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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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Friday, April 29, 2005

Writing parents' memoirs

This is becoming a notes on Ohmynews blog, but nowadays it deserves attention from me and those who'd be interested to read people's life stories in the serial "Writing parents' memoirs" (부모님 자서전 대필). Seems this might be as interesting as the series 새벽을 여는 사람들 which run from early '03 to yearly '04.

Interesting but not surprising to note that women, mothers take the main role in the accounts. This is a good example: "Mother's life is like a drama" - story of loss, hardships, failures, human strength and survival. Another one is titled "My name is Pak Kûm-sun and I've lived bravely" (내 이름은 박금순, 굳세게 살았습니다), which refers to the currently running MBC drama Kutseôra Kûmsuna (Stand strong, Kûm-sun).
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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Marketplace politics in Yeongcheon

My customary marketplace politics entry, this time for the re-election of parliamentary seats in some locations. Ohmynews reports with great fervor as always and with quality photos. In Yeongcheon, Northern Gyeonsang, April 27 was a market day of the 5-day market cycle, so the candidates of the both big parties with their big-name supporters made their appearance. The photos that I've linked from the article in smaller size below would tell that Park Geun-hye has drawn a bigger audience - it's in North Gyeongsang after all. There's a big gathering of suit guys behind the fist of the yellow-jacketed Mun Hee-sang of the ruling OOP; people listening to Park are older and have more of a commoner appearance.

Mun Hee-sang of Our Open Party (Yôllin Uridang) in Yeongcheon (from Ohmynews, ⓒ2005 오마이뉴스 이종호)

Park Geun-hye of Grand National Party (Hannaradang) in Yeongcheon (from Ohmynews, ⓒ2005 오마이뉴스 이종호)

All the commentaries concerning the weakening position of the so-called traditional markets express sympathy for the marketplace traders, but no one thinks of the poor politicians. Where do they go at the time of elections if marketplaces disappear? Where do they meet the common people?

(About common people, see Muninn's musings inspired by "Common People" by Pulp but performed by William Shatner.)

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Life of the irregulars

This detailed report on the situation of irregularly employed is Ohmynews at its best.
A mother in her 60s and an unmarried son of 40 taking care of a railway station kiosk, in which they also live, a space of 2 pyeong (6.6 sqm). They are formally self-employed (kaein saôpcha) with a contract with Han'guk Ch'ôldo Yut'ong ("Korean Railway Sales"), but their income is a fixed percentage of the sales, some 10%, which makes 700000-1000000 won (€540-770) a month. The kiosks used to be operated by paid employees, but in 2001 they were given to individual "entrepreneurs."
새벽 5시에 문을 열어 자정 무렵까지 일해 버는 수입치고는 턱없이 적다. 하지만 뾰족한 수가 없어 5년째 이 일을 하고 있다. 이씨는 이 일을 하면서 심장질환까지 얻어 쓰러진 적이 있다고 말했다. 숨막히게 좁은 공간과 쉴 새 없이 울리는 구내방송, 고막을 뒤흔드는 철도소음이 그의 건강을 갉아먹은 것이다.
두 모자가 먹고 자고 일하는 공간은 2평 규모의 철도매점. 노모의 잠자리 쪽에는 전기장판이, 아들이 눕는 곳에는 낡은 소형 TV가 놓여 있다. 노모의 잠자리 밑에는 물건과 함께 밥통과 간이찬장이 놓여 있다. 그야말로 꼼짝달싹할 수 없는 좁은 공간이다. 그나마 다행한 것은 두 모자의 체구가 작다는 것이다.

The second case is a janitor (or would "cleaner" be more precise?) in a university in Incheon. She makes 700 000W a month, less than half of what her regularly employed colleagues. (Not that it wouldn't be good if cleaners were paid well, but I wonder if regularly employed ones really earn that much, 1.8 mil W/month as stated in the text?)
서씨 가족의 월수입은 철공소에서 일하는 남편(44)이 받는 임금 100만원을 합쳐 170만원. 남편이 술·담배를 즐겨하기 때문에 생활비는 훨씬 줄어든다. 이 돈으로 두 아들(중3학년·고2학년)을 포함해 네 식구가 살아간다. 허리디스크로 3년 가량 쉬던 남편이 최근 일자리를 구하면서 겨우 숨통이 트였지만 그 동안 쌓인 빚 3천만원을 갚을 길이 까마득하다.
서씨는 "가난한 부모를 만난 아이들에게 너무 미안합니다. 잘해주고 싶어도 이 월급으로는 어떻게 할 도리가 없습니다"며 "월급이 인상돼 두 아들을 걱정 없이 가르쳤으면 좋겠습니다"라고 소망을 털어놨다.

(I'm reminded of one of the shopkeepers in my research neighborhood who had kept a vegetable shop with her husband for a long time. She tried her luck in a small punsik eatery with occasional help from her husband who drove a youghurt truck as well (delivering yoghurt for the yoghurt-selling women), but chose to seek employment as a janitor because of a bad business. But I understand she was able to become regularly employed with all the benefits, so in that sense it makes sense.)

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Discount stores and small businesses (this time in Taebaek)

The increase of the number of E-mart, Lotte Mart and Homeplus shops (linked from Hankyoreh
Hankyoreh has an interesting piece on the reactions towards the government plan to ease restrictions concerning establishment of discount stores and other big retail establishments. (Here's my previous note on the subject from one week back.) Keepers of small businesses from Taebaek in southern Gangwon-do have come all the way to Seoul to protest against the proposed legislation, and similar feelings about the increased entry of huge discount stores are not surprisingly common among the small businesskeepers in the nation.
Taebaek marketplace trader:
"65% of the population in Taebaek are families of small and medium businesskeepers (chungsosanggongin). It is usual that with one huge retail establishment seven marketplaces (chaeraesijang) disappear. 65% are making a living in small shops (kumôngkage) and marketplaces, so what happens when E-mart comes? We are going to make this known at the Shinsegye [owner of E-mart] headquarters."
Shinsegye representative:
With E-mart, the local economy gets a boost. And in the provinces, apartments are built after a large-scale retailer is established. We have received requests from many local organizations in Taebaek to come and build a store there."

At this stage, it looks quite evident that the "traditional" marketplaces are not able to compete with E-marts, Lotte Marts, and Homepluses, while small neighborhood supermarkets may survive by selling snacks and drinks and other stuff for which people won't go far. The article quotes the local authorities asking what good is the new legislation for marketplace revitalization (Chaeraesijang t'ûkpyôlpôp) (for yet another self-link, see an earlier post of mine) if regulations concerning discount retailers are alleviated.

Even though arguing for the maintaining of market conditions favorable for myriad of small businesses would appear to be fighting against the tide of progress and modernization, I could also add that giving more room to huge retailers to operate goes against the government policies in place since the "IMF crisis" to encourage establishment of small businesses as one kind of measure against unemployment. (Now was this sentence too long or what. In Finnish, one paragraph is supposed to consist of more than one sentence.)

The "marketplace special law" has no doubt helped some marketplaces to renew their shopping facilities and image, but the article notes that the marketplaces won't be quick enough to respond to the swift movements of these big retailers. One bookshop keeper quoted in the piece has no small things in his mind. "To keep marketplaces alive it isn't enough just to erect a roof. Modernization (hyôndaehwa) needs to be made so that a shopping mall is built and marketplace traders allotted shop space there."

The new legislation will be introduced late next year if it proceeds as planned. I don't really know what to say. Expressing sympathy and appreciation for the efforts of small businesses is almost what this blog is about, and I'm not for unrestricted competition (real-world capitalism is about regulation as well, right?) (but as a consumer I like also cheap prices), but I'm afraid the call of modernization is too strong ("big retailers bring along apartment areas") to stop the current.

Hankyoreh editorials on the topic in Korean and in English.

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Koreans' reading comprehension of Korean

OECD has surveyed the capacity for actual reading comprehension in its member states, and it has turned out that Korea has gotten the lowest scores, that is Koreans have the lowest understanding of official and technical texts among the OECD countries(from Munhwa Ilbo).

Three of four have according to the survey difficulties understanding documents which contain information and techonology needed in a new workplace (we're not told what kind of a workplace). The proportion of people who have trouble understanding texts needed in everyday life like medication dosage is 38%, way higher than the OECD average of 22%. The survey looked at people's understanding of documents like employment applications, tax forms, traffic timetables, maps and the like.

The percentage of people who understand complicated text containing information of the latest techonology is no more than 2 or 3 in Korea, one tenth of what it is in Norway, Denmark, Canada and so.

I'm not really surprised at all about this, thinking of how non-lucid (?) official, formal written Korean can be, and how opaque for example all kind of formular writing can be. I'm of course talking as a non-native speaker, but so the native speakers are in trouble as well. Or actually the formal language in those kind of Korean contexts isn't really native at all for many Koreans.

One part of this unfortunate phenomenon has got to do with the idea that the Chinese characters are not really needed to understand or to write the Korean language as it used in official contexts at the moment. Koreans' poor performance in understanding everyday pieces of formal texts shows how the Chinese character terminology becomes difficult to understand when written in the wonderful hangul. (Knowing Chinese characters helps in understanding also the pure-hangul texts - and I know it even with my shobby knowledge of hanja.)

This is the reason why for example my wife says Finnish-language official documents are much easier for her than Korean-language ones (in case she sometimes happens to see those), despite that the latter is her native (and much stronger) language.

Professor Kim Chang-jin writes of the same survey in his blog:
이것은 바로 우리나라의 한글 전용 정책으로 인해서 국민들의 어휘력과 독해력이 떨어진 데 그 근본 원인이 있습니다. 우리나라 대부분의 국민은 글자는 읽을 수 있어도(그것도 정확한 발음으로 읽는 사람은 거의 없습니다) 그 뜻은 정확하게 파악하지 못합니다. 한글 전용 정책 40년의 결과가 이렇게 참혹하게 나타나는 것입니다. 이래도 한자 교육이 필요없다는 사람들은 나라의 역적들인 것입니다.
Professor Kim's blog contains a lot of material on the Korean language. He seems to be especially concerned with the distinction between long and short pronunciation of vowels. This is interesting, since in the teaching of Korean as a foreign language the distinction between long and short vowels seems not to exist, or at least I've never encountered it. (And I'm saying this as a speaker of a language in which the distinction between long and short vowels is decisive.)

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New mayor of Venice

Veniceblog reports that the city of Venice has a new mayor, Massimo Cacciari, who already has served one term in 1995-2000.
Most mayors are civic cheerleaders, whooping it up for commerce and tourism. Cacciari, on the other hand, openly hates mass tourism and its affect on Venice. Cacciari, on the other hand, launched what CBS' 60 Minutes called "the first anti-tourist campaign in history", commissioning a Benetton photographer to shoot posters showing "Venice at its worst: the dead rats, the polluted waterways, the tackiest souvenirs".
Now he wouldn't possibly mean visitors like us, would he? We weren't like the others, we didn't even visit the Doge's Palace and Basilica of San Marco, and we took part in the local neighborhood festival, and the souvenirs we bought from kids in the flea market of that festival.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

construction in Gwanak-gu during "the IMF" and after

Number of building permits in Gwanak-gu by year:
       units     m2
1997 533 341 349
1998 127 99 695
1999 142 108 665
2000 405 361 593
2001 1357 810 482
2002 1626 960 019
2003 914 740 150
Source: Gwanak-gu Statistical Yearbook (hwp file).

This is perhaps the most dramatic piece of statistic I've seen about the economic crisis of the late 1990s. This should pretty much tell what it's been like to be a day laborer in construction or an owner of a construction company in '98 and '99. This also gives some perspective to what the neighborhood people referred to with terms like "wôllum bum" (studio apartment boom) after year 2000; restaurant keepers catering construction sites were busy.

People at House of Friendship (Sillim 2-dong, Gwanak-gu) prepare for a construction site delivery. (c)AL, June 11, 2002

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Neighborhood supermarkets against big retailers

This one in Sillim 2-dong has been surviving. (And seems that the "Kimpap Heaven" in the background as well as the butcher's shop are still there as well. (c) Jan 2005
Korean Supermarket Association (or whatever 한국수퍼마켓협동조합연합회 might use as its English-language name) and Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business have submitted a memorandum (kônûisô) to the government authorities protesting the planned alleviation of restrictions concerning large-scale retail establishments (from Chosun Ilbo). This is not as much about the largest kind of retail outlets but about these outlet companies expanding to smaller markets covered this far by more or less independent neighborhood shops.

The neighborhood businesses do have a case here, at least from their own point of view (customers might disagree); it is a question of the livelihood of many, and from the street-level neighborhood business sphere (tongne sanggwôn 商圈), which in Korean context often is given a positive appraisal. (And of course I have my own research-related sympathies for neighborhood shopkeepers as well...) The association is going to join forces with local consumer associations to campaign for "keeping alive the local economy." Interesting thing is that I remember reading a similar piece of news already some five years ago: a similar (if not the same) association was protesting against the intrusion of smaller outlets by big retailer companies to the neighborhood sphere. My impression is that while the importance of huge retailers for customers has grown, most of the smaller neighborhood "supermarkets" have been able to stay afloat. And government policies have not been always disfavoring them; forbidding department stores and large-scale discount stores to operate shuttle buses to transport customers from residential areas benefitted small shops in neighborhoods.

Prospects still don't look very good for these; by all accounts, customers turn to bigger retail establishments. Small neighborhood businesses in general do survive, but for small "supermarkets" I wouldn't bet my money.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Kim Dae-jung's daughter

Today on Tuesday, a SBS newsmagazine program will broadcast a program on the "hidden daughter of Kim Dae-jung".

The Ohmynews writer Kim Dan (a veteran journalist, not a "citizen reporter") had thought of saving that story for a biography of Kim Dae-jung, but now that it became public, he decided to write a story about the issue (Ohmynews) of which he had heard and which has been known to some degree in political circles.

During Kim Dae-jung's political career the story about his extramarital child is said to have been known by very few. The main point in the SBS program is that during his presidency, when the issue might have really become an issue, it was kept in secret by National Intelligence Service (NIS, 국가정보원, 국정원) operations. A part of these operations would have been the so-called "Jin Seung-hyun affair", which at that time looked like just another "lobby-gate" in which the NIS for some reason tried to have the venture businessman Jin saved from jail after Jin got busted for taking illegal loans. Now, according to the revelations of the SBS program, it would have been about the NIS using the money from the businessman Jin Seung-hyun (Chin Sûng-hyôn) to protect KDJ's little secret by keeping the daughter and her mother quiet, and not for some more conventional intelligence activity as maintained back then.

Kim Dan tells in Ohmynews that the daughter had been born from Kim Dae-jung's relation with his secretary in 1970; what kind of a relation is not told (except that a child was born). The child was registered in her grandfather's family register; after he died, she was transferred to her maternal uncle's register, and after his death to her grandmother's register. The girl got assistance from KDJ's son Kim Hong-il and from Cho P'ung-on, who also had been a financial supporter to Kim Dae-jung. She graduated from a college in Southern Jeolla and moved to Seoul. There had been no problems until summer 2000, when the mother of the woman alleged to be KDJ's daughter committed suicide while hospitalized, after which "the daughter" needed to be given medical treatment for mental troubles. And at that time the venture businessman Jin Seung-hyun was drawn into the case by the NIS.

From the side of the former president Kim Dae-jung it is informed that legal measures will be taken if necessary after seeing the program (from Hankyoreh).

Kim Dae-jung has two sons from his first marriage, and one son with his current wife. Would the situation have been different if it had been a son?

So are these allegations true? Why not, I don't think that a national broadcasting company like SBS or an established journalist like Kim Dang would do these stories if there was not enough basis. And now that the story is out, wouldn't it be a high time for some family reunion? 맞어, 맞어!

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Vegetable shop keeper to securities company board

Kyunghyang Sinmun tells that Korea Investment & Securities (I won't link to the company homepage because it doesn't work with Firefox) has nominated Mr Yi Yông-sôk, a keeper of a vegetable shop, to its board of directors (saoe isa 社外理事). Well, Mr Yi is after all not just your ordinary neighborhood vegetable shop keeper, but has 10 shops in Seoul after beginning with one 18 pyeong (60 sq.m - not that small) shop back in 1998. Yi's business is called Ch'onggak'ne Yach'aegage ("Bachelor's vegetable shop") - fitting for an eye-to-eye economic enterprise in which the image of a human dimension is important - and Mr Yi is actually a bachelor. (노총각네 야채가게라 그래야지...)
Mr Yi is a graduate of a vocational university (chônmundaehakkyo). The article doesn't tell what he did between his graduation and the opening of the shop, but the time of the opening (1998) tells that it just might have something to do with the economic crisis of that time. Mr Yi won't reveal his income, but tells that it's not enough for any investment, as it's mainly used to pay his debts, which he expects will all be settled in five years. (So he does have a quite a pile of debt, doesn't he? But I guess they've taken that into account in the securities company.)

Chonggakne logo
How he ended up getting recruited to the board of the securities company is that the reputation of the success of his veggie business reached the ears of the president of Dongwon Financial Holding (of which KIS is a subsidiary), who thought that Mr Yi's service-mindedness would be of use for the company. (A small search shows that he has already been introduced in the media, and has a book out with the name of his shop - see Aladdin Bookshop.)

Kyunghyang's article tells also that even people from Samsung Electronics have made "learning visits" (kyônhak) to Mr Yi's shop. Quite interesting that the secret of his success is put in terms of "affective-minded service" chông(情)jôgin sôbisû; there we got the concept of chông (or jeong 情), which is one of the important formulations of motives for practices and behavior in Korea, which I need to (or better: which I'm privileged to) discuss in my own work.

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Seoul Survey 2004: north and south of the river

I haven't been able to find the recently published "Seoul Survey 2004" online yet, but bit and pieces have been made available in the media. Hankyoreh has a Yonhap piece on the differences between areas of Seoul, paying most attention to the continuously wide gap between North and South of the river. In the survey, made on 50000 citizens and 5000 business establishment, the city was divided into five areas: downtown (Jongno-gu, Jung-gu, Yongsan-gu), Northeast (Seongdong, Gwangjin, Dongdaemun, Jungnang, Seongbuk,Gangbuk, Dobong, Nowon), Southeast (Seocho, Gangnam, Songpa, Gangdong), Northwest (Eunpyeong, Seodaemun, Mapo), and Southwest (Yangcheon, Gangseo, Guro, Geumcheon, Yeongdeungpo, Dongjak, Gwanak).

Not surprisingly, Southeast came on top in most of the figures measuring wealth and education, which also reflects in satisfaction concerning educational facilities, and housing environment.

Household heads with 4-year university-education: Southeast 36%, Southwest 25, Downtown 23, Northeast 22, Northwest 21,
Households with +4 mil W [3000€] monthly income: Southeast 20%, Southwest and Downtown 10.5, Northeast 9, Northwest 9
Housing in apartments: Southeast 52%, Northeast 40, Southwest 38, Downtown 26, Northwest 21.

The proportion of smokers (21%) and those who don't do any excercising (15%) were the lowest in Southeast, where the use of culture facilities (art exhibitions, museums, concerts etc) was the highest. The opposite of Southeast in this regard was Northeast.

When inquired in subjective terms from the respondents, there was no difference in the satisfaction concerning one's life, relations with friends and the like. Downtown was actually ahead of Southeast by 0.1 points, so those who like to think that life in outrageously expensive apartments doesn't necessarily bring happiness can be somewhat content.

One thing that comes to mind is the character of Southeast, to which "my own" neighborhood belongs. Soutwest has longstanding and established apartment areas in Mok-dong, but many of the "last" hillside settlements have been located there, and up to the 1990s Gwanak-gu had the highest proportion of "substandard housing" (pullyang chut'aek) among the gu's in Seoul, but it seems to have been quite succesful in shedding that image due to straightforward redevelopment.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Hail a cab in Seoul

Normblog, writing from New York instead of Manchester UK where its proprietor is based, ponders the number of yellow cabs (are there any others?) in the city, and gets answers which give the number of somewhere around 12 or 13 000. As someone who every now and then blogs about taxis in Seoul (most recent entry), I couldn't but pay attention to the number of cars in NY: 12-13 thousand in a city of 8 million people. In Seoul, population 10+ million, there are 66 100 ordinary taxis [of which 9600 are "brand" taxis (pûrandû t'aeksi)], 3500 model taxis (mobôm t'aeksi) and 270 big van taxis (from Seoul Transportation Bureau), which makes less than 150 persons per vehicle. ("Brand taxis" are the ones with the interpretation service installed, so that the customer can get interpretation by phone to communicate with the driver.) In Helsinki, pop. 560000, there are approximately 1400 taxis. (400 persons/vehicle).

I'm not yet sure what else these numbers mean other than that there are hell of a many taxis in Seoul.

The yellow taxis are very New York, as everyone who knows America and New York so well from television dramas and movies is aware of. Silver taxis in Seoul are not as much Seoul, even though they perhaps should be, in good and bad. For me they quite are. I miss them in a way.

Update. The figure of ordinary taxis above corrected to 66 100. (Kiitos vaan Martille.)

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kolla kolla kollayo

This street vendor is in Korea, so she obviously doesn't think that authorities will threaten to use deadly force against her even though she is carrying objects which may look like assault rifles. (About guns in Korea, I'm reminded of the two bank tellers many many years ago who didn't think that this bank robber would use his gun against them, and started throwing stuff at the robber, who couldn't but flee this sudden use of undeadly force.)

This is a middle-aged woman selling toy guns at an intersection in Gangneung, Gangwon-do (from Yonhap via Media Daum). The article tells that vendors of all kinds of merchandise approaching drivers in this way has greatly increased.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Parents' school meal responsibilities

Ohmynews provides an informative story on the difficulties that parents (read: mothers) have with the school meal service responsibilities (kûpsik tanbôn) in Seoul. I'm not fully aware of how wide this system is, in what levels of schools it's used and how's it elsewhere in the country, but the examples that Ohmynews provides show what it means to have to go at least once a month to the school of one's child to help with the school meals.

국민학교 급식, 1950년대
In one of the cases the father of the child was staying at home tending the slightly disabled child, while the mother worked. The father had no attitude problem doing the meal service at school, but the school had an attitude problem about the man, so it had to be the mother, who was employed elsewhere.

Sure I'm not surprised that school policies and practices are done as if mothers always had time available, but wouldn't some change in how families are regarded be timely? Change in not expecting parents to use their time to go to school to feed the children would also require more funds for school meals, but that's hardly happening when the Seoul municipal school meal budget for this year is 22% smaller than last year (article in Hankyoreh), and more and more children who used to be provided meals are left without subsidies. (Quite interesting and telling that Hankyoreh groups the articles about school meals , food safety and food poisonings together.)

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Hangul Viewer 2002

Been already for some time in a possession of Hangul (HWP) documents which I can't open with my age-old version of 97, so I finally decided to seek and download the viewer that I knew was available to read and print hwp documents made with the newer versions. In case someone has been as much behind the times as me: link to the download page of Hangul Viewer 2002.

Update, May 2 2006

The above link to Hangul Viewer is down.
link to a page where Hangul Viewer 2002 can be downloaded (English installing, English menus).

• Haansoft has released Hangul Viewer 2005 (file name HwpVW2005.exe), in which the menus are all in Korean.

Update, February 16,2009
The above link to Hangul Viewer 2005 is down. Here's a link to the Hangul Viewer 2007 download page: the download page is in Korean, and the downloadable Viewer also has only Korean-language menus. To download the Viewer, click the disk icon. Unfortunately, English-language Hangul Viewer 2007 doesn't seem to exist.

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Bus drivers' status and pay up, taxis down

Not living in Korea, I was able to pay attention to the outward changes like the new coloring of buses and new route organization in the Seoul bus system last year, but what I failed to notice was that only then all the route organization and timetables were taken under municipal management (kongyôngje) so that the private companies take care only of the bus operation. I paid attention to that only now as I read from Hankyoreh that the status and desirability of bus driver's job has increased significantly since the new system was implemented, especially if compared to taxi driving. The working conditions of bus drivers have increased, pay has gone up 16% (is now around 2.5 mil W [1900€] a month), bus companies don't have a shortage of drivers anymore, and bus driving is no more an easy entry, easy exit kind of a job. I'm not being sarcastic when I say that in this world it's good to hear that somewhere the worker's lot has improved.
In Finland, the average monthly salary of a municipally employed bus driver in 2003 was 2131 euros (pdf). After taxes, who gets more, the Korean driver in Seoul or his Finnish colleague? From what I've read about the working conditions of the latter, they have not been improving during the last years. Is the municipality of Seoul not making the bus companies compete with each other about the bus routes? Apparently not - don't they know anything about capitalism over there? That competition is development?

So, bus drivers in Seoul have it better than previously, so that the situation that previously many bus drivers wanted to drive taxis has now turned the other, tells Hankyoreh in the article linked above. Taxis have been losing customers to buses, as the bus services have apparently improved (how is it really, dear readers doing on-the-spot observations?) and that with raised ticket prices. Moreover, a person from the Seoul administration tells that taxis are being considered more and more as high-class and not as mass transportation like before. Seoul municipal administration also tells that the average salaries of drivers of private taxis is 2 mil W (1500€) and company taxis 1.25 mil [960€]. So it is no wonder that bus companies are not having a shortage of applicants.

Seoul Sinmun has a feel-good story about the positive effects of the new bus operation and route system.
Chosun Ilbo had a story about the pros and cons of the new system on Dec 15 last year. Less accidents and injuries, faster speed, more passangers, less overall traffic in Seoul; fares 20% higher ["bigger burden for seomin"], discontent in areas left outside of the subway season ticket system, discontent of taxi operators.

Dear visitors from the ESL cafe: since most of you are staying in Korea and many have been there also before the bus system reform, has the change been so positive that many of the links I have here let me understand from the passanger's viewpoint? Many drivers tell in the linked articles that the stress has been greatly relieved with the new system.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The assassination of Kim Hyung-wook

"I killed Kim Hyông-uk" goes the dramatic headline in the Sisa Journal story, in which a former operative tells how he killed the former head of Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) in Paris in 1979. Mr Yi tells in the hard-obtained interview how they took care of Kim Hyông-uk (Kim Hyung-wook), who had been a close confidant of president Park Chung-hee but later collided with him and defected to USA:
"We kidnapped the former KCIA head Kim Hyeong-uk in Paris on October 7, 1979 in a restaurant close to a casino. We were guarding the restaurant door when Kim was going to meet a Korean actress there, and succeeded in the kidnapping by pretended to be messengers from the actress. We drugged Kim in a Cadillac, and took him the following night to a chicken farm some four kilometers to northwest from Paris, and put him in a grinder to make him chicken feed."
The circumstances of Kim's death have not been known, and in formal terms he went missing in Paris back then, but it's been widely thought that the ROK agents killed him in one way or another. The wildest rumor has him been taken back to Korea, where president Park himself killed Kim somewhere in a cellar.
Kim Hyông-uk had been the head of the KCIA, the most important state organ, for six years in 1963-1969 (from an adjoining Sisa Journal article), which were the years in which Park Chung-hee consolidated his power and also could add to his own legitimacy with the improved economy and standard of living. Kim was a parlamentarian for two years in the early 1970s, until he defected to the USA in 1973. There he testified in the Congress in 1977, heavily criticizing president Park. He was also going to publicize his memoirs which would have been quite damaging for pres Park, who tried to buy Kim out of publishing his book. Kim took Park's money, but gave his messenger in New York only a copy of the manuscript; parts of of the original were published in Japan. In October 7, 1979 he disappeared in Paris.

In the interview, Sisa Journal tries to have Mr Yi to tell that president Park Chung-hee gave direct orders to liquidate Kim Hyông-uk, but he won't admit any such thing. "Don't ask me things like that." Mr Yi tells that there won't be any documentation whatsoever about the murder of Yi, because no direct orders were given, and no official reports were filed. Yi tells that in general, president Park would say something like "he's a bad person" (kûnom mossûgettôra)," and the subordinate would tell pres Park only that "don't worry Mr president, I'll take the responsibility of this." Mr Yi doesn't tell anything about direct orders to do the hit, and about his meeting with pres Park in the early 1979 Mr Yi tells only that president poured him drinks and said only something like "a bad person, that Kim Hyông-uk whom I trusted is a bad person".
In another adjoining article the magazine asks the foreign division (?) head of KCIA of that time, Kim Kwan-bong, if there's any truth in the suspicions concerning the complicity of his office in the affair. He denies, and thinks that Cha Ji-cheol, the head of presidential guards (another powerful organization) might have been behind the order, as he was in a position to move the local KCIA operatives in Paris, as Mr Yi tells that they received assistance from KCIA men in France.

For the assassination, Mr Yi and the others in the team were sent to Israel already in 1978 to receive training from Mossad. The assassination team left Israel in a freighter, and arrived in Belgium, where they were taken by car to Paris. They stayed in Paris only for two days, and after the completion of the task they moved down south, went over the Spanish border, and got to Gibraltar, where they took a freighter back to Israel. Back to Korea they arrived via Japan. The Spanish route was chosen in order to go as hikers on the way to Pyrenees in case someone would ask.

Kotaji noted in the comments about what I already thought when writing the entry but forgot to add: what kind of connections have there been between the pre-democracy Korea and Mossad of Israel? Perhaps this kind of training was just another merchandise available for friendly nations. Haven't really been following this field, so I can't tell.

Update, April 27, 2005.

Ohmynews tells on April 26 that according to a source in the National Intelligence Service, the persons who were involved in the Kim Hyung-wook case back in 1979 are considering giving a "confession of conscience" (yangsim kobaek). The source maintains that the Service doesn't have any grounds to admit that the Mr Yi who talked with Sisa Journal would have been a KCIA operative. (Wasn't that how it was supposed to be in the first place: no traces.)
O Ch'ung-il, the head of the commission clarifying the past issues of the ROK intelligence services (국정원 과거사건 진실규명을 통한 발전위원회) (of which this source is a member of) wondered in a radio interview whether it was possible to dispose of the body of Kim Hyung-wook in a chicken feed grinder, because "chicken feed is made of dry stuff, and there is so much liquid in the human body." He doesn't say anything about suit buttons, pieces of fabric and so on, which I thought in the first place.

Update, May 3, 2005.
Ohmynews tells about the contents of the "Producer's Memo" program of MBC to be aired today. "Producer's Memo" went to France to investigate what "Mr Yi" told in the Sisa Journal interview quoted above, and also tracked the truth behind other statements by Mr Yi, of which "part could be proven true, but it's difficult to trust him fully." In France the MBC team found out that there shouldn't have been the kind of chicken feed grinders in use in early 70s that Kim Hyung-wook was said to have been killed in. Also the acress Ch'oe Chi-hûi (Choi Ji-hee?), who according to "Mr Yi" was used in getting Kim Hyung-wook to Paris, strongly denies having even been in that part of the world at the time. The Sisa Journal writer who did the original story with "Mr Yi" is not convinced by what "Producer's Memo" claims having found out, and is going to publish a critique of the MBC's program in the next issue of Sisa Journal.

So it seems that as long as National Intelligence Service (국가정보원), the follower of the Korean CIA, doesn't get active in this issue, finding any kind of conclusive truth will be difficult.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

terminology:changsa and chayongop

It's good to remind oneself once in a while of the relevance and use of terminology concerning all kinds of phenomena. "Small business" or "self-employment" is something that I've paid attention to.

Title search with the term changsa in a Korean online bookstores gives literally hundreds of results; chayôngôp gives just a few.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Increased taxes for small businesses

The basis on which businesses expenses have been acknowledged as tax deductible will become more rigorous, which means that many small businesses will have to pay higher taxes. Also the additional tax (kasanse) for establishments without a proper accounts book (changbu) will be raised from 10 to 20% (from Chosun Ilbo).

The level of income under which a certain amount has been taken as business expenses automatically without documentation will be lowered, for example in the case of realtors, business, education, and social services from 60 million W [45000€] to 48 mil W [37000€].

Even if the number of those eligible for the tansun kyôngbiyul ("simple expense rate") will decrease, some branches of business which have been doing badly will be given a higher rate (which means more of their income will be taken as expenses). Among these are karaokes (noraebang), small accommodation businesses (yôgwan), and pig farming (!).

Hankyoreh tells in turn that small "livelihood type" (saenggyehyông) business keepers in debt trouble are included among those whose situation will be alleviated with the new measures for sinyong pullyangja (forgot what velkaongelmainen is in English). Not that debts would be written off, but additional loans for "getting on ones feet" (charip) will be made available, and loan payments will be delayed by 6 to 12 months. I guess this includes only those who have loans from formal financing institutions, and those owing money to loan sharks and others shall cope with their situation on their own.

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Choi Min-shik photo book "Sad Faces in a Paper Mirror"

Busan, 1967. (c) Choi Min-shik

The photographer Choi Min-sik (his personal homepage), whose pictures I must have used here previously without being aware that they are his, has published a new edition of 「종이거울 속의 슬픈 얼굴」 ("Sad Faces in a Paper Mirror"), which contains his writings about his life and photography, and of course his photographs, mostly of Koreans living the hardest of lives in the earlier decades but some from India as well. For a huge selection of Choi's photographs from 1950s to 1990s, go to the gallery on his homepage.

(It is warned on Choi's page that legal measures are taken against against unauthorized use of his photographs, but I'll take the risk because Choi's pictures deserve it.)

• There's even a blog dedicated to Choi's book.
「종이거울 속의 슬픈 얼굴」 in Aladdin bookshop
Introduction of the book at Voice of People

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abolition of death sentence in South Korea

The editorial of Kyunghyang Sinmun reminds us that the death penalty has still not yet been abolished in South Korea. Today is the 30 years since the so-called Inhyôktang affair (Inhyôktang=Inmin hyôngmyôngdang, People's revolutionary party), in which eight people accused of forming a party of that name were executed the very next morning after their sentence was confirmed. There is a good chance that the death penalty will be abolished, as a clear majority of parlamentarians signed the abolition bill which is now under scrutiny in the Legislation committee (the head of which is unfortunately in favor of death sentence).

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

coming law school system and Sillim-dong kosi village

Toellom kosi sôjôk bookstore from the "exam village" in Sillim 9-dong. 될놈 here cannot but refer to passing the civil exam; Toellom=someone who's going to [pass the exam]. (c) Jan, March 23, 2005
Hankyoreh21 maps the coming changes (registration?) for the "exam village" in Sillim 2-dong and 9-dong as the judiciary education system will change with the law school system in 2008. The exam village (kosich'on) consists of private prep (?) schools (hagwôn for the state exam crammers, dormitories (kosiwôn), and reading rooms (toksôsil). The introduction of the law school system means that the law exam (is it called 'bar exam'?) is abolished, so many hagwons would concentrate more on civil cervant exams, but there'll be demand also for law tutoring - to enter law school. The article tells that the biggest effect from the law school system will concern the dorms, of which there is already oversupply. The quickest movers have already been targeting single wage earners with prices cheaper than single room studios (wôllum, "one room") and improved facilities.

Seems that Ûimin's mother's (one of my research acquaintances) husband made the right decision to give up the kosiwôn he had been keeping for a few years.

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Naksan Temple mostly destroyed in fire

The bronze bell from 1469, and the site of the bell pavillion after the fire.
(c)Yonhapnews/Kwon Woo-sung, from Ohmynews
Anyone who has opened a Korean newspaper or entered a Korean newssite is surely aware that the Naksan temple (Naksansa 落山寺) on the Eastern coast close to the city of Sokcho was devoured by a forest fire yesterday. Ohmynews has a report that all the most important parts of Naksansa were destroyed. The accompanying photographs show ashes and destroyed buildings. One big loss is the bronze bell (Naksansa tongjong) from 1469 which melted in the flames. The seven-story stone pagoda (sôkt'ap) seems not to have suffered damage except for some melted bronze parts and soot from flames. Of the 37 buildings 22 were destroyed. (Follow the links at the bottom of the Ohmynews article for pictures of Naksansa before the fire).
Fortunately nobody is reported dead or hurt in the fires (yet).

Makes me think what's the risk of same thing happening to the Tripitaka Koreana (P'almandaejanggyông or Koryô Taejanggyông), the 81000 printing blocks of sutras in the Haein Temple (Haeinsa)? Smaller I guess (and hope).

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Kim Woo-kyung concert in Espoo, Finland

By fortunate circumstances I got to know that the winner of last year's Mirjam Helin singing competition, tenor Kim Woo-kyung was to give a concert in Espoo, near Helsinki. Got ourselves tickets and went to see with good expectations, and we were not let down. Sure I lack means and knowledge to judge performances of classical music, but for us it's a matter of feeling and being part of a receptive audience, and Kim was received very warmly. He is quite well remembered from the competition, and the 400-seat hall was almost full even though I couldn't see any special advertising for the event except for the concert program of the venue.

The program:
Robert Schumann: seven songs from the collection "Dichterliebe"
Ludwig van Beethoven: Adelaide / Andenken / Der Kuss
Richard Strauss: Morgen! / Ich trage meine Minne / Allerseelen / Zueinigung
Francesco Paolo Tosti: Tristezza / Non t'amo più
W.A.Mozart: Il mio tesoro intanto (the Don Ottavio aria from Don Giovanni)
Georges Bizet: La fleur que to m'avais jetée (the Don Jose aria from Carmen)
Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Kuda kuda (the Lensky aria from Yevgeny Onegin)

The audience gave the best reception to the Korean folk song Kim Woo-kyung sang as one of the encores. Very interesting: a kind of a song that the audience most certainly never had heard, but the simple beauty of the boating song (paennori) and the feeling that the listeners could sense from Kim's performance was simply so moving. I was able to hold back tears but my wife wasn't. (When meeting the performers after the concert, the accompanist told that the audience had responded similarly also in the previous concert in Savonlinna.) Kim's career is already on a stellar footing, as he sings permanently in the Semper Opera in Dresden; there are many in Finland hoping that he will not become too busy to come again often.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sillim 2-dong sights

A correspondent has paid a visit to Sillim 2-dong and provided me with some photographs of the area where I have been hanging around (=doing research).

So shop that for 20 years would have been Ssukkogae Sanghoe or something and ten years ago Ssukkogae Super is now Well-being Mart.
But what is Noksillyôn? Even the allmighty Google is clueless. Sounds like short for something like noksaek silch'ôn yônhap, but who knows.
(c) Jan 2005
The commenter Sy has noted that there's an organization called Noksaek Silch'ôn Yôndae, which most likely is behind Noksillyôn. With little googling, we find that such an organization has been registered as a non-profit organization at the Ministry of Environment on Jan 15, 2005, and its address in Gwanak-gu, Sillim bon-dong is precisely the location that's in the photograph.

A view down from Ssukkogae-gil towards Bongcheon-dong and Sillim-dong. Very little development in the front, a bit more development behind, but no apartment houses. This area, behind my own neighborhoods, has escaped the building boom that could be seen a little further from here since the era of low interests and demand for both better-quality family housing and dorm housing.
(c) Jan 2005

Bongmaeul-gil (Bok-maeul-gil), the street which I've trodden back and forth countless times. Doesn't really seem to have changed in the last few years.
(c) Jan 2005

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Friday, April 01, 2005

핀란드 새 한국어 국가명은 분란(芬蘭)

오늘 우리한테 다음과 같은 중요한 뉴스가 전달됐다.
We have approached today an interesting piece of news.
핀란드 새 한국어 국가명은 분란(芬蘭)
핀란드의 한국어 국가명은 <분란>(芬蘭)으로 변경될 예정이라고 익명을 요구하는 핀란드 외무부 관계자의 통해서 밝혀졌다. 그동안 오해를 많이 불러이르킨 <핀란드>를 대신하는 새 한국어 국가명을 만들기 위해서 국어연구원, 헬싱키대학교 아시아∙아프리카 학부 및 국어국문과, 내무부 및 외무부 관계자들이 여러 차례 모인 결과로 동아시아의 한자(漢字)권의 전통적인 나랏이름인 분란(芬蘭)으로 최종 결정을 내렸다고 전해진다.
국어연구원의 상임 연구원은 국가명 변경의 이유에 대해서 "핀란드라는 나랏이름이 한국에서 오해를 많이 불렀다고 여러번이나 보고를 받았고 특히 한국에서 활동중인 핀란드 수출업자들의 관계자들은 많은 어려움을 겪었다고 들었다"며 "<핀란드>라는 국가명은 우리 정체성을 부인하는 것뿐만 아니라 많은 유럽국가와 달리 한국에서 우리나라의 전통적인 한자권 국가명을 거부하는 행위"라고 덧붙였다. 또다른 변경작업에 가담한 관계자는 "이제부터 우리나라를 한국에서 <분란>이라 부르는 것은 어떤 면에서 역사바로세우기라고도 할 수 있다 "고 했다.
핀란드인들이 한국에서 겪었던 어려움과 오해들은 주로 택시기사들은 나랏이름을 잘못 알아듣는 경우들이었다고 한다. "핀란드 대사관으로 가라고 그랬더니 폴란드 대사관으로 데려다 주더라"고 어느 핀란드 외교관의 증언을 마부뉴스가 확보할 수 있었다. "비록 같은 유럽연합국가이긴 하지만 폴란드 대사관으로 데려다 준 건 얼마나 비위 상한 것인지 상상해 보라"고 익명을 요구하면서 말했다. 어느 핀란드회사의 관계자는 비슷한 경험을 또 익명을 요구하면서 마부뉴스한테 설명했다. "모범택시였는데, 뭔가 세계를 아는 줄 알았다. 손님이 어디서 왔는지 물어보길레 핀란드라 그랬더니, '아, 필리핀, 거기 잘 안다, 우리 한국사람들의 거기 많이 골프 치러 가는 곳이지'라는 엉뚱한 소리를 하더라"고 굳은 얼굴로 호소했다.

이것은 좀 너무 가벼운 이유로 한국어 국가명을 바꾸는 것이 아닌가 하는 질문의 헬싱키대학교 인류학과 연구원은 "택시기자들이 한국에서 얼마나 막강한 세력인지 기억해 달라"고 했다. "개항기, 한말기에 보부상들의 조직은 나라를 흔들 수 있었다는 것처럼 오늘날 대한민국에서 택시기사들부터 바로잡지 않으면 나라는 미래가 없을 것"이라고 뭔가 아는 것 같아서 말했다.

한국에서 <분란>이 어떻게 받아들일지에 대해서 국가명 변경작업의 관계자들은 걱정스러운 표정을 보여주지 않고 있다. "서울시는 중국어 이름을 성공적으로 바꾸고 중국에서도 이걸 잘 받아들인 것 같기도 하고 한국에서 이것을 이견없이 받아들여지리라 믿는다. 아무런 설득작업을 준비하지 않았고 그냥 외교통으로 <분란>이라 명칭해야 한다는 통보를 보내는 것이 충분"이라고 한다.

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