Sunday, February 28, 2010


The 'sweetness' of spring is all contained in strawberries. They are so irresistable. In under an hour, a box of fresh strawberries disappeared right in front of me and I wondered where they went. Strawberry 'overdoze' is happiness.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

사랑의 나무

I thought the picture is interesting. On closer look, there are 3 types of men and 3 types of women in love. For men, the guy who is nearest to love is a two-timer, the next is a back-stabber and the furthest away is one who hopes. This seems to fit the belief that 'bad guys' get their women while 'honest guys' can only hope.

For women, the one who get closest to love is one who believes and works hard for it, the next has a mind pre-occupied with fear and worry while the last believes love comes easily. It is not too difficult to see that all women are drawn higher than their male counterparts. The artist is, perhaps, saying that women tend to know love better than men. At least, the least hardworking woman still thought of using a ladder and long stick to reach for love.

Anyway, no matter where you think you are on the tree, there is one Korean proverb that says it best, "짚신도 제짝이 있다" (Even straw shoes have matching pairs) which means every Jack has his Jill. While some may not find it absolutely true but at least it sounds encouraging. Everyone need a bit of encouragement every now and then.

"짚신도 제짝이 있다"라는 속담이 완전 맘이 드네

Sunday, February 21, 2010


This is an ordinary picture of a park in a housing estate. What I like about the place is its openness, free space and tranquility, all of which I cannot find back home. Perhaps, they were once there before, but not now. Home has become overcrowded and the population has just tipped the scales at 5 million. 6.5 million is supposedly the intended target. Meanwhile, we are expected to bear with the overcrowding for the sake of continued economy growth. I am quite sure I will get used to it if I endure long enough, but the fact remains, it will be a sad outcome - success has become its own enemy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

눈부신 밤

Al fresco cafe at Yongsan IT Mall

Au Bon Pain outlet at Jongno

Colourful piano keys at COEX

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

다리의 매력

Banpo Bridge at the top and Jamsu Bridge at the bottom

Linking road to Cheongdam Bridge

Cheongdam Bridge

Seongsan Bridge

깊은 사고

In Seoul, I can easily hop onto the metro and escape to almost anywhere in Gyeonggi Province. Remote towns where passengers are few and far between are also served by metro.

In Singapore, you cannot justify for a MRT station if the area is not built up. Built up area is not a loose term, in fact, there is a specific definition for it. If our government's way of reasoning is applied in Korea, many metro stations in Gyeonggi Province would not have existed in the first place.

The real issue is about whether decent profit margin or public convenience and quality of life is of greater importance. Depending on your value system, both arguments hold.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"좋다"와 "좋아하다"의 차이

Teacher taught me to write "I like drama" as "나는 드라마를 좋아해요" but my Korean friend corrected and rewrote it as "나는 드라마가 좋아요". This sort of situation caused some confusion, especially when I was a beginner struggling to learn Korean as a foreign language.

But it is no big deal even if such 'confusion' is not resolved, so long as you can accept both sentences are of the same meaning. Koreans can understand what you mean when you say "드라마를 좋아해요", although they may find it awkward.

Such trivial omission will not be a stumbling block later and I know it because I never quite find the answer to my query before moving on to higher level learning. My query was, "How can action verb (좋아하다, means to like) and adjective (좋다, means good or fine) be the same?"

I think I have finally found my answer after many years.

Among the adjectives, there are some adjectives that are always directly link to the inner feeling and thinking of the people who use them. Adjective like 좋다, 싫다, 기쁘다, 슬프다 and 무섭다 describes the "me" in I. They can be called the "psychological adjectives" (심리형용사, 心理形容詞). For example,

나는 슬프다 (I am sad)
나는 기쁘다 (I am happy)

Such "psychological adjectives" must always take the first person perspective because it describes the speaker's personal feeling. For example,

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기쁘다.
"I am very happy about Billy's promotion." - This sentence uses 기쁘다 from the first person perspective, so it is correct.

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기쁘다.
"You are very happy about Billy's promotion." - This sentence uses 기쁘다 from the second person perspective and it is wrong.

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기쁘다.
"He is very happy about Billy's promotion". - This sentence uses 기쁘다 from the third person perspective, so it is also wrong.

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기뻤니?
"Was I happy about Billy's promotion?" - This sentence is wrong as it does not make sense since 기쁘다 is used to express my (the first person) feeling and not to question my own feeling.

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기뻤니?
"Were you happy about Billy's promotion?" - This sentence is correct because you are asking someone directly about his feeling. When the person responds, he is very likely to use 기쁘다 from the first person perspective as in "네, 나는 매우 기뻤어요." (Yes, I was very happy)

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기뻤니?
"Was he happy about Billy's promotion?" - This sentence is wrong because it is not asking for a first person's response.

In the situation when psychological adjective is changed to verb by adding "아/어 하다", it also 'loses' its "psychological" aspect. What this means is verb 기뻐하다, which is formed from adjective 기쁘다, is no longer restricted to the first person perspective; it is applicable to all perspectives. For example, the following six sentences are all grammatically correct.

는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했다.
는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했다.
는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했다.
는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했니?
는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했니?
는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했니?

At this point, I finally understood why my teacher would only teach me to use "좋아하다" and not "좋다", "싫어하다" and not "싫다", to express my likes and dislikes. I cannot be wrong in any circumstances if I use "좋아하다" but I can be wrong in some circumstances if I use "좋다". This is perhaps one of the many compromises that has to be introduced in order to make the Korean language easier to understand for foreigners.

Monday, February 15, 2010


First lunar new year away from home and I saw some kids making snow balls in Unhyeongung. Soon, they were running around and throwing at each other. Unhyeongung was one of the few places in Seoul open to public during the Seollal holiday.

I never doubted it when they said spring comes with lunar new year. Now, I know it's not exactly true. Nature had yet to awake from its winter slumber and bowing reeds were still covered in snow on Seollal. Not to mention, it was cold and not much of a festive mood in Seoul.

Seollal is not the same as Chinese Lunar New Year but they share the same twelve zodiac animals. This year is the year of the Tiger and I wish everyone a roaring success in this new year.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

마지막 커피

Enjoying a cup of hot mocha while looking out at the rain-soaked Myeongdong street. I was fortunate to have escaped into the cafe before the chilly spring rain started falling.

The main street of Myeongdong looks quite empty as it was still early in the afternoon. By about five, carts and crowd will start appearing from nowhere and fill up the street in a flash.

This was my last cup of coffee at Caffe Pascucci, Myeongdong. The cafe has since given way to Nature Republic, a beauty products chain. Everything is memory now.

향기로운 봄꽃

It is still quite some time away before the spring flowers bloom but my mind is already eagerly anticipating their 'comeback'. My three favourite spring flowers are Cherry Blossom, Lavender and Tulip.

Cherry Blossom @ KHU (벚꽃, 樱花) or 'Cheery' Blossom (because they cheer people up) only last for a week in early April. Despite that, 3 days are all you have to see them at their best - the day before peak, the peak and the day after peak. Their beauty lie in their sheer number. Cherry Blossom is beautiful so is cherry blossom rain. 벚꽃비를 맞는 산뜻한 느낌은 평생 잊지 못 하는 느낌이 될 것 같다.

Lavender @ Goyang (라벤더, 薰衣草). What I like about Lavender is their fragrance. Sweeping my hand through them is like dipping my hand into a bottle of diluted Lavender essential oil. The smell was light, sweet and calming. I had contemplated going to a Lavender farm in Goseong, Gangwon Province but gave up eventually as it was too out of the way. 향기로운 라벤더를 보면 한눈에 반할지도 모르겠다.

Tulip @ Goyang (튤립, 郁金香). It is hard not to like tulips. Their beauty is their sheer elegance. Anywhere they are planted, the atmosphere of the place will be elevated. Tulips have to be planted in autumn before the first snow and be exposed to cold before they can bloom in spring. Flowers that endure winter and bloom in spring are my inspiration. 겨울엔 얼어죽지 않고 봄엔 활짝 피어 있는 튤립의 아담한 모습은 내 인생 최고의 목표이다.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Here are some remaining pictures of 'Provence' (not in France but in Paju) which I visited last Feb after my winter school ended. I wrote about the place in an earlier posting.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


I was walking in the direction of Cheongwadae (Blue House) when a security staff halted me. "어디로 가세요?", he enquired dutifully. "구경하러 왔는데요", I replied. He nodded and let me through. It was the beginning of spring and all open plots on the pavement were covered with flowers. A nice time to take a walk.

Water had thawed and Cheonggyecheon was flowing again. There was some crowd but not as much as in summer. A Korean Amercian detached from his group and approached me. "사진을 찍어 주실래요?", he asked. "네.", I obliged. "하나, 둣, 셋... 하나 더... 사진 잘 나왔네요."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

비교와 대조

I was taught to compare and contrast in school. In fact, I became so good at it that I continued to compare and contrast everything that came before me even after I left school. I probably could not live a day without engaging in some form of comparison.

Initially, I thought I was doing it because it made me felt like I was leading an educated and knowledgeable life. But on deeper thought, it seems like a reinforced behaviour, sort of like Pavlovian conditioning. School and society give rewards if I excel in it.

However, there is a small pitfall. Comparison and contrast prevented me from appreciating things for what they were or people for who they were. I was just too distracted by my eagerness to appear intelligent. Life, by itself, is beautiful but yet, I could not see it.

The day I stop comparing, I start to appreciate life for what it is and that was when the real beauty of this world starts to reveal itself.

An ordinary sunset at the "head of two rivers" (두물머리)

Kyunghee Palace - the last of the five palaces in Seoul I visited

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Calligraphy to the Chinese is called 서법(書法), to the Japanese 서도(書道) and Korean 서예(書藝). I learned this during my Hanja lesson.

Actually Hanja lesson had nothing to do with Korean calligraphy except that the professor who taught me Hanja is very passionate about it. He is a master in calligraphy and conduct lessons for the public during his free time.

It was two weeks to end-of-term exam and the turnout for the Hanja lesson was quite pathetic. To be exact, only three of us were present. Instead of going through our Hanja textbook, our professor wanted to introduce calligraphy to us.

He brought in his calligraphy paper, brushes, ink and inkstone and we arranged the tables and spread out the calligraphy paper. Before we could start our practice, our professor spoke at length the philosophy of calligraphy.

Calligraphy is not just writing; it is also a training of our mind. Once you can get your mind to focus on the brush strokes, it will start to calm down naturally. Soon, it will be fully relax as it leaves the mundane world behind.

It seems like calligraphy, at its best, is sort of a mind meditation. Anyway, I was quite hopeless at the writing but my Japanese classmates were very good. I practiced my writing with the word "된사람" (be a man) and it ended with my professor writing the word and giving it as a gift to me. His masterpiece (left) was originally written across. To accommodate this posting, I make it runs vertically.

To be a man, as in a man with high moral standard and discipline, is not easy. As a word, "된사람" is quite easy to write but a lot of hard work is needed to live up to it.