Saturday, June 16, 2007

재미있는 수업

One of the advantage of being in a class of few students is that we get to talk about many other things and yet finish our lesson on time. Our teacher at SKS recalled about her life in Korea frequently. As she has been living in Singapore for quite a long while, she can somewhat pick out the uniqueness of the Korean culture just like a foreigner. Of course, she also can see the uniqueness of the Singapore culture which I tend to overlook. Through her life stories I got to learn many things about the Korean culture without having to read them in the textbook. Textbook answer is not always a true reflection of the reality as I have come to know. Nothing beats learning from people who have lived through it. This Thursday class was not much different. Here are some of the interesting stories which our teacher told us.

Drinking Culture

Our teacher used to be an undergraduate at the Dongguk University (동국대학교-東國大學). The nearest subway station to her university was Chungmuro Station (충무로역-忠武路驛). One morning, as she was walking towards the university after getting out from the station, a friend shouted out to her from a small drinking house. Her friend was asking her to join her in drinking. It was about 10am then. So our teacher, together with her friend, skipped their lectures and drank from morning till night. They also "waylaid" and "pulled in" anyone whom they knew and whom was seen walking pass the drinking house. As the day passed, more and more people joined them in drinking. "It was so fun those days.", she said.

Wedding Culture

Our teacher said that Koreans conduct their wedding ceremony in dedicated building called the Ceremony Hall (예식장-禮式場) or the Wedding Hall (웨딩홀). It is quite different from Singapore as Singaporeans are more used to holding their wedding ceremony in hotel. In the wedding hall, each couple is given a time slot to conduct their ceremony. The ceremony normally comprises two parts. The first part, which is the formal ceremony, will be attended by family members, friends and guests. The groom will be in his western suit and the bride in her wedding gown. Like a church wedding, the groom will be waiting at the end of the aisle, at the start of the ceremony, while the bride's father will walk her down the aisle and hand her over to the groom. The ceremony will be witnessed by a person called the "Ju-rye" (주례-主禮) who is of high social status like university professor or high-ranking government official. If the couple do not know anyone of high social status, they can always seek the help of company which offers the service of "Ju-rye".

After the formal ceremony, the family members and the couple will retreat to another room for the traditional ceremony called "Pye Baek" (폐백-幣帛) while friends and guests are invited for reception. For this ceremony, the couple will change into the traditional Korean costume. The bride will then pay respect to the groom's parents and offer them gifts. In return, she will receive "ang bao" from the groom's parent. After this ceremony, the couple will go out to meet their friends and guests. Normally by this time many of them will have left. Those who stay are likely to be waiting to "bully" or in Singapore lingo to "sabo" the groom. Our teacher said that it is a tradition in Korea that groom be bullied. Because in ancient days, the villagers from the bride's village would beat the sole of the groom on his wedding day as a form of "punishment" for taking away one of their village girl from them.

When the ceremony finally ends, the couple will usually leave directly from the Wedding Hall to the airport for their honeymoon. Our teacher said that after helping out in three of her friends' wedding she has decided that it was too much of a trouble having a wedding ceremony. So she had none of it when got married later.

A Wedding Hall or Wedding Culture Center (웨딩 문화원) as it is shown in this picture. This picture of the building in Hoegi-dong was taken through the window from my dormitory.

Social Culture

In Seoul, our teacher used to live by a small road which was only wide enough for one car to move freely in one direction at any one time. So the road was a hotspot for car drivers to get into conflict and accuse each other of not giving way. Especially in the dead of the night, their quarrel became audible from inside her room. Conflict usually started as quarrel and scolding of each other in "banmal" (the lowest form of Korean language). But interestingly every of such conflict would always ended up in asking each other of their age. "몇 살이야?". "What is your age? Why are you speaking so rudely to me?". It sounds so funny that Koreans will ask each other about age in a midst of a quarrel but that essentially illustrates the importance of age and manner in the Korean society.

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