Wednesday, February 29, 2012

ZILLY TALKZ: The Moon That Embraces the Sun

Scenes from MBC’s Haereul Pumeun Dal or Haepumdal (해를 품은 달 or 해품달)
“The Moon That Embraces the Sun,” Episode 17 (Air Date: 02/29/2012)

The above subtitled conversation happened between Lee Hweon or Lee Hwon (이훤) and Heo Yeonwu or Huh Yunwoo (허연우) across Byeongpung or Byungpoong (병풍, “traditional Korean folding screens"), shortly after their reunion after over 8 years. (Kim Suhyeon or Kim Soohyun (김수현) plays Lee Hwon and Han Gain (한가인) Huh Yunwoo.)  Yes, Han inarguably has "Don't hate me 'cause I'm beautiful" genes, but I just love to hate her sub-par acting and robotic dialogue.  Please don't hate me, Han Gain fans!  This is just a bit of light-hearted humor. No offense intended.

KOREAN MUSIC: John Park's KNOCKing at your heart's door

노크” (Knock)

 John Park 
(Picture courtesy of Music Farm Korea)

John Park or Park Seonggyu1 (존박 or 박성규) is a Korean-American singer. He was a semifinalist (and voted off on March 4, 2010) in the ninth season of Fox’s “American Idol” and the same year he entered Mnet’s “Superstar K Season Two” or “Superstar K-2.” He came in second place in the competition aired live on October 22, 2010.  My then-71-year-old mom was so heartbroken for she had rooted for him to win the “Superstar K” title.  She had repeated his songs on her MP3 player for quite a while ever since.  After runner-up finish, Park reportedly received management offers from various agencies including Bae Yong Joon’s2 KeyEast and ended up signing with Music Farm Koreaon March 30, 2011.

1. Or Park Seong Gyu or Park Sunggyu or Park Sung Gyu
2. Or Bae Yongjoon or Bae Yong-joon.
3. Music Farm Korea is known to have a pool of very talented musicians with sophisticated, in-depth understanding of music and, of course, life such as 이적 (Lee Jeok or Lee Juk), 김동률 (Kim Dongryul or Kimg Dong-ryul or Kim Dong-ryool), 체리필터 (Cherry Filter), 조원선 (Joe Wonsun or Cho Weonseon or Cho Wonseon), 이상순 (Lee Sangsoon or Lee Sangsun), 정순용 (Jung Soonyong or Jung Sunyong or Jeong Sunyong)

The moment he came on the public scene, Park was added to the list of Eomchina (엄친아, “Mom’s friend’s son”)4 as he was considered the full package; he’s got the look, the talent, and was an Econ student at Northwestern University.  But despite all the media frenzy, he had maintained a relatively low profile for a very long time, compared to his fellow “Superstar K-2” contestants such as Huh Gak (허각, winner) or Jang Jae In (장재인, third place), until his debut album, “Knock,” was released at last on February 22, 2012.  He just had made brief appearances on MBC’s “Radio Star” together with Lee Juk and Jung Jae Hyung or Jeong Jaehyeong5 (August 24, 2011) and KBS’s “Sketchbook” (November, 2011) in the meantime. 

4. Eomchina is a slang term that originated as the acronym of Eomma Chingu Adeul which translates to “Mom’s friend’s son.”  Korean moms push and nag their children by mentioning her friend’s perfect son.  However, a person that is so perfect is unreal in real life, hence, it’s basically the ideal images reflected and created by Korean moms.  Its female equivalent is Eomchinddal (엄친딸, from Eomma Chingu Ddal, “Mom’s friend’s daughter”).
5. Jung Jae Hyung or Jeong Jaehyeong (정재형) is a Korean singer-songwriter. He’s currently hosting SBS’s “You & I,” a music TV show, with the Korean sex icon, Lee Hyori (이효리).

John Park
(Picture courtesy of Music Farm Korea)

In his recent interview with Sports DongA (02/24/2012), John Park said, “I thought I needed a cooling off period until the media frenzy would die down because I wanted to be properly valued only as a musician.”  He said he had signed up with Music Farm Korea because they had him convinced that his career as a musician, not as an entertainer or a pop star, would pick up and flourish there.  “I knew there was room to improve and I knew I still needed to learn how to convey sentiments that are uniquely Korean and to bring out the subtle nuances in lyrics (since I was born in the U.S.),” he added.  This explains why he didn’t try to express himself through music this time while preparing his debut album; his primary goal was to sing the songs that tap a quintessentially Korean sentiment.

Park said, “I wanted my music to sound fresh and clean as if I was starting over as a musician,” and promised that his second album would show his true colors.  He also revealed plans to write songs for the next album.  “Kim Dongryul wrote three tracks on my album.  I was so happy working with great musicians like Kim and Lee Juck.  Just like them, I really want to remain committed to the music as long as I possibly can and want to be true to my own spirit and my own music,” he added.  (FYI, Park is known to also admire Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Gavin DeGraw, Marc Broussard and Jamie Cullum, and like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Joss Stone, Christina Aguilera, & Theresa Andersson.)

John Park
(Picture courtesy of Music Farm Korea)

All five tracks on his debut album, “Falling”(폴링), “Why Is It”(왜그럴까), “This Ain’t It”(이게 아닌데), “Good Day”(굿데이), and “That Song”( 노래), became instant hits upon release, all ranked in the Top 10 on Naver’s real-time chart; Park with “Falling” was neck and neck with Big Bang with “BLUE” for first place on various digital download charts on February 22, 2012.  He dominated Hanteo’s real-time daily album sales chart on February 26 as about 13,000 launch copies were sold out in a single day.  A representative of Music Farm Korea said it had already gotten plenty of reorders from retailers.  The album was produced by Kim Dongryul and the title song, “Falling,” was composed by Mama’s Gun lead singer/composer/producer Andy Platts with lyrics written by John Park.  Park reportedly produced the song himself.  He made his official debut on Mnet’s “M! Countdown” stage on February 23, 2012.

[MV] John Park: Falling (2012) 
(Click on the title on screen or double-click it
to watch the video clip in HD full screen.)

Lyrics:  Falling                                                                        Translated by ONSEMIRO

hayake beonjineun meoritsogeda  geudaereul saegyeo noko  
I engrave you in my mind that is blanking out
jeo meolli naraga
and fly far away
modeunge boineun du nuneul gamggoseo
I close my eyes that can see everything and
siganeul doedolyeoseo geu ddaero doragago sipeo
I wish I could go back in time to relive that moment

(Refrain) falling, idaero, falling for you
Falling, as I am, (I’m) falling for you
nal jabajul su eopseodo
Even though you cannot catch me
falling, ddodasi, falling for you
Falling, once again, (I’m) falling for you
nal  gamssajul su eomnayo?
Can’t you just hold me?

joatteon nanaldo, neomu apatteon naldo
The good times and very painful times
ije dorikyeo bomyeon geujeo geuraesseonnayo?
When you look back (on those days), were they just so-so?
anira marhaeyo.  meongdeun gaseumdo
Please say no.  If only my bruised heart,
meonghaejin maeumdo dasi neuggil suman iddamyeon
(If only) my empty heart could feel again


ggamake beonjineun haneurwieseo
From up above in the blackening sky,
haneopsi churakhaneun nal bogo inneyo
You’re just watching me forever falling

falling, idaero, falling for you
Falling, as I am, (I’m) falling for you
ireon nal jabajuseyo
Please catch me (falling) like this
falling, ddodasi, falling for you
Falling, once again, (I’m) falling for you
jebal nal  gamssajuseyo
Please I beg you to hold me

haneopsi churakhadeorado,  badakggaji ddeoreojeodo
(I don’t care) if I fall forever or crash to the ground
geudael hyanghae nan falling for you
(I’m facing) toward you, I’m falling for you
geujeo geudaeman boneyo
I’m just watching you

John Park: Good Day (2012)
Written by Kim Ina and composed by Kim Hyungsuk

[LIVE] John Park: This Ain’t It (2012)
Written and composed by Kim Dongryul

John Park: That Song (2012)
Written and composed by Kim Dongryul

Thursday, February 23, 2012

KOREAN ROCK: The Ju Ju Club (1996~2000) (3)

"Ranisanisafa": Incomprehensible or undecodable?

In 1997, the Ju Ju Club (or the Juju Club) came back with their second album, “Ranisanisafa” (라니싸니싸파) only three months after their first (successful yet controversial) album was released (Oct. 1, 1996).  It was a trend in the Korean music industry back then that new bands or singers release a record album every year or so in order to expand their territory and make themselves familiar to listeners.  Even so, however, it seems quite implausible that the band was able to put out their second album in such a short time while promoting their debut album at the same time.  In a promotional interview for the album, Ju Seunghyeong (lead guitarist and song writer) said they had carefully selected only the best thirty out of all pre-written songs by him and eventually eleven songs had been chosen to be recorded. (Source)  The album was released simultaneously in Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Even though their first album, a once thought masterpiece, was tarnished by allegations of plagiarism, the Ju Ju Club is still regarded as one of the innovators of Korean modern rock.  The band was always one step ahead of the pack, the crowds, and the trends.  Without fail, they came back stronger with more innovative, experimental songs but was not well-received by the audience.  If my memory serves me right, they were the first Korean rock band that ever borrowed from rap for their song Supil Leobeu (수필러브, "Love Like a Love Essay") while Seo Taijiwa Aideul (Seo Taiji and the Boys or The Taiji Boys) the first Korean rap/dance band that ever rocked in the song, Hayeoga (하여가,"The Whatever Song");  Supil Leobeu can be classified as electronic punk rap or electronic rap core and  Hayeoga as rap metal.  One thing noteworthy is that the Ju Ju Band had brought in the legendary Korean bassist Lee Tae Yoon (이태윤) as a session bassist to record their first, second, and third albums.  Lee had added resounding depth, flow, texture, and richness to every track on those all three albums.

[MV] The Ju Ju Club: Supil Leobeu 
(Love Like a Love Essay, 1997)

Don’t you think this song still sounds as fresh and relevant as today?  I just luuuuurve it!  Unfortunately, back then, it was considered too offbeat and much less palatable to mass audiences than the songs on their debut album.  Their music was just as incomprehensible or undecodable as the name of their album, "Ranisanisafa," to ordinary listeners.  Frustrated with the poor reception of their first promoted song on the album, Supil Leobeu or “Love Like a Love Essay,” they quickly ditched it in favor of the fourth track, “Sentimental,” the style of which closely resembles their mega hits on their debut album, and it turned out to be the right move.

The album’s front cover featured a cartoon of the band and Batman.  The band members were shown in color while the rest including Batman was illustrated in black and white – as if they were following Batman into the comic book. And not surprisingly, so were we as we listen to the 27-second-long first track, Godamssiti (고담시티“Gotham City”), which opens the album with sound effects of a man screaming, gunshots, and glass shattering. (Listen)

Ranisanisafa: The second album by the Ju Ju Club
(Release date: 01/01/1997/The Rock Records)

And then it smoothly leads well onto the next track, Baeteumaen (배트맨, “Batman”) (Sample).  The narrator of the song talked to her boyfriend, commenting on his lanky physique – 137 lbs (62 kg) and 5’ 10’’ (180 cm).  She asked him to sign up for fitness and boby building classes so that he could build muscles to be a new Arnold Schwarzenegger; for she wanted a man that was able to protect her as the world was too dangerous and threatening to live in for a girl.  So she wanted her man to make her feel safe and protected wherever she went, whenever he was around with her. – FYI, it was not until the early 1990’s that issues female sexual abuse victims (either by strangers or by immediate family members or someone very close to the family) began to surface as a real issue of public concern in Korea due to the Kim Boeun–Kim Jinkwan case (1992).

The third track, Nae Moseup Geudaero ( 모습 그대로, “Just the way I am”), is about a woman who was feeling suffocated or smothered in a relationship with a man trying to change her and disapprove of her; hence she was wondering if he was fed up with her being herself (Sample).  And in the next track, Ssentimental (센티멘탈, “Sentimental”), a woman (maybe the same woman in the previous track?) felt “sentimental,” being mad at yet missing her now-aloof boyfriend:

[MV] The Ju Ju Club: Sentimental (1997)

And here comes the title track, Supil Leobeu or “Love Like a Love Essay,” in which Supil literary translates to “miscellaneous writing” but most Koreans use “essay” as its English equivalent.  The narrator of the song yearned for true, reciprocal love that is often portrayed as real by so many writers of romantic stories. The more romantic her dream of love is, the fiercer her frustration is and the wilder her expression is.  It’s quite ironic that the sounds are explosive and striking when the song is about poetic, ideal love.

     ● Track 6:  Ppalli Ppalli Neo Wa (빨리 빨리 , “You, come here quick!”) (Sample)
     ● Track 7:  Epeu Eksseu-Na (Fx-, “Fx-me”) (Listen)

The song, Ppalli Ppalli Neo Wa, was remade into Mandarin by Karen Mok or Mok Man-Wai (莫文蔚, 막문위), an actress and singer from Hong Kong, who was signed to the Rock Records, together with the Ju Ju Club at that time.  The Ju Ju Club arranged and also featured in her song and music video.  The cover song was titled “想一個男生” (상일개남생, “Think of a Boy”) and was also covered by Peter Pan or Pan Yu Wen (潘裕文, 반유문) who placed third in the first season of "One Million Star"(2007), a Taiwanese reality television singing competition.

[MV] Karen Mok: Think of a Boy (1997)

The eighth track, Naega Chalgga (내가 찰까, “Should I dump you first?”), became my instant favorite at first listen; for the band’s signature (feisty, gutsy, and straight-talking) lyrics and for synchopated drum beats, intricate bass lines, and Ju Dain’s peculiar voice and rapid rapping.  I think the song (and the album) was destined to be doomed as it was released too early – 10~15 years too early.  If the song (and the album) had been put out in the 21 century or even today, I’m very positive it would have been a mega hit.  The Ju Ju Club was simply way too much ahead of time! 

The Ju Ju Club: Naega Chalgga?
(Should I Dump You? 1997)

In the next track, Nan Oneuldo ( 오늘도, “Alone Again Today”) which is a modern rock ballad, she said she would give him everything and she wanted nothing from him in return even though she was alone again that day (Sample).  In track ten, Hei (헤이, “Hey”), however, she eventually left him.  She missed him a lot, wondering where he might be, who he might be dating (even though she said she didn't care). (Sample)

The eleventh track, Ssaibeo Seupeisseu (사이버 스페이스, “Cyberspace”), was again right on money, as the band’s first-ever hit “16/20,” reflecting the changes in the lifestyle changes that were occurring within Korea at that time; or the song was actually predicting the near future where a large number of people withdraw to an online environment to avoid real-life problems or are even addicted to internet.  The narrator of the song said, “Get out of my way; I gotta go home fast.  I gotta log in to my Cyberfriends because I hate to be alone.  I gotta come here fast.  I can be anything I wanna be here in Cyberspace; I can do anything I wanna do here in Cyberspace.  Get out of my way; I gotta go home fast.” (Sample)

The last track, “Ranisanisafa” (라니싸니싸파), was the title track of the album. According to a promotional interview for the album (1997), the band named the album after this song and the title was basically onomatopoeia that Ju Seunghyeong had hummed and mumbled to the initial melody lines while writing this song. Ju happened to get hold of a newspaper plastered with disturbing news stories about school violence and he just spat out the achy feelings after having read them; hence, his feelings were reflected in the onomatopoeic word, “Ranisanisafa.” (Source)  The narrator of the song saw her friend crying, presumably after having been bullied in school, expressed her desperate feeling and anxiety, and finally begged for the attention of all parents. (Sample)

I think the band’s second album was an absolute masterpiece but came around too early.  And I truly believe they should have promoted different songs, like Ppalli Ppalli Neo Wa (“You, come here quick!”) or Naega Chalgga (“Should I dump you first?”) since those songs were way better than "Sentimental" and less offbeat than Supil Leobeu ("Love Like a Love Essay").  And as mentioned above, their music overall was just as incomprehensible or undecodable as the name of their album, “Ranisanisafa,” to ordinary listeners.For those reasons, it was not as commercially successful as anticipated as it failed to reach to the heart of the mass audience.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS's K-Pop Star (1)

케이팝 스타: 이하이 (Lee Hayi, or Lee Ha Yi, or Lee Hai)

It was like magic; she got me at hello.  Lee Hayi was ready to be a strong early favorite for SBS's "K-Pop Star" with her deep, incredibly soulful voice that took command of the stage when she first showed up in front of the judges and television audience.  Now, she’s become a better singer and the favorite to win “K-Pop Star” thanks to the custom-designed vocal lessons given by YG and JYP.  And she’s only fifteen - she was born on September 23, 1996 and is seventeen in Korean age.  What can I say?  Her voice is simply irresistible.  But it's hard to describe, so you'd better watch her sing yourself to witness the birth of a star.  (The video clips are in reverse chronological order.  If you want to watch them in HD full screen, click on the titles on screen or double-click the clips.)

BTW, starting from this March, Hayi will go to the School of Performing Arts together with f(x)'s Sulli and Miss A's Suzy.  

Lee Hayi: K-Pop Star (02/19/12)
Duffy's "Mercy"

<UPDATE on 04/13/2012>

Here’s what the judges said:

Park Jin Young said, just before the one-on-one battle between Lee Hayi and Park Jimin, that the battle would be the night’s main event – the heavyweight title match no one could predict who would win.  Park said they should be thankful for that showdown because without rivals, people can’t improve upon them.  He said to them, “Win or lose, you can learn a lot and can bring out your hidden potential. So enjoy your great luck.”  When Park said he wanted to wait to comment until both of them were done singing, Yang and BoA agreed to wait too.

Park Jimin: K-Pop Star (02/19/12)
Shin Hyobeom's "Nan neol saranghae" (I Love You

Yang Hyun Suk (or Yang Hyeonseok): I don't know if it's appropriate for me, a middle-aged man, to say this to you two (young girls) but when Hayi pointed (at the audience) with her finger singing the line, “I love you,” I went “Oh, my!” as if she had pointed at me.  Her singing was that much captivating.  I wondered, “How come she can do such a low range?  Is she really Korean?” She can sing these low notes with accurate pitch that even the professional singers can’t easily deliver.  I was happy to know Korea’s finally got such a singer who has such low notes in her vocal range.  When Jimin was singing the part, “Nan neol saranghae” ( 사랑해, “I Love You”), even though she wasn't looking at me, I also felt like she was telling me so.  She put so much expression into the lyrics that I loved that part way more than her high notes, aka, six level high notes.

BoA:  (Right after Hayi’s performance, she exclaimed, “(That’s) the end, (that’s) the end!” which means “The winner’s decided.”) I think this two shot we’re now watching may probably be a preview of the final live stage (we’ll be watching in a few months).  I think they are each other’s primary rivals.  Jimin’s tried to concentrate on the lyrics, instead of techniques or rhythms, to convey the meaning of the song.  (FYI, Jimin worked with BoA at SM for the round.)  And I loved it and really appreciate her for showing great improvement.  And about Hayi’s performance, I think she’s tooooooooooooo attractive.  I simply loved her singing.  What else can I say?

Park Jin Young (or Park Jinyeong):  We have a definite winner of tonight’s heavyweight title match.  Both of them are inarguably superb but I personally think Hayi picked up the complete victory tonight.  The highest note of the song (“Mercy”) was the second syllable of the part, “re-LEA~~~-se” and she reached that note in a high-pitched falsetto at first, then in a natural voice the second time.  (I think Park was thrilled she had delivered the song, especially those two parts, just as taught and trained (by him) at JYP.) On the other hand, Jimin hit the high notes in a natural voice from beginning (to end), so her “six level high notes” didn’t really work.  (Here, BoA chimed in that Hayi did what she does best while Jimin tried to go beyond her specialty.  Which was similar to Park’s wording for Hayi’s “For You” performance in the previous round.  He said, “Tonight Jimin delivered the best performance.  But she did what she does best while Hayi did well singing the genre she’s not familiar with.)

As announcing Hayi’s name as the winner of the night, Yang said, “I’m sorry but I’ll have to borrow Park’s words.  Hayi is the definite winner tonight.” 

Yim Jaebeom's "Neoreul Wihae" (For You)
(Aired on 2/5/12)

Pixie Lott's "Mama Do" (Aired on 1/15/12)

Gummy's "Eoreun Ai" (Immature Adult)
(Aired on 1/8/12)

Jazmine Sullivan's "Bust Your Windows" 
(Aired on 12/11/11)
Hayi said, "I love to sing and dance, and eat Deokboggi."

KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS's K-Pop Star (2)
KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS's K-Pop Star (3)
KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS's K-Pop Star (4) 
KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS's K-Pop Star (5)  
KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS's K-Pop Star (6) 
KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS's K-Pop Star (7) 
KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS's K-Pop Star (9)

KOREAN RECIPE: Sweet and Crispy Kodari (Half-Dried Pollock)

코다리 강정 (Kodari Gangjeong)                                                by RaOn
                                                                                                 trans./ed. by Onsemiro  

Kodari Gangjeong,
Sweet and Crispy Half-Dried Pollock  

Kodari or Codari (코다리) is degutted, half-dried Pollock, which are one of Korea’s most favorite and popular fish.  It’s been said the fish was named myeongtae (명태明太) after a fisherman called Tae seobang(태서방, “Mr. Tae”) who was the first to ever catch the fish in the country, and also after the legion called Myeongcheon (명천明川) of Hamgyeongbukdo Province where the fisherman lived.  When the ancient Koreans caught an unidentified fish in the river or in the ocean, they never ate it without giving it a name.  So Mr. Tae followed the rule and brought the fish to gwana (관아, "provincial government office").  There, saddo (사또) or gwanchalsa (관찰사), i.e. "Provincial governor," named the fish myeongtae after the fisherman Tae and the legion it had been caught.

Since this fish is so popular that the numerous different names given to it and you should not think these names refer to a different species. It is alternatively referred to as myeongtae(명태), saengtae(생태), dongtae(동태), kodari(코다리), bugeo(북어), and hwangtae(황태).  When it’s fresh-caught, wet and alive, it’s called myeongtae (its original name) or saengtae, in which saeng means “alive.”  If it’s frozen, it’s called dongtae, in which dong means “frozen.”  When completely dried, it’s called bugeo (the north fish) – the name has nothing to do with dryness but with its origin –the north sea.  When it was dried in the sea winds on the immaculate snow fields of Daegwallyeong(대관령) of Gangwondo Province all through winter, so it turned fluffy and yellow, it’s called hwangtae, in which hwang means “yellow.”  When just half-dried thus deliciously chewy, it’s called kodari, in which a native Korean word ko means “nose” and dari is from also a native Korean word dallida (달리다, “dangle, hang”).  The word kodari implies the way it was dried – people put a thread through its nose and hung it to dry.  This name was given by the people of Sokcho, a city located in Gangwondo Province.

Its taste, flavor, and nutritional components change according to the way the fish is processed and stored. It is amazing and interesting how resourceful and industrious Koreans are about eating and enjoying a fish in various ways.

Pollock is high in protein and very low in carbohydrates and saturated fat. Protein in Pollock is a complete, high-qualityprotein, full of amino acids essential to human reproduction, growth, and health.  Amino acids are necessary for cell growth and removal of oxidants hence help our body stay healthy and in fluid (including blood) balance.  The fish is also a very good source of retinol (or vitamin A), riboflavin (or vitamin B2), niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium, so helps increase skin elasticity and maintain skin firmness, rehydrate dry skin, repair damaged skin cells, and reduce wrinkles. (Note it also has a downside – it is very high in cholesterol.)

When dried, the fish (hwangtaebugeo, or kodari) is more beneficial – a high-protein, low-fat food with almost no cholesterol thus people with cardiovascular diseases or diabetes can safely eat the fish.  It is good for children's growth and development and for adults’ muscle strength and weight loss.  It is also good for hangovers, detoxifying, cleansing the liver, recovering energy, and controlling blood pressure, and that’s why bugeoguk (dried Pollock soup) or hwangtaeguk (dried yellow Pollock soup) is Korea’s best hangover food.  I’ll introduce hwangtaeguk and hwangtaegui (grilled dried yellow Pollock) sometime later.

INGREDIENTS (5 servings):
● 4 kodaris* (half-dried Pollock)
● 4 cups potato starch*
● sunflower seed oil (or grape seed/canola oil) for frying
● 1 large size green onion, chopped
● 2 green chili peppers, chopped
● 1 TBSP sesame seeds, toasted (or ground almonds/peanuts)

● 1 TBSP anchovy powder**
● 3 TBSP water**
● 3 TBSP ganjang* (Korean soy sauce)
● 1 TBSP gochujang* (Korean hot pepper paste)
● 2 TBSP maesil cheong*** (Korean plum extract)
    →Substitute: 2 TBSP squeezed apple/pear juice
● 4 TBSP jocheong or ssalyeot* (Korean rice syrup)
    →Substitute: 4 TBSP honey or Oligo syrup*
● 1 TBSP ssamjang* (spicy Korean sauce paste)
    →Substitute: 1 TBSP ketchup
● 4 cloves garlic, slivered
● black pepper to taste

*You can find the ingredients in your local Korean markets.  Kodaris are stored in the frozen fish section. 
** If you prefer clean sauce, you’ll need 2 degutted and/or boned dried   anchovies.  Boil them in 1 cup water and remove from the broth after simmering for 10~15 minutes until it makes 3 TBSP of broth. 
***You can find maesil cheong or maesil extract at

● Jocheong or ssalyeot is fermented Korean rice syrup which is made from steamed rice and frequently used in Korean dishes instead of sugar.  (Beware mulyeot is corn syrup.)  As Korean rice syrup does not affect your blood sugar levels, it can be a healthier substitute for sugar or corn syrup.

● Maesil cheong is a Korean plum extract which is combined with brown sugar and aged in a jar.  When used in a dish, it adds a kick to the taste of whatever you got – an MSG-free gamchil mat (감칠 , “a fifth basic taste together with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty”).  This extract has antibacterial properties, protects the stomach, and aids digestion.  When you have a stomach upset, heartburn, or acid indigestion, drop a teaspoonful or two of this extract in a cup of warm or cold water and drink it slowly.  It will relieve nausea and other symptoms.

Step 1.  Have all the ingredients ready.

 Thaw frozen kodaris at room temperature; wash thoroughly and drain through a strainer for an hour. Cut off gills with head and remove tail and fins. Bone them thoroughly.  Cut each fish into six to seven, or bite size chunks.

 Chop 1 large size green onion and 2 green chili peppers coarsely and sliver 4 cloves garlic.

Step 2.  Fry Kodaris.

 Coat kodaris thoroughly and thickly in potato starch. 

 Take a deep saucepan and pour enough sunflower seed oil (or grape seed/canola oil) to generously coat the pan.  Heat the oil over medium-low heat, add in kodaris, and cook halfway through with the lid on.  When they are toasty brown, turn and brown the other side.  Cook for the remaining time without the lid on to burn off the extra moisture.

 Drain excess oil from fried kodaris through a strainer.

Step 3.  Prepare Marinade.

 Heat 1 tsp sunflower seed oil in a frying pan over medium heat and stir-fry garlic slivers until light brown.  Add in 3 TBSP water and 1 TBSP anchovy powder (or 3 TBSP anchovy broth), 3 TBSP soy sauce, 1 TBSP gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste), 1 TBSP ssamjang (or 1 TBSP ketchup), and black pepper to taste.  (I use sunflower seed oil for a pleasantly nutty flavor but you may substitute grape seed or canola oil.

 When the marinade starts boiling, add in 2 TBSP maesil cheong (Korean plum extract) and 4 TBSP jocheong or ssalyeot (Korean rice syrup).  You may substitute 2 TBSP squeezed apple/pear juice for maesil cheong and 4 TBSP honey or Oligo syrup for jocheong.  Continue to boil, stirring frequently, until the marinade thickens, very much like maple syrup.

Step 4.  Coat Kodaris with Marinade.

 Add pan-fried kodaris to marinade sauce in the pan stir until the kodari chunks are well coated with the sauce.  Stir as gently as you can, or the pan-fried chunks will break apart.  Add in coarsely chopped onion and chili peppers and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined, for about a minute.  If you prefer your dish to be mild and less spicy, you may minus the chili peppers.  If you want to try fusion cooking, then substitute ketchup for ssamjang.


Step 5.  Serve.

 Arrange the kodari chunks on a warm platter and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, or ground almonds/peanuts.  Serve with bap (cooked rice), guk (soup), gimchi (kimchi), and a couple side dishes – these dishes will make a perfect Korean dinner table.  Or just serve with cooked rice if you want a simple dinner.

 My sister, RaOn, is a contributing blog writer on this blog.  She currently lives in Seoul, Korea, and writes about what real Korean people eat at home or at Korean-style diners, not at fancy restaurants – it’s just simple yet healthy comfort foods that happen to be very delicious!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

KOREAN CULTURE: The First Full Moon Festival (4)

Daeboreum (대보름), and its Superstitions and Customs 

Jisinbapgi, or Jisin Bapgi (Stepping on the Spirits of Earth)

Jisinbapgi (Picture Source)

Now that a tug of war contest (Juldarigi) is over, it’s time to carry on another ritual to wish for good harvests and abundance. The ritual is called Jisinbapgi (지신밟기) which translates to “Stepping on the Spirits of Earth,” and is also called Madangbapgi (마당밟기, “Stepping on the Courtyard”), Maegwi (매귀(埋鬼), “Burying the Spirits”), or Geollip (걸립(乞粒), “Begging for Rice”).1  Jisinbapgi is traditionally carried out starting from the first day of the Lunar New Year through the fifteenth (Daeboreum), or any time they need to collect money or rice to use for the village celebrations and festivities.  The meaning behind this ritual is to ward off evil spirits while stepping on the good Earth Spirits and to bring in blessings, happiness, and peace for the whole village all year round.  The ritual becomes the talk of the village while preparing for it on their own accord, and the funds (money and rice) they raise through it are used for the purposes of the public interest.

The farmers’ folk band gathers together at the mouth of their village, at the village well, or at the tributary junction of the village river.  In ancient Korea, the parade was headed by Sadaebu (사대부(士大夫), “high officials”) and followed by the hunters and others wearing various masks called Tal () then lastly by the farmers’ folk band.  The parade heads first to the village head’s (or the tong2 head’s nowadays) house then to the haves’, with the farmers’ folk band performing Nongak (농악) that narrowly translates to “farmers’ music” – the band plays such musical instruments as Jing (, “large gong”), Buk (, “drum”), Ggwengwari (꽹과리, “small gong”), and Jango (장고, “hour-glass shaped drum”).

1.  Geollip (걸립(乞粒)) originally refers to the act of begging for rice (and also money).  Whenever a Buddhist temple needed funds, a pack of Buddhist monks paid a visit to each and every house of the village, offered a Buddhist chanting and invocation, and then were offered rice or money in return.  It also refers to a ritual of Jisinbapgi.
2.  A tong is the second-lowest city administrative unit or prefecture.

(from top left clockwise) Jing, Ggwengwari, Buk, Jango
Picture Source

Nongak Performance

When the Jisinbapgi team enters into the house of each family, they step firmly and thoroughly on every corner of the courtyard, then the kitchen, the platform for earthen crocks (containing soy sauce, soy bean paste, chili pepper paste, and so on), the storage shed, and then the toilet shed, dancing and chanting, “Good, good Earth Spirits, expel the evil spirits and minor demons from this place and let them stay deep underground!  Let thousands of happiness and tens and thousands of blessings come on in to this place!”  The people of the village try to get ahead of one another in having the Jisinbapgi team over to their house. If the team happens to skip the visit to their house, they will completely freak out.  After the ritual is over, the owners of the house offer the Jisinbapgi team foods (including rice cakes) and drinks as a token of their sincere gratitude.  The Jisinbapgi team, the family of the house, and the spectating crowds all become as one while having a ball.

 Daljiptaewugi or Daljip Taewugi (Burning the Moon House)

Daljiptaewugi (Picture Source)

When all the rituals in the daytime are over, it’s time to light up the fire!  The ancient Korean farmers gathered together to carry out such fire rituals as Daljiptaewugi (달집 태우기, “Burning the Moon House”), Gwibullori (쥐불놀이, “Setting Fire to Catch Rats”), or Hwaetbbulssaum (횃불싸움, “Torch Fight”).  These pastimes or games are in fact fire-worshiping rituals  as the gist of the ancient Korean philosophy is the sacredness of Nature; and in various cultures (such as Korea, southern China, or Baltic Europe), the farmers traditionally perform rituals of setting fire, dancing and drumming around it in hope of good harvests and abundance.

The ritual starts at dusk as the ancient farmers build a straw or pine twig heap that looks like a tepee or tipi; and it reaches a crescendo when the Full Moon appears as an entire circle in the sky and the farmers set the house on fire in order to ward off evil spirits and ill fortune and bring in blessings and luck.  This tepee look-alike house made with straws or pine twigs is called Daljip (달집, “Moon House”) and the ritual is called Daljiptaewugi (달집 태우기, “Burning the Moon House”).1  The ancient Korean farmers believed scorching the moon would prevent droughts hence carried out the ritual in earnest hope of timely rains and breezy winds, i.e., a climate favorable to agriculture.  Besides, this ritual fulfils the desires and aspirations of the ancient Korean farmers for peace and stability in their village, using the banishing and purifying power of the sacred fire that burns up all the evil spirits and impurity.

Even though the exact origin and history of Daljiptaewugi is unknown, but since the Full Moon is the very essence of Daeboreum, we can assume this ritual is deeply rooted in Korea’s agricultural culture:  one, the moon epitomizes female, birth, fertility, creation, and abundance; and two, as Korea’s agriculture is based on the lunar, or Chinese, calendar which is a combination of astronomy (especially, the moon’s cycles) and geography through observation and exploration, the moon symbolizes the revolutions of the spheres of the universe, the order of time, the changes of the season, and the principles of nature.  Needless to say, on Jeongweol Daeboreum or Sangweon (in which sang means “top” and weon “best” or “No. 1”) when we can see the first full moon of the year, the magical power of the moon reaches its apex and this is why the Korean farmers perform various kinds of the moon-worshiping rituals such as Yongalddeugi (용알뜨기, “Scooping up the Dragon’s Egg”), Dalmaji (달맞이, “Welcoming the first full moon”), Daljeom (달점, “Lunar Divination”), or Dalbureum (달불음, “Soaking the moon”).

1. The word dal means “the moon” and jip “house,” and combined, daljip means “the house of the moon.” The name of the ritual, Daljiptaewugi, varies according to the regions:  Daljipbul (달집불, “Moon House Fire”), Dalbullori (달불놀이, “Moon Fire Game”), Dalggeusilleugi (달끄실르기, “Scorching the Moon”), Donghwa (동화(洞火), “Village Fire”), Manguribul (망우리불, “Moon Viewing Fire”), Dalmanguri (달망우리, “Moon Viewing”), or Mangweol (망월, “Moon Viewing”). 

Manguribul and Dalmanguri are the words resulted from the mispronunciation of MangweolDalbullori and Dalggeusilleugi indicate that the purpose of the ritual is to scorch the moon.  Donghwa means a village fire that burns up all the diseases and demons.  In other villages of Korea, it is called Haedonghwa (해동화, 解凍禍 or解凍火) which means “removing ill-fortunes of the village” or “a fire that thaws all the frozen, wintry things.”

When Jeongweol Daeboreum is imminent, all the men from the village start working together to build the cone-shaped Moon House or Daljip with pine twigs and/or straws.  The pine twigs and/or straws are either brought in by the workers or collected from village families except for those in mourning, those with a mom in the postpartum period, or those regarded defiled.  Daljip is usually built either in the village square or on a mountain or hill ridge where they can see the Full Moon rise.  At sunset, when they get Daljip ready for the ritual, all the villagers gather together in front of it with a light heart, buoyed up with hope and good resolutions, waiting for the Full Moon to rise into the sky.  Finally when the moon rises in the east, all the people start shouting, “Moon Fire!  Moon Fire! Let’s watch the moon!  Let’s scorch the moon!” and set the Moon House, Daljip, on fire.  Then they dance around the burning Moon House to the rhythm of the beat rendered by the farmers’ folk band and pray that all the evil spirits and demons may be banished from their village.  (The sound of burning bamboo stems the farmers placed in the Moon House is also believed to scare them away.) This is the most magical moment of this ritual when they are in full accord with Nature.


It is believed that the first person to see the Full Moon rise on the day they perform Daljiptaewugi ritual will have the best of luck all year.  The Korean farmers practice divination from how the Moon House burns: If it burns very vigorously, only good things will happen to their village; if it burns very slowly or the fire dies down, it is considered ominous sign of disasters.  In some regions, it is believed that the more smoke the burning produces or the more the smoke covers the moon, the more abundant the year’s harvest and yields will turn out.  They also predict their fortunes according to which direction the Moon House will fall:  If it falls toward the east or toward their village, it is considered a sign of good harvests; if it falls toward the west or to the opposite side of their village, it is considered ominous and disastrous. (In some regions, it is believed to the contrary; they’d like to have the Moon House fall to the opposite side of their village since it is considered lucky.)  The Korean farmers take the remnant coals from the burnt Moon House to toast beans and eat them since they believe it will prevent skin diseases and strengthen their teeth.

KOREAN CULTURE: The First Full Moon Festival (1)