– I heard you hadn’t tried much of Korean food, yet you did this artwork in the theme of Korean restaurants. What was the creative process like?
By Clark Rhodes
In hindsight, maybe I should have played more video games when I was younger. In addition to riding bikes and building forts, I spent much of my childhood magnetized to a television, blowing into Nintendo cartridges, and surfing up and down Cinnabar Island looking for “Missing No.” If you don’t understand these references that’s okay (although you should put this article down and invest in an old school game boy color and find a copy of Pokemon Blue right now). While my mother was amazingly cool enough to buy me Nintendo gear, she never told me about the six-figure salaries and fame many South Koreans earn in their pro-gaming leagues and competitions. I can imagine traveling back in time to tell my prepubescent self about the possibilities of the future. Play more video games, I would say.
Here in the States, video gaming isn’t considered (by most) to be a sport. If anything, I feel as though the stereotype portrays the polar opposite. I imagine the typical American generalization as being moderately obese, greasy, and ghostly (although in my experience, it’s usually only one of those characteristics, if any). In South Korea and many other Asian countries, gaming is an “E-Sport.” As far as I can tell, there is no accurate stereotype of a modern gamer. You can see this by stepping into one of the many PC bangs in South Korea.
PC bangs (internet cafes on steroids, literally translated as PC rooms) are a popular pay-as-you-go means of gaming and socializing. It’s not just teenage boys you’ll find there. The demographics are diverse in age and gender. With the fastest WIFI on the planet, South Korea’s PC bangs are a staple in any competitive or recreational gamer’s life. People of all ages and interests will show up to play cards, Tetris, or the game we most associate with Korean culture: StarCraft.
StarCraft is a strategy-based futuristic military-style computer game. Not being an E-Sport’s star myself, describing exactly what goes on in a single match is too ambitious of a task for this article. However, a simple YouTube search can illuminate the curious commoner. Thousands of spectators cheer on their favorite competitors as they strategically place their chess-like pieces throughout a sandbox style landscape. A single game will last fifteen minutes, give or take, until a victor emerges. And with victory, comes tens of thousands of dollars. Halfway through 2012 alone, over $1,000,000 was allotted to the winners of numerous competitions (not limited to competitions taking place in South Korea). With such inviting benefits, what reason could there be in pursuing another career?
While social stigmas might exaggerate our perception of gaming, there is a dark side to this counter-culture. Perhaps the most well-known instance of gaming-related problems occurred in Suwon in 2009, when the negligence of a couple took the life of their baby. While the couple spent twelve hours a day raising a virtual daughter, their real daughter starved to death. The infant weighed a pound less when she died than when she was born. A few years prior, after losing his job and his girlfriend, Seung Seop Lee died of exhaustion after a 50 hour gaming binge. He was 28 years old. These two instances are tragic, but their familiarity resonates globally. Similar cases have occurred in the United States and across eastern Asia.
It is well-known in most, if not, all cultures, that moderation is necessary for any indulgence. Yet, the stresses of society often weigh more than we’d like to carry. Whether it’s a glass of Chardonnay, a Choco Pie, or virtual reality, we all need something to distract us from the daily grind. But what is it that attracts so many South Koreans to gaming?
According to the BBC, as of 2005, 30% of the South Korean population is registered for online gaming. Statistically speaking, at least one member from every K-pop group is a gamer. With one of the most technologically innovative countries in the world, this should be no surprise. In addition, a society that expects perfection from its students, its employees, and itself, is likely to foster citizens with high blood pressure and insufficient sleep. In the virtual world, a player can live vicariously through a superhero, a soccer star, or his or her own civilization. The player is in control. The problem, however big or small it may be, lies in the ability to discern between our distractions and our personal identity.
October 13th was the day I had been looking forward to for months: the first ever Korean pop culture convention. In the midst of the best year for Korean pop with its growing popularity, I knew I had to attend this event which offered not only a dance workshop led by famous choreographers, panels on aspects of Korean culture, movies, booths and even an autograph session, but a concert to top off the night with rising stars in Kpop. The concert included a mix of well known and even rookie artists such as BAP, VIXX, EXO-M, Nu’est, 4 Minute and G.NA. The concert was opened by Asian American singers AJ Rafael and Dumbfoundead and Korean electronic duo, Daze47. Also making a high anticipated appearance among many others was Simon and Martina, from the popular YouTube channel Eat Your Kimchi, who are a staple in the Kpop phenomenon.
Upon first entering the convention, it felt like going to Disneyland with all the contests, merchandise, activities, and events going on throughout the entire day. Walking around the packed outdoor venue, there were many fans that dressed up as their favorite idols or made signs for them in Korean or Chinese. As the mayor of Irvine, Sukhee Kang, said during the concert, “There is no language barrier when it comes to K-pop”, this summarizes the attitude of the thousands of people at KCON. While many will assume this sort of event would mostly be flocked with teenage girls, the demographic in the Kpop fandom has certainly broadened with a wide range of male and female, young and old, Asian and non-Asian. One of the greatest things about this genre of music is that it has become a culture of its own and is filled with passionate individuals who love meeting others with the same interest, which is something I witnessed after attending my second Kpop concert.
This event had quite a lot of potential but it was far from perfect. I occasionally felt like even Comic Con couldn’t compare to the conditions of this venue. From 10am to 10pm in the heat of the day, the small and packed convention was filled with ten thousand people, many of whom crowded around the autograph session tent to catch a glimpse of all the idols. It became quite chaotic especially when B.A.P and EXO-M were to start their signings which in due course caused delays in scheduling and someone a broken ankle. Despite the disorganization of this event, the day was ended on a high note with a spectacular performance and even the artists people weren’t familiar with received a lot of praise from the audience. This convention proved to be a success and will hopefully improve and become an annual event as part of the hallyu wave.
The Thieves: Raising the Bar by Sierra Fox
Big. Loud. Dazzling.
For we have known the summer blockbusters already, known them all. Stories we’ve already seen. Jokes we’ve already heard. Characters we’ve already loved.
Indeed, The Thieves embraces this formula: an impossible jewel heist, the high jinks in pulling off such a feat, and the typical motley band of seasoned criminals. But this film definitely raises the bar.
The cast are simply stellar. Kim Yun Seok’s brilliant portrayal of criminal mastermind, Macao Park, is calculated, menacing, yet shamelessly vulnerable. Hong Kong star, Angelica Lee, fills the screen with her piercing, unrelenting intensity, often stealing the stage from lead actress, Kim Hye Soo. Veterans Simon Yam and Kim Hae Suk cook up a chemistry with heaps of sophistication and touches of tenderness. Giggles and facepalms are abound with Oh Dal Su’s perfect playing of the buffoon.
Witty dialogue dripping with decadence invokes Tarantino on occasion, fluently traversing languages in its international setting. It’s worth pointing out, however, that the English subtitles sometimes stray a bit far from the spoken lines.
Auteur Choi Dong Hun’s careful attention to detail doesn’t disappoint, either. Color and contrast coyly flavor the mood of each scene. Sets seek to share stories of their own.
Still, though, The Thieves is in no way an art house film. Rather, it is a refreshingly well crafted piece of entertainment: fun, exciting, and sexy.
And I want to see it again.
– Quick bullet-point remarks: Dialogue – dirty, authentic, Tarantino
Story – flashback woven
Creative shots – remarkable restraint, dramatic shots are reserved for particularly intense, operatic moments.
Subtitles – how does “힘내자” (literally ‘let’s keep up our strengths’) get translated to “I love you?”
Languages – Multilanguages (Korean, English, Cantonese, etc) handled gracefully
– About writer: In need of a weather upgrade, Sierra Fox left her home of Bristol, UK in 2009, soon settling in San Diego. She is fond of warm days barefoot in the sand, warm nights snuggling with her dogs, and warm memories of teaching English in Seoul.
By Jacklin Lee
Korean literature is no longer an obscure genre in the back aisle of the public library. As the “Korean wave” has been catching momentum so has Korean literature. More and more Korean books and novels been translated into English recently. Korean literature has long been something maybe only Korean historians have been interested in, but not anymore. It has become more mainstream, creating Korean literature clubs on campuses and even blog sites for Korean book reviews! One of the treasures that KKonnect has discovered is the “Too Poor for Grad School” blog site, where the webmaster Matthew Smith posts hundreds of book reviews from Korean historical fiction to biographies. This month, KKonnect wants to showcase some of the books from the blog site!
Title: Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
Author: Blaine Harden
“Shin’s story is amazing, simply put. The book is incredibly moving and unsentimentally objective. A possible weakness in the narrative is that the book is limited to Shin’s own experience whereas Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy charts several diverse stories at once; Shin’s experience was not typical of most North Korean refugees. This is hardly a knock at Harden’s book as it proudly stands as a brilliant account of the world’s most despicable regime’s nightmare of a labor camp. Graphic at times but always moving, pay heed to these atrocities by at least hearing him out. Shin’s is an original story that deserves your attention. You won’t soon forget it.”
Title: The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea
Author: Charles Robert Jenkins, Jim Frederick
“His narration is seductively easy to follow and makes appropriate detours when explanations are necessary to clarify context. The reader is cautiously drawn in to empathize with Jenkins and his plight. His story is told simply with few obvious embellishments. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and wished I picked it up sooner.”
The Webmaster and Korean Lit Guru Matthew Guru
Who are you? Father of two, former U.S. Navy, current schoolteacher and coffee lover, I am currently living and working in Korea.
When and why did you start blogging? I started writing an online journal back in 2006 and have since enjoyed posting mainly for my own benefit and future nostalgia. As for Korean history-related material, after feeling a bit humbled by realizing that it would be a long time before I could formally study Korean graduate studies, I wanted to stay proactive and self-study. I figured one of the best ways to stay sharp was to read independently and post a review/summary as if it were homework. Granted, it’s self-assigned homework, but I enjoy it. It’s a huge source of motivation.
What are some of your favorite books related to Korea / Korean culture? Choong Nam Kim’s Leadership for Nation Building is an amazing book about the Korean presidents and well worth your time. Korea in War, Revolution and Peace by Horace G. Underwood is one of the most fascinating memoirs I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Finally, Korea through Western Eyes by Robert Neff is an amazing collection of turn-of-the-century Korean firsts like the first streetcar, electric power plant and Western military advisor, among others. No other author on Korean history writes it as interesting as Neff does.
Matthew Smith is a native Texan with a background in Education and English as a Second Language. He currently resides in Korea with his wife and two daughters. His blog can be found at toopoorforgradschool.blogspot.com“
A Simple Introduction to Hanja
By Gary Routh
Do you know what the Shinsegae department store and the Shilla Dynasty have in common? What about Seoraksan Mountain and the Korean word for “sugar”? What connection is there between high schools and the Koryeo dynasty? The answer is in the Hanja.
Many Korean words are based on Chinese words. Though these words are usually written using the Korean alphabet Hangul (한글), Koreans are expected to learn many of the Chinese characters upon which they are based. These characters are called Hanja (한자).
Anybody who studies the Korean language will eventually noticed patterns between words. The Korean words for clock, hour, and generation are all related to time, and all have the sound “시” in them. The words for student, tuition, school, and college all have the sound “학”, and are related to learning. When you begin to associate “시” with “time” and “학” with “learning”, you have started learning Hanja, even if you didn’t realize it.
Like many who study the Korean language, I ignored Hanja for a long time. It looked too hard, too complicated, and not really worth the effort. After a while, however, I began to get the feeling that if I could learn the meaning of the Hanja behind the words, I would learn how different words were related to each other. And if I could associate new vocabulary with those words that I already knew, it would become easier to learn new vocabulary.
So with no guidance at all I dove headfirst in to Hanja. Actually it was more like a belly flop. I didn’t know where to start, or which characters to learn first. I didn’t know which Hanja were common and which were obscure. I bought a couple books (There aren’t very many Hanja books available in English). I made flashcards. I scoured the internet looking up the Hanja behind new words I was learning, and wondered what other words used those characters. Mostly though, I struggled.
And then I discovered the급.
급 is the Korean word for “level”, or “rank.” As it turns out, there are 8 levels of Hanja characters. Level 8 is the “beginner” level, and Level 1 is the “expert” level. Korean children begin their study of Hanja with the 50 characters that make up Level 8.
Like Korean grade school children, I decided to focus on learning the level 8 characters first. Level 8 consists of basic characters, such as the numbers 1 through 10, the 4 directions (north, south, east, and west), and characters for man, woman, person, mother, and father, etc.
Once I got comfortable with level 8, I moved on to Level 7, which consists of 100 Hanja covering a broader range of vocabulary. It was with level 7 that I began to notice improvements in my vocabulary, and I began to discover surprising relationships between Korean words that only reveal themselves to those who look up the Hanja behind them.
I learned that the신 sound in 신세계 (Shinsegae Department Store) and 신라 (Shilla dynasty) comes from the Hanja character for “new.”
I discovered that the 설 sound in 설탕 (sugar) and 설악산 (Seorak Mountain) comes from the Hanja character for “snow.”
I found out that the 고 sound in 고등학교 (high school) and 고료 (Koryeo Dynasty) both come from the Hanja character for “high, or tall.”
The Korean language is full of hidden surprises that can be discovered once you set down the path of learning Hanja. It’s not always easy… but it is rewarding, often fascinating, and occasionally even fun!
So you want to get serious about learning Korean, do you? A little birdie told us you are hungry to learn. Allow me to proudly introduce Shane and Simeon’s Korean 101, a new on-going introduction to useful Korean phrases for our readers who are interested in learning the Korean language. If you tune in each month, we will deliver useful phrases for your learning pleasure. Check it out!
Hello, my name is _(name)_
안녕하세요? 제 이름은 _(name)_
An-nyung-ha-seh-yo, Jeh ee-reum-eun _(name)_
What is your name?
이름이 뭐에요? (informal)
성함이 어떻게 되세요? (formal)
Sung-ham-ee uh-dduh-gae dwe-seh-yo?
It is nice to meet you.
How old are you?
Just for Laughs: A Common Colloquial Word:
(Equivalent to “Awesome!” “No Way!”):
San Diego Kpop Flash Mob:
Active for over a year, this group of diverse people get together Saturdays to rehearse a variety of Kpop songs to perform for flash mobs and special events. Rehearsals are usually taken place by the Geisel Library at UCSD from around 2-5pm. Just recently they completed their third flash mob and performed at Balboa Park which included songs from groups such as Shinee, Rain, Beast and Miss A. For more information or if you are interested in busting a move with fellow Kpop lovers, look up the SDKFM group page on Facebook or you can see their videos on their YouTube Channel at: http://www.youtube.com/TheSDKFM
Korean Language Meet up:
If you are interested in learning Korean but can’t find any affordable classes or are interested in the culture, this is definitely a great way to interact with Koreans in this language exchange meet up. This meet up takes place Wednesdays from 7-9:30pm at “E and Drink” inside 99 Ranch at Kearny Mesa. There you can freely practice your Korean or ask for help from the friendly people in this relaxed environment. Afterwards, there is a free lesson in a separate classroom and fun activities for both Koreans and Americans. When all the studying is done, you can go to a Korean restaurant or even hit up a local karaoke place with the group. To join the group’s Facebook page, look up the San Diego Korean Language Exchange.
The Korean American Bar Association:
Established in 2007, this group’s purpose is to provide Korean American attorneys and law students in the San Diego area the opportunity to socialize with each other and to interact with other services. They offer legal, educational, political, charitable, and other services to the Korean American community here. In order to preserve the culture, this organization hosts various events such as informational workshops, mentoring programs, fundraisers and social events. If you are an attorney or law student interested in becoming a member, visit their website for more information at: http://kabasd.org/
Korean American Coalition:
This non-profit, community advocacy organization was established in 1983 and is active throughout the U.S. including San Diego. Their mission statement is to encourage and make it easier for the Korean American community to contribute and become a part of American society through legislative and community affairs. This group aims to promote cultural diversity not just within the Korean community here, but with other groups. They introduce various events relevant to the members such as the mentorship night at UCSD held last month for people looking for an internship. If you are hoping to advance your education, civil or voting rights, or your leadership in this community, then check out the “Korean American Coalition San Diego (KAC-SD)” Facebook page or visit the main website for the organization at http://www.kacnational.com/