For the past few days there has been a lot of talk around racial hatred laws in France and their intrusion with freedom of speech in Social Media. It’s a modern classic: someone turns their twitter account into a manurephone and the authorities step in.
In this occasion the attack was flagged by the French Union of Jewish Students, who denounced a series of anti-Semitic tweets hashtagged as #agoodjew. These messages were in clear violation of France’s legislation -which bans any incitement to racial hatred- and thus Twitter was requested to delete them (whether it will is a different story).
Cases like this have retained Social Media in the spotlight for its defamatory and trolling possibilities since its inception. And it is fair to keep that way. Cyberbullying, spinning bad press or orchestrating public attacks are just a few of the hurtful uses that online tools like Twitter or Facebook have helped magnify.
Yeah, where did it go? This tweet by Jassmyn Goh excuses —yet another— 2012 recap better than Facebook’s “Year in Review”. Armed with a glass of wine, I let go some nostalgic thoughts that will continue to haunt me in 2013.
It began in Jakarta’s Selamat Datang Monument with the thundering of thousands of petards and flares fired at once. Well, not really at once, since the gunpowder frenzy conceded no peaks or breaks to ever pin down the turn of the year.
It was my second week in Indonesia, we had just finished our travels around Bali, Java and Sumatra and the ACICIS Journalism Professional Practicum was just about to start. The 6 weeks that followed were also some of the best of 2012, many good memories packed in a poky time frame. I started living in a kos in Semanggi —in the heart of Jakarta— and attending Atma Jaya’s Indonesian lessons and media seminars.
Coining witty economic puns is often reserved to respected economists. But after 7 months living and eyeing South Korea’s excesses, I couldn’t resist the chance of foretelling where the country’s economy could be heading next.
Some sip pricey coffee, dine on instant noodles, drive BMWs and earn modest salaries. Others own several houses, struggle with their mortgages, never miss the latest gadgets and have few prospects of career growth. And a few speculate with the housing market, bribe senior government officials and manage bloated banks.
Recipe for an imminent crisis? Perhaps, but South Korea is turning a blind eye on the prospect and drowning words of warning in loud K-Pop tunes. Let’s all roll with it, but in the aftermath of the upcoming presidential election, relief will probably go to the defeated. Below I have subheaded three aspects that point to a looming future for the South Korean economy.
Seoul – Madrid via Moscow – Vigo – Madrid – Vigo – Marseille via Porto – Vigo via Porto – Sydney via Porto, Brussels and Abu Dhabi
Back to the origins. Goodbye, Korea.
It was simply the best experience I could have hoped for to end -what I increasingly believe- have been the best 7 months of my life, to date. Every day spent at the station was like ingesting a cocktail of Korean current affairs knowledge tablets. Powerful, easy to digest and with lasting effects. Forget about books and exchange courses. This was the real thing and it acted quickly.
Having a front row seat to Dokdo’s (Takeshima’s?) dispute or the Samsung-Apple patent battles wasn’t the only fascinating part, being part of an international team amid one of Korea’s biggest and most trusted corporations was… a very good organisational insight that will frame things differently for me from now on.
Blinked. Everything changed. Now it’s summer. I’m no longer a student. I find myself living in a tiny 고시원 room. And most of my friends here are gone.
That sums up what’s been going on for the past month or so. An abrupt end to an exchange semester where me and a handful of other 외국인 evolved from strangers to siblings. All we got left is a bucket filled with great memories (truly.great.memories) and contact numbers written in pages hopeful to get flicked through in near visits across Europe, Japan, America and a myriad of other corners.
I am not grumbling, it was time for it to end. Now before me is a summer with a great chance to learn and get better at something I really like, time I can dedicate to people I barely got to see during the semester, and days off to keep exploring the many untapped sites left.
Happy as a clam to extend my time here a bit longer. It was never the time to leave.
*Photo by Christine Choi
A few weeks ago a small group of young Koreans approached us on a busy street of Jeonju. They were all undergrad students spending a weekend together surveying foreigners for touristic data and getting them to sign a carton cut-out turned into a giant visitors book. After exchanging names and nationalities, they were surprise to see a group as diverse as ours. It begged the question: ’how did you all get together?’ … ‘we’re all Yonsei students‘.
We knew what followed. They unisonaly wowed and after holding their voices for a few more seconds another student stepped forward and added that his cousin was also studying at Yonsei. The group nodded in approbation.
This is just one of the many situations SKY students are used to in Korea, a nation glutted with graduates. For Koreans in their early 20s, not being a student is out of the question: 82% of all high school students go to University, highest rate of all OECD countries, and out of Korea’s 50M inhabitants, 3.8M are currently university students.
The scent of soju, yellowy dry winter days, kimchi flavour, 노레방 neon lights… South Korea hasn’t changed much since I first came here 2 years ago. Nothing has come to shock me, in the last 2 months I have effortless blended into the routines of an exchange student: compulsively planning the weekend ahead, keeping my liver busy and pretending life will never cease to be this way.
So with already enough ado, this is how things are around here.
Ticking Yonsei University as my first choice couldn’t have been a better option. Not only is one of the 3 most prestigious universities, but in my opinion, it’s also the best in terms of location and student life. Still, nothing to be proud of as most Koreans see employers’ obsession for prestigiousness as the biggest burden to get a fair go in the over-qualified job market. Many around here “feel sorry” for their