Category Archives: Korea

A Wellness Check

It’s weird being emotionally numb. I try to feel more, connect more with the people around me, but it’s weird. As much as I try to be a better person, be a much better person to the people around me, especially the ones I love, I feel like doors are closed right on my face. Either that, or truly no positive feedback is coming my way. Am I reading people wrong, or am I just not feeling any joy recently? It’s really weird. Even my depression lately has not gone through any wild swings, but it’s just become this dull background noise.

I celebrated my birthday last week, and instead of being joyful or excited, I found myself being more anxious than anything. What the heck is going on? My medication and therapy has been working for a while lately, but recently, I’ve been in an odd place. I remember my birthday anxiously waiting for things to go bad. I was waiting for the evening to turn for the worse.

Work has been a good escape. My activities are automatic and I don’t have to think much while I keep busy. It’s when I have time on my hands that I get anxious or depressed. Art has been helping, and I’ve been making more art recently than usual. It’s not a good thing when I’m making more art.

The problem is, outside of my therapist, I don’t really have many people to talk to about these things. Either I feel embarrassed or guilty, or the conversation inevitably turns into the other person making the situation about them, like a suffering Olympics of sorts.

I’m a shit person.

……………………. No, I’m a shittier person.

Can we talk about me being a shit person first?

……………………. Sure, but you have to understand that I’m shittier.

Okay, fine you’re shittier.

……………………. Excellent. And my shitty life is all your fault.

Thanks.

It’s been a weird few days. I am extremely grateful that I don’t have it any worse. I am always grateful for the people around me and the blessings and kindness that I experience. I truly don’t deserve good things. But I’m not sure if I’m getting as much joy out of them, or maybe my joy is just being dampened by me telling myself that I’m an extremely shitty person (because I really am).

I wish my doctor would prescribe me with better medication. Either that or give me better strategies to dealing with anxiety or this state of numb joylessness. I feel like I’m just passing time. And if time passed without any major incidents, without me making things worse, then it’s a good day. How is that for an existence? Maybe I deserve that. But the people around me, especially the people I love most don’t deserve that. They don’t deserve that from me. God, please, help me get better. Help me be better,

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Suicide, it’s a suicide. II

Korea has the highest suicide rate in Asia, and depending on the year, has the highest suicide rate among the OECD countries. I didn’t really feel how significant this is until after some sad news last night and much reflection.

Last night, my friend’s mother-in-law passed away. They believe it was suicide. It’s especially tragic since my friend just got married last year, and I do remember meeting her mother-in-law in the ceremony. I noted how she doesn’t smile much even during such a happy occasion. I suspected she might not be too thrilled with the marriage at the time, but looking back now, she might just be dealing with depression. The tragic thing is, the death was days after the Korean holiday Parents’ Day. She was visited and presumably showered with love and attention by her children, and yet days later, she takes her own life.

Two years ago, someone committed suicide in my parents-in-laws’ apartment building by jumping from the 14th floor. Last year, the mayor of Seoul committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. This is the same way the former president Roh Mu-Hyun committed suicide. It’s also quite common to hear about suicide attempts among celebrities in the media. I myself have been thinking and writing about suicide more often lately, I admit, to an unhealthy amount.

Looking back to my life in Canada, it’s very hard to think of anyone who has committed or has flirted with suicidal thoughts. Honestly, as of this time, I can only think of one person. But here in Korea, it’s scary how commonplace it is, not just cases of suicide, but reminders of it. Bridges have messages of encouragement and affirmations in order to prevent people from jumping. There’s a law that makes the victim’s family responsible for paying for the recovery of their body in the Han River, making it seem like the family is at fault for the victim’s actions and perhaps adding a burden of guilt to people in order to dissuade them. Train platforms in the country have full suicide prevention barriers, not like other countries where there are sometimes none or only a waist high fence prevents accidental jumpers. Despite all of these preventative measures however, the rate is still high, and even higher in the past year due to the pandemic.

According to a report by the OECD, Koreans complain more often about “relative deprivation” than other countries. This means people compare their lives more with other people and end up being dissatisfied with their current situation. This is not unique among South Koreans, but I can honestly attest that I’ve seen this several times, and instead of viewing this as petty or just thinking “be happy with what you have,” people view this as legitimate reactions or good conversation. “Did you know he drives a BMW?” “Did you hear that his house is all paid for?” “I think he earns more money than his friends.” It all sounds extremely shallow. And of course it’s a neverending struggle. Someone will always be more successful than you.

This, compounded with financial stresses, societal expectations, relationship problems, and a negative attitude towards seeking mental help, no wonder the suicide rate is so high in the country.

Suicide is like a constant grim specter that haunts the country. It was shocking last night, and I feel like it won’t be the first time I’ll be hearing about similar deaths or attempts in the future. Get some help, everyone. Talk to someone. And be happy with what you have. There’s a heaven and a star for you.

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Suicide, it’s a suicide!

Not my proudest moment, but I flirted with suicide last night. I’m not going to go into details, but I was in a really bad place and I just tested the waters, trying to see if I could ultimately check out.

가장 자랑스러운 순간은 아니지만 어제 밤에 자살해봤습니다. 세부 사항은 다루지 않겠지만 저는 정말 안 좋은 곳 이었는데 그것을 시도했습니다.

The truth is, I’m actually a pretty awful person. Aside from being horribly cynical, I’m increasingly depressed, have low self-esteem, hedonistic, self-centered, no dreams for the future, not to mention I have a crippling sex addiction (which probably stems from low self-esteem and self-hating issues). Ultimately, I tend to be pretty shitty to the people closest to me. And quite frankly, they are probably much better off not getting caught up in my bullshit in the first place.

사실은 저는 정말 꽤 끔찍한 사람이요. 냉소적 인 것 외에도 저는 점점 우울 해지고, 자존감이 낮고, 쾌락 주의적이며, 자기 중심적이며, 미래에 대한 꿈이 없으며, 심각한 섹스 중독이 도 있어요. (아마도 낮은 자존감과 자기 증오 문제에서 기인 할 것이요). 궁극적으로 저는 가장 가까운 사람들에게 꽤 나쁘게 경향이 있어요. 그리고 솔직히, 그들은 아마도 처음에 내 헛소리에 빠지지 않는 것이 훨씬 낫어요.

As I mentioned before, I’m only good in small doses. Anything more, and you get to see how awful a person I am. But that’s for people around me though. Unfortunately, I am the person I live with. The call is coming from inside the house. It’s awful. And last night, my self-loathing got to the level of low-stakes suicidal tryouts.

앞서 언급했듯이 저는 소량 만 잘해요. 그 이상이면 내가 얼마나 끔찍한 지 알게되요. 하지만 그것은 내 주변 사람들을위한 것이요. 불행히도 제 자신을 함께 사는 사람이요. 집 안에서 전화가 오고 있어요. 끔찍 해요. 그리고 어젯밤, 저의 자기 혐오감은 자살 시도 수준에 이르렀어요.

The thing is, coming out of it, I’m not sure if I’m happy I didn’t succeed. And I’m not sure I won’t try again either. I’ve been having suicidal fantasies for years now. I’ve been rehearsing different scenarios over and over again on my head, weighing the pros and cons, etc. I even wrote romantically about it a couple of times. But the dumb thing is, when I finally attempted one scenario, I came away with nothing. Just back to the fantastical drawing board.

그것에서 나오는데, 성공하지 못했어 내 행복하지가 잘 모르겠어요. 그리고 다시 시도할 거야. 수년 동안 자살에 대한 환상을 가지고 있어요. 여러 시나리오를 머리 위에서 반복해서 연습하고 장단점 등을 비교했어요. 그것에 대해 몇 번 로맨틱하게 썼어요. 그러나 멍청한 것은 마침내 한 시나리오를 시도했을 때 아무것도 얻지 못했어요. 환상적인 드로잉 보드로 돌아가요.

Now, this isn’t a cry for help. This is just me writing things the way they are in my head. I’m an awful person who hurts others, and last night, I tried to hurt myself. That’s just the way it is. No lessons learned, no interesting insights. I don’t need people’s help either. And if you talk to me in person about it, I will wave it off and spin a different but far more interesting tale. Maybe I’ll tell you a long drawn out joke as a distraction. Ever heard of the suicidal moth? What about the systemic racism in the world of olives?

자, 이것은 도움을 구하는 외침이 아니요. 이것은 내 머릿속에있는 그대로 쓰는 것뿐이요. 저는 상처를주는 끔찍한 사람인데 어젯밤에 자신을 다치게하려고 했어요. 그것이 바로 그 방법이요. 배운 교훈도, 흥미로운 통찰력도 없어요. 사람들의 도움이 필요하지 않아요. 그리고 그것에 대해 나에게 직접 이야기한다면, 저는 그것을 훨씬 더 흥미로운 이야기를 회전시킬 것이요. 주의를 산만하게하는 긴 농담을 말할 것이요. 자살 나방에 대해 들어 본 적이 있어요? 올리브 세계의 조직적 인종 차별은 어떼요?

This is just my version of r/SuicideWatch, so don’t be too alarmed. And quite frankly, if I do succeed, the keyword is “succeed.” It would be a pleasant surprise that no one should be mourning over. BTW, this thing I’m in is no one’s fault but mine. I screw things up, I make myself miserable, and I just make things worse. It’s all me. 

이것은 r/SuicideWatch의 제 버전 일 뿐이므로 너무 놀라지 마세요. 그리고 솔직히 내가 성공하면 키워드는“성공”이요. 아무도 슬퍼하지 말아야한다는 것은 즐거운 놀라움이 될 거예요. BTW, 내가있는 것은 누구의 잘못이 아니라, 내 잘못이요. 저는 일을 망치고 자신을 비참하게 만들고 상황을 더 악화시켜. 다 나야.

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The Myth of Sisyphus

I started watching this Korean drama entitled, “Sisyphus, the Myth.” I’m only two episodes in and I’m already not liking it. I can’t stand Tony Stark and the Tony Stark fantasy. I can’t stand how Koreans and Marvel fans love and worship the idea of a genius billionaire, when billionaires should be villified for hoarding wealth. The main character is basically a Tony Stark type and the first episode couldn’t help but cheese me out a bit in building him up. The filming and the writing, while very ambitious, also reeked of ambitiousness. It’s very hard to explain, but it reminds me of the first two episodes of Star Trek Picard, with the mixture of action, mystery, and plot holes.

한국 드라마 ‘Sisyphys, the Myth’을 보기 시작 했어요. 2 화 밖에 안 보아는데 벌써 좋아하지 않은것 같아요. Tony Stark와 Tony Stark의 환상을 참을 수 없어요. 억만 장자가 부를 축적해야하는 상황에서 한국인과 Marvel 팬들이 천재 억만 장자에 대한 아이디어를 어떻게 사랑하고 숭배하는지 이해 할 수 없어요. 주인공은 기본적으로 Tony Stark 유형이며 첫 번째 에피소드는 그는 약간이 즘 너무 진부해요. 촬영과 글쓰기는 매우 야심적이면서도 야심이 넘쳤어요. 설명하기는 매우 어렵지만, 액션, 미스터리, 이야기의 불일치 혼합 된 Star Trek Picard의 처음 두 에피소드를 생각 나게했어요.

So instead of the drama “Sisyphus, the Myth,” let me just quickly discuss “The Myth of Sisyphus” instead, a book by Camus, the one which I suspect the writers borrowed the title from. As I understood it, the book looks at absurdist philosophy. Life is essentially absurd. We toil all of our lives and the world constantly brings us unexpected hardships. And the closer we are to achieving our dreams as we age, for the lucky few that is, the closer we are to death. Now, looking at the absurd nature of life, isn’t the most logical solution suicide? After all, if you’re in an absurd relationship or stuck in an absurd job, isn’t the most logical solution to just quit?

그래서 드라마 “Sisyphus, the Myth”대신에, Camus의 책인 “The Myth of Sisyphus”에 대해 간단히 이야기하겠습니다, 그 드라마를 제목이 빌린 것으로 의심됬어요. 내가 이해했듯에 이 책은 터무니없는 철학을 본이요. 인생은 본질적으로 터무니 없어요. 우리는 모든 삶을 일하며 세상은 끊임없이 예상치 못한 어려움을 겪서요. 그리고 우리가 나이가 들어감에 따라 꿈을 이루는 데 가까울수록 죽음에 가까워집니다. 자, 인생의 어리석은 본질을 보면 가장 논리적 인 해결책은 자살 아니애요? 헊시, 어리석은 관계에 있거나 어리석은 직업에 갇혀 있다면 그만두는 가장 논리적 인 해결책이 아닙니까?

Now, I’m guessing the Korean drama will be touching up on the absurdity of life since the show deals with time travel, etc. But yeah, that’s the last time I mention that show.

이제 그 드라마가 time travel등을 다룬 쇼이기 때문에 인생의 부조리에 대한 이야기가 될 것 같아요. 하지만, 이게 그 드라마에 대해 마지막으로 말해요.

But thinking about aging and death. I suppose this is the reason why young people are generally seen as more attractive than people who are more mature. Forget biology and the ability to procreate. Young people are much farther from death than people who are older. The touch of death, as it starts getting in people’s skin, they become less attractive.

그러나 노화와 죽음에 대해 생각하며, 이것이 젊은이들이 일반적으로 더 성숙한 사람들보다 더 매력적으로 여겨지는 이유라고 생각해요. 생물학과 번식 능력을 잊으십시오. 젊은 사람들은 나이가 많은 사람들보다 죽음에서 훨씬 더 멀렸어요. 사람들이 죽음의 손길와 냄세를 피부에 들어가기 시작하면서 덜 매력적이됬어요.

Another thing which I found interesting about the book is the idea that “if the world were not absurd, art would not exist.” This is similar to the old idea of art illuminating truths, that artists see the world in a certain way, and use art to express the truths that they see. These all sound very lofty, which makes me wonder why artists are often undervalued as a calling or profession. Unless you’re making millions out of your art, it’s often just treated as a quirky hobby.

이 책에서 흥미로운 또 다른 점은“세상이 어리석지 않으면 예술은 존재하지 않을 것”이라는 생각이요. 이것은 예술이 진실을 말하는 오래된 아이디어가 비슷해요. 예술가들은 세상을 특정한 방식으로 보고, 그들이 보는 진실을 표현하기 위해 예술을 사용해요. 이것들은 모두 매우 고상하게 들리는데, 왜 예술가들이 자주 부름이나 직업으로 저평가되는지 궁금해요. 예술로 수백만 달러를 벌지 않는 한, 그것은 보통 그냥 흥미로운 취미로 취급되요.

Actually, this kinda reminds me of an episode of Peep Show, where a woman was complaining about all of the bad news on the news, “What about the good news? The news where things actually went well?” Well, if the news was like that, it would just be a long, insufferable list of observations of things functioning as they are. The news needs tragedy, otherwise it won’t be news. That’s why I can’t stand news that aren’t really news, like the announcement of the oldest person in the world. There will always be a new oldest person in the world. As Camus would probably attest, the oldest person in the world is probably the one closest to death.

사실, 이것은 Peep Show의 에피소드를 생각 나게해 한 여성이 뉴스의 모든 나쁜 소식에 대해 불평하고 있어요. “좋은 뉴스은 어떻습니까? 실제로 잘된 뉴스?” 글쎄요, 만약 뉴스가 그랬다면, 그것이 그대로 기능하는 것에 대한 관찰의 길고 참을 수없는 목록 일 것이요. 뉴스에는 비극이 필요해요. 그렇지 않으면 뉴스가 아니요. 그래서 세상에서 가장 나이 많은 사람의 발표처럼 진짜 뉴스가 아닌 뉴스를 싫어요. 항상 세상에서 가장 오래된 사람이있을 것이요. Camus가 생각했듯이 세상에서 가장 나이 많은 사람은 아마도 죽음에 가장 가까운 사람 일 것이요.

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My Obsession With One Photo

Ever since I saw it back when I was studying art in university, I’ve always been haunted by Duane Michal’s work, This Photograph is My Proof. It is one of my favorite images. It talks about longing and holding on to things which may or may not be true anymore. It is both sad and happy. It is mourning for love that is no longer there, but it is also celebrating love that used to exist.

대학에서 미술을 공부할 때 그것을 본 이후로 저는 항상 Duane Michals의 사진이 This Photograph is My Proof에 매료되었습니다. 제가 가장 좋아하는 이미지 중 하나이에요. 그것은 더 이상 사실 일 수도 있고 아닐 수도있는 것들을 갈망하고 붙잡는 것에 대해 이야기해요. 슬프고 행복해요. 더 이상 존재하지 않는 사랑에 대한 애도이고, 존재했던 사랑을 축하하는 것이기도해요.

Back when I first saw it, I was in a sad pathetic time in my life. And I guess every time I’m in that space, the picture always comes back to me. “Look, there was a time I was happy!”

처음 보았을 때 제 인생이 슬픈 한심한 시간을 보냈어요. 그리고 그 상황에 있을 때마다 그 사진이 항상 제게 돌아 오는 것 같아요. “이봐, 내가 행복했던 때가 있었어!”

It really applies to any picture and any situation. Here, I can put it on my image and it can equally apply even though my photography does not compare to Duane Michals’.

모든 그림과 상황에 실제로 사용할수 있어요. 여기에서 내 이미지에 붙일 수 있어요. 내 사진이 Duane Michals와 비교하지 않아도 똑같이 사용할수 있어요.

The picture also talk about how pictures communicate moments in the past, and because of that, they might not be true anymore. Pictures lie. In This Photograph is My Proof, the image says something, but the words elaborate things more and perhaps contradicts what is going on. But really, the writer could have written anything else as well. The writer could’ve lied if he wanted to. “Things are still great between us. She loves me. I love her.”

이 사진은 또한 사진을 과거의 순간을 어떻게 전달하는지에 대해 이야기하며, 그로 인해 더 이상 사실이 아닐 수도 있어요. 사진은 자주 거짓말이에요. This Photograph is My Proof에 이미지는 무언가를 말하지만, 단어는 상황을 더 정교하게 만들고 무슨 일이 일어나고 있는지 모순되요.

A friend of mine recently broke up with his girlfriend and purged all of her images on his Instagram. You know why? Because, “those photographs are proofs” that love existed between them once. And now, he would rather pretend that it didn’t exist in the first place. Online, people controlling the message on their images is more pervasive than Duane Michal’s pen. But still, he saw that people control their images, people are sad, and the past is often never as good as the present.

내 친구가 최근 여자 친구와 헤어지고 Instagram에서 모든 사진을 삭제했어요. 왜 그런지 알아? 왜냐하면 “그 사진들은 그들 사이에 한때 사랑이 존재했다는 증거”이기 때문에. 그리고 이제 그는 애초에 그 상황이 존재하지 않는 척하고 있어요. 온라인에서 사진의 메시지를 제어하는 사람들이 Duane Michals의 펜보다 더 널리 퍼져 있어요. 그러나, 여전히 그는 사람들이 자신의 사진을 통제하고, 사람들이 슬프고, 과거가 현재만큼 좋지 않다는 것을 알았어요.

Notice how I’m trying to write some of this in Korean? I’m trying to be more serious with my Korean studies, bad grammar and all.

제가 이걸 한국어로 왜 쓰려고하는지 알 겠어요? 저는 한국어 공부하는것은 진지하게 노력하고 있지라도 잘못된 문법이 보통 사영해요 .

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Asshole Dream, Asshole Reality

I don’t have much patience for hearing about other people’s dreams, but since this is my website and no one is being forced to read it, I’m going to indulge myself a bit and talk about an asshole dream I had last night.

My mom passed away back in 2008 of pancreatic cancer. It was rather fast. She started experiencing pain in her stomach around November of 2007, then she was finally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on February 2008, then she passed away come July. Pancreatic cancer is awful.

So last night, I had a dream that my mom committed suicide. Apparently, she had a fight with my dad during her birthday and she jumped off an apartment building roof in the middle of the night. We were all in shock. I remember my grandmother, her mother, was there too, mourning my mom’s sudden passing. Interestingly, my grandmother passed away two years ago as well. So anyway, it was a pretty depressing dream/nightmare. I couldn’t remember much but several things happened regarding investigations and funerals but eventually, I woke up.

You know when you wake up from a nightmare and you’re all relieved that it was all a nightmare and that everything is going to be fine? Well, I woke up, felt relief, then I remembered that my mom already passed away over ten years ago. I also remember that Korea is also in the middle of a second wave of coronavirus infections and that I don’t know what awaits me at work. Depressed, relieved, then back to depressed. My brain’s subconscious is a jerk asshole.

Speaking of the coronavirus, for two days in a row now, Korea has been having over 1000 cases a day. Before that, the country’s jumped to over 600 a day. We are currently on a high alert level, close to the strictest level yet, which would mean a total lockdown and closing of businesses and schools. While Korea has been a model for containing the virus with its constant testing and contact-tracing, the country appears to have been caught flat-footed with the second wave. Unfortunately, while the rest of the world is already getting started with vaccination, the government decided to wait it out until March 2021 before getting the vaccine. The government wants to see how the rest of the world reacts to the vaccine first. There is some wisdom to healthy skepticism and caution, but the government seems to be neglecting to help people and businesses while they hold out and wait for life to go back to normal. The Trump administration is being lauded for only providing a $1200 check once to its citizens. Well, Korea only gave out assistance once as well.

As much as I appreciate the government’s initial reaction to the virus, it seems like the government only has testing and contact-tracing in its bag of tricks. Cases are increasing and all we’re doing is testing. They put free testing facilities all over Seoul, even outside my workplace. What I don’t see are financial aid for businesses and for people who are unable to earn a living while they are forced to stay at home. As for waiting and see for the rest of the world to react to the vaccines’ side effects, I wonder if that skepticism would be there if it weren’t for the anti-vaccine movement.

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Wasted Year

This coming weekend is the long Korean Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a short work week, but outside of seeing relatives, there’s really not much to look forward to outside of just staying indoors. The Korean government is asking people to stay at home and don’t visit their hometowns during the holiday in order to keep the coronavirus infection rate low. Ever since the resurgence of the virus a few weeks ago caused by a right wing religious group, Korea’s been bouncing back and forth between over 100 to lower than 100 infections per day and people are worried that the long holiday will make the infection rate skyrocket. It’s been even more dangerous lately because most of the cases have been untraceable. So yeah, this means more staying at home, more Netflix, and more getting frustrated/bored. A long weekend sound horrible right now. It is literally making me anxious.

And really, what is there to be thankful for? 2020 has been a depressing slog. I can’t think of any way that I have progressed this year outside of getting a small raise at work. I suppose I should be thankful that I’m still employed, and I am, but that’s been a really low bar in this horrible, horrible year. I mean for crying out loud, Burger King and McDonalds just announced that they won’t be able to have tomatoes in their burgers due to floodings and the tremendously high price of vegetables this year. Tomatoes… we don’t even get tomatoes this year. What a joyless, depressing year!

I’ve noticed it recently, and I’ve heard from a couple of my friends about it, but Instagram isn’t really letting people grow in their platform these days. I had a bit of a growth spurt two years ago, but lately I’ve been seeing myself plateau to maybe just a handful of followers a week. I’ll even get bots following me and unfollowing me after a while which really makes my weekly analytics totally unreliable. I think Instagram has been infected by the awful that made Facebook an awful platform. It is now openly discouraging people to grow their followers outside of paying to promote their posts for more visibility. It’s always there, that “promote” button waiting for people to push their content to more people. As for it actually working, a couple of Youtube videos tell me the investment isn’t really worth it. It doesn’t really add up to more views or followers.

I’m not really trying to grow my followers or anything. I have no grand delusions of making a living out of social networks. I just want people to see my work. But with this new Instagram algorithm making the platform a pay-to-play scheme, it makes it that much harder to get my work out there. And what gets to me is that I’m just an unknown artist who could die unknown and it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference to me. It must really suck for full-time artists who live and die from marketing themselves on social platforms. Seriously, everything Facebook touches turns to absolute shit.

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Where Religion and Covid Meets

Abstinence

Back in 2017, after years of scandals and people protesting everyday in Seoul, Park Gun-Hye, the conservative president of South Korea and daughter of the former dictator Park Chung-Hee was ousted from her position, formally impeached, and sent to prison for corruption. She was sentenced for twenty-four years. The protests, which was key in removing Park, was fueled by the president’s inept response to the Sewol ferry disaster where 304 people, mostly high school students, died. This, plus her government’s push for censorship and the discovery that the daughter of a cult leader was unofficially acting as her right hand man and was privy to state secrets pushed people to the streets. It was a natural groundswell which started from journalism, to the Internet, to mainstream media and some celebrities openly pushing for her ouster, and down to the streets. The impeachment of Park Gun-Hye was even seen as a model for how some countries *cough, United States, cough* should handle massive abuse and corruption by the government.

Conservatives in the country afterwards saw these events and tried to emulate it. They tried to push for the impeachment of the current president on made-up charges. Coddling to North Koreans, being inept, being a criminal, anything. The charges were extremely inept since none of them were based on provable facts, and the current president was enjoying an extremely high approval rating when his opponents started to encourage the rallies. Every weekend, they rallied their supporters, mostly made up of senior citizens, to the same place where the former protests used to take place. The protests became a mixture of confused ideologies, Internet rumors, and religion. People walked around with the Korean flag, the American flag to symbolize freedom from the supposed dictatorship of the current president, and the Israeli flag for whatever reason. In some instances, there were even signs asking Donald Trump to bomb North Korea. So much for being patriotic and Christian.

I work near where these protests occurred. They’re supposed to happen only on weekends, but sometimes I would see them on Thursday and Friday afternoons as well. The place I work at is also close to a park popular among retirees. There, old people would congregate, wander about, and shop for useless wares and snake oil. I notice that the same people that walk around the park, are basically the same type of people going to these protests. Often, the people around the park would be carrying Korean and American flags as well.

See, these protests have become more like a social gathering for people. It’s a thing to do in the afternoon. I passed by these protests a couple of times and many people are just chilling. There are even snack and liquor vendors. The frustration and rage that political and religious leaders are fueling, I believe, tend to be more rooted to longing for a feeling of being in control, longing for a time when they were younger and more relevant to society… which is ironically back when the country was under a dictatorship. And really, there is no concrete reason to any of their demands.

A: Impeach the president.

B: Why?

A: Because he’s corrupt.

B: Really, why?

A: Because, uhm, *Insert this politician under him* was corrupt/caught in a scandal/etc.

B: Okay, but he was let go. That’s not the president.

A: Well, uhm, look at the economy! (and on and on we go.)

The people attending these protests are at best bored. At worst, they are stubborn, brainwashed morons. They are being taken advantage of by political and religious leaders. A few days ago, these protests and the mega church where one of their leaders con his followers became the spark that started another spike in covid-19 cases, much worse than the previous ones we had in the country. The religious leader, Pastor Jun, was diagnosed with covid-19. And even after being diagnosed, he was caught walking around, smiling, and not properly wearing a mask. Asked about the disease, he claimed that it was spread by North Koreans who aimed to sabotage his church and the movement. In Canada, this would be seen as a false claim of terrorism. It is irresponsible and illegal.

Now people who attended the rally as well as the police they clashed with, who had no choice but to be there, are now at risk of having the disease. Thousands of police officers are being tested, but tracing all of the people who attended the rally and members of the church is more challenging. Before all of this, doctors were already on strike, demanding significant change in the country’s medical infrastructure, as well as an increase in pay for working in remote areas. Just yesterday, a member of the church who was diagnosed with covid-19 escaped from his quarantine and was caught in a coffee shop. These people are insane. Things were already bad. Religious nuts, craven politicians, and brainwashed senior citizens just made it worse.

Again, South Korea is on high alert. People in Seoul are advised not to travel outside of the city. Masks are required in most workplaces and allowed to be taken off mostly only on one’s desk. Gatherings after work are discouraged. Gatherings of more than fifty people are discouraged. Church services are canceled, as well as afterschool academies. My Korean class was again canceled yesterday. I’m not sure when classes will resume. Many stores were closed yesterday. Clubs, sports facilities, karaoke bars, and PC rooms are closed. Personally, this virus has already cost me money this year, and Pastor Jun and his followers just cost me even more. The economy was going back up but this recent resurgence has brought the economy back down again.

The first case of covid-19 in the country was brought by missionaries who traveled to Wuhan and kept their actions a secret for days. It has spiked several times in many churches. And now, the latest spike is caused by one of the most politically influential churches in the country. I don’t know what it is they do in these churches that they often become vectors for the disease. I’ve gone to coffee shops, bars, schools, company buildings, and restaurants, and they don’t become vectors for the disease as often as these churches.

The nighttime landscape of Seoul is dotted with so many neon red crosses. Unless the government cracks down on these churches, which are technically businesses, this virus will spike again and again. The wonderful thing about God is that he is omnipresent. People could still talk to him at home.

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Coronavirus Life

Heart_apple

I didn’t realize that most of 2020 is going to be me reacting to the coronavirus. It’s been six months now since Korea woke up to Valentine’s Day with a spike in infections. Though New Zealand has been the only country to fully be rid of coronavirus infections, Seoul has been regarded by many as the gold standard in dealing with the pandemic, especially in terms of contact tracing, mask-wearing, social distancing, etc. However, to this day, Korea is still struggling to have infections lower than 30 a day.

A few weeks ago, the country was on its way to having zero daily infections, but after relaxing on rules on bars and clubs, a few clusters popped up. And now ironically, we’re experiencing occasional clusters cause a rise in infections, most often from religious gatherings. A lot of recorded infections are getting caught via the immigration process and are coming from foreigners, but those are at least getting caught coming in.

What’s annoying, is that many foreigners don’t seem to care much about local regulations regarding the virus. It’s not unusual to see foreigners walking around with no masks on. I was planning to go to Haeundae Beach in Busan, but then I see that the beaches are not only super crowded, foreigners are lounging around the beach insisting on not wearing masks even when prompted by authorities to do so. Just a few days ago, a group of foreigners with US military were shooting fireworks at buildings and people, basically ignoring the police who meekly tried to stop them. Ugh. Youth + coronavirus + hooliganism = gross.

Just last week, my evening Korean classes were canceled for the month because one student from a different morning class was diagnosed with the coronavirus. Fortunately, they traced the virus and found that he contracted it from his workplace, which unfortunately is just a few blocks from where I work. They traced his actions using the mobile app we use to enter our class, and through his credit card activities. They also looked at CCTV footage of him and found that he was wearing the mask the whole time he was in the building. This raised a big alarm for my company and I was worried that it might affect me or my job. It still might. I tried to get tested for the virus myself, but I was told that I needed to exhibit symptoms first in order to qualify for a free screening. If I was “just curious,” I would have to pay the equivalent of $120 US.

Now, I’m quite relieved at the amount of surveillance available to track the one person who canceled my classes for the month. I do realize that a lot of this would be impossible in the US or other countries. Not only is the infrastructure not there, but people would also be unwilling to have their privacy or personal freedoms breached.

I mentioned that I was planning to go to the beach. I’ve been looking to travel outside of Seoul for vacation this year since I won’t be able to travel overseas. I don’t really travel around Korea since it can be just as expensive as traveling abroad. Why pay big money to travel in Korea when you can use the same money to travel somewhere more exotic? And yeah, I’ve already done as many exotic things in the country as I can. It takes quite a bit to excite me. So yeah, I’m not too excited getting stuck in traffic going somewhere crowded within Korea this year.

Aside from my vacation, Korean education, and work being affected, I haven’t worked out in a gym for six months now. Though I try to watch what I eat, I could say I’m currently in the worst shape of my life. Living in a small Korean apartment, I don’t really have the space to work out. As for working out in gyms outside, that would still be ill-advised due to the coronavirus. We’ve been ordered to wear masks even while we’re working on our desks at work, and it’s been quite uncomfortable. I can only imagine how hard that would be in the gym or anywhere working out.

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A few interesting things of late.

The mayor of Seoul disappeared last Thursday. And after hours of searching he was found to have committed suicide due to the pressures of a recently opened investigation into allegations of him sexually harassing an assistant. An ally of feminist and progressive causes, it was a bit of a turn especially in the age of #Metoo.

I wasn’t aware of the allegations when I found out about the mayor missing. I remember I used to work with one of the mayor’s assistants, so I shot her a message, “Hey, where’s the mayor?!” just as a way to keep in touch. A couple of back and forts later, I moved on to other things. The next day, I learned that the mayor passed away. I also learned that he could potentially be a monster to women in his close circles. Then I go back that woman I was messaging the day before. Does she know? Has she heard rumors before? Surely, she must. Do I message back, “Hey, sorry about the news”? How do you respond in that situation?

An odd thing about Korean law is that once a suspect of an investigation commits suicide, the investigation is immediately dropped. Now, I have no dog in this fight. The left in country seem to be suggesting that the mayor was a victim of a smear job while the conservatives are trying to press for more investigations. As a westerner, I figure this shouldn’t be the end of the investigation but the beginning of one. A person is dead, and at least one crime might have been committed. Couldn’t the victim still press charges on his estate for damages if the allegations are true? Couldn’t she press and claim damages on his office? How many victims are there? Alternatively, if he is indeed the victim of a smear, isn’t that a crime in itself? I know defamation is a serious crime in Korea. They should be trying to root out this conspiracy if it exists. This is why there should be an investigation.

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ICE in the US is an evil organization. It has canceled the student visas of all international students if they’re only taking online classes due to the pandemic. They are thus trying to pressure schools to open classes and force the students to take the classes in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. This is pure evil. International students are a big source of revenue for schools so they are facing a risk of losing a huge chunk of funds for this year and the foreseeable future. Students on the other hand are now on a limbo. Trump has screwed with their future.

And as I was learning more about this, I also learn that ICE will now be training people on how to make citizens arrest. Great! Empower racists to make citizens arrest on brown people. As if things weren’t bad enough as it is with the police getting carried away with the power they have. Now they’re going to let loose a bunch of overeager racists with their guns on brown people just trying to get by in the middle of a global pandemic. Ugh. Maybe those international students are better off studying elsewhere. The US under Trump is becoming a hole.

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The Hobbyist

Hands Up

I don’t mind when celebrities later on in their career fancy themselves as artists and try to take up painting or photography. What gets to me is when they rely more on their celebrity status and the art they create and sell is clearly BS. I remember Richard Grieco, an actor who was famous in the 80s, had an art show with works clearly inspired if not poor copies of Pollock’s work. When asked about Pollock, he denied ever being inspired by him. Ugh. What a hack! Shows like these with garbage art amount to nothing more than expensive autograph sales.

Now back to 2016, there’s a story about a Korean singer-turned-artist who was charged with fraud. Cho Youngnam was “indicted of fraudulently selling artwork with his signature on it after having other people create most of the work and “doing only a small portion himself.” He was accused of paying a man surnamed Song to paint 21 pieces from 2011 to 2015, 17 of which he sold for a total of 153 million won ($126,000).

Cho claimed that it was common in the art world to have artists hire assistants to create most of the work. Initially, the court found that it was fraudulent for Cho not to divulge that his paintings were mostly done by his assistant. But then a higher court reversed the decision and proclaimed that buyers don’t need to know that the works were made with the assistance of another person, and the fact that there was an assistant was not an essential information in the sale.

A public plea session was held and it’s upsetting to hear Cho’s side argue that it’s customary for artists to have assistants do most of the work. For one, it’s not common. Second, their argument showed a lack of knowledge of art history or perhaps relied on the general public’s lack of knowledge of art history.

They cited artist Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ which was a simple store-bought urinal. The only thing the artist contributed was it’s positioning and the fact that Duchamp signed it. Duchamp was a pioneer of the Dada movement which used found objects in creating art. It was no secret that he was using objects he didn’t manufacture himself. Instead, he manipulated them and gave them new forms. ‘Fountain’ was created as a form of mockery of the Society of Independent Artist’s rule which accepted all works of art as long as the artist paid a fee. And honestly, looking at the number of pay-to-play galleries in Seoul. “Fountain” would serve as a biting critic of how the art world is, particularly in deciding who gets to have a show or not.

Cho was not making any statement regarding the material nor the process of his work. The fact that 90% of the work was done by a more skilled assistant was not part the work’s story. If Duchamp acted like Cho, Duchamp would have pretended to have moulded the urinal himself. It was a ridiculous comparison. If Cho wants to position himself as someone who thinks up concepts and hires other artists to fulfill his vision, he could very well have done that. Doris Salcedo is a famous installation artist who uses furniture. She famously stacked hundreds of chairs in an alley in her piece ‘Istanbul.’ She didn’t build all of the furniture herself, nor did she stack all of the chairs by her lonesome. Cho could’ve started out by doing the same. Instead, he marketed himself as a singer who found he had talent painting. He didn’t market himself as a singer who had ideas for paintings other more talented people could paint.

I grant that artists will have assistants and apprentices. One of my favorite sculptors is Camille Claudel, who was the student, mistress, and assistant to Rodin. Some may speculate that some of Rodin’s famous works have Claudel’s hand in them, but it is undeniable that even before Caludel, Rodin was already a known genius. Also, both artists shone as separate great artists, though Rodin’s shadow loomed large over Claudel. Cho is no Rodin. He is a rich singer who found a hobby.

I haven’t read the book in the article, Aesthetics Scandal, but I want to look at the pull quote, “The manner of conduct that the Korean art world showed during the process was regrettable. They provided the wrong information to the judiciaries for the first hearing. Saying that physical execution is crucial to art, that authorship lies in the skills of the execution, that fine art does not use assistants, that one is only allowed to use an assistant when the process of the work takes the theme as a meta experiment […] All pieces of wrong information that stemmed from a lack of understanding of contemporary art were used as evidence for the first court’s ruling. The art world is in need of self-reflection and introspection.”

I agree, there is so much nuance to art that it is unwise to say make sweeping rules regarding authorship. However, when it comes to law, defining fraud is much clearer. In Canada, “Every one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence… defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service” commits fraud. How were the pieces sold? What was Cho’s compelling story regarding finding a new passion in visual art? Did he say he discovered he had a knack for painting of did he say he had a knack for coming up with ideas for his assistant to paint? Isn’t this just a visual arts version of Millie Vanilli? Someone else sang and recorded the songs, while two guys lip-synced and danced to them. For Cho, someone else did most of the hard work, while he painted a few corners and acted like an artist.

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