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The Way The Nori Rolls

Gaming, 4, Love

SOUTH KOREA | Wednesday, 10 February 2010 | Views [2641] | Comments [6]

Matching jerseys say

Matching jerseys say "together, we can do anything"

Returning to Korea nearly a year after leaving brought with it a real sense of coming home.  Walking around my old dong (the Korean equivalent to a small suburb or district) I've been enjoying all those things I've been so nostalgic for since leaving.  The scent of dokpokki (rice cake in hot sauce) wafting through the air, K-pop music blasting from every shop-front, building facades with every inch covered in neon advertisments and signage... ahh, it's so good to be back. 
 
I'm writing this in a PC방 (PC bang - Internet Cafe) on the 5th floor (of a 4 storey building?), sitting next to two people wearing idential clothes who are engaging in acts of war... It's actually a fairly normal situation to be in in Korea, but to an outsider it might not make all that much sense. I'll elaborate through sharing just a few of the more day-to-day things about Korea that wouldn't necessarily make it into the guide books.
 
The gaming fixation: As I write this I'm surrounded by dozens of Korean teenagers hurling commentary, hurried instructions and light-hearted abuse around the room. It must be Starcraft O'clock... Oh wait, I'm in Korea - It's always Starcraft O'clock.

Starcraft (along with a myriad of other multi-player, real-time games), is a Korean obsession supported by 24-hour high-speed internet cafes (in which to play the game), innumerable online chat rooms (to talk about the game) and a handful of TV channels dedicated exclusively to gaming (to watch and get tips on the game). There's even a professional competition circuit (Starleague) complete with highly-paid, ultra-famous gamers and official sponsors such as SK Telecom, Hite (a major Korean beer company) and, wait for it, the Korean Air Force. In general, most players seem to have a reasonably harmless 'addiction' to these types of games, however, as with any addiction, things can get out of control - in 2005 a Korean man died from an excessive 50 hour gaming binge, during which he barely slept, ate, drank or went to the toilet.
 
The superstitions: The different Korean superstitions I've heard of during my time here are mind boggling - in number and often in content.  Many are rooted in tradition and others are just plain funny.  Here are just a few of my favourites;
- The number 4 sounds like the word for death and as a consequence (much like the Western aversion to the 13th floor) many buildings do not have a 4th floor (hence my 5th floor PC방 in a 4 storey building).
- Don't wash your hair on a big exam day or your memory will be washed away.
- Don't give a boyfriend or girlfriend shoes for a present or they will run away from you.
- Don't cut your nails at night or ghosts will come and take your spirit away.
- Don't write in red pen (red was traditionally used to convey insulting messages) and never write names with red ink (red is symbolic of death).
- Sleeping with an electric fan on can be fatal.  It's called Fan Death.  There are a number of bizarre explanations for this one.  Far too many to mention here.
 
The love fixation: Korea is love crazy.  If the advertising motto in the west is 'Sex Sells', then surely Korea's motto would be 'Love Sells'.  Everything from cell phones, clothing, chocolate bars, cars and skincare products are advertised under the banner of love and romance.  There are 4 different versions of Valentines day here; Valentines day (Feb 14) - where girls give boys chocolates, White day (March 14, also celebrated in Japan and Taiwan) - where the boys give to the girls, Black day (April 14)- where the singles get together and eat noodles with black-bean sauce and celebrate (or commiserate) their singledom and, Pepero day (Nov 11th) - where couples exchange Pepero (chocolate covered pretzel sticks) on the 11/11 as the written date resembles 4 Pepero sticks. 

It is also popular for couples in Korea (and sometimes, entire families) to wear matching clothes (usually referred to as 'couple tees', 'couple sets' or my personal favourite, 'matchy-matchy'). Anything from T-shirts, hoodies, rings, phone accessories and shoes to entire matching outfits.  In a country where public displays of affection are seriously frowned upon (hand holding is ok, kissing is not), the couple set is seen as a sign of commitment between boyfriend and girlfriend- and is quite possibly one of my favourite things in Korea... or maybe even just one of my favourite things in general. For pictures, see my 'Korean Couple Sets' gallery.

Tags: couples, gaming, love, south korea, starcraft, superstition

Comments

1

Several Valentine's Days? Sounds awful! ha Love these little insights into Korea as I haven't heard of most of them.

  Suzy Apr 14, 2010 5:59 PM

2

Great post. This made me a little nostalgic for matching couples and pepero, and I just left two months ago.

  Ahimsa Apr 14, 2010 6:12 PM

3

Glad you guys enjoyed it! Korea was such a bizarre place to live in. I really miss it - especially the matching couples.

  amy_palfreyman Apr 17, 2010 12:16 AM

4

Amy this is so funny! I love to see my country through the eyes of foreigners. It's funny! And you are so right too! These are really such strange thing about Korea. I never even noticed how strange they are because they just feel normal for us who grow up in Korea!
I LOVE all the photos of couples you have! Did you take them all yourself in Korea? So cute ^^

  June Apr 20, 2010 1:50 PM

5

Aww, this post makes me want to visit Korea even more than I already had.

I love hearing about superstitions around the world.
"Don't wash your hair on a big exam day or your memory will be washed away." Hmmm.. now I know why I always did terribly on exams! :p

  Catia Apr 21, 2010 3:47 AM

6

Thanks for your comments!

June - Yes, I took those photos in Korea. I also found a lot of 'matchy matchy' couples in China too (I have a big collection of these photos - it's one of my favourite things to take photos of!) I too love hearing how foreigners see Australia. It makes me laugh hearing about all the things we do that others find strange.

Catia - Get yourself to Korea if you can! It's such a wonderful place (although, the showers there can be a little temperamental). Hopefully, I'll be going back for the summer!

  amy_palfreyman Apr 21, 2010 11:06 AM

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