Monthly Archives: February 2018

Black Man in a Bank

Comic Sans

As much as I complain about my wife sometimes, I really do appreciate her for her patience with me, not just for my many issues and personal failings, but just for the mere fact that I’m a foreigner, and sometimes being a foreigner can suck in South Korea. I can only imagine how it is being married to one.

I’ve been living in South Korea for over ten years now. I’ve been a customer of the same Korean bank for over ten years as well. It can be a bit difficult for foreigners to get credit cards in Korean banks, especially since many foreigners don’t stay in Korea for long, but with my long record and my stable job, the bank at the time didn’t think twice to sign me up. This was a few years ago. I thought I had a great relationship with them.

My wife and I went to the bank to apply for a small loan. This was not unreasonable since most married couples do have loans and like most metropolitan cities, the whole thing runs on debt. We intended to borrow money under both of our names, with me being the breadwinner and my wife as a Korean national, being a sort of guarantor that we won’t take off on our debts. I didn’t have too much hope since I expect most banking institutions in the country would probably still be a bit cautious regarding lending to foreigners, even if they intend to stay in the country. I earn more than the average Korean, but I’m not rich by any metric. Being a foreigner might still be a bit too big a hurdle to pass for them to give me a loan.

What my wife and I got instead was the proverbial black-man-getting-denied-a-loan treatment. (No, I’m not black.) Despite being a loyal customer for years, the clerk, who was a senior consultant at the Euljiro, Seoul branch of KB Bank, didn’t even bother to look at my records. He didn’t even ask for my ID, which I figured was the least they could do to make sure that I was indeed a foreigner staying in the country legally. I was a loyal customer and the clerk simply assumed that I was “just a teacher” who probably couldn’t pay back my loans. (He did suggest this. He didn’t even ask me for my job!)What upset me more is that they did this to my wife, it’s almost like she was the foreigner. I could take the slings of racisms just fine, but I get more upset if my wife gets it by proxy. Maybe it would’ve been better if I wasn’t there. It definitely would’ve been better if she was married to a Korean. They would have at least looked at his taxes and banking records.

Yeah, maybe the bank just has a policy against loans with foreigners or couples with foreign spouses contributing the majority to their household income. Who knows? But if they do, I get it. I truly do. But couldn’t they at least hide their biases a bit? At least give me some dignity and pretend they’re looking at my records and consider me as a proper customer. Heck, I spend money, pay taxes, and contribute to the economy just as much as the next guy. And if you ask some of the disgruntled people I work with, I’m spending and contributing way too much compared to them.

And no, it’s not all banks here. We went to another bank and they were much more accommodating to us. It’s just that the person we talked to first at the bank I’ve been a customer with for so many years decided to be an asshole. Maybe he wasn’t intending to be a bigot asshole, but he sure acted like one.

So yeah, despite the Pyeongchang hype, Korea can sometimes still be ugly to foreigners. It’s getting better, and incidents like this happen to me less often. But when it does happen, it still stings like a motherfucker.

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On Making Art

Framed

With my work framed, the illusion of a fake movie leaflet for a fake Japanese animation about Canadian residential schools is complete. A friend of mine is not a big fan of these works. I don’t think she really likes it when I stray away from my traditional drawing styles. It’s hard enough to sell my current work as it is. It’s even harder to sell my works especially if I’m making fake movie posters or action figures.

The problem is what sometimes works in my mind doesn’t really translate into the image. Or I have trouble putting myself into the viewers’ shoes, especially since there’s often a lot of context I’m putting into the work which viewers may not particularly know nor care about. Let’s look at this work in particular.

The work is titled “Residential School,” but the idea of a residential school is way too subtle. There’s an obvious reference to religious boarding schools, but it would be rare to find someone who would assume that the girl in the center is an Aboriginal. The work is one from a series of posters inspired by Canadian history. I resent that not much of Canadian history is known outside of Canada, especially when a lot of our neighbors’ histories (particularly our neighbor in the south) is told in books, movies, and are part of the global consciousness. I think the horrors of residential schools and the silent genocide of Aboriginal communities should be told just as much as the plight of the slaves or the persecution of the Jewish people. But then again, borrowing imagery from Ghibli Studios might be a bit too tongue-in-cheek and not many people might see it nor appreciate it when/if they do.

Also, I’m not sure if there are many people who like Japanese animation, are appreciative of Canadian history, and are willing to pay good money for fake leaflets that cater to both.

My Japanese is non-existent. My wife speaks Japanese and she’s confused by Japanese I use in the image. They translate in the most basic Google-translate sort of way, but I don’t really mind. The characters make for an interesting visual. The Japanese names don’t mean much either.

“Himax” and “Colby Digital” are rip-offs of “Imax” and “Dolby Digital.” But I doubt if anyone would notice that. “Blamco” is a fake company name I once used for a line of toys I made. Again, no one would know this.  “Taken” is a reference to the Liam Neeson movie. Children were very much kidnapped by the Canadian government.

In any case, these decisions were made for my own benefit and not with the audience in mind. The use of the name “Taken,” a small part of the credits, is for my own amusement, not to provide more insight to the viewer. This method of making art doesn’t normally produce compelling, saleable artwork, but if the purpose of the work is get over my depression, to just be active, or to just make images to amuse myself, I think it’s a job well done. Make art! Make art because it makes you happy or because you simply need to. Making art in order to sell them fine, but really, it should be the least of your motivations.

With that in mind, it’s great to see my work framed. Framed to ultimately end up hung on my own wall years from now.

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On Living People Your Corpse Will See Again

Smile

An interesting thing happened over the weekend. Someone from the company I work for passed away on Friday. Nothing too unexpected; after all, he was getting up there in years. So on Friday afternoon, people either went to the hospital or made plans to attend the wake or the funeral. Amidst of it all, I heard that one of my former co-workers and an old friend of the diseased made plans to go on a flight over the weekend in order to make it on time for the funeral. He lives in the US.

The last time I saw the diseased was over two years ago. He was a big man in the company. Many years before, he was usually driven around and led by helpers, and even accompanied by company lackeys. But the time I saw him, he was not surrounded by helpers and no one was opening any doors for him. Any clout he had within the company, he seems to have relinquished at the time. If I didn’t recognize him, I would’ve confused him for any other old man wandering the streets of Seoul. In any case, I imagine with things being the way they are, with his old friend living in the US for so many years now, I’m guessing there was not much correspondence between the two. I was the one who initiated telling him about his friend passing. I’m not sure if they’ve heard about each other in the years before.

And so what have I learned? I learned about a special type of relationship, a new category of person whom I find it hard to pinpoint exactly which one of my few friends belongs to. Not a friend who you’ll talk to, do favors for, or keep in touch with now and then. This friend does not care how deep a depth you swim to or on what slow hell you are killing yourself with at the moment. None of it matters to this friend. It is most grim, and I’m not passing judgment on whether it is good or not, but ultimately this friend is quite the intimate sort of acquaintance. This friend will be there for you only when you finally die. This is the friend that will only reunite with you when there’s not much left of you to be reunited with.

Again, I don’t think this is good or bad. I think it is intimate, peculiar, and not necessarily unique, especially when it comes to relatives. How many of us only see our distant relatives only when they finally pass? But I think it really is more special when it comes to non-blood acquaintances, particularly because there’s no familial pressure pushing one to be there for the wake or the funeral. “I haven’t seen him forever, but I have to be there for the funeral.” Who is this for exactly? For the diseased? For the visitor? Or the relationship that’s now expired? What’s funny is, when I start thinking about the people in my life, auditing my relationships and choosing which people I’ll probably never see again but who’ll likely be there at my lightly-attended funeral. It’s a rather sad, interesting, and honest exercise.

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Oh Canada, Yes Canada

Assiniboine

O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command.

Our national anthem has always been a love song, about patriots watching over their beloved country; ready to fight should anyone threaten it and its people’s freedom. But in true Canadian fashion, the singer is insecure of his own strengths, and calls out to God and forces beyond for help in their cause.

A few hours ago, Senate just voted to make the song gender neutral. “True patriot love in all of us command.” As a man, I see this as a small gesture. Canada has bigger problems and issues which we continue to ignore; things which affect us more what some would consider just mere words in a very short song. But I’m guessing for women, especially those who have sacrificed so much for our beautiful country, changing the song to make it more gender-neutral is not so much the least we can do, but it is the right thing to do. I really never understood the opposition to the change. Conservative senators opposed the motion by saying there needs to be a longer debate, and that Parliament truly had no business changing lyrics to a song written by a man long dead. It’s a dumb hill to die on, especially since the issue has already been debated for a long time, and I find it highly unlikely that six months or a couple more years would change anyone’s mind. We’ve been trying to make it gender-neutral for a very long time. Also, “honoring” a dead man by not changing a line in his song, and in the process not honoring half the population, is really dumb politics. Robert Stanley Weir’s Canada is not even the same Canada we have now. Women couldn’t vote, Newfoundland wasn’t even a province, and we weren’t even an independent country. Our national anthem should reflect what we are now.

God bless Canada’s improved national anthem. I’m sure this will trend in progressive circles, especially with the #MeToo movement and the strong feminist wave at the moment. Now how about moving on to other less fashionable issues?

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