Monday, October 31, 2011

Kim tells of bleakness in 'Heuksan'

Kim Hoon is a celebrated writer, whose new books are eagerly anticipated and once they are out, book signings are immediately scheduled.

Much is the same with his new book “Heuksan,” (Black Mountain) which deals with the religious persecution of Catholics in 1801.
Kim, who has dealt with significant historical events in his previous books, offers yet another mix of the real and the fictional from early 19th century Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).

The novel starts after the persecution has begun and respective sentences have been handed down to members of the literati family of the Jeong brothers for their beliefs or “dalliance” in Catholicism.

The names of the ruling elite that appear as protagonists are real. The Jeong brothers — Yak-hyeon, Yak-jeon, Yak-jong and Yak-yong — and Hwang Sa-young, the son-in-law of the eldest Jeong.

Fictional are several low-class protagonists — a groom, a servant, a low-class merchant, a low-level clerical worker and a former court lady.

And together, these figures’ lives intertwine to tell a sorrowful tale of the people who lived, and died for their embrace of Catholicism.
The writer tells the story mainly through the voice of Yak-jeon, who goes into exile on “Black Mountain Island.” It’s a no man’s land that he arrives at, at the expense of his younger brother Yak-jong’s death. Another younger brother Yak-yong’s life is saved and he also goes into exile.

A life saved, but utterly devoid of integrity.

“It was several months ago that Jeong Yak-jong, the younger brother died smiling while his head was decapitated, but it feels so far away as if it took place in another life. Yet the further it seems, the clearer it becomes in my mind. Is it a betrayal of Catholicism to preserve my life on this Earth by shedding once-scintillating thoughts aside and pulling down others? How is it that life is only possible through betrayal? As the dead Yak-jong said, was there no betrayal (in what I did) because there was no belief to begin with? Is that it? Or isn’t that what it is?” the protagonist thinks to himself as he watches the birds and the fishes on Black Mountain Island.

The other central figure is Hwang Sa-young, the son-in-law to the eldest Jeong, who fully embraces Catholicism. A prodigy, he passes the national exam to become a civil servant at 16, but remains outside the court.

His marriage into the Jeong family introduces him to Catholicism, which he embodies. He is found out by officials later — with his famous secret silk document that asks the Chinese dynasty at that time to intervene to stop religious persecution. Hwang is decapitated and torn to pieces on his death.

The low-class figures in the book are all the more gripping for the simplicity of their belief.

The groom, who by chance becomes the deliveryman for Hwang Sa-young and the Catholics in China, and Ari, a servant girl who came to live, almost by accident, at a Catholic house after fleeing her employers who raped her.

There is a poignancy in the servant girl’s plight. She never really got to saw her servant mother who was perpetually lent out to other aristocrat families to breast-feed their babies.

When the servant girl named Ari is interrogated and asked to confess her Catholic beliefs that the court officials likened to “betrayal” of her parents and her King, she said “I would not know about that but I know that the messages were simple and clear, as if they were within my heart to begin with.” She is also put to death.

Kim has touched on important historical incidents before, with wild success.

His 2001 novel “Sword,” which dealt with the struggles of Admiral Yi Sun-shin (1545-1598), was a million seller. It drew rare attention when the late former President Roh Moo-hyun (2003-2008) favorably mentioned it.

His “Mt. Namsan Fortress,” published in 2007, was also about the 47 days that King Injo (1595-1649) spent in isolation seeking refuge at the fortress during an invasion.

Thus, the “Heuksan” runs along that vein. Historical facts appear, although not too specifically, on almost every page and old Korean words appear to impede the reader initially. Different readers may construe differently upon their inclination.

But with each of the stories, Kim addresses the suffering, the sadness and the pain of people who lived with the consequences of their choices, whether that choice be of their own volition or are the sum of happenstance incidents and events.

Peace BAR Festival kicks off

Scholars to discuss theme of ‘Body and catastrophe: towards a new utopia’

Kyung Hee University is holding an international conference to discuss how mankind will be able to sustain prosperity in the face of growing environmental and other challenges.

World-renowned scholars gathered for the 2011 Peace BAR Festival on the theme of “The Body and Catastrophe: Towards a New Utopia.”

The conference runs until Tuesday, with the opening ceremony taking place today.

This event will bring together the university and global society, intellectuals and citizens, for creative dialogue that transforms the darkness of catastrophe into the light of hope.

The Peace BAR International Conference is a place for global scholarly exchange and collaboration to initiate creative dialogue.

The 2010 Body and Civilization Conference was an occasion to reconsider present civilization based on reason, science and technology.

Today people are confronting a range of crises including the tsunami and the nuclear disaster of Japan, the violation of human rights, human suffering in the Middle East, and disruptive climate change.

Participants will look into the causes of these crises and set forth a new paradigm for a life-centered civilization.

Globally eminent scholars and the Kyung Hee community will gather in three sessions to discuss the body _ the cultural and artistic living body, the political and social body, and the natural and cosmic body.

They will explore new possibilities for a sustainable civilization and human community through multidirectional reflections on the body to overcome catastrophe and pursue life.

Humankind today enjoys the fruits of a remarkable civilization. The discoveries of science and technology have ushered us into an age of affluence and convenience.

However, a reckless invocation of efficiency and effectiveness has fractured civilization, setting mankind on a downward spiral to irreversible catastrophe.

Natural disasters, climate change, the exhaustion of resources, and the dangers of advanced weapons, combined with growing social inequality and poverty, constitute an overwhelming threat to humanity.

It is the time to extend the horizons of civilization so as to be receptive to the pain-wracked “body.”

Mankind needs to restore Earth as a hospitable home for all beings. People must use the spiritual and sensual dimensions of their bodies to envision a civilization of the future.

The conference will explore new possibilities for humanity by exploring the living organism, the body writ small, the community, the political and social body, and the cosmos, the body writ large. It will seek to put forth a new vision of hope for the world.

Source: The Korea Times

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Traditional Korean furniture embraces lifestyles

Korean traditional furniture has been always centre of attraction and always facinate me. Come have a look in my window here............

Traditional Korean furniture is low-lying and humble when it stands alone. But when placed with other objects in a “hanok” (traditional Korean house), it shines with architectural, aesthetic, functional and effective qualities.

Thus traditional furniture is often dubbed “a miniature of hanok” as it contains some architectural elements to achieve harmony with the surrounding space and environment.

The Korea Furniture Museum has evolved from the traditional concept of a museum by displaying their collection in hanok buildings to show the objects’ real functions rather than trap them in glass boxes.

Nestled atop Seongbuk-dong, Seoul, the museum in fact consists of 10 hanbok buildings on a vast land area of 6,611 square meters. The museum holds some 2,500 pieces of furniture from the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).

It unofficially opened its doors to its neighbors such as foreign ambassadors in 2008 after a 14-year construction period.
The items have been collected by Chyung Mi-sook, director of the museum, since the 1970s, as she thinks furniture is one of the top three traditional Korean beauties along with “bojagi” (wrapping cloth) and folk paintings.

For its breathtaking views above the neighborhood, the museum became widely known to the public as it was used as the venue of a luncheon for first ladies for the G20 summit in Seoul last year.

“Many people think museums are difficult and boring because the exhibits are shown through windows along with a chronological explanation. But our museum focuses more on the value of the use of traditional heritage rather than their existence and preservation themselves. How to use them is our top priority,” said Joshua Park, director of strategic planning and HRM of the museum, in an interview with The Korea Times.

The museum places various kinds of furniture in accordance with function and use in its hanok, which have been reconstructed from ancient styles and structures. A women’s quarter is located in the best scenic place of the museum following the traditional practices as women were strictly restricted in their movements during the Joseon Kingdom. The museum represents the women’s quarter overlooking the entire city, which is regarded as a propitious place according to feng shui.

“Look at the furniture in this room. If we sit down, we can understand why the furniture is placed like this. Our living culture is sedentary. That’s why our furniture is very low-lying and any of these doesn’t block our eye sight when we sit down because our ancestors believed objects bigger and taller than us blocked our spirits. The people using the furniture are considered in the arrangement,” he said.

“Unlike Western furniture which shines separately, our furniture embraces our lifestyle — how we sit, eat and dress. Our museum wants to showcase the very culture of how to use the furniture in our lives and philosophy,” said Park.
The museum is partially open to foreign ambassadors and governmental events to introduce traditional Korean culture on a reservation basis.

But it is now aiming to host more cultural events to show traditional customs and practices such as traditional weddings and first-birthday parties.

“Over the past years, our museum focused on building and strengthening hardware such as the collection and construction of the hanok but now we’re going to put more emphasis on software — cultural content. We will host more cultural events from traditional wedding to coming-of-age ceremonies to promote our spiritual culture,” he said.

The museum is nicknamed “We Used to Live Like This.” “We’ve lost many spiritual civilizations because the nation witnessed stunning industrial and economic development. The ancient high-class culture when Neo-Confucianism dominated will be restored here. We have many spiritual things to show except for economic development,” said Park.

Its “madang,” a yard, is covered with clay sand which drains well when it rains and is hardly blown by the wind and sparkles on the moonlight surrounded by pine trees.

Its kitchen unit now used for small banquets is inspired by Songgwang Temple in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province. Many of the buildings were constructed in the same way of the Joseon’s noble class houses.

The permanent exhibition hall is divided into sections of materials — such as red oak, tortoise shell, red lacquered wood and zelkova wood — usages and origins.

In many cases, Paulownia trees were often used to make the furniture because the wood is light — although they look heavy because of dark colors — anti-insect and grow fast. Many parents planted a Paulownia tree when a girl was born and used it as furniture when she married after growing up in traditional society, according to the museum.
“Also, much of the furniture was used and made by men. The producers and supplies were all the men. The furniture shows a man’s life in a sense,” he said.

Zelkova wood was rarely used as furniture material because it was often regarded as a shrine for the village deity. But during the Japanese colonial rule (1910-45), many Zelkova trees were cut down and made into furniture.

Small portable dining tables called “soban” are piled up in the exhibition hall, showing the different styles in accordance with the regions — Tongyeong in South Gyeongsang Province, Naju in South Jeolla Province and Haeju in Hwanghae Province now in North Korea. According to Park, ancient Korean dining culture was marked by separate tables for each person. “It is not an exaggeration to call Korean dining culture a ‘culture of small tables.’ There were some 50 small tables on average at homes in the past.

“Once visitors see our wooden furniture, they can’t take their eyes off it because of their delicate beauty and colors. They are matching well with other things in any space with beauty a of balance, proportion and moderation.”

Park explained the Korean culture is like a package that binds events, costumes and food together.

“It is difficult when we approach Korean culture from a hardware perspective. But when it meets software or content, it is easier for foreigners to understand. Our museum is actually dreaming of a restoration or a traditional renaissance,” he said.

The museum operates the cultural program titled “Seongbuk Seowon” (ancient private school) through this year. The program consists of three parts — clothing, food and houses. In the clothing section, the museum hosted a royal costume fashion show in March. For the food part, the museum offers a venue for traditional events such as weddings and banquets which provide the traditional foods along with traditional kitchen utensils and ceremonies. In the house section, visitors can experience the hanok life here with the various different functions of the furniture.

The museum will fully open to the public in the first half of next year. But its reservation-based operation policy will not change because random visits can ruin the cultural heritage and the essence of the museum.

For more information, visit

Emerging international artists share narrative photos

A group of emerging artists from around the world is holding a photography exhibition in Seoul to tell diverse stories.

Photographers of the Seoul International Women’s Association (SIWA) are sharing their latest work in a showcase titled “Stories — by International Emerging Artists” through Oct. 28 at Gallery Namu in Jongno.

Participants include Joke Verheersch from Belgium, Julita Wick from Indonesia, Berenice van der Elst of France/Belgium, Lorrie Gomes and Caroline Maryan from the United States, Esther Thelen from the Netherlands and Ann Tae-rang from Korea.

Some 20 pieces are on display. As much as it is a group show, gallery-goers can see portraits, landscapes and still lifes featuring a wide range of themes and styles.
The collection introduces exotic faces and scenery captured during travel in faraway places like Turkey as well as endearingly familiar shots of Seoul at night. There are also stills that enable the viewer to rediscover beauty in the mundane, such as coins dispersed around a thick moss-covered pool or white paper lanterns which, shot from below, appear as if they are floating in the sky like round clouds.

“The keyword in our exhibition is diversity. Each photographer tells her own personal story through her photos,” said Shin Mihe, a Korean fine art photographer who taught the exhibited artists.

Also a member of SIWA, Shin has been teaching photography courses through the organization’s enrichment program that provides members with opportunities for cultural, creative and intellectual growth.
She focuses on allowing her students to express themselves through photography through intensive discussion sessions rather than teach the technical aspects of the craft.
“Photography in a way is an easy medium, especially after it went digital. All you have to do is press a button to take a snapshot and edit it right away. Though photography has become more accessible it has at the same time become more difficult. Photographs are created through a machine but their meaning depends on the state of mind of the individual taking the shot,” Shin said.

The exhibition is a prelude to SIWA’s 50th anniversary that falls next year. The volunteer-run organization boasts half a century of providing a place where women from all over the world can meet, find friends, share their knowledge, culture and interests while helping those in need around them.

What took off at a kitchen table when the Korean War (1950-53) ended is now the largest international women’s organization in the country, and SIWA plays a vital part in the life of the expat community with members from over 80 countries.

For more information, visit

Monday, October 17, 2011

Inaugural festival at IBK Chamber Hall

The recent opening of the IBK Chamber Hall — a new concert venue designed solely for chamber music — is bringing the world’s top musicians in the field to Korea over the next two months.

The latest addition to Seoul Arts Center in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, is generating much excitement for Korean fans and artists who have longed for the ultimate live chamber music experience in the nation’s capital.

“There are several small concert halls in Korea, but none have been specifically designed for chamber music,” said cellist Yang Sung-won in a promotional magazine published by Seoul Arts Center. “To develop a culture where chamber music is appreciated, we need not only a good repertoire and able artists, but also a suitable performing venue.”

Violinist Clara Jumi Kang said that the lack of chamber music halls has been partly responsible for the underrepresentation of the genre by Korean performers.

“The opening of the IBK Chamber Hall will hopefully enable local chamber music ensembles to reach remarkable achievements in the next 10 years,” Kang said.

In countries such as Japan, chamber music halls are readily found even in smaller cities. In Western countries, old churches have often served as chamber music venues, in addition to the great halls they already have and keep building.

The IBK Chamber Hall officially opened Oct. 5 with a concert by soprano Shin Young-ok, a Metropolitan Opera star. This is the inaugural event in a series of 48 concerts of the “IBK Chamber Hall Opening Festival.”

The festival is composed of three parts — the Classic Star Series, the Young Classic Star Series and the Ensemble Festival.
The final concert will be given Dec. 13 by the members of the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center (CMSLC), one of the world’s most esteemed chamber music ensembles.

Because the IBK Chamber Hall has a specific purpose to promote chamber music, the highlight of its opening season festival is the performances of several world-beating chamber music ensembles in December.

‘Chamber Music Today’ project

In particular, the members of the New-York based CMSLC will perform masterpieces by Mendelssohn and Schubert on Dec. 13.
Cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han, co-artistic directors of the CMSLC, and violinist Philip Setzer, a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet, will perform “Mendelssohn Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major, op. 58”; “Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor” and “Schubert Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat.”

The concert is part of the “Chamber Music Today” project, a new festival founded by the two artistic directors of the CMSLC to take place in Korea annually. The project is expected to play a vital role in Korea’s burgeoning chamber music scene, presenting the world’s most esteemed artists.

“Chamber music is the music of friends. It is an international language that brings people together, and is, at the same time, one of the richest art forms on Earth,” Finckel said in a statement. “Chamber Music Today will bring the greatest chamber music repertoire and performers to South Korea. In every concert, people will hear why chamber music has become an exciting, personal and essential experience for audiences around the world.”

The Finckel-Han duo has appeared each season at the most prestigious chamber music festivals and concerts series worldwide.

They visited Korea in June for the CMSLC’s third trip to teach in LG’s “Chamber Music School,” which provides free instrumental and chamber music coaching to young local talent.

The Emerson String Quartet and the Jupiter String Quartet will additionally take part in the Chamber Music Today project Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 with programs consisting of works by Beethoven, Dvorak, Mozart and Ravel.

Pianist Wu Han and the Emerson String Quartet will also play a benefit concert on Dec. 10 at the Seoul Plaza Hotel, presenting a program of Mozart, Mendelssohn and Schumann.

Timely establishment

The establishment of the IBK Chamber Hall has been highly anticipated by local classical music fans. Composers including Schubert, Mendelssohn and Schumann, who produced some of the greatest chamber music, are being programmed more regularly in concert halls across the country to cater to a growing interest in the genre.

“We aimed at designing a space that can fully deliver the stage sound to the audience,” said Kim Nam-don, the chief designer, in a press release.

The hall is equipped with the latest sound facilities and 600 seats.

Since its opening in 1988, Seoul Arts Center, the nation’s premium venue for performing arts, has operated a main concert hall and a smaller recital hall.

The IBK Chamber Hall is the result of cooperation between Seoul Arts Center and the Industrial Bank of Korea to promote a deeper appreciation for chamber music. Construction began in January 2010.

The term Volunteering that Makes Us Smile

It is said that taking care of teeth from your childhood is very important. A recent study shows that taking proper care of teeth prevents the heart disease. The basic is to brush teeth in a proper way and scale teeth on a regular basis. But there are many people who cannot afford it. A charity group has been doing a service for those since long ago.

The joy in Volunteer Work

< Annual meeting for better volunteering> (Source: Yollin Dental Society)

Yollin Dental Society was established in 1999 to volunteer for poor neighbors. It is blowing a fresh breeze into many dentist groups in Korea. The targets are those who abandoned, seniors who live alone, and Korean-Chinese. Well, the Yollin Dental Society is busy enough to go to different places everyday that needs their help.
Then, how do they volunteer? Once the dentist license holder becomes a member of Yollin Dental Society, he gets a volunteer-schedule on a regular basis. Considering his/her schedule, the next step is to apply in advance. It is also good for building friendship among volunteers.

Kim Seong Moon, the newly elected president of Yollin Dental Society, said that the progress of the volunteer group cannot be made by just one or two persons’ efforts. He emphasized that passion and devotion from each person are the keys to achieve the progress and strengthen the friendship among members.

To Abroad!

A volunteer working in Indonesia(Source: Health Korea)

Yeolin dentist group went abroad for a volunteer work for the first time this year. Kim prepared for international volunteer with passion. The original plan was to set up clinics abroad in order to provide Korean medical services for people in developing countries. They are planning another overseas volunteering project on a regular basis in the near future.

The first destination was Indonesia. As it is a first international project, they already conducted a field trip, and did a lot of research. Finally, 25 dentists flew to Indonesia for a volunteer work from 29th of July to the 3rd of August. They treated factory workers and neighbors at factory of Dada Korea in Laya 76 km away from Jakarta. 309 patients were treated through the volunteer work.

Arrived very late, the dentist group set up the equipments until dawn and started to treat patients from the next morning. The situation was not so good. Mostly, they extracted and scaled teeth for local people, which continued for six days. In addition, they did a skin care and nail care for female workers and opened flee market with Korean items they brought from Korea. Of course, it was very popular.

(Source: Asia Economy)

The president of the group said, “More than 700 people wanted to be treated but only 300 people had opportunities due to the schedule. But I’m very glad to get things done without any accident.”

Yollin Dental Society marked 11th anniversary. Two hundred volunteers have treated seven thousand people so far. They have grown up as one of the most famous volunteer groups with six clinics in Korea.

Dental care is very important but it costs a lot of money. Until now, dental care was not affordable to low income class. However, we have Yollin Dental Society, and it seems that they will be the strong supporters.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kyung Hee University GIPS Scholarship (South Korea)

2012 Spring Admission Guide for International Applicants at The Graduate Institute of Peace Studies, Kyung Hee University

□ Majors
- Peace and Global Governance
- Asia Pacific Studies
- New Politics and Future Governance

□ Qualification
1) A person whose nationality isn't Korean and is a graduate or a graduate-to-be for a bachelor or master degree.
2) Dormitory life during the academic semester is mandatory for all students.
** Our school only offers Master's Degree Programs **
** There has been some Major change in requirements please refer to the following : Due to change of law, beginning from the 2012 Spring semester all international students who are accepted as a newcomer must have health insurance to cover their stay in Korea, the school will not cover this expense, If student wish to use the local health insurance in Korea the price is approximately $170 USD per year **

□ Scholarship and benefits
1) Official academic language : English
(All official academic events, classes, examination are conducted in English)
2) Full Scholarship for tuition and accommodation fee
3) Free text books
4) Other scholarship opportunities
5) Separate Campus etc

□ Application deadline
1) September 1st ~ October 31st for the Spring (March) Semester
2) Applications with postal mark until the deadline will be accepted but still must physically arrive within one week after the deadline if not it will be not accepted.

□ Date of notification for admission
- Before mid January 2012 for Spring semester

□ Required documents for application
- Please, refer to the attached file (Admission Guideline for International Applicants-201109.pdf)

□ Admission fee
- None

□ Contact information regarding admission
- E-mail :
- Postal Address: The Graduate Institute of Peace Studies, Kyung Hee University 258-5 Bupyeong-ri, Jinjeop-eup, Namyangju-si, Gyeonggi-do, 472-864 Korea
- Tel: +82-31-570-7013

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize winners visit Korea

The UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize was founded in 1989 by UNESCO and the Korean government to reward the activities of governments, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations displaying merit and achieving particularly effective results in contributing to literacy. It was also created to honor King Sejong who created Hangeul, the Korean language, 500 years ago.

Prize winners receive a silver medal, a certificate, and 20,000 USD. Each year, the award ceremony is held on September 8, International Literacy Day, when another UNESCO literacy prize, the UNESCO Confucius Prize, is awarded.

With the theme of this year, "Literacy and Peace with special consideration to gender equality," Burundi's National Literacy Service program and Mexico's Bilingual Literacy for Life program were awarded. As an honorable mention, Tagum City in the Philippines was awarded for its Peace Management Literacy and Continuing Education through Night Market program.

Burundi's National Literacy Service (Photo: Prime Hakiza)

According to census figures for 2008, 57.5% of Burundi's population was illiterate, of which 61% were women. The National Literacy Service has helped to address this inequality by creating courses open for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or region. It also includes a Peace Education and Sensitization workshop which works with educators and facilities to promote peace, human rights, and democracy. Through the program, more than 20,000 people are becoming literate each year.

Another winner, the National Institute for the Education of Adults in Mexico, was awarded for its Bilingual Literacy for Life program, which aims to provide bilingual education in Spanish and indigenous languages in the country's most disadvantaged communities. Through the program, more than 2,500 community centers and 20 mobile education centers have been built.

Tagum City in the Philippines has taught merchants in the night market through their program which also improves their sales and helps organize the market.

The prize winners were invited to Korea as part of an official annual invitation program sponsored by the Korean National Commission for UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. During the stay, they participated in the 2011 Asian and African Women's Conference at Sookmyung Women's University and various events for Hangeul Day. They also visited the royal tomb of King Sejong to meditate on the meaning and history of Hangeul.

They also appeared at the Special Round Table for the 2011 UNESCO Sejong Literacy Prize Winners to introduce their programs to Korean literacy experts and discuss the future of literacy activities of the world. Several important figures including UNESCO Literacy Education Prize jury member Kim Shin-il and Baek Eun-sun from the National Institute for Lifelong Education (NILE) attended the event to share their thoughts on global literacy issues.

2011 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize winners and officials from UNESCO

"In order for Mexico to achieve further progress in the field of literacy, it needs to break away from its traditional and stifling institutional structures,” said Juan Jose Diaz Barriga, one of the participants from the National Institute for the Education of Adults. "Greater cooperation is needed between literacy providers from the government, civil society, and other international organizations."

Another UNESCO literacy award, the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, was awarded to the American program Room to Read, and to Peaceful Coexistence of Communities and Good Governance in North Kivu from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Battle Scars, Pristine Beauty Make Yeonpyeong Island Unique

Yeonpyeong Island is still in the process of returning to its former state of peace and tranquility after it was shelled by North Korea in November. Only one boat operates between Incheon Yeonan Ferry Terminal and the island daily, so it is essential to check the timetable. Most of the people queuing up for tickets there are soldiers, perhaps due to the military provocation by the North last year. It takes about two hours to get to the island from the terminal.

The first thing that comes into view upon disembarking is the monument commemorating the victory of the first battle of Yeonpyeong in June 1999, next to Yeonyuk Bridge, which leads to the village.

Buildings on Yeonpyeong Island lie in ruin after the North Korean attacks in November last year. The damage done by the North Korean attacks is visible in the village. The bombed buildings still lie in ruin, and the walls are blackened from fire. People who lost their homes from the attacks are currently living temporary shelters built on the grounds of a primary school nearby.

In the northeastern part of the island lies Manghyang Viewpoint. This comes into view after a 30-minute walk along the coast. It offers visitors a spectacular view of the sea. In the center, a monument for those who left their hometowns during the 1950-53 Korean War has been erected. Behind it, there are telescopes giving visitors rare glimpses into North Korea.

Manghyang Viewpoint The Lighthouse Park is located in the southwestern part of the island, replete with beautiful natural scenery and a fascinating historical background. The lighthouse looks like an assembly of sugar cubes in different shapes. This used to guide yellow corbina fishing boats in the past. However, since 1974 when the light had to be turned off for reasons of national security, it has remained a dark and silent space.

Walking past the lighthouse on a small trail leads to a history museum dedicated to yellow corbina fishing. Pine tree leaves are strewn along the way by the wind. The history of the island and its traditional fishing culture are well documented here.

A view of Garaechilgi Beach The observatory on the second floor offers a great view of the natural environment as well as faint glimpses of North Korea. However the most breathtaking sight is that of picturesque Garaechilgi Beach in the northwest of the island.

Another viewpoint near the museum affords a better view of Garaechilgi Beach. As cool breezes wash in from over the ocean, tourists can appreciate magnificent views of pristine nature as high waves wash over rugged rocks.

Ministry to activate programs for foreign students

Local colleges have adopted ambitious globalization programs while creating more all-English classes and attracting talented students from foreign countries.

The administration has backed such moves under a long-term plan to nurture world-class universities and meet the growing needs of students and parents for globalized education.

But it is now considering a policy shift. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has urged colleges to introduce more quality-oriented school programs, rather than just increasing the number of lectures given in English and accepting more foreign students.

One of such efforts is to make it compulsory for universities to get government certification first to admit new foreign students. The system, which will go into effect this year, reflects concerns that some unpopular private colleges are giving admissions to any foreign applicants in a bid to increase enrollments and boost profits.

“It’s time to strengthen monitoring of overall school policies regarding foreign students. The certification system will help enhance the quality of education services for those who want to study in Korea,” Education Minister Lee Joo-ho said in a special lecture to 1,500 Chinese students on Oct. 7.

“We will reveal the names of Korean colleges that provide ‘poor’ services to foreign students so that they won’t choose them.”

Early this month, the ministry set up the English-language website on Korean colleges ( to provide comprehensive information on Korean schools to foreign students. It plans to open a Chinese-language version as well next year.

Under the new system, “substandard” and poorly-managed colleges will be barred from getting certification for new foreign students for a certain period. Even if they apply for visas for students, the issuance will be strictly restricted, the ministry said.

The number of foreign students studying in Korea is expected to surpass 100,000 for the first time next year if it grows at a current pace, according to the ministry. As of the end of 2010, there were 83,842 foreign students from some 160 countries.

The figure has grown rapidly in recent years as Korean dramas, pop songs and movies have become more popular in many Asian and European countries.

“Compared to 2005, there are roughly four times more foreign students in Korea,” a ministry official said. “We assume that the spread of Korean pop culture has contributed to the fast growth in the number of foreign students, improving the country’s reputation. It suggests that Korea has become more familiar to many countries around the world.”

Despite such efforts to take better care of foreign students, Korean colleges are still largely unknown in most countries.

Of the 83,842 foreign students studying in Korea, about 59,000, or 69 percent, are from China, followed by Japan with 4.6 percent and Mongolia with 4 percent.

More than half of the foreign students were staying in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province areas, the ministry said.

Officials said Korea is the best geographical fit for Chinese students, but it should try to find a balance and variations by providing access to students from other countries, too.

“There is a long way to go for local colleges to become familiar in other countries,” said Choi Young-chool, a ministry official. “What’s important now is not a reckless push for globalization, but to change the way we globalize and improve our services to meet the needs of foreign students. That’s why we decided to adopt the certification system.”

The education authorities are also moving to toughen the qualifications for foreign students. From this year, their Korean language abilities have been more thoroughly evaluated and have been used to distinguish those who want to study from those who want to live here.

English education

Indeed, the ministry’s quality-oriented globalization tactics for the country’s higher-learning institutions have paid off.

Under the World Class University (WCU) program, initiated in 2008, the government has focused on nurturing research-oriented universities. It has attracted famous faculty from abroad to enhance the competitiveness of Korean schools.

The government also picked seven two-year and three-year vocational colleges to nurture them into globally competitive schools under the World Class College project. The ministry plans to select a total of 21 vocational colleges by 2013 and expand financial and administrative support for them.

The schools designated as World Class Colleges will receive an annual state subsidy of 260 billion won each for the next three years. They will also receive a separate subsidy to provide more scholarships for students.

In the same context, the ministry is trying to change the way students learn English. Officials say once the National English Ability Test (NEAT), a state-administered proficiency exam that focuses on evaluating speaking and writing skills, is implemented next year, it is expected to create a new trend in English education here.

It is seeking to replace popular tests, such as TOEIC, with NEAT as a key reference for schools and enterprises in the long term amid concerns over growing costs for taking foreign language tests. Also, it plans to decide next year on whether to replace the English section of the College Scholastic Ability Test with NEAT.

The development of NEAT reflects concerns about growing household spending on English education. According to the government, more than 15 trillion won is being spent annually on private English education, which more than 90 percent of elementary school students receive.

“English proficiency has become more important in entering a good college and getting a good job. However, most children can’t learn at private institutes as tuition is too expensive,” said another ministry official.

“We hope NEAT, which will be created and evaluated by selected English teachers nationwide, will be helpful in addressing the ‘English education divide’ between rich and poor.”

To ensure the effectiveness of English education, the ministry adopted a new system to increase the number of Korean teachers qualified to teach English in English. There are about 7,000 to 8,000 such teachers, probably exceeding the number of foreign English teachers here, according to ministry officials.

It has also urged schools to change the existing curriculum on English education so that children can learn the language for more hours and take courses on speaking and writing as well as reading and listening, they added.

'Arirang TV to overcome triple whammy'

English-language media can be considered as the backbone of a country’s overseas promotional campaigns as well as a window for people outside the country.

As is the case with many other non-English speaking countries, however, such media outlets in Korea struggle with three common shortfalls: budget, manpower and consequently lack of content.

Arirang TV founded in 1996 by the government under the slogan of “Korea for the World, the World for Korea” is also not free from the triple whammy. The 24-hour English-language channel has struggled with a chronic budget shortage, high turnover rate and sluggish improvement of programs. It was given 30 billion won ($25.7 million) in state subsidies this year.

The sole external broadcaster for the Korean government was embroiled in an embezzlement scandal early this year, galvanizing some cost-sensitive lawmakers to push for its merger with KBS World, the English language unit of the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), the nation’s largest broadcaster.

Against this backdrop, Sohn Jie-ae took the helm of the Korea International Broadcasting Foundation, which operates Arirang TV and Arirang radio stations, in August.

Sohn, 48, served as a Seoul-based correspondent for CNN between 1995 and 2009, and then presidential spokeswoman before being appointed to her new post.

In an interview with The Korea Times at her office in southern Seoul, Sohn said her priority at the job is bringing Arirang up to the level of globally-acknowledged English-language channels such as China’s CCTV, Japan’s NHK World and Qatar-based Al Jazeera English.

To that end, she said, she is ready to make full use of her experience in journalism and a wide range of personal connections with high-ranking officials in bureaucracy, business and other sectors.

“My duty is to make Arirang a station that never falls behind any other English-language broadcaster,” she said. “I believe my experience in journalism as a foreign correspondent will be a key asset to achieve this goal.”

Sohn said that gone are the times when state-backed English media could churn out propaganda on behalf of the government.

“We need homegrown, eye-catching content to attract the attention of the international audience,” she said, indicating that she will aggressively push staffers to develop fresh programs based on Korea.

Arirang has cashed in on programs based on contemporary music and dramas, riding on the “hallyu” or Korean wave that has swept many Asian countries. She said the company plans to put a fresh spin on this by mixing in the country’s traditional forms of art as a way to provide overseas viewers with a bigger and more balanced picture of Korea.

“I would like to show them not only contemporary culture but also its roots in history and its social background,” Sohn said. She also plans to produce more news programs to help foreign viewers deepen their understanding and knowledge of Korea-related affairs.

Arirang will also pay keen attention to distribution.

She recently visited Guangdong Province in an effort to add the affluent region in China to the list of Arirang’s global audience. An agreement, signed between Arirang and Guangdong TV during her stay, will enable the entertainment program “Showbiz Korea” to be aired on the Chinese channel.

Arirang’s programs, ranging from news to entertainment, are currently available in 188 countries, its spokesman said.

She said she spends much of her working hours meeting with Korean business leaders and advertisers to get their firms’ commercials aired on Arirang networks, the second largest source of revenue for the company, followed by income from cultural events and leasing.

“Still many big Korean firms don’t have their ads running on Arirang. But this attitude will change gradually given our growing clout in overseas markets,” she said.

Asked about the possibility of Arirang’s merger with KBS World, she underscored that it’s “impossible” because the two have totally different audience targets.

While KBS World brings content from KBS, subtitles it and transmits it overseas for first-generation Koreans, she explained, Arirang mostly makes original, English-based content for a non-Korean speaking audience.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

South Korean City Rivers Reviving

People live with their past memories. During the summer I often go back to happy childhood memories of playing with friends at a stream, catching diving beetles and minnows.

In those poor and difficult days, we struggled to survive not caring about nature. With the rapid development over the past 30 to 40 years, many of those streams where we played have disappeared and the few that remain cannot be found with traces of such memories.

One of the typical examples of a polluted stream was Cheonggye Stream, which was an abandoned sewage system in Seoul until it was restored in 2005. Now it has become a haven of natural beauty with a diverse ecosystem attracting 9.3 million tourists annually.

Experts on river restoration all over the world, like professor Yukihiro Shimatani of Kyusu University, eye the successful restoration of the Daejon and Cheonggye Streams with amazement. In addition, such restoration projects have been highly appraised as successful in becoming recreational areas for residents. Last August, Daejeon and Nosong Streams of Daejeon and Jeonju respectively have been restored and now provide recreational spaces for residents.

In this way, restoration projects are not only for changing the polluted streams and rivers but bringing emotional stabilization to many who live in the crowded cities. Also, by improving water quality, restoring ecosystems and reducing the temperature of the city center, it in return increases adaptability to climate change. In other words, it becomes a beautiful space where surrounding markets can arise and an ecologically-friendly culture is created that changes an inactive city.

We have a big target. It is a plan to change 55 percent of ecologically damaged rivers and streams of Korea to a place where man and nature can coexist and past memories can revive.

The Ministry of Environment is currently promoting various policies to make this happen. In September 2006, “The Basic Act on Water Management for 2006-2015” was established, which aims for the restoration of rivers where our children can swim with along with fish.

The polluted rivers are being restored under “The 10 Year Plan on River Restoration.” In addition, “The Law for the Preservation of Water” was reformed to “The Water Quality and Ecosystem Conservation Act” to boost the restoration of an aquatic ecosystem. Last September, “The Long-Term Action Plan for the Restoration of Ecology Streams” was established so river restoration projects could be managed in a medium- to long-term, systematic manner.

Such government efforts are never complete without concrete participation and keen observation from residents, civil groups and experts throughout the whole process of restoration from surveys, target setting, and implementation to continuous monitoring.

The Ministry of Environment is ceaselessly putting all its efforts into making childhood memories of the past become a reality for Korea. With full participation of civil groups and regional communities, the city rivers that are hidden behind concrete riversides, parking lots, and artificial structures will be revived to be ecological rivers and streams where crawfish and minnows will mingle in harmony with children playing in the water.

There is no doubt that much interest and participation across the nation will speed up the restoration in order to bring vital natural environments to cities.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wives of diplomats mark Hangul Day

Commemorating the invention of the Korean alphabet, Hangul Day was marked with music and merriment as the wives of 12 foreign diplomats in Seoul sang in the “565th Anniversary of Hangul Day” performance on Oct. 9 at the Sejong Cultural Center.

Singers from Alma Latina, a choir made up of diplomat’s wives, were invited to participate in this year’s performance by the government and their conductor, famed soprano Koh Julia Mihyun.

“I was asked by the government to participate in this year’s event, and I thought Alma Latina’s participation would make a special contribution,” Koh said, adding “I teach the ladies Korean, too, and they are enthusiastic about learning the language.”

The ladies of Alma Latina and members of Varioso, a group of Korean and other singers, sang the “Hangul Day Song.”
The Korean language has received international recognition by search portal Google, when the company wrote its corporate logo in Hangul as “구글.”

Asked whether learning to sing in Korean was hard, Inga Hofmann, the wife of a German diplomat here, said, “You know, its pronunciation is really quite natural. So, you can figure out the sound after some familiarity, and then it really isn’t very difficult.”
Hangul was promulgated by Sejong the Great. The project was completed in 1443 or January 1444, and described in 1446 in a document titled Hunmin Jeongeum, in English, “The Proper Sounds for the Education of the People,” after which the alphabet itself was named.

The modern name Hangul was coined by Ju Sigyeong, one of the founders of modern Korean linguistics, in 1912. “Han” meant great in archaic Korean, while “geul” is the native Korean word for script.

Hangul is a true alphabet of 24 consonants and vowels. Instead of being written sequentially like the letters of the Latin alphabet, Hangul letters are grouped into blocks, with each one forming a syllable.

Shift to soft power from hardware industry

I pick up this article from Technology section of South Korean newspaper "The Korea Times" as the title itself is so catchy and now the entire globe is changing their perception from so called Hard power to Soft power in every section. We all know that technology is very important in our day to day life as it has become one our necessary requirement at present.

Have a look....................

Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility and HP’s separation with its PC business are symbolic events representing the shift to software in the IT industry.

Seong Min-hyun, a researcher at the KT Economic & Business Institute, noted in a report that “destructive innovation” on traditional businesses by software companies is magnifying. He cites the contrast between the collapse of Borders and the ascendancy of Amazon, which became the top bookseller and transformed books into software by releasing the Kindle. Meanwhile traditional music record companies were replaced as contents suppliers by software companies like Apple or Pandora.

The researcher says that the new software businesses, spawned in favorable conditions such as with lower start-up costs and expansion of the borderless online economy on the Internet, are maximizing the software revolution. “Google, eBay, Apple and MS are guiding the new era of software, brandishing the soft power of the United States.”

The healthy venture ecosystem existing in Silicon Valley allowed the transition, according to Seong. “Entrepreneurship encouraging start-ups and angel investors share explosive synergy. The winner rises from fierce competition,” he said, pointing out that 43 percent of the global top 10 percent Internet companies are from the United States.

The Korean IT industry, meanwhile, focused on bolstering hardware instead of software, fails to attain global competitiveness. “Korea ranks 14th among 19 OECD major countries in software competitiveness… due to the borderless online market economy which seeps in software from elsewhere, losing in the software competition means losing local markets as well as the global export market.”

Kim Jae-pil, a researcher at the institute, says that Korea should learn lessons from Finland which heavily relied on Nokia. “Both Korea and Finland convey an image of being IT powerhouses through cell phone exports. They also have high economic reliance on certain companies,”

Sluggish smartphone sales, however, caused an operating deficit for the first time in 15 years for Nokia, which once accounted for 20 percent of the tax income for Finland. The market cap of Nokia plummeted by 75 percent from the peak, and the crisis was quite a blow to the local economy, welfare, employment and the state image of Finland, Kim points out.

This is not the end though. He said the fall could be an opportunity of industrial structural change for Finland, noting the success of Rovio as the Finnish economy convert to the software sector.

Rovio, a Finnish venture company, rose to rank a top software company thanks to the success of the mobile game “Angry Birds.” Sales are estimated at $100 million, only one five hundredth of that of Nokia, but the company is expected to create much value in console games, movies and character businesses.

“The success of Rovio is the outcome of Finland’s software nurturing policy that started in the early 1990s. Keeping with the times, it set up a university-industry cooperation center in 2010, to support mobile software startups,” Kim said.

He advised Korea to move its economic axis to software while leaving behind hardware. “The government should set up an ecosystem to nurture the software industry, covering the startup of potential businesses and intellectual property rights to technology as well as investing more in such.”

D-Cube City inspired by Korean mountains, rivers

A 42-story round strucutre with lantern-like front buildings, a department store, theater and an apartment complex make up D-Cube City in Sindorim, Seoul. Integrating retail, entertainment and cultural functions with offices, hotels and residential areas, D-Cube City has become a new landmark of southwestern Seoul since its opening in September.

The facility was designed by the Jerde Partnership, a design studio based in Los Angeles, with offices in Amsterdam, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Dubai.

"Most of our projects are for retail purposes," Rick Poulos, executive vice president at the Jerde Partnership, said. "Jerde's projects activate the characteristics of the city based on the understanding of who the people using the facility are."

Jerde also incorporates local traits into their creations.

"We like the spirit of Koreans. Korea has beautiful landscapes and it seems that their spirit and emotion is tied to the environment," Poulos said.

The architect studio has a knack for designing commercial facilities including Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, Langham Place in Hong Kong and Universal Citywalk in Los Angeles. In Korea, Jerde has designed the City 7 Mall in Changwon and Color Square in Daegu and many more projects are underway.

Sergio Zeballos, design principal at the Jerde Partnership, said a Korean landscape painting, "Mountains and Rivers Without an End" by Yi In-mun in the 18th century, inspired the design of the building complex.

"The client, Daesung Industrial, had the initial idea of 'nature' and 'culture,'" Zeballos said. "So we thought that people should feel this as a part of a natural landscape."

As he intended, visitors to the building walk through small and large buildings of D-Cube City, as if they are climbing up a hill. “We created a different natural landscape here,” Zeballos said. To reinforce the theme of nature, a series of waterfalls and pools are set inside the main department store building.

In addition to the mountain element, Zeballos came up with the idea of lanterns. “Lanterns are used for ceremonies or to mark special places. In this case, lanterns indicate that this is a special place,” the design principal said. The “lanterns” of D-Cube City are embodied as small buildings situated in front of the complex, where warm light glows through exterior cladding. The lantern buildings are occupied by fashion stores as well as cafes and restaurants.

“The 42-story tower ― used by Daesung and Sheraton Seoul D Cube City Hotel ― is the icon of the project,” Zeballos said. The hotel’s lobby is located on the top floor, taking advantages of the views.

Unlike other shopping malls which have cinemas, D-Cube City has a musical theater with "Mamma Mia! currently playing "
“The theater was so big and we had to think of several ways to make it a part of the architecture,” Zeballos said. “So we made a curve at the exterior of the building and added illumination to make it blend in with the rest of the project. The facade design came from an abstract notion of the ginkgo leaf.”

Zeballos said the design was geared to help people experience D-Cube City. “Everywhere you go, you will notice that it is designed for visitors, different from traditional malls where people just shop and eat. D-Cube City is emotionally engaging and makes people come back. That is what differentiates a Jerde project,” he said.

Source: The Korea Times

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Andong welcomes visitors for the Maskdance Festival

Visitors from all over Korea are flocking to Andong this week for the Andong International Maskdance Festival. Under the slogan "Festival, make me a King!", the festival runs until October 9.

Festival-goers are treated to a variety of activities and traditional performances from all over Korea and the world. International dance troupes at the festival include Srinakharinwirot from Thailand, which was formed about 40 years ago by a group of students and professors who were worried that the increasing popularity of mainstream western music was threatening traditional Thai music. Still more dance troupes come from Israel, Uzbekistan, China, and more.

Dancers in masks participate in the Harmony Parade in front of outside the Maskdance Theatre (photos by Jon Dunbar).

Festivities are being staged at the Maskdance Theatre, on Culture Street in downtown Andong, and in nearby Hahoe Village, a traditional Joseon village that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. The stage there is positioned among pine trees on the riverbank, where audiences can see traditional folk dances from regions all over Korea such as Tongyeong, Gangneung, and Yangju. Hahoe Village is accessed by bus, and the ride takes 50 minutes. For more information, visit (Korean, English, Japanese).

Korean mask dances, or "talchum," are derived from traditional Shamanistic practices dating back to the Goryeo Dynasty, and incorporate dancing, music, drama, and audience participation. Masked dancers portray people, animals, and supernatural beings. Many mask dances, such as Goseong Ogwangdae, offer social satire of the Joseon Dynasty, depicting the Yangban, or aristocratic class, often in a negative light. Other mask characters include Seonbi (the scholar), Gaksital (the bride), Imae (village idiot), and Jujital (head monk).

Facing the stage, there is a giant statue of a Hahoe dancer, depicted wearing a Yangban mask.

Visitors are also treated to more interactive activities, such as demonstrations of traditional wedding and funeral ceremonies, as well as ancestral rites ceremonies and tea and wine-drinking ceremonies. Taekwondo demonstrations are staged throughout the week. For younger children, there are even small amusement park rides. Many other folk festival events are offered as well, including a Shamanistic ritual feast, a bonfire, and a Naebanggasa (a genre of Korean traditional women's literature) chanting contest.

Festival-goers participate in a funeral ceremony (left); Some festival-goers get in the spirit by wearing their masks (right).

Another popular activity is mask-decorating, in which visitors get a cardboard mask and paints for decorating. The paints are a unique product, made of small coloured beads that can be smeared on the mask surface without leaving a mark on hands or clothes. Prior to the festival, students and adults were invited to submit their creative mask designs, and the best masks are on display outside the Maskdance Theatre.

Festival-goers decorate their own masks (left); Entries of the Creative Mask Contest are on display (right).

As well as typical Korean fast foods, the festival offers several of Andong’s specialty dishes. Grills are set up to cook mackerel, an Andong delicacy. For adults with a strong stomach, the Andong Soju distillery has a boot set up to give out free samples and sell bottles of soju. Andong Soju is prepared using centuries-old techniques coupled with a unique vacuum distillation method. Bottles start at 3,000 won and increase in price along with the alcohol proof and quality of the bottle. Find out more about Andong Soju here: (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese).

Fresh mackerel, a staple of Andong, is fried up for hungry festival-goers (left); a bottle of Andong Soju in the style of a Yangban mask (right).

The festival finishes on Sunday with the final round of the World Maskplay Contest, as well as the final Hahoe Maskdance at the Maskdance Theatre at 6 p.m. and the Dongnae Maskdance in Hahoe Village at 3:30 p.m. For more information, visit the official website: (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French, German).


The day the heavens opened – Korea’s founding myth

October 3rd is National Foundation Day, the “Opening of the Heavens” Day (개천절) in Korea, celebrating its 4343th year this year. It marks the date when Hwanung (환웅), the son of Hwanin (환인), the Emperor of the Heavens, descended upon the Korean Peninsula at Mount Taebaek (태백산) in 2457 B.C.

Hwanin sends his son Hwanung to earth with three gods.
Hwanung, who had been infatuated by the beauty of the mountains and valleys, came down to earth with 3,000 followers and three sacred items given to him by his father: a bronze dagger, bronze mirror, and bronze bell. Three gods accompanied him: Pungbaek (풍백, ruler of the winds), Unsa (운사, ruler of the clouds), and Usa (우사, ruler of the rain). They held a ritual under a sacred tree and commenced to better the world in matters of food, life, illness, punishment, good and bad, and 360 other aspects of human life with the creed to “extensively better and ameliorate the human world.” (홍익인간, 弘益人間. This principle later became Korea’s creed for education.)

Mugwort and garlic, the foods of perseverance
One day, a tiger and a bear approached Hwanung and told him of their desire to become human. Hwanung told them to go inside a cave and pray, eating only a bundle of sacred mugwort and 20 cloves of garlic. After 100 days in the cave without seeing the sun, they will be granted their wish of becoming human. However, this task was too much for the tiger and it ran out without completing the 100 days. The bear, on the other hand, fulfilled the 100 days and turned into a woman.

Hwanung greets Ungnyeoh, the bear-woman.
Hwanung took the woman Ungnyeoh (웅녀, “bear woman”) as his wife and they had a son, Dangun Wanggeom (단군 왕검). Dangun found the kingdom of Joseon (called “Old Joseon” 고조선 to differentiate it from the Joseon Dynasty) with Pyeongyang (평양) as the capital. Moving the capital to Asadal later on, he ruled over the land for 1,500 years and became a mountain spirit at the age of 1908.

Shrines dedicated to Dangun in Sajikdan and Mount Taebaek
Thus is the myth recorded in Samgukyusa (삼국유사), documents written in the 13th century in the Goryeo Dynasty. There are other records with different variations of the story, but the Samgukyusa version is the most widely accepted. Although scholars’ opinions vary on the interpretation of this founding myth, most agree that it is likely an expansion of a founding myth for a tribe that worshipped the bear and sun, and its merge with another tribe.

Hwanin, Hwanung, and Dangun are honored at the shrine of Samseongsa.
In the 19th century, a religion worshipping Dangun the founding father emerged which later developed into Daejonggyo (대종교). Dangun is also revered by the religion of Cheondogyo (천도교) as well. A shrine dedicated to the 3 major figures of this founding myth – Hwanin, Hwanung, and Dangun – called Samseongsa (삼성사) can be found in the mountains of Guwol (구월산), which is presumed to be the site of ancient Asadal.

Ungnyeoh painted by the fantasy artist Kim Sanho
The myth has become the subject of many literary and artistic attempts, and also the inspiration behind online role-playing games as well.

On October 3rd, religious and non-religious celebrations take place alike nationwide with the main ceremony being held in the morning at the Sejong Cultural Center. Ceremonial rites also take place at the Dangun shrine in Sajikdan.

Other events around the country are:

•The Ganghwa Opening of the Heavens Grand Festival (강화개천대축제)
•The Samgak Mountain Festival (삼각산축제)
•Korean Spirit Festival (국학원 으라차차 코리아)
•Jinju Opening of the Heavens Art Festival (진주 개천예술제)


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Learning Strong Wisdom of Sea Women in Jeju Island

Ocean of Jeju island has Mt.Halla and hundreds of parasitic volcanoes. In addition, the ocean has sea women who represent strength. Sea women are the past and future of Jeju island. Ocean is their life and they have struggled over hundreds of years. Let’s learn who they are.

Catch A Glimpse of History and Footstep of Sea Women
Sea women may be only in Korea and Japan. Most of Korean sea women live in Jeju island, estimated about 20,000. We assume that the origin of sea women started at prehistoric era when human sought their food in the sea, considering that the shrine for fishermen and sea women existed from ancient times. But most of all, Jeju island is believed to be a birthplace of sea women.

(Source: Local Segye Shinmun)
Jeju women have been destined to swim in the sea unless they did not farm in the field. Girls started to swim at the age of seven and eight. When they were seventeen and eighteen they became sea women. Their prime time last until 40.
They usually work five meters under the sea for 30 seconds but if necessary, they dive 20 meters and endure for two minutes under the sea. Whenever they come up to the surface, they breathe out deeply. In addition, they join community gathering and organizing sea women’s club or diver’s club. By these activities they decide diving time, diving manner and joint collection and carry out on their own. They contribute to prosperity of villages by joint raise and joint collection of sea food.

They dive 20 meters under the sea and endure two minutes long and swim in the cold winter. They have extraordinary skill and spirit. They dive even after giving a birth. There is a folk song, ‘Song of Sea women’, showing determination of sea women of Jeju island.

Meet Sea Women in a Variety of Way
It’s not easy to see them even though we often heard that they have strong spirit and wisdom. Fortunately, the Jeju city government hosts a festival and opens a museum to promote sea women. The festival started first at 2002 world cup season. There are a variety of programs showing a myth of Jeju, life of sea women and life of fishing village. During the festival, many events are presented such as photo gallery painting contest, food court, and fireworks in order to promote sea women.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)
Sea women museum displays the history and work of sea women and the tools of collecting sea food. Four story museums have three exhibit rooms, video room, observatory, and children hall. The first exhibit room reproduces sea women’s house, fishing village, shamanism and seasonal customs. The second exhibit room is made of workplace of sea women. The third exhibit room has fishery of ancient times, sea of hope for better understanding of fishing village and culture. Museum is the place for children education.

Movement to Preserve Sea Woman
Sea women would disappear if the seniors stop diving. Jeju University and other Korean research centers claim that sea women should be designated as the living culture heritage. Central government and local government need to work hard on the matter.

(Source:Donga Ilbo)

Jeju sea women are very rare so city government is trying to list them as the world cultural heritage. Because they are the only one who collects the sea food without any tools. Sea women can be world class culture asset if we preserve them well.

Strong wisdom of sea women, Source: Seoul Shinmun

Sea women became the representative brand of Jeju island. Their frontier spirit and diligence became known outside the world. Their image swimming in the sea is a present to modern people. They awaken frontier spirit and wisdom. They could disappear as they get older in the future. We hope that their spirits continue to be preserved. Through the centuries of history, sea women have struggled to survive in the ocean. It is necessary to preserve their spirit and promote sea women as world brand.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Python's Promise: Lairen na wshak ngakpa - in Manipuri interpretation (folk tales of Meitei's)

Right after I come back from Korea I have been searching for the real Meite's folk tale or lore . As I get experience of similarity in various folk tales of Korea and my own people "Meite's", for instance "The Tapta (Tapta lakey Tapta lakey in Manipuri version) and many more.

I even purchased some collection of folk tales written by different writes and their versions are differnt from one another. I remember during the bedtime story by our granny when we were young but their version were again different from these writers.
well now a days the oral tradition and its values are deteriorating as from one generation to another generation they have been passing down.

Well I have come across this story when I was surfing "" a Manipuri website and I find this story quite interesting .

Once upon a time there used to live a clever fox in a bushes. One day he was walking along a river singing in a very loud voice.

So loud and melodious was his voice that it woke up the Python King of the river.

The Python thought that it was such a good voice and surely he could teach my two kids singing lesson. He was very delighted.

So he came out of the river in search of the singer. After following the voice, he met the old fox.

He said, "You have such an enchanting voice, so I came searching for you. Please tell me where do you stay and what is your name?"

The fox replied, "My name is Kundopa, I stay nearby the river bank."

After a formal introduction, the Python told him his proposal.

The fox couldn't help imagining how tasty the baby python would be, and didn't want to lose the God sent opportunity. Both agreed to the idea of teaching singing lessons to the python babies.

The next morning, the Python King brought the babies to the old fox. As soon as he left, the fox killed the babies and ate them.

After ten days, the Python King came to visit his kids but nobody was there at the fox's place.

He search for a long period of time but couldn't find them so he returned home heartbroken. He wanted to know what had happen to his babies.

For days he searches for the fox and the fox hide from the python. Now he assumes that his babies must have been killed by the fox, so he took a vow to kill the fox the moment he sees him.

One day, the fox came out in search for food as he has not eaten properly for a while. Unfortunately, he met the Python. Seeing the python he ran away.

The python now believes that the fox must have killed his babies, so he ran after the fox to kill him.

As the fox ran, he stumbles and falls but fortunately he fell into a closed natural structure.

The python saw him there but couldn't reach him because he was big.

As he waited for days for the fox to come out, the fox was busing digging a way out.

The fox after finding a way out escapes by fooling the python and the python died out of starvation.

Moral: We should not just trust someone without knowing who they really are.


Did you know that... (28) The Korean pony: equine wickedness

In the accounts of early Western visitors to Joseon Korea (1392-1910), the pony was one of the most popular subjects. Their diminutive size belied the sheer strength and sure-footedness they possessed. The ponies, always stallions, were only about 10-12 hands tall and were able to carry huge loads of up to 200 pounds (90 kilograms). One American traveler wrote:

“My travelling steed was a singular-looking, shaggy little beast, equipped with a very aged saddle, and from his appearance and that of his companion, who was already loaded up with my baggage to a height that looked dangerous, no one unacquainted with the Korean pony could have expected to find them fully equal to the task before them.”

While the ponies were lauded for their strength, they were feared for their viciousness — especially by foreigners. American missionary, Lillias Underwood, declared them to be the most “self-willed, spoiled, obstinate, quarrelsome, uncertain, tricky and tough little beasts as ever carried a load.” A Canadian visitor echoed her thoughts and declared them the “equine wickedness in the Realm of the Morning Calm.”

One early visiting English missionary was terrified of his mount. “As soon as the creature saw me approaching to mount, it reared and kicked furiously, and opened its mouth and flew at me like a tiger.” He was only able to mount after the pony’s eyes had been covered with a bag. In defense of the pony it might be mentioned that the English missionary was a very large and heavy man.

British explorer Isabella Bird Bishop traveled extensively through Korea on horseback and was never able to really befriend her mount. Every attempt to show it kindness was met with “teeth and heels.”

Westerners weren’t the only ones who feared the ponies — so did the ponies’ handlers. American author Jack London, who visited Korea during the Russo-Japanese War, recounted a tale of a Korean handler who would not check the shoes of his pony because he was afraid of the animal. His employer, a European, grew so exasperated that he pushed the handler out of the way to do it himself. The pony promptly rewarded the European with a kick. The European stubbornly got right back up and again reached for the pony’s foot. Again, he was rewarded with a kick. This went on over and over again. The European eventually wore out the pony and was able to check the hoof — but it was a costly victory.

The European should have adopted the Korean blacksmith’s method. In the late 1880s, a visiting American newspaper reporter wrote:

“Sometimes horses are shod by being strapped up to poles, so that only two of their feet can rest on the ground, and the band which goes around the belly holds the horse up while he is shod.” Other times “the pony was first thrown to the ground, and his four legs were tied together so that he couldn’t possibly kick.”

Missionaries were generally very forgiving of the trespasses of man and beast, but one Canadian missionary seemed to take devilish delight at the harsh treatment the ponies received by the blacksmiths.

“I love to see the pony shod, see him pinioned teeth and nail, in one hard knot, lying on his back under the spreading chestnut tree, with the village smithy putting tacks into him that brings tears to his eyes.”

The Korean pony had such a notorious reputation that several were exhibited at the combined Sells Brothers Famous Roman Hippodrome and S. H. Barrett’s Monster World’s Fair held in Galveston, Texas on November 9, 1889. They were advertised as “genuine Bun Yip or Devil Horses from Corea.”

Source: The Korea Times