Friday, June 27, 2008

Korean TV commercials

Hey. It's been 3 months since I updated. It has been a while, and I've been quite busy. I have a few stories to tell you all, but right now, what's important is for me to tell you about the awesomeness of Korean TV commercials.

Some commercials are pretty straightforward. It's easy to get. Others however, I don't know what the hell is going on or I'm deeply touched by the aesthetics and overall feeling of the commercial, then I get a Korean to translate them for me and then it's ruined.

Obvious commercials:
Obvious 1
Obvious 1.5
If you don't understand it 100%, be sure to see the Tell Me Music video in the link to the left. It was shown around Christmas. If you can't understand what product they're pushing, then stop taking whatever drugs you're on, they're seriously fucking you up.

Obvious 2
I don't want to ruin the surprise of soju, but I doubt any of you will ever come to Korea and be graced with soju. It's hard liquor. The kind of high quality stuff that the Japanese thought was unfit for consumption, so they only used it for cleaning weapons. Oh! And it's Korea's national drink. If you go into a restaurant, you're expected to buy soju. The woman in the commercial is Lee Hyori. She is my new celebrity crush.

I stole an advertising poster of her in a druken stupor. The whole night I would yell to people (in Korean of course) "It's Lee Hyori". I would get laughs from younger people and looks of hatred from older people (by that I mean the taxi cab drivers).

Obvious 3
Dunkin Donuts commercial. Not sure what they're saying, but it's obvious to know what they're selling.

Somewhat intriguing/awesome commercials that can get ruined:
Special 1
It's not the exact commercial that they show on Korean TV. This one has more information and less of the beautiful crying woman. I found out what the commercial was about by finding this on youtube. Only semi-ruined. If someone can tell me the name of the song, in the background, let me know. I will anticipate a post from someone and state that I am very well aware it's a French song.

Special 2- commercial that I can't find on youtube.
I will describe: Two Koreans, a young Korean man (YKM) and a beautiful young Korean woman (henceforth BYKW) in their early to mid twenties. They're outside at night and they're both facing a campfire that's slowing burning out with the sound of crickets in the background. There are a lot of stars in the sky and trees around them.

YKM looks shy and says something, he obviously has a crush on her.
BYKW say a very short response with a confused look on her face.
YKM looks embarrased, lost for words, says a response, almost expecting to be turned down and laughed at.
BYKW turns to him and smiles (absolutely gorgeous smile) and says something very very short, 3 words.

They both start laughing and they start getting closer to snuggle. Cue beautiful music. Sufficient to say, visually it's very touching.

Here's the explanation I got for the dialog and a bit from what I can understand. It's not exact, but enough to have pissed me off.
YKM: Do you believe love can be ("split" or "shared", not sure which one)?
BYKW: what?
YKM: It's just that (I can't make out the rest, and the Korean person was vague on the rest)
BYKW: It doesn't matter (or "I disagree", not sure which one), we have a BC card that we can share!

BC card is a credit card. Moral: the key to getting a woman is to give her access to your credit card...

Special 3
I hate this commercial with the passion of 1000 suns. It's a jeans commercial. What is she screaming you ask?

Lyrics (as far as I can tell):
It's very good.
It's being good.
It's good, It's good, it's good, it's good.
(this line is something, I only understand "bang bang")
It's good.
(next line in English)
Move and move, bang bang.

The jeans company is called bang bang. Imagine hearing this commercial once every 10 minutes you watch tv. Now you understand my pain.

That's it for now. I'm certain I'm missing some, but I'll add more later.

I almost forgot to put up some links to some awesome Korean music videos.

Won Ji Eun - Adios. Korean hip-hop. I think my friend JF said it best when he said: "It's hard to be afraid of these guys, they look like they should be engineers". Well everyone, here in Korea, nothing is more badass than an electrical engineer.
Epik High - One. The first time I saw this video, I was confused that this is acceptable in socially ultra-conservative, riot prone Korea. I haven't heard of any objections.
Wondergirls - So Hot. A student is teaching me the dance. Saturday is the big night when I get to show my moves to Korean women.

I found this video on youtube. Yes, it's a commercial by Lee Hyori. Have fun watching it.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The jimjilbang

I went out last weekend with some friends. We had a normal Saturday night near Hungik University, which is my favorite drinking spot. After drinking, we decided to stay in a jimjilbang.

I've been avoiding going to jimjilbangs. They are probably one of the biggest differences between Western and Korean cultures. Every Westerner goes to one eventually, but the first experience is always very awkward.

It's a bathhouse, and people usually go there after a night of drinking and spend the night there. There's a men's only floor, a women's only floor, and communal areas. The communal areas will have everything: Saunas, restaurants, and a huge heated floor where people go and sleep on during the night. Usually people will go to a jimjilbang after drinking and get up in the morning and head home.

The men and women's only section is a bathhouse, a shower and a steam room. Everyone's walking around butt naked. So imagine if you will, walking into a room at 6 am with a friend barefoot and seeing naked men in a changeroom sleeping naked. You're handed some clothes to wear and a locker key. To get to your locker, you have to walk over naked men. There's also one man who might be masturbating and another one who puts his thumb in his foreskin.

My friend fell asleep somewhere, and I couldn't find him, so I fell asleep somewhere else and we met up the next morning. We hit up a Sauna, and then hit up Seoul. I don't think we'll ever talk about the place again, although we'll probably both go to a jimjilbang again separately.

The next morning we went around Seoul and saw a palace. Right now isn't the best time to go, but it will be nice soon enough I'm sure. While walking about Seoul we got to see some people dancing in green. The Korean girl that was with us told us about the election that's taking place next week.

So we were lucky to see people campaigning for the Korean equivalent of the House of Commons (or Congress for those Americans out there). Rather than say what they wanted to do, they were trying to gardener votes with happy pictures and people giving thumbs up and dancing. I just had to laugh and wondered if we do anything quite as entertaining to a foreigner during elections.

I just thought that learning about a candidate's policies with singing and dancing was like learning about the Bible from this game. (I'm a big fan of Noah and Jesus)

I'm heading out to Japan in a few days for a short visit. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone in Japan and having real sushi. I'll let you all know how it goes.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Hey, it's Easter right now, so I want to wish you all a Happy Easter.

This is a warning post to anyone who wants to live abroad

This is a post not so much about culture shock, but more about being away from friends and family. I was fine for Thanksgiving, we had a party in a park in Japan. My birthday and Christmas were good too. I hung out with friends and Christmas day I ate some food at another friend's house. (On a side note, usually my birthday is overshadowed by Christmas, so hanging out with friends on my birthday was awesome) However this easter, nothing was planned. It also occurred that I haven't been home in 6 months and hadn't heard any familiar voices from back home in quite a while.

I won't go into much more details, but it involved me freaking out, having to run to an PC bang (a room where you have time on a computer), looking up phone numbers of friends and family online, putting their phone numbers in my phone and then going back to the bar and trying to call as many people in Canada as I could. I only managed to speak to one person, because I had problems with my phone, but speaking to someone from Canada made all the difference.

When you're surrounded by people, 90% of whom you can't speak to, and another 9.5% of them have foreign accents, it kind of strikes a cord that you're really far away from home.

It would have happened in Japan, Korean, Finland or any other country. I was drinking at the time, but the alcohol wasn't the biggest factor. In fact, I don't think it was a factor at all. I think a freak out of this kind happens to most people, probably everyone and for some reason I thought I was immune to it.

Now I'm going to lighten up the mood. This is a video from an American comedy troupe. They look Korean, so they're probably Korean American. What makes the video especially funny is the accent. I thought they were exaggerated when I watched it, then I went out for dinner with a Korean and I couldn't help but laugh because he actually spoke like this. It is a fairly accurate depiction of the Korean accent. It's alright to laugh. They're swearing in Korean. The accent is very Korean.

Have fun on easter!

EDIT: Watching the video again, I've come to decide that the one with a hat on looks Korean, the other one doesn't so much...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More updates from Korea

Korea is alright. Spring is arriving, there's no snow anymore, but now I've been introduced to something quite exciting about Korea. It's called yellow dust here, but wikipedia is nice enough to call it Asian dust. It's basically sand from northern China and Kazakhstan that's picked up and blown around in Asia. It also has pollution, viruses and bacteria! So it's been breathed in by people in Asia, hooray!

I haven't seen it yet, but yesterday was suppose to have some in the air. It occurs every 5 days or so, for the next two months. I'm contemplating buying a ps3 to pass the time... they're cheaper in Korea and the games are in English and Japanese.

On other good news: I can finally speak a bit of Korean. Enough to do simple tasks, make full sentences and I can only get better at the language. I'm also reading Korean fairly quickly.

And for all of you, more K-pop! This is Jewelry (a remake, but with lyrics in Korean and English mixed!), this is Girl's generation and another video by them. And for kicks, a romance song.

I'm a big nerd, so I loved the second Girl's Generation video for one reason, and one reason alone: Princess Leia buns.

I'm heading back to Japan for a visit soon. I'm looking forward to see some cherry blossoms and some friends.

Kissing you all my love,


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Panmunjeom Madness!

A weeks ago, I was lucky enough to meet up with friends who were visited from Japan. I meet up with them on Sunday night. We went drinking in Seoul, went for Galbi (the greatest food ever!) and drank some more. We went to a wonderful bar where the guy's washroom had a door, 3 walls, and a shower curtain as a fourth wall. Beyond the shower curtain was the streets. So if you were to push back the shower curtain, you would see the road. You could also hear people talking while peeing.

There was also a moment where I drank too much and started dancing in the middle of the bar. "Paul being drunk and dancing isn't anything new" you might say, until you realize I'm talking about this dance.

I also met up with them two days later to go to Panmunjeom. It's basically the place where North and South Korean officials meet. You know, that famous stretch where there are North Koreans with binoculars looking into the South getting ready to shot at any moment and South Koreans in Taekwondo stance at all times in case any North Koreans rush the border. I actually crossed the border into North Korea while in the building where the two sides meet.

There were 6 English speakers, myself, three friends and a Dutch couple, and the rest of the bus and the entire other bus were Japanese tourists. This was my first contact with Japanese people since I left Japan. I just have to say that they completely rock. I miss Japanese people a lot, but I will continue making the best of the situation and take advantage of being in Korea.

After seeing the room where the two sides meet, we were brought to a tour to see into North Korea. We were talking about a tour on the other side of us, and I did the error of pointing. Evidentially, pointing is one of those things that can get you shot at Panmunjeom. From the front, it looks like I could be holding a pistol. The tour guide started yelling at me, because she was afraid of getting shot at or something. I also scarred some Japanese girls, who got scarred when the tour guide started yelling. I turned to them, said "sumimasen", to which they looked absolutely suprised, turned to each other and kept on saying "sumimasen" to each other and giggled.

We saw some other places along the DMZ, and we even saw propaganda village. For those of you who don't know, it's a fully built village where the North Koreans blast propaganda very loudly. No one actually lived there. But unfortunately, they stopped doing that in 1992, and people actually live there now.

We then did a second tour, the one where we explore the tunnels that were dug under south Korea in the 70's, 20 years after the ceasefire between the countries. Evidentially the North Koreans were looking for coal, and happened to be going towards Seoul. Oh, there's also the technicality that where they were blasting, there was no coal, it was all granite... There was granite painted black too to make it look like coal.

We also got to see into North Korea. It wasn't the best day, we didn't see the massive Kim Il Sung statue. We also saw the train station in the DMZ. It has the same sign as other subway stations, with a sign indicating that it will continue to Pyongyang.

So that's my fun I had in Panmunjeom. I went out that night with my friends from Japan. We went from bar to bar and I crashed at the hostel. I said goodbye to my friends as they left for Japan, and I went to work.

I drank so much the night before that I wasn't speaking loud in class. My students were actually quiet that day. They knew I was in pain. And the next day was what makes teaching in Asia hilarious: My ten year old students made fun of me for getting too drunk the night before.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


(Actually published March 7th, 2008)

Hey everyone. It's been a while, but I do have something to tell you all about. A month ago I was in Shanghai for Chinese New Years. I went with my friends from Japan Laurence and Lindsay. We arrived in China on February 6th (New Year's Eve) and returned to Korea on the 10th.

The flight was uneventful, and we had some directions to get the hostel. We took the bus, and I got my first introduction to China. On the bus, no one spoke English except for the woman who was selling tickets. There was an old man singing in a Chinese language, and it was actually quite interesting. His pitch kept on changing, which makes sense given that the Chinese languages are tonal, but it was very different to hear it.

Driving into Shanghai, I was surprised to see that the city itself is actually quite green. There's a lot of green space and it was impressive.

Once we got closer to downtown Shanghai, there were fireworks going off. It was still night, so I didn't get a good look at Shanghai at that point. We eventually got to the train station, and took the subway to our hostel.

Shanghai has an awesome subway system. It's fast, cheap and not crowded (by Asian city standards). We got a little lost looking for the hostel, but found it eventually.

We met some people at the hostel, and wanted to look for a bar. Unfortunately, everything near our hostel was closed and there were no taxi cabs in sight. We walked around for a while looking for a place to eat and drink. Meanwhile, fireworks were going off everywhere, non-stop. We stopped by a street vendor, and bought some fireworks from them.

We walked around for a long time, and then we met up with two Dutch guys and an American that were staying at our hostel. They were learning Mandarin in Beijing and could communicate with some people, which was a huge help. We went from bar to bar in Shanghai. Fireworks were still going off constantly in the background.

We ended up going to a bar called Babyface, and arrived at midnight. When we arrived, the bouncers started to get people away from the entrance of the dance club. They were setting off fireworks in probably the largest display of fireworks I've ever seen. It went off for 5 minutes. There were, of course, other fireworks going off nearby.

Inside was fun. We kept on buying full vodka bottles, and I met a Japanese guy and started using my Japanese skills on him. He was a nice guy, and I gave him my Japanese cell phone number. When we left the bar at 4 am, there were still fireworks. That night we got up several times to the sound of fireworks. That is to say, there were a lot of fireworks.

The next day we hit up downtown Shanghai. It was fun. The first thing to note about Shanghai is that it's so futuristic it will make Japan look like a third world country. We also went in a tunnel that went under the river in Shanghai. It was really trippy. Worth doing, even though it was a complete rip off.

We went to bed early that second day because we had big plans for the third day. We went to a river village. Basically, it's a traditional Chinese village. It's described as China's Venice. It was really beautiful. It has boats with people paddling it themselves and some Chinese buildings. It was quite the tourist trap, but the best shop was far from the tourist shops. It was a tiny house with a woman painting inside. She had beautiful pictures posted on the wall. I took a look around and decided to buy something. I now have authentic Chinese art, and it's awesome.

We went back home and drank in our hostel that night. Played some drinking games and learned probably the greatest new rules for Kings. You will all have to wait until you play with me before you learned the awesomeness of the new rules (Viking is my favorite).

So the next day, our last full day in Shanghai, we hit up places around Shanghai. We saw a part called Old Town, which was fantastic. It was packed, and once again, a tourist trap, but it had Chinese lanterns overhead and beautiful architecture. We walked around, and I bought my very own Mao clock! That's right everyone, my very own made in China clock. Now, this may come as a surprise to a lot of you, but it's actually a piece of shit. I would never have equated made in China with cheap crap! It doesn't even keep time accurately.

While leaving Old Town, we got lost. We wound up in a poor part of Shanghai and it was interesting to walk around there. Houses looked really bad on the outside, but one thing I noticed was that there was air conditioning units in some of the windows... definetely a stranger sight of China.

We then went to Qibao. The place was awesome! It was another ancient part of Shanghai. There were small shops, it was packed, and we ate weird Chinese food. Everything was packed. Not so much of a touristy spot, although there were still shops here and there. Definitely worth seeing if you're in Shanghai.

Our last night, we went drinking again. I made a new friend from Hong Kong, and got his e-mail address, so I might drop him a line when I go to visit. The next morning, I got up early and saw a Chinese Buddhist temple. It's been interesting to see how different they are in Japan, Korea and China. I think the Chinese temples were the most beautiful.

We left China later that day. Shanghai was awesome. A nice city, with nice people, cheap food, and gorgeous women. Definitely worth a visit at least once, and definitely a good place to live (if you can live under a dictatorship that suppresses speech).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Meeting up with the Japan crew

It has been almost two months that I've been in Korea, which means that I've been in Korea as long as I've been in Japan. I will write a post soon about the differences between Japan and Korea for all of you who were curious.

Last night, I got to see the people who came with me to Korea from Japan. We met in Seoul and went for a fun night of drinking and dancing. It started off with meeting up with one friend in a part of town called Gangnam. We went to a bookstore, met a nice Vancouver woman and talked about traveling in Japan. She told us about a casino where they only let in foreigners, and they feed you and give you free alcohol. It sounds like a perfect way to spend a day.

Afterwards we went to meet up with our other friends. From there we went to a nice bar that was really chill. It was probably the best pub/bar I've been in. We then went to another area that's near the universities in Seoul.

First we hit up a bar that was a dance club at the same time. Very loud music, packed , but it had a nice mix of Koreans and foreigners. Most places have far too many Koreans or too many foreigners.

After a few drinks, one guy and I decided to introduce ourselves to some people. So we found 3 foreign girls. We started talking to them, and the conversation went a little like this:

Me: Hey, where are you from?
Girls: She's from Latvia and we're from Germany.
Me (in German): Pleasure to meet you, what brings you to Korea?
Girls (English): Our parents work here. We go to school here.
Me: High school or university?
Girls: High school.
Me: How old are you girls?
Girls: 17.

At this point, my friend looked at me with confusion, I laughed and walked away. Lesson for today: Rather than ask a girl her age when she's told you that she goes to high school, say goodbye.

After that bar, we went to a bar called M2. This is where the university students go. It's basically like 'Chez Dagobert' in Quebec city, but with Koreans instead of French girls, smaller, and with more people. So we went to the front, because that's what you do at a club. There was a sea of Koreans. It was kind of mesmerizing, but you can't have alcohol if you're at the front. They're quite anal about it. I guess I was just spoiled by sketchy Kingston bars where you could leave your bottle or cup anywhere.

After that, we left to go sleep. I got to sleep on the floor, which was awesome, except I didn't have a pillow.

I need more nights like that in Seoul. It was actually lots of fun.