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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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Thursday, November 10, 2005

What is money?

Oranckay tells about interpreting in an interview with the sole survivor (from the hands of the infiltrators, not ROK soldiers) of the DPRK sub which got stranded in the estern coast in autumn 1996. The crew of the stranded submarine, except for this navigator who got separated from his crewmates in the woods, was found shot in one place. I, who'll have a thesis chapter on the small businesskeepers' relations and attitudes towards money, found the following just wonderful:
The guy had been the submarine’s navigator, and had lived on a North Korean naval base since the age of 14. Subsequently he knew very little beyond daily life on the base, and he was unfamiliar even with what the rest of North Korea is like. For example, he didn’t know what money was. He’d never needed any. When the South’s intelligence agency was done interrogating him and it came time to give the poor guy some orientation about South Korean society, one of the questions he asked at the end was how some bills could have more value than others when they’re all the same size. Shouldn’t the paper that you can buy more soju with be bigger? When I met him we were also in the presence of a lady, yet he frequently reached down and scratched or held his privates. He had a lot of questions for me even though I was there to interpret. Is South Korea so expensive because there are so many foreigners here? Does each star on the American flag representone of the wars it has won? What happens if you don’t have the money to pay for the subway? Do South Korean women like men who wear ties better than those who don’t?

Oranckay also links to the news that the person in question got a M.A. in political science last August.

North Koreans, the last tribe that the anthropologists have not yet been able to discover. I can just imagine the fervent rush of the researchers to the North once the system changes.
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