Thursday, August 29, 2013

Recruiters and unqualified teachers busted


The Joongang Daily has more information on this, and makes it sound like the teachers described in the KBS report were all among the 33 arrested. Or not. It's hard to tell for sure.

[Original post]

 From a Yonhap report today:
42 people booked for illegally placing native speaking instructors in elementary and middle schools
(Suwon - Yonhap News) On August 29 the international crimes division of the Gyeonggi Police booked without detention six people, including recruiting company president Ms. Jeong (44), for illegally introducing native speaking instructors recruited from overseas to domestic educational institutions, in violation of the Employment Stability Act.

Police also booked without detention 33 unqualified native speaking instructors as well as three recruiters, including internet cafe operator Mr. Lee (31), for introducing unqualified native speaking instructors to private customers.

Ms. Jeong and the five others are charged with operating employment agencies, which were not registered domestically, in places like the US, UK and Canada since 2011 and illegally introducing around 1,400 native speaking instructors they had recruited to the National Institute for International Education as well as city and provincial education offices.

It was revealed that the referral fees for each teacher were around 800,000 to one million won, which adds up to 240 to 350 million won in fees that they received.

The native speaking teachers that Ms. Jeong introduced worked as assistant teachers in elementary and middle schools throughout the country, in places like Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, Incheon and Ulsan. Police said that through they found a job through an unqualified job placement company, the foreigners had instructor qualifications.

Mr. Lee and the two others have been charged with running a native speaking English instructor recruiting website from January to July this year and collecting placement fees for introducing foreigners living in Korea to private customers.

Introducing instructors who made 60,000 won per hour and charging a placement fee of 20,000 won for each instructor, they earned around 70 million won.
So, to clarify, 6 people were busted for running a recruiting business illegally, but the 1,400 (!) teachers they recruited were otherwise qualified for their jobs. That they were able to operate for so long and recruit so many teachers suggests someone on the government side was lining their pockets. In the other case, 3 people were busted for connecting 'foreigners living in Korea' (33 of whom were busted) with Koreans wanting private lessons, and it sounds like the recruiters were both setting the fees and collecting a portion of them.

As to whether the foreigners they hired were on E-2 or tourist visas, there are definitely theories out there. This bust appears to have been mentioned in a KBS report from August 23 about arrests of unqualified foreign instructors and the hagwons and kindergartens that hired them. The report begins with a foreigner teaching English at a Taekwondo academy who says he is on a tourist visa, and then lists the results of a month-long crackdown by Suwon immigration office: 13 unqualified foreigners who were working as English instructors at 7 places - kindergartens or art, music or P.E. hagwons. One kindergarten had hired a Russian and an Uzbek to teach English, though an official there said they had no idea the teachers were on student visas (of course!).

The report also says a broker who recruited around 20 foreigners to do illegal private lessons was also caught; this may be related to the bust announced today.

It's then explained that native speaking instructors need E-2 visas, which require effort to get, while hiring unqualified people requires no such effort.

The report then ends by saying:
An average of 1,000,000 foreign tourists come to Korea every month. Among them a good many earn money as native speaking instructors, but only 140 were caught in the crackdown nationwide."

I doubt anyone has any idea how many people on tourist visas teach English, but it's certainly a small percentage of the million foreign tourists who come every month, not 'a good many'; luckily, that term is vague enough that it can be used. The more interesting thing to note is the 140 who were arrested. This isn't mentioned anywhere else that I can see, however.

Response to criticism

I came across the following comment about this post on Facebook:
I think he's really clutching at straws to promote the "Koreans hate us angle" on this one.
I'm assuming 'us' refers to foreign English teachers, but I'm pretty sure Koreans don't hate 'us.' To be sure, certain media outlets like to publish negative, sensationalist stories about white men foreign teachers (and due to the clicks they get, they probably love 'us'), and the story NoCut News published edges pretty close to this territory. I can see that I didn't explain clearly my problems with the piece, so here we go:

That article, which was titled "Native speaking teachers: 'Jeonju is bad!' Why?" begins with the sentence, "Rumours are being spread among native speaking instructors that Jeonju in Jeollabuk-do is a bad place to work." From that first sentence, the use of 'rumour' (소문) to describe the foreign teachers' claims already undercuts what is to come, as it might not be true at all - this despite the fact that the hagwon owner is quoted at the end saying, "There have been cases in which salaries haven't been paid," making clear that the crux of what the teachers were claiming wasn't 'rumour' at all.

After explaining that the foreign teachers are saying that a teacher wasn't paid and other teachers on the internet are saying that "over the last four or five years 25 people have been victimized by this hagwon," the article then paraphrases complaints by teachers by saying they "claim that the owner of a hagwon in Jeonju is deliberately not paying salaries to put native speaking instructors who are ignorant of Korean law and unable to ask for help in pitiable circumstances." I'd imagine this comes from some bitter teacher saying something like "they're screwing us over because they know they can get away with it." This unsubstantiated claim by foreign teachers is then followed by another unsubstantiated claim, that "Jeonju has become a city to avoid and native speakers are turning away from Jeonju" followed by a negative and generalizing claim attributed to the instructors: "Jeonju lies and doesn't pay, and instructors don't want to work here."

Finally, though the hagwon owner admits to not paying salaries, the article ends with him saying "There haven't been many cases and it certainly wasn't intentional," which undermines the '25 victims' claim by the teachers as well as their wild claim - that he was "deliberately not paying salaries to put native speaking instructors ... in pitiable circumstances."

As a counterpoint to this, in 2011, two stories were published in the Korean language press about foreign hagwon instructors getting screwed over by their employers. The first, by the Busan Ilbo, was titled "Corrupt hagwons, foreign instructor's income tax, pension embezzled," and gave two examples of hagwon owners not paying (or embezzling) their teachers' pensions and severance pay and explained ATEK's plans to petition the government to make changes to protect foreign teachers. The second, by Newsis, was titled "Measures against the unfair dismissal of 'insignificant native speaking instructors' urgently needed" and gave an explanation of the pitfalls foreign teachers can face before giving two examples of Daegu-area foreign teachers who were not paid what they were owed, as well as interviewing an official at the Ministry of Labour who says, "measures are necessary for the protection of native speakers."

That NoCut News published the kind of article it did is not surprising, coming from a news outlet which published a nine (or twelve, really) part series titled "The Reality and Twisted Values of Some White Men" a year ago. While that is an extreme example, they still managed to publish 24 negative articles about foreign teachers last year (out of 249 - almost one tenth).

I'm also pretty sure that a query to the local immigration office would put a lie to the idea that foreign teachers are avoiding Jeonju.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Comments and statistics on foreign crime

The Joongang Daily today had an interview with the head of the National Police Agency, who commented on foreign crime:
(Within the National Police Agency, Lee is often referred to as the “Foreign Correspondent.” Lee was counselor to the Korean Embassy in the United States from 2006 to 2009. He was External Affairs Director from 2010 and became Commissioner General this year. During the interview, he emphasized the necessity of addressing crimes committed by foreigners.)

How are you responding to crimes committed by foreigners?

There are approximately 1.5 million foreigners residing in Korea. In areas with a high concentration of foreigner populations, a lot of the crimes go unreported.

Foreigners often commit crimes against people of their own nationality and the victims often don’t report them. There are also illegal immigrants who can’t report crimes for fear of being deported. To promote the reporting of crimes, we have asked the Ministry of Justice to allow victims not to disclose their residency status.

Crimes against tourists are also rising. Apparently, there will be a tourist police unit in operation soon.

With the help of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, it will roll out in Seoul starting in October, and then next year in Busan and Incheon. One hundred police officers will be dispatched to seven locations in Seoul, and will address issues like taxi drivers overcharging tourists and other problems frequently encountered by travelers.

Conscripted police officers that speak English will be selected. The police uniform will also be different to that of the regular police.
Eminently sensible stuff. It's too bad his sentiments aren't so often reflected in the way the media likes to deal with the topic. For example, a week ago the Gwangju Ilbo reported on the increase in foreign crime there in an article titled "Foreign crimes in Gwangju ever increasing in number and ferocity." That's quite the sensationalist title; luckily, the rest of the article is pretty straightforward. The number of foreigners caught for crime there rose from 202 people in 2011 (8 arrested, 184 booked without detention) to 320 in 2012 (11 arrested, 309 booked without detention) - a 37% increase. The number of foreigners in Gwangju increased from 12,118 in 2009 to 14,492 in 2012.

[A look at the 2011 immigration statistics by region shows that there were 14,106 foreigners in Gwangju in 2011, which means only a small increase in numbers between 2011 and 2012, and a 1.4% crime rate in 2011 and 2.2% in 2012, quite the jump. Still, it's only one year, and a longer period of time is needed to perceive larger trends.]

The article looks at Gwangsan-gu in particular, saying the foreign population has increased 250% since 2006, when there were 3024 foreigners there, to 7469 this year. In the five years since 2008 there were 352 crimes by foreigners there, increasing from 44 in 2008 to 92 last year. 128 were caught for assault, 95 for traffic violations, 47 for fraud, 35 for theft, 4 for drugs, 3 for burglary, and 2 each for rape and gambling. By country, 120 were from China, 76 from Vietnam, 46 from Mongolia, 28 from the Philippines, 21 from Sri Lanka, 16 from Thailand, and 8 from Pakistan.

What I found interesting was that Gwangsan police recently appointed 29 foreigners such as female marriage migrants, foreign workers, hagwon instructors, foreign students and ministers from 11 countries such as China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, to be a part of a voluntary crime prevention patrol.

Twice a month they go to areas where foreigners gather or where there are lots of businesses, or to foreign housing or convenience stores in the Hanam industrial area and spread out on a crime prevention patrol in the hope that they can bridge language and cultural differences.

I'm kind of curious how that works, and also who these hagwon instructors might be. 

 (Hat tip to Mark Russell)

Monday, August 26, 2013

When foreign teachers complain about hagwons not paying them, guess who the real victim is?

[Further Update]

In this post I further discuss my problems with the NoCut News report translated below.


The foreign drummer of Busker Busker will also take part in the 'Island Village Teacher' reality TV show; the article also says that the foreign participants have received educational training to be native speaking teachers.

[Original Post]

On August 8, 2013, NoCut News reported on foreign teachers who wrote online about not being paid by the owner of the hagwon they worked for. There have been more of these stories over the years (as in, one or two a year), but in NoCut News' case, they shift the blame from the hagwon owners to the complaining foreigners who are, essentially, making Jeonju look bad and scaring other foreign teachers away. Bad foreigners! Bad!
Native speaking teachers: "Jeonju is bad!" Why?
Claim a Jeonju area hagwon habitually don't pay wages... Native speakers turn away from working in Jeonju area

Rumours are being spread among native speaking instructors that Jeonju in Jeollabuk-do is a bad place to work.

This is because, they say, a hagwon which manages native speaking instructors has repeatedly failed to pay salaries.

J, a 55 year-old American who has lived in Jeonju for 13 years, taught English at a company in Wanju County for a month but has not been payed the 2 million won owed him.

This is because, though the company has paid the hagwon that J is affiliated with, the hagwon has not paid him his salary.

Native speaking instructors claim that this isn't something that has only happened to J.

Jeonju area native speaking instructors have confirmed via their community on Facebook that over the last four or five years that 25 people have been victimized by this hagwon.

There are not a few cases of people, after not receiving their salaries for one or two months, worrying or even giving up on the money and returning home.

They claim that the owner of a hagwon in Jeonju is deliberately not paying salaries to put native speaking instructors who are ignorant of Korean law and unable to ask for help in pitiable circumstances.

In particular, seeing as it's a small area, when problems are brought up most find it difficult to find work at other language hagwons.

If they complain to the owner of the hagwon, he stalls by saying, "Next week, next week," and drags it out by sometimes paying them a part of their salary.

As this news has spread via the native speaking instructor community on social media, Jeonju has become a city to avoid and native speakers are turning away from Jeonju.

J said, "Even if universities or companies in Jeonju wanted to hire qualified native speaking instructors, the instructors would shake their heads." "Jeonju lies and doesn't pay, and instructors don't want to work here."

Regarding this, the hagwon owner protested, saying, "Due to the ups and downs of the economy, there have been cases in which salaries haven't been paid." "There haven't been many cases and it certainly wasn't intentional."
You've got to let the hagwon owner have the last word, right? Especially after the complaints of foreign teachers who are making Jeonju look bad and now "Jeonju has become a city to avoid and native speakers are turning away from Jeonju." It reminds me a little of this Yonhap story from two years ago.

What with all the negative stories Christian broadcasters NoCut News have written about NSETs over the years, you'd think that having drug-addicted child molesters avoiding Jeonju would be a good thing. Unless, of course, the writer isn't from Jeonju, and is fearing an influx into their neighbourhood.

On the serious side, does anyone know anything about this story? I've tried searching for it on the Jeonju Hub and but found nothing. With all the details NoCut News supplies (55 year-old American) one wonders how much may have been embellished.

Countering the "native speakers are turning away from Jeonju" claim, this semester's EPIK training is being held there, with 400 new teachers attending orientation between August 20 and 27.

Training for English teachers is also being held at Daejin University in Pocheon, where 320 native speakers bound for Seoul (150), Chungcheongbuk-do (56), Gangwon-do (44), Jeju (30) and elsewhere are attending orientation from August 18-26. No mention is made of it being for EPIK, however. As Money Today describes it,
The purpose of the native speaking English teacher preliminary training program is to inspire self confidence and awareness of their role as a native speaking English teacher, to understand the English education curriculum and increase teaching skills, as well as to provide a prior understanding of life in Korea and the school environment.

It is composed of a variety of programs, such as giving detailed teaching methods, class practice, Korean language learning, understanding Korean culture, providing health screening services, taekwondo classes, trips to Gyeongbok Palace and Namsan Hanok Village, and a royal court bibimbap experience.
"Providing health screening services"... it almost sounds voluntary, doesn't it?

In related news, 36 teachers from Jeollabuk-do are going on a trip to Ulleungdo and Dokdo to "give a proper understanding of Dokdo's history and present situation," and authorities hope attending 'Dokdo Academy' will be "a good opportunity for native speaking teachers to understand that Dokdo is Korean land."

In other news, a Newsis article tells us that Sam Hammington, who the article says is famous for 'Real men,' which, according to this, is a "reality TV program, where six celebrities are sent to the army for a period of six days to experience the army life" (though might be better known to readers for his part in this TV show), will, along with three other foreign entertainers, be taking part in a program which will see them become after school native speaking teachers at a branch school in an island village, where they will do a home stay and interact with the locals for 5 days. The producer, however, seems more interested in the interaction with locals aspect than the teaching aspect, at least according to the quotes in the article.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Colouring time for native speakers!

Who knew that Liberation Day was a time for children adults to colour? From the Incheon Ilbo:
To commemorate the 68th anniversary of Liberation Day, on the 15th native speaking instructors from Incheon English Village took part in an event in Bucheon's Lake Park where citizens could draw the Korean flag.

Native speaking instructor representative Rico said, "By learning about the significance of the Korean flag, we can better understand Korea, and we are honoured to have taken part in this activity."
It must be nice, as a 'journalist,' to be able to just make up any quote you like. I would have been tempted to colour outside of the lines...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Fundraiser for Daily NK on indiegogo

I've been asked to post about Daily NK's new fundraiser on indiegogo, where they are hoping to raise $10,000:
Daily NK, an acclaimed civil society-based online periodical headquartered in Seoul responsible for breaking major news stories from inside North Korea, is raising funds on Indiegogo towards reconfiguring its website with RWD (Responsive Web Design). The goal: to deliver news-- translated in Korean, Japanese, English, and Chinese -- more effectively across different platforms -- desktop, notebook, tablet, and mobile -- to our growing international audience.

Founded in 2004, Daily NK's staff includes South Korean democracy activists, North Korean defectors, and international researchers. Regularly cited by major international media -- such as The New York Times, China Daily, and the BBC -- the website is also a frequent target for cyber attacks perpetrated by hackers in China and North Korea. Site redesign will also include security upgrades to safeguard the free flow of information.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Yongsan Garrison in 1944

Anyone who is curious what Yongsan Garrison looked like when it was the headquarters of the Japanese army in Korea is encouraged to check out the 1944 movie '병정님,' or 'Dear Soldier,' which is described and reviewed here. The film was shot after the Korean language was banned from all films made in Korea and is essentially a one-dimensional propaganda film showing how wonderful conscription will be for Korean soldiers. On the bright side, the locations are interesting, with soldiers doing target shooting at a rifle range which is now in Gyeongnidan, amphibious landing training on the Han River, and PT and drilling in front of what is now CFC HQ on Yongsan Garrison; the buildings seen below still stand today.

As it turns out, the film can be watched at Youtube here.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Chihyeonsan Tunnel

As mentioned in the last post, about the construction accident at the Banghwa Bridge last Tuesday, the section of ramp which overturned was set to be connected to a tunnel running through Chihyeonsan. Here is the bridge before construction began in the fall of 2007:

Compare this to around three years later as access ramps were under construction (first posted here):

I took photos of retaining walls being built on the Banghwa-dong side during the spring of 2007:

By early 2009, less than two years later, the walls were done and the tunnels appeared to be as well:

Perhaps they were, but a concrete extension needed to be built (photo taken February 2012):

The same view from last Thursday;You might note the pavilion added at the edge of the forest:

A number of new paths have been built along the side of the mountain as well, likely part of the general efforts of the district to improve trails and amenities and expand park space over the past few years.

We can compare the view from the top of the tunnel between May 2007...

... and February2012:

A friend and I walked through the tunnels during that visit:

The service tunnel connecting the two tunnels; the western tunnel is lower than the eastern tunnel for most of its length:

Here is the concrete base for the steel ramp section which connects to the Olympic Expressway (on ramp) and eventually to the Banghwa Bridge, the arch of which is visible in the background. Does anyone else think the concrete base above is tilted? (Note that the streetlamps are upright, so it's not due to me tilting the camera.) It would have been a base like this, I think, which the ramp that fell was connected to.

Here's the accident site (over on the right) on the north side of Chihyeonsan before the tunnels even began construction.

Seven years after construction began, it'll be awhile before the tunnels ever see traffic (it was supposed to be finished next summer). This accident will slow things further, though I do hope they find out (or, at least, are allowed to share to the public) what happened that day.

JJ Cale

I was surprised to see a death date when I looked up JJ Cale on Wikipedia last night, and that he passed a week and a half ago. His first LP, 'Naturally' is an old favourite (it can be heard here), as is his second, 'Really,' which can be heard here. His blend of rock, country, folk, blues and jazz is pretty unique, as is his guitar playing. He's probably best known for Eric Clapton covering his songs 'Cocaine' and 'After Midnight.' I first heard of him via Spiritualized's song 'Run'; upon listening to him, I realized that his guitar playing influenced Spiritualized's predecessor, Spacemen 3's album Perfect Prescription pretty heavily.

Here's one of my favourites from 'Really':

As well as 'Magnolia,' from 'Naturally':

RIP, good sir.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Banghwa Bridge ramp accident

Last week a ramp under construction which is meant to eventually connect to the Banghwa Bridge collapsed, killing two workers. As the Joongang Daily reported
At around 1:04 p.m., a 47-meter (51.4-yard), 320-ton steel ramp connecting the bridge and Banghwa-dong, western Seoul, fell from a 10-meter supporting pillar. It fell onto the construction site beside the bridge.

There were four workers at the site. Three of them were building a wall of the ramp, according to the Seoul city government.

All three workers fell when the ramp collapsed. The fourth worker was unscathed for reasons not immediately known.

“We assume the whole structure tilted on its side and fell,” O Nam-jik, a city government official said at a briefing yesterday. “The exact cause of the accident is under investigation.”

O said the city government had no clue why the ramp fell off its pillar.

One of the two fatalities was working in a kind of forklift while the other fatality and the injured worker were spreading asphalt, according to the city government. The construction managers were having lunch away from the construction site at the time.

All four workers on the site were Chinese nationals. The two fatalities were Choe Chang-hui, the 52-year-old driver of the forklift, and Heo Dong-gil, assumed to be in his 50s. The injured worker was Kim Gyeong-tae, 60.

Rescuers struggled to recover the bodies of the two dead men, which were under the ramp.

“I was sitting on the backseat of the forklift and everything collapsed,” Kim Gyeong-tae told the JoongAng Ilbo. “My two coworkers died immediately and I survived.”[...]
[T]he construction of the bridge ramp was ordered by the city government but directed by two private construction companies, Kumkwang E&C and Heungryung Construction. The construction companies had hired a subcontractor to build the ramp, HanBaek Construction. All four workers on the site yesterday worked for the subcontractor.

About 83 percent of the construction was completed, according to Seoul city government. [...]

Lee Sang-hak, the construction manager of Kumkwang E&C, told the JoongAng Ilbo, “There was no problem with the construction. If the ramp fell over, it’s a problem with the blueprints.”
Here's the photo which accompanies the article:

The Joongang Daily followed up with an article titled "Safety not a priority on city’s construction sites," as well as an editorial blaming (shockingly!) progessive mayor Park Won-soon for the accident, which has come just weeks after workers drowned in a tunnels under the flooding Han River.

The Korea Times mentions that
The municipal government began construction on the entrance ramp in 2005 at a cost of 109 billion won (US$98.6 million) for completion in June next year.
Actually, it was in the fall of 2006 that the hoardings went up. What they don't mention is that the project is - in its current phase - actually to connect Banghwa-dong to the Olympic Expressway via a tunnel through Chihyeonsan. This aerial view shows the Banghwa Bridge at top right curving as the Incheon Airport Expressway begins, as well as the Olmypic Expressway (running from top left to bottom right (or vice versa)) and its entry/exit ramps onto the Airport Expressway. At bottom you can see a new, white ramp heading from one of the two tunnels at bottom which punch through Chihyeonsan. Less obvious is the exit ramp from the Olympic expressway which curves towards the tunnel on the left. It's next to this ramp that the accident took place last Tuesday.

The long term plan is to connect the tunnels to the Banghwa Bridge as well, and you can see (above) that the bridge has lanes which end abruptly. You can also see that the white ramp curving into the tunnel meets a fanned out structure too large for it. Here's a photo I took last Thursday which makes clear the two unconnected ramps (at right):

I also tried to get a shot of the accident site, but it's just out of sight. I'm not even sure if, two days later, the fallen ramp was still there or not.

At any rate, below I've mapped out where these should eventually connect the bridge to the tunnels (after several more years of work):

They hadn't built the 'fanned out' part for the left-hand tunnel yet, and it was that part - the red part above, which fell off its support and flipped over. One thing I don't understand is why that section comes in on the outside of the existing ramp (as the right hand ramp makes clear, it would make more sense to have it come in on the inside... it honestly makes no sense to me).

Here's the original plan from a 2003 map; somewhere along the line someone decided to connect the tunnels to the Olympic Expressway as a first (easier) phase, and add ramps to the Banghwa Bridge later.

 Here's a view of the Banghwa Bridge from before construction on the ramps began:

 Here's a view much later (first posted here). Note the piers with the wide supports for the two ramps will meet at bottom right.

Compare this to the two separate supports seen below (the rest of the photos are screenshots from this KBS news report).

Another news report makes clear that the pier next to the overturned ramp has damage on its left side - but whether that was a result of it falling off or the cause of it is unknown. Below we can see where the two ramps came together in front of the tunnel.

This joining section can be seen below as well.

Below you can see that it had apparently been laying on the lip (where the man is standing at center, and which other shots makes clear is only a meter and a half wide).

The lip can also be seen here:

It can be seen here at bottom left, and there is apparent damage.

The photo in this article shows both the lip and the pier as well. Needless to say, at the moment it isn't clear what happened. Something clearly went wrong, and it's tragic two people died because of it.

Not shown in any of the above photos are the tunnels through the mountain, which have actually been finished for a long time - it's the ramps that have taken so long. I'll post about the tunnels next.

Snapping in the boy's room

Thinking of this post, a reader sent me the photo below and mentioned this quote from the Marmot's Hole:
In the United States, there's a Federal statute against toilet and changing-room cameras, designed to protect people's privacy in circumstances where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. 
While not really the same thing, the photo he took in a public bathroom in a park in Seoul is rather interesting:

 It would appear the intended subject is out the window, but he felt it was odd that no one in the bathroom said a word about it.

Friday, August 02, 2013


[Update 2]
According to the Wall Street Journal blog, it's sold 3.3 million tickets in 5 days. Since it was a record-breaking weekend in general, I'd agree with Mark Russell's guess that the hot weather has helped it along (says me, the guy enjoying a sunny, 21 degree afternoon in Canada).

It's currently the fastest selling film in Korean box office history, selling a million tickets in less than two days.

I also saw Stoker finally, on the plane ride to Canada yesterday. While beautifully shot, the story was lacking (it wasn't Park Chan-wook's script, though his two previous films, scripted by him were also lacking). I'm not in a hurry to see Kim Ji-woon's Last Stand (the other 'first English-language film' by a Korean director this year) but can easily say that Bong Joon-ho's first international effort is the strongest of the three, and certainly more mainstream - an action film with brains, so to speak (complete with his usual social commentary).

[Original Post]

Not much more to say than 'Just go see it.' It's out now in Korea (especially at CGV, unsurprising considering CJ Entertainment helped fund the film) and is well, well worth watching. I've written about it before, and after I watched it I realized I'd forgotten most of the details of the trailer I posted awhile back. This is a good thing. The surprises made the movie that much better. So go watch it.