Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Miss it Already. . .

I began perusing my pictures today from Seoul (one week after arriving home) and started having that nostalgic feeling that inevitably comes after an amazing trip. I can not pin down one precise experience that “made” the trip for me—rather, I think the positive impression I have from Seoul (and the numerous side-trips we made) comes from a culmination of the trip in its entirety. So, I decided a good blog topic might be a sort of “Why Should I go to Seoul Next Summer?” address (the Matt Harris edition).

Conquer the Unknown

According to the U.S. State Department, roughly 30% of Americans have been issued passports allowing them to lawfully travel abroad. Of that number, many stay close to home in either the geographical sense (experiencing Canada or Mexico) or in the cultural sense (Western Europe/Caribbean). Asia, however, stays far from the radar for many Americans. That being the case, travelling to Asia invokes a real sense of exploration. How many fellow law students have you met who have actually travelled to Asia? Now, how many can say they lived in Korea for almost one month?

My point is simple—having the courage to make the leap to Asia can be said to be rare. Many folks would rather travel elsewhere, preferring instead to avoid travel to the Far East (there is a reason Malaria medication was recommended, after all). I cannot lie—getting off the first plane in Tokyo was a bit (okay, very) unnerving. I lived in Greece for part of a summer while an undergrad, and, although I’m not sure why, Asia was just “different.” I can’t put my finger on it, but travelling to abroad to Asia is a completely different experience. There were times when it really did feel like the “unknown.” Although the language and culture are obvious barriers, there are times when I would look around and think “that is so different than the way X does it.” Although it may sound cliché, I have to greatly admire everyone in the MC Law group for so quickly and confidently adjusting to a completely different and sometimes challenging environment.

Meet Interesting Classmates

Professor “Thor” Bowman (the name was his choice, not ours) boldly signed on to take eleven first year law students (technically second year, but still) across the world. Until we arrived in country, I did not give much thought as to who the other students on the trip were. With the exception of a few who were close friends before the trip, most everyone else met or “actually met” on the trip (I think most people had a sort of “yes, I know of that person, but I don’t really ‘know’ that person” mantra). This, of course, happens when the first year class size approaches 200 students.

I think everyone was greatly surprised at the wealth of backgrounds and experience possessed by the other students. For example, I knew Juan Delgado spoke English as a second language. I did not know, however, that he had such a large business background in both Mexico and the U.S.—in fact, Juan had a story or input (in a good way, not the “gunner” way) for almost every class session in both International Business Transactions and Global Issues. Likewise, I had no idea Karen had a Haitian background or that Cici was actually from France. I guess my point with this is that taking this trip really opens your eyes not only to Korea or the Far East, but also to those back home in Mississippi—the trip certainly provides motivation to get to know my classmates/future colleague better.

The Inevitable Clash of Coursework with Practicality

One of my favorite encounters from the trip was with a man named Edward Kim, whom a few of us met one evening in Seoul. As it turns out, Ed is actually a practitioner of international trade with his textile manufacturing firm (his firm is called “HYOSUNG,” and has offices in Korea, the U.S., and China). Ed spoke a great deal of English and we quickly began a conversation that would last most of the night. He spoke of his great affinity for certain parts of the American trade system, and at other times would hold nothing (read: absolutely nothing!) back regarding how he loathed other aspects. In just a few short hours I learned a great deal about the very subject I had ventured so far to study. More importantly, though, we got the version of the subject that has an actual face; Ed’s work in international trade is personal—his family depends on his competency in the subject for livelihood. Having that conversation portrayed the “real-life,” “this-area-of-the-law-makes-the-world-go-round” side to the subject. I think those of us who had the privilege of meeting Ed while listening to his many stories really began to grasp the notion that IBT goes far beyond the reading in our case book—the subject is immense, practical, and has an impactful meaning the world over. Finally, that we learned all this through a simple, chance encounter made it all the more meaningful.

Do It!

Beg, borrow, or steal your way to Seoul for the summer of 2010. This is a trip you will not regret. The culture is welcoming and hospitable, and, although huge, the city is easy to navigate and you will soon feel at home. I learned plenty on this trip about the coursework we came to study, but also plenty about myself, the profession I hope to enter in only a few short years, and my classmates who made the trip such an enjoyable experience. I promise—you will too.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Keith Hoffman’s Day By Day (By Day) Blog of International Study Abroad Program Location: Seoul, Korea & Beijing, China

Monday June 15th

I have arrived in Seoul, Korea after 17 hours on 3 different planes (New Orleans to Los Angeles to Tokyo to Seoul). I have to admit I was a little a nervous arriving in a foreign place where symbols are the alphabet and there is no way I can understand what is going on! To my surprise the first taxi drivers I approached spoke perfect English. He was so good in fact that he managed to rip me off for 120,000 Won, roughly $120 US. Although I have to admit he was hilarious. He taught me multiple profanities in Korean which I quickly forgot within the first 30 seconds as I was exhausted and worn out.

As I finally arrived at Sookmyung Women’s University (which the cabbie also thought was strange that my final destination was a university for women) I knew the ease of arriving was too good to be true. The language barrier came into play within my first hour upon arrival as the security guards at Sookmyung do not speak a lick of English! So here I am with all my luggage in humidity over 120% walking up and down 90 degree angled hills around the campus asking for Sookingdang, but apparently when English speaking people attempt Korean no one understands even though it sounds exactly like what you just said! Fortunately I ran into a professor from South Carolina who attempted to help me but he could fare no better. So he assigned 2 young students (cute girls of course) to guide me all along the campus as I am sweating bullets now with no clue of where I am going. Two and a half hours later, I guess I bothered the security guards enough they finally just gave me a key to the international studies dormitory. As the 2 girls walked me to my room, sure enough there was Professor Bowman in the room next to me! He gave me this weird look like, “Keith, you’ve just arrived in Seoul and already you’re bringing 2 Korean girls back to your room?!?!” As we had a good laugh about it, we walked to Sookindang, where I was staying. I met up with everybody we joked relaxed for a couple of hours and then pure extreme exhaustion set in, so I hit the hay. Learning curse words, getting ripped off, and getting lost for over 2 hours while I was on the campus, not too shabby for the first night in Seoul, should be an interesting trip…

Tuesday June 16th

Surprisingly I woke up today and was not jet lagged at all. After experiencing my first International Business Transactions & Global Issues in Corporate Law classes with Professor Bowman, I was confident in furthering my interest as a legal professional with regards to International Corporate Law. For the first time, I experienced the sunrise on the continent of Asia. Seoul is a lot hazier than I thought it would be, as the rainy season definitely affects the weather here. I also finally got to experience the infamous “HILL” all the previous students from last year’s summer program endured. Wow, a 90 degree slope combined with 125% humidity is one heck of a combination as perspiration poured out of me! Today I also managed to eat authentic Korean food which I loved! Who wouldn’t love a pot of rice with beef and a substance known as “kimchee” (pickled cabbage which is spiced)? And all for 5000 Won?!?! (roughly $5 US Dollars)

So now that the Study Abroad Program is attended by all, as I was the last one to arrive, we decided to celebrate at Hong-ik University which is a little bit north of Sookmyung. What a ride this was! We decided to experience the nightlife of Seoul to its fullest capacity. Lasers, techno, fog machines, bartenders with whistles, need I say more? I also managed to stop by and see Namoo, the local attaché near Sookmyung University who has already gotten to know most of us by name. Uncle Gee is his right hand man and we introduced Facebook to the 2 of them, which they were more than intrigued and ecstatic joining.

Mel & Company.

Wednesday June 17th

I had to register today with the USO for the upcoming DMZ trip on June 30th. Everyone was excited to see hamburgers and French fries so while we were down there at the USO a few of us decided to go the Korean War Museum which is nearby. So I had the impression the Korean War Museum was exclusively dedicated to the recent Korean War which gave us the infamous 38th parallel. These thoughts were supported with the statutes and symbols outside of the actual museum itself but once you walk inside the museum, you are graced with the entire Korean history of international conflict from Japan, Russia, and China etc dating back to B.C. days. So it was a total curveball to me to see this massive building dedicated to the entire armed “resolutions” of the Korean people. If you ever get the chance to see it, it is quite a remarkable site but be prepared to spend at least a few hours to walking in and out of the rooms. Also, air-conditioning seems to be running at a minimum at the museum, so bring water and tennis shoes.

Thursday June 18th

So Mel Williams, an alumnus from MC who is stationed over in Seoul, invited us over to his friend’s apartment for happy hour. They went above and beyond to make us feel at home and entertain all of us. We all had a great time and a huge thank you goes to all of them!

Friday June 19th

Professor Bowman set a special arrangement up for us to visit Kim & Chang, Seoul’s largest and one of the most prominent law firms in all of South Korea. To start the day off, Kim & Chang sent in a senior partner who turned was the old ambassador to the United Nations (UN) from South Korea. Not every day, do you get to roll out of bed to shake hands with a UN Ambassador. The whole experience was first class all the way. The conversation with the associates, regarding Korean Law, was intriguing and engaging. In addition we were treated to a first class lunch with spectacular views.

We also decided to fly to Jeju Island which is the most Southern island off the mainland of Korea. Our flight was scheduled for 4:05 pm. We arrived at Gimpo Airport (ask Juan Delgado about his Korean language song) at exactly 4:10 pm. Thank God Asiana Airlines is insanely efficient and actually voted the best airline in the world. They were extremely helpful and understanding and put us on the 4:35 flight. After all the rush and anticipation we are all extremely excited to be in the island paradise that is Jeju Island!

Saturday June 20th

After discovering that our hotel was pretty much far away from everything on Jeju, we decided to head to the beach. The day was not as pretty as the day before but we really didn’t care. We explored the coarse beaches, waterfalls, and to our surprise all of the cliffs that surrounded the beaches in Jeju. Also, old women apparently are the fisherman around Jeju as it is part of their tradition. They were selling live fish around the beaches that were just swimming around in buckets and baby pools. I was not in the food adventurous mood, so I was not willing to dabble in the local cuisine. So we went to the Hyatt for lunch, little did we know our bills would all be over $50 for lunch. So after lunch we decided our luck at the casino. Only Adrienne came out on top.

Sunday June 21st

Last day in Jeju, was kind of an odd one as we all had to be at the airport later that afternoon, so we decided to split up and conquer the island in separate groups. Matt, Lucy, and I decided to go to the World Cup Stadium. It was nice but to our surprise there was the World Sex Museum inside the World Cup Stadium. Wow, for discretion’s sake I will not disclose the immediate contents of the museum but let’s just say I learned a few things that day and I also want to UN-learn a few things from that day.

Monday June 22nd

So Itaewon (pronounced ee-tay-won) is the foreigner shopping section of Seoul. Professor Bowman was all excited about getting his new suit from Mr. Yang. Mr. Yang is apparently a well-known tailor whose clients have served the likes of General Petraeus and Yancy. I didn’t need any suits so I decided to get a few shirts that are custom made. I’m excited to see how they turn out next week. Oh yeah I think Bowman was there for about 4 hours trying to decide which fabric he wanted, kind of always amusing to see the quirks of your law professor!

Tuesday June 23rd

Tuesday was just a relaxation day and packing day in preparation for our trip to Beijing, more to come from China…

Wednesday June 24th Sunday June 28th Trip to Beijing

Forgive me but I did not bring a laptop to Beijing so I am recollecting the trip from scratch notes on brochures and napkins so I apologize for things not necessarily being in chronological order. Most of it is tourist things that really need to be experienced first-hand to fully appreciate Chinese history.

Our flight to Beijing went off without a hitch but the taxi ride from the airport was a different story! We managed to fit 13 people in the taxi including the driver along with everyone’s luggage. Picture the van no bigger than a minivan you see driving on the highways. Bowman, Lucy & I lucked out by only having to fit 3 people across the very backseat as compared to the 4 and 5 across the other backseats that faced each other old school station wagon style. The driver also managed to drive us to the wrong hotel, Welcome to Beijing!

The next day we went to the Great Wall. All I have to say is WOW! We only experienced one section in the wall but it was totally impressive. I had no idea the Great Wall was so steep or massive! It took us over 2 hours to get the very peak of the wall it was so steep. It is also extremely hot and polluted in Beijing where temperatures were constantly over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the smog was so bad that seeing 3 or 4 blocks over was an extremely dark haze. We also managed to see Tiananmen Square at night. We were there for about 15 or 20 minutes walking around when the Beijing Police kicked us out because apparently the park closes at 8 or 9 pm.

Beijing is the equivalent to New York City in the US. Having family from NYC, I was used to the hustle and bustle attitude that people from Jackson really do not have. Everyone was extremely busy and almost to the point of pushiness but not in a rude way because of course they want your money. But there is a difference culturally between China and Korea.

There are numerous other things to do in Beijing to do including the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Pearl Market, Exquisite Dinners for cheap, Summer Palace, and Olympic Stadiums (Birds Nest and Water Cube). I would definitely recommend going to Beijing but just be careful when wandering. Also as a quick recommendation, take taxis as they are not expensive and the quickest way around town.

Overall Evaluation of the Trip:

This is a once in a lifetime trip that should be experienced by every student with the interest in not just international law, but business law as well. Professor Bowman explains the ins and outs of problems facing corporations in the states and abroad. He paints such a vivid realistic picture of the intricacies of the global business community that raises many interesting questions. His approach may be able to not only improve MC as a leading Study Abroad Program but also improve the global business community as a whole! When else in your life do you get to experience another country full of life and tradition for an entire month? And get credit for it!

Bowman's Final Blog Post

Well, I can't believe that our time in Seoul is already over! I am now home, but still jetlagged. We had a fabulous time, saw a lot, and learned a lot. Our classes went really well, and there was a lot of spirited discussion. And outside of class we had fun:
--We played a lot of food roulette. Matt Harris was both the big winner (Korean omelettes) and also the big loser (boiled pork skin), and Juan Delgado met his match in a spicy chicken dish.
--We played human Tetris in elevators (Question: How many Americans can you fit in a Korean elevator? Answer: 11. Sadly, there were 12 of us.)
--We saw more sights than we had a right to in 26 short days in China and Korea.
So it's no wonder I am tired, as well as jetlagged.
I want to send a sincere thanks to the students who participated, as well as to their families for supporting them in going to Korea, especially during this time of tensions with North Korea. All of you put your faith in the school and this program, and I really do appreciate it. I am better off for having participated in the program, and I hope all the students feel that way too.
Best, Greg

A Weekend in Jeju

One weekend during our stay in Korea a few of us decided to take a trip to Jeju Island, which is the southern most island in South Korea. The whole group was super excited to leave straight from our meeting at Kim & Chang that day (a local law firm in Korea). After meeting with some associates from Kim & Chang, we went to lunch with them at a local traditional restaurant at a palace in the mountains. Throughout the entire lunch we all were trying to plot something to get out of there early. Needless to say, we couldn’t figure anything out so we continued on the bus that was chartered for us that took us to the university. As soon as the bus stopped, we all bolted for the big hill. We eventually all made it up the hill and managed to get our stuff together within 15 minutes (the girls – me and Lucy – were ready; however, the boys had not packed the night before). Now, in two different cabs, we were off to Gimpo International Airport. We arrived within enough time just to check in and run to the plane.

Your browser may not support display of this image. After all that turmoil, once we arrived in Jeju it felt like paradise. There were palm trees everywhere and the sun was shinning bright. We got into some taxis and headed for our 1 hour ride to Shineville Resort (Picture from a Balcony at the Resort on the first day when the sun was shinning.) However, we were not expecting the type of taxi drivers that exist in Jeju. We apparently were expecting the drivers to be somewhat like the ones in Seoul. We soon found out we were wrong to have expected that. These taxi drivers were completely crazy. It felt like we were going down some old country roads at like 100 miles an hour. So we all held on tight for the ride, and all the ones that came after that. Also, the cabs in Jeju were way more expensive then the ones in Seoul. In Seoul you can take a taxi for around 5000 won most of the time, but in Jeju we were paying around 40000 won every time we went somewhere.

The next day came and paradise no longer existed (to an extent). The weather was not so great. I don’t believe we saw the sun again until we went to the airport to fly back to Seoul (go figure). Ugh… I thought to myself. I only wanted to come here for the beaches. Well, so a few of us split up and went separate ways. I got stuck with Matt and Keith (crazy boys with the best ideas-yeah right!). And then there was Lucy. Lucy and I seem to always find ourselves with these two. So we told the taxi drive to take us to a beach – I don’t remember the name of it. So after the 45 minute cab ride and about $40 later, we arrived at “the beach.” It looked like sea world, but trashy. We started walking and came upon some penguins in a tank outside. Then we get to the edge of a cliff and Your browser may not support display of this image. see the ocean. (See picture at left.) But was we look far off in the distance we see the Hyatt (the place we wanted to stay but as students just could not afford it). So we finally manage to find the stairs down and begin to walk. The walk ended up being on a different kind of sand then we are used to at the Gulf Coast. Then we end up walking through what appears to be some type of jungle and finally found our way to the Hyatt (thinking there would be some sort of pool there). After the hour long hike, we found out that the Hyatt had a pool but it was not open yet. This is crazy I thought, because pools at hotels in America are always open.

Your browser may not support display of this image. After arriving at the Hyatt and finding that there was not a pool that we could swim in we decided to eat at a restaurant there. Then, we find out we have to spend more money. We each probably had about a 20000-25000 won lunch. So while we are spending all this money on this island we say why not go to the casino that was in the hotel. This was a bad idea for everyone but me. I won about 60000 won and everyone else lost what they put in the slots; however, they did not loose that much. But after walking out of the Hyatt, we explored the wooden, steep steps of the jungle walk around the Hyatt and saw some incredible views (see above), well worth the hike to the Hyatt.

So in conclusion, amongst all the crazy taxi drivers, the expensive taxi rides, and the long walks/hikes/climbs (whichever one you want to call it) we did not experience paradise there when we went. However, all 7 of us managed to have a great time. So in case anyone ever wants to go there, don’t go there expecting the prices of Seoul. Expect the prices that we would pay back in America to go to a tropical paradise.

Adrian Westbrook

Demilitarized Zone or DMZ

On Tuesday we got a chance to visit the DMZ or Demilitarized zone separating North from South Korea. Our tour guide U.S. military officers led us through a building called Freedom House. Freedom house was originally built so that South Korean and North Korean families could reunite for a short amount of time. However, it was never used for it's intended purpose because the North Korean government does not let it's citizens leave North Korea. I find this to be rather disturbing, just imagine if in the United States the government prevented persons from traveling not only out of the country but outside of their city or state. As someone who loves to travel, I could not imagine being restricted from doing so or even punished for something so simple. It made me think about all of the freedoms that I and I know many other Americans take for granted. Past the Freedom House, we were then escorted to the back of the building and into one of the barracks were the actual peace talks or cease fire between NK and SK occurred which eventually ended the Korean War. We took pictures with the South Korean soldiers who looked rather intimidating with their dark glasses and balled up fists. We were told that most of the soldiers are trained black belts in Tai Kwan Doe and were the glasses so that they do not have to make eye contact with North Korean soldiers. I stood on the wrong side of the room and was told I was now in North Korea (don't tell my mom! lol).

Next we visited the 3rd Tunnel which was discovered in 1978, only 52 KM from Seoul. The North Koreans claimed that they did not construct the tunnel, and claim South Koreans built the tunnel to invade NK. However, the tunnel flows the wrong way and could not possibly have been built by the South. After, they did admit that they in fact built the tunnel but not to invade SK but to mine coal, there is no coal in that area of Korea lol. I found that pretty interesting. We climbed down the tunnel which was wet, uncomfortable and the air was really tight. I was only in the tunnel for 30 -40 mins at the most but i could only imagine the people who had to build the tunnel and how uncomfortable and dangerous it was to be in this tunnel for hours and hours on end. The climb back up from the tunnel was most unbearable and i felt myself become short of breath. The walk up was worst than climbing the Great Wall lol, Professor Bowman had to wait with me while i sat for a minute or two lol.

Overall, the tour of the DMZ was an interesting experience. Being in South Korea, I have learned more than I ever knew about the Korean War. This war really is one of the most overlooked wars in American and World History. It's touching to see how the division of one nation even years after the seperation is still a painful topic for many Koreans, who wish to be reunited with the North. Just think what if the Northern and Southern states had never reunited in the US, we would be in a similary situation as what is the case in Korea.

Cecilia A. Ndounda

The Republic of Kimchi

Also pronounced gimchee, or kimchee is a dish native to Korea. It is one of many pickled dishes made with a variety of pickled seasonings. If you ever travel to South Korea, at almost every meal except breakfast will be accompanied by a serving of Kimchi. The main ingredients of Kimchi contain;

1. Chinese cabbage
2. ginger
3. onions
4. some seafood
6. saweujeot (in the Southern area, brined shrimp allowed to ferment)

However according to the Kimchi museum in Seoul, there areat least 187 or more varieties of Kimchi. The varieties are seperated by seasons and/or by regions. For example in the northern part of Korea, they use less salt and less red chili paste. In Seoul, the southern region the red chili color is distinct to this area and uses more salt and flavoring than the north. The northern parts also prepare more water kimchi's than the south. Before arriving in Korea, I had already known about Kimchi. When i was in the 7th grade one of our science projects was to make our very own Kimchi, and study how it fermented for a week. Let's just say our classroom did not smell like roses at the end of the experiment lol. However, i had forgotten how it tasted and decided to be open minded and have some Kimchi upon my arrival. Not being a fan of hot pepper and spicy foods, I did not like the hot taste of the cabbage mixed with the vinegarish fermented taste. Kimchi is definetly an acquired taste, you either like Kimchi or you don't. Although, i fall in the don't category, many people in our group loved Kimchi and tried a lot of different kinds.
Since Kimchi is so spicy, i wondered how it didn't hurt Korean people's digestive systems by eating Kimchi at least 2 times a day, 7 days a week. However, i learned that although very spicy, Kimchi provides 80% of our daily recommended vitamin C intake and other vitamins because of the mix of assorted vegetables. Kimchi is definetly the official food of Korea, even at the supermarket there are display after display of different kimchi's. So if you ever happen to visit Seoul, or eat at a Korean restaurent; ask for some Kimchi, you never know you may be surprised and love it as millions of Koreans do.

Cecilia A. Ndounda


A long time ago my parents taught me to respect others no matter their how different they are. Many individuals these days are disrespected for their cultural differences, race, and faith or simply for just being unique. I’ve loved being in Korea because I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture. While here we went to the Korean Folk Village and participated in a traditional Tea Ceremony. The Koreans have truly been open and tried to share their culture with us, but not all of us appreciated nor respected the opportunity.

How do you respect a different culture? By being open minded, having an awareness of cultural differences, appreciating their existence and primarily by respecting and working to understanding lifestyles that are different from your own. While being here I have seen my offensive acts that have not respected the Korean culture and way of life.

For example, when you enter someone’s home in Korea you are supposed to remove your shoes and either wear house shoes or go barefooted. However, I’ve seen foreigners wearing their shoes inside others homes. Another rule is respecting your elders. Koreans as well as Haitians, Africans and other Caribbean and Asian countries believe that those older than us carry a huge bag of wisdom. Wisdom that we hope they will share with us before they pass. Under the influence of Confucianism, they are taught of the great importance of respecting our elders from the family structure. Under the doctrine of “Filial piety” and the principle of “Li” there is a call for devotion and obedience to and in reverence of our elders by younger members of the family and society. Helping an older person cross the street, not sitting in the elder and handicap section of the train or simply speaking to our elders with respect are all ways we can demonstrate admiration.

This taught is taught in Christianity as well. The bible clearly says in Ephesians 6: 1-3 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise— that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” This tells us that by respecting our elders we will live healthier and longer lives. Why? I asked my father this once and one thing he said in particular still holds true. No matter what year or century we are in many obstacles and challenges cross the generational gap. Certain life lessons remain true and never change. That means our elders have been through some of the situations we find ourselves in everyday. Imagine someone being able to share with you and help you avoid a mistake they made. While we all are bound to make mistakes there are some we can avoid by listening to words of wisdom from our elders.

So in closing, we all need to stop and think about the way we respect our elders. Do you greet your elders when you enter a room? How do we monitor our language in an effort not to disrespect others? How do we treat others from different cultures? Do we automatically assume they are beneath us and having nothing of value to share?

”Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves.” --Ralph Waldo Emerson—

Respectfully yours,

Karen Nazaire