This Christmas, pretend you care about the health of your loved ones by buying them an exotic gift from a country they know nothing about.

Avoid dying in your sleep

Fan Death is supposedly a common cause of death in South Korea. It works like this: You fall asleep with a fan whirring in your room. The fan slices the oxygen particles in the air and you slowly suffocate.

You might have heard of this and dismissed it as silly gibberish. Nobody, you say, is stupid enough to believe in fan death. But that sadly isn’t true. The Korean government believes in fan death and legally requires all fans sold in Korea to come equipped with timers.

So this Christmas buy your loved ones a Korean fan. Make sure they never die a fictional death.

Please explain what just happened.

Rain.

 

What is your earliest memory?

I called my dad a pig and he was flabbergasted.

 

If you weren’t a musician, what other profession would you choose?

Travel journalist, food critic, and a yoga teacher. Who does just one thing nowadays?

 

 

Careening across an empty freeway in the dead of night is not the best way to wake up. It could be worse, I guess, but it’s hard to describe the shock and confusion of screeching tires, and the echoes of a thud that you heard in your sleep.

When the driver of the vehicle is an old man, who you suspect might be as drunk as you are, starts screaming “Tiger! Tiger!” you are thrown further into panic as you shake off the beer and the slumber and begin to work out where it is that you are, and what exactly just happened.

**

Last Friday I found myself waking up in such a manner. I had fallen asleep in the back of a taxi and was awoken by the aforementioned thud and screech. I was quickly sobered as I tried to get a grasp on the situation, but the driver’s continuous Blakean riff was drowning out my thoughts.

The Dog Farm

By David S. Wills

Memoir

One dark, grey and thoroughly depressing Sunday afternoon, after a heavy bout of soju-swilling in the tight confines of the apartment, Min Jung suggested we go out for lunch. I could tell she wanted to dress up and point her tits at other people. She liked flaunting her beauty, particularly at people she hated, and she hated most Korean people – especially the ones that reminded her of her parents. Sometimes she got a look in her eye that said that for whatever reason she wasn’t entirely happy but that she was feeling confident in herself, and just wanted to dress up nice and let people know that she was hot. Also, I think she liked showing people that she had a foreigner for a boyfriend – not because she was proud, necessarily, but because she liked to rebel. Probably there was no great difference in her mind between wearing a skirt that barely covered her snatch and holding my hand in public.

“What you want eat?” she asked.

“You,” I replied with a stupid grin, but she didn’t get it.

 

Not long ago, on a frigid December morning in the heart of Korea, I was walking to work while in front of me an old woman pushed her cart. She looked indistinguishable from any other old Korean woman – wearing mismatched baggy floral garments, a visor in spite of the complete absence of any sunlight, a face mask to protect her from invisible germs that fly over from foreign countries, and a pair of dirty white gloves.

She was about ten paces ahead of me when it happened… All of a sudden she whipped down her baggy floral trousers and giant brown underpants and proceeded to squeeze out a massive shit on the frosty pavement, followed by a splattering, spraying, steaming puddle of piss.

I was utterly horrified, of course, and for the next two hours I taught my children upstairs in a classroom, the window of which overlooked the scene of the crime. That cabbagey behemoth stared up at me until someone was kind enough to step in it and carry it into obscurity on the bottom of their shoe.

I’ve been to Japan a few times and have always enjoyed my time there. The people are friendly, the streets are clean, and everything is so different to what I’ve seen in Scotland or Korea.

On my first trip to Japan I went on my own, speaking not a word of Japanese and knowing nothing about Fukuoka – the city in which I would spend the following few days. That’s the way I like to travel. I like the adventure of rolling into a strange city and putting my faith in luck and chance that things will turn out alright.

I soared from Busan to Fukuoka on a high speed ferry, landing in the strange little city in the evening. When I stepped into the immigration hall I was met with a giant line of arriving passengers – all of them were Asian.

I thought nothing of that little racial quirk, given that I’d spent the previous seven months in Korea, surrounded by Korean people, rarely seeing anyone who wasn’t Korean. But there were hundreds of us in a room, lining up to go through immigration, and every single person except me was waved through.

“I’ll never trust another old person,” Bart Simpson once said, and for that nugget of wisdom I’ve always half-respected him. The fact is the elderly are as capable of screwing you over as a menacing looking teenager, or a hardass, stoneface punk twenty-something. Worse, the elderly won’t just take you for a ride… They’ll say they ‘fleeced’ you and call you a ‘rube’. Of course, if you trust the elderly, you can have no complaints about being called a ‘rube’. That’s just exactly what you are.

And that’s exactly what I am. A rube. A pure-bred, plain-as-day rube. I met an old man and let him have his wicked way, and he damn well did it on national TV. No, not Korean national TV, which is of interest only to Koreans, and which is so backward, racist and pedophilic that no one could seriously give a fuck what is said there… but the BBC!

Being fleeced like a rube on the BBC is like being pantsed at your wedding, or outed at your funeral. It makes you look more foolish for not realizing that you were being watched… by several million people. You didn’t just fail to notice one person rape your dignity – you failed to notice an audience of millions, or their cameras, lighting or sound equipment.

 

Indeed, it may be “the cabbage you can ravage with the chilli paste taste,” but kimchi isn’t that amazing. I mean, taste is subjective and everything, but can anything really be so awesome that an entire nation of people could be obsessed with it? Even in America people vary their fast-food diets. One day it’s fried chicken and the next it’s hamburgers, and sometimes it’s a pizza. But in Korea, people are so crazy about kimchi that it goes beyond ridiculous. It’s something that has to be experienced to be understood, and I think it’s impossible to exaggerate the love Koreans have for their national dish.

I’d never even heard of the stuff until I came to Korea, and when I was presented with a side dish of it at dinner, I thought, Hmm, this is ok. It was indeed palatable, but nothing special. The next day I was given it for lunch, then dinner. And the next day. And the next. Pretty soon I opted to pass over the kimchi. It wasn’t that it tasted awful, but rather that it just wasn’t good enough to eat twice a day.