Friday, September 30, 2011

India’s Elite University Aspirants Flock to Korean Cram Schools

Getting off the train at the Kota Junction Station in Kota of Rajasthan Province, northern India, arrivals are greeted by flashy billboards advertising several prep schools. The advertisements in mixtures of Hindi and English languages aim to attract aspirants to the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology by displaying pictures of new top-scoring students entering the elite school.

In India, the medium-sized city Kota is known as the Mecca of IIT JEE (Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Exam) aspirants. The nation`s largest coaching hub serves more than 100,000 students coming from all parts of India, who account for one-sixth of the city`s population. Most of the students there are high school seniors who hope to be admitted to IIT.

As demonstrated in the recently released Indian movie “Five Point Someone – What Not to Do at IIT,” holding an IIT degree means much more than just an educational achievement. In the Indian society, where caste-based social discrimination is commonplace and income inequality is pronounced, an IIT education provides a fast-track pass to upward social mobility. Therefore, competition for admission is fierce with only 1 percent of the exam applicants selected.

Since public education is not sufficient to win the ferocious competition for IIT admission, the prep schools in Kota are thriving. The city has six large educational centers with more than 5,000 registered students each and numerous smaller ones. They replace an otherwise public high school routine in which attendance is not mandatory for seniors; they only need to pass graduation exams.

Turning around a traffic circle in downtown, a huge blue billboard stands on a three-story building, showing pictures of teachers of physics, chemistry and mathematics. The billboard urges students to apply for admission to an institute and try its upscale tutoring system to ensure better exam results. The billboard somewhat resembles that of Korean cram schools armed with renowned teaching staffs. At the bottom of the billboard is shown the contact number to the school, “ETOOS Academy.” It is a branch of Korea`s coaching school conglomerate ETOOS, commonly known as Chungsol Academy in Korea, which entered the Indian educational market last April.

The road leads into a huge district of numerous prep schools. Their buildings and flashy billboards constitute the unique landscape of the educational complex, which houses Bansal, India`s top prep school. It boasts 20,000 student registrations. Bansal`s neighborhood has its smaller coaching rivals such as Career Point and Vibrant Academy.

ETOOS Academy is located towards the end of the street. The 2,300 square-meter one-story building houses 11 classrooms, with over 1,000 registered students taught physics, chemistry and mathematics by 21 instructors. ETOOS Academy is unique among Kota`s coaching centers as it aims to offer tailored educational service to satisfy the needs of individual students by providing faculty-based, topic-based and level-based class options. In the traditional Indian tutoring system, students are not given the option to choose the coaching staff they favor. Indian cram schools assign teachers to groups of students as large as several hundred without individual learning needs taken into consideration. ETOOS capitalizes on the void, employing the subject-based teaching system of Korean cram schools. Before launching the Indian branch, the Korean company even invited their prospective Indian teachers to Seoul last February to give them a better sense of the Korean cram school culture.

“Four out of every five students sitting in the lectures at existing Indian coaching centers have difficulty in following the demanding teaching materials. Operating subject-based class options, we are serving the needs of such students,” Director Kang Sung-jin of Kota ETOOS explains. In other words, ETOOS is a cram school for students who are registered in other schools.

The Korean company is also unique in its pay system, which encourages teachers to reach their maximum potential. The salary scheme rewards the most popular and capable instructors with a bonus pay based on the number of students registered for his or her classes – a modification of Korean cram school payment system dividing registration fees paid by students evenly between the teacher and the school. The strong incentive system has rapidly transformed the teaching culture at Kota ETOOS. Competent teachers compete among themselves and top performers enjoy rising popularity among students, which leads to a skyrocketing pay level. For example, Prince Singh, 32, chemistry teacher, says that his earnings more than doubled at ETOOS. “The strong individual incentive system is famous among Kota`s exam tutors,” he says.

Second-year high school student Shubham, 16, came from Raipur, capital city of Chhattisgarh Province, 1,000 kilometers away, dreaming of entering the IIT to become an automobile engineer. He says the ETOOS system is well known among his fellow students, who appreciate the chance to make choices for their favorite teachers and class hours at their convenience. At ETOOS the class size is smaller than the conventional Indian cram schools so that students can take advantage of the lectures better tailored for individual learning needs, he says.

In sum, Kota ETOOS marks a successful inroad made by a Korean educational conglomerate as the first foreign operation ever in India`s coaching hub. After three months in operation, the number of registered students at ETOOS topped 1,000, putting the school well past the break-even point by mid-July. Its student registration goal is 5,000 by the end of this year.

Park Seong-bok, head of India ETOOS, believes that the success of Kota ETOOS proves that the Korean cram school system can thrive in the Indian educational market. The company plans to further expand next year, establishing another Korean-style cram school and a regular private school in the capital city of Delhi and Hyderabad, the equivalent of Kota in southern India. ETOOS says video-on-demand tutorial programs for Indian students are also in preparation, following the trend in Korea. Commercial web schools are already highly popular among Korean students. “We think that exporting Korea`s highly competitive private educational system also contributes to promoting Korean culture abroad,” Park says.

ETOOS is not the sole Korean educational giant expanding its reach overseas. Daekyo was one of the first making inroads abroad by establishing Daekyo USA in Los Angeles in 1991 and Southeast Asian operations in Malaysia 2004 and Hong Kong in 2005. Before launching a global business, Daekyo established a strong domestic reputation for individualized instruction and home-visit tutoring dubbed “Noon-nopi” (meaning “eye level”). Targeting international markets, the company rebranded its tutorial model as “E.nopi,” and operates regional “learning centers” to substitute for home-visit tutoring.

Currently, Daekyo is in 15 countries, by either setting up legal entities or franchising branches. In Hong Kong, for example, E.nopi targets pre-schoolers and primary school children, selling their competitive mathematics and English tutorial materials. In Hong Kong, registered membership includes 10,000 children and 86 franchised learning centers are in operation. Daekyo is only next to Japanese tutorial competitor Kumon in the Hong Kong market. “E.nopi aims to serve educational needs of Hong Kong`s wealthy parents and their children. Monthly registration fee is set at 650 Hong Kong dollars (or US$100), more expensive than Kumon membership by 100 Hong Kong dollars, but parents here continue to opt for E.nopi tutorial system,” says Seo Jeong-mi, head of Daekyo Hong Kong.

E.nopi Belcher`s, one of Daekyo`s learning centers in Hong Kong, is located at an upscale shopping mall in the Sai Wan area. The center has 200 students for mathematics and 100 for English. Ai Xi, a 25-year-old Hong Kong native who taught English at a regular primary school, says that she is happy about her job at Daekyo Hong Kong. “In the public school I could not teach children according to their different learning levels of English. Here, the E.nopi system provides diversified teaching materials for children of different linguistic levels. Teaching is more efficient also because each class is designed to work with only six children of similar learning levels,” she says.

JEI Corporation is another Korean company that eyes self-learning tutorial markets in the United States, China, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. Woongjin Think Big also operates publication, franchising and online businesses in the United States, China and Thailand. MegaStudy, one of Korea`s fastest-growing educational service providers, launched a website for global online education last November. The company is rapidly expanding in China, moving beyond its initial base in Guangzhou to Wuhan, Shanghai and Nanjing.

“Educational sector is thought as one of the 10 most promising business areas for the 21st century as the world economy transforms into an increasingly knowledge-based system,” says Professor Oh Dae-young of Kyungwon University. “Korean educational service providers have proved their great business potential overseas, establishing successful business footholds especially in India and Hong Kong. As globalization has opened a new window of opportunities for borderless education, Korean companies need to further grow their international competitiveness,” he says.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unforgettable Night Views at Incheon's Wolmi Island

Wolmi Island was named after its shape, which, when viewed from above, looks like a crescent moon. In Chinese character, "wol" means "moon" and "mi" means "tail" or "end" -- a fact that was not lost on Chinese tourist Liang Jingcui when she visited recently.

Although originally an island, Wolmi was connected to the mainland -- it is only 1 km from Incheon -- after embankments were built in the 1920s.

"This place is really refreshing," said Liang. "The cool breeze from the sea and the lights reflecting on the surface of the water is so beautiful."

Liang and her friend Liu Feng decided to visit the island as it is the perfect place for a quick trip due to its proximity to the capital -- only an hour away. It also offers striking night views.

The island is known throughout Korea for its amusement park, set against the backdrop of the sea and pleasure boats. Walking along the streets by Wolmi wharf, "Wolmi Theme Park" soon comes into view, equipped with a variety of amusement facilities.

The Viking, known as one of the most high-octane, white-knuckle rides in the country, and the 80-meter high cable car are the most popular attractions.

Taking a ride in the cable car brings into view Incheon Bridge, Wolmi Observation Tower and other points of interests. Liu and Liang rode the Viking and enjoyed other amusement facilities during their evening visit to the island.

The streets of the island were packed with young people, families and couples taking a stroll. The two Chinese visitors reached Wolmi Observation Tower after hiking along a trail for thirty minutes. The tower looked like the (leaning) Tower of Pisa when seen up close, Liang said. Others claim it resembles a conch or a spaceship.

They climbed toward the top of the tower, along the circular staircase. As they slowly ascended, Incheon Bridge and port came into view, slightly obscured by trees.

Standing at the top of the tower, Liang gave her final seal of approval. "The night scenery here is awesome," she said. "It's great to have such a wonderful place as this so close to the city."

Liu said, "I'm surprised there is anything like this in Incheon. I only used to come only when I needed to take a flight or a boat."

After making their way down from the tower, the two friends went to a restaurant and ordered some seafood stew. Liu said the food was fresher than back home.

"The shellfish are quite chewy, maybe because they are so big," she said.
"We eat shellfish a lot in China, too, but the ones here really taste good."

Magic of 'Cats' returns to Seoul

It has been 30 years since “Cats” was first staged and the second Korean production raised its curtain earlier this month at the Charlotte Theater in southern Seoul.

Based on T. S. Eliot’s poems, the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber portrays the feline world in an affectionate way. Stunning performances by Korean actors whisk the audience to the cats’ world, where they can meet a variety of characters from the narrator Munkustrap and ladies’ cat Rum Tum Tugger to former-actor Gus and cat-burglar duo Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer.

This year’s production cast three divas, singer Insooni, actresses Park Hae-mi and Hong Ji-min, as Grizabella the former Glamour Cat. Insooni said she is grateful that she has the chance to sing the famed song “Memory.”

“I thought Grizabella just sings ‘Memory,’ but the character has more complexity than that. I have to communicate with other ‘cats’ through eye contact and it was not easy,” Insooni said at a press conference. “‘Cats’ is not just a musical about cats. It is a philosophical work and I think forgiveness, reconciliation and healing is the message behind it.”

Park returns to the stage after appearing in “42nd Street” last year. The charismatic yet delicate image of Park suits the former Glamour Cat like second skin.

“While I mostly play middle-aged woman on television soaps, I think I am still hot and I can give off charm with the greatest on stage, though I am a cat this time,” Park said.

Hong, the youngest of the three, is a hard worker. Known for playing roles such as Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” (2007) and Effie White in “Dreamgirls” (2009), she changed her powerful style to suit the desperate, craving character.

“I believe in the power of rehearsing. Actors cannot lie on stage. The harder they rehearse, the better they perform,” Hong said.
She said the life of Grizabella resembles that of a performer. “I could look back on my life as an actress while playing the character.”
The musical offers other outstanding performances by other characters.

Jennyanydots tap dances with cockroaches, while the upper class Bustopher Jones boasts his plump figure and riches. Theater cat Gus reenacts a scene of “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” a major work on him, with fluffy white Persian Griddlebone.

Skimbleshanks the railway cat’s number is another spectacle, as props such as a lampshade, electric fan heads and a handcart brought by each cat makes a train onstage. Another showstopper is Mr. Mistoffelees’ “The Conjuring Turn,” a ballet movement that accompanies Rum Tum Tugger’s singing.

The cats enter the auditorium during the intermission and play with the audience, so isle seats are more popular. The audience can touch or pat them, but remember what Old Deuteronomy said — “respect the cats.”

The musical runs through Dec. 31 and tickets cost from 50,000 to 120,000 won. For more information, visit

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Korea ranks top for communication device exports

According to the OECD, Korea ranked first among OECD members for exporting communications equipment in 2009.

The news was released in the Communications Outlook, a biannual report issued by the Working Party on Communication and Infrastructures and Services Policy (WPCISP) under the Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP) of the OECD, in order to examine recent developments in the communications sector.

The communications equipment included cell phones and all sorts of data sending–and-receiving devices. Korea exported equipment worth around US$29.5 billion in 2009, which was six times the exports from 1999.

Korea also recorded the largest trade surplus from communications equipment, earning 25 billion dollars. Among the OECD members, only six countries including Mexico, Hungary, and the Czech Republic recorded a trade surplus during the same year. The OECD concluded that those countries have specialized industrial structures for the production of communications devices.

This year’s report used the definition of information and communications technology (ICT), which was created by the OECD. Among ICT products, communications equipment ranked third for exports following electronics and computers.

For the family communications expense index, Korea ranked second with a score of 1.671. The index is calculated by relative expenses related to communications in each country which includes expenses for equipment, telecommunications services, and mailing services.


K-pop fever in Latin America

On September 11, the 2nd K-pop Latin America Competition was held at Paseo la Plaza, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, hosted by the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. A total of 407 people in 171 teams from 14 countries including Costa Rica, Chile, and Peru entered the contest, of which 14 teams were selected for the final after passing a video test and live show screening.

Flohr (María Florencia Acosta) from Argentina got first place in the singing category and Peruvian girl group Step Up placed first in the dancing category. They both qualified for the finals of the Worldwide K-pop Contest which will be held in Seoul in November.

Thanks to the event, K-pop fever in South America has also started to get attention from local media. The biggest newspaper company in Argentina, Clarín, covered the contest and wrote about the winner Florencia Acosta on September 13 with the headline “The Queen of K-pop.”

On the same day, news channel El Trece reported the event with the title “K-pop Enthusiasm,” saying K-pop is getting more popular in Latin America with its showy dance moves, and that Argentina also has a number of Hallyu fans. It also showed footage from K-pop concerts and fans being enthusiastic for their music.

The entertainment magazine Lunateen also covered the event with the title “I love you K-pop,” reporting that Argentinean Hallyu fans shouted ”I love you K-pop“ when Korean singers appeared on stage, and some of them showed tears of happiness.

An official from the Korean Cultural Center of Latin America said, “Considering the fact that there hasn’t been a single Korean drama on TV in Argentina, it is truly amazing that the biggest newspaper companies and broadcasting companies covered the event and K-pop.”

It is the first time that K-pop has been shown in Argentinean media and more media companies including Radio la Plata are asking for help such as arranging interviews with the winners.

Previously, the K-Pop Cover Dance Festival hosted by the Visit Korea Committee was held in the central city of San Paulo, Brazil on September 7. A total of 20 Brazilian teams participated in the event in which the overseas fans of Hallyu danced to Korean songs. More than 5,000 K-pop fans attended the event, proving the popularity of K-pop. Moreover, in July, around 350 Argentinean K-pop fans performed in a flash mob in Buenos Aires, requesting Korean singers such as Girls’ Generation and Shiny tour to their country.

The final K-pop contest “K-Pop World Festival” will be held in the city of Changwon on November 24. A total of twelve teams from all over the world will compete against each other to become the final winner of the contest. The event will also be aired in real time on KBS and KBS World to 72 countries.

7th trilateral cultural exchange forum held in Gyeongju

The Korea-Japan Cultural Exchange Council held the seventh Korea-China-Japan cultural exchange forum, supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, for three days starting on September 20 at Hotel Hyundai in Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do (North Gyeongsang Province).

Experts, scholars, and influential figures in the culture and arts sectors of the three countries have gathered to attend the annual forum which has been held since 2005 to review the outcome of trilateral cultural exchanges and discuss ways to enhance cultural exchanges among the three countries.

The 7th trilateral cultural exchange forum was held in Gyeongju from Sep. 20 to 22.

At this year’s forum, the attendees had in-depth discussions on approaches to building an East Asian cultural community and the issue of developing an international cultural exchange program.

The attendees visited some of the well-known tourist attractions in Gyeongju and neighboring cities, including Bulguksa Temple, Haeinsa Temple, Cheonmachong (Tomb of the Heavenly Horse in Korean), and Gyeongju World Culture Expo where they performed a special mask dance performance of the three countries.

Next, the Korea-China-Japan women’s cultural exchange forum and related events will be held at Gyeongju Commodore Hotel from September 25 to 27. This forum is expected to be attended by 300 guests, including the mayor of Gyeongju City and the governor of North Gyeongsang Province, as well as foreign envoys from within Korea.


Did you know that ... (26) Hair today, gone tomorrow

“The year 1896 opened for Korea in a gloom,” declared Isabella Bird Bishop, an intrepid British explorer, referring to the recent Gabo Reforms, a series of social and political changes carried out by pro-Japanese officials in charge of the Korean government.

Many of these reforms were strongly opposed by the Korean population but perhaps the one that met with the most opposition was the haircut reform.

The reformers declared that the topknot was a symbol of Korea’s backwardness and would no longer be tolerated. To the average Korean, the topknot was prized as a symbol of manhood and its “loss would mean a national humiliation far more real than that brought on by (Queen Min’s) assassination” by members of the Japanese legation and their Korean sympathizers only a couple of months earlier.

No one was exempt from having their topknots removed ― not even King Gojong.

Acting Home Minister Chun Yun-kil declared:

“The present cropping of the hair being a measure both advantageous to the preservation of health and convenient for the transaction of business, our sacred Lord the King, having in view both administrative reform and national aggrandizement, has, by taking the lead
in his own person, set us an example.”

Despite Chun’s claims, King Gojong did not willingly agree to lose his topknot. Sallie Sill, the wife of the American Minister to Korea, described the events that transpired in the Korean palace.

“The poor King was one of the first victims, and he resisted but it was of no avail. No Korean could be found who would cut his hair, knowing (how) he felt, so a Japanese barber did it. The old Tai-won-kun (the king’s father) felt so bad and considered it such a disgrace that he had a kind of a fit and had a hemorrhage from the nose in consequence.”

The king’s father was not the only one mourning the loss of his son’s topknot. James Gale, a missionary, described a Korean friend who “was scandalized one day by his eldest son coming home with his top-knot cut. He beat the boy, and then sat for three days in a sackcloth and ashes fasting for the son who had been lost to him by the severing of the top-knot.”

Bishop reported that “many men who prized the honor of entering the Palace gates at the New Year feigned illness” in an attempt to keep their hair but all were “sent for and denuded of their hair.”

Even the common citizens “were seized in the streets by the police and had their topknots hacked off with a sword.” Merchants and porters feared that their hair would be forcibly cut at the gates so they refused to enter the city with their loads of rice and wood. Consequently the prices of both of these commodities rose substantially. The Koreans whose locks were shorn feared to venture beyond the outskirts of the city for fear of being attacked by the rural population.

After about two weeks, the Korean government, “rather than have the citizens (of Seoul) freeze or starve,” issued another edict proclaiming that haircutting was no longer compulsory.

For many, it was too late and they were forced to invent excuses to explain the loss of their cherished topknots. Some were quite imaginative. They claimed that their hair had been hacked off by ghosts or goblins while they wandered the darkened streets of Seoul.
But Seoul wasn’t the only place that Koreans had felt pressured to cut their hair. A Korean traveling in Yokohama became so annoyed by the stares and comments he received because of his hair that “he was obliged to have it cut. The Japanese barber, smiling broadly, asked, ‘How can you ever repay the favor I do you?’ The (Korean gentleman) replied, in Korean, under his breath, ‘To behead you, you wretch, would be the only fit pay.’”

source: The Korea Times

Friday, September 23, 2011

First lady 'coaches' chefs on Korean food amid criticism

First lady Kim Yoon-ok stepped up efforts Thursday to promote Korean food in New York, the Mecca for dishes from around the world.

Kim coached chefs and owners of Korean restaurants on how to meet the expectations of New Yorkers with the traditional cuisine.

Her “offering of tips” for the successful spread of Korean dishes comes amid skepticism over the government-backed drive to promote the food abroad.

Critics say the multibillion won campaign pushed by the government has not borne fruit so far and is wasting taxpayer’s money.

It consists of several projects, including the creation of an upscale restaurant in New York.

Last year, Seoul unveiled a 4-billion-won plan to establish a flagship Korean restaurant in downtown New York. The announcement came after the government kicked off its campaign to promote Korean food in other countries in October 2008.

Over the past three years after the launch of the culinary initiative, critics say, little tangible progress has been made in terms of recognition and popularity of Korean food abroad.

But some say it is too early to announce a failure of the drive. They said it took 30 years for Japanese cuisine to gain popularity among Westerners, adding people need to wait more to see the results.

Kim appeared to bear in mind the criticism when giving her pitch in New York, given her unusual “offering of tips” on how to promote Korean food there.

The first lady dropped by three Korean restaurants based in New York, including Danji, and met with those who are promoting Korea’s traditional food in the Big Apple where hundreds of international restaurants are located.

At Danji, Kim had conversation with Korean American chefs, a few students attending the Culinary Institute of America, and online bloggers, eating lunch there.

“Owners of Korean restaurants enjoy serving several different types of dishes. So customers can find a variety of ethnic foods, including Chinese and Japanese foods at a Korean restaurant,” Kim said.

“I think serving different types of foods at a restaurant is not a great idea. Actually we need to think outside the box. I personally believe Korean restaurants will turn out to be more competitive when chefs and owners focus on one or two specialized food items that can represent their restaurant.”

Her advice continued. The first lady recommended the owners of restaurants to consider training foreigners, not Koreans, to learn about the food, saying foreign chefs will help Korean food gain recognition and popularity there.

Her remarks were construed as meaning that American chefs who can cook Korean food will be better for the job because they also know how to meet Americans’ taste standards.

“Korean food not only tastes good but also is good for one’s health. This is because the food has a good balance between vegetables and meat,” she noted.

After lunch, the first lady and her aides moved to another Korean restaurant Social Eatz run by Korean American Bobby Kwak.

American chef Angelo Sosa presented kimchi and a hamburger he gave a Korean flavor to by adding bibimbap.

After tasting some dishes there, Kim praised Sosa for making an effort to localize Korean food.

Kim, who was a stay-at-home mom after marriage, is a listener at most times, supporting her husband, President Lee Myung-bak, in a quiet manner.

But when it comes to culinary diplomacy, she is super active and appears to have a lot to say.

Last year, she gave copies of a cook book she wrote, titled “The Nature of Korean Food by Kim Yoon-ok,” to the spouses of leaders attending the Group of 20 Summit held in Seoul in November.

She appeared in the international media for an interview on her culinary diplomacy.

The first lady is accompanying President Lee on his four-day trip to the United States which began Wednesday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

(155) Face : An interesting article to read at.

By Janet Shin

In the Orient, people have their faces read to foresee their destiny. Face reading is based on visible facts and uses statistical methods, so it has a different theoretical background from saju or other divinations.

I often tell people that the face is like our resume to show how we have lived or live, think, and behave, while it also reflects the environment and genetic factors, of course. You may expect that beauty is an important factor to determine whether one is likable or not. But people do not judge others only by beauty. First impressions are more influenced by feelings-anxiety or pleasure and thoughts whether they are negative or positive, flexible or rigid, sick or healthy and so on.

Oriental face-reading originates from ancient China with an almost 3,000-year history. And it has also a historical background of Greek philosophers. Physiognomy in English consists of physis to mean nature or the principle of the change and gnomon. Gnomon is the part of a sundial that casts the shadow. But it also means, as an ancient Greek word, “indicator”, “one who discerns”, or “that which reveals” according to a dictionary. Referring to the relationship between appearance and personality, Aristotle said, “As man or animal gain new emotional traits, expression can sometimes be conveyed by differentiating his or her own appearance. These emotional traits however must be changes in one’s natural desires.”

Face reading has recently re-emerged as some reports showed that characteristics such as credibility, social domination, and aggression are seen in one’s face. For example, most aggressive people have wider face owing to the adolescent male hormone.

Without theoretical knowledge of face reading, we have a habit of reading other people’s faces when it is hard to confirm the relationship with others just by rational judgment.

Each society or culture has its own standards of beauty. They are often reflected in how people get their plastic or cosmetic surgery and make themselves up.

I have been asked many times whether plastic surgery, or cosmetic procedure changes one’s destiny. My answer is yes. It is just like a cesarean. If a baby was born by cesarean, the baby’s destiny is determined by the cesarean day and time.

However, in most cases, one has individual tastes about one’s appearance and the baby is not always born on the scheduled date.

So if one decided to get plastic surgery in a certain way, or fix a date for a cesarean, it is also part of their destiny. However, as you all know, it doesn’t always improve one’s fortune.

When it comes to eyebrows, for example, some like longer ones, others not, some like thicker or slanted, others like dropped ones. In many comedies, those who have dropped eyebrows are portrayed as fools. But actually they are not fools but more like wheeler-dealers.

Rep. Hong Jun-pyo of the ruling Grand National Party showed up with his eye brows tattooed. He explained that he lost eyebrow hairs due to recent stress, so in order to give stronger impression he got them tattooed. I got an interesting impression looking at his face ― changed by the eyebrows.

In Oriental face reading, the face is divided into three parts.

●The first part is from hair line above forehead to eyebrows. It is called upper face, or “heaven” to read one’s given destiny or reputation. (0-34 years old)

●The second part is from eyelid (below eyebrows) to the end of a nose. It is called middle face, or “human” to read one’s ambition, marriage, business and love. (35-50 years old)

●The third part is from the end of a nose to the end of a chin. It is called bottom face or “earth” to read one’s latter life and how to manage others and maintain property. (51-71 years old)

Businessmen usually give stronger impressions in “middle face”-human parts, while spiritual leaders have stronger “upper face”-heaven parts.

Face readers usually look at the forehead (upper face) as well as the mouth and chin (lower face) to judge politicians. Although the forehead is a representative part to show one’s reputation and a chin shows managerial ability, I make certain to examine a person’s eyebrows to read interpersonal skills and the mouth to read their mental attitude.

It is interesting to compare and analyze how politicians behave and react to issues according to their face shapes.

It is not just a coincidence that the leader of the ruling party showed up with thicker eyebrows. And why Ahn Cheol-soo, a famed software mogul, declined to run Seoul mayoral by-election, was also seen by his mouth.

Info: Are you interested in learning more about the ancient Chinese teaching about the “Four Pillars of Destiny”? Saju (Ancient Chinese Teaching ― Four Pillars of Destiny) or a face reading workshop is held in Itaewon, Seoul.
For further information, contact Janet at 010-5414-7461 or email

The writer is the president of the Heavenly Garden, a saju research center in Korea, and the author of “Learning Four Pillars” For more information, visit her website at

Autumn festivals of Korea in motion to welcome visitors

An unexpectedly hot and wet summer winds down and now it’s time for us to venture outside and enjoy what nature has to offer in autumn.

Some may want to taste a range of newly-harvested agricultural and fisheries products in every corner of the country. Others may look to engage in a range of outdoor activities with family and friends as the pleasant weather encourages everyone to go outside.
Here are two autumn festivals you should check out.

Gimje Horizon Festival

Under the theme of ``Where the sky meets the land, come to Gimje,’’ the festival, which has been held for the past 13 years, is the perfect opportunity for those who want to see and experience what Korea’s agricultural industry was like in the past. The event will begin on Sept. 29 and continue through Oct. 3.

Jeolla Province has been the breadbasket of the country over the centuries and Gimje is an essential part of it.

Festival organizers said the event offers a range of programs in which visitors can take part in and experience firsthand what it was like to live as a farmer in Korea long ago.

``We have prepared a wide array of activities and cultural performances for tourists. They will get a chance to harvest rice in a traditional way and learn how to make rope, scarecrows and other handicrafts with straw,’’ said a spokesman for Gimje Horizon Festival Organizing Committee.

Visitors will also have the chance to shoot arrows and fly a kite, he said, adding there are many more fun-filled activities in store.
``They will get to taste a range of traditional Korean foods and if they want to, they can make them for themselves,’’ the spokesman said.

One of the highlights of the festival is ``Ssangyong Nori,’’ a fight between two dragons, which has become a local folk play among Gimje residents. The residents will reenact the fight as it is told in local myth.

Tourists can participate in a temple stay program at nearby Geumsansa Temple or spend a night with a farming family in the area, which are particularly popular options among foreign visitors.

For more information, call 063-540-3324 or visit

Andong Mask Dance Festival

The festival is a perfect excuse for those who want to visit Andong, where Hahoe Folk Village, a UNESCO’s World Heritage site, is located. The annual event will be held from Sept. 30 through Oct. 9 in Korea’s most well-known historic clan village and areas throughout the city.

The festival organizing committee has organized a total of 700 events on 10 stages during the 10-day fest. Dozens of mask dance troupes from over 15 countries will offer diverse performances.

``Both foreign and local dance troupes will perform a number of mask dances during the festival. Also, spectators will be invited to learn how to make masks and dance wearing them,’’ said a spokesman for Andong Mask Dance Festival Organizing Committee.

One of main events will be ``World Mask Dance Competition’’ where visitors can take part and compete for a 70 million won prize.

``They can also make their own masks and compete against one another in ``World Original Mask Competition.’’ We will organize so many more dance performances and participating programs for tourists. Come and enjoy what we have prepared,’’ the spokesman said.

For more information, call 054-841-6397, or visit

Korean culinary delights fascinate Indian gourmets

The Korean Food Festival is being held in India at the branches of the Taj hotel chain, one of India’s largest and finest hotel chains. The festival is co-hosted with the Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) to introduce a rich selection of luscious and healthy Korean cuisine, under the auspices of the Korean Embassy in India and Hyundai Motor Company.

The showcase of Korean culinary delights was made possible as a follow-up to Hemant Oberoi’s visit to Korea last year. Oberoi, a culinary maestro of Indian cuisine and Grand Executive Chef of the Taj Mahal Palace & Towers, attended the “Culture 20” (C20) side event held in conjunction with the G20 Seoul Summit last November where he fell for Korean food, known as Hansik. During his visit to Seoul, the Indian chef held a talk with First Lady Kim Yoon-ok, who has actively promoted the country’s traditional cuisine, and promised her he would host an event to introduce Korean culinary traditions in his home country. After one year of preparation, the event finally came to take place in the hotel-owned restaurant in Mumbai from September 14 to 17, and in New Delhi from September 21 to 24.

Throughout the festival, the hotel restaurants put up a buffet of Korean culinary delights for lunch and served specialties including samgyetang (chicken soup stuffed with rice, ginseng, and dates) for dinner.

Korean chefs Park Hee-don and Han Chul-bae came all the way to India for the week-long collaboration with Master Chef Oberoi. Customized menus for vegetarians have also been made available to better meet local tastes and preferences.

“A lot of Indians still consider kimchi as a Chinese dish,” said Chef Oberoi. He added that he wishes to further promote Korea’s rich culinary heritage, sprouting with healthy ingredients and rich flavors.

“It is the first time that Korean food is being introduced in a five-star hotel restaurant in India and I have been looking forward to introducing Korean cuisine in India, home to a 1.2-billion population,” said Choi Jung-hwa, head of CICI, “India is slowly but steadily witnessing an increasing presence of Korean food, and more Indian magazines start to cover Korean cuisine for its special features.”


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

[VOD] Organizers hope film fest sheds light on NK

CultureM reports The 3rd DMZ Korean International Documentary Film Festival 2011 from CultureM on Vimeo.

DMZ Korean Int’l Documentary Festival opens Thursday

A film festival set near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas hopes to become a channel of communication with North Korea one day.

“The DMZ Festival promotes peace, coexistence and reconciliation. The DMZ has great significance as a cultural and natural heritage site, but it is also a venue that represents pain for all of us. I hope that it becomes a channel for communication, including even with North Korea one day,” Cho Jae-hyun, director of the DMZ Korean International Documentary Festival (DMZ Docs), told The Korea Times in a recent interview in Seoul.

Best known as a prolific actor in films such as Kim Ki-duk’s “Bad Guy,” Cho has been involved in DMZ Docs since its inception in 2009.

“Acting is my priority, but I thought I had to (get involved) if my talent and skill proved to be of use in the very least,” he said.

The third edition of the event, which opens Thursday, invites another actor, Yoo Ji-tae (“Oldboy”), as its new co-festival director.

During a press conference late last month, Yoo said he was honored to be a part of the event and hopes the festival brings more attention to the overlooked documentary genre.

This year’s event will show 101 documentary films from 30 countries during its weeklong run until Sept. 28 in Paju, Gyeonggi Province,

It will open with British director Antony Butts’ “After the Apocalypse,” a harrowing documentation of a woman living near a “polygon” or test site for nuclear weapons bordering Russia and Kazakhstan. Having been exposed to radiation she is advised to undergo a test to see if her unborn child is healthy.

The winner of the international competition section will close the festival.

Organizers said they received a record 430-plus number of submissions this year that touched upon various topics such as radiation, extremist religiosity, war, human rights, family, disease, labor and education. Of these 13 are vying for a cash prize of 22 million won.

“At first people were unfamiliar with it, but now that the festival is already in its third year, many people in the international film festival circuit are talking about this documentary festival in Korea, how there is such an event being held in the DMZ area,” said Cho.

“I feel very proud that the festival is becoming increasingly recognized and I promise to help DMZ Docs grow into Asia’s representative documentary festival.”

Eight films will be competing for the 13 million won award in the Korean competition section while the youth competition invites six works for the 1 million won prize.

Out-of-competition films introduce films from around the world that are geared for not only adult audiences but children as well.

“The DMZ symbolizes the painful memories of war and is rather limited to the geographical confines of Gyeonggi Province,” said the festival chairman and Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Moon-soo.

“But I hope it will be rediscovered as a place of reconciliation and exchange on the Korean Peninsula and in the world.”

For more information about the festival, visit

Monday, September 19, 2011

Image of Korea

Foreign textbooks contain untrue information

An analysis of foreign textbooks shows that the world knows shockingly little about Korea. A foreign textbook shows Korea's mother tongue is Chinese. The nation is wrongfully portrayed as an origin of malaria, with a teenager working for more than 11 hours at a textile company.

Another foreign textbook describes a fox-turned-woman giving birth to the nation's founding father Tangun. It may be a tall order for foreigners to know that the Korea-Japan wars did not occur under the reign of King Sejong the Great (1397-1450) during the Joseon Dynasty.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade found the incorrect entries about Korea after monitoring 7,982 textbooks in 90 countries since 2003. It detected the mistaken description of Korea not only in Tunisia, Argentina and the Philippines but also the United States, Germany, Russia and other Western countries.

It reported the detection of 30 flaws about Korea in 17 foreign textbooks since it started a project to have Korea known correctly in 2003.

It is also an inconvenient truth that many foreigners have difficulty in telling capitalist South Korea from communist North Korea.

The government agencies, including the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Academy of Korean Studies and the National Branding Commission, need close coordination to rectify wrong descriptions of Korea.

A system is necessary to enlist the help of Korean residents overseas and foreign embassies in Korea.

Outgoing foreign envoys could be named as advisors to Korea. They are invaluable assets for Korea in tracing factual errors about the world’s 14th largest economy in their home countries.

Korean compatriots and businessmen overseas need to know the government contact point for reporting errors in foreign publications they detect.

Korea should learn from Japan in Tokyo’s coordinated campaign to publicize the facts of the world's third largest economy.

The government needs patience in righting the wide-of-the-mark descriptions of Korea. A hasty move to have foreigners change their textbooks might invite a backlash. Textbooks undergo change every five to 10 years in most countries.

Untrue descriptions of Korea may be attributable mostly to lack of information. This raises Seoul’s need to provide accurate data to foreign educators.

The ongoing program to invite foreign scholars, historians and journalists to Korea should receive added attention from budget planners.

Korea badly needs to translate its own history books into foreign languages so that they can be used as reference points when they describe this country.

In trying to correct what people say about Korea ― from obscure school textbooks around the world to Financial Times forecasts for the economy, the government should not risk showing disrespect for other people's freedom of expression. Seoul needs a persuasive approach.

Correcting misinformation may be necessary, but Korea's image comes from what it does, not from changing what other people say.

Yoona to star in new drama

Yoona of the K-pop band, Girls’ Generation will appear in the new television soap opera “Sarangbi.” Her return to the small screen comes two years after she starred in “Cinderella Man.”

She will perform together in the new drama with heartthrob Jang Geun-suk. Directed by Yoon Seok-ho the series marks the first collaboration in a decade between him and writer Oh Soo-yeon. The pair are renowned for their success with “Winter Sonata” and “Autumn in My Heart.”

The program focuses on the essence of love both in the 1970s and the 21st century.

Yoona will play the double role of Kim Yun-hee in the 1970s and Yuri, Kim’s daughter in present-day Korea, who falls in love with Seo In-ha, played by Jang.

The director said that Yoona’s grace and pure image will shine through in the fairytale love story.

Yoona made her debut as an actress in “9 Ends, 2 Outs” in 2007 and then starred in some television soap operas such as “Woman of Matchless Beauty” and “You Are My Destiny” in 2008 before “Cinderella Man” in 2009.

Shooting begins later this month and the drama will air from the first half of next year.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Folk museum enlightens children through Philippine culture

To encourage children to understand diverse cultures, the Children’s Museum of the National Folk Museum of Korea has prepared the “Philippine Culture Discovery Box” to open on Sept. 20.

Following the“Vietnamese Culture Discovery Box (Xin zhao (Hello) Vietnam)” and the “Mongolian Culture Discovery Box (Sen beno (Hello) Mongolia)” in 2010, the museum’s series aims to provide a window into the variety and range of lifestyles in the world especially for children.

Some 1.2 million foreigners live in Korea but they often face conflict stemming from cultural misunderstandings. In this growing multicultural society, it is important for children to be exposed to other cultures.

The “Philippine Culture Discovery Box (Kumusta (Hello) Philippines)” is a kind of a “moving museum,” containing various cultural and educational materials designed to be lent to multi-cultural institutions, schools, museums, and libraries all over the country to highlight the cultural content of the country concerned.

Through the box, children can experience Philippine history, nature, food, costume, housing, lifestyle, holidays, religion, games and musical instruments with audiovisual and study materials.

It also includes a picture book and flashy animation of the famous Philippine fairy tale “Turtle and Monkey.” As the book and animation are produced in both Tagalog and Korean, mothers and children of multicultural families can enjoy them together.

The understanding of culture begins with various exciting experiences such as seeing, listening, feeling, observing, imagining, touching and wearing. They can also learn how to live together comparing similarities and differences between Korean and Philippine culture.

Since last September, about 100 multi-cultural institutions have used the Mongolian and Vietnamese boxes for educational and exhibition purposes allowing 22,000 students to learn about cultural diversity through them.

This year’s box features “Kumusta Philippines” as some 46,000 Filipinos live in Korea and it is the fifth largest number of foreign residents after Chinese, Americans, Vietnamese, and Japanese. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s statistics from last year show there are 4,612 children of Philippine descent here, the second highest number after those of Japanese descent.
While viewing real materials, children can imagine ways to use them and enjoy activities such as learning greetings in Filipino. They can also wear Philippine costumes such as Barot Saya and Barot Tagalog.

To prepare the box, the museum regularly held forums consisting of consultants who are Filipinos living in Korea and other experts. The consultants include Mylo C. Fausto, the information officer of the Embassy of the Philippines, Lee Jasmine, a married migrant woman, Maria Regina P. Arquiza, the only Filipino DJ at multi-cultural radio station, Cathy Rose A. Garcia, a former Korea Times reporter and Kim Dong-yup, professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. The committees discussed effective ways to introduce Philippine culture.

The museum purchased materials for the box in the Philippines and also filmed the life of elementary school children in Manila with the help of the Embassy of the Philippines in Korea. Ralph Batoon, a dispatched senior researcher from the National Museum of the Philippines, also took part in the project as an expert on Philippine culture. In keeping up with the digital age, the museum has even opened a Philippine Culture Discovery Box account on Facebook.

The launch ceremony will take place at the museum on Sept. 20 with a variety of celebration performances and presentations.

Irish scholar spreads Korean studies at home

Irish people know Samsung, LG and Hyundai, but many of them don’t realize they are Korean companies.

Kevin Cawley, a professor at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland, is striving to narrow the awareness gap by spreading Korean culture and history in his home country through a Korean studies program.

Cawley will teach Korean philosophy and religion this semester at UCC, making him the first and only scholar teaching such studies in the European nation.

“I hope that such Korean powerhouses as Samsung, LG and Hyundai can help promote Korea in Ireland and create a stronger relationship between both countries,” he said Sunday.

Cawley, also deputy director of the Irish Institute of Korean Studies at the university, earned his Ph.D. in Korean studies from the School of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield, the United Kingdom, after previously having lived in Korea for nearly seven years.

For his dissertation, he did research on the religious threads of thought in the writings of Jeong Yak-yong (1762-1836). Jeong was a prolific writer, thinker and scholar renowned for his extensive writings and knowledgeable understanding of several academic fields, including philosophy, medical science, engineering and history.

Besides teaching academic courses, Cawley will also provide Korean language courses at the university.

To help his students learn Korean efficiently, he plans to use TV dramas and films for his language classes at the university. “I am happy that there are many excellent Korean TV dramas and movies that I can use to show what an exciting, advanced and developed country Korea is, yet one that has a rich traditional culture to see everywhere,” he said.

His post at the UCC is funded by the Academy of Korean Studies.

“China and Japan receive a lot of publicity in Ireland but until now Korea has remained in the background.”

Cawley said he would help change this imbalance with his passion and enthusiasm by promoting Korean culture and history through a variety of academic activities.

The Irish scholar calls Korea and Ireland “cousin countries,” saying they have a few similarities.

“Both countries were colonized by their close neighbors and both are divided today. I hope my students will discover the rich history and culture of Korea, which shares more than a few similarities with Ireland.”

He first came to Korea in 2001 to teach English for a year. But soon decided to change his plans.

Cawley, who double-majored in French and Irish at Trinity University Dublin, said he “fell in love with” Korea and decided to explore its culture and history further.

During his seven-year stay here, he learned Korean with the help of his Korean friends, Chinese characters and even earned a taekwondo black belt.

His “Koreanization” led to his pursuit of a doctoral degree in Korean studies in Britain after leaving Korea.

Returning to Ireland after finishing his Korean studies program, Cawley said he felt like a foreigner there. “In a sense I feel like a Korean in exile. I now understand how Jeong Yak-yong felt while in exile in Gangjin for 18 years.”

Source: The Korea Times

Friday, September 16, 2011

Finding anew what 'Koreanness' is

It is not easy to concisely define what Korean studies is as it deals with a wide variety of genres ranging from language, economics, politics, culture and history to religion. To define the core meaning, a question of what is the most Korean thing should be answered first.

Twenty-two experts in diverse fields collaborated on a new book titled “The Pleasure of Korean Studies” published by Humanist, which traces “Koreanness.”

The book approaches various topics within Korean studies in both traditional and modern contexts encompassing philosophy, religion, science, medicine, economics and pop culture, which are closely related to what matters in modern Korean society.

As the meaning of Koreanness changes in accordance with time, the book offers a key clue to painting a portrait of Korea of the past, present and future.

Poet Jang Seok-ju delves into “han” (Korean sentiment of grievance or grudge) through such literary works as “Azalea” by Kim So-wol that portrays Koreans’ passive desire for redemption after enduring pain. In “Arirang,” the passive sadness and tenderness of Koreans and their grudges, yearnings, betrayals, despair and revenge are intensively expressed. Also, poet Baek Sok’s poems and a popular song “Dongbaek Agassi” (Dongbaek Lady) by Lee Mi-ja represent the nation’s dark history and sentiment.

However, over the last century Korea’s “han” has rapidly been changing into “heung” (excitement) as economic development and democratization has resulted in growing self-confidence among its people. Dynamism is now synonymous with Koreans but it can also be tweaked into squandering and excessiveness, Jang argues.

Joo Young-ha, a researcher at the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS), finds the true Koreanness in its cuisine. Joo argues that the secret of Korean dishes characterized as
salty, spicy soups and relatively humble side dishes lies in rice. Traditionally Koreans put more emphasis on rice rather than side dishes.

According to “Soemirok” (a diary during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592) by Oh Hee-mun, a Confucian scholar, people ate a great amount of cooked rice (420 grams per meal) even in hiding. The record shows how Joseon people are widely known as gluttons often found in many historical records written by foreigners.

Joo said that as Joseon people suffered poverty, they tended to eat at any given chance, which contrasts with Japan’s culture of eating less.

Korean foods have existed to be eaten together with rice unlike other countries’ dishes to be eaten separately. Korean dishes are supposed to be eaten with rice so that they are mostly spicy and salty.

In a word, the essence of Korean foods is rice as there were no abundant foods in traditional society. The strong attachment to rice is attributed to the poverty of the past, Joo argues. But recently, the focus of Korean dishes is shifting from rice to other dishes and the seasoning is getting light as more diverse foods dominate tables.

“The old cultural structure of Korean food that originated from rice is now changing. Korean cuisine is taking a journey from the 20th century to the present. If we look at the changing process of Korean foods in modern times, the pleasure of Korean studies will be doubled,” Joo said.

Im Seok-jae, a professor at Ewha Womans University, picks out “hanok” (traditional Korean house) as the most Korean thing. According to the professor, the hanok reveals a hybrid beauty mixing standardization and diversity, which can be applied to Koreans’ traits. While it seems to have fixed structures in materials and composition, the hanok shows diversity in the directions of windows, doors and yards, set in accordance with residents’ movements and needs.

Kim Young-jin, professor of Myongji University, suggests the interesting observations made through movie stars. Movie stars such as Song Kang-ho, Sul Kyung-ku and Jeon Do-yeon reflect Korean sentiment and desire. Song often depicts a character who comes across as odd in this absurd society while Sul portrays a figure who bravely breaks through the harsh reality, and Jeon often acts as a serious character who falls into deep desperation and madness and realizes herself after all. These characters deeply resonate with the Korean audience, Kim said.

Choi Jun-shik, professor of Ewha Womans University, observes the strength of Korean religions. Choi argues that both Western and Eastern, and both ancient and modern religions coexist in a harmony in Korean society, which is a rare case in the world.

The authors’ observations reflect not only Koreanness but also the changes since 2000s and sheds light on its diverse spectrums.

Journey of Literature

For centuries, novels entered our life and truly touched our heart. No matter when and where it was written, the great novel transcends the time and space, attracting thousands of readers all over the countries.
The reason we feel close to those novels is that the author used the real backgrounds and era, many of which were from their experiences. So, that’s why you feel it real when you visit the place of the novel. Let’s go into the background of great novels.

Hometown of ‘When Buck Wheat Flower is in Blossom’
Bongpyeong, which is in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do, is the background of ‘When Buck Wheat Flower is in Blossom’ and also the hometown of the author, Lee Hyo-seok. Designated as the first cultural village in 1990, this village is full of buck wheat flowers. Tourists stop by to see the mill and the bridge that appeared on the story.
There are many places reminding ‘When Buck Wheat is in Blossom’ in Bongpyeong. Firstly, let’s go to Lee Hyo-seok Culture Center. You will see everything from his life to work.
It displays his medals, remains, first published book, translated copies in English and Japanese, magazines and newspapers introducing his works. In addition, you can take a walk in a garden of literature, buck wheat flower road, and a small path.
You will find Lee’s birth place nearby. In his early years, it was a thatched-roof house, but later it was changed into a house with galvanized iron roofing during nation developing project, Saemaeul Movement and then into tile roofing. Fortunately, Pyeongchang-gun restored his house to the original one in 2007. The farming tools on the walls will make you feel being in the past.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)
Not far away from here, there is Gasan Park for commemorating him. Chungju pub was built nearby and his statue and the monument were placed in a sculpture square. Getting out of the park and crossing the Seob Bridge, Bongpyeong traditional market will be waiting for you. Every scene in the novel will be alive in front of you.
Pyeongchang has held Hyoseok Writing Contest since 1971 with respect to Lee Hyo-seok and his achievement. Soon after, in 1999, it was expanded to Hyo-seok Culture Festival so that everyone can participate. Every mid-September, tourists come to the festival. The themes of the festival are affection from novel, fragrance of nature, nostalgia of tradition.
Why don’t you go to Bongpyeong and see heartbreaking sceneries of all mountains and buck wheat?

Journey to ‘Eight Sceneries of Gwandong Region’

If you are Korean, you might remember this one. ‘Gwandongbyulgok’, a travel story. The lyrics used to appear in a textbook and a school exam. It is about a newly appointed governor, Jeongcheol’s impression on the beauty of Gangwon-do. He praises the breathtaking scenery of Mt. Geumgang and then tells what Chongseok pavilion and Samil beach are like from the east coast. The story continues as he headed to Euisang pavilion in Yangyang.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)
Naksan temple was founded by Buddhist priest, Euisang, in a reign of King Munmu. It is regarded as one of the three major Gwaneum temples. There is a legend that Euisang met Buddha Gwaneum at Naksan. Euisang pavilion is located on the cliff near the ocean. There are old pine tree named ‘Gwaneum’ around and a statue of Buddha Gwaneum on the hill.
East Sea seen from Euisang pavilion has many beautiful rocks and blue ocean. A lot of people come to see the sunrise like Jeongcheol described.
Finally, Jeongcheol arrived at Lake Gyeongpo where the fresh water and the ocean meet together. The lake was formed as the sand accumulated and eventually blocked the water route.
For that reason, the area got to have a beautiful soft sand beach, eastern coast and wide lake. Everyone easily forget how time flies when they face the wind breeze and appreciate the view from pavilion. Indeed, they are the truly magnificent sceneries.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)
Now, let’s go to the south. Nearby a beautiful river of Samcheok, there is Jukseoroo. Unlike the other Gwandong pavilions located around coast, this pavilion is on the cliff, which is special. Next, Jeongcheol arrived at Mangyang pavilion, which he chose as the last destination of his journey. At the end of the journey, Jeongcheol stood there and encouraged himself for coming future. The pavilion located on the most southern part of Korea received the sign board that says ‘Gwandongjaeillu’ from King Sukjong, which means the best pavilion in Gwandong area. If you look at the ocean from there, you will understand why.
From September to October would be the perfect season to enjoy the full view of East Sea. If you love the ocean and car driving, this journey is the one you would love.

The Journey to Beolgyo, Site of Novel ‘Taebaksanmaek’

The novel ‘Taebaeksanmaek’ is considered one of the best sagas which deal with modern history of Korea. The story is about before-and-after war and the people. Since it is said that the novel would be dramatized, Bosung-gun Bulgyo, Jeollanam-do, the background of it, started to rise as a tourist attraction.

Bulgyo is the most crucial background of the novel. Still, it is an important place where the ocean and river meets together, and a traffic hub connecting Goheung, Bosung and Suncheon, which brings in many people.
All the mountains and fields are the background of ‘Taebaeksanmaek’, such as Baekdong village, Chudong Resovoir, Woeseo and Nakan. The railway, mountain valley, Rich family, Hyun’s mansion, Hong Bridge, small church and embankment which appeared in novel are still well preserved.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)
If you see the area surrounded by mountains, you will recognize the place is just perfect to present the era of disturbance.
The literature center is near Sohwa’s house of the novel. It displays author’s notebook, camera and six-years of written note of writer Jo Jeong-rae which is taller than a grown-up man. The center also became famous since the novel got popular.
There are many places which were mentioned in the novel. Why don’t we go to Beolgyo to feel the great literature and the era of Korea?

Just for reading this, I think you already started the journey. Only the ones who get to the site of the novels can tell how exciting it is. Also it must be fun to think of how different it would be from what you have imagined of real sites.
Your journey with Korean literature will be more fun after going through the books again. Why don’t you start a trip to find out the sites of your novels?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hanbok : Korean women's traditional attire

Hanbok (한복) is the name for a type of traditional Korean clothing. In particular the hanbok for ladies has changed over the decades. Take for example the jeogori (저고리), which is the upper garment of the woman’s hanbok that covers the entire length of the arms and the upper body. In the early part of Korean history, the jeogori used to cover the waist, but over the years many women have preferred to have it tailored above the waist.

One of the reasons why the jeogori became shorter was because in times of war and other crises like food shortages, it was prudent to use less fabric for clothing. As wars ended the fashion for having shorter jeogori continued and women would wear sometimes add more extravagant elements to the hanbok. For example, the Kkeutdong (끝동) refers to the cuff of the sleeves of the hanbok. The kkeutdong was often of a different color than the rest of the hanbok. In the photo, the kkeutdong is the part that is blue.

It used to be that only the king and his relatives could wear hanbok with geumbak (금박) on it. Geumbak is a type of gold leaf design on the hanbok that indicated the person’s high ranking or royal status. Nowadays anyone who can afford to have a hanbok with a geumbak design can wear it. A skilled artisan must apply the geumbak to the hanbok, which is why hanboks with authentic geumbak designs are very expensive.

The goreum (고름) of the hanbok is like the ribbon or coat strings of the hanbok. If you look at the photo you can get an idea of how to tie the goreum of the hanbok. Usually the goreum of the hanbok is made of a solid color, but in the Jeoseon Period women who were prostitutes/dancing girls wore a special goreum that was decorated with flowers to indicate their occupation as prostitutes/dancing girls. However, this rule doesn’t apply to today’s hanbok!

Another way women distinguished themselves from other women was by the git (깃) or the fabric that lined the band of the collar. Women related to royalty would wear a git lined with geumbak and women who weren’t related to royalty but were of high status wore a git of a different color than the jeogori. In the photo, the git is the fabric that has the gold leaf design right next to the white lining of the color. Men’s hanbok has changed very little over the years, but women’s hanbok continues to evolve still to this day!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Scars behind beauty of Othoniel's artworks at 'My Way'

Jean-Michel Othoniel’s retrospective “My Way,” being held at Plateau in central Seoul, portrays the beautiful yet scarred inner side of the French artist.

“‘My Way’ unveils my poetic and fragile choices. This exhibition is a personal journey and I talk to myself as well as to the world and the others,” Othoniel said during a press conference for the retrospective.

“Lacan’s Knot,” “The Great Double Lacan’s Knot” and “The Self-Standing Great Knot” are on display at the glass pavilion of Plateau, which is located in Taepyeong-no, Jung-gu, Seoul. The natural light pouring into the gallery creates a unique atmosphere with the bright, colorful glass bead works. Othoniel’s works are on display with Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell” and “The Burghers of Calais,” permanents at the art museum.

“This room identifies two important themes in my work — the importance of using space and light and the relationship between history and culture,” the artist said. “Rodin’s strong and virile work occupies a different field which is not mine.”

Born in St. Etienne in 1964, Othoniel consciously distanced himself from the contemporary art trends and pursued a unique sculptural universe inspired by his personal life, Plateau chief curator Ahn So-yeon, said. “The artist has created a magical world sublimating tragedy into beauty and harmony, guiding the viewers into his own fantastic universe longed by our contemporary society,” Ahn said.

The artist referred to this exhibition as “a series of self-portraits.” Othoniel’s earlier works were more intimate and poetic. The exhibition reveals the most dramatic event in Othoniel’s life — the suicide of a young seminarian the artist loved in his youth — through “Self-Portrait in Priest’s Robe,” which he considers to be his true first artwork.

“Glory Holes” is an example of the artist’s effort to sublimate repulsion into beauty, while “The Spoonerism” shows Othoniel’s initial interest in glass, after visiting a volcano in Italy in the early 1990s.

The exhibition continues to a room of vibrant colors and glass. Othoniel is known for “Kiosk for the Nightwalkers,” a crown-shaped glass bead installation at the Palais Royal station of the Paris Metro.

Among the works presented at “My Way,” “My Bed” is similar to “Kiosk.” While “Kiosk” suggested a rest area for the public, “My Bed” implies a more covert, private space, using Murano glass beads and lace-shaped steel.

Other signature glass works such as “Diary of Happiness,” which shows Othoniel’s interpretation of a dream catcher, and “Tears,” which are inspired by a Cartesian diver used for testing buoyancy levels, are also on display.

A small, but not-to-miss artwork is “Scar-Necklace,” a framed red necklace. The 1997 work was a part of a collective project in homage to Felix Gonzalez-Torres, an artist who died from AIDS. Othoniel handed out some 1,000 necklaces made from red beads, took photographs of the people wearing them and presents the snapshots together with the necklace. He also wears a necklace.

“The Wishing Wall,” which opens and wraps up the exhibition, was first introduced in Berlin in 1995. It is composed of a phosphorus-covered wall and matches and each spectator can strike a light and make a wish.

“After the audiences lights 5,000 matches, the painting will become a huge wall full of scars,” Othoniel said.

The exhibition “My Way” was designed by the Centre Pompidou in Paris and was presented at the prestigious gallery from March to May. After visiting Korea, the exhibit will travel to the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

Plateau also offers several programs for a better understanding of contemporary art. The visitors can visualize Othoniel’s watercolor works in 3D through pictograms and view photos taken by Othoniel.

A general docent program is offered at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays and an 11 a.m. program is added on weekends. For office workers nearby, a 10-minute talk is offered every Wednesday at 12:40 p.m.

The exhibition runs through Nov. 27 and is closed on Mondays. Tickets cost 5,000 won. For more information, visit or call 1577-7595.

Source: The Korea Times

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Traditional events welcome Chuseok holiday

As Chuseok holiday starts this weekend, people are busy preparing to visit their hometowns, turning the hustle-and-bustle of Seoul into a ghost town. But those who stay in the city don’t have to feel empty as there are diverse cultural programs taking place while everyone is away.

The National Folk Museum of Korea is holding a “hangawi” (harvest moon) multicultural festival titled “Round and Round” through Sept. 13.

The festival offers more than 40 participatory programs, including a food-making opportunity, folk performances of five countries, multicultural exhibitions, and traditional craft-making and folk games.

Designed to draw more participation from multicultural families from China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Mongolia and Thailand the special festival aims to boost reciprocal understanding and cultural exchange.

Foreign students coming from various fields such as art, sports, media and tourism will make three-colored “songpyeon” (Korean rice cake) and “baesuk” (Korean pear punch) at the cooking class for foreign students on Sept. 8-9.

From Sept. 10 to 13, visitors can take part in diverse folk games such as “tuho” (a arrow throwing game), a hoop game, “jegichagi,” a kicking shuttlecock game, make handcrafts with “hanji” (Korean paper), make “sotdae” (a tall pole with a carved bird on its top), make traditional masks and draw folk paintings or play a bamboo vertical flute.

Particularly, Korean visitors can taste international cuisines such as Vietnamese rice wraps, Chinese Zong Zi (lotus leaf wrap of sweet rice), Japanese mitarashidango (rice dumplings and sweet sauce), and Philippine Biko (sweet rice with coconut milk) for only 1,000 won at the multicultural culinary booth. Admission is free. For more information call (02) 3704-3122 or visit

The National Museum of Korea will provide a gugak (Korean traditional music) concert at the Plaza of the museum on Sept. 12 to mark the big Korean traditional holiday.

Yeomin, a traditional pops orchestra consisting of 33 members, singer and actress Oh Jeong-hae, traditional bamboo flutist Han Chung-eun and singer Go Geum-seong will perform a diverse music repertoire in a 90-minute concert. Oh known as the heroine of the film “Seopyeongje” and Yeomin will perform “Taepyeongga,” “Miryang Arirang” and “Float the Boat.” The orchestra will present not only traditional Korean music but also pop songs and famous film soundtracks. Admission is free. For more information call (02) 2077-9000 or 1544-5955 or visit

The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) will open the four major royal palaces — Deoksu, Changgyeong, Changdeok and Gyeongbok — on Chuseok Day, which falls on Sept. 12 and hold cultural events there.

Part of the main event is a traditional folk song concert on Sept. 12-13 in front of Jeukjojeon of Deoksu Palace while a photo event will take place on Sept. 12 in front of Tongmyeongjeon of Changgyeong Palace. In Changdeok Palace, a nighttime event will invite some 100 Korean visitors on Sept. 12 and 100 foreigners on Sept. 13 to diverse programs such as traditional performances, with walking and lighting events. Applicants can make reservations at

The National Gugak Center will present a special performance “Yeonhui, Let’s Play 2” by its resident folk troupe on Sept. 8-9 and “Hangawi: Welcome to the First Full Moon” on Sept. 12-13.

“Yeonhui, Let’s Play 2” is an annual series by the center which reconstitutes “pungmul nori,” folk music accompanied by percussion instruments. This year, the piece reinterprets the drum dances originating from Daegu and “mueul nongak” or farmers’ music, which are the main features of the traditional music performances in Gyeongsang Provinces. On the outdoor stage, 14 drums will resonate along with a shamanist performance. Human treasure Kim Soo-ki will perform a shamanist ritual praying for peace and safety for people. Admission is free. For more details, visit

“Hangawi: Welcome to the First Full Moon” is based on the Bongsan Mask Dance (Intangible Cultural Asset No. 17) and comprised of five sections — opening; “chaekgeori” (after-reading activities) and palanquin fights; pungmul madang; group dances; and drum dances — which are full of humor. The performance will be delivered through a story of an old man’s journey around the nation. Tickets cost 10,000 won. For more information call (02) 580-3300. On the outdoor stage, various folk games and programs to experience traditional aspects of the holiday will take place.

The National Theater of Korea will hold a special festival for Chuseok on Sept. 12 with a variety of events and food. The program includes a “ssireum” (Korean wrestling) bout hosted by Park Kwang-deok, a traditional wrestler and entertainer, who will also award prizes to the winners.

The Dongchun Circus, the nation’s oldest and most popular acrobatic troupe, will entertain visitors at the finale of the festival. Other folk games along with various foods can also be enjoyed. For more information, call (02) 2280-4115-6.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

International fans visit Korea for Seoul Drama Awards

The sixth Seoul International Drama Awards (SDA) held at KBS Hall in Yeouido with a handful of top actors and “hallyu,” or Korean wave, fans from across the globe.

This year’s award embraces international fans of Korean dramas after signing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with overseas fan communities of Korean drama in France, Romania, Peru, Chile and Mexico. Three leaders among them flew to Korea to attend the awards ceremony.

Maxime Paquet, president of France-based organization Korean Connection, said Korean dramas are interesting as they introduce the essence of Korean culture through love, happiness and sadness.

A fan of Big Bang, he visited Korea earlier this year with members of Korean Connection, a hallyu fan club, to watch K-pop shows.
“We are willing to promote hallyu throughout Europe,” he said.

Paquet said he sees optimism in the future of the Korean wave. “I think the support of Korean government and companies is the key point in spreading Korean culture all over the world,” he added.

Daniela Predut of Romanian Korean Intercultural Association (RKIA) introduced herself and the organization in Korean.
Predut said Korean epic dramas started airing in Romania in 2009 and the RKIA was established to promote Korean culture, especially dramas. The hit Korean drama “Jumong” was broadcast in Romania earlier this year, attracting some 800,000 viewers to the small screen.

“We now have about 30,000 members and are trying to promote other parts of Korean culture such as history and food as well,” she said. “Last week, the first K-pop music program was launched in Romania and now we can listen to K-pop every day on television.”
Cabrera Miluska is from Peru and leads a community named “SM Town in Peru.”

“This project began in March and now consists of some 14,000 fans of Korean culture, especially K-pop,” Miluska said. “K-pop and Korean dramas are very popular in Peru and there are fans of various singers and actors in our project.”

She said the organization aims to host SM Town concerts in Peru, as well as promote Korean culture in general.
Martine Prost, a French professor at University Paris 7 Denis Diderot, also visited Korea to attend the 2011 SDA. She also leads the Research Center on Korea at College de France.

“It is true that the Korean wave hit Europe, especially France. However, it did not take shape overnight but based on decades of Koreanology studied in France,” Prost said in fluent Korean. “It ignited interest in Korean literature and movies, and now the popularity has shifted to drama and K-pop.”

She emphasized creativity to sustain the popularity of Korean culture abroad. “The spread of the Korean wave calls for a celebration, but we have to wait and see how it goes,” the professor said. “I wish more Korean movies and dramas incorporate Korean culture and spirit. Korea already has technical achievements and what it needs is the energy, which is natural for Koreans.”

A total of 204 dramas from 37 countries were submitted to this year’s drama awards and 39 of them made it to the finals.
Veteran director Lim Kwon-taek led this year’s judges. “Dramas in various genres were submitted and we could see cultural diversity in dramas — from daily life to social issues,” he said. “The theme passing through this year’s candidates was female. We could see women pioneering their lives independently in dramas.”

Park Yoo-chun of JYJ, a singer-turned-actor who was acclaimed for his portrayal of the young gentleman Seon-jun in the 2010 KBS drama “Sungkyunkwan Scandal,” won the Best Korean Actor by fans voting on the Internet.

“The Korean wave is hitting more and more countries and Korean content is loved by more overseas fans.” he said at the press conference. “I think creators and actors together should make better dramas to repay the interest from all around the world. We should also understand each other’s cultures before just promoting Korean culture.”

The winners will be announced today at the awards ceremony, which will be aired live through SBS and later broadcast on Arirang TV, Japanese satellite So-net, Chinese channel NTD TV and Indonesian satellite LBS TV. Top stars such as Jianbin Chen of China and Kamiki Ryunosuke of Japan will attend today’s ceremony.

Source: The Korea Times