This image, courtesy of web.tradekorea.com, exemplifies how important school supplies are to Korean children. Especially pencil cases. Some kids seem to have a new one every week, while others' pencil cases look as old as they are. Some of them are huge with multiple drawers and wheels, while others still are hollowed out plushies with zippers.
Kids trade small plastic toys to keep in these cases along with their character pencils, "sharps" (mechanical pencils) and erasers. Charms hang from the zippers, like the ones so popular for cell phones here. The better stocked your pencil case, the more popular you are.
I have some students who have multiple pencil cases to go with their multitude of backpacks, one for regular school and each hagwon. While students readily use the backpacks the hagwons give out to advertise, I've never seen one use a hagwon pencil case.
I'll try to get some pictures of my students' pencil cases tomorrow. I didn't have the camera on me today, which proved very unfortunate.
Katelyn, a student in my Basic 3 class (10-11 year olds) showed up with a very interesting new pencil case today. It seemed normal enough at first glance; it's a simple large pouch with a zipper. But, one word on it caught my eye, "Bondage." I took a closer look and the seemingly innocuous pink and white case had all sorts of provocative English written on it: voyeur, hash cakes, down with panties/ up with skirts, the Texas massacre, Harold & Maude, and the random phrase "that's a drag."
English is a very common sight on many things here. Attempts at romantic language or even poetry are on nearly every shop wall. Plenty of shout outs to romantic love can be found on school supplies. But, I've never seen anything so outrageously inappropriate before. It makes me want to look up the random French, Chinese and German that can be found on many items in the States.
If you have any stories of inappropriate foreign language use (from travel or otherwise) feel free to write them in the comments, even if we've never met.
"Hash cakes" makes me laugh the most.