Theme Lounge

SNS, the Double-edged Sword
SNS and Chirashi Advertisement: Dangerous Rumors, which opened on February 20, 2014, is a Korean film that turns the spotlight on the seamy underbelly of the Korean Internet. The original title in Korean is Chirashi, a word most Koreans are familiar with but merits explanation for readers from different cultures. The term chirashi, also sometimes used to refer to the stock market, is used in this case to refer to discreetly circulated newsletters of blind items, typically concerned with defaming public figures such as celebrities or politicians. In Korean, the word chirashi means “flyer.” While a flyer can be an...
Dating Culture
Dates and Dating: Unexplored Emotional Territory In the English vernacular, the word “to date” means “to go out with someone with whom one is romantically interested.” But the word deiteu (date) in Korean has a slightly different meaning: “two people meeting with the intention of pursuing a romantic relationship.” In other words, “dating” in Korean has more long-term overtones. Dating is the step before a relationship becomes serious, the stage full of tension and curiosity. It is notable that Koreans have opted to stick with this borrowed term to describe romantic relationships rather than finding a Korean equivalent. When the...
The Twilight Years
from the wall sculpture, War & Women's Human Right Museum What does it mean to be old? The elderly live in weak bodies that are biologically incapable of reproduction, do not participate in the economy due to their loss of productive capacity, exist as surplus beings that await aging and death, and have grown all too familiar with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Perhaps this is why they have remained in the background instead of taking the center stage in Korean literature. The elderly have been portrayed as peripheral figures and treated like objects. This socially disadvantaged group needs protection...
The Seas of Korea
Korea is an island nation! A brief glance at a map immediately reveals that Korea is not an island nation, but rather a peninsula sitting to the right of China and the Asian continent. Peninsular Korea is located between China and Japan, which is an actual island nation, yet I still insist that Korea is an isle, for reasons that can be found in its historical and political background. Yes, I'm referring to the division of Korea—in the 60 years since the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 and national division into the North and South in 1953, South...
Love of the Missing: Modern Korean Fiction by Women, 1990-2010
Prior to the Enlightenment Period, Hangeul was often disdained in Korea— or more precisely, the Joseon era as it was known then—as “female writing,” meaning it was a writing system befitting only women. During the Enlightenment, however, Hanmun (classical Chinese), which had played the same role as Latin in East Asia, was replaced by the Korean vernacular, and Hangeul , which had previously been used only by the lower classes, naturally became the official writing system. In the hundred or so years since, women who used to be denigrated as yoryu (“female”) have distinguished themselves with their masterful use of...
A Long Journey into Aging
I used to host a radio program for senior citizens. I became interested in the welfare of our senior citizens later on and became a social worker, and have spent 20 years working with the elderly. Nowadays, people come up to me and ask how it’s possible for them to age gracefully. By aging gracefully they usually mean that they want the following: financial security, soundness of body and mind, some form of distraction or amusement, and friends to share the joys of everyday life. Aging, however, is not an easy affair at all. The four hardships of old age,...
Coming-of-Age Novels Offer Solace: In Search of Self-Healing and Inner Growth
The buzz word in the Korean publishing industry of 2008 was self-healing. To find a way to heal their wounds, readers opted for coming-of-age novels rather than trendy self-help or personal finance titles. This reflects the sad reality that survival, not success, is what matters most for the public amid the protracted economic slowdown. The neo-liberalism that emerged in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s no longer offers a message of hope, at least for most Koreans. Local readers have begun to think about what has been sacrificed in the name of seeking success. The...