Monday, December 25, 2006

휴가 때야

잠을 자는 토토로를 보면 또 제 휴가 때예요. 한국행 비행기표가 다 팔려서 내일 중국 상해에 여행하러 갈 거예요. 일주일 동안 블로그를 못 하는데요. 내년 제 블로그에서 다시 만납시다. 새해 복 많이 받으세요. 안녕히 계세요. 그럼~



"Love Letter" like "Il Mare" is not easily comprehensible. These are two of the few movies that I watched twice in the cinema. I cannot understand their plots easily not because they are foreign language films but because their plots are very subtle. But once I understood them, they just overwhelmed me.

I last watched "Love Letter" quite some time back. I was reminded about this Japanese movie when it came out in the Sogang textbook which I used for my Korean language lesson. So it seems that this movie is also popular in Korea.

Would I want to know about something which I could no longer change or is it better to remain ignorant? But sometimes, as the movie put it, it may not be a matter of choice. It can still find it way to you since you are related to it even though you may not be aware of it. The dilemma of life is that if you own something, be prepared to lose it. But if you have nothing to start with, there is nothing to lose and be sad about. That is why I believe that sometimes ignorance is bliss.

The best part I like about "Love Letter" is its ending. I was moved by it then. The ending is probably everything about this movie. However, now that I watch the ending in isolation, I am hardly moved by it. It goes to show that the movie must be watched in its totality in order to appreciate its ending.

I have posted a video for those who have watched the movie and like to be reminded of its ending. But for those who have never watched "Love Letter", you may not want to watch the video. Because once you know the ending you probably will not appreciate the movie as much.

신화를 믿어요?

I first saw this tablet, carried on a tortoise-like beast, standing cospiciously near the entrance of Bulguksa. The history of Bulguksa was inscribed on the tablet. Initially, I thought the tortoise-looking beast was a part of Korean mythology. However, after my visit to Beijing, I realised that the beast was actually a Chinese mythological creature.

Chinese legend has it that Dragon has nine sons and its eldest son is this tortoise-looking beast called Bixi (赑屃). Bixi was believed to be the strongest among the nine sons of the Dragon. But it also looked the most different from the Dragon because of its carapace. Hence, Bixi was made to do the unglamorous work of carrying stone tablet on its back.

This legend about the Dragon's nine sons is probably one of those very badly made-up legend that I have heard. In Chinese mythology, there are more than nine mythological creatures but to fit the number 'nine' (nine is considered a 'heaven' number by the Chinese) that befits the heavenly status of the Dragon, different groups of people chose their own set of 'nine sons of the Dragon' for the legend. Since there is no truth to a legend I am not losing sleep over which version of the legend is more correct.

Surprisingly, Singapore has its own "mythological" creature called the "Merlion" (a creature with a head of a lion and a body of a fish). Legend has it that Merlion was once a guardian of the people living in Temasek (which is Singapore in ancient time) protecting them against natural calamity. For Singaporeans, we would laugh off this legend because we know very well that Merlion is created as an icon to promote tourism in Singapore. The legend about the Merlion is a bit too hard to swallow for us. Anyway, the Merlion legend is meant for the tourists. Then again, tourists would never mind being entertained by any legend that comes their way.

Friday, December 22, 2006

적도의 크리스마스

The sky finally cleared up yesterday afternoon, so I decided to go for a stroll in Orchard Road to soak in the tropical Christmas atmosphere. I did get soak afterall - but in my perspiration. Although it has been raining for weeks and night temperature averaging about 26 deg C, I was still feeling quite warm yesterday night.

This year is supposed to be the biggest ever Christmas light-up in Singapore. Its light and sparkle galore at Orchard in Singapore. I just could not take my eyes off this giant Christmas tree outside of Paragon. It was simply the centre of attraction.

It is not frequent that I visit Orchard during the Christmas season. I always feel that the light-up is only meant for the tourists. It is not a must-see for locals. I think I can draw a parallel in that chefs do not usually eat the food they cook even if their food are considered the best in town. I am aware that Singapore has the best Christmas light-up in the region and perhaps the world but I still won't feel a lost if I don't see it.

The Orchard shopping belt is so extensively lite up that there is no need to fear squeezing with crowd to see the lights. After seeing all the pictures and if you are wondering where are all the crowd, please see the picture below. It was really crowded at certain section of Orchard. I did have to squeeze my way through. Well this is Christmas in Singapore - beautiful lights, warm weather and friendly people ^^

크리스마스 쏭

Just don't know why Christmas songs, like Chinese New Year songs, are the same year after year. Everything in the world seems to have progress except festive songs. Wham sang "Last Christmas" a decade ago and every year after that, we have to "reminisce" last christmas in December. Perhaps festive season is a time when people will like to be more traditional and that include their preference for songs. Anyway, here are two non-traditional Korean "Christmas" songs which I think would spice up the festive mood a little bit.

1. "Must Have Love" by Gain of Brown Eyes Girls and Yong Jun of SG Wannabe

2. "Show Me Your Love" by Super Junior

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

메리 크리스 마스

Click on the picture to see the flash animation

Christmas is just around the corner. I thought of posting this flash animation to give my blog an early festive mood. ^^

I wish that everyone can enjoy a Christmas filled with present and smile. 선물가득 웃음가득 즐거워요 크리스 마스 .


Jung Hwa Jeon (중화전-中和殿) - The main hall of Deoksugung

Deoksugung(덕수궁-德壽宮) was a palace which I had very little impression of. My visit there was not planned. I just happened to pass by its main entrance while walking in the vicinity of City Hall in Seoul. Visiting Deoksugung was kinda of by the way.

I couldn't recall why I wasn't paying attention to the palace buildings and scenery. Maybe it was because of the threatening sky and I was rushing to cover the palace compound before the rain. Until now, I am still not aware that there is a statue of King Sejong in the palace. That is an indication of how badly I remember my visit to Deoksugung.

If there is one thing that I still remember, it is the presence of a European-style building, the National Museum of Comtemporary Art, amidst the Korean palace buildings. The contrast was great and the impression stayed. I guess, a good part of memory is made up of those contrasting moments in life.

The National Museum of Comtemporary Art in Deoksugung

Monday, December 18, 2006

비가 많은 달

집이 근처에 찍은 사진이야. 시원 날씨를 좋아하는군!

North-East Monsoon has brought with it abandant rainfall. Since November, it has been raining almost everyday in Singapore in the late afternoon. It is so nice to say goodbye to those hazy days with the onset of the rainy season. I have always enjoyed the cooling weather of December. To me, there is no better time of the year than December. Together with holiday and festive mood, it is hard not to like December.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Lush greenery at Mount Faber. Less than 100m above mean sea level, Mt Faber can hardly be called a mountain

싱가포르에서 산이 하나도 없어요. 등산하는 것을 좋아하지만 오래동안 등산가지 못 해요.

1998 년 저는 한국에 처음 도착했어요. 부산에서 금정산에 올라간 적이 있어요. 그 때에는 벌써 가을이었어요. 날씨가 시원하고 단풍이 빨개지게 시작했어요. 가을에는 가장 등산의 계절이지요. 날씨가 좋고 단풍이 볼 수 있어요.

4년 후에 한국에 다시 가서 경주 토험산에 올라갔어요. 산 중간에 깨끗한 화장실이 있었요. 정말 편이에요. 경주 남산도 올라갔어요. 많이 걷더니 제 다리가 아프게 되었어요.

등산하는 것이 힘들지만 몸과 건강에 아주 좋아요. 산 위에 공기가 신선 하고 경치도 아름다운데 기분 나쁜 일을 다 잊어 버릴 수 있어요. 김밥 먹고 게임 하면 하루 좋은 시간을 보낼 수 있어요.

여건이 된다면 제가 복한의 금강산에 한번 등산가 보고 싶어요. 금강삼은 풍경이 제일 아름답다고요.

Friday, December 15, 2006

돌아가야 하는나

돌아가야 하는나 - 要回去的我。喜欢这样的形容。因为短短几个字,它表达出一颗有方向和希望的心。要回去的我,心又复活了起来。







Thursday, December 14, 2006

심심할 때~

Posting two simple flash animation games. You don't need to know Korean to play them.


The objective of this game is to burst the balloons with the arrows. To move the bowman up and down, press the 'up' and 'down' arrow key. To release the arrow, press the spacebar. If you play this game long enough, I promise that you will learn how to write 'failure'(실패-失敗) in Korean. Try it out to know what I mean.


This game is a variant of Tetris. If there are two or more tiles of the same kind side by side in a vertical or horizontal line, use the mouse to click on one of the tiles and all tiles will disappear. Remove as much tiles as possible and prevent the tiles from reaching the top of the box. This is a simple game and anymore explanation from me will confuse you. So play it only if you are bored.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

한국어가 어려워요?

"Is Korean difficult?"

This question is the second most frequently asked question after "Why do you study Korean?". Well, a short answer will be "yes" but that is as good as a no-answer. Honestly speaking, which language is easy to master. If I am to compare between Chinese and Korean, Chinese would have been a more difficult language to master. First of all, Chinese word is hieroglyph (a picture-like sign which represents a word). Simplification of the Chinese words has not made them much simpler to write, not to mention learning the traditional Chinese form that is still being used in places like Taiwan and Hong Kong. Furthermore, Chinese language has more consonants and vowels as compared to Korean language. In term of pronunciation, Chinese language has four main tones and a light tone but Korean language is monotone. So when comparison is made, Korean language seems a lot easier to master than Chinese language.

However just to give those who are interested to take up Korean language some idea of the difficulties to expect, I shall highlight five areas which, through my experience, are quite challenging.

First difficulty is sound-in-liaison. Something I am unaware of in the English and Chinese language that I have learnt. In Korean language, the sound of the ending consonant of the preceding word is carried over to the next word. Example, 삼월에(sam wol e - In March) is pronounced as 사뭐레(sa mwo le). Sound-in-liaison created the most challenge for me since I am not accustomed to this language style. It took me quite a while to change the way I listen and speak Korean. By the way, I am still adapting to this style of language.

[Edited: Song pointed out that English does have sound-in-liaison. For example, "what are you doing?" is spoken as "wha da you doing?" or in American English "wa ra u doing?" In fact sound-in-liaison is found in many spoken languages. It occurs almost naturally that native speakers may not even know that it exists.]

Second difficulty is contraction of words. Example, the conjunction 그러한데(but) can be contracted to 그런데. Further contraction gives 근데. Essentially, the three Korean words at different stage of contraction mean the same thing. The commonly used conjunction 그래서(so) is actually a contracted form of 그리 하여서. Other commonly seen contraction: 저의(my) gives 제, 나는(I) gives 난 and 누구를(whom) gives 누굴. Contraction of words creates a significant problem for beginners because contracted words cannot be found in the dictionary. Even if they are found in the dictionary, the meanings given are not meant for the words in doubt.

Third difficulty is the different forms of speech. Example, for the verb 먹다(to eat), in honorific form it is spoken as 드세요. In polite and formal form, it is spoken as 먹습니다. In polite and informal form, it is 먹어요. In casual form, it is simply 먹어. The occasion and the social status of the person you are speaking to determine which form is appropriate. When I was a beginner, the different forms of 먹다 are like different words to me. It really doesn't occur to me that there are different forms of the same word. There is also the problem about switching between the different forms. Even if I am able to know when to switch, my tongue can be a bit too stiff to make the change correctly.

Fourth difficulty is irregular verb. It is hard to explain this difficulty if you do not know basic Korean but just take it that the way an irregular verb is written can change under different situations. For example just take a look at the following changes to the verb 만들다(to make):

만들다 + (ㄴ)다음에 = 만든 다음에
만들다 + (ㅂ)시다 = 만듭시다
만들다 + 시다 = 만드세요

As you can see (words in red) 만들다 has morphed into different words under different situations but the meaning of the word has not changed. Irregular verbs are actually quite common in Korean language. Without a good knowledge of irregular verbs, dictionary is actually quite useless because the verb stem has to be first determined before the dictionary can give the right meaning. In this case, I need to make up that the verb stem is 만들다.

The last difficulty is irregular pronunciation. Example, 입니다 is pronounced 임니다, 못합니다 is pronounced 모탐니다, 읽는다 is pronounced 잉는다, just to name a few. There are also many pronunciation rules in the Korean language which can attribute to "irregularity". To be fair, in most cases, the change in pronunciation of a word is determined by rules and not that "irregular" per se. This last difficulty together with sound-in-liaison are creating havoc to my listening.

As what my Korean language teacher told us during our level one Korean language lesson: It is easy to read, write and speak hangeul but you will not know what they mean. She was absolutely right. But to learn Korean, I guess its 할 수 없어요(no choice). Mentally, I am telling myself, learning Korean cannot be harder than learning Chinese. It is just a matter of time.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

부대찌개의 이야기

When I was introduced the different types of Korean food during my level 1 Korean language lesson, the Korean food that left the most impression on me was Budaejjigae. Ironically, I have yet to taste Budaejjigae. "Budae" (부대-部隊) means a military unit and "Jjigae" refers to a stew made from chilli pepper paste. My teacher told the class that Budaejjigae has a sad story behind it.

The "budae" actually refers to the American military units and Budaejjigae was a product of the Korean War. During the war, food was scarce and the Koreans had to resort to eating the leftovers from the American soldiers' ration. That is why sausage, ham, bacon and cheese are among the ingredients found in Budaejjigae. To suit the Koreans' palate, the leftovers were cooked in chilli pepper paste and hence Budaejjigae was born.

I will count my blessing if I am ever going to eat Budaejjigae. Korean War may be over but the memory still continues in Budaejjigae. This is one meaningful Korean food that I will want to try. Not sure if it is sold in Singapore though.

One-person portion of Budaejjigae [Photo Credit: FatMan Seoul]

공부해야 하는 나

I was at Jonggak station (정각역-鐘閣驛) and on my way to Cheonggyecheon (청계천-淸溪川) when I accidentally came across two mega bookstores in Korea, the Bandi & Luni's and Yongpyeon. I just could not help but stop to take a look at these bookstores. It took me a few hours to roam the bookstores though. They are "mind-boggling" huge to say the least. Living in a country where assessment books probably out-sell any other books, it is hard to imagine that a mega bookstore concept is going to take off in Singapore any time soon.

One of those things that I did in Bandi & Luni's was to look for Korean Language textbooks. I managed to find a series of textbooks published by the Language Education Institute of the Seoul National University under the foreign book section. Each volume of texbook cost 15,000won(S$25). The workbook cost another 13,000won(S$21.50). It was not that expensive considering that one textbook is supposed to be used for 200 hours of instruction or 10 weeks of lesson. For some reasons, I did not buy any of the textbooks. Perhaps, it was because of the fever that I was having then.

By the time I was out from Jonggak station it was already late afternoon. The late summer sun had lost its mid-day rage and it was cooling walking along Cheonggyecheon.

A month later, back in Singapore, a friend who just came back from Seoul lent me her SNU's Korean language textbook volume 3. She said that her Korean language level was not good enough to use the textbook yet. She probably has over-estimated my language standard as well. As written in the textbook, it is meant for adult learners who have a knowledge of Korean with about 400 hours of classroom time or the equivalent. Adding up all the formal Korean language lesson time I have, I am not even meeting half of the classroom time required by the textbook.

Nevertheless, without any more Korean lessons to attend, this textbook has been quite useful in maintaining my learning tempo. My electronic dictionary has also been very helpful in breaching the knowledge gap. For my next Korean trip, more of these language books shall be on the top of my buying list.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

산이 있는 곳에

Picture taken at "Nine-Carps Lake" (九鲤湖) in Fujian Province (福建省)

흙이 있는 곳에 초목이 성장할 수 있어요. 산이 있는 곳에 물이 있어야 해요. 산과 물은 분리하지 못 해요. 영원히 같이 함께 있겠어요.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

그렇게 안돼

그곳이 한국이 아니에요. 중국이에요. 하지만 왜 케이블 카안에 한글만 볼 수 있었어요? 다름 언어들이 없었어요? 제가 모르겠어요. 이상하죠?

I was sitting in the cable car going up to the Great Wall at Badaling (八达岭). I noticed that Hangeul was scribbled all over the wall of the cable car. Strangely, there was no scribbling in other languages although thousands of tourists from all over the world visit the Great Wall at Badaling every day. Not to mention the large number of local Chinese who also make their trip up every day.

Why was there only Hangeul scribbling? Perhaps, the act of scribbling was contagious. Only Koreans were encouraged to leave their marks inside the cable car after some Koreans decided to set the "trend" at a much earlier time.

Monday, December 04, 2006



韩文版的《夜来香》收入在《舞者的纯情》的电影原声带。文根英唱的《夜来香》当然不可能翻译原来的中文歌词。21世纪的人类对爱的表现不可能象当年那样含蓄。歌词里没有 “那南风吹来清凉,那夜莺啼声凄怆”只有 “我一直等待着你,为你一个人等待”。没有“我为你歌唱,我为你思量”只有“你全不知道,我对你的爱”。单听韩文版的歌词就很现代。歌的节奏也很轻快很入流,完全不会感觉到那是一首旧歌。怎么说,好歌就是耐听。


Sunday, December 03, 2006

표가 다 팔렸어요

What? All flight from Singapore to Korea has been fully booked until the end of the year?

Yes, the waiting list is also very long as well.

Alright, Thanks.

Too late to do anything now. I will have to find some other place to spend my year-end vacation.

I was thinking of getting myself "frozen" in Korea's sub-zero temperature. Or perhaps see icicles forming on my hairs. Winter should be a good time for me to go Korea. For the past few times when I was in Korea, I fell quite sick. So I joke that I won't fall sick in Korea if I am going there in winter. Can't possibly get sick if I am frozen, right?

How I wish I have a neko-bus that can take me to anywhere I wish. Neko-bus is good in that its seat is "furry" comfortable and it is free. The only problem with the bus is that it operates only at night.

Somehow when reality is not favourable, a little bit of fantasy does help.

할머니의 고향

"고향이 어디 있어요?" (Where is your hometown?) is a strange question to me. As a Singaporean, 고향(故鄕-hometown) has very little meaning to me. I feel awkward if I am to answer, "제 고향이 싱가포르 있어요." (My hometown is Singapore.)

Singapore is a small country. I go to work from my home in the morning and go back to the same home in the evening. I don't need to leave my home to stay somewhere else to work. During festival, I don't need to squeeze on a bus or train to get back home. I see my family everyday and visit my relatives frequently. There is never a sense of separation or detachment in me while living in Singapore. That is why I always feel awkward about being asked the question.

But to my grandmother, 고향 meant a lot to her. She was among the first generation of Chinese immigrants who arrived in Malaya from China to find a livelihood. Life in China during the early 1900s was tough enough to send her to board a cargo ship bound for the unknown. Between a known future of despair and an unknown future of possibility, she had decided to go for the more benign choice.

My grandmother's hometown is in Fujian Province, Putian City. Like most Chinese immigrants who worked overseas, she would remit part of her earning back to China to support my uncle's family and her relatives. She also built a red-brick house in her hometown with her remittance. Since I was young, I have always wanted to see this building for myself.

In December 2004, I stepped foot in China for the first time and my first destination was my grandmother's hometown. I finally saw that red-brick building. Looking at it, I could suddenly understand why my grandmother would rather sting on herself and save all the money she could to build a house in her hometown which she would never stay in.

Perhaps to call a place a hometown, she needed a house where her heart could always go back to.

My grandmother's red-brick house in Putian City, Fujian Province [Dec 2004]

Saturday, December 02, 2006

또 토요일 밤

出场的歌手有진호和“甜蜜的伤悲”(Sweet Sorrow)。
진호将为你带来Bossa Nova曲风的“倘若我们”。

Friday, December 01, 2006

작은 빨간 점

My dowoomi (Korean pal) and I were visiting the National Museum of Korea. The first exhibition room we entered, there was a world map on one side of the wall.

Pointing to the map, I asked my dowoomi, "솔암 씨, 싱가폴을 어디에 있는지 알아요?" (Do you know where is Singapore?)

She pointed to the Southeast Asia region but did not know the exact spot of Singapore. Not too bad for my dowoomi to know that Singapore is in Southeast Asia and not China.

I knew it was not easy for a foreigner to know the exact position of Singapore. Singapore as an island state is too small to be represented in a world map afterall. Therefore to emphasise its position, Singapore is usually represented as a little red dot. Even that, many foreigners are still very vague about its location in the world map. This is a Singapore's dilemma - well known in the world but yet many do not know where it exists in this world.

Singapore is located at Southern tip of the Asia continent. However, it does not hold the honour as the Southern-most point of the Asia continent because it is not connected to the continent by land. The honour belongs to Tanjong Piai in Malaysia. Small as it may be, the world shipping will have to transit the Singapore Strait to get from East Asia to Europe and vice-versa.

The world may not miss Singapore if it ceases to exist one day but Singapore definitely needs the world to continue to exist. Only after I was old enough to leave Singapore to see the world did I discover that for Singapore island to even exist as a country is something of a miracle.

I am proud of where I come from. I will be glad if my foreign friends know where my home is in this world. Therefore, 솔암 씨 잘 했어요. ^^b