A fantastic t-shirt we bought for about $3 at the traditional market. It says "Dokdo is OUR Land" with a silhouette of the entire Korean peninsula. In the second picture, one of Matthew's students is posing with Liam.
Hot topic #1: Dokdo
Basically, Dokdo (which the Japanese call Takeshima) is a bunch of rocks out in the middle of the East Sea (or the Sea of Japan if you're a liar or a thief), the ownership of which has been disputed since the end of WWII, but more fervently in recent years. The reason these rocks are so desirable is the fishing and mineral rights that accompany ownership, but if you ask any Korean child they get very adamant. It's quite obvious that the main issue is not letting those &$*% Japanese steal anything else! During a "who is this person and what do they do" lesson with 3rd and 4th graders, I was informed that the main job of Korean soldiers is to protect Dokdo. They were oblivious to the fact that North Korea, just 50 kilometers north of Sokcho, might be of some concern.
I don't know how much this news has reached the States, but it has been headline material here the past few months. American beef was big business in Korea until the mad cow scare in 2003. Since then only options have been Australian imports and expensive Hanu (Korean) beef. The new Korean president revoked the ban on American beef and his approval ratings plummeted. They're worse than Bush's. His cabinet has repeatedly offered to resign, but he refuses to accept their resignation.
From an American perspective, the Koreans are ridiculously emotional over this topic. The fact that the cow in question was actually Canadian doesn't seem to phase them. Tens of thousands protested in Seoul. Korean kids are afraid for their lives.
This is a fantastic article that might appear to be satire, but I assure you that it's all too true:
If you don't take the time to read it, you should at least get this quote: One story in the last few days, for example, said that cheap, poisonous American beef would be used for school lunches. A weeping 13-year-old was quoted lamenting that she had worked so hard to get good grades and now she was going to die.