Wednesday, February 3, 2010

That's quite an exit

Wow. It's not often that an English teacher leaving Korea gets written up in the newspaper, at least not when it's not associated with a crime story. But I guess that's the power and the pull of Brian Deutsch's herculean* blogging efforts, which are tremendous (something to do with massive objects having a greater gravitational force).

He had been promising a big announcement, and I guess this is what it was. I was guessing marriage, heading off to grad school in Seoul, or a sex change, or a combination of all three. I guess I owe Wangkon a Coke™.

Anyway, I think the other thing that surprised me about the Korea Times article was being reminded of the "angriest blogger" award. Yeah, I remember the Klogs, but I never saw Brian as a particularly angry person. Indeed, he seems to me quite level-headed about the myriad topics he addresses on his blog, which is why I like reading it and posting comments there (that plus I'm a shameless attention whore, so I've been told).

Sure, there are things that set Brian off — Konglish, funny hats, anything remotely associated with Nazis, and the Wonder Girls — but I'm not all that different myself. There are topics that just get my blood boiling and I will involuntarily launch into a many-paged tirade on the topic. And don't ever ask me about Revised Romanization when I'm drunk.

I did find a few things disheartening about the article:
"Sometimes I think whether starting a blog was a good idea. I think more harm has come from it than good," Deutsch said, "I don't like opening myself up to criticism and threats to my livelihood.

"It's (a question of) whether you want to stand up for what you believe or keep your head down."

According to the 29-year-old, his professional opportunities have also been effected.

"My name has become kind of radioactive. I have been warned by people that if I want to work in a university I should be careful what I write," Deutsch said. "I can understand why some people think I shouldn't be saying what I do.

"I write about some of the schools' policies. Some of the 'head foreign teachers' are made uncomfortable by the attention I bring," he continued.

When asked how he would advise future bloggers, Deutsch preached caution.

"I wouldn't advise against it but I would advise them to know what they are getting into. I would advise caution; you're in a place where netizens are powerful," he said.
I'm terribly sorry to hear that, and I offer a pledge to Brian that if he ever needs a character reference in regards to this, he should drop me an email and I will stand up for the guy in a way that will be a model for standing up for other guys for years to come. I myself have had to endure several occasions where people — Koreans, kyopo, foreign residents, and non-Koreans outside of Korea — have actively sought to harm me professionally and personally. It sucks.

But you know what? Most Koreans, particularly administrators, are more level-headed about this than one might think, especially if the charges being made so clearly run counter to the facts on the ground or their real-life experience with you. Yeah, after a particularly bad incident I had to go to talk with two sets of administrators and detail the embarrassing things that were in the materials that were about to end up in their inbox, but the typical response was them shaking their head and asking, "What's wrong with them that they would think like this?"

Brian has written so many things that show a clear-headed analysis of things in Korea, not to mention a genuine interest in the country and its people, that it would be easy to counter the "Brian's a Korea basher" label someone might be trying to smear him with. At any rate, I'm not so sure how much this bad press really makes one radioactive. Heck, if Gerry Bevers can get hired elsewhere in Korea after supposedly being fired for writing about Tokto (and there's reason to believe that bit of conventional wisdom is a misleading oversimplification of facts, if not flat-out incorrect), then certainly Brian could get a good job somewhere in Korea. (And for the record, I'd stand up for Gerry's right to write about Tokto as well.)

I am encouraged to read that Brian will keep his blog going, even if at a less frequent posting rate:
Deutsch says that he will keep the few posts that he does Korea focused, not about his life in America.

"A lot of people when they go back home they write about life back home. I think that is like rock stars who tour when they are 53," said the American. "Nobody wants to hear about your life back home."
Korean Pop Wars continues on even in Mark's post-Korea life, so I hope to see the same with Brian's blog. He has nice insights and a good bit of passion, a rarity in the K-blogosphere (and other blogopsheres).

You're a great guy, Brian, and a good sport. If Hawaii is on your itinerary on the way back to the US Mainland, let me know.

* My 1367 posts in 2009 surpassed Brian's 1192 in the same period, but his total overall is 2138 against my 2074. 


  1. Thanks, kushibo. This article came out a week before I planned, so I haven't had time to blog it up yet. I'll have regular blogging for the next month or so, though it remains to be seen how much blogging I'll do stateside.

    Believe it or not, this ISN'T the big announcement (did I say there'd be a big announcement?). That'll come in a few weeks.

  2. Believe it or not, this ISN'T the big announcement (did I say there'd be a big announcement?). That'll come in a few weeks.

    So "sex change" could still win?

    Nah, seriously, I'm guessing you're going to announce that you're getting married. Now on the other hand, if your decision to leave was precipitated by a very difficult break-up with your girlfriend in Kwangju, my apologies for poking that wound.

    If it's not that, my advise to you about your girlfriend is that you try hard not to spend too much time apart and try to give your time apart a clear end date. Been there, done that.

  3. Actually, I announced in August that I was getting married. We haven't set a date yet because doing the fiance visa thing---takes 7 months on average---means we have to hurry up and wait a lot.

    Time permitting I'll blog about this article today and address some of the issues. The blog will still be there---it'd be foolish to totally stop doing it and ignore the audience---but it'l just be impossible to continue at this pace.

  4. Living stateside hasn't affected my blogging... ;)

  5. I agree, Brian is such a nice guy (as well as Kushibo). Soft spoken in person, but sharp in writing. I have met him a couple of times, and those few times left a good impression of him on me. We disagreed on so many occasions, but in a healthy and civilized manner.


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