Aidan Foster-Carter left a note on the Korean Studies List about a set of photographs of the DPRK ambassador to Poland, Kim Pyong Il, visiting some kind of a solidarity cultural event. I guess having such pictures available on the North Korean leader's half brother makes news in Pyongyangology. Once again it's interesting to note the remarkable physical likeness of Kim Pyong Il to his father.
Kim Pyong Il was the DPRK ambassador to Finland in the mid-1990s until the embassy was closed, and Mr Kim was assigned to Poland. There were all kinds of rumors about Kim Jong Il having sent Kim Pyong Il abroad in order to avoid power struggle with his allegedly more capable half brother, but who knows. I also get the feeling that he was sent away for looking too similar to his father... A Pyongyangological factoid on Kim Pyong Il: KCNA, the DPRK news agency based in Tokyo, does not give a single hit for a Korean-language search on Kim Pyong Il. Neither does any of Google hits on his name go to DPRK-affiliated sites.
In the final lecture of my course, I used Kim Chi-ha's famous poem "Road to Seoul" from the 1970 collection Hwangt'o (Yellow earth) to illustrate how the rural migration, urbanization and societal change in general were represented at the time.
간다 울지 마라 간다 흰 고개 검은 고개 목마른 고개 넘어 팍팍한 서울길 몸팔러 간다
Kim Chi-ha: Tie Souliin
Menen älkää itkekö, menen yli valkoisen, mustan, janoisen solan raskasta tietä Souliin itseäni myymään
언제야 돌아오리란 언제야 웃음으로 돌아오리란 댕기풀 안스러운 약속도 없이 간다 울지 마라 간다 모질고 모진 세상에 살아도 분꽃이 잊힐까 밀 냄새가 잊힐까 사뭇사뭇 못 잊을 것을 꿈꾸다 눈물 젖어 돌아올 것을
Lupaustakaan antamatta siitä palaanko joskus palaanko joskus nauraen Menen älkää itkekö, menen Vaikka maailma olisi kuinka julma unohdanko kukat, vehnän tuoksun koskaan ei unohdu unista kyyneltyneenä, paluu
간다 울지 마라 간다 하늘도 시름겨운 목마른 고개 넘어 팍팍한 서울길
Menen älkää itkekö, menen yli taivaankin murehtiman janoisen solan raskasta tietä Souliin
This is a difficult poem, and for some lines I just had to cut corners, especially 댕기풀 안스러운 약속도 없이. But otherwise, it looks nice and should convey what Kim meant it to. Kim Chi-ha has been translated to English, "The Road to Seoul" included. I can't find the whole translation of that poem online, but from the excerpts I gather that line repeated twice, 몸팔러 간다, has been rendered as I'm going to sell my body. Maybe I'm partial, but doesn't the Finnish itseäni myymään sound much more true to the original?
Found out that Hankyoreh has made its own font available for download at the newspaper site in late 2005. Here's the direct link to the zip file (0.8mb). Below is a capture from my word processor. The Hankyoreh font looks quite nice and should be pleasing for the eye to read - not insignificant for us who've learned the characters as adults. The specific trait is that the character blocks break the square pattern. For example, in the syllables 레 and 체 as seen below, the consonant is smaller in height than the vowel.
Below is a capture, from this site, comparing the two fonts. Chosun's one is less original, a variation of the Myôngje font, and as I mentioned above, Hankyoreh font appears to be good to read on paper, but as a lot of my reading of Korean is done online, I may not end up using it much, and other fonts, especially Gullim (or Gulim) are better when writing a document with a word processor.
This is the cover photograph of an academic dissertation on keepers of small neighborhood businesses in Korea that will be published on April 30 and publicly defended on May 11. More about those later; I chose this pic because I did not want to have the mosts obvious choice of a street scene with shops and signboards (takes the focus to shops and out of people) or a pic of a shop front (same reason); this is a real person about whom the work is about. Moreover, her face is not visible. I got quite a many photos of real people in the work, but I chose all of them so that they are not recognizable. What I'm a bit worried about is how clearly this will come out in print, as it's full of details, so to say.
Daily NK has a very interesting article based on interviews with six North Korean women who have crossed the border to China and settled there. These women once again attest that in North Korea it's women who maintain the livelihood of their husbands and children by trading (changsa), as the rationing system has not functioned properly since the 1990's famine years, and salaries don't carry long in buying foods. So women have been packing their bags and gone out to do all kinds of businesses.
[...] 김영순 씨는 "식량난 이전 시기에는 대체로 남자들이 생계를 책임졌다. 김일성이 한때 여성간부들을 많이 등용하라는 교시도 내리긴 했지만, 여자 간부의 급수에 맞춰 남자의 직급도 올려주는 등 가정의 구조가 남자 위주로 돌아갔다. 그러나 고난의 행군 이후 여자들 90% 이상이 가정을 책임지게 되면서 남자들을 (불필요하다는 의미의) 낮전등, 불편이, 멍멍이라고 부르고 있다"고 설명했다.
여성들이 처음 장마당에서 할 수 있는 것은 먹는 장사가 대부분이었다. 그러나 돈이 모이고 장사 방법에 눈이 트이면서 달리기(지역을 이동하며 물건을 중계 또는 판매하는 행위)와 장마당 장사에도 뛰어 들었다.
안 씨는 "처음부터 장사를 시작하지 못한 여자들도 나중에는 다 장사에 뛰어들었다. 써비차(화물차)나 열차를 타고 다니며 달리기 장사에 나섰다. 여자들은 날마다 50kg짜리 배낭을 두개 세 개 들고 다닌다. 열차에 많은 사람이 타다보니 떨어져 죽는 경우도 많았다. 그러면서도 장사를 계속했다"고 덧붙였다. [...]
I've always thought that the level of my speaking of Korean is higher than my understanding of it. Recently I got a sort of confirmation for this, as I couldn't understand clearly what I was saying in a video snippet that my wife filmed of our visit to a restaurant kept by our acquaintances in Icheon, Gyeonggi-do. Ok, the video was a bit noisy as a local customer had become so inspired by a far-away visitor with whom she could communicate so as to sing him a song.
Im Kwon-taek's "Beyond the Years" opens on April 12
Beyond the Years (Chônnyônhak, "thousand years' crane") Im Kwon-taek's sequel to Sopyonje (1993), in production for several years, opens on April 12. It is Im's 100th movie, and it is told that Chungmuro (a street in Seoul where many of the movie companies are located) is full of good vibes now that the film is finally finished despite initial difficulties, and Im's younger colleagues have been giving tributes to him, such as the film trailer above, which was edited by director Chông Yun-ch'ôl.
The female lead doing the role of Song-hwa is none else than Oh Jeong-hae (O Jông-hae) - how could it be otherwise when it's a Sopyonje sequel, and the male lead (role of Tong-ho) is Cho Chae-hyôn (Jo Jae-hyun), who has been prominent in earlier Kim Ki-duk films and was also eaten up for dinner in Ch'ônyûdûrûi chônyôksiksa ("girl's dinner", original English title "Girls' Night Out").
Cho Chae-hyeon as Tong-ho and Oh Jeong-hae as Song-hwa
The original cast for the role of Tong-ho was Kim Yông-min, a stage rather than movie actor. With the news that the lead would not be a top name, the main investor balked, and so did the production company. When this became known in Chungmuro it created a lot of movement to raise finances for Im's movie, but another new company had already picked the tab, and Im could resume his work. The new male lead was Cho, who was given the role when he offered to do any role in the movie when hearing that the production was having difficulties. And yes, also Kim Myeong-gon, who did the adoptive father's role in Sopyonje, was also cast for Beyond the Years, but Kim become meanwhile the minister of culture, so that part had to be recast as well.
The Korean title of the movie, Ch'ônnyônhak (thousand years' crane) is the name of the Sopyonje main theme, conducted by Kim Ki-ch'ôl. Can't tell if that title for the new film was chosen to emphasize the continuity from Sopyonje; the story line of "Beyond the Years" depicts the time of the events in the end of Sopyonje, when Tong-ho, who had earlier had escaped the miserable conditions of wandering performers that their adoptive father inflicted upon them, and, returning to the Jeolla (Chôlla) province as a buyer of medicinal herbs, also goes around asking about Song-hwa, whom he grew up with calling her "older sister" (nuna). This time, their relation evolves into a love story. Tong-ho follows the tracks of Song-hwa and finds her, but in the manner of good melodrama, things don't go so easily.
(The scene at the end of Sopyonje, when Tong-ho has found Song-hwa, who had been blinded by her adoptive father so that she wouldn't lost the "sadness" (wônhan) of her voice, and asks her to sing a song, is a guaranteed tear-jerker. Tong-ho plays the puk drum and Song-hwa sings; their voices fade off and the Ch'ônnyônhak theme comes instead, screen showing only the teary-eyed faces of the two performers. (The scene in Sopyonje soundtrack; mp3, 7:44, 10.9 mb) We watched the dvd with my wife late last year; I knew I wouldn't be able to watch the scene unemotionially, so I pretended I needed to do something else, like doing the dishes, so I ended up hearing my wife's sobbing to the kitchen.)