Sunday, September 16, 2007


Computer-Related Problems in Korea

The wrst part abut having a cmputer is the unexpected cmplicatins. Sure, it’s easy t anticipate sme things, like the spread f cmputer viruses, pwer shrtages, and, f curse, a certain slwness when there are several prgrams perating at the same time. Thse kind f prblems are the type yu shuld expect t have.

But hw d yu respnd when certain keys n yur keypad simply stp wrking? Like, fr example, a key that happens t crrespnd with very, very prminent vwel? Vwels, such as A, E, I, , U, and even Y, are virtually essential and they are needed in wrds mre ften than yu might think.

Hw wuld missing this imptrtant letter affect yur daily life? Personally, I depend upn the keypad fr many prjects at wrk. My leisure time is als affected, because, much as it chagrins me, there aren’t any search engines with the web addresses, much less There isn’t any e-mail address available with Htmail, and even my dearest friends and family wuld be perplexed t receive emails frm a persn identifying himself as ‘Rb.’

Nw, maybe yu’re saying, Why can’t he simply cpy the letter “o” frm sme Internet site and paste it whenever he needs t spell a wrd? Well, I’ll tell yu why nt, because I hadn’t thought of it until you just said so. Thanks, I appreciate that.

Computer problems were a fact of life even before I left for Korea almost two years ago. As long as I can remember, the various computers I have employed over the years would malfunction at, it seemed, a rate of roughly once every 40 minutes, forcing me to begin the humiliating task of interacting with “tech people.”

It’s not that all “tech people” are difficult to work with; many of them are wholly knowledgeable and pleasant individuals. It’s just that their all-encompassing knowledge of the various computer problems and solutions appears so practical and necessary as to make your typical liberal-arts major feel rather useless.

You might say that their knowledge of all things binary is equitable to the PlayStation 3, whereas my expertise in the fields of American political science and English composition seem more reminiscent of the Atari 7800.

In Korea, such ego-maiming interactions rarely take place, as all natives of this country, including tech people, consider the following skills admirable:

1) The ability to speak English.

I’d say that the skills of the technologically-inclined have about the same value here as they do in America, but my own have risen to the status of at least the X-Box. Therefore, the tech people here act very differently toward me.

In order to communicate clearly, they accompany their Korean words with gestures so demonstrative as to suggest they have strings attached to each limb. Any failure to make me understand, causes them to rub their brows furiously, apparently berating themselves for not knowing enough English. And why shouldn't they? After all, they spent the whole of their educational years only learning how to help the technologically disinclined regain the use of their livelihood. Can't they also be bothered to learn a tongue that bears almost no similarity to their own, in order to aid the occasional foreigner who hasn't taken the time to learn the language of this, the host nation?

I know you're as outraged by their insensitivity as I am. Fortunately, foreigners here can usually meet people in their neighborhood who, while not particularly adept with computers, can speak both languages. It's generally good practice to have two-three such people handy. The first will call the internet installation/tech service company, describe the problem and make the appointment.

One other person should be near you at all times, possibly at your workplace, in case the company representative calls for any reason. This is necessary because, as near as I can tell, not one of Korea's computer-related companies has a single English-speaking representative. I say this since, although very few foreigners that I have met can speak Korean well, whenever the company needs to contact someone with a name like "I.M. Notasian," they approach the task by calling in the middle of the work day and bombarding us with this unfamiliar language as rapidly as possible.

The foreigner must then keep them on the phone long enough to find a Korean co-worker and ask them to please stop whatever important task they are doing and help him/her get his computer serviced.

One of these bilingual Koreans, or possibly a third, should then be at your home when the service technician arrives. This speeds up the process and spares the foreigner the discomfort of having to watch a qualified technician scold his own lack of bilinguality.

Being in a foreign country will teach you how much you need other people, because even some simple tasks are very complicated due to language barriers. But, though it takes longer, even the most maddening tech problems can be solved, and everything will be all rght.

All rght.

All rght ... oh dear, not agan.

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