The Tragedy of the (Rock) Commons

P070729004I love live concerts. There’s something about the experience that cannot be replicated in studio recordings. Maybe it’s the unpredictability of the performances, or the energy of the crowd, or the booming drums that you have to be there to feel. But the thing is, it’s hard to go to all or even a significant number of the concerts you might want to go to. Concert tickets, especially in Korea, are pretty expensive, plus you might not have the time. That’s why I’ve always liked the concept of the rock festival. A musical smorgasbord with enough artists that you wanted to hear so you get your money’s worth, plus if you’re lucky a couple of pleasant discoveries. But for the longest time, Korean rock fans had to glance longingly across the sea at neighboring Japan and its Fuji Rock Festival or Summer Sonic and their world class acts, because Korea didn’t have a proper rock festival to its name. Sure, there were local music festivals with Korean bands, but those didn’t quite capture the excitement of a Glastonbury or Woodstock. They wished that one day, Korea might have rock festivals whose stages would be graced by the hottest bands in the world. And they got their wish. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Continue reading


The Korean Melon


I like to think that I’m an omnivorous eater. There are very few foods that I will absolutely refuse to eat. Having said that, there are some foods that I would prefer not to eat, mostly because I don’t think they’re particularly tasty and I could easily find a better alternative on the menu. Overrated might be the word I’m looking for. The Korean melon is one such food. Continue reading



People have, at times, called me a “food snob.” I can see why they might think that. I do enjoy from time to time high quality food substances that the vast majority of consumers have rarely heard of. But a lot of the things that I also enjoy would be grounds for revoking my foodie club membership card. Swedish fish, McDonald’s chicken nuggets, french fries with mashed potatoes, etc etc. Of course among this hypertension-inducing Justice League of junk foods there is a first among equals, a Superman of edible but unhealthy substances that I refuse to give up. Yes, it’s that salty gelatinous pork composite in a blue and yellow tin that has captured the hearts and stomaches of many Asian countries and in particular, Korea. I’m talking about Spam. After all, you can’t spell Superman without Spam. Continue reading

Eating Yeot

Korean_pumpkin_candy-Hobakyeot-01South Korea did not have a good time at this year’s World Cup. I’ll admit, in the grand scheme of things this was a historically average World Cup performance for Korea, two losses and a draw. Koreans were angry, not necessarily because expectations have risen unreasonably since we made it to the semi-finals in 2002 (a feat I highly doubt we will ever repeat again), but because let’s be honest, the team was simply awful. Korea barely made it to the World Cup in the weakest regional group and showed no signs of improvement. One fan in particular was so outraged by the poor performances that he took it upon himself to show up at the airport and throw yeot candies at the returning players while shouting “Eat yeot! Eat yeot!” Continue reading

Remembering the Cheonan

For me, the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan was one of those flashbulb events, the ones where you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard what happened and sort of fudge the rest of the details, for human memory is a fickle thing. The following account might not be entirely accurate, but I believe it’s accurate, so that counts for something, right?

Taking time differences into consideration, it was probably Saturday, March 27th, 2010. It was late at night, and I probably should have been sleeping. But I had just moved into my room for a semester in Washington and I was still on California time, so I was just sitting there, doing nothing when I got a text from my friend Adam, who was living downstairs. I don’t remember the exact wording, but the gist of the message was that a South Korean navy ship had sank due to an unknown cause.  Continue reading