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People & Culture

january 2012


keeping the traditions and culture of korea alive

merry muju

ski on white slopes, hike on snowy mountains

new year customs

celebrating korea with old and new traditions

ISSN: 2005-2162

january 2012 VOL.9 NO.01
cover story
Koreas traditional culture lives on today.

pen & brush
Poet Kim Hye-soon shows the power of words.

Soprano Sumi Jo reveals her humanitarian side.

great korean
Monk Wonhyo helped spread Buddhism.


Warm up with hot food at Kwangjang Market.


travel: Muju
Enjoy winter from the mountain peaks of Muju.



travel: baeksasil
Find peace in Seouls hidden Baeksasil Valley.


Have a day ice fishing in Hwacheon.


now in korea
Partake in New Year customs, Korean style.

publisher Seo Kang-soo, Korean Culture and Information Service editing HEM KOREA Co., Ltd e-mail printing Samsung Moonhwa Printing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from KOrea and the Korean Culture and Information Service. The articles published in KOrea do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher. The publisher is not liable for errors or omissions. If you want to receive a free copy of KOrea or wish to cancel a subscription, please e-mail us. A downloadable PDF file of KOrea, and a map and glossary with common Korean words appearing in our text are available by clicking on the thumbnail of KOrea on the homepage of 11-1110073-000016-06

Take a peek at Korean society through comedy.


Olympics Countdown: Archers shoot straight.

special issue
Korea-US FTA to get under way in February.

suMMit diploMacy
Lee Myung-bak promotes Koreas globalism.

global korea
A roundup on the aid forum in Busan.

My korea
A father learns about postnatal care in Korea.


cover story

The Survival of KoreaS CulTural heriTage

In this modern age of quickly-changing trends and pop culture, Koreas intangible cultural properties are standing the test of time, gaining recognition in the international community one step at a time. by Eunice Shin

Yonhap News Agency

two taekkyeon masters parlay in an open field (opposite left). a master of Jultagi tightrope walking uses a fan to adjust his balance (opposite right). a group of women perform the traditional Ganggangsullae circle dance (below). a falconry master poses with his majestic subject (bottom). a group of women weave traditional mosi ramie together in hansan, Chungcheongnam-do Province (right).

It is easy these days to know whats happening on the other side of the world, at any time of day or night, with the fast growing culture of the Internet and cutting-edge electronic devices that bring the web straight into peoples palms. This instant exchange of information leads to lightning-fast cultural trends, but also endangers more traditional customs unable to keep up with the wired community. The general public is often only exposed to whats discussed online, which then results in a skewed distribution of cultural information. And when it comes to intangible heritage, it becomes even harder to preserve. That is why it is essential to actively promote and spread Korean traditional culture overseas, along with the trendy K-pop movement. UNESCO, in particular, has been recognizing crafts from Korean history since 2001 by listing them as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity items. Three more traditional skills were inscribed onto the list in November 2011.

Preserving the Past Taekkyeon (a

Korean traditional martial art), Jultagi (tightrope walking) and the weaving of mosi (ramie fabric) that originated in the Hansan region of Chungcheongnamdo Province, were dubbed intangible cultural treasures by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Bali, Indonesia. The committee this year added 11 entries to the organizations intangible heritage list. This recent recognition means that the current generation is not only trying to preserve the local traditions, but also trying to hand them down to future generations, said the Cultural Heritage Administration, a government organization that seeks to preserve Korean culture, after the announcement was made by UNESCO. UNESCO first gave shape to its plan to protect intangible heritage in 2001, and Korean crafts were some of the first included on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. So far, over 200 traditions from more than 80

nations have been placed on the list. With the latest additions, Korea now has a total of 14 recognized by UNESCO. The 11 that have been designated previously are: Jongmyo jerye (a royal ritual and its music); pansori (Korean traditional opera); Gangneung Danoje Festival; Cheoyongmu (mask dance); Ganggangsullae (a 5,000-yearold circle dance); Namsadangnori (performances by Korean itinerant troupes); Yeongsanjae (Buddhist ritual); Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut (a shamanistic ritual); gagok (vocal music genre); Daemokjang (a master of traditional wooden architecture); and falconry. Jongmyo, which was also designated a UNESCO World Heritage in 1995, is a Confucian shrine dedicated to the memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty (13921910). Jongmyo jerye is the royal ancestral rites at Jongmyo, and Jongmyo jeryeak is the ritual music and dance performed for the rite. Though the ritual was originally

performed five times a year, since 1971, the ritual has only been performed on the first Sunday every May, at the Jongmyo shrine in central Seoul. Its not just public organizations dedicated to cultural preservation that see the value of Koreas royal rites. Radio France, through its world music label Ocora, produced a Jongmyo jeryeak album in October, complete with explanations in French, English

and Korean. It contains recordings of a performance by musicians from the National Gugak Center in 2003. The album is the first audio recording of the entire ritual and is accompanied with photos of the performance and a detailed description of the rite. Radio France, which has introduced Asian traditional music since 1980, aims to release one to two albums of Korean traditional music every year for the next decade as part of its Korean music project. For its first album, it chose Jongmyo jeryeak and enlisted the aid of music producer Kim Sun-kuk of Just Music Entertainment. It sounds like noble, refined music, hieratic at times yet always full of dignity. I am pleased to start our cooperation with such a musical standard, the producer of Radio France said. If traditional music like Jongmyo jeryeak is too inaccessible to ears more accustomed to K-pop, gagok might be just the bridging element needed to help music-lovers ease into older Korean traditional genres.

Gagok, which made UNESCOs Intangible Heritage of Humanity list in 2010, is music that was originally composed to accompany Sijo (a traditional poetic form), which was mostly produced by the aristocracy in the Joseon Dynasty. Gagok melodies are typically combinations of wind and string instruments, such as the piri (Korean pipe) and gayageum or geomungo (stringed zither instruments). The book Korean Art Song, recently published in October, compiled several gagok numbers with Korean lyrics, their English translations and musical scores. The lyrics to the songs were written by renowned artists, including poet Kim Sowol, and the melodies were composed by notable musicians such as Yun I-sang and many more. The Korean Art Song Research Institute is planning to publish more books featuring other musical genres, according to director Choi Young-sik. The book was written to have more people learn about the beauty of Korean music and actually make it possible for

04 | korea | january 2012

Cultural Heritage Administration; Jung Kyung-hwa (above left); Choi Ji-young (opposite bottom left) | 05

them to sing along or hum, Choi said. If music is something that can travel to foreign continents and reach out to people overseas, there are also some intangible heritage items that can only be understood and experienced when seen in person. Daemokjang, which can be translated as head carpenter, was designated a UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity item in 2010. A Daemokjang, who directs and manages the construction of structures made of wood, heavily influences the completed presentation of the overall structure.
Building a Future Daemokjang Shin

Cultural Heritage Administration; Yonhap News Agency (opposite right)

Eung-soo has worked with many major Korean traditional wooden structures, including the ones that are major tourist attractions. He has worked on

buildings at Gyeongbokgung Palace for the past 20 years and the restoration of Gwanghwamun, the main gate to the palace that was completed in August 2010. He is currently working on restoring Namdaemun Gate, which was destroyed by an arsonist in 2008. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Shin has had his hands on the some of the most important traditional buildings in Korea, which need regular maintenance and repair work to stay in such pristine condition. There is new technology that has been developed to make the reconstruction process easier, but I believe that traditional homes need to be repaired following the old ways, Shin said. I would rather use a hand ax than an electric saw when cutting wood, and

I would rather use traditional cranes to move large woodblocks into place. It is his responsibility to decide how to maintain the Korean tradition in those wooden structures. He carefully inspects the overall harmony of each building and meticulously matches each decorative flourish to its original. The intricate wood patterns may all seem the same to laypeople, but the details and colors are different from gate to gate and palace to palace, Shin said. Since the techniques that he mastered can only be acquired by experience, Shin is also working on training carpenters who can later become Daemokjang. The restoration process of each structure he works on is being recorded for future reference, but how he came to make each decision is impossible to document.

history oF Cultural ProPerties

A total of 14 Korean crafts have been recognized by UNESCO and placed on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. From performances to handmade crafts, the traditions of each recognized heritage have a deep and invaluable place in Korean history.

Jongmyo jerye (royal ancestral rite) and jeryeak (ritual music)

Pansori (opera or epic chant)

gangneung danoje Festival

Ganggangsullae, Namsadangnori, Yeongsanjae (Buddhist ritual), Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut, Cheoyongmu (mask dance)

Gagok (traditional song accompanied by an orchestra), Daemokjang (master carpenter), falconry

Jultagi, the weaving of mosi, taekkyeon

It is human skill and inherent technique that make his work so valuable. This is the most crucial reason why local governments and organizations like UNESCO strive to find ways to recognize the existence of such heritage and preserve it. In modern times, customs and cultures are being lost. Though people still dance, they no longer wear traditional masks and perform as they once did. Even on Dano, a Korean traditional holiday that has spawned many festivals including the UNESCOrecognized Gangneung Danoje Festival participating in traditional activities has become more of a novelty than a cherished custom. The Gangneung festival in particular is well known for its folk play performances and cultural arts. From riding old-style swings to washing ones hair with a changpo (sweet flag) mix, most of the events are now onetime experiences. With valuable cultural heritage

a mask dance at the gangneung danoje Festival (opposite left). a man sings in a pansori opera (opposite right). a performance of Jongmyo jeryeak ritual music is played (top). a traditional ritual at the danoje festival (above).

diminishing in everyday life, designated human intangible properties remind us that it is important to look for ways to keep traditions going. Even though peoples lifestyles will continue to change

as new trends evolve into new traditions, there can be a lesson learned on how to preserve ones history. We cannot force people to take a serious role in keeping traditions alive, said Jung Kyung-hwa, an official practitioner of taekkyeon. But the government and other organizations specialized in preserving the tradition can try to support people who are already skillful in certain endangered cultural heritages, so that we can be the central force for handing down the tradition to the next generation. The Cultural Heritage Administration, a major proponent in the field of preservation, has acknowledged the need for greater efforts in protecting Koreas history. It has increased its budget for preservation to 545 billion won (US$465 million) in 2012, and one of its top priorities is to continue preserving and managing the cultural heritages that are recognized by international organizations.

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cover story

The paTh To preServaTion

Wanting to keep Korean traditions alive is admirable, but how does one go about achieving such ambitious goals?
It isnt always easy to understand how valuable historical customs are when they dont have a tangible format. It is even harder for foreigners who are not familiar with Korean culture, who must picture a tradition they have neither seen nor heard about in present day life. At the center of this dilemma is the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (NRICH), helmed by Director Kim Young-won, which promotes the understanding of these ancient arts. The institute, a former branch of the Cultural Heritage Administration, studies Korean culture in order to pinpoint its greatest points of appeal and help market it to the rest of the world. In addition to its own researchers, the institute invites outside experts to help stimulate study. Currently, they are receiving applications for the 2012 Asia Cooperation Program on Conservation Science, a funded program looking for candidates to research intangible heritage and architectural studies. Since the area of Korean heritage

is so extensive, we need researchers from various fields to work together, Kim says. The institute is most recently looking into how to promote the three recently UNESCO-designated items of intangible heritage: taekkyeon martial art, Jultagi tightrope walking and weaving mosi ramie fabric. Q. So far 14 items have been added to the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. What does the research institute do to help promote each item to the global community? A. We have been producing introductory videos of each of the Korean heritage items that has made the UNESCO list. So far, nine of the 14 videos have been made in three languages, including Korean, English and French. Two of the most recent designations, taekkyeon and Jultagi, will be made this year. A video about

weaving mosi will be produced in 2013. We distribute these videos to Korean culture centers overseas and other international research centers specialized in studying Korean culture. Q. It is easier to explain what an intangible property is when it can be connected to a tangible artifact. For example, when explaining talchum mask dance, it is helpful to first explain that tal means mask. I understand the institution recently published a book called Tal and Talchum. A. Yes, we have been publishing a book series on Korean intangible cultural heritage in English. The most recent one was published in November. The book features photographs of masks and dancers, which were discovered in the course of our studies (the book is the culmination of research done by NRICH, which originally published its findings in a 12-volume series). We published the first book Onggi (earthenware), in January, which looks into the skills and techniques hidden in the creation process of the wares. The next book will be focused on exploring needlework and unique clothing designs by looking at gat (a formal hat male adults wore in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and nubijang, (a type of needlework). Both of the books will be available online on the institutions website for download at Q. The institution does more than just study history. The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage recently signed a MOU with the University of Colorado in the US. Is that part of the effort to invite more international interest to Korea and the work you do? A. Yes. We have so far signed MOUs with various research institutions in

researchers from the national research institute of Cultural heritage document an intangible craft (opposite). Kim youngwon presents artifacts as a museum director (right). researchers dig for artifacts (bottom).

Japan, China, Mongolia and France. The goal is to not only find more details about our historical and cultural traditions, but also to promote what we have to the bigger audience members in the world. Q. How does signing a MOU help the institution with its research? A. It means that we are grant accessed to the cultural properties possessed by these other institutions for our research purposes. This helps connect not only academics and scholars, but also students and other culture enthusiasts to witness rare documents and artifacts.

Q. What is the research process for studying cultural heritage? A. Whether the area of study is either tangible or intangible, it is necessary to do research on-site, where the tradition originated. Cultural property not only includes artifacts made by nature and human beings, but also the techniques used to make the artifacts. That is why the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage extends its research area to fossils and natural environments, along with the study of fine ceramics or performances such as talchum. It is important to always go back to where everything started.

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National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage | 09

cover story
Taekkyeon masters practice in early morning (opposite). a practitioner of Jultagi performs to a large crowd of rapt viewers in seoul (left). Weaver Bang yeon-ok spins mosi (below).

CelebraTing The newly reCognized

UNESCO officially designated three forms of Korean traditional culture as items of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in late 2011. Each addition marked a special significance in Korean history: taekkyeon was the first time a martial art has been recognized by UNESCO; Jultagi tightrope walking was the first time Korean tightrope walking was acknowledged; and weaving mosi ramie was the underdog nominee that ended up making the final list. Taekkyeon is a Korean martial art that involves rhythmic movements that resemble dance. There are roughly 50 official masters certified by the Taekkyeon Korea Association, but novices also practice the movements as a form of daily exercise. Since the movements in taekkyeon are very fluid, it is good for flexibility when the body is stiff, says Jung Kyung-hwa, a government-certified taekkyeon expert. Though taekwondo is a more wellknown Korean traditional martial art, taekkyeons selection as a heritage of humanity will hopefully increase awareness of the art. Jung speculates that the reason taekkyeon was chosen was because of its dance-like, yet surprisingly powerful, movements. When people learn a certain martial art, they expect the skill to look
Topic Images (opposite); Kim Dae-gyun (top); Yonhap News Agency (above)

Though each of the recognized cultural properties are important, the three heritages most recently recognized by UNESCO carry a particular significance in Korean history.

intimidating, so they can feel they are learning something that might help them protect themselves, Jung says. However, taekkyeon, at first glance, doesnt really look like a serious martial art, and I think thats what has kept people away from learning the skill. Prior to UNESCOs designation in November, it was expected that taekkyeon would be in competition for recognition with Chinas kung fu. But China withdrew its bid before the committee meeting in Bali, Indonesia, after failing to submit sufficient information about the heritage. While taekkyeon is a martial art unique to Korean culture, tightrope walking is considered more like entertainment, and questions have been raised over its distinguishing traits. While the most common form of tightrope walking focuses on the acrobatic skill of maintaining balance, the Korean traditional form emphasizes the interaction between the tightrope walker and an earthbound clown. The walker performs a variety of acrobatic feats on the tightrope, while the clown exchanges banter and musicians accompany the act. A performance with all these elements is Namsadangnori, another intangible heritage.

Although both taekkyeon and Jultagi were both highly expected to make it onto UNESCOs list, it was a pleasant surprise to see that the skill of weaving mosi was also recognized. The designation of the skill, which has predominantly survived in Hansan, Chungcheongnam-do Province, was uncertain, as the UNESCO committee doubted there was a concrete process and method to maintain the tradition. However, committee members were convinced after being shown how systematic making quality mosi can be, and seeing the its sustainable benefits.

The skill of weaving mosi in Hansan has been handed down from mothers to daughters. The region has a suitable climate for growing ramie, and village women are involved in the harvesting of the plant, bleaching, yarn spinning and the final weaving. Today, about 500 people in Hansan still actively participate in mosi weaving. Mosi is as finely weaved as the wings of a dragonfly. The more you wear it, the stronger it gets. And to whomever wears it, the material gives a sense of elegance, says Bang Yeon-ok, a mosi weaving master. Mosi is particularly well-suited to summertime, when the makers weave the ramie more loosely, allowing the fabric to breathe and cool the body. As significant as the tradition is, the decreasing number of people learning the skill is making it difficult for the culture to survive. In the past, housewives from villages in the region would come together to weave today, there is no group weaving on the same scale. Since younger generations move to cities, only the older generations are left to weave, Bang says. This is not just a problem weavers face. The question of whom to bequeath these unique skills to is a burden practitioners of intangible cultural heritages have shouldered for years. On top of that, handing down the original skill is crucial as well. Since a craft is adapted in accordance to each masters style, proper documentation is vital for future reference. Once an intangible cultural heritage is distorted, I think it will be impossible to undo it, says Jung. I think we need to have a specialized educational facility where all types of intangible cultural heritage masters can share their ideas and interpretations of each skill together. Ultimately, the goal is to keep the tradition alive.

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pen & brush

The Transcendental Power of Poetry

by Eunice Shin | photographs by Park Jeong-roh

How long should a poem be? Aside from epic poems, many consider poetry to be a considerably shorter form of literary genre. But one Korean poet, a pioneer in the industry for years, breaks that pervasive stereotype with 35-page poems and an approach difficult to contain in simplified words.

Poetry should not be concerned with quantity, as long as it contains a connotative and implicative nature within, says Kim Hye-soon, a poet and professor at the Seoul Institute of the Arts. So it doesnt matter if the poem goes on for 35 pages or even 350 pages. Kims career took off since her debut in 1979, when she became one of the first female writers to be published in the influential quarterly Literature and Intellect. Over the past three decades, she has published 10 collections, helping gain ground for female writers in a Korean literary field dominated by males. Her latest book, Sadness Toothpaste Mirror Cream (unofficial translated title) was published in November nearly simultaneously with the release of a new English-language anthology of her work, All the Garbage of the World, Unite! Kims name has been circulated in international literature with works translated into Spanish, German and English, and her growing exposure both at home and abroad sends her globetrotting frequently. The recipient of the Kim Su-yeong Literary Award (1997) and the Daesan Literary Award (2008), this poet is still gaining recognition years since her debut. She most recently appeared at a poetry festival in Berlin in June 2011 before heading to the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Though today her international success is no longer shocking news to the poet, Kim still recalls a time when it was revolutionary to even write as a woman in Korea. However

difficult it was to be recognized as a female poet, I felt I had no other choice but to create poetry after I learned how to read and write, Kim says. I felt I needed to write poetry.
moving past Language The charm of writing for her

comes from creating something of value beyond what language typically offers. Although poetry is written with everyday words, the final meaning and emotion of each piece represents concepts that exceed human language. Words can explain that you are a girl, your hair is long and your coat is brown, Kim says. The words clarify the external identity of a person, but there can be more there than these words that are being spoken. However, that does not mean that word choice is any less important. She believes that a poem is a work of art, and a sense of dignity is needed for some works to become a true poem. Even one postpositional particle should be used to compose a perfect structure, explains Kim as she asserts that it is important to pursue perfect composition in writing. People who say, Oh I just tried something because I was bored, should not call themselves an artist. Her desire to have control over the total structure of her works manifests itself in each title. Though it seems some of the sensational titles of her works (her debut piece in 1979 was The Corpse That Smokes Cigarettes) were made to garner attention, she says that wasnt her intent. I simply choose titles

Kim Hye-soon

12 | korea | january 2012

that represent the entire content of my poems, Kim says. The title being unique isnt my first concern. The recently published All the Garbage of the World, Unite! includes the 35-page poem titled Manhole Humanity. Kim feels choosing the word manhole to show the relationship of interactions between humans was necessary. Although people wear different perfumes and different makeup, their piping is all the same underneath, Kim says. So it was natural to name the poem that way, because I was in search of the characters of humanity that are hidden underneath these faades. However, she surprisingly takes little interest in the book covers, which potential readers might judge her work by. The cover for the recent English collection was designed by her daughter who is also an artist, but it wasnt her idea to work with her family. She says it was all arranged by her publisher. I just focus on how to make better literary creations, Kim says. The writer was actually introduced to the English-language international community through one her fans. Choi Donmee contacted the poet, explaining that she wanted to share the insights of Kims work with a range of readers. The writer agreed, and Choi got to work on translating the poems, eventually resulting in several collections: When the Plug Gets Unplugged (2005), Mommy Must Be a Fountain of Feathers (2008), All the Garbage of the World, Unite! (2011) and others. Kim fully entrusts the translating to Choi and, though the expressions used might be somewhat different from the original Korean, Kim feels confident in her work. I consider translated literature as a different genre, Kim says. Its a different work of art from the original and thats why I just let her do her own thing with the work. She knows better than I what English word choice will appeal to readers most to deliver the message hidden in the poem.
RuLes of WRiting Kim feels that one of the basics of writing poetry is to discard the desire to write well. This will enable a writer to think about how to play with words more freely, experimenting so that the combination of each can allude to something else in the bigger picture. Therefore, more layers, undertones and subtle meanings can be embraced by the words. Poems do not present exposition. Once a poem starts explaining things, its not a poem anymore, since it is no longer implicative, Kim says with conviction. Being expository is the basic human urge, and I help students get rid of it in their works. However, this minimal use of explanation has helped the general public to perceive her works as difficult to understand. Kim is aware of the fact that people

sometimes read her works and fail to grasp the subtexts. Your work is difficult is probably the phrase Ive heard most about my work in the past 30 years, laughs Kim. But she says it is the readers job to take as much as they can. Ive put my work out there for people to interpret as they wish the degree to which each person absorbs the meaning of the poems will be different for everyone. These difficult works have made her one of the more popular professors at the Seoul Institute of the Arts. Although the general public may have labeled her an abstruse writer, her students respect her writing style. Students look to me to learn what I have learned over the years as a writer, so they tend to respect my comments on their work regardless of how harsh I am, Kim says. But since it is a creative genre, I can only tell students what not to do, and not what to do. Kim studied Korean literature in college at Konkuk University, but focused on poetry as she found essays and novels did not suit her style. Poetic language can be used in novel writing, but the fictional language used in novel writing can never be applied to poetry, Kim believes. I think I would feel as if I would plunge down to the bottom if I were to write something that doesnt work in poetry.
gendeR games Though she made her literary debut in the

RepResentative WoRk

pooR Love machine (1997)

In the collection Poor Love Machine, poet Kim Hye-soon dives straight into the topics of feminine philosophy and sexuality without looking back. Complete with the sensational titles Kim is so well known for and a biting grasp of reality, the collection provides an insightful and dark view into the world of love and death. The title poem looks into the symbolic love of a machine, which is only revived by the narrators human touch. A sharp comparison is drawn between the machine and the human heart in simple, enlightening sentences. Although the word choice in this collection is not overly abstract, the illustrative imagery can be interpreted in several creative ways depending on the reader. The gritty honesty of Poor Love Machine won Kim the prestigious Kim Su-yeong Literary Award in 1997. Several of the poems can be found in the poets English-language collection Mommy Must Be a Fountain of Feathers, including Rat.

by Kim Hye-soon, translated by Choi Don-mee Enter the inside of the sunny morning, and it seems as if the scream can always be heard. Its so loud that its inaudible to us. The scream let out by last nights darkness. This morning the whitish scream suddenly disperses then gathers in the air ah, ah, ah, ah! Do people know how much it hurts the darkness when you turn on the light in the middle of the night? So I cant turn on the light even when the night arrives. The day of the first snowfall, I took an x-ray of my body. Then I asked everyone I met: Have you ever turned on the light inside your intestine? The darkness with a fluid mass moving through it endlessly is this my essence? When the light is switched on inside my darkness, I buzz like a beetle pinned down, bung, bung, bung, bung, and shake my head wildly, my muzzle holding onto a black string. Struck by the light, I regress, in a flash, from a reptile to a beetle turned upside down. My dignity is the darkness inside. Was it hiding inside the darkness? Lights on my underground prison, my beloved black being trembles in it. The damaged walls of my room quiver from the car lights coming in through the windows. Thousands of rays of light poke at me my dark, crouched face. The day of the first snow, the snow was nowhere to be seen. The houses with lit windows. How painful the light must be for the night.

late 1970s when the field was comprised only of male writers, today, Kim finds more and more aspiring females in her creative writing course. She hopes that one day, the field will become so dominated by women, that it will have to be the men who strive to pave their own way and style amongst the female literary giants. For her part, Kim has trailblazed the way for several writers in her generation, with her unique style unafraid of graphic descriptions and sensualized imagery. Her 1997 Poor Love Machine brought to light a confrontational style that discussed everything from love to death. For example, Rat, from the collection, discovers an existential philosophy in the simple act of turning on a light, replete with textual cries, onomatopoeias and a sense of the unknown. However, the poet is worried that there is still a long road to travel for women to be recognized as leaders within the Korean literary world. Male writers are just called writers, but female writers are specifically called female writers, Kim explains. And, although there is no such categorization among male writers, women are typically divided up into young female writers, unmarried female writers or even old female writers. I find this system to be so odd and hope that it will be changed one day soon.

14 | korea | january 2012 | 15

a good cause. A Grammy Award winner with more than 50 albums to her credit, Jo also hopes to use her fame to raise awareness about animal protection in her home country. Ive always been interested in animal protection ever since I was young, says the Seoul native, who is herself the owner of three dogs. I believe its important to care for not only our beloved pets but all living creatures, to allow them to live without being abused. Jo is currently raising funds to open an education center where people can learn about respecting animals and adopt stray cats and dogs. Another educational initiative she hopes to pursue is naturally through music. I want to continue giving more master classes for youths. And if I find talented young singers then Id like to support them, to help them debut without going through the hardships that I had to endure. Looking back at her 25 years, there were many trying moments. Winning the approval and support of classical music greats like the late maestro Herbert von Karajan did not protect her from racial discrimination. Europe [in the 1980s] was very conservative, and it was nothing short of a miracle for an Asian to play a lead opera role, she says. However, she was able to persevere with an iron will. First of all, I knew myself very well, and knew what I wanted. Everything Ive accomplished was planned in advance and I followed through with it; it didnt happen overnight. I am constantly pushing myself to move forward. Self-discipline, she says, keeps her going. Every moment is challenging in a way. I feel responsible to live up to the name Sumi Jo I cant indulge in alcohol or fatigue my voice with long conversations, or stay up late or get sick. Jo has built an extensive career sharing music with audiences. She has interpreted the hallmarks of the bel canto and even recently Baroque repertoire, but has also reached out to non-classical music fans by singing Korean traditional songs as well as scores for TV dramas such as HBOs Mildred Pierce. The singer even made a surprise appearance on the talent show Operastar Korea last May. I feel its important to connect to people outside opera houses. I really enjoy communicating with the younger generation, rather than waiting around in the opera house, she says. She keeps

Sumi Jos
Since debuting in Trieste, Italy, in 1986, Sumi Jo has become one of the most sought-after sopranos of her generation, performing in nearly all the major halls and conquering seemingly impossible vocal heights with graceful ease. Last year, the 49-year-old celebrated 25 years of singing, and she is looking forward to another 25 obviously not

Art of Sharing
fell through. I wanted to make the visit not as a musician but as a humanitarian. I really want to help children, she says. After her visit was confirmed, Jo received an invitation to perform with the local orchestra. I said yes, as long as its a charity concert. The wonderful thing about music is that it can not only give joy to listeners but also be used for

Star soprano Sumi Jo hopes to share not only music, but also humanitarian values with the world. by Lee Hyo-won
always on the stage but in other ways that I can share and give, says Jo over the phone while on tour in Sydney. A UNESCO-designated Artist for Peace, Jo will be visiting North Korea in May with a group of Korean-American doctors to provide free vaccinations for children. In the past, I had about three chances to visit North Korea but they all

Sumi Jo performs at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2010 (opposite). Jo celebrated 25 years of singing last year (top). Jo is one of the worlds greatest sopranos (above).

She does, however, always take time for introspection. I am in constant dialogue with myself. She thus encourages aspiring singers to find inner peace. You need to find happiness, leisure and wisdom in order to deliver songs from deep within yourself. Being able to move peoples hearts is the greatest weapon, and no cold-hearted person can touch others.

in touch with fans through social media, and operates her Twitter, Facebook and Cyworld accounts herself. Its one of the few things that I can continue to do wherever I go, she says. Even at the time of the interview, she was battling jetlag from tours in the UK and Mexico. After performing in New Zealand, the artist will be on the road again for a charity event in Qatar. I believe its my mission to sing wherever I am needed to reach out to youths and interact with the public. Music-making itself is a great joy and blessing.

16 | korea | january 2012

SMI Entertainment | 17

great korean


Korean Buddhisms New Dawn

Wonhyo is not someone who can be described in just a few words. A high priest of Korean Buddhism, one of the greatest scholars in Korean history, an activist who worked with the masses and a pioneer who wanted to unify the Korean Peninsula are only some of the things he was. More than 1,300 years after his death, Wonhyo is still revered by Koreans.
by Seo Dong-chul

layman, Wonhyo would drum on an empty gourd, an instrument used only by clowns at the time, singing songs that contained Buddhist teachings. He went anywhere he could meet new people, from bars to markets, and befriended all he crossed paths with. Many consider one of his greatest achievements to be the popularization of Buddhism in Korea. In his time, Sillas Buddhism had been officially recognized for just a century, and was only popular among the royal family. Unlike other priests who led aristocratic lives in big temples, Wonhyo reached out to the public with the belief that everybody could be awakened. Wonhyo tried to reach out to the masses and spread Buddhist teachings that emphasized the mind. It was because of him that Buddhism blossomed after it came to Korea, says Lee Pyong-rae, director of the Institute of Wonhyo Studies. Wonhyo lived during a tumultuous period of Korean history, between the 4th and mid-7th centuries, when the Three Kingdoms Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla fought for dominance of the peninsula, which was only unified by

Silla in 668. But over the course of those 400 years, people suffered unimaginable hardships from the warring. Wonhyo tried to embrace all of this through Buddhism. Wonhyo made a major contribution to the unity of the Three Kingdoms through Buddhism ... he was someone who had a thorough understanding of the spirit of the age, as well as a great Buddhist thinker and religious activist, Lee explains. His life philosophy was based on ilsim (One Mind) and hwajaeng (Harmonization), the core principles behind his Buddhism. A main theme of his writings which included A
A portrait of Buddhist monk Wonhyo, whose teachings helped spread Buddhism across the peninsula (opposite). The original text of A Commentary on the Awakening of Faith, which looked at Mahayana Buddhism (above). One of Wonhyos manuscripts was shown in a special exhibit in Tokyo (below).

The Venerable Wonhyos life began with his birth in 617, in todays Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. He left home at the age of 15 after relinquishing his earthly possessions and went in search of eminent Buddhist priests to learn from. However, he didnt tie himself down to any one of his mentors, and instead roamed freely from teacher to teacher, never depending on any one person to become spiritually awakened. When he was 45, he started making his way to China, where he hoped to study Buddhism further. Somewhere along the way, however, he was forced to take shelter in an old tomb. During the night, he awoke and was parched. He

reached for what he thought was a gourd and drank the seemingly cool, refreshing water it contained. Much to his surprise the next morning, the gourd had actually been a human skull, and the fresh water was rotten and brackish. After vomiting, he realized the power of the human mind to transform reality. This experience of consciousness-only enlightenment would go on to form the core of Hwaeom philosophy. Wonhyo decided to stop his journey to China right then and there, giving up his long-cherished dream of studying in the Middle Kingdom because he realized that truth was found in the mind, not in the physical world.

He returned to Silla, one of Koreas Three Kingdoms, to spread Buddhism to the public and to study further. Upon his death, he is said to have written more than 240 books, 22 of which are still in existence. His interest in a wide range of subjects and his brilliant thoughts were influential even to Chinese scholars, who were known to quote him. A respected priest and admired thinker, he also surprised many with his unconventional behavior. For example, in his later life, he gave up his monks robes and married Princess Yoseok (the daughter of Sillas 29th king), giving birth to a son. Adopting the title of a

Commentary on the Vajrasamadhi Sutra and A Commentary on the Awakening of Faith One Mind can be summed up as the belief that every human being has a Buddhist nature and can become Buddha as long as they restore the true source of their mind. Every creature is equal and the jeongto (pure land), a religious utopia of Mahayana Buddhism, is where everybody is treated mercifully and without discrimination. On the other hand, Harmonization integrated theories of different sects and greatly contributed to the development of Korean Buddhism. Just as is indicated by his Buddhist name, Wonhyo (meaning early dawn), ushered in a new dawn of Korean Buddhism with his studies and writings. Today, he survives in the minds of Koreans more than a millennium after his death. Wonhyo-ro Street and Wonhyo Bridge in Seoul were named after him, while his life has been recreated in numerous novels, plays and musicals. This is most likely because his message is still relevant for those of us who live in the 21st century.

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Yonhap News Agency; Cultural Heritage Administration (top right) | 19


Gorging on Kwangjang
For over 100 years, Seoulites have escaped winters chill at Kwangjang Market. Today, it remains one of the best places to grab a delicious meal, find a great bargain, and rub shoulders with a diverse cross-section of everyday folks.
by Matt Kelley | photographs by Choi Ji-young

8 Jongno 5-ga Station, Subway Line 1 Vintage shops entrance

Kwangjang Market

Mayak gimbap

January is Koreas coldest month. Its when a Siberian high pressure system brings both gorgeous blue skies and stubbornly below-freezing temperatures. In search of warmth, Seoulites often head to Kwangjang Market, a shoppers and foodies paradise where both a hot meal and the warmth of authentic Korean hospitality are readily available. Established in 1905, Kwangjang is Koreas longest-running public market and also one of its largest. Far bigger

from opposite, clockwise: The main food intersection at Kwangjang Market; a fish vendor inside the market; wholesale fabrics; mayak gimbap.

than it seems, some 5,000 shops are located between Jongno Streets 4-ga and 5-ga intersections. For over a century, Kwangjang has been known for fine textiles. Today, wholesalers from better-known markets like Dongdaemun and Namdaemun arrive early each morning to purchase wares for manufacture and resale. Retail customers come in search of the markets hanbok shops, where tailors create bespoke versions of Koreas national costume at discounts up to 30%. In recent years, Kwangjang has also emerged as Seouls premier destination for vintage clothing. Although retro boutiques are popular in several of the citys trendiest neighborhoods, only Kwangjangs upper level can boast 300 shops selling everything from mens couture to womens accessories imported from Japan, Europe and North America. Nevertheless, Kwangjang is best known for food. High-brow Korean palace cuisine it is not, but it probably is Seouls best single location to enjoy the sheer diversity of Korean street food. The markets central arteries burst with lines of carts carrying vats of simmering tteokbokki rice cakes, high stacks of pigs trotters, ropes of sundae blood sausage and bowls of red bean porridge, called patjuk. The bright light from the naked bulbs that hang from the rafters is made hazy by thick clouds of steam. Among this smorgasbord of Korean comfort food, mayak gimbap warrants special mention. The so-called narcotic gimbap is a miniature version of Koreas ubiquitous rice and vegetable roll. The name comes from the assertion that one 2,500-won plate (US$2.12) of 12 rolls dipped in spicy mustard and soy sauce wont be enough. Controlled substances aside, the undisputed king of Kwangjangs snack stalls is bindaetteok. With a texture

before you go The best time to visit Kwangjangs vintage shops is after 11am, when the wholesale dealers have finished their daily buys. Most shops close at 7pm. Dont be afraid to haggle on the price. As you might expect, the best time to visit the food stalls is at major mealtimes. Dont bother haggling on the bindaetteok theyve been 4,000 won (US$3.40) each for a decade!

somewhat akin to hash browns, most of the vendors are located at the markets main intersection. At its epicenter, in all directions you can watch as skilled hands fry plate-sized rounds made from crushed mung beans and assorted vegetables atop a large skillet. Once fried to a golden crisp, patrons dip pieces into soy sauce flavored with vinegar and onions, before washing it down with Koreas signature rice liquor, makgeolli. Around dusk, Kwangjang Markets hum of activity is ratcheted up a few notches. Groups of office workers, students, tourists and seniors rub shoulders atop wooden picnic benches wrapped in heated blankets. As they eat, a handful of eccentric market regulars starts to appear. Among them, The General dons a top hat and plays the saxophone. Another nattily-dressed elderly man may arrive with accordion, portable amplifier and microphone in tow, just in case any diners want an impromptu karaoke session. Sitting amongst this rich mix, its obvious that Kwangjang retains Koreas most quintessential charms delicious food and warm-hearted people.

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travel: muju
difficult for her, but was I wrong. The scenery afforded at the peak can be described only by those who climb all the way to the top. At Hyangjeokbong, the numerous mountains and valleys spread out beneath your feet. The local saying below no man and above 10,000 men best explains this spot. Hikers can look out to the horizon and even see neighboring mountains, including Gayasan, Bigyesan, Jirisan, Daedunsan and Gyeryongsan. When descending, stop by Deogyusan Ski Resort for a hands-on experience of the white snow. The resort is Koreas southernmost skiing and snowboarding venue with an impressive total area of over 7sqkm. The Hotel Tirol, designed by famed European architect Karl Landauer, opened in 1997, augmenting the areas natural beauty. The areas of Muju, Jinan and Jangsu in Jeollabuk-do Province are often referred to as Mujinjang, using the first syllable of each county. The word, however, also means no end in Korean, and the people here are known for their mujinjang (endless) sincerity. Farmers in the area are also known to use only organic fertilizers, which has led to the counties being known as the mecca of organic farming.

travel information

Of the highest mountain ranges in Korea, not many allow for both novice and expert trekkers to experience the beauty of winter. Mount Deogyusans accessibility is its greatest appeal, and naturelovers head to its peaks in the heart of the years coldest months.
by Chung Dong-muk | photograph by Kim Hong-jin

To get to Deogyusan from Seoul Seoul by car, take the Gyeongbu Expressway past Daejeon to Biryong muju IC and take Jungbu (Daejeon-Tongyeong) Expressway. From Muju IC take National Road 37 to Deogyusan-ri. National Road 37 is also great for sightseeing as the highway will circle and pass through Mt Deogyusan. Take a bus from Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal to Muju Intercity Bus Terminal. Buses leave daily at 7:40am, 9:20am, 10:40am, 1:40pm and 2:35pm. From the rear gate of Muju Terminal, take a free shuttle bus to Deogyusan Resort.

How to Get tHere

winter hikers make their way up Hyangjeokbong peak on mt Deogyusan (opposite). visitors reach Seolcheonbong peak by cable car (above). families and friends learn to ski at the Deogyusan Ski resort (below).

Hyangjeokbong peak sits at 1,614m above sea level, but winter hikers can reach this scenic viewpoint from a gondola at Muju Deogyusan Resort. A 20-minute hike after the ride up will lead visitors to a snow-covered landscape. The dark blue of winter skies contrasts with the stretches of land below. As I walk up the trail towards Hyangjeokbong, the summit of Mount Deogyusan, the surrounding roads, trees and rocks are covered in white. Last nights snow has covered the mountain

in a thick blanket and branches frozen with snow appear as natural sculptures. Mt Deogyusan, which stretches from Muju in Jeollabuk-do Province to Geochang in Geyongsangnamdo Province, is Koreas fourth highest mountain and one of the countrys national parks. Deogyusan means gentle mountain with virtue, which is epitomized in its accessible trails easy to climb even for children. In contrast, Hallasan (1,950m), Jirisan (1,915m) and Seoraksan (1,708m)

mountains are only accessible to adults with climbing experience and appropriate climbing gear. The gondola at Muju Deogyusan Resort is part of what makes the trip to the summit so stress-free. The 2,659m-long cable car transports visitors from the ski resort at the entrance of Deogyusan to Seolcheonbong peak (1,520m). From there, visitors can reach Hyangjeokbong after a mere 20 to 30 minutes of hiking. Dogwoods, Korean firs and maples

vie for ones attention, but it is the Jumok (Japanese yew) trees that steal the show. Jumok trees, which are known for their longevity but are difficult to calculate in age, are known in Korea to thrive 1,000 years alive and 1,000 years dead. Beneath the white snow on Deogyusan, the trees boast geometric branches, red bark and sharp green leaves. Kim Yu-jung has visited Deogyusan with her 7-year-old daughter Hye-min. Im glad I visited with my child. I was worried that this hike would be too

22 | korea | january 2012

Korea Tourism Organization (above; opposite bottom) | 23

travel: baeksasil
while dongcheon means scenic outlook and an ancient rock carving still proclaims that title today. The course to Baeksasil begins long before the actual entrance of the valley. The hike to its entrance can be found in the charming neighborhood of Buamdong, home to several hole-in-the-wall eateries and coffee shops boasting beans roasted in-store. Explorers head north on Jahamungil, a winding road with an incline that rises and falls with the side of Bugaksan. Along the path, pop culture fanatics will appreciate Sanmotoonge Cafe, better known as one of the shooting locations for the hit Korean drama The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince. Though the area is undergoing new development, pristine views of Seoul and the seonggwak-gil fortress wall can still be glimpsed all along the walk. At the entrance of Baeksasil, wave upon wave of majestic trees greet the eye, welcoming weary hikers into a pleasant, downhill walk. Strategically located wooden benches provide perches perfect for reflection, as passersby dwindle to a minimum. Remnants of Yis villa can be found nestled in a clearing in the valley.
Jongno-gu Office (second from top right, bottom); Newsbank Images (opposite)

A Citys Hidden Valley

Kim Hong-jin

Though often overlooked for its neighboring hiking trails on mounts Bukhansan and Bugaksan, Baeksasil Valley offers one of Seouls most peaceful, hidden inner-city escapes. by Ines Min | photographs by

Though the building itself has long been lost to time, foundation stones stand in their original locations. Separated from the hiking trails by a stream, the outlines of a pond and hexagonal pavilion stand in place by the main building. At the end of the trail, Hyeontongsa Temple peeks out from a corner of the mountain, its entrance located next to a spring that flows down larger-thanlife boulders. The vibrantly painted gate ushers in curious onlookers, before they descend once more into the city. Though Baeksasil Valley ends at the temple, many will continue on to make one last stop, near the end of the trail. Segeomjeong, a small pavilion designated a landmark within Seoul, was a resting place for soldiers. Its name literally translates to place to wash swords and pray for peace, and the quiet environment it rests in helps illuminate the name. The original date of construction is unknown, but its current state was restored in 1977, after a fire burnt down

the structure in 1941. Records show that it was first rebuilt in 1748, and its likeness was captured in a work by Joseon Dynasty painter Jeong Seon. Though the valleys easy trails will only take an hour or two, at most, to traverse, the mini excursion provides relief from the citys bustling frenzy of 10 million people.

Baeksasil Valley in northern Seoul is one of the citys greatest secrets, well-kept by neighbors and hikers seeking its peace. Groves of tall trees bridge the ground to the blue skies in this quiet mountain valley, where the air is so silent that even the soft falling of snow will lightly sound on dry leaves. Often named one of Koreas most picturesque landmarks, Baeksasil dates back to the the Joseon Dynasty (1392 1910), where it is believed to have been the site of a grand villa owned by Yi Hang-bok, a renowned prime minister in the early 17th century. The valley was named after Yis penname Baeksa. Its unmatched views of the city led to it being called a Baekseokdongcheon baekseok is short for Mt Bugaksan,

from opposite, clockwise: water flows in a stream at Baeksasil valley; a view of Hyeontongsa temple; an ancient rock that reads Baekseokdongcheon; Segeomjeong is a pavilion once used by resting soldiers.

travel information

From Gyeongbokgung Station, Subway Line 3, walk straight out of exit 3. Take bus 1020 or 7022 to Buam-dong Community Center. Get off and follow the signs to Sanmotoonge Cafe.

How to Get tHere


JaHa Sonmandu Indulge in fresh, handmade mandu dumplings and other cuisine. 245-2 Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul Phone +82 2 379 2648 SanmotoonGe Cafe Visit one of the most picturesque shooting locations from the drama The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince. 97-5 Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul Phone +82 2 391 4737

wHat to eat

24 | korea | january 2012 | 25


From opposite top, clockwise: A group of friends catch their first fish of the day at the Hwacheon sancheoneo ice Festival; A man holds up his catch proudly; Two girls are successful in their efforts; A woman poses with her catch; Two people pose while going for a ride on Korean traditional ice sleds.

Catching a trout can take time and patience, so bring a portable chair to relax into and warm footwear. Don't worry about fishing gear though, as its available on-site!

Freezing Fish Frenzy

This January, experience winter to its fullest by ice fishing in Gangwon-do Province. From seasoned pro to daring amateur, try your hand literally, in some cases at landing some of Koreas tastiest wild trout for a fresh catch. by Ines Min

Imagine stepping out onto 40cm thick ice, floating atop a winter stream. Everywhere around you, couples, friends and families peer into the icy waters below that blur with fish. Flipping, floundering sancheoneo (trout) make for some of the best fishing, and Gangwon-do Province is the place to be for the winter sport. The small village of Hwacheon draws in more than a million visitors each year with the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. This years edition is set to take place from Jan 7 to 29, and expectations are running high after the last-minute cancellation of last years events. CNN included the festival on its list of seven Admission winter wonders and organizers Ice fishing is 12,000 won are looking forward to a new year (US$10.21) with a of festivities. complimentary 5,000 won A total of 1,330,000 people voucher that can be used toward fishing supplies. came in 2010, but our chairman Children and senior tickets cost has decided to dedicate our efforts 8,000 won. Other events and on the quality of the festival rather activities can be accessed for 3,000 won to 5,000 won. than on keeping a headcount,

says festival PR spokesman Oh Se-bin. Instead, we are doing our best to ensure that each individual who comes will be able to enjoy their time. The main event at the ice festival is, of course, the ice fishing. Most prefer to ice fish on top of the frozen stream, though others with more expertise might opt for lure fishing. This year, 11,000 ice holes will be made for visitors and 200 spots for lure fishing will be open each day. Kids will also have a chance to partake, with 500 holes dedicated just for children. For those who prefer to take no chances on the best fishing spots, reservations can be made ahead of time (4,000 of the ice holes are set aside for reservations). The remaining holes and line fishing are first come first served, so its best to arrive early. Each person is allowed to catch up to three fish, but dont worry about there not being enough to catch organizers replenish the trout in the stream regularly. If youre unafraid of bone-chilling temperatures, try the hands-on fishing pit. After stripping down to shorts and a T-shirt, those willing to brave the freezing waters can jump

into a pool of trout and catch their prey with their bare hands. Certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, hands-on fishing will take place three times a day (11am, 1pm and 3pm). However, the best part of the ice festival comes after all the hard work has been completed. Successful fishers can enjoy their catch on site, as places to grill or bake are available throughout the festival grounds. Alternatively, the sancheoneo can be enjoyed as fresh sashimi at the sushi stalls, as many prefer the trout raw. Sledding on Korean traditional sleighs will be available, as well as skating, ice soccer and more. Families can explore the snowman exhibit or wander around cavernous monuments made of ice. Others can go for a stroll on Seong Deung Way, a 440m street of lights located in Hwacheon. Ambitious DIY folks may want to enter the sledding competition, where groups compete for the best homemade sled. Judged on design, complexity and speed, the grand prize is 2 million won (US$1,732). For more information about the festival, visit (Korean and English).

26 | korea | january 2012

Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival | 27

now in korea
The village of Gume, Gyeonggi-do Province, bustles busily with work around the end of the year. This small town is home to Koreas largest production base of jori bamboo strainers, a traditional craft with a 400-year history. These handmade works can be found hanging all around the village of bamboo strainers, a symbol of happiness and blessing in the new year. Traditionally, jori was a bamboo strainer Korean farmers used to rinse rice. The custom was that they would hang a jori in their house at dawn on the first day of the year, believing it invoked blessings like bountiful rice harvests in the coming season. This custom led to the term Bokjori, which means a bamboo strainer of good fortune. Today, people will buy a strainer, place coins or grain in it, and hang it in their home. Gume is known for its mountain bamboo, which is the best material for making the strainers. One-year-old bamboo is cut around October, dried and subsequently split into four parts. It is then soaked in water to soften before craftspeople weave the bamboo into strainers and all of the work is done by hand. Choi Bok-soon, who has been making bamboo strainers for 40 years, says that although they dont make nearly as many as they did in the past, the custom of hanging Bokjori for good fortune has yet to change. Over the years, bamboo strainers have come to be used in more diverse ways. Nowadays, people give Bokjori as presents when an entrepreneur opens a new business, for a housewarming gift or even as a windshield decoration for cars.
Familiar TradiTions More traditional families in


Around the world, people have many different ways to ring in New Years Day. In Korea, many hold memorial services for ancestors, have their fortunes read, offer prayers at Buddhist temples or watch the years first sunrise. by Lee Se-mi | photographs by Kim Nam-heon

28 | korea | january 2012

Korea Tourism Organization

the New Year

Korea will celebrate the lunar new year, which is called seollal. This years lunar new year falls on Jan 23, though many families prefer to celebrate New Year on Jan 1. Though the typical midnight countdown will be difficult to find in Korea, families will kick off New Year celebrations with charye, a memorial service performed for ones ancestors, by preparing a number of different offerings. After the memorial service, younger family members will perform a traditional sebae bow to their grandparents, parents and close family friends. People will bow to the eldest first and continue down according to age. After the person bowing wishes a Happy New Year! the elderly will typically respond with a I hope all your wishes come true this year. Without fail, Koreans will eat tteokguk (rice cake | 29

soup) on New Years Day. This tradition marks a sort of birthday for Koreans, as they are said to be a year older upon eating the soup. Tteokguk is made with thin slices of rice cake and stock, but recipes vary from region to region. In addition, the color of the rice cakes, which is white, symbolizes brightness, while its round shape represents the sun. Thus, eating rice cake soup is believed to ward off disasters in the coming year by starting the first day of the year with light. People also play a number of traditional games on New Years Day, including neolttwigi (a game similar to see-sawing) and Yunnori (a traditional board game). In the past, when women spent most of their days indoors, they enjoyed playing neolttwigi because it allowed them to see what was happening outside the walls of their home, by jumping as high as they could. Yunnori is popular with people of all ages. Played with four sticks, called yut, the game symbolizes the four seasons, while also wishing everyone a plentiful harvest. In days of old, children loved flying kites. After attaching bamboo branches to some paper, they would write Chinese characters on the main part of the kite or on the tail that

would say things like Let all our illnesses fly away with this kite. After the kite was high up in the air, they would cut the string, as this symbolized the hope that the kites message would come true.
new Years PraYers Regardless of religious conviction, it is
From opposite bottom, clockwise: a woman prays at Chiljangsa Temple in Gyeonggi-do Province; a bowl of traditional tteokguk rice cake soup; Bokjori bamboo strainers are made for good luck in Gume; a fortune teller interprets the fortune of a customer; Temple visitors write their hopes and wishes on a traditional tile.

a longtime custom in Korea to offer a devout prayer by visiting a spiritual place at the start of the year. Famous places to watch the years first sunrise whether near the sea, on a mountain or at a Buddhist temple are crowded with people at the beginning of the year because Koreans believe fortune will smile down upon them if they watch the first sunrise. Chiljangsa, an ancient Buddhist temple in Gyeonggi-do Province, is one such place to greet the new year. Kim Jungsoon came here to offer a devout prayer and begin her new year on the right note, saying, On the first day of the lunar calendar year, I always visit a Buddhist temple. I pray for the health of my family, the continued safety of the Buddhist temple that I belong to, the continued health of the faithful and for Koreas prosperity. From the third to the seventh day of the lunar calendar, I also pray for the many people up in heaven that help keep me safe. Fortune tellers are also quite busy at the beginning of the year. It has become a common custom around this time for people to turn to fortune telling, or saju, at famous fortune teller stalls, saju cafes and websites. There are various ways to tell ones fortune through divination or through academic study and people will inquire about everything from business and work to romance or money. One fortune teller, who goes by the name of Domyeong (they rarely use their real name), carries out predictions based on academic studies about saju. Saju literally means four pillars, with the pillars being the

time, date, month and year of your birth. This kind of fortune telling helps people learn about their aptitude and abilities, and which path to choose in life, while also helping you better prepare for the future, Domyeong explains. I visited a saju cafe in the affluent neighborhood of Apgujeong-dong, mere days before the end of the year. The cafe was crowded with the year-end rush and, save for the separate area set aside for fortune telling, it wasnt much different from any other coffee shop. At one table, two young women were carefully hanging on one fortune tellers every word. As if amongst old friends, the three of them spoke seriously about intimate subjects, at times laughing in a carefree manner. Most people wait to have their fortune told while having a snack or sipping on some tea. One 35-year-old woman named Shin Na-young dropped by on her way home from work, revealing she visits a saju cafe once every two to three months. I love that saju cafes are easily approachable and that I can have my fortune told for fun. Although Im Christian, I dont feel uncomfortable about getting my fortune told, she says. Ive been to a lot of saju cafes, but I come to this one in particular because I trust one of the fortune tellers who works here. When I came one time last year with some friends, we

were told that we would all get married in the coming year. And guess what? All of us did. I wonder what Ill be told will happen this year. Yu Sang-joon, who has run a saju cafe called Jaeminan Jogakga (The Fun Sculptor) since 1995, says, Its nice that you can have your fortune told in a fun and familiar way here so as not to make the whole thing weird or scary. You might not believe it, but some of the people who come here include doctors, stock traders and professors. Yeonam, a fortune teller at Yus cafe, reads fortunes by interpreting the patterns of scattered coins or rice. However, shes the first to admit that you should not just blindly trust the fortune youre told. It would be wrong to ask me to decide something for you while Im telling your fortune, she explains. Your decisions should be made by you. What I tell you should merely provide food for thought. Peoples fortunes are always changing, and the future is not set in stone. People gain hope from the words of fortune tellers, who play the role of an adviser for those at a crossroads. Whatever your hopes or dreams for the coming year, it cant hurt to visit a saju cafe and see what might lie in store for you in 2012. Who knows? It might even be fun and give you a little something to think about.

30 | korea | january 2012

Korea Tourism Organization (top right) | 31

and eat it, grind a radish with their teeth or pull an ugly face. There was even a sketch where all the performer did was hit his head incessantly. This genre of slapstick lasted for years on TV. The format of tough competition also meant that comedians only performed certain sketches for a few weeks, at most. There was, however, one in particular that survived four years in the industry, from 2007 to late last year. Darin (The Master) was a typical slapstick featuring a master (Kim Byeong-man), a self-styled expert of things such as acrobatics. In truth, he was nothing but a quack. The characters audaciousness drew laughs from audiences time and again, insuring the sketchs lengthy run. In recent months, the trend of slapstick sketches has been replaced with a more verbal comedy, in which performers use their wits to make people laugh. This has led to a rise in more realistic subject matter in sketches, which has struck a chord with the public. A case in point is Aejeongnam, which features a quick-witted comic who answers questions on ambiguous social situations with clever quips. For example, questions posed in this comedy routine include Who should have the last bite to eat? or Who should you give up your seat for on the subway, an elderly lady or a pregnant woman? Aejeongnam replies: The last bite should go to whoever picks up the tab. Now, people will bring up Aejeongnam in conversation, when confronted with hardto-answer questions in real life. The shows popularity is proof that the general public now prefers verbal comedy to the self-deprecating slapstick. This can be interpreted as Koreans longing for more realistic communication and honesty. Alongside this trend, parody has emerged as a mainstream element of comedy.

Comedy is often an accurate reflection of whats happening in society. There is perhaps no better example of this than Charlie Chaplin, who mocked the dark reality of the Great Depression with his slapstick comedy. In Korea, what kind of comedy best captures the reality of the day? by Jeong Deok-hyeon

Comedy of Truths

In Korea, the most popular brand of comedy is known colloquially as gag concerts (sketch comedy). Gag concerts got their start in 1999, a time when Korea was suffering in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. The reality facing comedians at the time was not that different from the competitive atmosphere the financial crisis had brought about for everyone else. Typical comedy shows had been pulled from TV, and comics were mainly performing on stage at small theaters when gag concerts came on the air. The new shows came to represent a break from the conventional comedy productions made locally. Whereas earlier sketch shows were written by writers, performed by comics and then aired, gag concerts were shows heavily edited by a director after being performed. This new system led to a rise in competitiveness, as comedians had to truly gain a lot of laughs in order to avoid being edited. Over the past decade, gag concerts have come to evolve with the peoples tastes. In its nascency, gag concert sketches were mainly about self-deprecation, reflecting the general atmosphere of depression present in society. The performers would make themselves the laughing stock by doing something humiliating. Theyd pick up something off the floor

The cast from the sketch Darin pose (opposite top). A scene from an episode of the Emergency Committee, which satirizes Korean bureaucracy (opposite bottom). Darin follows the audacious acts of a master (above). A sketch show on KBS (left). A character on the sketch Praying Mantis Kindergarten (below left).

Gag concerts mock politics and current events more frequently and more boldly than ever before. Members of the National Assembly are not immune to their crosshairs something that is unprecedented in Korean society. Subjects even include the president and high-ranking government officials. Two examples are the sketches Praying Mantis Kindergarten and Emergency Committee. The former parodies the adult world through the eyes of a kindergarten teacher, while the latter satirizes Korean bureaucracy by showing officials making excuses in an emergency instead of trying to solve a problem. Interestingly enough, there has been little political pressure so common in the past in the wake of these confrontational parodies. In a sense, politicians have developed a symbiotic relationship with popular culture, and the publics enjoyment of these gag concert parodies is becoming something even the politicians cannot touch. Though some gagmen still depend on slapstick, the genre of gag concerts has changed dramatically over the years. Comedy tastes are proving a unique window into Korean society.

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others in Korea with a similar level of talent, says coach Oh Sun-taek. The Korea Archery Association holds several rounds of qualifying matches to choose a total of 12 male and female members for the Korean National Archery Team. From this elite group, more qualifiers will be held in March and April to decide which six will go on to the Summer Olympics. General manager Jang Young-sul has announced the start of intensive stamina training and field exercises on mountains. The team cannot be guaranteed the gold with archery skills alone. Olympic Game schedules are tight with preliminaries early in the morning and the finals the same evening, Oh explains, and without the stamina to compete all day long, it would be difficult to earn the gold no matter how on-target ones aim is. To become a Korean National Archery Team member, one must also train the mind for concentration. Im and fellow teammate Yoon Ok-hee participated in special training sessions before the 2008 Summer Olympics. Others trained at the Army Intelligence School in order to learn to keep calm in any number of extreme circumstances, from mazes dotted with hidden surprises and live snakes being placed in athletes pockets. Of course, the outside environment includes all manner of factors. The team trained at noisy baseball stadiums and motorboat racing arenas ahead of the 2008 Olympics, to prepare for the noise levels at Beijing Olympic Green Archery Field. And if Beijing had a lot of noise, the London Olympic Archery Range will have a lot of wind. During the practice games, many athletes missed the target altogether because of strong winds that change direction frequently. Though the situation on the field suggests that luck, and not archery skill, will determine which color medal is won, Oh disagrees. A gold medal cannot be won solely on archery skills alone, and if the surroundings are poor, they must be overcome, he believes. With the help of the Korea Archery Association and Korea Institute of Sport Science, the winds on the London Olympic Archery Range are being analyzed. Rather than hope the wind stops on a draw, the Korean National Archery Team members will need to develop the ability to shoot arrows depending on predictable wind changes. We are in the process of analyzing the winds at Lords Cricket Ground, which will be the venue for the London Olympic archery competitions. We are planning to train on Jejudo Island, where there are strong gusts of wind, and on the East Sea coast in Gangwondo Province, where the winds are very similar to those in London, Oh reveals. With such thorough preparation, does the Korean National Archery Team have any weaknesses? Oh says yes. Foreign athletes can gain experience in international competitions without being stressed about National Team qualifying matches, whereas Korean athletes with overseas experience are rare due to heavy domestic competition. This is why the coaching staff stresses the importance of a well-rounded training experience. We cannot have a false sense of comfort and relax after mastering technical skills. We need to be two or three levels ahead of the competition to win the gold.

From opposite, clockwise: Archers compete for the 2011 National Team; Joo Hyunjung (second from left) hugs her teammates at the 16th Asian Games; Park Kyung-mo shoots at the 2008 Olympics; The womens team wins a gold medal.

Shooting for Gold

We will win gold in Robin Hoods home country, the United Kingdom. This is the mindset and mission of the Korean National Archery Team, the best in the world, as they begin training for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Korea has won a total of 16 gold medals in the span of seven Olympic Games, from the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. At the 2008 Olympics, Korea won two gold, two silver and one bronze medal, and the small country is consistently one of the top competitors in archery. Koreans have long excelled in the sport throughout their history. In the past, China called Koreans Dongi, which means Easterners who shoot well with a bow. Even the progenitor of the ancient nation Goguryeo (37BC 668AD), King Dongmyeong, was famed for his skill with the bow and arrow. The field of archery is so competitive that people at the training facility where the national team practices say that it is

Ahead of the 2012 London Olympics, Korean archers are preparing to take to the stage once again with their world-class shooting skills. by Lee Sang-jun

more difficult to be chosen for either the Korean National Archery or Taekwondo Teams than to win a gold medal in the actual Olympics. This level of competition is due to the fact that there is a large pool of talent in terms of archers in Korea. Even the famed, multi gold-winning Im Donghyun known for his talent despite being legally blind is not guaranteed a returning spot on the National Team each year. Although Im is one of the top people in the sport, there are many

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special issue
up to US$11 billion and support at least 70,000 American jobs, Obama said. Trade between the two countries reached an estimate of US$90 billion in 2010. The FTA is expected to increase Koreas trade surplus with the US by US$140 million each year until 2027 and expand Koreas economy more than 5%. In Korea, the agreement is predicted to create 350,000 jobs, according to local think tank reports. Industries that will most be affected include automotive, electronics and agriculture, and the FTAs biggest change will be to eliminate tariffs on more than 95% of industrial and consumer goods within five years of its implementation. This will dramatically increase the number of exports to each country. In terms of the automobile industry, the FTA will enable an atmosphere that will allow more US auto companies to increase sales in Korea and support more automaking jobs in the States. As Koreas car industry makes strides in the American market, US cars in Korea will start increasing. According to a statement released by the Office of the US Trade Representative, the agreement improves market access for US auto companies by addressing ways Koreas system of automotive safety standards have served as a barrier to US exports. In the Korean car industry, analysts believe auto-part manufacturers will see great benefits. The trade deal will help expedite Korean car-parts makers efforts to increase overseas orders as the tariff removal will give them a competitive edge, Yim Eun-young, an analyst with Dongbu Securities Co, told Bloomberg. The US is currently Koreas top supplier of agricultural products from almonds to corn and the FTAs act of removing tariffs is expected to dramatically increase products exported to Korea. Though this issue has been the source of controversy among farmers in Korea, Lee has called for new law revisions that would help protect small businesses and farmers from the rise in agricultural imports from the United States.
FTA iN NUMbeRS FTA passed in US Senate on Oct 12, 2011 Koreas National Assembly passed the FTA on Nov 22, 2011 350,000 jobs expected to be created in Korea 70,000 jobs to be made in the US Trade between the US and Korea reached US$90 billion in 2010 95% of tariffs to be eliminated by 2017 Korean economy to expand by 5% Negotiations for the KORUS FTA began in 2006

The Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was passed late last year and is expected to go into effect in February. The agreement is expected to bring new trade advantages to both countries, while spurring a global atmosphere of increasing trade ties with Korea. by Ines Min

Era of Trade

Korean President Lee Myung-bak signs the KORUS Free Trade Agreement on Nov 22, 2011 (opposite). United States Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and South Korea Minister for Trade Kim Jong-hoon shake hands at a meeting for discussions on the FTA last April (top). Obama signs his approval of the KORUS FTA in the United States on Oct 12, 2011 (above).

After years of negotiations, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Korea and the United States was passed late last year. The agreement Koreas most important trade accord following its FTA with the EU will mark an economic milestone between the two countries. The Korea-US free trade pact will open the door of the worlds largest market: the US, said President Lee Myungbak following its ratification in Korea. The country already has trade agreements in place with India, 10 countries in Southeast Asia and several other nations. Although we face difficult economic and export conditions next year, let's

overcome them through the Korea-US FTA. Though negotiations for the KORUS FTA initially began in April 2006, progress was stalled for three years until 2010. Lee and US President Barack Obama both acted as proponents to kickstart the trade deal and several meetings for renegotations were held throughout the past year. Obama commented on the agreement, which is Americas most significant trade deal for more than 16 years. I am very pleased that the United States and South Korea have reached agreement on a landmark trade deal that is expected to increase annual exports of American goods by

The effects of the FTA are expected to be generally positive for local electronics companies. Though tariffs will be eliminated on more than 6,000 electronic products, many of Koreas largest electronic exports to the US semiconductors and mobile phones are already exempt from tariffs based on a previous agreement through the World Trade Organization. The Korea Electronics Association, an organization comprised of more than 1,000 companies, says that Koreas electronics and IT industry is more likely to gain in the amount of exports to the US than experience disadvantages from the trade pact. Overall, the FTA will ease trade on both sides. The United States was once Koreas largest trading partner, but fell to fourth place behind China, Japan and the European Union in 2003. Trade analysts say the biggest advantage to the agreement will be improved investment conditions, which will help attract foreign investors in the future.

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summit diplomacy

Korea Goes Global

Since its successful hosting of the Group of 20 Summit in Seoul in 2010, Koreas efforts to play a greater role in the international arena have grown. President Lee Myung-baks diplomacy endeavors in November were in line with his campaign to promote a more global Korea as he addressed world leaders at an international aid conference in Busan and met with eminent nuclear and international affairs experts in Seoul to prepare for Marchs Nuclear Security Summit. by Ser Myo-ja

President Lee Myung-baks efforts to realize his global Korea vision continued in recent months as he attended a series of meetings to discuss pending international issues with world leaders visiting Korea in late November. As Korea hosted the 4th High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Lee met with leaders from around the world. He also held a meeting with his group of advisors in preparation for the Nuclear Security Summit in March. STRONGER KOREA-US ALLIANCE On Nov 30, Lee visited Busan to attend the opening ceremony of the 4th HighLevel Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4). He gave a welcoming speech at the event before 3,000 guests, including state leaders and government delegations from 160 countries and 40 international organizations. Lees participation in the event will reconfirm Koreas strong intentions to contribute to international development and cooperation efforts, Cheong Wa Dae (the Blue House) said in a statement. We also believe that Lees participation will contribute to the successful hosting of the forum and improve Koreas image as a mature, responsible member of the international community. On the sidelines of the forum, Lee hosted a luncheon to meet with leaders who visited the southern port city for the event. He held a summit with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and meetings with Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, OECD SecretaryGeneral Angel Gurra and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This was the first time that a US secretary of state

Yonhap News Agency (opposite); Newsbank Images (top); Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (bottom)

President Lee Myung-bak meets with the Eminent Persons Group on Nov 29 (opposite). A meeting at the National Assembly (above). Lee with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the aid forum in Busan (below).

attended the international aid forum. Lee and Clinton met on the morning of Nov 30 at the forums venue, BEXCO in Busan. Senior foreign affairs and security aides of the president accompanied him to the meeting, while Clinton was accompanied by her aides and the newly appointed US Ambassador to Korea, Sung Kim.

In addition to her meeting with the president, Clinton attended a separate meeting with her Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, to discuss bilateral and regional issues. Following her meetings with the top Korean officials, she held a press conference to address the two countries relations. Today, here in Busan, I had the opportunity to address two high priorities for US foreign policy, she said. In meetings with President Lee and with Foreign Minister Kim, I reaffirmed Americas deep bond with one of our closest allies. And at the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, I engaged on a great global challenge and a personal passion of mine creating sustainable growth and improving lives around the world. The alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea is a lynchpin of security, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific, she said. This alliance has never been stronger. President Lee, Foreign Minister Kim, and I discussed issues of global and regional importance, as we always do when we have the opportunity to exchange views. According to Clinton, she and the Korean leader particularly focused on the importance of ending North Koreas nuclear arms programs. The Norths shelling of Yeonpyeongdo Island one year ago was also addressed by the secretary of state. Let me reaffirm that the United States stands with our ally, and we look to North Korea to take concrete steps that promote peace and stability and denuclearization, she said. Clinton stressed the importance

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of the National Assemblys approval of the long-pending trade agreement, which will remove most trade and investment barriers between the two countries. I also congratulated President Lee on the passage of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement, she said. It has been a long time coming, it took a great deal of work on both sides, but now we can get down to the important business of creating more jobs and economic opportunities for both our people. During her talks with Foreign Minister Kim before the press conference, she praised the trade deal and the Lee administrations efforts to persuade the National Assembly to approve the FTA. Stressing that it would be a win-win arrangement for both economies, she expressed high anticipation for the trade deals effects. At the press conference, Clinton thanked Lee for hosting the international forum on aid effectiveness and providing opening remarks at the major event. As he eloquently told the audience this morning, 50 years ago Korea was recovering from a devastating war, she said. Today, it is a vibrant industrial power and a major contributor to growth in other countries. And no one understands the importance of effective development better than the Korean people.

ADVICE FOR THE NUCLEAR SUMMIT On Nov 29, Lee hosted a luncheon at Cheong Wa Dae for his advisors from around the world to prepare for the successful hosting of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul in March. The event will discuss cooperative measures to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism, protect nuclear materials and related facilities, and prevent illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. At the initial Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 in Washington, US President Barack Obama announced that Korea would be the next host of the event in 2012. Since then, the Lee administration has made a series of

efforts to prepare for the international conference, which will be attended by the heads of 46 states, international organizations and Interpol. To better prepare for the largest international summit in the history of Korea, the Eminent Persons Group was launched in November 2011. The group is composed of 12 foreign dignitaries and three Korean experts. The members have been actively involved in the areas of international politics and security based on their extensive experience and insights, said a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In light of Koreas growing role in the international arena with its hosting of the G20 and the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit, we expect meaningful discussions on peace, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in the world to take place. Kang Chang-sun, chairman and chief regulatory officer of Koreas Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, Han Sung-joo, former foreign minister, and Oh Myung, former minister of science and technology, are the three Korean members of the advisory committee. The 12 foreign members of the Eminent Persons Group are dignitaries with a deep understanding of nuclear security issues. The members are Graham Allison, director of Harvards

Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Hans Blix, former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Gareth Evans, former foreign minister of Australia; Goh Chok Tong, emeritus senior minister of Singapore; Igor Ivanov, former foreign minister of Russia; APJ Abdul Kalam, former president of India; Henry Kissinger, former US state secretary; Shinichi Kitaoka, professor of the University of Tokyo and former ambassador of Japan to the United Nations; Li Zhaoxing, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Chinas National Peoples Congress; Sam Nunn, former US senator and head of the Nuclear Threat Initiative; William James Perry, former US defense secretary and professor at Stanford University; and Hubert Vedrine, former French foreign minister and head of the Franois Mitterrand Institute. Of the 15 advisors to Lee, nine gathered in Seoul on Nov 29 to have their first discussion. The attending group the three Korean members and Kalam, Blix, Evans, Goh, Kitaoka and Li adopted a joint statement and shared their insights with the Korean president at a luncheon. While acknowledging that the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington made the issue of nuclear security

a major focus of world leaders, the advisors said they are confident that the Seoul summit will serve as a catalyst for realizing a world free of nuclear and radiological terrorism by both reaffirming the principles and the spirit of the Washington Summit and reaching agreement on new commitments and measures to enhance nuclear security. In the joint statement, the advisors also said the participating leaders of the summit will enhance public confidence in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We also urge them to reduce the threats to nuclear facilities and their operating systems, such as sabotage or cyber-attacks, by discussing in a responsible manner the ways in which nuclear security and nuclear safety can be mutually reinforced, bearing in mind the implications and
Lee speaks with former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam (opposite above). Lee at the luncheon with the Eminent Persons Group on Nov 29 (opposite below). Lee meets with the National Economic Advisory Council (below).

lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident, the advisors said. We have every confidence that the Republic of Korea can play a leading role to this end as the chair country of the Seoul Summit. The advisors offered specific advice to make the Seoul summit more successful in bolstering the global nuclear security regime. The need to reaffirm the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency to safeguard and oversee nuclear security and a safety framework was highlighted, along with the efforts to take into account new circumstances in the international community that have taken shape in recent months. The ongoing nuclear disasters at the Fukushima plants in Japan were noted. In particular, in considering the lessons of the Fukushima accident, releases of radioactivity into the environment have grave consequences, and the Seoul Summit should recognize that just as insufficient nuclear safety may put nuclear security at risk, they said. In conjunction, it should develop measures for cooperation to reduce the threat of radiological terrorism. The Seoul Summit should promote the strengthening of international and regional cooperation mechanisms in nuclear safety and security.

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global korea

Joining hands for aid

Koreas second largest city of Busan hosted the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness from Nov 29 to Dec 1. More than 3,000 delegates from 160 countries and 70 international organizations met to review the current state of aid around the world. by Rob McGovern

After hosting major international events such as the 2005 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting and the G20 Summit in Seoul, Korea has established itself as a nation capable of bringing together some of the worlds largest global events.

Last month, the southern port city of Busan furthered this reputation by hosting the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4). Koreas current incarnation as a prosperous country owes as much to aid as it does to hard work, and it was because of this that the country was a natural choice to host the HLF4. In fact, since joining the OECDs Development Assistance Committee in 2009, Korea has donated around US$2.3 billion worth of aid and plans to increase the amount to 0.25% of its gross national income by 2015. Setting goalS HLF-4 in Busan convened to address issues that were brought up at previous forums in Rome, Paris and Accra, but also to see what progress has been made over the last eight years. The topic of aid effectiveness was a major focal point and solutions were recommended to help overcome these problems, culminating in the Busan Declaration. The forum opened with a session called Progress Since Paris: How Far Have We Come? which described

the 4th High level Forum on aid effectiveness opened in Busan on nov 29 (opposite). Queen Rania al abdullah of Jordan, a forum attendee, visits a local school in Korea (above).

what actions were needed to move forward. Other sessions looked at problems in society that if also addressed could help with aid effectiveness, such as one on gender equality and womens empowerment that was opened by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The vast majority, as much as 60% to 70%, of the people in the fields at small agricultural holdings who are doing the work of planting, of tending livestock, of harvesting, of marketing, are women, Clinton said. Alongside Clinton, attendees at the forum included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Angel Gurra, director general of the OECD; President Paul Kamage of Rwanda; Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan; and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair, who established the Africa Governance Initiative in 2009, had this to say in a statement about the forum with regard to aid and Africa. Today,

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aid-recipient countries, I say: Set clear development priorities and strategies. Build up your planning capacity. Deliver on your policy commitments. Enhance transparency. Stamp out corruption, which undermines trust in governance and institutions. FutuRe oF aid According to www., a report on the progress of the Paris Declaration found that of the 13 goals set, just one had been met and that was only by a marginal amount. A frank evaluation report on the Paris Declaration was published in May 2011 and the reading was grim. Overall, the picture on efficiency gains is mixed, but so far disappointing in relation to the original hopes of rapidly reduced burdens in managing aid. It wasnt all bad news, however, as progress was made. The

Africa offers opportunities one could scarcely imagine a generation ago. The continent is on the move. Foreign direct investment increased fivefold from 2000 to 2010, domestic revenues have grown, and aid dependence fallen. Demand for African resources, if managed transparently and effectively, holds the potential to transform the economies of Africa. Ultimately, this progress will only be sustainable if we get both governance and growth right. All societies, no matter how wealthy, need governments that can deliver real improvements in the lives of their citizens and also be held to account for the results. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi spoke of Koreas increasing exchanges with African countries. Korea provides an extraordinary opportunity because of its development experience, because of its very dynamic private sector, and because of its large market, he said.

From above, clockwise: un Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon (second from left) visits the un Memorial Cemetary; President lee Myung-bak; forum attendees; attendees sign a statement; Former British Prime Minister tony Blair speaks.

Declaration has placed an explicit focus on aid relationships, and opened up important dialogues about partnerships themselves between countries and donors, among donors, and with other stakeholders, rather than just the technical or financing aspects of managing aid. A number of clear practical benefits are already being felt, according to the report. This years forum culminated in the 36-point Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, signed by ministers of developed and emerging economies, marking a critical turning point in development cooperation. Our success depends on the results and impact of our joint efforts and investments as we address challenges such as health pandemics, climate change, economic downturns, food and fuel price crises, conflict, fragility and vulnerability to shocks and

a PReSidentS WelCoMe

tHe RePuBliC oF KoRea Will FulFill itS CoMMitMentS

The forum was opened by President Lee Myung-bak who started by recognizing the attendees. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all of you for your noble endeavor, which is epitomized in the slogan for the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4), Toward a Better World for All. Lee also mentioned the importance of Busan as the host city and how it has played a large part in Koreas development. The city of Busan, where we are having this historic meeting, has a very special place in our history. This city was the last frontier where Koreans defended our freedom during the Korean War about six decades ago. This city was also where relief goods from all around the world arrived once the war was over in a time of desperate need. Busan has now transformed into the fifth largest port city in the world. With the history of war, and successful transformation into a bustling port city, I believe Busan offers an inspiring setting to discuss the new framework for effective development cooperation, he said. Lee then went on to explain how vital it is to maintain aid even in times of financial hardship. I would like to emphasize the importance of resolutely fulfilling the pledges we have made for Official Development Assistance (ODA) in spite of economic difficulties. I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm that the Government of the Republic of Korea will fulfill its commitments. The Republic of Korea has successfully overcome the financial crisis of 1997. Many of our enterprises went bankrupt and more than 2 million workers lost their jobs during the financial crisis and the period of restructuring with a tight fiscal policy. Yet, we continued to expand the volume of ODA. We still face difficulties at home including job insecurity and youth unemployment. The Korean government will, nevertheless, faithfully fulfill our plan to double the current level of ODA by 2015 as we have announced previously, he said. Koreas reliance on aid after the Korean War was mentioned along with personal recollections from Lees childhood. I would like to briefly introduce the development experience of the Republic of Korea, in which the government made full use of foreign aid for development. When I was a child, Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Our per capita GDP stood at less than US$100, and the country was full of people without jobs. However, within half a century, Korea rebuilt itself, emerging from the ashes of a devastating war and extreme poverty to a vibrant economy and democracy.

Labor costs in Africa are very low. Africa is well endowed with natural resources, cultural resources. So I think its beneficial for both sides. Perhaps the most pertinent speaker at the forum was former Korean Foreign Minister and current UN Secretary-General Ban, who laid out the importance of the forum and talked about how its goals can be achieved. First, to the traditional donors, I say: Do not let this economic crisis, do not let short-term austerity deflect you from your long-term commitment to the worlds poorest people, he said, before going on to talk about the obligations of the receiving countries. Ladies and gentlemen, my second message to the countries that receive aid is equally urgent: To those

natural disasters, the statement reads. HLF-4 also confronted the reality that previous commitments had not been met, but resolved to exceed them with the new declaration. We can and must improve and accelerate our efforts. We commit to modernize, deepen and broaden our cooperation, involving state and nonstate actors that wish to shape an agenda that has until recently been dominated by

a narrower group of development actors. In Busan, we forge a new global development partnership that embraces diversity and recognizes the distinct roles that all stakeholders in cooperation can play to support development. Ultimately, it will take time to see the effect the Busan Declaration and the forum will have on aid effectiveness but the general outlook is positive.

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my korea
Witnessing the birth of your child is the most humbling experience a man can go through. All of the coaching, verbal encouragement, fetching of water and towels, and hand squeezing is nothing compared to the physical and mental exertion the mother endures. Still, I can now acknowledge that I was a physical wreck the first night following the birth of my daughter. Hours of confusion, struggle, tears, joy, phone calls and hearty congratulations combined with lack of sleep, lack of food, and feelings of complete uselessness left me nothing more than a rotund mass of flesh on a hospital cot. When the nurses came to check on my wife, we were casually informed that our childs birth had been smooth and my wife was healthy, and therefore, we could check out of the hospital the following morning. As I attempted to fit in a few hours of sleep, my mind frittered from thought to thought, ultimately resting on the one question that had not been answered the previous hours before: What was I supposed to do now? A few weeks earlier, with the due date approaching, I had given a friendly call to my mother to inquire about what I should expect regarding the day of the birth and the weeks to follow. Predictably, there were many soothing words of encouragement, which momentarily alleviated my fears that I may do the wrong thing once my child became an actual physical presence in our house. But her answers were quickly forgotten as intermittent feelings of insecurity now slipped among the torrents of excitement that accompanied my new status as father. Paternity leave had not yet become a viable option in Korea, so it had been decided earlier that my mother-in-law would stay with us for a while to assist with the baby and ease my wifes recovery. But I would not be there during the day. So as I lay there listening to my wifes peaceful sighs, I was apprehensive over what my role would be over the next few weeks. It was at this moment that my crash course in Korean postnatal care began. I soon discovered that Koreans believe the first three weeks following childbirth (known as samchiril) are paramount to the future health and welfare of the mother and newborn child. Great care is taken so that the mother remains as comfortable and stress-free as possible, while the child is shielded from the outside world to the point that only close family members are allowed to see the baby. Mothers are to avoid physical labor, relax and avoid hard foods that are difficult to chew and digest. Sometimes a helper is hired to take care of the house, but typically the maternal grandmother of the newborn moves in for the first few weeks to handle household affairs. Now, the fathers job in most cases is quite simple: Do as you are told and dont annoy anyone. Since it had been determined that my mother-in-law would in fact be staying with my wife for the first three weeks, I would have the two tasks of being there when my wife wanted me to be there and disappearing when she had no desire to see my face. These were jobs I knew I could handle. The first day began innocently enough as our baby was brought to us wrapped snugly in pink and white blankets. After the obligatory smiles, coos and baby talk, my sister-in-law and motherin-law arrived to help us get ready for the trek to our apartment. While my sister-in-law helped my wife get dressed, my mother-in-law expertly held my child, and I was given the simple duty of retrieving the car and moving it to the front exit so we could proceed home. With a fresh baby on board sign splashed on the back window, we all got settled into our suddenly cramped sedan and started the simple, yet daunting, journey to our apartment. The trip that had taken 10 minutes just two days before became a 20 minute careful crawl as I made sure to miss every pothole, stay at a comfortable speed and avoid lane changes. As we pulled into the parking lot, I felt a euphoric sense of achievement having completed step one in the expert father manual: getting the baby home. When we entered our apartment, it was as if some mysterious cleaning elf had broken in and gone through the place top to bottom with a mop, broom and cloth. In this case, the elf in question was actually two elves, as my sister-in-law and mother-in law had spent the previous day ensuring our place was immaculate. Additionally, the unmistakable scent of Miyeokguk (seaweed soup) permeated the air. I headed for the kitchen to observe a massive pot of the chunky green broth sitting on our stove. I quickly learned that one of the traditional foods that new mothers are required to consume is Miyeokguk, as it is believed the nutrients contained in the

Postnatal Perfection
by Scott Lumsdon | illustrations by Jo Seung-yeon

Arriving home with a new baby can be an overwhelming experience. But, as an expat father soon learns, from mothersin-law to seaweed soup, Korean postnatal care is beyond compare. From particular rules of recovery for the mother to entire centers established throughout the country for postnatal care, locals follow a specific set of traditional procedures for proper recovery.

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soup help the mother recover by improving blood circulation and generating sufficient breast milk for nursing. I had tried Miyeokguk many times before and somewhat enjoyed its flavorful taste of the sea. So, as my mother-in-law started preparing a bowl for my wife and asked if Id like a sample, I had no hesitation in saying yes. Soon, the baby was tucked away in her new little crib,

and my wife and I were gleefully tucking into the culinary delight in front of us. As I headed off for work the next day, I felt reassured seeing how comfortable my wife looked with her mother there, and how confident my mother-in-law appeared with the whole situation. When I returned home that evening, with my wife and daughter both sound asleep, I bestowed copious amounts of gratitude upon her for helping us get through the day. She simply grinned and went to get me another bowl of seaweed soup. Although my gaze did fixate on the Pizza Hut magnet stuck to our fridge, I was able to get through my second bowl, more confident about the weeks to come. Looking back, I can say for the most part, I performed my duties of staying out of the way and doing what I was told quite well. I managed to contribute by waking up to change diapers, performing baby burping duties as well as possible and throwing in the odd foot massage upon request. The three-week samchiril period passed smoothly with the hard work of my wonderful mother-in-law, but it was easy to see that she was exhausted by the end of her stay and my small, if vital, contributions were not enough to help her.

One day, upon arriving home and seeing her asleep on the sofa, I made the decision that if and when we were to be blessed with another addition to our family, I would recommend that my wife spend the first few weeks at one of the postnatal recovery centers that are popular throughout Korea. Though expensive, these little gems are smaller versions of maternity wards where mothers can rest in their own rooms, while their babies are taken care of by trained nurses. Sure enough, when our second child was born three years later, I checked my wife into the postnatal center near our home. Here, all of her medical, nutritional and emotional needs could be met, and my mother-in-law could focus on taming the indefatigable 3-year-old that was running around our house while I was at school. My job was to visit, fetch whatever essential items were not provided by the center, and take care of my daughter when I came home from work. Soon, an enjoyable routine emerged, where I would visit my wife and newborn son in the morning, go to work, return home, pick up my daughter, and then visit my wife and son again in the evening. Three weeks later, as I picked up my newborn son and wife from the postnatal center, I couldnt help but notice how refreshed they looked and how much smoother the process had been the second time around. Although it was a blur at the time, through hindsight it is clear that postnatal care in Korea is exceptional. Starting with the dutiful mothers-in-law who sacrifice their time and freedom to ensure their grandchildren are comfortable, to the numerous postnatal centers throughout the country that continually oversee the well-being of new mothers and their infants, every step is taken to preserve the health of the mother and the newborn following childbirth. Such peace of mind is an invaluable luxury to a new father who inevitably will obsess over the best way to provide for a brand new family, while enjoying another helping of homemade seaweed soup.

PROFILE Scott Lumsdon grew up on the prairies of Saskatchewan and now plies his trade in the big city of Seoul. He is an assistant professor at Induk University and enjoys life with his wife and two children. He can be reached at

48 | korea | january 2012

Kim Nam-heon

korean heritage
Ssireum The traditional national sport of Korea, ssireum or Korean wrestling, dates back to the Three Kingdoms (57BC668AD) era. Gaining widespread popularity during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 1910), ssireum developed into a modern sport in the 20th century. In its modern incarnation, two contestants wear satba bands that wrap around the waist and thigh, lock on to each others band and try to bring any part of the opponents body above the knee to the ground.

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