Thursday, 19 November 2009

Korean Films

I have recently embarked on a quest to watch as many Korean films as I can before my time here comes to an end. To that end I have started making a regular date at a DVD bang to watch at least one film a week. I have always had an interest in films and ever since I came to Korea I have had an interest in Korean films but have never really made any headway into the vast library of Korean films.

Better late than never I suppose.

Before I get into what I have watched recently, here are a few links that have helped me decide which films to watch as well as where to buy them and enter into lengthy discussions about every aspect of them, if you want to.
  • The DVD shop at Seoul Selection is pretty good
  • The English language pages of the Korean film archive are here
  • is here
  • The personal blog of Tom Giammarco, a contributor to and a resident of Jeonju is here
  • The Korean Movie Database can found here,

In Jeonju, DVDs can be bought at Hot Tracks, underneath Kyobo bookshop and Tom recommended, but you will probably need a Korean friend to help you navigate the site an to use their ID to order things.

친구 (Friend) by 곽경택 is a 2001 film about three friends in the port city of Busan. It is semi autobiographical and the characters speak in a Busan dialect. It is a tale of tragedy and friendship and is very watchable indeed.

친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) was next after I had already watched the smash hit 공동경비구역JSA by the same director. Park Chan Wook made this film as part of his vengeance trilogy and along with 올드보이 (Old Boy) and 복수는 나의 것 (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), there is indeed a lot of vengeance. 친절한 금자씨 is very in keeping with the theme of the trilogy and features a woman who has been wronged by a very bad man (I don't want to give too much of the plot away.) It is a very good film and deals with an issue that would test the resolve of even the most ardent pacifist and offers an insight into what prison life for women in Korea might be like. I think it's a very good film and will look forward to watching Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

It has been said that his films are too gory but there is very little actual gore, just the implication of gore. That is not to say there is no blood, there is plenty of it but there is very little graphic violence, the camera is used as an effective tool to make you think you are seeing something you really aren't. An interview with Park to talk about his career and his latest film can be found here.

The most recent film I have watched was 낮술 (Daytime Drinking). A black comedy about a young man who escapes from the city to pine over the loss of a girl. It has been compared to Sideways but is not nearly as good. The film is set almost entirely in the northern part of the country during winter and there are a few times when the ridiculousness of the scenario becomes funny, but they are few and far between. Over all I would recommend this instead of watching, say, rubbish Korean TV but there are better films. It moves slowly and never really gathers pace and there are moments when I may have considered fast forwarding had I been at home. Read into that what you will. Watch the trailer here and make your own mind up.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

What's on this month?

Given my tardiness you may have already missed some of these festivals but here is a some info on what's on in November, collated from a few websites.

  • What's on in Busan, courtesy of Busan Haps magazine
  • 10 magazine's November events guide is here
  • A PDF version of November's Daegu Pockets magazine is here
  • And here is a PDF from the Visit Korea website as well as a few other events from a few other sources.

From Chris in South Korea there is

  • 1st - 21st: The 9th Seoul Performing Arts Festival - continuing from October, the SPAF continues at eight venues across Seoul. The English website offers good information about where to go and how to get there - along with a breakdown of how much dance, drama, music, and images within each performance.

  • 1st - 25th: The Seoul Grand Sale - for some reason English teachers aren't precisely the prime demographic, but check out the website, print off some online coupons, or pick up one of their coupon books at a tourist information centre.

  • 5th - 8th: The opera Carmen comes to Seoul - Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre will perform along with the Korean Symphony Orchestra and the CBS Children's Chorus will appear. Break out the won, however - the cheap seats cost 50,000 won and go up to 250,000 won for the VIP seats. Check out the Seoul Arts Center for more information.

  • 6th - 15th: The Choenamdan Bangeo Festival - if you've been meaning to check out Jeju-do, this festival celebrates the Bangeo fish. Don't miss the yeongwangmaji gut, an exorcism ceremony for the safety of fishermen and female divers. The official website is in Korean, but Visit Korea has some helpful information.

  • 10th - 15th: Tango Seduction, Chungmu Art Hall. Look no further for a date-worthy evening of dancing. Tickets are 44,000-88,000 won; Call 02) 318-4304 for more.

  • 11th: Opening Ceremony for the 'Visit Korea Year', after all. If you're wondering about the site,click here for a post about it. If you're interested, check out the Cheonggyecheon area from 7-9pm; the same area will feature the Seoul Lantern Festival from the 11th-15th.

  • 11th: A wine class starts today and goes for 6 weeks, led by a wine consultant named Pierre Mettelin. It costs 90,000 won and is sponsored by the Seorae Global Village Center; call 02-2155-8915 or email

  • 11th - 15th: The 6th Gunsan International Migratory Bird Festival, held at Gunsan Migratory Bird Observatory in Jeollabuk-do. The English website offers plenty of information, but it's funny that the local festivals page doesn't list it... Try giving them a call at 063-453-7213.

  • 14th-15th: If you don't do enough walking already, the Hi Seoul World Walking Festival will offer a chance for your legs to move like they were meant to. Choose from the 12km, 15km, or 30km course. Seoul Plaza & Hangang Park; 5,000 won, online registration required, but good luck on the Korean-only website. Why oh why does a WORLD WALKING FESTIVAL only get promoted in Korean? You can try calling (02) 544-2069 instead.

  • 20th - 22nd: Paju Jangdan Soybean Festival - the standard formula for Korean food festivals applies well here: take a food Korea is proud of, add characters in a suit, and offer classes in how to make some various things from the chosen food. The English website has more specifics, and I know you're all just dying to try Korean soy beans.

  • 26th - 29th: Speaking of food, the foodies will be coming out for the 4th annual Seoul International Fancy Food Festival AND The 8th Seoul Int’l Café Show 2009 at the COEX mall. 5,000 won gets you in, while these two websites are both in English, just in case you didn't know where the COEX mall is. A bonus: the Korean Barista Championship is supposed to be around the area.

  • From Korea 4 Expats there is

    Exhibition by Sun-Im Koh and her SIWA Students, 28 Oct - 3 Nov

    World Festival of National Theaters, 4 Sept to 4 Nov

    Photographer Shin Mihe Exhibition, 23 Oct-18 Nov 2009

    Seoul Grand Sale 2009 ends 25 November, Seoul

    See Korea with the RAS, November 2009, Seoul & Around Korea

    Seoul Performing Arts Festival - SPAF, 13 Oct. - 21 Nov

    Korean Movies with English Subtitles, CINUS Myeong-dong & Gangnam

    Photo Exhibition on Chile's Mapuche Tribe, to 10 Nov

    Joseon Period Ceremony Scenes to 6 Dec 2009, National Museum of Korea

    Groupe Novembre: Paris-Seoul, to 21 Nov 2009, Museum of Photography

    In the Flower Garden to 15 Nov 2009, 63 Building Seoul

    Exhibition - Swedish Footprint, 21 Oct to 7 Nov 2009, KFCC, Seoul

    Oliver Raw - Korea on Foot - Photo Exhibition, 22 Oct-4 Nov

    Making Kimchi for Charity, 10-11 Nov 2009, Yongsan, Seoul

    St Andrew's Ball Scottish Dancing Practices, Wed 23 Sept-25 Nov

    Performers Playground, Tuesdays to 11 Nov 2009, Itaewon

    Opera on Film to July 2010 - La Boheme, Nov 2009, COEX Megabox

    Opera Carmen, 5-8 Nov 2009, Seoul Arts Center, Seoul

    Spring Awakening thru 10 Jan 2010, Yeonji-dong Seoul

    RAS Tour to North Vietnam and Cambodia, 26-31 Dec 2009 RSVP by 6 Nov

    Jazz Concert - Patricia Barber, Sat 7 Nov 2009, Goyan

    Namsan Museum of Light Project to 31 Dec 2009, Seoul

    Family Musical-Little Donkey, Sat 7 Nov 2009, Uijeongbu Arts Centre

    Justice for North Korea Demonstration, every Saturday, Insa-dong

    North Korean Human Rights March, Sat 7 Nov 2009, City Hall Area

    Commonwealth Remembrance Service, Sun 8 Nov 2009, Anglican Cathedr...

    RAS Lecture - Why North Korea is Such a Pest, Tues 10 Nov 2009

    Suji's New York Deli Launching Party, Tuesday 10 Nov 2009

    Wine Class, Wednesday 11 Nov - 16 Dec 2009, Seocho-gu, Seoul

    Two Men's Autumn Story, Thurs 12 Nov 2009, Sejong Arts Center, Seoul

    Beautiful 11am Concert, Thursday 12 Nov 2009, Seoul Art Center

    Flea Market of Seorae Village, 14 Nov 2009, Seocho-gu, Seoul

    JeongSeon Rail-Bike Tour, Sat 14 Nov 2009, Departure from Seoul

    International Bazaar, Tues 17 Nov 2009, Grand Hilton Hotel, Seodae...

    Hanna Chang Cello Recital, Fri 20 Nov 2009, Goyang Aram Nuri Arts ...

    Germany As One:On Film-English Subtitles, Fri 20 Nov 2009

    RAS Lecture: Korea Betrayed, Mon 23 Nov 2009, near Insa-dong, Seoul

    Great Chefs Cooking Demo/Lunch, Tues 24 Nov 2009, Grand Hilton Hotel

    Olle Trail Trek, Wed-Fri 25-27 Nov 2009, Jeju Island

    Intl Youth Conference-North Korean Human Rights, Fri 27 Nov 09, Seoul

    Jazz Saxaphonist Choi Kwang Chul Concert, Fri 27 Nov 2009

    And from the official Korea tourism site there is
    Seogwipo Bangeo Fish Festival
    Period: 11-04-2009 ~ 11-08-2009
    Region: Jeju-do

    Ceramics Festival of Gimhae
    Period: 10-27-2009 ~ 11-01-2009
    Region: Gyeongsangnam-do

    Gwangju Kimchi Culture Festival
    Period: 10-23-2009 ~ 11-01-2009
    Region: Gwangju

    Paju Jangdan Soybean Festival
    Period: 11-20-2009 ~ 11-22-2009
    Region: Gyeonggi-do

    Namdo Food Festival
    Period: 10-29-2009 ~ 11-01-2009
    Region: Jeollanam-do

    Ganghwa Dolmen Culture Festival
    Period: 11-14-2009 ~ 11-15-2009
    Region: Incheon

    Tuesday, 3 November 2009


    Much like October being the 8th month, November, or should I say Movember, retains its name (Novem means '9' in Latin) from the old days before January and February were added to the Roman calendar. November starts on the same day of the week as March every year and has plenty of celebrations, saints days and other, strange observations for you to be interested in, participate in or just laugh and point at. Oh and from the 1st of November there will only be 60 days left of 2009, so get as much vice time in as you can before you pledge to give them all up at the end of the year, much like you did last year.

    November, in Korea at least is when the trees de-robe themselves in the annual changing of the leaves ceremony which sees so many people, both Korean and expatriate, head for the hills to "oooh" and "aaah" at all the lovely colours. Elsewhere, in the western world, November the first is the first day of winter in Ireland and is the start of the 'dark half of the year' in Wales. Samhain, the festival held at the end of the harvest season in Gaelic and Brythonic cultures has similarities with Mexico's El Día de los Muertos or All Souls' Day, which scarily enough falls on the same day. If you aren't spooked enough by that, this day is also world vegan day, aaaarrrgh.

    In keeping with the theme of death, the second of November will be the 35th anniversary of the tragedy of the Time Go-Go Club in Seoul when 38 people died as it burnt to the ground. Six of the victims died as they jumped to their deaths from the seventh floor because a club official barred the doors after the fire started.

    'Remember, remember, the 5th of November' or so they saying goes in the United Kingdom (and some parts of the Commonwealth.) No, not because of the gunpowder plot where a group of English Catholics, who were upset for one reason or another with King James I of England and VI of Scotland, plotted to kill the king and most of the Protestant aristocracy by blowing up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening on 5 November 1605, but because Korean pop sensation BoA was born on the is day in 1986.

    Recent arrivals to Korea have the 11th day of the 11th month to look forward to when they might be lucky enough to receive a box of chocolate covered biscuit sticks. Of course it is Pepero day and what better way to celebrate the German signing of the Armistice of World War One than to chow down on some Japanese snacks on a day created out of the greed of a multinational corporation. Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day or Veterans Day commemorates the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. Poppies or Pepero? Why not both!

    Seeing as most readers of this blog, well at least one of them, is or has been some kind of intrepid traveller I should probably mention all the hundreds of thousands of people, from all over the world who made the long, arduous and sometimes fatal journey to the land of opportunity to seek out their own personal American Dream. The first thing many of these travellers and adventurers (of a fashion) would see would be Frederic Auguste Bartholdi's depiction of 'Liberty Enlightening the World,' before disembarking to Ellis Island to be processed. 55 years ago on the 12th, Ellis Island closed its doors after 62 years of renaming immigrants because their strange foreign accents were hard to understand. On a more upbeat note, on this very day in 1984 Park Sandara was born in Busan. The 2NE1 star not only has an interesting 4 syllable name, 박산다라, after Korean general Kim Yushin, whose childhood name was "Sandara (산다라)," but is also fluent in English and Filipino and has, according to her wikipedia page, "developed Englog and Taglish capabilities," whatever the hell they are.

    It's National novel writing month, An Chang-ho, a Korean independence activist and one of the early leaders of the Korean-American immigrant community in the United States was born on the 9th in 1878 and The Workers Party of South Korea was founded on November 23, 1946 and was led by Pak Hon-yong.

    Other interesting things that either happened or will happen I don't have time to work into a story like narrative but have painstakingly copied and pasted from various websites include;

    3/11 Culture Day is a national holiday held annually in Japan on November 3 for the purpose of promoting culture, the arts, and academic endeavour. Festivities typically include art exhibitions, parades, and award ceremonies for distinguished artists and scholars. Culture Day was first held in 1948, to commemorate the announcement of the post-war Japanese constitution on November 3, 1946.

    The Greensboro massacre took place on November 3, 1979 in Greensboro, North Carolina, United States. Five marchers were shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party while in a protest. It was the culmination of attempts by the Communist Workers Party (known as the Workers Viewpoint Organization at the time of the shooting) to organize mostly black industrial workers in the area. Also on the 3rd in 2004 George W. Bush won a second term.

    3/11/1957 Russia launches a dog into space, no not tied to the back of a rocket but as the first animal to ever enter the cosmos. Laika, a stray was trained for the job and beat off competition from 2 other dogs to be launched into space and ultimately to her death. Until 2002 it was widely believed that Laika lived for several days but it turned out that for one reason or another the dog died a few hours after lift off, probably because she was launched INTO SPACE. A small monument in her honor was built near the military research facility in Moscow which prepared Laika's flight to space. It features a dog standing on top of a rocket.

    4/11/1921 Japanese Prime Minister Hara Takashi is assassinated in Tokyo.

    4/11/80 US politics goes completely mental when Ronald Regan, actor and republican governor of California becomes president. I wonder if an acting republican Governor of California could become president again, surely not.

    6/11/99 Aussies decide that they don't want to break with the UK and become a republic, clever Aussies.

    5/11/52 Eisenhower elected with the largest number of popular votes ever recorded for a presidential candidate and repeats that feat on the 7th of November 4 years later when he is returned to the White House with the biggest share of votes for 100 years.

    6/11 With 88 days between the mid-autumn equinox on September 23 and the mid-winter solstice on 21 December, we are considered at the end of autumn on this day. Today is also Finnish and Swedish Heritage Day (Swedish: Svenska dagen, Finnish: Ruotsalaisuuden päivä) and is a general flag day and celebrates the Finland-Swedish culture and the bilinguality of Finland.

    8/11/1950 The first jet aircraft-to-jet aircraft dogfight in history takes place when Lt. Russell J. Brown shoots down two North Korean MiG-15s and on this day in 1990 Ireland elects Mary Robinson as their first woman president

    9/11/89 The Berlin wall falls but it isn't because of politics or diplomacy but because everyone wants to escape the singing of Michael Knight, aka, the Hoff, Cambodia became independent of France in '53 and on this day in 1970 former French leader Charles De Gaulle died and The Supreme Court of the United States votes 6 to 3 against hearing a case to allow Massachusetts to enforce its law granting residents the right to refuse military service in an undeclared war. In 1960 Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy emerged as the new president of the United States beating Vice-President Richard Nixon by a slim margin. Senator Kennedy, aged 43 at the time, was a Harvard graduate and war hero. He was the youngest elected president in US history and the first Roman Catholic.

    10/11/60 Bookshops all over England have sold out of Penguin's first run of the controversial novel Lady Chatterley's Lover - a total of 200,000 copies - on the first day of publication. DH Lawrence's sexually explicit novel was published in Italy in 1928 and in Paris the following year. It has been banned in the UK - until now.

    11/11 Peppero day in Korea, where everyone eats sweets and chocolate but for a large part of the world it is Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day (the event it commemorates) or Veterans Day. A day that commemorates the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.) The day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during war; this was possibly done upon the suggestion of Edward George Honey to Wellesley Tudor Pole, who established two ceremonial periods of remembrance based on events in 1917.

    12/11/54 New York's main immigration point, Ellis Island, shuts its doors after 62 years and in 1984 park Sandara was born in Busan. The 2NE1 star not only has an interesting 4 syllable name, 박산다라, after Korean general, Kim Yushin, whose childhood name was "Sandara (산다라)" but is also fluent in English, Filipino and has, according to her wikipedia page, "developed Englog and Taglish capabilities", whatever the hell they are.

    The 14th is World diabetes day and on the 15th in 1940 the German Luftwaffe bombed Coventry in a massive raid which lasted more than 10 hours and left much of the city devastated. Relays of enemy aircraft dropped bombs indiscriminately. One of the many buildings hit included the 14th century cathedral, which was all but destroyed. Initial reports suggest the number of casualties is about 1,000. Intensive anti-aircraft fire kept the raiders at a great height from which accurate bombing was impossible. Reports say 4,330 homes were destroyed and three-quarters of the city's factories damaged.

    The 15th is America recycles day and on the 16th, some 84 years apart British fascist Oswald Mosley and all round good guy Rob McGovern were born, the later in 1980. If you happen to be reading this on the 16th of November, it will be Rob's birthday so send him something nice. This day is also the international day of tolerance, which for people who know the aforementioned Rob McGovern might find this incredibly amusing.

    17/11/1905 The Eulsa treaty was signed by Korea and japan. Following Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War, with its subsequent withdrawal of Russian influence, and the Taft-Katsura Agreement, by which the United States agreed not to interfere with Japan in matters concerning Korea, the Japanese government sought to formalize its sphere of influence over the Korean peninsula. Delegates of both Empires met in Seoul to resolve differences in matters pertaining to Korea’s future foreign policy; however, with the Korean Imperial palace under occupation by Japanese troops, and the Imperial Japanese Army stationed at strategic locations throughout Korea, the Korean side was at a distinct disadvantage in the discussions. On 17 November 1905, the Korean cabinet signed an agreement that had been prepared by Ito Hirobumi in the Deoksu Jungmyeongjeon, a European-style building that was once part of Deoksu Palace. The Agreement gave Japan complete responsibility for Korea’s foreign affairs, and placed all trade through Korean ports under Japanese supervision.

    17/11/82 Korean boxer Duk-Koo Kim died following a boxing match against Ray Mancini. Minutes after the fight was over, Kim collapsed into a coma, and was taken out of the Caesar's Palace arena on a stretcher. Emergency brain surgery was performed at the hospital to try to save him, but that effort proved to be futile, and Kim died 4 days after the bout, on November 17. The week after, Sports Illustrated published a photo of the fight on its cover, under the heading Tragedy in The Ring. The profile of the incident was heightened by the fight having been televised live in the United States. He was 23. The story of Kim's life was taken to the big screen in his native South Korea: Director Kwak Kyung Taek directed the movie Champion, and actor Yu Oh Seongstarred as the fallen boxer. Mancini went to the funeral in South Korea, but he fell into a deep depression afterwards. He has said that the hardest moments came when people approached him and asked if he was the boxer who "killed" Duk Koo Kim. Mancini went through a period of reflection, as he blamed himself for Kim's death. In addition, Kim's mother committed suicide four months after the fight, as did the bout's referee, Richard Green, in July 1983. As a result of this bout, the WBC took steps to shorten its title bouts to a maximum of 12 rounds. The WBA and WBO followed in 1988 and the IBF did in 1989.

    19/11/1977 The president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, has begun his trip to Israel - the first Arab leader ever to visit the Jewish state.

    22/11/63 JFK is killed and the following day Lyndon B Johnson is installed as the new President of the USA. A day after that on the 24th Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of murdering Kennedy, is himself shot dead in a Dallas police station. The day after that the funeral of the assassinated President takes place in Washington.

    22/11/90 Margaret 'Milk snatcher' Thatcher resigns as prime minister after her Cabinet refused to back her in a second round of leadership elections. Boo Hoo.

    23/11/85 안현수 was born. A Short track speed skating athlete from South Korea and three-time gold-medalist in the Winter Olympics. Ahn has won four Olympic medals in his career; he is one of only two Koreans to ever win three gold medals in one Olympics, and is the first Korean man to win at least three. Ahn is the first five-time world champion, having won five consecutive overall titles from 2003 to 2007 but through injury during the Korean National Team Trials, which ultimately determine the Fall World Cup and Olympic Teams, Ahn was unable to qualify, finishing 7th in overall points (because Ahn didn't compete in the last two World Cup seasons, he needed to finish in the top three in overall points to qualify). Due to his inability to qualify, he will not be participating in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC. Despite this, Ahn still hopes to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, which will most likely be his last games.

    24/11 Evolution Day is the anniversary of the first publication of The Origin of Species on November 24, 1859. Also celebrated is Darwin Day which commemorates the birthday of Charles Darwin who established the theory of natural selection which provided for a biological process behind evolution. The year 2009 will mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin as well as the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth.

    27/11/50 Troops from the People's Republic of China launch a massive counterattack in North Korea against South Korean and United Nations forces ending any hopes of a quick end to the conflict.

    30/11 Official end of the hurricane season and the fest day of St Andrew. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and St. Andrew's Day is Scotland's official national day . In 2006, the Scottish Parliament designated the St. Andrew's Day as an official bank holiday. Although most commonly associated with Scotland, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, and Russia.

    See you next month!

    A lovely label cloud

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