April 9

Tomorrow is election day in Korea. Though people have been able to vote since last Saturday, tomorrow is the main election day, and unlike the United States, is an actual holiday so people have no excuse for not voting. It appears a lot of people have already voted. It either means a lot of people have strong emotions riding with these elections, or they really want to do nothing tomorrow.

According to a Swedish study, democracy took a downward slope during President Yoon’s two years in office. This is due to his attacks on figures from previous administration, the regression on gender equality, and the undermining of freedom of expression. This puts Korea in the same level of regression as Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines.

The authoritarian bent of President Yoon is quite evident in his way of handling the medical crisis currently happening in Korea. Doctors and medical professors are striking in opposition to the government’s plan to add 2000 doctors to the number of doctors in the country. The problem is, the government doesn’t really have a reasonable plan to make this into reality. And the president is not interested in negotiating with his opposition in fear of appearing weak. This crisis has dragged on for months and seems to have animated a lot of people in these elections.

There’s also been a increasing amount of censorship under the Yoon administration. The conservatives have effectively co-opted much of the major news outlets in the country, but I’m surprised that not only are government officials quick to act in covering up for the the president, but many people seem to have grown numb to it. What I’m referring to is the green onion gaffe which happened in March, when the president visited a grocery store and wildly under priced a bunch of green onions. People online locked into the moment and made him look out of touch with the common man. Election officials however were quick to ban brandishing green onions at the polls, concerned that it may be “election interference”, and while it annoyed many people thinking that it was a sign of a president with an overly-sensitive ego, many people didn’t care about the matter.

The last time I checked, this was a free country. Anyone should be free to bring any fruit or vegetable they want while they voted. As contrived as it mat sound, what if they were just out shopping for vegetables and wanted to vote on the way? Anyway, this caused a backlash, with some people going to the polls with faux green onions, fake Dior bags referencing the first lady’s bribing scandal, and memes being generated online.

Well, I hope the election goes well for the left. It’s sad to see what’s happening to the country under President Yoon. He is not more corrupt as his conservative predecessors like Lee Myung-Bak and Park Jung-hee, but I find him more politically inept. He just doesn’t seem to have any clue how to govern effectively. There’s three more years of his tenure to go, but the less power the right has, I think the better it is for the country.

March 14

I’m normally not a fan of vandalism, but the act of vandalism to make a protest, especially when it is done art museums to famous art pieces is something I can understand. After all, what are few swaths of paint on a canvas compared to the fate of the planet or whatever (hopefully) worthwhile cause the protesters are trying to make viral?

One thing that caught my eye recently is the defacing of the portrait of the late British politician Arthur Balfour at Cambridge University. Balfour, through the Balfour Declaration of 1917, pledged Great Britain’s support to the establishment of the “national home” of the Jewish people in Palestine. In a statement online, the organization Palestine Action wrote, “Arthur Balfour, then UK Foreign secretary, issued a declaration [in 1917] which promised to build ‘a national home for the Jewish people’ in Palestine, where the majority of the Indigenous population were not Jewish. He gave away the Palestinians’ homeland—a land that wasn’t his to give away. ... Britain’s support for the continued colonization of Palestine hasn’t wavered since 1917.” In a way, Arthur Balfour was a colonist in the same vein as Christopher Columbus as seen by Native Americans.

Quite Frankly, the curators at the museum should’ve seen this coming. And really, divisive figures like Balfour really shouldn’t have a place in public museums. I don’t care much about the artistry of the portrait. I think the point of hanging such portraits is the same as having Civil War statues and monuments. They’re not there for the beauty of them. They’re there for the reverence of the subject. Which is why the first thing that the curators should’ve expected is an act of vandalism from protesters.

In any case, a painting is just a painting. Ceasefire now.

Speaking of museums, curators, Palestine, and the news. The director of the Saarland Museum in Germany, Andrea Jahn, has quit her post. The museum has famously canceled a Candice Breitz show last year when Breitz, who is Jewish, wrote something in social media which the curators deemed as anti-Semitic.

Try as I might, I can’t find anything anti-Semitic with the statement that it is “possible to support the Palestinian struggle for basic rights and human dignity—including liberation from decades of oppression—while unequivocally condemning the horrific carnage exacted on 7 October, and the cruel stranglehold that Hamas exerts on Gazan civilians (to the advantage of Israel’s sadist leaders). Hamas is not Palestine.” If anything, the cancellation of the artist, since her statement doesn’t align with Israel’s right-wing government’s stance, is quite anti-Semitic. The homogenization of the Jewish political opinion and identity seems problematic to me.

Apparently Breitz’ statement qualifies the exercise of Israel’s right to self-defense in response to a terrorist attack. Never mind the fact that Israel’s “self-defense” isn’t exclusively targeting Hamas fighters, nor is it aimed at rescuing Israeli hostages. Breitz was effectively censored, and Jahn left her post still defending the decision. 

October 23

Hey, how are you doing? I never really got an answer to that question, so I guess I’ll just update you on how my life has been since a long time ago. Well, first off, I’m still in Seoul. Officially, I work and live in Seoul as an editor, but I do a ton of other tasks around the office. I’m more like an English-speaking Swiss army knife working with different departments in my company regarding their English needs. Although I’ve been living in Seoul for a long time, my Korean is still quite basic. To be frank, I do not practice speaking, so I find myself lagging terribly in Korean skills. I still try and can get by with my basic skills, but anything deeper and I get lost. It’s been a while since I’ve been home in Canada. It’s not so much that I don’t miss Canada but it’s expensive to go home and my family is scattered everywhere. The last time my siblings and I got together was before covid. This was in Hawaii when my grandmother passed away.

Speaking of passing away, my mother passed away many years ago. It was pancreatic cancer. It was terrible. She didn’t have much time from diagnosis to her passing. I regret not being there for her throughout the whole ordeal. I did visit Canada a couple of times however, but I regret not doing more for her. Since her passing, there’s been an occasional void that is felt in our lives, and personally, I sometimes wake up emptier than usual.

I got married to a wonderful woman. She’s Korean. We get along just fine, but a part of me suspects that she drinks regularly just to be able to put up with my bullshit. I’m not saying that I don’t drink. I drink on occasion and could hold my drink well, but I don’t do it on a regular basis. I’m not saying we don’t get along well either. As I said, we get along just fine; it’s just that I’m full of shit. I love her and I love her family. I’m forever grateful that they welcomed me, a foreigner that barely speaks the language, as a member of their family. Her mother treats me as if I’m one of her children. God bless that woman.

I have no children. I don’t need nor want children. I am a child myself.

Art-wise, I’ve been doing shows and having my work in publications. I used to do shows once a year until recently. I’ve changed styles and I feel like there’s really no cohesion in current my pieces to make a compelling exhibit. I did publish three collections of my work during covid however. So yeah, I think I’m content knowing that when I die, my work can still be found out there. But while I’m still alive, my work can always be found here on my Web site and on Instagram where I’m more active. A couple of years ago, I got offered to do a residency in Bali, but it would’ve been too long for me to do and still be able to keep my job in Korea.

I don’t really go out much these days. If anything, I’m happier when I’m working knowing that whatever I’m doing is earning me money. I think I went out way too much when I was younger and wasted too much money. Now, I’m happy to just go home after work and maybe spend time in the gym. Yes, fortunately the building I live in at the moment has a gym in it. It’s quite convenient. And that’s not the only self-care I’ve been doing. I’ve also been seeing a therapist regularly to vent all of my issues. I would write more about it, but that would be too much information and frankly too long and boring, even for me. He helps me out a lot with my bullshit, but not everything. I still often wake up hating myself for one reason or another.

I don’t have many friends and don’t keep in touch with people from back then. This is what’s great about my therapist. He fills that need, and we don’t need to get drunk together. Anyway, I’ve lost touch with people. That’s why I was surprised that you found me here of all places. Well, I hope you’re doing well. 

May 22

Came back from Canada. I miss you, Canada. I love you. The whole country has moved on without me and I feel like alienated a couple of times, but most of the time, it still feels like home. I still want my ashes to rest there at the end of everything.

It was good to see family and my good friend Jordan, but I have a feeling it’ll be a long while before I find myself in Winnipeg again, or for me and my family to be together as a whole family again. Everyone’s just settled in their own corner of the planet, far from each other. My sisters raised good children. It was good to see them, my niece in particular, for the first time.

I really wish my family and I lived closer. It was good waking up to family, having talks with my dad, etc. Travelling to Winnipeg isn’t cheap, but each day was worth it just to have a precious day with family. People don’t realize how lucky they are to have family accessible to them. 

Joseph Reyes