Addicted to electronics

It is coming up on about 2 years since I started learning Korean.  In that time, I have become completely addicted to using Memrise on my Samsung phone for flashcard study.

Now I am having to transition to using some other way to study my flashcards, and I find myself completely resistant.

I am too old school to enjoy reading books on an e-reader.  Two years ago I downloaded a few books with Korean vocabulary, and they remain unread.  It took me 30 minutes to figure out how to tell Amazon that I had a Kindle device and convince to lend me a book.  With no internet access at home, it means going to the library to download my e-book, at which point all those lovely paper books tempt me.

Memrise is some times surprised to learn that I live in a home without internet access. Even though I download the courses so they can be used offline, I suspect that every time Memrise updates it’s software, I need to redownload the courses … meaning yet another trip to the library.

Now having survived the struggle of the Kindle e-book library book borrowing, I am about to tackle trying to convince my Samsung Tablet 4 to download the Memrise application.  My tablet thinks today’s date is December 20, 2014 … so it is not really up with the times.  Haha.

For my trip to the library, I had to pack my laptop, e-reader Kindle, smart phone Samsung Note 3, and Samsung tablet.  I am trying to convince all of them to play nice together, and learn how to cope with using the library’s wifi.  So far, I think the electronics are winning this war.  I battle on, because I do want to be able to study with Memrise flashcards on the tablet, now that my phone is due to be retired.

Is there still studying to be had when even the internet on my phone is shut off?  We shall see.  But I probably won’t be writing about it often in my blog.

Happy studying to all!


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Korean knots – Maedeup

Watching Korean dramas makes me wonder about some of the costumes and accessories. One particularly striking accessory is the norigae (노리개).
norNorigae is both a fashion accessory, as well as a good-luck charm hoped to bring eternal youth, wealth or many sons. In Joseon Dynasty, norigae surpassed the use of earrings and necklace and became the most widely used accessory.  Norigae is traditionally hung from a woman’s jeogori goreum (coat strings) or hanbok chima (skirt).

Wanting to learn more brought me to learn about making Korean knots (매듭-maedeup).  I am dabbling now in teaching myself some of the simpler knots.  This interesting handicraft makes me appreciate the skill involved in making norigae.

My Korean pen pals did immediately recognize the knots I was making as maedeup, even though I got the information from the book Chinese Knotting: Creative Designs that are Easy and Fun! by Lydia Chen.

Here is a video that shows the Lotus Flower knots.

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Korean Bridal Robe – Hwalot

bridal robeThe book The Art of Oriental Embroidery: History, Aesthetics, and Techniques by Young Yang Chung has an entire chapter devoted to the Korean Bridal Robe.

Dating back to the Silla dynasty (A.D. 668 – 935), the Korean bridal robe is a stunningly beautiful garment.  The “flower robe” (hwalot) evolved from women’s court robes worn in the T’ang dynasty.  Traditionally, commoners wore white or subdued clothing except for special occasions when they wore bright, festive colors. As marriage represented the most import event in a person’s life, the participants were allowed to wear clothes fashioned after the costumes reserved for members of the court.

The flower robe is embroidered with auspicious motifs of flora and fauna, including lotus and peony. Lotus symbolizes purity, rebirth, longevity, and good fortune, and peony represents wealth and honor, while the two birds allude to conjugal bliss. A bird with chicks symbolizes many offspring.

The billowing sleeves have blue, yellow, red, fabrics, with a wide strip of white at the cuffs, which also has colorful embroidery.

Korea is famous for its expertise in silk, with rich, deep colors.

On the wedding day, dressing the bride is a complicated procedure.  Over a pair of full, white silk undertrousers, called sok-paji, the bride wore three underskirts.  The first was a slip of loose silk.  This was followed by a white hooped chima (skirt) worn high over the bosom.  Next came a billowing blue silk chima.  After these skirts came the outer chima in brilliant red silk.  The bride next put on a bright yellow chogori (short jacket) that had imperial symbols.  After the choguri came the tailed robe of the bridal coat.


An outstanding feature was the enormous p’ao sleeves, nearly three feet in diameter.  When the sleeves were held together, they formed a striking embroidered picture.

Read more about Korean bridal costumes written by Jooyoung Shin (Ph.D., Seoul National University, Korea) who lectures on fashion design and dress aesthetics.



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Chong An Sunim: the blue-eyed monk from Hungary

Chong An Sunim became the first Hungarian to be designated as a teacher of Korean Buddhism.   Chong An Sunim entered the Providence Zen Center in Rhode Island, founded by Seung Sahn Sunim. Then, he came to Korea and took percepts at Haeinsa and Tongdosa temples in the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism.

Chong An Sunim is Abbot of Wonkwangsa International Zen Temple, the first Korean Buddhist temple ever to be built in Europe.  See the INNERView here:

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Korean Buddhist artist

Here is a documentary of a Korean monk painting the Bodhisattva of Compassion for the Asian Art Museum in Seattle.  The monk artist Seol-min has dedicated her life to keeping the tradition of Buddhist painting alive.

“In Buddhist painting, preparation of the painting surface and the drawing are the most important aspects.  Preparing the multi-layered painting surface took 3 months.”

There is a consecration ceremony when the painting is finished.

In the article How Art Changes Consciousness, scientists have proved that “Visual art can heal us, inspire us, and alter our brain chemistry leaving us filled with inspiration and love.”

My own enjoyment of studying Korean is linked to art and calligraphy, with making flashcards or copying the Heart Sutra daily.

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Diabetes 당뇨 as common in Korea as USA

Diabetes is 당뇨.  Also, diabetes is 당뇨병 where 병 means illness.  


Korean is a thin-country, but has approximately the same rate of diabetes as USA.  The sudden change in the typical diet from vegetarian to eating lots of junk food, meat, and dairy certainly played a role in the Korean diabetes explosion.  Stress and lack of exercise from long work weeks is another factor.  Drinking and eating out with coworkers is a part of the culture.  Short sleep and smoking are other possible risk factors.

Diabetes and its complications have become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Korea. The prevalence of diabetes in Korea has increased six- to seven-fold from 1.5% to 9.9% in the past 40 years. [The Epidemiology of Diabetes in Korea
Dae Jung Kim author, Korean Diabetes Journal]

나는 당뇨가 있다.
I’ve got diabetes.

그 남자는 당뇨병 환자이다.
He has diabetes.

당뇨 조심하세요
Watch out for diabetes.

인슐린 insulin

인슐린 주사를 맞다

get an insulin shot

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Hard work pays off

Check out the Economist article “The model minority is losing patience”. It quotes one study that says a reason why Asian Americans excel academically is they work hard.


“On average Asian-Americans are unusually well educated, prosperous, married, satisfied with their lot and willing to believe in the American dream”

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Hanja for Cimi: 苹 apple 사과

We learned 平 peace.  It also means flat, level, equal (picture a level scale).  We learned grass 艹.  Put them  together, and you get apple 苹.  Apple is one of the earliest Korean words I learned from Boys Over Flowers Korean drama.  Apple is  ‘sagwa’ 사과 ( 沙果).

果 means fruit.   It is a combination of field 田 and tree 木.  Picture a fruit on a tree.  Therefore, 苹果 means apple.

  • 我在吃个苹果
    I am eating an apple.
  • 苹果是水果 
    Apple is a fruit.
  • 水果以苹果为最佳。
    Apples are the best fruit.

Here are some other fruits:  mango 芒果 , apricot 杏 , peach 桃 , pear 梨, watermelon 西瓜, papaya 木瓜.


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September Song

My language exchange partner shared with me the lyrics to “September Song”.  Koreans have an appreciation for many American songs, and I feel such a flush of joy hearing classics again, brought to my attention by someone on the other side of the world.  Sung by many artists, such as Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Willie Nelson, and Ella Fitzgerald.

5 월 수년 동안부터 12 월까지 아, 긴 시간입니다.

때 9월에 그러나 짧은 자란다.

언제 가을 날씨다에 잎들이 변한다.

하나는 기다리고 있는 게임 시간이 없다.


오, 일을 귀중한 소수자에게 행자부.

9 월, 11 월 그리고 이러한 몇몇의 소중한 날들을 나는 너와 보낼 것이다.

이 소중한 날들을 나는 너와 보낼 것 이다.
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Korean Bible

bibleReceived a gift of a Korean bible from the Korean woman I met in town.  Since the bible is organized by chapter and verse, it is easy to match the Korean to an English bible.

I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.  John 8:12

예수께서 또 일러 가라사대 `나는 세상의 빛이니 나를 따르는 자는 어두움에 다니지 아니하고 생명의 빛을 얻으리라’

Korean Bible Online

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Asian-American voters

Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in USA, but they’re also the least likely to vote. NPR published a story How Asian American Voters Went From Republican to Democratic.  The Asian-American electorate made up just 3 percent of 2012 voters.  The politicians haven’t given as much focus on courting the Asian-American vote in the past, but studying Korean has made me more sensitive to issues.


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Poem delighting in simplicity

A Korean master expresses delight in simplicity in this way.


Unaffected by the passage of time

I remain bright and quiet while I sit.

A bowl of porridge,

A plate of wild greens,

And a cup of tea:

I smile.

Meandering the web, I discovered this poem on a Buddhist teacher’s website that included an article The life of a zen buddhist nun in South Korea.

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Hanja for Cimi: 味 taste 맛

I take great thrill in my fortune cookies, now that I am learning a little Chinese.  This one taught me the word “taste”.  Imagine in ancient times, you are a king who can’t eat yet until the food is first tasted.


The compound for Taste (味) is comprised of Mouth (口) and Not yet (未).


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Hanja for Cimi: 天 sky 천

天 sky, heaven, day 천

I chose the character 天 because of a Zen poem “An Answer on Behalf of Heaven and Earth”  代天地答.  We learned soil/earth is 土.  See 土 (earth) in the character 地 ? 答 is answer and 代 is on behalf of others.

An Answer on Behalf of Heaven and Earth
The myriad and thousand differences
Are all born of false thought.
If you can abandon these distinctions,
There is no creature that is not equal.
萬別千差事 皆從妄想生 若離此分別 何物不齊平
Seon Monk Muujia (1178–1234)

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Hanja for Cimi: 永 eternal 영

When I first saw this character, I thought it was water 水 until I noticed the extra dot.  It is a character used as a warm up for calligraphy because it has so many types of strokes.


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