The Korean National Anthem

I mean, technically speaking, national anthems are just music. And usually, the melodies aren’t that complicated either, though occasionally they can have the random high note (like in the American national anthem). And yet, they can bring tears and stir so much emotion in a person.

I never really reacted to the American national anthem, but the Korean and Canadian ones have a special place in my heart, and it’s only been recently. Whenever I hear the Canadian anthem start up, it makes me feel happy inside (wow that’s a really professional way of explaining it, Ashley…). But when I hear the Korean anthem, I almost always start to cry. Continue reading

McDonald’s in Korea?

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//This was a post I did for my Korean Civilization class~ After this post, I won’t use past material for this tab, to force myself to learn and reflect on what I learned.//

When we think of McDonalds, we would usually imagine a clown figure or perhaps the famous Big Mac hamburger. We usually wouldn’t associate the golden arches with imperialism or intrusion, but to Korea when McDonalds was introduced, this is how it was interpreted.

America had its age of imperialism but now it has advanced to a new, and perhaps more long lasting form of cultural and soft power imperialism. Even the people who started McDonalds in Korea didn’t realize the weight of their actions. For Koreans, a Big Mac was more than just a burger: it was an opposition to the Korean character. Continue reading

My Newest Obsession: My Heritage

I suppose it started from Kpop?- Now before people start wagging their fingers at me, let me rewind and try to explain.

I didn’t always have the most amiable thoughts towards Korea. Because of some bad friendships and experiences, at one point I decided to simplify my heritage by saying that all Koreans were cliquish, not wanting to be my friend, and too hard to understand. With this oversimplification, I went on with my life only crossing over to my Korean side to eat its delicious food. Continue reading

Until Then!-

For now, I’m at Iowa City, studying in a majority Caucasian school in an American environment. But two years from now I’m hoping (actually, it’d be more accurate to say really really REALLY) wanting to study abroad in Korea.

Sometimes as I go through my day, I try to imagine what it’d be like to look around and see Koreans everywhere. How will it be to hear Korean more than English? How will it be to address teachers in Korean? Or even just the aspect of living in Korea for a semester or a year, how will that go? Like groceries or eating at restaurants or going to church?

(realization:…this sounds almost exactly like my post before I went to Korea this past summer, haha~)

I guess I’ll have to wait and see at this point. But it’s not like I don’t have enough things to do until then, cause you know, college is still happening in the meantime X).

Korean Squatting Toilets!

Nice Japanese squat toilet courtesy OutHouseRag

I really had to go. We’d been walking around for hours in the Damyang bamboo forest in Korea and all the water I drank to stay hydrated wanted out from my body. So when I saw the international sign for restrooms, I didn’t hesitate. There wasn’t much of a line, so I was able to go straight into the restroom only to find something that didn’t match my definition of a toilet.

It was a white contraption similar to a urinal, except attached to the ground instead of a wall. I stood in front of it, completely stunned and at a loss of words. My need to use the restroom was quickly replaced by confusion followed by horror as I realized that this mechanism was the toilet. I experienced several aspects of culture shock while I visited Korea, but my experience with the Korean squatting toilet made the most impact on me.

Out of the many things in Korea, why would a toilet make the biggest imprint in my mind? It was because I didn’t know how to use it. I had heard that in the older days, Koreans had to squat to use the restroom. But that was centuries ago! I thought that the days of squatting toilets were from a bygone era, but instead they were modernized and everywhere in Korea. Not to say that there weren’t typical Western toilets, but sometimes the Korean squatting toilets were the only options available.

It was interesting to see that the squatting toilet that was peculiar to me was a part of the native Koreans’ lives. For example, in a subway station, there were both the options of the squatting toilet and the seated one and no one hesitated to use the squatting option if the latter wasn’t available. Even girls in fancy clothing used the squatting toilets. I, on the other hand, completely avoided the squatting toilets because I didn’t know how to use them and found them to be primal and slightly repulsive.

As I continued to encounter the unique Korean toilets, I realized that if I had grown up in Korea, the squatting toilet wouldn’t have been a bizarre concept to me. I have no right to quickly brush off the oddity of the Korean toilets because I didn’t understand them. What seems bizarre to me is someone else’s daily occurrence. Instead of quickly judging the technology that I didn’t understand, it would be better for me to adapt to it without any stubborn preconceived notions.

From here, almost two months after I came back from my vacation in Korea, I wish that I had the bravery to try to use or at least understand the squatting toilets. Instead, I fled the scene every time and stubbornly waited to find a Western seated toilet. That mindset won’t get me anywhere, especially if I want to travel the world. Every country has some piece of technology or culture that is hard to understand. It’s not my role to judge someone else’s culture, but to embrace it.

The Reality of Korea

The world across the computer screen always seemed perfect. The bustling city and bright lights, the cozy cramped restaurants, the high school students in their adorable uniforms.

And we would visit this fantasy world this summer? It seemed unreal when Mom confirmed that we were going to Korea. Last time we went to Korea was nine years ago and I only remembered the public bath house (shudder), Chris popping out my teddy bear’s eye, and going to the market with Grandma. But this time would be different simply because I was older. Continue reading

FYI: Korea

Now that I’m back from Korea, there are some things that I wish that someone would have told me before I went. So here’s a list of things for your information about Korea! And if I get to travel more, I’ll try to make an FYI for each country/place I visit~

1) You run into the bathroom. You’ve been holding it for too long and as soon as you saw the international sign for bathroom, you didn’t hesitate to sprint towards that direction. But to your alarm, when you burst into a stall…THERE’S NO TOILET PAPER. DDDDD:

Korea is so stupid how can this be in such a highly connected and electronically world that they don’t have toilet paper what is life why did I even bother coming here awelifjaw;leifja-

CALM DOWN KIDDO. Continue reading