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Silenced (2011) Film

Director: Hwang Dong-hyuk

Writer: Gong Ji-young author of The Crucible, adapted for film by Hwang Dong-hyuk

Cast:  Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-me

During his military enlistment in 2008 - 2009, Gong Yoo read The Crucible, written by Gong Ji-young, a novel based on a true story about a group of hearing impaired students in the early 2000s who were physically and sexually abused by faculty members over several years.  The initial court case and lenient sentences given to the perpetrators who had strong connections in the legal arena, were initially kept quiet without much media attention. 

After his discharge Gong Yoo contacted the author of the book and discussed ideas about adapting the book to a movie to highlight the powerlessness of the students and the injustice of the legal system who had ignored the children’s plight and then covered up and  allowed the perpetrators such lenient sentences. 

Silenced (2011) was the result of this conversation and it is a powerful, confronting film about a new teacher, Kang In-ho (Gong Yoo) who begins work at the Gwanju Inhwa School for hearing impaired students.   He is immediately struck by the corruption and deception among the workers at the school who appear to have no respect for the students.

One night, after discovering a girl with injuries, In-ho takes her to the hospital, meeting up with Yoo-jin (played by Jung yu-me) a human rights worker, who tells In-ho that the student has been both physically and sexually molested.  As the students begin to slowly trust their new teacher, more secrets are exposed and In-ho and Yoo-jin attempt to navigate the legal system and advocate on behalf of the children.

'Silenced' ignited public outrage when first released and resulted in further police investigations, a retrial, and eventually more appropriate, harsher penalties for the guilty faculty members.  After the film was released The Dogani Bill was passed to abolish the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors and people with disabilities. 

'Silenced' is available on Netflix and it’s a story that will stay in your heart.  

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Our Beloved Summer

Director:  Kim Yoon-Jin

Writer:     Lee Na-Eun

Cast:  Choi Woo-Sik, Kim Da-Mi


Our Beloved Summer follows the lives of Choi Ung, (by Choi Woo-Sik) a laid-back student who prefers to draw buildings and nap rather than study, and Kook Yeon-Su,(Kim Da-Mi) a driven, dedicated student known for her high achievements and fiery temper.

At nineteen years of age, with the promise of earning money, the pair of opposites agree to being filmed for one month in a documentary about the highest and lowest ranking students in their school. Despite their initial dislike for each other, Choi Ung and Kook Yeon-Su slowly move into a romantic, but rocky relationship which ends abruptly and painfully for them both.

Ten years later, the original high school documentary resurfaces and goes viral.  The lead characters are reluctantly together, and in front of the camera once again. Choi Ung, now a successful artist, finds his peaceful, stress-free world turned upside down as he and Kook Yeon-Su rekindle their love and they are both forced to evaluate their changing relationship with a more mature lens.

Both documentaries of the couple are filmed by Im Ji-Ung (played by Kim Sung-Cheol) who fell for Kook Yeon-Su during the filming when she was nineteen.  He watches the unfolding events with a broken heart from behind the camera.  I felt uneasy watching Im Ji-Ung.  He seemed to skulk around the edges of everyone’s lives not really fitting in anywhere properly and mostly just feeling sorry for himself as unrequited lovers often do.

Watch out for Park Jin-Joo who gives a delightful performance as Kook Yeon-Soo’s best friend and the local bar owner. Her character was interesting, zany and bright; a pleasant change from the doom and gloom of Im Ji-Ung’s moping around. 


I liked Our Beloved Summer. Lots of twists and turns, enough subplots to keep me interested and loads of lovable characters who made me snort and belly laugh one minute, and then brought tears to my eyes the next. The fabulous chemistry between the lead characters is no accident. The pair worked well together in ‘Falling in Love’ (2020) with the same director and they were happy to work together again, and it shows. The Original Soundtrack is good too, with the surprise additional of one of the Wooga Squad, probably better known as BTS singer V, singing the theme song, Christmas Tree. 

Sometimes relationships are worth rekindling and sometimes not. If you would like to know how these two opposite characters end up, check out Our Beloved Summer on Netflix. You won't be disappointed

Let me know what you think.

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Three reasons why I love k-drama

Reason 1.  Learn to speak Korean faster

·     practice on your cat

·     do a hundred hours of Youtube rabbit hole jumping to learn about the food and culture

·     drink heaps of soju and find your singing voice.

Reason 2.  Plots, subplots, twists and turns

·     try to guess the story line.  You'll usually be wrong.

·     learn how to do that wonderful drop bear squat

·     Find any other non k-drama series that offers hunky goblins and vampires (let me know?)

Reason 3.  Visual feel goods

·     See the world with great scenery, music, and hot oppas

·     Online shopping opportunities

·     Did I mention eye candy ? 

If you’ve got 5 minutes, read on for the longer version.

Three reason why I love k-drama (longer version)

Covid-19 restrictions for me, meant working from home, being closer to the fridge, the lounge, and the TV, which was great for the first month. When I complained to my sister about my brain cells dying of boredom she suggested watching a k-drama on Netflix. She just forgot to tell me how addictive it can be!


My very first k-drama was Chocolate, the story of a doctor who abandoned his childhood dream to open a restaurant, and a woman who became a chef because a boy cooked a delicious meal for her when she was a hungry, lonely child. The two characters meet as adults working in a hospice for terminally ill patients. I was hooked from the first episode. So began my love affair with k-drama.


I have tried to contain my list to only three main reasons why I love K-drama, but it’s been difficult. If you’ve already fallen in love with k-drama or if you are learning the Korean, or want to travel to South Korea one day, you may already have your own list of reasons why you love K-drama, and you’ll know why it’s so hard to have only three reasons.


                                                                     So here we go  .  .  .             


Reason number 1.    Culture language, food, history, and all the stuff I can learn about Korea.

Trying to learn the language? K-dramas can be a big help, especially if you turn off the subtitles in your own language and try to listen and identify the more commonly used words and phrases.

Before you know it, you will be giving a little bow and singing out annyeonghaseyo to your neighbour, or sitting on your bed surrounded by soggy tissues and your nightie covered in crisps, softly whispering  saranghae to your cat.


Love food? Koreans love food and why wouldn’t they, with all that delicious crunchy chicken, spicy stews, and sweet syrupy pancakes? Of course, each meal is served with a bowl of rice and a hundred different side dishes, (slight exaggeration). Sometimes Koreans drink maekju (beer) or soju (Korean distilled spirit) to wash it down.


Be careful if you decide to try soju because it comes in different flavours. My quiet sister-in-law once went to a Korean restaurant and ordered peach soju, then drank a full bottle (in cute little glasses), thinking it was a novel way to drink a soft drink. She later told me she could hardly stand up and had to wobble out of the restaurant holding onto my brother who had his hand over her mouth to stop her from singing.


K-dramas cause weight gain. No doubt about it. Every k-drama shows steaming ramen noodles or a bubbling pot of jjigae or the characters talk about eating all the time. If you’re anything like me, the mere suggestion of food has me leaping out of bed like a slightly rounded gazelle, coming back for the next episode five minutes later with a steaming bowl of instant noodles and snapping chopsticks. The fogged-up glasses and extra load of calories at 2am in the morning does not deter me at all.


Want to know about the culture and history? K-dramas are a clever way to learn the history of Korea from Joseon dynasties and Kings, right up to the current day. There’s also a k-drama about King Sejong who together with his scholars invented Hangeul which we use today. You could read an encyclopedia or watch YouTube to learn this as well, but I find it so much more entertaining to watch and learn from k-drama. Have a look at Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth to see what I mean. Ah hah.  Now we’re talking.

K-dramas also invite us into the world of the characters and allow us to experience and learn about Korean culture, from early days to now, the values, traditions, special occasions, births, weddings and funerals and everything in between.


Reason number 2.  Plots, sub-plots, twists, and turns, and lots of BIG emotions.

Say goodbye to boring predictable story lines.  There is no doubt that the writers and directors of Korean drama and Korean films are up there with the absolute best. 

In K-dramas, just when you think you’ve worked out the story line and plausible ending, along comes another plot twist, such as, the lead character was abandoned as a baby, (saved by a poor fisherman who had a daughter the same age) then he grew up and fell in love with his childhood friend who may, or may not, now be his sister. And they’ve already kissed.! Gasp. You get the idea.

The average k-drama has 16 to 20 one-hour episodes and that gives time to get to know each character well and then to
experience every emotion or crisis as though it was your own.  

Yearning, hunger, love, anger, sadness – it’s all there.  And the male character cry openly and often, a great example of humanness, especially for those growing up in a culture that implies men crying publicly is a sign of weakness.  Viewers also get to watch deep male friendships developing, often referred to as ‘bromances.’

How do hey do that magic thing?  The female characters embody sadness by sometimes dropping to the deep Asian squat in the middle of the footpath, head to knees, making big sobbing noises until they feel better, or until the love interest finds them, whatever comes first. 

I’ve always been fascinated, and I have now incorporated learning how to do this drop bear pose in my exercise routine. I only wish those four gorgeous Korean trainers (Allblanc hear my plea) would put in hot tips on how to make my body bend that way without falling on my nose, or worse. Can anyone else do the deep Asian squat?  Without lifting your heels off the ground?

Also, there’s a genre for every preference, so if you’re into fantasy, ghosts and goblins, horror, mystery, vampires, historical, out of this world creatures, gaming, robots or romance, k-drama has a genre for you. Fill your boots.


Reason number 3.  The visual feel goods


K-drama directors combine great cinematography with South Korea’s stunning locations to bring unforgettable scenes that can identify and distinguish one k-drama from another. 


For example, k-drama lovers who see this image might be able to identify it quickly as a scene from Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, (it was filmed at one of the breakwaters near Yeongjin Beach). Toss in some great lines, good acting, and a bit of heart rendering music and you’ve got an unforgettable scene, with unforgettable emotions.


If you plan to travel to South Korea, there are now k-drama tours set up to cart the enthusiasts, such as myself, to all the different spectacular filming locations. Imagine being on a day tour with a heap of other people who love the same thing as you do?


K-dramas allow us to live vicariously among the wealthy, with their latest fashion, jewelry, luxury cars, phones, and the inside world of the rich. Sometimes, I prefer to relate to the characters struggling with poverty and hardship, those with a part time job and a cute little rooftop apartment that has an outside space for their friends to BBQ pork belly and drink soju in the middle of the night.

The visual feel goods encourage me to look at my own life and try to make changes. Recently, at the end of one series, I found myself re-arranging my pot plants and ordering knock off earrings and a Korean electric BBQ plate online.

Quite different from the real thing, but about as close as I can afford right now.


Did I mention eye candy? All those hot hunky actors and actresses – whatever takes your fancy? Be still my racing heart. Strong lead characters, especially tall, good-looking guys who work out and beautiful young women can move into character and deliver lines well go a long way towards the success of a series.

Wonderful cinematography, great script/story writing, inspirational settings and attractive and relatable characters add up to an ideal experience when immersing yourself in a k-drama.

What I wouldn’t give to have one of those handsome oppas carry me home on his back after I had too much to drink or rush me to the hospital if I cut my finger.

I warned you that it wasn’t easy to keep to only three reasons why I love k-drama. Tell me if love k-drama too. 


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Coffee Prince (2007)

Director:  Lee Yoon-jung

Writers: Lee Jung-ah, Jang Hyun-joo

Cast:  Gong Yoo, Yoon Eun-hye, Lee Sun-kyun, Chae Jung-ah

Gong Yoo’s big break came when he landed the lead role in Coffee Prince (2007) a romantic comedy in which he plays Han-gyul, a rich playboy who hires Eun-chan, (played by Yoon Eun-hye) who he assumes is a boy, to act as his gay lover to escape from the endless succession of blind dates organised by his grandmother. 

When the family money is turned off, Han-gyul is challenged to turn a run-down coffee shop into a business that makes money. He decides to hire an all-male staff to attract the females from a nearby women’s university.

Eun-chan, a tomboy and the desperate breadwinner in her family, poses as a male and lands a position in the coffee shop. The ‘bromances and relationships between the ‘princes’ are developed carefully with subplots, humour, and misunderstandings.

Gong Yoo’s exquisite acting skills carry the viewer effortlessly along with the storyline as his character falls in with love with Eun-chan, causing him to question his masculinity and sexuality. The writers of this drama have bravely introduced the possibility of gay love at a time when many South Koreans with more conservative beliefs may have been uncomfortable with homosexuality. Despite that, the k-drama 17-episode series was a huge hit and in 2020, some thirteen years later, the cast came back together in a documentary to talk about the success of the series.

Check out Coffee Prince on Netflix and let me know whether you liked it or not. If you happen to be in South Korea and would like to see the filming location of the actual coffee shop, it’s in Hondae, Mapo-gu, Seoul.

The OST is pretty good too.      

On a sad note, one of the ‘Princes’- Hwang Min-yeop, played by Lee Eon (centre back row in the pic) died in August 2008 in a motor bike accident. He was 27 yrs old.

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                                                                 [K-Pop] Stray Kids and Ateez Part 1!

안녕하세요 여러분! ㅎㅎ 다시 반갑습니당~!!! ╰(*°▽°*)╯

Hey everyone! Great to see ya'll again! Haha! I'll be reviewing a Stray Kids and an Ateez music video as well as an individual performance that they did on Kingdom; Legendary War!

 I will be doing 3 parts to this so that I can show you guys my thoughts individually on each group! Part 3 will be the Kingdom Performance!   

These 2 groups, although they have different concepts, they do have something in common, they self-produce the majority of their music! Which is a huge reason I'm a fan of them!

이제 시작할까요? ㅋㅋ- Shall I get to it? 😆


Let’s start with Stray Kids!

There’s a recent music video that they released titled MANIAC. Let me tell you… this video is … wow.

Aside from all of the members looking insanely handsome, the way the beat changes and the choreography and the subtle scenes of them being in another world. 

Everything put together is extremely insane and amazing to me! Let’s break it down!

So in this first piece, from the beginning, there is so much going on! The biggest thing that caught my eye though was (aside from Felix being a Parkour king in this video lol) notice how there is a mirrored world above him while he is running. 

As you know, each Idol group usually has a concept and storyline in their music videos. In many of SKZ music videos, there's a world above theirs.

I’m still researching and getting to know this group so I’m still not 100% sure about the exact storyline yet. I’ll let you know when I learn more hehe! 

When I watch music videos, I really love a playful vibe, so when the music starts, Bangchan is riding the bike and Han is recording and everyone is having a good time! It’s a great way to keep my attention when everyone is having fun hahaha!!

I love the synchronization when the choreo starts! I’m also a sucker for falsetto notes and Lee Know’s falsetto is probably my favorite part of the entire song!!

There are multiple beat changes in this song which is so cool to me! 

I love that in this song you can see each member's individuality, whether it's from their style, dancing, or their rapping! Han and Changbin's rapping are my favorite in this song out of all of their songs that I've heard so far!

The line where Changbin says;

"When a favor continues, people think it's their right, toxic."

I'm not sure how to explain it, but I really agree and relate to this line. The way I interpret this is kind of like, when you really need help and someone offers and then continues to bring it up and hold it against you. 

SKZ rappers are always really great at writing relatable lyrics, but I personally think Changbin is one of my top favorite lyricists in the industry!

Now moving on to the chorus, Felix and Hyunjin really did their thing on the 1st chorus! Felix's deep voice always gives me chills and never ceases to amaze me.

Hyunjin tends to keep this breathtaking eye contact with the camera and it's like he's staring into my soul. The chorus along with the main choreo is just so eye-catching. 

They go so hard every time and I just wish I could dance with them sometimes haha. (I can't dance so that would never happen hahaha!!!)

Now when it comes to the vocalists, I.N and Seungmin, although they have very beautiful and softer voices, they have more bland vocal colors in their group. 

That's definitely not a bad thing, they do so much with the vocals that they do have, in their music. What I mean is, I get so surprised when I hear them hitting higher notes or belting as Seungmin did in this song.

Though their voices were not big when they started, you can certainly tell that they've worked so hard to get as great as they are now. In the bridge, I really enjoyed how clean but powerful they sounded.

                                                                  Ending Comment

Although the entire music video was so well put together and every member did fantastically, I think the rap line really did more for me on this song and video. 

I am more of a person who enjoys great vocals, but in MANIAC, the rapping and the chorus really had me vibing and bopping my head along.

 I've definitely listened to this song more times than I should have in one day but it's really well done!

See you guys in Part 2. where I will review Ateez! See you soon!


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Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (2016-2017) k-drama

Director: Lee Eung-bok

Writer: Kim Eun-sook

Cast:  Gong Yoo, Kim Go-eun, Lee Dong-wook, Yoo in-na, Yook Sung-jae

Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (2016 – 2017), also known as Goblin, has 17 episodes and is my favourite k-drama.

It’s about a 939-year-old perfectly preserved, tall, handsome looking man (Gong Yoo of course), who happens to be a goblin looking for his bride to remove the (invisible sword) left in his body after he died when he was General Kim Shin in a much earlier life.

Sounds complicated? Not really. Gong Yoo plays the cheeky Goblin perfectly with just the right amount of humour, emotion, and great line delivery. He ends up sharing his stunning home with a grim reaper (Lee Dong-wook), whose work involves directing souls to the afterlife with a nice cup of tea to make them forget their memories. His cup collection is amazing!

The unlikely friendship that develops between the Goblin, Grim Reaper and Goblin’s bride is entertaining, but at times heartbreaking.

The Grim Reaper falls in love with a chicken shop owner, Sunny, which is complicated by the fact that he doesn’t know his own name, he’s a vegan and he can’t touch anyone. Somehow, they work through it all.

It's a playful, engaging romantic k-drama with loads of funny moments and some particularly sad times in the latter episodes. Kim Go-eun plays the character of a 19year old student who learns she is to be the goblin’s bride.  She also learns that she can make him instantly appear in front of her by blowing out a flame, creating some awkward times.

Yook Sung-jae plays the part of the lovable, but mostly clueless nephew who spends most of his time trying to get his credit card back and understand what’s going on with his two uncles.  

The storyline, the sub plots, the chemistry, the fun, and the fabulous acting of everyone makes this an outstanding k-drama, which is on Netflix in some countries, but not mine. I had to watch it on Viki Rakuten.

You’ll be knitting yourself a long red scarf in no time.

                                                                                      The OST is great too.

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Helena 쌤

I listen to K-pop when I work these days. But I'm a little tired of hearing the same playlist over and over again. If there's anything good, please recommend it on YouTube.   

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                                                                                                           Idol Webtoons Part 1 [Series]

Hey everyone! It’s great to see you here again!😆

Today, I’m excited to be reviewing a Webtoon based on HYBE Entertainment’s (known as Big Hit Entertainment before changing the company name) male group; Enhypen. I love this group!


                                                                                  (Enhypen 'Drunk Dazed' )

 I watched them in their Survival Show; I-Land. (You can watch I-Land on Viki Rakuten) It was a very emotional ride for me, so I’m sure it must’ve been tough for them. But they worked hard and debuted so I’m very proud of them! I am going to be reviewing every Webtoon inspired and created by Hybe Entertainment groups. So this will be part one of this series! I’m so excited!

Shall we get started? 

Dark Moon: The Blood Alter (Enhypen) (Ongoing)

The link above will give you more information about this webtoon./ Click the underlined title to go read. 

Who would enjoy this read: If you enjoy reading about Vampires and Werewolves then I recommend this read. There are also many cute and funny moments which is something I personally enjoyed very much.

Who wouldn’t enjoy this read: If you’re not very interested in fantasy creature-based genres then you’re likely to not like this read. 

Personal Rating: ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ (Exciting/Funny)

Rating on Webtoon: 9.85/10 (9.2 Million Readers) 

Out of the 3 webtoons that I’ll be reviewing today, this one is personally my favorite. I’ve always been very into vampires and werewolf-based novels, movies, and comics. There’s something about it that has always fascinated and intrigued me. There may be a few spoilers, so just be aware haha!

This story follows a student named Sooha. Due to her dark past, she hates vampires more than anything in the world… the difficult thing about that is, she may or may not be a vampire, no one really knows yet. But she has interesting abilities. 

Sooha is a bit of an outcast because she doesn’t want anyone to find out about her past and hate her more than she already hates herself. This has also caused her to have a bit of social anxiety. Although it’s not her fault, she can’t change the fact that she is different.

She meets one of the students at her new school named Heli (who is inspired by the Enhypen member Heeseung) who seems to quickly become drawn to her. He’s a bit mysterious, and soon she meets his other friends who are kind (most of them are) but quite mysterious as well. They are all vampires who grew up together in an orphanage. Sooha still has no idea what they are by the way… Yikes.😬

(Dark Moon Main Characters inspired by Enhypen members)

There is one friend, Solon (inspired by Enhypen member Sunghoon), that even though he’s drawn and attracted to Sooha he happens to be harboring a really big secret (other than the fact that he’s a vampire😅). So he doesn’t want to have a “human” around him and his friends.  They all have this attraction to her and it can definitely make things complicated (and confusing... at least for me...)

In the recent episode, she stops Heli’s friends from fighting with a group of werewolves who are from another school. They are all confused because they said that it felt like she put them under some kind of spell or something. I found it so interesting because even though the webtoon goes over some of Sooha’s past in the beginning, there is still so much that we have to find out about her. And there's a ton to learn about the guys too. 

I DEFINITELY recommend you to read this webtoon. It’s still ongoing as it’s a new release, but I can’t wait to see how the storyline comes along. I am so excited!

                                                                                                       Closing Note

Although these series' are inspired by Hybe Entertainment groups, they still have their main characters aside from them. I really like that a lot. Dark Moon specifically has a lot of points and twists that I really like. Even though I'm sure it'll have some cliché parts, I enjoy the unpredictability of the story.

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Two Korean Authors Longlisted for 2022 International Booker

Two Korean authors have been longlisted for the 2022 International Booker prize. Authors Bora Chung and Sang Young Park were listed respectively for their books 'Cursed Bunny' (Honford Star Press, 2021) and 'Love in the Big CIty' (Tilted Axis Press, 2021). The list, which was released Thursday, March 10, 2022, also included the Polish Nobel Laureate Olga Tokarczuk, Argentinian author Fernanda Melchor, and Japanese bestselling author Mieko Kawakami [1]. Both titles were translated by Anton Hur

The International Booker prize, formerly called the International Man Booker prize, is a literary award with a bursary of £50,000 for books translated into English and published in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The prize was established in 2004 is a complement to the Booker prize, which is for books originally written in English, and the first international booker award went to Ismail Kadare of Albania in 2005. Chung and Park join two other South Korean authors that have been longlisted for the prize. Author Han Kang (한강 작가님) was longlisted in 2016 for the bestselling translation of her book 'The Vegetarian', and in 2018 for 'The White Book': she took home the prize in 2016 and advanced to the shortlist in 2018. Author Hwang Sok-yong (황석영 작가님) was also longlisted for the award in 2019 for his novel 'At Dusk' [2]

Bora Chung's 'Cursed Bunny' was originally published as '저주토끼' by Arzak Livres, a publishing house that focuses on genre fiction, especially science fiction. The book is a collection of short stories that does not shy away from blending multiple genres such as horror, science fiction, fantasy and magical realism. Reviews for the book have been excellent and the Korea times called the stories "page turners" that make readers "anxious to know more about what’s to come but at the same time dreading to see the end" [3]. Bora Chung herself is a consummate scholar, with a MA in Russian and East European area studies from Yale University and a PhD in Slavic literature from Indiana University; besides writing wonderful books, she also translates books from Russian and Polish into Korean [3]

'Love in the Big City' was originally published as '대도시의 사랑법' by Changbi publishers in 2019. It is about a queer Korean student named Young, and follows him through his college years and afterwards, as he grapples with what it means to love and be loved in the enigma that is Seoul. The novel has gotten great reviews from NY Times and NPR, and Park has been billed a young star of Korean queer fiction. Since this is author Park's debut, I am looking forward to what he will gift us with next! You can check out his novella here [I love the title: the novella is called 'Tears of an Unknown Artist or Zaytun Pasta']

Congratulations to the authors for being longlisted, and fingers crossed that they will make the shortlist as well. It is always a pleasure to read from authors who are pushing the boundaries on what literature is and what literature can do in our society. I look forward to more from them!

[1] for the full longlist. 



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Ancient and Modern Connections: Sijo (시조)

I have recently been obsessed with a band I first encountered while watching Poongryu Daejang (풍류대장), a variety show where singers (소리꾼들) blend Korean traditional music and pop music, creating a wonderful and limitless new genre of music. The band is called sEODo BAND (sic), 서도밴드, and their lead vocalist is sEODo (Seo Jae-Hyun). I was amazed by their ability to blend pansori with pop songs; the songs they performed for the show were so evocative, I find myself still mouthing them unconsciously almost everyday. Some of my favourites include 뱃노래 (the Boat Song) and 매일 매일 기다려 (Everyday, I Wait for You). Besides the band's immaculate songs, what I was most struck by was the sijo they ingeniously used for their song 매일 매일 기다려. But first, what is sijo?


Sijo (시조) are Korean traditional poems, not unlike haikus, that were first written during the end of the Goryeo Dynasty and became very popular during the Joseon Dynasty [1,2]. They are often very witty and contain several puns and innuendos, making them fun, yet intellectually rewarding to read. Many ancient sijo that are still available were actually authored by gisaengs (기생), courtesans or entertainers that were trained to work for the government. Remember that in the Joseon dynasty, there was a caste system, and it was very difficult for lower class people, especially women, to become educated. That these “lower class women”, as they would have been considered, created art and literature that was valued by the aristocrats (양반) and that is still valued today is nothing short of remarkable. Of course, there were several other scholars that created sijo, such as Im Je (임제), the author of the sijo used by sEODo BAND in 매일 매일 기다려. The earliest sijo (around the 14th century) were written in the notoriously difficult classical Chinese (Hanja), which made them inaccessible to the masses. As sijo were often performed as songs, it was doubly difficult because of the Hanja used. However, by the 18th century, authors began writing them in Korean [1]

One of the most famous gisaengs was Hwang Jini (황진이) [3]. Many movies and dramas have been made about her, including the 2006 KBS drama starring Ha Ji-won, and the 2007 film starring Song Hye-Kyo. She was known for how incredibly smart she was: she created a famous riddle that she gave to all the men who visited her. She said that only the man who could solve the riddle would be her partner. Try as they might, only one man was able to solve the riddle after several years. But besides her riddle, many of her sijo are still available to us today, written under her pen name “Myeongwol (명월, meaning ‘Bright Moon’ or ‘Full Moon’). One of them is below, titled Full Moon:

청산리 벽계수야                    

수이 감을 자랑 마라.

일도창해 하면 

다시 오기 어려워라.

명월이 만공산할 제 

쉬어간들 어떠리 [4]

Green water from inside the blue mountain, 

  do not boast of your rapid flow.

Once you have reached the sea,

  it is hard to return again.

A full moon will grace these empty hills;

  why don’t you rest for a while?

Before talking about the poem, I think we must all acknowledge the genius of working your own name into a poem in such a sophisticated manner. This sijo was written to a scholar named Byuk Kye Soo (벽계수), the very same one in the first line of the poem, though with different Hanja (碧溪水: 碧 can mean blue or bluish-green, 溪 means brook or stream; and 水 means water). Byeok Kye Su was known for how virtuous he was, and Hwang Jini infamously seduced him. In this poem, she urges the green water (our erstwhile scholar) to not be proud, probably because he rejected her advances. “Green water” could also be translated as “clear water”, as mountain springs are known for how clear they are: this matches the unsullied purity of Byuk Kye Soo [5]. The second sentence is harder to interpret: could she be saying that once she is rejected, there will be no second chances? In the last sentence, we know, of course, that she is not appreciating the full moon. Instead, she is asking him to be with her, 명월. I don’t know about you, but this beats any other confession (고백) I have seen in my life!

Ha Ji-won as Hwang Jini

Now let’s talk about the sijo that sent me down this rabbit hole. The sijo used by sEODo BAND is called 북천이 맑다커늘, and it was written by Im Je to a gisaeng named Han Woo (한우). Fun fact: Im Je was also involved with Hwang Jini, and penned a wonderfully sad sijo when she passed away. 

북천이 맑다커늘 

우장 없이 길을 나니

산에는 눈이 오고 

들에는 찬 비로다

오늘은 찬 비 맞았시니 

얼어 잘까 하노라 [6]

They said the north skies would be bright today

So without rain clothes, I set out 

In the mountains, it snows

And in the fields, there is cold rain

Today, I have been hit by the cold rain

So shall I freeze as I sleep (tonight)?

First, let’s point out the puns, just like in Full Moon earlier. The Hanja for Han Woo’s name is 寒雨, which means “cold rain”. “Cold rain” also has another name in Korean which is “Chan Bi”, 찬 비. And again, this sijo is a veiled love letter, decipherable by only those who know what the codes mean. Im Je’s sijo is, to me, much more straightforward than Han Woo’s reply, as we see below: 

어이 얼어자리 무슨 이로 얼어 자리

원앙침 비취금을 어디두고 얼어 자리

오늘은 찬비 맞았으니 

녹아 잘까 하노라 [6]

A frozen sleep; for what reason do you sleep frozen?

Here are my mandarin duck embroidered pillow and jade quilt

Since you have been hit by the cold rain today

Shall we melt as we sleep (tonight)?

Han Woo not only models her reply after Im Je’s sijo, but also adds more symbolism to it. Mandarin ducks (鴛鴦 pinyin: yuanyang) are a symbol for lifelong loving couples, as it is believed that they mate for life. So while Im Je just asks to be with her, Han Woo invites him in to share her bed as lovers (and maybe an unspoken hope for fidelity). The last line of Han Woo’s sijo is also in direct contrast to Im Je’s: Shall I freeze tonight; shall we melt tonight? Put together, these two poems (collectively known as 찬비가, the Song of Cold Rain) are a beautiful expression of affection, and a masterful piece of literature. Below are three renditions of 찬비가 that I really enjoyed; again, a reminder of the oral nature of sijo.

So there you have it. I am grateful to have found an inlet into this wonderful literary tradition, and I am looking forward to learning more about sijo. There are of course modern sijo, of which Yi Pyonggi is considered to be the father. These works are highly creative because of, and not despite, their brevity. The context in which the sijo form was first created tells us so much about the time period, but also the vibrant and dynamic history of Korean literature, something that Koreans are keeping alive till this day.  


[2] David Bannon, “Sijo Poetry of Korean Kisaeng,” Hangul Herald, Fall 2008: pp 10-13.

[3]; for more, see 

[4] The Hangeul is taken from the article linked in [2], and the translation is mine. The original poem was written in Hanja, and there are various translations of it, some of which are more direct (such as this). However, this seems off to me, as sijo were products of a Confucian era and would never have been so straightforward in talking about the matters of love and relationships. 

[5] Fun vocab point: The 청 in 청산리 comes from the Hanja 靑 (pinyin: qing), which can be translated as blue or green. If you are familiar with the four auspicious beasts in Chinese mythology, you will see that one of them is Qinglong, the Azure Dragon. This 청 is also in 청바지 ("blue trousers"), Korean for jeans/denim. So if you have ever wondered why jeans aren’t 진스 or something else in Korean, this is the etymology behind it!

[6] Hangeul taken from article in [2]; translation is mine.