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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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Monday, February 28, 2005

Shouer 首尔 gaining acceptance in China?

Ohmynews tells, quoting the Korean Foreign Ministry, that Chinese-character name 首尔/首爾 (Ch. Shouer) that the city of Seoul last month promulgated to be used instead of 汉城/漢城 (Ch. Hancheng) has been gaining some ground in the mainland Chinese media.
In some of the recent reports in Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) and an associated newspaper for youth (中國靑年報), Seoul has been given as 首尔, with 汉城 in brackets next to the new term. On the other hand, the Xinhua news agency has been continuing the use of 汉城.

Would it be that the position of South Korea as a kind of a modernization model for China is not hurting the chances of "Shouer" to gain acceptance. Here's one googled example of a report on Korean art scene in Seoul, in which 首尔 is used.

My earlier post on the promulgation of the new Chinese-language name for Seoul

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Friday, February 25, 2005

anthropologist's journey to the past of a red village

Anthropologist's Journey to the Past: Searching for the History of a Red Village (인류학자의 과거여행: 한 빨갱이 마을의 역사를 찾아서) by Yoon Taek-lim (윤택림)
윤택림: 인류학자의 과거여행, 한 빨갱이 마을의 역사를 찾아서
Yoon Taek-lim, Anthropologist's Journey to the Past: Searching for the History of a Red Village
"Anthropologist's Journey to the Past: Searching for the History of a Red Village" (인류학자의 과거여행: 한 빨갱이 마을의 역사를 찾아서) by Yoon Taek-lim (윤택림) is a book that I've been browsing through a bit after acquiring it quite a long time ago. It's not that directly relevant for my own research topic, but I should have been able to invest more time for it.

The "history of a red village" is mainly about what happened before, during, and after the Korean War in a village in Southern Chungcheong province. The village is situated in Yesan County, and the place was back at that time so known for the leftist activity as to be called "Moscow of Yesan".

For all the death and killing on both sides during the conflict, and for the political situation in the peninsula after the cessation of the war, it is no wonder that there are very little traces left of all the "reddishness" of the village. The villagers, whether surviving reds, their descendants or others, saw what the anthropologist wanted to find out about merely as "the past," which at one time had been denied of them and what in the modern (late 80s and 90s) Korea was of no use for the identity and the quality of life of the villagers.
The villagers were not in a position to deny the consequences of the Korean development, as much as they have not been the main beneficiaries of it, because they felt that the life had gotten better - and that due to Park Chung-hee. (What does an anthropologist do when someone insists that it was thanks to president Park that her life has improved? Tell the informant to read a recent issue of Hankyoreh21? Explain that no, it cannot be that way? Or try to find out what's behind that personal personal experience?)

What was now important and valid in their lives was the quality of live (chal salda); compared to the past life had improved a great deal, but compared to the wealthy middle class in cities their lives as consumers were poor. And they wanted to be the kind of consumers that the urban middle class was.

Yoon Taek-lim has some discussion on the concept of minjung, with which I always don't quite agree, but perhaps I'll have to save that for another time or a more worthy arena...

The commentator "jook_when_ill" took issue with my above reference to anthropologists and Park Chung-hee nostalgy. On the second thought, he or she is correct that the take on anthros is not appropriate; I'm wrong to give an impression that Yoon Taek-lim wouldn't approve the villagers' views of Korea's development, on the contrary. From my thus far quite cursory reading it seems that she'd expected to see some of the old leftism reappear after the change of the political climate, but she no way expresses any dismay in the villagers' enthusiastic participation in the modern consumerism.

What I had in mind is better represented in for example in net columns by the former editorial board membre that used to appear in Hankyoreh. The following quote is from a piece titled Ordinary people like Park Chung-hee? (편지 49) ‘서민’은 박정희가 좋다?)

스스로 서민이고 민중이면서도 박정희를 높이 평가하는 역설이 생겨나고 있습니다. 심지어 박정희의 딸 만이라는 이유로 국회의원이 되고 제1야당 부총재가 되고 대통령선거 후보로 거론되기까지 합니다.
저는 총통 박정희의 음성이 지금도 들리는 듯 합니다.'박정희의 자식 ' 들인 이 나라의 수구언론들이 발행하는 지면에서 그의 망령은 지금도 어슬렁거리고 있습니다.
무엇보다 저를 슬프게 하는 것은 서민임을 자처하는 분들이 그를 좋게 평가하는 모습입니다. 어떻게 해야할까요. 그저 그분들의 선택이라고 방관해야 할까요? [Emphasis AL]

I'm not sure if you imply that with that particular comment I tried to appeal to "the average left-hating korean expat blogreader", but if you've visited this place before you should have no reason to believe so.

Update 2.
This was not supposed to be a not about Park Chung-hee, but that's how it became, and I'm not the least to blame. So for now, I'll only add one quote from my own research notes. The following is what I wrote down after listening to a conversation between a rice mill keeper (himself a GNP voter) and two neighborhood women (one former grocery store keeper, the other kept a butcher's store with her husband), all close acquaintances.
The three of them start talking about politics. It's 20 years since president Park Chung-hee was shot to death, and he has been a subject of much debate lately. The rice mill keeper doesn't think it's a good idea to give so much money to president Park's memorial hall. The women think it more in terms of what Park made for the Korean economy. The New Village Movement (Saemaŭl undong) and what it made for villages, consider how poor Korea was, when there was not enough to eat; when the new rice seed was introduced; the man himself was from poor surroundings. Even though his power was said to be dictatorial, would there have been any other way to feed this country. (About pres. Park, See Kim Eun Hee's text in Munhwa'e palmokchaphin Han'guk kyŏngje.)

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Thursday, February 24, 2005

marketplace gift certificates

Ohmynews tells that Small and Medium Business Administration (중소기업청) has decided to issue a national gift certificate for marketplaces (chaerae sijang) as one measure to support the struggling marketplace business. A marketplace gift certificate was first issued in the Jukdo Market in Pohang, and it proved successful (another Ohmynews piece).

Jukto Market in Pohang has actually named its gift certificate Jukdo Sijang Sarangkwôn, "Jukdo Market Appreciation Certificate", of which below is an example from the Ohmy article:

(I guess "appreciation" is an appropriate gloss for sarang in this case.)

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Inequality in Korea

For some strange reason, "inequality" is one of the words of the English language that always escapes my mind when I need to write it (or use otherwise). Also now I had to look it from pulpyôngdûng in the dictionary. But this is not the main point of this note, not even a starter.

Inequality is a continuous issue in South Korea, no matter what the developments of democracy and distribution of wealth are. Phrases like pinikpin puikpu (貧益貧富益富, poor getting poorer and rich getting richer) or yujôn mujoe mujôn yujoe (有錢無罪無錢有罪, innocent if rich, guilty if poor) are constantly given new life, not the least since the late 90s' economic crisis and the changed social and economic landscape since. Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs has recently surveyed about the Koreans' perceptions of equality and inequality in the society, and not surprisingly, the general view is that the inequality is severe and only increasing (reported in Pressian).

I'll finish this note later, and for now I just link a table from the Pressian article about the perceptions of inequality of wealth, divided to three income strata: low-income, middle class, and high-income.

(c)Ministry of Health and Welfare, via Pressian

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005


몇년전부터 가끔씩 헬싱키대학교 어느 지역연구소 밑에 있는 <아시아-태평양>이라는 과정에서 강의를 해 왔는데, 이번 가을학기 강의에서 이젠 처음으로 불합격자가 나왔다. 냉정한 마음이 아직 생기지 못 해서 좀 안타까운 생각이 들긴 하다. 아무리 해봐도 최하의 점수(1)도 붙이지 못 했다. 강의내용의 대한 두 질문에서 하나는 완전히 빵점(0)이고 추가 글을 읽고 대답한 것다 마찬가지었다. 이 불합격자의 답장을 읽다 보니 먼저 나온 생각은 내가 정말 이렇게 강의를 못 했나 하는 것이었다. "전근대 한국의 사회집단"이라는 질문에 거의 양반에 대하서만 쓴 것이었다. "돈을 번 농민들은 족보를 사들이곤 했다"고 내가 가르쳤을 리는 없는데... 그런데 이번에 같은 시험을 본 다른 학생의 답장을 보니 좀 안도의 숨을 쉴 수 있었다: 이 애가 강의를 듣긴 들었구나 싶었다. 당장 만점(3)을 주고 싶었지만 딴데서 좀 모자라서 그는 2.5를 받았다. 강의를 하고 시험답을 심사하는 자로서 물론 얼마 정도 봐 줄 틈이 있겠지만 불합격자가 되고 만 사람의 답을 보고 저만큼도 강의를 듣지 않았다는 것을 보고 나니 그 틈도 사라져버렸다...

Monday, February 21, 2005

Barbershop insults, and more about the "hair clipping controversy"

The people at EBS, (Education Broadcasting System?) are not happy that a comedian at SBS made the word ibalso (barbershop) out of the three letters ebs in a section of a comedy program in which Roman character terms are given a comic interpretetion. In the Korean order of things, getting likened to a barbershop is disparaging. Chosun Ilbo tells further that EBS has interpreted this insult in the context of its competition with SBS and the coming screening of digital broadcasting licences.

Barbershop picture / 이발소그림
Linked from a Hankyoreh21 article
For the illustration of this note I've googled a kind of a painting which in Korea is called ibalso kûrim, "barbershop picture", not necessary for being mostly on display in barbershops but being of low status in terms of art and on display for popular viewing in "non-art" places. Don't know what the English term for this kind of art is, but here we call that "marketplace art", for being sold in marketplaces outside of the "normal" art market.

This piece of news reminded of the issue from late last year, when the Korean Barbershop Association had managed to persuade the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare to issue a ruling, in which the (hygiene?) law was interpreted to prohibit the use of a clipping machine (ibalgi/parik'ang) in hairdressing shops in favor of barbershops (my entry from last December).

Let's see what the later developments in the "parik'ang controversy" are.

Later, the Barbers' Association seems to have further requested from the ministry that men be prohibited to use hairdressing shops. To that, the ministry had issued a recommendation to both Barbers' and Hairdressers' Associations that men use only barbershops. "Even though it is not stated in the hygiene law (공중위생법), it is a common practice that male customers use barbershops and female customers use hairdressing shops." (Hanguk Ilbo, from KINDS.)

KBS News ran a story on the parik'ang controversy on January 28. Barbers' Association is continuing its struggle for the survival of barbershops, but the odds are not good, as the the Health Ministry seems to have thought out that they have better things to do than control (tansok) the use of hair clipping machines.

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

On the tracks of 'Taebaek Sanmaek' in Beolgyo

There's a photography report in a blog called "The Dispossessed" about the places in the small town of Beolgyo in southern Jeolla appearing in Jo Jung-rae's novel "Taebek Sanmaek". Some visitors may remember that I'm in the process of reading the novel, now going through the second of the ten volumes. I always think of doing more notes on that reading experience, but there are just limits of what is sensible investment of time in a blog...

The proprietor of "The Dispossessed" has visited Beolgyo, home place of the novelist Jo and the main site of the first volumes of the novel, and taken nice photographs of sites mentioned in Taebaek Sanmaek: bridges, reed fields and so on. The sole thing reminding of the fact that the place is the site of one of the most important Korean novels is a beer house (hof/hop'û), which has borrowed the name of the novel (see the photograph linked from The Dispossessed).

An article in the weekend edition of Seoul Sinmun thinks that the lack of references to Jo's novel in Beolgyo may stem from the lingering bitterness in the minds of local descendants of the reds and the insurgency repressing forces (t'obôldae) and the killings from 1948 to the Korean War. (Considering how long the legacy of the similar circumstances of 1918 in Finland has remained, that'd be nothing to wonder.) By the way, "Taebaek Sanmaek House" (태백산맥 문학관), commemmorating the novel, will be built in Boseong, close to Beolgyo

On another note, lookin the photos in The Dispossessed I just can't help envying all the sunshine of the Korean winter.

Update, October 3, 2006.

Please see Robert Koehler's photos and a report of a visit to Beolgyo in September-October 2006.

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Friday, February 18, 2005

English translation of "Three Generations" by Yom Sang-seop to be published

Oranckay got there first, apparently as a consequence of a posting in The List, to tell that an English translation of a novel from 1931 by Yom Sang-seop, "Three Generations" (三代/Samdae) will be published in English and that it's required reading for all interested in modern Korea. Three Generations, first published as a serial in Chosun Ilbo is about - three generations in the colonial Korea. An educational site Koreannote has a good introduction of the book and the storyline in Korean, made to prepare Korean highschoolers for the graduation exam. The three generations are the grandfather Cho Ûi-gwan, a traditionally-minded landowner who buys himself a lineage genealogy (chokpo) to go for a yangban; the father Cho Sang-hun, who has accepted the new things as his own but still lives by wasting the family fortune; son Cho Tôk-ki, who has a good character but is caught in the discord between the father and grandfather and lives an irresolute (uyubudanhada) life.
Let's quote from the publisher's site:
Three Generations charts the tensions in the Jo family in 1930s Japanese-occupied Seoul. Yom’s keenly observant eye reveals family tensions with profound insight. His characters are so alive that if you cut the pages they might bleed. Delving deeply into each character’s history and beliefs, he illuminates the diverse pressures and impulses driving each one. This Korean classic also brings forth the larger issues at hand, revealing Korea’s situation under Japanese rule, the traditional Korean familial structure, political movements of the 1930s (both national and international), and the battle between the modern and the traditional. Touted as one of Korea’s most important works of fiction, Three Generations gave birth to naturalism in Korean literature. Best representing the Seoul dialect of the time, Yom is celebrated even today for his contributions to Korean literature; Three Generations remains a mandatory read for high school students. The long-awaited publication of this masterpiece is a vital addition to canonical Korean literature in English.

ISBN 0-9749680-0-5
cloth $30
Release date: March 2005

The first part of "Three Generations" published in Chosun Ilbo in January 1, 1931 (linked from an education site Koreannote) Seems that the illustrations were done An Sôk-chu, here appearing as An Sôk (安夕), whose illustrated writings (manmun manhwa) from the 1930s were the subject of Sin Myông-jik's Modôn ppoi Kyôngsôngûl kônilda, a study of the images of modernity in the colonial Korea (see the sidebar for the book cover).

And finally, let's quote from the same Koreannote page a passage from the first part which is in the picture above, "Two Friends", to see what Yom's prose is like and if I could cope with the Korean original:
두 친구
덕기는 안마루에서, 내일 가지고 갈 새 금침을 아범을 시켜서 꾸리게 하고 축대 위에 섰으려니까, 사랑에서 조부가 뒷짐을 지고 들어오며 덕기를 보고,
"얘, 누가 찾아왔나 보다. 그 누구냐? 대가리꼴 하고 . 친구를 잘 사귀어야 하는 거야. 친구라고 찾아온다는 것이 왜 모두 그 따위뿐이냐? "
하고 눈살을 찌푸리는 못마땅하다는 잔소리를 하다가, 아범이 꾸리는 이불로 시선을 돌리며, 놀란듯이
"얘, 얘, 그게 뭐냐? 그게 무슨 이불이냐?"
하며 가서 만져 보다가,

"당치 않은! 삼동주 이불이 다 뭐냐? 주속이란 내 낫세나 되어야 몸에 걸치는 거야. 가외 저런 것을, 공부하는 애가 외국으로 끌로 나가서 더럽혀 버릴 테란 말이냐? 사람이 지각머리가 ."
하며, 부엌 속에 쪽치고 섰는 손주며느리를 쏘아본다.
덕기는 조부의 꾸지람이 다른 데로 옮아간 틈을 타서 사랑으로 빠져 나왔다. 머리가 덥수룩하고 꼴이 말이 아니라는 조부의 말눈치로 보아서 김병화가 온 것이 짐작되었다.
"야아, 그러지 않아도 저녁 먹고 내가 가려 하였었네."
덕기는 이틀 만에 만나는 이 친구를, 더욱이 내일이면 작별하고 말 터이니만치 반갑게 맞았다.
"자네 같은 부르주아가 내게까지! 자네가 작별하려 다닐 데는 적어도 조선 은행 총재나 ."
병화는 부옇게 먼지가 앉은 외투 주머니에 두 손을 찌른 채 딱 버티고 서서 이렇게 비꼬는 수작을 하고서는 껄껄 웃어 버린다.

"만나는 족족 그렇게도 짓궂게 한 마디씩 비꼬아 보아야만 직성이 풀리겠나? 그 성미를 좀 버리게."
덕기는 병화의 부르주아, 부르주아 하는 소리가 듣기 싫었다. 먹을 게 있는 것은 다행하다고 속으로 생각지 않은 게 아니나, 시대가 시대이니만치 그런 소리가 ---더구나 비꼬는 소리는 듣고 싶지 않았다.
"들어가선 무얼 하나. 출출한데 나가세그려. 수 좋아야 하루에 한 끼 걸리는 눈칫밥 먹으러 하숙에 기어들어가고도 싶지 않은데 . 군자금만 대게. 내 좋은 데 안내를 해 줄게!"
"시원한 소리 한다. 내 안내할게 자네 좀 내 보게."
하며, 덕기는 임시 제 방으로 쓰는 아랫방으로 들어갔다.
"여보게, 담배부터 하나 내게. 내 턱은 그저 무어나 들어오라는 턱일세."
하며, 병화는 방 안을 들여다보고 손을 내밀었다.
"나 없을 땐 온통 담배를 굶데그려."

덕기는 책상 위에 놓인피전갑을 들어 내던지며 웃다가,
"그저 담배 한 개라도 착취를 해야 시원하겠나? 자네와 나와는 착취, 피착취의 계급적 의식을 전도시키세."
하며 조선옷을 훌훌 벗는다. (제1장 발단부)

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Defining terminology: "progress" and "ordinary people"

It's not today's news that the Korean term 'progress' (chinbo / jinbo) is being diluted into meaning nothing or being synonymous with sympathy for authoritarianism and dictatorship. The same happened in Finland in the 1970s when 'progress' (Fi. edistys) was in certain circles measured in one's attitude towards Soviet Union; for example trying to have textbooks critical (?) of the Soviet Union removed from university courses was progress.
This time Voice of People, a newssite which has been a frontrunner in these developments of the progress of the term 'progress', has an article in which, in the wake of the recent DPRK announcement of the possession of a nuclear weapon, a representative of a "unification organization" explains what progress means. It is obvious that such organizations are not pleased that some other groups which elsewhere claim to be progressive have put part of the responsibility of the nuclear development on the country that did the development. In their view, that cannot be progress, since progress is taking the side of DPRK in all issues.
First, representative Hwang Seon [of Unification Alliance] says of the statement by People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy that there are many with a "DPRK complex" among intellectuals who claim to be progressives. They are suspective of Chosun, Joongang, and Donga [newspapers], but in the case of the North, they trust the main newspapers as such and accept the stories coming from them as truth.
The representative Hwang Seon explains, that in the South the basis for progress is the view on North Korea (Ibuk). "The people who don't have a solified (hwakkohada) view on the North, are putting blame on both sides." He points out that if North Korea is not viewed with an open mind, it's difficult to achieve solid progressiveness.

Seomin / ordinary people
And now for a concept which is closer to my heart, and of which I've made numerous notes before. Hankyoreh writes that while banks are sitting on heaps of money after a very good year of 2004, the financial services available for the "ordinary people" (seomin / sômin) are getting thinner and thinner. (This time "ordinary people's financial services" [sômin kûmyung] doesn't refer to separate financing institutions but to services available in banks.) Very fittingly with the concept sômin, the two cases given in the article are woman selling eggs and vegetables in a marketplace and a keeper of a beer house. One of the often recurring characteristics of "ordinary people" is the disadvantage in getting financial services, which often makes them to turn to curb loans and usury.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Tree felled on grass (song)

Tuned my cellphone radio in the commuter train on my way home to Radio Helsinki last Monday; what the hell, this etheric pop tune is sung in Korean! It was such a startling experience (hearing a Korean song in Finnish radio, and a good one at that) that I had to mail the program host and ask what it was. It was a tune from the soundtrack of 4inyong sikt'ak ("table for four", in its original English name The Uninvited), a horror movie from 2003 which has escaped my attention. The song Chandie pein namu ("Tree felled on grass", or in the original Anglo-Korean, "Grass-cut tree") was sung by Jung Ma-ri, tune by Jang Young-gyu and lyrics by Paek Jin (two last from Uhuhboo Band /어어부 밴드).
Listen to the song from Movist

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Road manager and shop mothers

The piece of the "road-managing" of their school-age children by Korean mothers in Korea Herald, already couple of weeks old, is interesting not that it'd reveal an unknown phenomenon but as a news that someone is making a detailed study of the topic. It is also a good remainder to think about the situation of the mothers in small businesses that I've talked to along the way in relation to their peers with better family resources.
In a study of the changing role of motherhood in South Korea, Park So-jin, a Ph.D. candidate under the guidance of Nancy Abelmann in the Department of Anthropology, examined a sample of 40 middle- and working-class mothers in Seoul. Her results portray a competitive motherhood so driven that it is easy to understand why the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child announced in 2003 that the zealous educational atmosphere in South Korea violates children’s rights to play.
The road-manager mother is a fairly recent phenomenon in South Korea.
"Mothers are having to deal with a different atmosphere than when they grew up," Park said. During the military rule of General Chun Doo-hwan in the 1980s, private after-school programs were banned with the goal of developing a national equalized educational program, committed to developing world citizens. "Still, some wealthy South Koreans were widely suspected of secretly hiring private tutors," Park said.
Following the democratic movement in 1987 and the educational reforms in the 1990s, drastic changes were made to deregulate the educational system and remove the bans on private tutoring programs. "These changes were solidified in 2000, when the bans were ruled as unconstitutional," Park explained. Since then, the private after-school market has grown exponentially.
Due to the time investment required to be a successful manager mother, many women find that they are pulled between motherhood and the need to work part time to pay for the programs. South Korean families spend, "about $2,000 a year on after-school programs on the low end," Park said. But she contends that the expense is underestimated in surveys because many families are unwilling to admit how much of their income goes toward extra classes.
"Because of the diversification of the educational market and recent reforms, the manager mother has emerged as an indispensable figure," Park said.
It's not just one or two shopkeeping women who'd expressed their will to stay at home, or told of their plan to stay at home when opening a new business elsewhere, but more often than not it just doesn't go that way.
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Sunday, February 13, 2005

우리 공화국의 자존심을 건드리는 조선 공화국

우리 공화국의 자존심을 건드리는 자 어디에 있든 결판 낼 것이다!
조선인민민주주의공화국에서 나라이름을 본국의 명칭에 따라 이르는 것을 원칙으로 하고 있습니다.

남조선에서 "스웨덴"이라 하는 나라를 조선에서 "스웨리예"라 이르는데, 우리 공화국을 "수오미"라 하지 않고 "핀란드"라고 하는 것은 이 조선인민민주주의공화국의 국가명칭의 원칙을 어기는 것뿐만 아니라 우리 공화국에 대한 모독이며 위험한 돌발행위이다.
미제 치하헤서 자주 정책을 발휘하지 못 하는 남조선에서 미제의 지시에 따라 "핀란드"라고 할 수밖에 없는 것을 이해할 수는 있겠지만 인류 역사상에서 가장 자주적이고 인간중심적인 나라인 조선인민민주중의공화국은 이러한 관행을 실시하는 한 수오미 인민들의 분노가 가라앉지 않을 것이고 수오미는 우리 공화국의 자존심을 건드리는 자들을 확고히 박살해 버리는 선민(善民) 정책을 결국 포기할 수 없는 것을 밝혀 두며 조선인민민주주의공화국은 우리 공화국의 명칭문제를 바른 시일내에 바로잡지 않으면 수-조 관계가 위험한 국면을 면할 수 없을 것이다.

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Friday, February 11, 2005

Delicious Bitings

summer supperIt's delightful to have been included in the blogroll of such a fine blog as Delicious Biting, "musings of a L.A. flaneuse on all things delicious, irreverent, and incongruous". To send my regards to the proprietor of the Biting, I include a photo of our dinner last summer, which was one of the few occasions in the generally miserable weather conditions we were able to eat in our balcony. Korean flavor with ingredients of which quite few need to be shopped in an Asian food store: salmon baked in an oven, one head of steamed cabbage as wrapper (ssam), kimchi, 5-grain rice (rice, sweet rice, barley, black rice, millet), soy sauce with seasonings.

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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Lee Sang-eun concerts in Chongdong Theater

Back in '99 I had happened to hear a song from television (must have been some satellite channel of KBS) which sounded totally different from most of what was spilled out from the box. (There have always been music programs done with dignity though, like Yi So-ra's one.) The tune I heard was by Lee Sang-eun, whose music I've been following to some degree ever since, also getting hold on most of her albums, of which the older ones have been difficult to get by. She is giving two concerts in Chongdong Theater (정동극장) in Jeong-dong (정동), downtown Seoul behind Deoksu palace on 11th and 12th of this month (the same place where the singer Kim Yong-woo performed just recently).

Lee Sang-eun:
Gongmudohaga 公無渡河歌
Lee Sang-eun is a special case in that in the beginning of her career she was part of the entertainment industry, singing what the producers gave her to sing, but she broke out of that mold after two albums, and has done her own music ever since, mostly in cooperation with the Japanese multi-instrumentalist Takeda Hajimu. Her album Gongmudohaga from 1995 is to me a classic of Korean avantgarde(?) or artistic pop, with strong tunes throughout the album and well-thought arrangements by Takeda. Of her music, that's what I play most often. She has usually both English and Korean lyrics; the former tend to be sometimes a bit awkward, but I don't let that disturb the listening.

Her latest album Sinbicheheom (신비체험) in Seoul Selection; I remember reading from some review of that album (which I haven't heard myself) that her craving to be an artist may leave an awkward feeling for a listener; perhaps I'll have to agree with that. But at least that's not the case with Gongmudohaga, which unfortunately seems to be out of print at the moment.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Happy new year

May the year of the chicken be full of warmth and happiness, and may all your enterprises be successful.

And to remark the beginnig of the year of the rooster (or chicken; for Koreans it's tak, so it's chicken), click the picture to the right to see a retro Estonian TV advertisement for ground chicken meat (from an archive of Estonian tv ads from the Soviet era)

irregular workers' wages 50% of the regulars' wages

Busan Ilbo tells of a survey by the Bank of Korea, that the wage level of irregular workers in 2003 was 49.7% of that of regularly (permanently) employed workers, which is a remarkably lower figure than in Western nations. The figure had fallen below 50% from the 53.4% in 2002. The gap between permanently and irregularly employed workers is expected to widen further in 2004.
The same figure in Germany is 83%, Denmark 78%, Finland 77%, Italy 72%, France 71%.

The proportion of regular and irregular employment
1993 1998 2000 2002 2004.1 ~11월
상용직 58.9 53.1 47.9 48.4 51.2 (regularly employed)
임시, 일용직 41.1 46.9 52.1 51.6 48.8 (irregulars, day laborers)

The figures show what kind of an impact the "IMF crisis" had on labor. The proportion of regular labor seems to have increased slightly in the last years, but it cannot be much of a solace when the income gap is constantly widening. And this really is a huge problem for the unions and for the representation of the interest of workers in general. Is the interest of a Hyundai Automobile plant worker the same as the interest of a worker of a Hyundai Automobile subcontracting company? Or better, does the former see his own interests coincide with the latter? When the option is sending one's child to good schools as far as possible from the factory, I'm afraid that's hardly the case.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

"Mr K's day"; Korean seomin in Digital Mal

Digital Mal, the online version of the leftist Monthly Mal, has a longish feature story consisting of a fictive character "Mr K" who's spending a day off, and of actual instances and cases which the reporters have recorded in their notebooks. Mal, which as a leftist publication pays most attention to the workers (nodongja), depicts this story as the report of the insecurity of the "ordinary people" (seomin). The fictive Mr K himself seems to be an educated person working for wages as he is spending a public holiday; sômin are mostly people who need to work also on public holidays, like the second-hand car salespeople, to whom "Mr K" tries to sell his car, but with no luck. The article points out that many taxes on the use of cars which have been lower for the "livelihood use" are going to be rised, and this affects especially the seomin. [Now that I think all the people I acquainted with in the neighborhood, considering how common personal cars have become in Korea, so many of them coping without one in their daily lives.]
서민의 입장에서 볼 때, 자동차는 사치품이 돼버린 것인가. 최근 시행되고 있는 정부 시책을 곰곰이 들여다보면, 돈 없는 사람들은 오로지 버스와 지하철만 이용하라고 무언의 압력(?)을 가하고 있는 것처럼 보인다. 자동차에 부과된 특별소비세 인하를 6개월 연장하는 반면, 주로 승합차나 화물차의 연료로 사용되는 경유값은 2007년까지 휘발유의 85%선까지 인상되기 때문이다.

Fortunetelling tent.
Linked from Digital Mal.
The article takes up to things to represent the current atmosphere among the "ordinary people": fortunetelling and gambling. Fortunetelling not because people would believe every word but to do even something, to grasp the final straw. The Rodeo Street in Apgujeong-dong is said to have become a "fortunetelling valley". "The telling of the fortune is not the most important thing. It's more like counseling (sangdam). People are hungry for words."
한때 유흥과 향락의 중심지로 손꼽혔던 서울 압구정동의 로데오 거리 역시 우후죽순으로 늘어난 점집들 덕분에 아예 ‘점술밸리’로 지정될 지경이다. 이곳에서 점집을 운영하고 있는 역술가 한만술씨(가명)는 불확실한 시대 사람들이 점집을 찾는 이유에 대해 이렇게 설명했다.
“불안하니까요. 몸과 마음은 힘이 드는데 왜 그런지는 알 수 없고, 이 고통이 언제 끝날지도 알 도리가 없으니 ‘마지막 비상구’로 점집을 찾아오는 거예요. 하지만 이 곳에 와서 ‘어디 한 번 맞춰봐라’하는 식으로 자기 이야기를 꺼내지 않는다면 의미가 없어요. 역학은 학문입니다. 학문은 다짜고짜 미래를 예측하지 않아요. 저희는 미래를 ‘지정’해 주는 사람이 아니라 ‘상담’해 주는 사람입니다. 지금 당신이 어떤 위기에 처해 있다, 언제 잘 풀릴 것 같다 정도를 이야기해 줄 수 있을 뿐이죠. 그 정도가 되면 대게 사람들은 자기가 처한 상황을 풀어 놓기 시작합니다. 제 스스로 제 상황을 입 밖으로 꺼내 정리하다 보면 스스로 안정을 찾게 되는 이치가 있는 거죠.”

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Sunday, February 06, 2005

Chosun and Che

Were is this world going to? What can one trust in this world any more? "Advertisement" is no excuse, dear Chosun Ilbo. But what the hell, Hankyoreh21 has printed fighter jet ads, so...
(The picture of Che Guevara was in a beer ad; of course people in the ad agency thought the iconic picture was cool, and not a picture of totalitarian communist.)

Friday, February 04, 2005

Shantytown Stories

Ohmynews tells of a new book "Shantytown Stories" (P'anjach'on iyagi) by Mr Kobau, or Kim Sông-hwan, who has drew cartoons on current events (sisa manhwa) for Donga, Chosun, Segye, and Munhwa (newspapers) from 1955 to 2000. In the interview Mr Kim tells that nowadays the once common "current event cartoon" consisting of four pictures is being neglected by the newspapers; on the other hand he is not happy with the way editors interfere with the freedom of expression of the cartoonists. (The cartoonists are mostly salaried employees in newspapers.)

Now Kim Sông-hwan or Mr Kobau (who was actually his cartoon character) has published a pictorial work of the life in the shantytown or "board shack village" (p'anjach'on) next to Cheonggyecheong, to reflect his own memories of living in one after the Korean War and titillate the need for nostalgy of many (me included: nostalgy for things seen only on pictures and read in books). (고바우 김성환의 판자촌이야기 in Youngpoong Bookstore)

Illustration from Mr Kobau's "Shantytown Stories" (P'anjach'on iyagi)

From the Ohmynews interview of the artist:
하필이면 판자촌? 그가 특별히 판자촌을 그리는 이유는 자신이 직접 판자촌에서 살아봤기 때문이라고 김 화백은 말했다.

“1951년 군 트럭을 타고 부산으로 피난을 갔다가 그해 늦가을쯤 대구로 올라와 동천시장 한구석 판자촌에서 살았습니다. 네 평 정도 되는 단칸방이었는데, 풀빵장수 아저씨, 미장공 할아버지 등 집도 절도 없는 모르는 사람 다섯 명이 함께 있었죠.”

그때의 소중한 기억들이 김 화백에게는 여전히 아릿하게 남아있다.

“어느 날 밤 문득 잠에서 깼는데, 천장에서 무엇인가 반짝이는 것이 보여 개똥벌레가 들어왔나 했는데, 그건 밤하늘에 무수히 떠 있던 별들 중의 하나였습니다. 구멍 뚫린 천장 사이로 밤하늘이 보였던 것이죠.”

이런 기억도 있다. 그가 어느 날 혼자 판잣집 방에 있는데, 만삭이 된 양공주가 와서는 아이를 낳을 수 있도록 방을 잠깐 빌리자고 하더란다. 주인이 그가 있어서 안 된다고 하자 그는 아무 말 없이 방을 비워주고 밖으로 나왔었다고 했다.

“지금은 거의 잊혀져가고 있지만 절대빈곤의 시대 판자촌의 모습은, 우리는 이렇게 살아왔다는 증거물이자 역사입니다. 근대화의 상징으로 복개됐던 청계천이 지금 다시 복원하기 위한 공사가 한창이지만 판자촌이 없는 청계천의 모습은 뭔가가 빠진 것 같습니다.”


For the historically invaluable photographs by the Japanese photographer Kuwabara Shisei of Cheonggyecheon and its people in the 1960s before the covering of the river, see the gallery in the photography portal Zoom In (click the icon in the page to go to the gallery).

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approaching lunar new year (sôl)

The lunar new year is approaching, and in many Korean families tensions must be rising about how to spend the holiday, whom to visit, how to spend the ancestor rituals or whether to spend them at all. Ohmynews has an illuminating story of the mother-in-law thinks that the daughter-in-law has been behind the son's request not to observe the ch'arye (茶禮) this time, while it's been purely the son who's not interested in the idea of spending the rituals at all.
Phone discussion between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law:
“에미야, 친정에선 차례를 안 지내냐?” Don't you observe the rituals in your own home?
“아니요. 그게 무슨 말씀이세요?” What do you mean? (d-in-law to her m-in-law)
“애비가 하도 제사 지내지 말자고 그래서.” Because your husband insists on not doing the ritual.

The son is apparently unwilling to see the trouble of going to the homeplace time and time again to observe the rituals (conversation between the son and his wife, the daughter-in-law):
“당신은 왜 차례를 안 지내려고 해?”
“굳이 차례를 지낼 필요가 어딨어? 조상은 마음속으로 생각하면 되잖아.”
“그래도 아버님이 4년만에 퇴원하셨고, 오랜만에 차례를 지내고 싶어하시는 데 당신이 그냥 양보할 수도 있잖아?”
“나도 알아. 하지만 한 번이 두 번 되고 두 번이 세 번 되는 거야. 이번에 차례 지내면 앞으로 계속 제삿날 내려오라고 하실 거야.”
But the wife takes the side of her parents-in-law, thinking that she needs to do that in order for the family relations to stay good; she also appeals to the husband becoming the household head (hoju) [but not in legal terms as the law on the household head system (hojuje) is about to change] later and being able to excercise his own will better. So he agrees.

Now what is the opinion of the husband to this? Agreeing to observe the ritual to avoid any bigger trouble, and for her wife not be suspected as the one who's obstructing the rituals. And interesting point when the general perception is that it's the daughters-in-law who are reluctant to participate in the rituals for all the work and toil it entails.

This toil of women (especially daughters-in-law) and leisure of men in rituals is depicted in the following piece of modern folklore, which has been making rounds in the net for some years.

저번제사 지나갔네 두달만에 또제사네
내눈내가 찔렀다네 어디가서 말못하네
할수없이 그냥하네 쉬바쉬바 욕나오네
지갑열어 돈냈다네 중노동도 필수라네
제일먼저 두부굽네 이것쯤은 가비얍네
이번에는 나물볶네 네가지나 볶았다네
냄비꺼내 탕끓이네 친정엄마 생각나네
이제부턴 가부좌네 다섯시간 전부치네
부추전은 쉬운거네 스물댓장 구워냈네
배추전은 만만찮네 이것역시 구웠다네
동그랑땡 차례라네 돼지고기 두근이네
김치전도 굽는다네 조카넘이 먹는다네

기름냄새 진동하네 머리카락 뻑뻑하네
허리한번 펴고싶네 한시간만 눕고싶네
그래봤자 얄짤없네 입다물고 찌짐굽네
남자들은 티비보네 뒤통수를 째려봤네
주방에다 소리치네 물떠달라 지랄떠네
속으로만 꿍얼대네 같이앉아 놀고싶네
다시한번 가부좌네 음식할게 태산이네
꼬치꿰다 손찔렸네 대일밴드 꼴랑이네
내색않고 음식하네 말했다간 구박이네
꼬치굽고 조기굽네 이게제일 비싸다네
맛대가리 하나없네 씰데없이 비싸다네
남은것은 장난이네 후다다닥 해치우네
제삿상이 펼쳐지네 상다리가 부러지네
밥떠주고 한숨쉬네 폼빨역시 안난다네

음식장만 내가했네 지네들은 놀았다네
절하는건 지들이네 이내몸은 부엌있네
제사종료 식사하네 다시한번 바쁘다네
이내손은 두개라네 지들손은 졸라많네
그래봤자 내가하네 지들끼리 먹는다네
부침개를 썰어놓네 과일까지 깎아놓네
이제서야 동서오네 낯짝보니 치고싶네
윗사람이 참는다네 안참으면 어쩔거네
손님들이 일어나네 이제서야 간다하네
바리바리 싸준다네 내가한거 다준다네
아까워도 줘야하네 그래야만 착하다네
남자들도 일한다네 병풍걷고 상접었네
무지막지 힘들겠네 에라나쁜 놈들이네
손님가고 방닦았네 기름천지 안닦이네

시계보니 열두시네 내일아침 출근이네
피곤해서 누웠다네 허리아파 잠안오네
뒤척이다 일어났네 욕할라고 일어났네
컴터켜고 글쓴다네 그래봤자 변함없네
다음제사 또온다네 그때역시 똑같다네
짐싸갖고 도망가네 어딜가도 살수있네
아들놈이 엄마찾네 그거보니 못가겠네
망할놈의 제사라네 조상들이 욕하겠네
그렇지만 힘들다네 이거정말 하기싫네
명절되면 죽고싶네 일주일만 죽고싶네
십년동안 이짓했네 사십년은 더남았네

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

handcarts and sweet potato baking cars

When checking the exact location of the Jungang Market near Sindang station of the Line 2 introduced in an Ohmynews feature, I ended up on the site of the handcart manufacturer Sinjungang Riôk'a, which has many kinds of carts and sweet potato baking drums in its selection.

All-around handcart (다목적소형리어카)

Snack cart (분식리어카)

Sweet potato baking cart, uses both firewood and gas. Also chestnuts can be baked. (군고구마 리어카)

Since when has sonsure become riôk'a? When South Korea modernized?
Wondering what's behind the Korean word, I checked the Standard Dictionary of Korean: it comes from rear car, which is I guess from having the cart attached to the rear of a bicycle. So riôk'a, "rear car" has come to designate also a handcart, sonsure.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

self-employed and political support

Korea Society Opinion Institute (sic) has surveyed that Our Open Party (OOP) has lost most of the support it enjoyed among the self-employed and housewifes last year (article in Chosun Ilbo). More than 40% of the self-employed supported OOP and 24% supported Grand National Party (GNP) in May 2004, but now the figure of OOP is only 21% whereas that of GNP 26%.
What surprises me is the high figure of OOP support in 2004; my experience (which is of a very small number of people) and perception is that it'd never been high in the first place, but the support of parties as well as parties come and goes.

Mr Yi Kwôn-ryôl gathering support among the neighborhood shopkeepers on June 12, 2002 for the Sillim 2-dong seat in the Gwanak-gu ward assembly during the local election campaign. (c)AL 2002
Chosun Ilbo itself and Korean Gallup had surveyed that the figure for OOP would be lower and GNP higher: 16% and 45% respectively. The article quotes a researcher from the opinion institute saying that the self-employed as well as housewives are the most receptive social groups for economic currents; one could ask that has the economy (or even the perception of the state of economy) changed so much as to warrant such a drastic change in political support? I'd say it hasn't. An interesting but not surprising piece of info is that among the "non-employed" (mujikcha) the support of OOP is 22% and GNP 41%.

In an adjoining article (based on the same survey), Chosun tells that GNP fails to get love from wage earners (wôlgûpchaengi). The difference in support between the parties is much smaller among the production workers (31% vs. 25%) than among clerical (samujik) workers (36% vs. 20%.)

It's the same Opinion Institute that Hankyoreh21 has been using for its recent articles on the Democratic Labor Party: the support of the party for workers, farmers and "ordinary people" (seomin/sômin) is highest among the well-educated, well-earning white collar population. Too bad the figures showing DLP support among the different strata are too small to be readable in the adjoining article, in which the DLP support is discussed in more detail.

paikallisvaalit 2002 지방선거
· local elections
Added a new set of pictures to my photography page: Korean local elections in June 2002, during which I happened to be present. The not so good quality of the pics is because of the vulgar scan technique I use in lack of a scanner to make paper photos into files: digital camera. Click the small pic of a campaign van to the left to enter the gallery.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Korean tastes (reading Taebaek Sanmaek)

Finally gathered the necessary courage and started reading Taebaek Sanmaek by Jo Jung-rae; no, I haven't been afraid of becoming a ppalgaengi for reading it, but I've had the idea that there's too much Jeolla dialect in the dialog to enjoy the reading. There is a lot of Jeolla dialect, but that is not the main obstacle; I can grasp the dialog written as spoken language well enough. What makes Taebaek Sanmaek more laborious reading than for example Jo's later Han'gang (Han River) is that Taebaek Sanmaek is literally much more complex, the narrative techniques are more various and temporarily not linear, and even the vocabulary appears more complex and unfamiliar than in Han'gang. Perhaps it's partly a matter of period and setting: late 1940s and the time of Korean War in rural southern Jeolla versus 1960s and 70s in Seoul.

The problem of making sense of the Korean terms for tastes of food is not special to Taebaek Sanmaek, but reading the description of the taste of dishes made of kkomak shellfish showed me once again how my own language really lacks much of the vocabulary to grasp the nuances. (Would I consult the dictionary for the vocabulary, there'd need to be yet another translation from the English to my own language.)
Kkomak is a tasty clam which appears especially in the muddy shores of Beolgyo (벌교) on the coast of Southern Jeolla, where much of the events of the book take place. One of the main characters Sohwa, a young shaman who gets romantically involved with Chông Ha-sôp, one of the communist rebels, is described to be able to make especially tasty dishes of kkomak, which taste kan'ganhada, cholgitcholgithada, alk'ûnhada and paerithada. Now would I check every word from the dictionary when reading the novel? No, I'd just be content knowing that the young shaman makes tasty dishes out of the clam.

Ok, let's see the dictionary now that I've done a blog entry:
kan'ganhada = saltish, have a briny favor (could be thought out from kan)
cholgitcholgithada = sticky, chewy
alk'ûnhada; not in my dictionary, but most likely related to ôlk'ûnhada, which I know to be the spicyness of good kimchi
paerithada = somewhat fishy --> pirithada

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