Extra! Korea

April 14, 2010

“Watch Out for Your Buttocks When Using Public Toilets”

Filed under: health, safety, What the hell?! — extrakorea @ 2:17 pm

When I saw the words above as part of a headline, I thought two things:

1. Could a public toilet make my buttocks detach themselves from my body and attack me?

2. The Korea Times has another winning article.

It turns out that you should be mindful of the fact that some toilet paper has whitening agents that are banned from use in napkins, hand wipes, and diapers because of potential allergic reactions. So watch out your buttocks.

April 11, 2010

I’m sure the rape at the MT (“Membership Training”) is just the tip of the iceberg

Filed under: crime, culture, drinking, gender equality, safety, suicide, youth — extrakorea @ 9:59 am

Not too long ago, Brian (formerly) in Jeollanam-do reported on the university student who committed suicide after being raped on an MT. MT is short for “membership training” and they have nothing to do with any sort of training. Groups of students who are associated in some way (e.g. are members of the same club or have the same major) go somewhere, stay the night, and then return the next day. Participation is supposedly optional, but declining could get you ostracized, which is a big deal in Korea, particularly among university students. What do they do there? Drinking alcohol. Lots of it. Again, you’re pressured to conform and participate. If you don’t drink, or only a little, you will be angrily accused of “spoiling the mood” by your superiors (“seon-bae”). In Korea, subordinates (“hoo-bae”) basically have to do everything that their seonbaes demand, or risk the aforementioned excommunication. It’s common for male seon-baes to try to get female hoo-baes drunk so as to make sexually harassing them easier.

You say, “Wait a minute, they stay overnight? I thought that Korea was a conservative society. I thought that Korean parents are worry-warts with regards to their children. What do they think about that?” Good question. I think it’s a combination of: a) naivety (“Just because a big mixed-gender group stays somewhere overnight doesn’t mean that they’re having sex.”), b) denial (similar to a)). Korean parents don’t want to think about the fact that their kids might be humping like rabbits.), and c) people know, and it’s kind of a dirty little secret. Have you ever seen the movie “Memories of Murder“? (If you haven’t, be sure to.) In one scene, two police officers speculate on what might be happening on these MTs.

I’m sure that it’s well-known among Koreans that sexual harassment is widespread at MTs. You might remember the Japanese student who shocked the nation by publicly describing when her Korean teacher offered her a sex-for-grades exchange. You might not remember that another girl on the show, a Chinese student, Shang Fang (“상팡”), said that she was sexually harassed by the same teacher while on an MT (“상팡 “문제의 교수에게 MT서 성희롱 당했다””). People here don’t want to talk about it in much the same way that they don’t want to talk about the special barber shops (which don’t offer haircuts), “anmas” (a kind of massage parlor), “room salons” (an expensive bar-brothel mash-up), etc. It’s embarrassing to talk about it, so the problem is not addressed.

Kushibo has written that the problem isn’t as bad as it used to be. Let’s say that he’s right. “Not as bad as it used to be” can still describe a serious problem. Near the school that I teach at, I still see students at the big supermarket loading up for the weekend MTs with snacks like chips and booze. Lots of cheap, strong booze. Kushibo certainly knows the seriousness of the problem, from this story that he reprinted:

Well, one other woman began to pass out while they were all at a noraebang in L.A. Koreatown. My friend noticed what seemed like shallow breathing, but she wasn’t sure. She asked some of her sŏnbae (‘senior’) if the passed-out hubae (‘junior’) seemed all right. She actually got barked at that she was ruining the punwigi (mood/atmosphere) of the party. After a couple minutes, still nagged by concern for the passed-out friend, she decided to call 911.

According to my accountant friend, the call saved the woman’s life. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and her stomach was pumped. The E/R doctor told them that if they had waited another twenty minutes, the friend might have died of alcohol poisoning. Her blood alcohol level was stratospheric, having downed all these “one-shot” drinks, egged on (without any real choice without being ostracized) by her supposed friends.

Also, I’m sure that someone as knowledgeable about Korea as Kushibo is knows that there’s optional, and then there’s “optional,” with big, fat quotation marks around it, which basically means, “It’s your choice not to, but if you don’t, we’re going to make your life f-ing miserable.”

Now, due to this unfortunate tragedy, perhaps the problem will be addressed like it should have been long ago.

March 18, 2010

Drunken Drunk driving cost 969 lives, 685.5 billion won in 2008

Filed under: safety, traffic accidents — extrakorea @ 1:02 pm

In 2008, drunken drunk driving was associated with 26,873 traffic accidents (12.5 percent of the total number, 215,822). In them, 48,497 people were injured and 969 were killed. The cost to the nation was estimated to be 685.5 billion won.

Car accidents are the most common cause of death, and since over 60 percent of them take place near schools or residential areas, it’s not surprising that Korea has the third-highest rate of accident-related child deaths in the OECD.

February 19, 2010

Korean exchange student killed by group of Russian youths

Filed under: crime, expatriates, safety, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 4:02 am

A South Korean exchange student, surnamed Kang, has been killed by a group of Russian youths.

Kang, a sophomore at a university in Gwangju, had been taking part in an exchange program at a university in Barnaul near Russia’s border with Kazakhstan.

Local police said three suspects, aged between ten and 20, have been arrested and are being investigated for aggravated assault.

Russian news agencies are reporting that a knife was used during the attack.

Given that Kang was not robbed, investigators are looking into the possibility that the attack was motivated by racism.

Last year alone, 70 people died in Russia as part of racists attacks. In 2007, a South Korean student was killed in such an attack.

It looks like he may well have been the victim of extreme Russian nationalists. Very sad news about a young man who was trying to expand his horizons.

January 9, 2010

Korea slips 10 places to 42nd in quality of life ranking

Filed under: health, safety — extrakorea @ 2:30 pm

Last year, South Korea ranked 32nd out of 194 countries in a quality of life index by U.S. magazine International Living. This year, South Korea has slipped ten notches to 42nd place.

The magazine gave a total score to each country based on points in nine categories: cost of living, culture and leisure, the economy, environment, freedom, safety and risk, health, infrastructure, and climate.

The magazine said it evaluated each country based on the UNESCO annual report, WHO reports, data from the U.S. State Department, and research and survey results from Freedom House.

October 4, 2009

Police ordered to pay for negligence leading to death

Filed under: crime, safety — extrakorea @ 10:02 am

Police officers have been ordered to pay 10 million won to the family of a man who perished after being in their custody.

According to court records, Lee passed out outside on a rainy day in December 2006 in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province. He was taken to a nearby police sub-station but left uncared for despite his calls for medical attention. Five hours later, he was taken to a hospital but declared dead on arrival.

“The deceased showed signs of being seriously ill that were not common for a person who was drunk,” Senior Judge Lee Jun-ho said in the ruling. “Police officers on the scene didn’t even bother to do CPR or any other measures to help him.”

July 14, 2009

Safety standards? Safety schmandards! Those evil Canadians

Filed under: food, safety — extrakorea @ 3:42 pm

The Canadian government has forced Lotte Confectionery and Crown Confectionery to recall some of their cookies and biscuits.

Enterobacter sakazakii, which was found in the Maeil powered milk, has been red-flagged by health experts as it could cause meningitis or severe gut infections in newborns. The health risks are greater for infants less than a month old or weighing less than 2.5 kilograms.

[ snip ]

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a warning that people with allergies to milk, eggs, or tree nuts should not consume various snack foods from the Korean companies Crown, Lotte and Surasang. The 10 items include popular products such as Lotte’s Pepero biscuits and Crown’s Sando Choco and Couque Dasse cookies, which contain allergens that weren’t declared on the labels.

Of particular interest is the accompanying illustration, a blond man with a miniature Canadian flag on his jacket arrogantly pushing away beloved Korean products. Those evil Canadians. Safety standards? Safety schmandards. Don’t you people know that our snacks are well-being?

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