Sunday, April 29, 2007

좋은 시간이었어요

This will be my last posting on my 3-week Korean language study trip. Life is back to normal but I am getting a lot more work-stress these days. Attending Korean lessons are now my best stress-reliever. It does make a different doing something that I like. As I wrote before I have more things to write about than I have the time. Recently, I have not been covering about my Korean study very much. There are many ideas sitting in my mind for quite a while but I think they will have to wait. With the end of this posting, I shall be taking a break from blogging to settle my work-debt and brush up on my Korean language basics. It has been such a wonderful time. I think this is perhaps the meaning of living one's life.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Staying in Korean for 24 days, there are definitely more than 15 dishes of Korean food which I have eaten. However, I wasn't really into taking photos of food, so what you see here were as much as what I was willing to capture. Food is so much an indispensable part of daily routine. As such, I think I will have miss out an important part of my study trip if I do not cover something about Korean food. So here it is, pictures only because I am not good at describing how each food tasted. As I was working on this posting, I can feel that Pavlovian Conditioning is slowly taking effect on me. Just thinking and looking at the food makes me salivate.

덕수궁에 두번째 갔다

[1st Row] Junghwamun (중화문-中和門). [2nd Row] Seogeodang (석어당-昔御堂). [3rd Row] Desksugung Art Musuem (덕수궁미술관-德壽宮美術館)

I visited Deoksugung (덕수궁-德壽宮) for the second time as part of our study field trip. Deoksugung was not as big and built up as what I would think a palace should be. There were not more than 10 historical buildings in the palace. In term of size, I would probably call it a park. Deoksugung was set in the heart of the Seoul city. Walking in it, didn't give me a sense of going back in time as my view was often a juxtaposition of historical building with modern high-rise buildings in the distant background. If history is not considered, Deoksugung will be less of a palace but more of a park and it is really an exotic park that is worth a visit.

Friday, April 27, 2007

영화를 보기로 했다

Seoul Cinema located in between Jongno Sam-ga and Euljiro Sam-ga Station

Megabox Cinema (Level 5~6) inside Migliore shopping mall in Sinchon

하늘, 산과 호수

Singapore lacks both natural resources and scenery. This scene of sky, mountain and river at Chuncheon is extremely delightful to me.

City-dweller like me sometimes badly needs a place of serenity to escape to. In Chuncheon, I can sit by the river the whole day just reading book.

It is quite difficult to get an unobstruted view in Singapore. A view like this that stretches out to the sky simply open up both my mind and heart.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

흰눈 보고 싶어

For my 3 weeks stay in Seoul, altogether I took 1677 photos. But I think only about 20 percent are usable. Of these, two-thirds were already posted. As it is, my photo reserve will soon be exhausted. Despite that, I will be uploading more photos in the coming weeks so that I can finish with them and move on to something else. I am starting this series of photo uploading with the theme "white snow". Though it is quite strange to be still talking about snow when the Spring has already crossed its halfway mark, I don't seem to get enough of it. It is warm tonight though it rains this afternoon. I have never slept better than when I was in Seoul. Perhaps it was the cold weather or it could be that I was stress-free. I miss the snow and the good sleep :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Picture taken inside "Canmore" fruit and dessert shop.

따뜻한 느낌

What is happiness? Happiness is a feeling of warmth. Warmth can be as simple as one warm light and someone waiting for you to return. It does help you to understand warmth better if the outdoor temperature is sub-zero degree Celsius.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

홍대에 가봐

I was first introduced to Hongik University or Hongdae in my Sogang Korean Language textbook. My teacher told us that there are four famous universities in Sinchon area. They are Sogang, Yonsei, Ewha and Hongik. I have since visited all except Yonsei. No particular reason why I left Yonsei out. It was just because I didn't have enough time. As stated in a tourist brochure which I took from the Korean Tourism Organisation main office, Hongdae is one of the favourite hangouts for young Koreans. The streets in the vicinity of Hongdae are lined with unique clubs, performance, shopping and eateries. I visited Hongdae on a Saturday evening and I remembered vividly that I have to squeeze my way through the crowd to get out of the subway station.

Inside Hongik Univeristy campus

Hongdae's football field in early Spring

This slope leads out of Hongdae. There is no main gate at Hongdae.

A nice cafe called "Banana Swing" located beside Hongdae Flea Market

Another nice glasshouse cafe called "Avenue"

This is a noraebang. A nice hang-out after class.

춘천의 호수

Chuncheon in Gangwon Province is both a city of mountains and lakes. Lakes in Chuncheon are not lakes in the natural sense. They are formed due to the construction of dams. Picture above is Uiam Lake (의암호-衣岩湖). The Uiam Dam is over at the other end. The place where I took the picture was quite secluded. We got there by taking a taxi from Chuncheon city but we had some problem getting a taxi back. We waited for more than half an hour before an empty taxi came along the way. The lesson learnt is that if you want to visit some "exotic" place be prepared to take a longer time to return to base.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Learning Korean is like climbing mountain. The higher I get, the colder it gets. In SKS, there is only two of us in the advanced class. In NEX, there is only eleven of us in the post-advanced class. To get a sense of proportion, the basic level 1 Korean class in NEX these days can reach a size of 30 students. But how many of these students will continue beyond the basic level? I know that my learning journey ahead is going to get even more lonely but I am prepared to brave the "coldness". I want my heart to continue to shine brightly like this lamp despite standing on a snow-covered lawn.

눈이 올 때

When it snows, how about a snowball fight? The person who "hamtan" (hit) me one too many times better watch out next time. Trust me, you can go crazy hitting one another with snowballs.


제 눈앞 바로 한강인데요.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

스트레스를 받지 마세요

I attended the first Post-Advanced Korean Language course at NUS Extension yesterday afternoon. Including this course, I will have Korean lesson every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. With 6 hours of Korean lesson every week, I have never been studying Korean in Singapore so intensively before.

When the lesson started yesterday, there were altogether 11 students. I was excited to be in a class with so many fine students. There are two Korean language teacher assistants, one Japanese language scholar, one Yonsei University exchange programme student, two Kyunghee University 3 week programme students and two English language teachers. All students have already completed or going to complete level 6 course.

After learning about the background of each student (from Ebony Bae), our teacher, Ms Chi Seo Won (지서원-池緖媛) gladly told us that she harboured high hope for the class. However, I am not too sure if I can live up to that expectation after she sees my test paper. We sat for a 1-hour test before the start of yesterday lesson. I was quite confused by the irregular verbs.

This course is supposed to be taught by both Ms Chi and Ms Ebony. Apparently, still shaken by an unpleasant incident that happened earlier, Ms Chi appealed to us not to approach the reception counter to withdraw from course if it happens that Ms Ebony cannot turn out to teach due to her busy schedule. Poor Ms Chi, I hope she can recover from the earlier incident. It is so rare for a class, as a whole, to threaten to withdraw from a course if they do not get their preferred teacher.

This Post-Advanced course focuses on both conversational and listening skills. The lesson theme will revolve around Korean culture and that means we will learn more about the Korean culture as we practise our conversational and listening skills. For the first lesson, there was not much practice on these two skills yet though we were introduced to Insadong and given one A4-size paper filled with words associated with the place. Next week, we can expect half an hour of presentation with the rest of the time given to listening and conversation. I think it is going to be an interesting course.

Everything was good about the course. The only gripe I have is that it is conducted in a Saturday afternoon. That is normally a period when I take my afternoon nap. I hope I don't get drowsy and sleepy during class in the coming weeks just in case Ms Chi thinks that her lesson is boring, which is of course not true.

별처럼 반짝반짝

The post-advanced Korean language class at NUS Extension has finally started yesterday. As the class was in the afternoon, I managed to catch a morning show at Cathay Cinema. I have long to watch the movie "200 Pounds Beauty" since I was introduced to the song "Maria" during our Korean song lesson in KHU. The movie review in the Straits Time gave it a 2 stars out of 5. But that didn't really bother me. Even if that reporter has given it a 1 out of 5, I will still watch it. The storyline is simple, entertaining and touching. The movie's climax has all the ingredients to move one to tears. The most potent tear-causing factor was perhaps the song "Byeol" (별-Star). This song was played during the climax amidst the confession made by Kang Hanna. Kim A-Jung, as Kang Hanna, sang this song in the movie. There is in fact another version of the song. The music video below belongs to the SBS Korean Drama "Lovers" (연인-戀人) and the soundtrack "Byeol" is sung by Yumi (유미). Without seeing the lyrics, I can already feel the heartache in the song. Ouch.

미녀는 괴로워 OST 별(김아중,유미)

바람결이 창을 흔들고 내키만한
작은 나의방 위로 아름답게 별빛들을 가득 채워주네요

셀 수없이 많은 별들은 지쳐있는
나를어루만지며 내맘속에 가득담은 눈물 닦아주네요

많이 아파하지마 날 꼭 안은채 다독여주며
잘자라 위로해주네요
걷지 못할만큼 힘이 겨워아파와도
눈물이 앞을 가려와도
갖지못할내 사랑앞에도 나 웃을래요
잠시라도 곁에 행복했던 기억들을
가슴에 간직할게요
두눈에 수놓아진 저 별들처럼 영원히.

꿈을 꾸듯 다가오네요 유난히도 밝은 나의 별 하나
눈부시게 반짝이며 어깨 위로 내려와

자꾸 슬퍼하지마 손 꼭 잡은채 날 만져주며
따스히 날 감싸주네요

걷지 못할만큼 힘이 겨워 아파와도
눈물이 앞을 가려와도
갖지못할내 사랑앞에도 나 웃을래요
잠시라도 곁에 행복했던 기억들을
가슴 속에 간직할게요
두눈에 수놓아진 저 별들처럼 Oh-

나 오늘만은 안 울어요
눈물이 가득 차와도
저기 저 별들처럼 나 웃을래요.....

행복했던 기억들을
가슴 속에 간직할게요
두눈에 수놓아진 저 별들처럼 영원히......

Friday, April 20, 2007

아직 그만두지 않아

These days I have too much things to worry about. Whether I like it or not, stress is here to stay. I used to tell my boss, "Don't worry about me. If I think I cannot cope anymore, I will quit."

Personally, I don't see quitting as a sign of weakness. I once saw this "demotivational" poster which said it all. Quitters don't win. Winners don't quit. But if you don't win and don't quit, you are an idiot.

All said, I am not about to quit anything. I think I understand stress enough to tame it. At least it is not wreaking havoc to my health yet. Stress is like a raging bull. The only way to tame it, as I was told, is to hold it by its horn. But if I am losing grip, I can always quit to fight any day.

The photo below was taken when I was on my way to Hangang Park at Yeouido Naru. I like the feeling that day. It was stress-free. I wish I can have more of such feeling. Hopefully I don't have to wait until I am old and weak.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

서울 생활

I have added three pictures of my simple life in Seoul. Simple to the extent that it was perhaps boring. I did not visit Lotte World Amusement Park, Namsan Park, Noraebang (노래방-Karaoke) or Jjimjilbang (찜질방-Korean Sauna) despite being to Seoul for four times. However, it never occurs to me that I need to visit these places. I just like leading a simple life in a busy city like Seoul.

Simple life like visiting Kyobo bookstore to search for Korean language textbooks

Simple life like taking the subway and discovering new places in Seoul.

Simple life like watching Ajeosshi pushing away the snow after snowing stopped.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

날씨가 춥다면 ...

강의실에서 선생님이 학생들한테 "날씨가 춥다면 뭘 할 거예요?" 라고 물어봤어요. 한 명 싱가포르학생이 "날씨가 춥다면 공원에 산책갈 거예요" 라고 대답했어요. 나는 비슷한 대답을 줬어요. 제가 날씨가 춥다면 아이스크림을 먹고 싶다고 했어요. 싱가포르사람들의 생각이 이상하지 않지요?

In the lecture room, our teacher was asking the students, "If the weather is cold what will you do?". "If the weather is cold, I will take a stroll in a park.", one Singapore student replied. I gave a similar answer. I said if the weather is cold I will want to eat ice cream. Aren't Singaporeans strange?

Most of the Japaneses and Koreans whom I came across prefer warmer weather. Yet Singaporean like me can't seen to get enough of the cold weather. I guess what people usually want are things which they lack or are deprived of.

Speaking of eating ice cream during cold weather. There was this little indulgence that I had - a tub of "Naturr" ice cream after dinner which I bought from the convenience store near my dormitory. Eating ice cream in cold weather is just one of those simple delights in life.


What does a poor "yu hak saeng" (유학생-留學生) like me eat for dinner in Seoul? One of the cheapest dinner I ever eaten was this 2,000won ($3.30) Tuna Ramyeon (참치라면) at "Gimbap Heaven" (김밥천국). "Gimbap Heaven" is a 24-hours gimbap (seaweed roll) chain and is some sort of a "convenient store" for Korean food. For the price I was paying, I didn't expect the Tuna Ramyeon to taste better than Shin Ramyeon. Life was tough as a poor "yu hak saeng". Alright, maybe I was not that poor or I would have been cooking Shin Ramyeon for my dinner inside my dormitory. That definitely cost less than 2,000won.

횡단 보도

I lost count of the number of times I crossed this zebra crossing (횡단보도-橫斷步道) to get to Kyung Hee University or back to the dormitory. Anyway, I took this picture when I was going for my dinner. One disadvantage of living in the dormitory is that they don't provide meals unlike boarding house. That was why I have to go out every night to have my dinner. Once I crossed that zebra crossing, there would be many eating outlets to select from.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


This video is taken by one those students who is on a 4 months language exchange programme at KHU. I recognised some of the students in the video. We attended the same opening ceremony back at Institute of International Education. I am back since but they are still in Kyunghee. Its nice to see our teacher, Ms Cheon Eun Jeong (천은정), making a cameo appearance in the video. The song they are singing brings back memory of my Korean level 1 lesson at NUS Extension. We were taught the same song as well. It was supposed to be a children song about the different body parts.

머리(head) 어깨(shoulder) 무릎(knee) 발(foot) 무릎 발. . . 머리 어깨 무릎 발 무릎 발. . . A childish song but memorable.

Monday, April 16, 2007

밤을 먹을래?

Scene like this ajumma selling roasted chestnuts-"bam" (밤-栗子) by the roadside is common in Korea but it was interesting enough for me to take a shot. It was interesting not because I have not seen chestnuts before but rather the way the chestnuts were roasted. In Singapore, chestnuts are roasted in a wok filled with small pebbles. The pebbles are meant to spread the heat evenly so that the chestnuts are roasted evenly. What I saw in Korea was that each chestnut was roasted individually over a stove and de-shelled before selling. In Singapore, the chestnuts are roasted in one big wok and they are sold with the nutshells intact. Regardless of which roasting methods actually give tastier chestnuts, the sight of ajumma roasting each chestnut with care and then de-shelling them just make those chestnuts look so much tastier.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

짜장면의 이야기

Today is Black Day. Lacking of other nice thing to blog about, I thought I shall just write about Jjajangmyeon (짜장면-炸酱面).

I ate the first bowl of Jjajangmyeon of my lifetime at Bukgyeong Yori (북경요리-北京料理), an eating house near KHU which serves mainly Chinese cuisine. I must say it was "love at first bite". The noodle was of just the right texture. It was not soggy and it gave very good chewing sensation. The rich and starchy black-bean sauce added with sliced onions and bit-sized chicken meat was so flavourful and tasty.

When the Jjajangmyeon was served, the noodle was actually covered under a thick layer of black-bean sauce. The next thing to do was to mix the noodle and the sauce well with the chopsticks until the noodle could soak up a fair bit of the sauce. With that done the Jjajangmyeon was ready to be eaten.

One bowl of Jjajangmyeon like this cost 3,000won (S$5). One can actually ask for home delivery service for Jjajangmyeon in Korea like what we can do for pizza and fast-food in Singapore.

If someone can make such delicious Jjajangmyeon in Singapore, it can well be a run-away hit. Add in that delivery service, it shall be selling like hot cake. If I know the secret recipe to making good Jjajangmyeon I probably give "laksa", "cha kueh teow" and "lor mee" a run for their money and fame.

Friday, April 13, 2007


"처음처럼"(chor-um chor-rom)是“如同当初”的意思。事事都有个开始,而开始的时候总是懵懵懂懂,却也是最开心。单纯的想象,满腹的期待。

"처음처럼" 在南韩是一个烧酒的品牌。在地铁列车里看到那烧酒的广告时,心在想烧酒和“如同当初”有什么联系?是不是“如同当初”的酿酒法所酿制出来的高品质烧酒,或是喝到最"high"时,感觉会“如同当初”。



Wednesday, April 11, 2007

어젯 밤처럼

It seemed like that it was just last night that I took this picture of Hoegi Station from my room. When I looked out of the window and saw people waiting at the platform for the next arriving train, I had an image of home in my mind. It has been a tiring day. It's time to go home now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

짜장면 한그릇 추가

This Saturday is "Black Day" in Korea. A day to be "celebrated" with eating of Jjajangmyeon or maybe watching a "Black Day Concert". This concert is a special event organised by Hongik University's Gas Station and is meant for all the "solo" out there (솔로들을 위한 틀별 이벤트) or at least that is what the poster is trying to say. I like the idea of a "Black Day". I don't see it as promoting or celebrating singlehood but rather a day to be happy about your current state of being "love-less". It gives people without someone to love some reason to celebrate. Life needs balance like "Black Day".

Monday, April 09, 2007

입학 시험을 봤어

This evening I was at the Singapore Korean School. Yes, I have decided to make the switch. I was there to take my placement test for my Korean language course which is starting tomorrow. My intention is to start my learning at Intermediate Level 2, which according to the SKS website, is equivalent to Kyunghee Intermediate Level 1. To be precise, SKS has split the syllabus of Kyunghee Intermediate Level 1 into 2 courses of 10 weeks each and it termed them Intermediate 1 (I1) and Intermediate 2 (I2).

When I entered the room where the placement test was conducted, there were already two students present. Between them, there was an old man whom I was told was formerly from NUS Extension (NEX). I can take solace in not being the only "defector". Hehe... Anyway I have informed my NEX teacher about my intention to switch to SKS. She felt sorry that she was not able to start intermediate-level courses at the moment. But I am definitely going back to NEX to attend any post-advance courses if they do start afterall. I am missing all the fun that I had in my previous classes.

Back to the placement test. I was told by the teacher invigilating the test, Ms Min, that I need to score 100% in order to go directly to I2. If I commit any mistake I should consider starting at I1. Good grief, how am I going to achieve that? There's bound to be silly mistakes and words that I have not come across. True enough, I only managed to score 40 out of 43 and was advised by Ms Min to go to I1. Her rationale was that the test paper took questions from the first 4 chapters of the Kyunghee Elementary Level 2 workbook. If I cannot get all the answers right, it shows that there is gap and I need to fix it by attending lower-level course.

Right now, I can still remember vividly the mistakes which I made.

First mistake: I did not notice that the sentence "안경을 써서 책을 봅니다" was wrong. The question actually required me to pick the wrong statement. 안경을 쓰다 is grammatically correct because 써 and 서 are "forbidden" to go together as both words sound very similar. I was previously taught this rule but it did not stick in my mind. After this, it will probably stick forever.

Second mistake: This statement "책이 많이 넣으니까 가방이 무워요" is wrong but I did not pick it out. I should have known that 무겁워요 is wrongly written but I wasn't prepared for trick question like this. It was a silly mistake. 무겁다 changes to 무거워요 is actually very simple grammar.

Third mistake: Actually, this is not a mistake or an error at all. I simply do not know the meaning to three of the four choices given, so I was prepared to get it wrong. The question is: fill in the blank for the sentence, . . . 오후 날씨가 밝게 ____. The right answer is 개겠습니다. I do not know the right answer so I have no excuse.

Anyway, Ms Min eventually agreed for me to attend I2 as my result was still considered good enough. However, I was in for a surprise when she told me that SKS's I2 course would cover the first four chapters of Kyunghee Intermediate Level 1 textbook. That isn't what I am expecting when I read the SKS website. By attending I2 course at SKS, it would mean that I will have to repeat about 70% of the things which I have already learnt in KHU just weeks ago. But to take one step back, perhaps I should not be too quick to judge that repeating lesson is a waste of time. It maybe better for me to treat it as a revision and to take one step at a time.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


There are definitely more than nine things I will remember about Korea. But I kept to nine so that I do not clutter the picture too much.

I have been to Korea for five times and I don't think I will be going there again anytime soon. If I do go again, it will be to study Korean for two semesters which is 20 weeks. I don't know if it will ever materialise but that will be one of my future plans and the place of study may not necessary be Kyunghee again. Just to think a bit further, if it does happen, it will probably be some sort of a "finale" for my Korean learning journey. I also do not discount the possibility of taking up Masters for Korean language if there is ever going to be a part-time Masters programme for the language in Singapore.

During the 3 weeks in KHU, I have all the night time to think of questions that have been bugging for quite a while. Questions like what are my learning objectives, what is enough for me and how much more effort and resource am I willing to dedicate to my pursuit. I believe I have more or less straightened up my thoughts. I am now more assured of where I am heading. The confused mind which I was experiencing before leaving for Korea for the 3 weeks course was finally at rest. For where I think I will be, I will be. But most importantly, I like what I am doing.

한국말을 공부하기를 좋아하고 말고요.

무슨 문제가 있나요?

(강의실에서 문법수업 하는 중에)

선생님: 본국에서 세계적으로 유명한 사람이 있나요?
일본 학생: 나카타 히데토시 (일본 세계적으로 유명한 축구선수)
싱가폴 학생: 아.........

선생님: 본국에서 아름다운 곳을 추천하세요.
일본 학생: 후지산 아주 아름다워요.
싱가폴 학생: 에......... (혼잣말: 없어)

싱가폴 학생야, 무슨 문제가 있나요?
왜 그렇게 간단한 질문들이 잘 대답할 수 없는데요?

사실은 한국어로 대답하지 못하는 건 아니라 싱가폴은 작은 섬 때문에 유명한 것이 별로 없는데요. 혹시 누가 좋은 대답을 갖고 있으면 저한테 좀 알려 주시기 바랍니다. 감사합니다.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

돈까스 먹고 싶어

My lunch in KHU was mostly settled at the student's canteen. The general impression of student's canteen food is that while the price is cheap, the food is not delicious. However, I thought that the food tasted quite alright. Especially the donkatsu set, it was something which I ate most of the times.

That day when the above picture was taken, there were five dishes to choose from. Sometimes there were only three dishes. Quite limited in selection. The dishes shown in the picture are (clockwise, from top left),

버섯된장국 (Mushroom Miso Soup) - 2,000won
쇠고기 볶은밥 (Beef Fried Rice) - 2,300won
돈까스 (Donkatsu) - 2,500won
짬뽕&꼬마김밥 (Assortment and Mini-Gimbap) - 2,000won
설렁탕 (Korean Beef Soup) - 2,500won

My choice was of course donkatsu. While I was paying for the food coupon at the cashier counter, the ajumma was apparently amused at me taking picture of the food display cabinet. She asked smilingly if I was taking a picture of donkatsu. Well, I guess it is important enough to have record of something which I did almost everyday at KHU.

I am puzzled. I have never eaten donkatsu in Singapore before but suddenly within a short span of time, I was eating donkatsu every other day - not just in student's canteen but also at outside foodcourt and restaurant. One of the reason I can think of is probably easy accessibility. I could find donkatsu served almost everywhere in Seoul. There were also specialty eating houses that served just donkatsu. Donkatsu in Korea is not what we know of it in Singapore. By the way, the picture above is not the donkatsu served in the student's canteen. I bought that donkatsu set for 5,500won at Doota Food Court. For double the price I paid at the student's canteen, it got to look and taste much better.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

남춘천행 열차에서



Wednesday, April 04, 2007

난 괜찮아

I am so tired. So tired of waiting for the post-advance Korean language course to start at NUS extension. It has been postponed so many times and now I am not too sure if it is going to start afterall. I am prepared to join Singapore Korean School to continue with my learning there. It is good that SKS is using Kyung Hee textbooks and their highest level, which is advance level 2, is equivalent to Kyung Hee Intermediate level 2. If I can attain the standard of Intermediate level 2, that will probably be enough for me. Anything higher will not be of much use unless I intend to study or work in Korea. With no certainty of further learning at NEX, I will probably make the switch soon.

Recently I have been playing with the recoding function of my handphone. I was recording my voice as I read in Korean. I cringed when I heard my voice. It was so "terrifying" listening to my own "broken" Korean. I didn't know how bad I sound in Korean until then. Worst of all, I could not even differentiate some of the words that I have said. I thought I knew how to pronounce some Korean words but somehow the sound turned out quite different when I actually said them. I am starting to believe that my mind has been practising some form of "self-deception" for a long time. I need to do more "reality check" from now on. *^^*

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Picture taken during low tide at Jamjindo Island, off Incheon

The tide rises and falls with the passage of time. It seems that time has left its imprints on the mudflat. The truth is that anything, form or form-less, that passes by is capable of leaving behind its print. It can because there is a big mudflat in me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

벚꽃이 피기 시작할 거야

My dowoomi wrote to tell me that cherry blossom (벚꽃) will be blooming soon and Kyung Hee will transform into a beautiful garden . Its a pity that I cannot witness the blooming of cherry blossom. But all were not lost as I was still able to catch sight of the blooming of other harbingers of spring like Azalea (진달래), Forsythia (개나리) and Magnolia (목련) before leaving Seoul.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

그룹 사진

Our 2007 Spring 3-Week Korean Language Programme started on March 5 and ended on March 23. It brought together 45 students from Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and Greater China. The mix was not really as international as I would have hope. The majority was made up of Japaneses. There were 37 Japaneses of which five were kyobo. Four came from Singapore, two from UK and 2 from Greater China. To be specific, one was from Taiwan and the other from Hong Kong. Quite surprisingly, Singapore has the biggest representation after Japan.

We were divided into four classes depending on our Korean language level. Our level was determined by the result of the placement test we took during our first day of school. There were classes for elementary level 1, elementary level 2, intermediate level 1 and intermediate level 2. The International Institute of Education of Kyung Hee University has a 6-level Korean language curriculum. From my observation, only those students who were in intermediate level 2 could be considered proficient in Korean language. Although intermediate level 1 and 2 are only one level apart, the difference in language standard was apparent. It seems that intermediate level is the period when students shall see exponential improvement. To be able to reach that, students studying in Korea, would have attended 600 hours or 30 weeks or 3 semesters of lesson. In Singapore, I probably only reach 150 hours of lesson after 1 year.

The oldest student in our group is a 50-year old Japanese man. He started learning Korean after watching the World Cup 2002 which was jointly hosted by Korea and Japan. He has been learning Korean for 5 years so it was not surprising that he was placed in the intermediate level 2 class. We sat together in the bus during one of our field trip. Through our chat, I get to know that he is a high school English teacher who lives in Kanazawa. He spends half a year in US learning English and another half travelling around the country. He is also a farmer and he will be busy when the planting season starts in April. He plants crop not for sale but for family and relatives consumption. Frankly, I really like the life he is leading. I think I will be very much happier leading a simple life.

My encounter with the Taiwanese was also interesting. He is studying in Tokyo and his Japanese is without a doubt good. Studying Korean is just a vacation break for him. Talking with him just confirm my suspicion that Taiwanese tends to think that all Singaporeans live under perennial fear of our authoritarian government. Yes, we do not practise full democracy and freedom of speech here but that does not mean we have to live in fear. His image of Singapore is that it is a very clean and beautiful city because Singaporeans are afraid of throwing rubbish wantonly as we are afraid of being fined. My reply to him is that Singapore is clean not because Singaporeans are afraid of throwing rubbish. On the contrary, Singaporeans are still throwing rubbish and very few people are fined or punished. It is clean because our cleaning agencies and workers are so efficient that all rubbish thrown is probably picked up the next day.

Having Japanese as classmate was actually quite a blessing. They were usually quite poor in speaking English and Chinese. Not knowing Japanese as well, I was compelled to use my half-baked Korean to communicate with them and that has helped me to practise my Korean a lot. I was actually quite glad when they knew what I was telling them. It was an interesting experience speaking to each other in a language that was foreign to us and to be able to understand each other most of the times.

To really have an international experience, I will probably have to go for the regular Korean language programme which is 10 weeks long. From what I have heard, the foreign student population in such programme can range from 600 to 800. Each student's face will appear as a dot in the group photo. Fortunately for our 3 week programme, our group-size is quite small and our faces still appear quite clear in our group photo. Kimchi ~

2007학년도 경희대학교육원 춘계3주 한국어교육 프로그램