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L2W: Double Justice Standard, NK Drones, & Students Staying Home

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1. National
1) The fairness in Korean justice system under question
Koreans must feel proud about a prisoner who has higher wage than Bill Gates. The Supreme Court began reviewing the prison labor system after a huge public outcry over a court’s decision to allow Huh Jaeho, the owner of once Korea’s 52nd largest company,  to pay off 25.4 billion won (U$23.5M) fine by spending 49 days in a prison labor house, making paper boxes. This means 500 million won a day for Mr.Huh, while the ordinary prisoners are paying off only 50,000 won ($46) a day.  As the controversial ruling was given by the judge who has been stationed in the same district for 29 years, which might have led to improper connections with local big wigs, the Supreme Court is making a system in which judges are to move to new locations after serving certain years in a city.

The injustice in Korean judicial system was high lighted in 1988 when four prison escapees took a girl in hostage in Seoul, protesting why they should get 17 years of jail sentence for 5 million worth theft, while ex-president Chun Doohwan’s brother got only 7 years for 7 billion won embezzlement. All but one killed themselves in a live TV broadcast, shouting “No money, much guilty. Much money, no guilty.” (無錢有罪. 有錢無罪) If they were Americans, they would have shouted, “One law for the rich, another for the poor!”

2) North Korea drones flying over South Korean air space
Korean got worried with the discovery of three North Korean drones in different locations in the last two weeks. What is disturbing is that one of the drones had pictures of Blue House (Korean Whitehouse), and many are wondering what if the drone had bombs with GPS locked on the Blue House? The drones were made of foam core fiber glass, powered by 4-cylinder engine, and equipped with Canon DSLR cameras without real time transmission function. The military thinks the drones had crashed returning to North Korea due to lack of gasoline or engine trouble. North Korea has not claimed the drones were from North Korea, but ridiculed South Korean military for letting drones fly freely in South Korean airspace.


 Arms dealers should flock to Pyongyang as the North Korean drone that flew over the Blue House without radar detection would cost less than $25,000 to make. Why pay 150 million dollars for an F-35 stealthy fighter from LockeedMartin that basically has the same capability as the North Korean drone?

2. Economy
1) Less Koreans students studying overseas
According to a government statistics, the number of Korean students from elementary school to high school studying abroad has halved for the first time in six years. It rose from 4,397 in 2000 to peak at 29,511 in 2006, began to slide after Leman Brothers crisis to 14,340 in 2012, marking a 51.4% drop in six years. Experts attributed the decline to the ongoing economic slowdown, and a growing awareness that studying overseas with better English skill no longer means a leg up in landing good jobs in Korea.

The term ‘Goose daddy’ was coined in early 2000 to describe a father who lives alone and makes money in Korea to send their kids abroad for study with his wife because a goose tends to take care of his babies without trying to find another partner when he loses his spouse. A close friend of mine from Hyundai has been a goose with his two kids and wife in Vancouver for over 15 years. I nicknamed him Super Goose.

2) Philip Morris to move production from Australia to Korea
AFP reported Philip Morris plans to close its 60 year old factory in Melbourne, Australia by the end of this year and relocate it to its facility in Yangsan, Korea.  The decisions came after the Australian government’s decades long drive to carry out anti-smoking policies such as forcing cigarette companies to display strong health warnings on cigarette packets. There will be loss of 180 jobs in Philip Morris Australia from the shut down.
   
 There is a strong bias against women smoking, and it would be like a woman hanging an “I am spoiled” sign if she smokes in public places. My boss in the U.S. was once very much surprised to see so many men smoking in the streets in Gangnam, but no women smoking at all. He should have checked female toilets in a nearby Starbucks.

3. Auto Industry
1) New Sonata unveiled
Code named as LF, the new 7th generation Sonata was unveiled in Seoul, featuring 2.0L Nu engine and 2.4L Theta engine. Well aware of foreign competitors mostly priced around 30 million won, Hyundai put its price tag at 29.9 million won for its top version. Hyundai has boasted that advanced high-strength steel with tensile strength of more than 60Kg (132Lbs) per square millimeter is used in 51% of the new Sonata’s structure, enhancing frame strength by 41 percent. Since its 1st generation launch in 1985, Hyundai has sold nearly 7 million Sonatas so far. Hyundai plans to sell 228K Sonatas this year, and 380K next year.
 


Sonata has the longest model name in Hyundai. Ever since its launch 1985, Sonata has kept breaking the predecessor’s sales record without exception. Will the new 7th generation continue its proud tradition?  Yes and no from my 28 years of automotive experience. Yes, if it sells well. No, if it doesn’t.

Regards,
H.S.



Conclusion – Poets of the Hamlets and Streets

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Songseokweon Shisa Meeting

This concludes the series on non-aristocratic poets of the hamlets and streets (閭巷詩人, 여항시인). I was previously aware that Classical Chinese literacy was not limited to only the aristocratic Yangban (兩班, 양반) elite during the Chosun Dynasty; however, I first became fascinated in the subject after having read about the slave poet Jeong Chobu (鄭樵夫, 정초부, 1714-1789). I knew very little about this subject prior to these posts, and learned quite a lot through preparing and reading about these poets. (There is still a lot I do not know.) I was fairly surprised at how many resources there were on the internet. Here are the list of poems in this series:

The list can be found in the exhibit tab at the top of the blog. I have corrected some of these posts, and as requested have added links to Korean translations. I have only done Korean translations for those poems that did not have one. Furthermore, there are many more non-aristocratic poets that I did not get to cover. For those readers that can read Korean and further interested, there are a ton of resources at Naver Encyclopedia’s (네이버 지식백과) entries on Chosun dynasty’s non-aristocracy culture (閭巷文化, 여항문화).

On another note, I have revised my plans for the blog for the remainder of the year. In particular, I would like to focus on the Classical Chinese primer, and would greatly appreciate feedback on that project. In addition, I will work on editing the resources tab above, do a few book reviews, other assorted articles, and might do one more exhibit. Also, feel free to use any post from this blog, but please do properly attribute.



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Intro to Brewing Makgeolli Class April 19th!

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Spring is in the air, and we have been in the Susubori lab brewing a lot recently.  There’s nothing better than having a cold, fresh batch of homemade makgeolli in the fridge to enjoy on a warm spring evening.  So it’s time to have another Intro to Brewing Makgeolli class to share the knowledge on how to make you own springtime brew!  As ever the class will be taught by our expat makgeolli experts Becca Baldwin and Dan Lenaghan, and you will be able to take  home your very own batch of makgeolli.   Here are the details:

April Makgeolli Class

 

When:  Saturday April 19th, 4pm – 7pm

Where:  Susubori Academy, Chungjeongno Station, Seoul

Cost:  40,000won

If you would like to join to learn all the ins and outs of making a delicious makgeolli homebrew, send an email to mmpkorea@gmail.com with your namephone number and number of participants.  Spaces will be limited, so be sure to get your registration in as soon as possible!


Makgeolli Mamas & Papas
MMPKorea.wordpress.com


The Diamond Gate – Geumgang-mun (금강문)

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Magoksa4

 The Diamond Gate at Magoksa Temple in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do.

The next article about lesser seen things at Korean temples or hermitages is about the Geumgangmun Gate, or the Diamond Gate in English. So what exactly does it look like, where is it found at a temple, and what is its meaning?

Like all the other gates at a temple, it’s situated out in front of the main temple courtyard. It is placed behind the Iljumun Gate but before the Cheonwangmun Gate. So it’s the second in the collection of five gates, if all the gates are located at the temple. This gate can also be called the Inwangmun Gate (Benevolent King Gate), or Haetalmun Gate (Liberation Gate).

Daeheungsa1

 How the Geumgangmun appears from the outside at Daeheungsa Temple in Haenam, Jeollanam-do.

So what is the meaning behind this gate? If this gate is called a Geumgangmun, which it’s most commonly referred to as in Korea, then its origins are in Hinduism. Geumgang means diamond, which is the hardest possible substance. It can’t be harmed by any other material, but it can cut or break other material. So it’s a symbol of the Buddha Dharma as the supreme truth or wisdom that can’t be contradicted by other ideas. Also, the Diamond Gate symbolizes how a diamond can cut through any delusions that cause suffering.

However, if the gate is called a Haetalmun Gate then the name implies that by passing through this gate one moves from the human world and into the Buddhist world. This inspires an individual to seek liberation from worldly suffering.

Dogapsa1

 The plain looking Haetalmun Gate at Dogapsa Temple in Yeongam, Jeollanam-do.

The Geumgangmun Gate is similar in appearance to the Cheonwangmun Gate. It’s a large gate that is closed in design. There may be various Buddhist-motif paintings adorning the gate, or it can be left unadorned. One such motif is the depiction of two guardians. One of these fierce-looking guardians is called Ha because his mouth is open and forming a “ha.” This is the cosmic syllable symbolizing the beginning. The other guardian is called Heng. He has his mouth closed and his nostrils are flared. He’s called Heng because his mouth is formed like it is making a “heng” sound. This is the cosmic syllable representing the end. So together, Heng and Ha form the sound “om,” which means the absolute. A great depiction of these two on this gate can be found at Naewonsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Naewonsa2

The guardian Ha found on the door of the Diamond Gate at Naewonsa Temple.

Naewonsa1

Heng found opposite of Ha at Naewonsa Temple.

As for the interior of this gate, and much like the Cheonwangmun Gate, you’ll customarily find four figures inside this gate. The first two figures, either painted or statues, you’ll encounter, which can be fierce or even comical, are Vajra protectors. They protect the temple and those visiting the temple. They are connected with the Vedic mythological concept of a vajra, the thunderbolt of Indra, who is a great energetic power that can blast through all worldly delusions.

Dogapsa2

 A cheerful Vajra guardian found at Dogapsa Temple.

Geumsansa

 A whole lot fiercer looking Vajra guardian at Geumsansa Temple in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do.

Magoksa3

 And a slightly chubbier looking Vajra guardian at Magoksa Temple.

The other two images, again, either in painted or statue form, are Bohyun-bosal and Munsu-bosal. Bohyun-bosal will appear on the left side of the gate, while Munsu-bosal will appear on the right. Inside this gate, they appear as infants. They both appear as boys because they symbolize innocent wisdom and eternal youth. Specifically, Bohyun-bosal rides a six-tusked white elephant. He is the Bodhisattva of great vows, great conduct, and benevolent actions. Also, he’s associated with the virtues of Buddhist practice and meditation. Munsu-bosal, on the other hand, rides a blue dragon or haetae (mythical creature that controls and consumes fire). He embodies the perfection of wisdom. Also, he inspires Buddhists to become wiser through study and clear thinking. So the reasons that these two are housed inside this gate are pretty self-explanatory for those wanting to worship at a Korean temple.

Daeheungsa2

 Munsu-bosal at Daeheungsa Temple.

Magoksa1

 Bohyun-bosal found at Magoksa Temple.

Great examples of the Diamond Gate can be found at larger temples throughout the Korean peninsula. Some great examples can be found at Magoksa Temple, Dogapsa Temple, Geumsansa Temple, Daeheungsa Temple, and Beopjusa Temple.


Sick..

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So guess who picked a perfect time to get sick? There’s been this stupid bug going around all of Gwangju, and it chose to attack me this past weekend. Of course, it was polite enough to wait until a little after I was done with work, but I’m still annoyed that it’s here. I wonder if people out of town are getting this as well..

Sorry for the lack actual content this week. Despite my wishes, my roommate fed me all sorts of drugs and demanded that I stay in bed until I was feeling better. I managed to sneak away for a few minutes to draw and write this up. I’m sure I’ll get yelled at for it, but it’s worth it.

I hope everyone else has a nice week! Don’t get sick!


Jen Lee's Dear Korea

This is Jen Lee. She likes to draw.
She also likes green tea.

Got any questions, comments, or maybe even some delicious cookies you want to send through the internet? Feel free to contact us at dearkoreacomic at gmail dot com.

You can also leave comments on the comic’s Facebook Page!

 


Before there was K-drama…

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Before K-dramas (Korean dramas) became popular in the Philippines, Mexican telenovelas reigned supreme. I remember being glued to the idiot box with the rest of my family when it was time for “Marimar“, sometimes not minding dinner at all. Even my uncles got so hooked into watching Mexican telenovelas that all they could talk about was the beautiful Thalia, the queen of Mexicanovelas in the Philippines.

We had barely gotten over the Mexinovela wave when Chinese/Taiwanese soap operas were introduced to Filipino televiewers. It wasn’t as if we had not seen Chinese soaps before. Chinese action dramas have been appearing on different TV networks in my country since I was a little girl, maybe before I was even born, but not many Filipinos watched them. You know those Chinese dramas where the actors, garbed in traditional costumes, do kungfu and fly a lot during the fighting scenes? I guess they didn’t strike our fancy, because their stories are far from reality. Besides, they weren’t dubbed in Filipino. There were subtitles, though, but who likes to read subtitles when you are watching soap operas?

In 2002, IBC 13 aired the very first dubbed Asianovela (Asian-produced telenovela), “Amazing Twins”. The setting is also Ancient China, but the characters are more realistic than those from old Chinese soap operas. I watched it, because there is more love story in it than action. ^^ It wasn’t as famous as “Marimar” or other Mexicanovelas that Filipinos got addicted to, but it was appreciated by some Filipino viewers.

1In 2003, the phenomenal Taiwanese series “Meteor Garden”, which is based on the Japaneseshojo manga “Hana Yori Dango”, debutted on ABS-CBN. Who would forget “Meteor Garden”? It was such a big thing in the Philippines that other TV networks in the country began airing dubbed chinovelas (Chinese telenovelas), most of which were Taiwanese-produced romantic-comedy series. Still, no other Chinovelas could match the fame of “Meteor Garden”. Filipinos, young and old, knew about Shan Cai and the F4 . You could hear “Meteor Garden’s” introplaying on the radio almost everywhere you go and people singing “Oh baby, baby, my baby, baby…”

CD’s and casette tapes of “Meteor Garden’s” soundtrack and songs recorded by the F4 band sold like hotcakes. Many Filipino fans were trying to master the art of singing Taiwanese songs sung by the F4, though they barely understood the lyrics. I was a “Meteor Garden” fan, too. I must have bought all the CD’s and casette tapes of MG. I even got the minus-one, so I could sing “Ni Yao De Ai”. ^^

My bedroom was filled with F4 posters. There was a huge “Meteor Garden” towel hanging on the wall. It was actually my sister’s, who was also a fan. We didn’t want to get Dao Ming Si 's face wet, so we never used that towel. ㅋㅋㅋ

I’m sure that my sister and I weren’t the only Filipinas who went gaga over the lead character, Dao Ming Si, and his gang. The gorgeous guys of F4 suddenly became most Filipinas’ ideal men. (I wanted to marry Dao Ming Si or have him cloned!) Women weren't the only ones who got into the F4 fever, but the men as well. Many young Filipino males imitated the F4′s hairstyles, even Dao Ming Si’s hideous “pineapple” hairstyle which we thought was cool back then. The cast of MG were invited to the Philippines. They even had a concert that was tightly guarded by 500 policemen! Too bad I couldn’t watch it. T.T

Now that I recall my MG days, I become nostalgic. My Mom told me that the series is being shown again in the Philippines. I really want to watch it!!!

There is a Korean version of MG, “Boys over Flowers”, that was televised in my country. They started showing it when I was busy preparing for my wedding. I’ve seen some of the episodes, but I didn’t bother to finish the whole series. I think there’s too much 애교 (aegyo) in it that I totally dislike. Anyway, the Koreanized “Hana Yori Dango” was also a hit in the Philippines, not as much as MG, though.


From Korea with Love
Chrissantosra.wordpress.com


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State of Mind

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When I was in college I tutored English, and one of the pieces I worked with through the years was Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Power of Context.” In the piece, he talks about the effects of one’s surroundings on the psyche, even going so far as to suggest that it can make a killer out of an ordinary citizen. The presence of graffiti, garbage, and “broken windows,” he claims, can subconsciously enforce the idea that in run-down neighborhoods crime is omnipresent and, therefore, accepted. He contrasts the crime rate in slums to that of wealthy suburbs, and attempts to explain the disparity through reducing the impulse to commit crime to a visual stimulus that pulls the trigger (one’s “tipping point”). Although he makes an interesting argument, I always reminded my students to think for themselves and consider how large his claim really was. It seemed to be an amusing explanation, but not without its pitfalls. Personally, I didn’t believe it at all.

Almost three years later, on my way home last Saturday night, I started believing.

The night was unusually cold, but everyone had grown tired of waiting for the weather to warm up. The weekend before was rainy, yet there was no shortage of women in short skirts and strappy shoes, powering through. I was out to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and started the night at around 9pm. On the subway into downtown, a nice old ahjumma insisted that I take a seat next to her. This is when I regret that I know so much Korean, because after she asks me where I’m from and tells me about her daughter, which I’m guessing was just a skill check, she seriously asks me, “Is there Jesus in America?”

….huh?

She tells me in the most animated Korean the tale of 예수님 (Korean Jesus), pantomiming blood dripping down his face and reenacting the glory of his resurrection. It was a long 20 minutes.

So…straight to the bar I went. Two gin and tonics later it was midnight and the crowd was just starting to creep out of the shadows. Almost spontaneously, a throng of foreigners lined the main stretch of Daegu’s bars, pouring in and out of Thursday Party, trapped in the stairwell between MF and Who’s Bob. I successfully managed to deliver my well-wishes and clink a few glasses with some friends, so I was fully prepared to call it a night as the clock struck 3. In the midst of my struggle to un-stick my shoes from the filth of Urban’s dancefloor, a drunk Korean girl grabs a random American guy by the collar and lifts/shakes him until the unbalanced pair careens to the ground, knocking barstools and tipping drinks on the way down. People stare, the moment ceases. It was akin to seeing Nicholas Cage act with more than one expression – it just doesn’t happen.

You see, foreigners inhabit very different spaces from Koreans downtown. Usually, bars like MF and Thursday Party are replete with military dudes, English teachers, and other foreign University students. In clubs like AU and Monkey, however, the crowd is strictly Korean. The split can be divided almost geographically, one side of the intersection belonging to Koreans, the other stretch marking the beaten path of the foreigners. Of course, there is some mingling of the two in places like Thursday Party, but no matter where you go, the foreigners have their packs and so do the Koreans.

After months of living here, this has been the first time that I have actually seen a Korean fight with a foreigner. I have always known Koreans to be peaceful and adverse to confrontations with foreigners, but this tough chick was turning the club into the Twilight Zone. Hearing a glass smash in one of the far reaches of Urban’s maw, I got my jacket and wasted no time waiting for the fallout.

I judged the whole thing as an anomaly and continued on, walking through the stretch and passing Thursday Party on my way to the taxis. I had grown accustomed to going out alone and relying on the fact that I know a lot of people, but this night I feared that things were getting out of hand. Not even the biting cold could quell the rage that was permeating the air. I was walking behind another large foreigner group when a 30-something year old man procured from his fleece jacket an entire bottle of liquor, complete with the pouring spout from the bar he stole it from. I hung back, as the equally large woman he was with (his wife?) verbally smacked the shit out of him. Under my breath I mumbled “Timber…” as the blubbering titan staggered for what seemed to be a certain cement kiss. To his misfortune, he met the hands of his burly wife, who ripped the bottle from his hands and flung it into the street. Its shatter sent a crystalline CRACK through the heavens. My breath caught, I came to a dead stop; I was terrified.

I turned around, and in the next intersection a foreigner was stopping a car with his arms in front of him, laughing and cursing, terrorizing the Koreans within. His friend was carrying an enormous green plastic bottle–

Is that two liters of SOJU…. ?!

The night was getting absurd. Taking momentary refuge in a kebab place, the same guy that had been bowled over by the Korean chick walks in, bloody knuckled, laughing maniacally. He snatches up some random person’s leftovers looking utterly satisfied eating someone else’s garbage, pumps his chest and walks back out. At this point I send a feeble prayer to Korean Jesus to shepherd me out of this strange, strange hell.

Broken glass crunching underfoot, spent bottles of liquor and condom wrappers, dark splashes of vomit on pavement, throaty man-screams of “‘MURICA!”  - This is the stage that we act on. And we all play the parts, don’t we?

I walk past GoGo’s, a place famous for its bagged mixed drinks, and I recall the night that a foreigner thought it was funny to jump into random Korean people’s cars. I remember a time when someone brought an enormous bag of cheese puffs over their shoulder and released a cheddar avalanche into the street. Shortly after, a haggard Korean man had to come and sweep it up. It was heartbreaking and embarrassing.

Foreigners are making Korea suffer. It is an unfortunate reality that many times I wish I could change. Last Saturday, surrounded by other foreigners on that short walk to the taxis made me more nervous than I’ve ever been. Somewhere down the line I got a little too comfortable with Korea’s lack of crime. I guess everyone else got comfortable, too. With no one to answer to, there are no rules. There is just alcohol-soaked mayhem.

At 5am Sunday dawns and I open my apartment door. I think of nothing but sleep in the hopes that I can pass it all off as a bad dream.

__________

Addendum: I realize I make some pretty sweeping generalizations about foreigners in my writing, and I had to answer for that on an auxiliary site that publishes my posts. I’ll repost my comment here again for clarity:

“…based purely on my personal experiences many instances of destructive, insensitive, or violent behavior have stemmed from other expats. I could attribute this to my being a foreigner, and thus only being exposed to other foreigner behavior, but I’m being honest when I say that I am more afraid of other foreigners than Koreans when it comes to situations like the one I dealt with.

What bothers me is that many foreigners lack the respect or care about the consequences of their actions. After a night like that, no one is walking home with regrets about the mess they made – they’re waking up from a blackout state with no recollection or second thought about what they’ve done. According to them, it’s not their country, not their responsibility.

“As long as it was fun,” they say, justifying the times that they jumped into random cars, scaring innocent people inside.

“It was a good night,” they say, forgetting that they had to rely on a good-hearted taxi driver to deal with their drunk incoherent self.

It’s a damned shame. Many of these people would not go home and do half the things that they feel entitled to do here. It’s a “we teach your kids English, deal with me” kind of mentality. Not all foreigners act this way, but the ones that do truly give other foreigners a bad name. And all any of us can do is watch them burn a place that we have learned to call home.”

I’m not going to disparage my own words by chalking it up as being “overly-dramatic.” It really is a problem that still makes Korea adverse to foreigners at times. I hope that this will help some people understand that the ahjumma giving you side-eye on the subway may have just come back from a night of cleaning some other expat’s puke. It’s cultural friction that originates as far back in Korea’s history as two American soldiers meeting in a cramped, dimly-lit room, drawing a line on the map that would sever Korea forever.



State of Mind

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200px-Daegurodeo

When I was in college I tutored English, and one of the pieces I worked with through the years was Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Power of Context.” In the piece, he talks about the effects of one’s surroundings on the psyche, even going so far as to suggest that it can make a killer out of an ordinary citizen. The presence of graffiti, garbage, and “broken windows,” he claims, can subconsciously enforce the idea that in run-down neighborhoods crime is omnipresent and, therefore, accepted. He contrasts the crime rate in slums to that of wealthy suburbs, and attempts to explain the disparity through reducing the impulse to commit crime to a visual stimulus that pulls the trigger (one’s “tipping point”). Although he makes an interesting argument, I always reminded my students to think for themselves and consider how large his claim really was. It seemed to be an amusing explanation, but not without its pitfalls. Personally, I didn’t believe it at all.

Almost three years later, on my way home last Saturday night, I started believing.

The night was unusually cold, but everyone had grown tired of waiting for the weather to warm up. The weekend before was rainy, yet there was no shortage of women in short skirts and strappy shoes, powering through. I was out to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and started the night at around 9pm. On the subway into downtown, a nice old ahjumma insisted that I take a seat next to her. This is when I regret that I know so much Korean, because after she asks me where I’m from and tells me about her daughter, which I’m guessing was just a skill check, she seriously asks me, “Is there Jesus in America?”

….huh?

She tells me in the most animated Korean the tale of 예수님 (Korean Jesus), pantomiming blood dripping down his face and reenacting the glory of his resurrection. It was a long 20 minutes.

So…straight to the bar I went. Two gin and tonics later it was midnight and the crowd was just starting to creep out of the shadows. Almost spontaneously, a throng of foreigners lined the main stretch of Daegu’s bars, pouring in and out of Thursday Party, trapped in the stairwell between MF and Who’s Bob. I successfully managed to deliver my well-wishes and clink a few glasses with some friends, so I was fully prepared to call it a night as the clock struck 3. In the midst of my struggle to un-stick my shoes from the filth of Urban’s dancefloor, a drunk Korean girl grabs a random American guy by the collar and lifts/shakes him until the unbalanced pair careens to the ground, knocking barstools and tipping drinks on the way down. People stare, the moment ceases. It was akin to seeing Nicholas Cage act with more than one expression – it just doesn’t happen.

You see, foreigners inhabit very different spaces from Koreans downtown. Usually, bars like MF and Thursday Party are replete with military dudes, English teachers, and other foreign University students. In clubs like AU and Monkey, however, the crowd is strictly Korean. The split can be divided almost geographically, one side of the intersection belonging to Koreans, the other stretch marking the beaten path of the foreigners. Of course, there is some mingling of the two in places like Thursday Party, but no matter where you go, the foreigners have their packs and so do the Koreans.

After months of living here, this has been the first time that I have actually seen a Korean fight with a foreigner. I have always known Koreans to be peaceful and adverse to confrontations with foreigners, but this tough chick was turning the club into the Twilight Zone. Hearing a glass smash in one of the far reaches of Urban’s maw, I got my jacket and wasted no time waiting for the fallout.

I judged the whole thing as an anomaly and continued on, walking through the stretch and passing Thursday Party on my way to the taxis. I had grown accustomed to going out alone and relying on the fact that I know a lot of people, but this night I feared that things were getting out of hand. Not even the biting cold could quell the rage that was permeating the air. I was walking behind another large foreigner group when a 30-something year old man procured from his fleece jacket an entire bottle of liquor, complete with the pouring spout from the bar he stole it from. I hung back, as the equally large woman he was with (his wife?) verbally smacked the shit out of him. Under my breath I mumbled ”Timber…” as the blubbering titan staggered for what seemed to be a certain cement kiss. To his misfortune, he met the hands of his burly wife, who ripped the bottle from his hands and flung it into the street. Its shatter sent a crystalline CRACK through the heavens. My breath caught, I came to a dead stop; I was terrified.

I turned around, and in the next intersection a foreigner was stopping a car with his arms in front of him, laughing and cursing, terrorizing the Koreans within. His friend was carrying an enormous green plastic bottle–

Is that two liters of SOJU…. ?!

The night was getting absurd. Taking momentary refuge in a kebab place, the same guy that had been bowled over by the Korean chick walks in, bloody knuckled, laughing maniacally. He snatches up some random person’s leftovers looking utterly satisfied eating someone else’s garbage, pumps his chest and walks back out. At this point I send a feeble prayer to Korean Jesus to shepherd me out of this strange, strange hell.

Broken glass crunching underfoot, spent bottles of liquor and condom wrappers, dark splashes of vomit on pavement, throaty man-screams of “‘MURICA!”  - This is the stage that we act on. And we all play the parts, don’t we?

I walk past GoGo’s, a place famous for its bagged mixed drinks, and I recall the night that a foreigner thought it was funny to jump into random Korean people’s cars. I remember a time when someone brought an enormous bag of cheese puffs over their shoulder and released a cheddar avalanche into the street. Shortly after, a haggard Korean man had to come and sweep it up. It was heartbreaking and embarrassing.

Foreigners are making Korea suffer. It is an unfortunate reality that many times I wish I could change. Last Saturday, surrounded by other foreigners on that short walk to the taxis made me more nervous than I’ve ever been. Somewhere down the line I got a little too comfortable with Korea’s lack of crime. I guess everyone else got comfortable, too. With no one to answer to, there are no rules.  There is just alcohol-soaked mayhem.

At 5am Sunday dawns and I open my apartment door. I think of nothing but sleep in the hopes that I can pass it all off as a bad dream.



Yu Heuigyeong – Presented to Gyeryang

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Choeunjip

Yu Heuigyeong (劉希慶, 유희경, 1545-1636) was a Chosun dynasty poet. He was of the Ganghwa Yu Clan (江華劉氏, 강화유씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Eunggil (應吉, 응길); and his pen name (號, 호) was Chon’eun (村隱, 촌은). He was originally of the slave caste (賤民, 천민), although he later became a freed commoner and eventually a high-ranking literati bureaucrat. As a child, Yu Heuigyeong was known for his filial piety (孝, 효). After his father passed away when Yu Heuigyeong was 13, he mourned by his father’s grave all day and refused to leave it. His neighbors, pitying him, built a mud hut next the grave for him to stay. Furthermore, when his mother became ill, he attended to her day and night. Later on, Yu Heuigyeong became a disciple of Nam Eon’gyeong (南彦經, 남언경, ?-?), a literati bureaucrat, and learned Chinese Classics under his tutelage. He became particularly interested in Confucian mourning rites (喪禮, 상례). He also a member of the non-aristocratic poet’s circle known as the Pungweolhyangdo (風月香徒, 풍월향도), and a friend of Baek Daebung (白大鵬, 백대붕, ?-1592), who was also of that circle. In 1590, Yu Heuigyeong met a famous Gisaeng (妓生, 기생) named Yi Maechang (李梅窓, 이매창, 1573-1610) in Bu’an (扶安, 부안) in modern day North Jeolla Province (全羅北道, 전라북도). Yi Maechang had already heard of Yu Heuigyeong. They both fell in love with each other, and corresponded in poetry. The following is one of their correspondences:

贈癸娘 증계량

Presented to Gyeryang

我有一仙藥 아유일선약
能醫玉頰嚬 능의옥협빈
深藏錦囊裏 심장금낭리
欲與有情人 욕여유정인

I have one magical elixir.
It can cure a jade cheek’s frown.
Having stored it deep inside my silk pocket,
I intend to give to a lover.

I • to have • one • magical • drug
To be able • to cure • jade • cheek • frown
Deep • to store • silk • pocket • inside
To intend • to give • one • love • person

    • 玉頰(옥협) – Literally “jade cheek.” Refers to the countenance of a beautiful woman.

贈別 증별

Presented While Departing

我有古奏箏 아유고진쟁
一彈百感生 일탄백감생
世無知此曲 세무지차곡
遙和緱山笙 요화구산생

I have an old Jin Jaeng (奏箏, 진쟁).
If plucked once, a hundred feelings arise.
In the world, there is no one that knows this tune.
From afar, reply to the Saeng (笙,생) on Mount Gu (緱山, 구산).

I • to have • old • Jin • Jaeng
One • to pluck • hundred • feelings • to arise
World • to not have • to know • this • tune
Afar • to reply • Gu • Mountain • Saeng

    • 奏箏(진쟁) – A type of plucked zither. Also called Gujaeng (古箏, 고쟁) or Jaeng (箏,쟁). During the Song (宋, 송, 960-1279) and Tang Dynasty (唐, 당, 618-907), it had 13 strings. Later on, there were versions of the instrument with 16, 18, 21, and 25 strings.
    • 笙(생) – A reed wind instrument with 17 pipes. Also called Saenghwang (笙簧, 생황).
    • 緱山(구산) – Mount Goushi (緱氏山, 구씨산, Guss’isan) or Guoling (緱嶺, 구령, Guryeong) is located in Yanxi County (偃師縣, 언사현,  Eonsa Hyeon) of Henan Province (河南省, 하남성, Hanam Seong). The mountain is frequently mentioned in Classical Chinese poetry because of King Ling of Zhou’s (周靈王, 주영왕, ?-545BC) son and heir Jin (晉, 진, Jin). After he directly reproved the King, Jin was made a commoner. He then decided to become an apprentice of the Taoist hermit Fuqiu Ba (浮丘伯, 부구백, Bugu Baek, ?-?) and lived in seclusion on Mount Goushi. This is recorded in the Collected Biographies of the Immortals (列仙傳, 열선전), a collection of hagiographies of Taoist hermits:

王子喬者, 周靈王太子晉也. 好吹笙, 作鳳凰鳴.
왕자교자, 주령왕태자진야. 호취생, 작봉황명.

Wangzi Qiao (王子喬, 왕자교, Wangja Gyo) was King Ling of Zhou’s heir Jin. [Jin] enjoyed playing the Sheng (笙, 생) (Mandarin name for the same instrument), making the crows of a phoenix.

游伊洛之間, 道士浮丘公接以上嵩高山三十餘年.
유윤락지간, 도사부구공접이상숭고산삼십여년.

He wandered about between [the cities of] Yin (伊, 윤, Yun) and Lou (洛, 락, Rak). The Taoist scholar Fuqui met [him] and ascended Mount Songgao (嵩高山, 숭고산, Sunggo San) [and resided there] for thirty some years.

後求之於山上, 見桓良曰: “告我家 ,七月七日待我於緱氏山巔.”
후구지어산상, 견황량왈: “고아가, 칠월칠일대아어구씨산령.”

Afterward, [Jin] requested to go to the mountain top. As he saw Huanliang (桓良, 환량, Hwanryang), he said, “Inform my house to await me on the 7th day of the 7th month at Mount Goushi’s peak.”

至時, 果乘白鶴駐山頭, 望之不得到. 舉手謝時人, 數日而去.
지시, 과승백학주산두, 만지불득도. 거수사시인, 수일이거.

When that time arrived, indeed they rode a white crane and stopped by the mountaintop. They gazed at them, thanking the people of that time. Many days [passed] and they left.

亦立祠於緱氏山下, 及嵩高首焉.
역립사어구씨산하, 급숭고수언.

Also, they erected shrines below Mount Goushi and at the top of [Mount] Songgao.

Unfortunately, their time together was short. When Yu Heuigyeong returned to Seoul in 1592, the Japanese started their invasion of Korea (壬辰倭亂, 임진왜란, 1592-1598). He joined an irregular righteous army (義兵, 의병) and fought against the Japanese. After the war, he was lauded by King Seonjo (宣朝, 선조, 1552-1608, r. 1567-1608) for his efforts and was manumitted. A few years later, for revealing embezzlement at the Ministry of Finance (戶曹, 호조), Yu Heuigyeong was awarded the high-ranking bureaucratic position of Tongjeongdaebu (通政大夫, 통정대부). Fifteen years after their first meeting, he eventually was reunited with Yi Maechang in 1607. Unfortunately, she passed away just three years later in 1610.

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