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Oppa, You’re Speaking More English!

Focus 2022 SPRING 1354

Oppa, You’re Speaking More English! Oppa, You’re Speaking More English! The latest update of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the most authoritative dictionary in the English language, more than doubled the number of Korean-origin words. This record-breaking increase reflects the phenomenal rise of Korea’s cultural profile in recent decades. Words of Korean origin rose by twofold in the latest update of the Oxford English Dictionary. The unprecedented increase recognizes the global awareness of Korean culture through K-pop superstar groups, award-winning movies and drama series, trendy fashion and healthy food. © Shutterstock Up until the latter half of 2021, the Oxford English Dictionary included 24 Korean words. Then, in one swoop, the OED, the recognized authority on the English language, added another 26, an unprecedented number of words chosen from one language in a single year. Using one of the new additions, Dr. Danica Salazar, OED World English editor, described the distinctive list as daebak (a windfall or jackpot, or something fantastic and amazing). “We are all riding the crest of the Korean wave, and this can be felt not only in film, music or fashion, but also in our language, as evidenced by some of the words and phrases of Korean origin included in the latest update of the Oxford English Dictionary,” the OED said. Indeed, many of the new entries are familiar words to fans of Korea’s cultural exports. They have been part of the lexicon of the Korean wave (hallyu) for more than 15 years, seeping into English-language conversations and writings. With global awareness and popularity of Korean entertainment fare and f lair showing no signs of losing steam, even more Korean words may have a chance at OED inclusion. Gradual Buildup Editions and regular supplements of the OED have expanded the profile of English far beyond its original mongrel mixture of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Norman French, Greek and Latin. Currently, the dictionary contains some 600,000 words, past and present, used by English-language speakers around the world. The first edition of the OED was completed 49 years after the project was initiated. The first complete edition, printed in 12 volumes in 1928, comprised some 414,800 entries and more than 1.82 million example quotations from a variety of sources, including literature, movies and songs. But there was not a single Korean word entry. The first entries related to Korea were included in the 1933 supplement to the first edition: “Korean” and “Koreanize.” Then a 43-year gap followed before six entries were included in the 1976 supplement: gisaeng (women trained in singing and dancing, working as entertainers at the Korean royal court and in provincial centers); Hangul (the Korean alphabet); kimchi (a staple dish consisting of fermented cabbage flavored with various seasonings); kono (a traditional Korean game of strategy); myon (an administrative unit); and makkoli (traditional Korean rice wine). Seven entries were included in the 1982 supplement: sijo (a type of Korean classical vocal music or a Korean verse form consisting of three lines); taekwondo (a Korean martial art); won (the monetary unit of Korea); yangban (the traditional ruling class); ri (an administrative unit); onmun (Korean vernacular, another name for Hangul); and ondol (a traditional underfloor heating system). Thus, the second edition of the OED, published in 1989, contained 15 words of Korean origin. It was another 14 years before a new Korean-origin word would be added: hapkido (a modern martial art of self-defense). By then, Korean had been shortened in certain contexts to “K” and combined with other words to form new nouns. The first example was “K-pop,” which appeared in Billboard magazine in October 1999, according to the OED, which added the word in 2016. “K-drama” appeared in 2002 in The Strait Times, a Singapore newspaper, the OED says. K-pop and K-drama spearheaded the Korean wave, which quickened the pace of Korean entries in the OED. They included: bibimbap (a dish consisting of rice topped with sautéed vegetables,meat and chili paste) in 2011; soju (a type of distilled liquor) and “webtoon” (digital comics serialized through online platforms) in 2015; doenjang (fermented soybean paste), gochujang (red chili paste) and K-pop in 2016; chaebol (a large, family-owned business conglomerate) in 2017; and Juche (the political ideology associated with North Korea) in 2019. aegyo, n. and adj. A. n. Cuteness or charm, esp. of a sort considered characteristic of Korean popular culture. Also: behaviour regarded as cute, charming, or adorable. Cf. KAWAII n. B. adj. Characterized by ‘aegyo’, cute, charming, adorable. banchan, n. In Korean cookery: a small side dish of vegetables, etc., served along with rice as part of a typical Korean meal. bulgogi, n. In Korean cookery: a dish of thin slices of beef or pork which are marinated then grilled or stir-fried. chimaek, n. In South Korea and Korean-style restaurants: fried chicken served with beer. Popularized outside South Korea by the Korean television drama My Love from the Star(2014). daebak, n., int., and adj. A. n. Something lucrative or desirable, esp. when acquired or found by chance; a windfall, a jackpot. B. int. Expressing enthusiastic approval: ‘fantastic!’, ‘amazing!’ C. adj. As a general term of approval: excellent, fantastic, great fighting, int. Esp. in Korea and Korean contexts: expressing encouragement, incitement, or support: ‘Go on!’ ‘Go for it!’ hallyu, n. The increase in international interest in South Korea and its popular culture, esp. as represented by the global success of South Korean music, film, television, fashion, and food. Also: South Korean popular culture and entertainment itself. Frequently as a modifier, as in hallyu craze, hallyu fan, hallyu star, etc. Cf. K-, comb. form Forming nouns relating to South Korea and its (popular) culture, as K-beauty, K-culture, K-food, K-style, etc. Recorded earliest in K-POP n. See also K-DRAMA n. K-drama, n. A television series in the Korean language and produced in South Korea. Also: such series collectively. kimbap, n. A Korean dish consisting of cooked rice and other ingredients wrapped in a sheet of seaweed and cut into bite-sized slices. Konglish, n.and adj. A. n. A mixture of Korean and English, esp. an informal hybrid language spoken by Koreans, incorporating elements of Korean and English. In early use frequently depreciative. B. adj. Combining elements of Korean and English; of, relating to, or expressed in Konglish.In early use frequently depreciative. Korean wave, n. The rise of international interest in South Korea and its popular culture which took place in the late 20th and 21st centuries, esp. as represented by the global success of Korean music, film, television, fashion, and food ;= HALLYU n.; Cf. K- comb. form. manhwa, n. A Korean genre of cartoons and comic books, often influenced by Japanese manga. Also: a cartoon or comic book in this genre. Cf. MANGA n.2 Occasionally also applied to animated film. mukbang, n. A video, esp. one that is livestreamed, that features a person eating a large quantity of food and talking to the audience. Also: such videos collectively or as a phenomenon. noona, n. In Korean-speaking contexts: a boy’s or man’s elder sister. Also as a respectful form of address or term of endearment, and in extended use with reference to an older female friend. oppa, n. 1. In Korean-speaking contexts: a girl’s or woman’s elder brother. Also as a respectful form of address or term of endearment, and in extended use with reference to an older male friend or boyfriend. 2.An attractive South Korean man, esp. a famous or popular actor or singer. samgyeopsal, n. A Korean dish of thinly sliced pork belly, usually served raw to be cooked by the diner on a tabletop grill. skinship, n. Esp. in Japanese and Korean contexts: touching or close physical contact between parent and child or (esp. in later use) between lovers or friends, used to express affection or strengthen an emotional bond. trot, n. A genre of Korean popular music characterized by repetitive rhythms and emotional lyrics, combining a traditional Korean singing style with influences from Japanese, European, and American popular music. Also (and in earliest use) as a modifier, as in trot music, trot song, etc. This genre of music originated in the early 1900s during the Japanese occupation of Korea. unni, n. In Korean-speaking contexts: a girl’s or woman’s elder sister. Also as a respectful form of address or term of endearment, and in extended use with reference to an older female friend or an admired actress or singer. New Entries The latest OED update occurred in September 2021. In addition to the aforementioned daebak, the update fittingly included hallyu, K-drama, Korean wave and K-, the wellsprings of the new additions. From the K-pop world ca me the words oppa, unni and noona, terms of endearment used in fandom circles to address members of popular idol groups; and aegyo (cuteness or charm), a trait that fans expect from K-pop idols. Trot, an old genre of Korean popular music that has enjoyed an immense revival in recent years, was also added. From K-dramas came hanbok (Korea’s traditional dress), the standard garb in period screenplays; chimaek (fried chicken served with beer), which appears often as a favorite option for dates and on home-delivery menus; and “PC bang” (a computer gaming cafe). Manhwa (a Korean genre of cartoons and comic books) was also added as a separate entry from “webtoon,” an addition in 2015. Korean food obviously caught the OED’s attention as well; it was the largest subset in the update. In addition to chimaek, the new entries included banchan (side dishes served with rice), dongchimi (a type of kimchi), japchae (cellophane noodles with stir-fried vegetables), kimbap (seaweed rice rolls), galbi (marinated beef short ribs), bulgogi (thin, marinated slices of beef or pork) and samgyeopsal (thinly sliced pork belly), which diners cook themselves on a tabletop grill. Meanwhile, K-drama fight scenes between accomplished combatants invariably include punches from tang soo do, which is similar to karate. The martial art joined taekwondo, which features spinning and leaping kicks, in the OED. Interestingly, “fighting” (an interjection expressing encouragement or support) and “skinship” (close physical contact), which had been disparaged as “Konglish” (Korean words derived from English), were also among the new additions, as was “Konglish” itself. Another curious addition was mukbang (a video that features a person eating, usually seen on social media). Mukbang and chimaek are slang terms that haven’t even been added to Korean dictionaries. Exact Lexicography Publication of the OED began in installments in 1884. The 61-year gap between the first and second editions may not be duplicated with the third edition; compilation for the update began in 2000 and is expected to be produced in digital form rather than multiple volumes like previous editions. Still, it remains several years away from completion due to the nature of the OED. Unlike most dictionaries, the OED is an academic publication. It contains not only the current meanings of words but also their history, which is traced through a variety of sources, including books, periodicals, movies, songs and cookbooks. Thus, the OED includes multi layered linguistic information about the entries, such as the origin of the word and quotations from reference materials. The quotations add up to the millions in explaining the hundreds of thousands of entries. I was one of the Korean-language consultants for the newly added words, along with Professor Jieun Kiaer of the University of Oxford. Dr. Salazar sent me a PDF that contained two tables with a list of Korean-origin words to be included in the OED’s new update. One table was a list of new entries and questions, while the other was a list of existing entries that needed revision and related questions. Etymologist Katrin Thier also sent a PDF with questions about the origin of the words selected. Determining the etymology of a foreign word based on English materials alone without knowledge of the language in question is both difficult and risky. As such, working with a linguist who is a native speaker of the language is a requisite. All the words in the OED have a description of their origin. This information is based on OED research, with the etymologist seeking verification from the native speaker. Advice was also sought for revisions of 12 existing entries. For instance, the OED asked about the syllable division of gisaeng and the etymology of kimchi, both words included in the 1976 supplement. Most questions were about the structure of words: the semantic segments of words and the origin of each segment, such as whether ban of the word banchan and bap in kimbap were related. I was also asked to check the OED’s analysis of the new entries, how some of the words were used in Korean, and what differences there were in usage between South and North Korea. There were some interesting questions, such as whether “noona” can be used to refer to a girlfriend as “oppa” is used with reference to a boyfriend. During my research to answer the OED’s questions, I discovered many interesting facts that I had not known before. One personal revelation involved the entry “PC bang.” The OED wanted to know whether these types of establishments sold food. To my knowledge, a PC bang only sold snacks like instant noodles in a plastic cup. But to my amazement, I discovered that they now offer such a wide variety of food that a new portmanteau has been spawned: “PCtaurant” (PC + restaurant).   dongchimi, n. In Korean cuisine: a type of kimchi made with radish and typically also containing napa cabbage, spring onions, green chilli, and pear, traditionally eaten during winter. Cf. KIMCHI n.     galbi, n. In Korean cookery: a dish of beef short ribs, usually marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and sugar, and sometimes cooked on a grill at the table.     hanbok, n. A traditional Korean costume consisting of a long-sleeved jacket or blouse and a long, high-waisted skirt for women or loose-fitting trousers for men, typically worn on formal or ceremonial occasions. © MBC     japchae, n. A Korean dish consisting of cellophane noodles made from sweet potato starch, stir-fried with vegetables and other ingredients, and typically seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil. Cf. cellophane noodle n.     PC bang, n. In South Korea: an establishment with multiple computer terminals providing access to the internet for a fee, usually for gaming.     tang soo do, n. A Korean martial art using the hands and feet to deliver and block blows, similar to karate. © International Tang Soo Do Federation   Criteria for Inclusion Several questions came to mind as I worked. Why had there been so few Korean-origin words listed in the OED before? And why were more Korean-origin entries than all the previous entries combined added in the latest update? Who decides which words are to be considered for inclusion and what is the selection process? What is the significance of so many Korean-origin words making it into the OED at once? And what about going forward? The relatively low representation of Korean in the OED can be attributed to the weak presence of Korean culture in the English-speaking world and a paucity of words of Korean origin in English publications, as well as, to some degree, underrepresentation. For a word to meet the criteria for inclusion in the OED, it must first capture the attention of the editors, have evidence of consistent usage in English writings over a period of time, and be used in the context for which it was intended. Then what about going forward? The recent addition of 26 Korean-origin words is just the beginning. These words have been constantly heard outside of Korea for at least 15 to 20 years, and compared to when they entered the lexicon, Korean pop culture has surged much higher in global popularity. In particular, Korean content is reaching a larger audience via global streaming platforms, as in the case of the Netflix mega-hit series “Squid Game,” giving international viewers an opportunity to absorb more Korean words than ever before. Hence, the Korean language will only spread further. Shin Ji-young Professor, Department of Korean Language and Literature, Korea University

Journey to the Realm of Contemplation

Image of Korea 2022 SPRING 1058

Journey to the Realm of Contemplation Journey to the Realm of Contemplation   © Gian The entrance is narrow and the hallway is long. Light seeping from the darkness is constant with unwavering intensity. The pace of time slows. From the left wall, a misty light introduces itself. Something lies there, supine; something vast and firm, a great stone or block of ice. It gradually loses any discernible form, turning into water which slowly vaporizes. The ascending mist transforms into another world. But it is short-lived; eventually a stone reappears. Making our waypast video art by Jean-Julien Pous, we are christened by his vision of the “Cycle” of the universe. Finally, the “Room of Quiet Contemplation” is before us. Our five senses awaken. Every pore of our body opens and our inner space expands – infinite. As consciousness and calm become one, the floor inclines upwards, little by little, barely noticeable, leading to where light and darkness intersect around two mystical beings. This room, opened in November 2021, is a collaboration between architect Choi Wook and a team of “brand story” experts commissioned by the National Museum of Korea. Most people first associate the Louvre in Paris with the Mona Lisa. In much the same way, visitors to the National Museum of Korea are now sure to think first of the Room of Quiet Contemplation and its bodhisattva statues, which have rarely been displayed together. A full millennium separates the Mona Lisa and the two sculptures. Leonardo da Vinci painted the portrait, measuring 77 × 53 cm, in the early 16th century. The sculptures, less than a meter tall, were made in the late 6th and the early 7th centuries. They represent the height of Buddhist art from the Silla period and are designated Korea’s National Treasures No. 78 and No. 83. These masterpieces share two similarities that define them. First, unlike other seated, standing, or reclining Buddhist images, they hover somewhere between sitting and standing, draped over a small round stool, right foot perched on left knee. Meanwhile, their right hands are raised, the tips of their index and middle fingers grazing their chins, showing an attitude of deep thought. What are the Maitreya Bodhisattvas supposed to be thinking? We can only speculate, just as we do with “The Thinker,” Auguste Rodin’s iconic sculpture unveiled some 1,300 years later. Buddhists assume these figures to be contemplating the four phases of life: birth, old age, sickness and death. Yet, encountered in a museum after enough time has passed, even Buddhist images can break free of religious connotations. True contemplation calls for surrendering and finding oneself simultaneously. Perhaps the subtle smiles of these two pensive bodhisattvas are a nod to the faint vibration that lives between this very surrender and discovery, an internalization of time and space that is both broad and deep. Kim Hwa-young Literary Critic; Member of the National Academy of the Arts

Siraegi : A Delicacy of Humble Origins

Essential Ingredients 2022 SPRING 1082

Siraegi : A Delicacy of Humble Origins Siraegi : A Delicacy of Humble Origins When eaten in spring, siraegi that has grown sweet after enduring the cold weather of late autumn and winter feels like a gift to the palate.This humble vegetable is an acquired taste, but once it grows on you, it’s hard to forget. Each part of the radish has its own use and a different taste depending on the season. When radishes are harvested in winter, the green stems and leaves at the top are cut off, tied together and dried in the sunlight and wind throughout the cold months to make siraegi. These dried radish tops enrich the spring table with their savory flavor and abundant natural fiber. Siraegi needs to be repeatedly frozen and thawed at least three times before reaching it’s full flavor. Some foods that are now prized delicacies had trivial beginnings. Such is the case with siraegi, which refers to radish stems and leaves or the outer leaves of cabbage dried in the sun and wind. Since ancient times on the Korean Peninsula, kimchi has been made in great quantities in late autumn to eat throughout the winter. This annual custom of making, storing and sharing kimchi for winter is called kimjang and has been inscribed on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Winter kimchi is made by mixing cabbage and radish with various seasonings, such as green onions, garlic and red pepper powder, as well as salted and fermented seafood. The greens of the radish and outer leaves of the cabbage are not used. When these leftover parts are dried fresh or boiled and then dried, they become siraegi. In the standard Korean dictionary, the outer leaves that are left over after trimming are generally called ugeoji – literally, “removed tops.” Dried radish or cabbage leaves are a sub-category of ugeoji. Although ugeoji is a word also used to describe a “frowning facial expression” due to the food’s shabby appearance, it becomes a good ingredient when carefully dried. As Chinese cabbage or other vegetables grow, their outer leaves are exposed to rain and wind.Compared to the inner leaves, the outer leaves become rough and damaged, and therefore seem low in quality. They easily turn yellow or become limp. However, in the days when people barely managed to subsist on herb roots and tree bark, they could not afford to throw these leaves away. They picked up vegetable hulls, dried them in the shade, chopped them up and boiled them to make a porridge with a handful of rice, tofu dregs or wheat bran. During the spring lean season in particular, newspapers would report on farmers who pleaded for even just enough siraegi porridge to eat. Chinese cabbage contains a lot of free glutamic acid, which gives it a savory taste. Radish stems and leaves contain more glutamic acid than theradish root. Sulfur compounds and glutamic acid are naturally present in meat and are responsible for the meaty flavor. Thanks to this flavor substance, siraegi goes surprisingly well with meat. Siraegi stew or soup made with red pepper paste or soybean paste and garlic has the flavor of meat without actually containing meat. Adding anchovy stock makes the broth even more flavorful. In Tongyeong, a southern port city famous for its food, siraegi soup is cooked with eel bones instead of anchovies. AN ACQUIRED TASTE Siraegi isn’t the kind of food you instantly get used to. The smell of boiling siraegi in the yard of a country house on a cold winter day is not especially appealing. I like the feeling of the hot steam warming the house, but I don’t like the smell, which comes from the sulfur compounds produced when cabbage or radish stems and leaves are boiled. While being boiled, however, the bitter spiciness is reduced, with the flavor turning soft and mild. It is true that siraegi can be an acquired taste.It is said that for children to accept and like an unfamiliar food, they must taste it at least 8 to 15 times. Siraegi soup fits this description perfectly. I don’t remember when I first tasted it, but I do remember that for a long time I didn’t care for it. Then, oddly enough, one day I started liking it. And once I fell in love with siraegi, I was able to enjoy most of the dishes made with it: siraegi seasoned with perilla, siraegi simmered in soybean paste and various seasonings, and siraegi soup made with beef bone broth, all of which are delicious. In Korea, the 15th day of the lunar new year is a traditional holiday called daeboreum, or the “great full moon day.” In 2022, by the Gregorian calendar, this day falls on February 15. It is a day for eating mungnamul, which literally means “old greens,” and ogokbap, or rice made of five different grains. Mungnamul refers to a variety of dried vegetables and greens, such as gourds, cucumbers, mushrooms, pumpkins, turnips, bracken, aster, cucumber stems and eggplant skins. These are dried and stored during the winter to be eaten later boiled and seasoned. Siraegi also falls under this category. Some of the most famous siraegi comes from Haean Basin in Yanggu County, Gangwon Province, located some 300-500 meters above sea level, where the daily temperature difference exceeds 20 degrees in winter. The eroded basin has also been known as the “Punchbowl” since it was so named by an American journalist during the Korean War. © Shutterstock Hong Seok-mo (1781-1857), a scholar of the late Joseon Dynasty, wrote in his 1849 book, Dongguk sesigi (“Record of Seasonal Customs in the Eastern Country”), that eating dried greens on the first full moon day of the year means you will not suffer from the heat in the coming summer. Although it is difficult to find a scientific basis for this statement, there is no doubt that dried vegetables are sufficiently nutritious. When vegetables are boiled and dried, chlorophyll changes in color from green to a rather dull yellow-green, but chlorophyll itself isn’t a nutrient absorbed and used by the human body. And while some water-soluble vitamins such as B vitamins and vitamin C are lost, most of the fat-soluble vitamins and minerals remain. According to the Korean Food Composition Table published by the Rural Development Administration, 100 grams of blanched radish siraegi contains 4 grams of protein, 9.8 grams of carbohydrates, 0.3 grams of fat and 10.3 grams of dietary fiber. Just two plates of siraegi will give you more than half of the 25 grams of your daily recommended dietary fiber intake. And while siraegi eaten in mid-winter cannot be expected to show its effects in summer, for those prone to constipation, a siraegi dish served often at the spring dinner table will certainly help.   Siraegi boiled for a long time and soaked in cold water is used in various dishes. It is mixed with finely minced beef or pork and assorted seasonings then stir-fried to make a special dish enjoyed on the first full moon day of the lunar new year. © Getty Images Korea GIFT OF COLD WEATHER Siraegi these days differs from that of the past. In days gone by, leftover radish stems and leaves from making kimchi were collected and dried without anything going to waste. Now, a radish variety suitable for siraegi has been developed and is grown separately. Siraegi produced from these radishes is softer in texture, which means it can be cooked without going to the trouble of peeling the stems first. Accordingly, this radish variety with more leaves is planted at wide intervals, and when the stems and leaves have grown sufficiently, they are cut to make siraegi while leaving the radishes behind. The radishes are harvested 45 to 60 days after sowing, with smaller ones sometimes left in the fields. This radish variety grown exclusively for siraegi has a slightly spicy taste and is softer than regular radish, which makes it unsuitable for kimchi. Instead, it is used to make dongchimi (white radish water kimchi) or mu jangajji (pickled radish), or is shredded, dried and roasted to make tea. Siraegi is harvested and eaten all over Korea, but Yanggu in Gangwon Province is most famous for its production. The Haean Basin of Yanggu County, surrounded by high mountains, is called the “Punchbowl,” a name coined by an American war correspondent during the Korean War. That the English word referring to the topography of the eroded basin remains in use today means that this place was a truly ferocious battlefield. These days, however, more people associate the Yanggu Punchbowl with siraegi than with the bloody battles of seven decades ago. Siraegi produced there tastes good because of the strong sunlight, as suggested by the syllable yang in the place name, which means “sun.” The sunlight in Yanggu is very bright and the colder weather also helps to make the radish sweet and mild. In winter, to prevent vegetables from freezing, the moisture in the leaves, stems and roots decreases and the content of sugar and sweet-tasting free amino acids increases. In the cold and less sunny fall to winter months, fewer pungent flavor substances are produced, which is why kimchi tastes better when made with winter cabbage and radish. For the same reason, although siraegi is available all year round, it tastes best when eaten in cold weather.   Siraegi can be a tasty addition to spaghetti aglio e olio or cream pasta dishes. A spoonful of perilla oil adds to the savory flavor, while the dried radish greens cut into small pieces provide a crunchy texture. © blog.naver.com/catseyesung TENDER TEXTURE Once you have grown familiar with the unique taste of siraegi, you will realize that there is no food with which it doesn’t pair well. It is an ingredient in common home-cooked dishes such as parboiled greens (namul), porridge (juk), stew (jjigae) and soybean paste soup (doenjang guk), and when added to rice before cooking, it turns the staple into a delicacy. After a simple meal of siraegi rice, you’ll want to protest the recent attack on grain foods. A food as delicious as siraegi can’t just be eaten by Koreans. Italians in Puglia also eat turnip stems and leaves stir-fried in oil with orecchiette, ear-shaped pasta. The fresh stems and leaves are also washed and ground with Parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts to make radish pesto. Since the turnip greens are used raw, the pesto has a tangy taste that is softened by the addition of nuts. Since ancient times, there must have been a universal rule to consume ingredients sparingly without throwing away anything that can be eaten. Siraegi, once considered a food for the poor, has now become a delicacy enjoyed by everyone, reborn with a softer texture and taste. It is similar to how polenta, a boiled cornmeal dish eaten by poor Italian farmers in the 16th century, came to be prized by gourmands in modern times.This shows us why we shouldn’t forget siraegi’s past while we enjoy its softer and more enhanced taste. Jeong Jae-hoon Pharmacist and Food Writer Shin Hye-woo Illustrator

Yeongju, The Starting Point

On the Road 2022 SPRING 1199

Yeongju, The Starting Point Yeongju, The Starting Point Yeongju is steeped in history and legend. Despite its moderate size, the mountainous town encompasses the sources of two large rivers and the birthplaces of many famous historical figures. It is also home to a storied log bridge, a mysterious “floating rock” and two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Museom Village in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province lies at the intersection of two streams that flow down Mt. Taebaek and join the Nakdong River. Before a modern bridge was built in 1979, this single log bridge was the only passage to the outside world from the village, which is surrounded by waterways on three sides and mountains at the back. When I opened my map, I imagined what residents of Yeongju centuries ago might have believed: that the world ended where they lived. The small city sits at the top rim of North Gyeongsang Province, which occupies the southeastern part of the Korean Peninsula. The northern edge of Yeongju abuts Gangwon Province, where Mt. Taebaek stands tall, and its western side shares a long border with North Chungcheong Province, where the high peaks of Mt. Sobaek are clearly visible. On the city’s south side, a steady stream of arrivals once came ashore, laden with tales of distant places. I thought about the waterway that carried them northward to Yeongju – the Nakdong River, the longest river in South Korea. The geography section of the “Annals of King Sejong” from 1454 says, “The sources of the Nakdong River are Hwangji on Mt. Taebaek, Chojeom in Mungyeong County and Mt. Sobaek in Sunheung. The waters join and when they reach Sangju, they form the Nakdong River.” Sunheung was the former name of the Yeongju area. Moreover, Yeongju was the wellspring of several small tributaries of the Han River, which flows east to west and bisects Seoul. As the source of two of the most important rivers in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, Yeongju in pre-modern days was, in effect, the beginning and end of the world to Koreans. A mountainous town with a population of 108,000, Yeongju is a two-hour drive from Seoul. The last stage of the trip includes the Jungnyeong (Bamboo Pass) Tunnel, a 4.6 km passageway through Mt. Sobaek, connecting North Chungcheong Province with North Gyeongsang Province. Museom Village was formed around the mid-17th century as its fertile land attracted inhabitants. It now has some 40 old traditional houses and 100 residents. It is a clan community, most of its residents belonging to two clans, the Kims hailing from Yean and the Parks from Bannam. CROOKED BRIDGE I headed for Museom Village in the southern part of Yeongju. Water flowing from two streams – Yeongjucheon and Naeseongcheon – merge and surround the village on three sides, making it look like an island. Museom means “an island floating on water.” The village, established in the mid-17th century, is filled with hanok, or traditional Korean houses, which were once occupied by local elite families. In terms of geomancy (pungsu in Korean, feng shui in Chinese), the topography here supposedly emits high energy, blessing its residents to achieve their goals. This belief probably arose from the broad, fertile fields which ensured self-reliance. Among the village’s old traditional houses are 16 well-preserved examples of typical late Joseon Dynasty homes. The village is not widely known to the general public, so it still maintains the quiet atmosphere of a traditional scholarly village. In modern times, the village came to be known for a single log bridge, laid across the stream to serve as the only passage to the outside world. Indeed, it did until the Sudo Bridge opened in 1979. In the past, the monsoon season stirred up the stream enough to destroy the bridge regularly, so it had to be rebuilt many times. Today, the log bridge stretches some 150 meters, but instead of being straight across, it is shaped in an enigmatic big S. The beautiful and narrow span is loved by people of all ages and has appeared in television drama series, including “The Tale of Nokdu” (2019), “My Country” (2019) and “100 Days My Prince” (2018). Not surprisingly, walking across the bridge is on the checklist of an endless stream of visitors, myself included. Up until the end of the 19th century, Museom had some 500 residents in 120 households. The village produced numerous academics and Confucian scholars as well as five independence fighters who made significant contributions to the nation’s liberation from Japanese rule in the 20th century. Dirt paths along stone walls lead to the Museom Village Exhibition Hall. In one corner of the yard is a monument to the poet Cho Chi-hun (1920-1968). There is no Korean student who has not recited Cho’s poem, “The Nun’s Dance” (Seungmu), from their textbooks. Museom was the hometown of Cho’s calligrapher wife, Kim Nan-hee (1922-); he left his poem, “Parting” (Byeolli), engraved here on a large rock in her handwriting. The poem is about a shy, new bride tearfully watching her husband leave for a long trip, from behind a big pillar in their home. I tried to imagine the young husband in the poem crossing the log bridge one precise step at a time. Suddenly, I felt I could explain why the bridge had an S-shape.It forced a slow pace, prolonging sad farewells. DYNASTY BUILDER Not far from the city center is the childhood home of Jeong Do-jeon (1342-1398), a scholar-official who was credited with laying the cornerstone of the Joseon Dynasty by establishing its ruling ideology and system of government. Jeong’s home came to be called the Old House of Three Ministers (Sampanseo Gotaek) because the family produced three government ministers (panseo) during the Joseon period. Though the house has been relocated from its original site due to flooding, it still emanates an aura of power from an influential family. The Rock-carved Buddha Triad on a high streamside cliff overlooking Seocheon exemplifies the sculptural style of the Unified Silla period (676-935). These Buddhist images had been severely vandalized by the time they were discovered, but they still emanate a strong spirit. In the city center, I looked around Yeongju Modern History and Culture Street, then walked up a gentle slope and arrived at Sungeunjeon (Hall of Worshipping Grace). This is a shrine for the portrait and spirit tablet of King Gyeongsun (r. 927-935), the last ruler of Silla. It is said that the king stopped at Yeongju on his way to Kaesong to surrender to Goryeo. Having just met a revolutionary thinker who opened the doors for one dynasty, I now encountered a tragic king from another, who had to offer his country to a rising monarchy to spare the lives of his subjects. Today, Yeongju commemorates the king’s love for his people and honors him as a deity. Early morning the next day, I tackled the long, uphill path and steep 108 steps to Buseok Temple, or the Floating Rock Temple. The temple is listed as UNESCO World Heritage along with six other historic temples, including Tongdo Temple in Yangsan, Bongjeong Temple in Andong, Beopju Temple in Boeun and Seonam Temple in Seungju, under the name “Sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea.” Buseok Temple is especially popular in the autumn, when leaves change color to turn the area into a gorgeous tapestry where sought-after apples are dispensed, pairing with Yeongju’s well-known beef and ginseng. The legendary rock is found beside the temple’s main hall, named Muryangsujeon, or the Hall of Infinite Life. Legend has it that the rock was used by a guardian dragon to float above followers of different beliefs and scare them from attempting to interfere with the temple’s construction. Buseok Temple was built in 676 during the golden era of Silla, when it defeated rival states Goguryeo and Baekje and successfully unified the Three Kingdoms. At the time, Buddhism received widespread support as the state religion, as evidenced by the scale and importance of Buseok Temple. But 250 years later, Silla would give way to a new dynasty. When I finally arrived in front of the Hall of Infinite Life, one of the oldest wooden structures in Korea, thoughts of the rise and fall of dynasties vanished. I faced the beautiful hall, where Amitabha, the Buddha of the Western Pure Land, resides. Indeed, there on the left was the famous buseok, the floating rock. “Treatise on Choosing Settlements” (Taengniji), an 18th-century ecological guide, says that a rope can pass cleanly underneath the rock. The scientific explanation is that the rock fell away from the granite behind the temple and landed on smaller stones. The fallen rock does not appear to be floating, nor does it touch the ground. To me, the rock looked like a large table that could seat some 20 adults. The bell pavilion of Buseok Temple offers a panoramic view of the temple grounds and the Sobaek Mountain Range in the distance. The temple was built shortly after Silla unified the Three Kingdoms in 676. In 2018, it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List along with six other Buddhist mountain monasteries across Korea. Buseok Temple has two famous pavilions, Anyangnu (Pavilion of Tranquil Nourishment) and Beomjongnu (Bell Pavilion), located on the central axis of the temple compound leading up to the main hall. The Bell Pavilion’s bronze bell, wooden fish, cloudshaped metal plate and drum are struck twice a day. REPEATING CYCLE In the afternoon, I crossed Maguryeong (Horse and Foal Pass), a hill in the direction of Gangwon Province, and visited the mountain village of Namdae-ri, where the tragic boy king, Danjong (r. 1452-1455), stayed on his way to exile after being deposed by his uncle, King Sejo (r. 1455-1468). This is where the southeastern source of the Han River is located. The trail around Sosu Seowon has hundreds of red pine trees, ranging from 300 to 1,000 years old. Founded in 1542, Sosu Seowon was Korea’s first private Confucian academy. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2019, along with eight other Confucian academies across Korea. At Seonghyeol Temple, a quiet Buddhist temple secluded in the mountains, there is a beautiful ancient building named Nahanjeon, or the “Hall of the Arhats.” Its doors feature exquisite carvings of lotus flowers and petals, cranes, frogs and fish. Later, I returned to the neighborhood beneath Buseok Temple and visited Sosu Seowon, one of the nine private Confucian academies of the Joseon Dynasty that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Sosu Seowon, also known as Sosu Academy, was the first Confucian academy that received a royal charter. It houses the spirit tablets of some of the country’s greatest Confucian scholars, including An Hyang (1243-1306), who first spread Neo-Confucianism on the Korean Peninsula. The more I looked around Yeongju, the more I admired its uniqueness. It was home to the man who laid the foundations of a new dynasty and a place that revered the last ruler of a disappearing kingdom; it cultivated numerous scholars and politicians at its prestigious Confucian academy and is where the traces of a young king who was banished and killed in a power struggle can still be found. I felt like I was watching one huge cycle repeating itself. The writings of another famous son of Yeongju, the scholar and patriot Song Sang-do (1871-1946), prompted me to think deeply about origin and return. His book, “Essays of Song Sang-do” (Giryeo supil), published in 1955, describes in remarkable detail the life of Koreans under Japanese colonial rule. Giryeo was Song’s pen name.Every spring, beginning in 1910, the year Japan colonized Korea, Song left on long journeys around the country to meet bereaved families of patriots and collect newspaper reports and other records about related incidents. He risked death if found with those materials, so he twisted his notes and clippings into the ropes that he used as backpack straps. Late in the year Song would return, worn out and haggard. To be the origin of everything and, at the same time, the “other shore,” or the entrance to nirvana, to which all things can return – this is the spirit entrenched in Yeongju. On my last morning in Yeongju, as I prepared to return to Seoul, I was still thinking about Song. I decided to take the old road over Jungnyeong. As I drove on the steep, narrow and winding mountain road, I wanted to feel the immense and resolute spirit of the scholar who would have left Yeongju and crossed the rugged passageway on foot. When I reached the top of the ridge, I asked myself whether I was returning to Seoul or leaving Yeongju. I was sure I would be back again, so I decided to tell myself that I was just starting out. Kim Deok-hee Novelist Ahn Hong-beom Photographer

Message on Isolation and Freedom

Tales of Two Koreas 2022 SPRING 1044

Message on Isolation and Freedom Message on Isolation and Freedom An isolated village on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a remnant of the Korean War armistice agreement of 1953.Two award-winning South Korean artists have reinterpreted the village for their latest collaboration. The aim, as the duo explain, was “to reflect on the ironic, institutionalized conflicts and tensions that beset human history in general.” The division of Korea may be a subject that most artists from this country want to avoid. It is typically deemed too self-evident for much texture, or overly grandiose to encapsulate. Those who take up the subject must often endure criticism that they chose an all too familiar episode. International artists look to their Korean cohorts for cues, but few step forward to venture into the theme from a faraway land. Moon Kyung-won and Jeon Joon-ho were undaunted. They boldly put on “News from Nowhere – Freedom Village,” a multi-faceted exhibition that recently ended at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) in Seoul. Their next stop this year is the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan (May 3-September 11), and shortly afterwards, the London-based Artangel and then the Art Sonje Centre, back in Seoul. A U.S. showing is also being discussed. Moon teaches Western painting at Ewha Womans University in Seoul and Jeon is based in Yeongdo, a seaside area of his native Busan. They have collaborated since 2009, forming a rare duo on the Korean fine arts scene. They constantly explore the role of art in coping with the universal issues of mankind, such as contradictions of capitalism, historical tragedies and climate change. Moon Kyung-won (left) and Jeon Joon-ho pose with a part of their collaborative project, “News from Nowhere – Freedom Village,” displayed at the Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art for the “MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2021” (September 3, 2021-February 20, 2022). The duo defined Freedom Village, the only civilian settlement on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone, as a place created by human confrontation and conflict – a symbol of the isolation endured by numerous people amid the coronavirus pandemic. LOOK BACK “News from Nowhere” is a long-term project that has had several iterations.The title is from the eponymous utopian novel written by William Morris (1834-1896), an artist, designer and socialist pioneer who led the British Arts and Crafts Movement. In the novel, the narrator falls asleep and awakens in a future agrarian society that has no class, no systems of money or authority, no private property and no courts or prisons. Through the novel, Morris hurled scathing criticism at the social problems of his time. Moon and Jeon borrowed not only the title, but also the novel’s style of keenly dissecting the present from a perch in the future. “Our future-based view is not an attempt to diagnose the future but an effort to discuss the present agenda,” they explain. The duo’s “News from Nowhere” premiered in 2012 at documenta, a contemporary art exhibition held every five years in Kassel, Germany. The subtitle then was “The End of the World.” The exhibition led them to win the Artist of the Year 2012 Award from the MMCA and the Noon Award at the 9th Gwangju Biennale in the same year. In the ensuing years, the project, with input from other artists, appeared under different subtitles in various forms, including video works, installations, archival photographs and publications. Previous venues include the Sullivan Galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago in the United States (2013); the Migros Museum of Contemporary Art in Zürich, Switzerland (2015); and Tate Liverpool in the United Kingdom (2018). The duo also represented the Korean Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, presenting a multi-channel film installation titled “The Ways of Folding Space & Flying.” “News from Nowhere” had never appeared in Korea on an expansive scale before the artists were picked for the MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2021. Starting in 2014, Hyundai Motor has annually sponsored a solo exhibition by a leading Korean artist at the MMCA. The previous pick was Yang Haegue, an installation artist of international renown. As to why they chose to reinterpret the division of Korea through a unique civilian settlement within the DMZ, Jeon said, “This project has reflected the identity, history and pressing issues of local regions in each different country and city. We thought long and hard about what to do about Korea. We wanted to break from the cliché about a divided nation. But after all, it was a sort of duty that any Korean artist ought to fulfill. So we decided not to make it a simple ref lection of the political situation in Korea, but an immersive experience for visitors to help them think of the universal history of humankind.” “News from Nowhere – Freedom Village” revolves around huge back-to-back screens that show different videos. They help immerse viewers in the installation art, comprising lights, sounds and images appearing on the screens connecting with the exhibition space. On the screen, “A,” a man who longs for freedom (played by actor Park Jeong-min), roams around in the mountains, looking for wild plants to study. © CJY Art Studio BYPRODUCT OF CONFLICT “News from Nowhere – Freedom Village” refers to Daeseong-dong, the only civilian residential settlement on the southern side of the DMZ, the heavily fortified strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula separating the North and South. Everything about the village is atypical. Its name doesn’t ascribe to the usual rendition of topographic characteristics or legends, and despite being inside South Korean territory, the village is controlled by the UN Command. Under the Korean War armistice agreement of 1953, both sides of the war recognized Daesong-dong in the South and Kijong-dong in the North as the only civilian residential areas within the DMZ. Afterwards, the two villages were given new names: “Freedom Village” and “Peace Village,” respectively. But the benign monikers were outright misleading; the villages became emblems of Cold War vitriol. A still from “News from Nowhere – Freedom Village” shows “A,” an amateur botanist, making plant specimens. Having never ventured outside of his native village, he collects and studies plants. © MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho In the hope of making his existence known to the outside world, “A” flies balloons carrying his plant specimens. He thus begins communication with “B,” another young man who lives in the future, occupying a small, hightech facility. © MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho Yeongsanjae, or the Rites of Vulture Peak, which was placed on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage Currently, some 200 people in 49 households live in Freedom Village, surrounded by heavily armed troops and barbed wire fences due to its close proximity to North Korea. Private property is not allowed in the village. There’s a midnight curfew and roll calls are regularly held. The residents’ livelihood is mostly farming or raising livestock; commercial ventures don’t exist. Residents are afforded tax benefits and men are exempted from compulsory military service. If a female resident marries a non-villager, she must leave the village, but a male resident can stay if he marries an outsider. The two artists didn’t depict the village merely as a byproduct of the geopolitical situation of the Korean Peninsula. Rather, they used it as a symbol of a world molded by confrontation and conflict. Moon said, “At first, we were thinking of setting the project in an urban area with a more clear-cut identity. But we accepted Freedom Village as our keyword because it is an extremely unrealistic space for us, blurring the border between reality and fiction.” Jeon agreed, saying, “Perhaps for the last seven decades, the residents of this village have lived in a more disastrous situation than the pandemic we are currently in. In the present, when humanity is waging a war on COVID that has lasted for more than two years, the isolation of this village seems like the right keyword that can help us draw a universal consensus and look back on our own lives.” The result is a significant example of how South Korean artists are approaching the DMZ, going beyond the “easy path” of reiterating notions of ideological division and conflict. INFINITE LOOP The exhibition was an ambitious project, consisting of videos, installations, archives, photos, a huge painting and a mobile platform for affiliate programs. The centerpiece was two 15-minute videos shown on large, back-to-back screens. On the first screen, actor Park Jeong-min appeared as “A,” a 32-year-old amateur botanist and village native. “A” studies indigenous plants growing in the DMZ but has never ventured outside of his birthplace. To make his existence known to the outside world, “A” floats a balloon carrying plant specimens that he has collected and studied, along with notes about his daily life. The balloon lands near “B,” a man in his early 20s on the other screen. “B,” played by Jinyoung of boyband GOT7, is living in the future. He occupies a small, high-tech facility, occasionally glimpsing the outside. Startled and deeply puzzled, “B” scrutinizes the balloon for a few days before he finally musters the courage to remove its contents. Thereafter, he continuously receives balloons from “A,” persuading him to step outside of his facility. The spiritual link between the two young men turns out to have no endpoint, reminiscent of the infinite loop of time. Past these videos were photos of Freedom Village, provided by the National Archives of Korea with one proviso. “We were permitted to use images on condition that we would protect the anonymity of the people in the photos. So we obscured faces or superimposed new images on the originals by combining several different images together,” Moon explained. “Sometimes, we put face masks on those people’s faces through airbrushing technology, which resulted in a kind of masterstroke, as if it foretold the current pandemic situation.” In the last exhibition room, a snow-covered forest where “A” searched for plants was depicted in a huge landscape painting. Moon labored for more than six months on the canvas, which measures 2.92 meters by 4.25 meters. The hyper-realistic oil piece is so precise and elaborate that it could almost be mistaken for a photo. A quote from John Berger (1926 -2017), a British art critic, painter and poet, served as a thought-provoking epilogue for visitors. It read: “Sometimes a landscape seems to be less a setting for the life of its inhabitants than a curtain behind which their struggles, achievements and accidents take place. For those who are behind the curtain, landmarks are no longer only geographic but also biographical and personal.” “Mobile Agora,” a set of cube shaped, stainless steel objects placed outside the exhibition hall, can easily be disassembled and reassembled. It served as a venue for monthly discussions by experts in architecture, science, design and the humanities during the exhibition. “Landscape,” an oil and acrylic painting by Moon Kyung-won, measuring 292 x 425 cm, depicts a barren place where “A” roams. It recalls an area in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, adjoining the DMZ. The scenery resembles an image of Freedom Village provided by the National Archives of Korea. © CJY Art Studio Kim Mi-ri Reporter, The Chosun Ilbo Han Sang-moo Photographer

People

Convenience, with Heartfelt Care

An Ordinary Day 2022 SPRING 1102

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

Experiments with Sound and Visuals

In Love with Korea 2022 SPRING 1112

Experiments with Sound and Visuals What this young Frenchman does – or what his art is about – is not easy to explain. He says he has long been interested in “making disparate elements meet” by “integrating everything related to sound and the visual arts” or “gathering those two worlds together.” And he chose Korea as his studio. Growing up in Marseille, France, Rémi Klemensiewicz heard about Korea and its neighbors through his father, an art professor who often had exhibitions in Asia.By the time he entered the Marseille-Mediterranean School of Art and Design (ESADMM), Klemensiewicz was leaning toward Asia and Eastern philosophy. He befriended Korean students at the school and, at the invitation of one of them, made his maiden trip to Korea in 2009, bolstered by his self-taught Korean language skills.“That visit had a very strong effect on me. It felt like another world,” Klemensiewicz says. “I felt there were some things here that were perfectly coherent to me, and at the same time, totally different from what I was used to. And somehow those different things fit with me very well.”In the following years, Klemensiewicz spent all his school vacations in Korea. He found it difficult to articulate his motivation, but felt the trips were the “obvious” and “natural” thing to do. While studying the language and soaking up the culture, he experienced the experimental art scene in Seoul. He also discovered that Koreans were very receptive to his art ideas.One of his academic requirements was an internship abroad, so Klemensiewicz did a fourmonth stint at an art consulting firm in Seoul in 2011. This experience galvanized his resolve to make Korea his new home. After graduation, he told himself, “I have to go there, I have to spend time there, I want to do things there.” In 2013, he returned to stay.Klemensiewicz is often called a sound artist or intermedia artist, but his self-description is simply “an artist who is interested in sound.” He roams through two domains: experimental music and visual art combined with sound. “Sound is the central thing for me. What interests me most is making these two domains meet,” he says. The results vary in expression. One week he might be performing a concert, the next week showing off his latest “sound sculptures” or exhibit installations, with additional time spent composing and performing in collaboration with a choreographer. SOUND (OR NO SOUND)Paradoxically, some of his works have no audible sound. Many feature broken speakers, such as “Speaker Flag, Broken Flag,” which is a speaker set inside the Korean flag. “For Interpreters” is a video that uses sign language, leaving viewers to imagine the sound. It plays on the idea of “representing sound without sound.”Over the years, Klemensiewicz has exhibited and performed at major venues such as the Nam June Paik Art Center in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, the National Hangeul Museum and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. But he likes to work in small, experimental spaces in the Hongik University area, where he started out and still lives.One of his first projects in Korea was “Takeout Drawing,” a residency in 2014 at a café of the same name in Itaewon, Seoul. Every day for two months, he performed either an impromptu solo concert, a formal concert with guest performers, or oftentimes just a rehearsal. The lack of structure befuddled some customers. “What was interesting for me was playing with the line between a proper concert and a rehearsal – an ambiguous situation where no one knew what was happening,” he says. Born in Marseille, France, and living in Seoul since 2013, Rémi Klemensiewicz is known as a sound artist or intermedia artist. He explores ways to bring together the worlds of sound and visuals, and analyzes the difference between existence and interpretation, moving freely between exhibitions, live performances and stage music. ENIGMASKlemensiewicz seemingly enjoys paradoxes and ambiguity, which not only inform his work but are the very qualities of the Korean language and culture that intrigue him. For example, the use of honorifics in Korean is generally considered a way to maintain a proper social distance between individuals. But Klemensiewicz feels there is more nuance present.“When I’m around students and their teachers, I can notice the students’ respectful behavior not only in their words but also in their movements and other subtle things,” he says. “But despite the strict rules, there’s an almost family-like relationship between them. This is contrary to what I felt in France. We would use first names with our teachers and talk like friends, but I seldom felt close to them.”He also finds a paradox in the exterior appearances of his homeland and Korea. Although Paris and other places around France impress visitors with their beauty, Klemensiewicz feels tradition and spirituality have been lost. He finds Korea to be the opposite. “When I first arrived here, I saw so many chaotic buildings. But despite the visual chaos, I felt there was order in people’s minds,” he says. “If I compare the two countries, in France I feel there is order on the outside and chaos within. In Korea, there is chaos on the surface and order inside, and there’s a connection with tradition and the past.”Such discoveries beguile and stimulate him and keep him in Korea. For visa reasons, however, he had to spend much of the pandemic period in France. While there, he stayed in the countryside, and when he returned to Seoul recently, he realized anew how its concrete and natural features intricately overlap. Subway lines transport riders to the foot of surrounding mountains and a bike path parallels the Han River with huge apartment complexes looming a stone’s throw away. “To me, this is crazy,” he says, laughing. Klemensiewicz performs “Handmixer,” a part of the Contemporary NonMusic Vol. 11 Series, on November 19, 2019 at Donquixote, an art space in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province. © Artspace Donquixote LIVELIHOODWhile spending much of the COVID period in the French countryside, he used the downtime to make online Korean language lessons for French YouTube users. What started out as a diversion suggested by a friend turned into a serious endeavor. He eventually spent months planning and writing lessons, with a long introduction to Hangeul, the Korean alphabet.The tutorials are based on his own experience. An artist working with sound, Klemensiewicz recognizes most of his works have no commercial potential. Language lessons – French to Koreans and vice versa – have enabled him to ignore suggestions that he should find a regular job.Klemensiewicz says teaching is for balance, but he ultimately likes to experiment with language. Besides, he admires the visual qualities of Hangeul and has incorporated them into his work. “Sound Word Series,” presented at the Nam June Paik Art Center in 2018, features Hangeul words composed of speakers and cables. As part of the exhibition, he held performances in a cage with guest musicians; together they improvised using only four notes – C, A, G, E.Teaching art classes has also provided Klemensiewicz some stability while opening up new possibilities. He started with art workshops for middle-school students at the Nam June Paik Art Center and now has regular classes at Hello Museum in Seongsu-dong, Seoul, where he teaches children about sound and visuals. Teaching a course in “sound design” at PaTI (Paju Typography Institute) also led to his next project, a collaborative work with the Korea Contemporary Dance Company. “Interpreted Masks,” presented by Klemensiewicz at the exhibition “Project Hope?” held October 12-28, 2017 at Post Territory Ujeongguk, a cultural complex in Seoul. It consists of paper masks, speakers, cables and sound. © Rémi Klemensiewicz PROGRESSAlthough Klemensiewicz’s work is difficult to define, there is one constant: everything he sees and hears somehow seeps into his art. Against that backdrop, his almost instinctive attraction to Korea, which is constantly in motion, is easier to understand.When he first arrived, he had a honeymoon period, which is typical. “I could sleep on the floor and be happy. I could eat jjajangmyeon everyday and be happy. It could rain everyday and I would still be happy,” he recalls. As time passed, he started to be bothered by what he calls the “rhythms of work,” or the difficulty separating work from his private life. But he admits that he isn’t very good at separating work from leisure anyway because, the way he sees it, art is related to everything. “Besides, when I’m doing an exhibition or concert, I love doing it so much that I don’t really consider it as work.”After nine years in Korea, Klemensiewicz’s life so far seems to resemble an experimental artwork in the making, with an emphasis on the process in the spirit of the Fluxus artists who have influenced him. It’s no surprise, then, that he is currently submerged in an exchange project with choreographer Ro Kyung-ae and his alma mater in France. It requires him to create and perform music for dancers who cannot hear.

Storylines Enhanced Through Set Designs

Interview 2022 SPRING 1147

Storylines Enhanced Through Set Designs In “Squid Game,” the runaway Netflix hit, the brutality of surviving at all costs was rendered all the more visceral by a backdrop befitting a children’s storybook. We caught up with art director Chae Kyoung-sun, the mind behind the set design, at an underwater filming studio in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province. “Squid Game” was the most-watched Netflix show for 46 days, drawing the viewership of 142 million households after its debut last September. Theories abound on why it was so immensely popular worldwide on the streaming platform. One certainty is that the spectacular and refreshing – and at times surreal – set designs played a big role. Unlike the backdrops of most movies and TV shows, “Squid Game” did not stress realism. It aimed for a blend of reality and fantasy using a bold and limited palette. The result was a striking example of how production design can seamlessly compliment a storyline and characters. Art director Chae Kyoung-sun, who majored in stage design at Sangmyung University’s Department of Theater and Film, made her debut in 2010 with “Come, Closer,” a film about five couples, directed by Kim Jong-kwan. “Silenced,” from director Hwang Dong-hyuk, followed the year after, and then two more of Hwang’s movies: “Miss Granny” (2014) and “The Fortress” (2017). “Squid Game” was the first original series in Chae’s recurring collaboration with Hwang. Her other film projects include “Hwayi: A Monster Boy” (2013) with director Jang Joon-hwan, “The Royal Tailor” (2014) with director Lee Won-suk and “EXIT” (2019) with director Lee Sang-geun. In each production, Chae was credited for creating exactly the right kind of space necessary to open up the narrative at hand. Art director Chae Kyoung-sun poses at a special aquatic set for her next project, the Disney Plus original series “Moving,” in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province. As the art director of “Squid Game,” Chae’s stature soared when the Netflix mega-hit series became an international sensation. She says she feels incredibly lucky for the financial support and creative freedom she has been able to enjoy. “Squid Game” is a far cry from director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s previous works. What was the challenge?Since the spaces we were creating weren’t strictly realistic, I did expect the set design to be quite polarizing for audiences. I figured there would be fairly strong negative reactions, as well, so I tried to prepare myself for that – but luckily, many have reacted positively. It’s not often that an art director gets the chance to try something truly new. We had a generous budget, too, so I was able to fully realize the designs I had in my mind. Getting to be a part of this project was a huge stroke of luck, all around. What were the rules you agreed upon with Hwang?Broadly, it came down to three things. First, let’s not make the world look too dark. Second, let’s imbue the backdrop for each game with a distinct feel all its own. That was important to heighten the fear and confusion of the characters, who had no idea, entering each space, what the game was going to be. At the same time, we wanted the audience to wonder what kind of game was going to take place next, in what kind of space. And last, let’s be bold with color. Compared to Hollywood movies, Korean movies tend to be somewhat conservative in their use of color. We wanted to cast off those limitations and just be really bold with our colors. Though, actually, I will say that recently, as Korean movies have started branching out into new genres like science fiction, the spectrum of colors we tend to see has definitely started to expand. What were the rules you agreed upon with Hwang?Broadly, it came down to three things. First, let’s not make the world look too dark. Second, let’s imbue the backdrop for each game with a distinct feel all its own. That was important to heighten the fear and confusion of the characters, who had no idea, entering each space, what the game was going to be. At the same time, we wanted the audience to wonder what kind of game was going to take place next, in what kind of space. And last, let’s be bold with color. Compared to Hollywood movies, Korean movies tend to be somewhat conservative in their use of color. We wanted to cast off those limitations and just be really bold with our colors. Though, actually, I will say that recently, as Korean movies have started branching out into new genres like science fiction, the spectrum of colors we tend to see has definitely started to expand. What were the criteria for the colors?Initially we considered using mint and pink as our two main colors – retro shades, really, that represent the 1970s and 1980s. In response to that, our costume designer, Cho Sang-kyung, was like, “Let’s go big and use pink for all the guard uniforms!” And then we turned up the saturation on the gym uniforms for the players themselves, and went with a deep green. In this series, pink stands for oppression and violence, while green symbolizes persecution and losers. So, we had the players move through structures surrounded by pink ceilings and walls, and had the guards return to dormitories that were painted in greens. We used the colors to set the worldview and rules of the story. ”Squid Game” players move through a maze of stairs. The juxtaposition of brutal survival games against a backdrop of childlike visuals and pastel hues effectively captures the paradoxical nature of capitalist society. This particular set was inspired by the work of Dutch artist M. C. Escher.© Netflix What about the first game, “Red Light, Green Light”?Well, the concept of that game boils down to “real versus fake.” In that space, the blue sky above and the wall behind the Young-hee doll are fake, but if you don’t get through the game, you really die. We took some of our cues there from the paintings of René Magritte and tried to make a space that would be confusing for the players inside the game as well as the viewers watching at home. Meanwhile, the idea to have the higher-ups watching it all unfold was influenced by the 1998 comedy movie “The Truman Show.” How was the giant doll made?The doll was produced by the special effects team, Gepetto. It’s 10 meters tall, and so they transported it in two pieces: the top half and the bottom half. Originally, Hwang wanted the art team to make 10 different Young-hee dolls, but we didn’t have the budget for that. Also, in the script, the doll was supposed to rise up from underground, but that got changed during filming. The arena for the first contest, “Red Light, Green Light,” looked to Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. Reality and fantasy combined to create confusion. The 10-meter-tall Young-hee doll, an audience favorite, was produced by Gepetto, a special effects team.© Netflix Green and pink, employed throughout the episodes of “Squid Game,” symbolize persecution/losers and oppression/violence, respectively.© Netflix Were the marble game alleys very difficult?Yes, that web of alleyways was one of the hardest sets. This was another space where the fake and the real existed side by side. The director wanted us to make a sunset and a space in which you could smell dinner cooking. He told us about how his mother would call out to him in the evening and how he could smell dinner cooking as he approached his home. Except for grandpa Oh Il-Nam’s house, all the other houses were designed basically as a series of front doors. We wanted many doors, but if you tried to enter, you’d be turned away, like, “This isn’t your home, so you’re not welcome here.” We made the front doors look real with props like door plates and coal briquettes and potted plants, and also created a pattern with them – coal briquettes near the losers and potted plants near the winners. In this and in previous projects, how do you reach for emotional impact?My approach is different for every project. On the most basic level, an art director’s job is to take the story and the characters the director wants to present and make it all richer. The art can’t stand out too much; it has to feel natural. That’s why I’m always working to better understand the script, trying to get even deeper into it than the directors themselves. What about “The Fortress,” based on a real historical event?We wanted it to be the most thoroughly researched and accurate period film about Korean history that had ever been made, so we really gave it everything we had. The snow, the cold and the isolated fortress itself, surrounded on all sides by the enemy – we worked hard to bring it all to life. “The Royal Tailor” came before that. Did it influence you during “The Fortress”?The main set for that film was the space where they made the clothes for the royal court, so I spent a lot of time thinking through how to represent that visually, and how to use that space to best render the various characters. It’s a shame that it didn’t do very well at the box office. “The Fortress” depicts 47 days in Namhan Mountain Fortress as the king and his officials seek refuge from Qing invaders in 1636. Through extensive historical research, art director Chae Kyoung-sun successfully blended the snow, the cold and hardship of the winter siege.© CJ ENM What about “Silenced,” set in a school for the deaf where dark things happen?That movie had a shoestring budget, so we were limited in what we could try and do. The only new sets we built from scratch were the principal’s office and the courtroom. Fog was actually really important in that film, and so we went with shades of gray for all the main spaces, and even the props and hallways. As the story unfolded, it was important to suppress color rather than enhance it. The one exception was the human rights center where the protagonist, played by actress Jung Yu-mi, had her office; there, we went a little warmer by throwing in some olive tones. That project was about dialing back my own instinct for more, as an art director, and just sticking as close to the bare bones of the story as possible. The scenery in “EXIT” was distinctly Korean.At first, I thought of it as a kind of classic, Hollywood-style disaster movie. But as I talked more with the director, Lee Sang-geun, I realized that figuring out a way to express a distinctly “Korean space” was actually crucial. I visited countless rooftops all across the country, researching their various characteristics. There was one scene in particular, where the male and female leads run as fast as they possibly can to take this great leap over a pedestrian overpass. The two buildings that are visible on either side are key. I’m very happy with how that turned out, even though it’s only on screen for a second, really. This was a case where the director really listened to the art department, and the art department, in turn, used a lot of the director’s ideas. It was a very collaborative movie, very fun to work on. In this scene, Minister of Rites Kim Sang-heon (played by Kim Yun-seok) crosses a frozen river on his way to the stronghold.© CJ ENM Two principal characters in “The Fortress” are polar opposites in their ideologies, a deep contrast reflected in their costumes. Minister of Personnel Choi Myung-gil (played by Lee Byung-hun) pleads for surrender to protect the kingdom and its people, while Kim Sang-heon argues for taking a final stand against the invaders.© CJ ENM What about your current project, “Moving”?It’s a Disney Plus original series by director Park In-jae. I’m afraid I can’t share any details about it before the official release, but I can say that it’s the first live-action adaptation of the popular eponymous webtoon series by Kang Full. It’s been a new and exciting challenge for me because the story spans over 30 years, from the 1980s to 2018. Born fashionista Lee Gong-jin (played by Go Soo) watches the needlework of Cho Dol-seok (played by Han Seok-kyu), tailor to the royal court for some 30 years. Director Lee Won-suk’s “The Royal Tailor” (2014) is set in the Joseon Dynasty, showcasing gorgeous palace costumes and interiors.© WOWPLANET KOREA

My Space, Our Space

Lifestyle 2022 SPRING 1121

My Space, Our Space For a mounting number of Koreans, leaving home to work in a traditional office setting is no longer the daily routine. At any hour of the day, many now head for coworking places, where they share space with other individuals whom they may not even know. A global pandemic, as well as the digital age and pursuit of cost efficiency, has boosted the adoption of these shared spaces. “I commuted to work in another area of Seoul over the past year. But I decided to rent a shared office space in this new building because it’s closer to my home.” “It’s really convenient because the office is just a one-minute walk from the subway station, and we can use a seminar room and lounge.” “It was good for us to decide to move here because we can have a working environment, as if we were in a large company.”Judging by comments on Korean online communities, the use of coworking spaces – working spaces located outside a traditional office setting – has overwhelming approval. What started and gathered steam before the COVID pandemic has seemingly pushed ahead past the point of no return for many companies and office workers.Coworking is categorized as the use of shared workspaces and offices. These differ from the no-frills open workspaces that anyone can use.Shared workspaces may have meeting rooms, a lounge area and kitchenettes. A shared office typically involves a company with spare offices renting those spaces to unrelated companies or collaborating with a coworking operator to find tenants. Coworking became increasingly popular after the global recession of 2008-2009, when the concept of a sharing economy of goods and services emerged. The concept morphed to allow individuals, small groups and startups to share vacant office spaces at a fraction of the cost of having their own exclusive spaces. Nowadays, operators of shared workspaces compete fiercely. They rent floors of high-rise buildings, partition the spaces and push hard for renters, touting special discounts or premium workspace environments. Many users are individuals who don’t need a permanent office, such as digital nomads, consultants, freelancers or solopreneurs. They may not want to work from home every day or may simply feel more productive in a professional environment. Being in a shared workspace also affords the opportunity to network, forming new business connections and building synergy working alongside like-minded people. Most shared offices have enclosed rooms and an area with unassigned tables. The atmosphere is cozy like a café, but without the bustle. The lack of distraction and noise helps users focus on their tasks.© FASTFIVE FIVESPOT Hapjeong RACE FOR SPACEIn Korea, coworking spaces began growing rapidly in the mid-2010s. The acceleration was propelled by FastFive, Korea’s first coworking space operator, founded in 2015, and Spark Plus, another domestic operator established in 2016. In addition, WeWork, a U.S. coworking space operator, opened its first branch in Korea in 2016.With public attention heightened, the number of shared workspaces in Seoul soared from a mere 20 in 2010 to more than 100 in 2016 and up to 220 in July 2019. Major business districts such as Gangnam have experienced the boom. Corporations moving partly or entirely from these districts to the suburbs create a tempting supply of empty spaces near urban transportation hubs. In fact, the corporations themselves may abandon their traditional office setting altogether and opt for a less expensive shared office space arrangement.The total area of all shared workspaces in the capital increased from 50,000 sq. meters to a whopping 600,000 sq. meters during the same period, according to the research institute of KB Financial Group. FastFive’s website reported 38 branches across the country as of December 2021, and a total of 13,290 firms, ranging from startups to conglomerates, using its coworking space services. The company also expects that nearly 90 percent of its customers will renew their contracts. A space in a shared office can be rented on a monthly basis. The set-up is so simple and convenient that customers can begin using their rented space immediately. When the contract expires, renewal is easy, with adjustments as needed. © FASTFIVE Sinsa EVERYDAY LOW PRICEBy far, the affordability of sharing a workspace or office is the main driver for users. Small businesses and startups especially benefit. They can avoid burning through cash, buying furniture and office equipment, and can move easily if they outgrow their space.Naturally, operators of coworking spaces emphasize cost savings. On its website, FastFive tries to attract the attention of potential users by claiming, “We guarantee that you can reduce your initial investment costs and fixed expenses. Even if your firm is small, you can have an office in a high-rise building near a subway station.”Flexible office spaces or lease terms are also major contributing factors in the surging popularity of coworking spaces. Leases are available on a minimum monthly basis. This allows for an easy move to a larger or smaller space without being tied down to long-term contracts and hefty rent deposits.Users of coworking spaces ty pically have 24-hour access to their rented area, another significant boon for companies that adopt flexible work arrangements. Some work-from-home or work-from-anywhere employees may prove to be less productive when seated at their home kitchen table. A coworking space gives them a better chance to thrive. Several factors determine the rental price, including the number of users and the number of tables needed and whether the rented space has a window. But in most cases, essential office supplies, printing, coffee and snacks are included in the price. © WEWORK KOREA OUTLOOKThe coronavirus pandemic intensified the movement toward coworking spaces around the world.Korea is no exception. It is hard to imagine the work environment will return to pre-pandemic levels when legions of office workers commuted to and from work at fixed hours. More and more companies have adopted flexible work schedules, helping working parents and tapping into the time slots when individual employees are most productive. The internet has without doubt transformed the business world dramatically. Today, a little capital, a great idea and internet access are all that is needed to start a one-person company or a startup with a small group of cohorts. Coworking spaces help these ventures avoid the headache of searching for an affordable location and the costs of setting it up. Even established companies can take advantage of the new paradigm.A marketing firm, for example, doesn’t need its digital marketing team members at fixed desks. They can work from home and meet at a workspace, which allows the company to scale down while boosting profits. Less certain is the business model of coworking space operators. Ironically, they are tied down to the very arrangements that they help their customers avoid. They must fill the space that they have either leased on long-term contracts or purchased outright. Yet the fierce competition in the market keeps rental prices low and short-term contracts mean their monthly revenue may be uneven. Meanwhile, more must be spent on services and perks for renters to avoid steady flight and attract new customers.Operators will have to find the proper formula for their business. Should they aim for maximum daily occupancy by individuals, foregoing dedicated desks? Or should they offer a fully furnished communal arrangement that encourages small-group collaboration?

Dishing Up Bite-size Memories

An Ordinary Day 2021 WINTER 1741

Dishing Up Bite-size Memories Tteokbokki, simply put, is the soul food of Korean cuisine. Slight variations may reflect tastes of a certain region or era, but this humble dish never wavers as a go-to snack. At Galhyeon Market Grandma Tteokbokki, her acclaimed shop in northwestern Seoul, Kim Jin-sook carries on a 40-year tradition, bringing the signature taste of a secret family recipe to loyal customers day after day. To be Korean is to have at least one formative memory that involves tteokbokki. The mouth-watering smell of rice cakes smothered in a piquant sauce always seemed to lace the alleyway between home and school;this is a siren call not easily forgotten, no matter how many years have passed.The first written record of tteokbokki appeared in Siui jeonseo (“Compendium of Proper Cookery”), a Joseon Dynasty cookbook compiled in the late 19th century. It described a “royal court dish made by stir-frying plain white rice cakes with beef sirloin, sesame oil, soy sauce, scallion and mushrooms.”The most common tteokbokki today is made with gochujang (red pepper paste), not soy sauce. Street food vendor Ma Bok-rim (1920-2011) is known as the godmother of this version, transforming a food originally identified with royalty and high-quality ingredients into an inexpensive favorite of the masses.In 1953, shortly after the Korean War ended, Ma visited a new Chinese restaurant with some guests. In observance of the opening, each table received celebratory tteok (rice cake). After Ma accidentally dropped a piece of the tteok in her bowl of jjajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce), she found the result to be shockingly delicious. At home, she experimented with gochujang, which cost less than Chinese black bean paste, and soon opened a shop in Sindang-dong, then on the eastern outskirts of Seoul. Thus, today’s standard tteokbokki was born – and so was a famed tteokbokki hotspot.By 1970, tteokbokki was firmly established as a popular snack among Koreans. At the time, snack stands that catered to tweens and teens were all the rage, with some even hiring DJs who would play customers’ requests. Listening to one’s favorite song on the way home from school while sharing tteokbokki with friends became a fond pastime of an entire generation of youth.In the 1980s, Kim Jin-sook’s mother-in-law, Jin Yang-geun, then in her m id- 4 0s, bega n sel l i ng t teokbok k i from a market stall in the Galhyeondong neig hborhood of Seou l’s Eun- pyeong District. The stall didn’t even have a sign, but three girls’ high schools nearby ensured a robust lunch crowd. FAMILY’S LIVELIHOODKim and other family members began to work part time at the stall when Jin’s hip surgery meant she could no longer work. Eventually, Kim decided to ladle tteokbokki full time. She admits now that she didn’t realize what the commitment would entail.A large-scale urban renewal program led to the demolition of the Galhyeon Market in 2015. But Kim and her husband, Kim Wan-yong, kept their tteokbokki business alive, opening a new shop in the same spot as the former stall. The name of the shop: “Galhyeon Market Grandma Tteokbokki.”“ She was a l ready over 80 at the time, but my mother-in-law never really liked being called ‘Grandma,’” Kim laughs. “The menu is exactly the way it was at her stall in the market: tteokbokki, sundae (blood sausage), two types of dumplings, boiled eggs and seaweed rolls.”Jin Yang-geun’s basic tteokbok ki recipe is still used, but the proportions of the sauce have changed slightly to shave the edge off a tiny bit and soften the flavor all around. The result is less sweet, less salty and less spicy. Kim puts a lot of effort into selecting her ingredients, always keeping health and sanitation in mind. Her unwavering consistency and devotion pay annual dividends: the shop is a perennial on any list of Seoul’s best tteokbokki spots. Kim Jin-sook and her husband, Kim Wan-yong, owners of Galhyeon Market Grandma’s Tteokbokki in the Galhyeon neighborhood of Seoul’s Enpyeong District, spend their day on the exact spot where Mr. Kim’s mother opened a food stall to serve the bite-size rice cakes smothered in a savory sauce some 40 years ago. PERENNIAL HOTSPOT Galhyeon Market Grandma’s Tteokbokki is particularly beloved by diehard tteokbokki fans for the long-term consistency of the Kims’ signature flavor. The sauce they use was invented in the 1980s by Ms. Kim’s mother-in-law. The recipe is a carefully guarded secret. Kim’s husband arrives at the shop at 7 a.m. In the first hour, he sets up all the necessary utensils, which were cleaned the night before. Then he puts the water on as he steams the sundae, boils the eggs and makes all the other necessary preparations.“The wheat flour tteok for tteokbokki is all clumped together, and separating those pieces, one at a time – that’s hard work,” Kim explains. “You can get tteok that comes separate, but it doesn’t taste as good. Separating by hand means another step for us, but a tastier product for our customers. One box of tteok comes to 324 separate pieces, and we sell about 10 boxes a day.”Once the two hours of prep are over and 9 o’clock rolls around, the shop opens for business. Kim comes to work around 10 a.m. Husband and wife don’t follow any strict division of labor, as both have to be able to do everything in case the other is away.The most important step in the recipe is the “initial boil.” Each piece of tteok, separated by hand, is briefly blanched in boiling water before being deposited into the actual cooking pan. If this step isn’t completed properly, the tteok can become mushy and formless, or tough. The key is being able to sense the state of that day’s fresh tteok, which is invariably slightly different from the days before and after, and adjusting the heat and timing accordingly.“People often joke about quitting their office job and setting up a tteokbokki stand, but this line of work actually requires a lot more care and attention than they realize,” Kim says.The secret to t teokbokki that is tasty enough to draw an endless line of customers is in the sauce – specifically, the ratio of ingredients, the level of heat and the exact cooking time. It doesn’t matter how good the ingredients are if the ratio, temperature or timing isn’t precise. Jin Yang-geun created the process and the sauce with 10 ingredients.All of this is now the family’s precious trade secret. After a long-delayed price increase, one serving of tteokbokki is 3,500 won these days. “When the minimum wage goes up each year, that’s reflected in an uptick in the price of every ingredient, which means we’re forced to raise our prices a bit, too,” Kim says. “But at the same time, because most people eat tteokbokki as a snack rather than a proper meal, it’s not easy to pull off. We worried and debated about it constantly for six and a half years before we finally raised our prices by 500 won in April of this year.”Kim calls a single serving of tteokbokki a “rubber band.” This is because even though one serving is supposed to be 17 or 18 pieces of tteok mixed with fish cake, she always ends up scooping on a little extra if the customer is a student or a laborer.At less than 10 pyeong (33 sq. meters), the shop is quite cozy, though it’s been a full year since customers have eaten inside due to COVID-19. In one corner sits an electric rice cooker and an induction stove top; this is where the couple makes breakfast and lunch for themselves. The shop closes around 8 p.m. and by the time the couple cleans everything and returns home, it’s usually 10 p.m.“We take one day off a week, on Mondays. In all the years since we opened shop, we’ve ta ken a total of three days off that weren’t Mondays. One was the day after I had surgery, one was the day our son entered his military service, and one was the day he finished it,” Kim explains. The secret to tteokbokki that is tasty enough to draw an endless line of customers is in the sauce – specifically, the ratio of ingredients, the level of heat and the exact cooking time. Made by blanching plain white tteok in boiling water and then combining it with various vegetables and fish cake in a gochujang sauce, tteokbokki is nothing more or less than “soul food” for Koreans of all ages and backgrounds. PROMISE TO CUSTOMERS“There are times we want to take more time off, of course, but these hours are a promise we’ve made to our customers. And it’s not just folks from the neighborhood who come, you see. We get people from all over the country, going out of their way to come eat our tteokbokki, and I would hate for them to be disappointed. Besides, our days off aren’t that different anyway. I handle the house chores that need handling and go to the hospital to get treated for my carpal tunnel syndrome. An occupational disease.”Most of their customers are warm and friendly. Some have been known to drop by with cold drinks when the weather gets hot, for the Kims to have as they work, and others even bring them extra vegetables from their garden. “There are people who remember my mother-in-law from years ago and bring their children by for a visit, or even come by in a group after an elementar y school reunion. Those are customers who come to feast on memories rather than tteokbokki. Seeing customers like that reminds me of warmth, kindness and ways of spreading goodwill. I’ll find myself thinking, this is what living in the world is really about.”That’s what makes Kim feel so wistful about the fact that the shop will eventually disappear one day. The plan is to keep the place going for another 10 years, then shutter it for good. She doesn’t want to pass down such a challenging business to her two children. Though, of course, that may probably change in case, after trying other lines of work following their own dreams, either of them finally decides to carry on their family business of filling bellies, creating memories and warming hearts.

Review

‘Lemon’

Books & more 2022 SPRING 1100

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

In Search of a Lost Name

Art Review 2022 SPRING 1090

In Search of a Lost Name Choi Wook-kyung (1940-1985) was a prominent abstract painter who embraced new international art trends. An extensive retrospective titled “Wook-kyung Choi, Alice’s Cat” was held from October 27, 2021 to February 13, 2022 at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) in Gwacheon. To most people today, Choi Wook-kyung is not a familiar name. Like Park Re-hyun (1920-1976), for whom the MMCA held a large-scale posthumous retrospective on the the centennial of her birth, it seemed that Choi’s name would be forgotten soon after her sudden death – a consequence of art history being written mostly from the male perspective. Revisiting the trajectory of Choi’s life as she vigorously built her identity in art and literature from the 1960s to the 1980s, traveling back and forth between Korea and America, is tantamount to filling a void in Korean women’s art history and, eventually, rewriting Korean art history itself. “Tightrope Walking” 1977. Acrylic on canvas. 225 × 195 cm. Leeum Museum of Art.Choi Wook-kyung’s paintings from the mid- and late 1970s are characterized by the vibrancy created from the mixture of organic shapes resembling flowers, mountains, birds and animals.Courtesy of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art   “Martha Graham” 1976. Pencil on paper. 102 × 255 cm. Private collection.A large pencil drawing inspired by the performance of American contemporary dancer Martha Graham. The white shape with wings stretched out as if dancing, or flying, has a lofty, epic feeling. To a Bigger World The exhibition comprised three themes arranged in chronological order, with an epilogue featuring portraits and archival material shedding light on the artist’s world. In the last section, visitors found the “college prep art” that Choi learned while attending Seoul Arts High School. Her paintings from those early years did not show her individual style so much as the conventional techniques handed down from the colonial period. As a Western painting major at Seoul National University, she submitted her artworks in competitions and received prizes, which brought her to the attention of the art circle. But until she went to study in America, her work most probably remained an extension of the art education she had received to get into university.Choi had taken private lessons from famous painters from her middle school days. The training method in those days was largely in line with the customs of patriarchal hierarchy, so she was likely required to follow the styles of her teachers. In an interview with the Korea Herald in 1978, she pointed out the fundamental differences between American and Korean art education, saying that the former respected the identity of individual artists’ works.The MMCA retrospective included a poem titled “An Old Story that My Mother Told Me,” which Choi wrote in 1972. In the poem, she meets a wolf in the woods and walks hand in hand with it as friends would, although her mother had told her never to look a wolf in the eye if she ever came across one, never to answer back if spoken to, and to refuse if invited for a walk. By saying that she held hands with a wolf, she probably indicated her determination to break the taboos of her familiar world and move on to a bigger world. In 1963, her life abroad began at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, a small city in Oakland County, Michigan, United States, where she experienced big changes in her work and life. Exploring Her Identity The first section of the exhibition, “To America as Wonderland (1963-1970),” shed light on Choi’s life as a student at Cranbrook and then as an assistant professor at Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire. The 1960s in the United States was a period of transition from Abstract Expressionism to Post-painterly Abstraction. Studying under Professor Donald Willett (1928-1985), whose style reflected this era of change, Choi worked on abstract paintings marked by strong brushwork and colors. Her exposure at the Cranbrook Art Museum to the works of Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock greatly helped to increase her understanding of contemporary art.After graduating from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1965, she attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School in New York for one year, and then in the summer of 1996, participated in the residency program at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in Maine. During this period, Choi came into contact with the diverse styles and media of the East Coast, including figurative art, graphic art, print and Pop Art. Under their influence, she glued torn pieces of newspaper to her canvas, juxtaposing them with the colored surface, or coloring over magazine images. Through these methods, she attempted to express her reaction to the modernism of Neo-Dada and Pop Art.As indicated by “A lice’s Cat” and “Wonderland” constituting the titles of the exhibition, a significant part of Choi’s art world is dedicated to Lewis Carroll’s novel, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865). In 1965, when many related books were published to celebrate the novel’s centennial, Choi painted “A lice, Fragment of Memory.” “Like Unfamiliar Faces,” her poetry book published in 1972, included a poem titled “Alice’s Cat.” Curator Jeon Yu-shin, who directed the MMCA retrospective, explained it as a metaphor for a “foreign woman from Asia.” Confused about her own cultural identity, Choi could easily empathize with Alice’s story. Exploring her identity through such works as “Fate” (1966), “In Peace” (1968) and “Who Is the Winner in This Bloody Battle?” (1968), in which she spoke up against racial discrimination and war, Choi gradually adapted to American society.The second section of the exhibition, “Korea and America, In Between Dream and Reality (1971-1978),” looked back on the period when Choi traveled back and forth between America and Korea, working in both countries. She returned to Seoul in 1971 and stayed until 1974, during which time she held two solo exhibitions and submitted three installation works, including “Curiosity” (1972), to the Independent, a competition to select artists for the Paris Biennale. It seems those works intentionally followed the trends of the times. At the same time, she was also interested in dancheong (decorative paintwork on wooden buildings), minhwa (folk paintings) and calligraphy, and experimented with different styles accommodating these traditional visual arts. “Alice, Fragment of Memory” 1965. Acrylic on canvas. 63 × 51 cm. Property of the artist’s family.As an Asian woman searching for her artistic identity in America in the 1960s, Choi found Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” to be a source of inspiration. This is known to be her first work on the theme of Alice. “Untitled” 1966. Acrylic on paper. 42.5 × 57.5 cm. Leeum Museum of Art.While studying in the U.S., Choi painted many self-portraits exploring her true inner self. She tried to overcome her perceived limitations as an Asian woman. Her Own WorldIn 1976-1977, Choi joined the residency program at New Mexico’s Roswell Museum & Art Center. These years were another inf lection point in her life, affecting significant changes in her work. She focused on large paintings, vividly expressing organic shapes resembling mountains, birds and animals, as seen in “Collaged Time” (1976) and “Joy” (1977). Inspired by the exotic landscape of New Mexico, she mixed in surreal dream scenes from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” to develop her own painterly rhetoric. Then, back in Korea again, she held a touring exhibition titled “Impressions of New Mexico (1978-1979),” which drew critical comments about “being American.” By that time, however, Choi was headed to her own world – one that defied such a simple definition. “Mt. Gyeongsan” 1981. Acrylic on canvas. 80 × 177 cm. Private collection. “Mountains Floating Like Islands” 1984. Acrylic on canvas. 73.5 × 99 cm. Private collection.Choi returned to Korea in 1979 and taught at Yeungnam University in Daegu. She was drawn to the natural scenery of the Gyeongsang provinces and contemplated the forms of mountains and islands. Choi poses in her studio in this photo taken in the early 1980s. Born in Seoul in 1940, she studied painting at Seoul National University and then the Cranbrook Academy of Arts in the U.S., where art was in transition from Abstract Expressionism to Post-painterly Abstraction. She experienced the change first-hand and vigorously explored her artistic identity.Courtesy of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art The third section, “To the Mountains and Islands of Korea and the Home of Choi’s Painting (1979-1985),” showcased her works from the years she taught at Yeungnam University in Daegu and Duksung Women’s University in Seoul after returning to Korea in 1979, where she would remain until her death in 1985. Her days at Yeungnam University brought about yet more changes in her art. She painted “Mt. Gyeongsan” (1981) and “Mountains Floating Like Islands” (1984), inspired by the mountains and seas of the Gyeongsang provinces. The mid-tone colors and restrained lines and compositions give the impression that Choi was no longer confused but peacefully settled in “Wonderland.” She studied the forms of mountains and islands, and her deepening interest in the shapes and order of flower petals as well as intense colors led her to paint works like “Red Flower” (1984).   “Wook-kyung Choi, Alice’s Cat,” a large-scale retrospective at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, held from October 27, 2021 to February 13, 2022, shed light on Choi Wook-kyung, an outstanding abstract painter who was active from the 1960s to the mid-1980s. © Gian Lost Name In her poem “My Name Is,” Choi calls herself a scared child with big eyes when she was little, a mute child who lost her voice among unfamiliar faces when she studied abroad, a child who lost her way chasing rainbows when she was finally adapting to her American life, and a nameless child who lost her name after she returned to Korea.To find her name, it seems that she constantly strived to form herself in poetry and paintings. But this wasn’t easy. During the 1970s and 1980s when she was most active, the mainstream trend in Korea was monochrome painting, which shared the style of Post-painterly Abstraction. Art historian Choi Yeol said that Choi Wook-kyung had fully assimilated Abstract Expressionism, but the Korean art circle belittled it as something passé. She must also have been confounded by the male chauvinism in the art community, which referred to Lee Krasner as “Mrs. Jackson Pollock.” There is no knowing what took the heaviest toll on her, but in 1985 she died in her mid-forties. In 2021, the Pompidou Center in Paris staged an exhibition, “Women in Abstraction,” featuring some 500 works by 106 female artists around the world who contributed to abstract art. Three of Choi’s paintings were included. It would have been difficult to introduce the language she searched for and wished to speak through those three paintings alone. That said, the Choi Wook-kyung retrospective must be taken as a starting point for rewriting her story, as well as women’s art history.

A Local Jukebox Musical Hits Home

Art Review 2021 WINTER 1420

A Local Jukebox Musical Hits Home Pop ballads by the late composer Lee Young-hoon (1960-2008), which stirred up the emotions of youths in the 1980s and 1990s, remain ever popular. The musical “Gwanghwamun Sonata,” a compilation of these old-time favorites, was successfully staged this fall for a third run, setting a new milestone in homegrown jukebox musicals. “Gwanghwamun Sonata” is a jukebox musical based on hit ballads of Lee Young-hoon (1960-2008), a popular composer of the 1980s and 1990s. The stage design features Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbok Palace, and the road along the wall of Deoksu Palace – the backdrop for Lee’s song lyrics that evoke nostalgia among those who loved his songs.© CJ ENM The most popular musicals these days are either “moviecals” based on well-known movies of the past, or jukebox musicals woven with old pop songs. “King Kong,” featuring a giant gorilla doll roaming the stage, or “Mary Poppins,” adapted from the movie of the same name directed by Robert Stevenson, are examples of the former genre. “Jersey Boys,” seasoned with popular tunes of American rock band The Four Seasons, and “Mamma Mia!” featuring the hits of the Swedish group ABBA are synonymous with the latter. Currently, numerous jukebox musicals, also known as pop musicals, are enjoying popularity on the global stage.The rage for jukebox musicals has made its way into Korea as well. Deserving particular attention is “Gwanghwamun Sonata,” which was performed at the Seoul Arts Center from July to September and will be touring other cities around the country until year-end. “Gwanghwamun Sonata” is a so-called tribute musical, with a story spun around songs composed by Lee Young-hoon and sung by Lee Moon-sae. It’s difficult to discuss Korean popular music of the 1980s and 1990s without mention of these two names. Lee Young-hoon in particular left behind numerous hits, as if he had Midas’ golden touch.Audiences of the musical hum along to Lee’s hits, including the eponymous “Gwanghwamun Sonata” (1988), “When Love is Gone” (1987), “Under the Shadow of Street Trees” (1988) and “Old Love” (1991). Therefore, it can be said that, like most popular jukebox musicals, “Gwanghwamun Sonata” successfully plays on nostalgia, attracting not just dedicated musical fans but also those who loved the late composer’s songs. When “Sunset Glow” (1988), remade by the idol group Big Bang in 2008, plays during the curtain call, the audience finds it difficult to stay seated. This “sing-along curtain call,” which brings the audience to their feet to sing at the top of their voices, is an extraordinary experience. Sing-Along Curtain CallUniquely, three different versions of “Gwanghwamun Sonata” have been staged. The first attempt to build a musical around Lee Young-hoon’s songs was made by Gina Lee, a popular musical director, and was staged in 2011 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. Some say that the composer created the basic plot himself when he was in the terminal stage of his cancer. Depicting the intertwined love and lives of a young woman and two men, the show was a huge hit with middle-aged audiences, making it a rare box office success for a local creative musical premiered on a large stage. A follow-up run opened at the LG Art Center the following year.“Gwanghwamun Sonata 2” by director Kim Gyu-jong, performed in 2013, was a spin-off of the previous work. As emphasis was placed on live performance, it was staged mainly in small theaters, with each musician positioned on a checkerboard-shaped set, adding to the appeal of its music elements. This concert-like version went on tour in several Chinese cities, such as Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanchang and Fujian. Musical actress Cha Ji-yeon, who leads the narrative in her role as a time travel guide, received rave reviews for her display of explosive energy. This latest version of the musical “Gwanghwamun Sonata” was written by playwright and director Ko Sun-woong, mixing memories, reality and fantasy, and directed by Gina Lee.© CJ ENM Three Versions The third version of “Gwanghwamun Sonata,” re-written by famous playwright and director Ko Sun-woong and directed once again by Gina Lee, premiered in 2017 at the Grand Theater of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and had a second run in 2018. It had its third run this year. The story traverses memory, reality and fantasy as the dying protagonist revisits his past to find true love.Living up to the name of its director, who is known for her stylish staging, this version earned acclaim for its dreamy yet poignant mood and effective presentation of Lee Young-hoon’s music, which remains as appealing as ever. The gender-bending casting, where actors were given roles regardless of their gender, was another attention-grabbing factor.The success of this show can be attributed to the skillful production crew, the cast of well-known singers and actors, good chemistry between the director and music director, and the sophisticated stage design. The marketing strategy and perfect timing contributed as well.Lee Young-hoon didn’t get his start in the popular music scene. He began his career composing background music for plays, broadcasts and dance performances, expanding to popular music in the 1980s when he was in his mid-20s. That’s when he met singer and TV host Lee Moon-sae, who, despite having debuted in 1978 and released his second album, was more famous as a radio DJ than a singer at the time.However, when the two musicians collaborated to put out Lee Moon-sae’s third album in 1985, the title song, “I Don’t Know Yet,” was so popular that it stayed in the number one spot for five consecutive weeks on a TV music program. Many of the other songs on the album were also hits and Lee Young-hoon emerged as the top lyricist and composer in the Korean pop music world. Lee Moon-sae’s fourth album, “When Love is Gone,” released two years later, sold 2.8 million copies and is listed on Korea’s 100 best pop music albums. A Legendary DuoThe duo worked together up until Lee Moon-sae’s 13th album, “Chapter 13,” released in 2001. When their collaboration became less frequent, Lee Young-hoon made music for TV dramas and movies. He also released an orchestral album featuring rearrangements of the songs he had written for Lee Moon-sae. Today, a monument erected in praise of Lee Young-hoon’s songs on the road along the wall of Deoksu Palace in Jeong-dong, near Gwanghwamun in central Seoul, continues to attract people who fondly remember those times.In Korea, “Mamma Mia!” is considered the be-all and end-all of jukebox musicals, but there’s a lot more to talk about when the genre is segmented. Jukebox musicals can be divided into two types: compilation musicals like “Rock of Ages,” which introduces rock from the 1980s, weaving together various songs from unspecified musicians under a common theme; and tribute musicals like “Gwanghwamun Sonata,” which only use the musical assets of a specific artist. While the former has the advantage of freely mixing the music of various artists to suit the given theme, time or format, the latter holds appeal not only for musical fans but also the fans of the chosen artists or their music. If the musician in question is no longer active or has passed away, the interest is bound to double. In a flashback to the 1980s, when young people took to the streets to protest military dictatorship, rock singersongwriter Yoon Do-hyun in the lead role plays the piano and sings Lee Young-hoon’s 1988 hit, “My Old Lover.”© CJ ENM It can be said that, like most popular jukebox musicals, “Gwanghwamun Sonata” successfully plays on nostalgia, attracting not just dedicated musical fans but also those who loved the late composer’s songs. FamiliarityThe reason for the popularity of moviecals and jukebox musicals is simple: the audience doesn’t have to deal with unfamiliar songs and stories at the same time. It isn’t always easy to sit through dozens of new songs performed on stage for a few hours straight. While it’s natural for any composer to attempt to present as many beautiful songs as possible, employing all their musical capacities, an audience may not be able to digest it all. Therefore, they might repeat variations of the main melody or create and distribute a concept album before the curtain goes up for the premiere of a musical.In that sense, the jukebox musical format certainly has advantages. The songs performed on stage are already familiar to the audience and, as they are played live, the vibrancy and dynamism are incomparable to listening on the living room audio or through a small speaker on the desk. This is the reason jukebox musicals attract not only musical aficionados but also fans of the original songs or artists. Furthermore, as the audience already knows the content, the producer can be relieved of the burden and risks of promotion.

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