Open Thread #11 (Updated)


Let yourself shine…

Update: Alas, my wifi connection has been playing up since the weekend, so I certainly won’t be!

Please bear with me for the next couple of days while I get it fixed.

Update 2: All solved, albeit too late for this week’s Korean Gender Reader sorry. Turns out that my wife and I had been using our neighbor’s wifi signal for the past year!


20 thoughts on “Open Thread #11 (Updated)

  1. Explosion in a diamond factory?

    Excuse me if this was covered elsewhere, but how much Korean do you actually speak/read? I used to be fairly good (2 years at DLI and 4 in country) and would like to return to my former level. I have the Integrated Korean (Advanced Intermediate) book but wondered what else is out there for the not-beginning-Korean-Language student that you might recommend?

    Or advice from any of your readers, of course.



    1. Was going to mention it in the last post in which I touched a little on studying Korean actually, but didn’t get around to it sorry.

      Truth is, my reading ability and translating abilities are very good and probably the best they’ve ever been, but my speaking and listening abilities have declined markedly since my first daughter was born in 2006. Not that it’s completely impossible to study Korean after having children and teaching English all day of course, but you do have to be pretty dedicated, and I was just too tired with contending with screaming babies most nights.

      Hence the focus on using Korean television to study in the last post was partially for myself(!), and I plan to start properly tonight. But books-wise? I also used to use the Integrated Korean series myself actually, thought it easily had the best grammar explanations I had ever come across, and even still have Intermediate 1 in arm’s reach as I type this. But back in 2002 there were no answers for questions in the textbooks or even the workbooks, no cd unless you were willing to buy one for the same cost as the book, and while the audio files were available on the University of Hawaii Press website but in some bizarre format, unconvertable to MP3s, effectively confining you to studying only in front of a computer. So I had to give up on the series as completely impractical for self-study.

      Since then I hear the audio file issue at least has been completely resolved, but if I were to start going through a textbook series again then rather than getting the remaining Integrated Korean textbooks shipped over (as far as I know, they’re still not available in Korea!) I’d use the Sogang series, starting from 1A, 1B and onto 5A and 5B. I bought the last two, the most advanced, when I briefly did a local university course a couple of years ago, and really liked them: colorful, with workbooks and MP3s and ANSWERS and handy accompanying grammar reference guides, they were really pleasant to use. In fact, now that I have just started a uni job which gives me lots of free time then I hope to start going through them again this week.

      I’m sure there’s others out there that are also good or even better, but I’d be surprised if an already intermediate or advanced learner didn’t like the Sogang series.


      1. I’m finally trying to get serious about learning the language now after a few failed attempts over the last 2 1/2 years. Right now I am using the Elementary Korean by King and Yeon and I think it is pretty good, though it is the only textbook I actually have on the subject. Do you all have any experience with this book? Have you heard how it stacks up to the Integrated Series? The Amazon reviews pointed to the King and Yeon which is why I bought it. I am just kind of wondering how many sources you guys used in your beginning stages and how often you had to go back and review these things.

        I am also listening to some Podcasts from KoreanClass101, they are alright so far and I can do them while I work (I try to sneak in some time with my book as well). Would you guys recommend anything else I could put on my iPod for work? Or Korean Podcasts in general…more some with politics and such as that is what I may attend grad school for.

        Any other suggestions or techniques for vocabulary building would be much appreciated. After work and the gym it’s a little hard to make myself focus much on learning another language…it’s like it’s not supposed to be easy or something. ;-)


    2. Another DLI alumni, small world. The best reference I’ve found for non-beginners is a grammar book called “Korean Grammar for International Learners” I found it in a bookstore in Korea but you can probably find it online.


      1. Korean Grammar for International Learners is indeed good: unfortunately, an English translation wasn’t available when I was first starting out, and like the translator/writer of the English version says, the original Korean version was really intended only for native-speaking teachers of the language anyway.

        Another must for any learner of Korean is Handbook of Korean Vocabulary, albeit just a glorified dictionary, but one which helps you get a handle on the vocabulary by grouping words according to their Chinese roots, hence helping you to memorize and understand words better and better able to guess the meanings of unfamiliar ones (think how knowledge of “re” meaning “again” say, would help a student of English guess the meanings of “review”, “return”, “reset”, “reexamine”, and “recast” etc. etc. and you the idea).

        Two not very well-known ones, but which I would also highly recommend, are “한국어 문형 표현 100”, a reference guide for 100 aspects of Korean grammar that are very easily confused by learners (entirely in Korean though, that’s obviously just for intermediate and above), and 한국어.영어 학습사전, or Handbook of Korean Lexicon, which lists words in 43 different groups (1. People and Relationships, 2. Family and Relatives, 3. Sex and Marriage etc. etc.) rather than alphabetically; unfortunately it’s 10 years old and difficult to find, and I can’t find an online image sorry, although I can tell you it’s about B5 size and light green. And before I forget, the self-explanatory Berlitz Korean 6000 Essential Vocabulary is, well, essential, and I don’t pay too much attention to new words if they not in it.

        As for listening practice and podcasts, it’s a toughie finding decent material, but I would recommend reading this post on an excellent but unfortunately infrequently updated learning Korean blog for some possibilities. I’d echo what he says about Korean101 (I was actually a full-paying member of it for a while), and add that it’s great for elementary students, but there’s simply far too little intermediate and advanced stuff to justify paying for access to the lesson plans etc., and the site itself had so many bugs – a 10 word vocab test for a lesson giving me the same word 4 times for instance – and so full of romanization even at the intermediate level (unnecessary and downright embarrassing to use too) that I just gave up on it in disgust. But that was a while ago, so things may be better now.

        Finally, one last piece of advice is with the exception of the books I mentioned, just find a decent series of textbooks (Integrated Korean, Sogang, or whatever) that goes from beginner to advanced and just stick to that: there’s a plethora of material out there now, albeit 90% for beginners, and I speak from experience when I say it’s very easy to waste money on stuff which you don’t really need!


  2. Really love reading your blog! Your topics are always interesting and I like the examples that you give from advertising and the musicindustry.

    I watch a lot of korean varietyshows and I noticed that they really like to play games in them, like rock paper scissors or armwrestling. What I think is remarkable with this, is that they always have a punishment for the loser (for example being hit by a plastic hammer or getting hit on the forehead) and only sometimes a price for the winner. I live in the Netherlands and in the tv shows here they never play games like these, so it’t a bit hard to compare. But if they do play a game or in general when you play such a game, the emphasis is always on the winner and the reward (except for when the game is played to determine who will have to do some job that nobody wants to do). In the korean shows, it seems to me that they play the games just for the fun of it. And from what I understand, even the games you play as a child with your friends work this way. I’m really curious to why the loser is so important in korean games in stead of the winner.

    It could be that I’m just imagining this or perhaps they just play this way because it’s more fun to watch. May be dutch games are weird and they are the exception… Hopefully someone can give me some insight about this ^^


    1. Thanks for the compliments Marleen, and I wish I knew more about Korean variety shows and/or children’s games to help answer sorry. I’m also busy preparing classes now unfortunately, but I’ll try and remember to ask my wife sometime!


    2. Do you have the names of any specific shows? Because most of the shows I know where they play games like “rock, paper, scissors” feature celebrities, which probably negates the need for a financial incentive to win anything – they’re being paid to appear, not to win. And I can state from very sore experience that the sort of physical penalties you’ve mentioned are absolutely normative. Some shows, like 1박2일 (2 days and 1 night), for example, do include rewards for the winning celebrity teams, such as a special dinner, but mostly to highlight the contrast with the suffering losers, stuck with some miserable or humiliating bit of work.


  3. I have actually wanted to ask this for the longest time, can you recommend any good blogs that you read?
    I love the way you describe Korean culture and give your opinions on its people and lifestyles. Advertising, idols and everything else, it is so fun to read.
    I happened to accidentally stumble on your site and I think I got extremely lucky to discover your blog. Do you have any recommended online reading that has given you inspiration to write about sociology and society?


        1. Well, my apologies if you’d like a long list, but to be frank I really don’t have the time, and in fact there’s very few sociology and/or Korea-related blogs that I subscribe to that I don’t already link to frequently here (especially in my Korean Gender Reader posts); if anyone reads the blog for, say, 6 weeks, then they’d probably come across over 90% of them.

          If I confine myself to mentioning those that I don’t link to often here then, either because they don’t update often enough, and/or have very eclectic blogs that are not always relevant to Korea (but are still very interesting!), then let me recommend (in no particular order):

          Asadal Thought

          An acorn in the dog’s food (note to Paul: provide full rss feeds dammit!)

          Curiosity killed the Eccentric Yoruba



          Gord Sellar

          and finally PopMatters: alas, not at all related to Korea, but guaranteed to make you interested in popular culture.



    1. Sorry, but what’s wrong with CL? I don’t know anything about at all about her myself, although I’ve had a post on 2NE1 I’ve been meaning to research and write for about *cough* 3 weeks now…


      1. Here’s something for that 2NE1 post, a brief interview with CL’s father, who is professor of physics at Sogang University. He also draws manga, writes childrens’ stories and has a column in a a magazine for high school students. I wonder if he decided that existing Korean childrens’ books weren’t giving his daughters positive role models, because he has encouraged them to be active and creative:

        Towards everything that his two daughters request, if it is something serious he won’t hesitate to comply with them, for example when his eldest daughter Chae Rin wanted to practice Jazz in the 3rd grade of primary school, when she wanted to make a memorial book for the school he even introduced her [to] a printing company.


  4. Via omonotheydidnt, a Korea Times article about suicide in the Korean entertainment industry:

    ’40 Percent of Actors Considered Suicide’

    Four out of every 10 actors here have been suffering from depression and have had suicidal urges from time to time, according to a degree paper by actress Park Jin-hee, Tuesday.

    About 20 percent have actually purchased toxic agents or “devices” for suicide, she revealed, claiming that the extreme stress to stay attractive and to remain in the limelight drives them to mental instability and leads them to make drastic choices.

    Park is writing her masters thesis on depression and suicide amongst actors, for which she has interviewed 260 actors.


  5. Hi,
    I love reading your blog. I’ve been addicted to Korean music, dramas and varieties shows and reading your blog makes me learn more about Korean society.

    I’d like to know, do you have an idea about how broadcast stations (SBS, MBC, mostly KBS) + commission of Youth judge songs whether they are good for youth or not. What annoys me is since 2008, there is an influx of banning songs or banning music videos and some reasons are nonsensical. I think the reason they do is not to influence the kids who are following blindly their idols. However do they have to ban everything “harmful” to show the kids how the world is perfect?

    Violence in lyrics = banned
    Advertising a brand in lyrics = banned
    Society issues = banned

    You don’t even need suggestive lyrics or curse words in the lyrics to be censored or banned! Stating current issues is just enough!

    For music videos :

    Lately 2 top stars (Rain & Hyori) got their MV banned because of traffic regulations!

    For Rain : “KBS believed that Rain’s disregard for traffic regulations by running across the road was inappropriate to be shown on their channel.”

    For Hyori : “Lee Hyori’s comeback music video, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has been banned by KBS. Reasons given include Hyori was seen driving a truck without her seat belt fastened on, dancers were dancing on top of the buses and Hyori and the dancers were dancing on the road. All of these scenes were inappropriate and violate road traffic regulations.”

    *sarcasm* They should ban all the u-turn + excess speed in dramas.

    Awesome posts about banning songs or MVs:


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