bookmark_borderPost-98: Wishing Well for Surgeries

I know I said that post-97 would be my last post for a while. I’m making this one instead of packing, because I’ll be far, far “AFK” (Away From Keyboard) for almost a week.

Next week, the first week of July 2013, two important people to me will be having surgery.

One is my younger sister, Kate. The procedure has been planned for a long time. It has to do with her heart. The date has been moved around a lot, but my mother tells me it is now fixed on July 2nd. I’d heard “late July” just last week.

The other is my friend Jared. Jared’s surgery will be in Ilsan, Korea. that’s the city I used to live in, and the city he’s lived in most of the past six years. I will visit him in the hospital during his recovery in July. He may be out of work for up to two months. Jared has meant more to me, in Korea, than he may ever know.

My sister, Kate, is, actually, the “least intelligent” person I’ve ever personally known, in that she was born mentally-retarded and deaf (although, it may be possible that she was, in her younger years, “socially smarter” than I ever was, at a raw “dealing with other human beings” level). Kate cannot talk or understand any words. She can do some basic sign language. / Jared is, meanwhile, is very likely the “most intelligent” person I’ve ever known personally. He is a fascinating man (e.g., though accepted into Harvard, he declined to attend). I feel like I become smarter myself just being around him. He’s also been around the world. He inspired me to start this blog, whatever that’s worth.

I wish both well.  My sympathies extend clear across the IQ spectrum.

Please, be alright.

Here is a picture of my sister from the ’90s. I took it with me to Korea in 2011, where it has remained on my wall.

I miss seeing my sister. It’s been almost two years.

bookmark_borderPost-97: Jiri Mountain Vacation

Today, Friday June 28th, will be my last post in June 2013. I am rounding-out June having made 28 posts. That’s not bad.
Today is also the last day of two foreign coworkers, Matthew R. and Jon. H., both American. I mentioned them in post-93.

This is my last post in June because I start vacation on Saturday afternoon, when a get a bus to a small city near the Jiri Mountain [지리산] area of southwest Korea. I won’t give any details about the trip yet, partly because I don’t yet know what I will do, exactly. I am excited, because this will be first-ever (and perhaps only) “week off” working in Korea. All other so-called vacations have been a day here, a day there. Never more than three weekdays off in a row. After today, I won’t have to teach again till July 8th.

A photo I found of the Jiri Mountains:


Jiri Mountains [found online]
I will be back “home” next week before July 4th.

bookmark_borderPost-96: Veterans’ Bus in Seoul

Coming back from Osan on Sunday, we were dropped off at Seoul Express Bus Terminal, which is near Gangnam. From there, I got on the subway and headed home.

Outside the bus station, I saw this:


Bus seen at Seoul Express Bus Terminal, June 24th, 2013. “Welcome UN Korean War Veterans”

June 25th, the anniversary day of the start of the war, was only two days away.

The English on the banner is: “Welcome UN Korean War Veterans”
The Korean on the banner is: “환영 — 6-25전쟁 UN참전용사 방한”

(1) 환영: Welcome
(2) 6-25전쟁 (육이오전쟁): “Six-Two-Five War”. [This is the name most commonly used in South Korea for this war, because it began on June 25th. I’ve always thought that to be a strange way to name a war, after it’s starting date. I can’t think of an example of that from Western history. They also use the term “Korean War”, but less commonly. Every Korean knows what “6-25” means, but most 7th-12th grade students don’t know that it was June 25th of 1950!]
(3) UN참전: Participation in the War by the United Nations [UN]
(4) 용사: Brave Men; Heroes
(5) 방한: Visit (for Pleasure?) to Korea

It’s unclear who was supposed to be riding that bus pictured above, but on Tuesday (June 25th), I did see this:
I noticed that the caption writer wrongly wrote “North Korea began the war 60 years ago today”. Actually, it was 63 years ago today, on June 25th, 1950. This is June 25th, 2013. The very same newspaper reported, the day before, that 37% of adults and 53% of teenagers did not know which year the war began. The day after, a member of that 37% must’ve been at the editor’s desk!

Something interesting from the Korean language:

               참전: Participation in the(/a) War
               용사: Brave Men; Heroes

Combining those two words, i.e, “참전 용사” (cham-juhn-yong-sa) equals the word “veteran(s)”, I see from my (still-working) cell-phone dictionary. It’s not just a “participating in a war” thing, but a “bravery”/”heroic” component. This is not the case in English.

Etymology of the word “veteran” in English:1495–1505;  < Latin veterānus  mature, experienced.”

I wonder what the word in English for “participant in a former war” was before somebody grabbed the Latin word.

bookmark_borderPost-95: “All Cooks From Mexico” (Or, Dipping a Toe into the World of Off-Base Military Life in Korea)

I unexpectedly wound up at a Mexican restaurant near Osan Air Force Base Sunday, after I met my friend Jared.

The restaurant has an actual Mexican manager and actual Mexicans doing the cooking, which is something I’ve otherwise never seen or heard of in Korea (i.e., despite the recent rise in the popularity of Mexican food, managers and cooks everywhere else are Korean). On the advertisement for the place, near the entrance, they boast about it:


A Mexican Restaurant in Osan, South Korea
Slogan: “Authentic Mexican Food / All Cooks From Mexico”

We got there in the automobile of a fascinating man named Seungbae, Jared’s friend. Osan is something approaching an hour’s drive south of central-Seoul. This was, I do believe, my longest-ever car ride in Korea.

Both Seungbae and Jared speak Spanish well. Seungbae studied it in university. Jared lived in Mexico for two years, and is fluent. He even taught Spanish in the USA. The two of them had been to this restaurant before. Seungbae introduced Jared to it in 2010, from whom I’d listened back then, in awe, about the “real Mexican cooks”.

Seungbae graciously paid for the meal. He had an ulterior motive for the trip, though: He tried, at length, to enlist the support of the Mexican manager for his latest money-making venture, the details of which I zoned-out on a little bit. All I know for sure is that it’s connected in some way with Mexico, and he needs a Mexican contact. The manager was a kindly, portly, soft-spoken dark-skinned man (who I’d have believed were Arab, if he’d claimed to be). He was born in Mexico but he’s lived in both the USA and Mexico at various times. He seemed to lean more “American” than “Mexican”. (Then again, I’ve never been to Mexico, never even to Texas, and hardly ever to California, so what do I know.) He spoke English well, but only fully-relaxed when Seungbae and Jared addressed him in Spanish.

PictureForeigners attached to the U.S. military in the “Ville”
outside Osan Air Base, near clothes shops

This Mexican restaurant exists on a promenade adjacent to Osan Air Force Base, in which foreigners easily outnumber Koreans. What kind of foreigners? Some were obviously soldiers/airmen (judging by the haircuts) or their dependents, some were obvious military contractors, but a large share of those I saw were “hangers-on”, like this Mexican manager and his cooks. Many were (to me) of really indeterminate origin. Foreign businesses, and business catering to foreigners, define this street. It is a world unto its own, nothing like the “other Korea” I live/work in.

Jared (who was once in the U.S. Army in Korea) says these areas are called “the Ville” by soldiers. (The now-trendy, but once infamous Itaewon neighborhood, in central Seoul, started out the same, as Yongsan Army Base’s “Ville”, but is now something else entirely. The Itaewon of the 2010s has a Muslim atmosphere on the whole, actually, but that’s another story).

In the leisurely two hours or so we were in the Mexican restaurant, I saw perhaps ten groups of foreigners in and out, versus a single pair of Koreans, women in their 20s. The foreigners all seemed attached to the U.S. Military, either as enlisted men/women or contractors.

PictureA man of indeterminate origin rides a
“lowrider” motorcycle through
the “Ville” outside Osan Air Base
[June 2013]

This Mexican restaurant at which we ate would be wildly out of place in Korea anywhere except “Ville” areas, or possibly Itaewon (which, again, started as a “Ville”), it seems to me. Whether it would be “not out of place in Mexico” is less clear. Jared, who’s spent a good while in both Southern-California and Mexico, said it was much more like a California-Mexican place that a Mexican-Mexican place. I guess I could’ve surmised that. The place did have a recognizably “American” feel, but certainly was not-quite-as-American as on-base restaurants. I’ve been fortunate enough to have eaten two or three times “on base”, via my uncle (who gets sent to Korea as a contractor sometimes) and my cousin-in-law (who was at Kunsan Air Base last year). I tell you, earnestly, that to walk onto a U.S. Military base in the Republic of Korea is to walk into the USA itself.

At Jared’s suggestion, I drank horchata, a smooth and sweet rice-based drink, which I must confess to have never even heard of before that day. This horchata easily beats the Korean rice-based drinks I’ve tried, soju and Sikyhye.  Seungbae got a Margarita at the recommendation of the manager. Here is a picture of the food, before mine arrived. Jared (across the table) has tacos. I don’t remember what Seungbae got, but it looks good. In Jared’s hand is a horchata. I got one, too,

Mexican Food in Osan

One reminder that this is Korea was the bell on the side of the table. Very useful. I’ve rarely seen any in the USA.
One reminder that this place serves non-Koreans almost entirely: No kimchi at all was served.

The meal was good; seeing the Osan “Ville” was fascinating, riding such a distance in a car in Korea was novel, and the conversation provided by Seungbae (who spoke at length about Korean history and any other topic that came up) and Jared (who always has something interesting to talk about) was pleasant.

It was a good trip. It reminded me of being in the USA.

bookmark_borderPost-94: A Peace Corps Volunteer in Korea, Circa 1970

The great Korea-focused blogger “Gusts of Popular Feeling” (who is from Canada, and I think is a professor in Seoul) has just posted a link to a number of digitized books about Korea from the 1970s and prior.

One of them is an informational booklet about the 17th group of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers in Korea from around 1971. Here is a link to a PDF of the booklet. It consists of a short introduction, a lot of pictures, and then a profile of each volunteer in this 17th group of Peace Corps volunteers to Korea.

One of the pictures jumped out at me:


Peace Corps Volunteer in Korea, circa 1970 (from page 8 here)

He is imitating the typical Korean (East-Asian) picture-taking pose. (It is common for Koreans today to put up two fingers like that in photos, often near their eyes.) That was my first thought. Actually, he is almost certainly making a symbol that has long since become an anachronism in the USA, the “peace sign”. It took me a few moments to realize that. When I first saw it, I quickly speculated about whether Koreans already doing this in the early 1970s and whether he was imitating them. I was surprised, because I imagined the Koreans’ “showing two fingers for a photo” habit started much later (though I have nothing to base that on, actually). No, it’s just a run-of-the-mill peace sign.

This man may be Cris Groenendaal, judging by page 70 of the booklet, which I will reproduce here:

Cris Groenendaal (from Erie, Pennsylvania) graduated from Allegheny College, majoring in English Literature, it says. It lists the countries he had visited before Korea: the UK, France (spelled 불란서 here, which I had to look up — an awkward/old spelling), Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Austria, and Italy (spelled 이태리 here, which copies the English pronunciation — today Koreans call it “Italia”, not “Italy”). It says he could speak German and French, he had studied at Exeter University, and he had worked in a bank. His hobbies are listed as tennis (written as “정구”, an obsolete word I had to look up; Koreans today use the English word “tennis” [테니스, te-ni-suh)]). ping pong, swimming, singing, and either “guitar” or “other” (기타 can mean both).

I hope this man, who’d be 65 as of this writing, pardons me for prying into a snapshot of his life 40-some years ago.

Gusts of Popular Feeling also links to a neat little essay by Amy Lennard Goehner, a volunteer there in 1974-5.

The Peace Corps was discontinued in South Korea in 1981. Two years later, it stopped in Malaysia.

Both my parents were Peace Corps volunteers in Malaysia around the time the booklet I link to above was made. The Peace Corps website says that 4,067 American volunteers served in Malaysia from 1962-1983. I’ve known two of them since the day I was born. They both speak nothing but highly of their time in Malaysia. What I’ve done in Korea for three (non-consecutive) years is something similar, I like to imagine.

bookmark_borderPost-93: What’s the Opposite of “Golden Handshake”?

Golden Handshake (informal), a sum of money, usually large, given to an employee, either on retirement in recognition of long or excellent service or as compensation for loss of employment. [Link]

J.H. (American, born 1987) was always polite, to a fault, to the Korean managers. He is my coworker till next Friday.

J.H. missed not a single class for illness or any other reason in 19 months, and he was popular with the kids. He maintained a deferential politeness towards, and avoided any confrontation with, management (which allowed them to push J.H. around in ways I won’t go into). He didn’t fight when “corners were being cut” against us, instead shrugging it all off, even when I and others were ready to fight — “better to keep the peace”, he reasoned. Now, as thanks for all his loyalty and deference, he’s received a final kick in the stomach, right as his foot is out the door.

Next Friday is actually the last day of not only the magnanimous J.H., but also of the wiry M.R. (born 1971), who is occasionally called “Steve Jobs Teacher” (see post-21). M.R. has been very helpful to me in the past year, but he was antagonized by Korean management literally from day-one (in a humorous anecdote I could relate another time).

Both J.H. and M.R. will remain in Korea, and start different jobs. They are both a bit sick and tired of this particular place of employment, especially M.R. Still, both have served their time loyally.

J.H.’s “Golden Kick in the Stomach”
At about 3:15 PM yesterday, I overheard a heated discussion in the 4th-floor teachers’ room, between J.H. and one of the many Korean “managers”. They were alone in the teachers’ room. I don’t know where everybody else was. I only heard bits and pieces of their exchange, as I was in a classroom preparing something at the time. The Korean manager was that pernicious “stringbean of a woman” I briefly mentioned in post-61.

They were arguing in there. J.H. was still trying to be polite, but was getting more and more flummoxed.

A few minutes later, J.H. told me what the fuss was. Management is insisting it will not pay him his contractually-assured return-airfare, worth $1,200. This was confirmed when he met Miss Stringbean again at 10 PM, after work. I met J.H. after work for an hour or so to hear about the situation and give advice. Management had a few half-baked (technical) reasons for why they were refusing to pay. J.H. speculated they’d cooked-up half of them between 4 PM and 10 PM that very day. One was that J.H. is staying in Korea so he “wasn’t entitled to the airfare”. He is actually going home, anyway, in the first two weeks of July, to visit. His new job starts in mid-July. There is nothing in the contract stipulating some kind of “forfeiture of airfare for taking another job in Korea”. An absurd proposition. The other pretexts given were equally dubious. Management refuses to pay him even a portion of the airfare. Unethical. Illegal.

Also cruel. Being (in effect) so openly “screwed out of” an expected $1,200 in compensation is never fun, but it is particularly depressing for J.H. After all, for 19 months he tried so hard to be deferential and acquiescent, as I say above. He didn’t fight when he could have, over Management’s refusal to give legally-required vacation days, or over Management’s skimming-off-the-top regarding pay. He let it all go. I was also affected by those things, and I was committed to fighting…. (alas, perhaps it’s better to continue with that another time, if I ever care to).

J.H. is depressed and angry. He is now on the warpath, thinking seriously of going to court.

A “golden handshake” is a gift of money in appreciation of somebody’s service, when they are leaving a company. “Hey, thanks for your good work. Here’s a cash bonus.”  This situation calls for an opposite term, i.e. for “Hey, thanks for the loyal service and all, but we’re going to screw you out of a bunch of your contractual compensation anyway“.

I’d like to propose the phrase “golden kick-in-the-stomach for what has happened to J.H.

In 2010, I finished my first contract. I told the boss I’d buy my own plane ticket. I told her it was near $1,100, and the boss simply deposited that sum in my bank account. I wonder what my return-airfare-money “experience” will be this time, in light of J.H.’s recent trouble….

bookmark_borderPost-92: Summer Solstice 2013

The summer solstice is today. That’s the “longest day of the year” for most humans (i.e., Northern-Hemisphere-ites), when the Sun reaches its northern maximum.

The precise time of day when the sun hits its maximum, I found, was Friday, June 21st of 2013 at 2:04 PM Korea Time (1:04 AM June 21st, Eastern USA Time). I arrived at work shortly before 2 PM. When the clock struck 2:03. I decided to slip out of the teachers’ room, and mark the occasion by going to a classroom window, to catch a glimpse of the Sun. I didn’t quite see the Sun. I got a largely-obstructed view of a semi-grey, indistinct sky. At least it was the sky.

There are two things I find of interest on this topic:

(1) The Word “Solstice”. English uses the pretentious Latin word “Solstice”. Why use the Latin? German, characteristically, uses an old-Germanic formation for this event, “Sonnenwende”. That might be translated as “Sun Turning Point”, or simply “Sun Change”. (In today’s German, the word “Wende”, when it stands alone, refers to the German Democratic Republic’s disintegration, “die Wende“). That English so often chooses Latin words over simpler Germanic ones (even when Germanic ones will do), is something I’ve often pointed out to more-advanced students.

(2) Its Significance as a “Holiday”. The Pagans in Europe famously celebrated seasonal-holidays, like Summer Solstice. My own surname is related to the word “Yule”, an old-Germanic name for the Winter Solstice. Summer Solstice supposedly inspired the creation of Stonehenge and other megaliths.

Paganism and its seasonal holidays were on the way out in the centuries of the first Milennium AD. Supposedly, the early Church fathers chose the December 25th date to smooth over Pagan-Christian relations. Jesus’ birthdate was unknown, but being set by the Church at the same time as the traditional Yuletide festivals of Europe, must’ve led many Pagans to feel “these Christians are coming around!”


Stonehenge on Summer Solstice 2013 (from here).

The joke was on the Pagans, of course. Nobody celebrates these holidays anymore. However, I’d argue that the spirit of their celebrations lives on in “proxy holidays”, as change of seasons hits deep with us (see post-76 “Memorial Day as a Proxy Holiday, Or, Pagan Habits Die Hard”). I mean, with us humans who live in seasonal climates, especially in northern latitudes. For Northern-Latitude-ites, late June days are very long. Why not celebrate?

Actually, it’s not true that “no one celebrates these holidays [with a spiritual component]”. The news article from which I stole the above image of Stonehenge is of a kind I’ve occasionally seen in the past ten years. It gawks at the activities of so-called “Neo-Pagans” in Europe. Eighty thousand British listed themselves as Neo-Pagan on their recent census, A BBC article from this year discusses Greek Neo-Pagans celebrating solstice. It says:

The followers [of Greek Neo-Paganism] are an odd mix. There are New Age types who revere ancient traditions, leftists who resent the power of the Orthodox Church, and Greek nationalists who see Christianity as having destroyed everything that was truly Greek.

The article also notes that

an official of the [Greek] Orthodox Church described them as, “a handful of miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion”.

bookmark_borderPost-91: Korean Monsoon Average Onset Dates, 2005-2013

The Question of When Korea’s Monsoon Begins continues, for some reason, to haunt me, following post-89 and post-90. I remain puzzled about whether the first Monsoon (Jang-Ma [장마] in Korean) on June 17th of this year was “early” or not.

To satiate my curiosity, I tried to find, via online news reports, the reported first Jang-Ma days in Korea over the past ten years. Caveat: I am not so sure about 2011’s truly-very-early date, which may only have influenced Jeju Island.

Dates of the Start of Monsoon Seasons, Jang-Ma, in Mainland Korea
2005: June 26th
2006: June 21st
2007: ?? — I could not find it in the English press
2008: June 17th
2009: June 25th
2010: June 19th
2011: June 10th — “the monsoon…arrive[d] earlier than at any time since the KMA began compiling statistics in 1973”
2012: June 30th
2013: June 17th

The average “Monsoon season onset day” in the past decade, if excluding 2011, is June 22nd; if including 2011’s, it’s June 21st. Both are earlier than the historical average of June 25th-29th. That date range is according to this, which analyzes the entire period of 1778-2004 for Seoul.


Average Rainfall in Seoul, 1778-2004. “Pentad 36” is the five-day period, is June 25th-29th.
From “Variability and Singularity of Seoul, South Korea, Rainy Season (1778–2004)” [Link]

This is a pretty comprehensive academic study, and finds a June 25th-29th average onset day. The government says that the Jang-Ma season for central Korea started, on average, June 24th/25th in the 1981-2010 period.

1778-2004 Average: June 25th-29th
1981-2010 Average: June 24th-25th
2005-2013 Average: June 21st-22nd

My final conclusion: The June 17th 2013 Monsoon was “early”, but not very early. More interestingly, the recent average start day of the Jang-Ma season has been getting earlier, if my attempt to analyze the data is correct. This does not point to a general “warming trend”, because, also ancedotally, I can say that winter was very, very long this year (see post-34 and post-63). Koreans themselves have been saying spring starts later and later each year recently.

In the course of my reading, I saw that Korea’s rainfall is higher today than it was in the 1800s:

Rainfall Statistics in Korea, in millimeters.
Chosun: 1778-1907 / Modern: 1908-2004.
Table 1 from “Variability and Singularity of Seoul, South Korea, Rainy Season (1778–2004)” [Link]

That’s 10% more rain per year in the past century than earlier. Why? I have no idea.
This 85-mm increase in summer rainfall could be interpreted as more days of “regular” (non-torrential) rain, or as more days of true Monsoon, of torrential rain. The following may suggest the latter:

Meteorologists believe Korea is witnessing a rainy season throughout the summer as the country’s climate turns subtropical, with global warming raising the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. The “August rains” often cause a substantial amount of damage, since torrential downpours are focused on a small area over a short period of time. Between 1954 and 1963, only an average of 1.6 days a year saw 80 mm of rainfall a day. But that increased to 2.3 days between 1994 and 2003. The torrential downpour phenomenon is becoming a feature of our weather. Global warming increases the amount of energy in the atmosphere, leading to more frequent extreme weather conditions, such as typhoons.

I’d like to know more on the topic, but my mind is exhausted from looking to this “First Jang-Ma Day Question” I’ve been on, so I’m throwing in the towel. If someone else who may reads this knows or can guess, leave a comment.

bookmark_borderPost-90: Earlier Monsoons and Climate Change Speculation

In post-89, I noted that Korea’s skies were blackened by the Jang-Ma [장마], or Monsoon early this year.

That was June 17th. A day before, in India, the same thing happened, also early:

Monsoon covers India by mid-June, earliest ever
Jun 17, 2013
Monsoon rain has covered the entire country [India] a month ahead of schedule, brightening the prospects for a bumper output of summer-sown crops such as rice, oilseeds and cotton.

The rain usually covers all of India by mid-July, but this year it happened on June 16, the earliest such occurrence on record, a senior official at the India Meteorological Department said.”

PictureSatellite view of a monsoon
(Found online)

 India’s first monsoon of 2013 was a month early.

Is June 17th really “very early” for Korea? I said it was, though I wasn’t quite sure of that when I was writing post-89, I must confess. I was just repeating what I’d heard. Now I find a scholarly article (from 2006) that says the onset of the Jang-Ma season in Korea (i.e., the first Monsoon of the year) has always occurred in the window of “late June to mid-July” (after which a few more weeks of regular Monsoons follow). June 17th is outside that window, and two to three weeks earlier than the overall-average onset time of early July. June 11th, the onset date in 2011, is way outside that window.

I wrote, in post-89, that people were “speculating about earlier arrival [of the Monsoon season as] being connected with climate change.”

In my hunt for educated-speculation on earlier-Monsoons and climate-change, I find the following from June 25th, 2008 in Bangladesh:

BANGLADESH: Early monsoon floods “point to climate change”
The monsoon floods have come early to Bangladesh, with thousands of people losing their homes and crops to river erosion, in what specialists say is a clear sign of climate change.

Most major flooding in the low-lying nation is not expected until July and August.

“Early flooding of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers is an example of climate change caused by global warming,” Atiur Rahman, an environmental economist, told IRIN, noting a gradual advance of the annual flooding over the past 50 years.

Is it true that there has been a true “gradual advance” of the Monsoon season in Asia, and that 2011 and 2013 (June 11th and June 17th Monsoon season onsets, respectively) were not just flukes? If so, isn’t this evidence of “climate change”, by definition?

All those guidebooks that say Korea’s Monsoon season begins in July draw from established knowledge, which may no longer be correct.

bookmark_borderPost-89: Monsoon Season 2013 Comes Early

Monday June 17th was the first day of Monsoon Season 2013 in Korea. Monsoon season is “Jang-Ma” [장마] in Korean. This meant that endlessly-dreary overcast sky and intermittent rain defined the first two days of the work week.

PictureMonsoon rains in South Korea
June 10, 2011 (found online)

I had no idea, in early 2009 (before I first arrived), that there would be a “Monsoon season” here. Monsoons, I for some reason imagined, were limited to Southeast Asia. To my dismay and amusement, I experienced my share of running back or forth (to work or elsewhere) in an oppressive, pounding rain, around July 2009. / The Monsoon is not always oppressive or pounding, though. Pounding rain is, at least, exciting. Often, the Jang-Ma is just, well, endlessly dreary, day after day of steady rain and a blotted-out sky. I had students list words they associated with Jang-Ma/Monsoon. Nearly everyone came up with “depressing” or a variation.

I’ve been hearing that June 17th is early for the Monsoon season to begin. People are speculating about earlier arrival being connected with climate change. Travel books and guidebooks I’ve consulted over the years have said that the Monsoon season begins in July. Yet this year it began on June 17th. In casual googling to find an image to attach to this entry, I find that it began as early as June 10th in 2011!

I’ve read that the North Koreans chose to begin their offensive on June 25th of 1950 specifically with the Jang-Ma in mind. They wanted the critical first week of the war to be before the Monsoon season began. This would give them at least a week of good weather to capture Seoul and “bag” much of the South-Korea Army near the 38th parallel (both happened). The point is, NK planners were confident the Jang-Ma would come only in July. [In July 1950, when the Jang-Ma arrived, the pace of the NK offensive slowed considerably. I’ve read reports of the early U.S. battles, including the disastrous July-1950 defense of Daejeon. It ended not only in U.S. defeat/retreat, but with the capture of the U.S. general in command. U.S. accounts report near-daily, steady rain at that time. / Why did NK not attack earlier, if their aim was to avoid the Jang-Ma?  As far as I’ve read, they were getting all their ducks in order, vis-a-vis (1) Their recently-acquired T-34 tanks, and (2) the integration of the tens of thousands of crack Korean veterans of Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army who’d been streaming back into Korea from late-’49 to mid-’50.]

Is the Jang-Ma really all that bad? After the word-listing “brainstorming” activity I mention above, I made students write essays explaining what “Monsoon” is, good things about it, bad things about it, and “interesting” things about it.

A good thing, many said, was its cooling effect. Korean summer can be oppressively hot. The next few days call for clear skies and hot, around 85-90 Fahrenheit during the day (30 C and up). The next time ol’ Mr. Jang-Ma passes through, it’ll push the temperature down to the 70s or even high 60s! [20 C range].