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In Search of Solace

On the Road 2022 SUMMER 260

In Search of Solace In Search of Solace For many who come to Korea, teaching English is a brief stop on the road to something else. For Christopher Maslon, it became permanent. But he also thrives in art, his original pursuit, and dabbles in other areas, always ready to add to the things he loves to do. © GEOJE CITY When I heard the cherry blossoms were already in full bloom in the south, my heart, frozen throughout the winter, began to melt. I thought of a certain coastal road on Geoje Island and hurriedly packed, propelled by the thought that the thick tunnel of flowers might shed all its petals before I arrived. I was in my car before sunrise and relieved to have a large cache of music for the road. The GPS informed me that the drive from Seoul would take about four and a half hours – six if I stopped at rest stops. Of the songs on my playlist, I’m especially fond of “Gran Torino.” It’s about driving a Gran Torino, a U.S. muscle car of the 1970s, to console a tired and lonely heart. Engines hum and bitter dreams grow Heart locked in a Gran Torino It beats a lonely rhythm all night long The song is part of the soundtrack of the movie of the same name. The protagonist, played by Clint Eastwood, is a grumpy, aloof Korean War veteran whose trauma makes him wary of letting people get too close. When I listen to it, it feels like my car has also become a Gran Torino, comforting me while taking me to Geoje Island.   With the completion of the Geoga Bridge, the travel distance between Busan and Geoje Island was dramatically reduced from 140 km to 60 km and the travel time from 2 hours and 30 minutes to 30-40 minutes. © gettyimagesKOREA Pow Memorial Park Geoje Island lies between the city of Busan to the east and Tongyeong to the west. Although an island, it has long been accessible by land thanks to Geoje Bridge, completed in 1971, and beside it the New Geoje Bridge, completed in 1999. Both lead to Tongyeong. In 2010, an overland road to Busan also opened when Geoga Bridge, an 8.2-kilometer bridge-tunnel, was built to the east. The bridges connecting Geoje to Tongyeong span a narrow waterway famous for its many reefs and fierce currents. In 1592, during the first Japanese invasion of Korea, Admiral Yi Sun-shin lured the enemy here and off Hansan Island. His outnumbered warships moved into crane wing formation and routed the Japanese fleet. But no matter how thrilling this sounds, there is a more sobering side to Geoje Island: its history as a holding pen for tens of thousands of war prisoners. In September 1950, the Incheon Landing led by General Douglas McArthur bisected North Korean forces, reversing the tide of the Korean War. With their supply lines cut off and their ability to repel counterattacks crippled, North Korean soldiers ended up in a 12,000 square meter prisoner-of-war (POW) camp in the Gohyeon and Suwol districts of Geoje Island. The camp began operation in February 1951 with 150,000 North Korean soldiers, 20,000 Chinese Communist soldiers and 3,000 militia soldiers. Among them were 3,000 female prisoners. The Historic Park of Geoje POW Camp memorializes those captured in war. As soon as I stepped inside, I came across the text of the Geneva Convention, a set of treaties that established international legal standards for humanitarian treatment during wartime. The 1949 agreements in particular define the basic rights of prisoners of war. They were applied for the first time during the Korean War. The exhibition hall at the entrance of the Historic Park highlights efforts to protect the human rights of the North Korean POWs. It is said that the meals served at the camp were much better than the food given to soldiers at the frontline. Still, regardless of how well the POWs were treated, their agony was inescapable as the war grinded on. Locked up with no idea of how far from home they were, they spent their days as forced laborers. Sometimes, for propaganda purposes, they were forced to act as if they were content despite their circumstances. Displays of the barracks, uniforms and other materials that shed light on the lives of prisoners make the Historic Park of Geoje POW Camp an educational site and tourist attraction of Geoje Island. The movie “Swing Kids,” set in 1951 during the Korean War, follows a tap dance team that is assembled to perform at the largest prisoner-of- war camp in South Korea, on Geoje Island. © NEW A photograph of prisoners at the Geoje camp doing a folk dance inspired Choi Suchol’s 2016 novel “Dance of the POWs” (Porodeului chum ). On the same subject, theater director Kim Tae-hyung staged the musical “Ro Gi-su” (2015), later adapted by the movie director Kang Hyoung-chul into the movie “Swing Kids” (2018). Did the prisoners learn, practice and perform the dance in the photograph of their own volition? In one photo taken in 1952 by Werner Bischof, a member of the internationally renowned photojournalist group Magnum, the prisoners are wearing unusually large masks as they dance in their camp. Presumably, they wanted to hide their identity to avoid attacks by fellow prisoners who felt betrayed, or perhaps to protect themselves and their families from eventual government persecution in North Korea if the photos were seen. This theory is reflected in “Dance of the POWs,” “Ro Gi-su” and “Swing Kids.” Pebbles that resemble black pearls blanket beaches on Geoje Island. The sound of the water washing over the pebbles when the tide goes out (described as “jageul jageul”) has been selected as one of the top 100 natural sounds of Korea. © gettyimagesKOREA One might ask what more could be done for people who once pointed their guns at “our side.” Coming from a generation that has never experienced war, I have nothing to say on such a sensitive issue. I can only hope with all my heart that war and similar threats and violence will disappear from Earth. I turned toward nearby Chilcheon Island, where most of the Korean fleet was destroyed in 1597. It was the only major defeat of the Korean Navy among countless battles against Japanese warships. Before the battle, Admiral Yi Sun-shin had been removed as naval commander because he disagreed with King Seonjo over strategy. Standing in the yard of the memorial hall, I sighed, then sighed again as I looked down at the water. Some 20 minutes away is Okpo, the site of Korea’s first naval victory against the Japanese under the command of Admiral Yi during the Imjin War. A truce was declared after the initial invasion in 1592, and then a second invasion in 1597. The next year, Japanese forces finally withdrew from the Korean peninsula. My Gran Torino continued on to the next traces of war.   Haegeumgang, an island that features two rocky peaks, is found within Hallyeohaesang National Park. The sun rising over Lion Rock is a spectacular sight that appears only in March and October © gettyimagesKOREA Mongdol Beach Geoje Island is home to many beaches covered with pebbles (mongdol ). One of them is the 1.3-kilometer long Hakdong Mongdol Beach on the southeast side of the island. This beach has no sand. Instead, it’s covered with smooth “black pearl” pebbles of various shapes and sizes. Pounding ocean waves eroded and fragmented large rocks into pebbles the size of a fist. If one paused to consider how long it took for small pebbles to be created, life would seem to last for no more than a fleeting moment. Hakdong Mondol Beach, shaped like a flying crane, is the most famous pebble beach on the island, attracting a steady stream of tourists all year round. Wherever the waves wash over the smooth black pebbles, they glitter in the sun, looking exactly like black pearls. Covering the beach, they rub loudly against each other whenever the seawater rushes in. In this fashion, the raw power of the waves is scattered. Unlike sandy beaches, pebble beaches protect residents who live by the seaside. According to local folklore, all the pebbles on the beach disappeared one day when the waves were particularly fierce. Only sand was left, and the residents trembled with fear at this strange occurrence. But the next day, like magic, all the pebbles were back. This little tale speaks of how much the locals love and treasure the black pebbles, and indeed, efforts are made to stop tourists from pocketing one or two of them as souvenirs. To that end, the account of an awakened American teenager appears on the signboards on every pebble-covered beach:In the summer of 2018, a small package arrived at the eastern branch office of Hallyeohaesang National Park. Inside were two black pebbles and a letter. A 13-year-old American girl had taken the two pebbles home as a souvenir, but felt they should be returned. “My mother found out later and taught me how long Mother Nature had labored to make these beautiful stones. So I decided to give back the pebbles to their rightful place,” the girl wrote in a letter of apology. Her sincerity is sure to have greater impact on would-be souvenir hunters than any warnings of fines or penalties. After strolling along the beach I boarded a ferry. I wanted to see Haegeumgang, an island consisting of two rocky peaks whose name means “diamond of the sea.” Sticking straight up in the middle of the water, the island was designated as Scenic Site No. 2 back in 1971. Of Korea’s 129 nationally designated scenic sites, only 15 are marine or insular sites, and two of these are found in the Geoje district of Hallyeohaesang National Park – an indication of the great beauty of the coastal scenery around Geoje Island. Near Haegeumgang is Sinseondae Observatory. A long stairway off the coastal road leads to the viewing site, overlooking cobalt waters and rocky terrain layered in blue and yellow.   Yang Dal-seok (1908-1984), famous for his idyllic, innocent paintings of the Korean countryside, was called the “painter of cows and herders.” Cheongma Memorial Hall was built at the birthplace of Yu Chi-hwan, a leading figure in modern Korean literature. The building houses records related to the life and work of the poet, whose penname was Cheongma, meaning “blue stallion.” Artist of Geoje Island With the glories of Haegeumgang engraved in my memory, I returned to port and hit the road again – this time to meet Yang Dal-seok (1908-1984), one of Korea’s earliest Western-style painters, and Yu Chi-hwan (1908-1967), a major name in Korean poetry. Is it possible that the two artists turned into the towering rocks of Haegeumgang after they died? I first headed to Seongnae, the hometown of Yang Dal-seok. Entering the village filled with murals that replicate his paintings was like entering a storybook. Many of these paintings feature cows and shepherds, with children happily running around though their pants are falling down, clearly revealing their buttocks. Some are doing handstands while others are bent over and looking at the world from between their legs. Their behavior and expressions are expressed comically. Cows are lazily chewing on grass and the whole world is green and fresh. Everything is peaceful. How could the world painted by Yang be so lyrical and beautiful? Orphaned at a young age, Yang spent part of his childhood as a servant at his uncle’s house and was familiar with cows. One day, he lost a cow that he had taken out to pasture and received a severe scolding. That night, he scoured the mountains. When he finally found the cow, he held onto one of its legs and wept. Perhaps painful memories such as this turned him into an artist who dreamt of a world without fear or worry. At Cheongma Memorial Hall I encountered another artist born on Geoje Island who had dreamt of paradise. Real life may have been grueling for the poet Yu Chi-hwan, but in his works, he never lost hope or determination. His most famous poem, “The Flag” (Gitbal), describes a fluttering banner. It contains a phrase that every Korean has heard at least once: “the voiceless outcry,” used in every literature class as an example of paradox. Another of his poems, “Geojedo, Dundeokgol,” extolls his birthplace. It is inscribed on a monument that stands in the yard of the memorial hall. Over several lines, the poem brings to life the harsh conditions of his hometown, but in the last line, the poet vows not to abandon it. He promises “to pass after living a benevolent life, tending the fields at sunrise.” It reveals a persona that was unusually easy and tolerant. Yu’s penname was Cheogma, or “blue stallion,” which in my imagination roams the fields and mountains of the island. Engines hum… My footsteps began pointing toward home. Singing to myself as I always do, I asked myself what kind of promise I could make. Do I have even a pebble’s worth of ease and tolerance? Engine humming, my Gran Torino gave me the answer: don’t be tied down even by such questions.   Kim Deok-hee Novelist Han Jung-hyun Photographer

Films Recording the ‘Today’ of North Korean Defectors

Tales of Two Koreas 2022 SUMMER 296

Films Recording the ‘Today’ of North Korean Defectors Films Recording the ‘Today’ of North Korean Defectors Veteran movie director Jéro Yun tries to shed new light on people living today, without stereotypes or prejudice. This is also why he makes both documentary and dramatic films. Award-winning film director Jéro Yun applies cinematic skills honed in France to delve intothe lives of those on the margins of society, particularly North Korean defectors. Film director Jéro Yun, released two full-length films in 2021: “Fighter,” a drama, and “Song Hae 1927,” a documentary. The former is about Jin-a, a young North Korean defector who faces discrimination in the South and struggles to save money. She does menial work in a restaurant and takes on a second job cleaning at a boxing gym, where she is inspired by the sight of confident female fighters. The latter is about Song Hae (1927-2022), the late singer and host of KBS TV’s long-running music show “National Singing Contest,” who fled from his native town in Hwanghae Province, North Korea during the Korean War. These films tap into the deep emotions and scars of defectors’ hearts. Jin-a learns how to box, but “Fighter” is less about her bouts than her struggle to adapt to living in South Korean society. As for Song, he talks candidly about his only son, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1986. A Defector’s Life Throughout his directing career, Yun has gazed into the lives of those on the margins of society, particularly North Korean defectors. His works are cool-headed observations of the inner side of characters, attracting attention at top Korean and international film festivals. In 2011, Yun won the Grand Prix at the 9th Asiana International Short Film Festival with “Promise” (2010), a documentary about a Korean-Chinese woman who never stops hoping to reunite with her son. He also won awards for best documentary at the 38th Moscow International Film Festival and the 12th Zurich Film Festival with “Mrs. B, A North Korean Woman” (2016), whose protagonist goes to China to make a living. “Mrs. B” is related to “Beautiful Days” (2017), Yun’s first full-length film starring actress Lee Na-young. The opening film at the 23rd Busan International Film Festival, “Beautiful Days” is about how Zhenchen, a Korean-Chinese college student, regards her North Korean mother. Yun has also introduced various features of lifestyles in the two Koreas to filmmakers. He showed his short film “Hitchhiker” (2016) at the 69th Cannes International Film Festival Directors’ Fortnight, and “Fighter” in the 71st Berlin International Film Festival’s Generation Section. Student in France When Yun was in his early 20s, he went to France with a friend to satisfy his desire for a totally new environment. The day of his departure was memorable on a level that was more than just personal – it was September 12, 2001, the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Airport security was on heightened alert and all flights to the United States were canceled. Yun managed to make his way to Nancy, a small town in northeastern France. Once there, he traveled and learned to speak French. Suddenly, without any preparation, he decided to apply for a local arts school and passed the practical skills enrollment test. Becoming a full-time student outside of Korea was totally unplanned, but he overcame his apprehension and reveled in being impetuous. “I was afraid of living a new life all by myself in an unfamiliar place. But it was fun. I was able to think only of myself at the time,” he says, looking back. The experience expanded his horizons. At school, he took courses in video and installation arts, while outside, interaction with classmates from other countries further widened his scope. When a Belgian friend lent him a box of 100 DVDs, Yun found himself in a cinematic world that was totally new to him. Inside the box were classic movies of the 1950s and 1960s made by legendary directors such as Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman and Orson Welles. Up until then, Yun had only seen movies brimming with violence, but before him, for the first time, were movies with intellect and experimentation. “I watched all 100 of the DVDs over and over. It was hard to understand them, but they were that mesmerizing,” Yun recalls. What beguiled him most was the fact that filmmaking is a process that cannot be done alone. Needing input from many people, Yun assembled friends to pick their brains and collaborate. “Mrs. B, A North Korean Woman” is a full length Documentary about the life of a North Korean woman who has crossed into China to make a living. © CINESOPA “Beautiful Day” is the first full-length dramatic film Yun directed. It explores how protagonist Zhenchen, a Korean-Chinese college student, regards her North Korean mother. © peppermint&company “Fighter” is a movie about Jin-a, a young North Korean defector who struggles to survive financially and adapt emotionally to her new life in South Korea. © INDIESTORY Life Today Yun and his friends introduced their first joint movie in 2004. Its protagonist was a South Korean woman in France questioning her identity. “Why do I live here?” “Why here and not there?” These were tormenting questions that Yun had asked himself. Fittingly, the budding filmmakers invited other foreign transplants to a preview of the movie. From that point on, Yun’s self-questioning about his life in France morphed into a sustained interest in the life of defectors from North Korea. When formulating his works, Yun focuses especially on his marginalized characters in the context of time. He delves into their past to see how their experiences shape their present behavior and thinking. “Though we live today, today eventually becomes yesterday. And tomorrow can change depending on how we live today. So I usually leave out people’s past stories and try not to cling to their future, either. I just want to show how they’re living today. If the me of today changes, the me of tomorrow will surely change as well. That’s the message I want to deliver,” Yun says. This principle applies equally to his documentary and drama films. For three years while making “Mrs. B,” he traveled together with Mrs. B herself. On the first day of shooting “Song Hae 1927,” he interviewed Song for more than four hours. In his movies, Yun attempts to express the little things that he feels from observing momentsin daily life. “What do defectors think of?” “What do they feel here in South Korea?” Yunand the actors repeatedly ask themselves such questions. In addition to conferring with defectors, the actors try to bring their personal experiences into their scenes, while Yun filters out stereotypical images of defectors often seen in the media. “Song Hae 1927” vividly shows the life of Song Hae, the late singer and host of KBS TV’s long-running music show “National Singing Contest.” Questions, not Answers Yun makes films that pose questions to viewers. He does not supply answers. His films normally end with a palpable possibility for the future instead of a denouement. Will the hopes of the mother and her son in “Beautiful Days” be realized? Will Jin-a win a boxing match in “Fighter”? Yun always leaves the audience dangling. But he hints that the characters may wind up living a tomorrow that differs from yesterday. In this way, his characters gain some dignity at the margins of society. “Everyone has a different definition of happiness. I want to give my film characters as much of an open ending as possible. This way, the audience will begin to think hard about how defectors can be happy in South Korea, won’t they?” he asks. Audience reactions to Yun’s films run the gamut, largely depending on the viewer’s personal experiences. Defectors have mixed reactions; some feel embarrassed at the true-to-life depiction of their fate while others express gratitude, thanking the filmmakers for listening to them and absorbing what they heard. Human rights activists and students studying the reality of a divided Korea have differing impressions based on their own background knowledge. For foreign viewers, the films are more of an eye opener on the way the Korean peninsula has been divided into totally different spheres marked by separation and animosity. “I just want my films to be of value, even if it’s to one single person. Nobody knows what kind of work that person could do later, or where,” Yun said. Yun makes films because he believes in the power of every individual, including himself, to influence others. When asked what motivates him, he said that it is “love.” “If there’s a problem somewhere, be it war or national division, there is surely a lack of love.” Nam Sun-woo Reporter, CINE21 Lee Min-hee Photographer

Korean Musicals Branch Out Onto the Global Stage

Focus 2022 SUMMER 897

Korean Musicals Branch Out Onto the Global Stage Korean Musicals Branch Out Onto the Global Stage Since first making inroads into Britain and the United States around the year 2000, Korean musicals and have seen remarkable success in Asian countries. Broadening their reach in the form of original productions, licensed musicals, joint ventures and investments, Korean musicals are poised to become the next frontier of Hallyu. “The Last Empress” is a large-scale original musical that premiered in 1995 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Empress Myeongseong’s death. It is an epochal work, the first original Korean production to be staged overseas. The magnificent stage and elaborate costumes captivated global audiences. © ACOM Despite a series of setbacks resulting from a dampened economy and the coronavirus pandemic, Korea’s domestic musical industry has continued to grow and develop. Just prior to the pandemic, the size of the domestic performance market was estimated at around 400 billion won (US$316 million), with the majority of sales coming from musicals and concerts. Musicals are estimated to account for an average of 55-60 percent of this market, reaching 80 percent of total sales in 2021. Since the unprecedented success of the Korean production of “The Phantom of the Opera” in 2001, the domestic musical industry has seen steady annual growth of 15-17 percent. In recent years, local production companies have made aggressive attempts to enter overseas markets to overcome the limitations at home, making new and innovative ventures that have brought stellar results in terms of quality, not just quantity. Musical production houses began to turn their attention overseas around 2000. This dovetails with the time that licensed musicals started to take root in Korea, which stimulated an awareness of the need to reproduce or maximize the added value of this content. Going Global In the early years, original Korean productions mainly targeted the American and British market, namely Broadway and the West End, as well as performing arts festivals such as the famed Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Most notably, the original musical “The Last Empress,” produced by ACOM, and the non-verbal show “NANTA” were the first Korean productions to be staged on Broadway and the West End. On the back of its successful premier run in Korea in 1995, “The Last Empress” was also performed at the David H. Koch Theater (then the New York State Theater) in Lincoln Center in 1997 and 1998. In 2002, it was staged in English at the Hammersmith Apollo on the outskirts of London. In many ways, it was an epochal work that demonstrated the commercial potential of original Korean musicals and also offered insight into what needs to be considered when breaking into overseas markets. For those in the performing arts industry dreaming of presenting their work to a global audience, it was a source of inspiration. “Finding Mr. Destiny” is an original musical that was sold in 2013 to China, where the title was changed to “Finding My First Love.” This is a notable example of performance rights for a Korean production being sold overseas. © CJ ENM A scene from the Korean performance of “Finding Mr. Destiny.” © CJ ENM Posters (from left) for “Finding Mr. Destiny” in Taiwan, Japan and China. © CJ ENM Three Avenues to Overseas Markets The tide turned in the 2010s when production companies began paying greater attention to the Asian market. In the first half of the decade, real expansion into Japan and China began. Japan fast became the main importer of Korean musicals, with some 40 shows being staged over three years beginning in 2012. Productions tailored to the Japanese market were boosted by the 2013 opening of Tokyo’s Amuse Musical Theatre, a dedicated venue for Korean musicals. Korean musical content has entered overseas markets in three forms: tours of original musicals, Korean productions of licensed musicals and sales of performance rights of original musicals or joint productions involving local staff and investments. Tours of original musicals usually involve staging the show overseas for a set period with a Korean production crew and actors, and the lyrics translated via English subtitles. The jukebox musical “Run to You” was a hit with Japanese audiences during its run in Osaka in 2012 and Tokyo in 2014. Inspired by the songs of DJ DOC, a Korean hip-hop trio who debuted in 1994, it tells the story of three aspiring young singers. “Rimbaud” portrays the life of the French poet. A Korea-China project, the musical premiered simultaneously in both countries in 2018. © LIVE Corp. Likewise, after “Subway Line 1” debuted in China in 2001, the number of original Korean musicals staged in China increased each year. “Song of Two Flowers” (Ssanghwa byeolgok), which tells the story of two Silla Buddhist priests, Wonhyo (617-686) and Uisang (625-702), was invited to China in 2012 for the 20th anniversary of Korea-China diplomatic relations. The following year, it toured Shenzhen, Hainan, Guangzhou and Beijing, generating enthusiastic response. The show was adapted for the local audience, adding new characters and music inspired by traditional Chinese folk songs. In the case of touring performances of licensed foreign musicals, shows are adapted and reinterpreted in Korean, and the Korean production is then re-exported to another country. Oftentimes, Hallyu stars are brought on board to promote the show. Some notable examples from the early 2000s are “Jack the Ripper,” “The Three Musketeers” and “Jekyll & Hyde” in Japan, and “Notre-Dame de Paris” and “Elisabeth” in China. Finally, there are shows like “Finding Mr. Destiny,” the first original Korean musical to be adapted into a film, an example of performance rights being sold overseas. When the production was sold to China, the title was changed to “Finding My First Love” and the story adapted to better appeal to the sentiments and culture of the Chinese audience. It drew a considerable crowd upon its opening in 2013, proving the commercial potential of small theater musicals. Many other original Korean musicals have since made their way to China, including “Chonggakne Vegetable Store,” “My Bucket List” and “Vincent van Gogh.” “Rimbaud,” which portrays the life of the French poet, was a collaborative project by Korea and China. Created by the production house LIVE, which also brought “Chonggakne Vegetable Store” and “My Bucket List” to the stage in Japan and China, it premiered in 2018 in Korea and China simultaneously. The following year, the Beijing licensed reproduction was staged ahead of the Korean version. Another Korea-China co-production is “Feast for the Princess” by United Asia Live Entertainment, a production house jointly established by Korean entertainment conglomerate CJ ENM and China’s Ministry of Culture. It tells the story of chefs from around the world vying in a culinary competition to create a dish to reawaken a princess’s lost sense of taste. Traditional Chinese cuisine was expressed through dazzling choreography and modern music. “My Bucket List,” which questions the meaning of life, toured 23 cities in China, the most for any Korean licensed production staged in China. © LIVE Corp. Long-term Perspective In 2019, just before the coronavirus pandemic, the Korean musical scene was greatly affected by political issues and international affairs. Despite all the difficulties, the Korean musical industry is expected to continue to broaden its boundaries globally, with the potential to become the next frontier of Hallyu. The trend toward one source, multi-use cultural content means that Hallyu resources with proven global appeal will increasingly be brought to the stage. The unknown keys are who and which works will bring about a defining shift in the industry. Won Jong-won Professor, Soonchunhyang University; Musical Critic

The Hands that Make Cool Breezes

Guardian of Heritage 2022 SUMMER 256

The Hands that Make Cool Breezes The Hands that Make Cool Breezes Kim Dong-sik is a master in the art of fan making. For over 60 years, he has made traditional fans in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, running a family business that has continued over four generations. Back when the luxury of air conditioning and electrical fans was nonexistent, hand fans were a summertime necessity. People used them to stir the air to cool themselves, and also carried them as an accessory to show their social status or as a ceremonial item at weddings and funerals. Joseon Dynasty yangban were particularly fond of folding fans, especially those with double-layered bamboo ribs (hapjukseon). Unfolding their fan with a flourish, they would cool themselves, snap it closed again, then put it back into the wide sleeve of their robes that served as a pocket. Some treasured the painting on the fan’s leaf as if it were a work of art, while others used it to scratch their itchy back or as a weapon in an emergency. Fans were also useful for secret lovers who wanted to hide their faces. Traditional Korean fans are divided into two major types: rigid round fans (danseon) and folding fans (jeopseon). The rigid fans have ribs radiating from the handle, while the folding fans are further classified into various types according to the number and material of the ribs, the way the leaves are decorated and the parts and accessories used. Among them, the hapjukseon, decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay, metalwork, lacquer work or jade work, is an exquisite type of folding fan that was an important diplomatic gift item when it was developed in the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). During the Joseon Dynasty, the number of ribs on fans was specified according to the user’s social standing: 50 for the royal family, 40 for the upper classes and fewer than 40 for the upper middle class and ordinary people. “A Record of Seasonal Customs in Korea” (Dongguk sesigi), written by the late Joseon scholar Hong Seok-mo (1781-1857), states that the fans offered to the king on Dano Day in the spring were distributed to his courtiers and attendants. The state operated Seonjacheong, an agency responsible for making fans, and the Jeolla Provincial Office supervised the production and collection of fans to be sent to the king. Painstaking Process In his workshop filled with bamboo stalks, the artisan Kim Dong-sik holds up a thin bamboo strip. “To make a hapjukseon, bamboo strips are cut this thin from the outer part of the culm, and two strips are glued together, the skin facing outward, to make one rib of the fan. Compared with Chinese and Japanese folding fans made with the softer inner parts of bamboo, hapjukseon last much longer. Durability is one of the defining characteristics of traditional Korean folding fans,” he says. Kim completes 140-150 procedures to make a single fan. The first step is obtaining the most suitable bamboo culms. A bamboo tree grows to its full height in the first year and then ripens only on the inside, taking at least three years to obtain the proper hardness. “Young bamboo may look better, but it’s too soft inside when split. Three-year-old trees are the best. The yearly stock of bamboo should be acquired in the dry weather of December and January since the wood gets moth-eaten when it’s humid,” Kim explains. Spotless bamboo culms are split into the size of the fan ribs, and the sticks are soaked in water for five days so the greenish skin turns yellow. The sticks are softened in boiling water and cut away at the inner side until they’re 0.3-0.4 mm thick. By this time, almost two thirds of the original stick have been removed. The next part is the hardest: the strips should be cut so thin that light can pass through them. “That way, the fan opens and closes smoothly and the flexible frame can stir a cool breeze with the slightest movement of the hand. The outer surface of the bamboo culm is so hard and resistant to decay that a folding fan can last for over 500 years if it’s properly looked after,” says Kim. The thin strips are glued together to make the ribs, which are arranged in a fan shape and then dried for about a week. For durability, two kinds of glue are used in a 4:6 mixture. The first is made from dried and boiled air bladders of croakers, and the second from animal bones, tendons and leather simmered together for a long time. Once the skeleton of the fan is completed, the lower parts of the ribs are decorated with bats, cherry blossoms, dragons and other designs using heated iron tools. The next procedure is to cut and polish the materials used for the outer guards, preferably wood from jujube trees, birch trees or the heartwood of old, blackened persimmon trees. The guard sticks are decorated with thin bamboo plates or coated with black or red lacquer and brilliant mother-of-pearl inlays. The skeleton is then polished smoothly, the ribs evenly glued, and the leaf cut from hanji (mulberry paper) is attached. Finally, a pivot ring made of brass, nickel or silver is inserted in the head to fix the guard sticks and complete the fan. Up until the 1920s, the production process was divided into six parts, each one handled by a different artisan. This was possible when the demand for hand fans was still high. Cutting bamboo culms into thin strips is the most difficult part of making hapjukseon, says master fan maker Kim Dong-sik, who runs a family business that has continued over four generations. Oldest Fan-Making Business Once the double-layered strips are prepared, the remaining work is done in a separate workshop. Except for mealtimes, this is where Kim spends all his working hours. The cast iron knives and tools hanging in neat rows on one wall and the ancient-looking workbench attest to the experience and expertise of this master craftsman who has dedicated over 60 years of his life to making fans the traditional way. Gesturing toward the knives, Kim says, “At first, the knives had wide blades, but 20 years of repeated use and sharpening has worn them down to look like narrow fillet knives. This file was made and used by my maternal grandfather before I inherited it.” A black-and-white photograph of his grandfather hangs on the wall between the shelf and the door. He was a skilled artisan of the late Joseon period whose fans were sent to King Gojong as a tribute. Kim had the good fortune of learning his skills in detail from his grandfather when he was a child. Kim’s is the oldest fan-making business in Korea. It began with his great-grandfather on his mother’s side and was succeeded by his grandfather in the photograph (Rah Hak-cheon), then his uncle (Rah Tae-sun) and then finally by Kim himself. He was introduced to the craft in 1956, when he was 14 years old. As the eldest child in a poor family with eight children, he was taken out of school and sent to his mother’s parents to learn the craft. A large number of fan-making artisans lived in the village, and bamboo and hanji, the main materials for making fans, were readily available in the area. As hand fans were a household necessity at the time, a ski l led craftsman could make a modest living. “At first, I helped with odd jobs and learned things just by watching. I guess I was good with my hands; I could cut neat bamboo strips with ease,” Kim recalls. “The adults noticed and began to teach me properly. I was so quick and eager to learn that they praised me lavishly, which made me try harder.” Perhaps the difference between a mere technician and an artisan lies in dedication. Once he had started, Kim made up his mind to “make great works of art.” He wanted to make fans of his own style using the skills his grandfather had passed on. His fans fit snugly in the palm when folded; when they are opened into a semicircle, the ribs are in perfect symmetry. Nevertheless, financial difficulties occasionally forced Kim to consider giving up. After underwriting a bad loan, he could barely put food on the table, let alone buy materials for fans. At that time, one of his friends gladly lent him some money along with advice that he would never forget: “You’re a natural-born fan maker, so never give up.” These words were so deeply engraved in Kim’s heart that he has since stuck to his craft at any cost. Kim Dae-sung, the artisan’s son, became a designated trainee in 2019 and is carrying on his father’s craft to keep the tradition alive.   National Intangible Cultural Heritage Kim makes every part of his fans with his own hands. His pride in creating an artwork has sustained him to this day, but financial worries have never left him. “You can’t make a living making fans now, so young people don’t want to learn the craft. I didn’t want to see the tradition die in my generation, so I cautiously asked my son if he would like to learn it, although he had his own job at the time. I was grateful when he said he would try it,” Kim says. His son, Kim Dae-sung, took up his father’s craft in 2007. He quickly learned the skills that he had seen his father use all his life and became the fifth-generation artisan in the family. His son’s commitment encouraged Kim to seek official recognition for the art of fan making. Applying for the title of cultural heritage holder, he documented related materials and systemized the production process over three years. In 2015, he was designated as the first National Intangible Heritage title holder in the art of fan making. Since then, other fan makers have received the same recognition, and his son be- came a designated trainee in 2019. At the end of the interview, a young man who has been cutting bamboo strips at one corner of the workshop finishes his work and joins us. This is Kim’s grandson, the son of Kim Daesung. “My grandson is a university freshman. He said he wants to try learning how to make fans. I appreciate his interest but I’m not sure if I should encourage or discourage him,” Kim considers. Lee Gi-sook Freelance Writer Lee Min-hee Photographer

Chili, the Heat Behind the Taste of Korean Food

Essential Ingredients 2022 SUMMER 259

Chili, the Heat Behind the Taste of Korean Food Chili, the Heat Behind the Taste of Korean Food Chili, the most widely cultivated spice in the world today, is enjoyed by a quarter of the world’s population. In Korea, the chili pepper (or red pepper) called gochu is an especially important ingredient in the hot and spicy food that Koreans love. Chili is central to Korean cuisine. It is so essential that its spicy taste seems made for Koreans. Chili is the most widely cultivated spice in the world today. Chili peppers originated in South America, where people first ate them around 7,000 BCE and began cultivating them around 3,500 BCE. After spreading to Europe at the end of the 15th century, they were introduced to India, Asia and Africa through Portuguese merchants in the latter half of the 16th century. It was around this time that chili was introduced to Korea as well. When chili production later increased in Asia, it was exported back to Europe. The Measure of Heat Chilies are the symbol of spiciness. One major indicator of this spiciness, or “heat,” is the Scoville scale, developed in 1912 by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. Today, there are other, more accurate ways of measuring capsaicin, the pungent component in chili, but the Scoville scale is still widely used. Pure capsaicin has 16 million SHUs (Scoville heat units). SHUs indicate how much a pepper needs to be diluted for its spiciness to become undetectable. The higher the SHU, the hotter the pepper. Some peppers, such as green bell peppers, aren’t hot at all, but once the scale reaches jalapenos (2,500 to 10,000 SHUs), which are often pickled, the taste is moderately spicy. In the past, the habanero (350,000 to 580,000 SHUs) was considered a pretty hot pepper, but new and even spicier varieties have since been developed, including the bhut jolokia (or “ghost pepper” at 855,000 to 1.5 million SHUs) and the Trinidad Moruga scorpion (1.5 to 2 million SHUs). Of course, there are people who enjoy eating these extremely hot chili peppers, even as others struggle with them. Interestingly, chili peppers pose no problem for birds – they lack the receptors that detect the heat of capsaicin. Birds do not digest the seeds and therefore play a role in spreading them after eating chili. On the other hand, there is a theory that the capsaicin in chili peppers is meant to prevent mammals such as humans from eating them, and it’s true that rodents such as squirrels avoid them after a single taste.   Red pepper paste (gochujang) is a traditional Korean seasoning made by mixing glutinous rice with red pepper powder, malt and fermented soybean powder. © gettyimagesKOREA Fiery Pleasure Certain people enjoy the hot taste of chili peppers so much that they even compete in chili eating contests. This is because the heat, or pungency, of chilies provides a pleasure akin to that of a roller coaster, as discovered by Professor David Julius at the University of California, San Francisco, one of the co-winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. According to his research, a receptor known as transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) detects the heat in capsaicin. Simply put, the spicy taste of chili stimulates the sense of heat, creating the illusion of being burned. Enjoying the sensation of falling through the air while on a roller coaster is similar in context to shedding tears while eating a mouthful of chili. But while the thrill of the roller coaster disappears after it descends, the hot taste of chili lingers in the mouth for a long time, which can be painful. And yet, adding chili extract or capsaicin to a pain relief patch or cream helps relieve muscle or joint pain. This is because repetition of the pain caused by the spicy stimulus depletes the pain-related neurotransmitters of their active agency, and conversely reduces pain. After consuming spicy, stimulating foods containing pepper, garlic or ginger, your body reacts as if you were in a hot room. You sweat to lower your body temperature and increase blood flow to the skin. As a result, skin temperature drops and you feel cool. This is perhaps why people living in hotter regions tend to enjoy spicy food more, and explains the logic behind Koreans’ predilection for hot, spicy food on a hot summer day. However, the relationship between climate and chili consumption is not necessarily consistent, and opinions are still divided as to why humans like spicy food so much. Chili grows well in warm climates but may be difficult to cultivate in cold countries, perhaps resulting in low production and consumption. Moreover, it isn’t as if people don’t eat spicy food in the winter; in Korea, kimchi is a favorite winter food and a representative spicy staple on the dining table, although its hot taste gradually grows milder as it ferments and matures. The spiciness may be reduced as capsaicin becomes diluted in the kimchi broth, or as it decomposes into a compound that is less hot due to microbial fermentation. In 2015, a research team led by Professor Kim Soo-ki at Konkuk University discovered a microorganism that decomposes capsaicin in pickled red peppers, a traditional fermented Korean food.   Gochujang tteokbokki, made by adding sugar to red pepper paste, appeared during the Korean War and has developed into a popular quick bite with several variations. © TongRo Images Various Uses In their native Latin America, chili peppers are used in a variety of ways. In Mexico, many different types of chili peppers are eaten, and go by different names depending upon whether they are raw or dried. When dried in the sun, certain compounds react with one another to create new flavor substances. Mexican cuisine even has rules as to which chilies should be added to certain foods. For example, guajillo, with its sweet and smoky flavor, produced by drying mirasol peppers in the sun, is used in tamales, enchiladas and salsas. Ancho chilies, which are sun-dried poblano peppers, are used either dry or soaked in water and ground to make mole sauce. When chili is added to a dish, it not only increases the spiciness but also adds complex flavors, including sweet, smoky or fruity notes. And adding ground chili to sauces creates a soft, thick texture due to the fiber pectin. In Korea, the hot taste of red peppers (gochu) is so popular that it is considered the taste of Koreans today. However, not everyone welcomed it in the past. Advocates of Western-style modernization in the 1920s and 1930s argued that consumption of hot foods should be reduced as they were not the foods of an advanced people. The general public thought otherwise, changing recipes in a way that enabled them to enjoy the hot taste even more. It’s through this process that red pepper powder (gochugaru) and sugar entered the picture. Until the 1950s, tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes) was not spicy – it was made by stir-frying meatand rice cakes seasoned with soy sauce. Shortly after the Korean War, the red tteokbokki thatwe know today was created by adding sugar and red pepper paste (gochujang). As spicy tteokbokki began to catch on, the old soy-sauce version was pushed aside. Spicy stir-fried octopus (nakji bokkeum) and spicy stir-fried pork (jeyuk bokkeum) also became popular around the same time and remain favorites today. Here, we can confirm once again that people like spicy food for the pleasure it gives. Sweetness is a taste that people like from birth and a symbol of pure pleasure. By contrast, spiciness, which offers a more complex pleasure, is a taste acquired as one grows. The sweet and spicy taste of chili and sugar combined is the refreshing taste of youth. These days, new foods that are not too hot are in favor. Rose tteokbokki is a good example. Capsaicin is soluble in fat, so the heat cannot be completely washed away in water, but the abundant casein protein in dairy products such as cream or mozzarella cheese binds well with fat. This is why drinking milk or eating yogurt after a spicy meal can reduce any related pain. The cream in rose tteokbokki likewise captures capsaicin, mitigating the feeling of heat. For a similar reason, Korean foods such as cheese dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken) and cheese buldak (hot and spicy chicken) are popular in other countries as well. Even people who aren’t used to hot and spicy foods can easily grow to like them. Kimchi, the iconic Korean side dish, contains generous doses of red pepper powder. The fermented food varies depending on the region, ingredients, and method of preparation. © TongRo Images Loved by Everyone Columbus, who brought chilies to Europe, thought they were related to pepper, hence the name “chili pepper.” However, chilies are the fruit of the solanaceae family of plants and therefore distinct from peppercorns, which are the fruit of pepperaceae vines. While the heat of chili comes from capsaicin, the pungency of pepper comes from piperine. There is one more important difference between the two: in medieval Europe, pepper was considered a luxury, and the spicier a dish was made by sprinkling it with pepper, the more luxurious it was. In the 17th century, when Europe imported large quantities of pepper, the upper classes began to seek foods with a mild, delicate taste. Their desire to distinguish themselves from the lower classes, who could now put pepper in their dishes, served to completely change their food preferences. This was not the case with chili. Unlike pepper, which comes from a subtropical plant, chilies grow well in temperate climates. Being easy to grow also means being widely accessible. At one time, the hot taste of chili was looked down on, but since chili was readily available, most Koreans made and ate their favorite hot foods regardless. Chili is the evidence that Korean cuisine today was shaped not by the elite but by the ordinary people. Jeong Jae-hoon Pharmacist and Food Writer Choi Su-jin Illustrator


Mining the Dark Side of Capitalism

Interview 2022 SUMMER 873

Mining the Dark Side of Capitalism Critics heap praise on author Yun Ko-eun’s insightful use of metaphor and allegory. Her award-winning novels and stories are known for their lively settings, interesting characters and sharply satirical take on the daily struggles of life in a capitalist society. Yun Ko-eun’s second novel “The Disaster Tourist,” a satirical take on capitalist society, was awarded last year’s CWA Dagger for “Best Detective Novel in Translation” by England’s Crime Writers’ Association.© Yun Ko-eun Since her debut in 2003, author Yun Ko-eun has published four short story collections and four novels. The translation of her second novel, “The Disaster Tourist” (2013), was honored last year with the CWA Dagger award in the thriller category from England’s Crime Writers’ Association. Yun is the first Asian recipient of the award. The novel satirizes the cold-hearted systems that comprise capitalist society. Its characters travel to disaster-stricken areas, where they bolster their sense of safety and security. The CWA called the novel, “A wildly entertaining eco-thriller from South Korea that lays bare, with mordant humor, the perils of overdeveloped capitalism.”Yun debuted in 2003 while attending Donguk University, receiving a literary prize for college students from the Daesan Foundation. Her first novel, “Weightless Syndrome,” published in 2008, earned the Hankyoreh Literary Award.     What inspired the idea of “disaster tourism”? Around ten years ago, when I was actually writing the book, I didn’t have the slightest idea that we would see an infectious disease (like COVID-19) sweep the globe, with everyone getting vaccinated against it. I was interested in tourism at the time, and it occurred to me that there weren’t actually many places in the world completely free of natural disaster or some degree of terrorism or conflict. The specifics might be different, but almost every destination was dealing with a disaster of one kind or another.When I was starting to write this novel, I found myself watching the Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami that hit in its wake. It occurred to me that “disaster” kept trying to talk to me. I found the thread of the story as I contemplated the psychology of people who go on disaster tours: first shock, then sympathy and compassion, and perhaps, after that, discomfort, followed by gratitude for my own life and maybe a sense of duty, a lesson learned, or even a sense of superiority about surviving the experience at hand. Do you think “disaster travel” plays into capitalism? Yes. From the very first, all my books regard everyone as an eventual cog in the machine of capitalism. Regardless of how important I may feel, I could actually disappear without a trace, with no consequence at all, making my very existence as replaceable as a toothbrush or a tumbler – this is an aspect of life that undoubtedly belongs to a deeply capitalist world. The novel was called a “feminist eco-thriller.” Yes, that was interesting. I don’t particularly like distinctions between “literary fiction” and “genre fiction” and so on. I think such groupings have very little actual meaning. I don’t think about genre when I write, and I don’t spend much energy on categorization after my books are published, either. The response was strong. Why?I think for many readers, the skeleton of this story (about the brutality of capitalism) struck a chord similar to the one struck by “Squid Game,” the Netflix original series. The profound sense of horror that no matter how hard you work at your own lot in life, you may not be able to avoid catastrophe. My guess is that many found this deeply relatable. In fact, that fear is probably much more widespread now than it was ten years ago, when I actually wrote the novel. What’s a common thread in Korean works these days?I think the keyword would be “survival.” We’re living in an era where our obsession over being a part of society, of not being left out or isolated, has overpowered our consideration of what actually matters and has value in our individual lives. It’s in that vein that works like “Squid Game” or “Parasite,” which won an Academy Award, are considered to be “black comedies.” “Library Runway,” a novel published in 2021 (left), and “If Blue Marble Also Included Pyongyang,” a collection of stories published in 2019.© Hyundae Munhak, Munhakdongne Your novel “Library Runway” – why a library?Whenever I go to a library and walk through the stacks, I feel really great. It’s like these countless books are my audience as I walk through the aisles. When they’re closed, the books don’t take up a lot of space, but the moment you open t hem, they’re filled with countless thoughts. When I think about how they’re watching me, it feels like I must be a pretty good model after all. The book mentions the idea of “safe marriage insurance.” What is your intent?I was exploring what might be at the core of this act, where two people who could survive on their own nevertheless choose to be together. To say that society sustains itself through the institution of marriage is too grand. Rather, the core of any marriage is two people agreeing to go on an adventure together. And the conditions should be such that both parties can freely choose the terms. You often use ingenious and imaginative premises for your stories.Ultimately, I think I’m interested in “unstable structures.” I want to look under this shaky ground we’re on. I enjoy the quirky elements that pique my readers’ curiosity, of course, but the parts I want to emphasize aren’t actually that bright or fun. It may seem like the ground beneath our feet right now is firm, but there’s a part of me that truly believes it could all give way at any moment. I suppose I could just say that, too, in a serious tone, but I prefer to cloak it in my own style. A lot of writers deal with the subject of travel. Do you often travel?I do travel whenever I can, even if it’s just a little trip. I like the actual traveling part, of course, but I really enjoy the planning, too. My favorite part is choosing places to stay. I spend so much time researching things online that when I actually get to a place and look around the hotel, it feels almost familiar, like I’ve already been there. In my short story “If Blue Marble Also Included Pyeongyang,” there’s an incident centered around reserving a place to stay. [Blue Marble is a Korean board game similar to Monopoly.]   Do your trips impact your writing?Yes, a great deal. It doesn’t have to be international travel, either. There are things to see and experience on a short, domestic trip, or even just a jaunt into the next neighborhood. Something other than the usual crosswalks and shop signs you see every day – just seeing something new is stimulating in itself. Of course, the farther away your destination, the more unfamiliar and dangerous it tends to be, which means more opportunities for exposure and stimulation. Does your radio show influence your writing, too? My show on EBS (Korea Educational Broadcasting System) introduces listeners to new books, so I end up reading a wide range of books in different genres, which I enjoy. It’s not unlike travel, actually, in that encountering books I might not choose for myself can trigger unexpected results. We communicate with our listeners in real time, too, through online comments. In a way, the station studio can feel like a pit stop in outer space. When you close that thick, soundproof door and find yourself alone in there, music f lowing, it’s like the radio waves are just drifting through the cosmos. What are you working on now?I’m in the process of serializing a novel in a magazine; it’s called “Burning Works of Art.” The main character, a painter, receives creative support from a foundation, only the chairman of this foundation is “Robert,” a genius dog with an incredible artistic sensibility who has an enormous inheritance from a millionaire. Robert critiques the various weaknesses of human beings and gives a whole spiel about what makes art real or fake. I wanted to satirize the ideas and structures of the art world by setting up this contract where the dog has all the power and the human must submit. It’ll be published early next year. Any comments for your readers abroad?There are people who post reviews on spaces like Instagram, or go to the trouble to identify me via hashtags, or even ask direct questions. Sometimes readers will even take pictures of my books on the shelf of their local bookstore and send them to me. I love being able to have this kind of direct communication. I hope you’ll continue reaching out.

“Are You a Karrot?”

Lifestyle 2022 SUMMER 261

“Are You a Karrot?” Shoppers for secondhand goods and personal services are embracing a touch of nostalgia, recalling a time when commerce and personal relationships were centered within their community, creating a virtuous circle of support. “Three thousand won for two Pokémon bread stickers,” asks a seller on Danggeun Market, an online platform. The Pokemon buns sell for 1,500 won each at convenience stores but have emerged as a hot item among Danggeun subscribers whose main interest is the free stickers that come with them. The craze for collecting Pokemon stickers has returned after the first boom in the late 1990s.Exchange on the Danggeun platform is not limited to trading goods. For example, when the New Year comes round people post good wishes with the hope of sharing good fortune for the New Year. There are also people who post messages to share their childhood memories. Use of the internet to trade secondhand goods or obtain services was introduced decades ago. But these days, buyers and sellers are putting a premium on proximity and familiarity. The buzzword is “hyperlocal.”“Danggeun” is the Korean word for “carrot.” It’s no exaggeration to say nearly every Korean household uses Danggeun Market’s mobile app, called Karrot. In the last official count available, Korea had 23 million Karrot users among its 21.5 million households in 2020. “Are you a Karrot?” or “Do you Danggeun?” is often heard among acquaintances looking to trade, buy or sell. In addition to dealing in secondhand goods from clothes to cars, Danggeun Market users can tap their Karrot app for a broad range of services, including delivery of fresh produce, property listings, cleaning and tutoring, as well as neighborhood information. A video capture of Karrot, Danggeun Market’s mobile app that was available in four countries – the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan – by the first half of 2022. New UnicornSeoul-based Danggeun Market was founded in 2015 by two employees at Kakao, the top instant messaging service in Korea. At the time, secondhand trading online was dominated by Joonggonara, which began in 2003 as a virtual cafe on Naver, the country’s largest portal site. Its main rival was Bunjang, founded in 2010.From the beginning, Danggeun Market strived for a community feeling. Danggeun is also theshortened form of a Korean phrase that means “somewhere near you.” The platform only provides listings of sellers in a radius of 4 to 6 km and employs user identification systems. Shoppers can use the online GPS service to locate sought-after items in a direct link-up with sellers. Many Karrot users end up completing transactions in person and developing a relationship that leads to more deals. This is the exact aim of Danggeun Market’s blueprint – conclaves of community trading and support.As Danggeun Market reshaped mobile e-commerce, the number of monthly Karrot users jumped from 500,000 in 2018 to 1.8 million in 2019 and to 4.8 million in 2020. It reached a whopping 17 million in March 2022, boosted by the pandemic. Millions of people working from home because of COVID-19 lockdowns meant that many households began to reduce clutter to create more free space. Danggeun Market was a perfect way to dispose of used goods without traveling far or risking exposure to the virus. In 2021, with the pandemic making the thought of being in packed subway cars and buses unappealing, the most searched keyword in the secondhand marketplace was “bicycle.”In another move toward convenience, Danggeun Market introduced its own simplified payment service in late 2021. Called Danggeun (or Karrot) Pay, it affords real-time cash transfers and confirmations. Users no longer need to exchange bank account information or operate a separate banking app to verify payments. The payment service began on Jeju Island, where the proportion of Danggeun users in the total population is exceptionally high.Danggeun Market’s success has attracted more than $200 million in private funding. With an enterprise value exceeding $2 billion and about 100 employees, it became a Korean “unicorn” last year, a privately owned startup with a valuation of more than $1 billion.This capital will be used for aggressive overseas expansion. The strategy is to target cities that mirror those in Korea – places with dense populations of environmentally conscious people who want to reuse old goods. Karrot has been undergoing testing in Britain, Canada, Japan and the United States since 2019.By facilitating recycling through secondhand trading, Danggeun Market has so far reduced 7.2 million tons of greenhouse gases, equivalent to having planted about 52.4 million trees, a spokesman said. This complies with the “environment, society and governance” criteria that are trendy among Korean companies, investors and the general public. Another factor stirring interest in secondhand transactions is rising prices. Secondhand goods are a way to cope with inflation and a fickle job market, especially among young adults. Events influenced by yard sales or flea markets in North America have already begun popping up in Korea.   “Are you a Karrot?” is often heard among users who want to buy or sell secondhand goods directly from others in their neighborhood. More than a Flea MarketTaking their community approach further, the founders have encouraged the use of Karrot as a place for neighbors to share information via the platform’s “Neighborhood Bulletin Board.” There, subscribers can find all kinds of information about their area, such as real estate listings and job openings, and share personal advice and opinions.“I’ve tested positive for coronavirus in a rapid antigen test. What should I do now?” somebody asked on the online bulletin board. One user answered, “You can get a consultation at a clinic or hospital and go to a designated pharmacy to pick up your medication in person.” Another user consoled the patient, saying, “Are you very sick? I hope you get well soon.” All of them live in the same neighborhood. In the fourth quarter of 2021, the number of bulletin board postings increased twofold over the year before.Danggeun Market has also designated the 11th day of each month as a “Day of Sharing,” when items are given away for free. There were nearly four million instances of such sharing in the fourth quarter of 2021, up 82 percent year-on-year.In one story, a family displaced by a fire in their apartment building had no time to grab any household items before fleeing the blaze and ended up in temporary housing provided by their district government. On the bulletin board, one person offered free household utensils and ended up also providing gift cards and side dishes that could accompany any meal.Meanwhile, another very convenient Karrot service is a program that strengthens bonds between small business owners and local residents. Lively feedback posted by residents on their visits to restaurants or stores in the neighborhood and various discount offers are helping to rejuvenate local economies. Amid the COVID pandemic, sales of secondhand goods boomed as people uncluttered to facilitate their new work-from-home routine and raise cash to weather the downturn in economic activity. Danggeun Market strives for a community feeling by letting users not only by letting users trade second-hand goods but by providing a sense of convenience to neighborhood life. Building TrustOf course, the online consumer-to-consumer (C2C) flea market business isn’t perfect. The high interest in secondhand goods can attract scammers or fraudsters with shoddy goods and services. When that occurs, participants in C2C trading have to resolve disputes themselves or file a complaint with the authorities.Ethical issues can also arise; in one case, when the vaccine pass mandate was still in effect last year, an unvaccinated person posted a message offering money for the portal ID of a fully vaccinated person. Another person who had tested positive for coronavirus attempted to sell his own used COVID-19 home test kit to anyone seeking a free PCR test or a few days off work based on a positive COVID test result.To build and maintain an environment in which users can trust each other, Danggeun Market collaborates with the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. Using machine learning technology, it filters and blocks illegal content. When someone provides incorrect personal information or is found to have been involved in a criminal case, a warning message pops up immediately in a chat window. Subscribers talking to a user who has been punished for a sales scam will receive a message regarding the earlier case to prevent potential damage. And those who have caused problems are restricted immediately from using Danggeun Market’s services.

Following Where Opportunities Lead

In Love with Korea 2022 SUMMER 476

Following Where Opportunities Lead For many who come to Korea, teaching English is a brief stop on the road to something else. For Christopher Maslon, it became permanent. But he also thrives in art, his original pursuit, and dabbles in other areas, always ready to add to the things he loves to do. Christopher Maslon is difficult to categorize in one word. He thrives in a classroom, an art gallery and a gym full of bodybuilders. Dressed in a blue shirt and striped tie, Christopher Maslon certainly looks the part of an English professor. But the stripes have a bit of a sparkle to them, suggesting that there’s something more. Look him up on social media and you’ll find his Facebook is devoted to art while his Instagram is filled with bodybuilding photos and the occasional picture of characters such as Spiderman and Superman, and oddly enough, a gentleman from the Victorian era. You begin to wonder if his accounts have been hacked. “I don’t like to let my left hand know what my right hand is doing. I like to separate things into different categories,” says Maslon.Aside from being a professor, it turns out that Maslon is an artist, as well as a bodybuilder who does a bit of cosplay on the side; there are occasional modelling and acting gigs and bits of Victorian gothic art and fashion. His attitude to life calls for taking opportunities as they arise, and should they fall in unfamiliar territory, to simply learn along the way. “Whenever something is offered to me that seems massive, I completely throw myself at it,” he says. Still, Maslon did not immediately jump at the chance to try life in Korea.When Maslon, living in the U.S. state of Ohio after graduating from art school, received a mass email sent out by his Korean neighbor, he was dismissive. The solicitation said, “Teach English in Korea.” Maslon promptly hit the delete key. Nevertheless, the email niggled at him for days. Finally, he went to confer with his neighbor, a professor of computer technology, who exclaimed, “You’re the one!” Taken aback, Maslon protested but soon found himself on a plane to Korea, enticed by a free ticket and a guarantee that he could return after a week if he didn’t like it. A New Life“I landed in Korea on March 31, 2002, which I call my ‘Korean birthday,’” Maslon says. “That was 20 years ago, and I never went back home.” It was the year of the Korea/Japan World Cup Finals. Though Maslon wasn’t a soccer fan, he got caught up in the fever. He even attended a dinner where he sat next to a middle-aged Dutchman, only to realize later while watching the news that the man was Guus Hiddink, the head coach of the Korean team. “It was so wonderful to be here at that time. It was magic. I felt like I was a part of history,” he recalls.Over time, Maslon came to admire Korea’s work ethic and fell in love with its food and period TV dramas, forming an especial affinity for Joseon kings and yangban (the nobility). He also fell in love with a linguistics student, Kwon Sunae, whom he met at church on his third day in Korea. They were married three years later. At this memory, Maslon laughs and mimics the advice of his Korean landlady back in Ohio: “Now, Christopher, don’t go marrying the first Korean girl you see right off the plane!” Their daughter, Elizabeth,was born in 2006.Unexpectedly, Maslon also fell in love with teaching. He began with a nine-month contract at Dong-A Technical High School in Daejeon, the fifth-largest metropolis in Korea, and realized that he had found his dream job. “I was meant to explain things. Share things. Describe things. It’s my passion. It is the absolute greatest thing that ever happened to me,” he says. After three years he moved on to Daejeon Health Sciences College (now Daejeon Health Institute of Technology), where he continues to teach not only English courses but also art history, art design and photography. To increase his professionalism, he obtained an MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Andy Warhol EffectFor Maslon, this career turn was unexpected because, apart from hating school himself, he felt he was born to be an artist. When he was four years old and left to amuse himself one day,he found a box of crayons and drew all over the walls – mostly trees and animalsin black and purple. Maslon’s main media is silkscreen printing, inspired by Andy Warhol’s iconic “100 Cans,” which he first saw in a high school art class. “Fireworks went off in my brain. From that day forth, I was fascinated with printmaking and became obsessed with learning the process that Andy Warhol used to create his Marilyn Monroes and Campbell’s soup cans,” he says. Knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his life, he gained a scholarship to Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio and threw himself into the art of serigraphy. In Korea, he was delighted to discover its time-honored printing tradition that includes Jikji simche yojeol, the oldest book in the world printed with movable metal type. Fortunately, his teaching job left time to work on his art as well and he soon joined the Daejeon Arts Collection (DJAC), a group of foreign artists. “Lucky Numbers” 2015. Silkscreen on vinyl. 30 x 42 cm. “Telephone Series #1 (3)”2015. Silkscreen on vinyl. 30 x 42 cm. Neo-Pop IdentityA breakthrough came when his silkscreen of a 1940s American refrigerator featured at the DJAC spring show in 2015 caught the eye of the gallery owner. He took Maslon to a studio known as the Korea Printing Residency Program. “As soon as I came to the doorway of the building, I could pick up the smell of the intaglio ink. I knew I was discovering a place where printers met. I was in nirvana. I was given a two month residency. For the first time in my life, I could spread my wings and do anything that I wanted,” he says.During those two months, he produced 60 works, in the process establishing his identity as a Neo-pop artist and expanding into printing on plastic. A series titled “Rocket Number Nine,” inspired by the Lady Gaga song of the same title, was featured in a solo exhibition at Gallery Yian in Daejeon in 2016. Four of those prints now hang at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the office of physicist Dr. Phillip Metzger. The two met online through a beach sand collecting group.While some may look for deeper meaning, Maslon says, “My artwork is about the things I love. And I have learned that that there is someone else out there who loves the same things.” Many of these things are everyday objects such as washers, dryers, telephones, typewriters, gramophones and animals or vegetables. He has also done microprints of bodybuilding. “My Neo-pop prints are col lections, an electric mixture or mass of modern and vintage images together. This represents a feeling or a collection of feelings. A fuzzy conglomerate or layering of sometimes unclear images. No one knows where it starts, or ends,” he explains. “I also create singular objects and electrify them, to be adored or looked at with reverence. Studied. Admired. I have always loved individual labeling, singularity and making sure something is identified and given a proper name, with a proper history, to what it is and where it is from.” In addition to teaching and art, Christopher Maslon enjoys bodybuilding. Exercise not only changed his body, it also boosted his confidence and opened up new, interesting opportunities. Bodybuilding & Gothic FantasiesAside from his two passions, teaching and art, Maslon says that bodybuilding is one of the best things he has ever done. In 2004, he realized his fitness had waned too far; he had trouble climbing the stairs at the high school where he taught. He started exercising and, for three years, traded with a personal trainer: one hour of English lessons for a one-hour workout. Then a bodybuilding show caught his attention. He told himself, “I will do this.” A year later, he was standing on the same stage and came third in his division. In 2014, he placed third in the Men’s Classic division of the Seoul Musclemania competition – not something on the resumé of many English professors.Once a skinny boy who was reluctant to take his shirt off at the beach, Maslon says, “Bodybuilding not only transformed my body, it transformed my confidence level. This really affected my life because I realized that I had become a completely different person.”Bodybuilding and his Facebook profile photos have led to some “amazing opportunities.” A modeling agency contacted him in search of a muscular foreigner to star in a television commercial for the English app “Santa TOEIC” with legendary actor Lee Sun-jae. Then he was cast as an American scientist in the movie “The Spy Gone North” (Gongjak), where he appears for three seconds. He also indulges in occasional costume play, dressing up as superheroes or in Victorian garb. His love of things Victorian and gothic harks back to the 1960s American television series “The Addams Family” and his own experience of growing up in Monson, Massachusetts in a house almost 200 years old. As the outcome of fantasy photography projects with Daejeon-based Alla Ponomareva, Maslon makes a lot of props these days – skeletons, skulls, gothic coffins, Tiffany-style lamps. If you can imagine it, he can make it. Almost PerfectWhen Maslon speaks, a sort of carnival gets underway on his face. His eyes light up and all his facial muscles go into action as he changes expressions to match the topic of conversation. And he gestures with his hands as well. Apparently, this is why his Korean neighbor in Ohio thought he would make a good teacher: “He said I was charismatic, crazy. I talk and talk, and talk with my hands. I’m a visualist.”But as he described his experiences since leaving the United States, he occasionally closed his eyes. “I’m a sensitive man. I have to close my eyes because my emotions take over,” he explains. “Korea has given me so much.” In his head, he was visualizing and remembering the past 20 years. He says the journey has been 97 percent good so far – so good, in fact, that he wants to keep it to himself. “I don’t want to invite anyone here. It’s my own private thing,” he says.

Signs From the Heart

An Ordinary Day 2022 SUMMER 249

Signs From the Heart Need a sign made? Visit the highly reputable DISIGN M at the foot of Mt. Daeryong overlooking Chuncheon, the capital of Gangwon Province. There, you will meet CEO Park Geun-chul, and no one else. He is both employer and employee, keeping pace with steady demand. Park Geun-chul’s company DISIGN M has been producing storefront signage since 2005. Along the way, Park has become an expert at understanding the nuances of clients’ requests. Strolling through an unfamiliar neighborhood of restaurants, would-be diners are apt to pick a place with an eye-catching sign. Without appealing signage, the best food, service and atmosphere could go unnoticed. It’s the key to convincing customers to open the door. And Park Geun-chul is a master locksmith. The “DISIGN M” sign at the entryway to Park’s workplace is simple but bold. Stepping inside to a tidy, wellkept office, the stillness is arresting. There is simply no trace of human activity in a space that could easily accommodate ten workers. Then Park appears, rising from between two monitors. He can be so focused on a new design that he scarcely notices any visitors. Behind him is a bookcase crammed with journals and tidy notebooks. They match the number of signage projects he has tackled over the years. Each notebook narrates the work, from the client’s initial requests to the record of the final payments. Flipping through the pages is like retracing Park’s footprints each year. First SignIn 1997, the Asian Financial Crisis crippled Park’s family and he had to suspend his architectural engineering studies at Kyungdong University in Gangwon Province, on the other side of Hangyeryeong Pass, where he grew up in the town of Injae.Park considered being a career solider and applied to become a non-commissioned officer. But dire economic conditions across Korea meant stiff competition. In the end, he used the time off to fulfill his mandatory military service and then went to work to save money for tuition. After a spate of job-hopping, he ended up at a company in Chuncheon that manufactured signage. There, he learned sign design, production and construction.The first sign designed by Park was for a restaurant that served chicken feet. Today, the same sign is peppered all across Chuncheon, the capital of Gangwon Province; the original restaurant flourished into a chain with some 20 franchises around the region. “Looking back now, the font, the images – it all feels a bit tacky. But I’m proud to still be producing new versions of my first-ever design, 20 years later,” Park says.At the time, Park’s monthly pay of 850,000 to 900,000 won was enough for rent and food but not for his college tuition as well. Of course, even with a degree, there was no guarantee of a secure future. So Park decided the smarter route might be to forget about school and fully master the skills he was learning at the signage manufacturer so that he could set up shop for himself.The signage business demands many skills. The creation of just one small sign requires aptitude in ironwork, lighting and even electricity. Welding, grinding and drill work are all de rigueur, as is mastery of cutting, electrical wiring and working with various specific raw materials. Park started his company in 2005, equipped only with a journal full of information gleaned from design books and by peeking over the shoulders of co-workers. The beginning was rough. There were few projects available and hometown connections were usually the deciding factor. But today, thanks to his sterling reputation, Park no longer needs a sales agent. He has whittled down his personnel needs to just himself. Working with IntuitionPark possesses an intuition that supplants logic, knowledge and reason, and this is displayed in his designs. Drawing on his years of experience, he is quick to grasp a client’s vision and produce a design concept that fits. The same goes for the name of his company: “M.” He didn’t spend any time pondering deeper meanings or references. Just as he was wondering, “What should I name my company?” he happened to notice a brand logo printed on a credit card. “Ah, that’s it!” he thought. It was the letter M.When Park receives a request from a client, he begins by visiting the site in question. The basic principle in designing a sign, he says, is meticulously recording the customer’s needs and desires and adhering to them. Thus, the overflowing notebooks.A typical workday begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. In the solitude of being the CEO and only designer, he begins projects by envisioning a sign that suits its surroundings. He mulls over which points to emphasize to make it stand out. Something classy that draws the eye without being obtrusive – that’s the kind of design he’s after.Occasionally, his designs are rejected. In these cases, Park never insists. Instead, he quickly absorbs the client’s feedback and immediately returns to his drawing board. As a designer, he has an open mind. This and his intuition are his company’s most valuable assets, ensuring its continued success.From time to time, Park will receive a sad order. Banners that read “For Rent,” for example, for clients forced to shut down their business. Out of empathy, he refuses payment for these orders. He simply puts up the sign and leaves. Sign work requires proficiency in working with metal, lights and electricity. With all the wiring and ladders involved, a certain amount of risk comes with some orders, making safety precautions a must. Hazards Park doesn’t spend all day hunched over new designs. He also gets involved in the installation of his creations. At the worksite of a new client, a restaurant specializing in spicy octopus, Park straps on a heavy toolbelt and mounts a hydraulic lift without hesitation. As he finishes wiring the sign, putting the cap back onto each letter, a heavy drop of sweat rolls down his forehead and falls to the ground. This installation phase was much more dangerous when Park first started in the sign business. At the time, even huge signs that weighed hundreds of kilograms had to be hoisted by manpower alone, using complex systems of ropes to suspend the technicians themselves during installation.“It was all so scary back then. We didn’t have equipment like we do now – there were no ladder cars or anything. We’d just pull the sign up onto the roof of a four- or five-story building, and then rely on simple scaffolding to support us through the installation.Just thinking about it now, I still feel dizzy.”On average, each person would be responsible for pulling about 100 kilos of weight. Accidents occurred from time to time. One mishap involved eight people on a roof pulling up a sign that was 30 meters long, while one person on a ladder pushed it up from below. The man on the ladder suddenly fell from a height of three stories.“The latch in the extension ladder had come undone and he slipped. The guy had just gotten married too, not long before… To this day, he still uses a cane,” Park says.Park raises his left thumb. “I can’t bend my thumb. Severed a ligament while working with a drill,” he explains. On his middle finger, too, an obvious scar marks the spot where hisglove, sucked into a drill mechanism, left another wound. The first sign Park ever designed himself, two full decades ago, was for a restaurant that sold chicken feet. The restaurant become a wildly successful franchise business, and copies of the sign hang over more than twenty locations in Chuncheon alone. Whenever another new location is ready, Park is called. Soloing Smoothly Park’s signs themselves do the job of marketing DISIGN M, showcasing his decades of design and construction in Chuncheon. They appear at a wide range of places, including restaurants, office buildings and schools. The biggest sign was 30 meters long; an eight-person crew dangling on ropes was used to construct it.Over the years, the technical aspects of signs have changed, as has the technology to make them. A common square sign is called a flex sign, made by printing on fabric and pulling at the four corners. Nowadays, signs that make letters using LED modules are popular.Park is also in demand to design business cards and simple brochures, which further adds to his exposure in the advertising market. Indeed, his reputation is only strengthened by the deep trust he is able to forge with each client. And yet, Park is stumped when asked to explain how trust is established. Perhaps one factor in his case is that ruthless ambition is absent, unable to complicate his business relations.Park has no big plans to grow his company or retire soon. He’s satisfied with being his own workforce and plans to continue as long as possible. He simply pledges to carry on as he founded his company, putting his all into diligently designing and carefully creating the best products that he can for his customers.

Convenience, with Heartfelt Care

An Ordinary Day 2022 SPRING 1377

Convenience, with Heartfelt Care Convenience chain stores in the countryside replicate those in cities, but one in Gyeonggi Province is atypical in its operations. There, a warm-hearted former insurance broker tirelessly tends to a loyal customer base. Her mission is to make her store the beating heart of the community – that one familiar spot where everyone knows they will receive an extra warm welcome. For Lee Jung-shim, the proprietor of a convenience store in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, receiving, checking and sorting twice-daily deliveries are important daily chores. She is weathering new local competition and the COVID pandemic disruptions to make her store a welcoming and restful oasis for her rural community. Past the city hall of Anseong, there isn’t much to see. Empty rice paddies line both sides of a two-lane highway before a reservoir finally signals a change. The town of Toheyon-ri is nearby. Here and there, a few PVC greenhouses, livestock sheds, machine repair shops and small factories spring from the flat land. They are juxtaposed by several tall residential buildings. At their base is a convenience store, the type of chain store that dots every urban neighborhood.It’s a slight surprise to see a corporate symbol in this rural town. Nevertheless, the store and adjacent diner are a welcome sight for anyone who has craved a hot cup of coffee during the drive, only to find that not a single café exists along the way.The tinkling of the store’s doorbell incites a robust “Welcome!” It feels like stepping into the lobby of a luxurious hotel. The space is lit in a warm, tangerine hue, and directly in front is a neatly arranged display of wines.   Employees at Lee’s convenience store are treated like permanent staff members rather than contract workers or parttimers. Consequently, they display a real sense of ownership in handling their duties and interacting with customers. BOTTOMLESS HOSPITALITYA large window fronts the diner section, affording a relaxing view of the quiet rice paddies between sips of hot coffee. They seem to be enjoying a wellearned rest and recovery after another year’s harvest. Suddenly, their barren appearance seems less cold than before.The store is part of the nationwide eMart24 chain and one of some 40,000 convenience stores under the umbrella of Korean retailers. It’s far from the stereotypical image of small, rural stores that often have disorderly layouts and dusty products on half-empty shelves and in random piles. Manager Lee Jung-shim is expected to adhere to guidelines from the corporate head office, so without doubt the store resembles its urban cousins. She does that and then some.The tidy shelves are crammed with a myriad of daily necessities. Cookies, instant foods, beverages and wines are a given. Here also are all the makings of a hearty meal, from an array of side dishes to generous lunchboxes and fresh produce. Then there are the Q-tips, nail clippers and countless other small goods, and many items normally only found at a standard grocery store, such as treats for pets.“My hope is that our neighbors can find the little daily things they need close to home, without having to get in their cars and drive far away,” says Lee.Born in 1969 in Namhae, an island county in South Gyeongsang Province, as the youngest of five siblings, Lee began working as soon as she graduated from her hometown high school, moving to Suwon to join one of her older sisters. Her first job was as a cashier at a mid-size grocery chain.Married at just 22, Lee soon became a mother of three. Wanting to contribute more to the household income, she landed an entry-level job in the insurance industry in 2002. That began a 17-year career during which she garnered a steady series of promotions and even an award for leading her team into the top 100 (out of 1,300) nationwide.“I didn’t know it when I was looking after the kids, but once I fully entered the workforce, I realized that I have a real knack for interfacing with customers. When I first started working in insurance it was kind of scary, but over time it occurred to me that there was no reason I couldn’t do that work as well as anyone else. I always kept my appreciation for our customers in mind. That mindset has turned out to be very helpful in running the convenience store, too.” CAREER CHANGEIt all started in 2016, when Home Plus bought out the discount market and convenience store chain 365 Plus. This was also right around the time Lee was starting to feel worn out, physically and mentally. The owner of the Tohyeon-ri convenience store at the time was one of her insurance customers – and oddly enough, something about the place had always appealed to her. She kept getting the sense that if it were hers to operate, she could be successful.She wasn’t wrong. Almost as soon as Lee took over the shop, business started to boom. It was hard work, but meeting her new customers became a source of energy. It breathed new life into her day to day.Of course, there were challenges, too. Lee seemingly became a victim of her own success as another high-profile convenience chain store opened nearby. The tinkling bell that announced her customers’ arrival began to ring less and less frequently. She was disheartened, but she kept despair at bay, persevering instead and working harder than ever. And eventually, perhaps sensing this sincerity and commitment, the very neighbors whose visits had fallen off started to come back.When Home Plus dropped out of the convenience store business in 2021, Lee switched her store to eMart24. She also took over the diner next door and expanded the space to be more than twice its original size, which meant higher property costs. If she was thinking of profits alone, there would have been no need to expand the store, but Lee had her heart set on something else altogether.Lee’s typical day is an elongated grind. It consists of two work shifts, from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. In between, she rests and takes care of her granddaughter.At the store, Lee checks the inventory and sends resupply orders to the head office twice a day. Otherwise, she can be found cleaning, stocking shelves and tending to customers. The time in the store, she says, is enjoyable and seems to pass quickly. The hardest part of the day is getting out of bed. The four-hour gap between leaving her store after midnight and returning before dawn means persistent sleep deprivation. Lee wipes down a table placed at her storefront window. She wants her customers to enjoy a restful view while eating and drinking. Recent COVID-19 restrictions on eating in make her long for pre-pandemic times. CAFÉ VIBESA major change came after her takeover. “It always felt like a bit of a shame that the store was so small. Customers would buy their lunchboxes and then have to eat them outside, because we had no indoor seating. I wanted to provide a space to eat that would be cool and refreshing in the summer and warm and cozy in the winter. I knew expanding to twice the size certainly wouldn’t mean twice the amount of business – but still, that was my dream.”There’s very little difference between the diner section and any destination café in a popular tourist town. The high-grade espresso machine, normally heard hissing and gurgling in specialty coffee shops, draws the eye. This is a far cry from the usual onetouch capsule machines typically found in a convenience store.“Would you like a latte? I make them myself.”She steps up to the espresso machine, grinds the beans and tamps the grounds. Then comes the familiar hiss and cloud from steaming milk. The latte is gorgeous, decorated with a heart, and the foam clings to my lip, just right. No wonder. Lee is a certified first-class barista.At this point, it seems clear that this space of Lee’s is more than just a simple convenience store. What she truly treasures, however, is something else entirely: the people who make the space possible. LIFTING SPIRITSLee wants her employees to take pride in their workplace and treats them accordingly. Full benefits and paid time off are a matter of course, with modest but regular holiday and retention bonuses.The employees, in turn, oversee the shop with managerial commitment. The result is that, no matter when you swing by, it feels as though you’re being welcomed by an owner rather than an indifferent employee on a part-time gig. And with the workers so happy, the customers find their spirits lifting too, exiting the store with a new spring in their step.From time to time, there have even been customers who lend a hand. Neighbors who farm have shared their produce, and customers who work orchards have brought whole baskets of fruit. Gifts like these are always divided amongst the employees.In this way, Lee’s store really is the neighborhood’s beating heart, its meeting hall/water cooler. The elderly grandmother who looks after her ailing husband; the young mother with an invalid son; the farmer just in from fertilizing his fields; the immigrant neighbor in his grease-stained coveralls. When these customers enter, announced by that bright, tinkling bell, Lee becomes sister, daughter or friend – or when the customers are children, an auntie.On my way back home, Lee’s latte, so full of heart, keeps my own warm for a very long time.


Magnificent but Depressing Self-portraits of the Modern Man

Art Review 2022 SUMMER 270

Magnificent but Depressing Self-portraits of the Modern Man Ahn Chang-hong has built his own independent art world, not swayed by any current trends. As part of the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties bet-ween Korea and Ecuador, his exhibition, held in Ecuador in 2021, continued this year at the Savina Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul. “Ghost Fashion 2021-19” 2021. Oil pastel on cotton paper. 162.2 × 112.1 cm.© Savina Museum The northern part of Seoul, where the peak of Mt. Bukhan is visible, is home to an art museum in the shape of a triangle. This is the Savina Museum of Contemporary Art, an important private art museum in Korea. From February 23 to May 29 this year, the museum hosted the solo exhibition “Ghost Fashion” by Ahn Chang-Hong. Introducing the artist’s latest works and new endeavors, the exhibition was special as it formed part of the cultural exchange events commemorating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties bet-ween Korea and Ecuador.Before delving into “Ghost Fashion,” another exhibition must be mentioned first. In the winter of 2020, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the solo exhibition “National Painter of Ecuador: Oswaldo Guayasamín” was held at the Savina Museum. The works of Guayasamín (1919-1999), who is highly respected not only in his home country but all over Latin America, are preserved and designated as national heritage of Ecuador. The first showing of his art in Korea moved viewers and left them in awe.As a reciprocal event, Ahn Chang-Hong held a special exhibition in Ecuador at the Casa Museo Guayasamín and La Capilla del Hombre, or the Chapel of Man. This is where Guayasamín’s masterpieces are on permanent display, and Ahn is said to be the first artist from another country to have held an exhibition there since the Spanish master Francisco Goya. A Style of His OwnAhn Chang-hong, born in 1953, is an artist with a free spirit and a fierce mindset. His oeuvre over the past 50 years proves this. He has remained unbound by any system or framework and his steadfast pride as an artist has kept him going.Korea is a country highly obsessed with education, and the competition to enter a good art school is fierce. But rejecting the standardized admission system, Ahn decided not to study art in college. As such, he created his own style at an early age, distancing himself from the broader institution of art. The result has been a body of work that is mature in form and serious in theme, and which critically views problems such as the alienation of human beings and the need for justice in history.Many art critics in Korea consider Ahn a very idiosyncratic artist. Removed from the group-centrism, camp logic and academism of the domestic art circle, he expresses the tragedies of individuals in history using personal narratives. He is also recognized for his distinct personality, critical awareness of society and differentiated formative characteristics. The selection of materials, themes and expressive methods that embody his works are also varied and free. His latest works, the “Ghost Fashion” and “Mask” series, can also be understood in this context. “Ghost Fashion”Ahn said he was very moved by the Oswaldo Guayasamín exhibition at the Savina Museum. When it was decided that his own solo exhibition would be held in Ecuador, he worked intensively to complete his “Ghost Fashion” series. Consisting of oil paintings on large canvases, the series actually began very small. Ahn collected images of fashion models on the internet, drew on them using a digital stylus pen on a smart device and made digital prints of the results, creating a new field of “digital pen drawings.” Then he went a step further and recreated the images in the most traditional way – that is, using oil paints and brush on canvas. His work is a combination of technology and art, digital and analog techniques. The poses taken by the models in this series vary widely, just as there are various ways of living human life, and the clothes they wear are colorful and arresting. But the key is that the faces, hands and feet of the models have been erased. The body disappears and only the clothes remain, like a ghost whose body and soul have escaped to leave only the shell behind. “Ghost Fashion 2021-1” 2021. Oil pastel on cotton paper. 162.2 × 112.1 cm. “Ghost Fashion 2022-1” 2022. Oil on canvas. 162 × 133 cm. “Ghost Fashion 2021-10” 2021. Oil pastel on cotton paper. 162.2 × 112.1 cm. “Ghost Fashion 2021-8” 2021. Oil pastel on cotton paper. 162.2 × 112.1 cm. “Mask”Underlying all of Ahn Chang-hong’s works is a keen interest in and affection for human beings. The human manifestation is the face, which contains various emotions, from hope and a longing for life to pain and despair over growing old, falling ill and dying. The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze clearly differentiated the “head” from the “face.” For example, animals also have heads, but theirs differ from human faces because the head of an animal has no expression. In other words, the human face is a special body part that bears expressions. “Mask 2019-14” Mixed Media on FRP.(HWD) 155 × 110 × 50 cm. “Mask 2019-23” Mixed Media on FRP.(HWD) 155 × 110 × 50 cm. On the third floor of the museum, visitors can see 150 digital pen drawings through a transparent display. On display on the second floor are 23 works from the “Mask” series and three 2D paintings scaled up to 3D. Ahn Chang-hong, one of Korea’s most important artists today, built his own distinct art world with no regard to any system or rules. Of course, emotions can be sensed from other parts of the body, such as how the rough hands of workers or farmers might betray lifelong toil, or bent shoulders might signal fatigue. However, with the eyes, nose and mouth, it’s the face that reveals human emotions most directly. The eyes are especially important because the messages they deliver can be interpreted in various ways. In this context, the “Mask” series is made up of powerful, symbolic works that provoke thoughts about the face, and therefore, about human beings.“The ‘Mask’ series is the story of a crazy world. People are turning ignorant, collectively selfish and violent, and they all run toward a seemingly noble cause with ulterior motives. The series is about this collective unconsciousness. The bandages that cover the eyes and the keyhole on the forehead symbolize the lost self and the unconsciousness. Their lives are like duckweeds, each decorated in beautiful colors, but floating like ghosts upon a closer look. Through ‘Mask,’ I wanted to express the dual phenomenon of us destroying ourselves or being destroyed by others because we have succumbed to the sophisticated conspiracy of capital and power, and allowed greed to get the better of us. After all, we are both subjects of greed and its victims at the same time,” the artist said.Hard hit by COVID-19, the world is called upon to reflect on greedy capitalism and hu- man kind as a desire-driven species. Oswaldo Guayasamín was a pioneer when he expressed his thoughts on humankind and the historical pain experienced in Latin America, and Ecuador in particular, during the 20th century. In the same vein, Ahn Chang-hong also contemplates the problems facing mankind in the 21st century. The works we come across at the Savina Museum of Contemporary Art are self-portraits of the modern man, splendid on the outside but empty on the inside.Exhibited on the fourth floor of the museum are about 100 of Ahn’s drawings, sketches for his oil paintings and large-scale installations. His excellent drawing skills are evident. From small drawings, he has crossed almost all boundaries in art, venturing into oil painting, digital pen drawing, installation art and photography. These works are the precious outcome of a passionate spirit unafraid to challenge himself.

‘Cursed Bunny’

Books & more 2022 SUMMER 252

‘Cursed Bunny’ ‘Cursed Bunny’ By Chung Bo-ra Translated by Anton Hur 256 pages, £10.99, Stockport: Honford Star [2021] A Collection of Haunted Forays “CURSED BUNNY” is Bora Chung’s first collection of fiction to be published in English. Already shortlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize, it consists of 10 stories that leap gleefully from genre to genre, hurdling boundaries of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. The collection begins with “The Head” and “The Embodiment.” Initially, they seem to be set in worlds that are very much like our own but are revealed to be quite off-kilter as the female protagonists struggle to deal with the horror that emerges from their bodies. While the characters’ concerns are completely understandable, they are in a world that treats their reactions with indifference and scorn. “Home Sweet Home” and “Reunion” take place in similarly magical-realistic settings, but these worlds are suffused with the spirits of the dead, who linger as reminders of tragic pasts and even offer comfort to the protagonists. “The Frozen Finger” is also a tale of ghosts, but the darkness that enshrouds the protagonist serves to blind the reader to what is actually happening, right up until the end. And of course, there is the titular story, a tale of avarice, revenge and a horrifying, cursed fetish that consumes all those entranced by it. “Snare” employs fairy tale framing devices to remove us from the present day and introduces a twist on the classic narrative of an animal that rewards the person who frees it from a trap. There seem to be echoes here of Korean folktales, such as the cruel Nolbu wounding the sparrow in his greed, or stories of voracious fox spirits. “Scars,” the longest work in the collection, also hearkens from the age of legends and fables. It beckons us to follow the protagonist on his journey to discover why he has been subjected to the pain and horror that haunt his earliest memories. “Ruler of the Winds and Sands” is almost mythic in nature, its characters locked in a struggle beyond their comprehension. They experience a reversal of the damsel in distress motif – a brave princess fighting to save her love. “Goodbye, My Love” seems, at first, to be the outlier, the only pure science fiction tale in the collection. It probes our regard for artificial intelligence and how a post-human future may impact us. There are echoes of Asimov here, and the emotionally charged narrative makes this a heartbreaking tale that will linger long after the last page is turned.Though these stories range far and wide in terms of both genre and theme, there are shared threads that bind the stories together. The human body is often presented as a burden, both a mortal coil and a receptacle for society’s demands. Greed and its consequences are another common theme, as we see horrible things happen to those who seek to slake their thirst for more than they should at the expense of others. But these stories are never satisfied with being mere morality tales. Ghosts drift in and out of a number of the tales, but interestingly enough, are rarely themselves the cause of fear or horror (with the notable exception, perhaps, of “The Frozen Finger”). Instead, the ghosts in “Cursed Bunny” speak to the ties that bind us to our world, ties so strong that the essence lingers long after it has departed the corporeal form. If there is horror here, it is not to be found primarily in the weird and supernatural, but in the very ordinary and natural, within the darkest corners of our flawed human nature. BoraChung’s writing raises a mirror to that nature, forcing us to confront the most unsettling aspects of what it means to be human. When the book has been closed and the lights extinguished, these glimpses will linger in the darkness. ‘Cold Candies’ By Lee Young-ju Translated by Jae Kim 96 pages, $16.00, Boston: Black Ocean [2021] Piecing Fragments of Life Together “COLD CANDIES” Introduces poems selected from two decades of Lee Young-ju’s work to the English-speaking world. These prose poems straddle the border between narrative and lyric, each encapsulating a brief story or fragment of a story couched in slippery yet evocative language. Reading them feels almost like looking through a kaleidoscope – thoughts, memories, and emotions fragment into splintered shards that gleam as the light shines through them. Lee plays with words like an impressionist toys with paints, refusing to carve distinct lines that would allow interpretation. As we allow the words to wash over us, only then do the images become clear. But there are indeed evident themes in these paradoxical scenes. Death is ubiquitous and accompanied by its natural conclusion, decay. And yet, the sweet, musty scent of rot is understood as part of the cyclical nature of life. Fluids flow through the poems like a river: water in its many forms, but also bodily fluids – tears, blood, urine. The body itself is a source of pain, but also fertile soil from which things might grow, like the bone that grows from a young girl’s back into a crescent moon, or mushrooms that grow from rot to blossom into mysterious, interconnected life. As the collection comes to a close, the final poem paraphrases the Buddha: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” “Cold Candies” indeed presents us with a multitude ofpaths to becoming. ‘world without sound’(Gonseonggye) Lim Hee-yun Culture Reporter, Dong-A Ilbo By BBIRIBBOO, EP album, Free Streaming via Melon, Apple Music, and YouTube, Seoul: CAIOS (2022) World Emptied of Sound The album title “GONGSEONGGYE” is a word coined by BBIRIBBOO, a Korean traditional music fusion band. It means “world without sound.” This debut album, released in early 2022, depicts a journey in search of an imaginary world.The group consists of two piri (double-reed oboe) players, Kwon Sol-ji and Son Sae-ha, and Heven, a bassist and producer. Like other piri players, they play the taepyeongso (conical oboe) or the saenghwang (free-reed mouth organ with 17 bamboo pipes) depending on the piece of music.“Iraiza,” the first piece, is the highlight of the album. It announces the advent of BBIRIBBOO in the world of music. In the beginning, dark and damp electronic tones reminiscent of the dark ambient genre paint the vast interplanetary space in black as if with an ink brush. Then, two taepyeongso combine for a sound like a rocket being launched. The hi-hat and bass beat go wild with a sense of urgency, flailing like a whip.“Eunneuny” involves ambient sound recast as healing music. The two piri swim like mysterious jellyfish navigating the depths of the ocean, producing a dazzling melody in a major key alongside a calm harmony.“In Dodri” is a variation on the melody of “Yangcheong Dodeuri” from “Celebrating Eternity” (Cheonnyeon manse), a suite enjoyed by the royal court and upper classes of the Joseon Dynasty. This is the only dance music on the album, with a funky bass line and beat.The album is an impressive first step in BBIRIBBOO’s musical journey. However, the road ahead looks difficult. Acts such as Jambinai, Park Ji-ha and HAEPAARY have already attracted a lot of attention, so BBIRIBBOO will need to be bolder and more challengingin the future.


Books & more 2022 SPRING 1320

‘Lemon’ ‘Lemon’ By Kwon Yeo-sun Translated by Janet Hong 147 pages, $20.00, New York: Other Press [2021] More Than a Gripping Murder Mystery Novelist Kwon Yeo-sun’s English-language debut, “Lemon” opens in an interrogation room, where Han Manu is being questioned about the murder of one of his classmates, a beautiful girl named Hae-on. To be more precise, the novel opens in the mind of Hae-on’s younger sister, Da-on, as she imagines what must have happened in the interrogation room in 2002. She knows that Manu is a little slow, and she imagines that his seemingly inconsistent statements must have convinced the police that this boy was the murderer. There is another suspect, the rich and popular Shin Jeongjun, but he is quickly cleared of suspicion when his alibi checks out. Yet, with insufficient evidence to charge Manu, the case, known as “The High School Beauty Murder,” remains unsolved. Da-on spends the next 16 years reliving every detail in the hope of finding some resolution.Don’t let this brief synopsis fool you, though. This isn’t a crime novel, or at least it isn’t a mere whodunit. The question of who killed Hae-on is explored throughout the book, but a far more important question is what Da-on asks herself in the first chapter: “What meaning, then, could life possibly hold?” When the maelstrom of emotions that enveloped her after her sister’s death subsides, she finds herself still tormented by guilt. A psychiatrist might label this “survivor’s guilt,” but for Da-on it runs deeper, as she wonders if she ever even loved her sister. Perhaps most painful of all is the realization that, no matter what the case might be, she can never go back and change what has already been decided.Although Da-on narrates half of the book’s chapters, she isn’t the only point-of-view character; two chapters each are narrated by Sanghui and Taerim, classmates of Hae-on.Sanghui isn’t close to Hae-on, but her relationship with Daon gives us a different perspective on the younger sister.Taerim is more directly involved in the case: she was with Manu when she last saw Hae-on, and she eventually married Jeongjun. We only see Manu and Jeongjun through the eyes of the female characters, so their stories remain somewhat shrouded in mystery. But perhaps the most notable absence is Hae-on herself. As the victim that gives the story its purpose, she is the main character, but never speaks for herself, and we are never given a glimpse into what is going on inside her head; we only know what the other characters think of her. In the end, she is a cipher onto which they project their dreams and desires, their fears and insecurities.The author has skillfully crafted a story that draws the reader in and maintains the suspense of a murder mystery as the fragments slowly but surely mesh. Yet as the picture emerges, we become ever more aware that the true mystery is how human beings deal with loss, tragedy and grief. We never lose sight of the horrible crime that occurred on a summer day in 2002, as the Korea-Japan World Cup drew to a close, but as time marches inexorably on with each chapter, ending 17 years later in 2019, we realize that no “solution” to the mystery will change things for the survivors. For Da-on, Sanghui and Taerim, the journey will never end, at least not until they join Hae-on on the other side of the line that separates the living from the dead. And when the last page has been turned, neither will this story end in the minds of its readers. The questions – and the answers that we all must find – will continue to haunt us. ‘Tiger Swallowtail’ By Hwang Gyu-gwan Translated by Jeon Seung-hee 111 pages, 9,500 won, Paju: ASIA Publishers [2021] Poems for Souls Longing for a New World “I have long thought about how poems can change our actual world,” writes Hwang Gyu-gwan in an essay at the end of this new collection of his poems. He does not write merely to ref lect on life and the world around him, but to make a real difference. He is not optimistic about the direction our world is taking, and he sees modern capitalist society as a bane rather than a boon. In his poetry, capitalism stands in stark contrast and opposition to nature in particular; in “Let’s Set the Forests Free,” for example, he argues for the removal of human civilization from the forests, ultimately calling for them to be “our new lords” and we “their foolish subjects.”Perhaps the most urgent picture of our endangered environment can be found in the opening lines of the titular poem: “The rainy season does not end; the sea is boiling; Alarmed, glaciers are crashing down, and continents burn.” But the poet refuses to wallow in hopelessness and despair, instead seeking a radical way forward. His two poems about roads, one borrowing Frost’s famous (though often misquoted) title and the other singing of a “road newly taken” (“Toward the Direction of Daybreak”), speak to this journey. Hwang’s poems have many layers that do not surrender all of their secrets easily, but they will reward the careful reader and the soul longing for a new, changed world. Seoul 4K Walker YouTube http://www.youtube.com/c/seoul4k A Perfect Cure for Your Pandemic Blues As the COVID pandemic enters its third year, many are yearning to travel the world again. Perhaps you’ve never been to Korea but you’re curious. (You must be if you picked up this magazine!) Or maybe you’ve been to Korea before and wish you could go back. You might even be here already, but unable to travel around the country as much as you did before. This YouTube channel could be just what you need. Launched in the summer of 2020, it’s the perfect antidote to your pandemic blues.Most of the walks offered here are of course located in Seoul, giving viewers a glimpse into everyday street scenes in the bustling metropolis. Gangnam in particular is recommended, if you’re curious about what “Gangnam style” really looks like. But there are numerous videos filmed outside of Seoul as well. Haeundae Beach in Busan, the romantic night streets of the seaport Yeosu, the traditional hanok houses of Jeonju and Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon are just a few of the many highlights. Without question, nearly all of the videos are in 4K, making them perfect for viewing on larger screens as well. Experience for yourself the colorful and vibrant scenes of Seoul and beyond throughout Korea.


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