The road that we walk together

•April 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Funny how things change. After transferring to SIS from a Korean school in sixth grade, even some of the most deeply rooted “Korean” issues – reunification, the possibility of a nuclear war, Korea’s political relationship with the rest of the world, etc – suddenly seemed to have disappeared around the corner. SIS is a strange place (apart from the fact that we call ourselves “international” when 99% of us are ethnically Korean) in that, especially for the students, it’s like a tiny world on its own. SISers are largely ignorant of the myriad of happenings outside school walls, and Koreans are generally oblivious of the school’s very existence. Having spent the past seven years of my life in such an environment, I have – perhaps unintentionally, unwillingly – let the reality pass by, significantly diminished in urgency and gravity.

The PBS documentary Field Trip to the DMZ helped me remember some of the things that, as a Korean, I shouldn’t have forgotten, the North-South relationship in particular.

To be honest, though, I can’t say that I’m a hundred percent for an immediate reunification, as those in the documentary were. And my opinion has changed very little since when I was a fourth grader back at my old school, where I had to respond to an essay contest prompt regarding reunification. I remember how all of my classmates gushed their hearts out about our social responsibility to end the tragedy that separates loved ones from one another. The deportees and the instructors at the school in the documentary, likewise, want reunification to take place as soon as possible. But the reality of the issue is hardly as simple as that; just as it took years and years of political planning to bring down the Berlin Wall, ridding the Korean peninsula of the DMZ is going to be a giant hurdle. Reuniting families is good, but it’s not going to solve the fundamental problems that have so far kept Koreans divided. Even if we miraculously reunite in the near future, the obvious cultural, philosophical and religious differences are going to make “assimilation” a nationwide issue. There are economic issues to be considered as well; will the South Korean economy be strong enough to take care of the severely crippled North Korean economy while feeding its starving population? Meanwhile, will the “brainwashed” North Koreans be able to accept the South’s democratic system? What will happen if they don’t or can’t?

Usually I like to be an optimist. For one, it makes the world look a shade prettier. However, I can’t agree that the North-South issue is something that can be dealt with naive ideals and simple, personal wishes.

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Modernists of Yesterday

•April 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

During the late 19th century, a movement that asserted that it was necessary to break apart from all previous norms and traditions began to emerge. Especially with the popularization of such developments as the theory of relativity and the expansion of industrialization based on the internal combustion engine, it was argued that, if the nature of reality itself was called into question, and if limitations around human activity and life were falling, then art would have to radically change as well. Thus came in the 20th century a series of writers, artists, and musicians that set themselves apart from their predecessors.

The Eiffel Tower shattered the previous expectations on how tall a man-made object could be.

The Eiffel Tower shattered the previous expectations on how tall a man-made object could be.

Surrealists, like Renee Magritte, represented a part of the Modernist movement in Europe.

Treachery of Images: Surrealists, like Renee Magritte, represented a part of the Modernist movement in Europe.

Andy Warhol, one of the 20th century’s most creative, prolific and influential artists, defined a decade and a culture with his groundbreaking Pop Art. Initially a popular Manhattan commercial artist, Warhol achieved fame with his multiple images of soup cans, soda bottles, dollar bills and celebrities, which revealed the beauty within mass culture.

Beethoven: Andy Warhol defined a decade and a culture with his groundbreaking Pop Art. Initially a popular Manhattan commercial artist, Warhol achieved fame with his multiple images of soup cans, soda bottles, dollar bills and celebrities, which revealed the beauty within mass culture.

Meanwhile, young painters such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse were causing a shock with their rejection of traditional perspective as the means of structuring paintings—a step that none of the Impressionists, not even Cézanne, had taken.  These developments began to give a new meaning to what was termed Modernism: It embraced disruption, rejecting or moving beyond simple Realism in literature and art, and rejecting or dramatically altering tonality in music.

Le Guitariste: Pablo Picasso, who rejected traditional perspective as the means of structuring paintings, caused a shock in the art world. The Modernist movement put into momentum by such artists as Picasso embraced disruption and rejecting or moving beyond simple Realism.

On Cowboys

•March 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

For assignment #21, by Christine Choi and Stephanie Choi

To see the final product of our project, visit Christine’s blog.

McCarthy, the American Style

•March 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As described in theNYT’s article covering the release of All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy is perhaps a part of a lost breed of American writers who  understands and is capable of crafting the old American prose. His style markedly takes cues from Faulkner – elegantly succinct with the dialogue yet still mellifluous even when long winded. He captures the nostalgia of the Old America as would be found on the dusty shelves of a southern home, and throughout his novel maintains the integrity of the dream that was the life on the ranches. Quite impressively though, McCarthy is famous for not being famous, as his “Joycean virtues” would have him elude the public’s eyes.

In All the Pretty Horses, the horses, although speechless, seem to serve a role as important as the novel’s protagonist, John Grady Cole. The symbolism represented by the horses is something larger-than-life; they embody the most sacred of the human integrity and honor, while simultaneously portraying the powerful yet fearfully beautiful Mother Nature. The humans, on the other hand, are full of flaws; they harbor dark and innate desires, fear and hatred that have essentially resulted in the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden.

One of the reasons McCarthy is considered an American master is that he knows and uses archaic forms of the English language that, although indisputably precise and elegant, are being lost in the modern times. In full control over his every word and sentence, McCarthy plays and steers the reader to whichever direction and mood he deems suitable at the moment in the novel.

Growing up online

•January 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Our generation is more or less inseparable from computers/internet/media. We are the first to grow up with such technology and have an unprecedented familiarity and dependence upon it. PBS created a documentary exploring the world and life of this high-tech generation. Here are reponses to Mr. Jones’ questions.

#1 In what ways would you need to change your routine in order to disconnect yourself from all media (i.e. no TV, no Internet, etc.) What problems would you encounter if you unplugged for one day? One week? One month?

I would have to get rid of all of my laptops. (TV is not a problem because there is none at my house anyway.) This would be catastrophic for me, since I receive much of my homework online (for example, AP Bio), and internet use is essential for me to do journalism work. If only for one day, I would somehow get by, except that I wouldn’t be able to complete my homework – this blog post, for instance! But if I unplug for more than a week, then I’d run into all kinds of nasty problems, not only related to school work, but also with college admissions. I would in effect be disconnected from everything for which I cannot be physically present.

To force me to disconnect at length means to be…

“Killing me softly” (by The Fugees)


#2 How many hours per week do you estimate you spend on Facebook or similar personal networking sites? What are the benefits and disadvantages of using these sites?

Facebook is the first personal networking site I’ve ever signed up for; I was far to lazy for Xanga and Myspace back in the days. And even so, I spend very little time on Facebook, again because I’m so lazy to reply to others’ messages or posts and look through everyone’s photos. Eventually, I stopped updating anything Facebook and closed down my wall. This isn’t to say that such sites as Facebook don’t have benefits. In fact, they provide one of the easiest, efficient, and effective ways to keep in touch with everyone, especially those who are overseas – say, the alumi. One can easily see what the others are up to and how their lives are, which adds to a sense of “connection” between friends or acquaintances. On the other hand, these sites are undeniably stalker-ish sometimes. For example, Facebook reports every who’s-going-out-with-who and who-broke-up-with-who information, which I think is a bit intrusive.

#3 To what extent are you aware of viral marketing, the use of “advertorials” (presenting advertisements as editorial content), or direct marketing on Facebook and other social networking sites?

Because I’m not the most avid fan or user of social networking sites, I’d have to say that I don’t know much about the use of “advertorials”; I never quite had the interest. However, generally I do know, perhaps instinctively, which content is “safe” or has the appropriate credentials. This I think is true for most people; although we are not completely informed about the marketing aspects, after spending more than half of our lives on the net, we tend to know what to take – or not take – at face value.

#4 Personal response based on your individual viewing of “Growing Up Online”.

I would have to say that although there certainly were interesting points with which I could relate or sympathize, the teens featured in the documentary are far more deeply immersed in the cyberspace than SISers generally are. For example, Jessica lived a completely separate and different life on the internet from that in reality, and she identified far more strongly with her cyber identity. Essentially, only the resources of the Internet could sufficiently allow her the freedom to express and reinvent herself, which the real world failed to do. However, I cannot believe that there is any SISer who lives a life on the Internet that is different from the real one to such a degree. Perhaps the atmosphere at SIS, due to obvious reasons like ethnic homogeniety, is less prone to cause students to feel alienated or lost… This point is probably debatable.

Honestly…

•December 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Korean students relying heavily on private institutions for academic assistance (Hagwon in U.S. cash in on Korean undergrads (JoongAng Daily)… I feel that this is not a new topic. Meanwhile, more importantly, it seems that the morals in our society are failing, according the everyone – teachers, my parents, and media, including the following article:  US teens lie, steal, cheat at ‘alarming’ rates.

Why is this happening? It mostly has to do with the fact that, in general, today’s world is affluent, compared to the past. With this affluence, we no longer fear anything – especially anything can be “tolerated” and “accepted.” In the past, humans always formed communities and depended on human relationship to live. However, in today’s society, with the thriving individuality and independence and the transformed structure of society, people rely less on each other, and value independence and individuality.

I’m not saying that these phenomena are necessarily bad. However, what are some of the negative consequences? People fear the eyes of the others less, and personal morals and standards replace the society’s. In a sense, the individual becomes superior to the society – that the individual has the freedom, or even right, to do anything one wants without reprimand.  Also, the ideals of the American society and of the modern world are being distorted and abused. The idea of privacy and personal freedom has become such an integral part of the modern society that we speak of it freely and no longer stop to ponder over the conditions that are associated.

This is in a way an exaggeration, but the occurrences these days seem to support this point of view. The American teens who have grown up and been educated under the modern system are showing a sharp decline in morality and honesty.

Yes, sciences are important. Literature is important. But isn’t the most important education we need to be providing the young generation the one on morality and ethics? Without this, our society would crumble due to eventual and inevitable depravity.

As a Catholic, I would like to say a word in defense for the religious schools. In the second article, the author rather obviously insinuates that the morally corrupt behaviors are more rampant in religious school. However, I believe that it is more likely that the students at such schools hold different standards of  “honesty,” and consider something dishonest that students at non-religious schools would may consider perfectly morally acceptable. In addition, it could also be true that the students at the religious schools were more truthful in responding to the survey. I recognize that I have no authority to prove this or aggressively advocate this point of view, but what with the recent “trend” in attacking the religious institutions, I was slightly irritated by the way the author structured the article.

Ah, to be young……and to be in China

•November 23, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In response to the documentary, Young and Restless in China.

 

1. Why do you think Miranda Hong describes her generation of Chinese as “confused”?

 

In life, everyone needs some kind of a foundation, or a value system, on which to build one’s identity, perspective and future. However, Miranda Hong’s generation of Chinese lack such a foundation, or have a shaky one at best. It has been less than a couple of decades since the China’s economic and social policies have begun undergoing a transformation, moving more permanently away from the previous Maoist authoritarianism to a more liberalized democratic and capitalist society. Hong’s generation is somewhat stuck in the middle of the two starkly different phases. Their parents’ generation had lived a full lifetime knowing little of the world outside communist China. Meanwhile, Hong and her generation spent their childhood under similar—more or less liberal—conditions, but China had changed directions during their adolescent years and early adulthood, which are critical times for the development of one’s political and social values. Although the liberalization had long been initiated by the likes of Deng Xiao Ping and Hu Yaobang and activists (especially students and intellectuals), the sudden turn of tide nonetheless took away the societal platform on which the young Chinese’ lives stood. With the dramatic transformation, those of the younger generation had felt increasingly alien to their parents’ generation; and, because the new system was (and largely still is) still undergoing further development and modifications, the young democratic China was fragile. In short, Hong’s generation lacked a reference point from which to envision their future. Disconnected from their parents’ societal values, unsure of the current situation of the society and still seeking to validate one’s own moral values, all the while trying to get by in a changing world, it is no wonder that Hong’s generation is “confused.”

Miranda Hong (marketing executive), Ben Wu (entrepreneur), Lu Dong (entrepreneur).

Miranda Hong (marketing executive), Ben Wu (entrepreneur), Lu Dong (entrepreneur).

 

2. Why do you think the Chinese government has nicknamed the young people coming home from abroad “returning turtles”?

 

Hai Gui, or sea turtles, hatch on the shore, grow up out in the sea, but eventually return to the shore. The young people coming home from abroad are thus likened to the Hai Gui; they are (usually) born in China but receive much of their secondary and postsecondary education elsewhere, and in time generally return to China to settle. Because most move to the States or Canada to study, these young people are heavily influenced by the Western cultures and values; they value hard work and personal merits, rights, and liberties. With such a Western mindset, the returning Chinese sometimes—or often—face difficulties in realizing their ambition in China. For example, the still less liberal societal structure could act as a barrier. But even more so, the obligations to one’s family, as deemed only natural in China, hinders one from carrying out his/her own life. Nonetheless, the education from abroad provides a wider perspective and often enables one to look for and find new opportunities (that may not be new elsewhere, but still is in China). For example, one of the young Chinese in “Young and Restless in China” opens up an internet café, probably inspired by businesses began overseas, and gains American sponsors—a tie most likely made possible by the fact that he received a Western education. Although these young Chinese grown up learning from a different educational system than that in their home country and thus develop certain different ideas, they nonetheless often return because, in short, China is their mother nation. It is where their roots lie. In addition, because China is growing so fast, lots of opportunities are opening up for the ambitious and capable to take advantage of.

 

Wang Xiaolei (rapper), Yang Haiyan (housewife), Wei Zhanyan (migrant worker).

Wang Xiaolei (rapper), Yang Haiyan (housewife), Wei Zhanyan (migrant worker).

 

4. What do you think are important historical, social or economic factors that have shaped the outlook of the Chinese generation profiled in the film?

 

Under the Maoist, communist government, the earlier generations had lived under a repressive, controlled society where little freedom was a fact of life. Education was severely censored, political views and activities were strictly monitored, and the economy was almost entirely government-owned. Even after Deng Xiao Ping initiated the introduction of a capitalist economy (while still maintaining the socialistic societal structure), China was still far and different from its democratic Western counterparts that facilitated market economy. Living in such a society, the older Chinese lived their entire lives cautiously, being careful of everything they say and do, and hardly ever tried to deviate from the duties outlined by the society that seemed to control every aspect of their lives. In other words innovations, or new ideas, had little value, and most people simply complied with what was expected. However, the new generations are more Westernized; they are aware that they are living in a globalizing, changing world, and that they need to change together in order to survive. Hence, they deviate from their parents’ generations’ societal values, and seek for their own, while trying to live lives of the their own in the most meaningful way possible, and in the best way possible. For example, one of the chief differences between the newer and earlier generations lies in their view of the family. Whereas the earlier generations centered their lives on the family and the obligations that follow (for instance, arranged marriage), the younger generation tends to attempt to break away from such burdens, so as to have greater control over their own lives.

Xu Weimin (businessman), Zhang Jingjing (lawyer), Zhang Yao (medical resident).

Xu Weimin (businessman), Zhang Jingjing (lawyer), Zhang Yao (medical resident).

 

Here are previews to the documentary: