Tuesday, October 31, 2006

화성행궁의 입구

The beauty of ancient Korean architecture is that they can blend, or in another word, harmonise with the environment very well. This picture, taken at the entrance of Hwaseong Haenggung, is a typical example of this harmonious relationship between man-made structure and the nature. Neither the building nor the trees dominates each other.

Monday, October 30, 2006

숫자 게임

These few days I am getting a bit nostalgic. Probably because my Korean language lesson is coming to an end soon. I kept thinking about those interesting things I did during my level one language lessons. We played many games, ate candies and cookies given away as prizes by our teacher. We even learnt and sang "my memory" in Korean.

Among the game that we played, one of it was the Korean version of the "scissor paper stone" game. In Korean, it is called "가위 바위 보" (pronounced ga-wee ba-wee bo). It was a simple game but we had a lot of fun repeating "가위 바위 보" and competing against one another until a final winner was found.

The next game I remember is perhaps called "삼 육 구"(Three Six Nine). At the start of the game, everyone is supposed to flap their elbows like a chicken and sing to a tune of "삼.....육구, 삼육구". The first player will start calling out 일(one) and the next player in line will call out 이(two). The third player is not supposed to call out 삼(three). Instead they should only clap their hands. The game is called 삼, 육, 구(three, six, nine) simply because these numbers are "banned" from being called out. Whoever is supposed to call a number that has 삼, 육 or 구 in it, must clap their hands. A player is considered to have lost the game if they call out a "banned" number. Once a number with 삼, 육 or 구 in it is called, the responsible player is dropped and the game restarted. The remaining players are supposed to flap their elbows like a chicken again and sing out "삼.....육구, 삼육구" before continuing with the game.

The "삼 육 구" game sounds simple but is not that simple when played in a foreign language. In fact up to now, I still experience problem differentiating the sound for Sino-Korean numbers like 일 and 이(one and two), 삼 and 사(three and four), 오 and 구(five and nine).

The most difficult pair to differentiate is 일 and 이. Firstly, in Chinese, the number "one" is pronounced as "yee" which is the same pronounciation as "이"(two in Korean). Over the years, the sound "yee" has been so strongly associated with the number "one" that I keep making the mistake of interpreting 이 to be one when it should be two in Korean. Secondly, the sound of 일 and 이 are very similar in pronounciation too. For example, I can only differentiate 일년(one year) and 이년(two year) if I listen carefully to the pronounciation for "년". For 일년, the 년 is pronounced as 련. Missing out on that, I will mistake 일년 for 이년.

The next difficult pair is 삼 and 사. Pronounced independently, it is not too difficult for me to tell them apart. However, when these numbers are combined with some words, I start to get confuse. For example, 삼월(March) and 사월(April). 삼월 is pronounced like 사뭘 and 사월 is just 사월. So the only way to differentiate them is to listen to the pronounciation of the second word. Sadly, somehow my brain usually take in the first sound and instantly make an interpretation. 삼월 to me, always sounds like 사월.

Finally, I only have problem differentiating 오 and 구 when they are pronounced very fast within a string of number like telephone number. Other than that, they are not that difficult to differentiate.

Learning a language, it seems, is not just about learning new grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary. There is also a need to "re-wire" the way the brain thinks. The only way to re-wire the brain is to keep practising. Practice makes perfect as they said it. For certainty, I need more practices.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

배우는 길

Nami Island
A path lined with chestnut trees in Nami Island.

My Korean learning journey has just passed one-year mark. Today, I sat for the Korean Language Proficiency Test. My difficulty in handling the test paper goes to show that a wide gulf exists between what I currently know and the proficiency standard expected. Reality can sometimes be quite hurting. It does not help that desire is normally greater than ability.

However, the cause for disappointment can equally be a motivating force. The desire to succeed will continue to provide the necessary drive to keep me moving on the road. Korean learning is a long journey because I decided to set my objective far away. Very soon, I will be reaching the end of the well-trodden path which I am currently walking on. From there onwards, the path will no longer be well-defined and I will need to walk out my own road to my destination. I am looking forward to it.

드디어 KLPT 끝났다

오늘 NUS Extension에서 열시부터 열두시까지 세계한국말인증시험(KLPT)을 봤어요.

이주일 동안 바쁘게 준비했더라도 한국어능력을 부족한데 많으니까 잘 보지 못 했어요. 이 시험에서 많은 정답을 모른 문제가 나온데 제 생각보다 더 어려웠어요.

여하튼 이 시험은 남을 만한 경험이에요. 한국어의 배우는길이 아직도 멀어요. 이 시험을 의해서 과로하느라고 혼났어요. 지금 쉬어야 해요. 클클 zzz . . .

Thursday, October 26, 2006

딸기 보면 봄이 생각나요

한국에서 봄이 올 때 딸기를 살 수 있어요. 올해 3월에 한국에 갔는데 한국의 딸기를 처음 보고 사서 먹어 봤어요. 딸기가 시지 않고 조금 달으니까 맛있었어요. 이제 딸기 보면 늘 봄이 생각나겠어요.

또 한국에서 가을 올 때 많이 맛있어 보인 사과를 살 수 있어요. 8년 전에 부산에서 난 한 시장에 가서 많이 사과를 싸게 사고 먹어버렸어요. 하지만 사과 보면 가을이나 한국도 안 생각해요. 왜녀하면 어린부터 싱가포르에서 자주 사과를 먹었어요.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

영화 - 가을로

Kim Hyeon Cheol(김현철), who sang the soundtrack "Must Say Goodbye" in Il Mare, is back again. He has just released a duet with Gummy(거미) "우리 이제 어떻게 하나요?" (What should we do now?) for the Korean movie "Traces of Love"(가을로-literal translation "Into the Autumn").

"Traces of Love" premiered at the 11th Pusan International Film Festival on October 12 and is slated for nationwide release in Korea this weekend. On the first look, I thought it is just another run-of-the-mill Korean melodrama but as I read on, I was captivated by the storyline.

The movie is supposed to begin with the male lead, Hyeon-Wu acted by Yu Ji Tae(유지태), losing his fiancee, Min-Ju acted by Kim Ji Su(김지수), to a disaster which is an re-enactment of the collapse of the Sampung Department Store(삼풍박화전) on the fateful day of June 29, 1995. The Sampung disaster ended with 502 lives lost and about 900 people wounded.

[Picture from <가을로> Official Website]

Love stopped for Hyeon-Wu on the day of collapse. For the next 10 years, he has to contend with living his life in sorrow. His reprieve came when Min-Ju's father handed him the long-lost diary written by Min-Ju.

In the diary, Min-Ju meticulously recorded those scenic spots she had travelled to with the intention to re-visit them on her honeymoon. The diary came with detailed travel routes, maps, comments, anecdotes and stories associated with those forests, temples and villages she had visited.

Based on travel routes scripted in the diary, Hyeon-Wu went on a journey to re-track in traces the love he had lost. Coincidentally, Hyeon-Wu kept meeting Se-Jin, acted by Eon Ji Won(언지원), in those places mentioned in Min-Ju's diary. Se-Jin almost became a real-life double for Min-Ju. The appearance of Se-Jin in Hyeon-Wu's life created a dilemma for him. He had a choice to either continue loving his lost love or lived up to reality and love someone else.

The emotional struggle between living in the past and leaving sorrow behind to carry on with one's life will likely to struck a chord with many people. Singapore also has its own share of similar disaster as in the collapse of the Hotel New World. Dust may have long settled but we will never know or feel the sorrow of those people who have lost their loves to the disaster.

Love is painful not because it has ended but because it continues.

Monday, October 23, 2006

시월애 - 동영상

[Pictures from Hancinema]

'Il Mare' has until now been my number one Korea movie. 'The Host', while hugely popular in Korea, has not been able to make the same impact on me. In fact, I dozed off while watching it. It was not a boring movie but it just did not get me excited enough.

Perhaps there are better Korean movies but I have yet to watch them. One of these movies recommended to me was 'A Moment to Remember'. Friends were saying that they cried like a baby while watching this movie. It may have been one of those good Korean movies that I have missed.

I am not too sure if 'Il Mare' can be categorised as a love story. As far as I can understand, no one actually uttered "사랑합니다!" in the movie. But as an audience, I can feel that love was in the air. There was a lot of 'feel' of love in the movie but nothing explicit. The movie gained depth because of its subtle portrayal of love.

To put the icing on the cake, the movie soundtrack 'Must Say Goodbye' by 김현철 did a great job in bringing up the right mood for the movie. The soundtrack is one of those things that makes this movie memorable. Many years may have passed but the soundtrack always makes me thinks fondly of the movie.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

서울에서 걸어 구경했다

I like to take a walk. There are many things that I will see when I take a walk. I need all the time to appreciate the finer things in life that I will otherwise miss if I rush through my time.

After every walk, I always discover new things that I have never seen or known before. This world is much more beautiful than I thought.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

시험 준비 중이다

경희대에서 돌아온지 7개월 되었어요. 시간이 빠르게 지났어요.

10월말에 세계한국말인증시험을 볼 거예요. 그런 시험 때문에 많이 준비할 필요가 있어요. ><

시험에 붙지 못 하면 선생님이 "집에 가야 해요." 라고 말하셨어요. 그래서 이제 자주 블로그하는 것을 하지 못 하는데. ㅠㅠ

시험 준비하는 동안에 시간이 나면 블로그할 거예요. 한국어는 어려워도 꼭 시험을 잘 봐요. 저는 노력할 거예요. ^^

Monday, October 16, 2006

한국어가 재미있어요?

"Is Korean language that interesting?" somebody asked.

I wasn't prepared to answer the question. His facial expression clearly showed that he wasn't interested in the answer. His question was merely an expression of doubt rather than a quest for clarification.

"Oh, I just study it for fun." I answered for politeness sake and switched the topic of discussion.

It may be a small opening but it opens to a big world out there. Such is the power of language. (Picture taken at Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon)

Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

I would just like to adapt his quote slightly.

"Whether one think its interesting or not interesting, they are both right."

It is counter-productive to prove either view is right or wrong. What is more important is whether my interest is genuine. With interest, all my senses are awakened. Everything will naturally become interesting.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

빨간 "을"이 커지고 있다

Recently my Korean language teacher has been expanding the font size of her word, in particular the font size of "을/를". Normally after correcting our homework, our seon saeng nim will consolidate our individual homework into a single file and e-mail it back to us. For normal mistakes, we should see only red wordings but if our mistakes have anything to do with "을/를", the font size will change depending on the number of times we make the same mistake.

First-time mistake, the red "을/를" remains at font size 12. Second-time mistake, font size increases to 24. Third-time mistake, font size 36. Fourth-time mistake, font size 72. By the way, she will stop at font size 72 because that is the biggest font size pre-determined by Office Words. Our seon saeng nim is especially upset when advanced level students like us are still making mistakes in the use of particles like "이/가" and "을/를". She always reminded us that those are level 1 mistakes. She told us repeatedly that she want to "vomit blood" whenever she sees the same mistake.

For those who doesn't know why my teacher is so upset but know a bit of Korean, I shall try to explain the importance of "이/가/을/를" in a typical Korean sentence. "이/가" is known as the subject case marker. When you see "이/가" after a noun, it means the noun is the subject you want to talk about. "을/를" is known as the object case marker. When you see "을/를" after a noun, it means that the noun is the object to which some action will be carried out.

Example: 선생님 학생들 가르쳐요 [Teacher teaches the students.]

In the above example 선생님 or teacher is the subject marked by "이". 학생들 or students is the object marked by "을". The action verb is 가르치다 or to teach. If I now switch the position of 이 and 을, the sentence "선생님 학생들 가르쳐요" will mean the students teach the teacher - something quite illogical. So you see, wrong use of 이 and 을 can give very different meaning to a sentence.

In summary, a typical Korean sentence structure is something like [Subject(이/가) + Object(을/를) + action verb(sentence ending)].

Personally, I thought that the font-size 72 red "을" has made an impact on me. I am now more careful with my use of particles. Anyway, language is all about conveying my thought correctly. I definitely want to mean what I think and not the reverse. Hope that my teacher is feeling better now since she is no longer teaching our class.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

같은 반 친구들의 모임

어제 저녁에 우리 스타디 그룹이(study group) 한가람 한국식당에서 마지막 모임을 했어요. 앤씨하고 징팡씨 밖에 다 같은 반 친구들이 모이러 나왔어요. 여러 가지의 한국음식 주문하고 맛있게 먹었어요. 해물 비빔밥, 버섯 비빔밥, 김치 스파게티, 파전, 순두부찌깨, 김치찌깨, 계란찜 등등 먹고 즐거운 시간을 보냈어요.

한가람 한국식당에서 찍은 같은 반 친구들의 사진

Our study group was formed as a result of the cancellation of the advanced level Korean language course scheduled on July 28. The advanced level course was supposed to start shortly after we had completed our intermediate level course in mid July. However, it was cancelled because the school required at least 10 students to start the course but we did not meet the number. Looking at the course schedule, the next advanced level course will start on October 31 and it would mean that we have to take a 3 months break from learning.

I thought the 3 months break was a bit too long so I suggested that we start a study group to keep our momentum of learning going. As the suggestion was well received, we have our study group gathering on every Friday since August 4. In total, we have 5 lessons and 2 dinners together. We have our last gathering yesterday at Hankaram Korean restuarant as the advanced level course will be starting in two weeks time.

The study group was not just about revision of lesson notes. We have taken this opportunity to get to know one another better. Frankly, we barely have any interaction time during our normal lesson. Lesson will normally start at 7pm and end at 9:30pm with a 5 minutes toilet break in between. We attend lesson and we go home. Sometimes, I don't even know the name of the person sitting beside me. With this study group gathering, at least we could have the time to clarify doubt about simple Korean grammar, talk about our interest and work and share information about Korean entertainment news. I have enjoyed our time together and I hope you do.

여러분, 스타디 그룹이 끝난 다음에 꼭 계속 한국어를 재미있게 공부하세요. 나중에 시간이 나면 같이 함께 다른 한국식당에 가 볼 거예요. 그럼 항상 행복하시고 건강하시기를 바랍니다.

Friday, October 13, 2006

더 싸게 해주세요

얼마예요? (How much?)
더 싸게 해주세요. (Please make it cheaper)
[값이]깎을 수 없어요? (Cannot cut [the price]?)

These are the few sentences which I memorised by hard in case I need to buy and bargain in Korea. Honestly, I am quite bad at bargaining. So I ended up using "얼마예요?" most of the time.

When I visited Seoul this March, I have this feel that Seoul's standard of living has gone up significantly since my last visit four years ago. My feel was confirmed in a Reuters' report on 15 Jun 2006.

Seoul has taken the top spot from Tokyo as Asia's most expensive city for expatriates, thanks to the South Korean won's appreciation against the dollar. According to a survey by ECA International, Seoul is the fourth most expensive place for foreign staff at multinational companies in the world, with Tokyo trailing in sixth place. - June 15 (Reuters)

The world's 10 most expensive cities for expatriates

1. Luanda, Angola
2. Kinshasa, Democratic Rep. of Congo
3. Oslo, Norway
4. Seoul, South Korea
5. Moscow, Russia
6. Tokyo, Japan
7. Yokohama, Japan
8. Stavanger, Norway
9. Copenhagen, Denmark
10.Geneva, Switzerland

8 years ago when I first stepped foot on Korea, the exchange rate was S$1 to more than 700won. 4 years ago I re-visited Korea, the exchange rate was like S$1 to slightly less than 700won. This year, exchange rate was S$1 to 600won. Things have really gotten expensive in Korea.

In March this year, I exchanged only S$200 for my one week study at Kyunghee. I thought that would be enough for my daily expenses as other expenses could be paid with credit card. I had underestimated the appreciation of living standard in Seoul over the years. One day before my departure from Seoul, I actually used up all my won. It was a weekend and all the banks were closed. Fortunately, there was a money exchange counter outside Gyeong Bok Gung. I exchanged another S$100 although the exchange rate was unfavourable.

I know what I will do the next time I visit Korea. I will buy a train ticket out of Seoul and stay in other cities. As you can see, no other Korean cities are in the top ten list of the most expensive cities.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

일마레 카페를 찾고 싶어

일마레 카페에 가고 싶어. 어느쪽으로 갈 까요?

(주)일마레 서울시 강남구 청담동 100 루미안빌딩 1층

With the above address, I went to search for the Il Mare Cafe & Pasta outlet at Cheongdam. I thought it was going to be easy but without a map location of the restaurant, I was lost in Cheongdam. After about an hour of futile search, I decided to flag down a taxi. Actually, I was enjoying my walk down the streets at Cheongdam and was in no hurry to find the place. So it was only after an hour that I decided to ask for help.

After flagging down a taxi, I told the taxi driver in Korean that I would like to go to Rumi-an Building. He did not know the place and asked me for the restaurant phone number. I gave him the number and he made the call to the restaurant using his handphone. After a while, he told me something in Korean which I did not understand. I told him, "한국어를 잘 못 해요". He used his handphone to call again and after a short conversation with the other party, he handed over his phone to me. I thought he was asking me to speak to the restaurant receptionist. I reiterated that I do not know Korean well. He said, "영어". So I took over his phone and a lady at the other end told me in English that the restaurant was under renovation and there was no one picking up the phone. I was disappointed. I thanked the taxi driver for his help and he drove off.

Apparently, the taxi driver had called the hotline for language translation after knowing that I could not understand Korean. What surprise me even more was that he was patient and even offered the use of his handphone so that I could understand through an interpreter what he was trying to tell me earlier. I thought, he could have just driven off because I would probably not take his taxi after knowing the restaurant was under renovation. I may be wrong but I think Singapore taxi drivers have a lot to learn about giving good customer service.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

김치가 어디에?

Where is my kimchi? Didn't know that they substituted my kimchi with pickles. So it seemed that not all meals in Korea come with kimchi. Nevertheless, free side dishes is a regular feature in a Korean meal. In Korea, at least I got to eat the pickles for free. In Singapore, I will get nothing more than the carbonara I ordered.

My Korean language teacher used to lament that there are no free things in Singapore. There are no free beauty product samples to be given away together with her purchase. The are also no free side dishes served in the restaurant. Every thing you want, you need to pay. In Korea, free samples are being given away readily. The side dishes are free and you can ask for more at no extra cost.

I was told of this joke by a friend about her Korean friend. It was the first trip for her Korean friend to Singapore. One day, her Korean friend ordered a plate of rice at a food stall thinking that he would be served with side dishes. To his surprise, no other food came except his plate of rice.

Conversely, I would hesitate to ask for extra side dishes in Korea thinking that I would be charged for that. The difference is quite interesting and it takes quite a while for me to believe that there is such thing as free side dishes. Anyway, I look forward to my next free kimchi meal.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

청계천에 간 적이 있다

It was another free afternoon like today. I decided to walk down Cheong Gye Cheon. I took the subway to Jongnak Station and found my way to Cheong Gye Plaza. That is the starting point of Cheong Gye Cheon. The stream will run for more than 5km through the city before terminating into Hangang.
Cheong Gye Cheon is a stream with a difference. It is beautifully landscaped. No two stretch of the stream shares the same scenery. Music is played through the speakers fitted at intervals. People are free to interact with the various water features constructed at different points of the stream.
I ended my afternoon stroll at "O Gan Su Mun" (five outlets watergate) near Dongdaemum. For that afternoon, I covered about 3km of the stream, perspired a lot and took many pictures. Cannot imagine myself walking down Singapore River under the full rage of tropical heat though.

Monday, October 09, 2006

월요일 오후에

I like to be off on a Monday afternoon. I don't suffer from Monday blues but it is always good to go out without the need to jostle my way through the weekend crowd. Singapore has gotten a bit too crowded over the years for my liking. It has become that Monday and Tuesday are two of my favourite week days to take off so that I can avoid the crowd before they recover their energy to throng the streets again from Wednesday onwards.

The year is coming to an end and I have many more days of leave to clear. Don't envy me as I may have to void my annual leave if I am unable to find time to clear them. It can be quite a tricky business trying to clear my leave at the end of the year. When I thought people should be slowing down due to the year-end's festivity mood, strangely, work will start piling up at my table. I need to do something about this abnormaly. Hmmm.....

I always find Monday afternoon peaceful. The pace of life seems to slow down drastically. I thought a good way to pass time on a lazy Monday afternoon is to find a nice place and enjoy an afternoon tea. Life can be this good. Better believe it. ^^

Sunday, October 08, 2006

제2회 한국어 말아기 대회

In the 2nd Korean Language Speech Contest held at RELC International Hotel auditorium yesterday, NUS Extension students won three out of the six prizes. Siah Wen Qiu won the second prize (there are two second prizes) for his topic on "의미 있는 만남과 한국어 공부". Jean Teo and Wong Er-Kai both won the third prize (there are three third prizes). Their topics were "일본에서 만난 한국" and "한국어를 공부하기 전과 후의 다른 점" respectively. Jean was also a receiver of a surprise award from Asiana Airline. Because of her touching presentation, Asiana decided to give her a free air ticket to Korea to meet her '오빠'. I thought that was a very nice gesture by Asiana. For that, my next flight to Korea will be on Asiana.

Out of the 19 participants, 9 were from NUS Extension, 7 from Singapore Korean School and 2 from Community Centre. For the second time, NUS Ext students did not manage to come in first. The first prize went to Ho Li Ming who recalled her fond memories about Korea with her topic: "한국에서의 소중한 추억"(Treasured memory of Korea). It seemed that she was a clear winner from the start. She was fluent and at ease on stage. Anyway, my teacher was jubilant about the outcome. She wrote in her e-mail to all the particpants after the contest, "I am so proud of you! GOOOOOD JOB!!!!!! 잘 했어요!!!! It was one of the best day in my career and I was so excited to see the hard work of all 19 students. Today is my birthday and I told my husband that this is one of the best gift and I won't forget it! . . ."

The event was well organised and I truly enjoyed my afternoon. There was perk for being an audience at the contest. Lucky draw was held and Korean food vouchers between $50 and $100 were given away. We were also entertained by Korean singer, 이안, while waiting for the judges to make their decision on the winners. Not forgetting the interesting presentation put up by the 19 participants. 잘 했어요, 짱!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

멍한 여름

요즘에는 싱가포르의 공기가 나뻐지고 있어요. 왜나하면 불 재가 인도네시아에서 많이 생겼는데 그 재는 바람을 타고 싱가포르로 밀려왔기 때문이에요. The unwelcome haze is back in Singapore. No thanks to the the forest fire in Indonesia and the unfavourable wind direction.

Singapore is a victim of trans-boundary pollution just like Korea. I experienced a sandstorm in Seoul this March. Sandstorm is formed in the desert of Inner Mongolia and will make its way to Korea when the wind direction becomes unfavourable. While I could not actually see those fine sand particles in the air, I knew that a sandstorm had swept pass by just looking at the dirt covering the cars on the road.

I just wish that the north-east monsoon wind can arrive earlier this year and blow the haze back to the Indian Ocean. People used to joke that Singapore has two seasons - a hot summer and a hotter summer. I thought we have four seasons too. 싱가포르에 4계절도 있어요. 더운 여름, 더 더운 여름, 비가 많은 여름하고 멍한 여름. (A hot summer, a hotter summer, a rainy summer and a hazy summer)

To take the gloom out of the hazy days ahead, I thought I shall just add the music video "태양은 가득히" by SM Entertainment's artistes. Let's hope that summer is always filled with sunshine and not haze.

장안이 수원에 있죠

有人说在土上的是西安,土下的是长安。我说长安在水原。长安门卓立在水原华城的最北端。它是华城两道主门之一。另一道主门,八达门,卓立在华城的最南端。我没去过西安,可是我却在水原看到长安 ~ 真有趣。这还是我第一次“体验”到城里城外的生活。


린의 '날 위한 이별'

While browsing through the CDs at a shop in Myeongdong subway station , I came across Lyn's "Misty Memories" album. I don't know much about Lyn but I knew that she can sing very well as I was told by a friend. I never regretted buying her album. Her soulful voice accentuates her R&B numbers almost to perfection. I especially like the track '날 위한 이별'.

'날 위한 이별' was made into a music video for the movie '연리지'(連理枝). '연리지' has a sad story behind it and I mean the actual story. In the past, two lovers were stopped from being together. The heart-broken couple ended their lives. A tree grew up from each of their graves. To show their determination to be together after death, the leaves and branches of the two trees wrapped around one another closely. The roots of the trees were also intertwined tightly until they were inseparable. Hence, '연리지' is a noun used to describe a strong desire to be together.

Back to the movie '연리지'. I did not watch it when it was screened in Singapore a few months back. Here I am watching the snippets of the movie for the first time through Lyn's music video '날 위한 이별'. It seems quite a touching movie although the storyline can be a bit of a cliche.

Friday, October 06, 2006

오늘 추석이에요

Today is Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) and it is a working day in Singapore. In Korea, it is called Chuseok (추석-秋夕) and they have three days of holiday in a row - one day for the Koreans to make their journey back home; one day to celebrate Chuseok and one day to return to their place of stay. In China, I heard, they have a week of holiday when it comes to 'Zhong Qiu Jie' celebration.

In Singapore, Mid-Autumn Festival is about family reunion, eating of mooncake and pomelo and lantern parade. The festivity mood has been rather low probably because there is no autumn here in the first place and there is no public holiday for festival celebration. However, in the last few years, things are getting slightly better. There are more lantern parades organised. Chinatown was dressed and lighted up for the festival. A lot of creativity was also given to the making and packaging of mooncakes. Besides the standard lotus-bean paste mooncake, there are also novelty mooncakes like chocolate, ice cream and durian mooncakes.

To me, the festival always remind me that while people may be separated by distance on this Earth, we will always be looking upon the same moon.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

얼굴과 몸

TheFaceShop and The Body Shop, side by side, in Myeongdong

TheFaceShop is a Korean cosmetic retail brand. It has a strong presence in Korea and it currently has 6 retail outlets in Singapore. The rise of TheFaceShop is quite a phenomenon. Barely three years have passed since it entered the market and it already commands over 500 retail outlets worldwide. Its popularity has since grown in Singapore following the visit of Kwon Sang Woo. TheFaceShop can do no wrong especially when The Body Shop is such a successful brand worldwide.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

학습 환경

I passed by Cheongnyanni(청량리-淸凉里) quite often when I was studying at Kyunghee University. It was in the vicinity of Kyunghee. Cheongnyanni was also the place where I took the airport bus to Incheon airport on the day of departure. However, I must admit that I have problem pronouncing '청량리'. The pronounciation I heard over the public address system in the subway was something like, "이번 역은 청냥니. . ." In my mind, I was wondering why '청냥니' and not '청량리'. I was unable to resolve the conflict between what I saw and heard until I read something in my Korean language textbook.

When the ending consonant of the preceding word is 'ㅇ', the consonant 'ㄹ' in the current word will have to change to 'ㄴ' pronounciation. Hence, it was correct that '청량리' was pronounced '청냥니' and there was nothing wrong with my hearing. Because of Cheongnyanni, I was able to memorise this special deviation and I now pronounce '정리' (arrangement) as '정니' and '등록' (registration) as '등녹'.

The right environment is as important as a good teacher. I remember bargaining with a 아줌마(auntie) in 남대문시장 (Namdaemun Market) in 중국어(Chinese language). The 아줌마 was of course Korean but her Chinese was perfect. There was no way I could gain an upperhand in the bargain although I was very comfortable speaking in Chinese. The market, it seems, is a good environment for language learning. I bet that the 아줌마 did not enrol herself to learn Chinese. She must have practised her Chinese with the many Chinese tourists who patronised her shop over the years. I am also not surprised if she can also speak Japanese or Russian well.

The 아저씨(uncle) whom I met in the PC방(Internet Kiosk) also spoke good Chinese. I might have mistaken myself to be in China. The 아저씨 was no immigrant from China although I thought he was. He told me that he picked up the language because it was taught during his school days and he had the opportunity to practise it with the many Chinese students who visited his PC방.

Sometimes I just wonder, maybe I should stop paying to learn Korean. I might as well set up a shop selling Korean grocery and products in Singapore. I can then practise my Korean language with those Korean 아줌마 who patronise my shop. Isn't it wonderful that I can earn and learn at the same time?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

저녁을 드셨어요?

Roadside stalls at Insadong

Roadside stalls 볼 때마다 맛있는 음식을 생각나요. The mental linkage of roadside stall to delicious food has a lot to do with my past experience of eating at the roadside stall. I remember when I was a kid, I love to eat the 'wanton mee' (만두 면) sold at this roadside stall. The stall was actually operating illegally at night. Nevertheless, people were queuing up for its 'wanton mee'. That was the best 'wanton mee' I have ever eaten. It was a pity that such good food was not allowed to be sold over a roadside stall.

Roadside stalls were banned in Singapore because of concern for public health. In the past, contaminated food was the main culprit in spreading diseases like Cholera and Dysentery that claimed many lives. To better regulate the standard of hygience in food preparation, all roadside hawkers were shifted to hawker centres to continue their fares. Hawker centres have since become something very unique in the Singapore food culture map.

Singapore may have ranked among the best in the world for public health but one of the casualty it claims along the way is the roadside stall which is a common sight in many countries that enjoy vibrant roadside food culture. Whatever it may be, if I do sit at a roadside stall overseas, it will probably remind me of my childhood day in Singapore.

Monday, October 02, 2006

커피 마셔요?

Personally I do not take to the coffee-drinking lifestyle very much. The cafes in Singapore are small and usually crowded with people. If only if the cafes here are as big and well designed as those in Seoul, I may consider changing my lifestyle. When I say big, the cafes in Seoul can be as high as four-storey and occupy one whole block of building. It is quite surprising that a western lifestyle can make it big time in Korea and not in Singapore. I guess maybe our local kopitiams (coffee shops) have been doing a fine job of brewing fresh and fragrant coffee every day at one-fifth of the price of coffee sold at the cafe chains. In Singapore, sitting in a cafe drinking coffee is a lifestyle but sitting in a kopitiam drinking coffee is a way of life.

Starbucks Coffee in Myeondong (Top Left). Coffee Bean in Insadong (Top Right). Inside Coffee Bean in Hurest Wellbeing Club, Myeongdong (Bottom)