Alfred C. Snider, University of Vermont
I first met Gyeongho Hur in the Summer of 2000 at the World Debate Institute. He is a dynamic teacher and scholar, and he had come to learn all he could about debate and debating. His university and others were very interested in debating, and he saw it as an essential component for the improvement of Korean democracy and open discourse in Korea. He was with us for a month, and seemed to eagerly consume every item of knowledge and experience about debate he could, constantly asking constructive and important questions, always looking for how he could apply what he was learning to his situation back in Korea. A professor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, he had received his doctorate in communication at Kent State University, Gyeongho is extremely well informed and a fabulous English speaker. He worked closely with Larry Moss of Spelman College at the high school coaching workshop at WDI to learn all he could about policy debating, and then for the last two weeks worked closely with John Meany of the Claremont Colleges to learn all he could about parliamentary debating and public debating. He and I met often and struck up an instant friendship, as we are both, for better or worse, debate visionaries, in that we think of possibilities and then try to make them happen despite what doubters and nay-sayers may tell us. He filmed a 30 minute television program (now available for viewing) about international debating and made many friends among the other coaches and students. When he left we had a meeting and outlined many ambitious projects, some of which seemed too ambitious even for someone with optimism as strong as myself.
Little did I know that many of these plans would quickly become realities.
We exchanged email regularly and he invited me to come to Korea to be the opening speaker at the First Korean Universities National Championship tournament to be held in December. I quickly rearranged my plans, and agreed to attend.
This is a daily record of my experiences on that trip. These are the impressions that I, admittedly an American debate coach, have of my experience. I wanted to take some time to share them with others and I am keeping a daily journal of my experiences.
PART ONE - PART TWO - PART THREE
December 16-17, 2000
I flew from Burlington, Vermont on Jetblue (oddly enough, George Soros is a major backer of this new discount airline) to New York and stayed at a hotel near John F. Kennedy Airport. The next morning I made my way to the Korean Airlines terminal and boarded Flight 082. The vast majority of those traveling seemed to be of Korean descent. The service was excellent (constant service including many tropical fruit juices being offered), the food wonderful by airline standards, and even the children on the flight (it was a jam-packed 757) were well behaved. The entire flight took sixteen hours, and we had a brief stop over in Anchorage (where I got to stretch my legs, look at a gorgeous Alaskan sunset, and browse through a gigantic duty free shop). During this tremendously long flight it dawned on me that I was going to the other side of the world, 12 timelines away, and as the map projection showed us moving around the globe I realized that this is the longest trip of my life. I guess a trip of 12 timezones is the maximum you can have on this planet, or else you would simply take a shorter trip by going in the opposite direction.
As we landed in Seoul my excitement was high, though perhaps a bit dulled by the long flight and the onset of jet lag). As I cleared immigration and customs and emerged into an open area ringed by barriers with hundreds of people on the other side holding signs and looking for that special someone who was arriving. I heard a voice call out "Tuna" and saw Gyeongho's face. We embraced and he introduced two of his students who had come to greet me. We loaded my luggage and the four of us into a beautiful blue Daewoo car and took off into the night.
While fairly stunned from my globe spanning trip, Gyeongho briefed me on my visit. I would be giving a lecture at Kyung Hee University the next evening, and then giving the opening address to the tournament on the following day.
The tournament itself would have between 80 and 100 teams, which I thought was remarkable, but which Gyeongho was disappointed in but explained that it was taking place in the middle of final exams, which made the number even more impressive. It is in CEDA policy format, with the topic being (pardon my translation) "Resolved: that the Republic of Korea should adopt a program to reduce government corruption." The debates will take place in Korean. The final four debates will be webcast by a local internet company and the final round will take place in the chamber of the Korean Parliament. Teams will be put in "leagues" and after six debates teams will advance to further debates. More details later.
I arrived at my hotel, the Prima Hotel, and checked into my room. My last bout with jet lag (Budapest in October) had taught me a lesson, in that it isn't just being without sleep but having your sleep cycle distorted which can be the problem, being wide awake in the middle of the night. This time I saw that I was arriving in the early evening local time and so I tried to be exhausted when I arrived so I would sleep well and be readjusted for the next day. Needless to say, I was successfully exhausted.
Gyeongho and I made plans that I would work on my speeches in the morning and would be picked up at my hotel the next day at 11 AM, meet him for lunch over on the campus of Kyung Hee University, and start my visit.
<=== View from my hotel window
The hotel room has a fabulous selection of supplies (three kinds of scotch, roasted spiced squid and other snacks, plus a wide selection of juices, soda, and beer in the refrigerator, and travel supplies like razors, toothbrushes, pantyhose, etc. I noticed that they are all "pay as you go" so I stayed away from everything except a cool bottle of water. To my delight I found the room had a huge bathtub, so I took a hot bath before turning in. I was able to put my Apple PowerBook on recharge (the adapters I had used in Eastern Europe work here), and I went to bed even though I am too stupid to figure out how to turn off one of the lights in my room. It didn't stop me from sleeping soundly.
December 18, 2000
I awoke feeling more rested, although not completely so. That 16 hour flight experience was quite a shock to the body. I hoped that I would keep my energy charge up during the day.
I began the day by writing my journal entry for the day before, smiling as I did so. I managed to find more power outlets to hook my printer up. It seems strange that in a country where people are very computer savvy that the hotel rooms had so few power outlets. I assume that Korean business persons would want to use their computers in their rooms, but in my room I had to move furniture and reconfigure the lamps in order to get a couple of power outlets. Having connected myself fully to the power grid (North Korea is demanding that the South shunt power to the northern grid, I recalled) I took another hot bath. What a great bathtub, deep, long, and the faucet has a temperature control built into it for precise adjustment.
I went down to breakfast in the hotel restaurant, as a flyer indicated that as a Sunday check-in I would get a free buffet breakfast. It was quite a spread, with the usual breakfast offerings (the sausages seemed a bit strange) but with some interesting additions to give it quite a Korean flavor (my Korean foods pamphlet helped me identify some of them), including octopus, kimchee of several varieties, seaweed soup, abalone chowder, spicy marinated vegetables, carrot soup, and steamed rice. There was also an impressive array of juices available, and it has become clear to me that Koreans love fruit juices, everything from pineapple to guava to crushed pear.
After breakfast I went back upstairs and worked on my speech. Gyeongho had asked me to give the same speech that evening to his class that I would be giving as the keynote address the next day, and I thought that would be a good idea because it would allow me to test it out on a Korean audience, get a feel for the process of translation into Korean, and get feedback from Gyeongho and others about how I could change it and improve it. I was also concerned about the time allocation, since I wasn't sure how long the translation process would take. Finishing my notes I reminded myself that I would have to get pronunciation help for several of the Korean words I would be using in my speech, since intonation is so important in Korean.
I put on my new (hold on to your hats, readers) extremely conservative charcoal suit and fresh white shirt and finished it off with new dress shoes and tie. I have been told by a number of Asians that such a speech requires that I have the Asian business outfit on, and as I looked at myself in the mirror I thought how I hadn't been in such a get-up since I was about 12 and my mother bought me a dress suit. Not my normal dress, but I understand I need to adapt to my audience in order to get them to focus on my message. If I was wearing my favorite Vermont Reggae Festival T-shirt it might distract them.
I dashed downstairs to the business center in the hotel hoping I would be able to jack into the hotel Internet connection to send and receive email. They were quite cooperative, and after a couple of adjustments I was on the Internet My Earthlink account would receive but not send, so I logged into the web version of my school email account and was able to send out my journal for the previous day, as well as download the latest postings from eDebate and Parli and the other listservs. It took all of two minutes. Very convenient.
My Guides: Kyung Hee and Olivia | Host Gyeongho Hur & fellow guest Nadja Kang
I went back upstairs to pack and prepare to meet my ride, Kyung Hee and Hwa Sung, two students of Gyeongho's, who would be taking me to the campus of Kyung Hee University. They called and said that because of car trouble (it looked very new and shiny to me the night before) they would be a little late. During this time I decided to practice my speech for later that day, which I did, and found that I didn't particularly like it and made a few changes.
Kyung Hee and Hwa Sung (who had lived in the Los Angeles area and asked me to call her Olivia) arrived and we made our way to the University. We were joined by Nadja, a debate trainer of Korean descent who is here visiting from Uzbekistan. I had previously met her in Budapest at the IDEA Conference and we renewed acquaintance. Our drive across Seoul was interesting, looking at the stores, buildings and street life. There seemed to be a welcome absence of western franchise outlets (McDonald's, etc.), but the impression I got was sort of like Houston with a different alphabet. The city seems to be very sprawled out, with commercial and residential areas mixed together on each block. The streets seemed busy but not overly so. Driving etiquette seemed better than New York City or Belgrade but not as well behaved as Burlington, Vermont or Budapest. We crossed the Han River which flows through Seoul and came into another part of town almost identical to the last. We learned that there is no real "downtown" area in Seoul.
We came up to a huge stone gate which marks the entrance to Kyung Hee University, which I was to learn is quite a beautiful campus in the middle of this gigantic city. The campus has many beautiful buildings as well as open spaces and (the only ones I really saw in Seoul) trees. Gyeongho was waiting for us in front of one of the buildings. He welcomes us and took us into a huge new classroom building which he explained was the latest addition to the campus and where his temporary office is. We went to his office and met one of his colleagues there (Professor Kim who teaches Media Journalism). It was a nice space, but obviously a converted small classroom.
We proceeded down to the faculty cafeteria for a working Korean lunch, which was excellent -- spicy beef, vegetables, a sort of fish soufflé, kimchee, hot peppers, and rice. We had a nice conversation as we ate, and it took me a moment or two to be able to remaster chopsticks (these stainless steel ones were a bit different -- but I was glad to see they were not using disposable wood chopsticks) but I was soon able to pick up a single sheet of dried seaweed with ease.
We left lunch and went upstairs to pay a call on Suk Woo Lee, the Dean of the college where Gyeongho's department (Journalism and Communication Studies) is located. We had a very pleasant conversation, and he indicated how proud he was of Gyeongho's work and how much the President of the University supported this work. We exchanged gifts (I have small bottles of maple syrup from Vermont and he had a lovely calendar of scenes of the campus) and we were off. We were on our way to a tour of campus but it was delayed when a fairly brisk rain began. We acquired some umbrellas, but Gyeongho thought it might be better to wait a bit for it to stop. We went down to a student snack and social area and Gyeongho went off to talk to a student of his while Nadja, Kyung Hee, Hwa Sung, and I chatted. This was a very good time, as we got to ask them about campus life, students, Gyeongho as a professor, and other topics like Korean family life and life in Seoul. When Gyeongho returned we were all in a good mood and continued talking and joking.
The rain having stopped we took off on our campus tour. We made our way to the center of campus where a number of extremely impressive classic university buildings stood (huge columns and all). We visited the library, which was a very impressive building and visited the room where the opening session for the national tournament would be the next day. Gyeongho's staff were all busy preparing the room, hoisting the huge banner above the stairs and testing the lights and sound system. It was a lovely room, and an excellent place to hold such an event. We left the library and continued our tour, visiting the School of Oriental Medicine and the Natural History Museum before going to a real architectural highlight, a recently completed huge cathedral-style building which seats over 4500 comfortably. It is truly gigantic, with a huge expanse of chairs, two large balconies, and a number of box seats high above the stage. The stage itself was almost big enough to play a football game on. I knew that Gyeongho had an agenda working here, and it was obvious to all of us that this was a space worthy of holding the largest debate event one could imagine. As set stood there I tried to get a picture of the interior, but I found that just like the exterior the place was too big to capture all at once. You could hold a huge debate event there, and we mused about the kinds of events which could be hosted.
Outside Views of the "Peace Palace" built on the campus of Kyung Hee University
Inside views of the "Peace Palace"
We then made our way to the College of Journalism and Communication Studies building to see the lab which is the headquarters of tournament operations and the seminar room where I would be speaking that night. The lab was crowded with people working on the tournament. I snagged a couple of posters and a tournament booklet. We looked in on the seminar room and it was a large space with wooden chairs, lovely wooden tables, and a nice specialized backdrop behind the podium picturing the globe and the name of the college. It looked like a great place to have any number of debate events.
We decided to go to dinner before the class started at 7 PM, and we went just off campus (in the student district) to an "American style" restaurant. We had a nice meal, talking in a relaxed manner among Gyeongho, Nadja, Hwa Sung, Kyung Hee, and myself. The service was good and the food was, definitely, American. We dashed back to campus just in time for the start of class.
Arriving at the seminar room I was struck by the nature of the people in the class. I had assumed that it was an undergraduate class, but these people all seemed much older and looked very much like professional persons. I soon realized, to my terror, that I had quite a sophisticated audience on my hands, while I had prepared for an audience of undergraduates. I learned that the class consisted of leading business persons, members of parliament, high government officials, and even the conductor of the Seoul Symphony Orchestra. I realized that my speech, a rehearsal for tomorrow's speech to open the tournament and very much a debate pep rally speech, was ill-suited for this sort of audience. But with merely moments to go there was little I could do to draft a new speech.
The speech went forward, but I had forgotten the difficulties involved in translation. I would speak for a few sentences, and then Gyeongho would translate what I had said into Korean. Just about the time I was working up a head of steam it would be time to stop for translation, making the flow of the speech very difficult to maintain. The listeners were paying close attention to what was going on. It was interesting to watch different parts of the audience react. Those who were English speakers would react to me what I spoke, and then another group who were not English speakers would react when Gyeongho translated. Translation also caused problems for time allocation, so as the speech went on I cut back on some parts of it, with the nature of this audience in mind.
At the end of the speech I took some questions, and then it became apparent to me that this was, indeed, a very sophisticated audience. They asked difficult questions, targeted possible contradictions in my remarks, and were thoroughly enjoyable to interact with. Professor Kim was especially insightful in his comments, but all of the questions were difficult and challenging.
There was a short break during which box meals appeared and people walked around and talked. I had some excellent conversations about USA election issues, but I started to lag as the jet lag and the long day started to catch up with me.
Nadja was next up. Nadja is of special interest to those here in Korea because she is from Uzbekistan but is of Korean descent. In 1937 Stalin had all of the people of Korean descent (in Eastern Siberia and on Sakhalin Island) deported to the center of the Soviet Union in what is now Uzbekistan. This community has remained tight and has actually grown over the year. Nadja works for the Open Society Institute and the Soros Foundation and is the debate director for Uzbekistan. She graduated from the University in Tashkent with a concentration in English, which she speaks and understands wonderfully. Her presentation covered the situation in Uzbekistan and debate activities there. After her presentation there were questions and comments.
The group presented us with gifts (beautiful books about Korean culture and special bottles of wine) and I felt very grateful for having this opportunity. We left and headed back to the Prime Hotel where we were staying, with Kyung Hee giving us a ride. During the ride Nadja and I had a chance to share impressions from the day which made us all laugh. Silly things like the fact that my shoes are new, and I didn't take good care when putting them on in the morning, so I did not remove a cardboard liner in the bottom of one of them. It started to come out during my meeting with the Dean, but that was not an appropriate time to reach down and say, "Hey, what's this piece of cardboard coming out of my show?" Also, as an attractive young woman of Korean descent Nadja had been the target of a number of comments which we proceeded to deconstruct on our ride home.
We were taking a taxi to the university the next day so we made plans at the desk to arrange for that, Kyung Hee supplied us with directions, and it was off to bed. I fell asleep quickly knowing that I would have to get up early the next morning to work on this journal, because it was clear that I wasn't doing any writing tonight.
December 19, 2000
I awoke at 6 AM (4 PM Eastern time) feeling refreshed and ready for the day. I began by working on my journal for a while and then looking over my speech to be given later that day and changed a few things, including composing what I hoped would be a kicker conclusion as well as cutting out some portions now that I had a better idea of how the time allocation would work with translation. I went downstairs to have breakfast (no octopus this time, but a very excellent variety of seasoned mushroom I had never tasted before).
I was waiting for Nadja Kang to come downstairs so we could take a taxi to Kyung Hee University and while I did I pulled out my PowerBook and continued working on my journal. Nadja appeared and we took a taxi to our destination. It was quite a taxi, with dual television sets (front and back) tuned to the latest Korean family drama. It was about as swank a taxi as I had ever been in. It took us directly to the library where the opening of the tournament was to take place, and cost 16,000 won (1100 won = $1) and tipped the driver as if I was in New York City. His surprise and gratitude were obvious, so I thought perhaps I should ask someone about tipping customs.
<=== TAXI WITH TWO TELEVISION SETS
Gyeongho was waiting for us in the lobby of the library and we proceeded to the auditorium where the opening session was to take place. It was well-decorated with a huge banner, large potted plants, and a well set-up stage. Debaters were arriving and going through registration, getting their tournament booklet and their souvenir appointment book embossed with the new website for Korea Debate (http://www.speechndebate.com). It became clear that some of the teams which had entered the tournament were not going to show. Gyeongho was concerned but I told him that for the first college debate tournament ever held in Korea, where no debaters had experience, and where no fees were charged, that was to be expected. A good crowd of debaters had gathered however, and they seemed anxious for the event to start. The top four teams in the tournament will receive large cash prizes and this had obviously motivated much of the turnout, since there had never been a college debate tournament before and everyone was about to be in their first debate.
Many important dignitaries had gathered for the event, and I got to meet a number of them before things got underway. I met Byung-Mook Kim, Vice President of Kyung Hee University, Chang-Kee Sung, Director General at the Korean Information Service, and Geh-Ryonn Shin, one of the leaders of the Millennium Democratic Party in the National Assembly (and rumored to be a top candidate to be the next President of the Republic of Korea), as well as other notables who did not have English language "name cards" (we call them business cards) and I haven't been able to get Gyeongho to translate the Korean language cards I received. I was well warned to have a good supply of cards, as the exchange of such cards is an essential part of networking in Asia, so I was glad I did.
Gyeongho made a brief introductory speech, then called three dignitaries to the stage for brief remarks. I would report on them but it was in Korean and was not translated, but the remarks seemed well delivered and well received.
Gyeongho introduced me and I was on. My speech basically covered the following topics, and should be available online after I return as a streaming video.
<=== Three Honored Guests: Byung-Mook
Kim, Vice President of Kyung Hee University, Chang-Kee Sung, Director General
at the Korean Information Service, and Geh-Ryonn Shin, one of the leaders of
the Millennium Democratic Party in the National Assembly
Stage for Opening Session of National Tournament | Gyeongho Hur makes opening remarks
The speech seemed very well received, again with lots of nonverbal feedback from the audience. Gyeongho's translation seemed excellent and efficient from what I could tell. Gyeongho is probably the most dynamic Korean speaker I have ever heard, but I confess to not having a very broad sample of such things.
Students were invited to ask questions. They included a question about the role of USA troops in Korea, the role of the USA in occupying Korea after World War Two, the nature of debating activities in the USA in high school as compared to colleges. I answered as best I could. I appreciated their warm applause and bowed to them.
After the speech their was a break before the first rounds began. I got a chance to speak to a number of government officials and academics after the event, and had some excellent conversations about Korea and creating a debating culture. A representative of National Assembly discussed with me the possibility of coming to Korea in the future to do public communication training, which flattered me immensely. The government minister in charge of combating corruption (Key-Chong Park, Director General for Inspection and Investigation from the Office of the Prime Minister) spoke to me about expanding debate in Korean secondary and middle schools as well as inquired about when I was leaving and if I had any time in my schedule to meet with him and others. I said Gyeongho was in control of my schedule and that they should consult him but I would be glad to meet with him whenever possible.
I am sure there were many who disliked my speech or found it boring, as is true of almost any speech to any audience, and I respect that (I often find myself boring) but they were nice enough not to let me know.
I was interviewed extensively by Semi Shin of the main Korean language daily Munhwa Ilbo on a variety of subjects and she asked me to email a picture of myself for the next day's edition. I later had Gyeongho snap a shot of me and we sent I on to her.
We then gathered with the corruption minister (got to get that Korean language name card translated) and a number of academic colleagues as well as Nadja and went to a wonderful Japanese style meal, seated on the floor, which was hard on my legs but the meal was excellent. Even better was the conversation, including a discussion of government transparency and a discussion of counterplan competition and permutations. I was very impressed by the depth of the counterplan discussion. We also discussed the resolution being debated and possible affirmative and negative strategies, and I tried to indicated, after being asked, what kind of arguments I, as an American policy debate coach, would suggest. I also discussed Internet debating with Professor Kim and we discussed arrangements the webcast of the final round from the parliament building on Saturday. The level of intellectual sophistication and the well informed nature of those at this lunch was very impressive.
I ate a whole small fish (head, tail and all) after being encouraged to do so by Gyeongho ("no, it is all very soft and chewy, go ahead, it is delicious") and it was good. I ate other strange things which were not obvious or explained to me, but it all tasted good.
We then went back to observe the tournament. I watched excitedly as the first Korean college debate tournament got underway. It was obviously new to them, but they were very into it. Having seen so many debates over the years, the nonverbals told me a lot about what was going on. Partners helped each other, had disagreements, they soon slipped into tag-team cross examination, teams misallocated preparation time, some debaters seemed unsure of themselves, some debaters seemed very confident, etc.
I observed that some teams seemed well prepared, using blocks and prepared arguments, while others carried very little. It was thrilling to be present as collegiate debating begins in this very intellectual and sophisticated country.
During round two I walked to different rooms and snapped pictures of the debaters and judges, and they didn't seem to mind. Judges gave oral critiques but seemed not to disclose the decisions.
SNAPSHOTS OF THE FIRST ROUND OF COLLEGE TOURNAMENT DEBATE IN KOREAN HISTORY
Gyeongho had some very impressive assistance from his staff in running the tournament. They were efficient, businesslike, and seemed to have thought things out well. I was very impressed by these individuals and several of them indicated an interest in communication graduate study in the USA, and I offered to help put them in contact with schools which might be interested. Those with graduate programs should take advantage of these talented and hard working individuals.
During round three and after round three I got a chance to meet many of Gyeongho's colleagues who are debate supporters at Kyung Hee University as well as professors from other universities who are interested in starting debate teams. These included Chang-Nam Kim and Tae Wan Kang of Kyung Hee University, as well as Han-Ho Lyu on Kwangju Citizens' Solidarity, Chansik Cho of Dongduk Women's University, Jae-Dong Lee of Dankook University, Hwan Jin Choi and Taechul Jung of Kyung Sung University, Kie-Hyun Shin of Chonbuk National University, and a number of others. I also spoke to Prof. Lee of Kyung Hee University who had gained his doctorate at the University of Minnesota who had Karlyn Campbell as an advisor (as I had at Kansas) and we discussed the prospect for the study of rhetoric in Asia and made future plans for collaboration. The afternoon was full of exciting conversations and interactions.
After round two three teams decided that debating wasn't for them, and dropped out of the five day tournament. Gyeongho and his organizers felt bad about that, but I explained to them that with a large tournament full of brand new debaters this has to be expected, especially since they paid no entry fees and had very little training. My suspicion is that some of them met the very prepared teams or otherwise had an embarrassing public experience (very hard to take in Korean society, or any society I know of for that matter). We discussed different ways to introduce and encourage new debaters I have learned from working in Urban Debate Leagues and in my own experience coaching novice debaters.
As the day was ending I was glad to be able to meet someone I had heard so much about, Kyung-Ja Lee (a former Saluki), President of the Korean Broadcasting Institute, who had founded the Kyung Hee University School of Journalism and Communication Studies and had been an important part of Gyeongho's efforts to start his debating program. She was radiant and charming, and we discussed the World Debate Institute (which she seemed to know a lot about), her interest in Urban Debate Leagues, and our thoughts about this first debate tournament. She had to go as she was delivering a lecture to the business school that evening, but I enjoyed our conversation greatly.
After these meetings and round three, it was off to dinner with a group of potential coaches, judges, and a representative of the Prime Minister's Office. This time we went to a very traditional Korean restaurant, where charcoal heated grills in the middle of the table were used to cook our food (we took our own food we when saw a piece we liked which seemed done, actually) as we sat on the floor (ouch to the legs again). The vegetables were often mysterious but wonderful. I amazed everyone by eating an entire Korean long green hot pepper (I didn't tell them jalapenos are hotter). I had a good discussion with one colleague about his culture chock when returning to Korea after studying abroad for eight years. Gyeongho and I carried on a long conversation about future collaboration and its many forms. We swore a pact of eternal friendship and cooperation and even sealed it with the traditional Korean handshake of promise (locked little fingers, thumbs together) and it was a very profound moment for me. The best parts about this trip so far have been witnessing the start of debate here, making new contacts, a forging string friendships.
The best part of the meal, to me, was the Korean pear served at the end. Korean pears are huge and pure white inside, but the taste is very delicate and refreshing and something I will always remember.
I understand that this is Korean culture and that they were being wonderful hosts, but I was a little uncomfortable at the two expansive meals I had been treated to. At times like this I feel a little guilty because I think of all those who do not have enough food to eat on any given night. I would prefer to live more simply, but that is my feeling and I want to be a good guest. I would rather that these funds be spent on the great work of promoting debate, but that is not my place or my choice. I was later told that these events had been funded by the grant they had received to hold the tournament, and that dinner had really been a way to thank and encourage judges and potential debate coaches, some of whom had taken four hour bus rides to be at the tournament. I felt a little better about it after that.
As we left the restaurant I was told me were on our way to a kareoke bar for some entertainment. I protested that I would not perform, but Gyeongho told me that it was a cultural thing and I had to do it (drat him). Fortunately Nadja indicated that she was too tired for such antics, Gyeongho admitted he was also a little tired, so we parted and Kyung Hee drove Nadja and I back to the hotel.
I feel asleep immediately when I got back to my room. It had been a truly wonderful day.
December 20, 2000
No octopus for breakfast today, but the fresh Korean mushrooms were excellent. My schedule had been determined by my hosts, so I took advantage of a free morning to work on my journal and to take a walk around the neighborhood surrounding the Prima Hotel. Seoul is a gigantic city, bustling and very spread out. There seems to be no single city center, but many different centers involved in many different activities. The city seems to abound with shops and stores (almost all of them fairly small) on every street. I was amazed and pleased at the absence of too many Western franchise stores, since I delight in cultural diversity and dislike creation of a plastic global homogeneity.
Around noon Kyung Hee and Hwa Sung/Olivia arrived to pick up Nadja and I for our day's activities. We were on our way to visit the Korean Folk Village about an hour south of Seoul. Before we went we stopped at a convenience store ("Spar") to buy some snacks. I bought some cashew nuts and a bottle of water, but I was amazed at the variety of snacks available which we would never see in the USA -- such as cuttlefish flavored peanuts, and amazing plastic wrapped whole flattened squid which was listed as being "soft and delicious for easy snack." It looked amazing. I knew I would go back to buy one to take home to add to my collection of exotic snacks I have for display (not for eating). After that Nadja indicated she wanted a hamburger, so we stopped off at, you guessed it, McDonald's. It was bustling and busy, and it looked very much like McDonald's everywhere but with a different alphabet. I did notice a few different items on the menu, so I ordered a "bulbogiburger," which is a beef patty cooked and flavored in the Korean style. It was tasty, but I probably won't be back to McDonald's soon, even in America.
We hit the road and headed south, soon entering a large toll road which I was told leads all the way south to Pusan. Traffic was heavy but regular, and I kept waiting for us to leave the city and arrive in the countryside, but we didn't. All around I could see large construction projects, mostly producing huge new blocks of apartments. Hwa Sung informed me that there was a need for new housing and rents were fairly high. We did finally come into some wooded countryside and it was quite beautiful. Soon, however, we entered what seemed to be another urban area with high-rise apartments and new high-rises springing up all over. We took a wrong exit but after ending up on a small country road some utility workers helped Kyung Hee, our driver, get properly oriented. Back on the highway we started to listen to some contemporary Korean youth music, and the hip-hop flair with Korean lyrics was obvious. As well I noticed the popularity of the combination song so common in contemporary reggae, with a hip-hop rap set of verse sandwiched by a beautifully sung chorus. While it might sound that way in my description it was not really derivative but seemed very fresh and genuine.
I want to describe our hosts here, Kyung Hee and Hwa Sung/Olivia. They are both students at Kyung Hee University (the name similarity is coincidental) and students of Gyeongho's. They had gratefully volunteered to guide Nadja and I during our visits and had planned many of our activities, including this one. Hwa Sung lived in Los Angles for several years with her family and speaks excellent English. She is very well informed and clever with a good sense of humor. Kyung Hee claims not to speak much English but seems to always know what we are saying unless I use some unusual metaphors, in which case Hwa Sung translates for her, and then they either laugh at my remark or at me, I am not sure which, but it always seems to be in good spirits. Both are vibrant young Korean women concerned about friends, boyfriends, and they both have tiny pink telephones which ring at least every thirty minutes with a call from some friend or, in Kyung Hee's case, her younger sister. They love music and fashion and are hip to Korean youth trends I couldn't even begin to explain, but both seem dedicated to Gyeongho and his work of spreading speech and debate skills. They are enjoyable, vibrant, and clever, as the photos I took of them show.
During our drive Gyeongho called to tell me that the Prime Minister's Office had called and wanted to schedule me for a lecture to be given to high government officials and members of the National Assembly. They had obviously liked my speech from the day before. I was stunned. I did not think that when it had been mentioned the day before that it would actually happen. They requested a lecture on "21st century persuasion techniques" and I found that quite interesting. I felt, perhaps, it was time to introduce Korea to the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion I enjoyed teaching about so much in my Persuasion class back home. I realized I had brought none of these notes with me and hoped that my memory of the material was good. The lecture would be either Friday or Saturday.
We arrived at the Korean Folk Village and the parking lot was not very full, which was not surprising given that it was a cold Wednesday with rain or snow threatening. We were all warmly bundled up so we tumbled out of the car and entered the facility. It is a large tract of land where an attempt has been made to rebuild a traditional Korean village from before the 20th century, and each house and structure has been carefully modeled to represent a former reality. While many of the buildings (such as "farmer's house") looked much the same to me, it was clear that they represented actual structures from different regions of Korea in different periods of time. Fields held crops (not active in winter), with different locations for a grain mill, rice processing, blacksmith, etc. Various people were walking about or doing work dressed in traditional Korean costume, the men with traditional beards (now almost no Korean men wear beards), engaging in traditional activities.
We visited a number of houses to see how people lived, being able to look inside and see kitchens, living space, food storage areas, farm implements, bamboo weaving areas, cotton and cloth processing, livestock pens, etc. The rooms were decorated with excellent traditional cabinets and appointments. Some of the rooms had people in costume while some had mannequins in traditional dress. It was all very easy to photograph.
We had a lot of fun running from place to place, joking with each other, as Hwa Sung explained facets of Korean traditional culture to us, and while she is thoroughly modern, her knowledge seemed quite extensive.
We took more time at the "Noble's House" because there was a lot more to see, including the "jail" and the "spanking machine" to which people were strapped down and spanked with wooden paddles for punishment, a process Kyung Hee gladly posed for so we could understand how it worked, and she even allowed me to take a picture. Behind this facility was the shaman's house and a guest house from which traditional Korean music came.
The day had been quite cold and the ground a bit muddy, but it had not dampened our spirits. We wound our way back and visited a few other structures (smaller houses from the Korean islands, and a school) before making our way to a central performance area where we saw a display of traditional Korean tightrope walking, which was quite amazing. Almost everyone in the place at the time was there, and it became clear that the attendance that day was dominated by elementary school children on a field trip, Russian tourists, and a few Japanese and Koreans.
I purchased a souvenir while there, traditional Korean figures called "chong sun" (pardon my translation) which are spirit totems placed at the entrance to every village to protect them, and they were very frightening looking, and I hoped when in my office they would protect me as well as remind me of this wonderful visit. I saw some amazing lacquered wooden work which was very inexpensive, but I did not purchase being concerned about how I would get it all back to the USA given my rapidly gathering collection of gifts from my hosts.
We returned to the car and headed back to Seoul, glad to be warming up. We listened to more Korean pop music (mostly songs of love and longing, it seemed). The traffic started to back up and soon we found ourselves in a huge Korean traffic jam as we neared Seoul. What had taken us 30 minutes on the way out of Seoul took us fully two hours on the way back. The drivers seemed polite but persistent.
Dinner awaiting clearing teams list | First Korean "who broke" list for the Sweet Sixteen
Our schedule had included just such a delay, however, and we arrived at our dinner appointment at a traditional Korean restaurant right on time. There we met with Gyeongho, who had been joined by his professorial colleagues and some of the students from the tournament. I was told that the day of competition had gone well and that everyone was awaiting the announce of the "sweet sixteen" which would advance, and I could sense a tension among the student debaters, but it was one I have seen a hundred times before and it was great to see the patterns of debating playing themselves out here. The meal was excellent and very educational, with more of those mushrooms I like and, of course, the delightful ending with huge slices of the Korean pear I had loved from the night before.
Gyeongho and I talked about his ideas to start English language debating in Korea, and he indicated that he might be looking to hire an English language debate coach from America. He mentioned several people he had mat at the World Debate Institute as possible applicants, and I agreed to help him network with qualified people.
Se Wan, Gyeongho's main assistant for the tournament, arrived (he had been tabulating the results) and produced a list of "clearing teams" which I was excited to take a photo of. Gyeongho stood up and read it out, and the sounds of relief and disappointment were heard, another of debate competition's universals.
Gyeongho then engaged me in a touching conversation about his commitment to his work and his responsibility to himself, his realizations of his own mortality, and his hopes for the future. The more time I spend with this impressive man the closer I feel to him and the more I learn about dedication and methods in promoting the great mission, to spread "toron" (debate in Korean, and Japanese I believe) as widely as possible, not to benefit a career but to benefit a society and the people in it.
After the meal we said our good-byes and I took shared a taxi with Professor Kim while Nadja went with Kyung Hee to visit where she and her sister lived while they attended school.
On the ride home Professor Kim (who had earlier questioned me about permutations and competition for the counterplan) and I discussed the upcoming webcast of the final four debates from the National Assembly building on Saturday. He seemed extremely Internet and infotech savvy, and I have come to see him as one of the most impressive people I have met on this trip.
I arrived back at the hotel and could only heave a huge sigh at how amazing the day had been. My hope was that I would get my sleep cycle right and stop waking up at 3 AM so I could stay up a bit later, because apparently on future nights there would be more evening activities.
And I was able to finally figure out how to turn that last light off in my room.