Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bus conductress update

As I mentioned in this post about bus conductresses, the main character in Yeongja's Heyday, the most popular film of 1975, worked as a bus conductress at one point before losing her arm in an accident. These screenshots should give some idea of how precarious and dangerous the job could be:

Imagine doing that job in Seoul traffic in the 1970s...

Monday, June 27, 2011

More trains to be in service on Line 9 by year's end

I was waiting at Gayang Station on Line 9 last week when a train inched into the station. Its speed and the fact that the announcement board said not to board the train made me curious, and this is what it looked like inside:

The sign reads "Train on trial run - do not board." A look at the Wikipedia entry for Line 9 revealed this welcome bit of information:
Currently [sic] there are 36 trains with four cars each. The express train comes every 20 minutes and the all-stop train comes every 6.7 minutes. Due to the number of riders exceeding 250,000 per day, 12 additional four car trains have been ordered and are expected to be in service starting October, 2011. This would mean the express train comes every 7~10 minutes and the all-stop train comes every 5 minutes.
This Munhwa Ilbo article is listed as a source, which makes clear that, when the 12 new trains are put into service in October, there will be 36 trains in total, meaning there must be 24 trains at the moment (most likely 8 express and 16 all-stop trains). It also notes that the new trains would arrive in July 2011, 16 months after the order was placed for them (ie March 2010). I imagine they've arrived early, and that the train above is one of them.

The increase in the number of trains is welcome news. The express trains are jam-packed to the point they can no longer take on passengers (after two stops!) in the mornings, and are little better in the evenings. One reason for this is that the trains are only four cars long, but the stations have room for trains with eight cars. I'd wondered if this was a bid by the company to save money, seeing as it initially planned, if I remember correctly, to charge a fare of 1,300 won, but was forced by the city to charge 900 won (it's vaguely mentioned here). Perhaps this isn't the case, however. I think increasing the number of trains, rather than the number of cars, is the best way to go. The trains come infrequently compared to other subway lines (all-stop trains leave Gimpo Airport Station every 10 minutes, with express trains leaving every 20 minutes). Needless to say, I'm looking forward to the change, though as far as going downtown is concerned, the AREX line will always be faster, especially when the transfer at Gongdeok station opens at the end of this year. The two lines together have made the Gangseo-gu area feel much closer to downtown, and have affected housing prices as well.

One nice thing about the Line 9 trains is being able to look out the front window...

(Note much space is available for more cars.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011


On November 11, 1997, Stars and Stripes published the following article about AETACK .

AETACK's online postings can be found in Google Groups here. It's rather impressive that you can still read it after all this time.

The Korea Times article that is referred to above may be this one, from November 6, 1997:
Korea's International Image Faces Abuse in Cyberspace

Korea's international image has recently faced abuse on the Internet and in computer games sold in the U.S. A group calling themselves the American English Teachers Attacking Corrupt Koreans (AETACK) have sent random inflammatory anti-Korean electronic mail to subscribers on the Internet.

In one poison missive sent to members of America On Line entitled"No Visa Waiver For Korea," the message said "(We) feel that Korea does not deserve this privilege because of its behavior toward us and other foreign workers," adding that "the Korean economy is sinking into debt oblivion so they don't have much money to spend...there is also the threat of opening the door to Korean Mafia-style criminals who are acknowledged to be a problem by the FBI."

The group, apparently based in Korea, has become also the center of controversy for anonymously posting similar messages on opinion boards on the Internet.

One letter on the site of a local English newspaper said, "Some members may take other views. The common thread that holds this loose knit organization together is our shared desire to improve the working conditions of ESL teachers in Korea."

In another posting, Jeffrey M. Whitbread of Puchon, Kyonggi-do wrote in reply, "(AETACK is) using this as an excuse to bash Korea and make derogatory statements about Koreans, nothing more."

Another unidentified Korean-American also added, "(AETACK) crosses any lines, race or sex, and has a kinship with the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads... (those) who feel they have a legitimate cause but who are on the order of magnitude worse than whatever evils they are trying to eradicate."

The giant software company, Microsoft, was also recently condemned for creating and selling a computer game which depicts Koreans as a primitive race who go about without any clothing and live in makeshift homes made of coconut leaves.

Kim Chae-min, head of Microsoft Korea, asked for greater tolerance of the Korean public since it was a game and not any form of historical documentation.

Microsoft had earlier caused a public outcry in Korea for identifying the island of Tok-do, off the east coast, as Japanese territory on one of its CD-ROM products.
AETACK = KKK. Thanks Korea Times. Too bad a little bit of sugar wasn't used to make the "shared desire to improve the working conditions of ESL teachers in Korea" aspect go down better. Obviously their tone guaranteed a 'circle the wagons' response, not that it takes much to get that, wherever one is. And obviously no one took their complaints about Microsoft further than an 'outcry'...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"I really like freedom"

Planet Hollywood (From here)

A May 20, 1994 article tells us that
Superstar Bruce Willis and his band "The Accelerators" will perform at the U.S. Army Base in Seoul, Korea for 3,000 American troops on Thursday, May 26. The performance, a special request from the U.S.O., will be part of an effort to boost moral for the troops in Korea. Willis will make a private visit to American and South Korean soldiers in Korea's demilitarized zone.

Willis is in Korea to break ground for Planet Hollywood Seoul, which will be opening at the end of the year. After Seoul, Willis is on route to Hong Kong for the Grand Opening of Planet Hollywood Hong Kong, which will be the first Planet Hollywood in Asia.
A photo of Willis hanging out with Park Jung-hun during this visit is here. I'm not sure when the restaurant opened, exactly, but almost exactly a year later Willis returned with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Don Johnson and Cindy Crawford.

(From here)

It opened during a time of growing affluence, as this article notes, but apparently "closed within months." As this post describing a September 1995 visit to Seoul put it,
I wasn't surprised to hear that it later went out of business. It was so far from anything, that you couldn't even say it was close to nothing.
I'm not really sure where it was, but you can apparently buy paraphernalia from it like shot glasses online. Obviously, there is a reason for a post about Hollywood stars (something I care little about) visiting Seoul, namely this May 26, 1995 Stars and Stripes piece about Willis and Johnson's visit:
Stars pay visit to DMZ, troops
CAMP BONIFAS — Movie actors Bruce Willis and Don Johnson this week visited the U.N. truce village of Panmunjom and American troops stationed nearby.

U.S. Army helicopters brought the two stars and an entourage of about 40 people to camp. They were taken on a tour of nearby Panmunjom which straddles the Korean War ceasefire line just north of Bonifas.

"It gives me an odd feeling standing here," Johnson said, "because I really like freedom."

As a solemn-faced North Korean guard outside leaned close to a window to peer at the crowd inside the building, Willis struck a tough-guy pose, balled fists at his sides, and quipped, "Gimme a reason. Just gimme a reason."

Back at Bonifas, they posed for scores of photos with the troops. Then, as a crowd of about 200 security force soldiers enjoyed music of Willis' rock'n'roll band, Johnson, in an interview, called the DMZ visit "one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life."
"I really like freedom." "Just gimme a reason." What would we do without celebrities to guide us with their wise words? And why didn't Willis follow up on this with a movie in which he single-handedly reunifies Korea?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The return of the bus conductress

This photo appeared on the Korea Times' site yesterday:

Please use buses: Women who worked as bus conductors in the 1970s wave to passengers in their old uniforms at a bus stop in central Seoul, during an event organized by Seoul City to promote the use of public transportation, Wednesday.
They seem quite cheerful, which stands in contrast to the description of their job found on this page about extinct jobs:
In the 1960s, the major means of transportation was by bus. The buses of those days had only one hand-operated door in the middle, while the bus of today has two automatic doors for entrance and exit. Therefore, people back then got on and off through the same door.

The conductress system was introduced in 1961. The average age of conductress was only 17 and most of them were country girls who came to the city to earn money to support their families. Bus conductress collected bus fares, and pushed passengers into the bus, and dragged passengers trying to get off the bus. In particular, when a bus was jam-packed during rush hour, conductress had to be as strong as Hercules in order to push the passengers on. They also opened and shut the door and called "Oraii!!" to the bus driver striking the bus as soon as all the passengers had got on. If the bus was too crowded, it used to run on with the door open. Sometimes, this caused unexpected accidents. Bus conductress used to fall off from the bus and get injured, or even die in the worst cases.

The conductresses were superwomen. They worked from 4 a.m. to 12 p.m. They had no break time, because they had to clean the bus and run trivial errands for the driver. Bus companies provided them with room and board, but it was terrible. Their lodgings were really narrow and had no proper shower stall. An avalanche of protests was heard after a bus company frisked conductresses on suspicion of their stealing money. The number of applicants decreased in the beginning of the 1980s, and the shortage in conductresses became worse. Finally, the automatic bus was introduced in 1985. Passengers no longer paid the bus fare to the conductress and put the fare in the fare box. In 1989, conductress finally faded into the mist of history.

The mention of accidents reminds me of the main character in Yeongja's Heyday, the most popular film of 1975, who works as a bus conductress and loses her arm in an accident, leading her to become a prostitute. The reaction to the friskings the girls received is mention in this Korea Times op-ed article from February 1976 about the trials faced by bus conductresses:

Another extinct job mentioned at that site is the dabang DJ - do give it a read. Today I suppose there's no reason to have a DJ play your songs when you can simply sing them yourself. The Joongang Ilbo today took a look at the history of the noraebang - which turns 20 this year, a topic that Antti Leppänen delved into five years ago.

And on the topic of things that have disappeared into the past, this post is worth looking at.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seoul: a model city

Here's a Korea Times article about future plans for Seoul from January 1, 1970:

It's interesting to see that there was another mayor of Seoul known as the 'bulldozer' - perhaps he was LMB's inspiration. Most of the plans mentioned in that article came to fruition. Yeouido did become Seoul's 'Manhattan,' I suppose (but is still under construction). Views of what it looked like when it was an airfield (mentioned in the article) and how it looked in 1975 while it was being developed can be seen here and here. Seoul did indeed spread south across the river (beyond the already existing Yeongdeungpo area), initially to Banpo and Jamsil. While the subway system grew beyond the dreams of the planners, by the mid 1970s only Line 1 was open. More than 15 bridges were built, but the only tunnels under the Han River are for subway lines. As for the islands in the Han River, Nanji-do was 'cultivated' into a garbage dump (long since covered by Sky Park, west of World Cup Stadium) while Chungji-do (중지도, which it turns out seems to be another name for Nodeulseom) is still undeveloped today since funding was cut for mayor Oh Se-hoon's Opera House project on Nodeulseom.

The success of these plans goes to show what a playground the city has been for government planners - something that has changed little in the past 40 years.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sexualizing teen stars to be banned by new guideline

The Korea Times reports that the Fair Trade Commission has taken action that "bans sexualizing teen stars:"
Government officials are attempting to prevent the revealing styles of teenage pop idols as they warn against the media’s portrayal of young women as sex objects.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) Friday announced a new guideline for standard contract terms between production companies and artists, which include preventing underage singers from dressing in excessively sexual clothing. Management shouldn’t deprive the boys and girls in showbiz from their educational opportunities either, the FTC said, and needs to protect them from long working hours.
Well, announcing a guideline ought to put a stop to all of this. Now entertainment companies won't have their teen stars wear skirts so short they show off their underwear, and the media will stop portraying "young women as sex objects."

Such as this Joongang Ilbo article which was at the top of Naver awhile ago titled "Chinese netizens go wild over Son Yeon-jae," which gave a matter-of-fact account of what Chinese netizens were writing about the girl known in Korea as the 'gymnastics pixie' (much as Kim Yuna was once the 'figure pixie'). It was mostly stuff like "A Korean girl like a dream," "absolutely perfect," "a Korean body you can’t help but dream about."

Much the same thing happened when Son appeared at the 'LG Whisen Rhythmic All Star 2011' gala show last Sunday, with Asia Gyeongje publishing a slew of photos from the show with titles like "Son Yeon-jae’s captivating look – her ‘pixie’ image disappears," "Son Yeon-jae’s seductive beckoning," "Son Yeon-jae shows off her s line," and "Son Yeon-jae’s stand out s line":

I suppose someone could point out she just turned 17 and that headlines like that might be inappropriate, but then, she is four years older than the age of consent, so perhaps it's all okay after all. Besides, according to this, she may have wanted to get a reaction:
"I’ve always been seen with a cute and youthful image but now I want to show a transformed me."
Mission accomplished. One wonders if that's something she wants - or if its more her management's idea. At any rate, being cute and known for your 's-line' will probably ultimately mean more advertising contracts. As for the performance, the training video shows some ho-hum 'sexy' dancing, but I'm more impressed by the 'human windmill' thing she does at 0:55.

Friday, June 17, 2011

RASKB's 111th anniversary

Yesterday was the 111th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Asiatic Society's Korea Branch. Among its founders are names which should be familiar to those aware of early 20th century Korean history: Underwood, Appenzeller, Hulbert, Gale, Avison, Allen. The 2010 edition of Transactions has an essay by current RASKB president Brother Anthony about the early years of the RASKB and its relationship with the Japanese which reminds readers that after three years the RASKB ceased to exist, and was only re-founded in 1911, which in some ways makes this year its true 100th anniversary. At any rate, I came across an article from 1975 about its 75th anniversary with an unintentionally amusing title:

I wasn't aware there was ever a Daegu branch. I wonder what happened to it...

Post-tsunami clean up

Jon over at I'm a Seoul Man in Tokyo has an interesting post about volunteering in the post-tsunami clean-up of Ishinomaki, in Miyagi Prefecture. There are more before and after photos of the clean-up here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ohmynews article on new elementary school English curriculum

On March 23, Ohmynews published a lengthy article about the new 6th grade elementary school English curriculum, of which a portion is below. One wonders if the reporter was ordered to bash the Lee Myung-bak government and got lost along the way.
Memorize 520 words without teaching how to read?
[Curriculum full of holes, Part 2] How to evaluate, when public English education involves only memorizing words?

In February, new textbooks were handed out to fifth grade children, and the 6th grade English textbooks had arrived. The children who received the books were angry.

"Are we university students? Why is this book so thick?"

As it is a subject that is already burdensome, adding a book that was thicker and heavier than the book they used last year made them instantly angry.

"The teacher said that in 6th grade English classes will increase to three hours a week. So during vacation we should give up our time to properly review the things we learned in grade five in order to be able to follow the 6th grade material."

The book is also very thick and feels like a university textbook. The lessons take up 200 pages, but with the supplementary material it is almost 600 pages. Now it's thick and there are complaints, but from March when classes start, the amount of English being studied, as well as the time, will increase, and because of this, how much worry will be caused?

▲ This year's 5th and 6th grade government designated English textbooks. Class time will increase to three hours per week and the textbook, with class material added to the end of the book, is much heavier and thicker than previous books. This year the textbook will be used for one year, and next year will see a switch to screened textbooks.

This year English study will increase from two to three hours per week for grades 5 and 6. The Lee Myung-bak government has strengthened public English education in order to reduce private education costs and improve English skills, and for this reason, in 2008 English classes were increased by one hour per week for elementary school students in grades 3-6.

For this reason, in many elementary schools across the country, the number of class hours has increased, and even in elementary schools 7 class period-days have made an appearance. (Because they are studying English?). This year in the case of grade 6, there is criticism that there has only been an increase in the amount of class time and supplementary materials, and actual endemic problems with English education cannot be completely solved.

With 102 hours lost, a mere 6 hours is a solution?

Since last year this year's grade six students have studied the 7th curriculum, but this year, learning English has led to a loss of 102 hours of study time from the 2008 revised curriculum. Children in grades 3, 4, and 5 had studied English for 1, 1, and 2 hours per week respectively (or 136 hours over 34 weeks), but this year the curriculum mandates that English be taught for 2, 2, and 3 hours per week each (238 hours). Therefore, if the 6th grade textbook cannot be learned correctly, extra, remedial study will be needed.

To remedy the 6th grade students' loss of studying, the education ministry has made 6 hours of review material. Teachers have also been sent promotional material. But how can the loss of 102 hours be solved with only 6 hours? The contents are almost the same as the those from the 5th grade. In comparison to the new 5th grade textbook, reading and writing have been pieced together and slightly edited. In other words, the 5th grade's 16 chapters have been compressed into 6 hours.

[...] [A page of revision material is shown.]

But will this 6 hours of review really solve the study deficit of 6th grade children? Can the ministry of education's boast that by not receiving private education and through English class alone elementary school level speaking, reading and writing can be flawlessly completed? If this is possible, there would be no need for the Lee Myung-bak government to work so hard at increasing English class hours.
The article goes on (and on) to complain about the textbook, but I'll stop there.

First of all is this sentence: "The lessons take up 200 pages, but with the supplementary material it is almost 600 pages."

The lessons do take up 200 pages, but saying that the supplementary material takes up 'almost' 400 pages is either a lie or the reporter can't count. There are 24 pages of grade 5 review and 105 pages of supplementary material (though all of these pages have material on only one side, so the number could be said to be less than 55). By page numbering, however, the book is 230 pages - not "almost 600 pages." It's here you start to wonder if the article is straw man hatchet job.

The problem above may well be, however, that the reporter can't count. I mean, the part about adding up all of the class hours of grades 3-5 under the old system (136 hours) and this year's system (238 hours) and subtracting to get the difference (102 hours) and then saying that this should somehow be made up to this year's grade 6 students makes no sense at all. Especially complaining that there's only six hours of review; should there be 102 hours of review, then? There are lots of things that could be criticized about the curriculum, but not having 102 hours of review isn't really one of them. The books shown above are pretty much the same as the old ones, except that instead of spending four classes on each unit they now spend six.

I especially like the bit at the end saying that if the kids were able to learn the curriculum, the government wouldn't need to increase class hours, as if the increase is a sign of weakness.

Strange. Very strange.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Meth connected to foreign teachers again

The Maeil Gyeongje published this article today:
American English instructor arrested for Philipon

The International Crime Division of the Incheon Police announced on the 15th that 31 year-old American English instructor Mr. Kim was booked without detention for taking philopon at a motel he was staying at (in contravention of the Drug Control Law), and that police were in pursuit of 41 year-old Mr. Park, who took drugs with Mr. Kim.

According to police, Mr. Kim, a second generation Korean American, allegedly took methamphetamine (philopon) with Mr. Park at a motel in Incheon at 10:30pm on March 14.

The police investigation found that they diluted 0.05 grams of methamphetamine in water and injected it into a vein in their forearms.

Police revealed that, "It is estimated that there are a good many foreign instructors working in Korea who have not had their qualifications verified." "We are expanding an investigation against them for drugs and various crimes."
As usual, we're told nothing about Mr. Kim other than that he's Korean American and an English instructor. Is he working as a native speaking instructor? They don't say. If I had to guess, I'd say the odds are he's not E-2, but as we all know, when a non E-2 foreign English instructor (whether hired an as a native speaking instructor or Korean instructor) is arrested for drugs, he or she is magically granted membership in the 'native speaking instructor' club. This seems to be another attempt to link foreign instructors with a drug stronger than marijuana, coming on the heels of presenting a Nigerian in Korea who worked in a factory and taught English at some point and who was meant to receive a shipment of meth as a "drug smuggling former English teacher." He too was admitted to the 'native speaking instructor' club, which I don't think had any meth smugglers prior to that point.

As for "It is estimated that there are a good many foreign instructors working in Korea who have not had their qualifications verified", this is absolutely correct. The problem is, those people are not E-2 visa holders, but cases like this will be used as evidence that E-2 visa requirements need to be strengthened (again!). Not that anyone reporting on this, or the police making announcements about this, have any understanding, or desire to understand, the differences between visas, apparently.

At any rate, we went over two weeks without a negative foreign teacher story. It was eerily quiet...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Punning on 'Seoul food' in 1981

While looking for information about McDonald's early attempts to break into the Korean market, I came across this March 18, 1981 story from Miami News:

I wonder if the part about there being no cattle industry in Korea is true? It would certainly put the 2008 Mad Cow protests and the promotion of Hanwoo in a different light. Also, the hubbub about Burger King introducing fast food hamburgers to Korea doesn't seem to be true, at least according to Lotteria's website, which says that its first store in Korea opened in Sogong-dong, Seoul, in October 1979.

According to the Burger King website their plans for a 1981 opening did not bear fruit. In fact, the first Korean outlet (in Jongno) didn't open until 1984, the same year Wendy's opened:

(Still from the 1985 film Queen Bee showing the Itaewon location;
a photo of another location with a 'traditional' roof is here)

McDonald's wouldn't open until 1988, a year before the first foreign convenience stores arrived in Korea, and two years before the first Korean convenience store, LG25, opened. Convenience stores have threatened to overtake mom and pop stores for years, and continue to expand.

I liked the hamburger map that accompanied the Miami News article:

A shame they couldn't find a map of Korea more recent than one made between 1945 and 1950, though - you start to wonder why there's no hamburger next to Kaesong...

Friday, June 10, 2011


I recently caught some naval training manoeuvres on the Han River:

"Form an isosceles trapezoid!"

"You are just screwing with me, right?"

" That's better."

North Korea, unsurprisingly, cried fowl when they learned about this.

I also couldn't help showing these photos to coworkers at a staff dinner the other night, where we had duck-galbi for dinner.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A swarm of bees

Some excitement outside work yesterday - a swarm of bees suddenly gathered around the roof of a house across the street:

Not the easiest thing to catch on camera from a distance. Before long a 119 emergency vehicle showed up, which was followed by a fire truck.

Hosing down the roof (they seemed to gathered around the underside of the roof, but never had a chance to land en masse) dispersed most of the bees (who knows where they went after that).

According to this, bees usually swarm near their original nest. I was up on Gaehwasan, behind where I live, a few weeks ago and noticed someone selling honey - with several (man made) hives clustered nearby - perhaps there are some being raised nearby where I work as well.

Oddly enough, I've blogged about bees before (real bees, not films). And as long as I'm on the topic, why not link to my favourite song from the Soft Boys' Can of Bees?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

English as Korea's official language?

I'd been made aware of Bok Koh-ill (복거일)'s controversial 1998 book "National Language in an Era of International Language," in which he suggested Korea adopt English as an official language, awhile ago by Ben Wagner, so this July 23, 1998 Korea Times article about his ideas caught my attention when I came across it.

Bok has since written further on this subject, as well as writing defenses of capitalism. Any doubts about his nationalist credentials would seem to be removed by the fact that he'd been writing nationalist novels for over a decade at that point, with his first book apparently being about an alternate reality in which Ahn Jung-geun failed to kill Ito Hirobumi (which sounds similar to the movie "2009 Lost Memories").

Needless to say, his ideas were not popular with a good many people:

At the same time, however, it seems Bok's ideas weren't as outlandish as the public backlash might have made them out to be. In a survey done in 1999, Shin Gi-wook found that 54% of respondents agreed with the statement "English should be the second official language in
Korea." The essay in which this appears, "The Paradox of Korean Globalization" goes quite a ways toward explaining why a nationalist would consider downgrading Korean to a regional dialect in exchange for making English the official language:
“Western technology, Eastern spirit,” a highly popular slogan in early twentieth century East Asia, reflected Asians’ desires to appropriate Western technology and science, even as they faced the encroaching forces of global imperialism. This practice was known as “defensive modernization”, where modernization meant defending Asians’ own nations from Western aggression. The ultimate goal was therefore national sovereignty and independence, not modernization per se. The current discussion of making English the second official language in Japan and South Korea can also be understood in this context—as a global language (or the language of the Internet), English is considered a crucial instrument to enhance Korean and Japanese national competitiveness in a global market. [...]

Korea’s globalization can be understood in a similar way. Under the name of segyehwa, the Kim Young Sam government attempted a top-down reform of the Korean political economy to meet the rapidly changing conditions of the world economy. In the Sydney Declaration of 17 November 1994, Kim formally announced his government’s drive for globalization and set up the Globalization Promotion Committee (segyehwa ch’ujin wiwônhoe), or GPC. The GPC was headed by the prime minister and consisted of a set of committees on policy planning, administrative reform, educational reform, and science and technology (see Gills and Gills 2000). Korea’s globalization drive was initiated by the state, and segyehwa was kept as a name for Korean way of globalization.

In laying out his policy of segyehwa, President Kim put it in a historical context. First he reflected on Korea’s modern history, comparing what Korea faces today to “the challenge of similar revolutionary changes at the turn of this [twentieth] century” (Kim 1996, p. 9). Yet with only “a vague awareness of the need to pursue modernization,” he contends, Korea failed to reform and subsequently became a Japanese colony. Since the 1960s, Korea has been remarkably successful in its efforts to modernize and industrialize, but is not well equipped to meet the new challenge of globalization. His segyehwa policy is thus necessary “if Korea is to survive and thrive in this age of increasingly fierce borderless global competition” (Kim 1996, p. 15).
So Shin argues (in an essay which also appears as a chapter in his book 'Ethnic Nationalism in Korea') that embracing globalization - something seemingly the opposite of nationalism - was in fact done to achieve nationalist goals - to survive in a world (perceived in social Darwinian terms) of "fierce borderless global competition". Seen in this way, the nationalist argument for English to replace Korean as the official language begins to make sense.

For more essays related to this topic, "Discourses of English as an Official Language in a Monolingual Society: The Case of South Korea" by Ok Kyoon-yoo can be found here (.doc), while "The Language Politics of “English Fever” in South Korea" by Doobo Shim and Joseph Sung-Yul Park can be found here.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Digging into old Korean films

The Korea Times reported last week that Kim Ki-young's first film, 'The Boxes of Death,' had been rediscovered. Kim is best known for his 1960 film 'The Housemaid,' which was remade last year by Im Sang-soo.
“The Boxes of Death” opened in local theaters in 1955 but went missing like many of the works from the period following the Korean War (1950-53).

In 2009, Kim Han-sang, a visiting fellow at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, discovered a copy of the film at the National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland, and the Korean Film Archive spent 24 million won to create a 35-millimeter replica of the print.

The version revealed here is unfortunately incomplete, a silent film with a misplaced audio track. [...]

The Korean Film Archive is hosting a retrospective of Kim’s early works until June 19. Fans will be able to watch not only “The Boxes of Death” but also films he made for the U.S. Information Agency, including “I Am a Truck” (1954) and “Diary of Three Sailors” (undated). The latter is in English.
One wonders if there would be Korean subtitles (if the script survived). According to KOFA's website, 'The Boxes of Death' plays Saturday June 5 at 1:00pm and June 9 at 2:00pm. The films he made for the U.S. Information Agency will screen June 9 at 4:30pm. (The English language schedule leaves the latter films out for some reason).

Six of Kim Ki-young's 23 surviving films can be found on dvd, including 4 in this box set, The Housemaid, and the 1955 film Yangsan-do. While the Korean Film Archive has been releasing classic Korean films on DVD for several years now, there's still a lot to cover. One option would be to catch the films on tv, which is apparently where some of the movies listed here came from (each decade is a single torrent, and - surprise! - the site does not require a Korean ID to sign up). There are a few of Kim Ki-young's films there, including 'Woman of fire' and 'Transgression.' The latter is perhaps notable for being the debut of Im Ye-jin, then 14, who played a Buddhist nun. Let's just say that I was a little surprised that the biggest teen film star of the late 70s got her start in a Kim Ki-young film sporting a shaved head and, in one scene, nothing else.

That site has a ton of movies from the 50s to the 80s, with some of them coming from DVDs and the rest apparently from TV or VHS. They range from martial arts films like "The Five Fingers of Death"(1972) to movies I'd never heard of (like this), to classics I've tried to find for years, like Declaration of Fools (1983), which I finally caught a screening of at KOFA back in February (and had my mind blown). Only two films by 'Declaration of Fools' director Lee Jang-ho have been released on DVD - 'Between the Knees' (1984) and 'Eoudong' (1985), which is really too bad, as the films I've seen have been well worth watching. The three above films, his debut "Heavenly Homecoming of Stars" (1974 (and there must be a better translation of 별들의 고향)) and 1980's Pleasant Windy Day can be found here. His debut broke box office records and introduced his style, which still seems pretty damn cool today. The music for the film was done by Lee Jang-hee (both he and Lee Jang-ho would see their careers put on hold after being arrested for pot in 1975 and 1976), whose music is showcased in this scene from the film:

I've also been delving into the Lee Man-hee box set, but I'll save that for another day.

It isn't related to old movies, but this video is pretty amazing.