메인메뉴 바로가기본문으로 바로가기

Features

Culture

Mountain Trails Rejuvenated

Image of Korea 2021 SUMMER 64

Mountain Trails Rejuvenated

IMAGE OF KOREAMountain Trails Rejuvenated

Every now and then, when I awaken in the middle of the night and lie in the dark, I envision myself hiking up a mountain. Houses recede and a forest begins as the trail slopes upward. Under a canopy of leaves and branches, my breathing begins to labor. Left foot, right foot. Light and shadow flicker at each step. My heartbeat quickens and sweat beads on my forehead and back. At the summit, a large boulder awaits. I imagine it all: a cool mountain breeze that streams past, the taste of freedom and a panoramic view before me.

© Yang Su-yeol

Home to more than 4,000 mountains, or san, a climb is never far away in Korea. This is especially true in Seoul, a megacity with 10 million residents. With Namsan at its center, Seoul is encircled by Ansan, Inwangsan, Gwanaksan, Buramsan, Dobongsan and Bukhansan – almost like a folding screen of mountains. Nature can be accessed within an hour from anywhere in this city. Plan ahead or go at a moment’s notice.

Day trips require no special gear. Come as you are. The mountain trails are safe, with no risk of being a victim of crime or a wild animal attack. Regular little shelters that stand along tidy mountain trails increase this sense of assurance. You can relax and enjoy the natural scenery and urban vista below. In March, Bukhansan National Park saw 670,000 visitors – up 41 percent from the same month last year.

The faces seen on the trails have changed. Mountain hikes have long been a favorite pastime of those in their 40s and older.

But now, online hiking communities and meetup platforms are creating a younger cohort. These new devotees in their 20s and 30s don’t leave their fashion sensibilities and social media habits at home. Instead of the bulky, interchangeable outdoor clothing worn by their parents and grandparents, they prefer stylish leggings and trail running shoes. And they post their hiking selfies to Instagram. Some of these youngsters create new platforms for sharing their interests, forging new relationships and even embarking on themed trips like “Clean Hike,” where everyone picks up trash.

Particularly amid COVID-19, finding themselves stuck in place and unable to leave for adventures abroad, the millennial generation increasingly uses the mountains and forests as escape valves from social distancing limitations and deepening pandemic weariness. The embrace of socially distanced travel has made our mountain landscapes more youthful.

Lying in the dark, I envy the young hikers in casual dress, standing alone atop a summit of their choosing, meeting the wide world before them; and I pay my respects to the mountain and its newfound youth. And with that, I return to my own climb. Left foot, right foot…

Kim Hwa-youngLiterary Critic; Member of the National Academy of Arts

A Promenade in Seochon

On the Road 2021 SUMMER 468

A Promenade in Seochon

In Seocho, one of Seoul's oldest neighborhoods, a maze of
centuries-old homes and rich artistic heritage sustain a charming
urban oasis of calm and reflection.

Peering through the ancient byways of Seochon,you can see both Gyeongbok Palace, the offi￾cial royal residence of the Joseon Dynasty (1392- 1910), and Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential office, at the foot of Mt. Bugak. It’s this proximity that led to Seochon becoming the centuries-long enclave of officials and schol￾ars, who walked to the palace.

Seochon means “west village,” in reference to its direc￾tion from the palace. It hugs the foot of Mt. Inwang, once a defensive barrier when Seoul was a walled city. Amid the COVID pandemic, people who have learned to enjoy sol￾itary hikes up Mt. Inwang love to stand at the top and lose themselves in the view of Seoul spread below.

Seochon is now one of Seoul’s greatest attractions, along with the hanok village Bukchon, meaning “northern village.” Both places are filled with charming alleys lined with traditional-style homes, more than a few of which are hundreds of years old. Many are now stylish cafés, boutique coffee shops and inns. Inside one repurposed hanok is Daeo Bookstore, the oldest secondhand bookshop in Seoul, a few minutes away from Gyeongbok Palace subway station.More importantly, both the Seochon and Bukchon areas have an ambience that’s all about art and culture.

The narrow alleys of Seochon have the warm-heart￾ed air and ease of Prague’s Golden Lane and the feel of the back alleys of Paris’s Montmartre. Besides the repurposed hanok, there are galleries where scenes from the ink-and￾wash landscapes of the Joseon era now grace the canvas￾es of 21st century artists. A popular rendezvous site here is Tongin Market, where scores of vendors sell everyday wares and eateries beckon with all kinds of delicious food.The market is famous for its lunch-box program; diners exchange a set of coins that are used to buy a wide array of homemade side dishes at little cost.

The greatest pleasure of touring the alleys is that your eyes are opened to unfamiliar new paths as you get lost every now and then.

Suseong Valley in Ogin-dong, a picturesque haven famous for its shady trees and the sound of cool running water, has been a long￾time favorite of artists.

The Seoul City Wall was constructed in the 14th century just after the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty. The defensive barrier stands some 5-8 meters high and is about 18.6 kilometers long. The western section lies on Mt. Inwang with Seochon nestled below.

Celebrated Residents

The eponymous museum of artist Pak No-soo opened in 2013. Pak lived at the house for some 40 years and donated some 1,000 artworks to bepreserved and displayed.

In 1941, Yun Dong-ju, a student at Yonhee College (forerunner of Yonsei University), lived at the home of novelist Kim Song (1909-1988), where hewrote some of his major poems, including “A Night for Counting the Stars.” A plaque marks where the house was located.

Kim Mi-gyeong takes her ink pens to rooftops and other high places to draw street scenes of Seochon. After a 20-year career as a journalist, she went to live in New York in 2005 and returned in 2012 to settle in Seochon, where she is now known as the “rooftop artist.”

Seochon is where many princes were born and raised, including Prince Chungnyeong, the third son of King Taejong, who would later become King Sejong (r. 1418-1450), the most famous Joseon monarch. He instituted the Korean script and a great deal of scientific research.

King Sejong’s third son, Prince Anpyeong (1418-1453), lived in Suseong Valley in Ogin-dong, the uppermost part of this neighborhood and the setting of “Dream Journey to thePeach Blossom Land,” painted by An Gyeon in 1447. This famous painting depicting the Daoist utopia was inspired by the prince’s dream.

Another royal resident of Seochon was King Sejong’s second-oldest brother, Prince Hyoryeong (1396-1486), a man of great learning and virtuous character. He escapedfrom power politics when his younger brother ascended the throne, and was revered for his efforts to revive Buddhism.

In the same neighborhood, Jeong Seon (1676-1759)painted “Clearing after Rain on Mt. Inwang” (1751), a mas￾terpiece from the cultural heyday of Joseon, the age of theso-called “true view” realist landscapes. This celebrated art￾work, designated Korea’s National Treasure No. 216, was part of the private collection of Lee Kun-hee, the late chair￾man of Samsung Group. It was donated to the state after the business leader passed away in 2020.

In the mid-Joseon period, Seochon began to be inhabit￾ed mostly by jungin, literally the “middle people,” a class of lower officials and technicians who ranked between nobility and commoners. Technical workers who ranged from inter￾preters and doctors to eunuchs who served in the palace made their home in the area, which encompasses today’s Ogin-dong, Hyoja-dong and Sajik-dong. Bukchon was a neighborhood of literati, and the old houses there are rela￾tively large and grand. In contrast, the traditional houses of Seochon are small and modest, which explains the web-like spread of numerous little alleys.

With Joseon’s demise in 1910 and the subsequent Jap￾anese occupation, young artists began to move to Seochon. Major figures included the poets Yi Sang (1910-1937),Yun Dong-ju (1917-1945) and Noh Cheon-myeong (1911-1957), as well as novelist Yeom Sang-seop (1897-1963).Among their neighbors were painters Gu Bon-ung (1906-1953), Lee Jung-seop (1916-1956) and Chun Kyung-ja (1924-2015). Ironically, Seochon is where the luxurious Western-style estates of infamous pro-Japanese figures Lee Wan-yong (1858-1926) and Yun Deok-yeong (1873-1940) were also located.

The passage of art and culture through time, as it is enjoyed and understood in the present, may be compared to a chick breaking out of the darkness in its shell and being born into the world. Like the baby bird chipping away at the hard shell surrounding it in order to live, the artists of mod￾ern Korea plunged themselves into creative activity as an escape from the poverty and despair of the times. I set out to discover their traces in Seochon.

Tongin Market was originally established in 1941 as a public market for Japanese residents in the nearby areas. The market developed into itscurrent form after the Korean War when the population of Seochon expanded rapidly.

Following the Fragrance
First, I headed to Poet’s Hill in Cheongun-dong to see Cheongun Literature Library and Yun Dong-ju Litera￾ture House. From the hill, I could see the old city center of Seoul spread out below, and in the distance, beyond Nam￾san Tower and the Han River, the 123-story Lotte World Tower came into view. The hillside Cheongun Literature Library consists of several lovingly restored hanok, but Yun Dong-ju Literature House is a concrete structure with an iron door somewhat like a prison. And yet, with its love￾ly outdoor garden café, it ranked high on the 2013 list of “Korea’s best contemporary architecture,” selected by theDong-A Ilbo and the architecture magazine, Space.

In the video room, the life of Yun Dong-ju unfolds on the concrete wall – the time he spent composing poetry in a boarding house in Seochon; his imprisonment in Fukuoka,Japan for participating in anti-Japanese activities by Korean students; and his eventual death there of mysterious caus￾es in February 1945, months before Korea’s national liber￾ation. A journal entry reads, “I hide away in a dark, small room unable to do anything but write poems, ashamed that I am unable to take up arms and fight. I am all the more ashamed as those poems come to me so easily.”

Leaving the maze of alleys behind, I headed for the House of Yi Sang, the genius poet and novelist who died so young. This is a popular starting point for walking tours exploring the art and culture of Seochon. However, thehouse where Yi lived for 20 some years from when he was adopted at the age of three was rebuilt after his death. On display here are Yi’s original handwritten manuscripts andother literary materials. From there, I walked in the direc￾tion of Suseong Valley and soon found Pak No-soo Art Museum, which exhibits the works of the modern artist whopainted coolly elegant landscapes. A little further up is the site of the house where poet Yun Dong-ju boarded as a uni￾versity student.

Finally, I reached Suseong Valley, which could be called the end of Seochon. There, I ran into a woman sitting alone, wearing a mask and working on a drawing. It was KimMi-gyeong, Seochon’s acclaimed “rooftop artist.” Formerly a newspaper reporter with a 20-year career, she quit her job and in 2013 began drawing scenery around Seochon.

From Mt. Inwang and from the rooftops of the hanok, Japanese-style houses from the colonial period and other dwellings around Seochon, Kim captures the urban land￾scapes of this old neighborhood that she considers to encap￾sulate an important aspect of the history of Seoul. In the early days, the locals would report her as “a spy making maps.” But now, her drawings can be seen on the walls of many stores in the neighborhood.

The exhibition “Record of the Streets,” organized by the Korean Safety Health Environment Foundation, was held from April 30 to May 16, 2021 at Boan 1942, a multipurpose cultural venue. It featured some 80 photographs showing ways the COVID pandemic has changed society.

Boan Inn, built in the 1940s, was a popular residence for many artists and writers. Having operated as an inn until 2004, it was recently turnedinto Boan 1942, where exhibitions, performances and other events are held.

The greatest pleasure of touring the alleys is that your eyes are opened to unfamiliar new paths asyou get lost every now and then.

Rescanning the Maze
Rounding off my trip, I stopped by Boan Inn in Tongui￾dong, where painter Lee Jung-seop, poet Seo Jeong-ju (1915-2000) and other writers and artists often stayed. The original building has been preserved and transformed into an exhibition and cultural venue named Boan 1942. It was here that Seo and other poets created the coterie maga￾zine, “Poets’ Village” (Siin Burak), in 1936. Traces of the past can be found throughout the building. I welcomed the creaky wooden stairs and was glad that the closely packed, 1 cramped exhibition rooms retained their old charm.

Choi Seong-u, who runs Boan 1942, dreamed of being an artist and went to France to study. He ended up studying art administration, and upon his return, turned the old Boan Inn into a multipurpose cultural center. He expanded the space by erecting a building next door, showing not only the works of experimental young Korean artists but also active￾ly pursuing international projects.

Residents of Seochon have varied over several centu￾ries. But the thread binding them has always been art and culture, remaining palpable in the meandering alleys today.

The greatest pleasure of touring the alleys is that your eyes are opened to unfamiliar new paths as you get lost every now and then. Sometimes, the alleys suddenly stop in dead ends, and as you turn and look back, you begin to think about the traces of your own life. On this outing to Seochon, I frequently looked back again and anew.

Kwon Oh-nam has operated Daeo Bookstore since she opened it with her late husband in 1951, when they decided to use part of their traditional-style home as a book shop. It is now the oldest secondhand bookstore in Seoul, and also functions as a book café.

Chebu-dong, a famous foodie haunt, attracts people of all ages who search for tasty food day and night. The small eateries are crowded together to form a veritable wall in a maze of alleys.

Lee San-haPoet
Ahn Hong-beomPhotographer

Fragrant and Crunchy MINARI

Essential Ingredients 2021 SUMMER 176

Fragrant and Crunchy MINARI

Minari, or water parsley, is a fragrant vegetable with a crunchy texture. With the recent international interest in the film “Minari” by Korean-American director Lee Isaac Chung, the plant has become a symbol of Koreans’resilience and adaptability.

Most grasses in the wild con￾tain toxic substances, so theytaste bitter in your mouth.Children’s natural rejection of that bittertaste comes from their instinct to protectthemselves from poisonous plants. Humandietary culture has developed based on theknowledge to distinguish between edibleand non-edible plants.

At first glance, water parsley (minari)and water hemlock (dok-minari, meaning“poisonous minari”) look similar. Theyboth have hollow stems and sharply ser￾rated leaves. However, if you look close￾ly, water parsley leaves have the shape ofan egg cut vertically, while water hemlockleaves are long and pointed, like the end ofa spear. Though they belong to the samefamily, one is edible and the other is not.

As minari contains no toxic substanc￾es, it can be eaten raw or cooked and hasbeen a popular ingredient in Korean cui￾sine since ancient times. In the 1920s, itwas so commonly consumed that its mar￾ket price was listed in the newspapers. It isloved for its unique fresh taste and relative￾ly richer scent than other herbs, and as ahollow-stemmed vegetable like water spin￾ach (gongsimchae), it remains crisp andrefreshing even when slightly blanched

Let’s look at the recipe for minariganghoe, or minari rolls, introduced in theJoseon Dynasty cookbook Siui Jeonseo(Compendium of Proper Cookery), writtenin the late 19th century. Remove the rootsand leaves, trim the stems and blanch them.Slice pan-fried egg sheets, brisket, rockear mushrooms (manna lichens) and redchili peppers into thin strips, then tie all theingredients with a minari stem, placing apine nut in the middle of the roll. Put themneatly on a plate and eat with red pepperpaste mixed with vinegar. The key to thisdish is the fragrant, crunchy minari, whichbinds the other ingredients together.

Minari, a cool and refreshing summer ingredient with aslightly peppery taste, is rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber.According to Dongeui Bogam (Exemplar of Korean Medicine)from the 17th century Joseon Dynasty, it quenches the thirst,clears the head and is effective in treating headaches andvomiting.

Minari leaves have sharp sawtooth edges. The shape ofthe leaf resembles that of an egg cut vertically.

Moist and resilient, minari stems have a refreshing,crunchy texture. There are two major types of the green: Ricepaddy minari, grown in water, has a hollow stem, while thestems of minari grown in dry fields are relatively solid.

Special Texture
Why do we love this crispy, crunchy tex￾ture? Neuroanthropologist John S. Allen gives three reasons in his book, “The Om￾nivorous Mind” (2012). First, humans are primates who have insect-eating relatives.Second, the preference for crispy food in￾creased when food began to be cooked with fire, making ingredients crispier than in their raw state. And third, the crispy texture of plants signifies their freshness. Fresh vegetables, whose cell walls are filled with water, burst to produce a crispy sound when chewed. By contrast, vegetables that have been stored for a long time are pulpy and tough, as their moisture has largely dried out.

Water-filled minari maintains its crisp￾iness when blanched or stir-fried, andeven when pickled or used in kimchi. This is because the sour-tasting organic acids strengthen the cell walls. But by far the best way to enjoy the crispy taste is to go to a farm for raw, freshly harvested minari. penes. Chewing on a mouthful of minari will take you into the midst of a dense for￾est of pines, firs and cedars as the terpene substances such as pinene and myrcene explode in your mouth. Minari also con￾tains aromatic substances that bring to mind citrus fruits, lime peel, ginger and galangal. Adding minari to fish-baseddishes can therefore help reduce any fishy smell. Clearly, there is a scientific reason for using it in dishes such as maeuntang, spicy fish stew.

Pleasant Aroma
The fragrant scent of minari goes well with the savory flavor of soybean paste. It wasalready common to add minari to soybean paste stew when, on April 2, 1939, theChosun Ilbo newspaper introduced a recipe for minari cured in soybean paste: “Washthe minari clean, soak it in hot water for Hanjae minari, grown in Hanjae, Cheongdo County, North GyeongsangProvince, is famous nationwide. Han￾jae comprises the villages of Chohy￾eon-ri, Eumji-ri, Pyeongyang-ri and Sang￾ri, where local volcanic rock soil, with its excellent drainage, is perfect for minaricultivation. Minari is largely divided into varieties grown in rice paddies or in dryfields. Rice paddy minari, which grows in water, has a hollow stem as describedabove. On the other hand, field minari has a fuller stem. Hanjae minari is cultivatedin a way that produces a middle ground between the two types. The stems are most￾ly full, and the plant is also crispy with a pleasant scent. Minari harvested in springis often eaten raw with grilled pork belly in place of the usual lettuce, served togeth￾er with sliced garlic and soybean paste for relish. The refreshing scent of the vegeta￾ble covers the greasiness of the meat. It can also be lightly cooked on the grill along￾side the meat.

The scent of minari comes from a class of volatile substances called ter￾p about an hour, then spread soybean paste in a bowl and place a thin layer of minarion top. Spread another layer of soybean paste and minari on top and put a lid onthe bowl. It tastes wonderful when taken out and eaten two days later. The better thesoybean paste, the better the taste.”

The fragrant substances in plants are basically weapons to defend against exter￾nal invaders, such as bacteria and insects.Therefore, minari has a stronger scent when grown in fields than in water. Minarithat grows in the mountains or in the wild is called dolminari, the prefix dol meaning“wild.” It has an even stronger scent than minari grown in fields because it producesa lot of resistant, fragrant substances to sur￾vive in a barren environment.

Minari also contains various antioxi￾dants and studies are underway to explain its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and liver protective effects. It is commonly believedthat adding minari to blowfish dishes helps to detoxify any blowfish poison that mightremain. But as this has not been proven, it should rather be understood that minari is added to enhance the flavor.

To someone who has never tasted it, minari – and its consumers – may seemstrange. However, it isn’t particularly hard to get used to. The carrots and celery usedin European flavor bases such as mirepoix and sofrito are all relatives of minari. If youlike the crispy texture of celery, minari will also grow on you in no time. It can be usedinstead of basil to make pesto, and also works well stir-fried and added to oil pasta.

Minari ganghoe, or minari rolls, made with assorted ingredients such as fried egg strips, stir-fried beef and mushrooms, all tied with blanched minari stems, are eaten dipped in red pepper paste with vinegar. They were served on the king’s table or at court banquets during the Joseon Dynasty.

Minari goes very well with juicy pork belly, either fresh or grilled with the meat.

Minari has a strong fragrance and is known in English as water parsley, water dropwort, or Asian parsley.These days, it is a popular ingredient for pasta.

Pesto made with chopped minari is not only used with pasta but is delicious when spread on bread, just like basil pesto or spinach pesto.

Resilient Vitality
“Minari grows well anywhere.” So saysthe grandmother to her little grandson inthe film “Minari,” directed by Lee IsaacChung. It isn’t easy for a Korean familyto settle down in an unfamiliar place likeArkansas. The life of an immigrant, whereanxiety and hope intersect, can leave onewondering whether or not it is possible totake root in a new place, as minari can. Atfirst, minari seems to simply be a resilientplant that grows well anywhere, but in fact,it has to struggle with many surroundingthreats.

REFUGEE DOCTOR’S CHARITABLE SERVICE

Tales of Two Koreas 2021 SUMMER 143

REFUGEE DOCTOR’S CHARITABLE SERVICE

Seok Yeong-hwan left a comfortable medical career in North Korea for the South. As a groundbreaker in practicing traditional Korean medicine handed down on both sides of the peninsula, he generously helps those who cannot afford treatments.

To patients accustomed to acupuncture needles as thin as a strand of hair, the needles at Yeongdeungpo 100 Years Clinic can be intimidating. But patients from North Korea feel differently.

Seok Yeong-hwan, 55, runs the clinic. Stacks of North Korean books on medicine, including “Koryo Medicine,” hint at his uniqueness. He is the first North Korean-born doctor licensed to practice traditional Korean medicine in South Korea

Abandoning a promising career as an army medical officer, Seok fled to the South with his girlfriend, now his wife, in October 1998. Taking advantage of his military rank to elude checkpoints and hitch rides, they traveled from Pyongyang to Seoul – across the DMZ, instead of via a third country as most refugees do – in only three days.

The dream behind his 100 Years Clinic is to help patients have one hundred years of a happy, healthy life. North Korean transplants call the infirmary a “clinic for refugees.” They can receive treatment and even get life advice there without any fear of burdensome bills. Since opening in 2002, Seok has not accepted a single won from financially strapped patients

Clinic for Refugees
“Some refugees complain that they have difficulty making themselves understood by medical professionals at many other hospitals or clinics. Refugees say they can bare their hearts to me and thus feel at home, to some extent,” Seok said. “Anyway, I arrived in Seoul before they did and I had the same experience. It’s hard for me to ignore their predicament as I understand them better than anybody else.”

The clinic also receives many KoreanChinese patients, who agree that medicines and treatments prescribed and administered by Seok are effective because their diet and lifestyle are similar to those of North Koreans.

Even senior South Korean government officials were frequent visitors at Seok’s first location, near Gwanghwamun, the downtown section of Seoul. Skyrocketing rent forced him to close Gwanghwamun 100 Years Clinic in 2017, after 15 years in operation. His site in Yeongdeungpo District, located in southwestern Seoul, spans 661 square meters (double the size of his first clinic) at a lower price.

Seok hails from Kapsan, a mountainous county in Ryanggang Province, North Korea. His family connections gave him a comfortable life. But after regime founder Kim Il-sung died in 1994, Seok began to feel disillusioned as he witnessed malnourished soldiers and heard other doctors recall their overseas experiences. He eventually yielded to these doubts and misgivings.

When he fled the North, Seok was an army captain and surgeon serving as chief of emergency medical services at the North Korean People’s Army’s “Hospital 88.” Before that, he worked at the Research Center of Basic Medical Sciences in Pyongyang, also known as a “longevity research center.” It was one of the perks of being the son of a senior officer in the Supreme Guard Command, the equivalent of the Presidential Security Service in South Korea. Seok and his wife have since lost contact with their parents. Now, they have one son who is studying computer engineering at college, another son in high school and a daughter in middle school.

Seok doesn’t know the whereabouts of his three brothers, either. “My relatives have vanished without a trace. People are saying that they’ve evaporated, literally,” he said.

When Seok arrived in the South, there were no established standards for North Korean refugees to become medical doctors. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Welfare permitted him to sit for the licensing exam for traditional medicine based on the advice of the Society of Korean Medicine and other experts.

1. Seok provides volunteer medical care on a weekly basis. He regards it as payback to the people in South Korea who helped him resettle and become the only person with medical licenses from both the North and the South.

1. Seok provides volunteer medical care on a weekly basis. He regards it as payback to the people in South Korea who helped him resettle and become the only person with medical licenses from both the North and the South.

Starting Over
Studying far into the night, Seok struggled with South Korea’s traditional medical textbooks, which are full of difficult classical Chinese characters. He had only learned basic Chinese characters in the North. Three years after resettling in South Korea, he passed the licensing exam, becoming the first person to obtain such a qualification in both Koreas. He went on to earn a master’s degree in traditional medicine from Kyung Hee University in Seoul, and is now considering pursuing a PhD.

According to Seok, one major difference between the traditional medical practices of the two Koreas is found in acupuncture techniques. “In the South, doctors use thin and small needles to give patients less of a stinging sensation. But in the North, they use very thick needles,” he said. “People normally think thick needles will give them more of a stinging sensation, but it’s not true. Patients feel relaxed and refreshed after an acupuncture treatment with large needles. It’s one of the things that refugees miss most.”

His clinic is famous for a unique North Korean style of acupuncture techniques, with “super-size” and “fire” needles, and even gold needles that normally would be used only to treat senior officials in North Korea. The gold needles are 0.6mm in diameter, much larger than typical acupuncture needles, which are 0.12mm to 0.3mm in diameter.

Traditional Korean medicine is based on Dongeui Bogam (Exemplar of Korean Medicine), a text compiled in 1610 by Heo Jun (1539-1615), a Joseon-era royal physician. But the two Koreas have diverged in its application since their division.

Therapeutic medicine has flourished in the North, where doctors treat patients based on the four-constitution (sasang) medicine developed by Yi Je-ma (1837-1900), a medical scholar of the late Joseon period. Under this system, patients with chronic diseases receive traditional treatment aimed at boosting their vitality and creating an immune response to fight disease.

“I received many benefits from South Korean society in the process of settling here. It’s natural that I should return the kindness.”

“Life-Saving Folk Medicine in North Korea,” a book on “Koryo medicine,” the North Korean version of traditional medicine, written by Seok.

Seok is the author of several books that introduce the North Korean version of traditional medicine. One is “Kim Il-sung’s Ways to Stay Healthy and Live Longer.” It describes the natural therapy used by the late North Korean leader.

Pride in ‘Koryo Medicine’
Seok is very proud of Koryo medicine. He employs “Yusimhwan” and “Taegohwan,” traditional medicinal globules, making use of his experience as a cardiovascular and hematology specialist at the Research Center of Basic Medical Sciences back in Pyongyang. The two types of sphere-shaped medications are known to have been favorites of Kim Il-sung and his son, Jong-il, when they were alive. They are believed to be effective in treating stress disorders and preventing aging.

Medical study in the North consists of six years in the classroom and six months of clinical training. Students of Koryo medicine attend classes in both Eastern and Western medical theory and practice. North Korean doctors normally use both Eastern and Western tests to examine a patient, but treatment is mainly based on Eastern medicine, according to Seok.

The North also has an abundance of medicinal plants and a sound prescription service based on patients’ constitutional types, Seok explains. Patients’ own willpower to recover is most essential, and then followed by what medicines and treatment they receive from which doctor, he said.

Volunteer Healthcare
Seok has published four books so far: “Life-Saving Folk Medicine in North Korea” (2003), “Climbing Mountains, Digging Wild Ginseng” (2003), “Kim Il-sung’s Ways to Stay Healthy and Live Longer” (2004) and “Healthcare in North Korea” (2006).

He also provides volunteer medical care for elderly people, a service he began in 2004 with another traditional medical doctor from the North. “I received many benefits from South Korean society in the process of settling here. It’s natural that I should return the kindness. Volunteer work also makes me feel happier,” he said.

Seok has been leading a volunteer group, initially called the “Federation of North Korean Refugees in Medical Profession,” which was then expanded and renamed as the “Hana Nanum Foundation” (hana meaning “one” and nanum meaning “sharing”), since its founding in 2015. The number of volunteers and supporters participating in the group has increased as the number of North Korean refugees in the medical profession and their sympathizers has grown. At present, the group has about 130 volunteers, including some 30 traditional medical doctors and physiotherapists.

Heavenly Stitches with Threads of the Heart

Guardian of Heritage 2021 SUMMER 317

Heavenly Stitches with Threads of the Heart

Master embroiderer Choi Yoo-hyeon has worked ceaselessly with needle and thread for seven decades. She is recognized for taking Korean embroidery to a new level with her creative techniques and grand-scale renditions of Buddhist paintings.

Sakyamuni Buddha (detail) from “Buddhas of the Three Worlds.” 257 × 128 cm.
Master embroiderer Choi Yoo-hyeon started to create embroidery renditions of Buddhist paintings in the mid1970s. Depicting the Buddhas of the past, present and future, “Buddhas of the Three Worlds” is a masterpiece that took more than 10 years to complete.

Anyone can appreciate the beauty of an exquisite piece of embroidery, but not everyone can endure the toilsome and tedious process of stitchby-stitch work over the seemingly endless hours required for its production. This is especially true for traditional embroidery, which is generally more elaborate in procedure, diversified in technique and expressive of an underlying spirit.

“If embroidery was just hard and tedious for me, how could I have done it all my life? I’ve done it because I love it and enjoy it. I have also hoped to keep the traditional handicraft from disappearing entirely,” Choi said when asked if the work wasn’t too laborious.

She continued, “I’m well over 80 now. When I was young, needlework was a big part of the household chores. Families made their own clothes and prepared bridal linens adorned with hand embroidery. I’m the youngest of seven siblings, and I naturally took up embroidery because that’s what my mother was always doing. I really becameinterested in embroidery when I was praised for a piece I had made for school homework. There was a time when I would embroider for more than 20 hours a day, without even eating or washing.”

Formal Training
At 17, Choi was lucky enough to meet Kwon Su-san, a renowned embroidery artist of the time, and begin formal training. At the time she took up the craft as a profession, traditional Korean embroidery was overshadowed by Japanese-style embroidery, which had been promoted as part of women’s occupational training. Practical skills for everyday items were taught at women’s universities and sewing schools. The teachers were mostly women who had studied in Japan. This tendency continued after national liberation in 1945.

In the 1960s, Choi opened an embroidery institute and also began to study traditional Korean embroidery with the goal of reviving and preserving it. Her initial efforts involved applying traditional designs to household items, such as pillow ends and floor cushions. In time, her interest gradually expanded to rendering traditional paintings in embroidery and further reinterpreting ancient artworks in her own style.

“A good embroiderer needs nimble hands and a good sense of color, of course, but what’s more important is whether one has an eye for design,” Choi said. “You can’t create your own style by simply imitating others. That’s why I’ve designed my own works based on motifs from traditional pottery, landscapes and folk paintings.”

In the 1960s and 1970s, amid a widespread disregard for traditional Korean culture, Choi’s embroidered works and their fresh approach to cultural heritage managed to catch the attention of a growing number of people. Her pieces were especially popular among foreign tourists, but Choi had little interest in selling because she put the development of the craft above immediate economic gains.

So, in the mid-1970s, she began concentrating on research and exhibitions, working on pieces based on Buddhist paintings, which she believed to be the culmination of traditional Korean art. Her Buddhist-themed masterpieces, representing the pinnacle of her seven-decade career, include “Eight Scenes of Buddha’s Life,” depicting the eight phases of Sakyamuni’s life, and “Buddhas of the Three Worlds,” portraying the Buddhas of the past, present and future. These embroidery paintings, each of which took more than 10 years to finish, are characterized by an exuberant combination of traditional and creative techniques, as well as varied textures resulting from the use of different threads cotton, wool, rayon and silk.

“I put my heart into each and every stitch, working like a monk devoted to spiritual practice,” Choi said. “After I first came across the original painting of the ‘Eight Scenes of Buddha’s Life,’ called Palsangdo, at Tongdo Temple, I prayed and waited for 10 years for an opportunity to recreate it in embroidery. I finally gained the temple’s permission and began the work, but with each scene measuring over two meters in length, it took 12 years to embroider all eight of them. I worked with my students; otherwise, it would have taken even longer.”

“Lotus Repository World” (detail). 270 × 300 cm.
MFor this embroidery painting based on the mandala at Yongmun Temple in Yecheon, North Gyeongsang Province, Choi was awarded the Presidential Prize at the 1988 Korea Annual Traditional Handicraft Art Exhibition.

Challenges
Her passion and perseverance were rewarded with a prestigious prize; her embroidered version of the “Lotus Repository World,” based on the mandala at YongmunTemple in Yecheon, won the Presidential Prize at the 13th Korea Annual Traditional Handicraft Art Exhibition in 1988. In 1996, Choi was designated as a “living cultural treasure” in the art of embroidery, or National Intangible Cultural Property No.80. This was official recognition that she had reached the highest level of expertisely. Ordinary households also had their own family legacies in the craft.

Choi upholds the idea of “simseon sinchim,” meaning “threads from the heart for stitches of heaven.” Comparing her lifelong work to “heavenly stitches embroidered with her heart’s thread,” this was the title of her exhibition held at Seoul Arts Center in 2016.

She explained, “Every piece is created through a painstaking process. First, I select an original painting, valuable historically and artistically, which can be rendered in embroidery, and then make a sketch on the ground fabric. Once I start embroidering, I have to make one decision after another with the entire picture in mind: the best color and texture for the fabric and the threads, the color scheme, the techniques to use, and so on. As I work, I personally twist my threads to vary their thickness in view of the overall composition and the location of the part in question. I make stitches and remove them over and over until I’m satisfied with the techniques applied and the color tones produced.”

“The Great Nirvana in the Sala Grove” from “Eight Scenes of Buddha’s Life.” 236 × 152 cm.
Based on the namesake painting at Tongdo Temple in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, this piece is characterized by elaborate and realistic expression. Depicting the eight phases of Sakyamui’s life, each scene contains a series of episodes featuring numerous figures on a single canvas.

"Integrity” (detail) from the eightpanel folding screen “Pictorial Ideographs of Confucian Virtues.”128 × 51 cm.
When Choi began studying traditional embroidery in the 1960s, one of her major interests was the reinterpretation of folk paintings, including pictorial ideographs.

Perfection
Throughout this rigorous process, Choi does everything to perfection. She stresses the importance of being faithful to the basics and following the traditional ways, in order to help transmit the handicraft to the next generations. For this purpose, she has committed herself to teaching as a chair professor at the Pusan National University’s Institute of Traditional Korean Costume.

“Many people realize that traditional embroidery is beautiful and valuable, but very few are willing to learn it, and even those who do mostly give up halfway,” she said. “You need unremitting endurance, even after completing the proper training, to go through the long years of practice before being recognized as an artist. It’s such a thorny path that most don’t even attempt to challenge it.”

She looks back at her life in her memoirs, “History of Choi Yoo-hyeon’s Embroidery,” which will be published soon. The book chronicles her interest as an artisan,shifting from practical household objects to folk paintings, and then again to Buddhist paintings. She is also compiling teaching materials for her students. And in addition to her annotated portfolio of over 100 works, published in several books, she is writing yet another book on her original techniques, each with a detailed description and explanation. At the same time, she is in the final stretch of embroidering the “Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara,” based on the mural enshrined in the Hall of Great Light (Daegwangjeon) at Sinheung Temple in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province. She has been working on the piece for the past three years, expecting it to be her last grand-scale project. Stitched on purple silk with only golden thread, it gives the impression of reaching the heights of exquisite splendor.

Remaining Mission
“I don’t think I will be able to produce a large piece like this ever again,” Choi said. “I find it hard to work for even two or three hours a day now, because I get tired easily and my eyes get dim. Now it seems to be the time for me to devote my energy to teaching for my remaining mission to pass down as much as I can.”

For almost half a century, Choi has safekept all her works, refusing to sell anything. Along with hundreds of pieces of traditional and modern embroidery she has collected from all over the country, her work is in storage at the National Intangible Heritage Center in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, with support from the Cultural Heritage Administration. She hopes to see a new museum specializing in embroidery constructed in the near future to preserve and showcase her lifetime collection for as long as possible.

To achieve greater artistry, Choi uses a wide array of techniques, both traditional and original, as well as threads of diverse colors and materials, such as silk, cotton, wool and rayon, to create delicate textures.

For the last three years, Choi has been working on the “Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara,” based on the mural in the Hall of Great Light at Sinheung Temple in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province. Stitched on purple silk with only golden thread, it radiates with elegance and splendor.

People

Nikolaos Kordonias NIKO’S PERFECT CONTENTMENT

In Love with Korea 2021 SUMMER 151

Nikolaos Kordonias NIKO’S PERFECT CONTENTMENT In a tiny alley just a block away from Ik￾seon-dong, in the center of old Seoul, an unexpected haven of Greek culture beck￾ons. Niko Kitchen, occupying a hanok, or tradi￾tional Korean house, showcases its devotion to true Greek cuisine, building a loyal clientele. The owner and chef, Nikolaos Kordonias, better known simply as “Niko,” grew up on Samothrace, an island in the Aegean Sea that is home to the mythical Sanctuary of the Great Gods, including Nike, the winged goddess of vic￾tory. Niko’s description of his ancient birthplace is idyllic. It conjures familiar images of a Greek island filled with whitewashed villas: “Beauti￾ful, quiet, nice people. The pace of life is slow.The people are laid back, easygoing. They don’t worry. They have their houses, their work. They don’t expect a lot from life. But they have their standards and they’re happy.” And of course, there is “very good food.” The conversation lingers on organic produce, fresh chicken and tasty fish from the cobalt blue water around Samothrace. Growing up, the food that his mother and grandmother cooked captivatedhim. “It was the smells, I think,” Niko says.All of that informs his life and work today. When he arrived in Korea in 2004, he immedi￾ately noticed the scent of different foods. Soon,aromas guided the direction of his casual walks. “The smell of food stalls, the cooking in the street. It was different. It was in the air – the chili, the kimchi,” he recalls. Every morning, owner-chef Nikolaos Kordonias personally opens the gate of his restaurant housed in a traditional￾style Korean home near Changdeok Palace, Seoul. The nameplate sports a transliteration of Niko Kitchen. Making Korea HomeNiko had accepted an offer to work at Santo￾rini, the now-closed Greek restaurant in Itae￾won, a vibrant Seoul neighborhood with inter￾national flavor. He had no prior inkling of what Korea might be like, no experience except for childhood taekwondo lessons. But coming here wasn’t a difficult decision; moving was natural to him. After working on cruise ships traveling around Mediterranean and Caribbean seaports, he studied at a culinary institute in New York andworked in Manhattan with leading chefs. Then he spent about six years in Canada, where an acquaintance owned several restaurants. While cooking in Itaewon, Niko met Seo Hyeon-gyeong, who happened to be working in the same building as Santorini. They ran into each other coming and going and ended up get￾ting married. Niko packed away any thoughts of returning to Greece and Seo shelved plans of leaving for Japan, where she had lived for manyyears. “Some things are just meant to happen,” Niko says of the way Seoul became his perma￾nent home. In 2018, Niko and his wife opened Niko Kitchen. He wasn’t looking for a hanok specif￾ically, but its architectural style pleased him.When he took ownership, two stone statues of haechi, mythical fire-eating animals, came with the café that had previously occupied the build￾ing. They stand guard now in the exquisite little courtyard filled with potted flowering trees.Niko Kitchen is in an alley off a road once used by Joseon Dynasty soldiers when they patrolled around the royal ancestral shrine. Adja￾cent to the shrine is Changdeok Palace, a UNE￾SCO World Heritage site. Close by is a historic Buddhist temple, and just a few strides along the alley is the Saekdong Museum, exhibiting tradi￾tional Korean fabric featuring colorful stripes. The restaurant is open every day, and Niko does all of the cooking. His wife calls him a workaholic, but Niko seems perfectly happy. “This is my life and I like it,” he says. “I like food. I like people to like the food and smile and come back.” Between lunch and dinner, Niko allows him￾self a break; he strolls around Seoul, to palac￾es and temples, and to Cheonggyecheon, the restored stream flowing across the downtown area. Before the pandemic, he enjoyed relaxing at a sauna, but that’s on hold for now. Being in a quiet spot away from the buzzing activity of Ikseon-dong, Niko Kitchen has few walk-in customers. Nevertheless, it’s always fullybooked. Korea’s insatiable appetite for cooking shows led to the restaurant, and Niko appeared as both a guest and a judge on several TV programs, such as Yeogi GO and O’live Show (on the cablechannel Olive). As media exposure swelled, would-be diners appeared early in the morning, and telephoned and emailed at all hours. Nikoacknowledges the benefits of the TV exposure, but for now, he wants to focus on his own kitch￾en. The diners have a leisurely meal, sip wine and unwind. This is what Niko likes to see, the mood that he wants to create. Niko does all of the cooking alone. His menu features Greek home cooking and dashes of Spanish and Italian dishes. Niko Kitchen has only four or five tables, so reservations are recommended. Niko hopes to eventually have a bigger restaurant and serve Greek food exclusively. Discovered by FoodiesThe menu is based on Greek home cooking.Moussaka, a traditional dish made of eggplant and ground meat, is a perennial favorite withcustomers. Other popular dishes are Greek salad made with feta cheese, burrata salad, chicken souvlaki and shrimp saganaki.Because Greek food can still be unfamiliar to many Koreans, the menu also includes pizzas andpastas, but made in Niko’s own style with hand￾made sourdough. He opted for fusion cuisine so that his hands wouldn’t be tied. He likes the free￾dom of ladling up Spanish or Italian dishes when he’s in the mood. However, the keys to his food always remain the same: Mediterranean style, healthy and made with fresh, natural ingredients; mostly vegetar￾ian, no sugar and minimum deep frying. In the early days, procuring Greek ingredients posed problems, but these days he can find everything he wants online. When a particular type of cheese or some other ingredient has to be obtained in a hurry, he stops by the shops in Itaewon, where he still lives today, on the way to work. Like most restaurants, Niko Kitchen lost business to the COVID pandemic. But it has fully recovered now. Many customers are regu￾lars, including staffers from the Greek Embas￾sy and even the monks from the temple nearby, whose colorful façade featuring scenes from theBuddhist sutras can be seen over the top of the restaurant’s front gate. The diners have a leisure￾ly meal, sip wine and unwind. This is what Nikolikes to see, the mood that he wants to create. Greek salad made with fresh tomatoes, olives, cucumbers and onions, and topped with crumbly feta cheese is one of Niko Kitchen’s signature dishes. Reminders of Greece decorate Niko Kitchen.Magnets bearing photos of famous places in Greece cover one side of the refrigerator. Days AheadWhen he muses about his adopted country, Niko mentions well-kept buildings and roads, an absence of public eyesores like graffiti, and theeducated and polite population. “This is like a paradise, the perfect place. That’s why I’m happy to be here,” he explains.Although he says he doesn’t really miss Greece, once the pandemic is over and the worldbegins to heal, Niko would like to go back to Samothrace. He wants to relax a bit, see his fam￾ily and friends, eat some good food and do somesea fishing. He’s also looking forward to the next step in his life, which is to open a bigger restau￾rant where the menu will be exclusively Greekdishes, not fusion. He’s been testing the waters and now has an idea of what people like and don’t like. Thus, he anticipates applying all his experience and knowledge in one place. “I want to make people happy – and make some money,too,” he says. “Eat good food and you will feel good.” This is Niko’s simple philosophy. That said, his wife chips in with a revealing rejoinder: Niko likes hamburgers and occasionally indulges in Ken￾tucky Fried Chicken. Food is what brought him to Korea, what keeps him here and what makes him happy. “At the end of the day, if people aren’t satisfied, then you’re tired. But if people are satisfied and smile, then all your problems and fatigue go away.” Cho Yoon-jung Freelance Writer and Translator Heo Dong-wukPhotographer

Tuned to the Past

An Ordinary Day 2021 SUMMER 137

Tuned to the Past Anchoring a retro hotspot in the old downtown of Seoul, recordshop owner Hwang Seung-soo presents an array of old albums,cassettes and CDs that refresh old memories and spin new ones. It’s after sunset, time to relax. Hwang Seung-soo shut￾ters his modest record store, cues up his crafted play￾list, turns off the lights – and leaves. In the next four￾plus hours, songs of the past will serenade a worn but bus￾tling precinct, eliciting knowing smiles and curious glances.Situated in Seoul’s Jongno 3-ga, Hwang’s shop, Seoul Record, feels both familiar and unfamiliar, old and new.Now in its 45th year, the shop welcomes young custom￾ers who leaf through faded LP records, cassettes and com￾pact discs, seeking hit music from before they were born.In another corner, older customers reconnect with the soundtracks of their youth. All of them rummage through the shop, some 140 square meters in floor area, with as much intention to collect as to listen.Hwang is the fourth owner, the latest in a succession of former employees turned proprietor. He is slightly bemused that Seoul Record still exists. The advent of music stream￾ing turned vinyl records, cassette tapes and compact discs into unnecessary clutter. Nevertheless, the music store keepsits steady beat, boosted these days by a retro trend that has grabbed onto songs from past singers, alongside resurrect￾ed bygone clothing styles, cafés with old furniture and other reminders of the past.“Back in my day, finding music we liked and listening to it was really important. Now, though, with smartphones and streaming services, you can easily listen to anything, any￾where,” says Hwang. “So it was looking like the end of the record industry. But now, we have these people who want to collect and own the records themselves, not just listen to what’s on them.“Just the picture of the album cover floating on the screen of their smartphone, that’s not enough for them.That’s why they buy the LP, right? It startled me, too, actu￾ally, the first time I saw these young people come in and get all excited about the way the needle sounds, skipping and landing on the vinyl.” The moment the needle drops on a vinyl, Seoul Record harkens to a different era. The sound is scratchy rather than clean, yet this scratchinesshelps solidify a nostalgic vibe that reverberates every day. Shop owner Hwang Seung-soo keeps his multi-generational customer base supplied with a myriad of genres, including classical, jazz,traditional Korean gugak, rock, movie soundtracks and K-pop. Changing Hands Caught up in a retro boom, Seoul Record is constantly packed. Some come to rekindle memories, others to soak in the charms of analog sentiment. Vinyl records are sought as collectibles after being pushed aside for decades by compact discs, then MP3s and digital streaming. A recent facelift has given the interior of Seoul Record a modern look in the heart of old downtown Seoul. A song request put in the red mailbox will be played at night after the shop closes. © Gian “The shop’s first owner ran the place until 2000, when MP3s came out and it just became impossible to stay in the black.This was still a time when records were for listening to, rath-er than collecting, and so people just stopped buying them,” says Hwang.The start of hallyu, the Korean Wave, generated interna￾tional customers, helping keep the store afloat, but by 2015, the third owner decided he’d had enough, too.Hwang was in his early 40s and had worked at the shop for three years. He had always dreamed of becoming acomic book artist, but now married and starting a family, he had to be practical about time spent and income earned. Hedecided to put his chips into work that he knew well rather than a job he thought he might like.“My older brother ran a video distribution company.Distribution structures for VHS tapes, CDs and DVDs are all connected to one another. My first real experience withmusic happened by chance as a kid, when my dad brought home a record player one day. And as a teen, I’d even taggedalong with my older brother to a record company. Along the way, I got to know this world pretty well.”When Hwang started working at Seoul Record, the aver￾age age of its customers was well past 50. The shop is locat￾ed in one of Seoul’s oldest neighborhoods, with a sizeable elderly population. Behind Seoul Record is Sewoon Plaza,Korea’s first commercial/residential mixed-use complex, built in 1968; across the street is Jongmyo, the royal ances￾tral shrine established in 1394 to honor the kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty; and next door is Tapgol Park, for￾merly known as Pagoda Park, the country’s first-ever city park, built in 1897. Customers in their 40s and 50s looking for LPs were easily outnumbered by the elderly, who usually searched for cassette tapes. Then, all of a sudden, everything veered.Overnight, the neighborhood became the latest hotspot for trendsetters, nicknamed Hip-jiro. Both Koreans and for￾eigners descended upon nearby traditional Korean houses, or hanok, turned into stylish coffee shops. Vinyl records,decades removed from the music industry, became objects of value, and the average age of the shop’s customers started to fall. Sharing StoriesThese days, it’s not one specific generation that seeks out the shop, but rather a wide range of all ages. Daughters bringtheir fathers, sometimes, and parents bring their children, all eager to hear and share the music they love.In a way, one could say that these customers are com￾ing to find memories, not objects. In an unfamiliar world, we search out the familiar; in a familiar world, we look for something new.“Sometimes there are people who need help finding a song – something they loved when they were young, say, and they’ll remember a bit of the lyrics and some of the mel￾ody, but not the actual title. Often, they’re a lot older, living alone and not good at using computers. And when we sleuth around a bit and find it for them, they’re just so moved. It’s a good feeling.”One customer wanted help finding a song by a band that was big in the 1960s. When Hwang found it and put it on, hewas startled to find that the customer’s voice, singing along, was incredibly similar to the voice on the record. When heasked the customer whether he was the singer himself, he admitted that he was. He had been looking for the LP for awhile, he explained, because he’d wanted to hear the song again, but hadn’t been able to find it until then.“There’s another customer who’s lived in this neighbor￾hood since he was a child. His family had trouble making ends meet, and so instead of going to school, he worked a job putting up movie posters around town. He loved movies so much, he skipped meals to go see them.”Listening to and sympathizing with the long, complicat￾ed personal stories of strangers isn’t always easy. It’s only possible, in fact, if one can call upon a genuine interest, affection and trust for people writ large. Many, having ini￾tially arrived as customers, leave as something more, some￾thing warmer, after sharing their treasured stories – and come back later with gifts of candy or tangerines, or maybea soft drink or two.The shutter of Seoul Record goes up between nine and ten in the morning, Monday through Saturday. Hwang’s wifeopens the shop, and Hwang himself arrives between noon and 1 p.m. to take over until closing at 7:30, or a bit laterif business is slow. When the shutter finally comes down, Hwang commences the last phase of his day: “Tomorrow’s Song Request.”“There’s a red mailbox out in front of the shop. If people write down a song request and put it in, we play the song for them.” Playing RequestsThroughout each day, Hwang compiles a file of songs that blend well, including the requests that have come in, thenleaves it playing after the store closes. Most of the requests are for old lyrical songs or hit pop songs. Hwang’s ownpicks run the gamut of genres and sometimes mesh with the weather or season. Asked to name his favorites, he says, “Ilike it if it’s the music you like.”Until midnight, the music floats out onto the sidewalk and eight-lane street before the store. A stream of pedestri￾ans going to and from the nearby Jongno 3-ga subway sta￾tion and various coffee shops and restaurants create an audi￾ence in motion. Sometimes, a passerby will slow down andstop to sing along or even dance a bit. In the dark evening streets, it’s a sight that makes one think that life really doesjust find its way in the end.“I didn’t get into this line of work to try and make my fortune,” says Hwang. “It’s not so bad, keeping things afloatand listening to the music I love every day. I get to spend my days enjoying this place, and the customers get to come andfind the music they’re looking for.” Hwang Kyung-shin Writer Ha Ji-kwon Photographer

Chasing Fast Money

Lifestyle 2021 SUMMER 178

Chasing Fast Money The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a violent sell-off of stocks. But a robust rebound followed, creating a new generation of investors seeking a solution to their precarious income and savings situations. Im Su-bin, a 29-year-old college senior, recent￾ly started investing in stocks with 300,000 won (approximately US$260) that she had earned by working part-time. Although finding internships is not particularly difficult in Korea, it can seem impossible to land a decent full-time job becausecompanies are hesitant about adding permanent employees. Out of desperation, Im moved toward stock trading to help cover expenses.Kim A-ram, a 33-year-old freelance translator, planned to spend some of her savings on her hon￾eymoon last December. But regulations to stem COVID infections meant that many relatives and friends wouldn’t be able to attend her wedding. And so she postponed it and put her honeymoon stash in the stock market. She is pinning her hopes on a bull￾ish market that will yield whatever money possible to help start off her married life.These two novice investors aren’t rarities in their age group. In 2020, there were 9.14 million individ￾ual investors in the Korean stock market, and about one-third of them were newcomers, according to the Korea Securities Depository. A slew of online apps facilitates stock transactions. Brokerages offer incentives to capture a rapid increase in new investors in their 20s and 30s, many of them so-called “ants” who hope to turn modest salaries into fat gains. © freepik Novice InvestorsThe total amount of stocks owned by individual investors was valued at 662 trillion won as of late2020, up 243 trillion won from 419 trillion won in late 2019. Individual investors accounted for 28 per￾cent of the total market value, up 3.6 percentagepoints on-year.Men owned 489 trillion won worth of stocks, more than double the amount owned by women,but women evidently excelled in picking stocks; the value of stocks owned by female investors increaseda whopping 77 percent, from 97 trillion won in 2019 to 173 trillion won in 2020. Meanwhile, stocksbelonging to male investors rose 52 percent, from 321 trillion won to 489 trillion won, during the same period.Young adults in Korea have been struggling to secure stable, regular jobs for decades. Ever sincethe 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial meltdown, companies have reined in full￾time positions, relying instead on a parade of short￾term hires. Simultaneously, prolonged low interest rates have made savings accounts nonviable. This has left many young adults struggling financially, to say nothing of saving for marriage or purchasing a home.Young adults in Korea have been struggling to secure stable, regular jobs for decades. Ever sincethe 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial meltdown, companies have reined in full￾time positions, relying instead on a parade of short￾term hires. Simultaneously, prolonged low interest rates have made savings accounts nonviable. This has left many young adults struggling financially, to say nothing of saving for marriage or purchasing a home.Then COVID-19 opened up a window of oppor￾tunity. On January 5, 2020, the benchmark KoreaComposite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) closed at 2206. But as the pandemic’s existential threat tothe economy became more alarming, the KOSPI swooned until finally bottoming out at 1566, a 29percent loss, on March 20. From there, it rebounded as Korea harnessed its COVID caseload, and opti￾mism over vaccine development, government stimu￾lus and economic recovery fueled a sharp rally. Stock prices had been at bargain levels and it was clear that their steady rise back to normal meantfast profits were attainable. Waves of young people opened accounts to “row their own boats when the water comes,” as the Korean saying goes. Then, as the year unfolded, the labor market gave them even more reason to seek fast cash. According to Statis￾tics Korea, 3.51 million people in their 20s had jobs as of December 2020, down 3.9 percentage points from a year earlier, and falling more drastically than in other age groups. Proportionately, the unem￾ployment rate rose, with the rate among 20-some￾things increasing by 0.9 percentage points on-year inDecember 2020. Buying FrenzyIndividuals, especially fledgling investors in their 20s and 30s, reportedly accounted for most of the increase in stock trading during 2020 – and their opportunistic frenzy paid off handsomely. The KOSPI closed out 2020 at 2873.47, more than 80 percent above the year’s low in March.New buzzwords and phrases have accompa￾nied the groundswell. One of these is “Donghak Ant Movement,” derived from the peasant followers ofDonghak, or “Eastern Learning,” who rebelled against foreign intrusion toward the end of the 19th century during the Joseon era. The term implies that young, small-scale investors are buying stocks to protect the domestic stock market from foreign institution￾al investors. “Ants” refer to young, salaried workers.Another buzzword is jurini, coined from jusik (stock) and eorini (child), meaning “beginner stock inves￾tors.”Media coverage has also expanded. In the past, only TV channels dedicated to business dealt withstocks and investing. But today, even entertain￾ment shows cover these topics. A typical example is “March of the Ants,” a KakaoTV variety show hostedby celebrities. Launched last September, the program showcases how the celebrities invest in stocks usingaccounts opened in their names. It received favorable audience responses and has been available on Net￾flix. Each episode averages two million views.Meanwhile, MBC TV introduced a talk show focused on stock trading, “Ant’s Dream,” as a two￾part pilot. Economic experts gave celebrities detailedexplanations on the basics of stock trading. And on SBS TV, a special episode of its long-running variety show “Running Man” presented a mock stock mar￾ket scenario. Popular TV host Yoo Jae-suk also spoke with three young stock investors as part of the show “Hangout with Yoo” on SBS in March. Sales volume and revenue from books on stocks,investing and mutual funds were five times higher inthe first quarter of 2021 compared to the sameperiod in 2020, according to Interpark, an online book platform. Lasting Trend Experts believe that young adults’ enthusiasm for stock trading has long-term sustainability. Fordecades, there has been no meaningful relief from fragile employment and soaring home prices. Despite a series of government countermeasures, apartmentprices in Seoul, where nearly half the population of Korea resides, have doubled over the past few years.With their dreams of owning a house evaporat￾ed, young people naturally delay marriage. In 2020, the number of marriages plunged to an all-time lowsince records began in 1970. Some 214,000 couples tied the knot last year, down 10.7 percent on-year,according to Statistics Korea. “March of the Ants,” a KakaoTV variety show thatgives stock investment tips to beginner investors, has been renewed for a fourth season. A survey by online job portal service JobKorea found three out of every 10 university students in the country areinvesting in stocks. About a half of them jumped into the stock market less than a year ago as the COVID pandemicworsened their already weak employment prospects. “The current 20- and 30-somethings are com￾pletely different from previous generations, who bought cars and dreamed of buying homes by savingtheir monthly salary,” said Park Sung-hee, a senior fellow at the Korea Trend Research Institute. “These days, young people rent cars, and buying homes is aremote possibility for them.”“Rather than saving for the distant future, they are looking for a chance to gain profits from short￾term investments made with small amounts of money,” she said. “Jobs are hard to find and none guarantee life-long employment. This trend has become even more conspicuous since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.”“Young people seek investment targets that don’t require in-person contact. In a situation where it’s almost impossible to travel abroad freely, they nat￾urally turned their eyes to stock trading, which they can easily do using a smartphone,” Park added. Ra Ye-jin Reporter, Economist, JoongAng Ilbo S

Deep Inkwells of Emotion

Interview 2021 SUMMER 175

Deep Inkwells of Emotion Translations of Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s graphic novels attract global recognition – and none more so than “Grass,” which delves into the pain of the “comfort women” forced into wartime sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese military. A scene from “Grass,” a graphic novel by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, portraying a “comfort woman,” a victim of Imperial Japan’s wartime sexual slavery.Gendry-Kim explores major historical events in her graphic novels while also centering the stories of those on the margins of society. Keum Suk Gendry-Kim dives deeply into human suffering. Her subjects are Koreans and her settings are events in Korean history. Nevertheless, the anguish embossed in her works elicits a cross-cultural understanding and praise. Her 2017 graphic novel, “Grass,” featuring one of the “comfort women” victimized by the Japanese military before and during World War II, is the apex of the recognition she has earned so far. The English edition of “Grass” was released in 2019 by Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly and quickly garnered plaudits. The New York Times named it one of the best comics on its list of the best books of 2019, and The Guardian similarly called it one of the year’s best graphic novels. In 2020, “Grass” was showered with 10 awards, including the Krause Essay Prize and the Cartoonist Studio Prize, as well as the Harvey Award for Best International Book at the New York Comic Con.“Grass” was recently made available in Portuguese and Arabic. Other books by Gendry-Kim include “Jiseul” (2014), which depicts the tragedy of the Jeju uprising in 1948 against the division of Korea, and “Alexandra Kim, a Woman of Siberia” (2020), which traces the life and times of Korea’s first-ever Bolshevik. Gendry-Kim’s latest, “The Waiting,”about family separation, is already out in French and in the process of publication in English, Portuguese, Arabic and Italian. At a café on Ganghwa Island, where she now lives, Gendry-Kim shared her thoughts. How did you end up as a graphic novelist? Well, after I majored in Western-style painting in Korea, I went to France where I studied installation art at the École Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg. To make ends meet, I took part-time jobs translating the work of Korean cartoonists into French, eventually making a bit of a name for myself in that arena. Actually, I translated over 100 Korean comic books and helped them find a French audience. Then one day, a Korean newspaper based in France asked whether I might be interested in trying my hand at drawing comics myself. Meanwhile, translating all those comics had opened my eyes to the possibilities of the art form. I was captivated by the fact that these authors were able to express themselves so freely and fully with justpaper and pencil. So I began drawing, one at a time, and before long I had quite a few. From the very beginning, I spent a lot of time and effort considering the best way to capture the flow of conversation, whether in speech bubbles or otherwise. What works influenced you?In terms of story, I’ve been influenced by many Korean authors. Lee Hee-jae and Oh Se-young, for example, are two that come to mind; they did a particularly fine job of representing the father figures of our generation in comic book form. In terms of the art, as most of my own fine art work has been abstract rather than representational, or even installation or sculpture, I always thought of myself as not being very skilled at drawing. That said, among those artists who have certainly influenced my graphic style are Edmond Baudoin and Jose Muñoz, who published a graphic novel version of Camus’s “The Stranger” – especially in terms of emphasizing the weight of the black brush strokes. The works of David B. and Jacques Tardi, too, have also helped shape mine in many ways. Which early work best introduces you?I tend to weave autobiography together with various things that I’ve felt in the course of daily life and the individual stories of people I’ve met. I try to center the most earnest Translations of Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s graphic novels attract global recognition – and none more so than “Grass,” which delves into the pain of the “comfort women” forced into wartime sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese military. Kim Tae-hun Reporter, Weekly Kyunghyang Ha Ji-kwon Photographer42 KOREANA SUMMER 2021 stories that emerge as I forge connections between things I’ve experienced firsthand and various historical events and societal issues. Of these, “Le chant de mon père” (The Songof My Father, 2013) is a story set in 1970s-80s Korea, when economic reasons force an ordinary farming family in the countryside to make the move to Seoul to try to build a new life. That was me using a difficult period in my own family history as a lens to reflect what was a fairly universal Korean experience at that time. I also wanted to capture some of my childhood memories. My father sings pansori, so when I was young, whenever someone in the village passed away, he would perform the funeral song. After we moved to Seoul, though, there was no way of knowing whether anyone in the neighborhood had passed, and there was no occasion anymore for my father to sing Your father and now your mother are your subjects.“The Waiting” (2020) is a work entirely about my mother. Twenty years ago when I was studying in Paris, my mother came to visit me, and it was then that she shared something with me for the first time: that her sister, my eldest maternal aunt, was in North Korea. A long time ago, their family took a big trip from their home in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, all the way to Manchuria, stopping in Pyongyang along the way. Something happened while they were there and my mother returned to the South but my eldest aunt stayed there. Before my mother told me about this, I had no idea that it was part of our family story.My mother was very disappointed when she wasn’t selected to be part of the North-South family reunion efforts run by the Ministry of Unification. This made it feel evenmore vital for someone to tell her story, and I made up my mind that it would be me a kind of gift, an offering dedicated to my mother. Family separation, though, is an issue that goes far beyond the story of my own family; it’s a universal problem faced by all of humanity, happening even now in wartorn areas all over the world. Ultimately, I wanted to cover the way war results in the victimization of the vulnerable, in their displacement and scattering. “Grass” might also be called a tragedy of humanity.If I try and remember when I first started thinking about writing “Grass,” I think the actual inception point was in the early 1990s, when I saw a documentary about the plight of the comfort women. Then later, in France, I actually had a gig working as an interpreter for an event about comfort women, and as I did my research for that, I ended up learning more details. This is how I eventually ended up submitting the short story “Secret” to the 2014 Festival International de la Bande Dessinéed’Angoulême. I wanted to give voice to the lives and pain of the comfort women victims from the perspective of a fellow woman.Because “Secret” was a short piece, though, I was unable to go as deep as I would have liked for such a heavy topic. So I kept at it for three more years, in the end, anddid a whole lot more agonizing, finally turning it into a full length novel. I approached the issue of the comfort women as a matter of violence against the vulnerable, of imperialism and class stratification. Meeting and interviewing Grandma Lee Ok-seon, who appears in the novel, I was especially saddened by how she had been silenced. Grandma Lee was the victim of a cruel and wretched war, unable to speak up. But then even after the war, mainstream society wanted her to stay quiet. I wanted to speak to that very atmosphere. Why do your works have such wide appeal?Well, it’s true that France has seen the release of most of my works in translation. When it came to the Japanese translation of “Grass,” I was quite surprised to see locals put together a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for its Japanese publication and distribution. More than anything, I’m very grateful to all the translators. My stories are fairly distinctive and tend to be about pain, which can’t be easy to communicate across cultures. It’s thanks to people like Mary Lou, who did the Italian translation; Korean-American translator Janet Hong, who did the English; and Sumie Suzuki, who did the Japanese, that readers in so many different countries are able to experience the meaning of the work in full. Do you have a new project now?I’ve been walking my dogs every single day without fail. That’s not the only reason, of course, but I do have sketches complete for a book about the relationship between dogs and humans. The working title, for now, is “Rainy Season.” “I try to center the most earnest stories that emerge as I forge connections between things I’ve experienced firsthand and various historical events and societal issues.” Gendry-Kim’s latest graphic novel depicts the relationship between dogs and humans. It is slated for publication byMaumsup Press in Seoul later this year and Futuropolis in France in early 2022. The graphic novels of Gendry-Kim (clockwise from left): an English-language edition of “Grass,” published by Canadian press Drawn & Quarterly in 2019; “The Waiting,” published in Korea last year by Ttalgibooks; last year’s “Alexandra Kim, a Woman of Siberia” from Korean publisher Seohaemunjip; a French edition of “The Waiting,” released this May in France by Futuropolis; an English edition of “The Waiting,” forthcoming this September from Drawn & Quarterly; a 2017 Koreanedition of “Grass” from Bori Publishing; last year’s Japanese edition of “Grass” from Korocolor Publishers; and last year’s Portugese edition of “Grass” from Brazilian press Pipoca & Nanquim.

Unwrinkled Devotion

An Ordinary Day 2021 SPRING 260

Unwrinkled Devotion Coarse hands move nimbly between rising plumes of white steam. Seconds later, a rumpled piece of clothing is reborn, neat and smooth. Handing their clean, warm clothes back to his customers, an easy smile spreads across Oh Ki-nyeong’s face at his neighborhood dry cleaning shop. Oh Ki-nyeong, the owner of Hyundai Cleaning in Mapo District, Seoul, has 14-hour workdays at his 26 sq. meter shop. He is especially busy in the spring, when most households take out their spring cloths and stow their winter clothes at the same time. “Tearing off a piece of freshly baked bread with my hands; stacking a pile of folded underwear neatly in my drawer; the feel of a brandnew shirt slipping over my head, its scent of clean, new cotton – these are moments when I feel a small but certain happiness,” writes author Haruki Murakami. Every country, it seems, has a way of expressing this sort of peace and the way to achieve it. In Denmark, there is “hygge”; in Sweden, “lagom”; in France, “au calme.” More recently, “sohwakhaeng,” an abbreviation of the phrase “small but certain happiness,” has entered the Korean lexicon. Surely, the dry cleaner’s – that one place in every neighborhood alleyway that seems always to be open, emitting its white steam – must be a purveyor of the sort of warmth that transcends nationality or race. At Hyundai Cleaning, a neighborhood dry cleaner’s on Shinsu-ro street in the Mapo District of Seoul, owner Oh Ki-nyeong starts his day at 8 a.m. “When I get to work, first I organize and sort the laundry by type and then wash it. Once that work is done, I gather all the clothes that have come in for alterations and work on those. Then comes the ironing. At 9 p.m. it’s time to go make the deliveries. By the time I’ve done the rounds of the five or so apartment complexes around here, it’s usually close to 10 p.m. “Spring is the busiest season of the year. With every household taking out their spring clothes and stowing their winter clothes all at the same time, the laundry overflows. So in spring, there’s really no start or end to my workday. I’ll work until 1 or 2 a.m., ’til I pass out asleep, then I’ll get up and work again for as long as I can stand it.” There’s a lot less work these days, due to changing circumstances. In previous years, Oh would make 40 deliveries daily. Now, there are no more than 10. Still, his 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. workday remains unchanged, most of it spent standing. One elbow is deformed, the consequence of ironing with one arm for so many years. “It’s an occupational disease – no way to heal it completely, even with steady exercise,” he explains. Oh brings the gratitude he feels for his customers to every piece of clothing that he handles. Largely catering to regulars, his shop has been a neighborhood fixture for 20 years. Getting Established Oh started learning his trade in his early twenties, working at a clothing factory where he first brushed thread and ripped seams, and eventually mastered his tailoring skills. He set out to found a factory of his own at around age 30. He operated it for about five years, before becoming a casualty of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. “The number of orders plummeted, so much so that we only had enough work for two, three days a week. There was just no way to pay my employees. There was nothing to be done but shut down the factory. My youngest brother was running a dry cleaner’s in Yongin then, so I went to take a look and thought maybe I should try it, too. After all, it’s the kind of work you can do even as you get older, so long as your body holds out. “It so happened that a friend of my wife’s was also running a dry cleaner’s. My wife and I worked there together to learn the necessary skills. We worked for three months without pay, day in and day out, learning various techniques, how to run the machines, and so on. Laundry techniques are different, depending on the fabric. My experience making clothes at the factory turned out to be a big help.” Oh had some hit-or-miss learning experiences. His first location was in Guro-dong, a section of Guro District, where dress-making and textile manufacturing once thrived. Oh’s lack of experience translated into a lot of effort without much profit. Dealing with all types of people would also upset him frequently. Within just a few months, he moved into the retail section of a new apartment complex. At the time, there was an unwritten no-compete rule. With no other dry cleaner present, Oh ended up handling all 1,300 households in the complex. He lasted six months before throwing up his hands; it was just too much work. Looking for his next location, he told himself not to be greedy. “Mapo is actually my home neighborhood. Back when I was first trying to set up a dry cleaner’s, this place had no apartments yet. By the time I’d sold my second shop, though, a bunch of apartments had been built in the meantime and there just happened to be an available space, so I took it. Now it’s been about 20 years since I set up shop here.” Despite the reduced volume in recent times, the workday still isn’t easy. Ever since his wife’s health began to decline, Oh has taken over all of the daily operations on his own. Filled with stacks and stacks of laundry and packed with all kinds of sewing machines and the like, the shop is a mere eight pyeong (26.4 sq. meters). Even when there’s time for a short break, there’s no space to lie down – so he rests in a chair. New technology can help sort orders, but Oh refuses to deviate from sorting and checking handwritten tags for each order, one by one. Changing Circumstances Younger generations tend to favor easy-to-use laundry apps, or entrust their clothes to relatively cheaper and more familiar franchises. Meanwhile, as people have been going out less and working from home more due to the COVID-19 pandemic, less laundry needs to be done. And because dry cleaning work itself is taxing, it’s increasingly difficult to find anyone interested in learning how to do it. Indeed, neighborhood dry cleaning shops like Oh’s place are gradually disappearing. Once the current owners have aged out of being able to do the work, they tend to close their doors for good. Still, the fact remains that Oh is a master craftsman, doing his utmost for each and every patron. Most of the customers who seek out his shop are homemakers in their forties and fifties, long-term regulars. They express honest joy when they are handed their clothes, clean as new, and sometimes show their appreciation with small gifts of pastries or fruit. There are, of course, unpleasant customers as well. Some claim there are stains that weren’t there before. And some are simply rude without cause. “There are people who talk down to me. It’s like they think they can speak to me however they want just because I do this kind of work. Those people are the hardest to deal with. I have to be very clear that if they aren’t satisfied, it’s fine for them to go someplace else. Otherwise, it just causes me too much stress.” After so many years on the job, Oh has seen his fair share of memorable individuals, too. One forty-something customer, a man, would regularly bring in a mesh bag stuffed with everything from underwear to shirts and pants, even towels. Thanks to those still damp towels, the stench, of course, was pretty bad. Then one day, when the shop was closed, he took his whole load someplace else – only to come back later and complain that they charged far too much. “Now do you see?” was Oh’s reply. He has now learned and mastered the art of not letting people hurt his feelings. After all, if a customer is unreasonable, he can just turn them away, and the good customers that always surround him make up for it. When all is said and done, he is only sorry he can’t do more for the good customers. Wrestling with clothes all day long, it’s only natural that Oh’s sensitivity to fashion trends has become honed. When there’s an uptick in the number of customers coming in to tailor a new outfit, he thinks, “This style must be in fashion these days.” And since the proper washing technique for a garment depends on the material, it’s essential that he studies and stays informed. When he has time on the weekends, Oh visits clothing stores to keep up to date with the styles and pricing of current merchandise. Hoping against hope that these difficult times will soon give way to the return of more ordinary days, Oh lifts his heavy iron once again to provide his customers one small but certain happiness. A Master’s Efforts In the past, people wore a lot of clothes that needed to be dry cleaned. Today, there are more varieties of functional clothes, such as different kinds of sportswear. Preserving their functionality requires shorter cleaning times and neutral detergents. Clothes can be ruined if one doesn’t know the specific requirements. But to work Monday through Saturday and then spend Sunday going out to look at more clothes, does Oh have time for any other hobbies? At this, he smiles wide and pulls out a small notepad. “I’m about to complete a cross-country bicycle trek along various cycling routes. Each course has a booth, and when you pass through, they give you a stamp. For a while I went every Sunday. Go early in the morning, race on my bicycle, and take the bus back home. Taking a long course and finishing it just a little bit at a time. I only have one stretch left now. It’s a way to get some exercise and some spiritual healing, too, on my day off – my greatest pleasure.” And with that, hoping against hope that these difficult times will soon give way to the return of more ordinary days, Oh lifts his heavy iron once again to provide his customers one small but certain happiness.

Review

The Dark Abyss of Human Relationships

Books & more 2021 SUMMER 170

The Dark Abyss of Human Relationships The Dark Abyss of Human Relationships Bluebeard’s First Wife By Ha Seong-nan, Translated by Janet Hong, 229 pages, $15.95, New York: Open Letter [2020] This short story collection by Ha Seong-nan is a journey into the darkest depths of human relationships. The prose is often dream-like, painting lyricalportraits of loss, isolation and despair, eschewing a rigid narrative structure in favor of a gossamer web of vignettes designed to evoke rather than proclaim.Thus we feel the impact of her tales on a deeply emotional level, sharing in the pain and heartbreak that many of her characters experience.Ha’s characters have complex relationships with the world around them. This world is not simply a cruel, impersonal force that will crush the indi￾vidual without a second thought; it is very clearly made up of other human beings, wherein lies the great horror of existence. Sometimes these people aredistant “others,” such as children running around in the apartment upstairs, city poachers terrorizing a small mountain village, or a fiancé’s mysteriousgroup of friends. At other times, they are those closest to us: husbands, wives, daughters, sons. Whether these “others” are near or far, a major theme run￾ning through this collection is our inability to ever truly know anyone else. Even those we think we know the best may be harboring some dark secret −perhaps we would just rather not know and stay safe in our delusions.There is an argument to be made for the latter interpretation, given the actions of the protagonists themselves. A policeman dispatched from Seoulto an isolated mountain village treats the villagers as strange and inscruta￾ble, making no effort to become part of their community. A couple that hasmoved to the outskirts of Seoul in pursuit of an idyllic lifestyle with a green lawn cares more about their dog, running around on that grass, than theirdisabled son, who cannot even walk. In these characters, we can see reflect￾ed our human tendency to shun that which does not live up to our dreams orexpectations. While we would be hard pressed to call these and other protago￾nists sympathetic, we also cannot fail to recognize that they are, after all, onlyhuman.Another thematic thread that runs through the collection is the “outskirts.” Most of the stories are set either on the outskirts of Seoul or farther off in thecountryside. Even those tales that start in the city often move beyond the city limits. This migration to the margins may happen for any number of reasons.Whatever the case, once we leave the city, we find ourselves in an uncertain liminal space where the usual rules of society do not apply.Ha’s tales will likely leave you unsettled, but with much to ponder.Because they often refuse to drive straight at the point, or to even claim that there is a single point, they will reward continued exploration and repeatedvisits. A Welcome Study of a Significant Era of Korean Art Korean Art – From the 19th Century to the Present By Charlotte Horlyck, 264 pages, $60.00, London: Reaktion Books [2017] This book doesn’t attempt to be, in the author’s words, a “definitive, encyclopaedic reading” of Korean art during the 100-odd years from theend of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century. Instead, it focuses on important milestones in this tumultuous time in Korea’s his￾tory. Throughout it all, Horlyck delves into how art has related to the search for a Korean identity.The first chapter illuminates the final years of the Joseon Dynas￾ty, when Korea emerged as a modern nation and art became increasing￾ly politicized. The second chapter discusses the colonial period, during which the perception of art shifted from something monopolized by theelite to something that could belong to everyone. The third chapter deals with the development of socialist realist art in North Korea after WorldWar II, driven by the ideology of Kim Il-sung. The fourth chapter par￾allels the third, covering the same period in the South, where abstract art came to the fore. The fifth chapter introduces minjung art, or the “art of the people,” in the 1970s. The sixth and final chapter sheds light onchanges in the way Korean artists have been approaching their task over the past few decades.Taken as a whole, the book is a welcome introduction to a period in Korean art that might not get due attention. It also deserves recognitionas a rare endeavor in English. Soothing Tones of Familiarity and Freshness 2020 JAZZ KOREA FESTIVAL LIVE at Boomiz Song Ha Chul Quartet, CD (27 minutes), Streaming for free on YouTube and iTunes, Seoul: Gatefor Music & Art [2021] This EP by the Song Ha Chul Quartet, released in February 2021, is a liverecording of a performance at the Jazz Korea Festival, hosted by the KoreanCultural Center in Ankara, Turkey. The festival was held online in November2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.With its clean, pastel tones, the album is not just for fans of “Koreanjazz,” but for everyone familiar with jazz, and even newcomers.The first track is “Straight Life,” which is also the title track of the quar￾tet’s 2017 debut album. Following Suh Soo-jin’s funky drum performance,Song Ha-chul’s saxophone announces its presence with a bold, distinct soundreminiscent of Hank Mobley.“Marionette,” featuring the saxophone played over Lim Chae-sun’sdreamy piano, is superbly beautiful, with the atmosphere of Stan Getz’s“Manha De Carnaval.” Like the familiar passage of time, worn down dayafter day, the piece drifts to a lonely end.In “Going Up,” Lee Dong-min makes a placid opening with his bass,and Song Ha-chul’s saxophone rushes in with a sound as puffed up as cottoncandy. The next song is “Somebody’s Gold Fishery,” where the saxophone’sagility and warmth combine assertively to take the mood to its peak. Charles La ShureProfessor, Department of Korean Language and Literature, Seoul National University Ryu Tae-hyung Music Columnist

Stars Shining Together in the Dark

Art Review 2021 SUMMER 155

Stars Shining Together in the Dark From the 1930s to the 1950s, Korea was shrouded in poverty. But writers and artists persevered and pursued their dreams, assisted mostly by friends and colleagues. A rare exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Deoksu Palace, Seoul, traces how these creative minds overcame manifold obstacles through camaraderie and cooperation. “Still Life with a Doll” by Gu Bon-ung (1906-1953). 1937. Oil on canvas. 71.4 × 89.4 cm. Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art. When academism centered on impressionism was in vogue, Gu Bon-ung was attracted to Fauvism. As suggested by the French art magazine Cahiers d’art in this painting,Gu and his friends appreciated the contemporary art trends of Western countries. The 1930s was a difficult time in Korean history when Japanese colonial rule grew more oppressive. But it was also a time of modernization and great social change, particularly in Seoul, then called Gyeongseong. Trams and cars ran on paved roads, and luxurious department stores were in business. The streets were swarming with “modern boys” and “modern girls,” who showed off their style in trendy suits or high heels.With hopelessness about reality coexisting with romantic ideas about the modern times, Gyeongseong was a city of artists and writers as well. They frequented the coffeehouses, called dabang, which had emerged in the downtown area. Creative minds found more than just coffee and tea in these spots. Surrounded by exotic interior decorations and the deep scent of coffee, they discussed the latest trends in the European art scene, such as the avant-garde movement, as Enrico Caruso played in the background. Coffeehouses and Avant-Garde ArtThe poverty and despair of a colonized country could not dampen this creative spirit. The fervor for creativity amid difficult circumstances was underpinned by friendships and collaborations between artists and writers who shared the pain of the times and sought a way forward together.Today, at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Deoksu Palace, Seoul, the exhibition “Encounters between Korean Art and Literature in the Modern Age” is enjoying considerable public interest for revisiting those years of “paradoxical romanticism.” Despite inconveniences due to social distancing in the COVID pandemic, the exhibition has drawn a steady stream of visitors.As the title indicates, the exhibition sheds light on how painters, poets and novelists traversed genres and fields, shared ideas and influenced one another to realize their artistic ideals. Introducing the activities of some 50 artists and writers, the exhibition consists of four parts. “Confluence of the Avant-Garde” in Gallery 1 focuses on Jebi (meaning “swallow”), the coffeehouse run by the famous poet, novelist and essayist Yi Sang (1910-1937), and highlights the relationships among the artists and writers who were regulars there. Having trained as an architect, Yi worked as a draftsman in the public works department of the Government-General of Korea for a time, but he quit and set up the coffeehouse when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Known for his surrealist oeuvre, including the short story, “Wings,” and the experimental poem, “Crow’s Eye View,” Yi is one of the pioneers of modern Korean literature of the 1930s.Jebi didn’t have much to show for itself, other than a self-portrait of Yi and a few paintings by his childhood friend Gu Bon-ung (1906-1953) hanging on the bare walls. Though humble with no remarkable visual attraction, the shop was a favorite hangout of poor artists. Aside from Gu, regulars included novelist Park Tae-won (1910-1986), who was on close terms with Yi, and poet and literary critic Kim Gi-rim (1908-?), to name a few. They huddled together in the coffeehouse, discussing not only art and literature but also the latest trends and works in different media, such as film and music. To them, Jebi was not just a gathering spot but a creative lab where they absorbed knowledge and inspired one another. They were especially interested in Jean Cocteau’s poetry and René Clair’s movies. Yi hung up quotes from Cocteau’spoems, and Park wrote “Conte from a Movie: The Last Billionaire,” a parody of Clair’s satirical piece on fascism, “Le Dernier milliardaire” (1934).It’s fascinating to see how their works reveal their comradeship and the marks they left on one another’s lives. In Gu’s painting, “Portrait of a Friend” (1935), the man sitting askew is none other than Yi himself. The two were four years apart in age but close friends from their school days. Meanwhile, Kim spared no praise for Gu’s Fauvist style, which broke free from conventions. And when Yi died at the age of 27, Kim mourned his premature death and published the first collection of Yi’s works in 1949. While alive, Yi had designed the cover of Kim’s first poetry anthology, “Weather Chart,” published in 1936. He also did the illustrations for Park’s novella, “A Day in the Life of Kubo the Novelist” (1934), which was serialized in the daily Joseon Jungang Ilbo. Park’s unique literary style and Yi’s surrealist drawings created idiosyncratic pages that were hugely popular with readers. “Self-portrait” by Hwang Sul-jo (1904-1939). 1939. Oil on canvas. 31.5 × 23 cm. Privatecollection.Hwang Sul-jo, who belonged to the same artists’ group as Gu Bon-ung, accomplished aunique painting style, mastering different genres including still lifes, landscapes and portraits. Thisself-portrait was done the year he died at the age of 35. Gallery 2 shows printed artworks dating to the 1920s-1940s. On display are books withbeautiful covers as well as magazines carrying the works of illustrators, mostly published by newspapercompanies. Cheongsaekji (Blue Magazine), Vol. 5, May 1939 (left); Vol. 8, February 1940. Cheongsaekji, which was first published in June 1938 and ended withits eighth volume in February 1940, was a comprehensive art magazineedited and published by Gu Bon-ung. It covered many fields, includingliterature, theater, film, music and fine arts, and provided quality articlescontributed by famous writers. Poetry and PaintingInserting illustrations in serial stories guaranteed a steady income for artists, even if only temporarily, and promoted the image of newspapers as a medium capable of reflecting both popular and artistic tastes. Many of these are featured in Gallery 2, which, resembling a neat library, brings together the achievements of print media, including newspapers, magazines and books, published between the 1920s and 1940s. Titled “A Museum Built from Paper,” this section offers the rare experience of flipping through the installments of serialized novels in newspapers, featuring drawings by 12 illustrators, including Ahn Seok-ju (1901-1950). Some newspaper companies also published magazines, giving birth to a genre of illustrated poems called hwamun. “Natasha, the White Donkey, and Me,” a famous poem by Baek Seok (1912-1996), is a noteworthy example dating to 1938. Illustrated by painter Jeong Hyeon-ung (1911-1976), it begins with the lines, “Tonight the snow falls endlessly / because I, a poor man, / love the beautiful Natasha.” The illustration, marked by its orange and white spaces, echoes the tone of Baek’s poem, which describes a peculiar sense of emptiness captured with a vague warmth. The illustrated poem appeared in the literary magazine Yeoseong (Women), which the two men created together to be published by the daily Chosun Ilbo.Baek wrote many lyric poems with a distinct local color, and Jeong worked actively as an illustrator. Although the two started off as work colleagues, their friendship grew much deeper. From time to time, Jeong would admire Baek seated next to him in the editorial office. In a short piece titled “Mister Baek Seok” (1939), published in another magazine, Munjang (Writing), Jeong praised the poet as being “as beautiful as a sculpture” and drew him immersed in his work. Their friendship continued after they both left Yeoseong; Baek went to Manchuria in 1940 and from there sent a poem titled, “To Jeong Hyeonung – From the Northern Land.” In 1950, after the two Koreas were divided, Jeong went to the North, where he reunited with Baek. He compiled a collection of Baek’s poems, with the back cover of the book featuring his own drawing of the poet, looking older and more mature than in the illustration for “Mister Baek Seok.” The fervor for creativity amid difficult circumstances was underpinned by friendships and collaborations between artists and writers who shared the pain of thetimes and sought a way forward together. “Natasha, the White Donkey, and Me” by Baek Seok (1912-1996) and Jeong Hyeon-ung (1911-1976). Adanmungo.This illustrated poem appeared in the March 1938 issue of, a magazine published by the Chosun Ilbo. The collaboration by poet Baek Seok and artist Jeong Hyeon-ungshowcases the frequent exchange between writers and painters mediated by the new hwamun (“illustrated writing”) genre. “Family of Poet Ku Sang” by Lee Jung-seop (1916-1956). 1955. Pencil and oil on paper. 32 × 49.5 cm. Private collection. Lee Jung-seop, who was staying at poet Ku Sang’s house in the wake of the Korean War, drew Ku’s happy family. At the time, Lee was missing his wife and two sons, who were in Japan. Covers of the magazine, Contemporary Literature (Hyeondae Munhak), which was inaugurated in January 1955. They were illustrated by renowned artists, such as Kim Whanki (1913-1974), Chang Uc-chin (1918-1990) and Chun Kyung-ja (1924-2015), among others. Writings by ArtistsGallery 3, “Fellowship of Artists and Writers in the Modern Age,” stretches into the 1950s, bringing into the spotlight the personal relationships among the artists and writers of the day. At the center of their personal network was Kim Gi-rim, and his connections expanded beyond his contemporaries to artists of the next generation. Using his profession a a newspaper journalist to advantage, Kim led the initiative of discovering new artists and introducing them to the public through his reviews. This baton was then passed onto Kim Gwang-gyun (1914-1993), a poet and businessman who played a similar role by providing financial support to talented artists. It’s no surprise, then, that quite a few of the exhibits in this gallery come from his personal collectionThe one work that probably makes most visitors stop to look is the painting, “Family of Poet Ku Sang,” by Lee Jung-seop (1916-1956). In the piece from 1955, Lee looks upon Ku’s family with envy. Lee had parted with his wife and two sons during the war; he sent them to Japan because the family was enduring extreme financial distress. Though he had hoped to be reunited with them by selling his paintings, the only private exhibition he barely managed to put together failed to bring in the money that he needed. “Family of Poet Ku Sang” is displayed in Gallery 3, along with letters sent to Lee by his Japanese wife, recalling the tragic story of the family and the genius artist’s lonely death in poverty and illness. The final part of the exhibition in Gallery 4, “Writings and Paintings by Literary Artists,” features six famous artists who were also literary talents. They include Chang Uc-chin (1918-1990), who cherished the beauty of simple and trivial things; Park Ko-suk (1917-2002), whose love of the mountains would last throughout his life; and Chun Kyung-ja (1924-2015), who enjoyed popularity for her colorful painting style and candid personal essays. Also gracing this section are four dot paintings by Kim Whanki (1913-1974). As you approach these paintings and gaze at the microcosmos created by the countless dots that fill the canvas, the names of all the artists and writers you’ve met in the exhibition come back to mind. It seems all the creative talents who shone brightly together in a dark and gloomy period of Korean history have been summoned to gather in one place – at last. “18-II-72 #221” by Kim Whanki. 1972. Oil on cotton. 49 × 145 cm.Kim Whanki, well-versed in literature and close to many poets, published illustrated essays in various magazines. The lyrical, abstract dot paintings that marked the late period of Kim’s career first appeared in his oeuvre in the mid-1960s, when he was in New York. Early signs of these paintings can be found in the letters he sent to poet Kim Gwang-seop (1906-1977).

A Disturbing Testimony of Truths about ‘Comfort Women’

Books & more 2021 SPRING 238

A Disturbing Testimony of Truths about ‘Comfort Women’ A Disturbing Testimony of Truths about ‘Comfort Women’ One Left: A Novel By Kim Soom, Translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton, 224 pages, $19.95, Seattle: University of Washington Press [2020] During World War II, the imperial Japanese military set up a system of brothels intended to reduce incidences of wartime rape. Although these so-called “comfort stations” were supposed to be staffed with voluntary prostitutes, the vast majority of the women who worked them were either taken by force or tricked into sexual slavery with promises of well-paid factory jobs or other ruses. The women victimized in this way came to be known euphemistically as “comfort women.” Although Korean literature has been telling tragic stories of the Korean people throughout the modern era, comfort women have largely been ignored. This book by Kim Soom is an exception. The first novel to present the experiences of comfort women in such a raw and unflinching manner, it tells the story of one survivor who has never gone public with her experiences. When she learns that the last known comfort woman is nearing death, she is forced to look back over her life and decide whether she will continue to live in fear and silence or finally tell her story to the world. The novel is not for the faint of heart or the delicate of soul. In contrast to the designation “comfort women,” the pain, humiliation and degradation to which these young girls and women were subjected is portrayed here with no hint of euphemism. The very act of reading is traumatic. The story weaves back and forth between the present, in which our now 93-year-old grandmother lives in a desolate neighborhood slated for redevelopment, and the past, in which the then 13-year-old girl is taken by the Japanese while gathering marsh snails for her starving family and forced into sexual slavery in Manchuria. And yet it quickly becomes apparent that these are not merely flashbacks; our protagonist does not merely think back to the past, she relives it on a daily basis. While the seven years she spent at the comfort station may have long since come to an end, the suffering and trauma of that experience have never truly left her. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this novel is how it straddles the line between fact and fiction. As the creative work of the author, it is indeed a novel. But it is peppered with over 300 footnotes, providing sources from actual testimonies of real comfort women. How then, should the reader approach it? Is it a work of fiction or a work of history? It is in fact both, and as such, it is a testimony to the power of fiction to convey painful truths. Readers, even those already aware of the suffering of the comfort women, will likely be shocked by what they find here. But confronting this truth is the first step toward healing. Lovely Words and Pictures from Grandparents Looking Back Life Was Beautiful: Drawings for My Grandchildren Illustrations by Grandpa Chan (Chan Jae Lee), Words by Grandma Marina (Kyong Ja An), Translated by Sophie Bowman, 304 pages, $20.00, London: Particular Books [2020] When Grandpa Chan and Grandma Marina met at university in the 1960s, it was like something out of a storybook romance. She had written a poem for a poetry and painting exhibition, and he had been randomly assigned to illustrate it. They connected through their art, and this seed blossomed into a love that led them to build a family together. They were living in Brazil when, in 2015, their daughter and her family decided to move back to Korea. Their son, who was living in New York, suggested that his father start drawing again. Mirroring how they had first met all those years ago, Grandma Marina wrote words to go along with the pictures, and these they uploaded to their Instagram account, “Drawings for My Grandchildren.” Today, the art and words of this couple have gone from screen to print. The book is loosely organized around the four seasons, separated by brief interludes such as Grandpa Chan’s trip to the Galapagos Islands with a National Geographic team or memories of his youth. The themes covered range from the grandchildren themselves to dinosaurs, other animals and the beauty of nature. Not surprisingly, there are also quite a few meditations on getting older and even on death and loss. Grandpa Chan’s drawings are colorful, expressive and inspiring, while Grandma Marina’s words manage to balance an almost childlike innocence with years of wisdom. Together, they are greater than the sum of their parts. English-language Website on Early Printing History Jikji World www.cheongju.go.kr/app3/jikjiworld/content/eng_main/ index.html Cheongju: Cheongju Early Printing Museum This is a new English-language version of a website dedicated to the book commonly known as “Jikji,” the oldest extant book printed with movable metal type. It predates Gutenberg’s Bible by 78 years and was added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2001. The website contains a trove of knowledge about the medieval Buddhist text itself, including bibliographical information and details on the technology used to print it; an extensive discussion of the history of metal type printing in Korea; and an introduction to the Cheongju Early Printing Museum. The virtual reality experiences of the museum itself unfortunately do not appear to be working at the time of writing, but if you’ve ever wanted to know more about “Jikji,” the information here will satisfy your curiosity.

SUBSCRIPTION

You can check the amount by country and apply for a subscription.

Subscription Request

전체메뉴

전체메뉴 닫기