Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Korea: The Hypochondriac Society

hy·po·chon·dri·ac(n) A person who is overly or irrationally concerned with their health.

When it comes to health, I cannot imagine a culture that is more over cautious than Korea.  A few years back there was an outbreak of the Middle Eastern Respiratory virus (MERS) that had the country in panic.  Schools shut down for months, businesses were closed, and Koreans all over the country secluded themselves to their homes in fear of going outside.  After months of Korea living in fear, in the end the virus only affected 186 people and of those, only 32 to 36 are reported to have died.  Most of those 32-36 also were in their elder years or had pre-existing conditions.  Despite presenting many of my Korean friends with these facts, most were still too afraid to go outside or do anything for fear of contracting the virus.

This tendency to overact when it comes to one's health or safety is most prevalent when cold/flu season comes around.  When it comes to the winter cold, I am seasoned veteran.  I beat this sickness at least twice a year, and therefore, don't really sweat it when I get it.  However, any Korean that I tell that I have it immediately becomes overly concerned about me and tells me that I should go to the hospital.  Such was the case this past week as I, once again, was overcome with this sickness and thus is the motivation for this post.  I am a person who only goes to the hospital if something is seriously wrong, so everytime one of my Korean friends casually tells me that they went to the hospital that day, which is often, I worry at first but then remind myself that Koreans go to the hospital for everything.  Sniffles?  Go to hospital.  Didn't sleep well the past two nights? Go to the hospital.  Fell down in a basketball practice? Go to the hospital, have the doctor tell you that nothing is wrong, but recommend you stay on crutches for 3 weeks.

This over-reacting behavior causes Koreans to take sometimes irrational precautions, as was aforementioned with the MERS reference.  Just this week, Korea sent out a public service announcement via text recommending people to stay inside because it was too cold.  I won't dismiss that it was really cold (-10 degrees Celsius/ 16 degrees Fahrenheit), but it wasn't dangerous enough to send out a PSA!

Another frustrating example of Korea's irrational over-reacting due to concern for their safety was last year when I had spent months planning to take my 8th grade class on a trip to Nagasaki, Japan during what the school called our "World Experience Tour".  Well unfortunately, weeks before our trip Japan suffered a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed many people in an area not too far from Nagasaki.  Students had asked if we were still going to Japan, and I hadn't even thought that it was a possibility that we wouldn't go.  I mean, after all, there was no greater of a chance of there being an earthquake while we were there than there had been before the earthquake.  The risk was the same.  However, the school and parents did not see my logic.  For some reason the reality of a recent earthquake only served as a reminder that earthquakes happen and Japan and made everyone nervous.  In the end our trip was canceled and we went to place in Korea (not really a "world experience") instead.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Old McDonald's Korean Dog Goes Mung-Mung?

Animals of the same species obviously do not make different sounds depending on their geographic location.  Humans are unique in that regard with our many different languages.  In these many languages, one of the first things most children learn as soon as (or maybe even before) we can speak is what sounds different animals make.  Whether it be from children songs such as "Old McDonald" or children's books or toys, we all learn that the cow goes "moo" at an early age.

Now, a cow in Korea doesn't sound any different from a cow in the USA and neither does a cat, dog, or pig.  This is why I found it so surprising and amusing to learn that Koreans interpret animals' sounds way differently than we do in USA.  Below is a list I have comprised comparing animal sounds between Korean and English interpretations.  Many are different, with some sounding more accurate than the English version (the tiger), and some sounding nothing like the animal (the frog and pig).  Still, others are quite similar in both languages, such as the (the rooster and duck).

Comment below which you think is the strangest:

Animal English Korean
Dog woof woof mung mung (멍멍)
Cat meow ya ong (야옹)
Rooster cockadoodle-do ggo ggi oh (꼬끼오)
Tiger rawr uh heung (어흥)
Duck quack quack ggwaek ggwaek (꽥꽥)
Pig oink oink ggool ggool (꿀꿀)
Frog ribbit ribbit gae gol gae gol (개골개골)
Mouse squeak squeak jjik jjik (찍찍)
Sheep bahhh maeae (매애)
Cow moo eum mae (음매)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Santa Ski Trip

With not enough vacation to go home over the Christmas holiday, I decided to join this group that organizes different tours in Korea for a one day snowboarding trip on Christmas Eve.  I joined the group alone, but I wasn't the only one and was able to make friends with some other solo members.  Here is a short video from that trip: