Author Archives: MrReason

Religion in Andong

Religion is a central part of life in Andong. In addition to the Hahoe folk village, Andong is known for its vast number of Buddhist temples and Confucian schools of thought. Buddhism and Confucianism were both introduced to Korea by the Chinese during the Three Kingdoms period. Because of the strong intellectualism behind each of these religions, Andong became both the spiritual and educational center of Korea.

The doorway to a Confucian School of thought (Courtesy of New World Encyclopedia)


History of Korean Buddhism

Andong Brochure

Korean Confucianism

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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Cities, History



Jjimdak is a very popular dish in Andong. It is comprised of chicken, glass noodles, potatoes, carrots, and onion. I haven’t read anything interesting about its origins, so there really isn’t that much to say about it (except that it is delicious). As I stated in a previous post, Andong is known for its chicken dishes. This is in part because of its strong religious ties, but it also may have to do with its location. Andong is farther inland than all of the other cities that I have studied, meaning that fish is probably less accessible to this city. This, paired with the fact that Buddhism and Confucianism have historically limited the consumption of beef, makes it understandable that Andong is known for a chicken based dish like jjimdak.

My first attempt at jjimdak simmering in a sauce pan (Recipe courtesy of Aeri’s Kitchen)


Sempio Jjimdak Recipe

The Kimchi Chronicles: The Chicken Chronicles

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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized



Andong is the spiritual capital of Korea; it provides an array of Buddhist and Confusion temples and rituals.  A still thriving testament to the religious roots of the city can be seen at the Hahoe folk village, a traditional village that has retained its original architecture and rituals since the Joseon dynasty (the longest lasting period in Korean history, lasting from 1392-1897). One very popular tradition is the Hahoe mask dance, an interactive drama that has been around since early Korea. It was originally created by lower class Koreans to poke fun at the higher classes, which included royalty, religious leaders, and the wealthy. This event clearly displays the strong cultural ties that Andong still has today. In addition to being the religious center of Korea, Andong is known for their chicken based dishes. Throughout most of Korean history, Buddhism prevented the consumption of beef. And even after Confucianism was introduced in Korea, beef was only eaten after proper rituals had taken place. Beef wasn’t actually a recreational food in Korea until the mid 1900’s. So it makes sense that Andong, being the strong religious city that it is, would have meat dishes that mostly contain chicken. Andong is by far the most actively cultural of all the cities I have researched.

The Hahoe Folk Village in Andong, Korea (Courtesy of VisitKorea)


Wikipedia – Hahoe Folk Village

Andong International Maskdance Festival

The Kimchi Chronicles: The Chicken Chronicles

The Kimchi Chronicles: The Beef Chronicles


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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Cities



Haenyo, or female deep sea divers, are a tradition on the island of Jeju. As I stated in a previous post, this tradition is slowly dying out, as more and more haenyo are encouraging their daughters to get an education. Although their are a few documentaries on the subject, many of them are inaccessible to the public. So instead of gathering information on haenyo from a non-fiction film, I decided to see what I could find out from watching a fictional film about the daughter of a haenyo called “My Mother the Mermaid”.

My Mother the Mermaidis a 2004 South Korean film drama about a dysfunctional family living on Korea’s mainland. The daughter of the family is sick of her vile mother who only cares about money and feels immense sympathy for her overly considerate father, who is constantly bashed by her mother. The daughter works at a post office and plans on taking a trip to New Zealand, when suddenly her father disappears. The mother doesn’t care that the husband has disappeared, so the daughter gives up her trip to New Zealand to find her father.

The movie poster for the 2004 film “My Mother the Mermaid” (Courtesy of Hancinema)


When she arrives on the island where she thinks her father has run away to, she lapses into this dreamlike state where she actually meets her mother as a child on the island. As the title suggests, her mother was a haenyo. She is illiterate and supporting her brother so that he may go to school. This matriarchal family structure was very typical of haenyo. Even when they were married, they tended to be the breadwinners of the household. You can even see this in the relationship between the mother and father once they move off the island. Her domineering attitude towards her husband suggests that she is the leader of her new household as well. The movie also provides actual footage of diving, which suggests the amount of risk and skill in the profession. The divers would have to find dislodge shellfish from the ocean floor, meaning that they would have be able to hold their breaths for long periods of time.

Although this is the extent to which being a haenyo is explored during the film, it provides a fantastic visualization of what being a haenyo entails and how it influences other aspects of their lives. This is a beautifully made film, and although the subtitles are a little strange at some points, I think everyone should watch it.

Additional Resources:

The haenyo divers: Korea’s women of the sea

Korean island women carry on diving tradition

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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Cities, History


Jeju Momguk

Momguk, a thick pork and seaweed soup, is a dish native to Jeju. This soup is primarily comprised of seaweed, kimchi, and a pork broth that is thickened by adding buckwheat flour. Momguk is more of a ceremonial dish than it is a daily one. It has historically been served at celebrations and funerals and symbolizes the communal nature of the island.  Before Jeju became a major tourist destination, it struggled economically. Because of this, the slaughtering of the momguk pig was a symbolic event signalling the beginning of an important function.The whole pig was then prepared in the soup and served to everyone in the community. The fact that a luxurious food, like pork, was expected to be shared throughout the community clearly shows why momguk is a historically festive dish. Additionally, people were sure to make momguk last; in addition to using every part of the pig, water and ingredients would be added to make the dish last about nine days. Although the dish smells terrible when cooked the traditional way, it is a good soup and a great representation of native Jeju cuisine.

A bowl of Jeju Momguk (Courtesy of Paxhanti)


The Kimchi Chronicles: The Jeju Chronicles

Jeju momguk and yukgaejang

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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Food, History


Jeju Island

The island of Jeju is considered the Hawaii of Korea. Located miles off the coast of the southernmost tip of South Korea, Jeju provides a mix of tourism and traditionalism. Most of the land is arable, making agriculture a huge part of island life. Besides being known as the Korean island paradise, Jeju is famous for the tradition of Haenyo, or female divers. Haenyo became common in the late 1900’s when diving for fish became too low paying of a job for men to take; women were not subjected to the work taxes that men were, making the job more profitable for Haenyo. Given Jeju’s mass exportation of seafood to Japan during this period, Haenyo became the breadwinners of the family. Although this tradition is slowly fading away, a significant number of women still work as Haenyo today. Seafood, Haenyo, and agriculture make up the essence of this struggling-to-stay-traditional island.

An aerial view of Jeju Island (Courtesy of Global Geopark)


The Kimchi Chronicles: The Jeju Chronicles

Wikipedia – Haenyo

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Posted by on May 16, 2012 in Cities, History


The Harsh Realities of Education in Korea

The education system in Korea has created of the major social debates in Korea today. With one of the highest rates of international student matriculation at American universities, the Korean education system is one of the most intense and competitive in the world. From primary school to high school, Korean students are under intense pressure from their teachers and parents to do well in school. The culmination of these external pressures and the students’ own internal pressures makes suicide the leading cause of death amongst Korean youth. A 2010 report on youth suicides in Korea claims that 13 out of every 100,000 people from ages 15 to 24 committed suicide. Additionally, 8.8% of the youth surveyed claimed that they had considered taking their life, with 53.4% of them stating that educational stresses were the central cause of this urge.

The alarmingly high rate of suicides motivated by high academic pressures sparked one girl’s interest in creating a documentary about the Korean high school experience. This documentary, directed by Kelley Katzenmeyer, focuses on her interactions with Korean high school seniors as they are preparing for the “Korean SAT”, a college entrance exam only held once a year. Although the movie is not out yet, the 18-minute preview provides a decent picture of what the life of a Korean high student is like. And if you are interested in seeing the full film, you can donate to the film through the film’s website.

Painful Lessons, another movie about Korean education, talks about the use of corporal punishment in primary and secondary education. This use of harsh discipline is a very serious debate in Korea; many proponents have argued (and substantiated the argument) that the use of corporal punishment should continue because the absence of it creates an absence of motivation in Korean students. The movie gives an example of a Korean high school that doesn’t use corporal punishment. In this school, kids are not nearly as motivated as the typical Korean high school student, often sleeping in class or catching up on the latest comics. However, corporal punishment has recently become very violent, making the debate on both sides very strong. Although its methods may seem archaic and unethical, Korea does produce very bright individuals. Only time will tell if the Korean education system will be forced to address the problems that exist or continue running it as it has been run in the past.

A classroom full of Korean boys studying for the once a year college entrance exam (Courtesy of Ahn Hyun-Joo)


Painful Lessons (directed by Seoul Broadcasting System in 2011)

A Documentary Film on Korean High School by Kelley Katzenmeyer (still under production)

Suicide Leading Cause of Youth Deaths (The Korean Times)

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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Contemporary Issues