The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: Korean Culture (page 2 of 71)

Korean words starting to get loaned into Chinese

I would be the first person to admit many Chinese loan words have made it into Korean.  However, it’s interesting when there are reports that the reverse is happening.

The Chosun Ilbo reports that due to the popularity of Korean dramas in China, Korean terms such as “oppa” (오빠) and “ajumma” (아줌마) are entering Chinese popular vernacular.  The Chinese, however, are putting different meanings behind the words.  오빠, which in Korean can mean anything from a female’s older brother to a female’s older male friend or even boyfriend/lover, has adopted the Chinese characters “,” pronounced “ou-pa” in Mandarin and the meaning of “…amorous feelings toward the subject.”

Ajumma/아줌마?  Well, the Chinese already has a popular word for “auntie,” (阿姨/āyí in Mandarin) the rough equivalent of “아줌마” so it’s adopted the meaning of “…to refer to tough women.”

Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism

The Ven. Hyewon and friend (and sometimes MH poster) David Mason have recently released the first-ever encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism.

David’s got a ton of info about the book and how to purchase it at his website, so please, click on over and give it a look.

American troopers in “Real Men”

As you all know every healthy Korean male is suppose to serve a two year stint in the armed forces.  It ain’t easy and it ain’t relished by most Korean men.  However, some time after their service, many Korean men develop strangely nostalgic memories of their service.  The Korean has a good series on this here and here.

Capitalizing on this phenomenon is MBC’s reality show “Real Men” where older Korean actors relive their days in the military for the benefit of their television audiences.  Surprisingly, the show has become popular with women who want to know a little bit of what their men had gone through.

Any ways, now “Real Men” has started to have troops from the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division interact with the Korean stars.  The American troopers, for example, don’t seem to mind eating Korean food.  What’s the first thought that runs across the Koreans’ minds when they see the non-Korean faces?  “Gosh, my English sucks.”  A surprising number of the American troops knew some Korean.  The cross cultural exchange is “interesting,” to say the least.

‘진짜 사나이’ 샘 해밍턴 “250원 바나나라떼 정말 맛있어” 극찬

(Photo credit edaily)

Cross Cultural Influences – Mental Distress Or An Instance of Growth?

cardinal_ROne Japanese gentleman – Hoji Takahashi has sued NHK in Japan for 1.4 million yen, citing “mental distress” caused by an excessive use of words borrowed from English.  Mr. Takahashi is a member of a group that supports the primacy of the Japanese language, in Japan.

As found in Korean, Japanese does have loan words from English.  Loan words can take different forms in South Korea, for instance, if you walk into a franchise coffee shop, you will find signs for cinnamon that instead of reading “계피 가루” (a perfectly acceptable Korean term) will read “신아먄 퍼아드” which is simply “cinnamon powder” phonetically rendered into Hangul. There are many words from English that can be found in just the same manner: 헤어 스타일 (hair style),피트니스센터 (fitness Center), etc. and so on.

Some of these words are technically a sublanguage (Konglish), existing neither in Korean or English, for example: Officetel 오피스텔 (Office + Hotel).  Even in other countries such as Germany, whose own language has influenced English with its own loan words (haus), how has experienced a reverse influence, for example sogh-ee (sorry).  Instead of using the comparable word in German, Entschuldigung.  Per one article from National Public Radio,

‘sorry’ is quite a useful way of apologizing because it doesn’t commit you to very much. It’s very easy to say ‘sorry.’ The closest equivalent would be Entschuldigung, which is, ‘I apologize, . . . That’s really like admitting that you’ve done something wrong, whereas with saying ‘sorry,’ you could also just be expressing empathy: ‘I’m so sorry for you, but it has nothing to do with me.’
“Sorry” is one of more than 10,000 American words Germans have borrowed since 1990. Language experts here say English is the main foreign language that has influenced German over the past six decades. This cultural infusion is pervasive, with English used by journalists, by scientists and even at the highest levels of government.
“Germany doesn’t really have a very purist attitude to language — unlike France, where you have an academy whose task it is to find French alternatives for borrowings; or if there is a new technology that needs to be named, then the academy will find a name. . . (cite)

Other countries like France do have an official body to police their language (L’academie Francais), founded in 1635.  “Le walkman” used to be common in France but the academy decided a proper French word was needed, thus Le Baladeur was born and use of “Le walkman” in a news advert could gain a business a fine from the academy.

According to Holger Klatte, this use of loan words and influence from English is a problem:

“Languages do tend to affect one another, but the influence of English in Germany is so strong that Germans are having a hard time advancing their own vocabulary, . . . The second world war and Nazi times have led Germans to downplay the importance of their language, unlike the French, Finns and Poles — they promote their languages a lot more than we do.” (cite)

I also note that there is a divergence between the Korean used by the ROK and DPRK.  The DPRK, in its political quest for racial purity, excludes the use of Chinese or English loan words and, as such, contains up to forty percent different vocabulary that is unique to the north, as opposed to its cousin in the south.

Loan words – aberration or growth?  It is difficult to tell.

The other side of the cosmetics and plastic surgery discussion

When it comes to the topic of plastic surgery, many people take a “good or bad” value position.  The unofficial consensus is if a lot of it is done to a normal face then it’s “bad,” but if it’s done to restore looks lost due to an accident, then it is generally thought of as “good.”

When it comes to South Korea, much of the press is negative and borders on reporting mostly on the strange and/or weird such as the so-called “tower of jaw bones,” the proliferation of plastic surgery ads in Gangnam-gu, startling before and after shots, or the fact that South Korea undergoes the highest number of plastic surgery procedures per capita in the world.

Korean culture, particularly modern urban culture, puts an extraordinary amount of emphasis on outward appearance.  Clearly, sociological pressures play a decisive role.  Interestingly enough, there is pressure on the supply-side too.  Korean doctors essentially have their incomes capped by price controls mandated by the National Health Insurance plan, so there is pressure to turn to plastic surgery to escape limits on their pay.  All this has created a massive aesthetics-based business of cosmetics companies, skin care clinics and plastic surgeons.

All points well taken from a position that’s attracted a lot of attention, debate and discussion.  IMHO, criticism of Korean sociological pressures and aesthetics culture is not without merit.

However, is it all bad?  If we are to take perhaps subjective values out of the equation and just look at economic impact, then is this all “bad,” per se?  From an economic and business perspective, Korea’s highly demanding aesthetics culture is creating an expertise, technology and infrastructure base that’s become the core of a highly developed cosmetics and plastic surgery industry.  It’s an industry that’s so developed it is attracting considerable overseas demand, particularly in medical tourism and cosmetics.  The big prize is China’s aesthetics market, for which Korea may be uniquely positioned to capture a greater share of than more established players in Japan (i.e. Shinseido), France (i.e. L’Oreal) and the U.S. (i.e. Procter & Gamble).  From a plastic surgery standpoint, Chinese patients now make up the largest percentage of medical tourists visiting Korea.

Tremendous domestic demand and emphasis on quality is creating a “virtuous cycle” of sorts, that’s in turn supporting an industry that’s becoming increasingly more attractive to a lot of non-Koreans.  The demand translates into sales and profits, which creates additional capital to be available to fund more product and service improvements and to keep comparative costs down due to efficient capacity utilization and expansion of economies of scale.  This creates even more non-domestic demand, further expanding and accelerating the cycle and thus giving Korea, Inc. yet another industry to hang its hat on.

Korea is like a dolphin, not a shrimp

says Daniel Tudor, who’s tired of hearing the description from Koreans who like to use it as a sort of self-effacing excuse for themselves. The Korean expression from which “shrimp” originates is : 고래 싸움에 새우 등 터진다 – “Kore-ssaumeh-saeu-deung-tojinda” literally translated as “During a fight amongst the whales, shrimps (back) explode”. I always wanted to know if this is based on a scientific fact, i.e. how feasible this is and whether this is a common occurrence. I don’t know if the sizes of the relative species concerned (shrimps and whales) and their common habitat could actually result in such a phenomenon. Maybe somebody could ask the Mythbusters program. At any rate here is a footage of a whale fight. In my opinion, it’s more likely to happen during whales mating than fighting, if at all.

Anyway, I can only find the link to the Korean version of the JoongAng article by Tudor씨. I don’t know if there is an English version. Tudor씨 is an ex-correspondent of the Economist, and is also the author of the book, “Korea: The Impossible Country”.
His main point is that maybe Koreans (especially the elite or the leaders in the society) like to say that they are a small country or a developing country to prevent change – because that prevents further discussion of things like equal opportunities or work-life balance, and everybody would continue to sacrifice themselves for development.

확실한 증거는 없지만, 자기 회의적인 그런 얘기들은 변화에 저항하는 수단으로 쓰이고 있는 것이 아닐까 싶다. 평등주의나 일과 삶의 균형에 대한 논의를 막기 위해서는 한국이 아직도 개발도상국이라는 인식만큼 좋은 게 없기 때문이다. 그래야 성장과 진보를 위해 모두가 희생을 감수하지 않겠는가.

He also goes on to say where he is now (in Malaysia) people envy Korea as successful developed nation and he often gets asked to give interviews about Korea. Now while I understand what he is trying to say and agree with some of it, I think there are also other reasons such as:

1. Koreans often like to say, “Koreans are like this – that’s why they’re no good” not including themselves in it. It’s rarely “We are like this that’s why it will never work”. The elite and the leaders are separating themselves from the people they are referring to. I am sure I am guilty of this myself, but to my defence I always fight with my parents whenever I go back.
2. Living standard alone does not make a truly developed nation. While I enjoy watching some Korean TV/dramas which his Malaysian friends might watch, I still cringe at the Cinderella mentality and the 식상한 story-line.
Let me just add, I don’t like dramas from the US or Britain/Australia etc. when they try to be realistic or tackle issues, sometimes they are just plain old bland beyond hope..it’s a delicate balance between escape from reality, and reality packaged as an episode.
3. It’s also like a sports announcers mentality when they say : “네, 정말로 뛰어난 패스, 김 아무개 선수 – 슛 – 네 그럴 줄 알았습니다.” They build themselves up with hope when things are going well, only to say “I knew it” when the ball bounces off the goal post. Deep down, we know we are shite. A bit like the Brits and their Wimbledon dreams.
4. Finally, yes, unfortunately, his Malaysian friends are right in that some Koreans look down on them. I am sure the Korean entertainment business is very careful in controlling their fan-base in places like Malaysia, but most Koreans would already probably feel superior to the South-East Asians, especially with respect to colour of the skin and money. They mainly want to feel superior within the club they feel they belong to geographically and culturally: the China-Japan-Korea club.

Anyway, I also thought it was funny that he chose dolphin, especially with the dolphin-related news going around nowadays.

Korea a great place to get fertility treatment… as long as you’re officially married

A piece in the, again, the Chosun Ilbo notes a rather odd quirk that’s hurting the medical tourism industry.

Namely, a number of foreign couples who come to Korea for artificial insemination procedures are being denied the procedure because they aren’t officially married.

Korea’s biological ethnics law apparently requires couples to submit a marriage certificate or a similar certification before they can undergo an artificial insemination procedure. This particularly sucks for potential patients from Russia and elsewhere in the former Eastern Bloc, where—due to decades of rule by godless commies—only about 60% of couples living together are officially married.

Some 90% of foreign patients who come to Korea for fertility treatments come from Russia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. Over the last three years, the number of Russians who’ve come to Korea for fertility treatments has quintupled.

Anyway, some now ask if perhaps some flexibility might be required in the case of foreign patients.

Chinese tourists feel disrespected in Korea: Ye Olde Chosun

Despite being the biggest customers in the Korean tourism market—both in terms of numbers and money spent—many Chinese tourists come away with bad feelings.

Or so reports the Chosun Ilbo, citing a poll it took of 100 Chinese tourists in Myeong-dong, Dongdaemun and Gangnam taken last year.

A full 25% of respondents said their image of Korea worsened after actually visiting the country. In particular, 37% responded that they were the target of real or perceived contempt from Koreans. Only 10% said they’d felt such contempt when traveling in other countries, which would suggest—says the Chosun—that globe-trotting Chinese tourists get such a strongly negative impression only in Korea.

Chinese not only accounted for a full third of all the foreigners who entered Korea last year, but they also spend the most money here. In 2012, the average Chinese tourist spent USD 2,153.7 in Korea, 140% the foreign tourist average of USD 1,529.5. They also spent USD 378 per day; likewise, this was the highest among foreign tourists. Chinese tourists are also responsible for a considerable amount of added value—perhaps as much as KRW 7 trillion’s worth.

Of the disrespected Chinese tourists, 12 said they were verbally disrespected, 11 pointed to facial expressions, and eight cited body language.

One 20-something Chinese tourist the Chosun met in Myeong-dong recently was pissed off about an incident that took place in a subway. On the second day of her visit, she was talking in Chinese with her friend on the subway when an ajumma tapped her with her foot and motioned for her to go into another carriage. She could feel the contempt in her eyes, she said. At Dongdaemun Market, the only time she felt welcomed was when she handed over money.

When Chinese tourists head off the major tourist track, things get even worse. Volunteer Chinese interpreters say the places about which they get the most complaints are the well-known beauty salons in places like Sinchon and Apgujeong (Marmot’s Note: Well-known hair stylists? Being dicks? To tourists? Noooooooooooooooo!). One volunteer said he took a 20-something Chinese woman to a hair stylist in front of Ewha, but when they got there the owner’s faced turned sour. The volunteer said the open display of dislike was embarrassing.

Despite this, Korean officials are still saying there’s nothing to worry about. A government survey on inbound tourism taken this year showed the Chinese tourists were highly satisfied with their travel experience, scoring 4.14 points out of 5. This was the same level of satisfaction as the total average. Experts say this is an illusion, however. The government polls are often given of tourist groups at select shopping malls, hotels and restaurants—places where tourists are unlikely to meet the “real Korea,” so to speak.

China experts warn the impact of this goes beyond money—it could affect the entire Sino-Korean relationship. One foundation director head said the Sino-Korean relationship was an important matter on which Korea’s future depended, and lessening the gap in culture and values was the basis of diplomacy, both at the private and government levels. He added that this social value was a national asset much more important than money.

Marmot’s Note: Being from New York, I just naturally assume tourists are treated like jerks and am pleasantly surprised when they aren’t.

Speaking of which, somebody posted this on Facebook yesterday. I thought it was hella funny:

Anyway, Korean readers, on your way home today, please hug a Chinese tourist. They apparently need one.

소나무 비천 되어 (Pine becomes flight). . . Pine Carvings of A Master

flying-pine

A free exhibition of temple-style pine carvings has opened at the Seoul Fine Arts Center (Seocho Gu) and is a very fine example of the art form from a living master: 허길량.  IMHO, this is an easy must-see exhibition for many reasons.  There is at least one lady there who can give detailed help in English as well but I am not sure how often she is there.  She did offer some insight into the recent problems with the Namdaemun pine too that was interesting to hear.  The accompanying book and calendar are wonderful at 10,000 too. The SAC page for this exhibit is here.

Happy Birthday Dr. Fred Dustin: Jeju’s Renaissance Man

Think you have been here for a long time?  Except for a few years while at school, Dr. Fred Dustin has been in Korea since 1952!  He has literally done it all:  Military, English teaching, Mining, Copy Editing, Rainbow trout promoting, writing, voicing, poultry raising, agriculture, and, of course, The Kimnyoung Maze on Jeju Island.

Not only has Dr. Dustin done everything, he also knew everyone.  Have any of you ever heard of the Koryo Club?

Seoul was a city in transformation and it was filled with interesting people. One such person was Ferris Miller, who arrived in Korea prior to the Korean War and returned in 1953 to work for the Bank of Korea. It was he who founded the Koryo Club – a group of Koreans and foreigners with an interest in Korea and its culture.

The meetings were held in Miller’s home and members were supposed to deliver papers on “things Korea” but Dustin, who was the youngest member, does not remember any specific papers every being delivered - only the large number of beer bottles that had to be cleared away the next morning.

But there were exchanges of ideas as evidenced by the names of the members - names that are now well-known in Korea studies: Edward Wagner (founder of the Korea Institute at Harvard), Richard Rutt (a former Anglican bishop who wrote many books on Korean poetry and his life as a country priest), William E. Skillend (the first professor of Korean at the School of Oriental and African Studies), Greg Henderson (diplomat and author), Chung Bi-seok (novelist), Cho Byung-hwa (poet) and Choi Byung-woo (Korea Times managing editor and reporter who died at the age of 34 on Sept. 26, 1958, while covering the Chinese Communist bombing of Quemoy and Matsu Islands).

All of these men had an impact on Dustin’s life.

“I look back in awe and with great respect upon those friends, role models and early mentors,” he fondly recalls.

You can read more about Dr. Dustin here in (Korea Times, Jan. 10, 2014).  For those on Jeju Island – if you get a chance, stop by today and wish him a Happy 84th Birthday.

New Year Resolutions and Diet

Happy New Year to everybody! One of my two resolutions this year is to eat less meat. I will keep on eating fish, but try to cut out as much red meat and poultry as possible. Whenever I am in Korea I get taken out to restaurants, and even at my parent’s home, I am shocked at how much more and frequent the meat (not including fish) consumption has become, compared to say, 10,20 years ago. Also, I notice how obese some of the kids in primary schools (as well as unruly) have become..
So it is very surprising to find Korea as an example nation where the increase in wealth has not led to the corresponding increase in obesity in this BBC piece . You can play the video, and listen to what the market ajummas have to say. One thing that was not dubbed over properly I note is that one of them mentions 짜장면 (Chajang-myun) , or Joonghwa Yori (Chinese-Korean restaurant food) as unhealthy food, as well as Western food. This has always been true, as 중화요리 is known for using a lot of oil and frying..so if you want to stay thin, less 철가방 chul-kabang(metal-bag) delivery is in order.

Speaking of Chinese delivery, I saw that they were getting people ready for the new street-name based address system when I was in Korea 2 months ago, and now that it has come into effect from this year, a lot of Koreans are complaining, including the delivery restaurants. Is it affecting any of you?

Finally, another BBC, diet-related item which says that intermittent fasting if good for your body. My late grandpa who was a real stickler to doing everything to live long and healthy (and he did) really abided by 소식(soshik, eating little).

Park Eun-Jee Totally Gets It

Park Eun-Jee? you ask. Who is she?

Well, she is the author of a current JoongAng Ilbo post on the Tourism Center in Apkujongdong (Gangnam) that was built next to the Hyundai Department Store. As Ms. Park points out, government-style thinking is much like Samsung’s often strange and misplaced advertising concept: it doesn’t work:

. . . A major reason for the center’s (tourism) disappointing reception appears to stem from an entrenched bureaucratic way of thinking, with officials offering tourists what they think foreigners should see, rather than responding to the interests of their visitors.

As the author points out, a tourist:

  • can’t touch costumes
  • can’t learn dance moves
  • can’t buy tickets to shows (since most ticket sites offer no help to non-Koreans)
  • can’t buy costumes or clothes that are hip
  • can’t learn about all K-pop stars (just a few)
  • can’t talk to medical clinic representatives on site

I would add visitors can’t sign up for interactive exhibits, for example, a live dance performance that tourists could participate in and take pictures or video of. I am surprised that there is not more of a theme-park approach to this center too.  I guess someone thought it was enough to put in a coffee franchise in there and no, they don’t need to turn it into a for-profit enterprise by putting in a casino because that is a short-sighted view of how to use a cultural marketing opportunity.

When I read Park’s article and see the truly bizarre advertising that comes out of Samsung or Hyundai overseas, this really tells me that the wrong people make decisions about how to market things that are “Korean”.  Maybe some of the people who are just now starting to be taken seriously in “big data” usage in Korea should be managing marketing efforts since their knowledge comes from data points from real people and not how “Kim middle-age-guy” grew up or learned from Korean corporate politics and culture.  Why not ask for recommendations from K-pop fan sites and find out directly from the people that would spend money to come here?

I must quote from the one piece of paper I keep at my desk, the one that never disappears from my desk, thanks to Marcel Proust:

The real voyage of discovery
lies not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes

It is in this way that the old becomes new again or that I can see my mistakes and successes in a different way.

What is also really interesting is how much interest in Korean entertainment there really is in the rest of the world but how little understanding there is, from Koreans, on how to cultivate this interest, IMHO.

Hipsters…

Don’t blame me. Blame Wangkon.

photo credit: Ruocaled via photopin cc

What to do, what to do. Ah, yes. Korean Dinner porn.

Winter got you locked indoors  waiting for spring? Looking for a worthwhile way to pass the weary hours ensconced within the warmth of your ondol? Well, here you go: streaming Korean dinner porn.

ku-xlarge

Click image for your full-on-animated-foodgasm.

From Kotaku:

One of the most popular mok-bang broadcast jockeys is known as The Diva. By day, she works at a consulting agency. By night? She eats. A lot. The Diva streams daily starting between 8pm and 9pm, with her broadcasts going on for hours. As with many mok-bang streams, it’s a seemingly endless parade of delicious food, whether that’s yummy Korean food, pizza, pasta, steak, you name it.

Take that, Food Network!

Enjoy it while you can — before the KCSC finds out your enjoying it too much.

photo credit: KOREA.NET – Official page of the Republic of Korea via photopin cc

Chinese whinging about kimchi’s UNESCO status

Some truly blogtastic complaining from Zhang Huiqiang, the associate director of the Museum of Sichuan Cuisine, about the registration of kimchi on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list:

“Technically, kimchi originated from Sichuan pickles,” said Zhang. “It’s like the offspring has stolen the glory belonging to its ancestor.”

And on Chinese social media:

“Our Sichuan pickles taste much better than Korean kimchi. They have a longer history and are more diverse!” Claire Li wrote on Sina’s microblog, Weibo.

Parting shot from Zhang:

“I don’t worry that Unesco won’t list two similar items,” Zhang said. “Ours is better, keep that in mind; if they can recognise a good one, why not a better one.”

According to a JoongAng Ilbo piece from 2011, Sichuan’s butt-hurt pickle-makers have been trying to push this line for a couple of years now. Interestingly enough, Sichuan pickles are fermented in a clay jar, much like Korea’s kimchi, although the pickles’ sterile fermentation contrasts with the lactic acid fermentation used in kimchi, German kimchi (referred to in some places as “sauerkraut”) and yogurt.

Pro tip: Russian dill pickles go great with buuz.

photo credit: buck82 via photopin cc

Older posts Newer posts

© 2014 The Marmot's Hole

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑