Korea: Country of Slogans

Every Korean city has some kind of English slogan ranging from passable to nonsensical. Maybe you’ve heard of “I.Seoul.U,” which we have been assured makes complete sense. I live in Suwon, so ours is “Happy Suwon” and we also occasionally see “Human City Suwon.” It is nice to know that I live in a city of human beings, rather than highly intelligent beings that simulate emotion after a long night of drinking. Some saint out there compiled a list of all the city slogans they could find.

Read the full list here

Keep in mind, this is not a joke. These are the actual slogans. Here are some highlights:

 

  • Aha! Suncheon
  • Amenity Seocheon
  • Asiart Jeonju
  • Best Gimpo
  • City of Masters, Anseong
  • Eco Hampyeong
  • It’s Daejeon
  • Jump Changnyeong
  • Just Sangju
  • New hope Dangjin
  • Pyeongtaek Super
  • Wow! Siheung
  • Yes Gumi

 

 

 

20% of Korean Apartments Are Corrupt

Relevant article

Summary: “(Several government agencies) audited 8,319 of the country’s total 9,009 apartment complexes with 300 or more households each. Auditors found faults, including missing cash-flow statements, accounting omissions, construction contract violations, maintenance fund misuse and superfluous utility charges, in the financial statements of 1,610 – 19.4 percent – of the apartment complexes inspected.”

So if you live in a big apartment complex, there’s a 20% chance that you are a part of a Ponzi scheme. Most landlords have to provide proof of their financial status and show that they’re investing properly, as required by the government. The problem I have with the apartment system is the large amount of money you have to put down. For a nice apartment, you are basically giving your life savings to a stranger and saying “Hope you don’t screw me over!” Secondly, if everyone in the apartment complex said “I’m leaving, I’ll take my money now,” then I guarantee that even the legit ones wouldn’t be able to do it. Occasionally, landlords go broke and squander their tenants’ money. In this case, their property is sold to someone else and the profits are used to reimburse tenants as much as they can…but imagine if you had given someone 200,000$ and you only got back 150,000$. This audit basically proves that there’s nothing that the government can do to protect your investment. Realistically, these people will not be charged with much. Even if they’re imprisoned, our president will probably pardon them since financially corrupt people really help out the Korean economy!

It would be impossible to audit all of the smaller apartments, but I would guess that the percentage of corruption would be significantly higher. For example, you can deduct your rent from your year-end taxes, but my landlord specifically told me that I can’t do it. Why? He’s not paying taxes on it and if the government found out, he’d be in trouble. I think it’s a lot easier for a small place like mine with only 12 rooms in the building (a total of 5,900$ a month in rent) to skirt certain legal/ethical concerns.

Apartments are always being built. For the most part, having constant building projects keeps blue collar workers employed, but at some point there are going to be more apartments than there are people and the extortionate prices aren’t going to make sense anymore. Economists say the bubble is going to burst any day now, but they’ve been saying it for 15 years or so. If you’re Korean and you have a job, you can borrow money from the bank for your deposit. You can borrow enough to not pay monthly rent and pay on the interest. It ends up being incredibly cheap (think 250$ a month). For some reason though, many Koreans don’t want to do this. They would rather risk their own money, because most of them don’t think it’s a risk at all. The current system stagnates spending by having hundreds of people give millions of dollars to a single individual, rather than allowing them to pay a reasonable deposit (first and last month?) and spend their money buying things that they really don’t need…but maybe I’m wrong. At least 20% of apartments are spending that money, so maybe it’s okay.

Forget Hola Unblocker (VPN Woes)

Last week, there was a post on lifehacker that laid out the case against Hola Unblocker. Read the article in the link to get an understanding of what’s been going on. Essentially, you are connecting to other peoples’ connections and they are connecting to yours and Hola has been a little less than transparent about how they use your data. You are responsible for anything they do with your connection. As far as VPNs are concerned, the general rule is “If you aren’t paying for a product, you are the product.” Hola Unblocker released a statement yesterday explaining their side of the scandal. They’ve been targeted specifically, but it’s not to say that lesser known VPNs are any safer. If it’s something that concerns you, you should pay for a VPN. See the link below for some other suggestions:

https://ramenwater.com/2012/12/28/bypass-kcsc-warning/

Yongsan Electronics Store…not that bad!

I was reading this blog post recently when I was researching where to find a PS4 for the best price in Korea. Despite the warnings, I decided to go for myself and have a look around. If you go to Yongsan’s I-Park mall to the 6th floor, you’ll see maybe 6 or 7 booths for gamers. I really hate haggling because I know that these people are basically scraping by when you have more convenient options (Gmarket). I went around to about 5 of them and said “I’m going to pay with a card, how much can you give me the PS4, a game, and an extra controller for?” Most of the shops gave me a cash price of 440k and a card price of 470-490k for the console. Enter Prince Game:

photo

They people working there (a woman and her husband) were really nice and gave me a really great deal compared to everyone else. Of course, they would rather I have paid cash, but they took it in stride. (Honestly, your card transaction doesn’t cost these people 50$, it’s a punishment for you making them report their income). So I shopped around and some of the other people very reluctantly agreed to match the price, but not beat it, so I went back to Prince because they didn’t try to screw me over in the first place. I won’t tell you what kind of price they gave me, but it was really good and you should go to them.

When it first came out, I can imagine people asking 650k for it. I think the xbox just came out and it was more than 700k on Gmarket. Being an early adopter is just expensive. When it comes to games, the PS4 at least is region free and when I got home, I found out it would’ve been cheaper to just buy the game online from the playstation store instead of buying the physical disc (and it would’ve come with bonus material). Anyway, it was a worthy purchase and now I don’t need friends.

English explanation of the Yogiyo app

IMG_6257

Do you like food? Do you hate leaving your apartment? Do you hate speaking Korean on the phone? Well, thanks to the Yogiyo app, you can finally be the lazy person you secretly fear you already are. There is a really great app for ordering food called Yogiyo. Generally, I try to avoid using Korean apps, because most of them want an inappropriate amount of information from you and Korea doesn’t have a great track record of keeping your information private for long. It’s all in Korean, so someone was nice enough to explain how to use it. The above description is specifically for paying with your cell phone (the charge just shows up on your phone bill). You can also opt to pay with a card or cash when they arrive. If you want to pay with a card when they get there, click the first yellow option in slide 9 (it should say 신용카드 결제). If you want to pay with cash, select the 2nd yellow option in slide 9 (현금 결제). I would recommend using the “pay when they get here option” and you don’t even have to worry about the last two slides in the picture. Using the app still requires you to have some command of Korean if you want to know what you’re ordering. I mainly use this app because it freaks me out to order food on the phone. I just want a pizza, not a panic attack. Hope this helps.

In and around Hwacheon, (Death Wish pt. 3?)

3 day weekends call for action. My friend and I were planning on driving out to Sokcho, but it was supposed to rain on Sunday, so we decided to go somewhere a bit closer. Said friend wanted to relive some of his glory days on the mountains close to the North Korean border. I would draw you a map of our route, but believe me when I tell you that Google maps is the most worthless thing on the internet and it cannot perform its most basic function. However, I managed to drop a million pins to make this map of our route.

We went to Hwacheon after driving around the mountains for a while. I’ll be honest, some of those mountains were really boring. We got to the city and looked up what there was to do. All we saw was a polar bear and some upside down funnel at the edge of town. I looked up stuff on the internet and found this blog and contacted the owner to see what was up with Hwacheon. Well, everyone was out of town and so we were left in a ghost town, staring at that bear. I swear the bear moves. It was facing in different directions on multiple occasions, but people say that it doesn’t move.

The 2nd day of the trip was a lot better. The roads were a lot more enjoyable and the scenery was better. Specially, 460->31->46 was the best stretch of road to drive on. I think this is my last big trip though. My gear box is all kinds of broken now and I’m dreading the bill. I’ve put 14,000km on my bike since I bought it 2 1/2 years ago. I was told I should just push it into a river and forget about it since I’ve spent more repairing it than I purchased it for. Here are some pictures: