Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (book)

I got this book out of the library a few of months ago. It's both fascinating and heartbreaking. The author follows the stories of six different people, all from the city of 청진 up on the northeast coast, who managed to escape and make it to Seoul. The research was all done through interviews (with translators--though there are only a couple of places where it's obvious that the author doesn't really speak Korean). It's definitely the most detailed account I've read about what everyday life there is like for regular people.

The title is from a song, used in this propaganda video which you can watch on the book's official site--"세상에 부럼 없어라."  (The video takes a while to load.)  I followed most of the song fairly well but was curious about the word "넋" and had to look that one up.  Apparently it means spirit or soul.  I don't remember ever hearing this before.

There were a lot of things about North Korea that I hadn't realized. I expect everyone's seen that picture of North Korea at night, where the entire country is blank except for the bright spot in 평양, but it hasn't always been like that. At one point the North was doing better than the South. The descriptions of deterioration and starvation were quite eye-opening. (As well as people's inventiveness in finding ways to make money in a country that officially bans private enterprise.)

This book also answered a few questions that I had wondered about, like what is North Korea's name for South Korea (남조선). One woman hears the name 한국 and doesn't know what it is.

I think this would be an interesting read for just about anybody, but especially meaningful to those who have a personal interest in Korea, of course. I even suggested it for our ward book club (though it does have one F-bomb). They didn't go for it but we are going to read Year of Impossible Goodbyes for February.

(And I'd like to close with a thought for the Christmas season...)

The year that the Berlin wall came down, a couple sang "O Holy Night" in sacrament meeting and mentioned that this verse seemed particularly appropriate:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

우리 나라 만세!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

(late) 추석 party

Due to scheduling conflicts (a wedding, and General Conference) the Seattle 한인 지부 didn't have their 추석 party till October 9 (which is 한글 Day, coincidentally). We went and took the kids. There was a ton of food, including a mountainous pile of 콩나물, which made me very happy.

(There was also a fruit salad with cherry tomatoes in it. Elder Parsons was helping me dish up some food when I had my hands full with Andy. I mentioned that this was a very Korean sort of thing, to put tomatoes in fruit salad, and he said, "Yeah, I don't think I've ever seen that before.")

A few of the members entertained us with some truly astonishing 뽕짝-style karaoke. (Seriously, this one guy was just amazing. And 뽕짝 is really not my thing, but even I could tell he was amazing.)

Andy enjoyed the chicken and got little messy hand prints all over my pants.

Friday, October 8, 2010

최윤환 장로님과 함께하는 노변의 밤

Elder 최윤환 gave a fireside at the Seattle 한인 지부 Wednesday night (on his way home from General Conference). I really enjoyed his "I Love Loud Boys" talk, and it was fun to hear him speak in Korean. (I found his wife's talk slightly easier to understand than his.)

He showed a video from the SMYC conference that Rachel wrote about. I found out what SMYC stands for--Special Multi-Stake Youth Conference. (I guess "SMSYC" doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well.) The video ended with that 시온의 자매/힐라맨의 용사 medley. It was quite stirring, especially seeing all those young people together in one place. I'm sure that must have been an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.

My new word for the night was 담대, which means bold. (The theme for SMYC was "강하고 담대 하라.") I don't remember ever hearing that before.

And I've always wondered what 노변 actually means, so I ran it through the translator, and do you know what came out? Fireside. How about that.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Grammar and spelling checker

I found this site recently --> Korean grammar and spelling checker (run by 부산대학교!)

You type or paste in your text, click the "검사하기" button, and then it corrects your errors for you! (Followed by bewildering and sometimes overly long explanations.)

If there are no errors it'll say "문법 및 철자 오류가 발견되지 않았습니다."

Some words that I looked up:

검사 check, inspect
맞춤법 spelling
철자 spelling (also)
정보 information
오류 error
유사 similar
지적 point out, indicate
의견 feedback

Korean spelling can be so tricky. And spacing. (Spacing gives me fits.) I hope this will be useful!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

당근 쏭 (attack of the singing carrots)

My daughter Kate thinks this video is highly amusing.

I was going to say that I still can't quite understand all of the second part, but through my amazing google-fu I was able to find the lyrics online:

나 보고 싶니? (당근)
나 생각나니? (당근)
I love you You love me (당근당근당근)
나 좋아하니? (당근)
나 사랑하니? (당근)
I love you You love me (당근당근당근)

너 변하지마 (당근)
언제까지나 (당근)
좋아해 좋아해 (당근당근당근)
늘 행복해요 (당근)
늘 즐거워요 (당근)
사랑해 사랑해 (당근~쏭)

때로는 짜증나고 때로는 힘들어도
너에곁에 언제나 웃고 있는 날 생각해
때로는 슬퍼지고 때로는 외로워도
너의곁에 언제나 함께하는 나를 생각해

짜증-irritated, annoyed (the only word I didn't know).'s translator actually rendered this as "sucks." Seems like a useful word.

This guy points out that "당근" is also slang for "of course," which hadn't occurred to me. I love you! Of course!

Now I have this song stuck in my head.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


추석 falls on September 22nd this year. I usually make 떡국 for 설날 but I don't really have anything to do for 추석. I was only in Korea for one 추석, and nobody invited us over, so we just went over to the Elders' house and had a picnic outside their apartment. (In contrast, I think we got fed about three times on 설날). The 한인 지부 here is having an activity, but it's going to be late because there's something else going on this week.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

한글 fonts

I found all of these at the Gallery of Unicode Fonts, but it looks like some of the download links are no longer working, so I just bundled everything up into a zip file. (I don't anticipate any problem with this, but I'll be happy to take it down if anyone objects.)

Click here to download the zip file.

Some of these fonts also include 한자:

The HY series fonts are a little unusual--in some programs they show up in the font menu with the 한글 titles, and in some programs (like Photoshop) they show up with romanized titles. I also included the name of the actual font file in parentheses. In my font folder (Windows XP) they have 한글 names, but when I copied them into another folder to zip them up, the names all changed. (Tricksy!)

The UnYetgul font is missing some syllables.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Korean ebooks overview

What I've found out, in a nutshell:

Kyobo and Yes24 have ePub and PDF format books available, but they use a Korean DRM (digital rights management) that only works with certain devices.

Book2 and Nuut use Adobe DRM, which will work with many ereaders.

I believe the Nook can display Korean if you add a Korean font. They might work on the Sony ereader as well.

ePub books can be converted to read on a Kindle, but it involves stripping the DRM, which is illegal, so we won't talk about that. The Korean font on the Kindle 3 is really horrible, and as of now there's no font hack available. There is a font hack for the Kindle 2, so it might be possible to add a Korean font.

You can read books from any of these stores on your computer. (If, you know, you don't mind reading off a computer screen.) Kyobo and Yes24 both have their own viewers that you have to install. I wasn't able to test for Mac compatibility.

ePub book (with Adobe DRM) in Calibre viewer.

I liked the layout of Yes24 best, as far as actually finding things, but wasn't able to buy a book from them since their credit card verifier-thingy seems to be rather limited. Kyobo seems to have the most selection (and I'm a fan of Kyobo in general, having been in their stores many times). If I were really serious about Korean ebook reading I'd have to buy a reader that would work with the Korean DRM. The other stores just don't have as much available.

ebookstore vocab

Words that I looked up:

결제 billing
신용 credit
고객 customer (I swear I'd never heard this before)
제한 limits
구매시 purchase
혜택 new books (when "새책" just won't do!)
삭제 deletion
취소 cancel
추가 add
작성 create (as in "create an ID")
거주 residence
등록 register (as in 주민등록번호--citizen registration number)
환불 return
무료 free
소설 novel
단말기 terminal (used for ereader or other electronic device)

I had to call several times, too, to figure things out. Whew! Customer service Korean is not easy. (They called me 고객님. "네, 고객님...")

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Korean on Kindle

I was excited to see that Amazon's new Kindle will display Korean. Just think--you can get Korean books and not have to pay shipping! How cool is that?

Then the reviews started coming back. Not good.

Here's what the Korean font looks like:

(A helpful poster on the mobileread forums uploaded it for me.)

My initial reaction was, "Yeah, that looks pretty clunky." Then I tried actually reading it. Ick. It's even worse than it looks at first glance. There's no way anyone wants to read a book in that font.

Interestingly, the Kindle page used to say "Our Kindle 3 (Latest Generation) also supports Cyrillic (such as Russian), Japanese, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), and Korean characters in addition to Latin and Greek scripts." For some reason they've taken that part out of the product description. Hmmmm.

(It does say, "Our vision for Kindle is to have every book ever written, in every language, available in 60 seconds from anywhere on earth." Ambitious. At least it says vision and not our immediate goal within the next two weeks.)

I'm thinking I'll probably get one anyway (I've been researching and drooling for several weeks), but I won't be reading any Korean books on it unless somebody comes up with a font hack.

Korea missionary blogs

Currently serving:

Sister Jessie Kate Patterson --Busan mission
Elder Elijah Reyes --Seoul mission
Sister Juline Wadsworth --Seoul mission
Sister Whitney Stevens --Busan mission (this is the link to her letters on are a few other missionaries that you can find there if you poke around.)
Elder Michael Rife --Seoul mission
Elder and Sister Bagley--Busan mission
Korea Daejeon Mission (by Sister Furniss, current mission president's wife)


Sister Rebecca O'Bryan --Daejeon mission
Sister Rose Hadden --Busan mission
Sister Rachel Ogilvie --Busan mission
Sister Alyssa Linford --Busan mission
Elder Joshua Bocchino --Busan mission
Elder Caleb Anderson --Busan mission
Elder Weston Wells --Busan mission
Elder Michael Harken --Busan mission
Korea Daejeon Mission (by Sister Perriton, previous mission president's wife)

I thought this was very interesting too: Doyle and Jeanne Brown, who were the medical missionaries for the Asia North area. They have a lot of really cool photos!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How to find people (LDS members) in Korea

The church has a 관리 본부 in 서울 where they have access to all the members' records in Korea. Their number is 02-2232-1441 (from North America dial 011-82-2-2232-1441)

They're open Monday-Friday 8:30-5:00 (I think) and there's a lunch hour in there somewhere, too.

I can't really understand the menu, so I just push a button at random and when somebody answers I say, "제가 미국에서 전화하는데, 혹시 회원의 주소를 알라 볼 수 있어요?" (I don't know why I've always said 주소... perhaps 연락처 would make more sense) and they switch me over to the records department.

A very nice sister named 이선리 has helped me out when I've called. The first few times she was able to give me a phone number, but then after that she said she couldn't give out a number directly, but she got my info, contacted the person, and then called me back. There were only a couple of times when she wasn't able to pinpoint the right person because the name was too common. (They also don't keep the records anymore if the person has moved outside of Korea.)

If you know what ward the person lives in, I've also had good luck calling the mission offices and then talking to the missionaries and getting a number off their membership lists.

서울 선교부: (02) 734-3653
대전 선교부: (042) 628-1482
부산 선교부: (051) 552-7011

(Leave the 0 off the area code when calling internationally)

There is a list here of all the congregations in Korea (and Korean congregations outside of Korea). If you click on "소개" some of them even have pictures. Some of the info might be a bit outdated. I know the address for the Korean branch in Washington is wrong.

You know you served in Korea when...

I thought this would be fun to start us off! Add yours in the comments. :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Welcome to our group Korean study blog! Feel free to post anything about Korean, or about Korea in general!