10 Things In Korea That I’ll Never, Ever Do
by Mr. Motgol
I wrote this piece a few years back, and while a few things have changed since then, most have not. As it is currently boshingtang eating season, not to mention Mudfest time, I thought that a re-post may be apropos. I’ve made a few small revisions. Enjoy. And don’t take it too seriously.
I like living in Korea. I’ve been here for almost ten years now, so if I hated it, I would have split a long time ago. I like hiking, I like the food, I like riding my motorcycle, checking out the street markets, and drinking my ass off. It’s a crowded crazy little place and I’ve grown to love it, for better or for worse. Plus, the girls are bangin’ hot. I should know: I married one.
That said, there are a lot of things here that I think are totally lame and that I have no interest in doing. Ever. Here’s a list of ten, in no particular order:
1. I’LL NEVER, EVER GO ON A TEMPLE STAY
Does wearing pajamas, waking up at 3 a.m., eating soggy flavorless food, bowing hundreds of times, and sitting crosslegged for hours on a hard wooden floor sound like fun to you? Doesn’t to me. In fact, it sounds totally shitty and boring as fuck. Yet countless foreigners head to the monasteries every weekend to do “temple stays,” as if it’s some essential “cultural experience” that will leave them with a better understanding of Korea. If you really want to understand the culture, pick up some of the language and get drunk with some ajoshhis at your local soju tent.
And a lot of people give Buddhists a pass because they’re all “nice” and don’t bomb abortion clinics, but Buddhists believe that people are poor because they were assholes in their “past life.” That sounds like a load of horse shit used to keep people in their place to me. Screw Buddhists. I’d rather be a Muslim any day, as at least they believe in egalitarianism.
2. I’LL NEVER, EVER WEAR A HANBOK
Nothing seems to tickle the locals’ fancy more than dressing up the big goofy foreigners in hanboks, which are colorful, traditional Korean attire. Schools love to make their teachers put them on for festivals and special days; some losers even get married in the things, no doubt at the insistence of their ball-busting soon to be a battle-ax ajumma future wives. Hanboks suck. They make any woman who dons one look pregnant and pretty much every foreigner look like a stupid, fat clown (which is how they see us, anyway.)
In short: jarg clobber.
3. I’LL NEVER, EVER GO TO THE BORYEONG MUD FESTIVAL
Nothing says “newbie” like the Boryeong Mud Festival: Packs of fresh-off-the-boat teachers wandering around in various states of undress, covered in mud that’s not even from the beach (it’s trucked in for the event) and celebrating the fact that they can publicly drink without getting arrested. The locals have caught on too, gouging the drunken tourists with quadruple-priced rooms, drinks, and meals. The whole thing is a like ESL spring break, though instead of Cancun, the event takes place in a gurgling petri dish. No thanks.
4. I’LL NEVER, EVER SEE THE CHERRY BLOSSOMS
The only thing as dreadfully boring as a temple stay must be the yearly pilgrimages to see the cherry blossoms every April. People pack into their Hyundai Sonatas and wait hours in horrendous traffic jams just to catch of glimpse of the “beautiful cherry blossoms that sooth the soul.” Sure they’re kind of pretty, but they’re just little fucking flowers on trees. Are they that desperate for natural beauty in this country that blossoms on trees whip them up into some sort of sightseeing frenzy? I don’t get it. I’d rather wash my cats, or spend the weekend watching National Treasure 1 and 2 on a constant loop.
5. I’LL NEVER, EVER HELP THE ORPHANS
It’s seems like every month, somebody’s doing some kind of benefit to “help the orphans” – concerts, silent actions, volunteer trips – you name it, those orphans are getting a lot of love, not to mentions some big coin. It’s as if they’re the only charity that foreigners care about. Who are these “orphans” anyway? I’ve never met any. I thought all of the orphans in this country get adopted by needy and neurotic white Christian couples from Wisconsin, anyway.
6. I’LL NEVER, EVER WATCH AN “EAT YOUR KIMCHI” VIDEO
Really. Those guys should be flayed with razor wire.
7. I’LL NEVER, EVER PAY MONEY TO SEE A SUPER COOL LAPTOP BAND
There have been a smattering of bands coming through Korea of late, which I do applaud. However they’ve all been small combos of unshaven emaciated vegan hipsters playing electroclash or whatever bullshit is passing for cool among the ironic mullet set in Williamsburg, Silverlake, and Portland, Oregon these days. A few years back an outfit called Xiu Xiu came to town. I checked out their video on youtube, and it was a steaming glass of pretentious cat piss. This isn’t surprising, seeing how they’re signed to my home town of Olympia’s super-elitist Kill Rock Stars label, who have always put out music so “cool” that it doesn’t even have to be good.
Call me an old, out-of-touch jerkoff, but if you require a laptop computer to play a show, you’re not a musician and I probably will hate you and want to burn down your band.
8. I’LL NEVER, EVER LEARN HOW TO MAKE DEOK
Deok, or Korean rice cakes are culturally cherished, but they’re really like eating concentrated apathy. They’re nothing but rice that’s been smacked to death with a huge wooden mallet. Koreans love the things and are always forcing them on foreigners, oblivious to the fact that most of us do not think that “Korean rice cakes are the most delicious rice cakes.” But it’s always in front of your boss or at a home where you teach a very lucrative private, so you choke down the slab of “deok” that looks and tastes like it was cut straight out of a Nerf football.
Some silly and stupid foreigners go on weekend retreats where they learn to make the shit. That’s just wrong. Some recipes need to stay in the family.
9. I’LL NEVER, EVER EAT BOSHINGTANG
Boshingtang is Korean dog meat soup. It’s pretty much only eaten by men (to make their dicks hard), and is eaten mainly in the summer, often with su yuk (steamed dog meat). Most foreigners rightly turn their noses up a the disgusting and depraved practice of eating fido, but there are a big enough minority that give it a try, some with gusto even. They think they’re getting some “real” cultural experience, but no, they’re just eating nasty-ass greasy dog meat and patting themselves on the back for really “getting into Korea.”
Fuck that. I’ve been to the Gupo dog market and seen those poor guys stuffed in their cages and looking out at me with sad, defeated eyes, resigned to their unfortunate fate, which usually involves being strung up and beaten before getting killed. This supposedly makes the meat more tender or delicious or some other load of crap, but I think it’s just because the people who raise and slaughter dogs are just plain mean.
I know, I know. I’m a hypocrite because I eat other meat and those animals are too, treated brutally. But I say fuck you, dogs are different and should not be eaten. Chickens and turkeys, on the other hand, are fair game. (rimshot)
*10. I’LL NEVER, EVER PAY OUT THE ASS FOR OVERPRICED SHITTY FOREIGN FOOD
How many times have I gone to an Indian, Thai, or Turkish place in Korea and gotten totally hosed? I never trust any foreigner who says, “Oh, there’s this amazing new middle eastern restaurant in Kyungsungdae. It’s awesome.” Why? Because it never is. Most all of these places require a wheelbarrow full of banknotes to pay for portions so small that they’d leave a Darfur refugee wanting for more. One time I counted three microscopic pieces of chicken in a sixteen dollar curry at an abortion of an Indian restaurant. The worst is the time I went to the Thai place in Haeundae and ordered the crab and shrimp curry (thirty six bucks). The dish arrived, with a handful of small, spiny, gum slicing crabs. Upon further investigation I discovered there were no shrimp at all. When confronted, the indolent waitress just shrugged, told us that they were out of shrimp, turned and walked away. And I won’t even write about the massacres that are Korean attempts at Mexican food, except to say that the ceviche I tried in Masan was made with ketchup. Motherfucking ketchup.
I’ve pretty much given up, and so should you. Wait until you leave this country to get your fix of foreign food, or make the shit yourself – that’s what I do. And to all you wannabe food critics out there, stop writing glowing reviews of awful foreign restaurants for those English language publications. I haven’t read a negative restaurant review yet, and believe me, some of these places need their rectums reamed.
Me? I’ll be sticking to bibimbap, galbi, and my daily jeong shik. As for the shitty foreign restaurants? Just like the holocaust: never again.
*Okay, I’ll admit that foreign food options these days have gotten a lot better. I’ve had passable Indian, okay Thai, and some very good Mexican, but this is a new development. I should probably remove #10 from the list, but just let me stew in the hate of days gone past.