마녀보감 and the 3 episode test

I’ve recently gotten more impatient when it comes to TV shows. If you can’t hook me in the first 30 minutes, I’m out. My circle of drama-watching friends are a usually more forgiving, though. They do a “three episode test” for every TV show and anime they watch, meaning no matter how mediocre the first episode is, they’ll give the show at least 2 more episodes before deciding on whether to give it up or not.

In the spirit of trying to rekindle an interest Korean dramas I decided to give 마녀보감 (Mirror of the Witch) the three episode test.

…And, well, it’s caught my interest.

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Can we talk about how Kim Sae-ron is fifteen years old?! When did that happen? (Won Bin fans might remember her as his co-star in 아저씨–she was a tiny when that movie came out!). Also I haven’t seen Yoon Shi-yoon in anything since Unstoppable High Kick which was. ages. ago.

God, I feel old.

Anyway, let’s see if keep up with this one. I know sageuks aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but this is a good one if you like your historical dramas with a side of supernatural and a dash of folktale. It’s a good combination.

This seems to be the running theme of the show. It’s a good sentiment.

세상에 태어나지 말아야 할 사람은 없다. 어떤 사람이든 태어난 사람들은 저마다 하나씩 이 세상에 도움이 되는 이유를 가지고 태어난 것이라고 했다. 그것을 찾는 것이 인생.

There is no one who shouldn’t have been born in this world. No matter who they are, everyone who is born is born for a reason and purpose in this world. Life is about finding that purpose.

For the past couple years, when it comes to learning new Korean words, I’ve noticed that I’m relying less on memorization and more on Hanja. I’ve definitely been able to figure out the meaning of certain unknown words by breaking it down into its Hanja parts. (Studying Korean proverbs helps a lot too).

Take the word 마녀 (witch), for example. I don’t think I knew the word as a whole, but I did know the Hanja 魔 (마귀 마) and 女 (여자 녀). So 마녀 was ‘evil spirit/magic’ + ‘girl,’ or ‘witch.’

I think I first learned  마귀 마 (evil spirit, magic) after watching 마왕 (oh my god, that was also eons ago.) It’s amazing how many 마 words just naturally cropped up after that, especially after I started reading Harry Potter in Korean. Heh. Couple examples:

  • 마법 (magic + law): witchcraft
  • 마술 (magic + ability): sorcery, conjuring, spell
  • 마술사 (magic + ability + self): magician
  • 악마 (evil, bad + evil spirit): Devil
  • 마왕 (evil spirit + king): Satan

Back to the drama. Kim Sae-ron’s character is rumored to be a witch because she’s doomed to cause the death of everyone who loves her and everyone whom she loves. Yikes. It’s pretty clear from the first three episodes who the real witch is, though. It’ll be interesting to find out what her motivations are.

I haven’t gotten to the mirror part of things yet, though we’ve seen some hints of it here and there. Either way, I’ll probably keep watching and hopefully learn more words along the way.

Interview with Park Yoochun (Marie Claire 2015)

Given that I know zilch about what’s happening in Korean entertainment these days, it came as a mild surprise to learn that Park Yoochun (of K-drama & K-pop fame) is off to serve his mandatory two-year military service.  Very soon in fact.  Like, today.  Or yesterday.

I chanced upon this short interview while scanning Korean celeb magazines for quality reading content and – well, normally I’m rather indifferent to Yoochun but sentimentality got the better of me.  I’d just resumed reading 셩균관 유생들의 나날 for the umpteenth time, which got me thinking about Sungkyunkwan Scandal, (still one of my favorite dramas to date, by the way), which made me think about JYJ and DBSK and OT5 4ever, etc. etc.

I found this interview pretty funny actually because the interviewer/writer can’t start a single question without talking about how PYC is going to be gone for TWO YEARS – it’s like s/he is so desperate for Yoochun to talk about how crushed he’s going to be to give up the spotlight, but Chunnie’s having none of that.  Full translated interview under the cut!  And the usual:

(Disclaimer:  All copyright belongs to the original source.  I am not profiting by this translation and cannot guarantee its accuracy.  In fact, I’ve taken a few liberties with my translation this time by prioritizing meaning and written fluency over more literally representing the original text.)

Yoochun

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The thing about 책임감

Let’s talk about 상류사회 (High Society).  That show should win some kind of award for creating two of the most precious side characters in a drama full of people I couldn’t care a whit about.  Changsoo and Jiyi’s flirtationship is, at least in the first six episodes (and honestly I don’t see myself continuing with this show in the future Edit: I am no longer following this show), everything that Joongki and Yoonha’s relationship is not.  It’s honest and transparent, a little bit silly and awkward and, golly, the characters actually communicate about their feelings and insecurities!  Go figure!!

Granted, I’m speaking from what I’ve seen of the Changsoo-Jiyi dynamics up till episode 6.  I’m sure the writers will screw it all up with stupid misunderstandings and heartbreak and such now that all the cute is out of the way.  I know their relationship is bound to have drama but it’s just a question of whether the characters suddenly devolve into frustrating idiocy or continue to communicate openly like they have thus far.  Please don’t ruin this couple, 작가님!

Anyway, I love this couple.  Certain silly, unrealistic K-drama lines still make me swoon on occasion (despite having a heart of ice, or so I’ve been told) and there was one such exchange between Changsoo and Jiyi in episode 5.

Jiyi says she knows he’s a “bad guy” – as in, he dates around without the intention of getting married.  She pouts and tells him not to do nice things for her because she’s starting to like him more and more.  They go back and forth a little and then…

High Society Ep 5
Image credit:  Dramabeans

창수:  이건 뭐냐?
지이:  좋아지고 있어요.  안 좋아하려고 했는데 넘 귀여워요.  
창수:  …
지이:  만나면 꿈 꾸는 것 같아요 […] 세상에 공짜는 없지만 사랑에 공짜는 있잖아요. 본부장님은 점점 좋아지는데 나는 점점 싫어져요. 이럼 안되잖아요.
창수:  넌 남자한테 책임감 끌어내는 능력이 있다?

Changsoo:  What are you doing?
Jiyi:  I’m starting to like you.  I wasn’t going to like you, but you’re so cute.
Changsoo:  …
Jiyi:  Going out with you is like being in a dream […] Nothing is free in life, but love is free, you know.  I’m starting to like you more and more, but I’m starting to hate myself more and more too.  That’s not okay, is it?
Changsoo:  You have a talent for dragging a sense of responsibility out of a man, you know?

책임감 is literally defined as a sense of responsibility.  Obligation.  Duty.  Those are words are associated with the different roles we play as a person i.e. my “duty” to my family as a daughter or sister, my “responsibility” as a tenant, my “obligation” to pay taxes as law-abiding citizen, fulfilling my duties at work and owning up to them, etc.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I rarely associate the word responsibility/obligation/duty with friends or lovers.  Is that individualistic Western thinking?  I will do things and act a certain way to my friends because I cherish them and care for them.  If they ask for help, I will always do my best to help them, but I don’t feel a sense of “responsibility” for them.  I do what I do for my friends out of love, but not responsibility.  I don’t see my friend and think, “I have a duty to do x or y for this person.”  I think, “I will do x or y for this person because I care for them.”

That’s not to say that love and responsibility are mutually exclusive!  But they certainly do not always overlap.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always been fascinated by the Korean concept of couples vowing to “take responsibility” for each other.  When you tell someone you love them, I guess it’s implicit that you will support each other come what may, etc. but (and this may just be me reading too much into it) there’s something deeply serious about the idea of having 책임감.  Taking responsibility for a person.  It’s something I would expect out of a marriage but not out of friendship or courtship; and yet, it is not unusual to hear Korean couples say “책임 질게” to each other.

To me, 책임 질게 connotes an earnestness, gravity, and a depth of love that’s lacking in a mere “I love you.”  These days, “I love you” is so overused it’s practically meaningless.

Now, I think the phrase is mostly used by the man and said to the woman in the relationship, though not always.  The feminist in me protests, “Men and women should be responsible for themselves!” but then I think, how truly comforting it must be to hear those words from a best friend or lover, regardless of your gender.  It’s like saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything.  Just depend on me.”

On those especially stressful days when you aren’t strong enough to take on the world, sometimes just hearing those words is enough to take the weight off your shoulders.

Interview with Lee Jin-wook and Jo Yoon-hee (Marie Claire)

I consider 나인: 아홉 번의 시간 여행 (Nine: Nine Time Travels) to be the Korean drama to end all Korean dramas for me.  In a good way.  It’s not my all-time favorite drama, but it hit me in a way that no K-drama since has been able to.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve managed to finish a single Korean drama since watching Nine – as if I’ve been cursed by the magical Himalayan incense myself!  About a year ago, there was news that Nine would be remade for an American audience which made me simultaneously roll my eyes and perk up my ears.  If it ever came into fruition, I love the story line and the questions it raises enough to consider watching it.  Cautiously.

Anyway, this is an old piece came that out in the April 2013 edition of Marie Claire Korea, right when Nine had started to air that I translated on a whim last night.  If you’re looking for something mind-bending, thrilling, heartbreaking, and suspenseful all at once, I highly recommend Nine – just sit tight through the first couple (rather slow) episodes!

(Disclaimer:  As with all my other translations, all copyright belongs to the original source.  I am not profiting by this translation and cannot guarantee its accuracy.  In fact, I’ve taken a few liberties with my translation this time by prioritizing meaning and written fluency over more literally representing the original text.)

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Interview with Jo Jung-seok (Singles)

Any fans of The King 2 Hearts’ heart-melting, swooniest of swoony, squeal-worthy Eun Shi-kyung out there?  I’ve been keeping an eye on actor Jo Jung-seok since I first saw him What’s Up, where he plays a nerdy kid with a great voice but terrible stage fright; all I can say at this point is GIMME MOAR.

Jo’s actually a well-known name in musical theater, but this year he found his way into the the realm of TV and film and I can only hope he has plans to stay.  I came across his interview in Singles magazine last month and wanted to have another go at translating longer articles, so here goes.  (Disclaimer:  All copyright belongs to the original writer.  I’m not profiting by this translation and I can’t guarantee its accuracy.)

Look! At! That! Face!

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Big (first impressions)

I prefer not to write too much about dramas here, unless it’s in the context of something culturally unique and/or language-related, but seeing as my wordpress is going through a bit of a dry spell… I’ve done a couple of these “First Impression” posts on tumblr (which you should steer clear from unless you want to experience every disgusting detail of my fangirl maladies) but I thought I’d stick one here just to fill up space.  Heh.  Anyway, I watched the first episode of Big this morning (sans subtitles, go me!) and, yeah, here are my first impressions.

Continue reading “Big (first impressions)”

青春

I rewatched a couple episodes of my favorite Japanese drama (野ブタ。をプロデュース) with Korean subtitles recently.  That was quite the experience.  My brain felt like it was doing gymnastics at the Olympics.  The awesome thing is that I understood maybe 85-90% of the Korean subtitles I read, while my ears also understood maybe 10-15% of the Japanese.  My brain kept trying to connect the two, but the synapses just didn’t seem to be forming.  Haha.  Well, I’ll keep watching and see if it gets easier.

I won’t write about how much I adore this drama but it is, hands down, out of all the Asian dramas I’ve ever watched, my absolute favorite.  It is the perfect story of youthful earnestness, camaraderie, and life in general.  And it never ever fails to makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  After rewatching it though, this part from episode 1 really stuck out.

彰:青春ってさ、いまいちよくわかんないんだよね。
修二:まあ、俺が思うに、誰もやったことのないようなことをしてみるとか。あと、挫折するまで、自分の能力を出し切って見るとか。まあ、そういうことなんじゃ。
彰:で。何やりますか?
修二:それは自分で考えろよ。

AKIRA:  Youth – I’m not really sure what that means, you know.
SHUUJI:  Well, to me, it’s kind of like trying to do something no one else has ever done before.  Or giving it your all until you collapse.  Something like that.
AKIRA:  Hm.  What should I do?
SHUUJI:  That’s something you have to figure out for yourself!  

The word that really got to me was 青春「せいしゅん」 (청춘 in Korean), which means youth or (rather floridly) “the bloom of youth.”  It made me sit back and reexamine my life.  In high school, my dream was to become a published writer before I graduated college.  That was the big thing I desperately wanted to have accomplished while I was still in my 青春.

For better or worse, that didn’t work out and here I am.

Ever since I started graduate school, I’ve been wondering if I’ve just doomed myself to wasting away my 青春 at the lab bench, in the tissue culture hood, or in front of the microscope (though microscopy is fun), in a futile attempt to “do something no one else has ever done before” (which is the essence of a scientific discovery).  The doubts are making me realize that I’m still at the “figuring out” stage in my life and, meanwhile, my youth is flying past me.  

And I don’t think I’m the only one feeling like this.  Several of my friends have hit a “Quarter-Life Crisis,” if you will, where they feel like they need to be doing something great but just don’t know what.  Is society to blame for this in some way?  Have young people just been conditioned to feel like they need to have changed the world before the hit 35?  Or is youth really about attempting the impossible?  I’m not even sure anymore.  In any case, when I was feeling my lowest, I saw this comic –

– and it made me feel better.  It’s time to get over this existential crisis and move on before I worry my 青春 away.