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∙ Ph.D. dissertation Neighborhood Shopkeepers in Contemporary South Korea: Household, Work, and Locality available online (E-Thesis publications a the University of Helsinki). For printed copies, please contact me by e-mail.
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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Lunar New Year

View from Sillim-dong during the lunar New Year of 1999.

(c) AL 1999
This is the sole occasion I ever saw all these five shops closed during daytime.

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Friday, January 30, 2004

(Family and kin) Brother's wife's brother (sadonjigan)

This is not supposed to be any special indictment of the current president of ROK, only an example of how things usually work in Korea, from government to government. President Roh's older brother's brother-in-law (sister's husband, ch'ônam) has been able to gather 65 billion won (43 mil. €) for his investment company Seedmon before the company was even officially registered anywhere.

This Mr. Min told himself of the matter in an interview in the Sisa Journal weekly (part of the article viewable), and Chosun Ilbo not surprisingly picked the story. Min told that he founded an investment company with 1.5 billion W with the purpose of getting 10 billion, but he got 65 billion in two months. "We got 7 billion in just last week. So much money is coming in I'm getting worried," Min told in Sisa Journal.

The problem is that the company should have been registered as an "investment consultation company" (t'ujajamunhoesa) at the Financial Supervisory Service (금융감독원); neither is there any other registration of Seedmon. FSS has begun investing the case. Min has been operating a small hospital, and he has been suspected of having received a special favor loan for the hospital last year. At the moment the hospital is under provisional seizure of the creditors.

What is "modern" in this case is the venture aspect of this case, the promise of big money in a pench'ô with a presidential connection, not the use of a connection (real or imagined) to the highest executive power in the nation. Neither does this case make president Roh corrupted, only that it lays bare the structure of the Korean system; connections, especially family ones, to the president are expected to bear fruit and bring favors.

(Didn't see anything in Hankyoreh first, but they do have a editorial on Jan 30. Also it calls for more thorough "family control" [ch'ininch'ôk kwalli], meaning that the head figure, in this case the president, should be able to know and control what family and kin members around him are up to.)

When Kim Dae-jung's sons were being picked up by prosecutors, Ohmynews wrote about what had happened once at the Blue House. On a dinner, someone close to KDJ had discretely told the president that he should see what his sons are up to, or otherwise they'll be in big trouble. To that, president's wife had become enraged and told the man never ever come there again to talk like that.

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(Small businesses/marketplaces) Karaktong wholesale market

"The daybreak people" (새벽 여는 사람들) series in Ohmynews goes this time to the Karak-tong (Garak-dong) wholesale market in southern Seoul. The main character of the article is An Kap-su, who as a child did not want to become like his parents, working at night and not being able to have a family meal together, but who still ended up as a "marketplace man" (as one of the "marketplace people", sijang saram). At first he was becoming like his early deceased father in refreshing his weary body after a day's (or night's) work: alcohol without anju and lots of cigarettes. But becoming a father of two daughters did change him.
"춥고 힘들 땐 자연스레 술을 찾게 되요. 덩달아 담배도 많이 늘죠. 안주라도 잘 챙겨먹어야 하는데 시장 사람들이 어디 비싼 안주를 먹나요? 어떻게 번 돈인데 그 돈으로 안주를 먹나요. 시장 사람들은 검소해서 그냥 소주 한 병이면 족하죠."

Karak-tong market (picture linked from Ohmynews)
ⓒ2004 김진석

The first-generation traders in Karak-tong are on the average 46 years of age, but the average age of the 2nd generation is only 35. The younger generation needs to expand to several items of trade to make ends meet, which means a more intense competition. An tells that the business has only gotten worse during the 13 years he's done the job. (--> The one who meets a keeper of a small business that tells that "business has been only getting better" is indeed a lucky person.) What is also typical of people of small businesses, An continues that there's a whole life to be learned in Karak-tong by working there just one day, giving the sense and purpose to his life this way.

Mr An "has not had time to use money, so he is able to save a quite lot in a short time" he has bought a big house in an early age (he's 37 now). Notice the typical Korean characteristics of An's problem: he has been losing contact with friends, because he is busy when they'd have time during the week, and during the weekend he can't request their time because they need to be with their families. Families do not meet together, but male friends with themselves during the week; and since An's working hours are opposite of the others', he is getting estranged.

An laments that he's not able to be at home and eat normal meals there: "하루에 한 끼만 집 밥을 먹어요. 어떤 때는 잠자느라 그것마저도 놓쳐 못 먹을 때가 많죠. 차라리 라면 국물에 찬밥을 말아먹을지언정 집 밥이 더 좋아요. 하루에 두 끼를 밖에서 사먹는 것도 보통 곤욕이 아니죠. 매일 비슷한 메뉴로 조미료 잔뜩 들어간 바깥 음식이 어디 집밥에 비할 수 있나요?" More so with children. "아주 가끔은 넥타이 맨 화이트칼라 직장 생활이 궁금하기도 해요. 하지막 막상 또 그 일을 하면 힘든 건 마찬가지겠죠. 그래도 살아보지 못한 삶 혹은 안 해 본 일에 대한 막연한 궁금증 같은 게 있어요." An sometimes wanders what it'd be like to tie a necktie and wear a white shirt to work. (He has worn a necktie twice in his life, when he was interviewed for his short stint in a hotel, and in his wedding.)

The man gives a very family-centered impression of himself in the article, which surely would be the impression given by any man, who has a bit of a bad conscience of not being more at home. His dream (kkum) is to take his family to a comfortable vacation (nûgûthan yôhaeng, lit. "trip") somewhere, but for that the economy should get better. --> Here is one marker of the social dinstinctions, the ability to go on vacations. In this case, it's not the question of money but time: no-one will do his work in his absence, and for a keeper of a small business, three-day vacation is already a luxury.

"우리도 이리 쪼들리는데 저희 보다 어려운 사람들은 얼마나 힘들겠어요. 경기만 좋아진다면 뭐 특별히 바랄 게 있나요. 힘든 서민들이 잘 살 수 있게 해준다면 더 이상 바랄 것도 없어요." "If the ordinary people (sômin), having a hard time, only could live comfortably." --> Seems that he counts himself as one of the "ordinary people", despite of his apparently ok income. It is his occupation, not being a white collar, which allows him to use this kind of talk.

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Thursday, January 29, 2004

(Social categories / structure) School standardization and private tutoring

It may be a bit hasty to say by checking only two newspapers that the study on the social background of students admitted to SNU during the last 30 years (my earlier entry on the subject) has created a stir, but at least Hankyoreh and Chosun Ilbo have not spared commentary on the implications of the study, both from its own very differing points of view.

Chosun has done three editorials over a short period. "Wake up from the school standardization cult" (that standardization needs to be abolished since it doesn't contribute to more equal access to good universities and prevents good students to use their talents in full), "Standardization causing harm only to poor children" (that standardization lowers the standard of public education so that talented students without resources for private tutoring cannot learn well in school), "A country that punishes good students" (taking a strong stand against the Seoul school administration plan to control and restrict the a-priori (sônhaeng) learning of school subjects in hagwons).

Hankyoreh has written only one editorial "University adimission rates and improvement of the standardization system" (admitting the increasing inequality but blaming it on the dramatically increased private tutoring and demanding measures to correct that).

Today Hankyoreh has added a couple of articles to back its stand on the issue, that is standardization should not be abolished. This one is about the situation in Chuncheon (Ch'unch'ôn) in Kangwon-do, where the high-school entry has been "non-standardized" since 1991. (That means the school has not been determined according to the residential area.) Hankyoreh reports that the destandardization has meant a huge upsurge in private tutoring (kwaoe) expenses, and the ones given in the text seem horrible. This one family uses 2.5 million won (1600€) a month for their two middle-school daughters: society 500 000 W, math 400 000, English reading 200 000, English grammar 150 000, essay writing (nonsul) 95 000, computer 80 000, Chinese characters 25 000, Korean, science, sports... "All the subjects have a similar weight in the school record, so one cannot help but have this many kwaoes at the same time." The older daughter also got tutoring in basketball shooting from a university PE student for 20 000 W, as one part of the PE test is shooting the ball in the basket.

"In the destandardized areas, mother's knowledge and father's earning power are the decisive factors in children's success", it is said in the article; got to add that it's not that different in the standardized Seoul either.
학부모들 사이에 고등학교의 서열이 ㅊ여고, ㅅ고, ㅇ여고 순으로 서열이 매겨진 지 오래다. 서열 좋은 학교에 얼마나 많이 가느냐에 따라 중학교도 순서가 정해진다. 이씨는 “서열 1위 ㅊ여고는 다른 학교보다 늦게까지 야간자율학습을 하고, 이 학교를 나와야 사람대접을 받는다는 말까지 떠도는 상황”이라고 전했다. ㅇ양은 과외에도 불구하고 원하던 학교에 진학하지 못했다. 하지만 다시 선행학습을 하느라 바쁘다.
"If my children could only suffer the amount the children in standardization areas, I'd be happy" says this mother who uses 2.5 million won a month for her two daughters' private education.

Yearly private and public schooling expenses in the grammar, middle and high school level

Hankyoreh also reports about a discussion held on the topic, in which views differed as between Hankyoreh and Chosun.
이에 대해 김홍원 한국교육개발원 학교교육연구본부장은 “학력세습은 평준화 때문이 아니라 소득격차가 커짐에 따라 생기는 일반적 현상”이라고 주장했다. 이수일 교육인적자원부 학교정책연구실장도 “초·중등 교육이 서울대를 정점으로 한 입시교육으로 왜곡된 상황에서 평준화를 당장 해체하자는 주장은 무책임한 것”이라며 “교육부는 평준화 정책을 흔들림 없이 유지하면서 문제점을 보완하는 데 주력하겠다”고 밝혔다
After seeing an assistant professor in English literature getting private tutoring in English conversation from a Danish girl, there's very little that surprises me in Korean private tutoring. In the Korean language quote above it's said that as long as the goal of all schooling is to gain entry to SNU, destandardization would be irresponsible. But from the above we also saw that getting into SNU or at least to a university in Seoul remains the imperative irrespective of standardization. Hell, what can I say, I have no cure.

As the newly published Nancy Abelmann's Melodrama of Mobility is about Korean women's sense of social mobility and immobility, social strata (or classes), there is a lot about education, and this "standardization debate" fits well with the theme of the book; the routes for social mobility have narrowed, is the atmosphere in the book, and this sense is also conveyed by the SNU admittance study. One has to make better and better (run faster and faster) in school just in order to stay put and not to be left behind, and in a situation like that it's no wonder that the social distinction is created at all costs, if not in school then in private education. And this is not a question of condoning the situation.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

No major applications for anthro dept at SNU

The anthropology department at SNU didn't receive a single first choice application for major subject (hakkwa paejông sinch'ông); applications with anthro as the second choice were two (article in Hankyoreh). The other social science department with no first-choice applicants was geography. This shows rather well what the general sense of the usability of the subject is, and what is the perception of the use of the subject in making ends meet in Korea. Cannot blame those who do not choose anthro, even though I know that professors at the department are sincere people who have made good research, and have always been helpful to me. (SNU anthro dept is what I've been affiliated with in Korea.) The SNU anthro dept still doesn't seem to be lacking in funding, as the faculty has been continuously growing.

On the other hand, the most popular departments were Economics (233 applications for 193 admitted), International relations (외교학과) and Politics. (There is also a certain number of those who have decided their major already at the time of university admission.)

It should be noted that these applicants are students who have been admitted to the university (faculty of social sciences), and are now deciding their major.

At the U. of Helsinki, anthropology is one of the most difficult departments to get into. Doesn't that tell something about the perception of "anthropology" in the respective countries, as well as about countries themselves?

The SNU Anthropology department grad student room
(c) AL 1999

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Monday, January 26, 2004

Two recent books on Korea

A note on two recent books on Korea, which I have lately been reading with great interest. Modôn ppoi Kyôngsôngûl kônilda ("Modern guy loitering in Seoul") (Hyônsilmunhwayôn'gu, 2003) is a study on the so-called manmunmanhwa (漫文漫畵) "text cartoon" during the 1920s and 1930, published mainly in Chosun Ilbo and written and illustrated mainly by An Sôk-chu. It gives wonderful glimpses to the life in colonial Seoul (or Kyôngsông/Gyeongseong as it was officially called), how the influences of modernization arrived in Korea. Manmunmanhwa was a combination of cartoon and text, with both elements adding to the mostly ironical or satirizing content. They were published under the Japanese censorship, so the overt political and critical tone is not there, but the ch'oraham (cannot figure out right now what that was in English) of Koreans in the colonial and international order is often evident. In the book cover linked below is the image of a "modern boy" (modôn ppoi) and a "modern girl" (modôn kkôl), following the Western-Japanese fashion trends in clothing and daily life, and no doubt (haven't read that closely yet) making some of their own. What interests me are the depictions of newly forming social distinctions, like the exchange between a delivery boy and a "fine lady" (kwipuin). (The artist adds in the text that also kisaeng and mistresses [ch'ôp] go for a "fine lady" if they are fine enough. The fine lady sees a delivery boy driving a bicycle and carrying a heavy tray with only one hand, and wonders aloud that it must be very heavy. "It cannot be heavier than your hairpin and all the rings in your fingers" answers the delivery boy. "How can you talk like that, who even cannot afford to buy a copper ring to your woman." Then there's also some nice commentary about shop signboards which are higher than the shop itself.

Perhaps I'll scan some of the pictures later and post them here.

Here are two nicked from the net:
People showing off their wristwatches in a tramModern boys
(the both are titled as kasang sogyông [街上所見], street impressions)

Abelmann: Melodrama of MobilitySin Myeong-jik: Modôn ppoi Kyôngsôngûl kônilda

Nancy Abelmann: Melodrama of Mobility; Women, Talk and Class in Contemporary South Korea (Hawaii UP 2003) is a highly sophisticated study of making sense of what is happening in South Korea through the talk of eight women, interviewed and hanged out with over a long period. I've just started reading it, so I'll refrain making extensive comments yet, only that it seems to be as insightful as I expected. Only that the prose is not the easiest to read, with the excessive dashes and parentheses. Perhaps I'll post some tokhugam later.

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(Small businesses) Bird flu and fried chicken business

Fried chicken business has come close to a halt is what we heard from my sister-in-law (처형) and her husband in Pusan. Thus far they cannot but wait that the epidemic would be over, but at the moment it really doesn't look good for them. You just do not convert overnight to something else from a business which despite being toilsome has given a decent living for a long time.

The Korean variant of the bird flu is supposed to be of a different kind than in the Southeast Asia (article in Chosôn Ilbo), but it's not clear yet if it gets contracted differently from the Southeast Asian variant. No cases of contracts (?) on people have been found yet in Korea, but that cannot give much solace at the moment when one's business is getting ruined.

(UPDATE) Hankyoreh writes on Jan 27 that "90% of reservations cancelled in a samgyet'ang restaurant". "Late last year after the first news of bird fever sales dropped into ground, but later there was some improvement. Now with the news from Southeast Asia, 90% of reservations have been cancelled", tells a samgyet'ang (ginseng chicken) restaurant keeper.

Marketing director from Harim, which is the biggest chicken restaurant chain: "지난해 말 30% 정도 소비가 줄었다가 올해 초 다소 회복 기미를 보였으나 다시 원점으로 돌아갔다"고 말했다. (If my sister-in-laws place only had had 30% drop in sales, they'd be lucky, but this doesn't seem to be the case.)

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Sunday, January 25, 2004

(Social categories/structure) SNU admittance and social strata

The Center for Social Sciences at Seoul National University has published a study on the social background of the admitted students, based on material since 1970 (article in Chosun Ilbo). The results telling that students from the metropolitan Seoul and especially Kangnam in Seoul have an easier entry to SNU is no surprise.

What the study shows that the government attempts at creating a more equal environment for university admittance have not been successful; on the contrary, changes in admittance procedures have produced more unequality. Entrance exam questions have been made easy to alleviate the influence of private tutoring, but it has only made it easier for those with resources for private tutoring. And when a new entrance system has been introduced, the admittance has been more equal for the first year, but after that those with more resources have figured out a way to take the advantage of the new system.

After the school standardization begun in 1974 (meaning children are allotted to schools according to the residence area), the entry to top universities (illyudae) has actually become more difficult for those who cannot afford private tutoring.

And: in 2003, the students with a non-working mother (chônôp chubu) had a 4 times higher possibility of entry than those with a working mother (ch'wiôp chubu). Those with a university graduate father had 2.5 higher admittance rate than those with a high-school graduate father.

The survey can be downloaded as a pdf file from Chosun: the full text and summary. (Couldn't find it at the Institute hom0epage.)

It'd be really interesting to see these figures compared internationally; I have always had the impression (but never the energy to dig up the figures) that the university entry might in fact be more equal in the ROK than for example Finland, where the university education is basically free, and student subsidies are internationally compared quite generous, in the name of social equality. But this ends up being an income transfer from the whole taxpaying population to those with good income and high education, since people with those backgrounds are much more likely to enter universities. (And not entering a university is seen a natural choice in much wider circles than let's say South Korea.)

(UPDATE) Hankyoreh also has an article of the study; looking at it quickly, it seems to convey the same info as Chosun, but not unexpectedly, it cannot buy the conclusion that the school standardization (p'yôngjunhwa) has contributed to the growing gap between the haves and have-nots. It has the representative from the other teachers' union (Chôn'guk kyojigwon nodongchohap, in English?) say that it's wrong (chalmot) to directly link the standardization carried out 30 years ago to rich kids' easier entry to SNU, since the explosion in the private tutoring expenses has happened only during the last 10 years. And Chosun makes its stand clear in its editorial: Wake up from the standardization cult (P'yôngjunhwa saibi chonggyoesô kkaeônara).

Cannot say whether the abolishment of the standardization system would improve the Korean public education - don't know what could. What I know is that TV crews from the public channels will not come here to make reports of Finnish education in this regard - in the municipally administered school system, people are free to choose their school, and it doesn't contribute to equality either.

(UPDATE 2) Hankyoreh has an editorial on the subject; it acknowleges that the standardization has not been without problems and that the admittance rate of the low income students has been constantly falling; standardization has not achieved more equality in the way it has supposed to. But as expected, the leader accuses the research of choosing only facts that fit its agenda. Furthermore Hankyoreh says that the research has only showed that unless private tutoring is reformed (corrected, parojapta), all the finely formulated educational policies will be useless and the education system will only function as a way to solidify classes and transmit riches between generations.

(It's a bit difficult to think that only "facts fitting to the research agenda" had been chosen, as far as I know the leader of the research team, anthro professor Kim Kwang-ok, but I understand that the results are not pleasing for Hankyoreh.)

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Friday, January 23, 2004

Kang Yong-ju interview in Ohmynews

Ohmynews has an interview on Kang Yong-ju, the guy who was convicted of false charges of spying in 1985 and pardoned in 1999, and on whom I assisted in doing newspaper reports. Nothing new to my previous note on him. Only that it's said that he was given life sentence back then - he also talks that way (ch'ôûm kamoge tûrôgassûl ttae chugûl ttaekkaji naoji mot hal kôsûro saengkakhaetta), but I remember him serving a long sentence, not life. (Perhaps it was reduced later from life to a definite sentence.)

At the present state of the legal system, he will be a target of security surveillance for the rest of his life. He has gone through almost the whole ROK legal system of appeals, and will turn to the UN Human Rights Comission after that road has been taken.

(Small businesses) Tobacco shop "50 meter rule" reinforced

There is a rule that there must be at least a 50 meter distance between shops selling tobacco (or that to be awarded a tobacco selling licence, there must be at least a 50 meter distance to the nearest tobacco selling shop). This rule has not been enforced in case the shop has been relocated after the licence has been given, so this loophole has been made us of, which is of course is nothing new. Now the rule will be reinforced to prohibit also shop relocations to a closer than 50m distance after the lincence has been issued (Hankyoreh).
Here's a shop called Honam Sanghoe selling tobacco in the now erazed Nan'gok hillside neighborhood in Sillim 7-tong.
(c) AL 2000

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

(Small businesses) Some small business ideas

A business opening article which is half journalism and half promotion in Chosun Ilbo job pages. "Last year was the worst ever in terms of business opening, but this year the situation is expected to improve"; and then comes introductions of a four successful businesskeepers.

Pudaetchigae restaurant; note again that the word chônmunjôm ("special shop") is used for a place specializing in one dish. The colloquial term is usually chip (jip), but the "special shop" is apparently used to give the air of professionalism and expertise. The name of the pudaetchigae chain to which the restaurant belongs is Mo-paksa pudaetchigae (paksa=doctor, scholar). This place makes daily sales of 1.5 mil. W three months after the opening, which is said to be successful; it may or may not have something to do with the fact that the keeper is a former pro basketball player. (Opening expenses: 220 mil W [150 000€], rent deposit and 'premium' (kwôlligûm) included.)

Eel restaurant; a woman closed her loss-making beer restaurant (hop'û) and opened an eel place (komchangô chônmunjôm) (notice again the 'chônmunjôm), which belongs to the Hwangga-ne kkomjanggun chain. She's been successful, the place is "full of people only three months after the opening", while establishments around are struggling. Four main dishes in the menu: eel, beef ribs (sokalbi), chukkumi octopus, and chicken feet. (Takpal should mean the feet of a chicken, not the leg with meat.)

A chicken feet dish looks like this.

Opening expenses were 80 mil. W (53 000€), of which the shop rent deposit was 50 million. Monthy sales is about 27 mil, and the net profit 9 million (6000€)

Note that all the four businesses introduced in the article (or should the word be put in quotation marks) belonged to a chain; my hunch is that more and more small businesses are opened as a part of a chain, but it may not be the single explanation to the prominent position enjoyed by chains in Chosun's (or any other newspaper's) business opening stories.

An adjoining article "What a first-time business keeper should know", written by a business opening consultant.

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Social categories) "working class" in Korea: Tan Pyông-ho interview

Hong Se-hwa, a Hankyoreh special reporter or something, who spent a long time in exile in France after being active in leftist circles getting involved in a spying accident (don't know how much actually happened after all) and returned to Korea some years ago, has interviewed the former head of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (민주노총, 전국민주노동조합총연맹), Tan Pyông-ho, who has served his share of prison sentences during his years as a labor activist. The interview (or discussion) was published in monthly Outsider, and summaried in Ohmynews. From the points of discussion, I take up only the question of working class (worker) consciousness, or the lack of it.

One point of discussion formulated by Hong Se-hwa is the following: "If there are 14 million workers, there should be 14 million worker's consciousnesses, according to Marx. Why isn't it so?" The following are the points coming up in the talk.

Korean partition; there has been a deliberate brainwashing (I think it's Hong who says that) by the state of those who should have a working class consciousness; anti-communism, cold war mentality, state security mentality (anboûsik), flunkeyism towards USA (ch'inmi sadae), which have been pressed upon the people through education.

This is Hong speaking, a member of a newspaper self-definedly struggling against the "newspaper market distortions": "아주 전일적이고 계획적으로 교육과정이나 수구세력에 의해서 장악된 매체에 의해 헤게모니 작동이 일어나면서 그야말로 사회구성원들에 대한 잘못된 인식이 심어졌기 때문에 그 속에서 탈의식화가 있기 전에는 1400만 노동자라고 외치는 것은 큰 의미가 없다는 거예요." The education and reactionary media have planted a distorted (wrong, 잘못된) consciousness concerning the parts of society (사회구성원), which has obstructed the formation of consciousness.

"So what should be done, concretely", asks Tan, and Hong answers: "It's in the education. Those with a working class identity have must have experienced (경험했을 것) a reverse turn from the consciousness formed in school. Before reversing the consciousness learned in middle and high school, there cannot be any working class identity (노동자 의식)." Hong, a good Marxist, offers the wrong consciousness as an answer why the ordinary people (sômin 서민), who worry about school and medical expenses and should therefore be interested in free education and medical services, are sort of frightened (두려움을 느낀다). "The reason I constantly talk about 'getting free from [wrong (my addition)] consciousness' is because I think it's so important."

It's a very good question to ask why the working-class consciousness is so undeveloped in South Korea. The situation with North Korea surely explains a lot: when the ideological and military enemy is the other half of the same nation, which professes to be a workers' state (not only, byt mainly), the concept of worker, nodongja, could not become a normal social category. Nodongja is not used as a qualifier in the manner of West European countries for example; instead of "working-class areas" there are "ordinary people's areas" (sômin chiyôk) or "places not well off". I've listened to a lot of talk about Korean society, and no-one has ever used "worker" for disadvantaged people, or for people whose interests are at odds with the rich. Of course one reason to that may be that none of the people that I hanged around with did manual wage labor (but most did manual self-employed labor). Leftist-progressive teachers' union has been claiming (is it still done?) a worker's status, but those who are performing individual nogada* (toil, hard physical labor) are not interested of that consciousness and status. As a Marxist Hong thinks that there is a correct working class consciousness, which the Korean laborers have failed to achieve, not leaving much room for personal choice (in a scholarly writing it should be 'personal agency') or people's ability to form their own consciusnesses and choose their own sides.

Rice mill (pangakan) keeper (sajang*) at work. (c) AL 2001

On the other hand, it's a bit hypocritical to advocate adopting a worker's consciousness of these people who wouldn't send their children to a factory. Tan Pyông-ho is a real worker, Hong Se-hwa far from it, even though he used to drive a cab in Paris for some time. But won't be doing it in Seoul, as he doesn't need to. So given the social and cultural conditions in South Korea, the forming of working-class identity already in school (in the manner of England described in Paul Willis' Learning to Labour. How working-class kids get working-class jobs) is not going to happen, even at the relatively good conditions that the workers in key industries have been able to achieve.

One can also ask if any "elevation of consciousness" would happen in case the Democratic Labor Party increases its share of votes and gets someone into the parliament. My hunch is that it wouldn't, at least in a considerable degree, as the KDLP doesn't seem to be that tainted by smell of labor. (I can be wrong as well, isn't KDLP doing best in places like Pohang, where there are big concentrations of manufacturing industry.)

(*) Nogada is one of those Japanese-originating terms which are quite common in daily use but excluded from any standard language and even dictionaries, which do print for example a good variety of profanities. On the other hand, a huge amount of words coined from Chinese characters in Japan thrives well in Korea, and it would be very difficult (impossible) to do without them, so we don't see much attempts at language purification there. Nogada comes from the japanese dokata (土方), non-skilled construction worker, and perhaps it's mainly used at construction sites in Korea, but I've heard it used a lot for a hard work in general. (Google search on this - ended up linking the whole stuff...)

Sajang (社長) is another Japanese-originating word, and it is both a very common title from keepers of rice mills to owners of big businesses and a totally accepted part of standard Korean. In fact I think sajang must be the most common occupation in Korea... (A correction: the above link to the Standard Korean Dictionary tells that 社長 was already in use during Chosôn for a kind of an official, but I still maintain that the present use stems from Japan.)

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Tuesday, January 20, 2004

(social categories) 90% of production workers see themselves as "middle-low" or "low" stratum

The Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (KRIVET - Han'guk chigôp nûngnyôk kaebalwôn) has surveyed the "stratum (class) consciousness" and the degree of work satisfaction of production laborers. Hankyoreh titled the story as "90% of production workers 'low-middle' or 'low' stratum". KRIVET did the survey on 960 production workers in big factories; 49.6% felt themselves to be "low-middle" stratum (중하층), and 37.3% "low stratum" (하층). The longer the service the lower the degree of satisfaction towards one's work.

One fourth responded that their employment was not that voluntary (자발적으로 취업했느냐). Main reasons for not liking one's employment were "not good prospects", "doesn't fit one's specialty of learning and personality", "doesn't like hard and difficult work".

Citing single survey results like these doesn't tell much, whether the class or stratum consciousness has changed (for example the sense of belonging to the lower strata increased), but let's have this here for future reference, or something

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Monday, January 19, 2004

(chapkôttûl) Kang Yong-ju passes the med exam

(Yonhap, through Media Daum) Kang Yong-ju, who served for a long time as a very young guy and was released byan amnesty in early 1999, has passed the national medical exam. The reason for this note is that I got to meet this guy in 1999 when I was staying in Korea and assisting (being a fixer for) a Finnish newspaper which was doing reports on him. And the reason for the reports was that Amnesty International had made him one of the main targets in its campaigning for prisoners of conscience, which ultimately led to his release, without the condition of "law-obeying pledge" (준법서약서­), which he had refused to sign. By my judgement, he was not the government-toppling revolutionary he was convicted of (for 16 years, of which he served some 10+), but he is still under authorities' surveillance. He did take part in student activities in Kwangju in the mid 1980s, and he did meet someone who really had been in contact with the DPRK, which was enough to have him made a spy and accomplice in the so-called Europe-America student spy incident (Ku-Mi yuhaksaeng kanch'ôp sakôn). (In May 1980 at the age of 17, he was a member of the citizen guard in Kwangju; in some text he wrote how he has regretted his desertion from the ranks of Provincial Hall defenders before the uprising was suppressed.)
Being present at the prison was a strange experience; I had nothing to do with the released prisoner, I've never been to an occasion like that, and yet the emotion of seeing the man walking down the road towards the gate was such a strong one that I had to fight back the lump in my throat and eyes getting wet.

Photograph: Kang's mother in January 1999
before her son was released. (c) AL 1999.

What is interesting in doing (well, assisting in doing) newspaper reporting like that are all the people one gets to meet along the way. NGO activists; professional and efficient people, who utilize newspapers, whose reporting in turn is made easier with the assistance of the organization.Former DPRK operators living in ROK after being freed from prison; these people had been sent South long time ago, gotten caught and sent to prison, from where they had since been freed for their old age, without denouncing their allegiance to the North. These "non-repentant prisoners" (비전향 장기수) were most likely returned back North in 2000. They were funny old gentlemen, being treated with respect by the activists and addressed as sônsaeng (선생). I remember one proudly telling how he had contributed to the ROK democratization by his struggle in prison, meaning his refusal to denounce the North, if I remember correctly. The old men were hanging around the NGO (or vice versa), which supported their living quarters in Seoul, so that's how I got the meet them.

ROK communists; I'm not sure if this guy can be called a communist, but it may not be entirely wrong for someone who declares himself a Leninist. He was one of the people in the entourage welcoming Kang Yong-ju. We were back in Kwangju from Andong prison, sitting in a drinking place. He asked me what I think about Lenin, telling that he is a Leninist. "Well, nowadays it's know that the Soviet terror started already with Lenin and not with Stalin", I replied; - "No, it was Lenin who gave freedom to nations like Finland and others." I didn't feel like continuing with that topic - it was after all a happy day for them, and I was only working.
NIS; after we finished with Kang, we hurried back to Seoul to interview the actress Kim Hye-yeong, who had escaped (but not for political reasons) from the DPRK with her family in late '98 and was under the protection of NIS at the time. NIS contacted me later and asked me to translate the article, but they were too cheap to pay me, so I missed my chance to work for the ROK intelligence. (They didn't make me an offer I couldn't refuse.)

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(Family and kin) Older sister helping her fugitive brother

The release from office (chôngjik) of older sister of Yi Sôk-ki, who was helped by her while he was searched by police because the Inhyôktang affair, was declared wrongful (?) by the administrative court (article in Hankyoreh). Ministry of Defence suspended her from office for 2 months after she was found guilty of helping her fugitive brother, and now she won her claim against the Ministry. "The complainant (?) provided his younger brother with 500 000 won a month and with other assistance during his hideout period, but as an action between siblings, this cannot be seen to be a breach of criminal law," and "giving money to the younger brother suspected of a crime is not a breach against "government employee's character (p'umwi)".

The NK sub sunk on the Souther coast, in which the clues to the affair were found
Yi Sôk-ki was active in the so-called Minhyôktang, which is short for Minjok Minju Hyôngmyôngdang, 'People's Democratic Revolutionary Party'. He was hiding from police from late '99 to May 2002, when he was arrested and given 2 years and 6 months for breaking the National security law. He was pardoned in August 2003. The Minhyôktang affair is a long story, with connections to North Korea and Weekly Mal; here's a link to a Weekly Donga article from 2000. (Seems that all of the convicted have now been released.)

Well, this looks almost like a reversal of the yônjwaje (연좌제), guilty by association; not being suspect because of a family relation to a "security criminal", but being given immunity because of siblingship.

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Saturday, January 17, 2004

(Social categories / books) "People at dawn" published as a book

Saebyôk yônûn saramdûl, a series of articles by Kim Ûn-sông, No Yu-mi (text) and Kim Chin-sôk (photo) in Ohmynews of people working at night and dawn (of which I have often made notes) has now been published as a book. (Review in Ohmynews.)

Here's a summarizing article of the long series: Ch'wijaehamyôn pabi nawayo, toni nawayo? (Do I get food or money for the reporting?). The three had written 50 articles on the course of eight months, and the result was now going to be published as a book, besides having appeared in Ohmynews.

Picture linked from Ohmynews, ⓒ2003 김진석
"그냥 사는 것도 팍팍해서 힘들어 죽겠는데 뭔 놈의 취재래요? 취재하면 밥이 나와요, 돈이 나와요? 기자 양반이 세상 물정을 모르나본데, 우리같이 하루 벌어 하루 먹고 사는 사람들 도와주려면 그냥 묵묵히 살게 내버려 둬요. 괜히 취재니 뭐니 해서 안 그래도 힘든데 쓸데없이 힘빠지게 하지 말고.정말 우리가 어떻게 사는지 알면 취재하자는 얘기 못해. 차라리 취재 할 그 시간에 조금이라도 더 잠을 자거나 한 푼이라도 더 벌어야 하는 게 우리 생활이에요. 솔직히말해 우리 같은 사람들 일하느라 팔자 좋게 신문 볼 틈도 없어요. 하루하루가 피곤한 사람들한테 취재는 무슨…."
The above is a quote from someone who refused to be reported; "The best way to help our kind of people who got to make our living every day (하루 벌어 하루 먹다) is just to leave us alone. [...] The time you'd be making your report we'd be rather sleeping an eyewink more or earning one penny more, that's what our life is." Also the "is there any food or money from the report" comment is from the same elder.

What I liked about in this series was the sympathetic but non-paternalizing attitude, giving voice to the "ordinary people", who themselves often didn't see any point in making a media report on themselves. [I also sometimes met the same attitude in the neighborhood where I've done the research: "what's the point of researching a place like this."]

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(Money) Plans for a 100 000 won bill and/or denomination

Both Joongang Ilbo and Hankyoreh comment the Korean Bank plans to resolve the issues of issuing (!) a 100 000 won note (a note of larger denomination), raising (not lowering!) the nominal value of the currency (that is taking a few zeroes off the Korean W), and production of more counterfeit-proof notes.

Joongang questions whether these things are so urgent that they need to be solved this year; they say they themselves have recognized the need for a bigger bill several years ago. (Both papers note that one of the reasons of not issuing a 100 000 won bill has been the worry that it'll become easier to collect and store illegal political funds.) The 10 000 won note was issued in 1973 and has remained the biggest note ever since, while the economy has grown 100-fold and prices tenfold. Joongang notes that political and other corruption is a separate issue from the nominal value of money, but is bold enough to maintain that "USA and Japan which both have high-value notes cannot be said to be more corrupted (pup'aehada) than our country" (고액권이 있는 미국, 일본이 우리나라보다 더 부패했다고 볼 수 없기 때문이다). Heck, what do I know about the actual corruption, but the Corruption Perception index of Transparency International lists USA at nr. 18, Japan at 21 and South Korea at 50. Joongang is reserved towards the denomination of the currency, listing the possible effects on prices, expenses to adjust ATM and vending machines and computer programs.

Hankyoreh is not as clear as Joongang, stating only that side-effects of any eventual currency reforms must be minimized. Hm, they do say that the nominal value of won will have to be changed some day. Hankyoreh says that the government officials concerned (kwan'gye tangguk) must be able to do the preparations in a way which makes the people accept the conversion (or whatever) as a natural fact. In my view the problem will be that ROK officials usually have not been able to do so, thinking for example about the National Pension (kungmin yôn'gûm) system.

Changing from national currencies to Euro did not bring about that big confusion; old currencies are still used in calculating the value of some items which people were used to think about in the old money, for example real estate here in Finland. Some things which have become actual after the conversion are thought about only in the new money. In Finland where so little actual cash is in circulation, the old currency disappeared from circulation very quickly, as only new money was available from ATMs from the day one.

What might be a problem in Korea is that the concept of nominal value of money is not clear for people. What I have heard ordinary people (!) talk about different currencies is that as one Japanese Yen is 10 Korean won, the Japanese money is ten times more expensive and Japanese as a consequence ten times richer. And when I told that one Finnish markka is (was) about 200 won, people responded that it's a very good money (currency) then. (Joongang notes that the "undeveloped-country-like" exchange rate of more than 1000 of Won against Dollar is given as a one motive for cutting zeros out of Korean currency.)

And finally one thing, small business keepers whose pockets are nowadays heavily tested because of huge bundles of money caused by the small nominal value of money would be greatly relieved if the nominal value of money would be reformed, along with introduction of bigger bills.

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Friday, January 16, 2004

ritual foodstuff prices high at sôl

"Korean Product Price Association"(?) (Han'guk mulka hyôphoe) has surveyed prices of foodstuffs needed for the ancestor rituals during sôl in downtown discount stores, and calculated the average price of a ch'areye table at 152 100 won (100 €). The same survey done on Jan. 7 in marketplaces (chaerae sijang) resulted to the average price of 118 000 won, which means there's been a huge price hike during the one week.

1 kg of beef, 1kg pork, 3kg poultry and 10 pieces of eggs are from 56 000 to 65000 won (37-43€).

Fruit harvest wasn't good, so the prices are high. 5 apples, 5 peas and 10 dried persimmons (kotkam) make 31 000-33 000 W (21-22€). [The fruit prices during sôl and ch'usôk are always outrageous.]

A fruit shop in ordinary times (© AL)

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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

(Family and Kin) Upper-class affinal relations

Ch'amyôsahoe Yôn'guso ("Research Institute of Participatory Society") has charted out marital relations of the upper classes (or leading classes, chidoch'ûng). Affinal relations are centered around LG first and Samsung second, with newspaper as Chosun Ilbo, Joongang Ilbo and Donga Ilbo around there 한국 사회 상류층 혼맥(婚脈)의 핵은 LG그룹이 며 삼성그룹을 중심으로 조선.중앙.동아일보 등 언론 3사가 모두 연결됐다는 혼맥도 (婚脈圖)가 소개됐다. (In Daum News, from Yeonhap. Here's a short article of the survey in the Institute webpage; it'll be published in long form next week.)

That the upper classes marry among themselves and other seek marital alliances with the powerful is nothing new, but it's very interesting (and important) to see these relations mapped out and brought to light, even if it'll sound like making pro-government research. "Ch'amyôsahoe Yôn'guso" sounds so much like the signboard of the present government (Ch'amyô chôngbu), added with the fact that the survey/research was introduced in the not exactly government-critical MBC program PD such'ôp with the topic "Upper class is the problem" (Chidoch'ûngûn munjeda); all the better that there was again a chance to present Chosun, Joongang and Donga in a negative light. But nevertheless, this is important research and very interesting for a student of Korean society and culture.

Chart from the institute homepage
사회 상류층 혼맥 관계

Here's some info about the research institution in question: Ch'amyôsahoe Yôn'guso is a research facility attached to the People's Solidarity of Participatory Democracy (Ch'amyô Yôndae), so at least the name precedes the present government.
LG has affinal relations with a big number of other conglomerates, starting with Samsung in 1957. Others have been Hyundai, Daelim (대림, Doosan, Hanil, Hanjin, Keumho (금호) etc., and there are politicians' families involved as well. (LG그룹의 창업 일가는 1957년 삼성그룹과 혼사로 재벌간 사돈맺기의 효시 역할을 했고, 이어 현대.대림.두산.한일.한진.금호 등의 재벌가와 직접 사돈관계를 맺었 다. LG그룹은 실세 정치인들과도 사돈이 돼 상류층 혼맥의 큰 줄기가 됐다고 참여사 회연구소는 말했다)
Lee Kun-hee (이건희) of Samsung married the oldest daughter of the Joongang chairman, and Lee's second daughter married the oldest son of Donga chairman. Former prime minister (국무총리) No Sin-yông married with a Hyundai woman, Former foreign minister Kim Tong-jo married an LG woman etc. In the 60s and 70s marriages between politicians' and tycoons' (재벌가) families were common, but later the chaebôls started marrying more between themselves, this especially after the late 90s economic crisis. (연령층별 재벌가의 혼인 상대를 보면 ▲20-30대는 정.관계 16%, 재계 60% ▲40 대는 정.관계 14%, 재계 37% ▲50대는 정.관계 23%, 재계 29% ▲60대는 정.관계 13%, 재계 26% 등이었다.) Marriages to non-upperclass persons among the conglomerate families are by age groups as follows: people in their 50s 33%, 40s 27%, 20s and 30s 13%.
Some comparison with for example Japan would be interesting, for example to see if this trend of increasing in-marriage among conglomerate families finds equivalence. One explanation for this could also be that some of the conglomerates have been formed later, and chaebôl marriage partners were not available. But this is perhaps a weak explanation; there has been talk that the Korean social structure (or class structure, if you like) has been closing since the 1980s, and social mobility has been getting more difficult. Even thought this has not lead to a formation of for example a clear working class with a such an identity that would for example encourage offspring to seek factory employment instead of studying as far as resources allow, this shows that certain strata have seeked new ways (or better, utilized old ways) to assert their economic and political position. This is important especially in Korea, where the moral position of big money has always been weak, and in the manner of this PD such'ôp, even the marriage patterns are found to be a target of criticism (의무는 없고 특권만 있는 우리 사회 지도층). Perhaps it's necessary to add that the innûn nomdûl themselves have pretty heavily contributed to their negative image.
(ADDITION) In the first presidential press conference this year (see " Hankyoreh), president Roh stated among other things that the "links of privilege" (특권적 유착) between politicians, media and economic circles (chaegye) shall be broken (haech'edoel kôt). Well, perhaps yuch'ak should be glossed with a more powerful and negative-sounding word than 'link', but I can't think what it'd be. I don't know if this statement and the publication of the marital link study yesterday is just 烏飛梨落, but people with tendency to suspect this (or any other Korean) government would think that it's not.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

KBS Media Focus (미디어 포커스) 3.1.2004

추가: 메디어 포커스의 기자한테 프로그램을 dvd로 나한테 보냈다는 연락이 왔는데, 소포가 들어오면 프로를 보고 간단히 소개해 보도록.

KBS-yleisradioyhtiön "Media Focus" -ohjelman Suomea käsittelevän jakson esittely (KBS "미디어 포커스"의 핀란드에 관한 프로그램의 소개하는 글과 나의 코멘트. 핀란드에 온 취재팀은 나를 인터뷰했기 때문에 특별한 관심을 가지고 있고 자기 나라 또 어떤 이상적인 존재로 한국에서 소개되고 있는지도 궁금하다. 일단 프로그램을 봐야 제작진이 너무 장빛 안경으로 우리 나라를 보고 있는지, 핀란드취재를 너무나 프로그램 의도와 맞추어서 했는지 알 수가 있다.파란 글은 미디어 포커스의 홈페이지에서 퍼온 것이고 검정 글은 나의 코멘트이다.
<미디어 포커스> 신년 기획 언론 자유 1위, 핀란드 (2004. 1. 3 방송)

‘국경없는 기자회’가 2년 연속 세계 최고의 언론 자유국으로 선정한 핀란드.

그들의 말하는 일류언론의 조건은 무엇인가?

핀란드 신문들은 해마다 11월이면 공인들의 납세실적에 관한 기사를 싣는다. 공직자나 유명인들이 올해 얼마를 벌었으며 그중 몇 %를 세금으로 냈는지가 정확하게 공개된다. 이처럼 언론의 사회감시로서의 역할은 오늘날 핀란드가 세계 최고의 청렴국이 되는데 한몫했다.
정치인과 유명인들의 납세질적을 공개한다는 것은 감시하고는 상관이 별로 없다. 납세실적 리스트를 싣는 신문들이 정론지보다 대중지향적인 신문들이고 공개는 주로 대중들이 유명인들에 대한 호기심을 상업적인 수단으로 삼고 있는 것이다. 일반신문들은 이러한 행태를 보여주고 있지 않은 걸로 알고 있습니다.
그리고 대부분의 신문은 1면이 전부 광고로 채워져 있다. 매우 낯선 편집이지만 독자들의 90% 이상이 집에서 구독하기 때문에 굳이 1면에 기사로 시선을 끌지 않아도 된다는 것이다. 회사는 수익창출에 적극적으로 힘쓰고 기자는 양심과 원칙에 따라 기사를 쓴다는 논리다. 또한 일종의 공동배달제를 통해 비용절감의 효율성을 높이고 있다.
공동배달제는 신문들이 자율적으로 형성했다는 것은 잊지 말아야 한다. 인구밀도 낮기 때문에 신문별로 되는 배달이 아예 상상도 할 수 없는 것이다.
핀란드의 공영방송이 정부의 간섭으로 자유로울 수 있는 것은 인사권의 독립과 경제적 독립에 있다. 이사회는 방송사의 CEO 임명권 외에 어떠한 권한도 갖지 않는다. 또 국가로부터 재정지원을 받지 않고 시청자들로부터 받는 수신료(1년에 24만원)로 운영한다. 상업방송의 경우에는 광고주들이 광고를 무기로 뉴스제작에 압력을 행사하려고 한 적이 있지만 실제로 일어난 적은 없다. 만약 광고주들이 압력을 한다면 그것 또한 뉴스가 되기 때문이다.
공영방송 YLE는 간부들이 거의 다 정당들이 나누어먹은 자리에 앉아 있다. YLE회장은 사회민주당의 것이고 그 밑에 있는 자리들이 주로 국회 의석보유에 따라 나누어져 있다. 예를 들면 "연합당" (현 야당)의 장관을 하는 사람이 자기 부서가 관리하는 국소유 회사의 문제때문에 정치적인 어려움을 겪고 장관을 사직하고 나서 바로 방송국에서 좋은 자리가 마련됐다. 하긴, 이런 풍토가 좀 바뀌고 있고 이젠 그런 일이 아마 없었을 것이다. 70년대에는 일반 기자, 리포터자리도 국희 의석보유에 따라 주어야 한다는 얘기도 있다는데, 그렇게까지는 안 갔다. 정치인, 국회의원이 된 방송기자다 다수가 있기는 있다, 좌우 양쪽에.
인구 3만 5천명의 작은 도시에 있는 라삔 깐사는 이 지역에서 대부분의 사람들이 가장 많은 보는 신문이다. 생생한 지역소식에 많은 지면을 할애하고 다양한 시각을 전하는 것, 그것이 중앙의 대형신문사들과의 경쟁 속에서도 라삔 깐사가 최대독자수를 확보하는 이유다.

핀란드는 현재의 독자 뿐 아니라 미래의 독자를 위해서도 노력하고 있다. 핀란드 최대 신문사 헬싱키 사노마는 자체 경비로 피스테라는 기자 체험학습장을 만들어 학생들이 신문을 보다 폭넓게 이해할 수 있는 기회를 제공한다. 그리고 학교에서는 미디어교육의 일환으로 수업시간에 신문을 적극 활용한 수업을 통해 신문을 바로 보는 능력을 키워주는 나라가 바로 핀란드다.
프로그램을 아직 보지 못 했고 VOD관람을 위한 KBS해외거주자 가입이 될지도 모르니까 헬싱키 사노마(Helsingin Sanomat) 문제를 어떻게 다루었는지 궁금하다. 한국에서 조선, 중앙, 동아 합해야 하는 만큼 큰 영향력을 가지는 신문이 언론관력, 언론의 다양성에 관점에서 문제가 아닐 수 없다. 이 나라에서, 특히 남부에서 아예 신문의 이름을 부를 필요 없고 그냥 "신문"이라고만 하면 무슨 신문인지 다 안다. 다른 것들은 이름으로 지칭해야 한다.
<미디어 포커스> 2004 신년기획 ‘언론 자유 1위 핀란드’에서는 과연 핀란드의 언론 자유의 원천은 무엇이며, 언론에 대한 국민들의 신뢰와 자긍심은 어디서 오는 것인지 현지취재한다

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Sunday, January 11, 2004

(Urban space / soc. categories) Pamgol in Sillim 10-tong

Chosun Ilbo continues reporting on taltongne or poor neighborhoods; this time in so-called pamgol in Sillim 10-dong ( dong locationin Hanmir map search), on which a long series of reports have appeared in the last few days. (The whole project on poor neighborhoods is a part of a larger project of Uri iut, literally "Our Neighbors", in the figurative sense.
This Pamgol in Sillim 10-dong, which is actually quite close to my own Seoul neighborhood in Sillim 2-dong, is something I haven't heard of before. 10-dong is situated behind Sillim 6-tong; for example that's where the apartment block on the top of the hill built around 2000 is. (" Last resort of 1000 evictees")

(Chosun) Pamgol is said to have appeared as a consequence of removal of evictees in late 1960s; the article doesn't say it, but I think it was most likely so that people were loaded into trucks and taken here, as was done in many other cases of taltongnes. In Pamgol, 180 families (kagu) and 500 persons are living in 120 houses (chut'aek).

Pamgol is depicted as "still" having the 60s-70s poor neighborhood scenery as such; "these are alleys where rice-cooking smoke is rising from a fireplace, lights are lit as the evening falls an sweet smell of rice is in the air"; "one can still see fireplaces (agungi) for cooking rice built out in the alley, fired with board pieces and paper.

Chosun emphasizes the private volunteer help in resolving the poverty problem. In "Have you seen how your neighbor lives", a welfare institute researcher is quoted as saying that donating needs to become a normal (ilsanghwa) activity, and that for the safety of the community, donating by those who have (kajin saramdŭl) is the minimum responsibility. Above, it is pointed out that 52% percent of Koreans donated money in 2003, as compared to 57% in 2000, and 89% of US families.

Picture from Chosun Ilbo

Finally, in "I didn't know there's place like this next door", Chosun tells how its reports have generated response from readers, who have been contacting the paper and offering their help, from "Kangnam housewives" to "woman living on welfare (kich'osaenghwalsugŭpcharo saraganŭn ajumŏni)". Taejin, who was not being able to enter high school because of lack of money, has been promised support for all the 3 years.

Four women in their forties living in the neighboring apartment blocks provided 20 bags of kimchi, which they had made in the ward (ku) volunteer event. That kimchi run out soon, and they went home and brought their own; that made them realize what was the difference between giving kimchi of their own and that made in the event. "Giving one's own was real giving and volunteering."

In addition to that, let's add what Hankyoreh tells about the new government policies on the subject: certain ministries and welfare organizations have drafted a "Five-year participatory (ch'amyŏ) welfare plan", which is to raise living standards, increase the number of recipients of "basic living support" or whatever the kich'osaenhwalpojang is called, and increase the maternity allowance from the present monthly 300 000 won to 40% of the wage by 2008. Housing support for a 4-person family will be extended to those with less than 29 sq.m of living space or less than 2 bedrooms.

계획안은 지난해 설정한 최거주거기준인 4인가구 기준 8.7평 이상, 침실 2개 확보에 미달한 가구에 대해 정부 지원으로 주거환경을 대폭 개선하기로 했다. 또 이들에겐 주거유지 급여가 지급된다. 현재 최저주거기준에 미달하는 저소득층의 비율은 전국민의 23%에 달하고 있다. 이와함께 2013년까지 국민임대주택 100만호를 건설해 장기공공임대주택의 재고를 현 3.4%에서 10.0%로 늘릴 계획이다.

Chosun also reported this plan, telling also that there will be enforcement of statutes allowing forced levy of living support from offspring who are refusing their legally obligatory maintenance of parents; this has been a legally defined measure, but enforcement has not been succesful. (지난 2001년 경기 안양 등 일부 지자체가 구상권 행사에 나섰으나, 대상자들이 강하게 반발, 사실상 실패했다.)

Ch'amyô pokchi or "participatory welfare" comes of course from the signboard of the present administration, ch'amyô chôngbu or "participatory government" (the official English form in Korean must be a bit different); cannot say for sure if it's an addition to or a readjustment of the previous government's "productive welfare" (saengsanjôk pokchi).

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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Family and kin) Semi-professional wedding 'churye'

An interesting and funny article of being a wedding ceremony master (officiator) in Ohmynews, written by a man of advantaged age whose main occupation after retiring was wedding ceremony master (churye); now that he has moved from Seoul to his home place he stands as a wedding officiator only occasionally.

He ended up working for certain wedding halls as the wedding halls started offering officiator services on top of everything else. Normally it’s the work of the couple or their families to invite a prominent person to officiate in the wedding, but as wedding halls are reserved before the officiator is invited, it’s easy for the wedding halls to offer their own officiator instead. The couple pays 100 000 won, and the churye gets 50-70 000 and the wedding hall keeps the rest. During the peak seasons in spring and fall, this professional officiator could net a nice sum on a weekend, have free meals in the wedding hall buffet and even invite friends over.

Interesting episodes are those of officiating in fake weddings. There was this woman who was supposed to be an old spinster with an orphan background, but who turned out to be a married woman, who had gotten into a huge debt with her drinking place and had seduced a rich customer to marry her to get her debts paid. And there was a bachelor business-keeper (chayôngôpcha) who had only been giving his congratulation monies (ch’ugûigûm) to others, and wanted know to get back some for himself. He talked a bar girl to set up a fake wedding with him, on a riverside with a samul band and all. He pocketed all the congratulation money and is living as an old bachelor (noch’onggak) somewhere in the mountains.
Pictures of wedding halls

He himself has ended up starting the wedding process in the wrong hall, until the real officiator has turned up, and he went to the place he was supposed to be, making up an excuse of getting stuck in the traffic. Or when he officiated to weddings at the same time, starting one 5 minutes early telling that he needs to go somewhere else and making it short, and going directly downstairs and making a traffic excuse again.

What should a good officiating speech be like? Shortly, short. Making it short is best for the couple. He himself makes it look like he has memorized the speech, but he has short notes on a slip of paper, and with his experience knows how to talk in a fluent and concise manner.

(Personal experiences of being a guest in Korean weddings are left out this time; especially that of going to a right wedding hall at the wrong time, and all that stuff.)

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Thursday, January 08, 2004

"Viiden vuodenajan" ensi-ilta 6.2.2004

Kim Ki-dukin "Viisi vuodenaikaa" (봄 여름 가을 겨울 그리고 봄) oli määrä tulla ensi-iltaan jo joulukuun 19:nä mutta se siirtyi kaiketi yhä katsojia vetävien elokuvien tieltä. Tiedustelin asiaa, ja uusi ensi-iltapäivä on 6.2.2004. Teatteri on vielä auki.

YLE:ltä on tulossa kai joskus keväällä elokuva Pitäkää huolta kissastani (Take care of my cat / 고양이를 부탁해), joka on minulla paraikaa käännettävänä; tarina kolmesta lukion (tai kauppakoulun, 상고) päättävästä tytöstä ja heidän vaiheistaan.

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Sunday, January 04, 2004

New novel from Jo Jung-rae (Cho Chông-nae)

Jo Jung-rae (spelling at his official homepage www.jojungrae.com) has begun publishing a new series of novels about the collapse of socialism (interview in Chosun Ilbo). [That is a theme that Chosun is the last not to have on its pages.] First two parts, called "Road of Riddle" (수수께끼의 길, Arvoitusten tie) and "Key of Fog" (안개의 열쇠, Sumun avain) [Finnish translations of the titles seem to match better with the originals] have been published in two literary magazines. (I'm writing this down since Jo's previous big work, 10-part Han'gang was such a stirring read.) Chosun has put Jo's words "no matter how ideal (isangjôgin) the system, it'll collapse if it disregards basic human desires" in bold under the headline.

From Chosun:
‘수수께끼의 길’과 ‘안개의 열쇠’는 운동권 출신 기자가 시사 주간지 특집기사를 쓰기 위해 90년대 초 중국 사회를 돌아보는 과정을 추적했다. 천안문 사태 후 장사꾼으로 위장해 중국에 들어간 주인공이 만난 중국인은 ‘뒷선물’이 없으면 제대로 움직이지 않는 종업원, 달러를 벌기 위해 교수직을 내던진 택시기사 등이다. 이들이 “나라를 망친 게 당원들” “돈은 귀신도 부린다”라고 스스럼없이 말하는 것을 들으며 주인공은 “이곳이 과연 사회주의인가” “인간이란 과연 무엇인가”라는 질문을 던진다.
In the interview Jo says that a writer cannot but be in discord (pulhwa) with the government; a writer cannot but be progressive, and a writer cannot help but be a lonely person in discord, revealing also mistakes by forces doing politics on a progressive platform.

I remember seeing enthrilled comments by Jo Jung-rae in a newspaper (Hankyoreh) after the last presidential election about the result; perhaps Jo has corrected his course to that of a less aligned writer, or become less than enthrilled with the Roh administration.

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Saturday, January 03, 2004

(Korean language) Changes in pronunciation of Korean

"Standard language is wavering" (P'yojunmari hûndûllinda) in Chosun Ilbo. The younger the speaker the less "long pronunciation" (changûm) is used instead of short pronunciation (tanûm) [of vowels]; stressed (?) pronunciation (kyôngûm) also is more prominent with younger people. This comes out in a survey by the National Academy of the Korean Language(Kungnip kugô yôn'guwôn).

조사 결과 국어사전의 표준 발음과 실제 발음이 달라 표준어를 재사정할 필요성이 제기됐다. 가령 ‘관건’ ‘땅거미’ ‘보온병’ ‘불법’의 표준발음은 표제어와 동일하지만, 조사 대상자 다수는 ‘관껀’ ‘땅꺼미’ ‘보온뼝’ ‘불?’ 등으로 경음을 사용하고 있었다. 또 ‘밟고’는 ‘발꼬(밥:꼬)’ ‘온랭’은 ‘온냉(올랭)’ ‘인사말’은 ‘인산말(인사말)’ ‘힘입다’는 ‘히밉따(힘닙따:이상 괄호 속이 표준 발음)’ 등으로 발음이 바뀌고 있는 것으로 나타났다.

This question of long and short pronunciation of vowels is an interesting one; as a native speaker of Finnish, which makes a strict distinction between long and short vowels (tuli=fire, tuuli=wind), it should have caught my attention when learning Korean, but apparently my ears have noticed that research result, as I haven't been able to detect no difference-making length in vowel pronunciation. And yet the distinction between long and short ones is supposed to exist in standard pronunciation. (This has never been pointed out in the teaching of Korean I've received either.) For example the vowel length for Korean words for "snow" and "eye" should have been different, but in practice they are homonymic, nun.

In case it's me who has not been able to hear and detect the differences in vowel length, perhaps it can be attributed to learning of Korean with the help of written material - as vowel lengths are not designated in han'gûl. But as said, this never seems to be a question in understanding.

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Friday, January 02, 2004

(urban space) "Taltongne" report in Chosun Ilbo

Series of taltongne or poor hillside neighborhood reports in Chosun Ilbo around new year, made in Nowŏn-gu, Chunggye pon-dong .

▲ 눈 내린 중계본동 마을 전경(좌). 중계본동 야경./ 최순호기자 (Photo linked from Chosun Ilbo)

"Hillside neighborhood, life can be happy despite difficulties"; reporter's postcript, written not in the neutral newspaper style but in the respective hapsyo spoken language style.

Notice the idea that life can be humanely warm despite of dire economical and social circumstances; or rather the humanness and warmth of life is accentuated because of the poor circumstances. This can be compared to what the "priest" in Nan'gok in 2002 talked about living in the neighborhood: how it was poor and difficult but how one could feel the "human odor" (saram naemsae) or the odor of real life.

Here's a picture of how the poor neighborhoods are often represented: places with good insim and lots of chông.

People grilling samgyôpsal meat in the alley (photo: Chosun Ilbo)

Chosun Ilbo editorial on the same topic: seems that it's mostly about willingness of many (after the reports were published) to go out and offer their help as volunteers; that government poverty policy should concentrate on creating willingness to work (kûllo ûiyogûl k'iuda) and on creating more jobs but that it (the government) is not doing so. (뭐니뭐니 해도 국가가 가난을 물리치는 최상의 처방은 일자리 만들기다. 물가와 부동산값을 안정시키고, 공교육을 다시 세워 사교육비를 줄이는 것도 필수적이다.) Another excerpt from the editorial: 선진국처럼 빈곤 퇴치의 짐은 민간도 나눠 져야 한다. 부자건, 서민이건, 어둡고 낮은 곳을 따스히 껴안는 이웃들이 줄을 서고, 거기에 정치·경제적 리더십과 세심하고 실질적인 정부 정책이 바로 설 때, 가난은 더 이상 천형(天刑)일 수 없다.

In the same series of articles: "Rice pasty maker with rice pastries, butcher shop keeper with meat". About volunteers bringing foodstuffs to the area welfare center (pokchi hoegwan) and preparing it there. [Notice the emphasis on volunteer work.]

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