Tuesday, September 30, 2008

가장 기억에 남는 여름

During summer, while heat is at its maximum, so is the life force of nature. We may not like the heat but it was never meant for us. It is meant for the nature to thrive and grow.

I have come to associate summer with the colour of green and blue. I would have miss out seeing the beauty of summer if I had just stayed indoor to escape the heat.

Wild flowers are blooming everywhere. Its the only time in the year they are given. The ubiquitous wild chrysanthemum, though inconspicuous, is almost synonymous with summer.

Water melon has never tasted so sweet, juicy and refreshing. This is definitely the best fruit of the season and best eaten when chilled. It will give a whole new meaning to sending a chill down the spine.

Air-conditioned cafe is a good place to seek refuge when heat and perspiration become unbearable. I am saying this because my boarding house does not have air-conditioner.

Places that have water like public swimming pools, beaches and streams attract big crowd during summer. I swear that walking down Cheonggye Stream in the evening is very cooling.

The hours of darkness was short during summer. I stopped trusting my perception of time and relied only on my watch. I don't know why I have to wait until sunset before I start to think about dinner. Habit, perhaps.

Dinner for me was normally after eight. Although dinner was provided at six at my boarding house, it was a tad too early for me so I normally skipped it. It didn't bother me because there were many nice eating outlets around.

Shops that sell iced coffee and donuts had definitely earned a lot of money from me. I am not a coffee addict or a donut fanatic. It is more like they are so easily available. It seems like they are always "just around the corner".

I have finally come to the end of my summer course's update. Perhaps just one more thing. All these were made possible because of an unexpected e-mail which I received. The sender simply asked if I am going to Seoul in summer but I ended up taking up summer course at KHU. To the sender of the e-mail: Thank You ^^ (By the way, the ice cream cake is meant for you. You can redeem for a real one if we ever going to meet in Seoul.)

Monday, September 29, 2008


I am almost done with my summer course's update. There is one thing that has become clear to me after finishing this summer course. I know I will complete my Korean language study in Kyunghee one of these days. I don't feel tired going back to the same place over and over again. Instead I am getting more and more comfortable with the school because it is without a doubt a beautiful (in every sense of the word) place to study in.

The Central Library

The University Administration Building

The Grand Auditorium

Sunday, September 28, 2008

어디에서 왔어요?

In our Summer Korean Language Program, there are altogether 156 students from 21 countries. Of which, students from Asian countries made up nearly 79% of the cohort. Japanese students alone constituted about 60%. The table below shows the number of students from each of the 21 countries.

With a cohort so big, it took four coaches to ferry us around for our field trips. And during group photo-taking, it usually took quite a while before everyone could settle down. Despite the trouble, group photos are still necessary for memory sake. So here are the photos which record our common memory of summer 2008. Click to see larger image.

In front of the Korean Folk Village (한국민속촌, 韓國民俗村)

At Weongol Village (원골마을, 員谷村) with our scarecrows

In front of the Independence Hall (독립기념관, 獨立記念館)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

하숙집 생활

I wanted to experience something different in Seoul, something like a more frugal lifestyle. So in my application form to the Institute of International Education (IIE), I indicated that I wish to be accommodated at a boarding house (하숙, 下宿) or "Hasuk". In response to my request, the IIE's course co-ordinator provided me with the following information about Hasuk.

"하숙집은 보통 학교 정문 근처에 있고 1인실이고 한달에 45~50만원 정도예요. 3주도 똑같다고 해요. 아침, 저녁 식사를 제공하고요. 하숙집은 욕실을 공동으로 써야 하는 불편한 점이 있어요. 에어컨도 없다고 해요. 인터넷은 2만원을 내면 사용할 수 있다고 해요." (Boarding houses are normally located near the main gate of the university and the monthly rental for a single room is about KRW450,000 to 500,000. The monthly rate is also applicable to 3-weeks stay. Breakfast and dinner are provided. One of the inconveniences of living in Hasuk is that the toilet is shared. There is also no air-con. Internet is available with an extra KRW 20,000.)

Once I confirmed my option to go with Hasuk, the course co-ordinator went ahead to reserve a room on my behalf. I was then provided with a telephone number to call upon my arrival. On the actual day, with my luggage in tow, I made my way to the main gate of KHU. From there, I gave the Hasuk's Ajumeoni (아주머니) a call and within 15 minutes, she arrived. She led me to my Hasuk which was about 5 minutes walk away. My Hasuk is located much closer to KHU than the rest of the dormitories. Close proximity to school is one of the advantages of living in a Hasuk. I could leave my Hasuk at 8:45am but yet reach my classroom at IIE building before class starts at 9:00am. Travelling time was absolutely minimal.

1. The red-brick building is my Hasuk. It has 2 levels plus a rooftop. I lived on level 2. To get in and out of my Hasuk, I have to go through 2 doors with a very tight gap in between. The dark green outer door opens inward while the inner door (building's door) opens outward. I have to be "sandwiched" in between these two doors every time I moved in or out. One night, I got a shock when I pushed open the outer door to get into my Hasuk. The door hit something. I wasn't expecting anything to be behind it. It turned out that there was a dog resting in between the two doors. It took me some time to shoo away the dog before I could enter. By the way, the two doors are never locked. Potentially, anyone can enter the Hasuk without any restraint.

2. After entering my Hasuk, there is a flight of stairs I need to climb to get to level 2. The staircase is not very wide - good enough for only one person to move up or down at any one time. I made a mental note that if there is any emergency, it will probably be safer for me to jump out of the window. Also the staircase light does not come on automatically at night. The light switch is at level 2. So unless someone switched it on, I would come back to a pitch-dark staircase and had to feel my way up to level 2. Fortunately, I am not a person who is afraid of darkness.

3. At level 2, there are 5 rooms, 2 toilets and 1 pantry. Like the staircase, the corridor light does not come on automatically at night. Of the 2 toilets, one is bigger than the other and this bigger toilet houses a fully-automated washing machine. The pantry has basic cooking facility, a fridge and a drinking water dispenser which dispenses both cold and warm water. If there is anything I like about my Hasuk, it has to be this water dispenser.

4. I like going up to the rooftop although the place is quite messy and dirty. I seldom have this opportunity to look out from a rooftop, so when I was given this opportunity, I made full use of it. From the rooftop, I have quite a good view of the buildings and streets around Kyunghee. I also like to take sunset pictures from it. Last but not least, the rooftop has one functional use - it is where I can hang up my cloth to dry under the sun.

I handed over a sum of KRW470,000 to my Hasuk's Ajumeoni on the first day. For the next 22 days, these are what I get for the price I paid:

- A room with a floor area of about 4 square metres.
- A single bed with bed sheet, pillow and blanket
- An electric fan
- A 14 inch "black & white" TV with less than 20 channels
- A small desk and a chair
- A cloth rack
- Internet access (paid KRW20,000 for it)
- Free Breakfast and Dinner
- Free use of the pantry
- Free use of fully-automated washing machine
- Free use of drinking water dispenser
- Free use of refrigerator
- No utility bill
- 2 toilets to share with 4 other occupants.

It is quite obvious that there is no creature comfort to talk about. Only basic essentials are provided at the Hasuk. Living condition is definitely not fantastic but passable - provided one is not demanding. It took me about a week or so to get used to my life at Hasuk. Initially, I couldn't sleep well when the summer heat was at its peak. Soon, I slept like I have "forgotten" completely about the heat. Initially, I always locked my room door when I needed to use the toilet. Soon I just left it close but unlock. Initially, I was wary about stepping on the pool of water which gathered at the centre of the toilet after someone had showered. Soon, I didn't even notice that pool of water. It seemed like everything just turned out fine once I had adapted.

Despite all the inconveniences, I think Hasuk is more superior than other types of accommodation in one particular aspect and that is breakfast and dinner are provided. Breakfast is normally served at 8am while dinner at 6pm. I got to eat authentic Korean fare everyday and one of those days, my Hasuk's Ajumeoni even prepared "Bo-ssam" (보쌈) for dinner. Considering the quality of meals which I was served, I could have easily paid KRW8,000 to 10,000 daily for them outside. Despite that, I seldom took my breakfast and dinner. For that, my Hasuk's Ajumeoni kept apologising to me though I kept assuring her that it is alright.

Dinner served at my Hasuk. There were seven side-dishes. The main dish was curry rice. You cannot see the curry because I have yet to pour the curry gravy over the rice. Honestly, I like eating the side-dishes more than the main dish. After the dinner, I was served cherry tomatoes as fruit.

Besides close proximity to school and free meals, the fact that Hasuk does not impose curfew (귀가시간, 歸家時間) also gave me a lot more freedom to stay out beyond midnight although I rarely stay out late. Students who stay in dormitories will have no choice but to make it back before 12 midnight or risk being locked out by the security.

I have chosen to live in a Hasuk because I wanted a different sort of experience. I got what I wanted at the end despite the fact that I almost felt like finding another place to settle down after I saw my small room on the first day. I gave up the thought of moving out as my Hasuk's Ajumeoni was quite nice to me. I believe I can afford something better than staying in a Hasuk if there is a next time. Nevertheless, my stay at Hasuk has given me invaluable life experience - one of which is devoid of creature comfort and where life can be lived with bare minimum. Perhaps the truth is not too far away from austerity. We may not really need a lot to lead a fulfilling life.

On my way to school. There are so many restaurants along the way. One good thing is that I am never too far from good food but the bad thing is that it is difficult to keep my weight at bay.

The road I took everyday to return to my Hasuk. This road is not really as quiet as it seemed. Many students walk up and down this road throughout the day. That day when I took this picture, it seemed like autumn had arrived. The sky was high, blue and almost cloudless.

To end this posting is another picture of sunset taken from my Hasuk's rooftop. It has been an invaluable experience staying in a Hasuk. Watching sunset from the rooftop is one of those unforgettable memories.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Picture of sunset as seen from the rooftop of my boarding house.

It has been one month since I returned from my summer course. My Korean class in Singapore has since completed and so has the TOPIK. It is now on to the next phase of my Korean learning journey.

책에 안 나오는 상식

I always find that knowledge outside of textbook tends to be more interesting. I like our teachers to go out of textbook to talk about anything under the sun which they think are interesting or helpful to us. Here are two non-textbook knowledge, taught during our lesson, which I find interesting and to a certain extent enlightening.

"What do Koreans mean when they say 엔분의 일 하자 (let's do 1/n)?", asked our teacher. It sounded like a request to solve some mathematical problem. However, apart from the need to perform some simple calculation, the expression has nothing else to do with mathematics. The actual meaning is "let's share the bill equally" or simply - "let's go Dutch". The indeterminate number "n" is taken to mean the total number of people sharing the bill. Frankly speaking, I am very unfamiliar with the idea of going Dutch. I don't like and I feel awkward about going Dutch. In my opinion, the mere ability to pay for others means that I have "surplus" and that itself is a blessing. I am always happy paying for others. But on the other hand, I wouldn't want to be so selfish as to keep all the happiness to myself. I definitely won't mind if you are happy paying for my bill. ^^;;

"How do you pronounce 의의의?", asked our teacher again. Nobody seemed to get it right. It is quite common for Korean words to sound differently from their written forms. Take for example the common "요" which we use in the informal-but-polite speech. Perhaps it is so commonly used that we may not even be aware we are pronouncing 요 as [여]. [여] is the right pronunciation though. The reason being that [여] is easier to pronounce than [요]. Similarly, pronouncing 의의의 as [의의의] is going to be very difficult. The correct and an easier pronunciation is [의이에]. "의의" (意義) means "meaning" and the "의" that comes after "의의" is a possessive. It was sort of an "enlightenment" for me when I was taught that "의" is pronounced as [이] if it does not come out as the first letter. That explained why I was hearing 의사 as [의사] but 회의 as [회이]. (Note: "의" is pronounced as [이] when it is together with a consonant. For example, 희망 is pronounced as [히망] and 경희 as [경히].)

The points being raised here may seem too trivial to be interesting. It probably is because they aren't meant to be in the first place. What I actually found interesting was that moment when realisation struck. That point in time when my ignorance was replaced with knowledge. Then, I was probably wearing a silly smile of satisfaction on my face and whispering quietly to myself - 그렇구나~

Thursday, September 18, 2008

일반적인 수업이 아니라

Our teacher, Mr Yim, was chatting with our Australian classmate, Patrick, during break time. When he found out that Patrick used to teach at the Australian National University, he asked if he knew Anna Wierzbicka. Patrick doesn't and neither do the rest of the class. Apparently, Anna Wierzbicka is an eminent Polish linguist who is currently the Professor of Linguistics at the Australian National University.

The fact that our teacher knows about Professor Anna Wierzbicka only goes to show his deep interest in linguistics. I mean who outside the field of linguistics would be interested in who she is or what she does. To prove my point, our teacher even uses the word "linguist" in his e-mail address. It is not hard to realise that there is a difference in having a linguist as a teacher as opposed to a language teacher. What we received during our lesson was a much clearer and in-depth explanation of the Korean language.

Take the grammar "<동작동사>아/어 있다" for example. I am quite sure I was taught this grammar in Singapore before. But I cannot recall what was taught in class back then. My contact time with this grammar was probably less than 10 minutes - so brief that it didn't leave an impression on me. The grammar looks deceivingly simple and I thought I have understood it more or less. In reality, what I saw was just the tip of the iceberg. Mr Yim showed me the huge ice body beneath the water surface.

The grammar "<동작동사>아/어 있다" is used to describe the state after an action has completed. For example "문이 열려 있다" means the door is opened and is still left open. The 동작동사 is "열리다" and the state after the action "열리다" has completed is an opened door. What is not apparent here is that not all 동작동사 can be used in this grammar. Only those that meet the following two conditions are considered valid:

- It must be a 자동사.
- There must be a state after an action has completed.

Perhaps this is the first time you are hearing this. There are actually two types of 동작동사 - 자동사 and 타동사. See the chart below.

[There are two types of 동사 (verb) - 동작동사 (action verb) and 상태동사 (stative verb). 동작동사 is divided into 자동사 (intransitive verb) and 타동사(transitive verb). 타동사 can be converted into 자동사 by changing it into 피동사 (passive verb).]

자동사 (自動詞) is a "stand-alone" action verb. What this means is that it does not need an object to act on to be observable. 자동사 appears in sentence that has the structure "___이/가 자동사". Examples of 자동사 are 가다, 앉다 and 자다.

타동사 (他動詞) is an action verb that needs an object to act on. Without an appropriate object, this action verb is not meaningful. 타동사 appears in sentence that has the structure "___이/가 ___을/를 타동사". Examples of 타동사 are 보다, 열다 and 닫다.

타동사 can be converted into 자동사 by changing 타동사 to its passive form (피동사). There are 3 methods of conversion:

- 타동사 + (이, 히, 리 or 기)
- 타동사 + 아/어지다
- 타동사 + 게 되다

Compared to 자동사, the "state after an action has completed" is slightly more difficult to understand. For example, a person is performing the action of going to the library (도서관에 가다). The action "가다" is considered completed once the person reaches the library. The state after that is described as "도서관에 가 있다" which means the person who reaches the library remains at the library.

Take another example. A person is performing the act of lying down on the ground (바닥에 눕다). The action "눕다" (lying down) is completed once the person is lying flat on the ground. The state after that is described as "바닥에 누워 있다" which means the person remains lying on the ground.

It should be noted that not all 자동사 has a state after its action has completed. For example, "자다" does not have a state after the action "자다" is completed. If a person stops sleeping, he can only be awake. Similarly, "쉬다" does not have a state after the action "쉬다" has completed. A person who has stopped resting is naturally doing something else. Hence, expressions like "자 있다" and "쉬어 있다" are grammatically wrong.

It is alright if you don't quite understand what is written above. My main objective of reproducing what our teacher had taught us in class is more to illustrate the amount of linguistic knowledge that can be harboured by an innocent-looking grammar like "<동작동사>아/어 있다". I would probably not have known so much if our teacher is just another language teacher. Mr Yim only teaches foreigners like us, twice a year, during the summer and winter term-break. During normal school term, he teaches native Korean students Korean language (국어, 國語).

Before the end of his daily lesson, he always encouraged us to ask him challenging questions. He seemed to be able to answer every question thrown at him with aplomb. His Korean language lesson was always very intellectually stimulating and I counted that as a blessing.

While our teacher may look quite knowledgeable, there was something he stumbled upon. He didn't quite know how to pronounce "Wierzbicka". So he asked Patrick if he knew. Just then, our Polish classmate, also by the name of Anna, returned from her break. If there was anyone who knew how to pronounce the name correctly, it surely had to be her. She pronounced "Wierzbicka" several times but I could not pick up the pronunciation well. "Bicka" is easy but "Wierz" is kinda way out of any pronunciation which I am accustomed to.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

좋아하는 것

One of my favourite past-times - Sitting by a window seat on the second level and watching time passing by. No rushing. Only simple joy. Picture showing the street of Kyunghee.

Monday, September 15, 2008

엄마 친구의 아이

Until now, I have yet to write about my Korean lessons during my summer course. I must say that they were very interesting even though it was more of a revision for me. I have a few excuses to offer for not doing that. First, I was feeling rather "weak" as the summer heat seemed to be draining away my "힘" (strength). Second, I felt that it would be "sinful" to just spend my time blogging in Seoul. Third, I needed more time to organise my "messy" lesson notes before I could sieve out some meaningful points to write on. Enough of excuses said. Here is the first record of my lesson.

"Have you heard of 엄친아 or 엄친딸?", our teacher, Mr Yim Chae Hoon, asked the class. Apparently, they are "줄인말" (abbreviation) for "엄마 친구의 아들/딸" (The son/daughter of my mother's friend). Before our teacher could get down to explain the meaning of the word, my mind identified with it almost instantaneously. In actual fact, I was hearing "엄친아/딸" for the first time but somehow it seemed like I have known the word for a very long time.

My mom used to have this habit of comparing me with her friend's children. Needless to say, her friend's children were always superior to me in all aspects. They excel in study, in sports, are filial to their parents, etc. In my mom's words, they were so good to the extent that it seemed like they were either super-human or super-natural. I couldn't understand why my mom liked to belittle her own child. I disliked it. It was definitely not an effective way to motivate me. It only served to demolish my self-esteem and self-worth. It distorted my judgment of reality and fiction.

However, after getting acquainted with the word "엄친아/딸", I think I have found an explanation to my mom's behaviour. It is probably a social behaviour which is derived from our culture. One aspect of our culture is to speak down on personal achievements and to praise other about their achievements. "엄친아/딸" is a product of such culture which in turn is influenced by Confucianism. The ultimate aim of Confucianism is to create a harmonious society based on "virtues" or "덕 (德)". A society is not going to be harmonious if people start to praise their children and speak down on other's children. I can no longer blame my mom as much as I cannot blame the culture which I am brought up in. It is in the culture.

Our teacher explained "엄친아/딸" as "완벽한 사람" (a perfect person). A person who is good looking, excels in everything he or she does, earns a handsome paycheck, is filial to parents, respect elders, etc. I could not help but nodded my head in agreement when he was making the description. That's exactly how my mom would describe her friend's children. The most famous "엄친아" in Korea now, whom our teacher quoted as an example, is a swimming sensation and darling of the media.

He is Park Tae-hwan (박태환, 朴泰桓) - the gold medallist of 400m freestyle and silver medallist of 200m freestyle in the recent Beijing Olympics. Perhaps "엄친아/딸" does exist but it is more like one in millions.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

오래 오래 기억할게

So I finally saw the end of my Korean learning road in Singapore after almost 3 years. That's three "bumpy and bumper" years. "Bumpy" because my Korean learning was disrupted many times along the way due to lack of higher-level course. "Bumper" because I met so many fantastic teachers and wonderful friends who share my interest and dream.

Today is my last day at the Singapore Korean School - a place where I call my school since April 2007. It is always not easy to say goodbye especially when I have already developed a habit of attending class every Tuesday and Thursday evening. But I guess I will just have to move on. A new beginning is always beckoning with each ending.

As a norm, the last day of every term is meant for cultural lesson. Today, we had a 윷놀이 (Yunnori) competition between the classes. There are only 7 classes this term, so E2 class was split into 2 teams to make 8 teams. The competition adopted the elimination format. The winner of each round would proceed to the next. Our class (A3), first eliminated A1 in the quarter-final. But, in turn, we got eliminated by I1 in the semi-final. After our loss, our teacher hurried us to queue for food at the back of the hall. When we were about to reach for our food, we were called back for the 3rd/4th playoff with one of the E2 teams. We lost again. The end result: the two teams from E2 claimed the first and third prize while I1 finished second.

You probably have to use some imagination here. "Yut" sticks were there on the blue mat but not captured. The guy standing is the teacher of I1 class - the only male teacher teaching in Korean Language Course. Our teacher, Ms Jeon, is second from right.

More spectators than players. Such situation can only happen for elementary classes. Everyone in our class has to play because there are only four of us. 1st to 3rd prize for this event are stacked up at the back.

After everything was over I had some chat with my teachers as well as the school staff before bidding them a final farewell. Just as I thought "that's the end", a relief teacher whom I have not met before came up to me. "Are you Equinox?", she asked. I was taken aback by this sudden introduction. "Do you know you are famous?", she went on to say. "그래요? 진짜 물랐어요.", I replied. Soon, my thought started to drift away. I was once a lonely soul in SKS. I knew nobody and nobody knew me. By the time I left, it seems like everyone in SKS, from the principal to the teachers to the office staff, knows me. The contrast is stark and I am still not too sure which part of me attracts their attention. But it doesn't really matter now or does it? From tomorrow onwards, they can probably start to forget me. Afterall I am just a passerby.

My final results slip and certificate issued by SKS on Sep 9, 2008.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

충고 10개

While visiting the National Palace Museum of Korea I came across these 10 admonitions which King Yeongjo (r.1724~1776) laid down for his grandson King Jeongjo.

Be filial to your parents and respect your seniors
Revere great scholars
Listen to your subjects

Study hard
Beware of idleness
Be frugal
Control yourself when you are alone

Sense of Judgment
Be prudent in large-scale projects
Do not believe defamation of others
Be discreet when handing out punishment or rewards

Altough more than 200 years have transpired since, these words of wisdom are still applicable. In my opinion, they are not just meant for kings. Anyone who strives to become a better person or leader should at least possess some of these qualities, if not all. Conversely, to become arrogant, complacent and bias, for anyone in power, is a sure-fire way to rapid downfall.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

문화수업 - 한국영화

Date: 13 Aug 08 (Wednesday)
Venue: Cheongungwan, 청운관 (靑雲館)

Our third cultural lesson was on Korean movie. By Aug 13, 삼복더위 (hottest month of summer) was almost coming to an end but the weather was still very warm. The classroom at Cheongungwan didn't have the aircon running before we entered. So we had free sauna for like half an hour or more before the room cooled down.

Our teacher-in-charge, Ms Park, downloading movie files.

The movie selected for our lesson was "묻지마 패밀리" (Direct translation: Don't Ask Family) or "No Comment", produced in 2002. The movie is supposed to be a comedy and it comprises three short stories. We were only shown the third story which is titled "교회누나" (Church's Elder Sister). Our teacher did some explanation about the term "교회누나". In Korea, church is a common place where many people found their future partners. A guy will address a lady who is older than him and whom he met at the church as "교회누나". Not surprisingly, "교회오빠" is also used.

The plot of the movie goes something like this. 영일 is serving national service. During one of his off-days, he met up with his 교회누나, a married woman whom he met in church many years ago. Although, they have mutual affection for one another back then, 영일's 교회누나 ended up marrying another guy. The meeting between two of them was the first after quite some time.

영일 meeting his 교회누나, a married woman, during his off-day.

After we completed watching the movie, we were required to find a partner and practised the mushy dialogue (see dialogue below). Reading out the dialogue was itself a comedy. We couldn't stop laughing. When we were done with our practice, our teacher picked two groups of people to read out the dialogue to the class. We had another round of good laugh.

Students reading out the mushy dialogue from the movie to the class.

영일: 누나, 나 뭐 하나 물어봐도 돼?
누나: 뭐?
영일: 행복해?
누나: 어, 행복해.
영일: 행복하구나. 나 옛날에 누나 되게 좋아했었는데. 그거 알아?
누나: 알아.
영일: 아는구나
누나: 나도 너 좋아했었어.
영일: 누나, 내가 누나 정말 사랭했는데, 그거 알아?
누나: 나도 너 사랭했었어. 사랭했었다구.
영일: 누나가 사랑한단 말 먼저 했었어도 내가 말없이 군대 가지 않았어
누나: 영일아, 너 모르지. 나 말 못했어.
영일: 왜 누나 결혼식에 가지 못했는지 알아? 누나가 그 사람하고 결혼하는 걸 내가 어떻게 봐? 누나 행복하지?
누나: 사랑해.
영일: 진짜 행복한 거지? 계속 행복해. 계속 행복해야 돼. 근데 만약에 살다가 안 행복해지면 그땐 나한테 편지 써. 꼭 편지 써. 나 누나 편지 기다릴게. 아무 때고 상관없거든. 아무 때고 상관없거든. 그 때 바로 얘기해. 만약에 행복하면 하지 마. 행복하면 하지 마!
누나: 나중에 나중에 우리 꼭 다시 만나자. 사랑해.
영일: 이주희! 사랑한다, 이주희!
역무원: 지금 이 기차는 여기가 종점이에요. 내리세요.

Up to this point, you probably won't understand why this movie is a comedy. I had to follow the movie to the end before I kinda agreed that it should be classified as a comedy. You see, after meeting his 교회누나, 영일 was supposed to return to his army unit. 영일's 교회누나 was at the train station to send him off. As 영일 was too shy to reveal his true feeling to his 교회누나, he ran up a stationary train and sought cover behind the train window. It was through the train window that the above mushy dialogue between two of them was said. So just when all feelings were pouring out without inhibition, you have this train station master who went on air and broadcast: Now, this station is the last stop for this train. Please get out of it! You may want to watch the movie below to realise how funny the sudden change in mood is.

This will be my last posting on cultural lesson. There won't be a posting on Taekwondo. 땡땡이 쳤거든요, which means I was absent from the lesson. ^^

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

문화수업 - 한국노래

Date: 11 Aug 08 (Monday)
Venue: IIE, Room 210

The cultural lesson on Korean Song was kinda interesting. Among the cultural lessons, this is the lesson which I enjoyed the most. It seems like we have done quite a lot of things within that 2 hours of lesson. We started with some warm-up exercises, follow by children songs before moving on to pop songs.


To warm-up, we played games and had fun with sound accuracy, tongue twisters and the "dalki" game.

음정연습 (音正練習) - To "drill" our sound accuracy, we played a game which is also played in "Star Golden Bell" - a Korean variety show which is shown on KBS World. In the game, we were given a group of words like 모나리사 (Mona Lisa). We were supposed to repeat 모나리사 four times (because there are four words in it) and each time, we were supposed to emphasise the sound of only one word. The sequence of emphasis is as shown.


It is hard to describe in words how this is done but it was fun doing it. We also get to play with words like 사랑해요, 안녕하세요, 동대문시장, 남대문시장

발음연습 (發音練習) - For pronunciation, we were given 3 set of tongue-twisters to practise. I have long given up on tongue-twister because my tongue cannot roll. I also can't rap to save my life. For those who like getting your tongue "twisted", you may like to try the following tongue-twisters.

간장 공장 공장장은 강 공장장이고
된장 공장 공장장은 장 공장장이다

내가 그린 기린 그림은 긴 기린 그림이고
니가 그린 기린 그림은 안 긴 기린 그림이다

멍멍이네 꿀꿀이는 멍멍해도 꿀꿀하고
꿀꿀이네 멍멍이는 꿀꿀해도 멍멍한다

박자연습 (拍子練習) - To exercise our beat counting, we played the so-called "dalki game". The game requires us to repeat a sequence of four actions corresponding to the four beats in music note. The first action is to hit both our thighs with both our palms. The second action is to clap our hands. The third action is to point our right thumb (showing a "good" sign) to the right and the fourth is to point our left thumb to the left. The game also requires a person to call out the number of "dalki" (or strawberry) to count. Once a number is called, the rest of the people are supposed to "count" the "dalki". For example, for 딸기 하나 or one "dalki", we will go through the first 3 actions quietly and when doing the fourth action, we are required to shout out "dalki". For 딸기 2개, or 2 "dalki", we will go through the first two actions quietly. While performing the third action, we are to shout out "dalki" and likewise for the fourth action. Again, this game is not going to be easily understood unless you can see a demonstration of it. It was a lot of fun playing it though. We went all the way up to 딸기 6개.

Korean song lesson in progress. Not my class though.


When it came to singing of children songs, there wasn't any particular new song which we learnt. The first children song which we sang was "우리 모두 다 같이" (Together we all). The song title may not ring a bell but you should be able to sing it if I mention that its English version is called "If you are happy and you know it". The second song is the ever-so-popular "곰 세 마리" (Three Bears). Frankly, singing "곰 세 마리" is becoming a bore to me these days. 많이 불렀으니까.

It wasn't just plain singing throughout. We were taught to do some actions to accompany our singing. By doing all those actions, we either looked cute or looked silly. But whatever, it was all good fun.

우리 모두 다 같이

우리 모두 다 같이 손뼉을 (clap, clap)
우리 모두 다 같이 손뼉을 (clap, clap)
우리 모두 다 같이 즐겁게 노래해
우리 모두 다 같이 손뼉을 (clap, clap)

"손뼉을" can be replaced by 두 발을 (stomp, stomp), 인사를 (안녕하세요!) and 태관도 (ha, ha)

곰 세 마리

곰 세 마리가 한 집에 있어
아빠 곰, 엄아 곰, 애기 곰
아빠 곰은 뚱뚱해
엄아 곰은 날씬해
애기 곰은 너무 귀여워
으쓱 으쓱 잘한다

Singing 곰 세 마리 with accompanying actions


I was glad when we finally did something on Korean pop song. We were first shown the music video of the then chart-topper, "U Go Girl", by Lee Hyori. We weren't make to sing the song. Some songs are suited to be sung in "noraebang" but "U Go Girl" doesn't seem to fall into that category. Instead, we were taught to sing two other heart-warming songs. One of them, 김밥 (Gimbap) by 자두 (The Jadu) and the other, 라라라 by SG Wannabe. In particular, I find that the lyrics of "Gimbap" is quite meaningful. I like how the lyrics equates a relationship to that of "gim" (seaweed sheet) and "bap" (rice). An ideal relationship is like a well-made "gimpab" whereby the "gim" sticked tightly around the "bap". The lyrics also cautions that in a relationship, we should all change with time like "gimbap". While sweet radish used to be the main ingredient of "gimbap", you can find kimchi, cheese and tuna as well in "gimbap" these days. Finally, one phrase from the lyrics which I find quite nice - 끝까지 붙어 있으래? (Will you stick to me until the end?) Songs by the Jadu may not be the mainstream K-pop but they are always close to life and nice to listen to.

Singing along with the lyrics.

Monday, September 01, 2008

문화수업 - 한국놀이

Date: 8 Aug 08 (Friday)
Venue: IIE, Room B103

Four optional cultural lessons were scheduled during our 3-weeks course. They were Korean Game, Korean Song, Korean Movie and Taekwondo. Our daily language lessons starts from 9am and ends at 1pm. As such, cultural lessons can only be held in the afternoon. Our first cultural lesson was Korean game and the teacher-in-charge was Ms Kim Hyeon Jin (김현진). For those who know her, Ms Kim is a very fun teacher to be with. She is full of energy and highly animated. She can act, sing and dance. She can be as wild and crazy as any teenager out there. In short, she rocks! However, for some reason, she appeared quite tame during our lesson.

Our class was grouped with Intermediate 1 and Advanced 2 class for our cultural lesson. In the 2-hours lesson on Korean Game, we learnt and played 3 games, namely 제기차기 (Shuttlecock Kicking), 닭싸움 (Chicken Fight) and 윷놀이 ('Yut' Game). In the first part of the lesson, we were split into two teams and made to compete against one another in all the three games. Our team, 대풍(Typhoon), won in 제기차기 and 윷놀이. In the second part, we were further divided into smaller groups to play 윷놀이. I must say that I have a lot of practice on the game but I would prefer to play the game in a larger group as there is more fun and excitement.

제기차기 - Shuttlecock Kicking

제기 or Jegi is something like "capteh" but not exactly like it. It has a plastic round base with many thin shiny strips (strips like those used in pom pom ball) attached to it. The whole idea about winning the game is to use one's leg to kick the Jegi as many times as possible without dropping it on the floor.

닭싸움 - Chicken Fight

닭 (pronounced as "dak") means chicken and 싸움 (fight) is the nominalised form of the verb stem 싸우다 (to fight). To play the game, we have to stand on one leg while keeping the other bent. In that posture, we are made to "fight" with our opponent by pushing against him or her. The winner is the one who remains standing on one leg throughout while the loser is the one who stands on two legs or falls to the ground.

Ms Kim introducing the opponents for the 닭싸움 game

윷놀이 - "Yut" Game

To play the "yut" game, there is a need for four "yut" sticks, a board and four tokens for each of the two teams. Every "yut" stick has a flat and a round surface. The "yut" sticks function like a dice. The casting of the four "yut" sticks will result in five possible combinations and depending on the combination, the score ranges from 1 to 5. When the combination is either a 윷 or 모, a player will get an extra cast. One point is equivalent to one step on the board. To win the game, a team must get all their four tokens to the ending point before their opposing team does.

The five combinations of "yut" sticks and their corresponding score.

The board used for the "yut" game is called 말판 (literal meaning - horse board). The starting and ending point is shown as a big red dot on the bottom right corner of the board (see left). The actual board doesn't indicate the point in red though. The tokens played are called 말 or "horse" and there four different routes on the board which the tokens can take. To switch to the shortest route possible, a token must end its last move on a big circle. If a token constantly misses stopping at the big circle, it will have to take the longest route to the ending point.

Four possible routes - from the shortest (far left) to the longest (far right).

The tokens from the same team (white team) can move along the board together if they happen to stop at the same circle at some point in time. However, there lies a danger in moving multiple tokens together because if any of the token from the opposing team (black team) catches up and lands in the same circle, all the tokens from the white team will have to be sent back to the starting point. To further rub salt into the wound, the black team get an extra cast of the "yut" sticks for doing that. It is always fun to "kick" my opponent's token back to the starting point but it feels really miserable when my token, in turn, is being "kicked". It is such difference in between winning and losing that really makes a game exciting.