For Seoul, a year like no other
By Robert Koehler/Editor-in-chief, SEOUL
The year was certainly eventful. Korea lost two former presidents, one sadly way before his time. Two U.S. journalists were taken captive in North Korea, only to be dramatically released as Bill Clinton flew in to save the day. Swine flu hit Korea. Pyongyang conducted a second nuclear test.
What got expats a`talkin` - well, okay, my blog commenters a`typin` - were other issues, some no stranger to year-end lists of yesteryear. Racism in Korea. English teachers and their plight (and occasional misdeeds). Multiculturalism. Misuda.
Of course, even the "old issues" saw new developments. Lecturer Bonojit Hussain fought against racial harassment in the courts and won. English teachers have organized and are taking steps to address issues important to them.
What 2010 will bring, who can say? If the past is anything to go by, I`d be inclined to say, "much of the same." Korea is a dynamic society that is always transforming, but even here, it seems some things never change. Anyway, I wish you all the best in the year ahead. Sae hae bok mani badeuseyo.
1. Death of two ex-presidents
Roh Moo-hyun, Kim Dae-jung
Like just about everyone else, expats were both shocked and saddened by the deaths of former Korean presidents Roh Moo-hyun in May and Kim Dae-jung in August.
2. Indian professor fights
back against harassment
Prof. Bonojit Hussain of SungKongHoe University brought international attention to the issue of racism in Korea when he pressed charges against a Korean man who harassed him and a female companion on a bus in July. In November, the assailant was fined 1 million won. The case also underscored some interesting dynamics within the foreigner community itself, particularly the divide between migrant workers and Western expats.
3. English teachers strike back
at Anti-English Spectrum
Andrea Vandom, a Ph.D. student in international relations at the University of California, wrote a letter in November to NHN Corporation to complain that Anti-English Spectrum, a Korean online community that some accuse of being a hate group, violated portal site Naver.com`s terms of service. NHN didn`t do anything, but the case, even reported in the Canadian media, represented growing media attention to discrimination against foreign English teachers in Korea.
4. The Association for Teachers
of English in Korea launched
The Association for Teachers of English in Korea Teachers was officially launched in March. The first organization of its kind, ATEK was formed to promote the interests of English teachers in Korea and has been at the forefront of the fight against perceived discrimination against and misrepresentation of foreign English teachers.
5. Swine Flu!
Like most places around the world - heck, even North Korea - South Korea has had to contend with the H1N1 influenza. Korea`s foreign residents have not been immune. In fact, the disproportionately high number of English teachers among the infected early on brought yet more unwanted media attention to the community and became another major teacher talking point.
6. The iPhone changes the
mobile market in Korea
In November, the iPhone finally landed on Korean shores. It immediately became a "game changer," shaking the Korean mobile market to its core. Not that this means much to foreigners, many of whom have found it difficult to pick one up.
7. Lee Cham named head of
Korea Tourism Organization
German-born Korean citizen Lee Cham was named head of the Korea Tourism Organization in July, the first time a non-ethnic Korean has reached such a high post. Yet another interesting example of the growing multiculturalism in Korean society.
8. Journalists Laura Ling,
Euna Lee captured in N.K.
The capture in March of U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee by the North Koreans - after they`d crossed into the closed country - as well as their dramatic release was one of the biggest Korea-related news stories of 2009. One issue it raised, however, is what is the boundary between bold investigative journalism and professional and personal irresponsibility?
9. North Korea conducts
its second nuclear test
Like on my blog, I include this not because anyone around me (myself included) actually cared - heck, my post on the news only got 25 comments - but rather because I feel I should, given the international political fallout. It`s one of those odd things about Korea - what the international press takes interest in and what locals (including expats) take interest in are often very different.
10. T.V. show `Misuda`
continues its popularity
Say what you will about the show, but three years going, and it`s still got people talking. This year, we have the Vera Hohleiter controversy (August), the "Misuda" girls bashing foreign men in Korea (July) and last, but certainly not least, the "short guys are losers" uproar (November). "Misuda": Providing Endless Material for Bloggers, Since 2006.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of The Korea Herald. Read SEOUL online at http://travel01.seoulselection.com; Koehler`s blog is www.rjkoehler.com - Ed.
Busan rising from the shadows
By Bobby McGill/Managing editor, Busan Haps
BUSAN - While the long shadow of Seoul covers much of what goes on in the news, Busan manages to garner a bit of the printer`s ink from time to time. (Not to mention much more sunshine and cleaner air.) As for news of the latter, it was announced that the 32nd annual International Panel on Climate Change will come to Busan`s shores in 2010. Hosting any talk on clean air in Seoul rather than Busan would be like holding talks on sea piracy at Universal Studios rather than Somalia.
And while the famed pirate, Johnny Depp, didn`t make it into town, the Pusan International Film Festival did manage to get Josh Hartnett for a few days of Korean BBQ and polite commentary on kimchi. Otherwise it was a slow news year down here - but done so with all the markings of an emerging presence. Now if Busan could just get some music industry giant to play a gig here we might give smog central (a.k.a. Seoul) a run for its money.
While on the subject of music lets jump right into our list:
1. Busan Live: Battle of
the Bands a big success
This year saw the launch of Busan Live: Battle of the Bands. All the tickets were gone and for three straight weekends the city grooved out to a mix of Korean and expat music. Six songs, four required originals and the best band left standing.
2. English media in Busan
thrives with new mag
This year witnessed the English media boom with the launching of Busan`s first English radio station as well as Busan Haps, an independently published English magazine.
3. More people using public
In an effort to get people out of their cars, the city pushed several new transportation measures, including allowing people to bring their bikes on the subway. Public transportation use was up 28 percent on the year. I`ll stop with the cleaner air cracks now.
4. Ex-President Roh
Sadly, 2009 saw the passing of former President Roh Mu-hyun, who committed suicide while hiking in Busan. President Roh is from Gimhae, a Busan suburb, and was an inspiration to many for his Horatio Alger-like rise to the presidency.
5. Disaster flick "Haeundae"
reaches 10 million mark
More than 10 million viewers watched the big-budget title-wave-disaster-film "Haeundae" in 2009; becoming only the fifth South Korean movie to reach the milestone. Busan also held its first ever surf competition, which turned into a rowing contest for a lack of any waves. Poetic.
6. Busan hosts a sailing
comp, Ocean Forum
In a move to highlight its coastal resources (waves not withstanding), Busan hosted the International Women`s Match Race sailing competition, as well as the 2009 World Ocean Forum.
7. Fire kills tourists
in shooting range
On another down note, a fire killed 15 people at an indoor shooting range in Busan - including several Japanese. The central government has since beefed up safety protocols to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
8. The largest mall in
Asia opens for business
Shinsege Department Store opened in March of 2009, billed as the largest mall in Asia. I have gotten lost in there twice, so I am not one to dispute the claim.
9. The great exodus
from beautiful Busan
Busan`s increasingly low birthrate was in the news, along with the worrisome statistic that over 200 people leave Busan everyday for Seoul. Most of those being 20-somethings. According to a recent report, Busan`s population will shrink from the current 3.5 million to 3.3 million by 2015. It was 3.8 million when I first visited Korea in 2002. Rumor has it that of those that have left, 76.4 percent are now stuck in traffic - in Seoul.
10. Billions for Oncheon
River, walking path
In a move to encourage outdoor recreation, the city poured billions of won into restoring the Oncheon River as well as creating a new walking path along the coast.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of The Korea Herald. Read the Busan Haps at www.busanhaps.com - Ed.