Who’s Son Are You? (or, Why do parents obsess over sons in sageuk storylines?)

Have you ever noticed how some families in Korean TV dramas fuss over sons, be it wanting to have one, or raising one, or the lack of one?

Photo from the SBS TV drama “Jang Ok Jung: Live in Love”

Take “Jang Ok-Jung: Live in Love”, for example. Each character seems to know what’s at stake with having a son. The King wants one as an heir. Jang Ok-Jung wants to give birth to one to secure the King’s love and her position in the palace. The Queen is forlorn at her inability to produce one, as it seems to be her primary responsibility. The Queen Mother wants a pure, royal blooded, untainted-by-any-“low-class wench” (the Queen Mother’s words in the drama, not mine, hehe!). Whereas the Queen Dowager doesn’t mind one from Jang Ok-Jung’s womb, as long as the womb is affiliated with her faction (you know how intrigue-filled palace life in any saguek is!).

But one movie truly characterizes this preoccupation with having a son, in my opinion. No doubt readers of this blog (this writer included) might have been too young when the movie 씨받이 (The Surrogate Womb) was shown in 1987. Some readers of this blog might not even have been be born yet.

Recently, though, while on a student exchange program in Seoul, our history class was made to watch this movie, and what stood out for me was how the movie revolved around producing a son.

The film is a classic period masterpiece by renowned Korean director Im Kwon Taek, which was presented at the 44th Venice International Film Festival and won the Best Actress Prize for Kang Soo-yeon.

The film tells the story of yangban couple Sang-Kyu and his wife, who have been married for 12 years already but are still childless. The family has no heir to facilitate ancestral rites. This becomes unsettling for the family. So they come up with a plan to hire a 씨받이, or surrogate womb, in secret. They finally choose Oak-Nye, played by actress Kang Soo-yeon, as surrogate womb. Oak-Nye was forced to undergo various physiological and sexual indignities to ensure the birth of a son, such as holding her breath til near-death on the night of a full moon, drinking a concoction made from the grinded nose of Buddha’s statue, and bathing on almost-burning water, to name a few. Eventually, Sang-Kyu and Oak-Nye eventually fall in love. The family finds out about the affair and tries to separate them, but to no avail. Oak-Nye eventually gives birth to a boy. The family keeps the child. Oak-Nye and her mother, with heavy hearts, leave the house with their “prize” – 10 patches of land.

Photo credit: Wallcoo.net

So why this impassioned preoccupation with producing a son during the Joseon period? At this day and age, and being a foreigner at that, this is quite a puzzle for me.

According to my readings, this strong preference for a son is rooted in Confucianism. First and foremost, a male heir is needed to conduct ancestor worship. Ancestor worship can only be done by the head of the male lineage (the father/husband) as ritual master. In their minds, a daughter cannot carry out ancestral rites nor continue family lineage.

In the absence of a male heir, the ritual of honoring a family’s forefathers is in danger of coming to a halt. And in Confucian culture, this is a no-no. That’s why the clan gives so much importance to paternal lineage.

That’s also why, if you watch the movie, you’ll notice that the production of a male heir is like a family affair. Everyone is concerned about it, from the grandma of the family down to the distant relatives.

There is a great emphasis on keeping the family lineage alive since social and political status depended heavily on birth and lineage.

The film also depicts the extreme pressure on yangban women to produce an heir, which is their most important duty. She must assure the continuation of the husband’s line by bearing a son. A son is also needed to pass down the family fortune after parents’ death. Failure to produce a male heir was considered a sin, according to the “seven sins” for wives in The Great Ming Code. Moreover, women with only daughters were treated as if they were criminals. So if a yangban woman has no son, the family would either hire a surrogate mother, like in this particular movie, or adopt a son.

Screenshot from the SBS drama “Jang Ok Jung: Live in Love”.
Photo credit: allkpop.com

In “Jang Ok-Jung: Live in Love”, the Queen Mother and Queen In-Hyeon thought they could use Ok-Jung’s womb as some sort of surrogate womb, after which they’d steal away the baby. But, as you may well know from the drama, the King had other plans: Through sly maneuverings, he demoted Queen In-Hyeon and appointed Ok-Jung as queen in order to secure his son’s position as successor.

Screenshot from the SBS drama “Jang Ok Jung: Live in Love”

Such is the trouble and intrigue behind the production of a male heir. But does this ring true in the present time?

The answer is, not so much. I couldn’t believe it myself at first, since Korea is known to be a patriarchal society. But, when one of my Korean professors shared with us the results of his study, I began to believe that Korean society may indeed be moving towards gender equality.

Basically, our professor said that although strong son preference still exists in Korea, especially among older generations, there is a drastic decline in son preference among females and younger generations. This is the conclusion that he arrived at after analyzing survey data from the East Asian Social Survey in 2006.

He says that this may be because of Korea’s democratization and the women’s movement, minds are slowly but surely changing. Moreover, he also says that family life in Korea has shifted from paternal to bi-lateral, that’s why son preference has weakened noticeably among females and youngsters.

There are a lot of other articles that point to this interesting trend. This article from Korea JoongAng Daily points to the changing perceptions of parents towards raising children, which is from the function of having a child (i.e., this kid will do this-and-that for the family in the future) to the pure pleasure of raising a child.

This New York Times article, meanwhile, even hails Korea as a trendsetter in Asia for successfully reversing the high sex imbalance in the population. It also says that daughters are more preferred now since they are seen to be more caring than sons towards their parents, especially in old age.

So the next time you see a sageuk with characters clamoring for son in the family, smile, savor the nostalgia, and say, “It’s becoming Korea’s past.”

References:

1) Women’s Life During the Choson Dynasty (Han Hee-Sook)

2) Korea – Traditional Korean Families

3) Son Preference or Daughter Preference? A Comparative Study (Eun Ki-Soo)

4) Gender equality slightly improved last year: gov’t report (Korea Herald)

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Queen, Maiden, or Gisaeng?: How to choose your Hanbok in your next photo trip

Seoul (and the whole of Korea, for that matter) teems with places where you can try the Hanbok, Korea’s traditional attire. From the airport to tourist spots like palaces, traditional villages, and museums, the Hanbok experience is an ever present attraction which signals that you are, indeed, in Korea.

The Hanbok experience
Photo from english.visitkorea.or.kr

The allure of the Hanbok for us foreigners may be because of the elegant way our favorite actors in our favorite Korean TV dramas wear them.

the moon that embraces the sun

Scene from MBC’s top-rating TV drama “The Moon that Embraces the Sun”

The sight of the Queen walking regally at the palace, of Korean ladies sauntering at the market, or of a gisaeng dancing gracefully while the hem of her Hanbok rustles musically with each beat just makes us want to try the Hanbok for ourselves, at least once in our lives.

Not all Hanbok are created equal, though. During the Joseon period, one’s social status was made apparent through the kind of Hanbok one wore. And if you intend to relive your Hanbok fantasy down pat, accuracy is key. That is, would you want to appear as a queen, maiden or gisaeng in the next photo you’ll proudly post on Facebook (or any other social network you use)?

Hanbok comes in different styles for differenet people.
Photo from Korea.Net

So the next time you spot a Hanbok booth in Korea, keep these little nuggets of info in mind. Who knows, you can even dazzle your friends with your “extensive” knowledge of the Hanbok!

Hanbok for the common people

Materials used for making Hanbok ranged from hemp, ramie, cotton muslin, silk, and satin, depending on the weather.

Commoner’s Hanbok.
Photo from Caidenlee.blogspot.com

 But if you are a commoner, you wear white Hanbok on most days, with the only exceptions being festivals and special life events like weddings. White isn’t so bad, though, since it represents purity, integrity, and chastity.

Hanbok for the upper class

If you come from the yangban or upper class, or if you are a court figure, you wear brightly colored Hanbok in red, yellow, blue, and black, which represent the give traditional elements in Oriental Cosmology – fire, earth, water, metal and wood. You also wear an assortment of accessories. The hair is elaborately arranged and decorated, too.

Brightly colored Hanbok for yangban women.
Photo from MBC’s TV drama “Arang and the Magistrate”

You can also tell the period in which the Hanbok was popular. During the early Joseon period, the jeogori was hip-length in style and was fastened at the waist. The jeogori that we are familiar now, which is arm pit-length in style with front panels made longer for breast coverage, were popular during the late Joseon Dynasty. This is an interesting article on how the jeogori has changed over the passing of centuries.

Hanbok for royal family

Symbols on the hem of one’s Hanbok denoted the wearer’s rank. A queen’s clothing carried the phoenix symbol. Princesses and royal concubines’ clothes, meanwhile, were decorated with a floral pattern. And for the ultimate sign of luxury, only royalty were allowed to wear gold-colored clothing.

Photo from Eng.expo2012.kr

Specific attire worn by female royalty include the hwalot, the wonsam and the dangui, among others.

Hwalot.
Photo from the KBS TV drama “The Princess’ Man”

If you want to wear something a princess would, then choose a hwalot, a ritual attire adorned with 10 symbols of noble plants and animals denoting luck, long-life and prosperity. Luxuriously embroidered using crimson thread, one can imagine how expensive a hwalot is. Common people, who cannot afford this clothing, resorted to wearing nok wonsam instead.

In addition, the hwalot was also an attire that noble classes wore as a bridal topcoat.

Wonsam.
Photo from the SBS TV drama “Jang Ok Jung”

Ceremonial topcoat for royalty, court ladies with high rank, and yangban women was the wonsam. To differentiate a royalty’s wonsam from a court lady’s and a yangban woman’s, different colors were used for each class. Moreover, decorations around the chest, shoulders and the back further signified which class the wearer belongs to.

A gold-colored wonsam, of course, can only be worn by the empress. The red one is worn by the queen. The green one is worn by a princess (or by a woman from the commoner class, but only during her wedding ceremony).

Photo from the MBC TV drama “The Moon that Embraces the Sun”

For minor ceremonies, the queen, princess or the wife of a high ranking government official wore the dangui, the difference being the queen and the princess wore dangui that had a gold trim, whereas non-royalty wore plain dangui. Wives from the noble class, wore the dangui during major ceremonies.

Hanbok for gisaeng: Fashion-forward and free

Do you remember that scene in “Jang Ok-Jung: Live in Love” where gisaengs served as Jang Ok-Jung’s models during her fashion show? There is truth to this scene, as gisaengs were actually stylish trend-setters during their time. Because they were not constrained by rules and regulations, such as in clothing, they got pretty creative with their clothes, makeup and accessories.

Gisaeng as fashion icons.
Photo from the SBS TV drama “Jang Ok Jung”

A major difference in a gasaeng’s Hanbok, though, was the presence of a wide band around the chest.

Hwang Jin-Yi, an intellectual gisaeng.
Photo from the KBS TV drama “Hwang Jin Yi”

Gisaeng also wore eye-catching accessories such as jeonmo (hat) in Gu Family Book.

A gisaeng sporting a beautiful hat.
Photo from the MBC TV drama “Gu Family Book”

Modern Hanbok

Hanbok, at the present time, is only worn during special ceremonies like weddings, 60th birthday and funerals.

Hanbok has been altered through the ages according to foreign influences. Current times still point to the same trend. Nowadays, Hanbok is more modern, with silhouettes adapting to the changing times. It also seems to be more comfortable to wear as there are less parts to don.

Modernized Hanbok.
Photo from the MBC TV drama “Feast of the Gods”

But whatever Hanbok you choose to wear, the important thing is how happy you are with it and how beautiful it makes you feel. And preserving an experience like this in photos makes it all the more special. Queen, maiden or gisaeng, there’s a Hanbok especially made for you.

Where to try Hanbok (Just some, not all! ^^)

1. Seoul Global Culture & Tourism Center located on the 5th floor of the M Plaza in Myeongdong http://www.visitseoul.net/en/article/article.do?_method=view&m=0003001006003&p=06&art_id=55733&lang=en

2. Tourist Information Center (TIC), located in the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) Headquarters in Seoul http://visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FU/FU_EN_15.jsp?cid=1799300

3. Bukcon Maru

http://www.bukchonmaru.com/en/blog/2013/5/16/the-experience-of-wearing-hanbok

4. Myeonggajae Guesthouse

http://www.myeonggajae.com/eng/bbs/board.php?bo_table=notice&wr_id=55

5. Seoul Namsan Gugakdang

http://english.seoul.go.kr/cav/ena/eview.php?pYear=2013&pMonth=02&idx=634

Sources:

http://weyesweb.wordpress.com/category/korean-traditional-clothing-hanbok-%ED%95%9C%EB%B3%B5/

http://www.han-style.com/english/hanbok/meaning.jsp

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2007/07/203_6384.html

http://www.earticle.net/Article.aspx?sn=112264

http://iamkoream.com/april-issue-keeping-the-hanbok-tradition-alive/

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/CU/CU_EN_8_1_2_1.jsp

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/culture/2013/01/148_25981.html

http://www.medieval-baltic.us/korot3.html

Hair Hierarchy: Women’s hairstyles during the Joseon Dynasty and what it means

If you’ve been watching the sageuk (사극) “Jang Ok-Jung, Living in Love” (장옥정, 사랑에 살다), you’ll probably notice how, along with the twists and turns in this famous femme fatale’s life are accompanying twists and turns on her…hair. 

She started out with an innocent-looking and oh-so-lovely plaited-braid, or daenggi meori (댕기 머리). It was tied back with a wide ribbon called daenggi (댕기) while the side of her head was decorated with a beautiful hairpin called dwikkoji (뒤꽂이). 

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A pretty piece of ornament called the baetssi daenggi (배씨 댕기) would be perched on top her parted hair at times, too.  

This kind of hairstyle symbolized her status as a maiden, or an unmarried woman. Interestingly, this is actually an old style that was popular even from the pre-Silla period. This hairstyle continued to be popular among girls throughout the Joseon period. 

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And then, when Jang Ok Jung became a court lady, she began to wear her hair, still in a variation of unmarried women’s style, but with her hair piled higher on her head. 

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Married women were not allowed to have the daenggi meori (댕기 머리) hairstyle. Instead, they prettiifed themselves with a hairstyle called Jjok meori (쪽 머리). In this kind of hairstyle, the hair is shaped into a chignon that is worn at the back. 

Of course, Jang Ok Jung was not officially married. But I suppose (correct me if I’m wrong) that as concubine, she is  in a sense, connected to the King. Hence, the hairstyle. 

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Colorful hair ornaments still abound to accentuate the face, such as the aforementioned baetssi daenggi (배씨 댕기) for married women, cheopji (첩지) for married women and court ladies, and the jam (잠), which is a kind of hairpin that is intricately and exquisitely made for royalty.

Others would wear a simpler hairpin called the binyeo (비녀), such as what the lead court lady in charge of palace garments wears throughout the drama.

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Jang Ok-Jung’s mom also wore the binyeo (비녀) in her chignon. But hers is very simple, as befitting of her status as a slave during the Joseon period. 

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Jang Ok-Jung’s most lavish hairstyle thus far, it seems (I’m only up to Episode 17), was during her official appointment as concubine.  She sported the tteoguji (떠구지), a kind of wooden decorative hair frame. This is quite a heavy, potentially neck-breaking hairstyle since the tteoguji (떠구지) is worn along with a wig, which makes it quite expensive, too. Thus, you can imagine what this hairstyle tells about the wearer’s status. 

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As you can see, Jang Ok Jung’s status was reflected not only in the clothes she wore but in the hairstyles she sported. Often, aside from keeping the hair in place, hair served as a visible indicator of one’s position in society, age, occupation, marital status, and wealth (or lack of it). And we can see this in how Jang Ok Jung’s hair evolved in the TV drama.

When we watch sageuk, we can’t help but admire Joseon women’s hairstyles and ornaments. They’re beautiful, yes, but behind those beautiful hairstyles are messages about a woman’s social class and background. Even in hair, there is a hierarchy.

References:

Geeky Stuff I’ve Been Doing In Korea Part 2: Conference-hopping

I can’t get enough of learning. Classes seem to not be enough. And neither are museums (see previous post on “Geeky Stuff I’ve Been Doing in Korea Part 2: Museum-hopping“), which of course feed my relentless interest on 사극 (historical drama), 한국전통문화 (traditional Korean culture), and 전쟁 (war).

And so, I’ve gone to a place where serious graduate students go: conferences. And here in Korea, especially Seoul National University, there are many.

The first one I went to was right in my own backyard, of course: The Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS) Symposium 2013: New Challenges for Korea in the Era of Global Changes. Two of my favorite professors in Korean Studies were here. As a graduate student, this was the equivalent of “K-pop fan-girling”.

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And then there was the Distinguished Lecture in SNU by Microsoft founder Bill Gates on the Voice of Innovation last April 21. According to this SNU article, over 1700 students registered, but only 300 students were chosen to attend the event. Needless to say, I was one of those lucky students.

A few days before the lecture, I got an email from GSIS saying around 25 students will be chosen for this event. Interested students must submit one or two questions to Mr. Gates. We were chosen based on the quality of our questions. I asked something about Mr. Gates’ creative process and seeming penchant for a multidisciplinary approach to creativity.

During this lecture, we were in awe at how Mr. Gates was so articulate and eloquent. He just teemed with intelligence.

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Last but not least is the Asan Plenum 2013, organized by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, one of Korea’s (and the world’s!) leading think tanks.

I went there as part of the Asan Plenum 2013 Young Scholars Program, where I worked as an e-reporter through Twitter.

As a Young Scholar, I was also given access to two special lectures for Young Scholars. I chose two lectures about China. I know, I know, it seems counterproductive since I’m a Korean Studies student, but believe me, I have a special reason for this. And it’s something along the line of…China is rising, and Korea’s path is inevitably intertwined with China’s, so knowledge of China as a regional and international actor is vital. Besides, I’ve had a strong interest on Chinese language and cybersecurity prior to my pursuit of Korean Studies. So these two seemingly divergent topics mesh beautifully in my mind.

Part of being a Young Scholar was being given an opportunity to attend a Networking Lunch with the world’s leading scholars and fellow students. I was assigned to the group of Middle East experts, who talked about the ongoing Syria crisis.

At first I was at a loss as to how the Middle East relates to my Korean Studies, but later on, I realized that learning about the Middle East, an unstable region, is vital and definitely connected to my Korean Studies since Korea gets its energy resource from this region. Moreover, the Middle East is also an important trade partner of Korea. Thus, Korea has a stake in this region’s stability. If I weren’t assigned to this Networking Lunch, this fact would have been under my radar. So I consider this a blessing in disguise.

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Aside from conferences, I’ve also been a regular viewer of Indie Plus movies in Sinsa, thanks to free tickets I’ve been lucky to win from Community Korea.  After each screening, there’s a Question-and-Answer portion with the movie director–a great way of gaining insights on the director’s creative vision and life.

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Geeky Stuff I’ve Been Doing in Korea Part 1: Museum Hopping

I’m currently spending the Spring semester in Seoul National University. Of course I’m studying as hard as I do in Thailand, but here, it’s a lot more fun. I read, I go to classes, and I supplement this geeky-ness with even more geeky-ness via (ta-daaah!) Seoul’s many museums on Korean history, society and culture. What’s even better is that these museums are for free!

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National Museum of Korea. Accessible by Subway Line 4, Ichon Station. Just go to the tunnel leading to the museum. It’s super easy!

The first museum I went to was the National Museum of Korea where I studied various aspects of Korean history and culture. My favorite, of course, is the section on Joseon Dynasty, where I had my fill of looking at various norigae (those colorful ornaments hanging beautifully on a hanbok) and hair accessories of the queen.

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War Memorial Museum of Korea. Accessible from Samgakji Station, Exit 12.

I also went to the War Memorial Museum of Korea, where I studied not just about the Korean War in the 1950s but various wars in ancient Korea as well. I was thrilled to learn about my country’s (Philippines) participation in this war — We were one of the countries that sent troops to help Korea!

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National Palace Museum of Korea. Accessible through Line 3, Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 5.

Then there’s also the National Palace Museum of Korea, where I had my fill of learning about Joseon palace life. It’s great for feeding my sageuk addiction!

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Seoul Museum of History. Accessible via Gyeongbokgung Station, Line 7.

Since Seoul is such an amazing city, I didn’t miss the opportunity to learn about its exciting history and rapid development, from the ancient period up to contemporary times at the Seoul Museum of History.

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Seoul Baekje Museum, near the Olympic Park.

With all the attention that the Joseon Dynasty has been garnering in Korean TV dramas, it’s a shame that we sometimes overlook the Baekjae period, which is also a glorious period in Korean history. In one word, it’s about power. Visit Seoul Baekje Museum  near the Olympic Park to learn why.

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Seoul National University Museum

Of course, I didn’t dare miss this museum in my own backyard — the Seoul National University Museum. It’s also an interesting museum where we can learn about ancient (well, paleolithic life) in Korea.

While it looks like I’ve visited a lot of museums in Korea, there are still a lot more I haven’t seen. And I want to see more!

Seoul is a great city for museum-hopping. There are lots to see and learn, the contents are creatively presented, and best of all, it’s ultra-accessible and mostly for free! Perfect for Korea geeks like us!

Come with me?

My favorite Korean language learning tools

As a Korean Studies major, learning Korean language is a definite must-do. After all, how can I rightfully call myself a Korean Studies major if I can’t even speak decent Korean, right?So I’m currently studying Level 2, which is a far cry from Level 6, the holy grail of Korean language learning. Nevertheless, someone (a.k.a., me) is hard at work learning this language. Thanks to the internet, the task is made a lot easier.

Here are some of my favorite online learning tools:

 

 

 

 

1) Verbix –  Conjugate Korean Verbs http://www.verbix.com/languages/korean.php

I had a hard time learning how to conjugate verbs when I first started learning Korean. But after a few searches on Google on how to conjugate verbs, I found this jewel of a site called Verbix. It has a page that automatically conjugates verbs. Just input the regular form of the verb on the box, click Go, and, voila!, the various conjugations of the verb will appear! This is a great way of checking if your conjugation is correct.

2) Lexilogos Korean Keyboard http://www.lexilogos.com/keyboard/korean.htm

Some people download software that enables them to type Korean characters on their keyboard, but for me, an online keyboard like Lexilogos works better. I don’t like installing too many programs in my laptop because I found that these make my computer run slow. So I’ve taken to bookmarking this site and visiting it whenver I need to type something in Korean.

3) Google Translate –  http://translate.google.com/

Of course, not all translations here are accurate, and we shouldn’t rely on this too much. BUT (and I mean BUT!), Google Translate is a great way of: 1) checking if your spelling is correct because it can detect if you mispelled something and promptly recommends the (presumably) correct sentence, 2) checking if your words make sense, 3) hear sentences said in Korean so you’ll know how to pronounce these the way they should be.

Aside from these, I also watch a LOOOOOOT of Korean TV dramas online and listen to loads of Korean music while relaxing or while working out at the gym. These help me listen well and hear how words should be pronounced. And these are great ways of seeing beautiful Korean culture, too! BUT of course, as my Korean teacher cautioned me, reading textbooks is still the best way to learn Korean well as these provide the foundation for correct grammar. The slang can come later. ^^

So those are some of my favorites. What’s yours? Let’s share! ^^

Where to buy Korean clothes cheaply in Bangkok

Super K Mention the term “Korean clothing brand” and images of cool and stylish clothes will pop up in anyone’s mind. That is, cool, stylish and…expensive. But here in Thailand, fans of K-fashion get their fill of K-style for cheap at a shop called Outlet Super K.

A short walk away from the Chitlom BTS station, Outlet Super K sells what Thais call “Korean inter brands”, that is, a slew of international brands that are made in Korea. The store is actually a “breath of fresh air” in the Chitlom shopping area because the styles of clothes sold here are different from the usual stuff Thai stores sell. In Outlet Super K, you can find all ranges of styles, from trendy and edgy to cute and feminine.

Aside from clothes, you can also find bags, shoes and accessories here. To give you an idea of how cheap clothes here are, I was able to buy a cami with intricately placed appliques and beads for just 50 baht, as well as a girly black top for just 99 baht. My friends got cute, knee-length skirts for just 99 baht. Some dresses go for just 300 baht.  So you get the idea of how cheap shopping can be here.

So the next time you’re in the Chitlom area, looking for clothes to fit your K-syle, remember this tip: The treasured threads are in Outlet Super K!

Kimchi Commandments (or, kimchi-making tips for dummies like me)

Making kimchi with my friends at the Korean Studies booth during the Academic Expo of Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.

As a Korean Studies student, making kimchi is bound to be a seemingly trivial but necessary activity. After all, how can you know the basics of Korean history and not know the basics of making kimchi, right? For a Korean Studies student, that is just…inconceivable. You have to have all bases covered.

So during the Academic Expo in my university, I volunteered (or rather, the teaching assistant volunteered me ᄒᄒᄒ) and another girl to lead the kimchi-making demonstration in our Korean Studies booth.

I already have a basic idea of how to make this, since I took a kimchi-making lesson a few months ago. Kimchi tutorials on Youtube played a part in this, too. But during the actual day of our kimchi-cooking demo, something akin to stage fright happened: we froze. Good thing our Korean 선생님 came to the rescue.

She gave us some tips on how to make proper kimchi the Korean way.

1) Salt matters.  I thought any kind of salt will do. So when I went to the supermarket to buy salt, I just bought whatever I could grab in a jiffy–refined salt. But it turns out that for kimchi, rock salt must be used. So remember this, buy rock salt, not refined salt! And salt your cabbages with the rough stuff!

Also, be generous with the salt. I was reluctant to put so much that I basically scrimped on this. But it turns out that the more, the merrier. Just remember to wash it off before putting the red pepper sauce.

2) The absence of anchovy paste does not make our taste buds grow fonder. I couldn’t find anchovy paste in the supermarket here in Bangkok, so I thought we’d just make kimchi without it. But I was wrong, so wrong! Our kimchi tasted bland without it. The absence of one ingredient does make a difference in taste.

3) Fish sauce won’t fail you…as long as you don’t douse your kimchi with it. Keep this in moderation and your kimchi will taste fine. We made the mistake of putting a lot of fish sauce, thinking it could replace anchovy paste, but we were wrong. Fish sauce should be in harmony with the other ingredients.

4) Chop the cabbage into small pieces if you want to make quick kimchi, but make kimchi the traditional way (using whole cabbage) if you want to demonstrate how authentically beautiful and old-fashioned kimchi is made. We tried to cut corners (like time) by chopping our cabbage into small pieces so that we can make it quickly. But our 선생님 wasn’t too happy with this when she saw this on demo day. As a Korean, she wanted to demonstrate how beautiful kimchi-making is (And it is!). I suppose this has to do with cultural pride. So here’s a lesson learned: Presentation and style is as important as doing the job…especially with Koreans! =)

So those are lessons I learned from making kimchi. I hope I can make more great kimchi soon!

The best Korean buffet in Bangkok

Korean food is no doubt delicious. And in Bangkok, Korean food can also be expensive. But thanks to my newfound Thai friends (I am a foreign student here), I was given advice on where to eat the best tasting Korean food that’s also easy on the pocket for those on a student’s budget.

The place is called Special K, which offers eat-all-you-can buffet. For just 290baht, you can have your fill of different varieties of marinated pork, chicken, shrimp, squid, or any other seafood. Of course there’s also a lot of banchan (appetizers), kimbap, and soups.

This place is popular with Thai and Korean people alike because everything is very delicious and affordable. And for me and my friends, this is the best place to eat and celebrate in as our reward for a semester’s hard work.

Address:

Special K, Room A,B, 3/F, Anek Vanit Building, 155 Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thong Lor), Bangkok, Thailand

Nearest Train:

BTS Thong Lo

Opening Hours:

daily 11:30am-2pm, 5-10:30pm

Coreana Cosmetics Museum: A window to Korean beauty in history

Korean beauty fans! Before you head on to Myeongdong for your Korean cosmetics fix, you might want to make a sidetrip to where Korean beauty has its place in history–the Coreana Cosmetics Museum.

As someone fascinated with how Korean women stay beautiful and elegant (as seen in our favorite sageuk and contemporary TV dramas), I made sure that my second trip to Seoul involved going  here.

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I first read about this museum while researching related material for my ancient Korean makeup article for WKB, and have since vowed to visit once I return to Seoul. September’s participation in an academic conference gave me the opportunity to do so. And I must tell you that my sidetrip to Apjugeong, where the museum is located, was well worth the visit.

Coreana Cosmetics Museum showcases a wide array of makeup cases and vials, trinkets and costumes collected by Corean Cosmetics Company founder Dr. Sang-Ok Yu for over 40 years. The collection numbers around 5,300 pieces, so you can just imagine the sheer delight this museum will give to makeup and beauty junkies! It’s really the largest cosmetics museum in Korea! =)

The musuem has two exhibit halls at the 5th floor and 6th floor of space*c at Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu in Seoul

The museum also shows how Korean women in ancient times prettified themselves with colors that can be found nature: Chili peppers for a pretty pout, for example.

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The museum also shows how Korean women loved beautiful things even in ancient times. From celadon makeup bottles and bowls to colorful contemporary powder cases, this museum will make you appreciate and learn about Korea’s makeup culture.

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How the body looks is given importance, too, through accessories for the hair and for the clothes. Overall, Korean’s look as colorful and cheery hundreds of years ago as they are in the present time.

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I highly recommend that you visit this place if you’re serious about beauty—the Korean way!

How to get there:

By subway, take Line 3 Apgujeong. Go out at Exit 3. Take a 3-5 minute walk to CGV Apgujeong Theater, and you’ll see a sign that says Space*c. Go in that direction until you see the building to your right.

Admission Fee:

3,000won for adults and 2,000won for students