Elwood 5566

Interlude (5) and Suneung Countdown – 수능대박

Posted in Education, Interlude (Theme), Korean language, Uncategorized by 노강호 on November 15, 2010

D-Day Minus 3


Suneung Dae Pak (수능대박)

 

Dae-Pak (대박), means ‘awesome,’ ‘excellent,’ ‘jackpot,’ and so suneung dae-pak (수능대박) can be translated as ‘suneung jackpot,’ or, ‘have an awesome suneung.’ Of course, you still need the ‘fighting’ spirit. (화이팅!)

 

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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Interlude (4) Su-neung 수능

Posted in Education, Interlude (Theme), Korean language by 노강호 on November 13, 2010

Su-neung

 

This word strikes trepidation into the heart of every Korean student, but most especially those who are third year high school students. The Su-neung exams take place every November, this year on Thursday 18th, and are the culmination of years and years of hard study – well for most students that is.

 

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 then please let me know.

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Interlude (3) – The Hottest Chili – 청량고추

Posted in Interlude (Theme), Quintesentially Korean by 노강호 on November 11, 2010

Ch’eong-ryang go-ch’wu (청량고추) is the hottest of Korean chillies and is small and dark green in colour. I approach any smaller chili with caution just in case it’s this variety. It is common throughout the year but specially so in Autumn  (Link to post on chillies and the Scoville Heat Scale).

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Monday Market – The Intricasies of Persimmon – 감

Posted in Uncategorized by 노강호 on November 3, 2010

 

persimmon tree

You know the cold weather is well on its way when the various nuts and persimmon begin to appear in markets. Persimmon (감) appears in several varieties both astringent and non-astringent. The non-astringent variety is eaten hard, almost the same hardness as an apple, and the the astringent variety can only be eaten in a soft and pulpy state.

The harder, non-astringent variety is known as dan-kam (단감) and it is the smaller and rounder of varieties which is a much lighter orange often with a tint of green. At first glance it often resembles a slightly unripened, large tomato.

dan-kam 단감 persimmon

as dan-kam often appear in supermarkets

Hong-shi (홍시), are a much larger variety and a little heart shaped and they vary in softness between a ripe tomato and a very soft bag of jelly.

a hong-shi (홍시) persimmon, bright orange, large and heart shaped

Another soft variety, almost identical in taste and texture to the hong-shi, is the yeon-shi (연시). This is similar in shape to the dan-kam but much darker, brighter orange and soft.

yeon-shi 연시 similar in size to the dan-kam but eaten soft

Yeon-shi and hong-shi are very sweet and in their ripest state, resembling a bag of jelly, need to be transported with care as they burst very easily. Both types are perfect for freezing, losing non of their sweetness and I have had no problem keeping them well into spring. What flavour they do have is very mild but their jam-like innards are enjoyable.

an abundance of market yeon-shi. (The universality of green grocer's spelling; unless mistaken, these are not hong-shi and further, 'shi' is spelt incorrectly.

G’ot-kam (곶감) is  a different astringent variety again and is usually dried. The fruits are often left hanging on trees to be bleeted by the first frosts which speeds up the ripening process prior to drying.They are quite delicious and similar to dried apricots.

got-kam 곶감

To confuse matters further, both hong-shi and yeon-shi can be bought unripened but they are not pleasant to eat and may cause stomach blockages (phytobezoars). In the unripened state they are known as daeng-kam (땡감) and should be allowed to ripen which can even take place at room temperature (around 20 degrees).

Persimmon Uses

Dan-kam is cut and eaten like an apple while softer versions can be  cut as you would a boiled egg and scooped out. In Korea, you are privileged to buy persimmons that are super ripe and I quite like to simply puncture the skin and suck the innards out. It is a very enjoyable experience especially if the fruit is chilled.

 

persimmon sorbet (Independent UK)

You can also find persimmon sorbet and many some cafes serve hong-shi / yeon-shi smoothies which are quite delicious.

A Korean non-alcoholic drink is based on persimmon,

su-cheong-gwha

And then there is persimmon vinegar (감식초) which is what is known as a ‘drinking vinegar’ the drinking of which is seen as health promoting (Link on Korean ‘drinking vinegar).

persimmon vinegar (감식초)

Persimmon leaf tea (감잎차)

persimmon leaf tea

Some Interesting Persimmon Facts

♦Eating unripened persimmons causes 82% of the cases of phytobezoars, these being abdominal obstructions caused by ingested matter. Unripe perssimmons contain high amounts of the tannin shibuol which on contact with weak gastic acids polymerizes, thus causing an obstruction. Phytobezoar epidemics occur in areas where persimmons are grown and though surgery has sometimes been required to remove them, depolymerization is effected by drinking coca-cola. (see Wikipedia).

♦Recently, persimmon wood, related to ebony, has been used by by bowmen in the traditional manufacture of longbows.

♦Originally, persimmon wood was used to manufacture the highest quality golfing ‘woods’ before being largely replaced by ones made of metal.

♦A persimmon fruit is technically a ‘ true berry.’

♦Sharon Fruit is a trade name for the D. Kaki variety of persimmon which is ripened via chemicals. The Daily Mail article linked below gives some suggestions on using this but in the UK I have found this fruit quite expensive and unpleasant. Leaving the fruit to become soft didn’t seem to work and given they were the size of an egg,  no substitute for soft persimmon. Sharon Fruit is definitely an ersatz version of  persimmon.

♦And yet another fruit claimed to ward of heart attack. According to the Daily Mail (link below), Sharon Fruit can prevent clotted arteries. However, I’m skeptical as the research was carried out by Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and of course, the fruit is grown in this area.

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Interlude (1) – 홍시 – Soft Persimmon

Posted in Interlude (Theme), Korean language by 노강호 on October 24, 2010

They’re like a bright orange bag of jelly, the shape of a tennis ball and although they’re relatively tasteless, basically just very sweet, there is something pleasant about them. Like a number of Korean foods, the most noted probably being octopus, one ‘product’ can have several different names rather like the English ‘grape,’ when dried, can be a ‘currant,’ ‘raisin,’ or ‘sultana.’   While persimmons, are  generally called, ‘kam’ ( 감), the specific name for the highly ripened variety is, ‘hong-shi’ ( 홍시).  ‘Yeon-shi’ (연씨) is a similar soft variety but smaller and rounder.

'hong-shi; - like a bag of jelly

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Interlude (2) – 놀토 – ‘Play Saturday’

Posted in Interlude (Theme), Korean language by 노강호 on October 14, 2010

놀토 (nol-t’o)

Because Korean uses syllable blocks to build words, ‘syllable acronyms’ are a common means of putting words together to express ‘something.’  School children and students, for example, often use syllable acronyms’ to express ‘things’ to do with school. 놀토 fits this category and depending on your viewpoint, is either a colloquialism or slang. Usually such syllable acronyms are spoken rather than written.

놀토 simply puts together the stem of the verb  ‘play’ (다) and ‘Saturday’ (요일) and identifies the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month when Korean State schools are closed and students enjoy what is in effect, a long weekend.

Note – in March 2012, nol-to was abolished for Elementary and Middle School students. Now every Saturday is free. However, schools have increased the hours of the working week or in some cases shortened holidays.

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Korean Language – Project in the Process

Posted in Korean language by 노강호 on October 13, 2010

 

you might find it... then again you might not

I am no authority on the Korean language, in fact, despite my study, when I generally speak Korean, Koreans look at me in dumbstruck confusion. I’m sure the experience is common.

Back in 2000, when I first experienced living in Korea, there was little on the internet either in terms of Korean language, history (other than the Korean War) and culture. Indeed, if you wanted to write Korean on a computer outside Korea, you had to buy Microsoft Proofing Tools. Korean language courses and dictionaries, certainly in the UK, were few and far between. It’s not really surprising, despite my having traveled fairly extensively,  I can put dates to the first four Koreans I met before coming to Korea: Richard Koo, 4th degree Taekwon-do, instructor, Twickenham, London, 1979, Rhee Ki Ha, 8th degree, August 1988,  a student in a British school in 1994 and a student in the Philippines in 1996. My university, which boasted 14% overseas students (in 1989), had no Korean students between 1988-1992 and it was a similar situation in  a subsequent university in London, where I was a ‘live-in,’ hall of residence counselor,  between 1992 and 1996. My house in the UK, only a fifteen minute walk from my original university of study, now boasts a small Korean community and you can even buy kimchi in the campus supermarket.

An early scarcity of anything Korean taught me to record even basic words and I continued this practice up until about 5 years ago. Now, I record only words which are obscure and absent from dictionaries because you can guarantee if you don’t, that when you need them, they’ll have been forgotten. I do exactly the same with hanja. Information in relation to Korea is so new, that dictionaries often contain mistakes, misinformation or simply do not list a word you might be searching. As an example, ‘persimmon,’ ‘peach’ and ‘chili’  appear in most dictionaries but there are there are several different types of each. Persimmon can be bought very sort, soft, hard, and dried and all have different names which are not so easily tracked down.  The problem regularly occurs and though you can ask people to clarify, experience has taught me they too, often make mistakes or simply don’t know the answers.

So, I have decided to place a small dictionary ‘page,’ accessed through my side-bar, to list words that are obscure and/or interesting. Of course, they are a personal list and like anyone else learning Korean, each of us has a batch of words pertinent to our own interests and experiences. However, it can be shared and added to and corrected by anyone who is interested and is prepared to send a comment. Most words I will generally look up in my mediocre dictionary, and will always check in an online dictionary such as Babblefish. However, often words I want translating, are simply not there. I do not intend  this resource to be for anything other than obscure words and words often missing from dictionaries because their is no  direct English equivalent. You can access Interesting and Obscure Korean here.

 

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As Delicious as it Looks! (미더덕)

Posted in bathhouse Ballads by 노강호 on September 11, 2010

The first time I ate midoedeok (미더덕) it was hidden in a bowl of soup and probably bobbling under a slice of kimchi, either way, I didn’t see it.  After wedging it between my teeth I crushed it and was shocked when it spat out a horrid sort of detergent. I almost threw up! I’ve never eaten midoedoek since and if I get any strange soup I dredge the bottom of my bowl looking for it. Don’t accuse me of being politically incorrect, I know plenty of Koreans who hate it.

Animal, vegetable, alien?

For years, I had no idea if it was animal, vegetable, or possibly alien, most likely from the Klingon home world! For a while I believed it may have been some sort of testicle and its texture confirmed this, a hard exterior, smooth and slippy with some dubious inner core, but there was an absence of any tubing and because it resembled a mammalian testicle, I was bewildered because, being not much bigger than an acorn, I couldn’t think what animal owned such a nut. Rams’ bollocks are huge, a pair being as large an weighty as a coconut, and there aren’t many cats in Korea and those silly little handbag dogs Koreans are into, the sort that are too flimsy to walk against the mildest breeze, their balls can’t be much bigger a peanut. So it must come from the sea, I thought. Do fish have bollocks? Or perhaps they belong to the octopus but balls are usually carried in a bag and I’ve never seen an octopus with a knacker sack! Well, my Korean friends seemed to have no idea what they were and were equally as mystified.

Related to the sea squirt (멍개)

Then I discovered, they are related to the sea squirt and that monster of a tumour, the mongke (멍개), which also tastes of detergent. You can see midoedoek in the street markets and supermarkets and you either love them or hate them – a bit like olives really, which is interesting as they are the same shape and size. Unfortunately, they don’t have a common English name so,  should you want to order them from your local fish market back home, you will have to ask for styela clava. Mmmm! Sounds as delicious as it looks which is why they are usually hidden in the bottom of your bowl of seafood soup….

Midoedok (미더덕), Styela Clavca get erect when hungry and look like this!

Fondling them obviously causes arousal. A particularly long styela clava. Why are so many Korean foods phallic?

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Hanyeoreum Evenings (정자)

Posted in Quintesentially Korean, seasons by 노강호 on September 8, 2010

Waiting for winter...

Summer is drawing to a close and outside Daegu is on the edge of typhoon Kompasu. Last night, was the first in many weeks that my air-conditioning wasn’t active. The rain was constant and woke me several times and like most one-rooms, a view of the world beyond is limited, but the concrete walkway between my window and the next building isn’t flooded. Further north, the story is quite different.

an isolated chong-cha

And once the sun reigns in the sky, the humidity is going to soar. Hanyeoreum (한여름), the Korean term for midsummer which is the period between the chang-ma (장마) monsoon season and its brief reappearance in September when it returns from Manchuria, isn’t over and though it’s probably peaked, the afternoons are still hot and humid and the evenings balmy and uncomfortable. In the heat of the sun people amble rather than walk, always picking out a path via shaded areas. Only boys seems to run and hurry and in classes it is a regular sight to teach lads with sweat trickling down their faces and spiking their blue-black hair.  I can’t recall teaching a girl soaked in sweat! At road crossings people will stand in the shade, even that provided by a meager lamp-post. And all the time fans are fanning faces, parasols, only ever used by women, are open and school boys walk about with one trouser leg rolled up, sometimes both or  lift their shirts to cool their stomachs. In the city, hanyeoreum evenings take on a lazy, laid back atmosphere. Around the haggwons (private schools), mini bus drivers crouch in groups in doorways or sprawl over seats  in their buses, dozing in the sultry heat and outside cafes people sit chatting or watching the world float by.

summer chong-cha

In the small parks between apartment complexes and larger parks around the city, people exercise,  stroll or laze in the arbors (정자).   Arbors are as synonymous with Korea as are kimchi or taekwon-do and in the fierce sun they offer sanctuary and in the evenings a small enclave which traps even the slightest breeze. They are home to little groups of men playing traditional games, gaggles of gossiping women, student sweethearts, small children and those seeking solitude. In hanyeoreum evenings, when the air is still and stifling, they are a place to stretch out and take a nap – especially after a few glasses of soju or makgeolli.

Hanyorum evenings - sitting out the sultry weather

and after a makgeolli, chong-cha are great for a nap

Chong-cha are always made of wood and designs vary from simple, functional structures as found in small parks between apartments, to the more elaborate and traditional  ones, made without nails, with intricate inlaid art work and bowed roofs and with which Korea is associated. These are usually built in places of significance, on mountain summits, or isolated areas of natural beauty.

A great place to gossip

The majesty of a traditional chong-cha

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Hanyorum – High Summer (한여름)

Posted in Animals, Diary notes, Quintesentially Korean, seasons by 노강호 on August 25, 2010

Hanyorum in Daegu - stifling!

Hanyorum (한여름) is the period of high summer and generally occurs in early August when the changma (장마) has moved North into Manchuria. Hanyorum is typified by high temperatures, reaching 38 degrees Fahrenheit, (100 degrees Celsius), in the afternoons and hot and humid nights.

One characteristic of hanyorum is the appearance of crickets (귀뚜라미), though you are more likely to hear them than see them. I both saw and heard  crickets yesterday (August 24th), though they may have been chirping earlier than this. Crickets differ from grasshoppers (메뚜기) in that they are nocturnal and the song of both differ from the omnipresent scream of the cicadas (매미).

A cicada - or memi (매미). The sound of summer!

Grasshoopers (메뚜기), which some Koreans enjoy eating, are diurnal insects and their chirp is often drowned by the memis’ summer shriek, so you need to listen carefully to hear them. Their chirp is more noticeable when there is a lull in the memi scream. They are bright or vivid green, have antennae which are always shorter than their body, and long wings which when in flight are often coloured.

Grasshopper - (메뚜기). Mmmm- delicious!

Crickets (귀뚜라미), are nocturnal and as such require darker camouflage, usually pale green or brown. Their antennae are often the equivalent length of their abdomen and have atrophied or even absent wings and hence, do not fly. They also have ears located on their legs in the form of a white spot or mark. In hanyorum, the chirping of crickets (귀뚜라미) fill the evening air and as such they chirp at lower temperatures than the memi. While memi (cicadas) start screaming at 29 degrees Celsius, the cricket will chirp at cooler temperatures, as low as 13 degrees Celsius. Using Dolbear’s Law (based on Snowy Tree Crickets), it is possible to work out the approximate temperature in Fahrenheit by counting a cricket’s chirps over 14 seconds and adding 40. An interesting if not useless equation unless you happen to have a cricket in isolation, but on one or two occasions, I have had one chirping inside my ‘one room.’

Cricket (귀뚜라미). The clearly visible ears, located on the legs, and absence of wings distinguish it from the grasshopper.

Interesting links and sources:

Telling a grasshopper from a cricket

Fahrenheit 84 – the memi

Grasshoppers

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