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∙ Current position: Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
∙ Ph.D. dissertation Neighborhood Shopkeepers in Contemporary South Korea: Household, Work, and Locality available online (E-Thesis publications a the University of Helsinki). For printed copies, please contact me by e-mail.
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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

passing away of Nam June Paik

The artist Nam June Paik passed away yesterday at the age of 74.

TV Cello: Finnish Dream. The collection of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, 1991.

Even though I am a quite a complete dilettante in the field of arts and as young (as well as now) I didn't show any specific interest towards art except what a newspaper-reading youngster wanting to give a impression of an intellectual would have to need to know, Nam June Paik must be the first Korean name I ever learned. Well, perhaps I also had memorized the name of the DPRK ruler thanks to the curiosity his outstanding exploits and style of rule commanded in the West.

About the work in the accompanying picture:
TV-cello: Finnish Dream, which belongs to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, is from 1991, but its origins are in the 1960s. Paik met the classically trained cellist Charlotte Moorman in New York in 1964, and the two set up several performances together in the following years. Sometimes Moorman played a cello made of TV monitors, and sometimes he played an ordinary cello dressed in TV bra made by Paik. Paik and Moorman had in common the intention to break the conventions of performing classical music. Paik designed TV-cello: Finnish dream for the opening of an exhibition in the Ateneum museum in 1991.

Paik Nam Jun was a Korean artist. He was recognized as one and thought of himself as one (as far as I know), but Korea is a place where his art would not have been possible, and I'm not talking about just earlier poverty and lack of resources or even politically and socially repressing authoritarianism. Did he create Korean art? I don't think so, and there's no need to do so either. We do watch TV everywhere in the world don't we.

(I also wanted to include a namjunepaikesque picture of a TV set trader in the Hwanghak-dong market now disappeared due to the opening of Cheonggyecheon, but couldn't find any, and my own shots are only on film.)

Update, Feb 1, 2006

Ohmynews tells that a memorial altar (? punhyangso) has been set up for Nam June Paik in the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, next to his work Tadaiksôn (多多益善, "the more the better") which towers in the spiral space.

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jeong of the pangakan

Just as I had finished writing elsewhere that the absence of the offspring of small shopkeepers in the shops has a lot to do with the fact that the businesses very rarely are thought of as something to be passed on, Chosun Ilbo has in its serial Salmat nanûn sesang ("life worth living" or "good world" or something like that) a feel-good story of a rice mill-bakery (pangakan) kept by a granny in her 60s, who is thinking of handing over the mill to her youngest son. He has not married, and has been helping her mother in the pangakan since he finished his military service. Ok, I'll take this only as an aberration from a general pattern...

The article is a prime example of how certain Korean values like goodheartedness and human warmth (or whatever) or chông (jeong情) are associated with a non-modern environment, lack of urban development, and village-like human relations. Granny's rice mill is located in Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, which is behind the presidential mansion right under Bugak mountain. First paragraph:
Buam-dong, Jongno-gu in Seoul. In this place called "the village behind the Blue House" everything takes place slowly. In the alleys lined by rice shops, barber shops, and Chinese restaurants the pace of the residents is not hurried, and grandmothers are enjoying the winter sunshine and chatting in front of the grocery store.

Update, Feb 1, 2006

Dram Man has good comments on the choice of the son to be involved in the business; I failed to think of the economical incentives that he points out. In fact, granny's business is apparently good: two thirds of her ttôk is sold to Gangnam people, and the several art galleries in the vicinity are her regulars (reappreciation of traditional ritual food).

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006


국방위원장께서 중국 갔다오시고 바로 현지지도를 하러 가셨나 보다.
아니 근데, 살이 빠지셨다고 하니, 장군님의 턱을 보니까 옛날 사진일 터.

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tongne as a disparaging term

When the investigative program PD Such'ôp (Producer's memo) of MBC started broadcasting the results of its inquiries to the case of Dr Hwang Woo-suk, the supporters of Dr Hwang (who at first were quite many) countered the allegations by making and circulating Tongne Such'ôp ("neighborhood memo") parodies (?) in the net. Here the term tongne (neighborhood) is supposed to be a disparaging term, telling that the worth of the original program is at the lowest "neighborhood level". (It is quite clear that tongne isn't applied to PD Such'ôp any more since the role of the program in bringing Hwang's misdeeds into light was reported worldwide.)

But it was not only the supporters of Dr Hwang (he still has his doctorate intact, doesn't he?) that used the same term to ridicule the quality of programming concerning the case. A bit more than a week ago a KBS newsprogram Sisajungsim ("concentrating on current events") aired a program which apparently presented all kinds of conspiracy theories around the issue of Hwang as equal to the better established facts. Jin Jung-kwon, the political commentator and adjunct university teacher who nowadays hosts a radio program at SBS, commented in his program that KBS deserves to be renamed DBS (dongnebangsong, "neighborhood broadcast") for airing such nonsense (article in Pressian).

This is just a reminder for myself that tongne is not just a cosy term for neighborhoods and the sphere of one's daily activities, implicating a bit more humane relationships, reciprocity (I am an anthro after all), more chông(情) than in other environments; that it does have implications of class and stratification as well. It's not a coincidence that tongne isn't used that much about more well-off apartment neighborhoods.
(I was also reminded of this when translating the outline of my thesis to Korean; neighborhood goes well in English, but its closest equivalent in Korean, tongne, is more nuanced. "Neighborhood business" is tongne changsa, but it is also chugô chiyôk sogyumo saôp/chayôngôp.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Jack Goody reviews Maurice Godelier

Jack Goody reviews Métamorphoses de la parenté by Maurice Godelier in New Left Review. Us not too familiar with French or other books more urgent than this to read should get a good idea what Godelier's work is about from Goody's review. The first paragraph:

This is a blockbuster of a book. Nothing like it has been written since Lévi-Strauss’s Structures élémentaires de la parenté (1949) or Meyer Fortes’s Kinship and the Social Order (1969). Yet in the sweep of its evidence and argument, Godelier’s summa is more ambitious and far-reaching than either of these. It is at once a major intervention in the discipline of anthropology, and a work of the widest human interest. Kinship has the reputation of being the most technical department of anthropology, the least accessible to a general public. But while Métamorphoses synthesizes a huge range of complex materials, it is written in an unfailingly lucid style that makes no assumptions of professional familiarity with terms and debates about kinship, but always takes care to explain them in language anyone can understand. The book is both a monument of scholarship and a gripping set of reflections on universal experience. It is certain to be read and discussed for years to come.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Firefoxing Freemap

Among the several Korean map search services, seems that only Freemap works properly with Firefox.

It was 700 meters from my place to Mr Pak's rice bakery.

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Raelians offering Dr Hwang a job

I think it was already before the news of the research fraud by Dr Hwang hit the news, at the time of the biggest hype around his alleged achievements, I passingly thought of the Raelian movement, a bunch which sees humans having been created by aliens and which has been active at least in talk about cloning humans. Had I now been following Korean affairs I may never have gotten aware of the movement, which attracted a lot of attention in Korea at the time of Mr Rael's visit in August 2001.

Roh Moo-hyun government must immediately lift the prohibition of entry of the Ambassador of Aliens, His Holiness Raël

He was nevertheless denied entry when he was coming to Korea again in 2003. For this outrageous act of religious persecution Mr Rael announced that he was planning of sending the members of his organizations to hold demonstrations in front of ROK embassies and boycott Korean products in case the ROK government did not apologize (Yonhap article via Hankyoreh). Mr Rael also got support in the form of a one-person demonstration in front of the parliament in March 2004 (Hankyoreh)

Seems that Mr Rael has now forgiven Koreans, or perhaps he and his organizations are feeling sympathy for Dr Hwang, as we are told that Clonaid, company created by Raelians, is offering Dr Hwang support and even inviting him to work in its cloning laboratory. From Clonaid's news page:
Clonaid supports Dr Hwang
It is interesting to do the mental exercise, for just a few seconds, and ask oneself - why would Dr Hwang play with the hope of millions of people who are desperately waiting for stem-cell cure to be available for either themselves or one of their relatives? Why would he declare that he has made these lines, if he wasn't able to do it, knowing that millions are watching him and that he would have to deliver them soon?
In the same way, how can people believe that Clonaid's announcement of a cloned child being born was a hoax while thousands of parents-to-be were and are counting on us? Thankfully these parents didn't trust the media and today many of them had their baby...
We at Clonaid, believe that Dr Hwang has cloned human embryos and has the knowledge to develop stem cell lines.
We also believe that, like Dr.Boisselier, he has been discredited as he wasn't in line with what the political and religious powers of this world wanted regarding the cloning technology. It is easier to discredit someone than to believe in his words when he disturbs the establishment....
Dr. Boisselier has offered Dr. Hwang to collaborate in one of Clonaid's laboratories.

Oranckay's definitive blog note on the case of Dr Hwang starts by thinking of him as a kind of a spiritual leader of a religious cult, and Raelians offering him a job won't help Dr Hwang to escape this conclusion. Raelians seem to have found someone of their kind.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hankyoreh serial on social polarization

Hankyoreh has an apparently important series of articles on the yanggûkhwa... polarization of the society. I don't see yet any special page which links all the articles of the serial, so I'll collect them for the time being here.

[2006 연중기획 함께 넘자, 양극화]

• 1부 건강불평등 사회 ① 동네따라 수명 다르다: 강북구 사망위험 강남구보다 30% 높다
• 1부 건강불평등 사회 ① 동네따라 수명 다르다: 3인 사례 보면…검진기회도 소득순… 발병 알땐 늦다
• 1부 건강불평등 사회 ① 동네따라 수명 다르다: 먹고사는데 급급... 폐암·간질환 사망
• 1부 건강불평등 사회 ① 동네따라 수명 다르다: 건강차이 개인탓일까… 경제위기 뒤 벌어졌는데...
• 1부 건강불평등 사회 ② 부모의 지위는 아이의 건강지수: 저체중아 산모 3명 사례
• 1부 건강불평등 사회 ② 부모의 지위는 아이의 건강지수: 초등학력 산모 저체중아 낳을 확률은 대졸자의 1.8배
저체중아 재활치료 정부지원 전혀없어
• 1부 건강불평등 사회 ③ 흡연이 계층을 가른다: 막노동 유씨 ‘줄담배’... 교사 홍씨는 ‘건강 금연’
• 1부 건강불평등 사회 ③ 흡연이 계층을 가른다: 홧김에 한대 고단한 삶에 또 한대...
• 1부 건강불평등 사회 ④ 정신건강의 굴레, 비정규직: 반복되는 실업·재취업…건강관리 꿈도 못꿔
비정규직, 고용불안·저임금…스트레스에 허우적
우울증·신체질환 비율 비정규직 더 높

• (Continues)

A good, very good serial, but Hankyoreh could benchmark for example Chosun Ilbo for creating a special page for an easier access to all the articles in the serial.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

new blog: "Rate your students"

I don't have much - or actually anything - to complain after seeing the student evaluations of my last semester's course, but let me still give a note for a new blog called Rate Your Students:
The Rate Your Students blog offers college professors a chance to rate their students. We love most of our students, but get annoyed at the entitled members of the iPod generation and their casual relationship to a college education.
Ok, let me let off some steam as well.

• Not keeping deadlines for assignments. It's not really my fault that I didn't manage to make a menacing impression enough to have the students hand out their assignments in time; it's the lax atmosphere of Finnish universities. I thought of having a minus-point system for each day late, but then in the end I didn't.

• Too little response and feedback during the course. I had this course blog, and all I got from students attending the class one one single comment. There was also one by Oranckay, in which he suggested I make the course schedule available in a language more widely recognized than Finnish.

• This is not about students, but about having students write assignments during and at the end of the course instead of keeping a one single final exam as I've done earlier. For an hourly paid lecturer (sigan kangsa) the latter is the only reasonable alternative given how much extra toil the former method entails. The meager pay, in which class preparation and grading is not considered, is diluted even more when there's a lot of writing to be read and graded. For the purpose of university education, the former method (assignments, reports) is of course better, but there's a limit how much an hourly paid lecturer should reasonably expect to work for a course. Universities are already... puryô môkko itta, how do you say it, using the work of underpaid non-permanent staff and overworking the permanent staff. (I just refused to give a look at an essay on a Korean subject submitted for the requirements in the program in which I've been teaching; I do classes for which I'm paid, and also welcome students to talk and ask about subjects in which I might be of help, but I won't give help in grading for an institution to which I don't have any formal institutional affiliation besides occasional courses.)

Ok, let me emphasize once more that even though not overactive in class or online or not attentive of assignment deadlines (some were!), the students of my class were a nice bunch, attended classes despite of there not being a final exam based on class contents.
And one thing still: several students wrote in their assesments that the classes I did with MS Powerpoint (two out of 12) were good. Do the modern-day students need typed text and bright pics projected on a canvas for an interesting class? Even though I recognize the advantages of presentation technology, especially after having seen some very fine guest lectures using text, video, and audio, but I haven't (yet) learned to be so fond of Powerpoint, mainly because I still lack the routine needed not to waste too much time in preparing the presentations. Perhaps some day I'll find the way to prepare a class and transfer it to Powerpoint in a reasonable manner timewise, but that's not yet the case.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

laundry grandfather's art exhibition

Nadûri (Going out, 2000) (c) Ryu Hae-yun (linked from Ohmynews)
This is not the laundry grandfather of whom I've made occasional notes in this blog but Mr Ryu Hae-yun (78), a laundry keeper, who has an exhibition of his paintings in Ssamzie Gallery until January 23 (a story in Ohmynews). Mr Ryu took up painting only seven years ago. He continues keeping the laundry, and paints in the corner of his shop in the mornings and late evenings.

More reproductions of Mr Ryu's paintings in his son's blog.

Ssamzie Gallery is in Insa-dong, subway #3, Anguk station, exit 6, 100 meters down the main street.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hankyoreh interviews Iranian official

Hankyoreh interview with Mahdi Safari, a representative of the Foreign Ministry of Iran :
Hankyoreh: President Ahmadinejad has been constantly criticized by Western nations since he took office in last August.
= They criticize those who are against their interests. Nevertheless, since he took office president Ahmadinejad has emphasized cooperation with the nations of this regions and with Islamic nations.
Hankyoreh, what about telling even a bit of what's been behind the "constant criticism of Western nations", if you don't have the guts to ask whether it's appropriate to call for a destruction of a certain nation? For that, I'll refer those who might want to know to Al Jazeera.

Lately Hankyoreh has given a lot to wonder what its actual views are on human rights, application of laws, and democracy in the Korean peninsula.