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Thursday, October 27, 2005

naemuban ("barracks") to be renamed saenghwalgwan

It is possible to do things with words, like for example get higher value for real estate by attaching another place name in it. Residents in certain areas in Seongnam, Bundang, and Yongin in Gyeonggi-do have been making pleas to authorities to have administrative districts redrawn so that their are would be included in a highly valued dong (洞). (Seoul Sinmun article in Media Daum.) We see the same in Finland as well, when the real estate marketers use their imagination in redrawing and even renaming districts.

Another correction (rectification) of terms, this time anticipating reforms and redesigns, is the plan to change the word for "barracks" from naemuban to saenghwalgwan, which is included in the military reform draft made by the government and the governing party. The material basis for the renaming would be the increase of the size of the barrack rooms (are they called that?) from 0.8 pyeong (2.6 sq.m) to 2 pyeong (6.6 sq.m) per soldier. For conscripts, that doesn't sound so bad, and would be definitely more than their Finnish colleagues are able to enjoy. (For barracks over here, see this, this, this, and the linked picture on the right.) Instead of sleeping on elevated platforms (or whatever they can be called), each conscript will be provided with a separate bed and a small table. (A table! What do they do there?) The renamers also say that naemuban has been a war-time space to stay only a short time before moving on, but this will reflect the change of such facilities to places of living (saenghwalhanûn konggan).

I don't really know how such terms are sensed by native speakers, especially those who've done their conscript service. Naemu (內務) in naemuban, "inside affairs" is the same as in Naemubu, Ministry of Interior.

Perhaps the connotation of a separation and deviation from the normal society is too big - like the minister says, the aim is to make "an army that people want to go to" - and saenghwalgwan definitely sounds more civilian. It is not mentioned here, but the recent case of a mass killing by a conscript in the barracks he was serving quite likely looms behind this whole project. It is still easy to be sceptical about the conscripts of feeling of having no life (saengghwal) despite of living in a saengghwalgwan. Being a conscript in a total institution like armed forces cannot but be such a physically, psychologically, also culturally separated and different experience.

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