Year: 2017

That poem in ‘Because This Is My First Life’

There are a lot of reasons I loved Because This Is My First Life. Like, a lot. One of them is Jiho’s penchant for making literary allusions and using extended metaphors to express her complicated thoughts and feelings. This was a nice bit of character development, I thought; even though Jiho doesn’t work as a writer for a good chunk of the show, that side of her still comes through to the viewer. There are two main works which Jiho alludes to in the show. One of them is the poem <방문객> (“The Visitor”) by Korean poet 정현종. The poem appears in his 2009 anthology <섬> (Island). 방문객 사람이 온다는 건 실은 어마어마한 일이다. 그는 그의 과거와 현재와 그리고 그의 미래와 함께 오기 때문이다. 한 사람의 일생이 오기 때문이다. 부서지기 쉬운 그래서 부서지기도 했을 마음이 오는 것이다―그 갈피를 아마 바람은 더듬어볼 수 있을 마음, 내 마음이 그런 바람을 흉내낸다면 필경 환대가 될 것이다. The Visitor The coming of a person is, in fact, a tremendous feat. Because he comes with his past and present and …

Interview with Lee Min-ki and Jung So-min (Marie Claire 2017)

So 이번 생은 처음이라 / Because This Is My First Life wraps up this week. This interview came out in October, right before the show started airing so it’s kinda old news at this point, but I needed something to occupy me between episodes and it’s been ages since I’ve translated celebrity news anyway, so here it is. Man, this drama. I came for the contract marriage trope (and also Lee Min-ki because I literally can’t remember seeing him in anything other than Dalja’s Spring) and stayed for the earnestness, the poignancy, the tender heartache present in all the characters. Growing up, I thought a lot about love and marriage and how they relate to each other, given that my family feels one way about it and the society I grew up in feels the almost exact opposite. And now with those two worlds currently colliding in my life, this drama couldn’t have made a more timely arrival. 이번 생은 처음이라 will soon be the only Korean drama I’ve managed to finish in 2017. I may …

Twenty-eight

It’s been a few years now since I stopped being excited about my birthday. Every year, the weight of my disappointment in myself grows heavier; all of my numerous, unrealized goals come rushing painfully back at me. Responsibilities grow, conflicts become more convoluted, and meanwhile it gets harder and harder to stay true to my own sense of self. Maybe that’s just growing up? But maybe it’s a sign of personal growth that this year, I tried hard not to be moody and taciturn around my birthday. I know that the people who send their greetings or think to get me gifts do it because they care. So, I try to be kind to myself on my birthday and grateful for the love others have shown me. I made a rare trip to Koreatown in Santa Clara to visit a bookstore that I haven’t been to in years, since my language partner moved away. If you’re in the South Bay, 서울 문고 종교 서관 has a limited quantity of new releases, all-time bestsellers, and Korean …

육예 – The Six Arts

I’ve learned a lot about Korean Confucianism reading <성균관 유생들의 나날>. The main point being, everything academic—including the meritocratic Joseon government—was rooted in the teachings of Confucius (공자). Even “extracurriculars,” like archery had deep philosophical meaning. 대사례 [大射禮], for example, was a ceremonial archery demonstration that scholars partcipated in alongside the King. The act of doing archery alongside the King, after having passed the civil service examinations, was supposed to further cultivate and reaffirm one’s class and rank. In fact, there’s a part in <성균관 유생들의 나날> where the main character, our cross-dressing female scholar Yoonhee, gets huffy about practicing archery. Sunjoon replies: “활쏘기는 선비라면 반드시 익혀야 하는 육예 중 하나요. 우선 바른 자세를 만들어 주고, 그와 함께 정신도 가다듬게 하오. 이것을 거치지 않는다면 활을 쏠 이유가 없소.” (p. 255) Archery, he says, is part of 육예, and therefore something all scholars must be familiar with. 육예[六藝] literally translates to the Six Arts. (You can intuit the meaning easily given the Hanja. 六 is 여섯 륙/육 and 藝 is 예술 예.) The Six Arts were the six main “subjects” that made up …

Striving for excellence in language learning

This post was going to be about how I’m preparing for the 55th TOPIK but it turned out being more about my insecurities instead. I’d normally scrap it but it’s been preying on my mind for a while now and I wonder if any of my fellow language learners have felt the same way. It’s hard to describe my relationship with language, and with Korean in particular. I don’t have a simple answer when people ask me why I’m learning Korean, or why I’m motivated to push myself, or why I want to pass TOPIK II. I don’t have any ethnic or relational ties to the language or culture. I’m not motivated by a love for Korean idol music or dramas. I have never studied abroad there. I have no particular interest in Korean brands nor do I aspire to work at Korean company. I developed a love for Korean literature and history only after I had achieved a certain degree of fluency. Now with Hallyu reaching the West, so many people automatically assume I’m part …

Q&A: The way I spell my name in Korean

HeJin asked: Just out of curiosity, why didn’t you transliterate your name as 아르차나? I actually answered this question way back in 2014 when HeJin first asked it on my About page. Since then, a lot more people have been curious about how I transliterate my name in Korean, so I figured I’d write a post about it.

먹칠하다

It’s so strange to realize that 성균관 유생들의 나날 was one of the first Korean novels I ever bought, at a time when it was still wayyyy too difficult for me to comprehend. Six years later (!!), I can finally read entire chapters without having to look up words and still understand what’s going on. Plus, I know an astounding number of words related to Confucian scholarship and education. (Oh my god I found the blog post I wrote when I first bought the books.) Anyway, that’s how I came across the word 먹칠하다.

懐かしい

I love the word 懐かしい (natsukashii). It’s one of those words that most people learn through anime, that’s usually translated as “how nostalgic” or “I miss when I used to experience such-and-such.” I don’t think I really got the essence of the word until I started going to Japanese conversation club, back when I was taking Japanese in college. One woman was talking about going to onsen when she was younger, and the other responded with 懐かしいね. I don’t think there’s an equivalent Korean word that has the same kind of connotation and is used in the same kind of way. The dictionary tells me 그립다 is the closest equivalent: It’s interesting that the words aren’t exact equivalents of each other. I’ve only ever seen 그립다 used in songs or poetry, or used in literary or scholarly speech, usually when talking about something really sentimental. 懐かしい can be used in those cases too, but also more casually–like when you describe a childood anime, or when you hear an old song, or eat a dish you grew up with. A couple weeks ago, I went out with my Korean language class …

First ever Korean class

So after many months of not really studying Korean (despite what it looks like on my blog, I rarely pick up a textbook and study. Almost everything I write about comes from random one-off things I read in Korean.) I decided what I really needed was external motivation to take my skill to the next level. SO! I signed up for Advanced Korean classes at San Jose Language Center. I really feel like I struck gold here because it’s incredibly close to where I live and it’s a language school designed for adults – which means all classes are after working hours. There are only two other students in the class and they’re both of Korean heritage. At first, the instructor said she was worried when she saw me (clearly not of Korean heritage) on her roster but we conversed for a bit, and then afterward, she said I might actually be too advanced for the class. Welp? Either way, I was really nervous about taking an actual class for Korean that’s also completely taught in Korean. In my 7-ish years of …