Bethany: Math Academy

Feb 03

Bethany:  Math Academy

Writing can be therapeutic.  Sometimes it can be mean.  This post may be a little bit of both.

South Koreans rank at the very top on international math tests.  Way above American students.  However, sometimes greed or soju or something hinders those math skills they studied so hard to score.  This is anecdotal and very, very jaded, but this is what Korean businesses have impressed                                                                                                        upon us:

My school has booked me a ticket back home.  This encounter on top of the past week’s experiences have me doubting someone’s ability to do simple addition and subtraction or realizing that I have underestimated greed’s head-clouding powers.  Let’s just stick to the ticket booking incident, as it will henceforth be known.

Last Friday, when we started to realize that the new contract would not work in our favor, I told my supervisor that I would need the director to book me the ticket home (a return ticket is part of our contract).  I mentioned the date February 20, but I promised to confirm the necessity of the ticket and the date on Monday.  I did, and graciously offered to leave on another very-near date if it were cheaper.

Several times a day, I asked, “Do we know about my ticket yet?”  “Is it booked?”  “New information on my flight?”  Even as I was throwing out the last of my stuff on Tuesday night, my final day, I had to give her my email because my flight was not ready.  (We usually book a ticket in less than five minutes, almost certainly under 10.)  Tonight I received the message with the information.  However there was some missing pieces.

I got your ticket to little rock.

Schedule : Departure : Feb.21st.Mon  10:05  – Incheon airport

Arrival       : Feb.21st.Mon  9:35    – Atlanta airport

Departure : Feb.21st.Mon  11:25  – Atlanta

Arrival       : Feb.21st.Mon  12:06  – Little Rock

Your Reservation No. : ******

If you have any questions let me know.

Notice, there is no airline information.  This is not the biggest issue.  Adam and I are flying separately, because his school booked his flight for the 20th.  We have a lot of crap, not WL’s fault for sure, but I noticed I will have a hard time getting over 100 lbs of luggage to INCHEON AIRPORT, which is roughtly 280 miles from the city in which we live.  PROBLEM.  How would I get to my 10 am flight in Seoul, a city more than 5 hours away from this city?  Any international flyer knows that you should arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before a non-domestic journey.  A little quick math and I realize I will need to leave between 2 and 3 am in the morning from Busan if I travel by motorway.  Here is the bus information for buses running between Busan and Seoul:

Destination First bus Last bus Running time (daily) Ticket price
(Weekend / Weekday)
Required hour
Busan to Seoul
Busan to Seoul
Busan to Seoul




15~20 minutes
15~20 minutes

5~20 minutes

20,100 / 19,500
29,900 / 29,000


hours and 20 minutes
5 hours and 20 minutes

5 hours and 20 minutes

As you can see, I will need to leave at 20 after midnight, for 33,000 won, and should arrive in Seoul (I do not know how far from the bus station to the airport) at 5:40 am, 4.5 hours before my flight.

However a FLIGHT from Busan to Incheon airport is $62 (69,000 krw), lasts 1 hour, and will allow me to roll bags from taxi to check-in counter one time and never touch them again until I after I kiss the airport floor in Little Rock, Arkansas.  So it looks like WL will save 36,000 krw sending me by bus at midnight than by plane at 7:20 in the morning.  Okay, I get it.  Let’s not waste the money on one former employee who is no longer serving us.

Why don’t we look at what 5 minutes of easy research found.

This is a matrix for the cheapest flights possible from Seoul to Little Rock from February 20 and the next 30 days

Click the image to see that it is $50 cheaper for me to fly on the 21st rather than the 20th.

Contrast this calendar of lowest fares from BUSAN to Little Rock.

Click this image to see for yourself that this flight from BUSAN, not Seoul, is AT MINIMUM $269 cheaper on the 21st AND the 20th (the date I originally requested), assuming they got the ticket for the absolute lowest possible.  If we add on the 33,000 krw into the mix . . . well let’s just do the math.

Flight from Incheon to Little Rock airport  $1187(1.321 million krw)

Bus ticket from Busan to Seoul                     + $30(33,000 krw)

$1217(1.354 million krw)

Flight from Busan to Little Rock                 –  $918(1.022 million krw)

$299 (332,000 krw)

Someone could have saved $300 (more than 300,000 krw) if he/she would’ve booked the ticket for the day I asked and from the city I live in.

I don’t want to be mean, and I didn’t want to be mean when I called to explain the situation.  It didn’t help.  It’s hard enough to get someone to understand what makes perfect sense to me when I’m here.  I, at least, thought that math was supposed to be the universal language, that math and dollar signs (₩ signs) wouldn’t be subject to the language barrier that makes everything else so difficult.  Since Western sense and Eastern cents are not compatible,  let’s just chalk the ticket booking incident up to another cultural misunderstanding.

I’m not saying that the headache is not still lingering or that I suddenly understand why things like this (things that don’t make sense to me, but seem unquestioned by the culture I’m living in) happen everyday; however, I am willing to concede that I am often the smaller, close-minded person who has not been able to find reason in much of what I see here.  I know that because the East is older than the US, it doesn’t mean there isn’t reason working amidst the system.  Possibly, the systems are too different to function using the same reason.

So for those who think it’s glamorous and exotic to live and work as an expat in Asia, we are not seasoned travelers with cultural awareness and understanding.  We fight the ugly Americans inside of us that want 24 hour Wal-Mart supercenters and policemen to pull over and heavily fine drivers who run red lights while intoxicated.

One last rant:  I’m flying Korean Air, an affiliate of Delta, which stinks.  Deltas are always the worst flights.

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