Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Japan part 2


OK, so after a helluva weekend partying it up in Tokyo, in need of
rest and reprieve, I head for Kyoto, Japans cultural capital.

Kyoto: This city is what you think when you think "Japan"; temples and
pagodas and ancient wooden buildings,
as well as geishas and maikos (apprentice geishas) hobbling down the
streets somehow looking demure and
elegant despite the humidity and heat. Their makeup must make a good
sunblock. There are great shopping areas
and restaurants along picturesque canals, stone bridges and rivers,
where couples would walk or sit with at night.

One thing that is annoying about Japan is "Table Charges" which could
be $3 to $6 upwards. This means they will provide you with some sort
of small side dish, and water, which isn't really much. So it sucks
when you're looking for a meal thats around that price range alone.

They say its not that easy to see geishas walking around as they tend
to come out in the evening around small alleyways walking to their
homes or in fancy restaurants behind the scenes in private functions
for the excessively rich. However I was lucky enough to get lost
wandering the city at night to see one walk past me. Was tempted to
ask for a photo but thought that would be disrespectful. On the other
hand, continuing the walk home I had two mischevious looking maiko's
giggling past me, and then one of them blew me a kiss! Too stunned and
embarrassed to respond, I walked quickly away. Not sure if that was
unusual or they are trained to play with men's minds. Oh well.

A few days in Kyoto, then I head off to Hiroshima.

Hiroshima: I think that if I was to compile a list of cities that
people must visit in the world, Hiroshima would be one of them. It's
amazing to visit a city that was destroyed only over 60 years ago by
the first Atom bomb used in war (out of two) and changed the world
forever. It was so sad when you think it was unneccesary (Japan was
pretty much defeated anyway, especially with the Soviets planning a
secret pact with the Allies against them to take place a few months
later anyway. But the US wanted to win the war without the Soviets to
have some advantage over them. They choose Hiroshima out of several
other cities (including Kyoto and Tokyo), because of its military
function and because there were no Americian POW held there compared
with the other choices. And also because it would be easier to measure
the power of their new weapon there. In the end, mostly civilians died
as well as many Koreans and Chinese who were forced labour. Seeing
photos of the aftermath, stories and exhibits of people burning, skin
melting, people jumping in the river and drowning, is truely
horrifying and moving to see. A perfect example of the horrors of war
and how evil we can be.

Peace Park has the iconic A-Dome building, which is the only building
left in the ruined condition it was after the bombing (others were
destroyed and cleared). It is a clear testament to what occured in the
city, which is now a fairly modern city, set out in grid format (since
they could plan the whole city from scratch), with the usual shops,
malls and drinking places. It's hard to imagine anything so horrific
happened there as life goes on as normal here. So it's good they kept
this to remind people.

The children's memorial is also quite moving. Many of you know the
story of the girl who was diagnosed with leukemia 10 years after the
bombing, and believing that folding 1000 paper cranes will grant her
the wish to get better, set off on that task. She completed it but
still died soon after. Today, children all over Japan who visit come
to pay respects to her and others who suffered like her, bringing with
them thousands of colorful paper cranes, some chained, some arranged
as a mosaic poster about peace.

I was a little surprised how little attention was paid to the
epicentre, the exact place where the A-bomb detonated 600m above.
Looking up, it was a perfectly clear sunny day, the exact same
conditions that the bombing took place. Today, what was once a place
for the hospital is now an ordinary car park building; the only sign
is a small plaque mentioning it as the epicenter. Perhaps the people
don't want to really remember it?

Anyway, I head back to Kyoto for one more day before heading to Osaka
for my last night before flying home. It has been an awesome
allrounded trip, from the vibrant life, fashion and energy in Osaka
and Tokyo, to the historic ancient temples, shrines and traditions of
Kyoto and Nara, and the horrors of how it could all be destroyed in

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Japan part 1


Here lies the tale of my first week in my two week trip in Japan..

I arrive in Osaka after a long flight on Jetstar (budget flight) late
at night. The culture shock wasnt that great because alot of Japan
reminds me of Korea but with few differences. Anyway as usual, my
first few hours in a new country always goes awry and I find myself
lost running around dark alleyways filled with bikes (Japanese seem to
use them alot here) until eventually a convenience store worker left
his post and walked me to the hostel I was looking for. Not before he
got lost himself though.

Anyway, Osaka is a nice place to go shopping (they have the longest
street mall in the world, at 2.5km long). Theres a nice castle and
several department stores, and a famous riverside area of shops and
restaurants called dotonbori, which is extravagently lit up with neon
lights, massive advertising and models of all manner of sea creatures,
some mechanical, stuck above restaurants serving the live real version
of it below. And some famous mechanical clown banging a drum. (but
they dont serve him).

What I liked the most about Osaka is the food, particulary the street
food (budget traveller that I am). Osaka is famous for takoyaki
(octopus pieces in a batter ball, covered with sauce and fishy flakes
from some animal), and okonomiyaki (which i:ve only just been able to
pronounce, its a type of flour pancake mixed with vegetables and
seafood, egg and or pork, cooked on a hotplate in front of you, and
good with beer).

I caught a train to Nara, former traditional capital of Japan, only an
hour away. Nara is mostly a parkland filled with temples, trees and
lots and lots of tame deer that would come up to you if you had food
and sleep around all day. The grandest thing here is the Todaiji
temple, which is apparently the largest wooden building in the world
(and its reconstructed form is currently 2/3rds of its original size
after the original burnt down in a fire). In any case it is still
massive, and a massive bronze buddha inside to match.

I took the express (shinkansen) train to Tokyo. It took 3 hours and
would have cost a fortune if I didn:t have my 7 day Japan Rail pass
(which also cost a fortune, but allows unlimited travel on Japan Rail
lines for 1 week). Anyway, I go to the Asakusa area, which is the old
area north east of Tokyo, to find the hostel and to check out the
largest temple in the city there and walk around the stores still
selling traditional wares as they did for centuries.

I met some people at the hostel and we went for sushi (and saw a large
cockcroach on the wall after finishing, yummy!), then visited Tokyo
tower at night which is exactly like the Eiffel tower. We then walked
down the Roppongi area, south west of Tokyo, which is a expat and
westerner hotspot for drinking and clubbing and being foreign.

Wanting something less westernised, we head to Ginza, in central
Tokyo, and find a bar selling cheap drinks and filled with Japanese
people. The Japanese people were quite happy to drink with us - at
one point we started a spontaneous arm wrestling match (we won in the
end). We ended up back in Asakusa where we joined another group of
Japanese for Karoake until 7am.

A few hours later (12pm), I wake up and, not wanting to waste my time
here, head for Akihabara, other wise known as Electric town, just
north of central Tokyo. Its a good place to play with new gadgets and
computers, and also check out the girls dressed as french maids
handing out brochures to their `maid cafes` where you get served
coffee and food from them, play games or conversation for a price, and
nothing more than that.

After taking some photos of them in a way that could be considered
stalker-ish, I head of to the youth culture area of Shibuya!

Shibuya (west of central Tokyo) is where young people come to see and
be seen. The latest trends and fashions begin and end here; the
streets are like a series of catwalks where girls parade their stuff.
It also happens to be the setting for a game on my Nintendo DS, so I
had to excitedly compare the real with the virtual. Yes im such a
nerd. Anyway, after taking more photos of shibuya and the fashion
trends that happened to be worn by very attractive girls, (cause
clearly i:m so into fashion, right?), I delve deeper into their
subconcious and find myself in Harajuku, north of Shibuya, a famous
area where youths disillusioned with life and filled with teenage
angst flock to dressed up in what can be described as mangaesque
gothic lolita style costumes, a way to escape reality and live a
fantasy life, and be photographed and admired, before heading back
home to the humdrums of normal teenage life.

Content with my camera full of photos of girls - i mean examples of
japanese youth and pop culture - i head back to the hostel, where i am
dragged out again for another night of mayhem - back to shibuya - into
one of the famous clubs in Tokyo. Unfortunetly named `womb`, this club
was 4 floors of awesome drum and bass, electronic trance, and oddly
enough, latin style rock.

Again, I got back to the hostel at 7:30am, and slept until 12pm. We
all went back to Harajuku to see the harajuku youths dressed in
costumes again, and into yoyogi park nearby to check out the
rockabilly boys - men of all ages dressed in leather with greased
slick hair and rebellious attitudes, dancing to Elvis style rock and
roll. They were kinda fearsome and yet also hilarious to watch.

Further in the park, was a multitude of rock and ballad bands and
buskers all playing within a few feet of each other - amazingly no one
drowned out or clashed with the other bands - it worked seamlessly.

I then dashed off to meet with an Aussie friend I met in Korea, who is
now teaching English in Tokyo. He met me in Shinjuku, north of
harajuku, and is an area known for business, entertainment, and
sleaze. He took me to a Japanese style bar and got me drunk enough to
try raw horse meat sashimi - which actually tastes pretty good, and
skewered organs, which doesnt.

To be continued...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hong Kong and Macau

So after Singapore with it's food and shops, I went up to Hong Kong...
with all it's food and shops... hmm..

Anyway, my first impression of Hong Kong was "Ah what a dump!" Which
is not really fair for Hong Kong seeing I decided to stay for 5 nights
at a place in the Kowloon side called ChungKing Mansions.


ChungKing Mansions is a big seedy building wedged between nicer hotels
and affluent buildings. It is a kind of sore spot in the famous Golden
Mile Road (a long road full of neon signs and department stores and
expensive hotels). Although I hated staying there, I kinda liked it's
raw unique in-your-face character. In this place you'd find all sorts
of strange and unusual characters and vagrants, hear stories about
dead bodies, bloodstains on walls, ghosts and disappearances, and
other kinds of oddities. Indeed, my room featured torn wallpaper, and
strange switches that seemingly had no purpose (or a random
combination of which would turn on the hot water). We had a cable TV
which I fidgeted with until it worked (I'm sure we're not supposed to
use it), and for some reason, two outdoor floodlights connected to the
wall (but didn't work. But why are they there?!!) We also had the
tiniest shower/toilet in the hallway seperated from everyone by a
see-through glass door - which meant that anyone who showered there
would not only be pressed against the door, but can be seen by people
who walk past. I still have bad images burned in my brain of distorted
anatomy from what I saw walking past.

Anyway, a little depressed about my first impression of Hong Kong,
thank god I was able to meet up with Marie (who I was with in
Singapore), who also came to Hong Kong for a day on route back to
Korea. Even though she was sick, she still helped me find the hostel
(it was in a different building block from the reception - and the
reception didn't even have a sign!), showed me cool places to eat
(street dim sum yay!), and introduced me to the largest light and
sound show in the world, known as the "Symphony of Lights". This
involves laser beams dancing from buildings from the Hong Kong Island
side over the river to the sound of cheesy classical music every night
for 30 minutes. The view of the Hong Kong skyline in lights is one of
the most beautiful I have ever seen.

Afterwards, we walked along the Avenue of the stars, which is similar
to Hollywoods hand prints in ground by famous actors place, except
here it was just Asian celebrities such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li,
Stephen Chow, and others i'm not Asian enough to have heard of.

Hong Kong consists of 3 parts, the rich businessy hilly Hong Kong
Island which has a very british feel and design, the rough asian
Kowloon mainland side which I was staying in, and the peaceful Lantau

I prefered the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, as it was full of street
food vendors (I lived on dim sum for $1.50 a dish), night markets
selling pretty much everything, from gold fish to adult toys, and
department stores (which were my source of public toilets, seeing that
in Hong Kong, decent public toilets are so hard to find!)

I actually went and bought myself two tailored suits, as Hong Kong is
one of the cheapest and best places to have one made. I got them quite
cheaply too and was impressed with their quality. If anyone wants a
tailored suit I can surely recommend a place. :)

In Hong Kong Island, they have some affluent stylish drinking areas,
an old temple, and the longest outdoor escalator in the world (800m
long, heading uphill as most of Hong Kong Island is on a steep slope.
Thats about it. Well there was a tram going to the peak of Hong Kong
Island to witness amazing views, but I never went due to the poor
visibility of the cloudy misty weather.

Lantau Island is a cool place to relax, because of its giant bronze
buddha on mountain top thang, and if you are willing to walk into the
wilderness a bit, a peaceful quiet area called Wisdom path, which
features a series of tall sticks in the middle of nowhere in a figure
8 stating something called the heart sutra. There was also a monastery
where you could eat vegetarian food prepared by the monks. The
portions were huge but nothing spectacular (they're monks, not

I wasn't alone in my travels, as I was fortunete enough to meet a cool
Swiss girl named Leila, who was seemingly the only other normal person
in the whole hostel. Together we went to Macau, which is a 1hr ferry
ride away.

Macau is a place more well known for its over the top kitsch casinos
(over 20 i think on a small area), but I was more interested in its
Portugese history (as it was formally a Portugese colony - and
Portugal is one of my favorite countries). Macau failed to dissapoint
- you can tell the influence of the Portugese by its beautiful tiled
pavements, aculejo tiles, stylish colorful buildings and the food
(custard tarts). I also noticed the large divide of rich vs poor, with
old decayed buildings with clothes being hung outside on barbed wire
on one side of the road, and expensive boudoirs, fancy cars and
department stores on the other side of the road. Somehow it all works.

Anyway, after 5 days in Hong Kong it was time to head home (via
singapore and laksa at an exclusive club my sister belongs to).

So thats about it for now. In July I'm headed for Japan, so until
then, keep in touch y'all!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Hey all,

So, after having gone back to Melbourne to study teaching and live
with my Korean girlfriend Sammy, three weeks later and i'm overseas
again! :) Guess I can't stay put for too long these days. This time
it's just a week in Singapore followed by a week in Hong Kong.

Anyway, I arrived in Singapore with images of old rickety boats and
seedy characters on decrepit piers and wooden walkways in an old dirty
port city as characterised from the movie "Pirates of the Carribean
3". Clearly I should do my research and not rely on pop culture, for
Singapore is far from that.

Singapore is a very humid hot city (as it sits on the equator), filled
with shopping malls, food centres and restaurants, and lots of
vegetation. This makes the city quite clean and pleasant if not for
the oppressive heat! They say Singapore has two climates: the hot
humid outdoors, and the freezing cold air conditioned buildings
inside. I'm surprised people don't get sick from the constant change
of environments.

It is pretty much illegal to do anything here, from bringing in drugs,
to eating on the subway, to chewing gum! That's why you have tshirts
calling Singapore the "Fine" City (Fine as in penalty for doing

Singapore I'm told is also very family orientated city, as there are
lots of facilities and activities where families can happily live and
spend quality time together on the beaches, east coast, shopping malls
and the famed Singapore zoo. In fact, as I was staying at my sister's
apartment with her husband and two kids (first time I saw my 2yo
niece, awww so cute!), the first place they took me to see as a family
outing was indeed the zoo.

The Singapore Zoo is reputed to be one of the best in the world, and
for good reason, since it is very well designed - bars and cages are
rare, instead there are wooden walkways through open enclosures where
you feel you're actually getting quite up close to the animals. The
place is more green with vegetation and waterways than modern style
concrete and steel structures. The environment is very natural.

I met up with Marie and Beckaroo (two friends I worked with in Korea)
in Orchard road, which is a mecca for shoppers since it is lined with
department stores. Marie also introduced us to a local friend called
Suresh, who was nice enough to drive us around places and give us the
grand tour of Singapore.

Over the week we explored Chinatown (i'm told that it's a little
strange that a country with 70% of the population being Chinese, that
there is a Chinatown in the city!), Little India (which was a little
dirty and seedy - i've heard the real India is worse), Sentosa Island
(which is a beach Island and resort area off the Singapore mainland
which we accessed through a cable car enabling lovely views of the
construction work around us). We also looked around the riverside
exploring the clean quays with pastel coloured buildings and affluent
bars and restaurants. I imagine the movie "Pirates of the Carribean"
would not have had the same effect if it was represented this way. We
also did a lot of shopping around all the huge malls (actually Marie
did the shopping, I mainly did the tagging along looking bored kinda
thing that guys generally do when dragged to shopping malls).

I ate alot of food here (as it was a welcome respite from all the
shopping). I tried the famous Chilli Crab, Black Pepper Crab, Stingray
(as revenge for what it did to the Crocodile Hunter), Laksa (a yummy
seafood and rice noodle dish in a light spicy coconut soup) and
various versions of noodles, rice and curries. Yep, Singapore is
definitely an awesome place to eat. Its not too expensive and has a
great variety of dishes as it is virtually a meeting place of
cultures. Alcohol is very expensive though :(

I also tried a singapore sling, which is a famous cocktail, sweet with
cherry and pineapple and other spirits. We chose not to try it at the
original location of Raffles Hotel, as I heard their version is
expensive, premixed and not the genuine version anymore. I actually
thought I was clever when I came up with a great pick up line, go up
to the counter next to your intended victim and say "would you like a
singapore fling?" Never tried it though as I'm sure Sammy would not
be impressed.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Final Thoughts on Korea

So, here I am with my last email on Korea and my travels (for now).
I'm quite sad to leave Korea.. it's been a interesting and fun
1.8years of my life. Life is full of chapters, and this one is about
to close. I don't think things would be the same if I came back, with
different characters, people and experiences. This doesn't mean i'm
regretful of my decision to leave, but that I'm just sad to go while
things are so great here. Quit while you're ahead I guess..



From my experiences so far, South Korea is like the Portugal of
Europe. Mainly overlooked by it's more popular neighbours (China,
Japan, Taiwan and Russia), Korea is a peninsula covered with many
forests, mountain ranges, and small village towns full of old people.

Korean people differ from the Japanese in that they are more
emotional, honest, outgoing, and individualistic. They can also be
depressed, hot tempered and introverted. When you first meet a Korean,
they tend to be shy and reserved, but once you get to know them, they
become the nicest people you'll ever meet. The Japanese tend to cover
their real feelings and thoughts, which means you never know if they
really like you or not. Koreans would just be blunt and tell you what
they think.

Living in Korea sometimes feels like living in 18th century England in
terms of etiquette and social conduct. People respect their elders,
they also bow to each other in greeting and farewell or when walking
by (even to complete strangers). Women are still treated differently
and unequally, though things are rapidly changing. Homosexuality is
unacceptable. Body contact between the opposite gender is usually
avoided, no one hugs or kisses in public, and expressive gestures such
as hugging friends are usually reserved for big occasions like going
away for a long time.

Koreans tend to criticise their country, but will defend it to the
death if overseas or if any foreigner tries to do the same. There is a
strong sense of identity and national pride, characteristic of
peninsular countries who were often invaded due to their geographic
locations. (Korea's been invaded over 3000 times in written history).

They are also persistant and hardworking. Only in Korea can you turn
one of the poorest countries into the 10 most powerful economies.. in
50 years! Sure, they had to put democracy on hold to do it, but

Korean's also do everything in the extreme. They study, work, play
computer games, etc like fanatics. Add to that a hot tempered
emotional impulsive personality and you find most Korean's to be a
little crazy. But if they are on your side, they are with you forever.

-Ondol hot water floor heating system
-drink driver service - they drive you and your car to your home.
-free water and handtowels at restaurants
-Door bell on table service - you press this for service and they come
right away
-food street stalls - great for after drinking
-hot girls
-cheaper dentists
-cheap Korean food
-hongdae, gangnam, sinchon
-mandu lady
-nambi, pool bar, deck bar, brix, helios, loft, geckos, bungalow,
playstation bar, samgypsal place in hongdae, and other drinking holes
- my friends
- some of my students
- my bachelor pad

-Bad smells
-rude ajummas
- pollution
-extreme weather conditions
- no sidewalks in residental areas
-haebangchon hills
- mopeds riding on sidewalks

There's probably more I could write but I can't think of right now..

Anyway, that's it from me! I gotta get back to my farewell party (take
two) now. So Anneyonghi gaseyo!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

James' return to normality

Hi all..


First of all, yes Korea's national symbol (Namdaemum, which is the 600
year old City Gate) has been burnt down, in a possible arson attack by
a disgruntled senior Korean. Just after the Lunar New Year too!
Wikipedia is on the ball and you can see for yourself at

This tears at the heartstrings of all Koreans, who are very proud
people. It's the equivalent of the Lincoln memorial, Sydney Opera
house or Big ben burning down! Even I'm sad and angry about it. :(
They are also furious at the lack of security at such an important
monument, and the incompetency of the fire crews who took failed to
control the blaze because they were trying to work out how to put out
the fire without damaging the structure! Hello?!! It's on fire!!
Better some damage than all of it, right?!

Secondly, yes I'm still alive and in Korea. :)

Lastly, I won't be in Korea for long.. :(

In two weeks time I'll be back in Melbourne Australia, to study my
Diploma of Secondary Education. This is a one year course, which will
enable me to either find work as a high school teacher in Australia or
- should I get the urge to flee again - enable me to find more
teaching English jobs overseas with better pay and conditions
(although Berlitz is a good company to work for, 6:45am classes are
killing me right now!).

Will I be alone in my endeavour? Wasn't I planning to get married with
Sammy and settle down you ask? Well, that plan has changed a little.
Instead, we've decided to try living together first in Australia to
"test the waters" before committing to something that we're both
admittedly a little scared of. Yep, we've gone the "modern marriage
way" and chosen to go de-facto instead.

So while I'm studying my DipEd, Sammy will study Cookery and should be
a chef in 2.5 years time. After that we are both free to settle in
Australia or travel around the world together teaching and cooking.
:) So my original 10 year travel plan to travel the world has not been
completely abolished as yet, just significantly altered. Plus, should
anything happen to the relationship, I am also free to go back to my
original plan anyway.

Right now, Sammy is in Australia preparing for her cookery course.
I'm still in Korea packing my things up and closing up my life here.
I like to thank my trustworthy reliable mates Nathan and Daniel for
helping look after her while I'm away. :)

I must admit I'm quite reluctant and sad to leave Korea. I mean, I'm
actually really happy with my life right now, and isn't that what
people want? I'm making good money, the work is fun, I have lots of
friends and an active social life. To leave that to go back to study
and hardship is not appealing (I won't be earning money at all while I
study but living of my current savings originally set aside for
travel). But I guess that nothing lasts forever, times change, and
good things come to an end, and I should consider my future.

So, my priorities in life at this point is to find a way to maintain
employment in my life, and to find someone to share my life with. I've
always believed that it doesn't matter what you experience in your
life, if you don't have someone to share your achievements with, it
doesn't feel quite complete. I don't want to be one of those people
who travel around the world experiencing many things and then die
alone with no one to remember them. It's a lonely life and life is too
wonderful to be lonely in. Sammy may or may not be the one for me, but
I can't just give her up without making sure first (she was going to
study in Oz anyway). Hence my decision to return.

So, see some of you all soon! ;) Let's not forget I also miss you all too!!


-News readers bowl to the camera before and after reporting the news.
I feel so honored.

-Korean girls insist on wearing miniskirts in the deep cold of winter.
Now that's brave.

-Korean guys have outrageous hairstyles, like a black mop placed on
the head and styled and dyed (though not as much as Japanese)
manga-esque style. They must spend hours fixing their hair up!

-Koreans think the adjective form of "Fun" is "Funny" eg I had a
funny time! instead of I had a fun time!

- They also think that "hardly" is an adverb for very hard eg "I was
pushed hardly" instead
"I was pushed hard".

-Korean men always carry their girls handbags.

-Korean men sometimes have their own handbags - in the name of fashion
of course.

-Korean men can be very feminine and are not the least homophobic, yet
most are prejudiced against gays.

In Korea, drinking is used to build relationships, especially between
companies doing business together. As a result, many managers and
people working in sales end up with health problems, and is sometimes
fatal! However, even though many people want to stop, they don't, as
it is taboo to decline a drink from their bosses or clients, as that
is a sign of bad business or disrespect to elders. Social rules take
over common sense in this one.

They typically consist of bride and groom inviting everyone they know
and their friends. This could exceed 500 people sometimes. People
would arrive wearing whatever they felt like, no formal suits needed.
They would say a few words to the bride/groom, then sit down on one of
the many banquet tables and eat the expensive food provided. The
ceremony takes place while everyone is eating, talking, and not even
watching the ceremony. It feels like having a wedding ceremony in a
noisy restaurant. Afterwards, people can take photos (but most don't)
or leave as they feel like. But they should leave some money as a

This money is counted and written in a book next to the persons name
by the family, who will remember how much they gave so if they are
invited to that persons wedding next time, they will give the same
amount (more or less). Theoretically this money should help finance
the high cost of the wedding. Unfortunately it doesn't as people don't
contribute as much as they should, leaving the families' quite poor

If that wasn't enough, the groom (and his family) have to buy the
house, whereas the bride (and her family) buy all the furniture.
Therefore, it is common for both families to save for a long time just
for the wedding and housing for their children. No wonder Koreans
aren't having much children anymore!


Korea and Japan have the highest suicide rates in the world! The
reason for this is, as some of my students have told me is that:

During teenage years, the intensive long studying from childhood to
adult, from 6am to 2am, consisting of normal school and lots of
private tutoring and "cram schools" and learning institutes, means
these poor kids don't have a life. Lots of pressure from parents to
excel and emotional teenage angst can drive many Koreans over the

All this hard study is actually not for anything practical it seems,
but to study facts and figures that will help them do well at the
university entrance exams. Thus, if a Korean does not achieve the
score they have been studying for all their life to get into the
university they want, this would cause them to commit suicide.

Then its trying to find a job in a very competitive country where
there is so many people and so few jobs available. Again, this stress
will cause major depression.

Then it's trying to raise a family, buy a house (Korean housing is one
of the most expensive in the world!), pay for their children's clearly
very expensive education, and their weddings, and save enough money
for retirement (retirement age in Korea is so young, at 55!). So
parents burn themselves out very quickly. This life style and stress
can make life seem so bleak.

So, it's no wonder these poor Koreans have one of the highest suicide
rates in the world.

Will attitudes change? Possibly, but it will take a long time. Korean
psyche is steeped in Confucianism, where education is most important
tenet, as is social position and tradition. But the effect of
globalisation is starting to change these views.


Koreans have a strong friendship with the Turkish nation. This is
because it is believed that the Turkish language shares similar
structures and forms to the Korean language (along with Mongolian,
Uzbekistan and parts of Central Asia). The reasoning behind how this
is possible stems from the history of man's migrational patterns: from
Africa, man came up through the Middle East and spread out through
Europe and Asia; Man then crossed the Bering Strait in Russia to
Alaska, or headed south to Australia during the ice age.

Anyway, clearly there was a migration that started in Turkey and ended
in Korea, via Central Asia. Some interbreeding with Mongolians and
voila! The Korean was created. Sounds more plausible than a bear
eating garlic myth. Interestingly the Koreans say they have no genetic
relation to the Chinese race despite being neighbours.

So what is the result? Well apparently Turkish people understand this
also, and embrace the Korean people whenever they visit on vacation.
They are very well looked after, and there is a strong feeling of
brother/sisterhood in the nations. This is why during a recent World
Cup soccer match a few years ago, the two nations playing against each
other were happy to shake each others hand and be friendly to one

Further cementing this relationship also is that Turkey was one of the
countries that helped them a lot during the Korean war.

One could say that Australians, like Koreans, have a similar certain
"mateship" with the Turkish as well, due to Gallipoli in World War

Anyway, I'll write my final essay, uh email on my last thoughts on Korea soon..

Till then,