Monday, January 7, 2013

Vacation Day 10-2: Gangnam 9 years ago, school, and acing tests

I came across thesethree news articles while browsing the Joongang Daily's website recently.Enjoy.

Gangnam style of 2003.
"There are two kinds of Koreans ― those who livein Gangnam, or southern Seoul, and those who don’t." 
Keypoints from the article
  • Gangnam's known for its high class living and its elite hagwons. Parents want to live there so their children can get the best education they can.
  • Gangnam wasn't always a fancy area of town: It used to be little more than prairie land south of the river. The changes didn't come until the 1960s, when people became moving to offset the population booms happening north of the river.
  • Hyundai built a luxury apartment building there and it was that building that set the precedent for Gangnam as an affluent area.
Though dating from June2003, this article's still relevant today because the Gangnam address has onlygotten fancier. We can thank Psy for part of that, but the area's been goingstrong thanks to its combination of affluence and a thriving party scene. Tosay it's home to many ethnic restaurants, bars, and clubs would insult thesheer abundance of dining and nightlife options there. I wrote about it here and have beenthere plenty of times. I wouldn't call it my favorite area of Seoul, but it'scertainly a good destination for a night out.

Two articles about hagwon and college tests

Moon Sang-won attendedan $1,800/month live-in hagwon and nailed the all-important college entranceexam. Good for him. He's an example of how far some students (and theirfamilies) will go to do well on the exam. He commented, 
“'In the case of regular hagwon, I feel likethere are so many temptations to avoid on the way to classes or after them. Butliving in a dormitory hagwon provides a space in which I was able to get awayfrom temptations and just focus on my studies,' Moon said. 'We can be in controlof our own minds ourselves but it’s a fact that it’s difficult to controlexternal influences.'

Here's one about pairsof twins who studied together and conquered the exam. The Yang brothers inparticular emphasized studying and discussing their course materials togetherto check their comprehension. Good for them for working together. I find theirmethod intriguing, for I rarely studied with anyone in high school or college.The method of checking each other does work though: I recall studying NativeAmerican history with a friend and how we got smarter because we took turnssummarizing different sections of our textbooks. In addition to making thedifficult class and material easier to learn, it tested our abilities astutors. We both did well on the exam too.

Reading about thesestudents brought the ongoing quest to learn Korean to mind: Though JB theco-teacher and I ostensibly have a language exchange set up ourselves, our meetingsfocus more on teaching me Korean instead of alternating between Korean andEnglish. I should try asking him to go beyond phrases and into conversationsbecause it would have more give-and-take than repeating things.

Addendum: Last year I took a bunch of photos of buildings in Gangnam that never got uploaded here. I was rolling in on the bus when a friend called to reschedule our meeting. Rather than immediately turn around and waste a trip to Seoul, I rode in to Gangnam and wandered about.

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