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∙ Current position: Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
∙ 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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Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Kerim Friedman of Keywords introduces blogging to anthropologists in the latest issue of Anthropology News (login needed) of the American Anthropological Association.

The article, directed at the yet non-blogging anthro audience, can be read in full at Kerim's Wiki site. It is the first in the series of articles he is writing and co-editing about the role online publishing can play in anthropology.

AL and Mr PakLast week I had an online chat with Todd Thacker of Ohmynews, the result of which can be seen at the English-language site of Ohmy. The problem is that the Ohmynews site hasn't opened from here since yesterday, so I haven't seen the piece myself, but I suppose it's nothing for which I'd need to go hiding.

The picture to the right was perhaps used in the article; that's me and Mr Pak (see also the 2nd from right in the header picture) sharing farewell drinks in December '99.

No, that picture wasn't used, but there was another drink and snack pic from a situation which was quite typical. There are instances when certain degree of participant intoxication is necessary, but these are no company (hoesa) men; their own business goes bust if they don't get up early next morning, so they are usually quite modest with soju.
I like the irony of the small pic (on the right) Todd (?) put up in the main page of Ohmy International; the similar position of the arms in the right-hand part of the picture is unintentional, but perhaps the intended irony in the name of this blog is wearing thin...

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Monday, August 30, 2004

DPRK human rights in Monthly Mal

The latest issue of Monthly Mal has a special section of DPRK human rights. None of the printed articles is yet available in the online version of the magazine - wonder if they'll ever be. Here's the snippet of the contents:
기획 _ 북한 인권, 이제는 말해야 한다
2. 북한바로알기 운동을 다시 시작하며 - 박권일
56.『말』의 제안 / 북한 인권에 대한 진보적 가이드라인 - 박권일
66. 북한 인권법안 / 미국 3류 극우세력의 야만적 발상 - 강진욱
72. 탈북자 문제 해법 / ‘귀향권 보장' 등 남북공조로 해법 찾자 - 김귀옥
76. 북한 여성 / 여성 ‘기본 존엄’ 보장 안 되는 왜곡된 성문화 만연 - 최진이
80. 난민 문제 / 탈북 여성의 ‘젠더’ 박해 - 민최지원
DPRK human rights, it's time to talk
- Beginning the 'Get to know DPRK correctly' movement again
- Proposal by Mal: progressive guidelines for DPRK human rights
- DPRK human rights act: barbarous scheme of the 3rd-rate USA far right
- DPRK defector solution: finding the solution by South-North cooperation for the right to return home etc
- DPRK women: distorted gender culture not granting women the basic dignity widespread
- Refugee problem: DPRK refugee women's gender oppression
Hard to tell from the article titles if DPRK is taken into task or if much of the dismal state of the DPRK by any international standards is once again attributed to some outer factors. (But shouldn't DPRK be the nation where the influence of the oese is the smallest?)

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Some shopkeepers neighborhood who were amused at my habit of going from shop to shop making questions and finding out about things sometimes called me jokingly t'ongjang (統長), "ward chief". "Why t'ongajang" I asked. "Because you go around like one."

Formally, a t'ong (or tong in the newest system) is the next admistrative level below tong (or dong 洞), with a designated head like mentioned above, but in practice there's not much administering to be done, at least in small housing neighborhoods, with small independent housing units. (In apartments it's different, with housing administration matching with the local administrative units.)

Earlier for example a t'ongjang's stamp was needed when moving out and moving in, but nowadays there's not much administering to do except some errand running for the upper levels - at least in the neighborhood with which I'm familiar with. I also heard talk that earlier the t'ongjangs also were used as government runners during elections, trying to make sure that elections go the right way. "But now it has improved a lot." Actually it was only on a later visit when I learned who the t'ongjang was in the area where I spent the most time (see the 2nd pic from left in the header).

In a Seoul Sinmun article (via Media Daum) it is noted, somewhat contrary to my own experience, that the t'ongjangs are burdened with tasks compared to the meager monetary reward they get so that they become voluntary workers in practice. The reward differs from ku to ku, so that in some places it's wholly on a voluntary chawônbongsa basis. Some few who deliver local tax notices are paid for that and get also school allowance for their children, but in general it's 200 000 won [€130] a month and 20-40 000 W for official meetings.
서울 은평구의 한 통장은 “월 22만원을 수당으로 받고 있지만 마을청소,불우이웃돕기,적십자회비 징수 독려 같은 봉사활동이 이루 말할 수 없이 많아 사비마저 쓰고 있다.”면서 “대부분의 통장들은 봉사한다는 자부심에 시간을 쪼개 힘겨운 일을 도맡아 하고 있다는 사실을 알아주길 바란다.”고 말했다.

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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Miri Park wins air guitar world championship

Miri 'Sonyk-Rok' Park Miri "Sonyk-Rok" Park from United States has won the Air Guitar World Championship in Oulu, Finland.
Guitars roared for the ninth time in Kuusisaari, Oulu - for the next year the pacifism of the Air Guitar will be spread by Miri "Sonyk-Rok" Park.
Sonyk-Rok won the title of Air Guitar World Champion in the Oulu Music Video Festival evening celebration, which became a true spectacle on August 27th. The five competitors who made it through to the final from the qualifying round on Thursday night fought the final battle with the reigning champ David "C-Diddy" Jung and the national champions from Australia, Austria, Belgium, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, United States, Finland, Ireland, and Germany.
Sonyk-Rok's Air Guitar skills captivated the jury as well as the audience. Besides worldwide fame and glory, her performance to Hot for Teacher by Van Halen earned her a handmade Finnish Flying Finn guitar worth 2,500 euros and a VOX BM Special amplifier designed, donated and signed by Queen guitarist Brian May.
Miri Park's performance in Conan O'Brien's show can be at the moment seen at the US Air Guitar Championships site.

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Friday, August 27, 2004

(Small businesses) Business arcades in trouble

Chosun Ilbo tells that many business arcades (sangga), which were built and dealt out (punyang) to real estate buyers two-three years ago during the real estate boom are now having trouble filling the empty shop spaces. In a new arcade building in Jongno-gu, Naesu-dong, 50 of 240 shop spaces are in use, and half of these are real estate agencies. Those who have invested in a shop space are having trouble to pay the remainders, as finding anyone to rent the shop space is difficult. It's also expected that as so much shop space remains empty, the investors will be in trouble to pay back their loans. The shopping mall circles estimate that in the Seoul region 30-40% of the new business arcade shopping space is empty; in less auspicious areas only 10% may be in use. The total value of shopping mall shop space to be distributed this year is 20-30 trillion (is that correct? 20-30 cho wôn), and more than 10 cho of that sum is borrowed from banks, so lots of bad loans are expected to turn out.
소유주들 잠 못 잔다 = 퇴직금이나 은행 빚을 ‘올인(?)’한 상가 주인들의 시름은 깊어만 간다. 지난해 서울 서초동 B주상복합 1층 상가(33평형, 110 sqm)를 8억원 [€500 000](대출 4억5000만원 포함)에 샀던 명퇴자 박모(53)씨는 잔금 1억2000만원을 3개월째 연체 중이다.
‘보증금 1억원, 월 400만원 수입’의 기대는 꿈일 뿐이었다. 입주 3개월이 넘도록 임차인조차 구하지 못했다. 그는 “연체료만 330만원이 나갔고, 이자도 월 220만원씩 물고 있다”면서 “얼마나 더 버틸지 자신이 없다”고 말했다."
연말 이후 더 걱정 = 상가114 유영상 소장은 “연말부터 대형 쇼핑몰이 줄줄이 입주하면 공급 과잉으로 빈 상가가 더 늘어날 것”이라고 우려했다. ‘부동산114’에 따르면, 지난 2002년 이후 분양된 상가는 2000여개 정도.
이 중 점포수가 100개가 넘는 대형 쇼핑몰만 150개에 달한다. ‘부동산114’ 박은주 과장은 “앞으로 공실률은 더 올라가고, 임대료는 더 떨어질 것이 확실하다”고 말했다. 디지털태인 이영진 부장은 “경매에 부쳐지는 상가물건도 지난 5월 321건에서 6월 459건, 7월 483건으로 계속 늘고 있다”고 말했다.

Cases of auctioned business arcade shops in Seoul area.

Investing in business arcades has been one way to prepare for retirement, as was the case in quote above: retirement or discharge pay (t'oejikkûm) added with loan to buy shop space, from which to get interest and rent. One of the shopkeeper informants of mine was according to her own words owner of some considerable shop space, from which she received good income - she wouldn't have needed to keep the shop, but she (and her cab-driving husband) still wanted more. They had been contemplating of acquiring more sangga business real estate, "to get some recognition (taejôp patta) in the old age". Also another shopkeeping woman (those Korean women with their real estate schemes...) thought she and her husband would like to acquire some sangga real estate, but she sounded much less sure than her colleague.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

(Urban space) Gangnam housing prices and education

Chosun Ilbo is wondering whether the Gangnam housing prices will fall due to the proposed new university admittance system and the broadcasts by the EBS channel for the preparation of the high school graduation test (sunûng sihôm). In the new admittance system proposed to start in 2008 the school marks (학교생활기록부 or 내신) should be given more weight on the expense of the graduation exam, from which points would be abolished and nine grades brought in instead (report in Chosun).
Anyway, the article quotes some real estate agencies/analysts, which predict that in case the exam weighs less in university admittance and private schooling becomes less important, there is a high chance that people will be moving out from Gangnam. On the other hand there's also the opinion that Gangam will maintain its status and position.
It is noted that the chônse (jeonse) prices have fallen 4.4% this year in Gangnam; the fall in the whole Seoul has been 1.6%. This is explained with the smaller demand for the high-class high-status private educational facilities (hagwôn) concentrated in the area.

Small additional piece of info on the development in housing prices, related to the demand for educational facilities and opportunities: in 1988 a 32 pyeong (100 sqm) apartment was 94 mil W in Gangnam-gu and 63 mil in Noweon-gu; at the moment the price in Gangnam is three times of Noweon (744 mil vs. 212 mil).

As commentators have already noted, it is questionable that the planned new admission system will affect the competitive nature of the education system. It will be difficult to cure a cultural/social thing with structural changes.

As much of the admissions has been based on cold numbers of the test scores, it has on one hand been equal in the sense that one's social position has had only indirect influence on the test score - but that influence has been huge. Now new channels of influence are likely to appear - and Koreans if someone will find those out.

Hankyoreh's story : education specialists: people may adjust to the new system
Joongang Ilbo: changing admission system: intensive book reading expected in preparing for essay writing and interviews.

Remembered my post from January about a study on the social background of the students admitted to the Seoul National University since 1970. Quote myself quoting the study:
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.

Here's a summary from the changes of the university admittance system (source):
1953년경까지 : 대학별 단독 시험제도, 대학이 자율적으로 신입생 선발
1954 ∼ 1968 : 국가 연합고사와 대학별 고사의 혼용기, 학생선발권이 대학에 위임되었던 시기
1969 ∼ 1980 : 대학별고사와 대학입학 예비고사의 병행기, 국가 권력과 대학이 공동으로 행사한 시기
1981 ∼ 1993 : 학생선발권을 국가 권력이 독점한 시기 (7. 30)
1981 : 대입예비고사와 고교 내신성적 병행시기
1982 ∼ 1985 : 대학별 학력고사와 고교 내신성적 병행시기
1986 ∼ 1987 : 대학별 학력고사와 내신성적과 논술고사 병행기
1988 ∼ 1993 : 대입학력고사와 내신성적을 기본으로 하고 면접이 반영
1994 : 수학능력시험과 고교 내신성적에 대학별 본고사 자율

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My only olympics post ever

I was thinking these Olympic games were going to be unforgettable for the achievements of the athletes of my country, but then someone ended up getting a silver medal in a shooting event called skeet, in which I guess a shotgun is used. It's not the judges that have been against the Finnish athletes, but the conditions: a huge stadium is so strange after throwing javel with 100 spectators on benches around a sports field; the sun is shining; feet are aching - you name it.

I was in Sweden when Swedish athletes won two golds in track at the same time. I couldn't help but feeling so Nordic, so Scandinavian. (It was also a Nordic conference I was taking part in Sweden!) It's always funny to notice how Finns keep a keen eye on Sweden and its this time relatively good achievements, while Swedes often couldn't care less what Finns think or do, or fail to do (and I don't blame them).

It is that our national character (chôngch'esông) would be severly contested if it was not against Finland that Sweden scored its most miraculous hockey victory by 6-5 after being down 0-5 - and if it was not this victory to which the Swedish gold medalist high jumper's achievement was compared, after making 234 only on the 3rd attempt but 236 on the first.


Wonder how many doping cases will be needed for the Samsung and other ads to be covered to save the sponsors from more embarrasment. Some years ago when the first Finnish skier was busted in some skiing games the sponsor logos were normally visible during the press conference, but when the rest of the team got caught, the sponsor names were covered in a hurry.

For some sports doping entertainment, here's a link to hemohes game. Still manages to give some laughs...

Little Monk broadcast

Disappointing that the movie Little Monk, which is the latest of my this far not so many movie translations will be broadcast at 14.55 o'clock, in the afternoon when hardly anyone will be watching. When a film is decent, the translator develops a kind of affection for the film and hopes that as many as possible could see it; at least in my case as the translation assignments are so few, it's usually just not another work. (Well, Kim Ki-duk's Bird Cage Inn (파란 대문) was a translation assignment to which I couldn't develop affection [chông 情]. And it was not because of his view of Korean society but his view of women.)

On the right is a screen capture of the subtitling program with the finished translation and the timecodes. The text is from the scene in the still picture above, when the young monk is once again asking for money from the temple master for a circumcision.

The program measures the needed time to read each line, and shows it by a red balloon to the right if the time is too short. A voice coming from outside what is shown is usually marked by italics.

The maximum is 60 characters in the screen at once on two lines; this might make problems with a language with as long words as Finnish, especially when there are no corresponding terms for condenced terms and expressions as in this film. For example I would have liked to give a more precise translation for the line chaega kkûnnan moyangida (the prayer for the dead seems to have ended) by the temple worker spoken to the little monk than just rukous näyttää loppuneen ("prayer seems to have ended"), but due to lack of time in the dialogue had to do with just "prayer" instead of "prayer for the dead" (chae 齋).

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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Restaurant business success stories for gloomy times

Chosun Ilbo has started a series of stories of successful restaurant keepers in their 20s and 30s, with the intention to give hints to alleviate youth unemployment by showing how some have succeeded.

The latest is about Mr Ch'oe (Choi). He is not actually a restaurateur but the chef and the head of the R&D team at the Bennigan's family restaurant chain. An interesting detail in his life history; he quit working in the hotel after his parents' business went bankrupt during the late 90s economic crisis ("IMF"), and started selling a kind of fish paste (ômuk) and ttôkpokki, in which he succeeded, could help his parents start the motel (yôgwan) business again and gathered himself a good deal of self-confidence.

The second success story is a couple who keeps a Pizza Hut restaurant; "we haven't been on a vacation for 10 years; from a part-time deliverer to a franchise shop keeper". The both were originally employed at Pizza Hut, where they met, got married and were given their own place to operate after a long service, what, nine years. In fact the place that this couple keeps is rare that it is under their own control (saôpkwôn) unlike almost all other Pizza Huts, which are under direct control of the main office. Chamkkan, it's the woman who is the shop head (chômjang 店長); the man goes to a "kind of phone marketing company" and helps his wife to run the restaurant. It'd be interesting to know how the woman and the man are addressed by the not-so-intimate people around them; the woman is the actual sajang (社長), but that term used very very rarely towards women.
“대학교 진학을 포기하고 배달을 다닐 때는 마음이 아픈 일이 많았어요. 배달을 가보니 대학교에 다니는 친구의 집이었다는지 하는 일이죠. 또 당시에는 남자가 앞치마 비슷한 것을 입고 식당에서 움직이는 것 자체가 창피했던 때입니다.”(홍씨)
“지금은 안 팔지만 90년대 초에는 매장에서 피자와 함께 맥주도 팔았거든요. 어머니가 엄청나게 반대를 하셨어요. 대학도 안가더니 술 파는 데서 일한다고 말이죠.”(주씨)

• The first in the series: "My goal is to make 150 billion W a year"; Ms Kang, the youngest branch shop keeper of Outback Steakhouse. The writer notes that if someone asks to meet the sajangnim, he might be surprised that the person who appears is a woman with a "sesame leaf" hairstyle and peculiar eyeglasses:
아웃백스테이크 서울대점에 가서 “사장님 뵈려고 왔습니다”라고 말하면, 이른바 ‘깻잎머리’로 불리는 헤어 스타일에, 왼쪽 렌즈는 아래위로 긴 타원형이고 오른쪽은 옆으로 긴 타원형인 안경을 쓴 여자 직원이 나타난다. ‘사장님 보자니까 왜 이 사람이 나왔나’라고 생각하면서 약간 멈칫할 수도 있다.

Back from the conference-vacation trip to Göteborg in Sweden, and back to dissertation writing more diligently than ever, and to some blogging at the side. These notes will get shorter and most likely a bit scarcier, as I will also have a class to teach this term.

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Saturday, August 21, 2004

In Göteborg (Gothenburg)

Any academic congress, this time NAJAKS in Göteborg, Sweden turns nice and relaxed after one's own presentation is over without any bigger accident. Not that anyone had been presenting crappy papers, but sometimes it just feels that one could say pretty much anything without people much caring. These things look quite ok in a cv, but having a presentation in our own department's weekly seminar is much much more scarier.

Göteborg is a nice city, and looks even nicer as the rains predicted by weather reports have not appeared and the sky is almost blue. Was a good idea to choose B&B instead of a hotel; the breakfast we have to prepare ourselves, but we have a whole vacant apartment in our use close to the heart of the city. It's nice to see someone trust other people in this world so that she rents her place for accommodation like this.

Even if my presentation was in a copyable (?) form instead of all the scribbles and additions done till the latest moment, I'm not sure if I wanted to have it available for the pressing demand there undoubtedly is. I do have my AKSE (Association of Korean Studies in Europe) presentation available online though, for to do that I do have the courage - in case anyone might happen to end up clicking the link.

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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Neighborhood welbing business

A recent business opening info piece in Chosun Ilbo, picked up from KINDS. "For the later half of the year, 'well-being' is the hottest business opening keyword"
올 상반기 창업시장의 최고 키워드는 ‘웰빙(Well-being)’이다.
웰빙을 주제로 창업을 염두한 사람들은 대부분 ‘웰빙상품은 가격이 비싸다’라는 고정관념 등으로 창업비용이 많이 들 것으로 생각한다.
하지만 적은 돈을 들여 도전해 볼 만한 웰빙 창업 아이템들이 꽤 있다.
◆유산균 배달 서비스업 ‘웰빙고’
유산균 배달 서비스업은 주택가에서 점포 없이 창업이 가능한 것이 특징이다.
요구르트를 만들 수 있는 전용냉장고를 무료로 설치해주고, 회원 고객의 체질에 맞는 유산종균을 한 달에 한 번씩 배달해준다.
2년 회원제 가입비는 5만원, 4인가족 기준으로 월 배달비는 3만9000원이다.
웰빙고 안양점을 운영하는 이영주(여·33)씨는 지난 4월부터 유산균 배달을 시작했다.
이씨의 영업전략은 이웃 주민들을 자신의 집으로 초대해 홈파티를 여는 ‘무료체험서비스’.
동네장사인 만큼 ‘입소문’이 중요한 홍보창구이기 때문.
요구르트에 과일과 잼 등을 넣어 아침 대용식 만드는 법을 알려주고 시식도 권한다.
순이익은 월 평균 250만원 선.
창업비용은 보증금 115만원, 가맹비 및 초도물품비 385만원을 합해 모두 500만원이 들었다.
◆맞춤쌀 편의점 ‘내추럴후레쉬’
“일본의 경우 맞춤쌀 전문점이 대중화되어 있습니다.
한국에서도 이 업종이 인기를 얻을 것으로 전망하고 도전하게 됐어요.
맞춤쌀 편의점인 ‘내추럴후레쉬’ 석계점을 운영하는 이계욱(40)씨는 고객이 원하는 종류의 쌀을 원하는 분도수만큼 정미해준다.
즉석에서 정미하므로 신선하고 영양소 파괴도 최소화할 수 있다고 한다.
이씨의 8평 매장에는 유리 케이스 안에 쌀과 각종 건강식품이 진열돼 있다.
고객들이 기다리지 않고 원하는 제품을 바로 구입할 수 있도록 하기 위해서이다.
이씨는 “첫달에는 판촉비 때문에 250만원이나 적자였다”며 “그러나 꾸준한 홍보활동 덕분에 창업 4개월이 지난 현재 월 평균 매출액은 1600만~1800만원, 순이익은 300만~400만원 정도”라고 말했다.
창업비용은 점포 권리금 1000만원, 보증금 1500만원을 합해 5000만원 선이다.
◆죽카페 ‘맛깔참죽’
조영이(여·40)씨는 지난 5월 죽카페 단골고객에서 ‘맛깔참죽’ 일산탄현점 사장님으로 변신했다.
평소 조씨는 큰아이의 비만 때문에 건강식에 관심이 많았다.
조씨는 “몇 개월 동안 발품을 팔며 시장조사를 한 결과, 테이크 아웃 죽전문점을 열면 10평 이내 점포로도 충분한 수익을 낼 수 있겠다는 자신감을 얻었다”고 말했다.
점포는 아파트 단지를 낀 일산·탄현 중심 상가를 골랐다.
조씨가 중점을 두는 부분은 재료의 품질과 제품의 맛이다.
조씨는 신선한 죽 재료를 구입하기 위해 인근 5일장에서 야채와 해물을 파는 도매상들과 계약을 맺었다.
가격이 싸고 보관이 쉽다고 해서 냉동재료를 쓰면 고객들이 바로 알아차리기 때문이다.
현재 하루 판매하는 죽은 100~130그릇으로 하루 평균 60만~70만원의 매출을 올리고 있다.
10평 매장 임차비용을 빼고 맛전수비 500만원, 인테리어 비용 평당 130만원, 주방기기 및 비품 650만원 등 모두 4000만원의 창업비용이 들었다.
안상미기자 ima7708@chosun.com

Leave tomorrow morning for Göteborg/Gothenburg in Sweden for five days for the NAJAKS conference, and my presentation is almost finished...

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A letter

How moving to receive an actual hand-written letter!
I thought I had lost contact with a bookshop keeping couple with whom I was in contact while in Korea and whom I always took care to meet during my later visits. I learnt that they had moved when a clothing-repair shop keeper told she and her family were living temporarily in a place which turned out to be the home of this couple. So now comes a sympathetic letter, telling that he has gotten my latest mail, is feeling well (he was severely ill a few years back), and wishes us all the happiness in life. They are living close to their old place. But what has happaned to the house they owned? Rented it out and sought a new residence?
Nice to be addressed as chane (자네); here him using higher-level language towards me instead of panmal would not convey the same kind of friendliness and intimacy.

resourceful homepage

Ended up at the homepage of Dr Chông Sôk (정석, Jeong Seok or something), a researcher at the Seoul Development Institute. Doesn't seem to have been updated very often lately, but still includes lots of downloaded material and links about urban policies, urban planning, community projects and so on. His research has the goal of making Seoul - or any other big Korean city - more walkable, enjoyable, more communal with village-like qualities. He has a lot of work to do...
One good idea: downloading interesting articles on one's own homepage space for future reference (there are copyrights but...)

Some thoughts:
• "Making a community" campaigns are often done with apartment areas in mind, with the idea that community consciousness is lacking especially there (while the small housing areas [chut'aekka], apparently having village-like qualities, are already communities in themselves)
• The idealized village; Dr Jeong (Chông) uses the image of village in his schemes of desirable urban living, but "village" is of course not that problematic; the nostalgy is in many senses strong, kohyang ideology is strong, so it takes guts to denounce the village imagery (for me as an anthro, with the origins of the discipline in the study of small clearly definable communities, that image is very enticing as well)
• There are actually more village-like qualities in apartment blocks than in small housing neighborhoods; administrative responsibilities, clearly defined areas and in a sense non-voluntary belongingness

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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Seoul subway/metro/tube 30 years

The number of Seoul subway lines has doubled from four to eight since the first time I visited Korea in 1994; this is one way of grasping that it's been a while. Back then the subway system was some 20 years old, and now, two days ago on August 15, was the 30th anniversary of the opening of the first 7.8 km line between Seoul Station and Cheongnyangni (Chosun Ilbo).
Congratulations. 건승을 빕니다.

At the moment the combined length of lines is the 4th longest in the world behind London, New York and Tokyo, and the number of daily passangers 3rd behind Moscow and Tokyo. It's share of the Seoul traffic is 35% (cars 27%, bus 26% and taxis 7%). The number of stations is 263, and daily passangers (means surely daily trips taken) 6.3 million - yearly 2.2 billion (22 ôk)

Seoul Subway line 2, March 30, 2000. (c) AL

My favorite Seoul subway line? Of course line 2 (the green one) is closest to my heart, as that runs closest to the place where I've stayed in Seoul and that's what I've taken the most. I like the sections that run on the ground the most; somehwere between Yeongdeungpo and Shindaebang, going underground before the Shillim station, and the bridges over Han river. Crossing the river by subway gives a chance to check the condition of the air: how many bridges are visible?

I sort of considered myself having become somewhat alleywise when I figured out a way from Sillim 2-dong through the streets and alleys of Bongcheon-dong to the Bongcheon station. Sure I was often too lazy or tired not to take the "village bus" (maûl pôsû) from the SNU station - as if that trip in a usually full-packed small bus could give me any rest.
Line 2 also took me from Sillim-dong to the Hwanghak-dong second-hand market near Dongdaemun for the necessary boarding room supplies such as tv and electric fan; making the trip took at least half of the day, but it was always touristically fun.

There was the learning of the small things to make the subway trip more comfortable (or less uncomfortable, depending on the circumstances); learning the nerve to get a person to move one's behind on the bench (아, 저기 자리 있네요...) so that I could have a seat. Finding out and remembering the logistically best places in a train for a transfer: that is especially important when transferring from line 2 to line 4 in Sadang, when it's good to be a bit ahead of the biggest hordes packing into the corridor and the stairs.

This is Seoul subway line map, perhaps the most important abstraction of the geography of the ROK capital.

(Click the picture for the original-size map to open in a new window)

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Saturday, August 14, 2004

Economy: bad, bad

It's very easy to find reports of economic slump or even depression these days in Korea. The basic line is that exports are doing quite well but domestic demand and consumption is poor.

Joongang Ilbo tells that small companies have it increasingly difficult to pay back loans that banks have been dishing out in a "don't ask manner" (mutchi ma taech'ul). Lower consumer demand --> price cuts to keep up some kind of sales, very slim margins, businesses barely existing, increase of overdue loans.
"Chajangmyôn, tonkkasû 2000W, pork ribs for 3 persons 9900W"; these are some pretty cheap prices being the consequence of competition reported in a eatery street in Noweon-gu.
Besides restaurants, the other branch in difficulties is lodging; prices been cut to half in some places.
음식, 숙박, 부동산 임대업의 부실은 2002년 월드컵을 전후해 이미 예고됐다. 외환위기 이후 명예퇴직자가 급증한 데다 월드컵을 앞두고 음식.숙박업 창업 붐이 일었다. 여기에다 은행들이 이들 업종에 대한 대출 경쟁에 나서 거품을 키웠다.
그러나 2003년 하반기 이후 내수 경기가 가라앉기 시작하자 음식.숙박.부동산 임대업의 연체율이 급등했다. 1%에도 못 미치던 연체율이 최근에는 3% 안팎으로 치솟았다.
Question: how wide is this trend? The only piece of statistics quoted is the increased percentage of overdue loans in one bank. The difficulties of restaurant and lodging businesses have been reported already for a long time (my own post from May)

Economy 21, the economic weekly of the Hankyoreh company, has a good article on the effects of the increasing poverty on the overall economy.
The head of the Korean Research & Consulting Institute of Poverty (한국빈곤문제연구소) tells that people seeking consultation for their problems no longer have that specific smell of poverty as before - an interesting observation in itself:
남의 얘기가 아니다. 내수시장의 침체가 이어져 자영업자, 중소기업이 속속 무너지면 당신도 그 계층에 들어갈 수 있다. “신빈곤층한테선 스킨 향기가 난다”고 류정순 한국빈곤문제연구소장은 말한다. “예전엔 가난한 사람들한테서 된장 냄새가 났어요. 몸을 잘 못 씻고 옷도 자주 갈아입지 못하는 사람한테서 나는 독특한 냄새죠. 요즘 상담소를 찾아오는 사람들은 학력도 높고 자존심도 높아요. 냄새도 좋고.” 이들은 대개 사업 실패 등 이러저러한 이유로 신용불량자가 된 사람들이란다.

- The importance of the middle class (in Korean "stratum" (kyech'ûng) and the low-income stratum for the domestic consumption; the high-income stratum itself insufficient to maintain domestic consumption; also a lot of the consumption of the high-income stratum is directed abroad
- 23% of urban households see no hope to pay back their debts;
- Increase of the poor stratum (those with income less than half of the median income): 1994 8.8%, 1996 9.7%, 2001 12%
- Middle class getting smaller; those within 70-150% of the median income were 55% in '94, and 50.5% in '01. High income stratum (more than 150% of the median income) stayed around the same: 1994 21%, 1999 23.3%, 2001 22.7%.

- Lack of investment; the portion of property invested in stock etc small, even compared to Japan;
Because of the increasing risks concerning the low-income stratum, the bank deposit interest rates have become less profitable, and the high-income and wealthy stratum faces losses
- The indiscriminate credit card use by the low-income stratum and the subsequent unsolvable debts end up becoming the burden of the wealthy stratum with investments in card companies, and (ironically) a kind of an income transfer:
그런 현상은 2003년 신용카드 대란 때 이미 일어났다. 당시 카드채 투자자들은 보유채권값 폭락으로 매도 때 큰 손해를 봤다. 자산가들의 금융자산을 굴리는 투자기관들도 카드채, 카드주 폭락으로 적잖게 손실을 냈다. 저소득층이 무분별하게 카드 신용을 사용한 대가를 카드채를 보유한 자산가가 진 셈이다. 오석태 씨티그룹 글로벌마켓 이코노미스트는 “카드사 대손충당금은 하류층에 대한 상류층의 소득 이전”이라고 지적한다. 빈곤층과 자산가층은 보이지 않는 끈으로 묶여 있는 셈이다. ‘이자’라는 끈 말이다.
Choson Ilbo has a piece which tells that the nominal interest (myôngmok kûmni, nimelliskorko) is lower than inflation.
15일 통계청과 한국은행에 따르면, 지난 7월을 고비로 월별 소비자물가 상승률이 예금 금리의 지표인 평균 저축성 수신 금리를 추월, 월별 실질금리가 마이너스를 기록할 것으로 추정된다. 올 들어 3%대 초반에 머물던 소비자물가 상승률이 7월 들어 4.4%로 수직 상승했지만 은행권의 저축성 수신 금리는 지난 5월 이후 연 3.8%대를 기록하고 있기 때문이다.

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Friday, August 13, 2004

ddeokbokki ajumma

Media Daum has a "Life Today" message board, in which contributors submit stories of their daily lives. A story from a ttôkpokki ajumma, who is said to keep a small street stall selling ttôkpokki, odeng etc., has moved many readers, and Media Daum put it on its main news page. Already the headline, 떡볶이 아줌마 동네 이야기, works to create an image of the most ordinary of the ordinary people; poor perhaps, but this case is not representative of poverty but of the economic difficulties of the ordinary people.
Media Daum introduces the story of a woman in her 40s, who is a family head. This is the story of the most ordinary person, who doesn't lose hope but lives side by side with neighbors notwithstanding difficult circumstances. / 미디어다음은 한 40대 여성 가장의 이야기를 소개합니다. 어려운 현실속에서도 희망을 잃지 않고 이웃과 함께 살아가는 우리 시대의 평범한 보통 사람의 이야기입니다.
I just can't get the nuances of the Korean introductory text carried on to English.

Some choice quotes:
I'm a 45-year old ordinary woman (ajumma). This is a neighborhood where 90% live in single room houses. A neighborhood where the rent is so often due too soon, and where people need to consider buying even one piece of odeng. Here I'm known as ttôkpokki ajumma.
We are also four who live in a 250 000 W/month singe room place, worry about the rent paying day, worry about rice, electricity bill, but there are many who have it more difficult than us.
Today again I make my mind to earn some money, but my resolution is swept away when I have some money in my hands, and I cannot help but buy odeng and sundae sausages for people in need.

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(Korean language) "Well-being" once again

Seems that Hankyoreh is trying to plant its own modification of the recently suggested Korean-origin word to replace the trendy Anglo-Korean word welbing (from "well-being"). My need to keep up appearances prevents me to provide the link to a recent Hankyoreh article where ch'amsalgi (참살기) is used to replace welbing; the campaign to find replacements for loanwords deemed as awkward and unfitting came up with ch'amsari 참살이 (see the campaign site).(Here's my earlier post about the subject.)

Besides the unlinked reference above, I can find one additional reference to ch'amsalgi from KINDS, so it's clearly the newspaper's own concoction, in itself similar to the campaign suggestion, as both sari and salgi are noun forms of the verb salda.

What about the use of ch'amsari then, since the end of July? As guessed, it will most likely be forgotten; besides the reports of the campaign itself, Donga Ilbo, the sponsor of the replacement campaign has used it a couple of times, Segye Ilbo once.

There was a comment on my earlier post that the one and only Paek Ki-wan had started using the word nôngnôksari (넉넉살이); the commenter added that it sounds at least better than ch'amsari. I'd think that the nuance of wealthy and plentiful life of nôngnôkhada is also unfitting for "well-being".
Well well, the KINDS database is just great: Paek Ki-wan's suggestion is from a poem published in Hankyoreh (excerpt):
그러게 말이야 이 아까운 국을
그러는데 또다시 방송이 호들갑을 떤다
요즈음은 웰빙시대, 웰웰빙빙
물끄러미 그림을 보던 아내의 물음이다
여보 웰빙이 무슨 소리지요
글쎄 건강, 안정, 행복 그런 뜻일거라고 하니
바싹 다가앉으며 묻는다
비가 새는 집에선 건강도 안정도
행복도 몽땅 눈물에 젖는데
그 말을 꼭 웰빙 그래야만 하는거요

맞어 우리말도 있지 넉넉살이라던가, 행복이란 말
그런데 그 행복 말이야
이놈의 벗나래(세상)가 몽땅 썩었는데
한 사람의 행복만 건질 수가 있겠어
그렇다면 입때껏 당신은 뭘 했는데
그 말에 그만 또다시 내 한살매(인생)가 팍싹 무너지는 듯
울컥 이참엔 똥물까지 게우니 아내의 말이다
During the 2002 football/soccer World Cup, Paek Ki-wan published a column (in Donga) in which he used kongch'agi to mean soccer instead of ch'ukku.

Looking at the referrals of my site meter, I saw that someone had come to my pages through the google search "how to remove duck feathers"; I was quite amused at first, but find out that I had actually mentioned about a Korean poultry company where industrial resin had been used to remove duck feathers. Hope the person has not taken that as an advice instead of an example of disregard of people's health in Korea.

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Thursday, August 12, 2004

Tenor Kim Woo-Kyung wins Mirjam Helin singing competition

The Korean tenor Kim Woo-Kyung (김우경) has won the men's first price in the 5th Mirjam Helin singing competition, held every five years in Helsinki. In tomorrow's newspaper the head of the jury Tom Krause said that Kim's technique was perfect, and his interpretation of the two songs in the finals left nothing to desire.
Kim Woo-Kyung sings at the Semper Opera in Dresden.

Eglise Gutierrez and Kim Woo-Kyung Kim Woo-Kyung
Above left, behind Kim who's receiving applause from the public, the winner of the women's first prize, Eglise Gutierrez of Cuba. (c) AL 2004

I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to get free tickets to the finals, as the broadcasting corporation asked me to interpret for the interview of Kim before the finals. Not that he didn't speak English or German, but they wanted to provide a chance to answer without worrying about the language.

Kim's program in the finals was as follows:
1. W. A. Mozart: "Il mio tesoro intanto", the aria of Don Ottavio from Don Giovanni
2. C. Gounod: "Salut, demeure chaste et pure" the cavatina of Faust from the opera Faust

And here's a better picture of the winners, from the competition homepage:
Eglise Gutierrez and Kim Woo-Kyung

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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

2nd "world" congress in Pyongyang took place after all

Earlier I posted a note about the cancellation of the 2nd World Congress of Korean Studies to have been held in Pyongyang on August 3-5. The news of the cancellation, reported in a couple of South Korean newspapers, were apparently a bit hasty, as the congress took place after all, as told to me by email from Dr Andrei Lankov. He also forwarded me an email by Leonid Petrov, who has more info about the event on his North Korean Studies page. (The congress photograph is from Dr Petrov's page.) The Japanese and South Korean co-sponsors had actually informed about the cancellation of the congress to the participants, so only 24 non-Koreans travelled to Pyongyang.

The following is from KCNA:
Second World Congress of Korean Studies Closes
Pyongyang, August 6 (KCNA) -- The Second World Congress of Korean Studies closed in Pyongyang on Thursday. Prior to the closing ceremony panel discussions continued.
Introduced at the panel discussions were the academic successes and experience gained in researches into issues arising in studying time-honored history and culture of the Korean nation spanning five thousand years, adhering to and inheriting and developing the excellent ideological wealth and cultural tradition created by the Korean people.
The participants discussed a lot of academic issues arising in accurately grasping and studying the modern history of the Korean nation including the foundation of the Juche idea, the originality and justice of the great Songun politics, the benevolent politics based on the idea, the line of economic construction and the line of scientific, educational and cultural construction in the Songun era, tasks and ways to achieve national reconciliation, unity and reunification of the nation as required by the era after the publication of the June 15 joint declaration.
A closing meeting was held at the congress.
Thae Hyong Chol, president of the Academy of Social Sciences, in his speech at the closing meeting called upon all the participants to further intensify the study of Koreanology based on the successes and experience achieved at the congress and thus creditably fulfill their mission and duty as intellectuals in the era of reunification who guarantee national reconciliation, cooperation and reunification with knowledge and lead them with brush.
Then followed speeches by Sergey Kurbanov, director of the Center for Korean Language and Culture of Faculty of Oriental Studies of St-Petersburg State University of Russia, Paek Jong Min, chairwoman of the Korean American Women Artistes and Writers Association, and Kim Hwa Hyo, chairman of the Association of Korean Social Scientists in Japan.
A declaration adopted at the congress in the name of its participants noted that they would strive hard to make Korean studies contribute to the reconciliation and cooperation between the north and the south of Korea and to the independent and peaceful reunification of Korea under the banner of the June 15 joint declaration.
The declaration said that they would work hard to deepen the study of the Korean history and culture so that Korean studies may help heighten the dignity and pride of all Koreans.
Kim Jong Yong, vice-president of the Academy of Social Sciences, made a closing address at the congress.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

social democrats within DLP

People who want to make the Democratic Labor Party more oriented towards social democracy have organized themselves into a kind of an association (see homepage). The rift between the so-called socialists and nationalists withing DLP is getting bigger, so this is aimed to be one solution to appeal for wider masses.
I wouldn't mind seeing the position of the nationalists weaken in the DLP, but I'm not sure if DLP is ready for the internationalism that social democracy in principle demands. Would it be ready to join for example The Socialist International, where parties like The Labour of Britain are members?
This movement within DLP should also drive for parliamentary action instead of hunger strikes and the like, since social democracy is about parliamentary democracy - as much as the Korean parliament looks like one big mess, and non-parliamentary political action is a tested method to make one's voice heard. And is there courage in this movement to give more emphasis on minju at the expense of minjok?

Here's one column by a person (as far as I can tell) active in the DLP, about the "anticommunist campaign" by social democratic elements within the DLP before the party elections in June: 민주노동당의 반공캠페인과 사민주의 (from Voice of People).
He is correct, in many Western European nations the social democrats were the most important anticommunist force and the enemy of the dictatorship of the proletariat, standing in the way of the revolution with their reformism.

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Monday, August 09, 2004

taantumus oikealla / 반동(反動)은 우측에 있다네

핀란드 서부사람들도 유머감각이 생각보다 좋은지, 아니면 진짜로 반동세력들의 고향을 지나갔는지 모르겠습니다. 이번 주말에 핀란드 남서부에서 짧은 휴가여행을 갔었을 때 옆에 있는 지명(地名) 표시를 봤습니다. 위에 있는 땅이름은 물론 우리나라 옛 수도인 뚜르꾸인데, 아래에 있는 것은 반동(反動), 즉 진보를 반대하는 뜻입니다. 1970년대에 많이 들을 수 있었다는 말인데, 요새 젊은 애들이 무슨 뜻인지 알고 있을란가 모르겠습니다.

Making notes on Korean subjects will be resumed soon.

Friday, August 06, 2004


Going for a short vacation trip, without any of the above-mentioned substances but in a best company man can have - back next week.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

(Small businesses) Entrepreneurial chicken place keeper

Have been writing some around "entrepreneurship" of the small businesses in Korea; for the neighborhood shops that my research is about, this concept is hardly applicable, as "innovation" is very much lacking. This doesn't need to be only a personal trait, but the not so advantageous environment doesn't encourage for that either. And there is little incentive to invest much in the business either; make a decent living, send the children to a hagwon and university, buy property in the form of real estate or land if there's money left.

Actually the innovative aspect in the "success story" introduced in the linked article is not that prominent, but there is certain entrepreneurial decisiveness.

Hankyoreh tells of an entrepreneurial chicken restaurateur, for whom the bird flu epidemic became a chance. He opened the place right after the end of the epidemic despite of virtually everyone's opposition. He was able to get a shop space cheap from a good location as he took over a shop which was closed because of the bird flu. He took great care in choosing the franchise company; the number of chicken franchises from which to choose must be innumerable.

Opening the 9-pyeong (30 sq.m) chicken restaurant cost 67 million W (45 000 €); franchise fee 27 million, taking over the shop equipment (insubi) 20 mil, shop guarantee 20 mil. [No "premium money" kwôlligûm? He was a lucky guy.] Now 6 months after the opening, average daily sales are 400 000, or 12 million a month. Expenses: raw materials 6 mil, rent 700 000, labor costs 1 mil, advertisement 500 000, electricity 200 000; ==> monthly net profit 3.6 million.

So we learn that personnel costs are 1 mil W a month, which should mean there's one person besides the sajang and most likely his wife.
(Update. I base my assumption of one person besides the keeper and his wife on the picture accompanying the article, in which there are two women. I'm just thinking it's likely that they are the wife and the kitchen woman [chubang ajumma]. For a kitchen woman, 1 mil W doesn't seem to be an unreasonable monthly pay, looking at the personnel ads seeking 주방아줌마 in the net.)

The accompanying article by a business opening consultant emphasizes the need to be innovative in developing new menus and responding to the changing tastes of the customers, but those who belong to a franchise should have quite bound hands in relation to the main company - and that's where the importance of choosing the company is.
The chicken restaurant business is one of the most competed, as well as one of the most popular branches of business for first-timers. Food preparing can be learned quickly, and due to the intensive competition between franchises the conditions for the individual shopkeepers should not be that bad (the last is just my own guessing). And people eat chicken.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Japanese imperial family imposter in Korea (of all places)

Mrs Nakamaru, 'emperor's granddaughter'I have seen news of Koreans who have managed to have their photo taken with for example president Clinton and then used that to cheat money out of people, but a Japanese woman claiming she's a granddaughter of the Meiji Emperor and taking part in a public event in the Republic of Korea is a bit unexpectable. (Hankyoreh, via Daum News.) The lady in question goes by the name Kaoru Nakamaru.

The Japanese embassy denies that there's any person with this name in the register of the imperial family, but a representative of the event is not fooled: "I haven't checked to make sure that she is a descendant of the imperial family, but it's also possible that the Japanese embassy is not telling the truth because it's worried that it would be bad publicity in Japan if it was known that a member of the imperial family is taking part in an event in Korea." Another added: "She's not a descendant of a legal wife but a hitherto undisclosed granddaughter. There's going to be a press conference in Japan soon, in which the real circumstances will be revealed."

Oh my, things get interesting with googling.

A search by her name takes us to the homepage of Following the Sun Association (太陽の会, "association of the sun"), headed by a woman with the above-mentioned name, no doubt the same who is in the photograph with the Korean dignitaries of the some sort of a peace association. Nakamaru's association is about spreading to the world her solution for the everlasting world peace. Seems that she's gone around as a princess elsewhere as well.

But looking at the photo ops Ms Kaoru Nakamaru (中丸薫) has had this far, she surely has the nerve to take part in a Korean peace event as an imperial descendant.

And now we get back to the photographs taken with dignitaries, which have been used to deceive Koreans...

Cartoons of life

Ohmynews shows how cartoons drawn by ordinary people can give wonderful glimpes of daily life.

'아빠, 가려워' ⓒ2004 김충희Married woman's vacation 1 (아줌마의 휴가 1).
Married woman's vacation 2 (아줌마의 휴가 2) by Bae Sun-hee
The writer (or artist actually) has chosen to call this series ajumma's vacation, even though the person is not ajumma in the strict sense of the term - there are no children appearing in the cartoon. But perhaps its her lot as a housekeeper in addition to her wage work which warrants her this designation...
Anyway, the point of the cartoons is that a woman with a husband and parents-in-law cannot expect to spend much of a vacation.

"Dad, I'm itchy! 1" (아빠, 가려워 1) by Kim Chung-hee
"Dad, I'm itchy! 2" (아빠, 가려워 2)
About living with a child with atopic eczema; having been one myself, I think this shows what my parents have been through.

Welcome to the developed world once again, Republic of Korea; the more you develop the more people you'll have with atopic eczema. Finnish researchers have found out the the amount of atopic symptoms on the other side of the border in northern Russia is some 1/5 (if I can remember correctly) of what it's in Finland.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

(Small businesses) Country barber, parikkang

Ohmynews has a nice story, actually an essay, on a countryside barbershop in Miryang, Southern Gyeongsan. Perhaps a story about a barbershop cannot be but nostalgic, emphasizing the human side of the place, considering the out-of-time image that ordinary barbershops (ibalso, ibalgwan) (and I don't mean barbershops where women serve men clientele at night).
The barbershop is old, older than the present keeper, who came to the place as an apprentice and continued as a keeper when the older proprietor retired.

Kasan Ibalgwan
ⓒ 2004 정윤수
parikkang (바리깡 • バリカン)
ⓒ 2004 정윤수

So I learn that the hair cutting device in the picture is called parikkang, after the French company Bariquand et Marre, which manufactured the first hair scissors (cutters?) that arrived at Korea - and Japan. As far as Google can tell, the company itself is long forgotten except for some engines it supplied for aeroplanes at the time of Wright brothers, and the name of hair clipping devices in Japan and Korea. In Korea there's of course the more formal ibalgi. (Is the spelling Bariquand or Barriquand? There are both forms in French-language pages.)

바리캉 / 바리깡The standard Korean spelling given in the most authoritative (almost wrote authoritarian) web dictionary is parik'ang (barikang 바리캉), which is less closer to the Japanese pronunciation. Nevertheless, the the always untouchable Google gives an overwhelming support to 바리깡 over 바리캉.
바리캉 (&프bariquant) 「명」머리를 깎는 기구. 빗 모양으로 된 두 개의 칼을 겹쳐 그중 하나를 좌우로 움직이면서 머리털을 짧게 깎는다. 제조 회사 이름에서 유래한다. '이발기02'로 순화. ¶머리 깎는 바리캉을 움직이며 뒤통수의 중간쯤으로 깎아 올라가다가 모른 척하면서 쑥 잡아 올리면, 누구든지 가죽이 찢어지는 듯해서 비명을 지르게 되는 것이었다.≪황석영, 어둠의 자식들≫§

A reminiscence of the above-mentioned machine, this time from a hairdressing shop in Sillim-dong, Gwanak-gu, in which I was talking with the keeper woman, when a pitiful man, trying to make a living sharpening knives and other things with blades, came in.
A man comes in, in worn clothes, talks a lot, as much as I can understand about knives, selling and sharpening. He finally talks her to allow him to sharpen some of the blades she uses in her machine. It doesn't take long until she makes him to stop, because he does the work all the wrong way. He leaves quickly, saying something like sorry. She has to throw away three blades which cost over 20 000 won apiece when bought new. Nappûn yônggam...

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Monday, August 02, 2004

(Small businesses) Marketplaces, disappearing or holding on

Both Chosun Ilbo and Ohmynews have had something on marketplaces. The Korean term is usually "traditional market" (chaerae sijang), but there isn't actually any concept of "modern" marketplace. (Now that I think, this is the only context I ever see the word chaerae (在來). And also, checking the dictionary, the word also has the meaning of "ordinary, common".)

Chosun, with a headline "Marketplaces, on the verge of death" has also some numbers to back up the message: the registered number of marketplaces in early 90s was 3500, but at the moment 1608. Combined sales in 1998 were 20 trillion won [20조, 13 billion €, right?], but in 2003 only 13 trillion [8.6 billion €]. The main reason for the downfall is mainly in the change of distribution structure; the large discount stores (how are they defined) are gaining ground continuously. "Old and unsanitary buildings, cramped and inconvenient spaces with lacking parking space, aged shopkeepers who lack energy to accommodate" are the reasons one quoted consultant gives.
This time it's not about bad economy - or bad economic policy...

Ohmynews has an ongoing series of reports, "Going to Seoul marketplaces" by Yi Sûng-ch'ôl (Lee Seung-chul?). They are classified under "Stories of Life", not under "Economy".

• First one is about Yongdap market in Seongdong-gu; some general characteristics of the place, descriptions of people the reporter met there, and a note that these markets are losing their competitiveness to big discount markets. A granny who sells beans and leak from a mat on the market street, making 5000-10000 won a day.
요지마다 들어서는 백화점과 대형 할인점 틈바구니에서 경쟁력을 잃고 점점 퇴조해 가는 재래시장, 그러나 그 재래시장에는 따뜻하고 정다운 우리의 이웃들이 삶은 힘겹지만 풋풋한 정을 나누며 오순도순 정답게 살아가고 있었다.

Kangwôn Sanghoe in Yongdap Market; sanghoe (商會) in the shop name is a sure bet to give an old-fashioned appearance. ⓒ2004 이승철, from Ohmynews

Interesting that the writer uses the word sosimin (小市民) in the title: 소시민의 삶이 살아 숨쉬는 '재래시장'; that term means actually "petit bourgeois", coined most likely in Japan to correspond to the Western term. One doesn't hear that very often in Korea, where in common speech the closest concept is usally sômin (seomin); in scholarship they often just use the term as such, 쁘띠 부르조아. In other articles, the marketplace people and the writer use the comfortable sômin.

Sungin market in Gangbuk-gu; this is a place which is holding its ground despite of bad economy.
자신도 60대 초반이라는 그 택시기사는 입이 열리자마자 독설을 뱉어내기 시작했다. 서울시의 교통체계 개편 이후 길은 더 막히고 엉망이라며 시장과 서울시를 성토하더니, 급기야 정부와 대통령으로 이어진 불평은 육두문자까지 섞어가며 침을 튀기는 것이었다.
"우리 같은 서민들이야, 민주화니 정치니 별 것 아닙니다. 그저 배부르고 등 따뜻하면 되는 것 아닙니까. 그런데 이게 뭡니까" 그의 결론이었다.
말을 마치고 일어서는 그에게, 흥분 가라앉히고 운전 조심하라고 말했다. 그가 사라지자 주인이 비로소 말문을 열었다.
사람들이 저래서야 되겠느냐는 것이다. 그래도 이렇게 마음놓고 정부나 대통령을 비판할 수 있는 것도 다 민주화된 덕택이며, 정부나 대통령이 하는 일이 어디 한두 번 가볍게 생각하고 시행하겠느냐는 것이다.
내가 조금 불편하다고, 또는 아무리 국가나 공익에 좋은 정책이라도 내가 조금 손해를 볼 것 같으면 저렇게 욕하고 비판하는 것은 옳지 않다는 것이었다. 그리고 어디 국가 원수를 함부로 욕하고 저래서야 나라꼴이 되겠느냐는 것이다. 아무리 보거나 듣지 않는다고 해도 대통령에게는 국민으로서 거기에 합당한 예우를 해야 할 것 아니냐는 것이다.
두 사람이 같은 육십대지만 생각하고 행동하는 것은 너무나 다르다. 주인 영감의 말을 들으며 이 땅의 착하고 순박한 서민정서의 전형을 보는 듯하여 마음이 알싸하게 저려온다. (Emphasis AL)

Moraenae market in Seodaemun-gu; "vanishing affectionate sight" or something like that, 사라져버린 정(情)겨운 풍경. Once again, the use of chông (jeong 情) in characterizing less modern forms of economic activity, or characteristics of society perceived as less modern in general.
국밥을 주문하고 자리에 앉으며 "점심시간이 지나서 그런지 손님이 없다"고 말하자, "점심시간이 지나서이기도 하지만 손님은 저녁시간에 많다"고 한다.
장사가 어떠냐고 물으니 괜찮단다. 요즘 듣기 어려운 반가운 소리여서 이렇게 손님이 없는데 장사가 잘되느냐고 다시 물으니 이렇게 손님이 없다가도 갑자기 손님들이 몰려들면 앉을 자리가 없을 정도라는 것이었다.
그럼 작년이나 재작년에 비하여 매출이 얼마나 늘었느냐고 묻자, 그렇게는 비교를 할 수 없다는 것이었다. 본래 그릇가게를 했었는데 장사가 너무 안 되어 금년 2월에 음식점으로 업종 변경을 하였고, 그때부터 장사가 제법 쏠쏠하다는 것이었다. 재빠른 변신으로 성공을 거두고 있는 것이리라.
The writer asks if there are any farmers coming to sell their produce directly to the market, but he is told there are hardly any. He is disappointed not to find warm-hearted (hunhunhan insim) peasants selling their fresh vegetables, but then there is one 86-year old granny selling leeks she had grown herself.
어느 좌판 아주머니는 “우리같이 가난하고 힘없는 사람들을 위하는 사람이라고 대통령을 뽑아줬는데, 요즘 돈 많은 사람들은 돈은 외국에 나가 쓰고, 외국으로 돈 빼돌리고 국내에서는 돈을 쓰지 않으니 경기가 풀리지 않아, 서민들은 살아가기가 너무 팍팍하다”고 말했다. 그 아주머니의 푸념하던 목소리가 귓가에 맴돌고 있었다.

• Newest story is about Weolgok Market in Seongbuk-gu, or what used to be a market, as the lot is going to be redeveloped into a 15-story business and apartment building. (These are called chusang pokhap buildings.) At the moment there are just some street stall keepers at the construction site wall.
빼꼼하게 열린 공사장 쪽문을 발견하고 간신히 안으로 들어서니 널찍한 공터가 펼쳐져 있다. 전에 있던 시장터다. 상인들과 손님들이 뒤엉켜 활기차고 떠들썩하던 자리를 중복을 하루 앞둔 뜨거운 햇볕이 완전히 점령한 채, 메말라 가는 인심처럼 바짝 말리고 있었다.
영세상인들의 진한 삶과 애환이 배어 있는 곳, 부근의 가난한 서민들과 상인들이 어울려 가슴 뭉클한 이야기꽃을 피우다가 떠난 자리다. (Emphasis AL)

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