Month: August 2014

Photography is the new Ikebana

Canon Academy, Apgujeong-dong August 2014 As a part of my project to entertain readers with photos, I’ve started taking photography lessons at Canon Academy. That day we were getting into Al Servo. Koreans really like to get all the right gear before they start anything. The ladies in my class were holding Mark II’s, III’s, 6Ds, all with massive lenses that look like they could be paparazzi photographers. Or maybe it’s because it’s Apgujeong-dong.

A Samsung repairman and a Professor of Economics. On labour.

“There is no service in Europe or Canada. Every time I get customers who’ve lived abroad they are amazed that people will come to their house to fix the hardware, re-install their OS, even help the elderly retrieve their e-mail passcodes. Who does that? We do, because if we didn’t help the old man retrieve his passcodes he has the option to poorly grade my service on the survey that is automatically sent to him after I complete my visit” (A Samsung serviceman on his visit to clean my laptop’s internal fan, August 21st, 2014) “Korea cannot deal with all those labour unions screaming for higher minimum wages. We cannot compete with other Asian producers with higher wages. We would lose to China, Vietnam, Indonesia” (Professor of Economics at Korea University, sometime in Fall 2013)

How A Head Monk Lives

  Gumgang Sunim from Mihwangsa Temple is an uomo universale. He is head monk, tea ceremony master, writer, calligrapher, and historian. My mother first met him when he came to India to give a demonstration of dayeh, Korean tea ceremony. He had been invited by a Japanese artist and tea ceremony performer. So this week, as my mom is in the country, we drove together with a family friend to Mihwangsa, located at the Southernmost tip of the Korean peninsula (this article was scheduled for June 13th, but somehow got backtracked). Mihwangsa Daewoongjeon (Main Hall) with Dharma Mountains at the back Living quarters for templestay guests Gumgang Sunim is head monk at Mihwangsa. This means that he oversees the temple’s daily schedule, runs rituals and celebrations, receives guests, consoles grieving parents, and, I’m guessing, also takes care of the finances. In addition to all this, he of course has to keep studying Buddhist texts and analysing them, I suppose.

Patriarchy? Do You Mean, “Respect”?

Lee, Sunja’s house#1-Ancestral rites, Lee Sun-Mi, 2004 My grandmother is by all rights a very progressive lady. All her four children married through love . She’s been to Paris, LA, Norway, the Philippines, and even to Russia. One of her granddaughters is going to marry a Japanese man, and she’s okay with that. She told all her daughters and all her granddaughters “Women need to get jobs now. Otherwise nobody will respect you” instead of “Be a good wife”. But it’s when she says the following things that I realise the power of patriarchy drilled into all of us born and raised in Korea: – “He (my male cousin) wants to learn to make kimchi? Why? He has no need for that” – “She (some random neighbour’s daughter) is getting married for the second time, so you know, she’s not very clean, but she is a lovely person” – “You (me) are like a man! Fixing electricity and the plugs around the house…just like your mother!” My male cousin has been wanting to learn how to …

[Film] Uigwe, The 8-Day Festival (KBS, 2013)

Original title: 의궤, 8일간의 축제 Release date: April 17th, 2014 (Korea, 3D) Jeongjo, the 22nd monarch of the Joseon dynasty, is one of the most revered Korean rulers of all time. Politically, he successfully managed to balance factionalism between the many parties. Diplomatically, he opened up to Western powers for their technology while repressing Christianity  (the Joseon Sillok records that Jeongjo wore glasses in his forties due to his deteriorating eyesight). Socially, he paved the way for equality: Seo-eol, sons of concubines, were recruited in key government positions; efforts were made to abolish the slavery system. Culturally, advances were made in the printing press & The Suwon Fortress was built using modern technologies such as pulleys. In 1762, Jeongjo’s father, then crown prince Sado, was sentenced to death. His mental illnesses escalated in killing and raping sprees. Yeongjo, Sado’s father, eventually sentenced he be locked up in a wooden box without any food or drink. He died after 8 days. Although Jeongjo did not avenge political figures who supported his father’s death (and who subsequently argued that Jeongjo had no right to …

Update on NK related censorship

I recently visited a professor of history and he had some real copies of North Korean history books circulated inside the country. Thought it might be interesting to share. I am guessing the books are not illegal for possession if it’s for academic and research purposes. Complete History of Kim Il-sung History of Joseon (note: North Korea refers to them as “Joseon” while South Korea uses “Hanguk”) Kim Il-sung In the New Century