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MARCH 12, 2008
Feminism: Still a long way to go
Expat living is a page dedicated
to the issues that affect foreigners' daily lives. It is your page, where you can share stories about your life in Korea. Send story ideas to Matthew Lamers at email@example.com
Dunk that 10% for better living
Daniel Costello on Finance
Mae West said, “Saving love doesn’t bring any interest.” Saving money, however, does. The largest risk associated with saving money — is not saving any money. There are a lot of unwise things people do with their savings. Imagine foolishly stocking idle bills away under your mattress? Your cleaner might find them there, or you might even forget how much was there in the first place! As you continually double check your mattress-stuffed savings plan (MSSP), or the ever-popular freezer-filled savings plan (FFSP), you are losing interest that would have otherwise added to your savings. Some people stuff hundreds of dollars into the back of their freezer, or even thousands or more. But, why? A plethora of banks exists in Korea, each providing savings accounts with guaranteed interest rates on certain minimum fixed amounts over periods ranging from months to years. All have higher rates of interest than your freezer. These ensure you leave it there. I have heard one of the best guaranteed rates may be found at Nonghyup Bank, where some people might like to count their fingers upon exit. Even a low rate of interest on your savings anywhere is better than none at all, particularly if you are seeking the lowest risk investment you might make. A savings account would be a first step in that direction. Your biggest challenge is coming up with the spare change to fill that savings account, especially if your sole purpose in life is now focused on paying off debts. David Chilton, author of “The Wealthy Barber: The Common Sense Guide to Successful Financial Planning,” gives advice on the topic of savings plans. Start by diverting as little as 10 percent of your monthly income into a savings account. While this might seem like a lot to divert from your daily living costs, if engaged in with regular frequency you may see a tangible benefit and sizeable savings at the end of as little as twelve months. Chilton reassures readers that a habitual over-spender will not actually miss that 10 percent of monthly income if it is transferred automatically after payday. Most people save as little as 2-3 percent of their income annually in developed nations, and it is easy to see why that figure is so small with the number of credit cards most people carry these days. A recent PBS Frontline special on credit card debt revealed that the average American carries eight credit cards — swallowing up a great deal of potential savings. If you have more than one or two credit cards — that’s too many credit cards. Keep your favorite one or two and cut the rest up. Mae West also said: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” So divert 10 percent at least once a month for your introduction to savings on a tight spending budget. You’ll never miss it if you never had it and that little pot of gold will soon occupy at least part of your expanding financial planning mind. To contact Daniel, visit his website at http://crossculturalreviews.blogspot.com — Ed.
I recently brought up the subject of this article with a friend of mine. I told her that March 8th, being International Women’s Day, had got me thinking. Thinking about the concept of feminism, where it started, where it is now, about the women of the world, how different we all are, and how much being a woman shapes your identity, in what ways, to what extents. We mused over the definable moments that allow us to revel in our respective femininity, and those that cause us to mourn and even resent it. Such moments are different for us all, every woman defining certain instances as moments of great importance — the so-called “rites of passage” we as women go through in our lifetimes. What makes us women? What defines us as so? It goes without saying, I would hope, that what defines us as women
Stephanie Morris on Women’s Issues
and how we identify with our own femininity differs. And, within those differences themselves are the immeasurable multiplicity of our respective families, beliefs, backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures. What is right for one woman of a certain ethos may not be for another. How hard it is to sometimes understand and even respect that. The struggle to come to terms with the choices that some women make, but the eventual realization that the whole concept of feminism was, in the beginning, at least, about affording women the right to make those choices, regardless of who approved of them or not: the woman who chooses to forgo a
career to be a stay-at-homemother; the woman who chooses to nurture her job, as opposed to an infant, and elects to not have any children of her own; the woman who choose to have that abortion; the woman who chooses not to; the woman who chooses to make awareness of the state of women throughout the world as her passion and priority, and those who choose to make the lives of the women within her own life, hers. As we let these thoughts sink in, we finished our vanilla lattes and dashed off to an afternoon matinee of the movie “27 Dresses.” My friend commented that she hoped the movie would not run past 4 p.m.; she had a hair appointment to get to. Perspectives on feminism, as with so many other issues, have often been quite negative. From the opposition to the movement
itself, to the idea of a feminist being a bra-burning man-hater. I can categorically say that I am neither of these. I am a woman who was lucky enough to grow up in a family with a cultural background that has (for the most part) supported the decisions I have made, whether those included going to university or becoming a burlesque dancer. Would first-wave feminists support both of those decisions equally? I look at the women of Korea and wonder about the decisions and choices they make, their defining moments of femininity, and if they feel supported by their own families and culture. I look at women who have brought awareness to the new ways in which violence against women is being carried out, such as ethnic cleansing as a tactic of war, rape camps, and genital mutilation.
I look at the women who choose to stay with men who beat them, for the sake of their children. I look at the women of Afghanistan wearing burqas, who are forbidden to laugh out loud in public. And I look at the women who scoff at the idea of feminism, and proclaim how the “battle” has been won. You will forgive me if I respectfully disagree. The same way I would disagree with those who would call me a hypocrite for touting myself a feminist, while donning a corset and high heels and shaking my (ahem) assets for all their worth. Have we come a long way, baby? Absolutely. But there is still a way to go. Stephanie can be reached through her blog at stephanieinsuwon.blogspot.com — Ed.
PHOTO CHALLENGE — LOVE — Taken at the Seoul Grand Park Zoo in February. Many couples were out for a romantic stroll in the park. As spring approaches, people are making the most of the good weather. Love is in the air. Eric Gillet (flickr.com/photos/sudoksa)
In focus: Mastering manual
By David Smeaton
What are the benefits of shooting in manual? How can I learn to use manual mode well? — Jacinta, Seoul Manual mode is definitely the most difficult mode to use when shooting with a DSLR camera. Along with understanding RAW, and learning how to make the most of using a flash, manual shooting is one of the most valuable skills in photography. A recent study showed that most photographers shoot in Aperture Priority Mode. The second most popular mode was full Manual. While aperture priority mode is good, there are numerous situations when it’s not ideal. Sometimes, using manual
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mode allows you to get a shot that is not possible in other modes. For example, shooting sunsets, long exposures and portraits often require specific settings or long shutter speeds. The camera only creates settings based on the amount of available light, not on the composition. It cannot understand a sunset, a cascading river, a model in a studio. Full manual allows you to control every aspect of the shot: f-stop, shutter speed and ISO. These three elements combined will determine your exposure. Your knowledge of the scene and situations will determine your composition. I think there are two aspects which become the biggest hindrance to shooting in manual. The most common problem is
lack of skill or understanding with regards to photography, particularly exposure, shutter speed and aperture. The second problem is that setting a photograph in manual requires more time. Often photographers have limited time to get the shot, if you set the photo too slowly, you’ll miss your opportunity. Therefore, the best way to learn manual is to make sure you understand f-stop, shutter speed and ISO. Once you get your head around these concepts, and do some trial and error shooting to learn how to use them well, practice using manual mode in situations where you have more time to get the shot. Shoot at home or ask a friend to pose for you. Look through your viewfinder, watch the light
meter, and adjust your settings on the fly. Once you’ve had more practice, you can start working with faster moving subjects. Always remember that you need to keep your shutter speeds high if your subject is moving. Even a turn of the head or movement of the arm can become blurry if your shutter speed is too slow. In this situation, try and adjust the aperture instead. If the light is low, then increase your ISO to make the camera more sensitive to light. Another handy hint for making the transition to full manual is a keen awareness of your environment. Particularly, always notice the amount of light around you. Being aware of the lighting situation helps you judge (without even using the
camera’s light meter) some approximate settings you can use. Finally, have the courage to switch to manual. If you persevere and practice, you will notice how much faster you can become at setting your camera to create the perfect photo. It also makes you a lot more conscious of photographic elements, rather than just playing “point and shoot” with a fancy camera. Happy shooting. Send David a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.davidsmeaton.com. If you want to be a part of the weekly Photo Challenge, join the “Seoul Photo Club” group at flickr (flickr.com/groups/seoulphotoclub). — Ed.
Letter to the editor
Why teenagers turn into ‘study fiends’
When people think of foreign language high schools, they think “nerds,” or “studying machines,” or “kids who’ll easily get into SKY (Seoul, Korea, and Yonsei) Universities.” However, this is an illusion. Students in our school are normal teenagers. We’re concerned about our appearance, the clothes we wear, and the other sex. At meals, you can see students outside playing badminton, soccer, basketball, and taking walks. Still, there are a few times each year when these normal teens transform into unrecognizable “study fiends.” We call this stage “going dead.” During this period, everyone’s studying and stressed out. Nosebleeds are common. Some secretly go cry in the toilet, and there’s a friend of mine who puts his feet (sometimes his head) in a bucket of freezing water in order to stay awake. Getting a text message at 3 a.m. regarding some question is quite normal, but consider the fact that we wake up at 6 a.m. Some may ask, is all this necessary? Aren’t we overdoing it? Why spend the best years of our lives being so tied to studying? But yes, to us, this is absolutely necessary. Studying is our No. 1 priority right now. We chose this path when we were in ninth grade, with one object in mind; SKY universities. We chose this path knowing that the former grading system would be replaced with nine percentile levels, and that school grades would become more important. So of course we have to work harder; this new system has made it more difficult for us to get into those universities. However, having accepted the new system doesn’t mean that we are happy with it. As the college entrance is only six months away and I’m going on to my senior year, the college entrance system is a constant topic of conversation for us. First, about the nine percentiles. We agree with what everyone else is saying; “It’s like measuring in meters what was previously measured in millimeters.” You see, what if we get unlucky? What if we score just one point less than the score for the top 4 percent? That would makes us level 2, which would mean SKY universities are out of the question. Students in my year were witnesses to what happened to our seniors; they were the victims — not many got full level 1 marks — and we don’t want it to happen to us. Our second complaint is not about taking so much of our high school grades into account, but about doing that — plus treating all schools as if they were the same. It’s obvious that the competence of each school differs. However, this year, colleges had to treat school grades as if all the students were from the same school. We are angry, because we know that students who rank even level 4 or 5 in our school would be among the top 10 if they were to transfer to an average school. Luckily for us, the tide seems to be turning. We have pinned our hopes on President Lee Myung-bak, who has promised to give universities more autonomy. Universities are smart enough to know how to pick the best students. — Hyewon, 17, Myungduk Foreign Language High School, Seoul
A more livable community
Expat Living will start a series on making your city more livable. Whether it’s Seoul, Busan, Daegu, or any other city in Korea, what suggestions do you have to make your city more livable? Some submissions we’ve already received include a 24-hour subway, city-wide bicycle paths and more green space. Share your ideas via email: email@example.com — Ed.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?