Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sparkling Korea

I have always disliked the tourism logo for Korea--Sparkling Korea. I suppose it's better than something to do with kimchi; but I have seen it as a harnessing of Korea's obsession with all things cute. And as you can see from the image to the left, the government apparently thinks Russian models are better suited to sell the trademark than regular Koreans. There is a rank consumerism in urban Korea that I will write about some other time.

To the point: Sparkling Korea is actually not some cutie creation.

Now I find out that it comes from Koryo--where the modern term "Korea" originates--and Koryo comes from Wang Kon, who viewed himself as the successor to Koguryo. You can see that Koryo is a shortened form of Koguryo. Koryo means "high mountains and sparkling waters." Seoul is anything but sparkling, let me tell you. But there is undeniable beauty outside the city. And Koreans love their land and all of its nature. So, now I get It.

Short history lesson about Koryon and Wang Kon: this all happened in the late ninth century when Wang Kon helped Kyonhwon, the estranged founder of Later Paekche, take back Later Koguryo from his first son who had usurped power when Kyonhwon attempted to have his fourth son succeed him. This kind of made the first born angry.

Wang Kon was the son of Kungye who founded Later Koguryo at Kaesong, in central Korea. (Wan Kon believed that he was the proper successor to what was left of the Koguryo legacy, so he was more than happy to help estranged father take on estranged son while at the same time helping finish off the third, ailing kingdom, Silla.) I do believe it is Wang Kon who fought relentlessly against Later Paekche and who got Silla to surrender. To make a really long story too short: Wang Kon unified Korea. His Koryo dynasty ruled for almost half a millenium. He is viewed by Koreans as being one of the great, magnanimous rulers from the past.



Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History, Updated Edition Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History, Updated Edition by Bruce Cumings

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am loving this book and I am only finishing the first chapter, Virtues.

So many books on Korea speak about the country and its culture as if the Koreans were Chinese or only known through their coping with the Korean war or struggles with Japan.

I have been looking for a book about Korea and about Koreans. And Bruce Cummings attempts to do this.

The first chapter handles the history prior to the modern era. Korea had its own history and culture, something quite unique: a history I have been interested in for some time.

So far so good.

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Confessions: Books I-Xiii Confessions: Books I-Xiii by Augustine of Hippo

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love this book. I am reading it again. A chapter a night. The sincerity and passion and earnest curiousity of the narrative is only slightly undercut by an intelligence that sometimes overcomes the rigid reading of Biblical texts that litter his writing.

In other words, Augustine works (right from the beginning of Chapter I) at manipulating the Biblical text to fit the constraints of his religious doctrine. He transforms both the Biblical texts and the doctrine creating a personal rubric for his spirituality.

Also, he makes me giggle.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

I am my Revision

I have had to come to terms with my classroom pedagogy on a number of levels since moving to Seoul. I will attempt to address an issue or two in upcoming posts. I am still organizing my ideas.

I have been busier, as a teacher, in three months, than I was in any given year at home. It makes it incredibly difficult to head home after work to blog. Never mind blogging, I am writing a dissertation, too.

I have some catch-up posting to do. And will.

Each day, I post to my facebook page everything I look at online. Much of that will end up here and on my other blogs.