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Myths and Memories Behold the Sun Rising above the East Sea: Stories of Gangwon’s Mountains, Rivers and Sea; The Winter Wonders of Gangwon; A Livelihood Built in a Clean Environment; The Nostalgia of Displaced Seaside Villagers

Gangwon Province

VOL. 31 NO. 4



Pojangmacha The Horseless, Motionless Wagons Kim Hwa-young Literary Critic; Member of the National Academy of Arts


nyone who lived in Seoul during the winter of 1964 would know about those makeshift bars that appeared on the streets at night, the kind of bar that sold fish cake in soup, roasted sparrows and three kinds of alcohol, where to enter you lifted the corner of the tent, which was flapping in the icy wind sweeping the frozen streets, where once inside you could see the long flames of the carbide lamp flickering in the wind and a middle-aged man in a dyed army jacket serving the alcohol and roasting the food. That’s the kind of bar where the three of us met that night.” This is the first paragraph of Kim Seung-ok’s novel “Seoul Winter 1964.” The pojangmacha (literally “covered wagon”) of Seoul, unlike the wagons of the American wild west, are horseless and motionless. They are not a mode of transportation but a makeshift bar or bistro on the roadside that you enter as you pass by, where you have something to eat and drink, and then get up and leave. The only common point it has with a vehicle is the fact that it is covered, and that it is easily accessible because it stands by the street. These roadside bars or eateries that appear only at night are an indispensible part of Korea’s urban landscape. Contrary to the novel’s poverty-ridden 1964, the menu is now diverse. In addition to fish cake in soup, there is an impressive lineup of dishes including hagfish, chicken feet, pork ribs, stuffed blood sausage, deep fried foods, rice cake in hot sauce (tteokbokki), udong noodles — the list goes on. The famous roasted sparrow of the 1960s has now disappeared. Electric light bulbs have replaced the carbide lantern. Instead of the dyed army jacket, a relic of the Korean War, there are young people dressed in jeans and casual jackets. In TV drama series, the pojangmacha is where the distraught male protagonist goes to drink alone when his love has been spurned or he has found himself bankrupt, and where a woman incidentally passing by sees him and tries to console him in his already drunk and barely conscious state. And on the screen appear the words, “To be continued,” as if there’s going to be a reversal. This roadside bistro, so easily accessible to everyone, stirs up a strong nostalgia in the heart. But these vagabond businesses are mostly illegal. So, at times, they are taken indoors, a legal but weird solution. The pojangmacha embodies the joys and sorrows of Korea’s modern history in its own way. © HANKHAM

Editor’s Letter


Lee Sihyung

Art and Reality in the Heart of Gangwon


Yoon Keum-jin


Lee Kyong-hee

It was a dark era with the vestiges of military dictatorship still clouding Korean society. Young artists who sympathized with the oppressed masses depicted the lives of factory workers and farmers suffering on the fringes of society in hyperrealist paintings, attracting hushed stares. Even among the minjung artists of the 1980s, Hwang Jai-hyoung’s permanent relocation to a remote coal mining town in Gangwon Province was seen as a radical move. Finding Hwang’s paintings of coal mines and miners on exhibit at the Park Soo Keun Museum in the sunny mountain town of Yanggu was a surprise, both delightful and awe-inspiring. In early September, Koreana’s special feature coverage team visited the museum on a leg of its tour around Gangwon Province. There, the team found an exhibition of Hwang’s paintings underway, marking his receipt of the inaugural Park Soo Keun Art Award. The award was established as a tribute to the late Park who consistently depicted his humble neighbors in the poverty-ridden Korea of the 1950s to the early 1960s. The cover of this issue conveys calmly but eloquently why Hwang was chosen as the award’s first recipient. The humility and honesty of the two artists aside, their paintings resemble one another in texture, although they used different materials. This is obviously the result of their toilsome work, as well as their ardent search for the most effective materials and methods to express their ideas and feelings. Our rediscovery of Hwang led to an interview with him in Taebaek in the heartland of Gangwon, where he still lives as a painter and an active member of the local community (see page 46). On a final note, I am deeply saddened to inform readers that our assistant editor Teresita M. Reed passed away on December 2. Teresita was diagnosed as having cancer in her blood while editing this issue. She waged a strong fight until the end, according to her husband, Edward Reed, former Korea country representative of the Asia Foundation. Aside from serving as assistant editor of Koreana since 2011, she faithfully worked on numerous important projects concerning Korean culture over the years. May she rest in peace.


Bae Bien-u Charles La Shure Choi Young-in Han Kyung-koo Kim Hwa-young Kim Young-na Koh Mi-seok Song Hye-jin Song Young-man Werner Sasse


Matthias Lehmann


Ji Geun-hwa


Teresita M. Reed


Kim Sam

Cho Yoon-jung EDITORS

Park Do-geun, Noh Yoon-young


Kim Do-yoon


Kim Eun-hye, Kim Nam-hyung, Yeob Lan-kyeong


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Koreana , registered as a quarterly magazine with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (Registration No. Ba-1033, August 8, 1987), is also published in Arabic, Chinese, French,

“Lying Down in the Midst of Mountains” Hwang Jai-hyoung 1997–2005. Dirt and mixed media on canvas, 227.3 x 162.1 cm.

German, Indonesian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.

© Pyeongchang county


Gangwon Province: Land of Mountains, Myths and Memories







Behold the Sun Rising above the East Sea

The Winter Wonders of Gangwon

The Nostalgia of Displaced Seaside Villagers

Lee Chang-guy

Choi Byung-il

Song Young-man




Stories of Gangwon’s Mountains, Rivers and Sea Lee Soon-won




A Livelihood Built in a Clean Environment Lee Byung-oh





Superorganic Performance from a Faraway Future

The Scent of Apple Blossoms Rises from a Thousand Alleyways

What Exactly Is Netflix Changing?

Kim Nam-soo

Gwak Jae-gu

Jung Duk-hyun







Eugene Bell Foundation’s Love of Neighbors across the DMZ

Gul : Familiar through the Lullaby ‘Island Baby’

Kim Hak-soon

Kwon Oh-kil

The Infinite Zen of Extremely Fine Lines



Kang Shin-jae

‘One Hundred Shadows’

A Portrait of Life in the Blind End Chung Jae-suk




A Modern Fairy Tale of Magical Realist Mood



Gwaebul , Entranced by Splendid Grandeur Ryu Kyeong-hee


A Diplomat-turned-Translator Takes Korean Literature to France Choi Sung-jin

In the Cold Embrace of the Convenience Store

‘The Frontline of Korean Architecture: DOCUMENTUM 2014–2016’

Choi Jae-bong

A Window into the Cutting Edge of Korean Architecture

Kim Ae-ran

‘23’ Rhythm and Voice of 21st Century Youth



Charles La Shure, Ryu Tae-hyung



A Happy Life Makes Everything Taste Better Jo Eun

I Go to the Convenience Store

SPECIAL FEATURE 1 Gangwon Province: Land of Mountains, Myths and Memories

BEHOLD THE SUN RISING above the East Sea A long chain of high mountains traverses the land before plunging into the sea, the splendor of nature indicating a heartbreaking contrast with the toilsome life of people in its midst — this is probably the image of Gangwon Province in the minds of many Koreans. The piquant fragrance of spicebush flowers, the fields of buckwheat blossoms dazzling white under the moonlight, and the magnificent view of the sun rising over the East Sea are all familiar images of the province, even to those who have never been there, since they have been repeatedly portrayed in numerous works of literature and music. Lee Chang-guy Poet and Literary Critic Ahn Hong-beom Photographer

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n a simple stage under a dim light, a singer strums on his guitar and begins to sing; he croons “Five Hundred Miles” by Peter, Paul and Mary. The noisy room instantly quiets down. Some in the audience try to restrain their emotions and others are already dabbing their eyes. It is a scene from a video clip on YouTube of a café in a small American town. A story becomes a song through abstraction and extension. In “Five Hundred Miles,” the vicissitudes of modern American history — the construction of railroads, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the mass discharge of workers — have been abstracted into the story of a wanderer missing his family and hometown, which is then extended to touch on the universal emotions of Americans. Perhaps it’s not entirely impossible to think of songs that entice us, at least for a moment, to understand and empathize with people from other countries or cultures, if only we can let go of our preconceived notions. Since the topic of this article is Gangwon Province, the song “Hangyeryeong Pass,” composed by Ha Deok-kyu and sung by Yang Hee-eun, comes to mind. A Passage to Mt. Kumgang In geographical terms, Gangwon Province is comparable to Switzerland. Just as most of Switzerland straddles the Alps, Gangwon Province stretches from Mt. Kumgang (aka Mt. Geumgang, meaning “Diamond Mountain”) down to Mt. Taebaek, in the middle of the Baekdu Daegan, the mountain range that forms the spine of the Korean peninsula. Back in the old days, when agriculture was the mainstay of the economy, the province was not a hospitable place to live in. The “Ecological Guide to Korea” (Taengniji), an 18th-century book of human geography written during the Joseon Dynasty, describes the province as a place where “the soil is so barren and gravelly that one mal [old unit of volume equivalent to approximately 18 liters] of seeds would only yield about a dozen mal.” Even today, the circumstances are similar. Partly for this reason, the province’s remote mountain villages used to provide the perfect hiding place for the socially and politically oppressed. It may be easier to understand the province’s unfavorable agricultural conditions by examining its situation in the distant past when the central government collected taxes in kind. Gangwon Province had only two warehouses to store grains collected as tax, which were far too small compared with those of other regions; the same was true for the size and number of boats carrying the grains to the capital. Furthermore, an exemption was made that allowed the grain taxes collected here to be used within the province. In the 17th century, this exemption became almost meaningless when the Uniform Land Tax Law 1 (Daedongbeop) was enacted to levy taxes not on households

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In Bongpyeong, the birthplace of novelist Yi Hyo-seok (1907–1942), there are vast stretches of buckwheat fields, just as in his stories. Every September, when the white flowers are in full bloom, the town holds a festival commemorating the novelist.


but on the land according to its size, to be paid in rice instead of other grains. The tax burdens for poor peasant farmers were substantially decreased. In the days when the ruling class was comprised of Confucian scholars, who regarded spending time in the mountains as a refined way to accomplish spiritual discipline, Gangwon Province was little more than a passage to Mt. Kumgang, now part of North Korea. It was such a famed mountain in the past that the Chinese poet Su Dongpo wrote, “I wish I’d been born in Goryeo [Korea’s name at the time] so I could see Mt. Kumgang.” However, the mountain was not easily accessible even to the people of Goryeo. To look around the mountain on a donkey or in a sedan chair, as was the custom among the nobility, one needed at least four attendants. Moreover, it was

nearly a month-long trip from Seoul to the mountain’s foot. Certainly, it was not a venture to be attempted by anyone of mediocre wealth. Even so, Mt. Kumgang remained a favorite destination among privileged travelers, and scholars, poets and artists, each with their respective reasons for wanting to clear their minds, continued to visit it. In the end, the mountain became a common subject of travel literature in pre-modern Korea, often with hackneyed descriptions of its landscape and geographical features, interspersed with some personal feelings. Perhaps for this reason, Kang Se-hwang, the eminent literati painter of the 18th century, denounced the trend, saying, “Visiting the mountains must be a great diversion for the noble-minded, but taking a tour around Mt. Kumgang is an extremely vulgar thing to do.”

Of course, not all accounts of the trip are conventional. “Song of Travel to the East” (Dongyuga), a travel verse by an unknown author from the late Joseon period, portrays in detail the lives of the lower class observed during the trip: “Coming in this direction from Cheorwon, I looked at / the overlapping mountains, sparsely dotted with houses / people plowing hard, gravelly fields with rope-pulled double spades. / The inns, suffering from the lack of oil, burning pine twigs for lighting, / and rooms just barely heated by a clay furnace and chimney installed in one corner.” Given that almost 85 percent of the French people lived in destitute poverty during the Napoleonic era, the dire liv-


“Sambuyeon Falls” (Falls with Three Puddles) from the “Album Transmitting the Spirit of the Sea and Mountains” (Haeak jeonsin cheop ) by Jeong Seon, 1747. Ink and color on silk, 31.4 × 24.2 cm. Although Joseon’s Confucian scholars often considered Gangwon Province a mere passage leading to Mt. Kumgang, sometimes they would slow down at places of great scenic beauty. Attracted by the Sambuyeon Falls in Cheorwon on his way to the celebrated mountain, the artist Jeong Seon (1676–1759) stopped to paint the spectacle.

© Kansong Art And Culture Foundation

ing conditions of Gangwon Province in those days would not have been exceptional. Nonetheless, a Korean writer during the 20th-century Japanese colonial era found the poverty of his home folks quite extraordinary. Novelist Kim Yu-jeong (1908–1937) was the youngest child of a wealthy family who had lived for generations in Sille Village in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province. He grew up shut-

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tling between Chuncheon and Seoul, where he received an elite education. At the age of 22, he returned permanently to his hometown with its 50 or so households. His circumstances greatly changed, for his parents had died early and his profligate elder brother had squandered the family fortune. Left with no money for tuition or living expenses, disappointed in love and afflicted with sudden illness, he had no choice but to

go back home, with a faint hope of obtaining his share of the inheritance, even if it meant filing a lawsuit against his brother. However, it was not the small amount of money that consoled his exhausted body and mind but the spicebush flowers (Lindera obtusiloba), blooming yellow on Mt. Geumbyeong in early spring, and the open and honest people of his hometown, especially the rural women, who were “crude and tough, just as nature made them,” free of any “exaggeration or pretension.” Spicebush Flowers and Buckwheat Fields As he recuperated amid the landscape and people of his hometown, he opened a night school for the village youth in a hut built on the hill behind his house. One day, a neighborhood woman told him about a liquor peddler (deulbyeongi, women who traveled around selling alcoholic beverages and flirting with their male customers), who had stayed at her house for a few days before she disappeared. Based on her story, Kim Yu-jeong wrote his first short story, “A Traveler to the Mountain Village.” He became a novelist and made it his mission to depict the hardships suffered by the people around him. His protagonists are an array of pitiable men, of the type he met in the village: a man, frustrated by farming, which renders him poorer year after year, who plans to send his wife peddling liquor (“Wife”); another man who decides that “it is wiser to dig up the earth to find gold than break my back for a year in the fields to get just a few sacks of beans” (“Finding Gold in the Bean Fields”); and yet another who “roams from this mountain to that, his young wife trailing behind him, looking for a better place to live” (“A Rain Shower”). His candid and humorous portrayal of their wretched lives helped to enrich 20th-century Korean literature. While Kim’s work was spurred by the awareness that the ever-worsening impoverishment of the countryside was rooted in the systematic colonial deprivation that had mass-produced tenant farmers, Lee Hyo-seok (1907–1942) sought to keep away from the heartless and treacherous reality and build his own artistic sanctuary. In his signature essay, “Burning the Fallen Leaves,” the novelist from Bongpyeong in Pyeongchang County smells the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans in the smoke of the burning leaves, planning in his head to erect a Christmas tree and learn to ski in the coming winter. This idyllic essay was written in the second year of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), when Korea was suffering under extreme colonial exploitation. Notably, Lee’s view of literature as “possessing a magical power to reveal the beauty of humans, however vulgar and despicable they may be” was only marginally affected by the intense pressure of Japan’s cultural assimilation policy. In this context, it is still meaningful to review “The Buckwheat Sea-

son,” widely regarded as a masterpiece of Korean literature, and consider where it lies on Lee’s literary path from the half-hearted realism of his early days to the belletristic inclination of his later years. “The road appeared suspended from the waist of a hill. It was past midnight, and in the stillness around him, Heo caught the sound of the moon breathing like a beast within arm’s reach, and bean stalks and ears of corn, drenched in moonlight, appeared bluer than usual. The waist of the hill was all planted in buckwheat, and the fresh flowers, as serene as salt sprinkled under the soft moonlight, were breathtaking. The red buckwheat stalks were as tenuous as a fragrance, and the donkey’s gait was refreshing.” (from “The Buckwheat Season,” translated by Peter H. Lee) To celebrate these two novelists’ lives and literature, Gangwon Province opened the Kim Yu-jeong House of Literature in Sille Village and the Lee Hyo-seok Memorial Hall in Bongpyeong, where their birthplaces have been preserved. Waterways, Snowy Roads and Highways Many of the mountain roads in Gangwon Province run up and down at an altitude of around 1,000 meters. The streams originating in the high mountains mostly flow into the Han River. Until the 1930s, the river was used as a waterway to transport forest products since the roads were so rough. The timber cut from the northern counties of Inje and Yanggu was gathered on the Bukhan River (North Han River), and timber from the southern counties like Jeongseon, Pyeongchang and Yeongwol on the Namhan River (South Han River), to be tied together into timber rafts, drifting down the river until they reached Seoul. It took a day from Inje to Chuncheon, and then a week or two from Chuncheon to Seoul. To ease their weariness and boredom, the boatmen driving the timber rafts would sing “Raft Arirang,” a version of the folk song “Gangwon-do Arirang” with their own added lyrics. These rafts often carried high-quality white porcelain, medicinal herbs and firewood from the area around Yanggu and Bangsan, destined for Seoul. The Bukhan River was an important waterway for boats plying between Seoul and Chuncheon. Boats carrying salt from Seoul or grain taxes from Gangwon Province used this waterway before it was blocked by dams for hydroelectric power built in the early 1940s. In place of the closed waterway, electricity reached the province. Naerin Stream, once filled with rows of timber rafts, now echoes with the cheers and shouts of young people enjoying river rafting. While waterways connected the province with the outside world, its snowy roads isolated it, prohibiting exchange.


As all the roads traversing Gangwon Province end at the east coast, the East Sea is no ordinary sea for Koreans. Rather, it is an object of faith.

Plowing through knee-high snow in the mountains represents the harshness of life as solemn and desperate as eating tearstained bread. Snow as a metaphor for the grueling road to spiritual growth or the homecoming of the wounded is often used in works of literature and other forms of arts. In Hwang Sokyong’s short story “On the Road to Sampo,” the three protagonists, jettisoned by the current of industrialization, go wandering on the snowy roads looking for an unknown place called Sampo. “Snowy Road,” a film about the homecoming of girls who had been forced into sexual servitude for Japanese soldiers during World War II, describes the girls trodding through snow in the birch tree forest in Inje, with the endless peaks of Daegwallyeong Pass in the background. The Yeongdong Expressway, first opened in 1971 and continuously extended, now runs all the way from Incheon to Gangneung by way of Hoengseong and Pyeongchang. Since the expressway opened, the mountain passes of Gangwon Province have been transformed into walking trails for urban hikers. Meanwhile, some of the east coast beaches that had formerly been restricted military areas were opened to the public. In the 1970s, the song “Whale Hunting” by Song Chang-sik from the soundtrack of the hit film “The March of Fools” was a favorite with the young. They would play it on their guitars and sing it at the top of their lungs. The chorus goes, “Now, let’s get away, to the sea on the east coast!” At the time, it was a great luxury to get away to the eastern beaches carrying some simple camping equipment, whether on a slow train winding its way through the mountains, or by bus running on the straight expressway. In 1975, when most sections of the expressway were completed, the Yongpyeong Ski Resort opened as a center of winter sports. Last summer, an event was held on top of the slopes to pray for the success of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

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The east coast of Gangwon Province has numerous scenic spots presenting beautiful views of the sun rising over the sea. To Koreans, the East Sea is not just a body of water, but a solemn place reminding them of the significance of history, and a relaxing place where they can feel free from the confines of everyday life.

Roads to the East Sea In December 2016, at one of the candlelight rallies against the then president, which had drawn a total of two million people, the singer Han Young-ae, in her characteristic husky voice, sang “My Country, My People,” which begins: “See, the sun rising above the East Sea. / On whom does the sun shine its blazing rays? / On us, who have achieved noble purity / in the course of bloody struggles.” The lyrics were written in the 1970s by Kim Min-ki, who had composed the legendary protest song “Morning Dew” as a college student. “Whale Hunting” was written by Choe In-ho, who was a celebrated young novelist. It is ironic that the popularity of these songs coincided with the construction of the

Yeongdong Expressway running across the Korean peninsula, whether it be seen as a symbol of industrialization that accelerated economic development or the product of developmental dictatorship. As all the roads traversing Gangwon Province end at the east coast, the East Sea is no ordinary sea for Koreans. Rather, it is an object of faith. Perhaps that’s why they so often cross the high passes of the Baekdu Daegan — such as Hangyeryeong, Misiryeong and Daegwallyeong — to feel free from the fetters of everyday life at the bracing sight of the sea, or drive through the night on the expressway and linger around the beaches to see the first sun of the year rise over the sea. Now, the tuning is over. It’s time to listen to the music.


‘PyeongChang Music Festival & School’ Gives Cultural Panache to Gangwon Province Ryu Tae-hyung Music Columnist

Now established as a prominent international music festival, the PyeongChang Music Festival & School (PMFS, formerly known as the Great Mountains Music Festival & School) was first held in 2004 at the Yongpyeong Ski Resort. Modeled after the Aspen Music Festival and School in the United States, it was planned as a summer fair offering classical music concerts and training programs. Aspen, once a ghostly city of abandoned mines with a population of only about 6,000, has been revitalized as the host city of one of the top classical music festivals in the United States since it was founded in 1949. Emulating the Aspen model, Professor Kang Hyo of the Juilliard School launched the PMFS in collaboration with the Sejong Soloists, a world-renowned string orchestra. In the beginning, the circumstances were less than ideal. The main stage at the Nunmaeul [Snow Village] Hall had to rely on microphones to deliver the music properly to the audience. Moreover, other events were being held around the ski resort during the same period, which impeded concentrated appreciation of the music. For instance, a burst of spirited shouts from the nearby fencing contests once startled the audience in the middle of a concert. In spite of the initial difficulties, the PMFS, held on the highlands at an altitude of around 700 meters, has attracted a growing number of music lovers, providing a shelter from the summer heat as well as diverse musical offerings. A careful arrangement of programs under a variety of annual themes has garnered attention among domestic and international music communities. The festival also promotes musical diversity by presenting world premieres, Asian premieres and Korean premieres of lesser-known masterpieces and experimental contemporary works, alongside famous classical works. 1 Š Gangwon Art And Culture Foundation

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In 2010, the Alpensia Concert Hall opened, providing a proper venue for the performance of classical music, and

artistic organizations who came from abroad to benchmark the festival.

that year’s concerts of the Distinguished Artists Series were

In February 2016, the PyeongChang Winter Music

all sold out. As renowned artists and professors are invited to

Festival was inaugurated. Presented by the Ministry of

the festival every year, there has also been a growing influx of

Culture, Sports and Tourism and organized by the Gangwon

talented music students from around the world.

Art and Culture Foundation, it was founded to promote the

In 2011, cellist Chung Myung-wha and violinist Chung

2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Featuring recitals and

Kyung-wha came on board as artistic directors, and their

chamber music concerts by winners of the International

extensive international network has greatly contributed to

Tchaikovsky Competition, as well as jazz performances

increasing the festival’s scale. Consequently, the 8th edition

by Korean singer Youn Sun Nah and Swedish guitarist Ulf

of the festival that year, held under the theme “Illumination,”

Wakenius, the first edition focused on expanding the festival’s

saw a record attendance of 35,000 people. Various programs

range of genres and improving its accessibility.

to encourage audience participation, such as “Traveling Concerts,” are also part of the festival.

Many of the visitors to the festival were tourists who had come to ski in the mountains and then learned about

This year’s festival focused on Russian music under the

the concerts, triggering an unexpected increase of on-site

theme “Great Russian Masters.” It featured an opera staged

ticket sales. The summer and winter music festivals held in

in the Music Tent, opened in 2012, a symbolic event indicating

the scenic mountains of Pyeongchang are expected to help

that the PMFS, once envisioned as a chamber music festival,

raise the profile of Gangwon Province as a place of cultural

has grown to accommodate operas. Pianist Son Yeol-eum, the

excellence as well as a clean natural environment.

festival’s associate artistic director, and other young musicians presented a beautiful ensemble as well. The PMFS offers a combination of concerts by prominent artists as well as tuition for music students. The students attend master classes of celebrated musicians and mingle with them in concert halls, restaurants, coffee shops, and on walking trails. The festival has been successful in obtaining sponsorship from corporations and maintains close connections with them. This year, the Yamaha Corporation provided 40 pianos to increase the availability of practice rooms for performers and students. Airlines as well as local businesses, including Terarosa Coffee, also provided sponsorship. This year, the audience included a significant number of directors of national

1. Led by Conductor Zaurbek Gugkaev, the Marinsky Orchestra and Opera Company of St. Petersburg, Russia, perform Sergei Prokofiev’s opera “The Love for Three Oranges” at the Alpensia Music Tent. Based on the 18th-century drama of the same title by the Italian playwright Carlo Gozzi, the opera premiered in Korea at the 2017 PyeongChang Music Festival. 2. For the Distinguished Artists Series of the 2017 PyeongChang Music Festival, cellists Chung Myung-wha, Luís Claret and Laurence Lesser (from left) play “Requiem” by David Popper, with pianist Kim Tae-hyung.


SPECIAL FEATURE 2 Gangwon Province: Land of Mountains, Myths and Memories

Stories of

GANGWON’S Mountains, Rivers and Sea Gangwon Province is a land of mountains, rivers and sea, boasting a unique culture nurtured by these geographical elements. Numerous ancient Buddhist temples are scattered amidst the deep mountains throughout the land, while the sounds of the boating songs imbued with the joys and sorrows of life flow down the rivers where the timber produced in the secluded regions was once transported. Lee Soon-won Novelist Ahn Hong-beom Photographer

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eople have long been drawn to Gangwon Province because of its mountains, rivers and seashore. In summer, it’s the sea that is most attractive and in winter, there’s the pristine snow piling up on the mountain tops. In autumn, it is here that the leaves start to change color, the fascinating wave of autumn foliage gradually moving south and spreading over the whole country. Gangwon Province is located on the eastern side of the Korean peninsula, which is divided along the Baekdu Daegan [“Great White Head Ridge”], the long chain of mountains that forms the backbone of the country. To get there from Seoul you have to cross over the steep mountain passes Daegwallyeong, or Jinburyeong or Misiryeong further to the north. Otherwise, there is a train that goes round the south, past Taebaek and Jeongdongjin and onto Gangneung on the east coast. Or, starting even further south, you can drive along the east coast on national road No. 7, passing by Samcheok, Donghae and Gangneung to reach Goseong, right below the DMZ. The province is divided into the Yeongdong [“East of the Passes”] and Yeongseo [“West of the Passes”] regions by the Taebaek Mountain Range, which forms one of the main branches of the Baekdu Daegan. The places mentioned above are found in the Yeongdong region. The Yeongseo region is bigger; it includes the cities Chuncheon, Hwacheon and Yanggu. If Yeongdong is a land of mountains and sea, Yeongseo is a land of mountains and rivers. So, within the one province the environment is very different on the eastern and western sides of the mountain range that runs through it.

Auraji in Jeongseon is the meeting place of two streams, from where the Namhan [South Han] River originates. The birthplace of “Jeongseon Arirang,” one of Korea’s most-renowned folk songs, this area has long been a famous stop on the waterway where timber from deep in the mountains of Gangwon Province was transported to the capital.

The Backbone of the Korean Peninsula The heart of all Korean mountains is the Taebaek Mountain Range. This mountain system encompasses a large number of high mountains. There is a string of mountains over 1,500 meters high, including Mt. Seorak, Mt. Odae, Mt. Gariwang, a venue of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and of course, Mt. Taebaek, regarded as sacred since ancient times. In comparison, Daegwallyeong is just a little hill. But the path over it is the major road through the Taebaek Mountain Range, connecting the eastern and western regions of the province, so the pass is entrenched in the minds of many Koreans as the paramount mountain pass. In the olden days when building a road over the mountains was not easy, the first path connecting the two regions was on Daegwallyeong, rising 832 meters high between Gangneung and Pyeongchang. Therefore, it was a path as well as a gate.


There are no villages along the Baekdu Daegan because the mountains are too rugged. While the area around Daegwallyeong is certainly mountainous, it comprises a wide highlands area. From early summer to autumn, it is carpeted in green vegetables grown at high altitudes. I first went up the pass when I was 17. As I looked at the vast fields of cabbages and radishes, I thought of the Kaema Plateau in North Korea, a place I had never been to and had never even seen in a photograph. Probably it is the fault of the word gowon, meaning “plateau,” in the name. Then I began to understand why adults in those days referred to Daegwallyeong as bisan biya, meaning land that is “neither mountains nor plains.” It saddens me to think of Mt. Kumgang, located in the northern part of the Baekdu Daegan and hence in North Korea today. I’ve heard that my late grandfather spent every summer at Oncheon-ri, the “spa village” at the foot of the mountain. Only once did I visit the mountain that I had always heard about, as if in a legend. It was back in 2000 when we departed for the mountain beyond the DMZ in a cruise ship from the Donghae port along the east coast. Temples Nestled Deep in the Mountains After the nation was divided into North and South Korea by the DMZ, Mt. Seorak became the most famous mountain in the south. Ulsan Rock is no doubt magnificent but it is the ambience of the mountain covered in autumn leaves that makes you think, “Ah, so this is where the fire of autumn is lit.” In the deep mountains, Buddhist temples were inevitably built. Gangneung is known for its Confucian cultural remains and there are no big temples in this coastal city, but Sinheung Temple and Baekdam Temple, where the famous monk Manhae stayed for many years and drew up a plan to reform Korean Buddhism,

Gangwon Province Mt. Kumgang North Korea East Sea

South Korea

Sokcho Mt. Seorak

Pyongyang Seoul

Baekdu Daegan

Gangneung Pyeongchang Jeongseon Taebaek Mt. Taebaek

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In the deep ravines of Gangwon Province, various kinds of bridges were laid in places where a crossing was necessary. The brushwood bridge (seopdari ) over the Odae Stream on Mt. Odae is one of them.

are found in the deepest recesses of Mt. Seorak, as are Woljeong Temple and Sangwon Temple on Mt. Odae. In the courtyard of Woljeong Temple is an octagonal stone pagoda from the Goryeo Dynasty and facing it is a stone seated bodhisattva in prayer, both of which survived the ravages of the Korean War when all wooden structures in the temple were destroyed by fire. Sangwon Temple is home to a number of precious cultural treasures, such as Korea’s oldest bronze bell and a wooden sculpture of Manjusri, the bodhisattva of supreme wisdom, as a young boy. The seated figure of Manjusri is wrapped in legend. King Sejo of the Joseon Dynasty suffered a terrible skin disease and traveled to all famous mineral springs around the country in search of a cure. While he was bathing in the stream below Sangwon Temple, Manjusri appeared to scrub his back and heal

him. So the legend goes, and the story is painted on a mural at the temple. There is another story that says the image of Manjusri was originally enshrined at the nearby Munsu Temple by King Sejo’s daughter, Princess Euisuk, to pray for a son but was at some point moved to Sangwon Temple. The main peak of the Taebaek Mountain Range is naturally Mt. Taebaek, standing 1,567 meters high and being revered since ancient times as one of the three sacred mountains of Korea. This too is a place of legend. The boy king Danjong, ousted from the throne by his uncle, King Sejo, met his death in the mountains of Yeongwol and came to Mt. Taebaek riding on a white horse to become a mountain god. Another historically significant place in the area is the Mt. Taebaek Archive where a copy of the “Annals of the Joseon Dynasty” (Joseon wangjo sil-


Every summer, a rafting festival is held in Auraji, and on the wooden rafts the traditional folk song “Arirang” is performed. Born and set in Auraji, “Arirang” resonates with the joys and sorrows of life, the doleful strains of the song flowing down with the water past Chungju until the stream reaches Yangpyeong in Gyeonggi Province.

lok) was kept from 1606 to 1910. From the Taebaek Mountain Range, the Sobaek Mountain Range branches off to form the geographical and cultural boundary between Gangwon and the Gyeongsang provinces to the south. The Blessing and Gift of Nature The Taebaek Mountain Range slopes steeply on the eastern side where it runs down to meet the sea. The more gentle slopes on the western side cradle the drainage basin of the Han and Nakdong rivers. In Samsu-dong in the city of Taebaek is a mountain named Samsuryeong, literally the “three waters pass.” As this suggests, Samsu-dong is the watershed for three rivers: the Han River, which flows into the West Sea; the Nakdong River, which flows into the South Sea; and the Osip Stream, which flows into the East Sea. According to a funny old tale, a drop of rain that fell on top of this mountain splashed and separated into three droplets — one flowed eastward, one westward and one southward. Samsu-dong is also home to Hwangji, the lake that is the source of the Nakdong River, and Geomnyongso, the spring that is the source of the Han River. The main stream of the Han River, called the “lifeline” of the Korean people, runs 514 kilometers, starting from Geomnyongso and meeting with other streams in many valleys to flow into Jeongseon. There it joins Songcheon, a stream that begins at Mt. Hwangbyeong. The spot where these two streams meet is Auraji, whose name means “where two waterways join.” And together, these waterways adorn the landscape. Jeongseon, though mountainous, has fertile land and clean waters, and thanks to the splendid environment, people came here to enjoy the scenery and revel in poetry, music and art. Auraji was also widely known because rafts gathered here to transport wood, cut in the deep mountains across the province, down the Namhan River to Mapo on the southern periphery of the capital, Hanyang (today’s Seoul). Every summer, a rafting festival is held in Auraji, and on

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the wooden rafts the traditional folk song “Arirang” is performed. Born and set in Auraji, “Arirang” resonates with the joys and sorrows of life, the doleful strains of the song flowing down with the water past Chungju until the stream reaches Yangpyeong in Gyeonggi Province. There it meets the Bukhan River, originating in Mt. Kumgang, which flows southwestward through Inje, Yanggu and Chuncheon before reaching this spot. Hence its name Dumulmeori, meaning the “heads of two waterways.” Where the Namhan River joins the Bukhan River, the two form a truly big river. Rivers are the blessing of nature. This is true not only along the upper reaches; those living downstream are also blessed. In Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, 15 million people rely on the downstream of the Han River, while the number of those living upstream is only 800,000. There, none of the water is used for industrial purposes; it is all put to household or agricultural uses. So it is truly clean water that flows downstream, a blissful gift to the city dwellers. Sunrise Watched from the DMZ To most Koreans, “the sea” generally means the blue waters of the East Sea. That is why large numbers of tourists head for Gyeongpo Beach in Gangneung all year round. Not far from Gyeongpo is Jeongdongjin, a renowned spot where people flock every weekend to watch the sun rise over the East Sea. Jeongdongjin Station used to be a little stop, but as the sunrise crowds caught onto the notion that Jeongdonjin is the place closest to the “due east” of Seoul, it has become a big, busy station with 26 trains stopping by daily. The sunrise over the East Sea is a magnificent sight from any part of the coast. Watched from the barbed wire fences of the DMZ at the northernmost part of Gangwon Province, it is as spectacular as it is heartbreaking. As entrancing as the sunrise over the East Sea is the night view of the sea teeming with fishing boats. The phrase “a city

that never sleeps” commonly refers to a city with brightly lit streets at night, but if anything dazzles more brilliantly than such city streets, it’s the hundreds of squid fishing boats out on the sea at night, with their decks covered in light bulbs. It’s a fantastic sight, even from the top of Daegwallyeong far away. Seen close to the water, it is truly spectacular. As beautiful and lofty as the lights is the hard work that continues on the boats through the night. I remember that during my junior and high school years in Gangneung, the kids who lived in the mining areas always paid their school fees early, no matter what season it was. On the contrary, kids from farming families paid when they could in accordance with their means, while kids from the seaside paid their accumulated fees all at once when the squid were abundant. Up the coast from Gangneung is Yangyang County. Though not exactly a fishing district on the whole, it is home to Namdaecheon, the “Great South Stream” to which the salmon return every autumn. Upstream, salmon fry that have grown to finger size head off for the East Sea and begin their long, arduous journey to the distant ocean. Then, a few years later, when they have grown to the hefty size of an adult person’s arm, they swim from the North Pacific, through the Bering Sea and the

Okhotsk Sea, and back to Namdaecheon in Yangyang where they were born and spent their early days. A little further north of Yangyang is Sokcho, the fishing base of the east coast. In the past, when the tide came in, the harbor was crowded with fishing boats out to catch Alaska pollack. But with climate change and the rise in water temperature, cold water fish such as pollack have all but disappeared. Nonetheless, Sokcho continues unabated to serve as the hub of the east coast fishing industry. Further north of Sokcho, the wharves of Geojin, Daejin and Ayajin in Goseong County are abuzz with fishing boats according to season. And even further up the coast, on the road to Mt. Kumgang, the nation’s territory is abruptly cut in half. Civilians can only go as far as the Unification Observatory in Goseong. Although almost forgotten now, up until national liberation in 1945, a train used to run northward along the east coast from Yangyang to Wonsan, via Mt. Kumgang. But when Korea was divided into South and North along the 38th parallel, the tracks were pulled up. In my mind, I imagine the day a railway track leading to Mt. Kumgang is laid again. From the Unification Observatory the coast beyond the border comes achingly into view.

A stone seated bodhisattva graces the main courtyard of Woljeong Temple on Mt. Odae. This is a replica of the original sculpture dated to the 11th century, which is housed in the temple museum.


SPECIAL FEATURE 3 Gangwon Province: Land of Mountains, Myths and Memories



Gangwon is without doubt the best winter destination in Korea. The province offers a wide variety of winter sports activities for visitors to enjoy, such as skiing and trekking in the beautiful snow. It is also home to exciting winter festivals, the best-known being the annual mountain trout festival in Hwacheon. Choi Byung-il Travel and Leisure Reporter, The Korea Economic Daily Shim Byung-woo Photographer

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Janggundan (Altar for the General God) is one of the three altars built to worship heaven on top of Mt. Taebaek in ancient times. On the first day of the New Year, many people climb up here to watch the rising sun and pray for good fortune in the year ahead. The hike up to the peak is not easy, but the beautiful snow-covered trees make it a popular hiking trail, especially in winter.

Š Gangwon Provincial Office, Korail Tourism Development



he best time to visit Gangwon Province is the cold winter — although other seasons also have their own merits — and the best way to truly experience the winter there is by hiking through the magical snowy landscape. On an exceptionally snowy day last winter, I headed to Mt. Taebaek without a moment’s hesitation to experience the wintery charm of Gangwon. In spring, Mt. Taebaek is covered with vibrant pink azaleas, while in summer and autumn, wildflowers create a heavenly garden. But the mountain is most stunning in winter when the snowflakes on the branches of trees glisten in the sun. The spectacular sight of the snow-covered branches swaying in the wind like silvery sweetfish is worth braving the piercing cold. The distance to the top is four kilometers. In summer, it takes two hours at most, but in winter, with your feet sinking in ankle-deep snow, it can take a good four hours. Climbing the most challenging section called Kkalttak Hill will literally take your breath away. But once you pass Cheonjedan, an altar to heaven at the summit, the tough part is over. When the cold winds have almost dried the sweat running down your face and body, the ridges of the Baekdu Daegan mountain range come into view through the forest. Close to the summit is a yew habitat. Standing undaunted, enduring the harsh winter winds, the bare trees harbor the energy of life that is waiting to sprout. Maybe that’s why people used to say the yew trees here “live a thousand years in this world and another thousand in the next.” Woljeong Temple in Pyeongchang County on a snowy day is just as spectacular as the snow-covered Mt. Taebaek. Take a walk on the snow-covered road lined with fir trees, making fresh footprints, and find yourself enveloped in complete and utter silence. Silence is hardly the best description; it is as if the snow has sucked in all the sound around it. There is a tranquil beauty in the sight of a Buddhist monk in a gray robe, hurrying over a fresh blanket of snow in the early hours of the morning.

Winter Festivals to Blow Your Stress Away If mountain hiking is not up your alley, try one of the many winter festivals the region has to offer. The Mount Taebaek Snow Festival, held every January, features magnificent snow sculptures with themes reflecting current trends. Visitors can see the work of Korea’s finest snow sculptors, created with superb workmanship. In the upcoming festival, works celebrating the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics will be on display. Aside from feasting your eyes, there are plenty of fun ice and snow activities to enjoy: sledding on a big plastic bag; an ice slide that is popular with children; and an igloo café where couples and families can chat and warm up over a hot beverage. Family visitors can also enjoy dog sledding and snowmobiling

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in the pine grove in front of Taebaek Minbak [Homestay] Village. Dashing through the snowy fields on a sled pulled by Siberian Huskies is an exhilarating experience that will blow your stress away. For fishing enthusiasts, Hwacheon is the place to relish the true charm of winter fishing. The rivers here are covered in a thick layer of ice, providing a great venue for various ice activities. The Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, in particular, has transformed the region into a popular winter destination. Held annually from January to February at Hwacheon Stream, it is not only the most famous winter festival in Korea, but has also been ranked among the world’s four major winter festivals, along with the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in China, the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan and the Quebec Winter Carnival in Canada. It has attracted over one million visitors a year for 11 consecutive years and has been mentioned in Korean textbooks. In 2011, the U.S. cable news channel CNN introduced the festival as one of the “7 wonders of winter.” The main attraction of the festival is the ice fishing and barehanded fishing of sancheoneo, or mountain trout. The fish caught can be cooked on the spot at a restaurant nearby. Mountain trout, rich in nutrients, has long been a favorite. In China, Taoist immortals are said to have enjoyed the fish, while in Japan, it was given as a present to the imperial family. At night, the Seondeung Festival lights up the town, seondeung meaning “a light guiding you to the world of immortals.” Beautiful trout-shaped lanterns illuminate the night sky around Hwacheon Stream and the marketplace. Although smaller in scale than the mountain trout festival, the annual Pyeongchang Trout Festival is also very popular. It takes place on the banks of Odae Stream from late January until late February. In addition to popular programs such as ice fishing, barehanded fishing and family fishing, there are a host of winter activities to enjoy, including ice sledding, snow rafting, bobsleighing and ice-train riding. Anyone can easily catch two or three trout once they get the hang of it. Trout caught between winter and spring taste the best. Grilled trout is light and savory, while sliced raw trout is soft and chewy. Pyeongchang has been the home of farm-raised trout since the first trout farm in the country was built there in 1965. Seo Yu-gu, a Silhak (“practical learning”) scholar from the late Joseon Dynasty, wrote in Nanho eomokji, an encyclopedia of fish, “The flesh is red and clear like the knots on a pine tree, which is why the word trout in Korean has the same Chinese character as pine. Trout is the most delicious among the fish caught in the East Sea.” In the cold winter days of yore, trout was a good food source when there wasn’t enough to eat. Our forebears would hit the rocks in a creek with a hammer and when the startled trout hiding underneath came out, quickly

The Sea Train runs along the east coast. The tourist train features tiered seats that allow passengers a clear view of the sea. © Korail Tourism Development

catch them. What was a means of survival for our ancestors has been turned into a fun activity for people today. Romantic Winter Train Ride Another way to enjoy the pristine winter landscape of this region is to hop on a train. Even the biting cold will seem romantic. Seated snugly in a comfortable seat, watching the snow fall outside the window will warm up your body and soul. I once boarded the “Fantasy Snow Flower Train” that runs from December till February. Fellow travelers gathered on the platform, looking cheerful and excited for the brief respite from the everyday stress of driving to work on icy roads or commuting in a jam-packed subway car. It was a day trip starting from Seoul Station and stopping at Chujeon, Seungbu and Danyang, with scenic views of ravines filled with snow. Just a short distance away from the city center, a striking

The scenery of snow-capped roofs, and rice paddies and stream banks blanketed with snow warmed my heart. The train ran slowly, but still the wheels sprayed snow as it chugged along.


Yongpyeong Ski Resort in Pyeongchang, built in 1975, is Korea’s first ski resort and the mecca of winter leisure activities. As soon as the ski season starts in early winter, skiers and snowboarders flock here from across the country.

snowscape unfolded before my eyes. The scenery of snowcapped roofs, and rice paddies and stream banks blanketed with snow warmed my heart. The train ran slowly, but still the wheels sprayed snow as it chugged along. Traveling with an acquaintance for the first time in a long while, eating gimbap and snacks together on the train, brought back old memories. Our first stop was Chujeon Station in Taebaek. At 855 meters above sea level, it is the highest point in the country that can be reached by train. After eight minutes going through the 4.5 km-long Jeongam Tunnel, the station came into view. The name Chujeon means that the station was built where bush clovers grow. With low average annual temperatures, the place has exceptionally long winters. The train stopped at the station for around 20 minutes. I got off the train and stood on the platform. The cold air brushed across my cheeks. Specialty Coffee to Warm Your Winter There’s nothing like a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter day. Gangneung, a seaside city in the province, has become a paradise for coffee lovers in recent years. It was hard to believe at first, but once I visited the city and saw it for myself, I understood why. Aside from the many coffee shops lining the streets, the city is home to a coffee museum, coffee farms and coffee roasters. It has also been hosting an annual coffee festival since 2009. There are currently around 200 coffee shops, which create an annual value added of over 200 billion won (approximately

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US$180 million). The best place for drip coffee in Gangneung is Bohemian Roasters. The owner, Park I-chu, is a coffee master who played a crucial role in Gangneung’s transformation into the coffee mecca of Korea. A Korean-Japanese, Park is one of Korea’s four first-generation baristas. Two have passed away, and one emigrated to America, so he is the only one still active. He moved to Gangneung, opened a coffee shop and trained baristas; one could say that he pioneered the coffee boom in Gangneung. Another place famous for its drip coffee is Terarosa, also called the “coffee factory.” It opened in 2002, the year of the Korea-Japan World Cup. They are serious about their coffee, and even go to Ethiopia and Guatemala to buy their beans. Bong Bong Mill is another place coffee aficionados must visit in Gangneung. Located in Myeongju-dong, downtown Gangneung, it is a mill that has been converted into a café, hence the name. There is a separate space where customers can try their hand at making coffee and read coffee-related books. If these coffee shops have played a leading role in improving the quality of coffee in Gangneung, Coffee Cupper can be credited for spreading the coffee culture, being the first to commercially produce coffee in Korea. Why not make the most of your winter by heading to Gangwon and enjoying the many winter wonders it has to offer, be it a mountain hike, romantic train ride, ice fishing, a winter festival, or just a hot cup of specialty coffee.

Located in the middle of the east coast in Gangwon Province, Gangneung is the birthplace of many historic figures and famous for its ubiquitous cultural relics and sites. But in recent years, the city known for its antiquated charm has been enjoying newfound fame as Korea’s coffee mecca. It all began with coffee vending machines. They were first installed at Anmok Beach on the outskirts of Gangneung in the 1980s. Word gradually spread that the coffee here was particularly good, and people even visited the beach just to taste the coffee from these machines. Soon, there were dozens of vending machines. In 2001, a three-story coffee shop with glass walls opened here. The modern trendy coffee shop didn’t seem to belong in a fishing village with slate-roofed houses. The only coffee most people knew at that time was the cloyingly

1. Choi Geum-jeong, director of the Coffee Museum in Wangsan-myeon, Gangneung, checks exhibits. Also the CEO of Coffee Cupper, she is devoted to promoting coffee culture. 2. The area around Gangneung Port and Anmok Beach is a famous “coffee street” with around 200 cafés, giving the port city the reputation of Korea’s coffee mecca. Coffee shops began sprouting up here in the early 2000s.


sweet type that was a mix of instant coffee, sugar and non-dairy creamer. The taste and aroma of freshly brewed coffee served at this coffee shop were unfamiliar. The price was also much higher than that of vending machine coffee.


Gangneung Reborn as Coffee Mecca Those who were used to drinking coffee in dark, old-

from Jeju Island in the early 2000s and started a coffee farm

fashioned coffee shops wondered who on earth would drink

where she now sells seedlings. She also opened the first coffee

coffee at a place with glass walls where people can look inside,

museum in Korea. Located in Wangsan-myeon, on the outskirts of

and expected it would close down soon. But they were proven

Gangneung, it features rare coffee accessories and items that Choi

wrong. In less than a year, people were lining up at the door.

and her husband collected over many years from various countries

More coffee shops started popping up, and in time, Anmok

around the world, and offers diverse experience programs.

Beach, as well as the vicinity, was filled with a plethora of coffee

“I once heard a visitor at the coffee farm grumbling that he

shops. The “coffee street” became a magnet for tourists from all

couldn’t find coffee beans no matter how hard he looked. I was

over the country.

quite surprised since ripe red coffee beans were everywhere.

The name of the first coffee shop that opened at Anmok

When the beans are roasted they become dark brown or black,

Beach is Coffee Cupper. As to why Gangneung has become so

and I think that person thought the bean itself was black,” said

famous for its coffee, Choi Geum-jeong, CEO of Coffee Cupper,

Choi. “Coffee has become the most popular food product in

explained, “Master coffee maker Park I-chu settled down here

Korea. But not many have a good understanding of it.”

during the early years. He built a coffee factory here, and the city

It has been 16 years since Coffee Cupper first opened.

now plays host to an annual coffee festival. These various factors

Couples who came then now visit with their children. The chairs

combined have created synergy.”

are old and the floor is creaky, but Choi wants to leave things as

But Choi is undoubtedly the one who should be credited for Gangneung’s coffee boom today. She brought 20 coffee trees

they are and preserve the old ambience. She doesn’t want to ruin anyone’s fond memories.


SPECIAL FEATURE 4 Gangwon Province: Land of Mountains, Myths and Memories


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Most of its land mountainous and the temperature lower than in other parts of Korea, Gangwon Province has specialized in highland agriculture, livestock farming and forestry. Another axis of the region’s economy is tourism, which is flourishing thanks to its plentiful environmental resources, such as the beauty of the mountains and rivers and the clear sea off a long stretch of coastline. Lee Byung-oh Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Kangwon National University Ahn Hong-beom Photographer


ifferent terrains and climates create different living environments. Gangwon Province, located in the northeastern part of South Korea, features a dominantly hilly terrain and a relatively cooler climate. Here, about 81 percent of the land is covered with mountains, a notably higher rate than the nationwide average of 63 percent. The presence of mountains in all directions has had a considerable influence on the local way of life and shaped the industrial structure of the province. Unlike the central and southern parts of the Korean peninsula, where the proportion of rice paddies to dry fields is similar or slightly higher, the mountainous northeastern province relies heavily on dry farming and is rich in underground resources. With many of its mountains designated as national parks, including Mt. Seorak, Mt. Chiak and Mt. Taebaek, Gangwon has also developed a thriving tourism industry. Set in the bosom of nature, just one or two hours from the capital area, the province is thronged with tourists, especially in autumn when the mountains are covered in vibrant reds and yellows, and in winter when the snow-covered mountains offer the joys of skiing and sledding. Thanks to this blessed natural environment, Pyeongchang won the bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. The province is not all about mountains, however, for the clean waters of the East Sea are just as much a part of its identity. For those who live on the shore, the sea is their livelihood. Owing to its geographical and climatic features, Gangwon Province has become known for its highland agriculture. Including cabbages and white radishes, the vegetables produced in the fields at some 600 to 800 meters above sea level are sold nationwide, accounting for over 90 percent of the national market.

Highland Agriculture in Cool Mountains Gangwon Province covers an area of 16,874 km², about 17 percent of South Korean territory. In terms of size, it is the second-largest after North Gyeongsang Province, but its roughly 1.55 million inhabitants account for a mere three percent of the national population, with only the island province of Jeju behind it. On the other hand, its farming population is estimated at 176,000, or 11 percent of the province’s total population, which is significantly higher than the national average of five percent.



The geographical and climatic characteristics of the region have led to the development of dry farming, especially highland farming. Practiced on land at around 600 to 800 meters above sea level, highland farming began when a general shortage of food drove people from all over the country to the remote province, where they reclaimed the mountains by slash-and-burn farming. From early summer through autumn, the mountain ranges planted with vegetables look like a vast sea of green waves. In the high mountains, vegetables are sown in early spring and grown through summer to be harvested and sold from late August until the end of September. Vegetables such as napa cabbages, white radishes, cabbages, onions, carrots and potatoes, which are difficult to cultivate in summer in warmer parts of the country, are grown in the mountains of Pyeongchang, Gangneung, Jeongseon and Taebaek. They have an absolute advantage in markets nationwide and are the main source of income for farmers of mountain villages, who otherwise suffer from poor agricultural conditions. The national market share of napa cabbages (aka Chinese cabbages) grown in the region amounts to 93 percent, and that of potatoes 32 percent. Besides, dried radish greens or napa cabbage leaves (siraegi), rich in nutrients, are specialties of the Punchbowl, a highland valley in Yanggu County.

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Since most Koreans eat kimchi at virtually every meal, napa cabbages and white radishes, its main ingredients, are in great demand all year round. In summer and autumn, the highland agricultural areas of Gangwon Province are responsible for almost the entire nationwide supply of kimchi vegetables, so any increase or decrease in production has an immediate impact on national prices. As far as sustainability goes, however, there are several problems with highland farming. For instance, the steep fields high in the mountains often experience soil loss during the rainy season in summer, causing agricultural chemicals to flow into the streams. Furthermore, fluctuating vegetable prices are conducive to speculative dealings. Consequently, voices have been raised for reforestation of the steeper fields and the practice of environment-friendly agriculture. More recently, climate change has increased the cultivation of crops that were seldom produced here before, such as barley, apples and persimmons. Moreover, the high added value created by the seed industry has encouraged the provincial government to enact an ordinance that supports the development of superior seeds for potatoes and various grains. Highland floriculture and melons and asparagus are also emerging as strategic agricultural products. In Gangwon Province, forests cover an area of 13,716 km²,


more than in any other province in the country. But not a lot of good timber is produced here because most of the mountains are too steep and rocky. The most widely distributed trees are pines and an array of broadleaf trees, and the major products from the forests are pine nuts, pine mushrooms, wild herbs and vegetables. High-quality Produce from a Clean Environment The pine mushrooms produced in Yangyang County are considered the best in Korea, and are sold at over 600,000 won (approximately US$500) per kilogram, several times more expensive than those from other parts of the country. Firstgrade pine mushrooms exceed eight centimeters in length with a cap that does not flare out. Good mushrooms are picked from pines over 20 years old, growing naturally in the mountains where ventilation is good and the ground is thickly covered with pine needles. Yangyang has a lot of such terrain providing the optimal conditions for the production of high-quality pine mushrooms, the majority of which are refrigerated as soon as they are picked, to be packed and exported to Japan by air. The most common species of livestock in Gangwon are cows, pigs and chickens, and their national market shares are seven, four and three percent, respectively. The rate of

1. The cattle breed native to Korea, called hanu , graze on pastures from late May to mid-November, and then feed on grain in barns for the rest of the year. Korean beef produced in Gangwon Province is famous for its flavor and tenderness. 2. The pollack drying field in Yongdae-ri, Inje County, has rows of drying pollack hanging on racks. While dried in the cold open air throughout the winter, the fish turns golden yellow and its flesh grows softer and tastier.

high-quality meat of all beef produced in the province amounts to 86 percent, slightly higher than the national average of 84 percent. The difference is as much the result of the region’s climatic and geographical features as of consistent efforts to improve quality. The clean grass, water and air as well as the large diurnal temperature range contribute to increasing intramuscular fat in cattle, yielding high-quality beef that is tender and savory. Beef from the counties of Hoengseong, Pyeongchang and Hongcheon is recognized as the finest in the country, and products from Hoengseong and Daegwallyeong in Pyeongchang are exported to Hong Kong. The long coastline is another geographical feature of the province and the sea yields an abundance of fish and seafood. Squid constitute the majority of the catch, whereas scallops and sea squirt are grown in fish farms. In the past, plenty of Alaska pollack was caught, but these days, the catch volume has sharply declined due to changes in water temperature. The Fisheries Resources Institute in the East Sea Rim Headquarters of the


Unlike the central and southern parts of the Korean peninsula, where the proportion of rice paddies to dry fields is similar or slightly higher, the mountainous northeastern province relies heavily on dry farming and is rich in underground resources.

Pine mushrooms are a specialty of Yangyang County and exported to Japan in great quantities.

Gangwon Provincial Government is currently trying to increase the harvest of pollack by releasing artificially bred hatchlings into the sea. Alaska pollack has long been Koreans’ favorite fish, whether it’s added to soups or stews, or dried and grilled. Salted and fermented, its roe (myeongnanjeot) and intestines (changnanjeot) are also special delicacies. Before the pollack population dwindled, Sokcho was noted for the production of fermented pollack roe, which was mostly exported to Japan. Pollack Drying in Wind and Snow When dried in the cold open air through the winter, the pollack flesh becomes softer and more suitable for long-term storage. The fish turns yellowish as it dries, hence its nickname hwangtae (yellow pollack). Yongdae-ri in the county of Inje is famous for its pollack drying fields (deokjang), where the fish is naturally dried hanging from wooden racks. Now, the fish is imported from Russia and processed here, with Yongdae-ri and the Daegwallyeong area producing more than 70 percent of dried pollack distributed in the country. The best drying fields are found in places where the temperature drops below -10ºC at night in winter and the sun

30 KOREANA Winter 2017

shines brightly during the day, with strong winds and heavy snow. To get the chewy and tasty meat tinged golden yellow, the fish should be dried slowly, frozen and thawed daily throughout the winter. Many Korean households have a few dried pollack in the pantry, ready to be cooked in soup for anyone in the family suffering a hangover. Agritourism and Ecotourism The clean air and beautiful scenery as well as the geographical proximity to the capital make Gangwon Province a popular place for agritourists. Friends, families and other groups visit the farms to enjoy activities such as fishing in the streams, harvesting crops and vegetables, and making processed food products, such as rice cake, bean curd, sausages and the like. They pay for the activities and for the food harvested or produced, which they can consume on the spot or take home. Rural festivals that enjoy wide popularity further promote agritourism in the province. Hwacheon’s Tomato Festival in summer and Hoengseong’s Beef Festival in autumn, among other events, offer a remarkable diversity of interesting activities attracting a great number of tourists. Many eco-tourist facilities built in the region’s beautiful woods are also major attractions. Hoengseong provides specialized forest experience programs at the National Center for Forest Activities (Soopchewon). Meanwhile, the city of Chuncheon runs ecological learning facilities — the Provincial Garden of Flowers and Trees (Hwamogwon), the Forestry Museum and the Forest Experience Park — for tourists and students from other cities, to raise public awareness of the benefits of forests. In addition, through an online reservation system visitors can rest and relax and stay overnight at recreational forests created all over the province. Finally, the Village of Shingle-Roofed Houses (Neowa Maeul), deep in the mountains of Sin-ri on the edge of Samcheok, features houses built in an indigenous architectural style. Its unique scenery has made the village a popular tourist attraction. Currently, over 170 villages in Gangwon Province provide agritourist programs, accounting for 19 percent of such villages nationwide, and drawing 2.3 million visitors annually.

With Koreans’ culinary culture growing markedly simpler and more Westernized, traditional meals once enjoyed by commoners in the countryside have become something of a rarity. Nonetheless, a Korean restaurant on the outskirts of Gangneung is famous for its menu full of traditional dishes, sticking faithfully to original local recipes. It has a rather long name, Seojichogatteul, meaning “the courtyard of a thatchedroof house in Seoji.” Choi Young-gan, the mistress of a clan head family with many years of cooking experience, opened this restaurant in 1998, realizing her dream of reviving the vanishing traditional cuisine. Having operated for almost 20 years now, it was the first traditional Korean restaurant to be accredited by the Gangneung Agricultural Technology Center, and has also been designated a

Local Country Cuisine Revived with a Mother’s Heart

of dishes typical of rural cuisine. Firstly, Motbap (literally, “a meal in the field”) is an assortment of dishes that used to be prepared on large farms to feed the farmers who came to help plant the rice. In the past, when rice seedlings were transplanted by hand, the work could not be handled by the family alone, so the neighbors and farmers from other villages were mobilized. The host family

Fine Farm Restaurant by the Rural Development Administration.

usually served lunch and dinner to some 20 to 30 workers, right

Behind its thatch-covered building stands a 200-year-old house

in the fields, and the meals consisted of rice cooked with red

built in the traditional style, where her family still lives. The house

beans, seaweed soup, ripened kimchi, bean curd, fried seaweed,

is imbued with the spiritual legacy of her grandfather-in-law, Cho

rice cake and so on, along with makgeolli (rice wine).

In-hwan, who was a renowned Confucian scholar born toward the end of the Joseon Dynasty.

By July, when the rice had been planted and the paddies weeded a few times, a feast was thrown for the farmers. Jilsang

When serving her customers, Choi keeps in mind the words

(literally, “a feast for workers”) is the food prepared for this

of her grandfather-in-law, who told his family to “receive guests

occasion to express gratitude for their help and settle the account

to this house with the heart of a generous mother, and always

for the exchange of labor among the farmers. The first part of

treat them with kindness.” His words of advice are written on

the name, jil , comes from the word jilkkun , meaning the workers

a plaque hung on the wall bearing the name of the house,

who take part in communal farm labor. On this occasion the table


held highly nutritious dishes that would reinvigorate the exhausted

The restaurant serves set meals with extraordinary names, such as Rice Planting (Motbap), Feast after Rice Planting (Jilsang),

workers and help sustain them through the sweltering summer. If there was a young man nearing his 20th birthday among

Receiving of Guests, Meeting with New In-laws, and Son-in-law’s

the group, an adult member of the host family would inform

First Birthday after Marriage. The first two menus are composed

others of the fact and hold a birthday celebration for him.

Choi Young-gan, owner of Seojichogatteul, a Korean restaurant on the periphery of Gangneung, shows Jilsang, a signature menu of her restaurant. An assortment of healthy dishes, the feast was prepared by her family for generations for the farmers of the village providing labor during the busy farming season.

Today, meals like Motbap and Jilsang may seem to be nothing more than unusual items on the menu, but they were a natural part of the seasonal process of farming and of communal life in traditional society, where farming was the backbone of life.


SPECIAL FEATURE 5 Gangwon Province: Land of Mountains, Myths and Memories

© Eom Sang-bin


NOSTALGIA of Displaced Seaside Villagers 32 KOREANA Winter 2017

Just a short distance from the inter-Korean border, Sokcho is a port city with Mt. Seorak behind and the East Sea in front. It used to be part of North Korea, lying north of the 38th parallel that divided Korea at the end of the Second World War. But when the Korean War ended in a ceasefire in 1953, the military demarcation line was pushed up northward, placing the region south of the border. North Korean refugees who had escaped south during the war formed a small community by the sea and settled there.

North Korean refugees who fled south during the Korean War made a village along the seaside of Sokcho their temporary home. Decades have since passed bringing changes to the living conditions, means of transportation and livelihood of the village.

Song Young-man CEO, Hyohyung Publishing Ahn Hong-beom Photographer



ne evening in early September, I met with Kim Eui-jun, chairman of the Sinpo Town Council, Sokcho District, at Sindashin restaurant, known for its authentic Hamgyong regional cuisine. He looked unbelievably young for his age and full of vigor. Whenever he talked about his northern homeland, his face flushed. “I was just five at the time, so I only have vague memories. But that particular day, I remember clearly,” said Kim, recalling the Korean War. He fled to the South with his father, sister and six brothers. It was January 1952, a year after the Hungnam Evacuation. His family was on one of the three boats that departed from Sinpo and sailed through the waters off the coast of Mayang Island. There were around 80 people on each boat, making the total close to 250. Unfortunately, one boat was bombed by the North Korean People’s Army and sunk. His voice quivered as he struggled to finish the sentence. “Those on that boat wouldn’t have made it in the freezing cold. The rest of us went as far south as Busan, then came up here to Abai Village, believing we would soon be able to return home to the North. But it’s already been 65 years,” he said sadly. Abai is a word in the Hamgyong dialect that means “father” or “elderly man.” The village earned this nickname because of the many North Korean refugees who had led a rough life as fishermen in the North before settling and establishing a community here.

forced to escape to the South. His father gave him a hand-drawn map just before he passed away. Kim pulled out a faded piece of paper from his wallet. It was a detailed drawing of his neighborhood in the North. To the right of the fisheries federation, opposite Harbor Inn in Sinpo’s 2nd District, the words “our house” were clearly marked. The People’s Army headquarters was located across the main road in Sinpo’s 3rd District. Written neatly and carefully in Chinese characters on one side of the paper is: “No. 727, Sinpo 2nd District, Bukchong County, South Hamgyong Province, Tel. 331.” The address and telephone number probably don’t exist anymore, but Kim still carries the map on him at all times. He says the first thing he is going to do when the two Koreas are unified is use the map to find his childhood home. Sokcho, part of Yangyang County in Gangwon Province, was promoted to a town (eup) in 1942. The total population at that time was only around 4,000 to 5,000. In the winter of 1950, the refugees who had fled far south on the Korean peninsula during the Hungnam Evacuation came up northward again and made Sokcho their temporary home. Refugees from the Hamgyong provinces and the Goseong and Tongcheon counties in northern Gangwon Province who escaped south by land before the truce line was drawn also flocked here. After the intense battles between the North and South ended in a ceasefire, the military demarcation line was established just north of Sokcho, making it part of South Korean territory. Sokcho had a thriving fishing industry, and the many refugees who had fled here, mostly from South Hamgyong Province, ended up settling in the village permanently. At first, they built makeshift underground shacks on land where the U.S. military was stationed. Some dug the ground up to their waists and built temporary dwellings with just a

Home Address Etched in the Heart Kim grew up in a relatively well-to-do family; his grandfather owned a fish canning factory in Sinpo-eup, Bukchong County, South Hamgyong Province. When the North Korean authorities began to purge the bourgeoisie, Kim’s family was

1. When the local food of Hamgyong Province became known nationwide, more and more restaurants specializing in the cuisine popped up, and soon people from all over the country began crowding the village to taste the traditional dishes.


34 KOREANA Winter 2017

2. Kim Eui-jun, originally from Sinpo-eup, Bukchong County, South Hamgyong Province, pulls the shuttle boat called gaetbae . The boat used to be the sole means of transportation for the villagers to reach downtown Sokcho, but now two bridges connect their village with the mainland. Still, the boat remains a popular attraction among tourists.


roof to shelter them from the rain. They thought they would be able to return home in two or three months. Soon, a community of 2,000 households was formed. Those were difficult times, when the men had to go out to sea on small fishing boats and women had to sit on the cold ground and remove the fish from the nets. Location of Popular TV Drama Abai Village was built on a sandbar on Lake Cheongcho, which connects to the East Sea. Change came to this village when a harbor was built by dredging, creating a waterway. That’s when the shuttle boat called gaetbae first appeared. The boat was a lifeline for the people of Abai Village, a means of getting to the central market in downtown Sokcho to sell straw ropes or paper bags they had made to earn some money. Gradually, word began to spread about the native Hamgyong cuisine that the villagers enjoyed — specialties such as abai sundae (Korean sausage) or the spicy cold naeng-

myeon (buckwheat noodles) with raw sole or raw pollack that were eaten on special occasions. The village became known nationwide after the TV drama series “Autumn in My Heart,” which was filmed here, became a major hit. Restaurants selling local specialties of Hamgyong began popping up all over the village. Abai sundae, a sausage made of steamed pork intestines stuffed with dried radish greens, minced pork, pork blood, garlic and soybean paste, captivated the taste buds of city folks. In the old days, when the pollack catch off the coast of Sokcho was plentiful, fish would be used as casing for the stuffing instead of pig’s intestines. But pollack has now virtually disappeared from the nearby coastal waters. The local food of Hamgyong is sweet and salty. It appeals to young visitors from the city who love strong flavors. Sweet and salty is a perfect match for the thrill and excitement of travel. It doesn’t matter which seas the squid or pollack are from; they are sure to delight the palate.


Two bridges now connect Abai Village to the mainland. Seorak Bridge and Geumgang Bridge crossing over the village provide spectacular views at night. But the shuttle boat is still a popular means of transport, especially among tourists. The large flat boat is akin to a raft and passengers need to pull the steel cable to cross the waterway. But for tourists, rather than being an inconvenience this is a fun experience. That notwithstanding, the boat is expected to be replaced by a larger, more convenient vessel to accommodate the rise in tourism. And that’s not the only change in the village. Surprisingly, dakgangjeong (sweet and spicy crispy fried chicken) has recently become all the rage at Sokcho’s central market. Food stalls selling the crispy chicken that has a stronger, spicier taste than abai sundae line the streets at night, and it looks like the fried chicken dish may soon become the leading favorite. Previously a part of Sokcho’s 4th District, Abai Village’s official administrative name now is Cheongho-dong. The num-

36 KOREANA Winter 2017

ber of households has dipped to around 240. Only around 60 or so first-generation North Korean refugees remain alive, and their second- and third-generation offspring have put down roots here, making Sokcho their second home. Around 8,000 people, or one-tenth of Sokcho’s population, are of Hamgyong ancestry. The theme of the “Cultural Festival of Displaced People,” held every spring, arouses poignant emotions: “Memories of spring in my hometown that even time cannot erase.” Nostalgia for their northern hometown floods their hearts, especially during the traditional holidays, but they have learned to dismiss these feelings. Perhaps it is because they have been forced to abandon all hope of ever returning home. Memories, Dreams and Hopes My Korean language teacher in high school was the famous poet Hwang Geum-chan (1918–2017), a native of

Nostalgia for their northern hometown floods their hearts, especially during the traditional holidays, but they have learned to dismiss these feelings. Perhaps it is because they have been forced to abandon all hope of ever returning home.

Sokcho known as the “east coast poet.” He was a teacher who tried to instill humanistic sensibilities in his students rather than just teach from the textbook. From time to time, he told us stories about his hometown. After studying in Tokyo prior to national liberation, he had lived for a while in Songjin, North Hamgyong Province, and the stories he told of the sea, with a hint of Hamgyong dialect, sounded like poetry to my young ears. In our classical literature class, we learned about the “Song of Gangwon Scenes” (Gwandong byeolgok), written by Jeong Cheol in 1580, which praised the beautiful scenery of Chongseok Pavilion in Tongcheon County and Cheonggan Pavilion and Lake Samilpo in Goseong County. This further piqued my interest. But at that time, Sokcho and Mt. Seorak seemed out of my reach, places far beyond the steep Taebaek Mountain Range. One spring day in the early 1970s, just after our college midterm exams, I hopped on a bus bound for Sokcho that departed from Dongmajang Bus Terminal at around noon with a friend born and bred in the city. The bus meandered along Hangyeryeong Pass, and when we finally arrived at Sokcho Terminal, the sun was already setting over Misiryeong Pass. The trip had taken half a day and we were exhausted. Dusk was falling and the lights were coming on at the lighthouse on the Yeonggeumjeong boulder. But we took another bus bound for

Lake Yeongnang, located in northwestern Sokcho, is a popular tourist spot known for its beautiful scenery through all seasons. Its name originates from the story of the four young warriors of Silla, including Yeongnang, who were enraptured by the scenery while training for a martial arts contest.

Ganseong. When we arrived at Gyoam-ri, darkness had already settled over the beach and port. All I could hear was the sound of the wind blowing in from the sea through the pine trees on the cliff. As the only sea I had seen up until then was in Incheon, the image of the sea etched in my mind was a dark brown color mixed with a tangy smell, and at times, a glittering blue when the sun hit the water. In fact, we had learned that the West Sea was called the Yellow Sea. It was the monotone age, when television was black and white, as were our school uniforms. Maybe that was why early next morning, when I gazed out at the sea in all shades of blue, seen between a tall pine tree and the roof of Cheonhakjeong, the “Pavilion of a Thousand Cranes,” standing on a steep cliff, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It was nothing like the dull “blue” I had learned of in art class. I wondered about the color of the waters beyond the East Sea — the South Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic or the Mediterranean. My imagination went wild and I was already dreaming of crossing these waters. The way back to Seoul was a succession of modern literary landscapes. Buses to Seoul only ran two or three times a day. Our bus bumped along the new gravel road to Ganseong, covered in clouds of dust stirred up by the car in front. To the right, the sandy beach stretched endlessly. The beach from Mt. Seorak to Mt. Kumgang was rather plain, allowing us a brief break from the breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Crossing over Jinburyeong Pass, it took a full day to get to Seoul. My butt was sore from the long bumpy ride, and there was an acrid smell in my nose. Prior to the Korean War, Sokcho and Goseong County were North Korean territory, lying north of the 38th parallel, the original border between North and South Korea that was drawn shortly after the nation’s liberation from Japanese rule in 1945. After the war, the military demarcation line was pushed


further northward to Yangyang County. The refugees from North Korea made Sokcho their home, with the grief and pain of separation entrenched in their hearts. Before a highway was built by tunneling through several places in the Baekdu Daegan mountain range, Sokcho was an out-of-the-way place that one had to take great pains to reach. I bought my first car in my mid-30s. When the seasons changed, I would drive along national road No. 7, which stretched along the east coast all the way to the Goseong Unification Observatory. I wanted to show my children, who were in elementary school, the site of the tragedy of a divided nation, but it was unthinkable back then. The DMZ was a potential flashpoint permeated by tension. A considerable period of time had passed before the general public was allowed to catch the view of Outer Kumgang and Lake Samilpo on the northern side from the observatory. We had to be satisfied with visiting Myeongpa-ri, the northernmost village on the east coast closest to the border, eat buckwheat noodles and potato pancakes, and then drive southward to Geojin, passing by Daejin. Nonetheless, Hwajinpo was a great place for my children to experience firsthand the pain and sorrow of our nation’s division. It also made for a great field trip, Hwajinpo being a good example of a lagoon formed as the sandbar built by ocean currents separated the water from the sea. The summer houses that once belonged to Syngman Rhee and Kim Il-sung, the founding presidents of the two Koreas, are located a short distance away from each other. The region was part of North Korean territory that was recovered after the Korean War; hence, the place has been ridden with extreme tension for decades. The summer

recreation center of a women’s university was located in the area, giving the young soldiers a little something to be excited about amid the tense atmosphere. Hwajinpo was a place of contradiction, a mix of two extremes. Breathtaking Scenery Made More Accessible Sokcho became easier to reach when the tunnel was dug under the steep, meandering old road of Misiryeong Pass, from where it had been difficult to appreciate the magnificent views of Ulsan Rock. Visiting Mt. Seorak in middle age, I found that the valleys and peaks filled my heart with familiar warmth. When I visited Hwaam Temple at the foot of Misiryeong Pass, a sign that read “Hwaam Temple of Mount Kumgang” caught me by surprise. Why Mt. Kumgang and not Mt. Seorak? The temple was right by Misiryeong Pass. This just seemed to prove that Kumgang and Seorak are part of the same mountain range. They share the same legend, too. Lake Yeongnang, which I have been frequenting recently, is connected with Lake Samilpo in Outer Kumgang by the same legend. After training in Mt. Kumgang, four members of hwarang, the elite warrior youths of Silla, who were known as the “four immortals” descended the mountain to participate in a martial arts contest in the capital, Seorabeol (present-day Gyeongju). On their way down, one of them, Yeongnang, saw the reflection of Ulsan Rock on the still waters of the lake. He became so enraptured by the sight that he completely forgot about the contest and stayed there to admire its beauty. Legend has it that the lake was therefore named after him. Likewise, the name Samilpo originated in the story of the four immortals being so captivated by the scenic

1. The DMZ Museum in Goseong, located just south of the DMZ at the northernmost tip of the east coast, has a permanent exhibition on the themes of peace and ecology.


38 KOREANA Winter 2017

2. This two-story house at Hwajinpo Beach is called the “Kim Il-sung’s Villa” because it used to be the summer house of the former leader of North Korea and his family. Also known as the “Castle of Hwajinpo,” the house was damaged during the Korean War and has since been rebuilt as an exhibition hall for objects related to North Korea and the Kim family.


beauty of the lake that they stayed there for three days (sam-il). Walking around Lake Yeongnang, 7.8 kilometers in circumference, can be a delightful experience all year round. Spring offers a quiet walk alone on the trail where cherry blossoms are in full bloom; early summer is the time to stroll with someone special to Beombawi, or “Tiger Rock,” under the lush green zelkova trees. Then, at sunset, you will surely be enchanted by the picturesque silhouette of Ulsan Rock reflected on the lake, just like Yeongnang a thousand years ago. It could be said that Ulsan Rock is the origin of the name Sokcho, since its meaning stems from the wish to “tie (sok) a rope around the rock” and take it with you. Lake Cheongcho, on the other hand, has a completely dif-

ferent atmosphere. Surrounded by the downtown area with many cars, people and bright neon signs, it is vibrant and lively well into the night. Those craving some hustle and bustle and all kinds of food can wander around the lakeside area. A onehour yacht tour departs from Komarine Yacht Park and does a loop around Jo Island. The magnificent scenery of the Seorak mountain ridge lying beyond Lake Cheongcho and Expo Tower makes for amazing pictures, while the gorgeous view of Daecheongbong, the highest peak of Mt. Seorak, that looms over Seorak Bridge in Abai Village, will provide poetic inspiration. Snow-covered Mt. Seorak on a cold winter day set against a cloudless blue sky is another view simply breathtaking in its beauty.




Faraway Future

Just Jerk became prominent by winning a world-famous dance competition and appearing on a popular American TV talent show. Enjoying an enthusiastic response at home and abroad, this amazing dance group performs a new kind of dance never seen before that combines hip hop and popping with elements of traditional Korean dance. Kim Nam-soo Dance Critic; Lecturer, School of Visual Arts, Korea National University of Arts

40 KOREANA Winter 2017





once heard about an impressive scene on the shore of the South China Sea: a curtain of flickering light formed by a host of fireflies against the night sky, which is as spectacular as a “galactic show.” Just Jerk’s dance, stunningly dynamic and controlled, reminds me of this perfect dance of light with tempo and rhythm that human beings would hardly dare to match. When this Korean dance group appeared on “America’s Got Talent” in 2017, the judges, including the idiosyncratic Simon Cowell, were excited, even eager to comment on their performance. They praised the group, saying their performance was “as precise as a machine.” I consider the word “machine” positive. The description is accurate from the perspective of cybernetics, which argues for integration of living organisms and machines, and also from the perspective of the cyborg, the fictional superhero made of frail flesh and mighty machine. Just Jerk performs as if they came from a faraway future,

skipping through the evolution of humankind. Contrary to such grand rhetoric, the group’s dream of “dancing on stages in Las Vegas” sounds rather humble and innocent. The members call themselves “dance nerds.” Seemingly, they know and love nothing but dancing. Freedom that Resists Uniformity Just Jerk started to introduce their unique dance to a global audience when they won the Body Rock Dance Competition in 2016. Basically rooted in hip hop, they combine popping, locking, improvisation, and traditional Korean dance. To respond to ever-changing moments, they freely use the language of dance. Shaking off any uniform pre-conditions or dogmas, they select the essence of diverse dance genres from the choreography tool box to express their ideas. It is this freedom that should be the focal point for discussing their dance. Interestingly, from the standpoint of choreography, their

1 © NBC

42 KOREANA Winter 2017

dance is distinguished by the expression of the cultural DNA, or meme. Using the excitement of hip hop’s scant melodies and off beat, they call on the dance code of traditional Korean outdoor shows and masked dance dramas, and even further back, to the ways of the hwarang of ancient Silla. Just Jerk outwits our time quite creatively, adjusting and combining hip hop with the culture of the ancient warrior youths, who enjoyed dance and song 1,500 years ago. In that sense, the hwarang, who obviously disappeared a long time ago, are still present in Koreans’ subconscious. Awakening the Latent Spirit Overseas travel for Koreans became completely unrestricted in 1989, and Korea fully opened its market to overseas culture in 1996. Over the 30 years since then, in the confusion of joining the global community, Korea nurtured its ability to digest other cultures through repeated experimentation and

integration. In the process, the reception of culture was not entirely one-sided. Culture moved in both directions as Korea explored its own cultural potential, resisting or accepting outside influences. In these circumstances, it is worth noting that experiments inspired by folk theater and outdoor performances (madang nori) injected new energy across society. That is, Just Jerk did not appear abruptly like a mutant but was the result of Korea’s maturing cultural identity and potential in the process of importing overseas culture.

1. Just Jerk amazes the judges and audience with their new and unique performance on America’s Got Talent in 2017. 2. Just Jerk enthralls the audience with their dynamic choreography based on hip hop and mixed with various styles and genres such as popping, locking and traditional Korean dance. The group dances in stunning unison.

2 © Orsung


Just Jerk quickly gained a reputation after winning the 2016 Body Rock Dance Competition, held in San Diego, California, United States. © NBC

Just Jerk’s brilliant group dance manifests what it means to be selfless for the sake of the team. For the unity and harmony that comes from pinpoint accuracy, the members have explored cultural reinterpretation through their bodies, using the energy triggered by emotion, the DNA and the unconsciousness. Dancer and choreographer Martha Graham believed she could express emotional and spiritual themes through her dance. Just Jerk’s dance is not simply the creation of some individual street dance technicians of like mind; in tune with their volatile emotions they create matching movements with their bodies. Their dance, trying to reach the state of selflessness through ceaseless training and practice, seems to proclaim: “Dance means to awaken the latent spirit in people.” Just Jerk’s dance has set off on a new journey and will likely continue to reach new stages as it flows amongst the grains of time, representing an evolutionary stage in Homo sapiens’ attempts to unify body and mind. The group’s ingenious efforts to try something new will hopefully continue into the future.

44 KOREANA Winter 2017

Just Jerk performs as if they came from a faraway future, skipping through the evolution of humankind. Contrary to such grand rhetoric, the group’s dream of “dancing on stages in Las Vegas” sounds rather humble and innocent.

The year 2016 didn’t mark the first time that Just Jerk participated in the Body Rock Dance Competition. The group

KOREANA Don’t you think the group is too big? Sung With so many members, the energy we produce can be

had entered a couple of times before, but failed to win. Still,

explosive, and as we each have our own strengths, we can show

their outstanding performances brought them a lot of attention,

much more variety. It’s never boring. Of course, having fewer

and finally, on their third attempt they experienced the glory of

members would be an advantage when performing more subtle


movements. As leader, I find it difficult to show the interest

Sung Young-jae, leader of this dance group, started to learn

and provide the support that each member needs. I think,

dancing when he was a high school student and training to be

though, we’re dealing with the problem well enough.

a boxer. Boxing was hard and his body ached, but dancing gave

KOREANA What process do you go through

him a new joy and sense of achievement. Realizing that dancing

before performing on stage?

was what he really wanted to do and what he was good at, he

Sung I have been interested in stage

changed direction from boxing to dancing. The following are

management since childhood, so I am the

excerpts from an email interview with him:

one who directs the team performances.

Being Good at What You Like, Working Hard on What You’re Good At Interview with Sung Young-jae, Leader of Just Jerk © Just Jerk

KOREANA When did you start the group? How many members

For each part, I tell them who can lead, distributing their roles,

are there?

and then they choreograph the rest themselves. We revise the

Sung I was bored dancing alone. It was no fun, so I persuaded

dances over and over to improve and perfect them.

Choi Jun-ho to join me. It was just the two of us in 2010.

KOREANA As the team leader, how would you evaluate Just Jerk?

Afterwards, we added three more members and danced

Sung Our team’s specialty is probably “dancing in perfect unison.”

together as a group of five until 2014. In 2015, we selected

We can also dance a mixture of genres and styles. If I could add

members for the Just Jerk Family through an audition, and now

one more thing, I would say that we continually try to show our

there are 13 of us. Three are women, who dance as powerfully as

own unique dance without imitating famous overseas dancers.

the rest of us.

KOREANA What does it take to create perfect harmony?

KOREANA Are the members professional dancers?

Sung The first thing is a lot of practice. The second thing is

Sung They all perform as dancers but work in different areas.

excellence in performance. As excellence comes from practice,

From university lecturer, choreographer and artist to trainer and

we put everything into our practice. I think that you should be

musician, their jobs vary. Being 26, I’m one of the older members

good at what you like doing and work hard at what you’re good

of the group. Most of the members are younger than me. The

at. The choice of music is also crucial. We keep asking: Does the

average age is about 23.

music express the theme of the dance well? Does it reveal the

KOREANA Everybody has a different job. When do you train?

characteristics of our team properly? Does it sound good to

Sung We all have other jobs, so there is no time to gather during

everyone? And so on. There are many factors to consider.

the day. We meet around midnight and practice until 5 o’clock

KOREANA What sort of dance does Just Jerk pursue ultimately?

in the morning. We sleep a bit in the morning after training

Sung There is no set frame. We’re interested in various genres

is finished. Day and night are turned upside down, and our

and practice broadly. Externally, we want to do performances

biorhythms are disturbed, which affects our health. But we can

that a broad audience can appreciate and enjoy. We want to

endure it because we’re happy while we’re dancing.

offer continuous fun with different challenges.




PORTRAIT of Life in the

BLIND END Hwang Jai-hyoung has depicted the grim realities of coal miners, rendering scenes of their bleak lives in the blind end with stark realism. As he wanted to break down the boundaries between art and reality by faithfully capturing the spirit of his times, he went to live among the miners in Taebaek, a remote coal mining town in Gangwon Province. Thus he became a “mining artist,� searching for hope through his paintings. Chung Jae-suk Editorial Writer and Senior Culture Reporter, The JoongAng Ilbo Ahn Hong-beom Photographer

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“Portrait of a Miner,” 2002. Oil on canvas, 65 × 53 cm.



wang Jai-hyoung’s warm, stocky hands offer a hearty welcome as he thanks me for coming all the way to meet him. I notice his bushy beard and the black overalls and hat he is wearing. Of strong, hefty build, he looks as if he could do the work of two men. They say you can tell a lot about a person from the hands. Just from Hwang’s handshake, I feel as if I already know him. The artist living in the coal mining town is enveloped in somber black, but there’s a sparkle in his eyes. He became a miner himself in order to paint the lives of those toiling underground. “In the blind end, the last hope of life shines like a star,” he says. “When I came to Taebaek with my family in 1982, it had a dull and dreary atmosphere, like some cheap bar, but I kind of miss those days now,” Hwang says. “This town has gone through certain changes over the past 30 years, pushed around here and there and turned upside down. Having witnessed all of that, I want to tell the story now. Some people ask if it isn’t time I left the place. But I’m not the kind of person who, say, turns my back on a woman once I’m done with her.” The Blind End, Another Place of Despair Hwang has sought out the memories of the people and the land, the legacies that should not be forgotten. The Korean word for the blind end in a mining gallery is makjang, which is also used in a negative context, meaning a dead-end situation. To this, he says, “The blind end is where people have lost hope. In that sense, isn’t Seoul more like a coal mine? The suffering and despair of the jobless are not that different from the plight of coal miners.” For several decades, Hwang has been holding exhibitions under the same title, “Dirt to Grasp and Land to Lie On.” It is a metaphor for the people who hold dirt in their hands but have no land in which to lay their bodies, and our times when it has become difficult for people to live a decent life. “Around the time I graduated from art college, I had a chance to look back on myself. I realized that all those years I had just been posing as an artist, completely oblivious to what was going on in our society,” Hwang recalls. “I thought I had to see for myself and experience firsthand the distorted face of industrialization. I witnessed the lives of socially marginalized workers living on the fringes of the city, in factory districts such as Guro-dong and Garibong-dong. Those driven out even from those places headed to the coal mining towns. I wanted to go beyond the limitations of the Minjung Art [People’s Art] of the 1980s. In a broad sense, the makjang in a mine is a place of despair. In that context, it is a place that is not just found in the mining town of Taebaek but it could be anywhere in Korea, anywhere where there is no hope of leading a decent, dignified life, be it a workplace, the streets, or home.” He went to Taebaek because he wanted to meet the min-

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ers, “who stood for all the people disheartened by the times, but were nevertheless struggling to rise above their circumstances.” Located in a serene residential area next to the Taebaek Culture and Arts Center, Hwang’s studio has high ceilings that give the place an air of sacredness, like a “sanctuary of paintings.” His workplace is filled with the memories of eating a lunch box in the dark mine under the light of the safety lamp, breathing in the murky air laden with coal dust, and the intensity filling the tunnel, which at times felt like being inside the womb. There are pots of paint stacked against the walls near the doorway. I remember him once saying, “There was a time when I used to buy paint whenever I had some money.” It touches me to imagine the anguish of a poor artist who has such a passion for his work that even while worrying about his next meal, he is thinking of how he can buy paint. Labor Over Art “In my view, the disintegration of activist groups in the 1980s was largely a result of the lack of endurance, and failure to integrate theory and practice,” Hwang says. “When I first set foot in Sabuk in Jeongseon County, Gangwon Province, I knew that I couldn’t remain an onlooker. The miners there didn’t want my art; they wanted my sweat. I dwelled on the question of whether my brushwork carried the same weight as their digging. Resolved to connect with the miners, I organized folk performances and events such as mural painting and producing prints with the locals, and started an art camp. Through painting I cried out that I wanted to stand by them.” In 1982, Hwang posed as a miner and found work at the Gujeol-ri mine in Jeongseon. Miners were not allowed to work underground if they wore glasses, so Hwang, who had high myopia, had to wear contact lenses all day. Not long after, he developed acute conjunctivitis because of the coal dust trapped between the eye and the lens. The doctor warned him that he could lose his sight. After three years of working in the mines, he had no choice but to quit, but the people he had met there became the subject of his works. Hwang’s art and his life began to proceed in tandem. From a mere bystander, he was born again as a laborer — a mining artist. But the miners who were the reason he chose to make Taebaek his second home, and their female colleagues who showed him motherly love and allowed him to put down new roots in the town are slowly disappearing. The power of money and tyranny of capitalism are drying up the soil for their livelihoods. By 2020, all coal mines will be closed down. Tourist attractions are promoted to lure people to the region, but the less fortunate residents have no place to lay their tired bodies. Hwang says there are days when he pushes the canvas aside and drinks soju. He lets out a deep sigh in front of the painting “Mrs. Kwon, the

“Black Weep,” 1996–2008. Coal and mixed media on canvas, 193.9 × 259.1 cm.


Hwang has lately become fascinated by a new material: human hair. Huge canvases covered with drawings using human hair as a medium reverberate with a powerful energy that fills his studio. Hair that once used to be on someone’s head now swirls around on the canvas. A single strand of hair may be fragile, but many strands tangled together become tougher, exuding an energy that overwhelms the viewer. In the 150-year history of realism in art, such a solemn, poignant depiction is probably the first of its kind.

“Meal,” 1985. Oil on canvas, 91 × 117 cm.

Coal Hewer,” the portrait of a female miner with her face covered in coal dust, her eyes shining all the more brightly. The paintings piled up in his studio are a testimony and record of his struggles as a mining artist. In “Black Icicles,” Hwang uses mashed coal dust to portray an old miner’s face, deeply lined with wrinkles. The meandering road in “Dumundong Mountain Pass,” rendered in thick upward strokes of yellowish dirt, is a metaphor for life’s twists and turns. Finding oil paints too smooth and glossy, he began to use a mix of dirt and coal dust to achieve a rough texture. He believes this is more like who we are. “What prompted me to seriously contemplate the materials I was using was coming face to face with the overalls of miner Kim Bong-chun, a casualty of the Hwangji mining accident in 1980. His name tag read ‘Hwangji 330.’ All that remained as a testimony to his life and death were his worn-out wrinkled overalls. Nothing could make a better self-portrait,” Hwang says. The artist boldly uses materials from the ground and everyday objects found in the coal mining village — such as the death certificate of a miner who died of pneumoconiosis, and plywood and wire mesh from an abandoned miner’s house — to honor the memory of a bygone era and the people who are no longer there. Works, such as “Bus,” “Making Briquettes,” “Meal” and “Ambulance,” reveal the self-innovation of an artist who shared his life’s journey with these laborers.

50 KOREANA Winter 2017

Human Hair as a Medium “One day, a teacher came to consult me on family matters. It was about her conflicts with her mother-in-law. I felt a shiver down my spine the moment I heard her story. After she had given birth, her mother-in-law made her seaweed soup. But as she was about to take her first spoonful, she discovered a tangle of hair floating in it. The human history of dominance and subordination overlapped with the image of the hair in the soup and gave me sudden inspiration. As long as humans exist, it would be impossible to be free from this yoke, I thought,” said Hwang. Using hair, Hwang has reproduced some of his old works, such as “Portrait of a Miner.” The process of creating a simple sketch and gluing strands of hair onto it seems rather ghastly. “The way the hair creates its own flow and rhythm gives me goosebumps,” he says. At first, the artist used his own hair, but as this wasn’t enough, he asked his wife and daughter to donate their hair too. “Touching the hair of your loved ones arouses a feeling of tenderness,” Hwang says, clasping his hands. Then he adds, “I hope these paintings, unprecedented in Western art, will help establish my identity as a Korean artist.” Hwang will unveil his latest works using human hair at a solo exhibition at Gana Art Center in Seoul, scheduled to open on December 14. A fellow artist commented, “This is revolutionary, a shock that pierces my heart.” He will also showcase a new work, the “Vast Silence” series in which the majesty of Lake Baikal is rendered in graphite. On his long journey in search of the origins of humankind, Hwang says, he repeated the following words to himself over and over again: “Don’t dwell on small things.” “Don’t be bound by personal matters.” The artist, who had once descended to the lowest, darkest place humans could go, stood in front of the lake that had witnessed the birth of humankind tens of millions of years ago. Both are the ends of the earth where the light of life is raised from utter darkness. What did he see and draw there? With misty eyes like the faces in his paintings “Mother’s Face” and “Father’s Place,” he says, “Life will not be defeated as long as 1 there is love.”

“I knew that I couldn’t remain an onlooker. The miners there didn’t want my art; they wanted my sweat. I dwelled on the question of whether my brushwork carried the same weight as their digging.” Hwang Jai-hyoung settled in the coal mining town of Taebaek in 1982, and has since devoted himself to painting the weary lives of the miners. KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 51



INFINITE ZEN of Extremely Fine Lines

In Buddhism, the art of sutra copying, or sagyeong, is a pious practice for spiritual discipline. Along with painting, it formed a major genre of Buddhist art during the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392), when Buddhism was the state religion. However, with Buddhism being suppressed during the subsequent Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910), the traditional art form almost died out over the following six centuries. An officially designated master of this age-old art, Kim Gyeong-ho has striven to keep the legacy alive. Kang Shin-jae Freelance Writer Ahn Hong-beom Photographer

52 KOREANA Winter 2017


he lines flowing from the tip of his brush belonged to a microcosm. With an amazingly steady hand, he drew in 5 to 10 minuscule lines on a tiny spot no wider than 1 mm. He was also capable of drawing two eyes, a nose and a mouth onto the Buddha’s face, no larger than 1 mm in diameter. Therefore, writing each Chinese character from the scripture onto a spot 2 mm in width seemed quite easy. Practicing such an intricate task, his brush did not falter a moment: he had to make the most of the 3 to 5 seconds before the gold paint, a mixture of gold powder and oxhide glue, would dry at the brush tip. During the brief instant, a strand or two of his brush’s hair should land on the exact spot without even a 0.1 mm error. He held his breath since the line would get squiggly if he breathed. Intricate Task Dealing with Tense Moments Showing his works, Kim Gyeong-ho, honorary president of the Korean Society for Sutra Transcription Research,

“Frontispiece to Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s Practices and Vows from the Avatamsaka Sutra” (gold paint on indigo paper, 18.3 × 36 cm) is Kim Gyeong-ho’s elaborate recreation of the frontispiece to “The Practices and Vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva from the Great and Expansive Avatamsaka Sutra” (National Treasure No. 235) in the collection of the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.

explained: “If 1 mm looks like 1 mm, you will never be able to draw these lines. The space of 1 mm should open up to look like 5 mm or 1 cm. It takes me at least 2 to 3 days to reach that state, and once I am in such a state I should not take even a day off because the next day I would certainly find it difficult to restore the previous state of equilibrium. That would make me feel restless, and working anxiously on and off, I might waste a week, 10 days, or even a month or two.” The artist has very few molars left. The painstaking work that requires extreme precision has caused severe tension to various parts of his body, but he does not allow himself a trip to the hospital when he is in the middle of a project. Besides, he has more rules on maintaining his physical condition, such as no overeating and no lack of sleep, for even a small amount of discomfort in the body can upset his mental stability. For a while before beginning to work with his brush, he tries to avoid picking up any objects, no matter how light, for fear that it might make his hands shake. Perhaps, however, the most extreme of his self-imposed conditions may be the one defining the work environment. Kim noted: “The ambient temperature of my workshop is 35ºC to 45ºC, because the oxhide glue that I use should be kept at over 35ºC to prevent hardening. And the humidity is set between 70 and 90 percent to enhance the sheen of the gold paint. The optimal condition for my work means the highest discomfort index for me. Bathed in sweat, I work for 8 to 10 hours a day, often staying up through the night, for about six months — or 10 months at the longest.” From a Mere Reproduction to Creative Succession For 20 years he has worked like that. For Kim Gyeong-ho, sutra copying is something more than just copying Buddhist texts by hand. It represents a fight against limitations: an act of getting over the human physical and mental limits and of transcending the limit of space a person can control with the tip of a brush. It also tests the limit of how much one can remove human elements from the time of a homo faber, until the time becomes pure, with nothing left but the task itself. “During the Goryeo Dynasty, sutra copying was a national project. There were various government-sponsored organizations devoted to sutra copying, which employed a total of some 300 professional artists,” Kim said. “Three hundred out of three million, which was the nation’s approximate population at the time, is equivalent to 5,000 out of the current South Korean population of around 50 million.” Through Kim’s arduous endeavor, the splendid Buddhist art which flourished during the 13th and 14th centuries has come to life again in the 21st century. In its early years, sutra copy-


“When little things are overlooked, there is no special thing under the sun.” ing was a way to teach and disseminate Buddhist doctrines among the public. As typography and printing came into wide use, it took over the basic role of manual copying and the practice came to be regarded more as a pious deed of religious commitment or spiritual discipline. Later, with the use of gold and silver paint instead of Chinese ink, the exquisite hand-written copies of scriptures formed the centerpiece of Buddhist arts. After all, the painstaking practice was considered an effort to honor the teachings of the Buddha in the rarest and most earnest way. When the art reached its pinnacle, Goryeo sent its artists to China in a group of over 100, and their works demonstrated brilliant artistry which was as highly appreciated as that of Goryeo’s Buddhist painting and celadon. However, the tradition severely declined during the Confucian-oriented Joseon Dynasty. Kim Gyeong-ho started to practice sutra copying in the hope of passing it down to the next generation. He further wanted to explore creative ways to succeed the tradition as significant heritage. As part of the effort, he has transliterated the Buddhist texts from classical Chinese into Korean letters, and revised or recreated the illustrations accompanying the texts. Calligraphy is undoubtedly the fundamental element of sutra copying; Kim is a calligrapher with almost 50 years of experience, who is capable of rendering a Chinese character with complicated strokes within, say, a square 1 cm on a side. He found, however, that sutra copying was an art that was much larger in dimension than calligraphy. “You have to understand the content of the text to be able to illustrate it — you have to know Buddhism,” Kim said. “In order to add new components to its iconography, knowledge of the history of Buddhism is indispensable, as well as that of how Buddhist art evolved in the course of its long journey from India to China and Korea. You need to provide grounds for inventing new motifs and expressions. The complete lack of related research and specialists has led me to conduct my own research on available relics every time I begin copying a different piece of scripture.” Kim showed a work that he had completed five years ago: “The Seven-Storied Jeweled Stupa” from a chapter in the Lotus Sutra, entitled “The Appearance of a Jeweled Stupa.” A work done in gold paint on indigo-dyed paper, it is a masterpiece that measures only 7.5 centimeters in length but 663 centimeters in width. On this long piece of paper are drawn 463 stupas, one next to another, with one character from the sutra written

54 KOREANA Winter 2017

on the face of each story of each stupa. The cover is decorated with the motifs of Korea’s national flag (Taegeukgi) and flower (Rose of Sharon) interwoven with arabesque patterns. Each of the blossoms, about the size of a 100-won coin, is adorned with over 25,000 strands of fine golden lines. “In the Goryeo era, there were separate artists for texts and illustrations, as well as others who were responsible for drawing borderlines, purifying gold powder and producing oxhide glue, and so on,” Kim said. “Now, I’m doing all these tasks that were divided among 300 individuals in the past.” Insight about Tools and Materials The single-handed execution of the entire work process has opened up his insight into the tools and materials. When examining ancient hand-written copies of sutras, Kim is able to make an approximate estimation of the date of their production based on the tone of the gold paint. He can discern the subtle differences, he asserts, in the concentration and the tone of gold paint used in the works, whether they are from the 13th century, from the early or the latter half of the 14th century, or from the subsequent Joseon period. He can also tell the quality of indigo paper just by seeing it, and even how it would be compatible with brush strokes. That piece of information is important because when the paper is too coarse or grainy it may ruin the brush hair even before the first 500 characters have been written. He went on to explain in detail about the 59 brushes on his worktable. Some are for drawing straight lines, some for curvy lines, 0.1 mm lines, or 0.2 mm lines; some for dealing with domestic gold paint, some others for Japanese paint. In sum, every brush has its own use, and even the brushes of the same length and thickness have exclusive roles. Then, what properties would he consider when choosing brushes? Kim said: “The best brushes are made of weasel hair — you have to first make sure if it is genuine. And the same weasel hair makes a considerable difference depending on whether it is spring hair before molting, or autumn hair after molting, or hair taken from the tail, back, or feet. You have to know all these matters to be able to choose the right brush.” He did not give simple answers to any questions. Talking about brushes, it was as though he would rather say nothing at all, if he could not explain them in full. When asked about how to apply the mixture of gold powder and glue on paper, he replied in the same manner:

Engrossed in the rigorous work of copying a Buddhist scripture, Kim Gyeong-ho is an officially designated master of the traditional art. On his desk is a set of 56 brushes of different sizes and uses, as a testament to his intricate work defying his physical and mental limits.

“In baseball, a good pitcher has a wide range of pitches — a fast ball, a low-lying curve ball, or a forkball with a downward movement. Since he needs to choose a pitch that is best for the situation, he may find it hard to give a simple answer to a question about how to throw a ball. Every time I work on a different type of lines, I determine the best combination of various factors: the concentration of the gold paint, the volume of gold powder and the consistency of the glue. The number of possible combinations must be in the hundreds. You can’t create the best work if your hand is not instinctive enough to instantly retrieve the experimental data accumulated in your brain.” Creating the “best work” seemed to be what he had wished to achieve by driving himself — his body and mind — to the extreme. His willingness to do his best was also at work in the interview, which led to a string of questions. How would he really feel behind the solid equanimity of his face, in the deepest of his mind? For all those years when he had worked on such a microscopic level that required utmost concentration, what kind of thoughts had he nurtured in his mind? Would any thought cross his mind at all in the moments of such complete absorption? Would the silence in his workshop represent the fierce tension and struggle between his stress and his will? Or was it a transcendental realm where the brush would have its own will?

“It is not like you’re caught in some kind of trance. Just think about a crystal-clear pond. The water keeps undulating, the fish freely swimming in it but not clouding the water. The mind is just like that. All sorts of thoughts pass through it like the swimming fish, but that doesn’t change the clarity of my mind. It is serenity and tranquility in the true sense of the words.” Little Things Do Matter In his youth, he took a night train three times to leave home and become a Buddhist monk, but each time, his father managed to find him in some corner of the country and returned him to his place in the secular world. The recollection gave rise to still another question: As sutra copying in Buddhism is regarded as an act of accumulating merit through pious deeds, does he have special religious experiences while practicing it? “Speaking of special experiences, is there anything more special than the phenomenon of your breathing? The oxygen in the air breathed in and out of my body — that is the most mysterious thing, a miracle, to me. When those little things are overlooked, there is no special thing under the sun,” he said. The aura of his awe-inspiring work lifted for a moment to reveal the true person within the artist. Working for four hours on end to purify his gold powder, and washing the brush off completely every 20 minutes, the artist devoutly showed that ultimate Zen is not what can be attained only inside a temple.




Entranced by Splendid Grandeur The National Museum of Korea recently introduced to the public an outstanding gwaebul from Okcheon Temple in Goseong, South Gyeongsang Province, in an exhibition entitled “Falling in Splendid Grandeur.” The 12th of its kind, the exhibition opened on April 25, a week before the Buddha’s birthday, and continued until October 22, 2017. Visitors were overwhelmed by the size of the Buddha and bodhisattvas depicted in the huge scroll painting as well as its splendid colors. Ryu Kyeong-hee Curator, National Museum of Korea


he Buddha has an overwhelming presence. Wearing a red monastic robe and surrounded by a round halo, he is facing the world. Flanking the Buddha are two bodhisattvas wearing crowns decorated with flames and holding a cintamani jewel and a lotus bud, respectively. Against the dark night sky, as the lotus flower full of seeds bursts open in its midst, two disciples put their hands together and six little Buddhas encircled in halos descend on a cloud. What fate brought the Buddha triad, two disciples and six little Buddhas together? Visitors observing the images would direct their attention to the “Record of the Gwaebul Production at Okcheon Temple” (Okcheonsa gwaebul joseong gi), displayed at the bottom of the painting. It says: “A new gwaebul

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“Scroll Painting of Buddha at Okcheon Temple” (Okcheonsa gwaebul ), 1808. Ink and color on silk, 1006 x 747.9 cm. Designated as Tangible Cultural Heritage No. 299 of South Gyeongsang Province, this huge ritual painting has the unique composition of the Buddha and two bodhisattvas in the center, unlike most other paintings depicting scenes of the historic Buddha’s sermon on Vulture Peak.

© National Museum of Korea


painting for outdoor rites and ceremonies was created at Okcheon Temple on Mt. Yeonhwa in Jinju County, Right [sic] Gyeongsang Province, in 1808. Plans were made to create a new painting because the old one was destroyed, and the temple’s monks and laymen cooperated in the project.” But producing a huge ritual painting exceeding 10 meters in height was not an easy task. First of all, 20 pok (unit of width) of silk canvas had to be sourced, and red, green and white pigments as well as precious gold were necessary. It required donations from 130 individuals in the clergy and laity, made directly or indirectly, to complete the project. In the record, the painting is titled “The Assembly on Vulture Peak.” Vulture Peak, or Grdhrakuta, is where the Buddha preached to a congregation who gathered to hear about his enlightenment after six years of meditation as a wandering ascetic. Scenes of this historic assembly have been popular subjects in Buddhist art through the ages.

However, this particular scroll painting at Okcheon Temple did not include the numerous people gathered to listen to the sermon. A symbolic representation of the assembly was made instead by depicting only the Buddha, the bodhisattvas Manjusri and Samantabhadra, the disciples Mahakasyapa and Ananda, and six little Buddhas in awe of the Buddha’s teaching. Optical Illusion Intended in the Perspective Measuring 10 meters by 7.5 meters, the scroll could not be hung on the wall of a single storey of the museum; instead it occupied the walls of the second and third floors. Looking up at the painting, it wasn’t difficult to imagine what the ceremonies must have been like when it was hung in the temple yard. Gwaebul are large scroll paintings of the Buddha used for outdoor rites and ceremonies. As time passed, their size increased so that they could be seen from afar, and believers who arrived at the entrance to the temple grounds were greeted by the sight

“Statues of Little Boys,” 1670. Color on stone. Height: 44 cm (left), 47.3 cm (right). The boy monk images were made in the 17th century when the Hall of Ksitigarbha was constructed at Okcheon Temple. They supposedly assist the Ten Kings of Hell and judges.

© National Museum of Korea

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of a gigantic Buddha soaring to meet the sky. To look at the huge Buddha from the second floor of the museum, the head had to be tilted quite far back. Looking up from the bottom, you could appreciate the perspective and sense of the monk painter Hwaak Pyeongsam, who had an optical illusion in mind. The main Buddha in the center is painted larger than the two bodhisattvas on either side, the disciples Mahakasyapa and Ananda in the upper portion smaller than that, and the six little Buddhas even smaller. Viewers are mistaken to think there is some distance between the figures on top and the Buddha triad in the center. From the third floor, you could finally see the figures face to face. You could notice the round features which are the marks of the Buddha, the fleshy protuberance on the Buddha’s crown denoting his wisdom, the jeweled hair ornament resembling the rising sun over the horizon, and the auspicious energy radiating toward the sky. On the chest of the Buddha, who bares one shoulder, a swastika is painted. Lotus flower, dragon and floral scroll designs are embroidered on the Buddha’s red robe. Two bodhisattvas flank the Buddha. They are Manjusri and Samantabhadra, associated with wisdom and action, respectively. They are wearing golden crowns decorated with magnificent flames, and have the face of the Buddha as if they were his son Rahula. Manjusri is holding a long stem with a wish-fulfilling jewel at the end and Samantabhadra holds a lotus bud in his hand. The bodhisattvas are adorned with necklaces and bracelets as splendid as the crowns. After feasting amply on the brilliant colors of red and green, the stories on the bodhisattvas’ robes begin to unfold. Rendered in blue paint on white, a rabbit pounds the pestle in a mortar and a squirrel jumps up to snatch some grapes. A crane with a cintamani in its mouth looks as if it has come from the immortal world. As such, the story of the Buddha embraces folk tales and legends. On either side of the Buddha’s head are Mahakasyapa and Ananda with their palms pressed together. Mahakasyapa was already an aged monk, and Ananda a young, intelligent one. Regardless of their age, they put their hands together and pay respects to the Buddha triad. Were the six Buddhas in small haloes visitors from another world who came to witness this assembly? Their palms are also pressed together and behind the clouds the night sky spreads, underneath which a lotus flower blooms. The historic Buddha, the bodhisattvas Manjusri and Samantabhadra, the disciples Mahakasyapa and Ananda, and those little Buddhas from another world are brought together to complete the imposing pantheon. Coming to the end of this magnificent drama, I could see before my eyes the Buddha manifest as an object of worship. I bowed my head and placed

my palms together in reverence. Then, with my head bowed, my eyes were turned to a large wooden crate placed at the bottom of the painting. It was the storage box for the scroll painting: both the painting and its storage box were on display. Moving both objects together must have been a special ceremony of great magnitude. I could picture a dozen monks cautiously carrying the scroll carefully tied in ropes out of the main hall of their temple. They would have headed out to a spacious yard where a grand ceremony was to be held. Storage Crate with Sun and Moon Engravings My eyes slowly gleaned over thin metal plates attached to the surface of the storage box. The metal plate in the middle of the box has Sanskrit characters done in openwork. The red coloring of the letters brings life to the otherwise dull wooden box. To either side is a circular metal plate with a Chinese character engraved on it. Does it mean the sun? Next to the two openwork characters meaning “sunlight” is a tree design created in the repoussé technique. Barely visible, it is reminiscent of the tree in a mural of the Tomb of the Wrestlers (Gakjeochong) of the Goguryeo Kingdom. The mythical tree with the sun hanging in it is engraved on the round metal plate. There is another circular plate broken off in the shape of a half-moon to show the wooden texture underneath. The two Chinese characters meaning “moonlight” were done in openwork. It was astounding to see this decoration of a gwaebul box with images and characters symbolizing the sun and the moon. Who was the artisan? Kindly enough, the inside of the box revealed the artists whose names could have gone forgotten: Kim Eop-bal of Jinyang and Kim Yun-pyeong of Cheolseong. Probably metal craftsmen who lived near the temple, their fine craftsmanship brought life to the simple wooden box. Along with the scroll painting, other treasures of Okcheon Temple made an outing to Seoul. Compared to the 10-meterhigh painting, the figures of the young boys are diminutive, measuring only 44 and 47.3 centimeters tall. Despite their humble size, they have great significance. In 1670, when the Hall of Ksitigarbha, or the Lord of the Underworld, was built at the temple, the people of Joseon needed consolation, so many of their loved ones having died during the Japanese invasions of 1592–1598 and the Manchu invasion of 1636. However miserable their lives may have been, and despite their premature deaths, the dead deserved a better afterlife. Inside the Hall of Ksitigarbha were enshrined sculpted images of the Ten Kings of Hell that the deceased were to meet, and the world governed by them was painted in great detail. During the construction, statues of boy monks were also made, carved out of stone and painted.


© National Museum of Korea

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Gwaebul are large paintings of the Buddha used for outdoor rites and ceremonies. As time passed, their size increased so that they could be seen from afar, and believers who arrived at the entrance to the temple grounds were greeted by the sight of a gigantic Buddha soaring to meet the sky.

One hundred years later, in 1777, when the hall was repaired, the boy monk figures were repainted as well. The vivid colors that remain give the images a lively look. The boys that assisted the ten kings and judges have their hair in a long braid and wear long coats with a straight collar. They are holding auspicious birds — phoenix and kalavinka — in their hands. According to the Ksitigarbha Sutra, the boy attendants in hell do not fail to record any small good deed or any evil deed by the deceased. That is why they are called the “boys of good” or the “boys of evil.” Boy Attendants Accompany the Ritual Painting Behind the boy monk figures was a depiction of hell from a Buddhist painting. King Yama, wearing a courtiers’ uniform and a tall crown embroidered with sun and moon designs, is seated in a large chair decorated with dragon heads, judging the gravity of the sins of the deceased. He seems to be deep in thought, running his fingers through his beard. Was the deceased a grave sinner? Colored clouds divide the painting into two parts; the lower part depicts scenes from the purgatories, featuring a karma mirror which reflects all karmic actions of good and evil in the former life of the deceased, and a scribe who keeps record of all sins the deceased had committed. When the souls of dead persons are dragged by their hair in front of the karma mirror, they

“Ten Kings of Hell” (King Yama Series, No. 5), 1744. Ink and color on hemp cloth, 165 x 117 cm. Designated as Treasure No. 1693, the painting depicts scenes of purgatories in the typical 18th-century Joseon style of Buddhist paintings found at Korean temples.

come face to face with a person holding an ax. This means that they had committed murder in their former life. Other souls waiting their turn are also tied and look up at the karma mirror. The judges and scribes, who accompany King Yama, look at the list of the deceased and write down the sins committed as reflected in the mirror, prior to the king’s judgment. The blank space on the paper means many more sins to record and more judgments left to deliver. Another work worthy of mention from the exhibition is the “Baekcheon Temple’s Painting of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and the Ten Kings of Hell.” Kept at Yeondaeam, one of the hermitages of Okcheon Temple, it features Ksitigarbha, also known as the Savior from the Torments of Hell, and the Ten Kings and the scribes, who all belong to the netherworld. According to the record on the painting, it was enshrined in 1737 at Dosol Hermitage of Baekcheon Temple in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, not far from Goseong, where Okcheon Temple is located. Around the 18th century when Okcheon Temple grew in size and influence, the temple’s monks traveled to the nearby areas of Sacheon and Jinju. This painting indicates the wide range of their activities. It also showcases some superb artistic skills. For example, the monk artist used calm colors and delicate brush strokes, applying ink while the paper was still wet so that some of the facial features of the figures could have a blurred effect. In addition, gilded pigment used on the hand-held tablets and robes of the Ten Kings as well as the sticks held by the judges brings a subtle glimmer to the whole canvas. Seeing the exhibition on a fine autumn day gave me the chance to contemplate on the resplendent world of the Buddha and the bodhisattvas as depicted in the magnificent scroll painting from the ancient temple, as well as the meaning of enlightenment contained in it.




DIPLOMAT-TURNEDTRANSLATOR Takes Korean Literature to France Jean-Noël Juttet has enjoyed reading ever since he was a child. His love of literature led him to earn a doctorate of arts at Lumière University Lyon 2 and eventually to lead the life of a career diplomat, spreading French culture to other countries. Currently, he is introducing Korean literature to his native France and the rest of the world. Choi Sung-jin Executive Editor, Korea Biomedical Review Shim Byung-woo Photographer


n 1991, Jean-Noël Juttet, the cultural attaché at the French Embassy in Seoul, was about to leave Korea after wrapping up six years of service here. However, Juttet had come to love his host country, its literary works and its people, one woman in particular. He felt it sad, even “cruel,” to say goodbye to all of them, so he chose to remain in Korea — for good. This is how one of the most successful translating duos in the country came into being. “Am I really in love with Korea, you mean? Yes, of course. If not, why should I be leading my post-retirement life here instead of a quiet and peaceful seaside village in France?” Juttet asks back. To keep up with Korea and his Korean friends, Juttet continues to read Korean literary works, and to translate and introduce them to his country of origin. His encounter with Choi Mi-kyung, his lifetime partner in work and life, was no doubt a decisive factor. Three Major Attractions Juttet said three traits of the Korean people drew him to this country. First, Koreans have passion. “Koreans work very hard and think positively about their work,” the vet-

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eran diplomat says. “This comes in stark contrast to French people, who are rather passive at work and afraid of increasing their workload.” Second, Koreans are frank. “Koreans open their minds to foreigners rather easily. This is clear when compared with Japanese people, who are very kind but careful and closed,” Juttet says. Third, Koreans are generous. “For example, French people are either misers or savers, slow in opening their purses when dining out with others,” he says. “In Korea, however, people compete to pay. Sometimes, someone else had already paid for the meal before I even realize it.” But as a long-term resident in Korea, Juttet is not without some advice. “It is something of which I was not aware during my service here as a diplomat, because back then, most people I met were educated and cultured,” he says. “As I have lived here for an extended period of time, however, I can notice some inconveniences and most outstanding are the ‘violent elements’ in social relationships.” Juttet cited Koreans’ “driving culture” as an example. “People who drive large, imported vehicles, such as BMW, Porsche or Maserati, often ignore traffic signals even on pedestrian-first streets, probably

Jean-Noël Juttet has helped to make Korean literary works known around the world by translating them into French. He says he was attracted by the passion, openness and generosity of the Korean people.


out of a sense of entitlement and in disregard of less privileged people,” he says. “Sadder still, even ordinary citizens tend to look down on people who are in lower income brackets.” From Diplomat to Translator There are many axioms about translation. “Translators are traitors,” an Italian proverb says. For an avid and extensive reader and editor, however, translation is a valuable job that turns national literature into world literature — or simply literature for everyone. “It is a challenging and exacting job,” Juttet says. “We must agonize over how to give life to the beautiful sentences of the original writers by finding equivalent expressions in another language. In this process, translators can’t help but explore their own writing ability, feeling the joy of creation in the course of forging new sentences.” As Juttet sees it, translation is not just about conveying lexical meaning but making the most of the translator’s writing expertise to produce the best possible sentences in another language, and eventually savoring the reward of hard work. Another time-old topic in the world of translation, and literary translation in particular, is whether translators should know their native language or the language they translate into better. The Juttet-Choi duo presents a “third way” in this regard. Strictly speaking, Juttet is more a reviser or supervisor than a translator. “Mi-kyung selects the original books, translates them and sends them to me, and I rewrite them in more refined French. I feel boundless joy when I turn

the wonderful writings of Korean authors into beautiful French,” Juttet says. One might wonder whether this format, which could be likened to a three-legged race, is competitive enough. “This sort of operation is not easy, of course, but has its advantages,” Juttet explains. “By combining the abilities of the two of us, we can achieve synergy. As we can grasp the meaning of the original texts with the sensibility of two individuals, what was understood by Mi-kyung, who is a native Korean speaker, can be reimaged and reinterpreted by a Frenchman in his native language.” Indeed, this could be a topic at many academic conferences, he adds. The duo’s efficiency has been well proven. In 2011, Choi and Juttet received the Grand Prize at the 10th Korean Literature Translation Awards, a biennial competition organized by the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, for their 2009 work, “Shim Chong, fille vendue,” a French edition of “Shim Cheong,” written by renowned author Hwang Sok-yong. In 2000, “The Reverse Side of Life,” a novel written by Lee Seung-u and translated by Choi and Juttet, was a finalist in the foreign literature category of the French literary prize, Prix Femina. “The Private Lives of Plants,” another work by Lee, who is better recognized in France than in Korea, became the first Korean novel in the Folio collection of Éditions Gallimard, famous for publishing literary masterpieces by the

Literary works translated by Jean-Noël Juttet, former cultural attaché at the French Embassy in Seoul, and his wife, Choi Mi-kyung, professor at Ewha Womans University’s Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation. Choi first translates the works and Juttet revises and rewrites her translations.

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“Before, most French people thought of Korea as a faraway country in Southeast Asia or something like that. Now, they know much more about Korea and their interest in this country is growing rapidly, as shown by an increasing number of young French people who learn the Korean language.” likes of Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Ernest Hemingway and André Gide. Prizes are the Result, Not the Goal Awards have seldom been the objective of these co-translators, though. “Needless to say, it would be good if we happen to receive awards for choosing good books and translating them well,” Juttet says. “However, our goal is to translate as many literary works of excellent quality as possible. Prizes are mainly related to vanity, and require lots of good luck.” “Not all works that received awards are good while those which did not get any prizes are not necessarily bad,” he says. The Nobel Prize in Literature, he believes, is no exception. “It would be great if famous Korean writers, such as Hwang Sok-yong or Lee Seung-u, received the prize,” says Juttet. But he is doubtful that the Nobel Prize is such a significant award, noting that some winners have been entirely forgotten afterward. He also takes note of the considerable inequality inflicting writers from different language groups or areas. “There are numerous writers from the English, Spanish, French and Chinese language areas, but Korea is a small country which has emerged on the cultural scene only in recent years,” he says. A similar sort of disparity exists even among major language groups. “For instance, French publishers tend to feel novels from Anglo-American areas

are more important than they actually are,” he adds. This explains why Juttet thinks it necessary to translate far more Korean literary works than exist now, and to encourage young translators to do likewise. “The more Korean books we can find at the Asian or Korean corners in bookstores around the world, the closer Korea will move to the Nobel Prize,” he says. Stay-at-Home Couple Juttet spends most of his evenings and weekends revising translations by Choi. He also teaches aspiring translators, including French students who have received scholarships from the Korean government, at the Literature Translation Institute of Korea for about seven hours a week.“The other big part of my life is taking care of our household,” Juttet says. “As Mi-kyung is busy teaching at Ewha Womans University and working as an interpreter at international conferences, I do most of the housework, like cleaning, grocery shopping, taking care of pets and gardening. My life composed of these two roles — official and unofficial — is a quiet and satisfactory one.” One of the good things about this quiet life is that he has lots of time for reading, says Choi. Both being stay-at-home types, Juttet and Choi do not meet many people, Korean or French, outside of their work circles. Instead, these long-time residents of Seongbuk-dong, an old quarter of the capital, exchange greetings with their neighbors while taking a walk around their home or to the nearby mountain. Juttet’s spoken Korean remains quite limited. Asked why, he says, “I tried to learn Korean when I first arrived in Korea, but soon realized I didn’t need to. There were too many Koreans around me who spoke French very excellently.”As a person who has long played the role of a cultural and literary bridge between Korea and France, Juttet finds recent developments between the two countries both rewarding and encouraging. “Before, most French people thought of Korea as a faraway country in Southeast Asia or something like that,” he says. “Now, they know much more about Korea and their interest in this country is growing rapidly, as shown by an increasing number of young French people who learn the Korean language.” Juttet goes on, “I marvel at and am envious of the Korean-speaking ability of French students in my classes, a phenomenon that I expect will grow increasingly more visible in the years to come.”



The Scent of

APPLE BLOSSOMS RISES from a Thousand Alleyways The name Daegu means “big hill,” and true to its name the city is made up of countless interwoven alleyways on top of a hill. Each alley has its own history and stories to tell. Cheongna Hill, which brings to mind Montmartre in Paris, and the Western-style Gyesan Cathedral sitting on top form a sort of outdoor museum offering an enchanting glimpse of Korea’s early modern period. Gwak Jae-gu Poet Ahn Hong-beom Photographer

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Daegu once had so many apple orchards that every hill seemed to be covered in white apple blossoms in spring, and the Daegu apple was known to be the tastiest in the country. Under the influence of climate change, however, the apple cultivating zone has moved northward and apple orchards have virtually disappeared from Daegu’s landscape.



was around 17 years old at the time. I was on a school field trip. In those days, it was an exciting thing for students to set out on a trip to explore historic sites around the country before they finished high school. The final destination on our trip was Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom. Before the bus rolled into the city, we saw a hill covered with an endless number of apple trees. It was spring and the apple blossoms were in full bloom. When I opened the window, the wind came blasting through and white petals flew about everywhere. That’s when I learned that the term “shower of petals” was not a fantasy. After the bus drove through the falling petals for a good while we finally reached Gyeongju, but to this day, rather than the ancient city’s numerous historic remains it is the sight of white apple blossoms flying in the wind over the hillside town that remains in my memory. The name of that hillside town was Daegu. Though much time has now passed, I still associate Daegu with the scent of apple blossoms. The hills were covered with white apple blossoms and houses were nestled between the trees, and this sight must have aroused my poetic sentiment. Forty-five years have passed since then and Daegu has undergone great changes. It has become a big city of 2.5 million people, and under the influence of climate change, most of the apple orchards have disappeared.

“Travel to the Modern Times: A Thousand Alleys and a Thousand Stories” When I reached downtown Daegu, the above slogan came into sight. A sign bearing this slogan stood at the entrance to every alley like a milestone. Each sign mentioned different names, however, such as “sock alley,” “printing alley,” “intestines alley” and “beef rib alley.” There’s something heartwarming about the way the thousand alleys and the stories of everyday life filling them have been taken as a theme to promote tourism in the city. Streets Imprinted with Scenes of Modern History Old-time Daegu locals love to climb a small hill called Cheongna. The name means the “blue-tinted Boston ivy,” and this is where many of Korea’s early modern buildings can be found, including a church, school and hospital. Alien and unfamiliar at the time, these buildings with their red brick and green ivy-covered exteriors attracted their fair share of attention. The Daegu locals call the hill “Montmartre,” and love it for that reason. Park Tae-jun (1903–1986), a Daegu-born composer, wrote a lyric song entitled “In Memory of a Friend” (“Dongmu saenggak”). There is a story behind the song. Park was in love with a girl who was attending Sinmyeong School. He told Lee


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Eun-sang (1903–1982), a sijo poet, about it and Lee wrote the lyrics of the song in 1922. “My heart is like Cheongna Hill / My lily-like friend / When you bloom from my heart / All sadness disappears.” These lines left their mark deep in the hearts of countless Koreans suffering in the throes of first love. It was a song loved by the whole country. On top of Cheongna Hill sit three houses that were once the residences of foreign missionaries who came to Korea in the late 19th century. One of these is Switzer House, and in the garden stands a descendant of the first apple tree ever brought to Korea from the United States. Woodbridge O. Johnson, the first director of the Dongsan Hospital, brought an apple tree with him when he came from Missouri in 1899 and planted it in the garden. Although the original tree no longer exists, its progeny gave birth to the Daegu apple and is hence an apple tree with a deep and rich history. The red apples, the size of plums, were lovely to see. A small stairway called “The Road of 90 Steps” or “March 1 Independence Movement Road” links Cheongna Hill with the downtown area. On March 1, 1919, Koreans all over the nation rose up against the Japanese colonizers in a movement for independence. At the time, Daegu students used this lane running through the forest to enter the city and shout for independence. To avoid the Japanese police, it is said that male students dressed as merchants and female students carried basins as if they were going to the stream to do the washing. Not a Long Alley, Despite the Name The steps lead down to a big street and Gyesan Cathedral. Built in 1902 in the Gothic style, the cathedral was the first Western-style building to go up in Daegu and is one of the oldest cathedrals in Korea. A mass was under way when we got there. The voice of the priest and the sunlight shining through the stained glass windows was warm and pleasant. On May 5, 1984, Pope John Paul II held mass here to canonize 103 Catholic mar-


1. The garden of the Switzer House, built around 1910, has a descendant of the first apple tree ever brought to Korea from the United States. American missionary Martha Switzer once lived at the house. She is buried in the Garden of Mercy nearby. 2. Gyesan Cathedral, built in the Gothic style in 1902, is Daegu’s first Western style building and an outstanding example of Korea’s early Christian architecture.



tyrs. Nobody would have guessed that, 82 years after the cathedral was first built, the pope himself would lead a mass here. Down the alley next to Gyesan Cathedral is the old home of the “people’s poet” Yi Sang-hwa (1901–1943). Will spring come to these stolen fields — now another’s land? Bathed in sunlight I walk as if in a dream along the lane Cutting through the rice paddies like the part in one’s hair Toward where the blue sky and the green fields meet. Thus begins Yi Sang-hwa’s poem, “Will Spring Come to These Stolen Fields?” that stirred the hearts of the Korean people, who were dreaming of freedom and independence. Imperial Japan closed down the literary magazine Gaebyeok (Great

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1. The herbal medicine market in Daegu, with a history dating back to 1658, is the biggest market of its kind in the southern part of Korea. In its heyday, the market drew merchants not only from China and Japan but also from Arabia. 2. The poet Yi Sang-hwa (1901–1943), widely known for works expressing resistance against Japanese colonial rule, lived at this house for four years from 1939. It is now a memorial dedicated to the poet’s life and works.

Beginning), which had published the poem, an indication of the fear they felt at this piece of literature. The alley leads to Jin Alley, or Jingolmok in Korean, which is Daegu dialect for Gingolmok, meaning “long alley.” When Daegu locals say, “I’ll meet you there,” everybody knows “there” means this alley. But contrary to the name, the long alley is not so long. It differs greatly from the alleys of Varana-

In recent times, this traditional alley filled with medicine merchants has become increasingly popular with young people and travelers, thanks to the presence of coffee shops with sleek interiors. It has become an alley like no other in the world, where the smell of herbal medicine blends with the aroma of coffee. There is no place like it — not even in Varanasi or the Medina of Fez.

si in India, where it is so easy to get lost, or the Medina of Fez in Morocco, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It probably has something to do with the status of those who made these alleys their home. Homes of the ordinary people densely line the alleyways in Varanasi, but Jingolmok was home for Confucian scholars who constituted the upper class of Daegu. I remember the first time I set foot into Varanasi. With the big idea of drawing a “maze map,” I entered the alley leading to the crematorium. The monsoon rains had made a mess of the narrow passage, less than a meter wide and filled with a foul stench. Every five minutes a procession of people carrying a dead body to the crematorium entered the alley. The sound of their prayers to Shiva was gloomy. And for some reason, there were so many cows. When a cow made its way into the alley, there was nothing left to do but stand back close to the walls,

brushing with the cow as it passed. That was the day I gave up my dream of drawing a maze map. My modest travel experience, I realized, was no match for the rough and unforgiving city of Varanasi. Happiness in the Old Markets From Jingolmok I went on to the old herbal medicine market called Yangnyeongsi, just 10 minutes away on foot. Daegu natives like to call it the “medicine alley.” From the entrance, the smell of herbal medicine brews assails the nose. The pride of the locals is evident when they joke, “Just walking through the alley will cure you.” The scent is the essence of herbal medicine; the scent unique to each ingredient chases away the diseased energy inside the body. In that respect, those living near the market are happy people. At the onset of a cold or a hint of indigestion, a stroll through this market for an hour or two will alleviate the symptoms. How could they not be happy? The market rose out of the tradition of selling medicines here every spring and autumn, which began in 1658. In its heyday, it was apparently a famous international market, attracting merchants not only from China and Japan but from as far away as Arabia. In recent times, this traditional alley filled with medicine merchants has become increasingly popular with young people and travelers, thanks to the presence of coffee shops with sleek interiors. It has become an alley like no other in the world, where the smell of herbal medicine blends with the aroma of coffee. There is no place like it — not even in Varanasi or the Medina of Fez. For any traveler with a special sensitivity to smell, Daegu’s medicine market must not be missed. Next, I plodded over to Seomun Market. As soon as I got there, I knew without a doubt that I was at the biggest market



in the southern part of Korea, with endless rows of stores selling fruit and vegetables, clothing, fish, meat, and dried foods. I bought a dried squid and chewed it as I strolled through the market. But no matter how much I walked, there seemed to be no end. The happiness of visiting a traditional market comes from buying the goods you want after haggling a bit with the seller. I remembered something that had happened to me at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. This market, established in the 15th century, has some 5,000 stalls and everything that is sold has a traditional feel to it. The household items, furniture, clothes, silks, silver crafts and carpets all featured medieval designs and patterns. At the market, I bought myself a handmade carpet. Loath to carry it around, I had told the merchant I would only buy it if he could guarantee that the carpet would be safely sent to Korea. Upon hearing this, he opened up an old safe and took out a bunch of old contracts. I was astonished to see that they were from the 15th and 16th centuries, and that on each there was a skull motif with the chilling phrase, “Honor the contract or die.” I had faith in these contracts as soon as I saw them. Sure enough, two weeks after I had returned to Korea, a package containing the carpet arrived at my house. In Memory of a Singer Who Died Young Bangcheon Market was formed during the Korean War by North Korean refugees and displaced South Koreans who were unable to return home. People say that the market, at its

Sites to Visit in Daegu

peak, consisted of more than 1,000 stalls and all merchants who gathered there had their own incredible life stories to tell. Going through a series of ups and downs, the market eventually became a fairly mundane place for poor, plain people. But in recent times, people wanting to save the market from obscurity created a space in memory of the late singer Kim Kwang-seok. In an alley just wide enough for three or four people to stand shoulder to shoulder, murals paying tribute to Kim’s life and his songs have been painted, inscribed with memorable quotes and song lyrics. There is an outdoor stage where Kim’s songs are performed and the sounds of buskers fill the alley. Kim Kwang-seok is one of Korea’s most beloved pop singers. His songs soothed the souls of Koreans as they suffered under military dictatorship and authoritarian rule, helping them to live through those difficult times. Young men reaching the age of 20 would sing “The Soldier’s Letter” as they went to serve their military duty, and “Around the Age of Thirty” is the favorite with everyone in their thirties. “The Story of an Old Couple” is infused with the plaintiveness of an old couple who have lived a hard life. The plan to memorialize Kim Kwang-seok, whose life and music was a product of the alleys of Bangcheon Market where his father ran a store, was a success, for the market now attracts an endless stream of visitors who come from all over the country to remember the singer. It would not be too much to say that the market is sacred ground for hardcore Kim Kwang-seok fans. It is not only Koreans who sympathize with the life and

Hat Rock on Mt. Palgong

Seoul 290km Daegu

Jingolmok (Long Alley)

Intestines Alley in Anjirang Mt. Apsan Observatory

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music of the singer, who died at the age of 32. Tourists from Southeast Asia, China and Japan are also a common sight there. When night had fallen, I set out for the gopchang (beef or pork intestines) alley in Anjirang. I was caught by the name “Youth Alley” marked on my guide map of the city. Who doesn’t look back on their younger years with fondness? Those who are young at this moment gather in the alley, hand in hand, and those long past their youth come here with a longing for the good old days. When I reached the alley, I was amazed to see so many restaurants selling beef or pork intestines. This market alley may well be the largest in the world specializing in gopchang dishes. But I couldn’t bring myself to enter a boisterous restaurant alone to sit down and eat. I couldn’t help thinking that

A memorial to Kim Kwang-seok is a popular spot in Bangcheon Market, where he spent his childhood. Murals paying tribute to the life and songs of the singer, who died in 1996 at the age of 32, line a narrow alley attracting an endless stream of visitors.

“Come with your friends to drink, talk, and be in love” was this market’s outlook on the world. On my map I found the “Dokkaebi Night Market Alley” in Gyo-dong. Okay, that’s my next stop, I said to myself. If I go there, perhaps I’ll find some lonely dokkaebi (mythical being similar to a hobgoblin) to have dinner with. Indeed, just the thought of meeting and making friends with some of the dokkaebi I had seen in childhood story books made me feel happy. I hurried toward the alley.



© Eugene Bell Foundation

Eugene Bell Foundation’s

LOVE OF NEIGHBORS ACROSS THE DMZ Inter-Korean relations interspersed with tension and confrontation have moved to another precarious level in the wake of North Korea’s recent nuclear weapons and missile tests. Despite these circumstances, a civic group has consistently delivered humanitarian aid to the North. It is the Eugene Bell Foundation, established in 1995 by Stephen Linton, a great-grandson of American missionary Eugene Bell, to mark the centennial of his arrival in Korea. Kim Hak-soon Journalist and Visiting Professor, School of Media and Communication, Korea University

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tephen Linton and his team visit North Korea twice each year no matter how tense the inter-Korean relations or Pyongyang-Washington ties are. This year is no exception. They visited the North in May and November, along with foreign donors and medical staff, carrying medicines and medical equipment. This is because treating the severe forms of tuberculosis (TB) that many North Koreans are suffering from is more urgent than any political or diplomatic issue. Regardless of whether relations between the two Koreas are good or bad, the foundation never wavers in its belief that humanitarian aid should be “apolitical and non-ideological.” Linton, a Korean at heart who likes using his Korean name “In Se-ban,” has taken the lead in the efforts to beat TB in the North for 20 years. After launching the Eugene Bell Foundation in 1995, Linton first delivered food aid to the North, but then turned his attention to fighting TB there after receiving an official request by the Pyongyang authorities. In 1997, North Korea’s then vice minister of public health, Choe Chang-sik, sent a letter to Linton, asking for “assistance for TB treatment instead of food aid,” although the country was experiencing severe food shortages at the time. Linton has visited the North more than 80 times, and over 50 times for TB treatment alone. His foundation has so far delivered some US$51 million (roughly 57.8 billion won) worth of medicines and medical equipment to the North. The medical equipment included mobile X-ray vans, diagnostic X-ray machines, microscopes and surgical instruments. More than 250,000 patients were treated from 1997 to 2007, thanks to the foundation’s active medical support. Treating MDR-TB Patients The situation is still not good despite the consistent efforts by Linton and the Eugene Bell Foundation, because Korean winters are cold, particularly in the North, and it is easy for its residents to contract TB as North Korean families often live together in small spaces. Young women who have just given birth and elderly people are especially prone to the disease. “Women’s immune system weakens after childbirth and so they get susceptible to TB, and it becomes more difficult for them to take care of their babies,” Linton says. Moreover, the situation is increasingly worsening due to the growing number of patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) that cannot be cured with ordinary medica-

Stephen Linton, founder and chairman of the Eugene Bell Foundation, talks with patients about tuberculosis treatment during a visit to North Korea.

tion because its germs are resistant to various types of drugs. Some 4,000 to 5,000 fresh cases of MDR-TB occur in the North each year. The treatment success rate for ordinary forms of TB reaches 90 percent, if patients take medicines regularly for six to eight months. Medicines for MDR-TB are up to 100 times more expensive than drugs for ordinary TB, and the patients have to take such expensive medicines for a year and a half to two years. Besides, the treatment success rate is lower. “It needs some 5,000 dollars, including medicine expenses, to treat an MDR-TB patient, while a mere 20 dollars is needed to treat an ordinary TB patient,” Linton says. What is more embarrassing is that any lapse in the timing of taking the medication can be critical for MDR-TB patients. It will grow even more difficult to treat the patients and their fatality rate will rise if MDR-TB develops into the so-called “super extensively drug-resistant TB.” MDR-TB patients can develop this more dangerous type of TB in a short period of time if their treatment stops. Therefore, aid materials for the treatment of MDR-TB patients should be delivered at least once every six months. For this reason, the Eugene Bell Foundation has focused on treating MDR-TB patients in the North since 2007. In this process, it has run one of the world’s largest MDR-TB treatment programs and given hundreds of North Korean doctors and TB patients a chance to learn how to treat the illness. “In 2008, we began collecting phlegm samples of 19 patients with a potential risk of MDR-TB in North Korea. Six months later, we went back to the North to treat those who had tested positive, carrying the necessary medicines,” Linton says. “This program has developed to the extent that it’s possible to treat more than 1,500 patients at any time. We now can immediately conduct tests and begin treatment on the spot.” A team of about 10 people, including Linton, stays in the North for about three weeks on every visit. But Linton says three weeks is not long enough to carry out substantial activities. “We visit all of the 12 sanatoriums during those 21 days. We test and accept new patients to the facilities. And we check to see if patients show improvement and give them medicines.” Thanks to careful management, Linton says, the treatment success rate for MDR-TB patients has increased to 76 percent. It is a remarkable achievement, compared with the world’s average treatment success rate of the disease still hovering at 45 percent. These days, there is a saying among North Koreans that “there is hope even for MDR-TB patients if they just go to a Eugene Bell sanatorium.” Aside from the delivery of medicines and medical equipment, the greatest achievement Linton and his foundation have accomplished in the North is the education of TB patients and medical personnel. Through the foundation’s TB treatment pro-


gram, thousands of North Korean residents have learned what to do and what not to do when they are infected with TB bacteria. Linton himself seems to have become a TB expert in the course of helping treat North Korean patients. ‘We’re Mere Errand Runners’ Linton fell ill with TB twice himself when he was a child, so he knows well how much pain the patients experience. Come to think of it, the Linton family had something to do with TB treatment all along. Stephen Linton’s mother, Lois Linton, founded the Soonchun Christian Tuberculosis Rehabilitation Center in 1960 when the Suncheon area in South Jeolla Province was hit by a flood and TB was running rampant. She fought the disease there for about 30 years. Linton meticulously checks to see how the medicines and medical equipment delivered to the North are used and spares no effort to enhance transparency in the distribution of aid supplies. The Eugene Bell Foundation is run with donations from South Korean and American donors as well as assistance from the South Korean and U.S. governments. Currently, 85 percent of donors are South Koreans, and North Korean beneficiaries are reportedly well aware that most donations come from them. The foundation makes it a rule to identify donors on all items it delivers on every visit to all target hospitals and facilities. There is no indication of the “Eugene Bell Foundation” but instead, the donors’ names are emblazoned on every medicine box the foundation delivers. Linton warns against the foundation and himself being made heroes. He keeps saying that the Eugene Bell Foundation is an “errand agency” and he is “nothing but an errand runner.” “We’re just playing the role of a delivery man or a donkey,” he says. “We’re only delivering and managing medicines and equipment. It is the Korean people who donate money for medical activities, give medical services, and benefit from these activities. My foundation and I have come forward, just because of the situation where it’s not easy for South Koreans to deliver their love to their compatriots across the border.” Then he adds, “The most difficult part of this job is to get all the necessary cooperation from Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington at the same time. Tense relations between the two Koreas always affect our efforts. But we aren’t worried because there are many donors who care about what we are doing. And it’s hard to remember when there wasn’t any tension.” In 2016, his travel schedule was interrupted once after a nuclear test by the North, causing a setback in the treatment of MDR-TB patients, due to the suspension of the South Korean government’s approval. But Linton says that in 2017 everything has proceeded smoothly according to schedule. He delivers just six months’ worth of medication each time.

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“The most difficult part of this job is to get all the necessary cooperation from Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington at the same time. Tense relations between the two Koreas always affect our efforts.”

North Korean medical staff unload boxes of medicines brought by the Eugene Bell Foundation from a truck. All boxes of medicines and medical supplies are emblazoned with the names of South Korean and American donors.

Therefore, an interruption in his travel schedule means that MDR-TB patients in the North fail to receive timely treatment. This is why Linton hopes that the South Korean government will introduce a license system for aid groups and simplify the approval process for all aid groups regularly visiting the North. Love of Korea over Generations Linton first visited North Korea in 1979 when the World Table Tennis Championships were held in Pyongyang. From 1992 to 1994, he met then North Korean president Kim Il-sung three times as an interpreter and advisor for American pastor Billy Graham. In 1995, while a professor at Columbia University, Linton established the Eugene Bell Foundation to commemorate the centennial of the start of Eugene Bell’s missionary activities in Korea and immediately began delivering food aid for North Korean residents.

Eugene Bell, his great-grandfather on his mother’s side, arrived in Korea in 1895 toward the end of the Joseon Dynasty. He began missionary activities and volunteer work in the Jeolla area. William Linton, his grandfather, also did missionary work in Jeolla after marrying Charlotte Bell, a daughter of Eugene Bell. In 1919, during the Japanese colonial period, William Linton, who was principal of the Jeonju Shinheung High School, supported the Korean independence movement in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, and informed Americans of it. He eventually saw his school closed and was deported from Korea for having refused to pay respects at a Shinto shrine. After Korea was liberated, he returned and founded a college that has since grown into Hannam University in Daejeon. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the U.S. in 1950, Stephen Linton came to Korea with his missionary father, Hugh Linton, and grew up in Suncheon. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Yonsei University and a Ph.D. for a comparative study of North and South Korea from Columbia University. Later, he served as a professor and deputy director of the East Asian Institute’s Center for Korean Research at Columbia University. Asked why he turned from a scholar into a civic activist, Linton says, “As a Christian, I don’t believe that individual persons can change the world. I believe that the key is to put the love of neighbors into practice.” He keenly felt the need for the “love of neighbors” in 1995 when the North Korean authorities made a formal request for assistance to the international community as its food shortage came to a head. At the initial stage, his younger brother, John Linton, who is currently director of the International Health Care Center at Yonsei University’s Severance Hospital, helped give medical assistance to the North. Regarding his family’s love of Korea over four generations, Linton simply notes, “We’ve done what we should have done as believers of God.” But he seems firmly resolved when he says, “I would have retired by now if I had been a university professor. But I will continue to help treat TB patients in North Korea as long as I see the necessity.” Then he goes on to express his gratitude to all donors, as well as the medical staff in the North, saying, “Without their admirable spirit of sacrifice, this job would have been impossible.”




Charles La Shure Professor, Department of Korean Language and Literature, Seoul National University Ryu Tae-hyung Music Columnist

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A Modern Fairy Tale of Magical Realist Mood ‘One Hundred Shadows’ By Hwang Jungeun, Translated by Jung Yewon, 152 pages, £8.99, London: Tilted Axis Press [2016]

In an unnamed forest, a girl named Eungyo follows a mysterious shadow as it draws her deeper and deeper into the woods. A sun shower is falling — a “fox rain,” as it is known in Korean — and the world is blanketed in an odd haze. It is only when her friend, a boy named Mujae, calls her back that she realizes the shadow was her own. Thus begins “One Hundred Shadows,” a fabulist tale that explores darkness and light, becoming lost and being found, all while painting a vivid picture of the deepening relationship between Eungyo and Mujae. Although most of the book takes place in an electronics market and the main characters’ neighborhoods in downtown Seoul, the magical realist mood of the modern fairy tale is maintained from that first scene in the forest to the last scene on a dark island. It is tempting to read — and indeed hard to resist reading — symbolism into these fairy tale scenes. The forest has always been a symbol for the mysterious and the unknown, as well as for our own subconscious, while the island represents isolation. And then there is the shadow, the thread that runs through the entire narrative. Could this, as Hwang suggests, represent our unacknowledged dark side? Is this why various characters counsel Eungyo not to follow her shadow if it rises, because it can never lead to anything good? But this is one of the beautiful things about fairy tales: although the symbols and messages contained therein often seem obvious, the tales themselves allow for a multitude of interpretations. While shadows often appear to symbolize our dark side, the fact remains that a shadow requires light for its existence. And it is clear in the novel that the shadow is an integral part of the person to whom it belongs; only when the shadow is in its place, when darkness and light are in balance, are we whole. One might also argue that the rising of shadows is more symptom than cause. There is another element of the novel that calls into question our certainty in symbols, and that is the arbitrariness of words and language. We are all familiar with the phenomenon: repeat a word often enough and it will start to separate itself from the meaning we have assigned it. Divorced from sense, it becomes nonsense. As Eungyo and Mujae repeat words like “whorl” and “slum,” the sounds begin to feel strange and foreign. Why is this important? One of many possible interpretations: this is a reminder that symbols only have the significance and meaning that we assign them. Just as the symbolic system of language is ultimately arbitrary, the symbols we assign meaning to in life are not necessarily carved in stone. However one may choose to interpret the fabulist tale of “One Hundred Shadows,” it is a thoughtful work that rewards rumination. The unpretentious tone and straightforward language allow for quick reading, but there are many moments to ponder the applicability of the metaphors and symbols present. And through it all, there is the simple, bittersweet, and ultimately human relationship of a boy and a girl, each striving to come to their own understanding of life. Is it merely futility, a matryoshka doll of twenty-nine layers, the last merely the size of a pea and crushed underfoot? Or is it a walk along a dark road punctuated by the rare streetlamp, yet a walk nonetheless toward some unknown hope? These are questions worth pondering, and “One Hundred Shadows” provides ample opportunity for reflection.

A Window into the Cutting Edge of Korean Architecture ‘The Frontline of Korean Architecture: DOCUMENTUM 2014–2016’ Edited by Sangho Kim, 244 pages, $146.24, Seoul: Archilife [2016]


The Front Korean Ar DOCUMENTUM

Traditional Korean architecture will no doubt be the first thing that comes to mind for many readers when the words “Korean architecture” are mentioned. Yet, while traditional architectural treasures deserve admiration and appreciation, this is not the endpoint of Korean architecture. Architects continue to explore and experiment, borrowing elements from tradition even as they seek out new styles and approaches. “The Frontline of Korean Architecture: DOCUMENTUM 2014–2016” is a window into this new world. The content is drawn from the pages of DOCUMENTUM, an architectural magazine launched in the spring of 2014. As the title suggests, the buildings featured here do not represent typical contemporary Korean architecture but the cutting edge. And DOCUMENTUM seeks not to simply document this cutting-edge architecture dispassionately, without further comment, but to delve deeper into the process behind the construction of these buildings, specifically into the relationships The Frontline of Korean Architecture DOCUMENTUM 2014–2016

between the ideas and activities that led to the finished structures. This drive is most apparent in the compilation’s centerpieces: three longer essays on a volleyball training center, a building that houses an international exhibition and the renovation of a house originally built in the 1930s. Fifteen shorter pieces provide insights into these processes of other recent buildings. Finally, the compilation is punctuated by “status” pages, collections of smaller drawings, diagrams, and photographs from each issue of the magazine, from “Issue Zero” in the winter of 2013 to the fall of 2015. Each article is accompanied by an abundance of photographs and diagrams. The photographs deserve special mention as they are works of art highlighting the artistry of the buildings they take as their subjects. From buildings that incorporate elements of traditional Korean architecture to those that seem to eschew such considerations entirely, the architecture featured here will be inspiring to anyone interested in design and aesthetics. 0




Rhythm and Voice of 21st Century Youth ‘23’ By Hyukoh, Audio CD $25.99, Seoul: Genie Music [2017]

There is no pretense or exaggeration. The sound glides smoothly into the ears. Each piece is gentle and subtle, but has solid structure. From keen sensitivity to deep emotion, the songs have a remarkable range but a certain unity. Never boring even upon repeated listening, it is an album of our time. This is how I feel after listening to “23,” the first full-length album by the rock band Hyukoh. The members, lead singer Oh Hyuk, Im Dong-geon on bass, Lim Hyun-jae on guitar and Lee In-woo on drums, were all born in 1993. Although they have released the mini albums “20” and “22,” and several singles, “23” is their first full-length album. Hyukoh sings mostly in English, and the universal appeal of the lyrics is one reason why the band has been well received

overseas. The first song, “Burning Youth,” is a short introduction. After warming up, it suddenly stops and then flares up into a splendid blaze. “Tokyo Inn” proceeds steadily in a slightly Chinese- or perhaps kitsch-style rhythm. “Ah, I just want to hide. At the very back, I just...” It is a self-portrait of a somewhat ashamed youth, standing at the side. By contrast, “Leather Jacket” is remarkable with its speedy pace and scat singing: “Doo bie doo bie doo.” The vocals convey the messages clearly, as smoothly as a ride in a luxury car. In “Tomboy,” the highlight and hit song of the album, Oh Hyuk sings, “We, the young, can’t see the growth rings, blinded by the bright lights.” It is like an anthem of youth trying to find direction. KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 79


A HAPPY LIFE Makes Everything Taste Better The “2016 Overview of Franchise Outlets by Industry,” released by the Korea Fair Trade Mediation Agency, shows there are 24,678 fried chicken shops in the country, second only to the 30,846 convenience stores. In third place are eateries serving Korean food, totaling 19,313. A large number of independent business owners choose to open fried chicken shops because “it does not require specific skills.” In this red ocean market, businesses may get by without any special skills but they need “special principles” to succeed. Jo Eun Poet and Children’s Author Ha Ji-kwon Photographer


hen office life gets tough, a lot of people dream about handing in their resignation. They picture themselves setting up all sorts of independent businesses and believe they can do anything they set their minds on, if only their bosses aren’t breathing down their neck. There is also that sense of anticipation — they can turn their lives around completely and be the envy of all their friends — as well as the sense of urgency that comes from the nagging thought, “… before it’s too late!” In practice, however, going it alone isn’t easy. Starting a business means overcoming huge doubts and anxiety. Despite all that, the high level of self-employment in Korea reflects the fact that many feel miserable about their office life while there is a huge lack of appropriate jobs for those who retire early. With the domestic market stagnating in the midst of low growth and recession, starting a self-run business does not necessarily guarantee success. Jeong Cheol-sun, who runs a fried chicken franchise in

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Seochon, central Seoul, is certainly more successful than most of his peers. To put it simply, he’s a happy man. His family motto, “Do your best wherever you find yourself,” is framed and hangs on the wall of his home. Born in 1960, he has been running his fried chicken shop for 20 years now, and the experience and ideas he’s amassed over that time have made their way into the franchise company’s policy. “I often go to the corporate headquarters in my role as operating committee member and sit at a big conference table with the owner, the president and the directors,” Jeong says. “At the headquarters, they draw up guidelines based on extensive surveys, and I’ve been actively involved right from the beginning. I’ve also received a few awards.” For a recent event held at the International Convention Center Jeju, the company chartered 10 planes to get all participants to the island. Jeong won the most important award and his entire family was invited to join him on stage as he collected it. Jeong and

his wife are so famous within the franchise that from time to time, they feature in the company’s TV commercials. Perhaps because they are so positive, exercising regularly, actively taking part in local community activities, and smiling all the time, they both have radiant faces. In fact, spending all their days side by side, their smiles look like carbon copies of each other. The Secret to Great Flavor Having worked at a firm in Seoul for over 10 years, Jeong Cheol-sun realized one day that he had no future as an office worker. Just as he was grappling with how to make a change to his life, his brother-inlaw, a civil servant in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, suddenly passed away. Jeong’s widowed sister then moved up to Seoul, and the two of them opened a galbi (beef ribs) barbeque restaurant. Since neither of them had any experience in running such a business, they had to close down a mere three months later. Thus he experienced early on the bitterness of

Jeong Cheol-sun and his wife, who run a franchise fried chicken shop in the Seochon area of Seoul, never lose their smiles despite their exhausting daily routine.

defeat in the restaurant business. It was because of that painful experience that Jeong chose to open up a franchise. With support from the headquarters, he thought he’d be able to run his business with a better safety net. He decided to turn the video rental shop his wife had been running for seven years into a fried chicken shop. But it wasn’t an easy decision to make. “There was a rotisserie chicken place right next door, so I wavered a lot. For them, if the video shop turned into a chicken shop it would mean competitors popping up right next door,” he says. “But I finally made the decision because I thought that ‘rotisserie chicken’ and ‘fried chicken’ were different. People hardly separate the two these days, but back then they


Making food with the conviction that it must be good enough to feed your own child — this extra level of care and attention seems to be the secret to great taste.

were completely different. Anyway, to this day we’re still getting along with each other as good neighbors.” At Jeong’s shop, apart from fried chicken, they also sell pizza as well as a variety of side dishes like cheese sticks, and even draft beer. But chicken still makes up 80–90 percent of sales. All these years, Jeong has run his shop in the same way, and one comment he often hears from customers is, “Even though it’s the same brand, the chicken doesn’t taste as good at other shops.”


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Of course, such compliments don’t come for nothing. Jeong and his wife have made a concerted effort to overcome the general assumption that “all franchise food tastes the same.” His wife’s culinary intuition has played a big part in marking their fried chicken out from the rest. There is also one rule that they adhere to for the best taste, which is to heat the oil 2°C higher than the temperature stated in the manual provided by the headquarters. Jeong says it enhances the chicken’s crispiness. “Everyone gets exactly the same manual from the headquarters, but it’s inevitable that tastes will differ slightly at each shop,” he says. “If you were to give a group of housewives all the same ingredients and ask them to make kimchi, they wouldn’t all produce exactly the same taste. And more than anything, it’s the freshness of the oil that determines the taste of fried chicken. The olive oil we use is around four times more expensive than regular cooking oil, but even so, if you don’t change your oil often enough your chicken will turn out less tasty. My son was born around the time we opened this shop and now he’s about to graduate high school. I always fry the chicken in oil that’s new enough that I’d be happy for my

son to eat it.” Making food with the conviction that it must be good enough to feed your own child — this extra level of care and attention seems to be the secret to great taste. But that’s not all. “At the headquarters, they carry out continued research to provide every shop with the very best recipes, but when it gets busy it’s easy not to follow the manual to the letter. You’re supposed to brush the sauce onto each piece of fried chicken individually, and if you try to save time by pouring the sauce over the pieces and mixing it all up, it just doesn’t taste as good. No matter how busy we get, we always stick to the guidelines. That’s the secret to why our chicken always tastes good,” he says. The Secret Recipe for Happiness The Seochon area, where Jeong’s shop is located, used to be a quiet neighborhood adjacent to an ancient royal palace. More recently, however, it has appeared on the media radar as a cultural hotspot, so the streets are always bustling with people. But Jeong’s shop hasn’t really been swept up in this wave of change. Working hard day in day out over the years, he has become financially stable and bought the two-story house his family of five used to rent. There’s nothing more they need, as Jeong says. Located close to Gwanghwamun Square, however, Seochon is highly impacted by the many largescale demonstrations held there. When a barricade of riot police buses is set up to block the demonstrators, Jeong’s delivery scooter can’t pass by and he can hardly take any orders. But this is not the only reason why Jeong hopes that political and social conflicts will decrease and stability return to Korean society. Koreans are so fond of fried chicken that it seems like every other shop is a chicken shop. Jeong thinks this is because “it’s easy on the wallet” and that “the generous servings, the way the chicken is cut into conveniently-sized pieces and that crispy crunch when you bite into it” all contribute to the enormous popularity of fried chicken. As someone who also helps other people set up their businesses while running his own, and who works as a mentor for existing branches of the franchise, there is one issue that always troubles him: how best to do deliveries. Making deliveries himself,

2 1. Taking in delivery of ingredients, cleaning, cooking and serving customers, Jeong and his wife have almost no time to rest. They work all year round, rarely taking a single day off. 2. They believe that using only the best oil and making their chicken with the care they would take when cooking for their own children is the secret to great taste and the key to success.

Jeong says, “These days, most branches use specialized delivery services which cost around 3,000 won per order. To be honest, that’s less of an overhead than employing someone directly. But the problem is that the service isn’t guaranteed.” While being self-employed, Jeong’s physical health has slowly deteriorated. Opening up shop at 11 a.m., he and his wife are kept busy all day long, cleaning, preparing ingredients, cooking, serving customers, taking orders, and doing deliveries. Especially between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., when most orders come in, they are constantly on their feet. There is so much to do that the work day only ends at around 1 a.m. They hardly ever have a day off, so the exhaustion is indescribable. But Jeong is satisfied with his circumstances and doesn’t wish for more. “Our place isn’t some famous restaurant where customers queue round the block. It’s just a shop with a reputation for relatively tasty chicken compared to others in the same franchise. That’s enough for me,” he says. That’s it. Jeong Cheol-sun knows precisely the position of his business and the level of success he should be satisfied with. Which is probably why he’s always smiling.




eleased in May this year, “Okja” was the first Korean movie aiming to reach a global audience through a simultaneous release in cinemas and on Netflix’s streaming service. The move earned the film controversy both at home and abroad. Questions were raised at the Cannes Film Festival as to whether it was eligible to enter the competition. Beneath those doubts, there was a feeling of unease about films streamed online. Those with a certain perception of what a movie should be, who continue to believe that a movie should embrace an experience like that of Toto

distribution by optimizing the viewing experience through investment in the latest cinema technology. As they require constant revenue streams, they must have felt that the film’s simultaneous release on Netflix would threaten the core of their business. Others, however, argued that digital viewing is desirable from the perspective of diversity in an age when multiplex theaters have vertically integrated production and distribution, thus solidifying their oligopoly. Netflix Triggers Innovation The company’s name is a combination of the words “Net” and “Flicks.”

Content Agency, it aims to reach 140 million subscribers by 2025. However, Netflix is not just a distribution platform for video content; it has also become an influential content developer. The company’s first self-commissioned original content was “House of Cards,” a political thriller series released in 2013. Investing 100 million dollars to create the show’s first two seasons, Netflix landed a major hit and established itself as a successful content producer. The company backed “Okja” with 50 million dollars, making it the most expensive Korean-language film to date. Netflix’s innovation does not just

What Exactly Is

NETFLIX CHANGING? The recent controversy over the release of director Bong Joon-ho’s film “Okja” exemplifies changing film consumption patterns in Korea. Choosing whether to release a film in theaters or online is not just a matter of where the movie is shown; it is slowly impacting the production and distribution of film and TV content. Jung Duk-hyun Cultural Critic

in the 1988 film “Cinema Paradiso” by Giuseppe Tornatore, were not sure whether a film shown over the Internet could be called a cinematographic work. At the time “Okja” was released in Korea, the nation’s top three multiplex chains announced a boycott of the film. As a result, the movie was shunned by major theaters and could only be seen at around 90 independent cinemas or on the Internet after signing up for a Netflix membership. The dispute over the film’s release highlighted the clash between the past and the future of film distribution. Multiplex theaters have monopolized film

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It started as a DVD delivery service in 1997, and has since grown to become the world’s largest video streaming service provider. In 2016, Netflix launched its service in Korea. For a minimum monthly subscription of US$7.99, members can watch and download films and TV shows for which Netflix possesses streaming rights. A higher fee even allows unlimited viewing of popular U.S. shows and Hollywood films, without a doubt the strongest merit of Netflix. Netflix currently has over 109 million subscribers worldwide, and according to a recent edition of the “Weekly Global,” published by the Korea Creative

signify a switch from offline to online video content distribution. It enables customized services by analyzing all data generated from digital distribution. Subscribers who often watch zombie films or dramas, for instance, are then presented with recommendations for similar content, which provides busy subscribers the convenience of selecting from carefully curated content. In the past, viewers went searching for content they wanted to watch; now, recommendations are pushed in their direction, based on analyses of their preferences. The data generated in this process is then used to produce video

The simultaneous online/offline release of director Bong Joon-ho’s film “Okja” highlighted the clash between the past and the future of the production and distribution of film and TV content, beyond the question of whether to release a film in theaters or on the Internet.

content that even better reflects consumers’ tastes, in turn increasing the productions’ chances of becoming successful. New Medium for Content Distribution The simultaneous Internet streaming of “Okja” is indicative of a new type of consuming culture in the digital era. There may well be some conflicts at first, but it is an irreversible trend; there is little chance, if any, that the future will bring a U-turn away from online distribution. Despite the recent controversy, video streaming service providers are likely here to stay.

In fact, there are already signs that other content producers are developing a new platform. Disney and 21st Century Fox, which used to provide content to Netflix, are apparently in discussions over a potential deal for the new streaming service Disney plans to launch in 2019. The success of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, another online video provider, has attracted competitors to the expanding market of online video distribution. However, innovations always run into conflict with existing systems. And it is none other than the general public who are the most confused. Media theorist Marshall McLuhan

made the famous statement that “the medium is the message.” This means that a change in media means a change not only in the exterior format but also the content. With the emergence of the Internet as the new media, movies that are streamed online must change, too. Right now, the controversy might be limited to whether the same content should be shown simultaneously in theaters and online. In the future, however, it is conceivable that theater-only movies and online-only movies will have separate production cycles. Multiplex theaters are slowly turning into experiential theme parks, responding with new technologies to the question, “Why do we have to watch movies at a cinema?” In addition, binge-watching has emerged as a popular way of consuming content. Nowadays, people are often too busy to watch their favorite shows on TV where they are tied to fixed time slots. Thus, more and more people are binge-watching their favorite shows over the weekend or during vacation. Netflix’s model of a single subscription allowing unlimited access to content has already led to the production of content suited to binge-watching. A New Platform for Korean Flicks Netflix is currently producing “Kingdom,” a new TV series by famous Korean scriptwriter Kim Eun-hee. This means that works of influential writers can be introduced to a global audience through online distribution, which represents significant opportunities and challenges for writers and content producers. Korean content producers suggest they need to start a Netflix-like business of their own. Only then would Korean content be available throughout the world on a Korean platform, without any interference from foreign companies, they say.




Familiar through the Lullaby ‘Island Baby’ Oysters, or gul in Korean, are sometimes called “the milk of the sea” or “the ginseng of the sea.” They are a popular food enjoyed by people around the world. Koreans love seasoned and fermented oysters, and also enjoy oysters prepared in various ways such as oyster pancakes, oyster soup or oyster rice. These bivalve mollusks are rich in nutrients and even help repair the marine environment, making them useful all around. Kwon Oh-kil Professor Emeritus, Department of Life Science, Kangwon National University

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ost Koreans are familiar with the lullaby “Island Baby” (Seomjip agi). A song loved even by adults, it describes a baby falling asleep while waiting for its mother, who has gone to pick oysters. But Koreans’ knowledge of oysters goes far beyond a lullaby. Their prehistoric ancestors ate these nutritious marine mollusks, as evidenced by shell mounds found along their seashore. Working in the field of malacology, dealing with clams, gastropods and snails, you could say I’m quite familiar with oysters myself. While collecting research materials along the seashore, I often meet women picking oysters and chat with them about this and that. I find it interesting that even as we talk, they never stop working. It’s amazing to watch their dark suntanned hands ceaselessly gathering oysters attached to the rocks, so fast and sure-handed. You could never dream of using your hands the same way. With an iron hook, they strike the hinge between the oysters’ two valves, quickly lift the upper valve, hook the milky-white inner flesh, and drop it into a container. Performing this movement with lightning speed and precision, they are masterful indeed. The left-hand valve of the oyster sticks flat onto rocks, whereas the right-hand one bulges a little. Koreans call oysters “oyster shell” (guljogae), “stone oyster” (seokgul) or “stone flower” (seokhwa). Among these names, stone flower may sound a little odd. From a distance, however, the whitish left-hand valves, stuck on the flat dusky rocks after the righthand valves are lost, resemble flowers blooming on the stone. Preserving the Marine Environment Wild oysters living attached to stones and rocks on the seashore are called eorigul, meaning “young oysters,” and used to make seasoned and fermented oysters called eoriguljeot. Just imagining the salty and spicy oysters and a bowl of steaming white rice makes my mouth water. The word eori comes from eorida in Korean, which means “young” or “small.” Names such as eoriyeon (aquatic plant of the species Nymphoides indica), eoriyeochi (long-horned grasshopper, Prosopogryllacris japonica) and eorihobakbeol (carpenter bee, Xylocopa appendiculata circumvolans), all follow a similar naming principle. The oysters found along the Korean coastline are classified into three genera and 10 species, and these

live in the area where seawater and freshwater mix, in the intertidal zone where high tide and low tide alternate, or under the sea down to 20 meters deep. Oyster shells are not as smooth as other kinds of shells but sharp, like rough scales. Oysters are bivalvia, living organisms with two valves, and they are also called pelecypod (Pelecypoda) as their feet look like a double ax, or pelekys in Greek. In intertidal zones, oysters close their right valves tight at the ebb tide and open them at the flood tide. Oysters are filter feeders that breathe and feed through their gills. A single oyster filters up to five liters of sea water per hour, catching organic materials containing nitrogen, phosphoric acid, plankton and bacteria, thus helping prevent the pollution of sea water through excessive eutrophication. As such, oysters are environment-friendly living organisms. Healthy Food Preventing Lifestyle Diseases Oysters traditionally used in Korean cuisine, including seasoned and fermented eoriguljeot, are flavorful and full of nutrients. Over the ages, oysters have been a stamina food, often called the “the milk of the sea” in Japan, much like Koreans’ description of oysters as “the ginseng of the sea.” Oysters are rich in zinc, a mineral necessary to maintain healthy levels of the male hormone testosterone. They also contain selenium, iron and calcium, and are rich in Vitamin A, B12 and D. This makes oysters a healthy food that helps prevent various lifestyle diseases, such as high blood pressure, stroke, hardening of the arteries, or liver problems. Oysters can be eaten raw or cooked in various ways, such as oyster sauce, seasoned oysters, oyster rice, oyster soup, braised oysters, and oysters panfried in egg batter. They are also used as an ingredient in kimchi. And of course, the soft flesh means oysters can be eaten easily by the elderly whose teeth can no longer withstand tougher foods. While oysters can be eaten in many different ways, traditional wisdom in the English-speaking world warns against eating them raw at certain times of the year. According to the so-called “r-month rule,” one can safely eat raw oysters harvested in the months with an “r” in their names, that is, the months from September to April. From May to August, it is recommended to cook oysters before eating them, which is probably a good idea since those warm


months comprise the “poisonous” breeding season, when various marine bacteria thrive. However, if the breeding waters are clean enough and modern refrigeration is used, oysters may be eaten raw all year round. The growing demand worldwide cannot be met by wild oysters alone, so oyster lovers have turned to cultivated oysters to satisfy their appetites. The baby oyster, or spat, grows to about 7 centimeters and weighs about 60 grams by the end of its first year, then to about 10 centimeters and 140 grams by the end of its second year. Afterwards its growth slows down. Oysters usually fertilize and spawn between May and August, and the eggs float around before they become spats, which then attach to rocks, stones, or other oyster shells.

Oysters are rich in zinc, a mineral necessary to maintain healthy levels of the male hormone testosterone. They also contain selenium, iron and calcium, and are rich in Vitamin A, B12 and D. This makes oysters a healthy food that helps prevent various lifestyle diseases.


Farming Methods Determine Taste, Texture Oyster farming is usually conducted by attaching oyster shells in clusters to thick strings and leaving them to hang under water. The southern sea around Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, is best suited to this farming method, thanks to its moderate temperature in winter and the low tidal difference and gentle waves around its many islands. In the West Sea, with its vast mud flats, oysters are cultivated by a method known as “throwing stones,” which involves scattering flat stones across the mud flats, or the “rack and bag” method, where spats are put into mesh bags and left on racks. Oysters farmed through the “throwing stones” or “rack and bag” method are exposed to scorching sun in the summer and biting wind in the winter, like wild

1, 2. A nutritious and flavorful food, oysters can be prepared in various ways for dishes such as oysters panfried in egg batter (guljeon , top) and seasoned and fermented oysters (eoriguljeot ). Oysters can also be eaten raw, dipped in seasoned soy sauce or red pepper paste with vinegar.


88 KOREANA Winter 2017

3. Regularly exposed to sun and wind, oysters from the mud flats of the West Sea have more flavor and texture than oysters from the South Sea, where they remain continuously under water.


oysters. Living organisms exposed to a harsh environment accumulate special nutrients in their bodies. As a result, they are tastier than those farmed in the South Sea, which are kept under water most of the time. Much the same happens in the plant world. Wild plants are healthier than farmed ones because they produce specific types of phytochemicals needed to survive harsh environments. In the human world, too, those who become successful after a tough childhood are often more mature and caring. In most people’s minds, oysters may be inseparable with pearls. Pearls are produced when an alien substance is sucked into an oyster and gets stuck between the shell and the mantle (which cov-

ers the oyster flesh). The mantle then secretes nacre, or mother-of-pearl, to coat the alien substance layer upon layer, and thereby protect itself. When the nacre is layered over several years, it forms a natural pearl. Pearls, Just Plain Calcium Carbonate This process is artificially imitated. Thick freshwater shells are cut into small pieces and ground into tiny spheres that are inserted between the shell and the mantle of the pearl oyster to cultivate pearls. But no matter how valuable pearls may be to human beings, when observed through a microscope they are just plain calcium carbonate, much as a diamond is just a very hard piece of carbon.




In the

Cold Embrace of the Convenience Store The convenience store has served as the backdrop to narratives by many writers. As the title suggests, Kim Ae-ran’s short story “I Go to the Convenience Store” considers the relationship between convenience stores and the people who frequent them. Through the medium of the convenience store, so reflective of the times we live in, this story explores the indifferent anonymity of places from which individual identity is absent. Choi Jae-bong Reporter, The Hankyoreh


im Ae-ran made her literary debut by winning the first Daesan Literary Award for College Students, newly established in 2002, for her short story “No Knocking in This House.” Born in 1980, Kim Ae-ran was 22 years old at the time, becoming the forerunner heralding the arrival onto the literary scene of a wave of writers born in the 1980s. The group of young feminist writers who make up a clear stream in the Korean literary community today were mainly born in the mid- to late 1980s, and so are only five or six years younger than Kim Ae-ran, but there is something of a generation gap between them. Kim’s early debut is a factor in this, but she is also a writer who came to impressive maturity at a young age. “I Go to the Convenience Store” was first published in the year Kim Ae-ran made her debut and is included in her first short story collection “Run, Daddy, Run,” published in 2005. Unlike the winning novel of last year’s Akutagawa Prize, “Convenience Store People” by Japanese author Sayaka Murata, whose protagonist is a single woman who had worked at 24-hour convenience stores for 18 years, Kim’s short story observes this space through the eyes of a female university student who frequents convenience stores as a customer. While Sayaka Murata’s work looks at the convenience store from

90 KOREANA Winter 2017

inside, Kim Ae-ran’s looks in from the outside. The story opens with a frank statement summarizing the importance of convenience stores to the life of the protagonist: “I go to the convenience store. At most a few times a day, at least about once a week, I go to the convenience store. And of course, in between whiles, I always end up needing something.” To put it another way, the protagonist is singing the praises of the convenience store and its indispensable place in her life. These sentences appear again at the end of the story, but with one slight change: “And of course,” becomes “And strangely enough.” This change arises from a transformation in the protagonist’s awareness of the convenience store. Indeed I would say that the main body of the story serves to explain the process of this transformation. The convenience store appeared one day “like a legend the origin of which was lost in the mists of time” and became a cornerstone of modern life. From the protagonist’s point of view, the striking thing about convenience stores is that those who run and frequent them “cannot recognize each other.” The guarantee of anonymity is a huge characteristic of modern urban life, and this is seen by the protagonist as something positive. In general, the workers in convenience stores do not pry into the private lives of those who come and go there, and that

distance is felt as being magnanimous. Anonymity can be positive or negative, depending on the circumstances, and for now the protagonist thinks of it as positive. But it becomes apparent in the course of the story that this is not always the case. In the residential area near a university where the protagonist lives there are three convenience stores. In the first store, the owner is overly friendly to his customers: he asks his customers inquisitive questions about their private lives and behaves as though he knows them. The protagonist, who is put off and made uncomfortable by such forwardness, stops frequenting his store. You could say that this was the protagonist’s punishment for betraying her expectation of anonymity. The street food stall where the protagonist often bought late-night snacks also becomes the subject of a boycott for similar reasons. As for the second convenience store, what turned the protagonist against this one was a small fuss involving the purchase of condoms, which from the position of the store owner could seem a little unfair. Anyway, with that, the protagonist becomes a regular at the last remaining convenience store, Q-Mart. Just as the protagonist expects from a convenience store, the young male clerk there does not say a single word that isn’t completely necessary. That’s not to say he’s unfriendly. To the point of being almost mechanical, he always greets the customers. As far as the protagonist knows, “Q-Mart was a world of ‘Welcome’ and ‘Thank you.’” But before long the protagonist realizes that she was mistaken. Because inevitably she is giving away pieces of information about herself and her private life as she frequents the store. On the basis of the items she buys, the young man working at the store can find out or at least guess her tastes in food, her living arrangements, her family relations and her hometown, and even the regularity of her periods. This discovery could be taken as something completely trivial, but it is an interesting situation that serves as a turning point, a sharp bend in the flow of the story. When the protagonist realizes that complete anonymity in the convenience store is actually impossible, that, intentionally or not, a certain level of one’s private life or personal information is inevitably exposed, the anonymity surrounding the relationship between the convenience store worker and the customer-protagonist is turned on its head. The protagonist thinks, “He doesn’t ask what I’m studying. I want to tell him,” then confesses “I became curious about the young man who doesn’t say anything during the one minute and thirty seconds it takes to heat a pack of rice in the microwave, or the twenty seconds it takes to warm a carton of Seoul Milk,” and in the end, decides “I don’t know a single thing about you.” Is it that the female university student protagonist has become interested in the young store clerk sexually? No, it would be more precise to say that she wants to settle the imbal-

© Paik Da-huim

ance of information, and address the one-sidedness of the relationship. With the situation having been turned on its head like this, the story then moves towards the incident that seems to mark its climax. On Christmas night, when the streets are empty with everyone celebrating in the city center, the protagonist finds herself in a situation where she has to entrust something to someone for safekeeping. After much deliberation, the person she thinks of is the young man at the convenience store. He was one of the few people in the neighborhood she saw regularly. But how mistaken she was to think that the man would actually know her! The protagonist, who had espoused the anonymity of the convenience store and “punished” the owners of convenience stores who didn’t keep the promise of such anonymity, is now ensnared by it. As mentioned earlier, the end of the story deploys the opening sentences again but with a subtle difference. In order to get to these sentences, a number of episodes reflecting the thematic consciousness of the story, and the protagonist’s thoughts on them, are laid out for the reader. In the space between “And of course” and “And strangely enough,” simple-looking phrases to link sentences, there is a change in awareness of all that surrounds anonymity. In a cool and nonchalant tone, the protagonist speaks directly to the reader: “If you happen to go to the convenience store, take a good look around you. When the woman beside you buys water in the convenience store, it’s for taking pills, and when the man behind you buys razor blades at the convenience store, they’re for slitting his wrists, when the boy in front of you buys toilet paper, it’s for wiping his sick old mother’s behind. At least you never know. You can call this to mind sometimes, or not; it’s all the same.”


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Feminism for All

The Translation Delusion by Tim Parks

Interview with Nobel laureate Le Clézio

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Koreana Winter 2017 (English)  

Koreana Winter 2017 (English) 코리아나 겨울호 2017 (영어)

Koreana Winter 2017 (English)  

Koreana Winter 2017 (English) 코리아나 겨울호 2017 (영어)