Saturday, August 31, 2013

Why I Like Korea-Part One: Levels of Respect

Reasons to Like Korea:
Part One -  Respect

I can't say exactly when it happened or what made the proverbial 'light bulb' go off in my head but what I do know is that it's probably one of the best things that has ever happened in my life and it's changed me forever. It's actually changed me so much that it's made me love my husband even more because he openly embraced the new and different changes I've made in our lives since it all started despite it being very much against his will. What, exactly, am I talking about? My fascination in all things Korean, of course! Who's blog did you think you fell into? (lol)

 I've been asked several times by friends and family--especially my mother--"Why Korea all of a sudden?" Sometimes it's asked with honest curiosity but mostly the questions carry a hint of judgment that makes me feel like I should be embarrassed by my interest.

Mwahahahahahaha, me embarrassed...psssh! Is what I say to that!

My mother, who has always supported my varying interests, can't seem to wrap her head around my new one. When I asked her point-blank why she had such a problem with it, her response was "Well, it's just so sudden?" I try to be open minded, I don't always succeed but I tried to reflect upon this obsession as compared to my previous obsessions and...Well, I don't think it's really as sudden as everyone seems to think it is. Ever since I was little I've had an obsessive personality which means I would find something I liked and just run with it.

One of my first major obsessions happened back in fourth grade; one of my oldest girlfriends is from Ireland/England (well, her mother was anyway) and every time I went to her house, her mother would always say " 'ello 'eather! " in that awesome British accent of hers and it was like I saw the sun for the first time! I became so fascinated with everything Irish/English that my family actually thought I'd eventually move there. To this day, I'm still fascinated with anything Irish/English, I mean my engagement ring was a claddagh ring and my husband's wedding ring has a Celtic design, for crying out loud! My obsessions are not just temporary, "It's a phase"-type obsessions, but life changing and long lasting interests. I briefly tried to learn Gaelic before realizing it was 1) a near dead language and; 2) very hard to self teach. 

My second major obsession started in the sixth grade and even to this day, this obsessions rules my life. I love Egypt! I saw The Mummy and did a middle school project about Egypt (with the same friend from Obsessions #1, actually) and that was it..I mean, my first major life altering idea was to go to Brown University (Rhode Island), earn a degree/Master's in Egyptology and move there. Again, I was in the sixth grade and didn't realize how much work would go into that field or how hard it would be to actually move to and live in Egypt but I knew, clear as day, what school I would go to, how I was going to graduate and where I was headed, I had it all planned out. However, my life took me in a completely different direction (I'm going into Nursing for pete's sake, lol) but even now, I drag my mother to every Egyptian exhibit passing through the Minnesota Science Museum, I watch every History Channel documentary and read books about Egypt. And instantly get stoked whenever I hear the name Zahi Hawass! 

Both these experiences changed my life and my list of interests and I'm a better, more culturally educated person because of it. But it seems like these two interests are more socially acceptable than my sudden new interest in Korea. It's truly unfortunate because I've learned so much in the past year and I want to share it with those in my life but, after many sighs and blunt verbal attacks, it's clear that it's better to keep my mouth shut. It's frustrating on one end because there's so much I want to talk about but thankfully, if it wasn't for my very good friend, Firnlambe, I would have exploded a long time ago with pent up information. Well actually, without Firnlambe there wouldn't BE any pent up information because she is the reasons I became fascinated with Korea to begin with! So hats off to Firnlambe!


So, without further ado, let's discuss one of the things that is so great about Korea! 

The Korean culture is so very different from my American culture; part of what makes learning different cultures so interesting is finding the differences and exploring them and the history of why it's different. Lets face it, if we were all the same we'd be so damn bored! I honestly can't even point out what is the MOST different between the two cultures because there isn't much alike so everything is different. 

The difference that fascinates me the most however--and causes me the most frustration (linguistically speaking)--is the hierarchy of Korea. Especially it's language. It's fascinating because it doesn't matter if you don't like someone or are best friend's with someone, the hierarchy is constantly maintained. The author for Korean for Dummies put it rather nicely: 

Formal English is coming to a slow demise. The few times that we ever hear or use it is in situations that we'd rather avoid, such as during job interviews, public speeches, and in conversations with police officers and judges. On the other hand, formal Korean is very much alive and well. ... Perhaps the number of polite forms that Korean has shows just how much emphasis Koreans place on showing the proper levels of respect to the listener. - Jungwook Hong (Hong 25-26).

I won't get too much into the explanations but Korean actually has four levels of language--the rules are strict enough that even one to two years difference in age can mean you need to be uber respectful. There have been a few instances, that I know of, where a younger person will speak to or reference someone who is older but out of context (informal speech) and it having adverse reactions:
Ryewook failed to use formalities
Leeteuk is at this time is 30 years old and Ryewook is only 4 years his junior at 26 years old.


Here, Kwang Soo (who is younger) uses 
less formal language to call for Jong Kook

So as you can see, by using the proper varying forms that make up the Korean language, they show each other copious amounts of respect. This appealed to me immensely because I always refer to my friend's parents and Mr./Mrs. So'n'So. In fact, to this day I am the only  friend who still refer's to my friend's British mom as "Mrs. Watson" and it's always made her look kindly on me. Learning more about the Korean culture has made me want to start using more formal speech with people in my life because I would like to be able to show them the kind of respect they deserve. I've begun referring to my older female friends as 'Eonni' (Korean word for sister and is used only by younger girls towards older girls. This can also be used to show respectful affection towards an older woman). I have also begun using 'Oppa' for my husband who, reluctantly, started responding too. ('Oppa' is the Korean word for older brother or honey which is used only by younger girls towards older males).


However, it's not just in the language that respect is shown to one another--it's everywhere and it's part of everything. There is even a special etiquette used when people are drinking! If you're younger, you're responsible for pouring the drink for your Seonbae (elder) and when pouring you can either touch your wrist, or as the picture indicates, your elbow to show respect. (This elbow/wrist touch can also be observed sometimes in introductory greetings, which I'll touch on later) When your Seonbae is pouring you a drink, or you are accepting one, you hold it with both hands (see above picture), turn to the left or right so your face is averted and in one shot take the drink. They have a saying in Korea..."One Shot" meaning you better down that entire shot of Soju! (*Soju: Korean's staple alcohol*). I find this particular way of showing respect to be the most fascinating. Not only because I like to drink and will drink (probably multiple times) in Korea but because here in America, drinking is a fun and frivolous event, a way to break down the walls of rigidness and just let yourself go. In Korea, although having fun and breaking the walls of rigidness is also a part of drinking, the standard levels of respect are still observed. 


There are varying degrees to show respect when interacting with each other and it's all analyzed on the spot--what I mean to say is, as an example-when saying Annyeonghaseyo (Hello), normally it is complimented with a bow. The bow can be a simple head-neck bow, a slight 45-degree bow from the waist or a full on 90-degree bow from the waist. Normally a 45-degree bow is standard when actually greeting someone however, it's only on very formal occasions that a full 90-degree bow is required. But Koreans will register the bow and immediately know the level of respect and acknowledge it. Bows are usually always given when saying hello, goodbye, thank you and apologies. This type of acknowledgement is given no matter the situation (i.e. best friend vs enemy), it's a custom that is acknowledged no matter the circumstances and I think we can gain a lot from learning to be courteous to others no matter the situation here in America as well. For Korean's, it's so ingrained that being respectful is second nature. That's not to say that other cultures don't have their own ways of showing respect such as the "bow" but since I'm discussing Korea, I'm limiting myself to Korea. 


I briefly touched on this next one a couple of paragraphs ago but I love it so much that I feel like it needs it's own paragraph. This one is kind of difficult to describe to someone who has no knowledge or reference to anything Korean but I'll try...When speaking to or about someone, it is customary to infer your place in the hierarchy in relation to their position. Confused...I'll try to explain example would be me saying something like "Naui Eonni, Firnlambe". This small phrase translates to "My Older Sister, Firnlambe" so right there, I've told whoever I'm speaking too that in relation to Firnlambe, I am younger. Now normally Korean's don't put the "Naui" before a person, they just simply say "Eonni" and it's understood that that she's my older sister or older, close, female friend--such as the case with Firnlambe, even if it's only by 4 months. Here's another example: 

First off, I love this clip because I happen to love Taemin but it's also perfect for showing you how ingrained respect is even when greeting someone. For those of you who don't know, Taemin is the Maknae (youngest) member of SHINee, in'd be pretty safe to say he's probably one of the youngest debuted members of SM Entertainment as a whole (the exceptions being Exo's Kai & Sehun who are '94 babies) so he's pretty used to always having to show respect to this Seonbae's and on very rare occasions actually has a Hubae (younger associate) such as in the case of this clip.  I'll break down the multiple displays of respect, in case you missed them:
  1. The Hubae refers to Taemin as "Taemin-hyung" which is indicative of a Hubae speaking to a Seonbae because "Hyung" is a title only used by younger males to address older males, it also means 'brother' in Korean. Sometimes you will hear "Hyung-nim" which is a title that indicates respect on top of respect. Because he referred to Taemin as "Hyung", it explains the shouts of shock...I mean, you can see it on everyone's face surrounding Taemin.
  2. The next thing, we can also see the Hubae giving the standard 45-degree bow as well as the wrist touch. Despite Kang Ho Dong (the MC) telling Taemin to be natural, did you notice that Taemin also touched his elbow?? I suspect this was mostly due to habit, but respect was still observed even on Taemin's side--which was also accompanied by a 45-degree bow. 
  3. These two formal levels of respect were observed even though there is only a year difference. 
  4. This next one is probably my favorite Hubae-Seonbae "tradition" for a lack of a better word. It's the Seonbae bestowing knowledge to the Hubae. The Hubae asks Taemin-hyung for advice..because he's older and is suppose to be wiser. However, watching Taemin struggle and eventually spout out something someone probably told him, I think is just plain funny. 
  5. And then lastly, the 90-degree bow when the Hubae says "Thank You" to Taemin-hyung for the advice.
If you caught onto all of that without me having to break it down, then kudos to you!!


There are a lot more examples than just ones I've spoken about in this blog but these are the ones I see the most and are the most fascinating in my eyes. The respect is just one of the many reasons why even after a year of learning about Korea, I've continued to stay fascinated with this country and it's culture. If I've peaked anyone's interest, don't hesitate to do research on your own on Korea or hell, if you have another country that is of particular interest to you. Take the time to learn about it, nothing bad can come from educating yourself on the world you live in. In all actuality, it would be do more good  for all of us to learn about our world as a whole. 

With that having been said, I hope you have all learned something today. Until next time, leave in peace! Annyeonghi gaseyo!

As per usual, stay tuned for this blog's 
"KArtist/KDrama of the Blog"

Let's see...the KArtist iiiiissss..... (terrible fight between Exo & SHINee ensues)

 It was a difficult battle but SHINee will live to fight another day...Exo wins this blog entry (Thank you Ipod Shuffle!) At the time of this blog, I'm still working on my Kpop Recommended Page which should be up shortly but I give a more thorough explanation of Exo there. So please forgive the brief explanation in this blog--if you're curious, please check back and look at what I have to say about Exo (*and others*) in more detail there. Exo debuted in April of 2012 so they are still pretty new but not quite new enough that they haven't established a massive fan-base. Myself, included. Despite the fact that they debuted under SM Entertainment and happen to be a 12-person group, do not mistake these 12 individuals as "Super Junior" wannabes. They are so far from it sounding like Super Junior, it's pretty amazing. Their first mini-album's concept was a little out there but if you've seen the various "Mama" MV's, the concept is actually's friggin awesome! They're attached here: 

If you couldn't tell, Exo is actually broken up into two groups: Exo-M & Exo-K (Mandarin and Korean) for the different respective audiences. If you took the time to only watch one of the videos, I strongly suggest watching both. Despite the song being the same, it sounds completely different and I don't just mean the language (plus there are different super powers in each video). Ok...moving on...Us EXOtics (Exo "fan-club" name) had to wait over a year before they released their full album which had a completely different concept and the wait was excruciating! In their "Wolf" album, their concept was that of werewolves. I thought I loved the "Out of this World" Exo..well, let's just say that ain't got nuthin' on our "Werewolf" Exo's. I'll attach that MV below along with their most recent single "Growl". I'm attaching growl so that you can acknowledge their full talents. How so, you ask? Well, the MV for "Growl" was shot IN ONE TAKE. Yes people, they had one chance to do it right and they did it phenomenally well despite Kai having made a mistake (He drops his hat in the Korean Version at approximately 2:14--he pirouettes expertly around to pick it up so it doesn't ruin the "one shot" theme. You can even see Kris acknowledge the dropped hat but they both continued with the moves as if nothing happened). Quite honestly, I missed it entirely the 1st...2nd...3rd....and 4th time I tried to look for it before Firnlambe had to show me. Now both MV's below have their respective Mandarin version, I'm just not attaching them, so feel free to YouTube these guy's if you're as impressed as I am.

Alright...Kdrama...Kdrama...Kdrama...we'll go with.............

Let me tell you what a treat this KDrama was a treat. (lol) But seriously, I was incredibly skeptical going into this KDrama, I'm not gonna lie. At the time, I didn't know any of the actors besides Ms. Park Shin Hye there in the middle. I knew of her, liked all her other roles and thought, well...let's just watch it and see. I was completely BLOWN away by the characters, the story and the acting. So the basic synopsis is Go Dok Mi (Park Shin Hye) is a recluse who spends her time working (editor) and quietly stalking observing the guy who lives across the street. He's handsome, obviously successful and has an adorable little dog, and on one occasion, he was exceptionally nice to her. However, her life gets turned upside down when this man's cousin, Enrique (Yoon Si Yoon), comes back to Korea for promotional reasons. Enrique grew up and lives in Spain (thus the name) and he is this outgoing, fun loving, game designer and well..he's just..amazing and everything Go Dok Mi needs to get her butt out of her apartment and back into the world. When he catches her stalking observing her neighbor, it's basically all up hill hilarity from there. Now it's not just a fun Kdrama, there is a serious side...I mean, she's not a recluse for no reason...know what I mean?
This video starts off great, even though it's fan-made but then it starts to turn into all about Yoon Si Yoon..but still, it's a great visual for this Kdrama in the beginning and gives you a little taste of the characters.

This Kdrama brought to my eyes the awesomeness that is Yoon Si Yoon (guy in the red scarf). He's an amazing actor that has been in many other Kdramas but this one is my ultimate favorite (closely followed by Me Too, Flower). The supporting roles are also significant and not just "there" to support the main cast. That's one of the things I love about this KDrama, each character has their own story and their own purpose.  I definitely recommend this KDrama, it's actually a good starting point if you've never seen a KDrama before. Head on over to Dramafever and check it out!

That's all for today! See ya later!

-Hong, Jungwook. Korean for Dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey:
            Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2008. 25-26. Print.

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