Enhancing national prestige

Interesting article from the NYT about compulsory military service in South Korea and how athletes may be exempted but K-pop stars aren’t — yet.

As South Korean Athletes Avoid the Draft, Some Ask: Why Not K-Pop Stars?

South Korean men are required to serve in the military for at least 21 months. But if they “enhance national prestige” they can

BTS is certainly enhancing national prestige.

They’re huge in the US now, gave a speech at the UN, and recently made the rounds of the late night talk shows in the US and the UK. I watched them on Jimmy Fallon and Graham Norton, and the fans in the audience were deafening.



No, not the 007 character (links to a YouTube video of the scene in Skyfall where James Bond meets the new Q).

This Q is, according to this article in the New York Times, the Chinese version of “al dente” (used to describe still firm pasta, noodles and rice; in Japanese, the word 堅め (katame) is used, especially in ramen places). It’s used to describe the tapioca in bubble tea, for example.

In Italy, ‘Al Dente’ Is Prized. In Taiwan, It’s All About Food That’s ‘Q.’”

One part I get, but I think it’s a bad comparison:

“Q texture is to Taiwanese what umami is to Japanese and al dente is to Italians — that is, cherished and essential.”

Al dente and Q are about texture, but umami is about taste. But I guess you could argue that still firm (katame) ramen noodles may not be as “essential and cherished” across the board for ALL people in Japanese society the way Q and al dente are in Taiwanese and Italian society?

Anyway, this is a good article to read and write/talk about for people interested in food, and especially Chinese and Taiwanese food.

If you’re not interested in food or Taiwan, try reading an article about how the Q character in the 007 series is, in real life, a woman, or watch the video above and do some of the listening tasks we practiced in the spring term.

Students who’ve hit the paywall on NYT, let me know and I’ll give you a pdf.



Over the summer I read a book that took place in England in the 14th century, just after the Black Death (also called the Black Plague, and in Japanese it’s called ペスト, which comes from the English word pestilence and can cause some confusion because “pesto” in English is a delicious pasta sauce made of basil, oil, nuts, and cheese… ), which killed about 50 million people, or about 60% of Europe’s population (according to this article, though statistics vary) and was spread mostly by infected rats.

So reading about people *eating* rats was a bit more jarring than it might normally be.

“How to join the rat race” (from 1843)


This article implies that rat is probably an acquired taste (a food you don’t like right away but can become more enjoyable over time, like oysters). Write about some things you didn’t like at first (food or drink) but you do like now. Like natto, for example? I disliked 麦茶 the first time I tried it, but love it now..

Focus on language

Try guessing what these mean from context, and then check dictionaries (both E and J) and ask native or near-native speakers for confirmation, then try “recycling” the language in your own original sentences and stories.

  • “(something) has a pull on me” (first paragraph)
  • “no getting round the fact that…” (second paragraph), in American English I think most people say “around” rather than “round”, but ask as many native speakers as you can and see what they say
  • “Rats.” (from the title of this post) — This doesn’t just mean more than one rat. It’s a phrase (an interjection) used by American English speakers (and maybe others, but you should ask around and find out). What do you think it means?

Other things you could do related to this topic:

  • Learn something about Sulawesi.
  • Write about unusual foods you’ve eaten or would like to try, and find some photos.
  • FInd some information about overfishing or other cases of the “supply and demand” of food becoming unbalanced.
  • Find out if Japan, or another country you’re studying, had horrible pandemics in the past.
  • The Black Death took place in about 1346-53. What was happening in Japan at that time?