If only...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

...that bastard with a bleached coxcomb hadn't looked me head to toe and sneered as we lined up in the field.

ㅅㅂ 새끼, 나도 나오기 귀찮았다고. 전혀 열심히 할 생각으로 나온건 아니었어, 근데...

I hadn't played soccer since the 6th grade, but damned if I was going to let a wet-behind-the-ears, musclebound shit look down on me just because I was the only double-X on the field.

네 이놈 오늘 나한테 제데로 걸렸다. 내가 여자가 얼마나 무서울 수 있는지 보여주마.

I wished I could have seen the look on his face an hour later, as I snatched the ball from under his nose and shot it straight into the goal.

In Which I Discover a Great Time-Saver

Friday, April 19, 2013

My two favorite soups: bacon-lentil soup and Dakgyejang, Korean spicy chicken soup. I also love the mirepoix-based chicken soup a friend gave me the recipe to, but that usually disappears before I get an opportunity to photograph it.

I like to cook, almost more than I love to eat. I like the soothing and monotonous labor of chopping vegetables. I like the smells and the sizzle of the frying pan, watching pale dough rise and turn golden brown in the oven. I like the feeling of turning raw ingredients into something far greater than the sum of the parts. When I'm feeling blue, cooking almost always gets me in a better mood.

The trouble with cooking is that the sky is the limit.

The "Han" Question

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Excellent article by Gord Sellar about the supposed uniqueness of 정 in Korean culture, with a few mentions of 한 and 화병.

But as much as I liked the article, I found myself shaking my head its description of 한 (han), because to me "victimhood" was never not what 한 was, or at least, not the best way of summing up 한.

As I understand it, 한 is loss and sorrow, made all the more tragic because it is a sorrow so profound and so deeply existential that it can never be truly pacified. It is linked to the Animist tradition of seeing humans as mere vehicles for primal forces of longing and hate that transcend death, living on in nature, passed down through generations. It is also influenced by the Buddhist concepts of karma and the idea that peace can never be had until one fully renounces the world.

While this particular way of framing 한 may be culture-specific, stories of ghosts&#8212souls stuck in a limbo between life and death because of unfinished business, regrets, or vengeance&#8212are universal. And the canon of Western literature is positively lousy with stories of lasting grudges and sorrows tainting entire dynasties: Wuthering Heights, for one, and possibly the entire body of Faulkner's work.

So I have long been puzzled when Koreans assert that 한 is not just a word that stands for a culture-specific way of communicating an emotion that all cultures have an experience of, but a characteristic, even a defining one, of some collective Korean psyche.

A Deceit of Lapwings

All happy people are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy people are more or less alike.