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Monthly Archives: January 2012


Hangul (The Korean writing system)

The Korean writung system (known commonly in Korea as Hangul) is a simple and modern writing system created by Sejong the Great around 1443. Sejong the Great was a forward thinking king and believed that all Koreans and not just the educated elites should be able to read and write. He believed that the imported writen language from China (called hanja) to be far too complex for the average person to learn quickly. He believed that hanja being a foriegn script and did not acurately reflect all of the nuances of the Korean language. This fantastic quote form King Sejong’s proclamation on the new writing system sums up his desire and reasons for creating Hangul.

“Being of foreign origin, Chinese characters are incapable of capturing uniquely Korean meanings. Therefore, many common people have no way to express their thoughts and feelings. Out of my sympathy for their difficulties, I have created a set of 28 letters. The letters are very easy to learn, and it is my fervent hope that they improve the quality of life of all people.”

Hangul faced opposition by the literate elite, such as Choe Manri and other Confucian scholars in the 1440s, who believed hanja to be the only legitimate writing system, and perhaps saw it as a threat to their status. However, it entered popular culture as Sejong had intended, being used especially by women and writers of popular fiction.

Today Hangul uses 24 of the original 28 characters and is written in blocks. Each block consists of a sound of a syllable and each block can hold a maximum of four characters, this makes Hangul a very efficient writing system. Hangul is praised for its easy learning curve and most foriegners can learn Hangul in a matter of only a few hours of study. Due to Hangul’s simplicity it is no surprise that in Korea illiteracy is almost unheard of.

Hangul 한글

Hangul 한글

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Korean language (Hangul)

 

Korean traditional house(한옥)


A Korean house is built with a rooms and a big wooden floor in the center. Houses from other lands are usually simple frame houses but they have either rooms only, or just a wooden floor. In Northern regions houses are closed private homes called “umjib” and in Southern regions houses are open and are in a hut-like form. You can easily spot traditional houses in Kahwaedong. It used to be a wealthy district where aristocrats used to live. explore and be amazed how this traditional site can be situated along with modernized buildings.

마루 wooden floor (maru)

The wooden floor was made to store grains and link rooms. It was also used as a place of sacrificial ancestral worship. To avoid the humidity and heat during the summer, the wooden floor is made so it doesnt touch the ground. So it helps ventilation in the house. It is not known exactly why and how the “maru” came to be, but scholars say it was to prevent the heat in southern areas of Korea. Its key use was to help ventilate the house.

 

 

온돌 Under-floor heating system (Ondol)

 

Made by putting mud over under-floor heating stones, “ondol” is a main feature of traditional Korean houses.Iflighted on the morning and evening, it witheld a pleasant l5 degree Celcius. This shows that the “ondol” system is quite based on scientific terms. These days steam heating is used more than ‘ondol’.

 

기와 tile roof (kiwa)

If you look closely atKorea’s roofs, you’ll see the no roofs are flat. Almost all are in shapes of curved lines and surfaces. The curves of the roof shows the originality of Korean architecture. It is not known when tiles were first used. Before using tiles (kiwa) people had used plates of wood and bark but most were covered with bundles of grass. The tiles were made so the roofs could be slanted and was useless in making flat roofs. If the angle of the roof was exact, it was easier to drain away rain water. The size and shape of the tiles affected the angle of the roof and the angle is determined by the weather conditions of a cenain region.The kiwas or tiles, were made of clay from the rice paddy fields.Different shapes and sizes were used for each different places of the roof.

Kind of Korean traditional house

Makjib 막집

Makjib 막집

Makjib is made from Tree branches and leaves, leather in Siwon Dynasty.

움집 Umjib

움집 Umjib

Semi-basement is made by thatch to over it. In it is used from  from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

초가집 cho ka jib

초가집 cho ka jib

Choka Jib is made from rice straw or reed.

Kiwajib 기와집

Kiwajib 기와집

Kiwa is made from roasted refined clay and tiles.

Noewajib 너와집

Noewajib 너와집

Neowajib is made from a collection of red pine bark roof.

귀틀집 kwitueljib

귀틀집 kwitueljib

Kwitueljib is faked to made from logs.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Korean traditional house

 


History of Pansori

The first point of time when we can confirm theexistence of Pansori through literatures is the reign of King Youngjo in Joseon Dynasty. In the collection of works of Hwa-Jae Mahn and Jin-Han Yoo who lived during the reign of King Youngjo, there are 200 phrases of Choonhyangga (which is called ‘Manhwabon Choonhyangga’), which is the oldest records regarding Pansori. The contents of Manhwabon Choonhyangga are almost same as the present Choonhyangga. A long story was translated into a short poem so the details are unknown, but there is no difference between the past and the present in terms of the outline of the story, ‘forming a relationship ? love ? separation ? difficulties ? reunion’, and the characters. This tells that people started to sing Pansori before the middle part of the 18th century, that is, around the end of the 17th century.

It is thought that the early Pansori was based on the populace. It was sung and listened by the people. However, with the 18th century coming in, Pansori got penetrated into the noble and intelligent, and met recorders. In this process, it went through several changes. [Manhwabon Choonhyangga] is a product of such process. In the Chinese poetry consisting of total 50 phrases, namely, Gwan-woo-hee written by Man-Jae Song around 1810, 12 Batangs of Pansori and the names of singers like Choon-Dae Woo, Sam-Deuk Gwon, Heung-Gab Moh, etc. appear.
The noteworthy thing in relation to the existence format of Pansori in this period is the reason why Man-Jae Song wrote Gwanwoohee. He said, “My country has customs that once a son passes the state examination, his family invites clowns to let them sing and perform skills. Last spring, my son passed it, but I am too poor to hold a banquet so I am composing this poem.” It tells that Pansori in the early days existed in the form of being invited for a successful event like passing the state examination. In other words, Pansori existed, together with a feast, to commemorate an important chance in life.
However, it is thought that Pansori in this period was much simpler and poorer than the present in terms of music or story.

Park Dong Jin, Master of Pansori(1916.7.12-2003.7.8)

박동진(1916.7.12~2003.7.8)

박동진(1916.7.12~2003.7.8)

Park Dongjin, master of Pansori as Human Cultural Asset No. 5, who likes to say that we should take ours precious, put his heart and soul into art, overcoming indescribable hardships.
Now passing his age of 80, he built Pansori Instruction Hall at his hometown Mureung-dong, opening the opportunities of education for him to teach Pansori, Danga or Bukjangdan, how to drum, etc. to younger generation so he could foster his juniors and transmit Pansori to them. Visitors may listen to and see his Pansori personally on the scence.

Pansori as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage

A Name

Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity: “The Pansori Epic Chant”.

Characteristics of Pansori

The Pansori Epic Chant is a form of singing-like narration by a Sorikkun (a singer) accompanied by drumbeat. It comprises songs full of expression, talking style with fixed form, various repertoire, and imitative gestures. It is a traditional performing art in Korea that eliminates boundaries separating the Yangban (the upper class) from the commoners. 

World Intangible Cultural Heritage Programme

The World Intangible Cultural Heritage Programme emerged from the realization of the importance of not only tangible but also intangible aspects of heritage, overcoming the value-orientation which favors tangible cultural assets such as monuments, treasures, and natural sites. The Programme recognizes communities, groups, and individuals as important parts of cultural heritage and defines the intangible cultural heritage to include practices, representations, knowledge, skills, and materials including related instruments, objects, artifacts, and cultural spaces. 

International Value of Pansori

Pansori is a national folk performing art which has constantly evolved and developed, uniquely embodying the creativity, emotions, and desires of Korean people amid the germination and development of modernistic consciousness in the late Joseon age (18th century).

Pansori fuses various genres of cultural art such as folktales, Muga, Gwangdaenoreum, Pannoreum, Sinawi, folksongs, and Jeongak, and is a conglomerate of intangible pieces of Korean traditional cultural heritage that has unified the genres in pursuit of vocal music. 

Pansori is a traditional cultural art, which serves as strong evidence for national identity by combining the cultures of all socioeconomic classes, synthesizing the linguistic culture of all people in Korea and uniting excellent artistic inspiration and popularity in terms of history, art, nation, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, and literature.

Pansori showcases the creative talents and technical application of Korean people. It functions as an integral part of Korea’s rich culture to this day.


 
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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Korean Music, Pansori 판소리

 

Samulnori( 사물놀이)


Samulnori is a group of four dynamic musicians dedicated to performing and preserving traditional Korean music and dance. The Korean words sa and mul mean four objects and nori means to play. In the case of Samulnori, it refers to the four musicians playing and dancing with their four percussion instruments (Kkwaenggwari is a small gong, Jing is a larger gong, Janggu is an hourglass-shaped drum and Buk is a barrel drum similar to the bass drum)). Founded in 1978, SamulNori (the group) sparked a renaissance in Korea’s music scene and has garnered worldwide acclaim.

Jing 징

Jing 징

꽹과리, Kkwaenggwari

꽹과리, Kkwaenggwari

장구 Janggu

장구 Janggu

북 Buk

북 Buk

Kim Duk Soo

Kim Duk Soo

SamulNori, founded by Kim Duk Soo, the group’s leader and master of the janggu (hour glass drum), has become the leading institution of traditional Korean performance that maintains up to thirty students selected and trained by Mr. Kim. The group performs in many configurations but usually tours as a quartet with Mr. Kim at the helm.The original performers of SamulNori were Kim Young Bae (deceased in 1985) who played kwaengari, Choi Tae Hyun on jing, Kim Duck-soo on janggu, and Lee Jong Dae (now teaching at a university) on the buk. But soon after, Choi Jong Sil took over on kwaengari, and Lee Kwang Soo onbuk. In 1993, SamulNori became SamulNori Hanullim, Inc. (Hanullim means big bang). This growth from a four-man performance ensemble into a company of thirty artists and students meant that SamulNori’s dedication to traditional Korean arts, music, and dance over the last two decades has now become a viable educational and research enterprise.

Over the years, SamulNori’s U.S. tours have brought them to New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and Hawaii. In 1985 the Asia Society was awarded an Obie for Outstanding Achievement in the Off-Broadway Theater for introducing SamulNori to New Yorks stages. SamulNori has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and at the Smithonian Institution as part of an effort to establish scholarly exchanges between the Smithonian and Korea.

They also appeared at the Percussive Arts Society Convention in Dallas and served a residency for the Ethnomusicology Department at the University of California at Berkeley. Internationally, SamulNori has toured Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, China, Australia, and Greece where they accompanied the Korean Olympic representatives for the lighting of the Olympic torch in 1988. They also visited Italy where they were filmed for a Puma sneaker commercial.

Samulnori has collaborated with many highly acclaimed musicians from around the world in a variety of styles of music ranging from jazz to pop. They have also performed concerts with orchestras playing music written expressly for them. They have taken part in many festivals including ‘Live Under the Sky’ in Japan and Hong Kong, the Kool Jazz Festival, Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD Festival, and the Han River (Korea) International Jazz Festival.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Korean Music, Samulnori

 

Korean New Year


Korean New Year

Korean New Year (Seollal) is the first day of the lunar calendar. It is the most important of the traditional Korean holidays. It consists of a period of celebrations, starting on New Year’s Day. Koreans also celebrate solar New year’s day on January 1 each year, following the Gregorian Calendar. The Korean New Year holiday lasts three days, and is considered a more important holiday than the solar New Year’s Day.

The term “Seollal” generally does not refer to Eumnyeokak Seollal (음력 설날, lunar new year), also known as Gujeong. Less commonly, “Seollal” also refers to Yangnyeok Seollal (양력 설날, solar new year), also known as Sinjeong 신정

Korean New Year is typically a family holiday. The three-day holiday is used by many to return to their hometowns to visit their parents and other relatives where they perform an ancestral ritual. Many Koreans dress up in colorful traditional Korean clothing called Hanbok. But nowadays, small families tend to become less formal and wear other formal clothing instead of Hanbok. Many Koreans greet the New Year by visiting East-coast locations such as Gangnueng and Donghea in Gangwon province, where they are most likely to see the first rays of the New Year’s sun.

Gangnueng

Gangnueng

Donghae, Gangwon

Donghae, Gangwon

Gangwon

Gangwon

Korean people always eat Tteokgugk on New year’s day.Tteokguk (떡국) (soup with sliced rice cakes) is a traditional Korean food.

떡국 Tteokguk

떡국 Tteokguk

Many traditional games are associated with the Korean New Year.The traditional family board game yutnuri (윷놀이) is still a popular game in now days. Yut Nori is a traditional board game played in Korea, especially during Korean New Year.

Yut nuri 윷놀이

Yut nuri 윷놀이

Traditionally men and boys would fly rectangle kites called yeonnaligi(연날이기) in New year’s day also.

Yeonnalrigi  연날이기

Yeonnalrigi 연날이기

, and play jegi chagi (제기차기), a game in which a light object is wrapped in paper or cloth, and then kicked in a footbag like manner.

 jegi chagi (제기차기)

jegi chagi (제기차기)

 

Kimchi 김치


Kimchi

Kimchi representsKorea’s best known food. Koreans serve kimchi at almost every meal, and few Koreans can last more than a few days before cravings get the better of them. During the 1988 Summer Olympic Games, thousands of foreigners were introduced to it for the first time. Despite a reputation for being spicy, most people usually develop a taste for it, and many foreigners also find themselves missing it after returning to their home country.

Many Koreans at the time of Si-Kyong lived in the Manchurian region, and it is believed that they made kimchi to preserve the vitamins and minerals in vegetables for the long, cold winters in Manchuria.

김치 Kimchi

Three Kingdoms Period: Spreading of pickled food
The first record found regarding kimchi is during the Three kingdom period (57 B.C. – 668 A.D.). The record is written as follows: “The Kogureou People are good at making brewing dreg, malt, bran, and pickling.” This implies that fermented food was widely used in every day lives. However, no writings of this period mention seasonings or ingredients.

Koryo Dynasty: The appearance of kimchi seasoned with ingredients
Kimchi existed by the latter part of the Koryo period (918 – 1392). Various regions developed their own recipes using different spices according to local tastes. Salt, garlic, and fermented fish paste made up the most common spices and garnishes.

Chosun Dynasty: The introduction of red chili peppers

Red peppers

Red peppers

The 1700s saw the introduction of red chili peppers to Korea. Red peppers and ground pepper powder quickly became popular ingredients. People began to experiment with new spices and vegetables from other countries. In the cold northern area, saltless kimchi contained a little bit of powdered red pepper and salted fish. In the warmer southern area, people used more powdered red pepper and salt.

Current Times

Kimchi continues to be an important part of Korean meals, especially in these days of healthier eating habits. The nutritional value of kimchi has been studied and found to be bursting in vitamins and minerals. As more people around the world turn to healthier eating habits, kimchi finds it way onto more and more tables internationally.

Kimchi is healthy food

Koreans eat so much of this super-spicy condiment (40 pounds of it per person each year) that natives say “kimchi” instead of “cheese” when getting their pictures taken. The reddish fermented cabbage (and sometimes radish) dish—made with a mix of garlic, salt, vinegar, chile peppers, and other spices—is served at every meal, either alone or mixed with rice or noodles. And it’s part of a high-fiber, low-fat diet that has kept obesity at bay in Korea. Kimchi also is used in everything from soups to pancakes, and as a topping on pizza and burgers.

Why you should try it?  Kimchi (or kimchee) is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, but its biggest benefit may be in its “healthy bacteria” called lactobacilli, found in fermented foods like kimchi and yogurt. This good bacteria helps with digestion, plus it seems to help stop and even prevent yeast infections, according to a recent study. And more good news: Some studies show fermented cabbage has compounds that may prevent the growth of cancer.

What to do with it: There’s no need to make your own; just pick it up in the refrigerated section of your grocery store or an Asian market for around $4 per 32-ounce jar (Sunja’s is one popular brand). You can wake up your morning by scrambling eggs with kimchi, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms. Use it as a wrap filling or to top a baked potato. Or try Spicy Beef and Kimchi Stew, which won our test kitchen’s top rating.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Kimchi 김치, Korean Foods

 

Bibimbab (steamed rice with assorted beef and vegetables)


꽃비빔밥 Flower bibimbap

Seasoned beef and various seasoned vegetables such as bean sprouts, spinach, crown daisy, bracken, roots of Chinese bellflower, watercress and shiitake mushroom are nicely arranged on the steamed rice. Then, all are mixed with hot pepper soybean paste. The recipe of Bibimbab is a little bit different according to regions. It surely is an excellent dish a la carte in taste and nutrition.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in 비빔밥 bibmbab, Korean Foods