Elwood 5566

Just (그냥) Interesting

Posted in Just - 그냥 by 노강호 on July 1, 2011

If you mistakenly type the Korean for ‘alive, living’ (생) in English rather than Korean (tod), you end up with the German for ‘death.’

Cheong-cha (정자), is both and ‘arbor’ and ‘sperm.’


probably more than you - but perfect English!

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Beating Boknal (복날) 1. My Wooden Wife (죽부인)

Posted in Quintesentially Korean, seasons by 노강호 on June 30, 2011

Who needs this? (Joo-Hee Kim, Miss Korea 2006)

When you can have this!

(Originally published August 5th 2010) I’ve just got myself a ‘wife.’ Rather than travel to the Philippines or Thailand, and spend a fortune on one who might be mouthy, problematic, dump me the moment she has a British passport  or demand too much, this one was bought at my local E-Mart at the amazingly cheap price of 9500 Won (£5). I didn’t have to pay a pimp for acting as middle-man and she even came in a bag.

She is incredibly skinny and all ribs but being mute and pretty lifeless, I neither have to suffer nagging and can easily boot her out of my bed should she fail to please. And though I know it’s a bit misogynistic, the bits I don’t like are missing. The down side? She is fucking lazy. I left her on the bed this morning and she is still laying there eight hours later.

Cool sleeping

Unlike real wives who are apt to raise your temperature in more ways than one, my new Wooden Wife, lowers my temperature and reduces my stress levels. In Korea, she is known as a chuk-bu-in (죽부인) and  is used as the traditional method of keeping cool on hot  and humid evenings, especially during the hottest time of year (boknal –  복날)).

My wife about to undress and go to bed

Made of bamboo, the wooden-wife is used to drape your leg or limbs over, to sort of cuddle, and in doing so body heat trapped between limbs and torso is reduced. Using the wooden-wife  allows air to circulate around the body. Last night, I spent my first evening with her  in my bed and I must say, it was cooler than sleeping alone and definitely cooler than sleeping with a real human – if not somewhat more boring.

making a wooden wife (죽부인) Often called a 'wooden lady.'

The bamboo is very smooth and there are no rough edges. I also noticed that the bamboo is much cooler to touch as it doesn’t retain heat so with my air conditioner blowing down onto it, it even felt a little chilled.

Wooden-wives come in children and adult sizes and are also made in different colours. Though usually made of bamboo, other materials can be used. You can also buy attractive covers for bamboo chuk-bu-in.

Making wooden-wives

Wife on bed - waiting patiently

You get the gist...


She is absolutely fantastic in hot weather and I couldn’t do without her. I’ve been sleeping on and off with her for the last year though when the weather cooled last year, I kicked her down the side of the bed, between bed and wall, and that’s where she lay most of the winter. I’ve recently stuck one of those hooks on the wall and that’s where I put her when she’s not needed. Hanging about where she is, she’s within easy reach but during the summer she’s constantly on my bed. I cannot stress how fantastic wooden-wives are and mine has become a crucial item throughout hot summers.

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A Candy for the Teacher

Posted in Food and Drink, Korean children by 노강호 on April 28, 2011

the tangy candy version

What’s that noise you make in your language when you’ve eaten something intensely sour, like lemon or a kumquat which isn’t sweet enough to rescue your distaste? In English-English it might be ‘shhh-it!’ In Korean it’s ‘ai-sh-yo’ (아이셔), though in practice it probably sounds more like  ‘ ai-shhhhh-yo!’  The duration of the ‘sh’ a measure of intensity.  Not sure what I mean?  Let me elucidate; this is ‘sh-it!’  or ‘ai-sh-yo!’:

Apart from being the sound to accompany something unpleasantly sour, like munching on a lemon,  Ai-sh-yo is also the name of a  chewy confectionary. Kids love to give these candies to teachers and they can be considered the Korean equivalent, innocent and friendly, of spitting in your coffee or putting a tack on your seat. When I was first offered them I noticed a strange expectation on students’ faces, a twinkle in their eyes and the slight anticipatory twitch of a smile but took little notice; I’m orally fixated and the candy was quite nice, initially a little tart and tangy but quickly rescued by sweetness as you continue to chew. I’d eaten quite a few over the week until I discovered their more sinister purpose

I was busy chewing, waiting for the sweetness to  curb the rapidly soaring sensation of  intensified sourness… Then I realised, with a curse, ai-shhhh (the Korean equivalent of ‘fuck!’), that there wasn’t an iota of sweetness in it but  a solely nasty sourness.  My students were in hysterics by the time I spat it into a tissue.

Yes, in every blue packet of the gum, 450 Won (about 25 pence) exists one surprise candy that is simply revoltingly sour. The yellow packet is a tart candy that starts off sour but mellows.

an 'ai-sh-yo' face

and another...

the blue packet is the most entertaining

‘Ai-shhhhhhhh-yo!’ ‘Super sour flavour in it.’

Further references

Punishing Naughty Students with an Aishyo

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Five Second Hanja (10) Carpenter (목수)

Posted in Five Second Hanja (Theme), Korean language by 노강호 on December 2, 2010

A totem pole being carved

Combining the characters for ‘wood’ (나무-목 =木) and ‘hand’ (손-수 =手) produce the word ‘carpenter’ (목수). This is a combination of two pictograms.

carpenter - 목수

Simply highlighting some of the important and simpler characters. For information on stroke order, radicals and the two elements of a character (spoken – meaning), I suggest you obtain a dictionary such as; A Guide to Korean Characters.


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‘Pedal’ (배달)Blunder

Posted in services and facilities by 노강호 on November 28, 2010

take-away Korean style – the ‘hay-box’ has been voted one of the most uniquely Korean innovations (courtesy of Anttinen)

Occasionally, I order a delivery of food over the telephone. I’ve become quite adept at ordering a pizza, chicken or po-ssam (보쌈) and provided there are no hitches, usually whatever it is that I have ordered, will arrive. If you know your address and can repeat it in Korean and are able to read a menu, ordering is not too difficult.

McDonald’s delivery service

Delivery is known as ‘pedal,’ (배달) and many businesses that deliver food, which is most of them, have the technology, when you call, to identify your address and all they need do is check it.  A few places, such as McDonald’s have a centralized call center and staff that often speak some English. However, unless you are familiar with a McDonald’s which has significantly cooled resulting in a dry and bland wadge of assembled parts which no longer blend into a satisfactory taste, I wouldn’t bother. Once you have successfully made an initial order from a business, the second time is easier. If they start gabbling on and you lose the gist of everything, just say sorry and hang-up.

typical delivery (배달) menu

This week, I ordered a burger as I fancied some western style, non-well being food. I didn’t want McCrap and ordered from ‘Mr Big’ whose burgers actually contain meat which is meat in both colour and consistency and not a pallid, compressed meat paste patty. I distinctly ordered a regular size which along with a bottle of coke and chips, Mr Big do real chips as opposed those piddly French fries, should have cost a total of 12000 (£6). I should have listened carefully as my order was read back because when it arrived I was confronted with a bill of 30000 Won (£15). I didn’t have sufficient Korean skills to argue and though not planned the mega meat feast I could see dangling from the delivery man’s hand, called like a Siren. I not so reluctantly handed over the money to be given what looked like a large cake in a box, with a cellophane lid. The burger was enormous, measuring about 18cm in diameter. It was definitely ‘king-size’ and would easily have satisfied three people.  When I told one of my students she said her family of four order this size burger to share but I didn’t feel too bad because she’s built like a chopstick. Besides, once I’d thrown away the enormous bun, the size of a hat, I was left with what was possibly a pound of pure Australian beef and there was no mistaking it was quality meat. Unlike pasty-patties, it smelt of meat, it looked and felt like meat and was deliciously juicy. The only time you ever see any juice in a McCrap burger is in the advertisement photos. I occasionally eat McCrap and when warm and burger-science is working at maximun capacity, they are quite tasty and satisfying but isolate the individual components, or eat them when the loss of heat has killed the flavour, and they are crap. I can eat most things cold, but a cold McCrap burger is disgusting. This monster hamburger you could easily eat cold because unlike a McCrap which are only hamburgers by suggestion, this was real.  Along with the accompanying salad it was a wholesome meal.


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Interlude (7) A Friendlier version of ‘Mr’ ‘Mrs,’ etc. (샘)

Posted in Comparative, Education, Interlude (Theme), Korean language by 노강호 on November 24, 2010

Okay, here is the point. The term ‘sem’ (샘), is a contraction of ‘son-seng-nim’ (선생님 – teacher) using a letter from each syllable block. The contraction is slightly less formal than the full rendition.  Perhaps the closest translation of  ‘son-seng-nim,’ and its contraction, ‘sem,’ is ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’, etc.


Education has more than a token value


And here is my ‘twisted’ analysis, a micro-rant. Though translated as ‘teacher’ either word fails to slip directly  into English and  presently, in British culture ‘teacher’ is both not too short of being a ‘slur’ and is a bordering  on a euphemism for someone who though highly educated, professional  and constantly vetted by the world’s most rigorous system,  is regarded with great distrust.  The same situation applies to numerous other professions – doctors, nurses, etc. Even the Korean media is learning to pick up on the distrust in which countries like Britain and America hold their teachers and subsequently use it nefariously.

Rooted in Confucian ethics, ”teacher’ (선생님 – 샘) is a term of respect with teachers and education being held in high regard – though less so if you are western. Though not perfect, the Korean education system plays a far greater role in shaping Korean society than it does in many western countries.

As someone permanently struggling with Korean these are my notes on words and phrases I find useful and which are usually not in a dictionary.  Any amendments, recommendations or errors, please let me know.

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Five Second Hanja (9) – hand – 손수

Posted in Five Second Hanja (Theme), Korean language by 노강호 on November 23, 2010

hand, 손수

The simple pictogram for hand.


Simply highlighting some of the important and simpler characters. For information on stroke order, radicals and the two elements of a character (spoken – meaning), I suggest you obtain a dictionary such as; A Guide to Korean Characters.

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Village Sentinels – Totems (장승)

Posted in Photo diary by 노강호 on November 22, 2010

a totem (장승)  being carved

In more rural Korean areas totems, changseung (장승) often guard the passage to villages. Their design varies from simplistic to elaborate and encompass original and artistic designs as well as ones either explicitly ‘pornographic’ or with ‘pornographic’ elements. At other times they are humorous or simply bizarre. I am fascinated by the manner in which Korean wood is twisted and knotted by the landscape and weather and as I wrote previously, in (Penis Paradise), I see so much of the character of Korean people and their history embodied in wood.  In the mountains one often sees the most interesting examples of contorted wood wood that almost seems to have been tortured.

a rather obvious example of ‘releasing’ the qualities inherent in the ‘raw’ material.

A few months ago, when I visited Palgongsan Park in Daegu, I bought a small carving which cost 10000 Won (£10), the nature of the wood is interesting; a section of branch or small stem which on one side, a burr (burl – US English) has caused to ‘explode’ in a fascinating manner.  I’m indebted to a reader  for identifying this feature and also drawing my attention to the fact it is highly weathered. The wood has been used to carve a  totem-like face  while the burl, now forming the back of the head, forces one to seek meaning in the combination. From another angle, a second, half face can be imagined.

resembles the face of a totem (chang-seung)

the back reveals some former ‘explosion’ caused by  a burl

in profile

a further resemblance of a face

projects in the process

Several months ago, I was visiting Kayasan National Park when in the middle of nowhere, our minibus broke down. We pulled down a slip road next to a basic cheong-cha (정자), to await recovery.

a basic cheong-cha (정자), they harbor breezes and shelter you from the sun.

Stood in a row along the small road, warding away demons and evil, were  a number of totems (jang-seung 장승)  Totems guard the approaches to villages and scare away evil spirits and were, and in some cases still are worshiped  (tutelary deities). Different parts of Korea have different totems and they are closely associated with shamanism.

Broken Down but even stuck in the mountains our mini-bus is picked up and repaired within 2 hours

with a kimchi pot on the head


who’s your dentist?

I was the only one giving them any attention!

looking glum

another kimchi head

and every opportunity to carve a dick

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Monday Market -Oriental Quince (모과) Chaenomeles sinensis

Posted in Nature, oriental Medicine, plants and trees, seasons by 노강호 on November 16, 2010

oriental quince bonsai

Another portent that winter is approaching is the appearance of the oriental quince, mo-ghwa (모과). Unlike the quince found in parts of Europe and North Africa where its uses, depending on climate and hence proportions, span from making jams and jelly to a substitute potato, the oriental quince is mostly used in oriental medicine and as tea. However, the mo-ghwa’s predominant use is as an ornamental air freshener. Don’t expect wonders! It won’t clear the smell of fried mackerel or unpleasant toilet odours and neither is one potent enough to scent an entire room but for scenting corners or enclosed spaces, a car being ideal, they are successful. I have one sitting on my desk and  it subtly scents that corner of my room.

moghwa (모과)

by the bowl

Moghwa have a very waxy skin in which the scent is contained and they sort of look quite attractive. The scent is similar to that of a fruity apple. The cost varys from about a 1000 won upwards and ideally you should buy one unblemished as these will last well into spring. Supermarkets often sell them in a small basket.

oriental quince tree and fruit

At this time of year one can see many trees bearing fruits, dae-ch’u, unhaeng (ginkgo), persimmon and Asian pears, for example. However, it is illegal to pick fruits from any tree on sidewalks or parks as the trees are not public property.

When buying one, especially from street vendors where they are much cheaper, avoid ones with blemishes or other forms of damage. A good moghwa will last the entire winter and into spring but a badly chosen one can be brown and rotted within a few weeks!

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Interlude (6) The coolest chili -the ‘cucumber’ chili. 오이고추

Posted in Food and Drink, Interlude (Theme), Korean language, vegetables by 노강호 on November 15, 2010

Okay, this is a really tasty chili with absolutely minimal heat probably just a few steps up from the green paprika (green pepper). It is usually slightly lighter in colour than hotter chillies, long and fat and fairly juicy. Rather boring on its own, but instantly transformed if dipped in ssam-jang (쌈장).

the 'cucumber' chili (left) and hottest Korean chili (청량)

'cucumber chili' (오이고추) and bean paste (쌈장) - an excellent combination

Ssam-jang (쌈장) is widely available and is usually in a green container differentiating it from other pastes. It is is a great dip for otherwise boring ‘well-being’ snacks such as carrot or celery.

ssam-jang (쌈장)

As someone permanently struggling with Korean these are my notes on words and phrases I find useful and which are usually not in a dictionary.  Any amendments, recommendations or errors, please let me know.

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