Sunday, August 30, 2009

Slice of Life

One of my coworkers was playing with his new camera the other day. Here's a peek into my daily life:

The snack stand outside school.

The secretaries. Sweet ladies but they speak almost no English.

Getting ready. That's Mina, my partner teacher, next to me.

Lunch time!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Obligatory Korean Tourist Spot #1: N Seoul Tower

I mentioned a while back that a college friend of mine, Aaron, came to visit in July. Now, nearly two months later, I have pictures from his visit here. Probably the most notable thing we did (besides eat) was visit the N Seoul Tower.

The road up towards Namsan park and the cable car up the mountain winds past an animation museum of some kind. Naturally, we had to stop and take silly pictures:

The N Seoul Tower is a huge tourist attraction for couples. As people have mentioned before, all along the cyclone fencing (to keep you from falling off the edge of the deck into the relative wilderness below) are locks that people stick there as testaments to their love for one another. You can even buy locks right at the tower.

Stole this from Alex, since I was too lazy to take a picture of the locks myself.

The "ground level" deck was home to a few eateries (some fast food, one a more sit-down, candlelit affair), the gift shop, and basically places to mill and lounge around. The benches are designed to be weirdo snuggly intimate affairs with bends in the middle, making them vaguely V-shaped.

We shelled out about W20,000 to take the elevator up to the observation room, a huge 360* with big windows looking out in every direction. The compass points were conveniently labeled, and by each point was the name of a few major international cities and how far away they were in that direction. I should note that looking west you could see how many kilometers it was to Washington, D.C. and New York City, but not Philadelphia. Alas, city of brotherly love, you'll always be that forgotten middle child.

You could also pay some ridiculous price and get a pseudo-Tarot reading (didn't look like a proper Tarot deck, from what I could see) about love and relationships. N Seoul Tower is really marketed as a couples-y romantic getaway, remember. I'm not sure if it was originally designed to be a romantic date thing to do, or if Koreans started that on their own accord and then the owners of the tower just decided to run with it.

I guess giant futuristic phallic landmarks are pretty romantic....

It also has some kind of modern art laser light show that goes on periodically. I didn't really get it, but then I don't really get modern art in general.

Pretty sure this has to do with the light show.

At some point, I will probably go back to get a better look at Namsan park (Seoul really hurts for greenery, Namsan park is a blessing) and also to leave a lock on the wall for me and Aspie_Dev. I'm a big softie at the end of the day. =P

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

That's two posts in a row with songs for titles. They're just so apropos...

I mentioned earlier that South Korea's former president, Roh Mu-hyun, jumped to his death/was possibly murdered. The one prior to him, Kim Dae-jung, recently passed away (of natural causes). He was born when Korea was still just Korea and constantly advocated for a reunification. It was his "Sunshine Policy" that Roh tried to continue all throughout his presidency.

He was also tough as nails:

Kim was born into a farming family in South Jeolla province in Korea's southwest when the country was still under Japanese colonial rule.

He started a business after the end of Japanese occupation and it survived the 1950-53 war on the Korean peninsula.

But as South Korea's government veered toward authoritarianism, he chose to go into politics and quickly marked himself as a dissident.

After three losing bids, he was elected to the National Assembly in 1961. Days later, Maj. Gen. Park Chung-hee staged a military coup and dissolved parliament.

Kim ran for the presidency a decade later, nearly defeating Park, who altered the constitution to guarantee his rule in the future.

Just weeks after the election, Kim was in a traffic accident he believed was an attempt on his life. For the rest of his days, he walked with a limp and often leaned on a cane.

In 1973, South Korean agents broke into his Tokyo hotel room and dragged him to a ship where he claimed they planned to dump him at sea. The would-be assassins aborted the plan following intervention by U.S. officials, who sent an American military helicopter flying low over the ship.


Upon his return to Seoul in 1973, Kim was put under house arrest and then imprisoned. His release came only after Park's assassination by his spy chief in late 1979.

Kim was pardoned a few months later. But the drama did not end there.

Weeks after Park's death, military leader Chun Doo-hwan seized power. Five months later, tens of thousands in the southern city of Gwangju — one of Kim's political strongholds — took to the streets to protest the junta.

Troops suppressed the uprising, killing some 200 people by official accounts. Accusing Kim of fomenting the uprising, a military tribunal sentenced him to death. Washington again intervened, and the sentence was commuted to life and then reduced to 20 years.

Kim refused to consider it a setback.

The sentence was later suspended and he left for the U.S., where he lived until 1985. He was 72 when he was elected president.

Expressing his trademark forgiveness and lack of vengeance, Kim immediately sought a pardon for Chun Doo-hwan, the military general who ordered Kim's death in 1979 and was sentenced for mutiny and treason.

Chun was among well-wishers who went to Kim's hospital room in recent days.

But the defining moment of the Kim presidency was his historic meeting with Kim Jong Il in 2000.

That summit — the first between the two Koreas — eased decades of tensions and ushered in an era of unprecedented reconciliation.

Families divided for decades held tearful reunions, and South Koreans began touring North Korea's famed scenic spots. Kim won the Nobel Peace Prize that year.

"In my life, I've lived with the conviction that justice wins," he said in accepting the honor. "Justice may fail in one's lifetime, but it will eventually win in the course of history."

Full article here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fight For Your Right to (Snack) Party

Snack parties are a tradition at Sherlock Academy: every time a class finishes a textbook, they have an "achievement test" (aka a final), and then we have the option of having snack parties—a completely useless class where you just eat food and play (English) games.

One of my favorite classes had one today, though they are also one of my more high maintenance classes and always leave me exhausted. Hyperactive 10-year-olds will do that to you.

The kid in the back looks depressed because he failed the achievement test and has to repeat the textbook again. Also because the other kids kind of don't like him.

Boys on one side, girls on another.

They mob me constantly in class. But I like them, so it's okay.

Unfortunately, I'll have to send some of the smarter ones to a new class they're starting soon. So this is the last time this class will ever be together like this.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who has two thumbs and loves glasses?

This girl!

I went to Namdaemun Market today. While it's a fair subway ride from Minlak-dong, and I could probably wander into Uijeongbu (or just walk about five minutes away from my apartment) and find one, I like the one in Namdaemun.

Since today was Sunday, and I didn't get there until about 5:00 or so, it wasn't quite as big and as crazy as normal. That isn't to say it wasn't big and crazy, though. You could get everything you ever needed from one of these markets: food, clothing, entertainment, cookware, and so on. I thought I would miss farmer's markets in Korea, but honestly, the Q-mart ain't got nothing on Namdaemun. Well, except maybe for mullets. And cinnamon buns.

My first order of business was to pick up a fan. I don't know why we don't carry them more often in the states, it really is a handy thing to have when the weather pushes the 90s. I'm fairly confident that haggling is expected in these places but I'm not 100% on that, in any case I bargained down from ten thousand to seven thousand won on a flimsy little folding fan no doubt made in China.

Inexplicably, there entire main drag of Namdaemun houses an incredible amount of ophthalmologists. And by ophthalmologists, I mean, "glasses and contact lens retailers with an eye chart in the corner." Clearly, glasses are a sort of luxury/fashion statement thing, less a "I need these to get through the world" thing.

I was always under the impression that visits to the optometrist were something that were A) expensive and B) you had covered under your health insurance. Pretty sure they are neither here in Korea: after a quick exchange in Konglish, an attendant sat me down at a machine that looked like a giant microscope, where the technician flashed a landscape before my eyes, sometimes blurry and sometimes in focus. I floundered for a second—how would I communicate to him the usual "better/worse" exchange? But after a minute, he pulled me away from the machine, wrote some numbers down and explained them in Korean—I guess he didn't need my verbal assent to figure out how I fared, because he pulled out some sample lenses and had me read a nearby eye chart. After some tweaking and fiddling, I had a new prescription. "Plus one," he explained. People default to the system they use on contact lenses back home, which of course I can only vaguely remember. -2.75? I haven't worn my contacts in years. But that confirmed my suspicions re: prescription update.

I had two options for frames: expensive ones in a glass case, or cheap ones just sitting in bins in the middle of the store. I opted for the cheap ones, which were obscenely so: 30,000 won, which is about $21 US. Ridiculous! I sprung for two. The lenses ran an extra 20,000 won for each pair, so all told I paid about $70 for two new pairs of glasses. Not too shabby.

After I paid, the clerk gave me a slip and told me to wait about an hour. I nodded, grabbed a business card, and wandered around the market some more. By now it was nearly six o'clock—dinner time. I had some tteukbokki from a street vendor and meandered a bit.

A word here about street vendors: they step it up a bit from American ones.

All of those umbrellas? They are attached to plastic lawn tables, which in turn are under the purview of one street vendor or another. Beyond junky snack food, you can get legitimate sit-down meals, complete with soju. (Pretty sure there's no Korean word for "liquor license.") Quite literally, a movable feast.

After I ate and wandered the side streets, I returned back to the optometrist's to pick up my hot new eyewear.

These might actually be hipster glasses. Jury's still out.

The world is fresh and crisp again. Huzzah, Korea.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

History Lesson

Today is Korea's Independence Day. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Korea spent about 35 years under the rather oppressive rule of Japan.

Korea spent a lot of its history being everyone else's punching bag, pretty much. In 1905, Japan more or less bullied Korea into signing the Eulsa treaty, which made Korea a protectorate of Japan. Five years later, Japan full-out annexed Korea. Korea didn't regain sovereignty until Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces at the end of World War Two. Even then, Korea still got the shaft, as most Americans know (since Korea doesn't really get a mention in history classes until the Korean war). But still, much preferable to living with the Japanese, who were prone to violently beating protesters (sometimes to death) and destroying whole villages based on rumors of hidden insurgents. Forget about freedom of the press. Koreans learned Japanese at school and had Japanese names. Granted, there are two sides to every story—you can argue that Japan forced Korea to reject feudalism and embrace technology and modernity quicker than they would have otherwise (prior to colonial rule, Korea was extremely isolationist), but atrocities are atrocities.

Korea hasn't exactly forgotten about this, and their relationship with Japan seems a bit odd. On the one hand, some of my students will tell me that they want to go to Japan, and they love anime about as much as geeks in America do. On the other hand, you have movies with less-than-flattering portrayals of the Japanese, like Fighter in the Wind and 2009: Lost Memories. Koreans go crazynuts when international sporting events pit them against Japan. I think they're also a bit resentful of the fact that when Westerners think of "(East) Asia," they think of...Japan. As one of my friends put it, "A lot of Japanese culture comes from China or Korea. It's just that the Japanese market themselves really well."

I've never really been a cheerleader for Japan (despite being in the anime club in college). I don't get the fascination that some of my fellow geeks have. Korea's own ambivalence has rubbed off on me and now I'm even more tepid.

That being said, the day was uneventful for me. KBS was airing some kind of documentary piece about Korean WWII veterans, but otherwise things were pretty sedate. Normally, this would be a day off from school, but since it's a Saturday, no dice. There's no "token day off" practice here like we have at home when a holiday falls on a weekend. Maybe Koreans are out drinking even more than normal, but that seems to be it.

K-movie Recommendations, Part Two

So by now, hopefully, you've seen The Host. If you haven't, queue that up on the Netflix list because it's a really good movie.

While East Asian cinema has a reputation for being rather bizarre and gruesome, there's still plenty that's pretty tame and mainstream, with plenty of nods to Western culture. For example, Kim Ji-woon's The Good, The Bad, The Weird. Yes, that is a nod to Sergio Leone's classic Western, which Kim Ji-woon has obviously seen. And The Good, The Bad, The Weird is indeed a Western...set in 1930s Manchuria. Bonus points for using music from the Kill Bill soundtrack.

Song Kang-ho, the father in The Host, plays "the Weird," Yoon Tae-gu, who steals a treasure map from a Japanese official. The Good, Park Do-won, is after the map for a Korean nationalist group (remember, in the 1930s, Korea was still an unhappy colony of Japan), while the Bad, Park Chang-yi is after it for a mob boss. (The actor who plays Park Chang-yi plays Storm Shadow in the new G.I. Joe movie, actually. Never mind that Storm Shadow is Japanese.) It's a solid action flick with a sense of humor and a tight story. No weird, gruesome violence, just good old-fashioned gun-slinging. It came out in 2008, so it should be in the states by now, though it will take a bit of looking.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Diff'rent Strokes

The listening class I mentioned a while ago did not respond well to my initial musical selections. Apparently, adolescent Koreans aren't into Barenaked Ladies or Cake. Funny, since I consider those some of the more accessible bands in my library (I can't imagine how they'd react to Blood Sweat & Tears or They Might Be Giants).

To be honest, I had hopes of channeling my inner Jack Black and giving my kids a School of Rock-esque crash course in music, assuming they'd be thrilled about this new thing called "rock 'n roll." It cut me a bit deep when it became obvious that life is rarely, if ever, like the movies.

Alas, this wasn't to be.

So I present a revised playlist, designed to cater to teenagers' insatiable desire for mediocre pop music—all of this based on their positive reaction to Katy Perry. Like my earlier attempt, this is definitely subject to revision. For example, I've already duly noted that they don't like Lou Bega. (If I wanted to be mean-spirited, I could say that, given Lou Bega's heavy Latin/mambo/salsa etc influence, they probably found it too bizarrely ethnic and simply lacked the capacity to put it in any context, but to be fair, Lou Bega isn't exactly great music.) And they love Britney Spears. The difference between this Version Two and the original Version One is laughable. For all of you baby boomers playing along at home, if you know more than seven songs on this list, I'll be impressed.

  1. Womanizer (Britney Spears)
  2. I Got a Girl (Lou Bega)
  3. Hot 'n Cold (Katy Perry)
  4. Fever, Fever (Melody Club)
  5. Bad (Michael Jackson)
  6. Mambo Number 5 (Lou Bega)
  7. Crazy in Love (Béyoncé)
  8. (You Drive Me) Crazy (Britney Spears)
  9. Four Minutes (Madonna & Justin Timberlake)
  10. I'm Electric (Melody Club)
  11. Ring Ring (Abba)
  12. Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) (Béyoncé)
  13. SOS (Rescue Me) (Rihanna)
  14. Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson)
  15. Let's Get Retarded (Black-Eyed Peas)
  16. Everybody (Backstreet's Back) (Backstreet Boys)
  17. Umbrella (Rihanna, featuring Jay-Z and Chris Brown)
  18. One Plus One is Two (Lou Bega)
  19. Pump It (Black-Eyed Peas)
  20. Take a Chance On Me (Abba)
  21. Prayer For the Weekend (The Ark)

Two sad/funny things to note. One, whatever current pop music is in there, I pretty much only know courtesy of what they play at clubs in Hongdae—I had to get in touch with American pop music by coming to Korea. This would suggest that the typical Korean (or at least, the typical Korean who frequents Hongdae) knows more about "my own" current pop culture than I do. Two, I'm so out of touch with current/recent pop music that I had to reach back for Michael Jackson and Abba to round out my playlist. (Though I might nix some tracks, namely Lou Bega, to make room for more Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys. And throw in a song by Kanye West, just to see how they react.)

Also note that Melody Club and The Ark are actually Swedish pop groups—but their English is good so it's totally kosher. The heavy presence of Lou Bega is due to the fact that I actually own the A Little Bit of Mambo album and that was the closest I got to being into pop music back in the day. And of course, he's the one American pop artist on there who I actually like*.... and my students couldn't give two figs. Of course.

*Yeah, I don't really care for Michael Jackson unless he's ten years old and still black.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Funny How That Works

Vincent: ...[D]o you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?
Jules: I wouldn't go so far as to call a dog filthy but they're definitely dirty. But, a dog's got personality. Personality goes a long way.
Vincent: Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal. Is that true?
Jules: Well we'd have to be talkin' about one charming motherfuckin' pig. I mean he'd have to be ten times more charmin' than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I'm sayin'?

—Pulp Fiction

Growing up, I always assumed that teachers picked their favorite students on the basis of how smart they were, and also how well they behaved in class. Imagine my surprise when, the roles being reversed, I found out that wasn't the case.

My number one favorite class (5K), for example, speaks pretty tolerable English, but they're by no means my smartest kids. A few of them are kind of smart, a few of them are kind of dumb, most of them are okay. So then—why do I like them so much?

And the answer is—personality. They all have curious little personalities and preferences that not even a language barrier can mute. One of my favorite kids in the class, John, for example, is a pretty crappy English student and has a tendency towards being hyperactive. But he tries and it's obvious that he doesn't mean to irritate me when he acts up.

Luke is another one in that class, probably a bit smarter than John and not as hyperactive, though equally enthusiastic about class and games. The look on his face at either flawless victory or humiliating defeat is just priceless. According to Mina, he also likes cooking and occasionally will bring in his own food to class, but that has yet to happen on my watch. At first he seemed rather unsure about having a foreign teacher (5K is at the very basic introductory level of English, so this is the first time these kids have had a proper English class with a native speaker), but by now he seems to have warmed up to me.

The girls in 5K are at the point where they've turned really timid and sort of passive around boys, but sometimes they still show some sass. Some days they don't get into the games at all, other days they're very much out for blood.

Or earlier in the year, I mentioned a student nicknamed PM, a likely candidate for ADHD. At first he drove me bonkers, but things have progressed where I mostly just find him adorable. He's still just as crazy as he was before—I will grant I've figured out how to deal with it a bit better, but not all that much—but again, it's mostly well-intentioned craziness. PM is also a pretty smart kid, when he buckles down. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I miss him when he's absent (class is still noticeably quieter without him) but I certainly don't mind having him around. Like John, he tries, and he doesn't really seem to act out of malice.

This isn't to say that I don't also have favorites who are quiet, well-behaved, and good at English. I do.

Ian is probably the oldest boy in 5K, or at least the tallest, and definitely the smartest. He's soft-spoken and rather sedate, though whenever I play games with them, he can get just as intense as any of the other students. Never too much, though—and he's mature enough to actually help stop altercations in class instead of encouraging them. And when I see him outside of class, he's one of the handful of students who greet me with the Korean half-bow.

Rose, a girl in the same class as PM, always erases the board for me before class and shares her snacks with me or shows me pictures on her cellphone (usually of her dog, tiny as all Korean pets are). She also doesn't take any guff from the boys in the class and doesn't hesitate to beat the hell out of them when they bother her (though sometimes she isn't as tough and just starts crying, which is awkward).

And there's Jessica, who always sits right next to me in class and who I often see during my lunch break. She always wants to help, either by writing things on the board or handing out tape or letting me borrow her vocabulary book for games. She also comes down to get me from the teacher's lounge before every class, and we spend a few minutes playing gawi bawi bo before the bell rings. Sometimes Jessica is a bit sassy (she calls me ajumma as a sort of joke, since I have gray hairs), but it's never really and truly disrespectful.

I could go on. There's no shortage of students who fit my pre-existing conception of what teachers thought an ideal student was. But would I have predicted that by August, I would list PM among one of my favorite students? Definitely not. Teaching works in mysterious ways.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lessons From the Land of Freedom & Tacos

I made a quick jaunt to Berkeley, CA, over my hagwon-sanctioned vacation days, basically to visit friends I haven't seen in at least a year, some even more than that. I'm beginning to think that I was built for the express purpose of traveling: I don't suffer from jetlag, I'm really good at looking bewildered and getting nice people to help me, I'm a fair hand at foreign languages if I put any effort into them, and I don't really succumb to culture shock.

In fact, the only time I've ever experienced something akin to "culture shock" was just these past few days. I will grant that I've never been to the West Coast before, so it's hard to tell if it's culture shock coming from the East Coast or coming from the Far East. In either case, the contrast between how strangers treated me in San Francisco and how they treat me in Korea was marked. Koreans are supposed to have a reputation for being rude (I guess); I've never really felt that way at all. It's that they're simply more reserved. The same goes for Sweden. I guess the reigning mode of thought is, "if people want you to get involved, they'll let you know." Which maybe goes more to show the difference between what I consider rude and what most Americans/Westerners consider rude.

Being able to understand the conversations around me, for the most part, was also pretty weird. I find it much easier to function in situations like grocery shopping or traveling on the subway when I don't understand what people around me are saying, mostly because it's that much easier to tune out and live in my head. Otherwise I find myself trying to eavesdrop, whether I want to or not. It's not a rude thing (or well, I guess it is) but more that if I hear words I have this compulsion about being able to understand them.

Those are minor things, though. What struck me the most about my all-too-brief return to the states was holy shit, diversity. I always thought that was a sort of meaningless concept among many on the liberal arts buzzword bingo board, but now I get it.

Imagine growing up in an entire country where everyone looks, more or less, the same. The "all you Koreans look the same to me" implication here isn't what I mean; I have over sixty students and I remember all of their names and can pick them out in a lineup. I mean they're all from the same racial background. (One of my friends here in the ROK, Nick, was talking to a Korean as part of his pre-Korea orientation and the topic got to ethnicity and ancestry. He gave the usual American hodge-podge litany. His Korean conversation partner replied, "My fifty-seventh grandfather was Korean." I feel like that illustrates the concept quite well.)

So in an environment like that, how can you possibly expect anyone to form any kind of positive/realistic impression of any other culture? Korean charities love Kenya, for example—but in the same breath, taxi drivers will say they don't pick up black people because "they're all criminals and they never pay their fare, everyone knows that." Even the very word "foreigner" (weigukin) has very specific connotations: a white English-speaker. When you get towards the heart of Seoul, especially in places like Itaewon, you do branch out into other ethnic/national/cultural groups (I've seen Germans, Nigerians, and women in headscarves there, for example) but it's still overwhelmingly North American and Korean. I mean, I will grant that I grew up in Whitebread Cracker Country, USA, but I still saw more ethnic diversity than I do out here in Minlak-dong.

Compare that to San Francisco. In the course of four days, I encountered no fewer than seven different languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, French, and Hindi were only the ones I was able to place, either by knowledge or by context). I saw, in a relatively even distribution, people of every kind of ethnic background, skin tones from deep browns to pale whites. And I thought, Holy crap, this is awesome! It took me four months to hear a language besides English or Korean (ran into some Germans in Itaewon) out here. Even now the count stands at four: Korean, English, German, and Russian—the last I've heard exclusively at the Uzbekistani restaurant I like to go to in Anam.

Among other things, I like to read pop science books in my spare time, especially about psychology and biology. One of the things I've picked up from that (and from what I remember from high school biology) is that diversity is key to a successful gene pool. The more varied the genes are, the easier it is for a group of organisms to survive and thrive—think about all the medical and mental problems the royal families of Europe suffered by marrying and breeding with each other. The Amish are seeing a resurgence of genetic diseases for the same reason.

I know that, arguably, making the leap from evolutionary biology to sociology isn't technically kosher, but nonetheless I think it's a fitting metaphor.

Malcolm Gladwell's Blink is a really provocative read on the subject of snap judgments and how we make them. (Gut Feelings, by Gerd Gigenrenzer, also takes on more of the science behind them. Interesting stuff.) A goodly portion of Blink dealt with racism and sexism, for obvious reasons. Gladwell cites a number of experiments of fascinating studies, the IAT being the most relevant:

Over the past few years, a number of psychologists have begun to look more closely at the role [unconscious associations] play in our beliefs and behavior, and much of their work has focused on a very fascinating tool called the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The IAT was devised by Anthony G. Greenwald, Mahzarin Banaji, and Brian Nosek, and it is based on a seemingly obvious—but nonetheless quite profound—observation. We make connections much more quickly between pairs of ideas that are already related in our minds than we do between pairs of ideas that are unfamiliar to us. What does that mean? Let me give you an example...

When pyschologists administer the IAT...most of the time they do it on a computer. The words are flashed on the screen one at a time, and if a given word belongs to the left-hand column, you hit the letter e, and if the word belongs in the right-hand column, you hit the letter i. The advantage of doing the IAT on a computer is that the responses are measurable down to the milisecond, and those measurements are used in assigning the test taker's score...

One of the reasons that the IAT has become so popular in recent years as a research tool is that the effects it is measuring are not subtle...the IAt is the kind of tool that hits you over the head with its conclusions. "When there's a strong prior association, people answer in four hundred and six hundred milliseconds," says Greenwald. "When there isn't, they might take two hundred to three hundred milliseconds onger than that—which in the realm of these kinds of effects is huge. One of my cognitive psychologist colleagues described this as an effect you can measure with a sundial."

...It turns out that more than 80 percent of all those those who have ever taken the test end up having pro-white associations, meaning that it takes them measurably longer to complete answers when they are required to put good words into the "Black" category than when they are required to bad things with black people...

The idea is that, since we're constantly inundated with stories and stereotypes of blacks being criminals (and, conversely, whites being good), we begin to associate the two unconsciously. Scores on the IAT start to go down, interestingly enough, after people have exposure to positive examples of blacks—after reading about Colin Powell or MLK or (in one case) watching the Olympics—lots of black athletes performing there, given the international scale of the games. Living and working alongside blacks (and, to apply the IAT findings to more than one ethnicity, Mexicans, Pakistanis, Iranians, Indians, and so on) is certainly a good way to gain positive exposure.

But what do you do in Korea when you don't have that kind of diversity readily available? You have to work a lot harder to combat any (unintended or not) implicit associations, assuming you're even aware that you're making them—which you're probably not. Hence the advantages of diversity. We've got a lot of media baggage to unlearn, on top of thousands of years of our groupthink tendencies that see other "tribes" as hostile threats and not potential friends and allies.

But beyond that, it was just refreshing on a personal level to see a whole variety of faces besides Koreans. In an ironic-like-Alanis-Morisette twist to things, the clerks at most of the convenience stores I went to were Korean, so I could use my Korean alien card as ID since they could actually read it. That seemed to make their day.

*Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink. New York: Back Bay Books, 2005. pp 77-81.