Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Haenyo: Lady Divers of Jeju Island

Jeju Island is considered as the premier tourist destination of Korea. It is the largest island as well as the smallest province of South Korea. Located south of South Korea, about an hour flight from the capital Seoul, this volcanic landmass whose unique scenery of black lava rock walls, verdant hills covered with evergreens and palms, sandy beaches coupled with its warm, subtropical climate have made it a favorite honeymoon destination for newlyweds.

Another attraction of Jeju is its lady divers, the mermaids of Jeju known as Haenyo. If the weather is calm, you might be lucky enough to see these women in wetsuits clambering across rocks with nylon nets, called mangsiri, and drum-like floats called taewak, over their shoulders. Diving without the aid of a breathing apparatus and reaching depths of about 15 – 20 meters, this extremely dangerous occupation is not popular among young Korean women, thus it is dominated by women aged over 40, some say that there are divers who are more than 70 years old. The haenyo make their living diving for octopus, abalone, sea urchins, sea slugs, cucumber and seaweeds. Mainstream Korea is considered as a male-centric society but the haenyo of Jeju is a representative of a matriarchal family structure (that's what you call girl power).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Japchae (stir fried glass noodles with vegetables)

Japchae, Chapchae, or Jabchae, is a very popular korean dish made from cellophane noodles called dangmyeon  (the type of noodle used is made from sweet potato starch and becomes transluscent when cooked, hence it is sometimes called glass noodles), stir fried in sesame oil and a lot of vegetables such as carrots, mushrooms, bell pepper, and spinach and flavoured with soy sauce and sugar. This dish is very versatile that it can be served as a meal by itself or it can be served as a side dish or a snack.  It can also be served either hot or slightly chilled.

This is my simple cook-it-yourself japchae.


1/2 pound dried Korean sweet potato noodles
2 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon cooking oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced onions
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 stalks green onions, cut into 1″ lengths
1/2 cup shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 lb spinach, washed well and drained
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds


Fill a large pot with water and boil.
When water is boiling, add the noodles and cook for 5 minutes.
Immediately drain and rinse with cold water.
Drain again and toss with only 1 tsp of the sesame oil.
Use kitchen shears to cut noodles into shorter pieces, about 6-8 inches in length.
Set aside.

In bowl, mix soy sauce and sugar together.
Add the cooking oil in a wok or large saute pan on high heat and swirl to coat.
When the cooking oil is hot but not smoking, stir fry onions and carrots, until just softened, about 1 minute.
Add the garlic, green onions and mushrooms, stir fry for about 30 seconds.
Then add the spinach, soy sauce, sugar and the noodles.
Saute for 2-3 minutes until the noodles are cooked through.
Turn off heat, toss with sesame seeds and the remaining 1 1/2 tsp of sesame oil.

Prepare a platter lined with banana leaves before pouring your japchae.  Just for presentation purposes.  That's how i usually serve my japchae.

You may also add beef strips if you so desire. Just saute it until tender and then stir in the other ingredients.  But i prefer my japchae meat free.

Just like cooking your ordinary stir fried noodles.

Friday, September 11, 2009

This is the Moment (지금 이 순간)

This is the Moment" is my favorite song from the musical Jekyll and Hyde. The song was interpreted by a lot of singers such as Anthony Warlow, Rob Evan, Jack Wagner, and even David Hasselhoff. The musical also had a korean staging starting in 2004 with Jo Seung-woo and Ryu Jung-han in the lead.

If you have the time to watch the korean version of the song on youtube, aside from Jo Seung-woo and Ryu Jung-han, you might also want to check the version of Im Tae-kyung.

Here's the lyrics (english and korean) of the song just in case you would like to practice your vocal prowess. For those who would like to practice reading in korean, you might want to try singing with it.

This is the moment, this is the day.
when i send all my doubts and demons on their way.
Every endeavour I have made ever, is coming into play, is here and now today.
This is the moment, this is the time.
When the momentum and the moment are in rhyme.
Give me this moment, this precious chance. I’ll gather up my past & make some sense at last.
This is the moment when all I’ve done.
All of the dreaming, scheming and screaming become one!
This is the day, See it sparkle and shine, when all I’ve lived for becomes mine.
For all these years, I've faced the world alone,
And now the time has come to prove to them I've made it on my own.
This is the moment. My final test.
Destiny beckoned, I never reckoned, Second Best.
I won't look down, I must not fall. This is the moment, The sweetest moment of them all
This is the moment. Damn all the odds. This day, or never, I'll sit forever with the gods.
When I look back, I will always recall, Moment for moment, This was the moment,
The greatest moment of them all

지금 이 순간 지금 여기 간절히 바라고 원했던 이 순간
나만의 꿈이 나만의 소원 이뤄질지 몰라 여기 바로 오늘
지금 이 순간 지금 여기 말로는 뭐라 할 수 없는 이 순간
참아온 나날 힘겹던 날 다 사라져간다 연기처럼 멀리
지금 이 순간 마법처럼 날 묶어왔던 사슬을 벗어 던진다
지금 내겐 확신만 있을뿐 남은 건 이젠 승리뿐
그 많았던 비난과 고난을 떨치고 일어서 세상으로 부딪쳐 맞설 뿐
지금 이 순간 내 모든 걸 내 육신마저 내 영혼마저 다 걸고
던지리라 바치리라 애타게 찾던 절실한 소원을 위해
지금 이 순간 나만의 길 당신이 나를 버리고 저주하여도
내 마음속 깊이 간직한 꿈 간절한 기도 절실한 기도
신이여 허락하소서

This would be a nice piece to try at your favorite noraebang. Happy singing!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sijo: Korean Poetry

You ask how many friends I have? Water and stone, bamboo and pine.
The moon rising over the eastern hill is a joyful comrade.
Besides these five companions, what other pleasure should I ask?

...Yon Son-do (1587-1671)

Similar to the Japanese poetic form Haiku, Sijo is a Korean form of poetry, traditionally consisting of three lines of 14 – 16 syllables each with a total of 44 – 46 syllables per poem. Line 1 usually presents the problem or theme; Line 2 presents the turns of thought; and, Line 3 resolves the problem or concludes the theme with a twist or a surprise. Sijo began as a song form and was popular amongst the upper classes in the past, although a similar form also became popular with the commoners. Sijo poems are rarely titled and they may be narrative or thematic, serious or humorous, and evokes human emotions.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I would just like to thank everyone for reading my blog.  I actually made it to the Top 100 blogs of the Blog Korea! Visit Korea! competition of the Korea Tourism Organization and VANK. I won an mp3 player. Again, thank you very much !!!

Samulnori: Korean traditional percussion

Having had the chance to watch some Korean traditional performances in the past,  I think I am most familiar with the Samulnori.

Samulnori is a type of percussion music from Korea. A combination of the Korean words “samul” which means four objects and “nori” meaning to play; samulnori is always played with four instruments, namely the kkwaenggwari, ching, changgo, and buk, the same instruments used in pungmulnori. Each of the instruments represents different elements in nature: kkwaenggwari is thunder; ching is wind; changgo is rain; and buk is the clouds. Samulnori performances more often than not are done indoors and are tailored as a stage art. Because of the extremely complex and technically difficult patterns,  it does not call for audience participation in the dancing unlike the pungmulnori.  

Samulnori can be considered as a derivative of pungmulnori. In the late 70s, a group of pungmul players headed by Kim Duk Soo formed a group called SamulNori. The group is credited not only for reviving this art form in Korea but in garnering worldwide acclaim and acceptance for this Korean art, music and dance . The fusion music created by the combination of Samulnori with western music has added to the mass appeal of Samulnori.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I cooked bibimbap last night for some friends.  I thought it would be a nice alternative to the pasta dish which i usually prepare especially on a short notice.   
Here's how I prepared my bibimbap.


• Cooked rice ( good for 4 – 6 people)
• 7 pcs Shitake mushroom
• 1 medium-sized Zucchini
• bunch of Spinach
• 1 large carrot
• Turnips (just added this)
• Bean sprouts
• Egg
• ¼ kilo ground beef
• Soy sauce, hot pepper paste (gochujang), sesame oil, sesame seeds, sugar, salt vegetable oil, ground black pepper


1. Cook rice.
2. Prepare a large platter, one that can accommodate all your cooked ingredients.
3. Prepare the vegetables. Cut the mushroom, zucchini into strips and julienne the carrots and turnips.
4. Rinse the bean sprouts and cook it (place it in a pot of boiling water and add salt. Leave it for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until cooked). Once cooked, drain water and mix it with minced garlic and sesame oil. Put it on the platter.
5. Rinse the spinach and put it on a pot of boiling water for a few minutes then drain. Squeeze the water out lightly and season with a pinch of salt, soy sauce, minced garlic and sesame oil. Put it on the platter.
6. In a pan, put vegetable oil and sauté mushroom and season it with a pinch of soy sauce, salt, sugar and pepper. Put it on the platter.
7. In a pan, put vegetable oil and sauté zucchini in some salt and sugar. Cook till translucent. Put it on the platter.
8. In a pan, put vegetable oil and sauté carrots and put it on the platter.
9. In a pan, put vegetable oil and sauté the turnips and put it on the platter.
10. On a heated pan, put some oil and the ¼ kg of ground beef then stir. Add minced garlic, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, ½ Tbsp of sugar, black ground pepper, and sesame oil. Put it on the platter.
11. On a heated pan, put some oil and 200 grams of ground beef and stir it. Add 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tbs of soy sauce, 1/2 tbs of sugar, a little grounded black pepper, and sesame oil.
12. Cook the egg (sunny side up).
13. Put the cooked rice in a big bowl, then arrange your cooked vegetables and meat on top. Place the sunny side up egg on the center.
14. Serve it with sesame oil and hot pepper paste.
15. Mix it up and eat.
Simple meal yet friends enjoyed it.  I guess that means I'll be expected to cook some more.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Delphic Games 2009

A friend of mine will be joining the Philippine delegation to the III Delphic Games 2009 to be held in Jeju Island, South Korea on September 9 – 15, 2009. I have fond memories of the last Delphic Games because the 2007 Junior Delphic Games was held in my hometown, Baguio City in the Philippines, it was here where I got the chance to experience first-hand some Korean cultural performances. Here are some photos of the event.

Delphic Games brief backgrounder
The Delphic Games which was previously known as the Pythian Games, started in Greece in 582 B.C. together with the Olympic Games. It was a competition of culture and arts among ancient city nations of Greece. However it was discontinued for more than 1600 years and was only reborn at the beginning of the 20th century: from 1927 to 1936, it was held regularly, once in every three years, in Greece and was called Delphic Festival, it became the cognate of the ancient Pythian Games.
Modern-day Delphic Games are complex competitions of young professional in the field of art. It now combines all types of arts like performances, literary, social, and ecological arts.

Delphic Games 2009
The 3rd Delphic Games 2009, in Jeju, will see art competition in six art categories and 18 disciplines ― Music and Acoustics arts, Performing arts, Craft, Design & Visual arts, Lingual arts, Communication and Social arts, Architecture and Ecological arts ― under the motto ``Tuning into Nature''.

Jeju Island
(A little backgrounder on this Island Paradise of Korea, I will be talking more about Jeju in my future blog posts).
Considered as the premier tourist destination of Korea, Jeju is also the largest island and at the same time the smallest province of Korea. It is located 130 kms from the southern coast of Korea and about an hour flight from Seoul. Known as Korea’s version of Hawaii because of the island’s unique scenery of black lava rock walls, verdant hills covered with evergreens and palms coupled with its subtropical climate. Jeju is also known the country’s prime spot for honeymooners.

The island offers a wide range of activities for every type of visitor such as hiking on Mount Halla, the highest peak of South Korea; hiking and cycling are also popular on the island; equestrian activities including horseback riding and watching horse races; and golfing, are just but some of the things you can do while in Jeju.

Jeju is also home to the “Seongsan Ilchulbong” a UNESCO World Heritage site. Another must see place in the island is the Jeju Folk Museum which gives a nice overview of everyday life on the island, with exhibits of useful items made from bamboo, rice straw and black lava rock. The outdoor exhibition area displays 143 signature unusual stone carvings called Jeju Mushin Gung statues.

The Delphic Games 2009 will not only offer an art and cultural feast but coupled with the gems of Jeju Island, this event will certainly be a trip worth remembering for all participants and spectators.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pungmulnori: Korean folk music

One of the representative dances of Korea is the Pungmulnori. Not only is it considered as one of the oldest and most popular folk arts of Korea but this is one art which is deeply rooted in its farming lifestyle and culture. Pungmulnori is a type of art which includes drumming, dancing and singing and was originally played to wish for a good harvest of the year and other collective farming operations of the community as well as in various occasions, celebrations, festivities, and during planting and harvesting seasons.

Pungmulnori is traditionally performed outdoors and drumming is the fundamental element. The basic instruments used are the kkwaenggawari (small gong), changgo (two-headed hourglass drum), ching (large gong), and puk (barrel shaped drum). In some instances, wind instruments are included such as the nabal (long trumpet), or the taepyongso (conical oboe). Aside from the drummers the dancers often play the sogo (tiny drum) and perform acrobatic movements. All the performers are dressed in colorful costumes. Some would even wear hats with a long ribbon attached to it that would create elaborate patterns whenever the performers move their head while spinning and flipping.

While court music faded with the dynasties, Pungmulnori to this day, still lives on in Korea.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Talchum: Korean Mask Dance

Have you ever wondered what they call the Korean dance where performers are wearing a mask while singing? That particular art form is called TALCHUM. If my memory serves me right and with the limited Korean movies that I’ve watched (around 4 to be exact), I think it was in the movie “The King and the Clown”, which I saw about 4 or 5 years ago where I saw this particular art form. I remember the actors wearing masks dancing and singing while performing a skit mocking members of the Royal Court as well as the king.

Talchum is a mask drama wherein characters talk, sing and dance wearing masks. Performers not only portray persons but also supernatural beings as well as animals. Audience participation is a distinctive feature of this Korean art form, as they are asked to join in the community dancing. Because of the social classes that existed in early Korea, the drama was a way for the commoners or the ordinary people to relieve themselves of the stresses of their everyday life as well as a means of showing their bitterness towards the noblemen or the privileged class of society. The play often lampooned the upper classes by using masks with deformed faces. The commoners were also portrayed as clumsy fools.