|The William G|
|Website name||The William G|
|Type of site||Blog and comics|
|Created by||William G|
A grizzled vet of the online expat scene in Korea, William has seen it all. But behind the monitor is a guy with a certain kind of wit and creative flair that he pours into a web comics hobby and his blog, that sometimes makes one want to go back to art school and do things all over again.
Some QA that William gave us:
*GJ: How long have you been in Korea for?
WG: Longer than Joe Bean has been at Fulsom Prison. Oh wait. Seriously? Going on five years. I keep meaning to leave, but this place just has something that draws you back again and again. That something is known as "free rent".
*GJ: What do you do here?
WG: I'm a hagwon monkey. Eek eek. Gimmie a banana.
*GJ: What areas/cities of Korea have you lived in, and are most memorable to you?
WG: I have lived in Seoul, Incheon, Ansan, and Cheonan. Seoul is the most memorable simply because it was my first experience in a foreign nation. It broke my cherry, so to speak. Incheon was memorable for being the first place I really got screwed over by a hagwon owner. Ansan was memorable because I met a good friend there, AND I met the most evil human being walking the face of the planet. They dated each other. Funny, huh? Cheonan was memorable simply due to the fact that I finally managed to shake my bad hagwon curse. I stayed for two years. As far as places that are enjoyable to live go, Seoul has the other locations beat. Incheon has all of Seoul's dirt, and none of it's conveniences. And Ansan and Cheonan can be fully explored within an afternoon's walk.
*GJ: Wow! Five years. Do you remember when you first felt that you were shedding your old western skin and losing yourself into the asian one?
WG: Well, more like four and a half years. You know how they measure age here. I think according to the Korean calendar I've been here since 1967. I've never really gained any Asian "skins". Well aside from this one time I went home and was waiting for the bus with my brother. As the bus pulled up and everyone was getting off, I started elbowing my way in. The driver yelled at me to wait my damned turn. So with a hearty "D'oh!", I backed out and waited. After sitting down, my brother scolded me, "That was pretty rude." To which I replied, "That's how you do it in Korea."
But generally speaking, I'm this weird cross cultural thing that doesnt really fit in anywhere. I dont feel like I'm Canadian, I don't feel Korean. I do feel like I'm in my late 30s though, which being this cultural non-entity seems to have turned my age into a heavier weight than it should be. I feel a horrible alienation upon me as, for the most part, the only time I can "speak" English is chatting online. And online is lacking so much of the human element, that it's just not real communication. It doesn't matter a damned what these webmonkeys tell you about communities. It's a bizzaro world.
*GJ: Sounds like you've had a love/hate relationship with the place, like many long-term expats do. What is one thing, other than compensation matters, that really pulls you here, and what is one that sometimes makes you want to quickly throw all your stuff into a suitcase and get the hell outta dodge?
WG: I honestly don't have anywhere better to go in my life. Canada has nothing for me. I don't want to go through that entire process of learning how to live somewhere again: Learning what to watch out for in the way of sleaze bosses. Discovering what foods I can eat, and what will send me to the toilet for a few hours, and so on... And as long as I keep getting the money I couldn't get back home in the Nova Scotian HAHAHA "economy", then there's really nothing motivating me to move on.
Well, there are things that DO make me consider flipping Korea the bird and going on. The "bali bali" culture. The total inability to relax without getting puking drunk or trawling for whores. The idea that your personal space is not important and your body is an interactive toy. Rude fucking kids screaming at you in the class, "Puk you!". Rude adults who seem to think that your business is theirs. I wish I could excuse it all with culture differences, but it seems the only age when Koreans aren't rude is when they're in their 20s. And everyone in their 20s I've asked hates the rudeness of the kids and older adults.
And I know that this comes across as super bitter, and is painting an entire culture with a broad stroke, so take it lightly, but Koreans don't have romances. They weigh options like they were shopping for a new car. It can be pretty heartless to see, and pretty heartless to be involved in. Then I meet all of these long married people who are having affairs and hate their spouse's guts. It's just a sick situation to me because they chose this life because she looks good in a photo and he's working for a large company like Samsung.
But inertia and the financial benefits are stronger than all of that. I'd have to work like a dog for a couple of thousand dollars going into my pocket every month back home. So that's why I'm probably staying for a few more years.
Plus, you gotta wear a fucking suit and tie everyday in Japan. Who wants that crap?
*GJ: You've got quite a creative outlet for comics and wit. What're some of your short and long term plans for this while in Korea??
WG: Korea is an extraordinarily wired country, for better or for worse. If I didn't have such cheap and easy access to the web here, I wouldn't be doing webcomics or photo blogging.
I'll probably call it quits once I'm either done telling the stories I'm telling, or I leave Korea. Webcomics is pretty much the delivery method of the geek, and in order to reach your audience, you need to go through them and their tastes. It's pretty frustrating because the only people who'd have the opportunity or inclination to read your stuff want to see jokes about what they watch on TV. It's an entire form dedicated to repeating Leno's monologues. It's dreary.
Also, why pay the huge amounts of money needed back home for broadband just to face that sort of readership?
I'm glad for the modest audience I do have. I've conversed with some of them and they're reading because they like comics of all sorts, and not just comics that pander to their obsessions. It's good to see.
I do have half a plan to translate my stuff into Korean just to see who'd like to read it. But there are so many obsticals to doing it that I figure that even if I could get someone to do it, it'd be a one shot thing. Also, there's no saying what I do would have appeal to the Korean web audience. If what I see out of the manhwa business is any indication, I'll need to start making my stuff look more Japanese.
But as long as I'm here, and have the time, motivation, and web access, I guess I'll keep doing what I do.
As for the photoblogging. It's weird what the people back home respond to. They want to see the mundane, daily stuff in Korea. The pictures of starlettes, or castles... they dont seem to care about that stuff. I guess it's because you can download Lee Hyo-Ri's ass-cleavage anywhere. A deokbokki ajumma in a snowstorm is what they want to see for some reason.
I think that's why Shawn Matthews and James Creegan were so popular with readers outside of Korea when they were blogging. They focused on the regular stuff. Nomad, Marmot, and the rest seem to have an audience made entirely of other expats and G.I.s. Which is great for them. They're a good way to keep up with stuff. But people back home are so curious about the living day to day stuff. I really should start re-focusing on that sort of thing more instead of going, "Dur, this looks like a good shot of my hand."
I've been here so long that I never think that certain things, like a trip on the bus, could be of interest to people back home. To me, it's just this thing you do without thinking about it.
*GJ: We're at this exciting, yet totally uncertain point in the life of the internet, where we are watching the rapid evolvement of the internet community. Stuff comes and goes in the blink of an eye. And some stuff, like blogging, wiki, MySpace, Flickr, come onto the scene and everyone starts placing bets on how long these things will last in our ongoing evolution. Where do you see the internet communities going in the next 2-3 years? Will blogging still be a force that it is?
WG: Blogging will be like any sort of online community. It will continue to be these localized areas of group think. Where people will reinforce each other's dogmas and outside opionions will continue to be hounded. With the growth of blogs, and ugly as sin MySpace sites, and so on, these little groupings of hive minds will continue to multiply. Look at the history of ESL Cafe. Everytime a set of ideals failed to take dominance, a group with these views would split off of the larger Cafe community and set up their own shops. Where they would be as intolerant of others as they felt others were of them. Basically, we'll continue to see little kingdoms of ego and ideology form. Every last one of them a classic hermit kingdom.