Letter from Korea, April 2013


Suwon, South Korea
April, 2013

Dear Ireland,

I’m not sure if I should gloat but I thought I’d mention the fact that spring is in full swing here. I should also point out that that was an unintentional rhyme  but I digress. Yes, April is warming the bones and joints enough for me not to dread the walk to work, and I am optimistically eyeing the month of May on the calendar in the kitchen. The shorts and t-shirts shall be dusted down soon.

We love spring here in Korea. It’s full of things to be happy about, such as the end of winter, but also the cacophony of blossoms which explode bit by bit throughout April. Right now we’ve bright yellow kenari decorating the sides of the roads, and slowly the purple azaelas and bulbous magnolias are breaking free. Of course the nation awaits the arrival of the cherry blossoms and the plethora of festivals that accompany them.

I should give a special shout out to the yellow dust, which is another of Korea’s wonderful spring characteristics, but it seems to have died down somewhat. Still, if you saw my car you’d wonder which building site I drove through beforehand.

But anyway, what class of an Irishman am I to be complimenting the weather and it’s not even shorts and t-shirts weather yet?

As it’s April I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate myself for no reason other than the fact that I think I deserve it. The topic of this personal celebration? Well it’s this blog I tell you. Yes, your favourite blog in the whole world is approaching its third birthday (in WordPress years). We started off in blogspot in the winter of 09-10 but I soon grew bored of the complete lack of hits and gave up. When I came back to Korea I decided at some point to reignite this blog in WordPress form.

You see, it would be thanks to its WordPress form that I would probably like to offer some gratitude. Any WordPress blogger will be familiar with WordPress’s ample selection of statistics, including graphs, views by country, and a chart which allows you to compare the number of hits month by month right back to the birth one’s humble scribblings. It is nothing short of blog porn if you ask me, and this would be the full extreme gang-bang variety.

I do look back at the early days and wonder, first of all, what the hell was I writing (here is something though, the first Letter from Korea!), but also how the hell did I manage an epic 124 hits in the month of May alone, and then an awe inspiring 204 in June? Things went out of control in July of that year, I think because I learned how to link it to my old Facebook account where I had something like 400 or 500 “friends”. However n in July of that year I deleted that account because I felt lonely and distanced from my friends, and the readers vanished.

From then on in I really had to learn how to blog. I had to learn how to connect with other writers. I had to learn how to find what people wanted to read. I had to find a way to find new readers outside of my former friendship circle. And I think I managed it. I read other blogs and commented. I found out about the Korean blogosphere. I wrote about things that happened, and I trolled topics so that I could give my own take on them. I stopped thinking about myself so much but kept what I thought about things as a central element in what I wrote. But more importantly, I kept writing and writing and writing. And before long things started to catch on.

Roboseyo over at, well Roboseyo chose my blog as blog of the month for 10 Magazine some time last year, which was a nice hat tip to all the work I had been putting in. It gave me the impetus to keep writing, because at that time I had been considering laying off posting because I felt it was getting in the way of other things I was writing. I know that this is still the case, but I’m discipling myself more these days not to throw down any old post idea that comes into my head. I’ve an Evernote account with about seven or eight notes all with potential blog posts on it, many of which where never acted on purely because I lost interest or time just drifted too far away from the topic. I’m always thinking about what I want to write, because I know now not everything I do needs to be written about.

What has been a nice comfort though, and we’re back to these statistics again, is that now my blog receives on average over 2000 hits a month, with many of these people coming from all corners of the planet, but mostly from Korea. I get a minor kick out of knowing that my blog could be considered a blog of note, although I have no idea who reads it. I’m sure more people read the kind of English teacher in Korea blog which there are plenty of here, but that doesn’t really bother me as we’re writing about different things to different audiences.

I know my blogs are long and I know that maybe some people look at the web page before they read, give it a quick scroll and go “fuck that” before navigating away to some other less text heavy page. I’m assuming there’s a large amount of that, as I don’t get many comments or reactions, which I suppose would be the mark of a more successful blogger. Despite this, I think that the blogs I write don’t really look for comments. I hope that anyone who reads these posts  reads them and takes in what I have to say, and then goes for something else to read. That’s how I feel about much of the things I read at least.

I don’t think I’m right or wrong about anything, I just have my thing to say and I am happy that some people are reading, because as a writer that is what I aim for, to be read.

As a writer in Korea I’m going to continue telling my side of the story through my eyes and through my own reckoning. One of these days someone might pay me for this, and I would love it if they paid me a shit-load, but I’m not holding out. I will still be here, money or none, and I hope that I can continue to attract you back.

Sound.

P.S. If you’re a regular reader, say hello, it would be nice to meet you.

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Letter from Korea, Christmas 2010


Somewhere in Gyeonggi-do,
South Korea
9/1/2011

Dear Ireland

Christmas! Yes, Christmas. It was an interesting one to say the least. It was a busy Christmas too, but not in the usual sense because of the news delivered to me on Christmas Eve that I would be spending a week literally in lock up. I had been nominated by the powers that be to be one of the writers for a kind of mid-way entry exam to the university I work at. That’s why my Chirstmas post is coming well into 2011, and not while the tinsel still holds some facet of festive cheer. More about this later. As I said, Christmas came and went, abruptly, but not without character.

Since 2005, when I first came here, Christmas in Korea has been gradually gaining in significance. I am not really sure why to be honest though. Maybe it’s because the kids have eventually turned around and said, well it’s all well and good being sent to an English school and being filled to the brim full of Santa and Rudolph stories, but enough is enough, it’s time Santa made a stopover in Korea; how he gets down the chimney in the Remian and Lotte Castle twenty-five storey apartment buildings is a mystery beyond my powers of comprehension.

Official NORAD (whatever the jaysus that means) Santa Tracker! Truly magical!

Incidentally whilst on the subject of Santa, and completely off the point of my Christmas in Korea, on Christmas Eve I came across a website that provided a Santa tracker, which I thought was incredible but not many shared the same enthusiasm for it. When I first checked it, Old Saint Nick had had his wicked way with South Korea and was in Pyongyang. I wonder how Santa got along there and whether or not it was a busy stopover. Did Santa have to clear his identity and purpose of visit with whichever department is responsible for foreign visits in North Korea. Where did he apply for initial visa? Perhaps there is a consulate of the DPRK in the North Pole. The South Korean government can’t have been too happy with him crossing the DMZ without permission, or did he come from Japan? This can’t have curried too much favour with overly nationalist elements in either North or South Korea. I also wonder what the kids asked for; probably eternal happiness, a bunch of strippers and a container full of Crystal Champagne for Kim Jung-un.

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Letter from Korea, November 2010


Yongin, South Korea
November 19, 2010

Dear Ireland,

I’m writing this month’s letter on my birthday. Odd perhaps, but I felt that it’s an ideal time to share my thoughts and reflect on Ireland and Korea, especially since there is so much talk in the media about Ireland’s financial situation.

I hope that I can keep this letter focused on what I am familiar with and try to avoid the complications of the financial irregularity back in Ireland which I know very little about, and which I rely heavily on the opinions of others. These opinions arrive daily in my email inbox courtesy of some major dailies in Ireland, England and the U.S.

One comment stuck out for me, and to be honest I felt a little smug when I read it, but don’t ask me why. It was in the New York Times, and the article was reviewing the situation in Ireland from a relatively open-minded point of few, but at all times maintaining the seriousness of the situation. The paper stated that Ireland’s difficulty, which I read about daily (and hear the head politicos rabbit on in the same way), had overshadowed the G20 summit in Seoul.

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Letter from Korea, October 2010


Yongin, Korea
21/10/2010

 

Dear Ireland

 

It’s kind of been a weird phase for me writing lately, because for a while there was nothing else I could do or focus on. Specifically, I’ve been trying to contribute to a lot of magazines and newspapers here with quite a bit of success, but I still am not sure how to measure that success, or how relevant it really is at all.

When I first arrived in Korea I have seen plenty of English language magazines that openly welcome contributions from the community. I can just about remember K-Scene, which was relatively famous for its classifieds section. Before that it was apparently just called Seoul Classifieds, but that was before my time. After that magazine collapsed or closed or whatever, I remember hearing a few rumours but I’ll save you the iniquity, there was a gap and then along came Groove magazine, which has been gracing us with its presence for almost four years now I’d wager.

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Letter from Korea, September 2010


Yongin, South Korea
9/11/10

Dear Ireland

This month I came across a small article which made the front page of a leading daily newspaper, the Joongang Daily, here in Korea. It was one of the kinds of articles that make front page headlines for one day and the next day is forgotten, and in fairness its front page location is probably the only reason that I can remember it. The other reason that I remember it and that I’m bringing it up now is that right in front of me was a statistic that placed Ireland better than Korea and undoubtedly many of the other larger economies in the world!

It is far from often that the word ‘Ireland’ finds its way onto front pages of international newspapers and it is certainly less frequent in Korean newspapers. The last time I heard of Ireland making the headlines here was in relation to the selling of pork that was contaminated with some sort of disease. This event went so far as to stir up the anti-Irish brigade over here of, hmmmm let me think, zero people. The incident however was not isolated to Korea and many countries around the world were affected, the government promptly apologised and made efforts to not make the same mistake again. Business was probably damaged but not reduced to nothing, because let’s face it, the world loves diggin’ on swine. But before that? And after?

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