Waegukin - living and teaching in Korea


Waegukin (외국인):
1. A foreigner, non-Korean.
2. An idiosyncratic weblog about teaching and living in Korea, with side-notes.

This is a place for me to write my thoughts and opinions about living and teaching in Korea.

A few guiding principles

1. All opinions are my own. I tend to be opinionated, which some people find annoying. I try to write considered opinions and not ignorant nonsense. I may not always succeed. When it comes to writing about Korean culture I do my best to research my conclusions and check them with Koreans, but like most waegukins I’m limited by my deficiencies in the Korean language. If you’re Korean or gyopo and think I’ve got something wrong, please tell me and I’ll consider revising it.

2. I try not to write about something if I don’t feel I can add to what is already available on the internet. That could be a different perspective, my personal experience, or a compilation of resources that are otherwise difficult to locate. For this reason I may pass over some currently hot topics. Nor will I write posts that consist of just of a single link to a source if I don’t have something further to contribute to it.

3. This blog assumes you are literate and don’t have the attention-span of a five-year-old. I’m familiar with the conventional wisdom on web writing – short sentences, short paragraphs, lots of pictures – but choose to ignore it. I don’t believe in tl;dr. I think anyone who has ever left that as a comment is an ignoramus. I use as many words as I need to fully express my thoughts.

4. I like digressions. So sometimes I use side-notes. They’re underrated.

5. I embrace idiosyncrasy, and I generally distrust blogs written by foreigners in Korea. There are some good ones, but most start with a generic description of getting off the plane and their banal first trip to noraebang and first encounter with soju, and go downhill from there. This isn’t a travel blog or a political blog. I don’t have date-based archives or a sidebar of links. I suppose I’m just saying something obvious, here: I’m only trying to to satisfy my own expectations for this, and you shouldn’t try to apply your own agenda to what I do here, or you may be disappointed.

6. This website is anonymous; I want to be able to express my opinions without worrying about what my family, friends, or employer will think. There is a clause in my contract about bringing my program into disrepute, and while I don’t intend to do that, I prefer not to leave the assessment of it up to somebody else who might have different standards to me. It is also possible that one day I will write something that will upset the nationalist netizens, and I’d prefer to avoid a situation like this one.

7. I link freely to anything that seems relevant, and encourage you to do the same if you find something relevant on this site. I don’t do link exchanges. For a list of other Korea blogs I find interesting, go here.

8. I love Korea, and have little patience with people who come here and complain. Anything critical I write about Korea comes, firstly, from a place of great affection for the country.

9. My romanization of the Korean word 외국인 is a little idiosyncratic. The correct transliteration according to the Revised Romanization of Korean system would be oegugin, but this looks ugly to me, and hard to pronounce. ~wae is the correct Romanization for the almost identical-sounding dipthong 왜. The traditional foreigners’ Romanization is Waygookin, but this leads to a harsh approximation of the correct sounds, and pays no attention to conventions of Romanization of the Korean language. This site, by the way, has no relation to the popular message board waygook.org, which is a place where foreign teachers can go to download bomb games and complain about Korea.

Site design

Site design is by me, using Word Press. It was originally based on this minimal theme, which as you can see has been so radically modified as to be almost completely gone by now, apart from some low level things. Some of the more important plugins I use are YARPP for the related posts, Table of Contents Plus for the tables of contents, PageNavi for the page navigation, and Akismet for comment spam.

The logo and title fonts are Maiden Orange and Cocktail Shaker. The images are mostly photographs I’ve taken, except for things I’ve stolen, which I try to credit where it’s the product of an individual; I’m more cavalier with photos from big media companies. To produce the tinted effect I use this tritone script for Gimp, which I modified to make use of this website’s theme colours, which is a pretty nifty idea, I think.

The waegukin girl on the banner is adapted from a 1945 calendar illustration by Alberto Vargas. You can see the original here. Thanks, Al.

What is the logic of a fifties design for a blog about Korea? I don’t know. It just evolved that way.

Other blogs and resources

These are the Korea blogs I currently read and respect, along with, in some cases, the reservations I have about them. My reservations aren’t important, as a blog is only obliged to reflect the vision of its author. If they do that well and with integrity, I’ll link them here.

  • Ask a Korean – written by a Korean who moved to the US when he was 16, and who is both perceptive and knowledgeable about Korean culture, and also distant enough to be able to explain it well to non-Koreans. He’s also extremely bright.
  • Gusts of popular feeling – exhaustively, and at times exhaustingly, documents the way foreigners are portrayed in Korean media. If this was the only information source you had on Korea, you would get the impression that Korea is very hostile to foreign English teachers, which hasn’t been my experience.
  • The grand narrative – Korean feminism, sexuality and popular culture. The gender studies lens through which he views everything sometimes irritates me, but I admire the dedication, research, and commitment to his point of view.
  • Asian junkie – the only K-pop blog I’ve found which isn’t relentlessly banal. I like their snarky cynicism.
  • Wangjangnim’s Perspective – I don’t always agree with Wangjangnim’s perspective, but I usually find it thought-provoking, and as the only English language blog I know of written by a hagwon owner, it is definitely worth reading.
  • Kojects – Well researched and consistently makes the topic of Korean infrastructure and urban planning projects seem interesting.
  • K-law guru – See above, but substitute “Korean law” for Korean infrastructure.
  • Rock ‘n roll radio – A Korean-Australian adoptee returns to Korea. Most first year in Korea blogs are awful. This one avoids all the cliches and tells a personal and interesting story.
  • Outsider InsideTales of an American working at a Korean company. Another well-oberved and well-written blog.

About me

I’m an Australian citizen in his thirties who is now in his sixth year teaching in Korea. I have worked for TaLK, EPIK and GEPIK; these days I teach at a university.


Questions, comments, or suggestions: contact by email.**This link uses a script to prevent spam. Unfortunately it doesn’t work on some computers. If you’re having trouble, my email address is thewaegukin at gmail followed by dot com.

I will answer any email, so long as it is neither rude nor crazy.

If I feel that it is an interesting question, I may answer it in the form of a blog post, in which case I will let you know that I am intending to do that before I post it. You do, however, acknowledge that possibility and grant me permission to republish your email by sending it. If I do this, any personal or identifying information will be rendered anonymous.

I get a lot of emails along the lines of, “Hi, I’m starting a new super-amazing Korea portal/iphone app/e-book and thought you might like to write stuff/give me stuff/work for me for free, so that I can make money from my genius idea without actually having to create anything myself.” Unless your idea exists somewhere outside of your own fantasies of easy money on the internet, please don’t bother.

I’m not opposed to the idea of working with other websites, but understand that the stuff I write here gets read by plenty of people already, and anything I did with anyone else would be because I liked their site, not because I need you to elevate me to some higher level – particularly when that level exists only in your imagination. So if you’re going to write to me along those lines, at least do something more than a google search, a click through to the contact link, and a form email. And don’t refer to yourself with the royal “we” when you’re just a nobody with a laptop like the rest of us. It doesn’t make you look like a big organization; it’s just obnoxious.

Comment policy

The comment policy is pretty open. I reserve the right to remove racist, sexist, or otherwise hateful comments, although I am more likely to leave them up and make fun of you instead. You can’t say anything that is libelous or otherwise illegal in Australia, the United States, or the Republic of Korea, including advocating the overthrow of the Korean government or promotion of North Korean materials. You can say whatever you like about me, however you must respect other commenters. Spam or other comments whose prime motivation is self-promotion will be deleted.

if your comment is a question relating to your personal situation or a general request for advice relating to living and teaching in Korea, please send an email or use the Ask Waegukin page, rather than using the comments sections.


I value my privacy, and will value yours.

So long as it is feasible, I will preserve the option for people to comment anonymously on this blog.

I will not divulge your name, email address or any information that you provide to any person, government or entity without your permission, unless legally obligated to do so.

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