoo-keeper in charge of the elephant. "We, at the zoo, are all so proud of him for holding his own after the distresses caused by the investigation."

2) My class load was light yesterday and today because of the National Student Assessment Test given to all students in elementary sixth, middle school third, and high school first grades (that's 6, 9 and 10 to you and me).

Now, we just finished our midterm exams, and I know some schools are giving their midterms next week, so I assume there are some schools out there that are interrupting their exams to give an exam.

The test has a new wrinkle in it this year, as the whole school results will be made publicly available, in order to assist rising classmen (well, their parents), in selecting a school. It is a controversial move.

The conservative Dong-A Ilbo reports on a boycott organized by teachers' and parents' groups:
The National Teachers and Educational Workers Union and several parents’ groups yesterday said they will boycott the national student assessment test, calling them a “simultaneous national test.”
The liberal union held what it called a “rally against the simultaneous national test” in central Seoul, urging the withdrawal of the test. [...]
The union said in a news release under the name of a “national coalition of civic groups against the simultaneous national test,” “We urge the government to withdraw the simultaneous national test and reconsider from scratch the release of test scores by the school,” adding, “We urge the return of fired teachers.”
The ministry, however, reconfirmed its decision to penalize schools and teachers who boycott the test and induce students to perform outdoor activities instead of taking the test.

I don't really have a problem with making the aggregate results of a school or district available. This kind of data has been available in the US for as long as I can remember, at least for those who understand how to read their child's standardized test report.

I've said before, and I'm sure I will again, that this country surely has the most testing-reliant pedagogical paradigm on the planet. And in English, at least, the most ineffectual. In eight weeks of the semester so far, we have ten days of tests and exams. And on Friday, each class will have a half-day of physical fitness testing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

End of Vacation

Well, it's back to work tomorrow for Tuttle after two weeks off thanks to exams, Chuseok and class trips. I have detailed some of the things I did in the nine entries below, but here is some other stuff I did:
  • visited the National Museum of Korea at Ichon
  • went to playoff game at Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon (Doosan wins, 4 - 1)
  • ate a steak at Outback Steakhouse in Korea for the first time (it was good, if a bit pricey)
  • met a guy who saw the fire which burned down the Crystal Palace when he was a child
  • read. A lot. I have been reading novels lately, a kind of renaissance for me. One benefit of public transport on the personal level has been the time it frees up by not having to drive to get someplace. I always have a book with me these days.

In the past two weeks I read the following books:
  • The Wings by Yi Sang - the first book printed in the "Portable Library of Korean Literature" series from Jimoondang Publishers in Seoul. Yi Sang is one of Korea's most lauded modern writers, and here is collected three of his short stories, all dealing with marriage and estrangement. Not everybody's cup of tea, but brutal honesty drips off the pages.
  • Old School by Tobias Wolff - This is the guy that wrote This Boy's Life. Set during senior year at an elite prep school in 1961, it concerns the quarterly fiction competition, the prize for which is a private audience with the school's visiting writer. It slumps in the middle with a long literary critique of Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway, though this is for important plot value. Still, it is beautifully written and truthful.
  • Photoshop Murder by Kim Young-ha - also part of the "Portable Library" series, this one includes a well-written but ultimately predictable crime story, and a somewhat better, amusing slice-of-life story about a guy who's having a bad day. He is due to make an important presentation to the board of his company (on how best to economize on toilet paper) when all the conveniences of of modern urban life suddenly become very inconvenient.
  • A Dwarf Launches a Little Ball by Cho Se-hui - from the same series. Everyone loves a good opening line: "People called Father a dwarf. They were right. Father was a dwarf. Unfortunately, people were right only about that." It tells the story one family dispossessed when their shantytown in eastern Seoul (Paradise District) is razed to make way for a high-rise apartment complex. It was written in 1976, and translated in 2002.
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff - I don't know if writing is getting better, my standards are dropping, or I've just been lucky at judging books by their covers lately, but everything I've read in the past several months has been really good. And this one may be the best of the lot. Set during the Nazi siege on Leningrad, it is the story of two youths--a looter and a deserter--spared execution in order to scavenge a dozen eggs for a Colonel's daughter's wedding cake. It takes over 300 pages to relate their four days of adventure, and I couldn't turn them fast enough. Gripping, funny, horrifying, and moving. Highly recommended.
  • The Other Side of Dark Remembrance by Lee Kyun-young - I've now read seven or eight of the Portable Library series from Jimoondang, and this is the best one yet. A Seoul salaryman wakes up in an inn in a strange part of town with no memory of how he got there. He realizes he has misplaced his satchel containing important papers for his firm. As he retraces his steps of the previous night, he gradually learns he is seeking not the papers, but clues about his past, the family from whom he was separated by the War--even his proper age. A subtle but powerful examination of the effect of the War on Korean culture.

Bonus Photograph: I had lunch at the Korean cafe when I visited the National Museum. I got kimchi jjigae dweji 김치찌개 돼지, which is kimchi stew with pork:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day Trip to Incheon

Under the advice of a couple of my coworkers, I went to Incheon today for a visit to 자유공워 (Freedom Park) and Wolmi waterfront recreation area. To get there, it's a matter of taking the Seoul line 1 train all the way to the terminus at Incheon station. Directly outside the exit (there's only one) you can't miss the gateway to Chinatown, the only such community (so I am told) in Korea.

It's a very small Chinatown, I have to say, but it makes the most of it, including this decorative trash/recycling center.

Stairs that might have led to a temple, but I'll never know. It's very hilly in Incheon, and I wasn't up for conjectural climbing.

Here are some of the pics I took in Chinatown, having fun with the camera:

You can buy lots of stuff here. I did make a purchase, a "chop" or seal with my name in hangeul. The Chinese girl typed it into the computer and the automated router did the rest, just like in the olden days.

In the middle of the main drag of Chinatown, you will find a traffic sign pointing up a massive incline (35°, honest) to Jayu kongwon, or Freedom Park. At the top of the road, have a rest at the First Missionary Memorial Park--you'll need it.

It consists of a few benches and this statuary thing, memorializing Henry Appenzeller and H.G. Underwood, founder of what became Yonsei University and author of Fifteen Years Among the Top-Knots. The Underwood family served in Korea for four generations and many are buried at the Foreign Missionary Cemetary. Oh, there's a First Missionary Memorial Cafe just around the corner.

I continued to the intersection near the top of the hill, where there was absolutely no sign directing you to Jayu Park. Not one. So I followed my instinct upward, where I found myself at the Korean Meteorological Service Incheon Station. There were no guards or anything, so I took a few pictures of the Stevenson screen and the various gauges and meters, then wandered inside.

A pair of nice young women enquired as to why I was there, and I explained. But while I'm here, I wondered, could I take a couple of pictures of Incheon from this amazing vantage point? Turns out I could, though it was clear this was a unique experience for them. They led me up a couple flights of stairs, unlocked the door, and accompanied me to the deck atop the building. Then I signed the visitor book and they directed me to Jayu Park.

Freedom Park is famous for two main things: the Korea-US Centennial Monument and the statue of US General Douglas MacArthur overlooking the site of the Incheon amphibious landing site of June 1950.

There was a little plaza in the park with a nice view of the harbor and a few concessionaires, which attract hungry visitors of the human and avian kind.

Off to one side, I found this. I have a book somewhere titled Yesterday's Tomorrows, images of what previous generations thought the future would be like--this old fellow could be the frontispiece:

Three shots of the Korea-US Centennial Monument, which recognizes 100 years of our friendship, a large angular thing with a small curvy thing in the middle:

A few shots of the MacArthur statue and its environs, which were populated by numerous older folks, possibly reliving the heady days of the war:

I made my way back down the hill and caught a bus (you can take 2, 23 or 45 from Incheon station) for Wolmido. Upon arrival in the mid-afternoon, it was kind of weird--a deserted (or nearly so) carnival is creepy.

It was a bit more populated along the waterfront, which mainly consists of seafood restaurants with Konglish names, interesting statuary, and old men with fishing poles:

Me and the West Sea. While much of the world calls it the Yellow Sea, those of us on the peninsula know better: