Tuesday, January 31, 2012

South Korea's Girls’ Generation No. 2 on U.S. world music chart

K-pop group Girls’ Generation’s special album “The Boys” ranked second place in U.S. Billboard World Albums chart for the week of Feb. 4.

After topping the charts in South Korea, the album was released in the U.S. and Europe on Jan. 17. The title song “The Boys” was composed by Teddy Riley, who is well-known for producing albums for Michael Jackson.

The special album also came in 22nd in Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart, which ranks up-and-coming artists who broke into the market. The results are notable as the girl group has yet to officially showcase in the U.S.

They will appear on CBS’s late-night talk show “Late Show with David Letterman” on Jan. 31 and ABC’s morning talk show “Live! With Kelly” on Feb. 1.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Latest Books to read


Author unknown; Translated by Lim Chi-kyun and Lim Jeong-jee; Academy of Korean Studies: 471 pp., 14,000 won

MBC drama “The Moon Embracing the Sun,” a fictional love story of an imaginary king during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), is gaining popularity and people’s interest in the Joseon royal life is soaring as well.

The Academy of Korean Studies (AKS) published “Cheonsuseok,” a novel read by royal women in the Joseon era to give a glimpse of what real life was like in the palace. Set in the late Tang Dynasty of China, it mainly revolves around Wi Bo-hyeong and Seol Ok-young’s love and obstacles in their marriage.

It is sixth in the series of novels read by the Joseon royal family and interpreted in modern Korean by the AKS. There were some 1,300 original novels and 700 translated books stored in Nakseonjae in Changdeok Palace, which was built by King Heonjong in 1847 for his concubine Kim. These were expected to be read by royal women as a pastime.

The AKS has published two versions of the book — one in modern Korean and the other in the original text with annotations.


Alpha Lady Leadership

The Kyunghyang Shinmun Interactive Team; Deulnyeok: 292 pp., 12,000 won

How do powerful ladies get to where they are? A team at daily newspaper, the Kyunghyang Shinmun, that communicates with its readers via social networking services and manages the paper’s blog, shares the hardwork behind many people’s role modles. It has compiled the success stories of and interviews with 11 accomplished Korean women.

Spanning from news announcer-turned-travel writer Son Mina to the nation’s first female corporte headhunter Yu Soon-shin, the individuals interviewed for this book can benefit an array of readers in various career tracks and backgrounds.

Eager to inspire the readers, the women spell out their life principles. “A leader must have a cultural sensitivity — the ability to understand differences and not rush to call something wrong. You must understand and internalize your understanding of the difference between genders, institutions, and nations,” urges Song Myeong-sun, the Korean military’s first female general.

They also candidly share their experiences with the glass ceiling and insidious gender discrimination in the work space.


Golf for Lady

Yoshimura Humie; Edited by Seo Jee-hee; Leescom; 132 pp.; 10,800 won
Golf is becoming more popular among Korean women as a means of leisure and socializing. This is a beginner’s guide specifically written for female golfers.

For those who want to learn golf but don’t have the time, this book is useful in gaining more knowledge about the sport. There are more than 530 photos demonstrating the various techniques required to become a good golfer.

The book also provides easy guidelines to various aspects of playing golf, from booking golf courses to choosing the proper seasonal attire.

Born in 1974, the author has been teaching golf professionally since 2000 and is a licensed trainer of Professional Golfers’ Association of Japan.


Mires of War

Park Eun-woo; Kojunuk: 348 pp., 12,000 won

Debut author Park Eun-woo’s new historical thriller tackles Admiral Yi Su-shin and the Imjin War but takes a different approach from past fictional works.

Centering on a group of secret agents, the book details their efforts to protect the Korean war hero from an assassination attempt by the invading Japanese.

Set mostly in 1596 in the middle of the war, a group of Korean agents called Nang Chung discover a plot against the admiral by the Japanese and go behind enemy lines to sabotage the plan while pursuing the assassin designated to kill Yi.

The narrative switches back and forth mainly between Nang Chung member Jang Ho-jun and the anonymous assassin. The series of dialogue finally culminates in a confrontation between the pursuer and killer.Rich historical details give authenticity to battle scenes and action sequences while it never gets in the way of the fast paced story.

The book is all set to be released as a movie later this year, under the title “Protect Yi Sun-shin.”

Korea’s Education Broadcasting System Radio: reborn as national book reader

Korea’s Education Broadcasting System, EBS, is completely restructuring its programs to become a national book reader soon. It will be starting on Feb. 27, it will allocate all programs from Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. to book readings of various genres.

The Original English works will be recited from Monday through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Sundays, a program titled “EBS Audio Book” will recite literary works from 10 a.m. straight through 8 p.m.

It definitely isn’t an easy task both theoretically and logistically as Kim explained that the broadcaster is contacting numerous publishers and authors.

The radio station will touch upon many genres. “EBS Fantasia” during the afternoon will air science fiction, suspense and fantasy novels, which will be followed by “Reading Classics” that will introduce works that have withstood the test of time.

The long lost tradition of radio drama is coming back to life through EBS. For starters, a program titled “EBS Book Cafe;” will dramatize the international tearjerker “Please Look After my Mom” by Shin Kyung-sook.

Another noteworthy feature is the radio station’s attempt to revive the tradition of newspaper series through narrators’ voices. Famed writer, Eun Hee-kyung who authored “Beauty Despises Me,” will start off with a series titled “A Calm Life.”

EBS will not rely on trained narrators or actors to read the stories. It has asked people to volunteer to read for others through the programs as “book narrators” and more than 2,000 people have already applied.

Globally, British broadcaster the BBC’s Radio 4 is the leading audio media in book reading. The station has been airing programs such as “Afternoon Reading” and “Book at Bedtime,” which feature short stories and abridged books, as well as “Poetry Please.”

The book reading radio programs are part of the educational broadcasting institute’s comprehensive reform for 2012. It will also enhance its TV channels EBS Plus 1, EBS Plus 2 and EBS English to serve as an educational digital content bank by producing visual content that can be used as an educational reference.

The Korean Drama's made to promote struggling singers

Acting is a serious endeavor that doesn’t just come with good looks. It definitely isn’t a default occupation for those who didn’t make it as singers. Yet producers of “Shut Up Flower Boy Band,” a new drama on tvN about rebellious rock star wannabes, seem to think otherwise.

The 16-episode series that starts airing at 11 p.m. today tells the story of six middle school students who form a rock band called “Ahn-gu-jeong-wha,” which translates to eye candy.

The show's director, Lee Kwon, said at a press conference in Cheongdam-dong in Seoul Wednesday that he wanted to portray the genuine rock spirit in the Korean music industry dominated by K-pop. Ironically, what he denounced as the making of “cultural products” by K-pop is the driving force of his series given the background of the cast.

Kim Min-seok, who plays Seo Gyeong-jong, the ambitious keyboard player of the band, loosely participated in “Superstar K3,” a survival audition show for singers on Mnet. He showed up at the preliminary regional audition in Daegu but never made it to the group of 11 contestants that actually competed in the show.

Kim told reporters Wednesday that luckily he signed an exclusive contract with CJ E&M, an entertainment giant that owns channels tvN and Mnet, as a singer shortly after he was excluded.

It is known that the firm provides six months of “incubation,” a comprehensive care and training period, until the show’s participants are picked up by K-pop agencies like SM or JYP. He was not able to recall other entertainers who also signed contracts with CJ E&M.

Kim was determined to impress the audience despite his lack of experience in the field. “You know how people say ‘bal-yeon-gi’ (a term Korean audience use to mock terrible acting) a lot; I really don’t want people to use that term for me. I really don’t want to be criticized for my acting.”

The once aspiring singer has never received acting training. On this he said, “Director Lee Kwon said it was best for me to just learn on the set.”

Kim is not the only one who will be receiving acting lessons through “Shut Up Flower Boy Band.” To play the heartbreaker in the series, Jo Bo-a dropped out of “Made in U,” an audition program to become a K-pop idol on JTBC, one of the controversial new comprehensive channels.

Appearing star-struck at the press conference, she said “I thought I had a lot to improve on in that field (singing), so I want to focus on acting for now.”

Kim Ye-rim, the lead vocalist of the duo Two Month who finished in the top three on “Superstar K3,” will star in the new drama as well. Conveniently, she will play the role of a popular singer with the same name. Since “Superstar K3,” Kim has been appearing on radio shows as well as spin-offs of the audition program such as “Superstar K3 Social Club” on Mnet where the 11 contestants continue to perform. A recently released photo shows Kim modeling for 1st Look, CJ E&M’s fashion store.

Model-turned-actor Lee Min-ki who recently starred in the horror-romantic comedy “Spellbound” will make a special appearance in the first two episodes of “Shut Up Flower Boy Band.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Korean Pianist Lim Dong-hyek to go on national tour

Pianist Lim Dong-hyek is going to undertake a tour around the country in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of his debut. For this tour, Lim will be playing works by Russian artists including Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.

This world-famous musician studied at the Moscow Central Music School. After graduating in 1998, he enrolled at the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory and trained under professor Lev Naumov.

He first gained international recognition for winning second prize in the Chopin Competition for Young Pianists in Moscow in 1996, his older brother Lim Dong-Min won first prize at the very Competition. He went on to make headlines in the classical music scene including being the youngest winner of the Premier Grand Prix in the history of the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud International Piano Competition in Paris in 2001.

The tour will start in Feb. 11 in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province and travel through Busan, Mokpo, Daegu, Daejeon, Seongnam, Goyang, Geoje, and Incheon.

The concert will arrive at Seoul Arts Center on Feb. 18. Tickets costs from 30,000

Source: The Korea Times

Nomadic artists exploration

Young artists are presenting works based on their borderless, nomadic experiences at group exhibition “As Small as a World and Large as Alone” at Gallery Hyundai Gangnam Space through Feb. 12.

The team of Kim Na-young and Gregory Maass, stylized as Nayoungim & Gregory S. Maass along with Shin Mee-kyoung, Je Baak, Kang Eem-yun and Kim Min-ae have something in common. Their works are fueled by experience such as travel and migration. They are from Korea, except for Maass but mainly work in Europe and the United States. Instead of being bound to their home culture, they take objectified looks at everyday life and turn it into art.

Kim is from Korea while Maass is from Germany and they communicate in French since they met in France when they were studying at L’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. They have been working together since 2004.

The duo is showing three series of artworks for this exhibition. “Relationships do not exist” is displayed on two long pedestals; “What Happened to My Sculpture?” is hung at eye level, while the “Super Computer” series is hung just above floor level.

Their work implies various narratives from their life coming and going to Europe and Asia.

“Relationships do not exist” is composed of miniature plastic figures bought across the globe. Maass said they have been collecting for a long time but recently decided to make something with them.

The small figures are hand-sculpted and it is the pair’s way of paying respect to the pain of manual labor. “We cannibalize the figures into heads, arms, legs and bodies and ’Frankenstein’ them together and re-sculpt and paint them,” Maass said. “We give them special positions and put them in relationships with each other.”

Kim added that it is their interpretation of human figure sculpture, though childish and playful. “We thought the different types of figures from different countries, times and morals could represent the relationship best,” she said.

“What Happened to My Sculpture?” is a series of drawings on paper from hotels in several countries and “Super Computer” looks to overthrow preconceptions on size.

The two have lived in more than 10 countries including Switzerland, Belgium, Macau and Japan as well as Germany and Korea, but did not stay long in one place.

“It is hard to define from where we get inspiration but we certainly get ideas from our nomadic life,” Kim said.

The two seemed to understand each other very well. Kim said their European friends say they are both from a divided, or once divided, industrialized country. “It is less difficult than working alone as we complete each other,” Maass added.

They have been staying at the Gyeonggi Creation Center for about a year and half but their next destination is undecided. “We are very adaptable to what’s coming next,” he said.

The duo’s artistic challenge continues as their next project is collaboration with scientists on “ramyeon,” or instant noodles. “We want to explore the gap between daily life and science labs to the domain of art,” Kim said. “Basically, artists and scientists have something in common — we all try to understand the world and make it a better place.”

The other artists also reflect the trend of globalization in unique ways. Je Baak’s visual art offers a fresh yet strange perspective to familiar things by creating digital collages of amusement park rides in “The Structure” series or erasing pieces at art museums in “Gong.”

Shin is known for her “Translation” and “Ghost” series, reinterpreting porcelain in soap. Her new “Written in Soap” series, which reconstructs time-worn, ancient tiles with soap, is on display in Korea for the first time at this exhibition.

Kim Min-ae’s works are site-specific. For “As Small as a World and Large as Alone,” she set up three protractor-like objects with wheels hanging in the air on each corner of a white cube and another scattered on the floor.

Kang’s abstract paintings explore mythical metaphors in the origin of nature such as pebbles and buds.

For more information, visit www.galleryhyundai.com or call (02) 2287-3500.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunjongs unhappiness shadows turbulent last decades of Yi Dynasty of Korea

These interesting short history is kind of documents fro people like us who loves Korea and Korean History

One of the most dynamic eras of Korean history is the period of 1866-1910. It was an era of gunboat diplomacy, wars and the eventual opening of Korea to the West in 1882. Social enlightenment, importation of Western technology and the elevation of the kingdom to an empire were all realized during this period.

But these achievements were marred by the exploitation of its mineral resources by foreign nations, the destruction wrought by two wars upon its soil (Sino-Japanese War, 1894-1895 and the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905), the assassination of Korea’s queen and the demise of its independence when Japan annexed the empire on Aug. 22, 1910.

King Gojong, who reigned from 1864 through 1907, was often portrayed by his Western guests as an intelligent ruler who tried to do his best for his people but was hampered by the politics of his court and the aggressiveness of his neighbors. While some blamed him for Korea’s predicament, others sympathized with him and, for the most part, it is with his successor and son, Emperor Sunjong, that the lion’s share of the blame has fallen.

It is perhaps for this reason that Sunjong has largely been ignored by historians except to recite his perceived inability to rule and the role he played in the loss of Korea’s independence.

Sunjong was born on March 25, 1874 and was Queen Min’s second son — the first son dying shortly after birth. He was, without a doubt, a blessing to his royal parents. Both Gojong and Min were very fond of children and one can imagine that they constantly doted on him but there is little information about his childhood.

One of the earliest descriptions of Sunjong in Western sources comes from Percival Lawrence Lowell, an American who stayed in Korea from late 1883 through 1884. Describing an audience he had with the crown prince, Lowell wrote:

“He was a little boy of ten. Seclusion and an enforced dignity befitting his position had given him a look beyond his years. His face lacked the beauty of his father’s. The complexion was singularly colorless, but I suspect that much of this — so marked was it — was due to the use of chalk, a common practice in the Far East. His eyes were very narrow even for an Oriental, and gave him an appearance of being half asleep.”

Although he was the crown prince and in theory wielded a great deal of power, he was, nonetheless, a boy and governed by the court officials whom hovered around him. According to Lowell:

“He stood between two tall ministers, who bent over and prompted him as to what he should say before he began to speak. He listened with statue-like passiveness to their whispers, and then repeated in his childish voice his lesson. Only when he got his answer did he turn to them again for counsel.”

Lowell summed up the crown prince as “a touching mixture of dignity and helplessness” and that “his life had taken expression from his face, and left only a sort of realization of the treadmill of his position behind.”

In 1888, Frank G. Carpenter, an American newspaperman visiting the Far East, described his own audience with Sunjong:

“We then went to an audience with the crown prince, whom we found in a palace more gorgeous than that of the king. He is a young man of about 16, though he is full grown, and is taller than his father. He was gorgeously dressed in a gown of crushed strawberry silk, and he had two eunuchs besides him just the same as the king. His face had not the strength of the king’s, and as yet the young man has hardly shown, I am told, the ability of his father. Our interview was rather tame. The crown prince asked after the president, and expressed a kindly feeling for our country, and the audience lasted but a few minutes.”

They were somber descriptions and some of the most compassionate and understanding of the crown prince and his position. Other visitors were not so kind.

John A. Cockerill, another visiting American newspaperman, described Sunjong as “flabby” while another American visitor described him as “a sickly youth of about 21 years, whom even the famous ‘ginseng’ — which is supposed to be an infallible remedy for all the ills to which flesh is heir and from the sale of which the king derives perhaps the greater part of his income — has failed to benefit.”

In September 1894, Alice Graham, the sister-in-law of the John M. B. Sill, the American Minister to Korea, declared in a letter to home that “the crown prince looks quite like an imbecile (and) it is said his looks do not belie him.”

While it would be hard to judge the crown prince’s intelligence, it must be said that there were several attempts to teach him foreign languages. Alfred Stripling, an Englishman and one of the first Westerners to come to Korea (he came as a member of the Korean Customs Department in 1883) served for a short period of time as the crown prince’s tutor teaching, amongst other subjects, English.

In 1898, following the death of her husband, the British Consul at Jemulpo, Clara Joly was hired by the Korean government to teach English to the crown prince for a period of two years. For her efforts she was to receive $300 per month.

English wasn’t the only foreign language — the crown prince also studied Chinese. According to Yi Hak-kuin, a favored member of the Korean court, all of the Chinese that the crown prince knew had been taught to him by his mother.

Like most mothers, Queen Min was extremely indulgent with her son — perhaps a little too indulgent. Yi reported that from birth, the crown prince “slept under the same cover with his royal parents.” It is unclear if this is truly a fact or a matter of character assassination by Yi.

There is no doubt that Queen Min loved her son. Even as she lay dying, savagely cut by her assassins’ blades, her only thought was the safety of her son and faintly asked about his safety before one of her assassins jumped upon her and stabbed her several more times. But there is a question of just how much he loved her.

In Yun Chi-ho’s diary there are several accounts of the crown prince’s perceived indifference to his mother’s death. After Gojong and Sunjong escaped to the Russian legation, the crown prince is described as seeming to be unaffected by his mother’s death and that “he laughed and talked...as if the 8th of October had never made him sorry.”

Perhaps the most damning account took place on his birthday.

“Today is the birthday of the crown prince. Yi Pom-chin told me that His Majesty wept this morning as the day brought to his memory old scenes and associations. Many of the old courtiers wept too. Perfectly natural. ‘But,’ said Yi in despair, ‘the crown prince who has the greatest reason for being sad, was the jolliest of the crowd. Not a tear, not a sigh, not even a serious countenance! Oh, what motherly love she had for him.’”

Sunjong had his own brushes with assassination. In the late summer of 1898, Kim Hong-nuik, a dissatisfied former court official, bribed some members of the royal household staff to slip poison into the morning coffee. Gojong, perhaps smelling something strange, did not drink the coffee but Sunjong and another court official did. After several anxious days they recovered but not fully — Sunjong is believed to have been rendered impotent. Married twice (his first wife was 12 years old and the second wife 13), he was never able to have children.

In 1907, Gojong abdicated the throne and Sunjong became the emperor of Korea. It was a short-lived reign.

In 1908, rumors circulated in the world’s press that Ito Hirobumi, the Japanese resident-general of Korea, had banished Emperor Sunjong to Japan. Hirobumi disavowed these rumors and stated that he respected Korea’s sovereignty.

In 1909, Carpenter, whose first visit to Korea was in 1888, was invited by the Japanese to come and write about Korea. In his article published in the Atlantic Constitution, Carpenter described Sunjong as “a baby of thirty five” and that the “weakness of the emperor’s mind has long been a matter of remark among both Koreans and foreigners.”

According to Carpenter, one early American minister to Korea sent a dispatch to the state department in which he speculated that Sunjong’s mental weakness was “evidence of the evil effects of intermarriage of near relatives.” Carpenter, however, was more sympathetic and felt that Sunjong’s “life in the palace, surrounded by eunuchs and the vicious servants of a depraved court, has not been conducive to his mental growth.”

It may have been reports like the above that helped lay the foundation for Japan’s annexation of Korea. On Aug. 22, 1910, Japan declared that “the existing system of government in (Korea) has not proved equal to the duty of preserving public order and tranquility” and that with the approval of the Korean Emperor and the Emperor of Japan, Korea would become part of the Japanese empire.

For the rest of his life Sunjong dwelt in Changdeok Palace. Ridiculed by the world’s press as incompetent ruler he apparently did excel at one thing — billiards. In 1910, two billiard tables were set up in Changdeok Palace and a small club was established — the best player was none other than Sunjong.

Sunjong died on April 24, 1926 in the palace. The cause of his death, like that of his father’s, remains controversial — some people believe they were both poisoned by the Japanese.

Historian Donald Clark sums up Sunjong’s life as “quite an unhappy one. He lived through the turbulence of the Yi Dynasty’s last decades and took the throne only briefly, when the Japanese were sure that he could be trusted to let them do their work.”

Source: The Korea Times

Eui-hwa: most progressive, anti-Japanese prince of Korea

Reference of the article is from the Korea times newspaper

While Sunjong may have been disparaged by those around him, his younger half-brother, Prince Eui-hwa, was loved by one and all — especially the American press. (The prince’s Korean name was Yi Kang but later he was usually called King Uichin.)

He was born on March 30, 1877, but, because his mother was a court lady-in-waiting, it was not until 1892 that he became a legitimate titled prince following a decree issued by his father — King Gojong.

There was very little written about him by the Westerners in Seoul until August 1894 when he visited the American legation in Seoul. It was only the second time he had been in a foreign home and was fascinated with everything around him. Lillian Graham, the sister-in-law of John Sill, the American Minister to Korea, seemed a little surprised that the 17-year-old prince had already been married a year. She described him as being “rather good looking” and added that he was “said to be much brighter than the crown prince.”

She was not the only one to be impressed with the prince. Others described him as “a young man of pleasant and agreeable manners” and very popular with the foreign community. Following the assassination of Queen Min, Eui-hwa’s own position became precarious. With the queen’s defamation and denouncement by the pro-Japanese Korean government, there was the possibility that Sunjong could be replaced and, if Gojong could be removed, Eui-hwa could be declared king. It is said that the Daewongun, wanting his own grandson to ascend the throne, tried to seize Eui-hwa but the prince had managed to find refuge at the home of Horace Underwood — an American missionary.

Eui-hwa remained with the Underwoods until his safety was assured and he was promised the position of ambassador to Europe. But, prior to going to Europe, he had to study in Japan. If we are to believe the idle gossip of the Westerners residing in Seoul in the late 1890s, study did not come easy for the young prince. Women easily dominated his interests and, according to William Franklin Sands, he was “systematically debauched by a group of conspirators.”

Apparently Eui-hwa’s less-than-stellar behavior was viewed with disfavor in his royal father’s eyes and in late 1896 Gojong decided to send him to the United States. Despite the young prince’s reputed desire in going, his actions told a different tale. According to Lillas Underwood:

“It was the king’s desire that he (Eui-hwa) should go to America and, under the oversight of our board of missions, be sent to some first class educational institution where he could fit himself to enter a naval or military academy. Several abortive attempts had been made to accomplish this through friends in Japan, but insuperable difficulties seemed to arise. Perhaps the prince did not wish to go; perhaps influence was used to keep him where he was; at any rate, the prince, in spite of the king’s reiterated commands, had not gone.”

Eventually Gojong ordered the Underwoods to go to Japan where they “found the prince not very willing to go; all sorts of objections were raised, but the king’s positive commands could no longer be slighted. The finest clothing to be had was provided, debts were paid, passage arranged for.... His Royal Highness, the Prince, set sail.”

Eui-hwa’s stay in the United States was not very enjoyable. First, he stayed with a missionary family and his activities were probably under close scrutiny. Second, his monthly $100 allowance often arrived late — if at all — and he soon fell into debt with the Christian community. Much to his delight, Eui-hwa was sent back to Japan to continue his studies.

Eui-hwa returned to the United States in June 1901 to study at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., and later at Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. This time, accompanied by two subordinates, he was trusted to live on his own with an annual allowance of $4,000. Gojong had seriously misplaced his trust.

Within a short time of his arrival, the young prince squandered his allowance and a lot more. As one newspaper reported:

“The prince went to Coney Island while going through the ‘seeing New York’ process. He spent days and days there; also nights. Coney looked upon him as a good thing. The barkers, the grafters, the card sharks, even the peanut vendors took unwarranted toll of the imperial purse. Then there was of course an unlimited supply of the prince’s chief delight — the unveiled American woman. (Blond) beauties, chorus girls in tights, beach sprites in bathing suits, all attracted the prince’s attention and subtracted his coin. He gave suppers to bevies of blonds and bunches of brunettes. Champagne went down, but the price of it went up. As a consequence the prince had to borrow.”

He borrowed nearly $30,000 which greatly embarrassed the Korean legation in Washington D.C. The legation tried to downplay the incident by claiming the prince had merely “exceeded his allowance by a little” but after the debts were paid, the young prince was “entertained at the legation” for a period of time, “where he received advice calculated to do him good.”

To say that Eui-hwa was enthralled with the beauty of women would be an understatement. While at Wesleyan University he went by the nickname “Willie” and was described as “a prime favorite among the young ladies of the institution, and he avails himself of every opportunity to be in their company.” If we are to believe the articles that frequently appeared in the American press, the young prince had proposed to no less than four American women.

Horace Allen, the American Minister to Korea, was a terrible gossip and, through the efforts of relatives and friends, kept abreast of the rumors surrounding the young prince. Naturally, he was amused by the prince’s antics and after learning of one alleged relationship between the prince and a young woman from Allen’s home state — Ohio, he jokingly asked his sons, “Wonder if she knows he is a married man already?”

While Allen found the humor in Eui-hwa’s popularity amongst the American fairer sex, others didn’t — especially the young American men who felt the prince was infringing on their domain.One such young man was Joseph Stout.

In June 1903, at a small garden party in Delaware, Ohio, Stout suddenly sprang upon the prince and struck him several times rendering the Korean noble unconscious. Stout was immediately apprehended. There was some early speculation that the prince had been “making eyes” at Stout’s girlfriend and had brought the attack upon himself but this was incorrect. Stout later confessed that he had been so incensed at seeing the young prince, who he thought was Chinese, at the center of attention of so many young American women that he could not endure it, and thus attacked.

On Oct. 26, Stout acknowledged his guilt in assaulting the prince because he did not like Chinese (he was unaware of Koreans) and “thought the girls paid too much attention to the young foreign nobleman.” He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $25.

As a result of the frequent newspaper articles of Eui-hwa’s alleged amorous affairs and the fictional account of his father’s marriage to an American woman (Emily Brown), the American legation in Seoul was flooded with requests for introduction by young American women seeking to marry a Korean noble. Despite Allen’s insistence that the Korean nobles were not looking for American wives, it was sometime before the American female public desisted in their pleas.

Throughout the early 20th century there were rumors that Eui-hwa would ascend the throne in the event something happened to Gojong. A New York Times article in 1904 noted that although Eui-hwa was not the eldest son, but because his “elder brother (Sunjong) is an imbecile... (Eui-hwa) is probably destined to be the Emperor of Korea.” It alleged that there was a strong faction of Korean noblemen who wanted “to use the imbecile as a ruler and themselves enjoy control of the kingdom.” It warned that if Eui-hwa returned to Korea, “violence might be done him.”

Eui-hwa eventually returned to Korea — and he did so in style. He left the United States with “87 suits of American clothes, with a beflowered vest for every suit.” He was no longer the rash youth that he had been when he first arrived in the United States but a “well-controlled gentleman (who was) observant in perception, retentive in memory, and a diligent reader of passing history.” He had prepared himself for the responsibilities of assuming reign of the Korean government but that opportunity never came.

Even though the Japanese provided Eui-wha with a huge annual allowance (one report claims $770,000), he became “the most anti-Japanese member of the royal family” and attempted to support Korea’s independence movement in 1919. He even tried to escape to Shanghai — the seat of the Korean Provisional Government — but was captured at the train station in Antung, China (just across the Yalu River) and returned to Korea where he remained under police surveillance. His despair was reportedly so great that “he sought to dispel his sorrow with women and liquor.” His family eventually consisted of his wife, a large number of concubines, twelve sons and nine daughters.

Following Korea’s liberation from Japan on Aug. 15, 1945, Eui-hwa’s situation grew worse. He was stripped of his royal status and was forced to sell off most of his worldly goods — including his Cadillac in order to make ends meet.

In an interview in February 1946, Eui-hwa moaned, “I’m worse off than a laborer. In fact, I’m broke.” When questioned about what he did with his share of the $120,000 given to the Korean royal family by the Japanese in 1944-45, he merely explained his poverty by stating, “I always did like a good time.”

What little property remained was later seized by the South Korean government under the royal estate nationalization law in 1953.

Eui-hwa died on Aug. 15, 1955, 10 years after Korea had gained its independence. It was, perhaps, a fitting date for arguably one of the Yi Dynasty’s most progressive and anti-Japanese princes.

Manipuri Traditional

The Kabui dance

The sacred Temple

At sri sri Govindaji Temple at Imphal

Chak-luk for the kitchen goddess called Emoinu Chak-hong Nga-hong bi .

The Kabui Traditional Dance

The World famous Manipuri Classical dance called "Raasa Leela "

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hangul: Scientific and Easy to Learn with beautiful Hangul font designs .

Intuitive Hangul/Korean alphabet , anyone can learn and write easily without taking much time.

[지(JI)] Right now, a Korean drama Deeply Rooted Tree , whose main character is the forth king of Joseon Dynasty, King Sejong, is currently airing and is quite popular. There had been many historical dramas with King Sejong as the main character, but this drama focused on the invention of Hangul that is among King Sejong's many accomplishments. This drama is recording high audience ratings each day, becoming a hot topic among many people, and this is also a meaningful story for me, as a font designer of Hangul and creator of Hangul fonts said the write of this fruitful article.

The recent episode of Deeply Rooted Tree shows the process of the invention and testing of Hangul. There is a scene where even a liege, who objects to the invention and distribution of Hangul, is surprised by the marvelous principle behind the invention of Hangul. It is because he witnesses an illiterate person learn Hangul; being able to read and write words within the only 6 hours.
From the early days, Hangul was universally recognized as an excellent writing system. It could be easily confirmed by looking at the cases that great scholars recognizing Hangul.

"Korean Hangul was the long-awaited perfect script." -John Man, English historian
“It is not too much to say that Hangul is the best work among the creations Korean culture . -R. Dormels, from University Vienne
"Hangul is the finest phonemic writing and more upgraded nature character than the Roman alphabet." -Hiroyuki Umeda, former professor of Tokyo University

The Scientific and Original Hangul

The reason why Hangul is an excellent alphabet is that it is easy to learn and write. It is so easy that it took a quarter of a day (6 hours) for an illiterate person to learn!
When King Sejong invented Hangul, he aimed to record all sounds of nature in alphabets as well as what people spoke. Therefore, he designed the character blocks (jaso) based on the shapes of voice production organs (vocal cords, lips, and etc). Since the shapes of Hangul jaso match the sound, it has an 'intuitive' principal of the character combination, and learners can approach it easily. For example, Hangul consonant 'ㅁ' is supposed to be the image of a person's lips; 'ㅂ' is supposed to be the image of lips being pushed together while air leaks through the upper lip; 'ㅍ' is supposed to be image of how lips bumping each other and air leaking sideways.

ㅂthat is derived fromㅁ, picture ofㅂ, ㅍ

Hangul is scientific but still easy to learn, but I want to also tell you that its principle is fun and original. Words like “love, bright, warm,” what kind of images do they remind you of? Interestingly, words with vowel 'ㅏ[a]' have bright and cheerful images, and words with vowel 'ㅓ[uh]' have dark and calm images. This is because Hangul has the principle of utilizing the negative and positive components of the universe, and bright sounds and dark sounds are divided according to the shape of vowels through Hangul's principle of character combination. This principle demonstrates the excellence of Hangul that is original and easy to learn.

Example of bright and dark sounds

Hangul can make 11,172 syllables with 24 vowels and consonants. Compared to about 400 English syllables and 300 Japanese and Chinese syllables, we can see how many syllables are there for Hangul to produce. Hangul is composed of initial, medial, and final sounds. In producing digital font, I think that Hangul can present all the pronunciations in the world just by looking at the words that are included in UNICODE standard Hangul (8,822 words), which included all of Hangul that it can represent except KS standard (2,350 words).

Hangul image of KS Hangul and UNICODE

Hangul and Font design

Since alphabet makes all words based on 26 letters, there are many pronunciations according to the word, though it is the same alphabet, so it indicates the pronunciation with phonetic symbols. Whereas Hangul creates words more intuitively by combining 24 vowels and consonants, so in this aspect, it can express various designs.
Of course, its formative construction is more complicated than the alphabet, and there are many strokes, but it is less complicated than Chinese characters, so the expression factors for design become diverse with formative factors that are more than English and less than Chinese, very attractive to me who makes words by font design.
As for English font, its history of font design is long, and since the number of words are relatively fewer than Hangul or Chinese and construction much simpler, numerous fonts were created by graphic designers or artists who are interested in typography, without having to be considered an “expert” in the English language. Thus creating a new font itself is the very obstacle in creating a new font.
But as for Hangul font design, the number of words is not too many or too little, so it is at the right point for production that can be professionally approached. Also, there are many Hangul fonts that have been developed, but the numbers are fewer than English fonts, and since there are not many usable Hangul fonts for body text, there’s definitely room for development.
People began to feel the need of more interest and necessity of Hangul digital font as Hangul software (it’s similar to Microsoft Word) that all Koreans use became popularized in PC and smartphone, and many Hangul fonts are developed and used in many places according to the needs of these people.
Especially, as Korean companies reorganized CI in order to have their company identities, they actively sought the development of company oriented fonts that suit their image, creating many their own company fonts, and the companies are introducing their own fonts to their company as well as the public for free, so Hangul fonts are becoming abundant.

As a font designer who designs Hangul, I am sometimes marveled by the beauty of Hangul. The curve ofㅅ, straight line of vowel, and when I think of the scientific and original excellence of Hangul, I am proud to be a designer who develops Hangul fonts. I hope that many people would feel the beauty of Hangul as I think of King Sejong's hope that many people would easily use it when he created Hangul.
References: [Hangul, bursts] Geum Ho Seok Font designer, CEO of Sandoll Communication [Hangul Design and Consonance] Sang Soo An Visual Designer, Professor at Visual Design Department, Hongik University

Original source: http://www.advancedtechnologykorea.com/?p=8993

A Leader of American Communication Technology[Global Korean]

I have taken out the entire article from The Advance Technology Korea. This site is entirely based on the technological advancement of Korea and provides other related sources as well as cultural information too.

According to Dr. Jeong Hoon Kim, President of Bell Laboratories… "Developing technology is my mission."

(Seoul=Yonhap news) Reporter Kil-Hwan Wang= Bell Laboratories whose headquarters in New Jersey, America, is the world's best private research development institution that has led the communication technology innovation.
Established by AT&T in 1925 naming after Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of telephone, it has twenty nine thousand seven hundred active patents in the fields of telephone exchange, transistor, digital camera, optical cable, and telecommunication satellite technology.

Also, it has produced thirteen Nobel Prize winners, so a modifier "the Pride of America" follows its name. But the one who leads this laboratory is not an American, but a 1.5-generation Korean American.
President Jeong Hoon Kim (52), an outsider, was scouted as the head of Bell Labs for the first time in 2005. At that time, the laboratory even took the trouble of leaving the office of the president empty for three months in order to bring him.
His current title is 'President of Bell Labs and Corporate Strategy of Alcatel-Lucent." Alcatel-Lucent is a global telecommunication corporation, created when Lucent Technologies merged with France's Alcatel on equality, and has Bell Labs as its affiliated research institution. Last year in July, it has given President Kim the responsibility of establishing the company's strategy.

At the time when President Kim proceeded to his new post, Bell Labs had encountered a period of stagnation, not putting up a good show like in the past. Accordingly, he newly created a team that integrated technology and a venture team that invented products and launched them in the market, bringing about a wind of innovation.
The first outcome was to make 'network card' so that an outsider could not look at the information inside a laptop when one lost it. Next, it introduced "lightRadio,' which is the next-generation wireless network solution, and Super Virtual Conferencing technology.

Also, Bell Labs was in charge of playing a key role in 'Greentouch Consortium,' which was created by about fifty member companies in 2010 with the goal to improve the energy efficiency of communication network one thousand times more than the current.
The first outcome was to make 'network card' so that an outsider could not look at the information inside a laptop when one lost it. Next, it introduced "lightRadio,' which is the next-generation wireless network solution, and Super Virtual Conferencing technology.
Also, Bell Labs was in charge of playing a key role in 'Greentouch Consortium,' which was created by about fifty member companies in 2010 with the goal to improve the energy efficiency of communication network one thousand times more than the current.
President Kim had followed his parents to America, when he was in the eighth grade in 1975, and grew up in a poor village, Maryland. He studied as he worked in a convenient store at night and went to school during the day. He distinguished himself in mathematics and science and graduated his high school as the second top in the entire school.
Entering Johns Hopkins and majoring in Electronic Engineering, he acquired the Master of Technology Management in the same university and got the Doctor of Engineering in two years, which was the shortest period of time, from the University of Maryland.
In 1992, he established 'Yurie Systems,' a venture company, and he set out to developing Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) communication technology device based on the fact that US combat planes had lost the enemy combat planes because they could not receive the data properly in Gulf War. At the same time, he scouted William Perry, former US Secretary of Defense, as a member of board of directors.
After putting a great deal of effort, President Kim succeeded in commercializing the ATM communication device in 1998 and hit the jackpot. The price for one ATM device went up to a hundred thousand dollars.
He sold this company to Lucent Technologies for over one billion dollars and rose to the ranks of the four hundred American wealthy people at the age of thirty eight. Instantly, he was scouted by Lucent Technologies and worked as a division president in the optical network division, and he taught at the University of Maryland since 2001.
Fulfilling his American Dream with the life motto, "Dream big and run toward it," he emphasizes, whenever he teaches, to students that everything is possible as long as they have will to do it, and that he is a living proof.
He advises to do the best in everything and that failure is a part of the process. He also advises to become a well-mannered person-> an educated person-> a talented person.
President Kim said that just like he had succeeded by establishing Yurie Systems, if he were to establish a company, he would choose the field of ICT as the first priority, and that he was interested in the fields of energy and bio because there were big assignments. He also said that he would continue to work in the field of technology even after completing his term in the office at Bell Labs, though the term was not decided.
Next, he added that he wanted to exert himself in solving the common problem that the ICT industry confronted by promoting cooperation on research between America and Korea for their development, sharing ideas with the interested parties who worked together in Korea, and learning.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Latest Books in Korean book store

Secret Seoul

Jeong Gi-bum and Yun Yeong-ju; Singongsa: 452 pp., 15,000 won

This is a part of the “Secret” series by Sigongsa which aims to publish easy-to-read and aesthetically unique books for world metropolises.

The guide book covers 11 neighborhoods in the capital including Itaewon, Samcheongdong, Buamdong and introduces some thirty hidden gems to visit. It is divided into three parts.

The first section, “Before Travelling to Seoul,” includes 14 chapters on how to prepare for your visit. It doesn’t just provide usual information like hotel reviews, but also organizes the sale schedule of major malls and shopping venues in Seoul throughout the year.

The second section takes the reader around Seoul and the last part includes 16 detailed maps of the neighborhoods featured in the book.

― Noh Hyun-gi

Annals of Royals Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty

Lee Gyu-won; Gloseum: 575 pp., 27,000 won

This book unravels the history of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) by exploring 49 royal mausoleums across the country. They are listed as UNESCO World Heritages.

Lee Gyu-won, a former journalist who studied geomancy says the royal tombs are a microcosm of life and history. The book covers 40 tombs as well as seven historically important royal family member's burial mounds with rich explanations on their history and feng shui.

The sites reflect the life of the kings and circumstances around them. King Taejo, the founder of Joseon, was buried at one of three propitious locations, while King Jungjong's grave was moved by his queen to a worse spot.

― Kwon Mee-yoo

The Legacy Letters

The Tuesday Children; Edited by Brian Curtis; Translated from English to Korean by Suh Yoon-jung; Nexusbook; pp 320; 13,800 won

The book is comprised of letters by family members of 100 people who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

The overall sentiment in the letters centers around love, reflecting how the families have tried hard to overcome tragedy 10 years on.
While a number of the writers are from parts of New York, the authors’ backgrounds vary in terms of age, birthplace, and nationality.

All of them, however, share one thing: They are striving to live a better life with more purpose.

The positive sentiments from grief and sadness hints at a way to shape one’s perspective under any circumstances.

― Yi Whan-woo

Things You Can Finally See When You Stop

Ven. Haemin; Sam & Parkers: 292 pp., 14,000 won

As a Buddhist monk, it's hard to become famous. But the Harvard-educated Ven. Haemin is an exception. His Twitter site has an enthusiastic following particularly among young people, regardless of their religious background. He has some 40,000 followers.

His book is mostly about how people can better handle conflicts that they face in daily life at work and at home. Though written by a monk, there is very little related to Buddhism. It reads like a self-help book, with soothing paintings placed in between the essays.

The 38-year-old’s unique background has caught the attention of the media as well as the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the nation's largest Buddhist sect. He served as a translator to Ven. Jaseung, head of the Jogye Order, during a trip to France last year.

Ven. Haemin pursued his master’s and doctorate degrees at Harvard Divinity School and Princeton University respectively.

He said he started to use Twitter to communicate with people. He is the first Korean monk to teach in the United States as a professor at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., a small liberal arts school.

He is known for fusing his religious studies with meditation practices.

Source: The Korea Times

Various ways to enjoy Seollal with family

“Seollal,” or Lunar New Year’s Day, is one of the biggest holidays in Korea where families gather together and some perform “charye,” an ancestral worship ritual. The representative food for Seollal is rice cake soup called “tteokguk.” According to tradition, you can only become older when you eat this.

Four ancient palaces in Seoul ― Gyeongbok, Changdeok, Changgyeong and Deoksu ― and the Jongmyo royal shrine will be open for free on Lunar New Year’s Day which falls on Monday this year. Those wearing traditional Korean costume “hanbok” will also be admitted free on Sunday and Tuesday.

Visitors to the palaces and shrine can receive "Dragon and Cloud" paintings on a first-come first-serve basis from Monday at 2 p.m. Several buildings in the palaces will be open to the public.

The National Folk Museum, located in Gyeongbok Palace, is full of events to boost the traditional holiday mood. Families can have their New Year's fortune told and participate in folk games such as "yutnori," a board game using sticks, and "jegichagi," a Korean shuttle game. On Tuesday, 500 lucky people born in the year of the dragon will receive "bokjori," a strainer representing happiness. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and China, there will be an array of Chinese New Year traditional events such as a fortune-telling draw.

The National Museum of Korea offers a feast of "gukak," or traditional Korean music, to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday. The Tori Ensemble will play the “geomungo,” “daegeum” and other percussion instruments, while Chung Jae-kook will present a piri, or traditional small flute solo, titled "Heoncheonsu." Won Il, artistic director of the music group Baramgot, will perform modernized gukak. Maestro “gayageum” player Hwang Byung-ki will give explanations during the concert.

Chongdong Theater will give "hangwa" (traditional Korean cookies) to people watching "Miso," a musical featuring traditional dance and music based on the folktale “Chunhyang.”

At Seoul Namsan Gugakdang in Namsan Hanok Village, foreign residents and tourists can experience traditional seasonal customs including making rice cake soup.

The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon and its annex in Deoksu Palace will also open for free from Saturday to Tuesday. Currently, special exhibitions "Tell me Tell me: Australian and Korean Art 1976-2011" and "Beautiful Encounter: The Gifts of Collection" are being held at Gwacheon, while "Limb Eung-sik: Art of Recording, Records of Art" is showcased at Deoksu. Visitors to the museum can also see “Art Folly 2012 ― Cubrik,” a public art project in front of Seoul Zoo.


As always, many channels will air special programs for the holidays. Here are some worth checking out.

Arirang TV will present a two-part special titled “From Unique to Universal; Hansik,” on the growing recognition of Korean traditional food. The first episode will feature how traditional Korean dishes have been transformed. Angelo Sosa, an American chef who starred in the reality show, “Top Chef,” will reveal his recipe for a “bibimbap” burger. The second episode will introduce successful restaurants such as Cham Cham Korean BBQ in New York and Shin Jung in Paris. The first episode will air twice on Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and the second episode will air the next day at 1 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

On a more serious note, EBS will present a two-part documentary “Children Around the World.” Originally aired in March 2011 in three episodes, it will remind people of children who are denied things we take for granted including safety, education and food. The first episode, which will air Jan. 23 at 1 p.m., will focus on children such as a 14-year-old Bassim struggling amid the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Bassim lost his brother to an Israeli soldier.

On Jan. 24, the show will travel to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya where 75,000 refugees from 13 surrounding African nations are huddled, scarred from conflicts in their homes. There, the show will deliver 11-year-old Mandela’s story.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Feng shui tips for new year

The Lunar New Year is just around the corner. At this time of the year, I usually get together with various groups of people and share fortune tips for a successful year. They expect to hear secrets for good luck in general, on top of reading their saju for a New Year, which is called “tojeongbigyeol (secret readings for the New Year)” in Korean.

Most of us plan something to close the past year and welcome the new year. We want to know what will bring good luck and dissolve bad luck. The good luck may vary by one’s own situation and wishes. Some may wish a healthy life, while others a wealthy one. Some may wish to pass an important examination and others a successful career. Therefore the prescriptions should be customized for individual’s wishes. However there are some feng shui tips that may apply to everybody universally. They may sound just a matter of course, nevertheless they are not practiced well for various reasons.

Your living and working spaces are the most important places where you get either positive or negative energy. They have a tendency to get cluttered easily as your mere act of living and working naturally create instant mess. Imagine that you are invited to someone else’s house. You can easily notice dirt or mess, while you cannot see it at your own home. Compare it with a hotel room. Consider how they are cleaned neatly for guests.

It is not easy to keep your rooms as clean and well-organized as hotel rooms. But I encourage you to keep your space as uncluttered as possible. You need to refresh your eyes as if you visit another’s’ house. Objectify your environment and examine the space and furniture whether little or large.

It is not only for sanitary reasons, but for your psychological and qi energy aspects. It is recommended to clear clutter every week. The year-end or New Year’s season is the best time to re-new your space. Don’t let unnecessary objects pile up. Feng shui, literally meaning wind and water, teaches how to circulate qi energy properly around you. Yin feng shui evaluates that of graves and yang feng shui your living place. But it doesn’t necessarily indicate only the location or interior of your house, business buildings or graves. Rearranging furniture or just clearing clutter can create more qi pathways. Anything, including dirt accumulated in the space may easily corrupt positive energy. A harmful energy can be created by old newspapers or magazines in the living room, or pairs of shoes in the door way. It can also be old utensils in your kitchen. Those littered in your house stealthily accumulate negative energy and emit a malicious influence on your daily life.

When you rearrange your furniture you must be aware of the qi flow inside the home. Move your eyes from piece to piece, from one room to another. It has a meandering character and flows as if people walk around at home. It moves slowly and makes fluent curves around the furniture from door to door. Blocking its pathways by any unnecessary objects is like blocking your luck in the life path. Also be aware of the edges of the furniture or corners. They can be barriers for qi flow. You may utilize a lamp or flower pots to round up the corners. If you have a chance to buy new furniture, rounded pieces are recommended.

Another important tip to improve energy is to organize your front door. The front door, bedroom and kitchen are the three most critical spaces to produce major fortune. Among them, the front door is a passage through which external qi is coming in and internal qi is going out. Shoes scattered in front of the door block the flow. They are obstacles for good fortune entering the home. Do not put any mirrors around the entrance as it reflects the energy and sends it away from the door.

Before the Lunar New Year, it is lucky to bring in a new object. It can be a set of furniture or a symbolic object like a vase, a cushion or a small ornament. If you know your saju and day master, you may purchase something lucky according to your fortune signs in one of the five element colors. It can be a wooden or glass object or something with water. The lucky element for your saju will enhance the better energy of your life. Most importantly, bringing in a new piece must be accompanied by the removal of an old one. Think about old stained cushions, or a scratched table and chairs. Chipped dishes cause bad luck, like broken energy. No matter how expensive they are, just throw them away. It is one of the most effective ways to discard bad luck.

In welcoming New Year’s energy, let the new day’s sunshine into your house as much as possible. Brightness generates yang energy. If your house has little sunlight, even electronic lights are useful if not with natural light. Investigate if there are any secluded areas. Light them as much as possible. It doesn’t have to be all day long. Utilize the best time of a day when you can get natural light depends on the direction of your house.

Leaving aside the feng shui luck, being aware of the qi environment around you is a valuable ritual to improve your fortune. Become aware where you are and renew the environment. This is the best way to wish for New Year’s fortune.

Information: Are you interested in learning more about the ancient Chinese teaching about the “Four Pillars of Destiny?” For further information, visit Janet’s website at www.fourpillarskorea.com, contact her at 010-5414-7461 or email janetshin@hotmail.com.

The writer is the president of the Heavenly Garden, a saju research center in Korea, and the author of “Learning Four Pillars.”

Aroma of New year : 'Delivery for Seollal'

It is early morning when the darkness of winter morning still prevails. Although, one building is lit as bright as day to cheer everyone and delight peoples heart. It is the Dongseoul Mail Center where mail and parcels are classified before being distributed across the country. Scores of delivery trucks unload massive supplies of parcels to the center, creating a rampart of boxes.

People give gifts to their relatives and friends for “Seollal,” or Lunar New Year’s Day, and the season is one of the busiest times for the courier business in South Korea.

Local post offices are devoting all their energy to deliver the parcels safely and on time. Korea Post expects some 11.6 million letters and parcels will make their way to their destinations, an increase of about 350,000 from the previous year. An additional 3,000 employees have been assigned to handle them.

The Dongseoul Mail Center is the largest mail center in South Korea and more than 200 trucks come in and out of the facility during peak seasons.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New girls band C-REAL takes over world of girl groups

Stepping into the K-pop scene dominated by big names like Girls’ Generation and 2NE1 would be a tough decision for anyone. But five members of bubbly girl group C-REAL, Chemi, Re Dee, Effie, Ann J and Lenny, make it sound so matter-of-fact.

“I always knew I would become a singer, I actually don’t know what I would be doing if I hadn’t,” Chemi, the leader of the group who has just turned 20, told The Korea Times in Gangnam, southern Seoul, Thursday. Even the youngest member, Lenny, 15, who just graduated from junior high school describes her decision as inevitable. “I always loved to sing, I always wanted to be a singer performing on a stage.”

C-REAL made its debut in October 2011 with “Round 1,” an album with six tracks produced by the industry’s hit makers like Sinsa Dong Tiger and Brave Brothers. Sinsa Dong Tiger is the in-demand producer behind girl groups T-ARA and Four Minute, and the boy-band BEAST. For C-REAL’s album, Sinsa Dong Tiger wrote “Please Don’t Do This,” a track that harmonizes electronic beats with emotional lyrics, and the Brave Brothers produced title track, “No No No No,” an addictive song that emphasizes the freshness of the teen group.

The girls laughed as they recalled their first appearance at Mnet’s “M Countdown.” Re Dee, the group’s rapper said, “We couldn’t register anything that was happening ― we were too nervous.” “But now we are at a point where we can see people’s faces,” added 17-year-old Effie.

Once their dream of singing in front of an audience came true, their journey proved a difficult one. They rehearse over 12 hours a day, not only for dance and vocal training but also acting lessons to enhance their performances. Their popularity is still questionable as they are able to walk along the street without being recognized.

The dream also came at a price. Chemi will not be enrolling in any universities this year. “I am reconsidering whether it is necessary to go to college.” Ann J, 16, dropped out of high school to focus on singing. “I know it caused some people to talk. It is the first thing that comes up if you search my name online but I don’t regret my decision.” The members who are in high school plan on continuing their studies for now but that could change.

The girls also live together, like many Korean idol groups. These trade-offs are critical. The girls said they miss out on crucial parts of the socialization process that their peers experience. “When we are in the car, we get so envious when we see school girls in their uniforms,” Chemi confessed.

The group sees room for improvement in their performances. They arrived on the scene after only a year of training which is relatively short compared to other K-pop groups who often stay as trainees for more than two years. “When we see artists like Girls Generation on stage, we are just in awe. They are so confident and they look like they are enjoying it,” said Chemi.

The girls’ parents were fully supportive of their pursuit, which reflects the change in how society sees a career as an entertainer. Chemi said her parents always wanted her to become a singer.

When asked what their goals are ― other than becoming one of the most famous girl groups in Korea ― they poured out their hearts. “I want us to be invited to perform at the end-of-the-year award ceremonies,” said Chemi. Ann J added, “I want to shoot advertisements.”

They are currently wrapping up their first album and will start recording a second one soon. For now, they are focusing on appealing to fans through the cuteness of their songs but eventually all members want to sing R&B tracks.

Source: The Korea Times

Musical Heaven named for diversity and credibility

Musical Heaven is a production company in Korea that has staged musicals such as “Menopause,” “Thrill Me,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and “Spring Awakening.” Currently, its production’s of “Thrill Me” and Broadway-hit “Next to Normal”are ongoing.

These feature such non-mainstream themes as menopause of middle-aged women, grotesque murder and power games between a homosexual couple, unlike other hit romantic musicals that boast majestic stage settings. However, Musical Heaven has amassed trusting fans who have confidence in the choice and quality of the company.

Its president and producer, Park Yong-ho, is the person who makes decisions, receives investment and selects creative staff to work on the shows.

Park, 44, majored in vocal music at Seoul National University. Instead of becoming an onstage singer, he chose another path.
“It is not that I lost interest in music but I found myself more suited to art management and business,” Park said in an interview with The Korea Times.

Like many leading producers in Korea, he once worked for the now-disbanded Samsung Entertainment Group in the late 1990s.
His first work there was staging a Korean production of “42nd Street.”

“I was one of the few people who had a background in music and a different approach to performance art,” he said. “’42nd Street’ was a 2.5 billion won project in 1996, a high-risk venture. Starting with such a big project broadened my vision.”

After Samsung Entertainment Group’s dissolution in 1999, Park worked at several companies including Unitel, SJ Entertainment and Seensee Company. His goal became clear as he worked for those companies and led him to establish Musical Heaven in 2004.
“I wanted to produce good works based on my standard,” he said. So the name Musical Heaven bears Park’s wish to reach a utopia for musicals.

It is sometimes called a production company of murder and gay romance, as its major works are related to such themes. Park denies such doubts in his taste.

“I think it all comes down to basics. If it is a thriller, it should be worthy of being a thriller.”

Still, he clarified that he is the decision maker. “I try to watch the show before making a choice. I have to know it thoroughly to assign local creative staff members and the best way to do so is experiencing the show with five senses,” the producer said. “However, keen competition among Korean musical producers dulled my senses a bit. For instance, I was talking with ‘Spring Awakening’ producers even before it headed to Broadway, but all bets were off when it won the Tony Awards and other Korean producers tried to bid for the license.”

Park is confident and proud of his productions. “The quality of the production does not always come with box office success but expressing the theme of the musical precisely is the key,” he said. “It is like using fresh ingredients without much seasoning in cooking.”

He also emphasized that being firm in one’s belief is important. “Despite how people evaluate me, I have my color and convictions, which have not changed since 1996 when I jumped into this business,” he said. “My taste lies on the boundary between artistic value and box office hit, but the difference between being commercial and nonprofit is paper-thin, as most musicals are not considered artistic when they become financially successful.”
Creative staff

The producer seems to have a knack for finding the right creative staff regardless of where they are from. He brought British director Adrian Osmond to “Sweeney Todd” and Javier Gutierrez to “See What I Wanna See” in Korea and both received critical acclaim for the unique style. The company is working with Osmond again for its original work “Bungee Jumping of Their Own,” which is being developed now.

“I have good personal connections overseas and receive recommendations from them based on the credibility I have built,” he said. “It is a series of making decisions and sometimes I make the wrong ones. But making a musical is a collaborative process and we make advances together in the end.”

Park said a producer should share the concept of the musical with his staff. “After discussing the concept of the performance, I entrust the rest to them,” he said. “If I trust them, I just leave it to them. I can ask for modification, but it should be based on consent.”
Park pointed out that Korea lacks an educational base for actors. “Theater is live entertainment and untrained actors cannot fool the audiences. Without a proper education system, the musical industry becomes a house of cards.”

He said when he holds auditions, more than 1,000 people apply and most of them are students with some 500 of them being eliminated during document screening.

“Universities are not flexible enough to educate actors and they have to be trained again to become professionals. I think theater departments in schools should create connections with other departments studying classical music and dance.”

In 2012, Musical Heaven will stage “Lovers in Paris,” based on the hit 2004 television drama by the same name. It is also working on a revamped version of “Sneak Up on Me,” the first-ever homegrown musical, which premiered in 1966, scheduled for next year.

Park looks at the bigger picture of the Korean musical scene, instead of just focusing on the lineup of Musical Heaven. When asked about the company, his answer began with Musical Heaven but ended up discussing the industry. Such a macro perspective must be another reason for making the company a pioneer on the Korean musical scene.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Pilgrims re-enact Korean Buddhist journey

Reference: The Korea Times
By Simon Phillips

On a cold late December afternoon after fifteen days on the road a group of pilgrims arrived at a small cave high on Wonhyo-bong peak southwest of Seoul. They had achieved the first known re-enactment in more than 1,300 years of a journey the famous Korean Buddhist saint Wonhyo made from Gyeongju to the area of the cave, which now bears his name.

The idea was conceived by Tony MacGregor in 2007 when he was working in Korea as a journalist and he was accompanied by Chris McCarthy, an American Ph.D. student and the chief navigator of the group.

The cave is an unpretentious place, a dark hole gouged into a huge rock, a good place to shelter from rain but not a comfortable place to spend a night. It was once venerated as the home of a mountain spirit before Wonhyo meditated in it, after which it became a Buddhist shrine honoring him. The cave provided a symbolic end to the journey, he said, and was not the actual spot where Wonhyo attained enlightenment, a place about which there is no consensus.

MacGregor said the pilgrimage was a joint effort between him and his friends and was inspired by the kindness and goodwill from Koreans that he and his friends had experienced during their stays here. "We wanted to say thank you to Korea and Koreans in a special way, and what better way than through a pilgrimage to honor Korea's most beloved and respected Buddhist saint Wonhyo."

Wonhyo (617-686) was born into a simple family in the Shilla Kingdom, and after his enlightenment became a great scholar for many years with more than 80 commentaries and essays to his credit. He then renounced the formal religious life to teach and inspire ordinary people. He was known to carry a gourd, dancing and singing around the country, encouraging people to chant and recite the Buddha's name. He called himself “muae-gursah” (unhindered practitioner). He even spent a night with a Shilla princess who then had a son that later became a leading Confucian scholar.

His philosophy centered on oneness or “ekayana,” the interrelatedness of everything in the universe. Legend has it that this view arose from an event that took place while he was attempting to travel to China. That event was the focus of the pilgrimage.

MacGregor, a Buddhist for about 20 years, said he began learning about Korean Buddhism shortly after he arrived here in March 2005 at the International Zen (Seon) Center located at Hwagye Temple in Seoul. He began reading about the lives of Korean Buddhist teachers and came across Wonhyo, whose tangled, unconventional life and brilliant teaching fascinated him. He discussed the idea of a pilgrimage with his friends and they grabbed hold of the idea and finally pushed it to completion.

McCarthy, who revived the Wonhyo project after it had fallen into a hiatus for several years, said that when they started the pilgrimage in Gyeongju they emphasized the importance of the inner journey. "We tried to use the physical journey as a tool to facilitate the inner journey, a journey towards self understanding," he said.

He added that the inner journey had been heightened by the daily hikes, sometimes lasting six or seven hours and by our daily discussions about Wonhyo's teachings and life.

David Watermeyer, a South African who teaches English at Dongguk University, one of the original planners of the project and a veteran of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, said walking is a wonderful way of creating an open, meditative state of mind.

"Once you get into the swing of the hike you can simply focus on the present moment, putting one foot before the other in the midst of the ever-changing and often beautiful scenery," he said. "It's a wonderful way of coming back to yourself. It puts you in touch with ancient and fundamental knowledge and feelings."

He said there were many parallels between the Camino de Santiago and the Wonhyo Trail, especially in variety of scenery. "But the most obvious difference was that we were blazing the trail. We were the first to walk the Wonhyo Trail so every day was a step into the unknown while the Camino de Santiago has been walked for hundreds of years and it has a well developed infrastructure."

He added that they didn't completely walk the Wonhyo Trail because a lot of work still needs to go into developing a workable route. At times the pilgrims took public transportation and were given a lift from a friend. "That's something that needs to be looked at closely," he said. "We have an opportunity now to refine and improve the trail we explored."

Other pilgrims included David Mason, a professor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, who outlined the route linking a series of temples across the peninsula from Gyeongju to the final destination; Sangmin Seunim, a Korean monk who provided invaluable service as an interpreter and the link between the pilgrims and the temples; Rhea Metituk, a Canadian English teacher who joined the pilgrimage whenever she could, bringing her good humor, organizational skills and a curious outlook; Pannyabhoga, a monk from Myanmar, who used to lead a meditation group in Seoul; and Park Wang-su, an organic farmer and the guide for the last part of the pilgrimage.

On the last day of the pilgrimage in front of Wonhyo's cave, MacGregor gave a brief talk thanking the pilgrims for their efforts and handed out necklaces from which a small skull hung, the symbol of Wonhyo's enlightenment.

Later he talked about the permanent legacy of a pilgrimage. "It should affect you permanently and this pilgrimage has for me. Whenever I recall the many acts of kindness we experienced on the journey I cannot help but feel a deep sense of gratitude. I also keep in mind Wonhyo's teachings about the importance of the small things in life and try to find satisfaction in the little things that gave me so much pleasure during the pilgrimage such as the sound of ice cracking under my boots, the taste of mulberry juice and the warm smile of a cleaning lady."

The group hopes to hold another Wonhyo pilgrimage in 2012 and write a book about the first Wonhyo trip over the next few months. More information about the pilgrimage can be found at www.inthefootstepsofwonhyo.

Simon Phillips is a contributing writer for The Korea Times.

Cho, Lee win The Korea Image awards for promoting Korea

Cho Yang-ho, chairman of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games Bid Committee and Jasmine Lee, a Filipina migrant, won awards Tuesday for contributing to enhancing the image of Korea abroad at a ceremony hosted by the Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI).

Among the winners of the Korea Image Awards was “Pororo the Little Penguin,” a popular animation character.

The award ceremony took place at the Grand InterContinental Seoul and was attended by Culture Minister Choe Kwang-sik, former Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, and Chairwoman of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding (PNBC) Lee Bae-yong.

Cho, also chairman of Hanjin Group, won the Korea Image Stepping Stone Award, which is the equivalent to the grand prize.

“The Stepping Stone Award is given to those who acted as a stepping stone in promoting Korea and making its national image more warm and friendly,” said Choi Jung-wha, president of CICI.

Cho played a significant role in promoting Pyeongchang and making it host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Lee, who is also secretary general of Waterdrop, a charity formed by foreign spouses of Koreans, received the Korea Image Millstone Award, which is given to people who successfully blended into the Korean society and helped it become a better place.

“The Millstone Award is to recognize people who adapted well to our society and contributed to making our country a warmer place. Just as grains mix well after being grinded in the mill, this award is given to those who acted much like the millstone,” Choi said.

Lee has tried to bridge cultural gaps between foreigners and Koreans through appearing on television, helping foreigners at the support center at City Hall, and doing various volunteer and charity work.

Pororo won the Korea Image Sprout Award.

“Usually the award goes to individuals under the age of 20,” Choi said. “This time, an animation character was voted unanimously by both foreigners and Koreans. Sports stars like Park Tae-hwan have received the award previously.”

At the ceremony, the survey on the image of Korea was also announced.

According to the survey, held between Dec. 2011 and Jan. 2012, the first thing that popped into people’s mind when hearing about Korea was “divided country” followed by “Samsung” and “kimchi.”