Thursday, 17 September 2009

Life In Korea-The Movies

I love movies. Freaking love them. No movie is too bad (andd yes, I have seen The Room) to be watched by me. And since coming here, I find out that the Koreans love movies too.

The Korean film industry has really jumped on the success of films like Joint Security Area, Oldboy (and the Vengeance series), The Host and, most recently, Haeundae, a Day After Tomorrow style disaster movie about a tsunami hitting a resort city. Don't get me wrong, the majority of Korean movies are not that great by western standards-there seems to be a requirement that each one has a slow motion shot of their lead characters emoting as best they can-but every so often you get a diamond from the rough. Part of the success comes down to national pride. I ask my students why they like Haeundae (incidentally, I think it's awful) and the most common answer is "It's Korean!". Korea makes so many movies that international hits (District 9, Inglourious Basterds) are pushed back to the autumn.

And it got me thinking about the weakness of our own film industry. And I realised the problem. In Korea, cinemas are required to show a certain amount of Korean movies on their screens. It's the same in France. But in England we are not burdened with a desire to build an exportable good and service.

This is why the local cineworld is awash with sequels, hooligan movies and torture porn. If there were a guaranteed audience for our films, either through regulation or incentives, then it would be a real boost. Some of my favourite films are British ones (Dead Man's Shoes, In The Loop, Sunshine, Millions, Hot Fuzz) and only one of these has made real cash money. If the UK cared half as much about its industry as the French and the Koreans, then it would be a viable source of income and jobs in a period where both are sorely needed.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Dongbaek Dispatches

Right, now that I have second to myself, I can give a skinny on some of the more recent developments in my work an personal life. Here we go:

1) I have been giving a lot of thought to what I'm going to do once my visa expires. I have been invited by a friend of mine to go travelling throuh SE Asia with her for a good while, and with the money I am saving I should be able to afford it. If I do do this, however, then I cannot start a PGCE next year (the general consenus from the handful of universities that will hold my interview is that if I come home STRAIGHTAWAY then they may be able to accommodate me). I'll still apply this year in case travel plans don't work out, however.

The way I see it, the opportunity to train as a teacher will be there a while, but my window for travelling, backpacking and getting into various misadventures is getting narrower by the day. I may do another TEFL contract in a different country if I get a 6 month gap between interviews and starting training. All of these ideas are half baked at best, remember-so any input on them is appreciated.

2) The new semester has started at school, meaning I get a grand total of 3 break periods every week. My energy levels are suffering (I keep sleeping through my alarm clock meaning I never get anything done before work starts) but I figure that once I get into the full blown swing of things then I will recover. I am also trying to find a balance between making my lessons fun for the students and getting through the workbooks and keeping the Korean mums happy. Scary? Yes. Stressful? Definitely. Rewarding? Totally.

3) Most of 2) wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for one thing: I've given up alcohol for at least a month. It's mostly for vanity reasons-I reckon a lot of the empty calories I get is from the demon drink- but also this will give me a great opportunity to do more cultural stuff this month; I'm already looking at doing a temple stay in the last weekend of September and I think I can do more local exploring with the time I'd normally spend being a hungover gibbering mess.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


Most of you who knew me back in the real world (because, to me, Korea is like a Twilight Zone where people are paid to enjoy a uni-esque lifestyle) will know that I am not a sportsman. Sure, I did Taekwondo at university but I was still an apathetic kind of person when it came to non-international football.

Until now.

Maybe it's being far away from home, but I've become far more interested in the antics of the Premier League (or EPL as the Americans, Canananananadians and Koreans call it) than I've ever been. I am even considering staying up all night saturdays just to watch the matches, despite the fact that I have no team to follow (We can thank a mixture of Mike Ashley and 50,000 batshit crazy Geordies for that). And, simply because of the dirt-cheap prices I find myself getting to football matches every so often (£4 for a general admission ticket!). One of these times was Sunday night. After finishing the weekly game with the local contingent of foreigners (Yes, I play it too-I even have boots) I rocked up to the Seoul World Cup stadium and checked out FC Seoul vs. Ulsan.

The standard of football doesn't exactly compare with the Premier League or La Liga, but at least the player's aren't diving or fouling each other at every opportunity. I was reliably informed by my Korean friend (and FC Seoul supporter) Hyun that they were top of the league and needed to retain this title from underdogs Ulsan. Which they failed to do, as Ulsan became giant-killers and walked away with a 2-0 victory.
The really sad thing that struck me about this match was that Koreans care surprisingly little about football. For a country that purpose-built 7 world cup stadia only 7 years ago, unless Park Ji-Sung or Manchester United are involved, they just don't want to know. It's a shame that Seoul World Cup stadium has to have a mall in it just to keep going when it is an awesome stadium and venue in its own right. I'd be surprised if it was half full when we were there.

Still, hopefully the Korea vs. Australia game on Saturday will provide a more entertaining spectacle.