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Category Archives: History

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)

Sources:

History of Korean Buddhism

Andong Brochure

Korean Confucianism

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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Cities, History

 

Haenyo

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)

THE FOLLOWING IS A BIT OF A SPOILER, SO DO NOT READ IF YOU PLAN TO WATCH THE FILM:

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)

Sources:

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)

Sources:

The Kimchi Chronicles: The Jeju Chronicles

Wikipedia – Haenyo

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2012 in Cities, History

 

Imperial Cuisine

The Korean royal palace was notorious for having an abundance of food. Although an anomaly in terms of its vast amounts of food available year round, the imperial court is all encompassing of the different types of traditional Korean Cuisine. Imperial Korea was split into eight provinces, each having to send a variety of goods to the royal palace each month. This gave the royal palace the ability to make a wide variety of regional dishes regularly, making imperial cuisine reflective of traditional Korean cuisine as a whole. In addition to the abundance of dishes available in the imperial court, the preparation of these foods was well integrated into the framework of the imperial workforce. For example, the Board of Personnel was partially comprised of people gathering rice and preparing meals for the royal family. Many of the slaves and palace women were also involved in the procurement and preparation of food. The actual setup and preparation of the meals is very complex, so I won’t go into further details. The crucial thing to take away from this is that royal cuisine is a solid representation of traditional Korean food.

The layout of a typical sura (meal), with numbers denoting dishes and letters denoting placement of attendants to the king and queen (Courtesy of Michael J. Pettid)

Sources:

Korean Cuisine: An Illustrated History (by Michael J. Pettid)

The Kimchi Chronicles: The Seoul Food Chronicles

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2012 in Food, History

 

The Korean War (in color)

Korea’s history before the Korean War was one of brutality and foreign occupation. Although this war was truly one of the clashing political ideologies of the East and the West, the Korean War gave South Korea the chance to thrive and become its own country free of foreign influence and occupation. To further my understanding of the Korean War, I watched a documentary titled Korean War in Color. This film used actual footage from the Korean War and paired it with voice over commentary. Although the documentary does not focus too much on the Korean perspective of the Korean War, it still provides a clear image of how intense and uncertain the war was. Claiming over 3 million lives, the Korean War is the most devastating war in Korean history. Though primarily fought between UN and Communist troops, the war had a particularly huge effect on South Korean citizens. At the beginning of the war, North Korea took South Korea by surprise and quickly conquered the majority of the country. In fact, South Korean territory had been reduced to a small area around the Busan peninsula, making Busan the temporary capital during the Korean War. However, this quickly turned around once UN troops became involved in the conflict. After three years of territory constantly exchanging hands, a cease fire agreement was signed. Although technically not a peace treaty, this was the symbolic ending of the Korean War. Now, almost 60 years after the Korean War, South Korea has transformed into this modern marvel. It’s amazing that after all of the damage done during the Korean War South Korea has become an entirely new, independent nation.

A nighttime view of Seoul, the capital of South Korea (Courtesy of Trey Ratcliff)

Sources:

Korean War in Color

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in History