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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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Monday, May 31, 2004

(Urban space) The most expensive piece of land in Seoul

Myeongdong in downtown Seoul has for a long time been leading Seoul (and the whole South Korea) in land prices. The precent record is held by a lot in Chungmuro 1-ga where Starbucks is situated: 38 million W/sq.m (25000€/sqm), or 125 million won/pyeong. (Chosun Ilbo)
Myeong-dong just won't give up its position with the piece of most valuable land.

Below the most expensive spot in Korea in turquoise color right on top of the Myeong-dong subway station, in a map downloaded from the Seoul new address system site. (Click for a bigger picture in a new window.)

Myeong-dong in 1930s, back then called 本町 (not sure what the Japanese pronunciation is); colloquially called Namch'on (南村) as part of the Japanese settlements south of Ch'ônggyech'ôn (Cheonggyecheon), in contrast to Pukch'on (北村) around Chong-no (Jong-no) where Koreans lived.

Picture taken from Seoul in Photographs 1 and Seoul in Photographs 2. Fine collection of historical photographs of Seoul.

Update. The pronunciation of 本町 was Hon-machi, says a Seoul government site on Seoul history.
The problem is that even in Korean-language scholarly depictions of colonial Korea, it's often given in Korean pronunciation of those characters, ponjông / bonjeong.

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Sunday, May 30, 2004

(Small businesses) Highly educated doing street business

Chosun Ilbo has a story of former white collar employees and other university graduates who're now doing streetside businesses.
Seems that Chosun wants to make a point in having this on the main page. Cases like this brings to mind the "IMF era", when many people, highly educated included, had to take to the streets and subway trains.

• Mr Chông used to work in a big company. His distribution business with a partner failed and he was left with a huge debt. He worked in a small company for a while, but quit because of poor pay. Now he's selling vegetables from a truck in Yongsan, having sales of 500 000 W [330€] a day.
• Province university graduate Mr Kim couldn't get any company work, and now he and his girlfriend have decided to use their marriage fund of 30 mil W [20 000 €] for a movable business.
• Mr Yu, who sells mandu 1000 W apiece at a marketplace in Bucheon, Gyeonggi-do, worked in a venture company after finishing grad school, but the dot-com boom got to and end. His attempt at a fried chicken shop ended in a failure in 6 months. After that his haemult'ang dish delivery restaurant failed for using a wrong kind of a neighborhood, and the next he didn't succeed in was a fried chicken delivery place, which he gave up due to the bird fever.

Selling squid from a truck in Busan
Selling squid from a truck in Busan.
(c) AL 2001
A special truck manufacturer tells that more and more highly educated young people search for modified trucks for movable business instead of the mainly older and less affluent (pinmin and sômin / seomin) people of before. The article concludes by borrowing the words of a business opening consultant, that as the saving capability of many university graduates is weak during the present slow economy, the number of highly educated people seeking to have a street business is expected to grow.

Neighborhood women buying horse radish from a truck salesman. (c) AL 2001

For local residents, these roaming traders often provide good services comfortably, like bringing fresh produce during harvest seasons, but from the point of view of permanent shopkeepers they can be a huge annoyance and cause economic loss. Since these truck traders hardly play income tax as well as the shopkeepers, the competition is not even. But I also kind of appreciate that it is possible to make ends meet even with this kind of occupation.
In my own neighborhood in southern Seoul, I remember a situation when a vegetable and a fish shop keeper got mad at a truck trader who dared to venture to the same street. Nevertheless, people's view of the shopkeeper's behavior wasn't favorable, because he couldn' mind his manners and because the truck trader stayed far from the shop.

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Saturday, May 29, 2004

(Korean language) Latin character signs for Seoul bus lines

I read from Ohmynews that Seoul is going to (or has it already?) redesigned bus lines into four groups marked with a distinct color and a Latin character (G, B, R and Y, from the English words for the four colors).
• First, kudos for the Ohmynews writer for using mostly the word romaja in the article. For a non-English speaker, to get to the point of being apathetic when seeing one's own writing, that is letters, characters, to be called "English" has been mentally painful. But it is good to see every now and then someone to make a difference between language (mal) and writing (kûl / geul).
• Improving the outlook of Seoul buses (or downtown buses anywhere in Korea) is a welcome project; it's not only facelift that the bus traffic in Seoul needs, but that's one facet.
• Marking bus lines with only Latin characters is something I don't want to accept. It's true that Latin characters have become much more common method of writing that han'geul purists want to acknowledge, and acknowleding the fact that Lating characters are a part of writing systems in Korea is timely, but using only Lating characters in a public service system like buses is not acceptable. Shops may be free to put any kind of signboards they like, but buses are different. Not using the Korean script in marking bus lines is not right kind of modernization.
It is also a matter of linguistic equality for the Korean citizens.

In the bottom of the article there's a reply from the Seoul authorities:
• They are meant to be symbols for the colors rather than characters to be read. The colors and letter symbols were determined to be better designations than Chinese-character words difficult to understand (chisôn, kansôn). The decision was made after wide consultations and collection of opinions from citizens. The redesign operation is being done in 58 bus companies for 8100 vehicles and in 144 "village bus" (maûl pôsû) companies for 1600 vehicles, so it'd be difficult to make changes at this stage. (End of the reply of Seoul authorities.)

Another example of adjusting the domestic language usage to the perceived needs of foreigners. The language cop inside me couldn't help being irritated by the clearly false use of language in a station announcement in a local commuter train here. The adessive ending -ssa (or -ssä) had been omitted where it should have been; I enquired about this from the National Railways, and the answer was that it was thought that it'd be easier for the foreigners to understand the station names in their basic forms! The logic is that "the foreigners" would miss the stations if the announcement went Huopalahdessa ja Pasilassa (at Huopalahti and at Pasila) instead of the now chosen Huopalahti ja Pasila.

Update 2. Media Daum has a Yonhap article, in which the meanings of the four kinds of bus lines, distinguished by the four colors, are explained.
Blue: main lines (kansôn). The longest and most zigzagging routes are rearraigned and straightened.
Green: branch lines (chisôn).
Red: metropolitan routes(kwangyôk), from Seoul to surrounding areas in Gyeonggi-do
Yellow: shuttle routes (sunhwan), going between Seoul and surrounding areas, meant for commuting and shoppers.

Update 3.
The following is from the official Gangnam-gu site (language unaltered):
Reformation of the bus routes and number system
Main line (Blue Bus)
Section: city's outer limits ~ metropolis, metropolis ~ sub-center of metropolis, sub-center ~ sub-center
Number: above 100 (ex: 101)
Local line (Green Bus)
Section: transfer/connection of blue bus and subway, as well as short-distance trips
Number: region + number in the 10s (ex: Dobong02, Gangbuk12)
Loop line (Yellow Bus)
Section: Circling metropolis and sub-center areas
Number: number in the 10s (ex: 01, 12)
Large-area line (Red Bus)
Section: capital and bordering area ~ Seoul metropolis, sub-center
Number: number in the 1000s (ex: 7512)

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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Marketplace politics

Both the left and the right find their way to the marketplaces to see the ordinary people when it's the election time. First below is a popup ad of a Democratic Labor Party (DLP) candidate for the governor of Gyeongnam in the upcoming elections there. Below that, Pak Jin of Grand National Party (GNP) greeting his constituency in Jongno-gu, Seoul after winning the parliamentary elections in April.

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KCNA bids farewell to Dr Underwood

It is time the U.S. imperialist aggression troops were made to leave south Korea just as the Underwood family, the scout of aggression.
I don't want to litter my site any more with this, but those interested in the DPRK view of the Underwood family, here's the link to KCNA.

(Korean economy) Credit card use diminished 41% from last year

The use of credit cards during the first quarter of 2003 has dimished 41% from the same period of 2003. The number of credit card transactions dimished by 7%, but the number of business establishment accepting credit cards grew by 9%. (Hankyoreh)

The combined monetary value of credit bills (ôûm 어음) and checks decreased by 26% compared to last year.

Perhaps this kind of a decrease is not as clear an indicator of economy as in places where credit cards have not been issued as recklessly as in Korea, as part of it could be seen as normalization of the credit card market, but still this piece of news fits too well with the widespread perceptions of the bad shape of the economy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Peaceful and happy Buddha's birthday 부처님 오신 날에 평화와 행복을 빕니다

Sŏngjuam (聖住庵) in Kwanak-san on Buddha's birthday 1997 (May 14).

Hunjang in the mountains

Village teacher (hunjang) reads diligently even at the peak of the farming season. ⓒ2004 김대호 (Ohmynews)
A hunjangnim resides in a mountain village, teaches Chinese characters, etiquette and calligraphy to the kids, tills the land and enjoys popularity among the grannies (Ohmynews). Mr Yi, the hunjang, composed a poem called Sanjungmundap (山中問答, Questions and answers in the mountain) for the writer of the article, who himself is an artist:
출처 : 왜 산에서 사냐면? 웃지요 - 오마이뉴스
Miksi asun siintävillä vuorilla?
 笑而不答心自閑(소이불답심자한) Ehkä naurat, mutta mieleni on tyyni.
 桃花流水杳然去(도화유수묘연거) Persikankukka kulkee vettä kauas
 別有天地非人間(별유천지비인간) Täällä olen maailmalta muualla.
Finnish translation from the colloquial Korean translation provided in the article. The difference between one's own and a foreign language is so clear when trying to translate a poem. I just can't get it done in English.

Hunjangnim teaches Chinese characters to the village kids. ⓒ2004 김대호 (Ohmynews)
Turns out that the village teacher abandoned a thriving business and left for the mountain. He had done his duty as a parent and sent his childern to the world, learned classics and writing from a master and entered the mountain. The life is now so carefree and stressless that he thinks he might as well live up to 120.
(Cannot help thinking that the previous business has provided a good economic base for his present leeway. He is lucky to be able to afford that.)

The above poem in colloquial Korean:
왜 푸른 산에서 사느냐고?
웃어 보일 뿐 내 마음 한적하기만 하네
복숭아꽃 물길 따라 아득히 흘러가는데
여기가 바로 딴 세상 속세를 떠났도다
출처 : 왜 산에서 사냐면? 웃지요 - 오마이뉴스

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Plight of the ordinary people, discount stores and a new kind of a vending machine

Chosun Ilbo has sent "housewife reporters" to find out about the bad shape of the "ordinary people's" economy. And it's difficult according to the people who are given voice. The usual pattern of talk is "before - now"; how it used to be better than now even during the "IMF crisis"
임씨는 “교육열 높은 한국 엄마들이 사교육비를 줄이기 시작했다는 건 정말 막판까지 왔다는 증거”라고 말했다. (It really looks like the end of everything when Korean mothers obsessed with education have begun to cut private education expenses.)
식당에서 일한다는 한 40대 중반 여성은 “하루 종일 몸이 부서져라 일하지만 손에 남는 게 없다”면서 “IMF 때만 해도 이렇게 힘들진 않았는데…”라고 말끝을 흐렸다. 남편이 도박을 하다 카드빚만 불려 놓은 채 가출해 버리는 바람에 온갖 허드렛일을 다 하면서 생활하고 있다고 한다. (A woman who does odd restaurant jobs after her husband left home because of credit card debts due to gambling, says it's worse than during "the IMF".

Foreign discount stores are coming into Korea in increasing numbers (Chosun Ilbo). Homeplus, owned by Samsung-Tesco will open 10 "supersupermarkets" (SSM). These are somewhere between the discount stores and supermarkets in scale, between 300 and 1000 p'yông (pyeong) (1000-3000 sqm), and prospects of this kind of shops supposed to be good.
(Supersupermarket; the way the meaning of "supermarket" has been inflated in Korea, I guess they had to come up with a new term.)
We also may think that not all of the difficulties of small shops and marketplaces is due to the bad overall economy. It wasn't after all any economic downturn that's taken away downtown corner shop (mom-and-pop stores) here.

"Business item briefing" in Chosun.
There's for example a "well-being business opening seminar" (웰빙창업 세미나) and a "restaurant prospect seminar" (유망 외식창업 전략 세미나).

The last one is interesting, and shows some of the Korean ingenuity: a coffee and lottery ticket vending machine. I guess the system is that the owner of the machine rents a space for the machine from someone or has the machine in one's own space. Call (02)3452-5552.

Monday, May 24, 2004

The new address system in Seoul

It's been already a few years since I've become aware of the plans for a new address system in Seoul, and in the summer of '02 when I was in Korea the last time the street signs were already up. But I've yet to hear of any actual use of these street names and addresses based on them; I'd really like to see that happen, but it seems this one piece of Japanese colonial legacy is not so easy to get rid of... Ended up, browsing for whoknows what, at the Seoul Metropolitan Government new address system site. There's also a search function for the new addresses, found from the link 주소찾기, but seems that I can't get the han'gul to show most likely because of the Java. But my original entry site through googling to the main Seoul site was this, where there are only Gwanak-gu addresses; the Korean characters appear, but without the Java script map. (And that's fine with me, cause that's my hood.)

Below is a map snippet from Sillim-dong, found by clicking my way through the map from the main site linked above. This is the place where I've spent most time in Korea, and this is the place where some of the locals bantered me that "there comes the ward chief again", for my habit (no, research!) of going around from place to place. The street (or alley, as the locals call it, kolmok) in the middle is Eunhaengdanji-gil (은행단지길); also the side alleys have the same street name. The houses are numbered so that odd numbers are one one side and even numbers on the other: Eunhaengdanji-gil 4, Eunhaengdanji-gil 7 etc. Houses on the side alleys are numbered by adding a dash and a number to the house number on the main line of the street: Eunhaengdanji-gil 7-1 etc. The street going downwards is Bongmaeul-gil (Bok-maeul-gil, 복마을길) and the ones on the right and lower right Sutgama-gil (숯가마길), of which there are numbers 1 to 5.

My wishes for a successful implementation of this system; the street names look ok, and I won't be missing the old system if it's sometimes gotten rid of. (Well, feel some nostalgy perhaps.)

The romanized forms of the new street names are at the English language site.

Click for a larger picture to open in a new window

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Sunday, May 23, 2004

Comeback of beepers (삐삐 부활)?

Brings back some Korea memories, this piece in Hankyoreh that the demand for beepers is on the rise. Beepers were on display in "Wireless Korea Expo 2004", and the number of users increases by 1000 each month. In '97 the number of subscribers was 15 million, and late last year 5000. Most of the new subscribers are said to be doctors and entrepreneurs (yôngôpchik). There's no ppippi spam, and the only fee paid monthly is cheap.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

(Korean language) Charting the appearance of jjang

Internet Hankyoreh traces the appearance of the term jjang (tchang, 짱), which nowadays is used not only among the young to describe something that is best, on the top, like momjjang (someone with a good body, mom) or ôljjang (someone with a good-looking face; ôlgul ==> ôl).
Interesting how different more or less authoritative sources give different etymologies for jjang.
National Institute of Korean Language Kungnip kugô yôn'guwôn researcher thinks it derives most likely from chang (jang 長), like the pronunciation of the consonant of ki (氣) has lengthened to kki. A SNU professor thinks the same. (Jang 長 is used in the meaning of "head of" in terms like sajang, "company president" or hoejang "chairman", etc.) On the other hand, a researcher from Han'gûl Hakhoe [Korean Language Society], which I understand is a kind of a place not to emphasize the influence of Chinese characters in the Korean language, is of the opinion that the contexts and uses of 長 and jjang are too different for the latter to have derived from the former.

Ddanji Ilbo, which is a source to be taken almost as seriously as the previous ones, has proposed that it may have had come either from the Japanese chan (ちゃん), a term of address and reference especially attached to young people's names, or from jjangdol, which was a kind of a self-made weapon used to be hurled at the police along with Molotov cocktails (*).

The writer tracks the appearance of --jjang in the media in late 90s. I'm quite certain that he has used the newspaper database at KINDS, which has the articles of all major dailies (except Joongang, I think) since 1990 and much other data as well. Subscription strongly recommended for those who need to find newspaper article data!

So why the popularity of --jjang? A researcher from the Cyberculture Research Institute (사이버문화연구소) thinks that it has to do with giving recognition to those who excel in socially less recognized areas such as fighting and games. The article also mentions the view that it's an example of subculture picked up by the mainstream for commercial purposes, and also a critical view that the use of term forces standardized norms of appearance. The two final quotes from a journalist and a scholar end up being rather critical of the use of jjang:
국민일보 김현덕 부장은 칼럼에서 유리가 짱하고 깨지듯 똑부러지게 해석했다. 그는 “또래들의 용돈이나 갈취하던 짱이 빛의 세계로 등장하는 데는 주먹짱들의 의리와 사랑을 다룬 ‘친구’ ‘품행제로’ ‘화산고’ ‘두사부일체’ ‘말죽거리 잔혹사’ 등 수많은 학원 폭력영화의 상업적 성공에 힘입은 바 크다”고 분석했다.

애초, 키짱인 기자가 짐작했던 ‘1등주의’와 ‘짱’에 대한 연관성은 민현식 교수가 살짝 내놨다. 그는 “우상은 종교나 신앙으로 나타나기도 하는데, 하느님도 짱이다”고 말했다. “기성권위에 대항해서 새로운 것을 추구하고, 다양한 최고의 절대자를 원하면서 개인숭배의식이 강해지기도 한다”며 “사회가 불안하면 히틀러식의 우상숭배로 갈 수도 있다”고 봤다. 그는 “우리 사회가 정신적 안정감이 떨어지다보니 이런 현상이 더 강하다”고 분석했다.

(*) For those who wonder why Molotov, it was Finnish soldiers in 1939-40 who gave the name for the gasoline bottles thrown at Soviet tanks. Molotov was felt as the main culprit of the attack, and his name sounds a bit stupid and ridiculous for Finnish ears.)

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Friday, May 21, 2004

Unannounced conferences

Earlier I had made an entry that a conference with as grand name as 2nd World Congress of Korean Studies, organized in Pyongyang, DPRK next August had gone unnoticed by me until month after the proposal deadline. Not that I've gotten accustomed to get every conference announcement straight to my desk, but I do search quite extensively every now and then for scholarly events worth attending.

This spring I've also been wondering whether the Korean Anthropological Society is going to have its yearly conference at all, usually held at the end of May, beginning of July. I've followed notices at the Society homepage and couple of other notice boards, but it's only two weeks since I learned about the conference that takes place this weekend. Not that I'd been able to attend, but still. Previously I've attended three times, and they've always been good occasions to learn and socialize. (The pictures of a shaman ritual I have elsewhere at this site are from one of these conferences.) What I've always liked about the Korean anthro community, especially compared to us here in Finland, is that it's truly national. The chairmanship goes around the country, these conferences are held all over despite of the centrality of metropolitan Seoul in Korea in general.

The theme of the conference this time is "Resistance at the perimeter: the meaning of the alternative, resistant subcultures in Korea" (주변의 반란: 한국의 대안적, 저항적 하위문화의 의미) (The conference program). ("Adjustment at the perimeter" would've been more fitting theme for my own stuff...)

I want to think (or hope) that it's been only because of poor information and lack of planning that these conferences have been kept out of public.

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Google search in the sidebar

Tried to add a customized Google search in the sidebar. Otherwise it would seem to work ok, except for the language coding. The search result page appearing in a new window is not in Unicode, and I don't know why. It actually makes the whole thing useless, especially as I insist on using the ^s over some vowels in transcribing Korean, and neither does it search on han'gul. I'll leave it there for a moment if only to make a cool impression. If it worked well, it'd be useful at least for me, to find things that I've made notes on. Suggestions concerning it are welcome.

Everyday objects of contemporary Korean history 2

Some new images from the net exhibition of everyday objects of contemporary Korean history at the University of Seoul Museum. (Notice that the museum site and the linked pics below don't always open well.)

Slightly bigger photographs open by clicking in a new window.

Info/propaganda booklets "What is national tax audit" (kukse chosa) and "This is how our life has changed"

Grammar school textbooks from 1950-60s

A self-study textbook (1963); note the teeth painted in black

Pump organ, p'unggûm (there's nothing especially Korean in that; it must be a quite widely shared experience to sing to the teacher's pump organ accompaniment)

Middle school uniform and cap, high school drill (교련) uniform, boy's schoolbag and sport shoes

Girl's school uniform, shoes, schoolbag

A poster urging to register marriages: "registered marriages, protected by law"; the campaign was a joint project with Korean authorities and USOM (United States Operations Mission), which is (or was) I guess an agency channeling US aid.

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Thursday, May 20, 2004

ROK army as a force of modernization

Yi Sun-ja and Chun Doo-hwan voting in the April 15 elections. Linked from Hankyoreh 21Many memories from the 1980s must have been evoked by the recent reappearance of Chun Doo-hwan's wife Yi Sun-ja (Lee Soon-ja) in connection with the recent developments in tracing the former president Chun's hidden money. The novelist Yi Sang-nak has a column in Hankyoreh 21 weekly about the feelings of seeing "that woman" again after a long time: the lavishness of her clothes, stories of her enormous collection of shoes, corruption around her and so on. Also the numerous jokes: a woman so greedy that she goes around all the time with a rice scoop chugôk. (That's of course a reference to her jutting chin, on which she is since then supposed to have had plastic surgery, says my family informant). Her supposedly huge influence over her husband was expressed in remaking the Chinese character phrase isim chônsim (以心傳心, "communion of minds") to 李心全心, "Yi's mind is Chun's mind".

What I was going to say was what I talked with my wife as we saw the above column, as she has lived through the Chun era. She noticed that the appearance of Yi Sun-ja was actually a sort of a historical point; before that the wives of politicians and high officials had not appeared in public with their husbands but kept in private more in line with the traditional Korean separation of the man's and woman's spheres. But soldiers, generals were different; they had been in contact with Americans, from whom they no doubt had gotten a lot of influence, and they came to public with their wives.
I have a feeling that this part of the military's influence on the modern Korea has not been looked into enough, but perhaps it's not surprising, as it cannot be a very popular topic.

Wonder if this kind of "transgression" of the traditional woman's role had partly contributed to her unfavorable image, besides the fact that her husband had become a president by a coup and was highly unpopular, bloodshed in Kwangju, huge corruption around her, and her shameless lavishness.
Now I remember also one of my shopkeeper acquaintances saying at the time of the '99 "clothing lobby scandal" hearings that one reason why the women were being targeted so much criticism was that they had stepped over the limits of women's sphere. (One the one hand, the kind of a behind-the-scenes handling of men's affairs by women could be said to very much belong to women's domestic sphere.)

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Monday, May 17, 2004

Hankyoreh surveying the preference of social models

Update 2 (Wednesday, May 19)
It just now came to my mind that Hankyoreh had, besides slyly putting the attributes USA (Miguk) and Scandinavia/Northern Europe (Pukku) for the two systems contrasted in the survey, in fact compared oranges and apples. The liberal democracy, associated with USA in the survey, is a political system which also the North European/Scandinavian countries adhere to and in which the social democratic parties also operate. 사회민주당들은 자유민주주의에서 활동하는 정당들이며 결국 자유민주주의에서만 존재할 수 있는 정당들이다. Koreans talking about social democracy may be surprised that many Scandinavian social democrats, especially the late Olof Palme of Sweden, were very much influenced by the ideas of American democracy, albeit of Palme's later harsh criticism of USA.
Social democracy, as implied in the survey, is an economical model which has been practiced in Northern Europe, Sweden in the front (and our Finland following behind), but under liberal democracy.
Got to ask still that what the survey results would have been without the labels "American" and "Northern European" (Scandinavian).

Update (Tuesday, May 18 2004). The editorial board member Son Seok-chun (손석춘) has a column "Silent revolution" (Choyonghan hyôngmyông), which comments the survey results that I've quoted below. Perhaps I would've been disappointed if Son hadn't connected the survey results to the bad influence that the conservative (sorry, reactionary, sugu) press is having on the people, since this is Son's trademark, lecturing the unenlightened.
"사회민주주의는 개량주의라고 딱지 붙일 수도 있다" (Social democracy can also be labeled as reformism). Yes, that's what it is, and terms like "revolution" should be kept far from it, since it's the opposite of how social democracy has defined itself (at least since the appearance of revolutionary socialism).
I'd like to see Son cease using social democracy in the "media reform" campaign; as much as many of the media market characteristics that the media reformers crave for exist in Scandinavia, they are more results of the markets than "social democratic" market control. "But in Korea the newspaper owners are bad, while in the West they are good." Yeah, sure. (This last is not from Son but exaggeration of something I think I've read in an interview in Ohmynews.)
And Son should also not refer to social democracy as long as he is not willing to make a clear distance to the dictatorship of the DPRK. 사회민주주의를 운운하는 사람은 어느 핀란드 사민당 원로가 옛날에 이렇게 말했다는 것은 명심했으면 좋겠다. "사회민주주의에서 민주주의는 항상 사회주의를 앞선다". 이런 걸 손위원장도 인식했으면 좋겠다. 손 위원장이 추진하는 민족주의는 사회민주주의와는 먼 것이다. 사민당을 찍는 사람으로서 사실은 좀 기분 나쁘다, 솔직히 말하면.
Son of course doesn't mention the contradiction that the newspaper itself readily admits (see leader in Korean, in English), that people want things financed by the state but are not being ready to pay more taxes themselves. This shows that Koreans are not ready for any "social democratic welfare state". Taxation is an important part of the redistribution of wealth, and this Koreans don't want to do.

I'll repeat what I wrote already below: 사회민주주의는 뭔지 알기나 하나, does he know what he's talking about?

Hankyoreh has been polling Koreans on what kind of a society is desirable.
(I'm going to have to make this short as Grandfather Kwôn's stories for my dissertation are more pressing.)

"North European social democracy 45%"; this is the percentage of respondents favoring what we here have been more or less enjoying for decades (the length depending on the Northern European country). "US model liberal democracy" was favored by 39% of the respondents. We don't know how many alternatives were given in the survey, but looking at the figure, it seems as if there were only three.
(Let's not expect any social model with "USA" (Miguk) in it get many sympathy votes.)

Let me ask: 사회민주주의는 뭔지 알기나 하나, do they know what they are favoring?

"Social security favored over material abundance"; some mor cynical might say that dogs and cows are laughing at this survey result. (Let's note that I'm not ridiculing the preferences of the respondents, especially as one who has enjoyed much of what many Korean's here would seem to like to have. But it's the question of the relation between the citizen and the state, which disfavors implementation of this kind of policies, noticed also by Hankyoreh in the linked article below.)
"탁아·노후복지 재원 국가 부담" 77% - childcare, care of old, government financing 77%
"부자 세금 늘려 예산 확보" 90% 넘어 - 90% for more taxes for the rich
절반 이상 "시장경제 정부역할 확대" - more than half for increased gov't role in economy
해고 "규제를" 71% "자유롭게" 26% - layoff restriction 71%, freer layoff 26%
'재벌활동제한' 강화가 완화보다 높아 - more restrictions for chaebôls
And then comes the part of the survey which should surprise few: "Only 18% want to pay more taxes to finance social welfare". Nine out of 10 were of the opinion that the rich should pay more taxes, but less than one out of five was ready to increase one's own tax burden. 43% wanted the tax burden to decrease, and 37% were happy with the present level.

This is the actual legitimacy of the South Korean state in the eyes of the citizens as far as taking care of their money is concerned. Call us Northern Europeans dumb, but there's quite a large consensus that the tax money goes for the common good which is in the end advantageous for oneself, but for Korea I only need to recall the neighborhood shopkeepers' very negative attitude towards the national pension system which was implemented some years ago. (Another minor detail is what my Korean friend told of a so-called progressive lawyers' association in which she used to work: only one lawyer working in the association paid taxes properly.)

I remember it being told that some Finnish communists who had their feet mostfirmly off the ground used to talk that the state should pay the taxes.

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Everyday objects of contemporary Korean history

While looking for info on the prices of rice in Korea in the end of 50s and early 60s I ended up at the site of the Musem of the (Municipal) University of Seoul, where there's a wonderful pictorial exhibition of everyday objects of contemporary Korean history.

Move your pointer on top of the picture to see the capture.
A bigger picture opens in a new window by clicking the linked picture.

I wanted to find some new info on the price of rice, because I have so conflicting information on it. Jo Jung-rae in his novel Han'gang tells that one kama (80 kg) of rice cost 13000 hwan in 59-60 (an earlier post of mine). But according to Grandfather Kwôn who used to keep a laundry in Sillim-dong, and who in the common Korean fashion often compared prices in the old times to the price of one kama of rice, the price in the late 50s and early 60s was from 1000 to 4000 hwan.
(11.6.99) TV set cost the same as a house… a TV set cost 200 kama (sacks) of rice.
(13.12.99) At that night I spent 20 000 won, which was the price of 5-6 kama of rice, sangsanghal sudo ŏmnŭn ton, almost one month's salary for her father.

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Sunday, May 16, 2004

(Small businesses) This time the signboard rules will be enforced...

Rules concerning signboards in the so-called new towns to be constructed will be made more rigid and also enforced according to the new plans in the Ministry of Construction and Transportation (Chosun Ilbo). The disorderly signboards ruin the city aesthetics and are also a danger to the traffic, causing accidents.

• Only one horizontal signboard per business establishment; vertical signboards not allowed; protruding signboards allowed only in buildings with 4 or more stories and in a uniform fashion
• In buildings 3 stories or less, signboards must fit into the space between the stories; in buildings with more than 3 stories, signboards are allowed only in the upper part (건축물 상단) and in the side (측면) of the building
• Protruding signboards are allowed when horizontal ones cannot be used, and then only on the 2nd floor (2층).
Only in medical facilities, pharmacies, barber and hairdressing shops (!) protruding signboards are allowed in the ground floor in case they do not obstruct traffic.
• Signboards in windows are allowed to take 20% of the window space and cannot be attached closer than 1 meter from the ground.
• Only colors that fit the surroundings are allowed, and text shall be in quadrangle lettering (사각체)

The ministry offical tells that the intention is that the older streets and existing cities and towns would follow these rules voluntarily as they are first enforced in the newly built new towns.

The illustration is a Korean cartoon from late 20s, being sarcastic about oversized signboards in exposition (pangnamhoe) shops. It was recently published in Modôn ppoi Kyôngsôngûl kônilda (see the sidebar).

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

(Small businesses) Extorting a street stall keeper

One Mr Chông has extorted 100 million won (€ 67000) from a street stall keeper nojômsang Mun during the last three years, tells Hankyoreh in an article about the arrest of Mr Chông. Mr Mun had started a "hot bar" (hatpa, see photo) stall in Myeongdong in a site where Chông had kept his own street stall earlier; Chông saw an opportunity and went to visit Mun with another street stall keeper, demanding either that Mun pay instead the debt taken by Chông of 70 million W or pay Chông 25% of his sales. Chông and his associate also beat up Mun. Charisse, "site tax" was the pretext under which the extortion happened.
Mun ended up paying Chông 2-3 million won a month, which added up to more than 100 million in three years.

This Mr Chông doesn't seem to have been a gangster (kkangp'ae) even though he has clearly followed the example of what is widely told to be happening elsewhere. Being formally illegal, it's difficult for the street stall keepers to seek legal protection (and they can't know on whose side the police is). This extortionist (?) Chông was also in one sense acting according to common practise: street stall sites are traded like any other formal shop space with premiums (kwôlligûm) and all. We don't know for sure whether Mr Mun earned all the money he got extorted by the street stall, but it's a lot of money, and will also add to the talk that some street stall keepers after all can earn a lot.

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Friday, May 14, 2004

"Well-being", it's a modern thing

I have in a couple of earlier entries (side-dish shop; pizza and well-being) noted the present marketing and life-style fad of "well-being" (웰빙), which is about eating and living healthily and so on. This is just a short piece in Chosun about the phenomenon, that also wheat flour must be manufactured and marketed in the "well-being" mode in order to sell well. Black bean flour is mixed into wheat flour and sold as a health product. Black beans have become known as a foodstuff good in preventing the "adult diseases" (sônginbyông), diseases that one's in danger of contracting when growing older.
Still, a comment from Chosun's "100-character comments", suspecting that it's a marketing plot to raise prices:
웰빙.. 좋은 말인데, 맛은 있겠는지.. 괜히 섞느라 가격만 더 올라가는 것은 아닐까? 웰빙이 붙으면 얼마나 가격이 올라가는지 비교해 보자.

It's difficult to be critical of this fad, but I wonder when this spreads from housewives to cover also for example the working hours and semi-compulsory drinking and others. But, of course this "well-being" trend is about women taking care of their husbands who meet all the dangers of the world and are at risk of getting a sônginbyông. These deseases tend not to be associated with women.

It's a very interesting phenomenon and one of the latest things in what is it to be modern in Korea. And part of it is this reappreciation of traditional things. In the 60s mixing white rice with barley and beans was a sign of poverty, that the person (or the whole nation) didn't have enough rice.

(Those interested in a scholarly treatment [see my pun!] of the concept of sônginbyông can read June J. H. Lee's "Discourses of Illness, Meanings of Modernity: A Gendered Construction of Sônginbyông" in Under Cosntruction: The Gendering of Modernity, Class, and Consumption in the Republic of Korea, ed. by Laurel Kendall, Hawai'i UP 2002)

It's no different from what we've had here; consumption of white wheat bread grew when the nation got wealthier, but now the good old rye bread is firmly in its traditional position.

The Nordic Rye Group says: Eat rye!

Which reminds me that rye bread has been part of the well-being campaigning also in Korea. Here's a rye burger from Lotteria, quite different from the rye bread in the other picture:

Update. Hankyoreh has a piece on "well-being" home electronic appliances. The sales of electronic appliances are down, but gadgets to improve health and well-being like air cleaners (공기청정기) and oxygen generators (산소발생기) are selling well.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Ei parta pahoille kasva, turpajouhet joutaville

Donga Ilbo reports that many male entertainers are busy growing a beard. To me the results are not very remarkable yet compared to for example the parlamentarian Kang Ki-gap of Democratic Labor Party, or the musician Kim Tôk-su (Kim Duk-soo), who has as long as I know donned a well-trimmed goatee.
The bearded persons beginning from the upper left are Chông U-sông (Jeong Woo-seong), Yi Sông-jae (Lee Sung-jae), Kim Min-jun, Eric, Yi Tong-gôn, Kang Ki-gap, and Kim Duk-soo.

The title is a Finnish proverb saying that bad and worthless people cannot grow a beard.

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Revival of dept store shuttle busses?

In the summer of 2001 department stores and retail stores were forbidden to operate shuttle buses, which had been taking customers from residential ares to the shopping facilities. Back then, the basis for the legislation was the effect shuttle buses had on ordinary bus traffic operation, and there was also the idea of assisting the "neighborhood business sphere" (tongne sanggwôn) and traditional marketplaces (chaerae sijang). As so many things, the shuttle bus prohibition had two sides; shopping for many became less convenient, but "small capital" was given some breathing space in regard to "big capital".
Munhwa Ilbo June 29, 2001. 백화점과 대형할인점 등 유통업체의 셔틀버스 운행을 금지한 법률에대해 헌법재판소가 29일 합헌결정을 내림에따라 셔틀버스 운행이 30일부터 전면 중단돼 수도권의 중소 유통업체와 재래시장들이 바빠졌다.
그동안 대형 유통업체의 물량 공세에 짓눌려 있던 중소 시장 상인들은 지금이 다시 없는 호기라며 ‘손님맞이 총공세’를 벌이는 등 ‘빼앗긴’ 고객 되찾기를 위한 발빠른 행보에 나서고 있다.
이들은 특히 매출이 최소한 10% 이상 증가할 것으로 전망하고 전문 도우미까지 고용해 대대적인 판촉행사를 벌이는가 하면, 각종 할인 이벤트와 사은잔치를 벌이는 등 희색이 가득한 상태다.
[서울신문 2001-06-29] 헌법재판소의 셔틀버스 운행 금지 결정에 따라 유통업체와 지자체 등이 대책 마련에 부심하고 있다.그동안 셔틀버스를 이용해왔던 주민들은 부정적인 반응을 보였다.
백화점 셔틀버스를 자주 탔던 성남시 분당구 서현동에 사는 정모씨(48)는 “도시 전체가 백화점 버스로 연결된 분당에서 셔틀버스는 신도시문화의 일부라고 할 수 있는데이를 금지하는 것은 주민 대다수의 정서에 맞지 않는다”고 꼬집었다. [...] 전국 303곳의 백화점과 할인점에서 운행하는 셔틀버스는총 2,586대.서울에만 1,200대가 다니고 있다.이중 1,000여대는 ‘합법 운행’에 쓰인다고 해도 2,000여대는 무용지물이다.외국이나 기존 마을버스 회사에 매각하는 방안을검토중이지만 물량소화에 한계가 있다.
Tonga Ilbo 2001.7.5 ▷미국 뉴욕 같은 대도시에서도 시의원들이 선거자금을 기부하는 식료품 가게 주인들의 이익을 위해 물건값이 싼 대형 할인매장이 들어서는 것을 막는 일을 한다. 한국에서도 지역구 의원들은 동네슈퍼마켓 의류가게 문구점 주인은 숫자가 많으니 이들의 압력을 의식하지 않을 수 없다. 전국버스운송사업조합 한국슈퍼마켓협동조합연합회 등이 활발하게 법률개정 청원활동을 벌인 끝에 여야의원 54명이 발의한 셔틀버스 금지 법안은 2000년 12월 국회를 통과했다.

Now the supermarkets are taking up the topic of restarting the operation of shuttle buses (Chosun Ilbo). The Association of Department Stores has expressed an opinion that due to the bad economy and demands of the customers it's time to reconsider the shuttle bus prohibition. Also the worsening traffic conditions in cities is cited as a reason for reopening the shuttle bus traffic.

The Association of Supermarkets (Han'guk syup'ômak'et hyôptongchohapyônhaphoe) and the assoc. of bus operators oppose the idea, not suprisingly. The both claim bad economy as well. Bad economy, bad business is such a common way of representing one's interests, at least in Korea, and as mentioned in the Tonga Ilbo quote above, the lobbying power of small businesses is actually good, thanks to the culturally advantageous images of smallness and "humane closeness". (Why do politicians swarm in marketplaces at the time of elections?) Still, I'm quite sure a large portion of consumers wouldn't mind taking free shuttle buses to where prices are cheaper and assortment of good bigger.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Rice scoop chin

I guess very few in Korea are surprised about the reports (Chosun Ilbo, Yonhap via Hankyoreh) that Yi Sun-ja (Lee Soon-ja), the wife of the former coup d'etat president Chun Doo-hwan would have been taking care of Chun's secret funds. Chun has been maintaining that he is virtually penniless; last year he reported that his financial assets were a whopping 290 000 won [€200]
Now both Yi Sun-ja and her brother Yi Ch'ang-sôk (Lee Chang-seok or something) have been summoned to be questioned about managing Chun's money.
My impression is that Chun has been the least liked of all ROK presidents, but even he couldn't match his wife in unpopularity. (Some of that may have been the popular stereotype of seeing the woman/wife/mother as the prime culprit and conspirator behind the cover of the man.)
Mark Clifford has a good account of all that in his Troubled Tiger.

But I was going to talk about rice scoop (chugôk) shaped chins, which was Lee Soon-ja's trademark. In the Korean manner of associating bodily features with person's character, a person with a protruding chin is said to have a strong will. Lee Soon-ja must have contributed to this perception. That seems to be a family feature, as the person to the right in the pictures below is the above-mentioned younger brother of Chun's wife now to be summoned. In the photograph to the left, Lee Soon-ja and Chun Doo-hwan in the better old days.
이창석, 전두환의 처남
Among the present-day dignitaries, the princess Victoria of Sweden has a fine example of a 주걱턱.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

(Small businesses) "Less consumption than during the IMF"

Hankyoreh tells in its editorial that the talk of economic crisis by "the conservative newspapers" is too excessive, and a "conservative paper", no doubt the one that Hankyoreh refers to, that is Chosun Ilbo, has been ringing bells for economic downturn for some time (editorial; column "You mean this is not an economic crisis?"; special section). (I see that Chosun has been using the Han'guk kyôngje wigiin'ga [Is the Korean economy in crisis] since last year...)

Picture from Chosun; images of empty marketplace corridors like this are often used to illustrate how bad the economy is, or how the economy has been polarized (lack of customers in marketplaces vs. busy department stores)

In another piece Chosun borrows hard facts from the monthly Statistical Office report on consumer services (3월 서비스업 동향), which show that many major branches are in downturn. Retail sales (소매업 매출) in general have diminished 5.6% from Jan 2003, and are on the slide for 14th month in the row. (Retail and wholesale combined [도소매] are down 0.3% from March last year.) Especially hotels (sukpak) and restaurants, and real estate have gone down, the latter by 9%.

Comparing any economic phenomena with "The IMF" is a common way of giving an impression that the times are hard (and now I'm not claiming that it'd be only an impression and not a fact), but saying that "eating and consuming less than during IMF" (IMF때보다도 안먹고 안쓴다) when the only thing comparable with the time of the crisis is the continuing slide is going not just a little too far.

The original report as downloadable files in Korean.

Let's take a bit closer look at the figures in the outlook of the report in the above link (to look at the original 20-page report would take too much time). It turns out that the overall "service activity index" (서비스업활동지수) is up 1.9% from last year.

2004년 3월 서비스업 생산활동은 폭설, 윤달 등의 영향으로 도·소매업, 숙박·음식점업, 오락관련서비스업 등에서 감소하였으나, 통신업, 운수업, 사업서비스업 등에서 증가하여 전년동월대비 1.9% 증가
□ 2004년 3월 서비스업활동지수는 전년동월대비 1.9% 증가
○ 통신업, 운수업, 사업서비스업 등은 지난 달에 이어 증가세 유지
- 통신업 : 14.6 → 13.0%
- 운수업 : 8.5 → 6.9%
- 사업서비스업 : 1.5 → 2.8%
○ 도·소매업, 숙박·음식점업, 오락·문화 및 운동관련 서비스업 등은 폭설, 윤달 등의 영향으로 감소
- 도·소매업 : 1.1 → -0.3%
- 숙박 및 음식점업 : 0.7 → -3.3%
- 교육서비스업 : 0.4 → -2.1%
- 오락·문화 및 운동관련 서비스업 : 11.4 → -6.6%
- 기타 공공·수리 및 개인서비스업 : 1.0 → -0.3%
○ 부동산 및 임대업은 지난 달에 이어 감소세 지속
- 부동산 및 임대업 : -2.3 → -9.4%
※ 한편, 전체 서비스업활동지수에서 금융·보험업과 보건·사회복지사업(의료업)지수를 제외하면 전년동월대비 0.5% 증가
□ 1/4분기로는 전년동분기대비 0.6% 증가하여 지난 해 하반기와 비슷한 증가율(3/4분기 0.6%, 4/4분기 0.4%)을 나타내었음

Update. Back to Chosun Ilbo: to show that the economical crisis is for real, the top article on the homepage is headlined "Traditional markets are all dying".
광주 양동시장 광주상회 고순자(64·홍어집)씨는 “식당 사람 다 죽어부렀어”라고 말했다. 가게를 접은 상인들이 주로 전업하던 일이 식당이었지만 식당도 안 된다는 얘기다. “홍어 팔아서 5남매 키웠는디. 자식들이 IMF 때 회사를 나와부러 우리 집에 다 들어왔당께. 큰일이여!”

대전 중앙시장 송행선(58·그릇상가)씨는 “대전 마트, 백화점도 난리란다. 대전에서 돈 있는 사람들은 서울 백화점으로 물건 사러 간단다. 고속철 타고. 서울특별시 ‘대전구’라지?”라고 말했다. 광주 대인시장은 시와 구청이 절반씩 부담해 ‘리모델링’을 진행 중이다. 시장 경비 이상만(62)씨는 “깨끗해지면 뭐혀. 사람도 없고 다 죽어가는디…”라고 말했다.

지방 시장의 불황은 지역 경제와 뗄 수 없는 관계를 맺고 있다. “구미에 가면 공단지대에 ‘부광상가’가 있어. 경기의 바로미터지. 제조업이 잘 되면 이 사람들이 돈을 막쓰니까 2~3년 전만 해도 가게를 못 구해 안달이었는데 지금 한 번 가봐.” 경북 도시를 돌면서 노점상을 하는 김태숙(45)씨는 “장사하는 가게가 없어 1층 상가가 컴컴하다”고 전했다.
It's impossible to say where the line between the common rhetorical style of the small businesspeople and the actual dire conditions goes. The report itself is of course not made to consider structural changes which surely are making the conditions for "traditional" marketplaces (chaerae sijang) worse.

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Monday, May 10, 2004

(Family and kin) An indemnity lawsuit

This is both a human interest piece of news as it concerns a famous author, and I can sort of look at is as data on "Korean family and kinship". The not-yet-divorced wife of the novelist Hwang Seok-young (황석영) has failed a law suit for indemnity (is that the correct term?) against a certain Ms K, who seems to be Hwang's partner since many years. She claims 500 million W [€330 000] in damages. (Joongang Ilbo)

"I am the legal wife of Mr Hwang, but "K" has acted as if she was Mr Hwang's wife, which has caused me mental anguish (chôngsinjôk kot'ong)." "Ms K knows well that Mr Hwang's divorce procedure has not yet ended and that his wife does not wish to divorce, but she and Mr Hwang have lived for almost six years like a married couple, and she has appeared with Mr Hwang in public, which has given me mental anguish."
The novelist Hwang filed for divorce in 2002, and was given a partial judgement (?) (일부승소 판결), but his wife appealed, and the case is pending in the appeals court.

Couldn't she also have filed a lawsuit against her husband for adultery (kant'ongchoe)? 남편이 밉지 않고 남편의 여자친구만 미운 건 아니겠지? I remember vaguely that living separately wouldn't free the still legally married spouses to commit adultery, but as soon as lawsuit for divorce has been filed, legal proceedings against adultery would no more be possible. But I may remember wrong. (I used to download loads of interesting articles from the Korean media in the net, but now with this blog thing I do that less and less, and it's not good.)

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Seoul panorama pictures and other interesting photography on Korea

Someone had ended up at my site by googling for Seoul panoramas. By following that route backwards I ended up at a site kept by a Korean architect Kim Kwan Seok, which has loads of interesting pictorial stuff from Seoul panoramas to Korean traditional architecture. There are pictures of Korean mountains and Korean-language mountaineering travelogues as well.

Some media and social criticism from the independent left

Jin Jung-gwon is an Aesthetics scholar, society and media critic and sometime political debater, independent leftist, whose often satiric, funny and offensive texts I've every now and then enjoyed reading. He campaigned for the Democratic Labor Party before the elections, but has since pretty much stopped activities on that front. He used to write for Hankyoreh and sometimes also for Ohmynews, but his and these two medias' view on the government were too different for him to continue. Now that he has been contributing to both Joongang and Donga, president Noh and Uri Pary supporters' view of him cannot have improved...
He has recently contributed a column for Joongang Monthly, which makes good and interesting reading in its requests for common sense and common ground in the political and social debate in Korea. I've translated just a couple of excerpts.
Yet another example: there were many people who mourned over the death of Misun and Hyosun in an accident with a US army vehicle.If one is a sensitive humanist, expressing grief over the death of unknown schoolgirls, then one should also have expressed grief over the young men who lost their lives in the shelling by the North Koreans in the Western Sea hostilities. If someone was criticizing the unresponsible attitude of the US army, the same person should also have raised his voice against the hazardous line of North Korea, which opened fire without any apparent reason.
I expected people to act that way, but my expectations proved wrong. Condemning the US Army was humanism, but condemning North Korea was getting fooled by the cold war conspiracy. How is it possible to live with such a contradiction?
When my writing which criticized MBC's program "Sin Kang-gyun's Actually" appeared, the attack from "our side's" begun immediately. Ohmynews published an article which declared that "the responsibility of an intellectual in the Republic of Korea is to not get taken advantage of by Chosun Ilbo." I was stunned speechless. "The one that acts advantageously for the enemy shall be punished." What's different from this definition of an "enemy-benefitting organization" from the National Security Law. What is to be done if one is not allowed to benefit the enemy? Naturally one should keep one's mouth shut about the wrongs on one's own side. Here I see a kind of a power in action here (여기서 나는 어떤 권력의 작동을 본다).
My criticism in the public interest got utilized by Chosun Ilbo to benefit its own agenda, and Ohmynews stood up to chastise different voices from its own ranks. Only Ohmynews' faults come to the eyes of the Chosun Ilbo readers, and only Chosun Ilbo's faults are brought to the attention of the Ohmynews readers.
In a society divided this way into to groups, the one who sees faults simultaneously in both media has no place to stand, and is forced to take sides. "The encampment mentality" of Koreans does not stem from stupidity. People have learned what kind of a retribution follows from not belonging definitely to a particular camp.
The media movement, begun with the "Anti-Chosun", has had many successes. Chosun Ilbo has become the laughinstock of the society, which was even pointed out by the labor union of Sports Chosun. But has the level of the media improved now that the influence of Chosun Ilbo has diminished? I have the feeling that the ills of partisan journalism have gotten actually worse. Even if there's been success in curtailing Chosun Ilbo, creating a new media paradigm has failed.
Now is the time for a new paradigm in media criticism. Partisan journalism cannot be overcome with new partisan journalism. There is a need for standards of criticism outside the confines of conservatism and progressivism.

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Saturday, May 08, 2004


Reading stories like this (Chosun Ilbo) about a young woman becoming a sex slave due to unpaid loans from loanshark make me think of this "financing" business keeping acquaintance of mine who himself went bankrupt and disappeared. I have no knowledge of him ever doing things like this, but he was willing to "earn money in the Gumi way", of which typical was keeping a "ticket coffee house".
In the article, a student first guaranteed a curb loan of her friend, and later went to get a loan in order to pay her own credit card debts. Her friend disappeared, and her debts began to add up, interest add on interest.
그러던 중 먼저 300만원 사채를 빌려쓴 친구까지 잠적해 버렸다. 박씨의 빚은 자기 빚 400만원에 300만원이 더해져, 원금 700만원에 그동안 붙은 이자까지 계산해서 2002년 12월경 1000만원을 넘어섰다. 그리고 2004년 2월, 전체 빚은 1억2000여만원. 어떻게 해서 400만원이 2년도 채 못돼 1억2000만원으로 불어난 것일까.
The loansharks' method of expanding the debt sum is evilishly complicated (I'll have to take a look at it later), and looks like the intention would be to have the indebted woman to be forced into prostitution.
예를 들어 80일의 상환기간 동안 일수로 40만원을 갚는다는 조건이라고 해보자. 만약 어떤 이유로든 이 40만원을 하루라도 빼먹고 갚지 못하면 그 날부터 상환기간이 끝나는 80일까지 매일 1부로 이자 계산을 한다. 극단적인 경우 80일이 시작되는 첫날부터 40만원을 갚지 못했다고 하면 이자 4만원(40만원의 1부)×80일=320만원으로, 이자만 320만원이 순식간에 늘어나고, 다음번 80일 상환기간에는 원래 있던 원금에 320만원 이자가 더해진 금액이 다시 원금이 되는 것이다.
She was called into the loanshark office where she was beaten and finally forced into prostitution.

If this was a Kim Ki-duk film the woman forced in prostitution would have fallen in love with the loanshark-pimp.

(Continues - got to attend a friend's wedding)

So it never happened that I returned to make sense of the way the loansharks manage to make a 7 million won debt to grow to 120 million W in two years.

Two clarifications to the above post:

Making money in the Gumi way; with that my acquaintance meant taking part in the entertainment business, of which there are a lot in Gumi, "ticket coffee houses" included. Much of that entertainment industry is actually prostitution - concentration of manufacturing industries in Gumi has brought a lot of men there.
Ticket coffee house; the Korean word for "coffee house" means actually "tea room" (tabang), but tea is secondary and the main drink in those places is coffee, served by "coffee house girls" (tabang agassi), who sometimes are engaged in prostitution. "Ticket" (the word used in Korean) means that a customer uses the company of a tabang girl for a certain time and pays for that to the tabang. The following explanation is from my notes; I ask, my acquaintance answers.

-- So what is this ticket tabang thing, how does it work? -- When a girl does a lot of delivering she may become closer (ch'inhaejida) with a customer, and then the man may ask the girl to accompany him/them when going to a noraebang or when going out… but when a girl leaves tabang to go out with someone she cannot do deliveries, so the man who asks the girl to go out has to pay a "fine" to the tabang, and that's usually more than the tabang would earn by the girl's deliveries, not necessarily but usually. The fine is 20 000 won an hour, or 250 000 won for the whole day. Whatever the girl may earn by herself during that time, that's her own income. And the girl is paid a monthly salary by the tabang, about 100-150 man won (1-1.5 mil. won), even 200 man W, and the tabang gets the ticketing money.

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Friday, May 07, 2004

(Social categories) Paeksu thoughts

There's been some discussion in my comments section about the meanings of a Korean term for a person who is not engaged in productive work or study. Paeksu (or baeksu in the present ROK system), a term introduced in a Korea Times or Herald article, has the literal meaning of "empty hands". The first Chinese character (白) is actually "white" in it's most common meaning, but it's also used in contexts when it means "empty", like kongbaek (空白, vacuum, empty space).
(Direct link to a Korean-language definition in the Korean Language Academy Dictionary, the best Korean-language dictionary in the web, very worthwhile of having in in one's browser)

My experience of the use of paeksu is that it's used mostly in the negative tone or in a jestering sense between friends. Saying that one's husband is spending a paeksu life would mean that he isn't capable of doing work or lacks the will; instead what I've always heard is that 우리 아저씨가 지금 잠깐 쉬고 있어요, "My husband is resting a bit at the moment." It'd be a big mistake to ask whether one's husband is a paeksu, but it's amusing that I tell that I'll become just a paeksu paksa, when Koreans ask what I'll do after I get the Ph.D.
The verb nolda is another way to talk about being a paeksu; when used in the sense of not being employed it's on the negative side and not really something that one should use on someone else's state of being directly to that person. In the neighborhood, anthropologist's fieldwork didn't look like working or studying, so someone in a jestering tone suggested I stop nolda there and go home to finish my studies. (Well, I went home, but...) Nolda is a wonderful verb with such a huge variety of meanings; from the laundry grandfather mentioned in a posting below I learned that it can also be used of sexual intercourse.

Paeksu is also used together with kôndal, which in itself denotes a bit more useless and socially dangerous being, risk to others.

One of the funniest versions of paeksu husbands are the so-called shutter men (셔터맨), men who only need to raise and lower the shutter of the shop of their wives. The stereotype concerns especially husbands of pharmacists, who have been able to earn a good income without help from their husbands - pharmacist is one of the few professional occupations which has been available for women for a longer time. (But there's also some unambiguity whether pharmacist is actually a professional occupation or whether it's just shopkeeping, changsa, and pharmacists just medicine merchants, yakchangsu. Also hairdressing shop keeper's husband has a chance to become a shutter man, as these women often earn quite good; the two hairdresser's husbands that I've known did lower the shutter of their wife's shop almost every evening, but they were not shutter men in the more figurative sense - had their own income albeit lower than their wife's.
Shutter man nicely corresponds to the image of shaman's husband, whose only work is to bang the drum in the rituals his wife performs. I think there's a proverb on this, but I can't remember it.

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The last two parts of "Korean War in Photographs" in Ohmynews

The last two parts of the series "Korean War in Photographs" in (or should it be at?) Ohmynews are about the armistice negotiations. To see the rest of the pictures, go to the links.

Korean War in Photographs 29: Armistice negotiations 1

Kaesong (that's the DPRK spelling;), UN and DPRK representatives. ▲ 1951. 7. 8. 개성, 헬기에서 내린 유엔군 측 정전회담 실무자를 맞이하는 북측 실무자들. ⓒ2004 NARA

On the right: DPRK representatives in armistice negotiations. From the left two representatives of the PRC Air Force, General Nam Il in the middle ▲ 정전회담장에 나타난 북측 대표. 왼쪽 두 사람 중공군 대표, 가운데 남일 대장, 다음 이상조 소장. ⓒ2004 NARA

Korean War in Pictures 30: Armistice negotiations 2

Seoul citizens demonstrating against the armistice negotiations ▲ 1951. 7. 11. 서울, 서울시민들이 덕수궁에서 정전회담 반대 시위를 벌이고 있다. ⓒ2004 NARA

The DPRK representative General Nam Il is leaving the armistice negotiation site ▲ 1953. 5. 8. 정전회담 북한 측 남일 대표가 회담장을 떠나고 있다. ⓒ2004 NARA

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선진국이 선진한다

인터넷에 관련된 상업은 핀란드에서 확산되고 있다. 통신업의 강대국으로 널리 알려진 핀란드의 수도인 헬싱키에서 이른바 "인터넷 카페"가 개업했습니다. 인터넷 카페를 개업한 아무개씨는 "이젠 일반인들도 인터넷 접속이 쉬워질 것이다"며 "핀란드 민주주의의 발전에도 큰 도움이 될 거라고 믿고 있다"고 했다. 정보 통신부의 익명을 요구한 관계자가 "선진국으로서 다른 나라한테 좋은 사례를 보여주어야 하는데 본 받을 만한 사업아이템이 되리라 믿고 있다"고 자신있게 말했다.