Friday, July 27, 2007


If you have not known, my latest blog's banner comes from a picture which I took in Kyunghee University, Suwon Campus. It is a picture of the stained glass found inside the University Administration Hall and the Central Library. I think it is one of the most colourful banner which I have created so far. While the banner looks nice, I like the original picture better. The sharp contrast of light and darkness makes the picture distinctive.

The recent weather in Singapore has been rather cooling because of the frequent raining. As temperature drops, I tend to feel sleepy much easier. I am starting to suspect that the human body is actually very sensitive to temperature changes. If it senses a temperature drop, the body will start to prepare itself for "hibernation". Perhaps this is a survival instinct. Animals hibernate during winter to preserve energy when food is scarce. Though humans no longer need to worry about food scarcity problem during winter, the hibernating instinct has not yet been completely abandoned. I guess this explain why I slept so well when the outside temperature in Korea was sub-zero degree Celsius.

Things are getting a bit busy for me these days to the extent that I do not have enough time for my TOPIK homework. Our teacher expects 100% passing rate for our class and I do want to disappoint her. I must say she is very committed to ensuring we are well prepared. She prepares a lot of useful notes for each lesson. Perhaps I may share some of them in future. There are a lot of things being taught during class and many homework to do. When we don't submit our homework or prepare for lesson, her hand will simulate holding a knife and cutting through her chest and while doing that says "수상" (受傷). What she is trying to tell us is that it hurts when we are not working hard enough after she has spent so much time preparing the lesson notes. I want to do well for the exam so blogging will have to take a back seat for the time-being. One and a half month more to go before the TOPIK exam. I need to get serious about my preparation from now on.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

믿을 수 있어요?

Will you ever believe someone who walks up smiling to you and says, "지금부터 긴 이야기를 시작할 텐데 믿어 줄 수 있어요?" (From this moment onwards, I will start a long story. Will you believe me?). It really depends on whether you believe in miracle. I like "Il Mare" because it plays with miracle and yet makes it almost believable.

I like seeing the effect of love on time and space in this movie. At the movie's ending, love manages to break them all down. In reality, we are never really separated by time and space but rather by the lack of love for one another. I recall one story. Why do people shout at each other when they are unhappy? They need to shout because their hearts are separated by a long distance. The further the separation, the louder the shouting will be. So love does break down time and space and conversely the lack of it creates time and space.

Till today, seven years after, the movie continues to bring me inspiration. It doesn't matter where you are in the time spectrum or where you are physically located, if you do like the movie like I do, the time and space between us will break down. And if we do meet, I will be curious to know "who" meets "who". Is it the future-me meeting the past-you or the past-me meeting the future-you?

My Kwangsoo's Thought of the day: We are separated by heart and not by time and space.

The attached video clip is the last 9 mins of the movie "Il Mare". If you have not seen the movie you may not want to watch this.

Monday, July 23, 2007

마음을 훕치는 사람

I was first introduced to this Korean comics during our Korean Culture Course at NEX. 광수생각 or "Kwangsoo's Thoughts" is apparently a very successful comics series in Korea. The main character is called "Sin Bborie" (신뽀리) and not Kwangsoo as I first thought. The name "Sin Bborie" has the meaning of wanting to steal your heart. Yes, Bborie does successfully steal a lot of readers' heart by filling their hearts with warmth. Bborie is a sensitive guy with a lot of empathy for others. He does not lie. He has integrity. He is frank and last but not least, he is patriotic. Kwangsoo's Thoughts, in general, talks about love and separation of lovers, the nostalgia in people, friendship and family and the warm feeling and thought of life. If you can read Korean, you will probably love the comics like many other Koreans do. However, if what matters to you is the drawing then perhaps "Kwangsoo's Thoughts" may not appeal that much. Below are two comics strips of Kwangsoo's Thoughts. The translation is found below each comics.

Picture 1:
Teacher: Remember the homework on family tree and writing down the characteristics of your relatives which I teacher gave you the last time? All done?

Picture 2:
Bborie: Yes!
Other students: Yes

Picture 3:
Teacher: Oh really? Shin Bborie, shall I see what you have come out with?

Picture 4:
Teacher looks at the family tree. Bborie wrote the following characteristics about his family and relative.

Grandfather - Never gives me money.
Grandmother - Gives me a bit of money.
Father - Come back late at night so cannot get money from him
Mother - Only gives me 100won a day. Nothing more.
Uncle - Never gives me money and yet still makes me run errand for him.
Me - And I need to eke out a living with this little money.

Please tell your children that there is more important things than money

Picture 1:
Woman: Honey, do you love me?
Bborie: Of Course~! Like sky that much ...

Picture 2:
Bborie suddenly realizes that if he is to say I love you like sky that much, she may feel that my love is very low.

Picture 3:
Woman: Honey, do you love me?
Bborie: Of course~! Like earth that much ...

Picture 4:
Bborie realizes again that if he is to say I love you like earth that much, she may feel that my love is very limited.

Picture 5:
After all these thoughts, Bborie thinks to himself that he should just say I love you.

Woman: Honey, do you love me?
Bborie: Um, I love you!

When you want to say I love you, words other than I love you must not be said.

Friday, July 20, 2007

딸기도 비싸지다

In March 2006, a box of strawberry at Hoegidong was sold for a price of 2,000won. In March 2007, a same box of strawberry at Hoegidong was sold for 3,000won. Wow, that is a 50% increase in price. Did the property price at Hoegidong shot up as well or was the strawberry much sweeter in 07 than 06?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

학비가 비싸졌다

Korean courses at NUS Extension are getting so expensive these days after the latest fee adjustment. The latest round of fee increases were meant to offset the "significant increase" in operating and rental costs, so said the NUS Extension. I guess the price hike is inevitable since the Singapore property market are getting red hot again. It also doesn't help that Park Mall building belongs to one of those Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) out there. If the REIT shareholders are going to earn 5% return on their investment every year, the rental cost at Park Mall and eventually the course fee at NEX will have to escalate at more than 5% every year. I started my first Korean course at NEX in Oct 2005 paying only $320. Within two years, the course fee has increased by $100 more to $420. That is about 15% increase in course fee every year. I still prefer lesson at NEX but with the runaway course fee I may drop the idea of going back to NEX completely.

This is not the Park Mall building where NUS Extension is located. This is I'Park Mall at Yongsan, Seoul.

Monday, July 16, 2007

벌써 1주년이다

Today is the first anniversary of this blog but I can do without the bells and whistles. I will write about my thoughts over this one year at a later time. As you can see I am keeping to short posting these days as I am still quite busy for the time-being. By the way, tomorrow is Korea's Constitution Day so there won't be any lesson tomorrow night at Singapore Korean School. The teachers and staff at SKS seem to have the best of both worlds. Regardless of whether it is a Singapore or Korea's public holiday, it is an off-day for them. Apparently, from 2008 onwards, July 17 will no longer be a public holiday in Korea. How sad. Anyway I am still quite relieve that there is no lesson tomorrow because I still owe my teacher a 300-words composition - in Korean of course. My teacher warned me that I need to start practising my writing or I will find it difficult to pass the writing section of TOPIK. No wonder I only see six pathetic souls in the TOPIK class. As they say, no pain no gain.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

OTL 무슨 뜻이에요?

What does OTL mean? This is very interesting. OTL is not an initial and you can literally see the meaning of the word. In fact, Gamzadori, the cartoon character to the left, gives away the answer. OTL is actually a "word diagram". "O" is the head. "T" represents a straight back with an arm pushing against the ground. "L" is like a leg in kneeling position. If you look carefully at Gamzadori again, it is showing the "OTL" posture. Does OTL look like a person kneeling down in despair? That is exactly what it is used to illustrate - a person in a state of despair. Apparently, OTL is quite commonly used as an expression for despair in Japan, Korea and China. A derivation of OTL is OTZ. I should think that OTZ means the same as OTL.


I don't really like to take test but yet I will be sitting for the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) and the Korean Language Proficiency Test (KLPT) in Sep and Oct respectively. This situation is somewhat a "forced" outcome. In this semester, there is no advanced Korean course offered at either Singapore Korean School or NUS Extension. To continue with my Korean learning I can only apply for the TOPIK preparatory course at SKS and the KLPT preparatory course at NEX. My TOPIK preparatory class has already started since July 10. The KLPT preparatory course will start on August 11. It seems that TOPIK will be a much more comprehensive assessment of one's Korean language proficiency. The marks are equally divided among vocabulary grammar, writing, listening and reading. On the other hand, KLPT is biased towards listening with it taking up 40% of the marks and KLPT also does not test one's writing ability. Anyway, I don't have a need for TOPIK or KLPT certificate as I have no intention to study or work in Korea. Lacking of advanced Korean course to attend, taking test is perhaps the next best alternative to continue with my Korean study. The month of August and September shall see me getting busy again with my study as I will be back to having 6 hours of lesson every week. It is the "season of test" for me.

Friday, July 13, 2007

부산에서 찍었던 사진


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

무궁화 꽃이 피었습니다

A ride on Mugunghwaho (무궁화호-無窮花號) train set me asking what is "mugunghwa"? A check on the internet gave "mugunghwa" as Hibiscus syriacus or its common name "Rose of Sharon". Mugunghwa is the national flower of the Republic of Korea and is worded into its national anthem. "Mugung" means endless or unlimited. It is said that the flower represents the enduring nature of the Korean culture and the perseverance of Korean people.

Though Malaysia's national flower is also called hibiscus, it is of a different species. Its scientific name is Hibiscus rosa-sinensis or commonly known as "Bunga Raya" or the Chinese hibiscus.

My teacher introduced me to a once bestselling Korean novel called "무궁화 꽃이 피었습니다" (The Rose of Sharon has bloomed) written by 김진명 (Kim Jin Myeong). In this science-fiction novel, the North and South Korea are not enemies. The actual enemy is in fact Japan. The nuclear weapons, being developed by the North Korea, are made up to be a conspiracy between the two Koreas. The codeword for the nuclear weapon is call "무궁화 꽃". In the near future, a war finally erupted between the Korean peninsula and the Japan over the sovereignty of Dokdo (독도-獨島). Japan tried to invade the peninsula but the Koreans fought back and eventually nuked Japan, forcing it to surrender. My teacher said that this novel is popular among the Koreans because it creates a strong sense of patriotism.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

새 학기가 시작했다

The new semester at SKS started today and I almost forgotten about it. It seems that three weeks is a bit too long to be away from class. When I stepped into the admin office this evening to check out my class, a Korean staff spoke to me in Korean but I was tongue-tied. Just couldn't reply her in simple Korean even though I know what she was saying. I was as good as dumb. As expected, there was no Advanced Two class so I have to settle for TOPIK preparation class. The class started by going through TOPIK level 2 questions. Most of the questions were simple enough but I still stumbled upon a few questions. I saw it as a worrying sign as level 3 questions will be much harder, not to mention level 4. During class, we were reminded about the different Korean action verbs that are equivalent to the English verb "wear".

모자 (hat) - 쓰다
장갑 (glove), 반지 (ring), 안경 (spectacle) - 끼다
귀고리 (earring), 목걸이 (necklace) - 하다
허리띠 (belt), 넥타이 (tie) - 매다
시계 (watch) - 차다
옷 (cloth), 바지 (pants) , 치마(skirt) - 입다
신발 (shoe), 양말 (sock) - 신다

The 반대말 or antonym of "wear" is much easier.

쓰다, 입다, 신다, 차다 <--> 벗다 (脱掉)
하다, 끼다 <--> 빼다 (拿下)
매다 <--> 풀다 (解开)

The "highlight of the day" was actually a 300 words composition in Korean on the topic "여행에서 인상 깊었던 일" (Things that left a deep impression during tour). We were only given half an hour to finish it. It was so frustrating having so many ideas in the mind and yet unable to translate them into Korean on the paper. At the end, I neither hit 300 words nor did I finish writing the composition. This is just the beginning and I am beginning to feel the heat. The teacher is not showing any sign of loosening up on her standard. She wanted us to be able to hear fast, write fast, read fast and solve questions fast. I know she is not over-demanding and I need to build up to that speed in order to have a fair chance of passing TOPIK Intermediate level.

I received my certificate and the result slip for my last semester course. I hope I have not disappointed my teacher with my result though I know she has been quite lenient with her marks. Frankly, I miss her lesson.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

사랑과 이별은...

It seems that love and separation are quite closely related. There are people who will go on a tour after separation to try to forget about the love that is just lost. This song, sang by Bae Seul Gi (배슬기-裵瑟琪) and Glassbox (琉璃箱子), is called "Yi Byeol Yo Haeng" (이별여행-離別旅行) or translated literally as "Separation Tour".

Something to learn from this Music Video - The sign language for "괜찮아요" (I'm okay) and "고마워요" (Thank you). Also when both of you get a bit romantic and decide to take a walk at the centre of a country road, always be reminded that a road is still meant for the car and not couple. Be aware of car coming from behind to spoil the mood.

What is the best sentence to say before separation? 마음 잘 아니까... (I guess you know my mind so ... ). Hmm... alright, don't think too much. Just appreciate the music video :)

Saturday, July 07, 2007


"My head was hit by the teargas canister and I was bleeding. The wound was so bad that I have to go to hospital to have it stitched up. We bought "soju" bottles and made Molotov's cocktails. We threw stones at the riot police. A friend of my friend who was serving his "gundae" (군대-軍隊-National Service) was called up to the front to fight against his friends. It was against his will but he has no choice. He cried during the night because he was badly torn between being loyal to the country and his belief."

"When I was young, I can never understand why Korean university students had to go out on the streets to fight against the authority. Everyday news was filled with coverage of students clashing with riot police. Why do they have to do that?"

"It is for what we call "Yi Sang" (이상-理相-Ideal).

(Protest movements reached a climax after Chun Doo Hwan's 1979 coup and declaration of martial law. Gwangju's confrontation in 1980 left at least 200 civilians dead. Pro-democracy activities intensified thereafter, ultimately forcing the displacement of Chun Doo Hwan and political concessions by the government in 1987. In December that year, the first direct presidential election since 1971 was held and won by Roh Tae Woo - finally ending decades of authoritarian rule.)

"The American always think that we Koreans owed it to them. My American teacher once criticised Koreans for being ungrateful after all those things that US has done for them. But I replied that US only do things that are to their interest. They have not bother to intervene when Japan took over us. Upon hearing that, my English teacher said that my history knowledge is as bad as my English. If my English has been good then, I would have rebutted him that his history knowledge is as poor as his Korean."

That was my teacher, Ms Choi Mi Hui, who spoke. A Korean who was involved in the building of the Korea's modern-day democracy and within her carries a strong sense of patriotism. I am fortunate to have met a person who comes from what I call "the era of ideal". Not many people these days can claim that they live by and fight for their ideals.

I remember during my first lesson with her, I was chided for using my electronics dictionary during her class. I thought she felt offended that I would rather trust a block of electronics than herself. She told me sternly that if there is anything that I do not know I can ask her directly. She kept her promise and I benefited from her teaching.

She understood my passion for learning Korean. She said that she was once like me taking passion in learning English. For five days a week she would have to travel to "hakwon" or language school after work to study English for one hour. I was grateful when I heard that because suddenly I felt that I wasn't alone anymore.

It was not just Korean language and culture that we talked about in class. Curious like any other people would, I could not help but ask her how she met her Singaporean husband. "Was it during your university days that you meet your husband?", I asked. "No, we met in Kathmandu (the capital of Nepal) when I went trekking in India and Nepal for two and a half months.", She replied.

When the new semester reopens in more than a week time, she won't be in SKS anymore. She has decided to quit teaching to look after her daughter who is growing up. She feels guilty whenever her daughter complains that she is not seeing enough of her. During our last lesson, we chit-chatted for an hour after I finished my end-of-semester test paper. From the chit-chat, I was inspired to write this posting. I told her that I finally understood why one should live for ideal after I met her. She gave me a book called "Positive Thinking" as a parting gift and I appreciated that very much. I always find it hard to explain to others why I am learning Korean the way I am learning. There is a certain element of ideal attached to it and no people know it better than someone who comes from "the era of ideal".

선생님께 매우 감사합니다.

Friday, July 06, 2007

모두 줬어요

This will be the last photo of my 3-week study trip to Korea. It has been a wonderful time. I am kinda amazed that for a 3-week stay, I ended up writing about it for 3 months. I cannot imagine if I am to spend one year in Korea. I will probably be writing about it for the next 52 months after everything is over. Its time to move on in life. This blog will continue to record my Korean learning experience. As long as the journey continues, the blogging will continue.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

계절의 색깔

Nami Island

Seoul National University of Education

Icheon Pottery Village

It seems that living in a place where seasons are distinct, it will be much easier to remember time. With every passage of time, colour changes. Photos capture the season's colour and from the colour, time can be known. What colour is missing from the photos above? That will probably be the next time I am visiting Korea.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

반찬 예쁘죠?

멋있고 맛있는 반찬이다. 배가 고파지고 있다.

I have not eaten Korean food for months until recently when I ate a bowl of tuna ramyeon at "Hanpung" (한풍-韓風) along Upper Bukit Timah Road. Somehow I am already used to calling out tuna ramyeon as "chamchi ramyeon" (참치라면) . So when I placed my order with the owner who is a Korean, I just blurted out "chamchi ramyeon". However, he didn't seem to get what I said initially. Was my Korean pronunciation so bad or was he caught by surprise? Anyway what he did subsequently was to confirm with me, "you want tuna ramyeon?". (네, 맞죠.) I was replying in Korean in my mind but what actually came out of my mouth was a simple "yes". By the way, the tuna ramyeon here is more expensive than the 2,000-won a bowl ramyeon that I had in Seoul.

회사 가기가 싫어요

Click on the picture to see the flash animation

I am so tired. I want to take a break. I don't want to go to work. 회사 가기가 싫어요. 월급이 부족하고 일이 많고 정신이 없어지는데 회사에 가기를 굉장히 싫어한다. 그렇지만 이 노래를 듣고 나서 이상하게 회사에 가고 싶다. 아이러니가 아니죠? ㅋㅋ

Monday, July 02, 2007


The things I like about mountain hiking are more than just fresh air, great view and a good workout. Somehow I always get a bit philosophical whenever I find myself up in a mountain. It was the same when I was trekking up Bukhansan. On my way up, I went pass this tablet and I quite liked what I saw. 萬物一體 (만물일체 ) means all things in the universe originates from one body. This is the very essence of 道 (도 or 'Tao' or "The Way"). To explain 'Tao' in simple language, it means the "order of the universe" or the way the universe will naturally behave. 萬物一體 explains very well how this universe behaves.

My lesson in Physical Chemistry taught me that pure energy in vacuum can without any intervention causes "Pair-Production" which is the production of a pair of particle and anti-particle from energy. The reverse "Annihilation" process has an equal probability of happening as well. All it takes is for a particle and anti-particle to collide and annihilate each other to produce energy again. In the saying of 'Tao', this process of creation and destruction brings about the universe. However, between the two extremes, the overall energy and momentum remains constant. In other words, as much as the two extremes are different they are in fact the same. Ironic as it may be but this is essentially the beauty of ancient Chinese wisdom.

There is a saying that 'Tao' creates the two Extremes. The two Extremes creates the Four Directions and the Four Directions bring about the Eight Trigrams. As the manifestation goes on, this universe is formed in all its complexity. Hence "萬物" is the universe and "一體" is 'Tao' or the order of the universe. My take-away from this understanding is that all differences in this universe can be resolved because there is always a centre point where both extremes can meet. Harmony can be found at this centre point. It is then up to humanity to believe that while we may be different but we are still one humanity.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

자동 판매기

Nothing is trivial when time is limited. I was hoping to capture every moment during my 3-week study trip in Korea. "Carpe Diem" (seize the day) seems to make more sense when time is not a luxury. Every day must be lived and every moment treasured. So I wasted no time in taking pictures of anything that can describe my day. Perhaps to show how "desperate" I was, I even took a picture of the vending machine seated at level 2 of the Institute of International Education building. This vending machine provided my daily intake of Vitamin C at a cost of 500won per can drink. I did not have to worry about not bringing coin as this machine accepted note.


My teacher at SKS gave me this book during the our last lesson and said the she was very glad to have taught me. The book and her words sparked off a surge of emotion but I didn't let it got the better of me. I replied almost immediately that I am very fortunate to have been taught by her. The book maybe a simple gift but it means a lot.

"좋은생각" means "Positive Thinking". As described, "아름다운 사람들의 밝은 이야기", it is a publication about the enlightening story of beautiful people. The poem "지금 하고 싶은 말" in my earlier post was extracted from this book. My teacher believed that I should be able to understand the articles inside. I probably can with the help of dictionary. I know I have more reason to work hard now.

잠프를 관람했다

"Jump" is in town. I wouldn't have miss it for the world after watching "Nanta". Not even when I received a SMS to go noraebang. The success formula of "Nanta" is well-mirrored in "Jump". The performers are skillful, the moves are well-choreographed, the jokes are hilarious, the lighting and sound are impactful and most importantly, the audience are part of the humour. Although it is said that "Jump" is a non-verbal Taekwondo performance, the performers do actually speak (in English of course as this is Singapore) and it is more than Taekwondo performance. In fact, the performance is a combination of Chinese martial arts, Taekwondo, gymnastics and breakdance. Talking about breakdance, I will want to watch "B-Boy" one of these days. I was quite sure everyone was entertained last night because we were clapping non-stop with the music beat as the performers made their final entry on stage for the night.

The Jump performance has brought me back to the Esplanade. I rarely visit the place on weekend because it is always crowded with people. Since I was there, I thought I might as well take a few pictures of the Singapore's night scenery. The Esplanade by the Singapore River is the most photographed site since it is a "must-visit" place for all tourists visiting Singapore.

Marina South's night skyline as seen from the Merlion Park