Thursday, April 5, 2012

Announcing my move!

I have decided to make the move to wordpress!

For my close friends/family who have been following my blogs for a long time, I know this is AGAIN one of the MANY huge changes I have taken over the past 5-6 years (?). I myself can’t count how many times I’ve moved blogs, changed names, etc. I get tired of THINGS easily, I admit that. But I have been contemplating to change my blog name for a while now… so why not make a complete change of blog host? Fear not though, because I have exported all my blog entries to that new blog. There are just too many precious entries in this blog I don’t want to chuck aside.

See all of you on the other side!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Downsides to Korea…

I realised I don’t really blog much (or never) about the downsides or bad experiences I’ve had with the culture or society. Well, I didn’t really experience anything bad personally until the last time when I had stayed in Seoul for 3 months, albeit not long but longer than a normal tourist would stay, I had realised some societal problems. I’ve been wanting to blog about this during my stay in Korea (Nov-Feb), but thanks to severe procrastination and lack of motivation, this post is finally churned out 2 months after ending the awesome stay I had in Seoul.

Smoking and the very bad traffic regulations in S. Korea (in particularly, Seoul) are the two particular thorns that I’ve experienced during my stay. Perhaps the fact that I’m from Singapore where traffic rules and regulations are strict and drivers, most of the time, would adhere to them compliantly has made me quite sensitive to the audacious traffic in Seoul.

In Korea, I always had to put on an extra guard when crossing the road because even when the traffic light is red and the green man is on, a lot of the cars would just zoom by! Alright, so I’m talking about a small one-way road with one traffic light and I believe that the drivers think that it’s not necessary to stop to allow pedestrians to cross. But certainly, that is no excuse! Of course, on bigger roads, drivers tend to comply to the traffic lights but with the amount of reckless drivers in Seoul, a pedestrian always has to be extra extra careful when crossing any roads.


It’s not just the dangerous interaction between pedestrians and drivers but it includes the absence of driving etiquette between drivers as well. It is very common to see drivers cut lanes abruptly, without giving signals or some drivers would signal but the other drivers wouldn’t allow the drivers to change lane by dangerously tail-gating the front car. I supposed this might stem from the Koreans’ competitive attitudes, especially in the capital city where everyone seems to be in a hurry, even when they’re walking on the streets and in the subways.

Once, I was lost in the subway for about a few minutes because that station had so many escalators leading to different lines. So I was kind of walking slowly, unsure of which escalator to take and suddenly in a split second, a large crowd of commuters rushed past me. A middle-aged man almost ran into me but he prevented the collision by swerving past me expertly. It was kind of scary being lost in a crowd of seemingly unfeeling, hoggish strangers.

Some of these strangers can be rather inconsiderate, which brings me to the thing about smoking in Korea. It is widely known that Koreans smoke a lot and this is also frequently depicted in their media outlets, from movies to photo shoots.

Son Ye-Jin smoking photo shootSon Ye-Jin, being portrayed as a sexy smoker in a photo shoot for Singles magazine

Kim Hye-su smoking Kim Hye-su in movie, ‘타짜’ / 'The War of Flower’

won bin smokingWhy is Won Bin so hot even with a poison stick?

Sometimes media tend to blow things up a little and I didn’t think that the situation would be even more serious in reality than movies, dramas and photo shoots. I was taken quite aback to realise that there are so many restaurants and cafes where they allow smoking indoors. Majority of the cafes have a small separate smoking room for smokers to kick back and relax but there are SOME that allow smokers to smoke everywhere they like. I’ve encountered a couple of such places and it was just horrible. It was excruciating to sit there, trying to swallow a cup of caramel latte while staring at the white streaks of smoke surrounding me in an enclosed place where there is no where else the smoke has to go except into my lungs! Such cafes are definitely not for non-smokers to hang out, chit-chat and enjoy a cuppa. Honestly, I was completely astonished when I had such an experience for the first time in Korea.

Restaurants have an even worse record. I cannot count on my fingers, how many of the Korean restaurants I’ve been to allow smoking indoors without separated areas. Bf said that most 술집 (bars ; literally “alcohol house”) allow smoking indoors and so do some restaurants that serve alcohol, so that’s probably more than 80% of the restaurants in Korea. It was always such a huge downer to see white streaks of smoke floating in front of me when enjoying my BBQ pork ribs meal, and realising the people at the table next to ours were smoking. That means I was not only filling up my stomach with food but my lungs with poisonous gas throughout the entire meal.

It also seem like there are a lot of instances when people smoke anywhere they like even though certain places are forbidden, such as in the cabin of a subway train:

image   image

I personally think that certain rules, which may face heavy criticisms by the Korean public, such as prohibiting smoking indoors (EVERYWHERE) and decreasing the amount of smoking-areas around the country need to be implemented by the government unless they want this VERY disturbing trend to proliferate even more. And, what about the non-smokers who don’t want to be second-hand smokers but cannot help it?

I suppose this angst in me to the two issues I faced in Korea stems from the fact that I am from Singapore, where the strict country rules have pretty much regulated a smoking-free environment and cultivated relatively decent driving etiquettes in drivers.

Lastly, here’s an old clip of DB5K singing the ‘Stop Smoking Song’ back in 2008, with a strong focus on second-hand smoking (간접흡연).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

큰 칼…

I don’t know what to say of this situation that occurred yesterday.

While translating '”우행시” (abbreviation of 우리들의 행복한 시간), AKA “Our Happy Times” which is the novel that I’m working on for my thesis, I came across an intertextual reference in one of the paragraphs. The author made reference to one of Korea’s most famous folk tales, 춘향전 Chun-hyang Jeon.


춘향이가 큰 칼을 쓰고 앉아 있는 것은 청승스럽고 미련스럽고 아니면 무언가 위엄 같은 것이 있어 보였지만, 그건 어디까지나 훗날 당연히 이몽룡과 함께 도래할 극적인 정의의 반전을 위해 비참하면 할수록 좋은 도구이겠지만, 21세기가 다가오는 때, 실은 그건 좀 충격적이었다.

My translation: When Chun-hyang was in a cangue, she had looked pitiful and silly, if not somewhat dignified, but the more miserable she looked, the better it was for the inevitable dramatic reversal of justice that came along with Lee Mong-ryong.

The translation is a revised version. At first, I thought that ‘큰 칼’ supposedly meant ‘large knife’ so I had translated the front clause as “When Chun-hyang was sitting down, using a large knife,…” Apparently, there was a second meaning which I didn’t know of when I first translated it so when I presented the un-revised version to my supervisor, he was quite confused. Why did the author mention Chun-hyang using a large knife in this context? Mind-boggled, he went to google Chun-hyang Jeon to look for clues to this ‘knife’. After briefly looking through an online text of Chun-hyang, he suspected that 큰 칼 was referring to a ‘large cangue’ instead of ‘knife’, but he wasn’t sure. So he asked me if I knew Gong Ji-young’s (author of novel) email or contact details so that he could ask her about it. I said the only way I knew how to contact her was through her twitter. So I logged into twitter and he sent a message (in Korean, of course) to her asking about the meaning of ‘큰 칼’.

After that, I didn’t dwell on this matter anymore but waited for the author’s reply. At night, when Bf came online, I took the chance to ask him about the meaning of 큰 칼. After a few minutes he was able to give me a perfect answer of the word. Indeed, besides meaning ‘knife’, it also meant ‘cangue’ or ‘pillory’. He said it was in the naver dictionary! The dictionary which was like my bible during the translating process had this word?!! I was dumbfounded. Why didn’t I look it up in naver? I had assume it ONLY meant ‘knife’… And I felt so embarrassed for my prof and about the message sent to GJY. She must think, I’m not dictionary, look it up yourself. And no, she didn’t reply my tweet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

떡볶이 Ddeok Boggi/ Spicy Rice Cakes: Recipe (Translated!)

image떡볶이 Ddeok Boggi/ Spicy Rice Cake

For people who are interested in making authentic Korean dishes, I believe that learning from the Korean themselves is the best way of making them. So I decided to translate this recipe from the blog of a published Korean cook for those who are keen on the attempt of making a good ddeok boggi dish from scratch, i.e. no instant sauces! In addition, this recipe is aimed at making home-made ddeok boggi to taste as good as ddeok boggi sold in cart stalls on the streets of Korea (usually a feat that is difficult to achieve at home as claimed by the author). Unfortunately, I cannot copy and paste the wonderful HD photos, taken for each step, from her blog. The photos are very helpful and perhaps, one can even cook up a dish JUST by looking at the photos! Click here for the original blog post!!

20 pieces of rice cakes
3 pieces of fish cake
¼  white onion
1/3 carrot
7 pieces of sesame leaves
½ stalk of spring onion
a pinch of sesame seeds

Anchovy Kelp Broth:
A handful of anchovies
1 piece of white radish (100g)
1 piece of kelp (10 by 10cm)
1 piece of dried chilli
7 pieces of raw garlic
5 cups of water

Seasoning Sauce:
4 tbsp Korean hot pepper paste
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp starch syrup
½ tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp minced garlic


1) Anchovy Kelp Broth

Brew the soup stock according to the ingredients listed above. Once the water starts boiling, reduce to medium heat and boil for 20 minutes. Although most of the time kelp is removed from the water in the middle (of the boiling process), it is better to keep it boiling until the end for a strong and thick flavour of the ddeok boggi’s broth. This strong flavour is what makes the street food ddeok boggi. As condiments (T/N: MSG, etc) are not used, a strong flavoured soup stock is needed.

2) Seasoning Sauce

Make the seasoning sauce by mixing the ingredients listed above. The amount of hot pepper paste has to be more than the chilli flakes, and the amount of starch water has to be more than sugar. This will bring about the thick flavour of the sauce found in street food ddeok boggi.

3)  Cut the fish cakes into triangular shapes. Slice the onions, carrot and sesame leaves into strips, and chop up the spring onions.

4) Soak the stiff rice cakes in warm water before cooking them. There is no need to parboil the rice cakes. As the rice cakes will be boiled down in the sauce, there is no need for the rice cakes to be soft (before cooking). You can use ddeok boggi rice cakes or cut up the long bar rice cakes into fine slices.

5)  Once the broth has been well brewed, remove the broth ingredients and set the cloudy broth aside.

6) Pour the prepared seasoning sauce into the broth and start boiling.

7) Once the water starts to boil, add the rice cakes in.

8) Add the fish cakes, spring onions, carrots and onions as well. Boil until the sauce thickens. Use high heat and gradually reduce to medium heat while boiling until sauce thickens. As the sauce boil, stir to prevent the rice cakes from adhering to each other. The sauce of street food ddeok boggi is quite watery. Adjust the boiling time according to your preference for the thickness of the sauce.

9) Once the sauce thickens, sprinkle sesame seeds.

10) Serve with sesame leaves on top. Add sesame oil according to your preference... but without it, the taste of street food ddeok boggi can still be achieved.


I made ddeok boggi twice within two weeks with the same recipe because the first attempt was quite a failure. I had added too much water the first time and the taste was too bland. I learnt from my mistake and was quite successful the second time! The photos will show the difference between the two:

Left Photo: Failed attempt / Right Photo: Successful attempt

Actually making ddeok boggi isn’t new to me. I had make this dish a couple of times last year but with instant ddeok boggi sauce which is what anyone can do. Thus, I’m glad to be able to whip up this dish from scratch with the simple recipe above! The sauce of the ddeok boggi is the most important element. The taste, colour and texture of the sauce is what determines the overall taste of the ddeok boggi. Remember not to overestimate the water amount when you’re making this! I also recommend adding sesame oil because in my opinion, it really adds to the flavour of the dish.

Ddeok Boggi has always been one of my favourite Korean dishes. I absolutely love the tender texture of rice cakes accompanied with the bright red sauce which is both spicy and sweet at the same time. Having spent a period of time in Korea, I have tasted really delicious rice cakes sold along the streets of Seoul. If some of you didn’t know, ddeok boggi is the street food icons in Korea, loved by people of all ages. It can be eaten lightly as a snack in between meals or part of a  meal accompanied with other street food such as fish cakes (오댕), intestinal sausages (순대) or ramyeon!


Boyfriend and I have had lots of meals like that when I was in Korea because they are not only delicious, they are convenient and can be found almost everywhere. One won’t go hungry on the streets of Seoul. And very fortunately for us, there was a small and modest stall in Sillim, the area where I stayed at, that sold really delicious ddeok boggi. The sauce was really rich in flavour. Bf was immediately hooked when we had our first snack there. For a few days, he kept having ddeok boggi from that stall, even the ahjumma there could recognize him. He even asked me to practice making it until I can achieve a result that is as delicious as the ddeok boggi sold there. Maybe that’s one of my motivation for making this dish. ;p

P.S. Sorry for the lack of photos, especially those of the Korean ingredients (fish cake, hot pepper paste, etc). If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask me about the kinds of ingredients used!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Affirm your ♥ through ♥


질투로 사랑을 확인하지 말라. 밀고 당기기로 사랑을 확인하지 말라. 그 사람의 부재로. 괜한 말다툼으로. 다른 사람의 입을 통하여. 사랑을 확인하지 말라.다만 ♥으로 ♥을 확인하라. 1cm 중

Don’t affirm your love through jealousy. Don’t affirm your love through give and take. Don’t affirm your love through the person’s absence, pointless arguments and through the words of other people. Instead, affirm your love♥ through love♥. From 1cm (a Korean inspirational book).

-English translation by me :)-

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Life’s a dull ever since the semester started. Everyday I’m just caught in the web of research, my honours thesis and translation theories. Somehow, I just cannot seem to organize these theories in a logical way for my thesis and inside my head is just a bunch of information all messed up… It’s been like that for the past three weeks, but now I’m catching up on research, reading up “quite” intensively and trying to push my way through on starting to write this thesis which is actually called a critical commentary intended to address translation issues I face in my translation project. Because it’s not the conventional kind of thesis, I am having a little difficulty starting on it but I am glad that I don’t have to write 20,000 words of thesis. This translation thesis that I’m doing is 2/3 translations and 1/3 critical commentary, so it’s about 5,000words of commentary that I have to write.

This semester, I have no official classes. It is just basically thesis-writing. So it’s really such a dull without much of a campus life, only the meetings with my supervisor would bring me to UQ twice a week. I’m just on my own the rest of the time. I meet up with some friends once in awhile, but without cliques to hang out with, I feel quite lonely at times. Good friends have all graduated and gone home. This is probably one of the reasons why I can’t wait to graduate and leave this place as well.

On the bright side, I have been trying to achieve multiple tasks with the time I have. Besides working on my thesis, I am also self-studying Korean, translating other kinds of short texts and trying to cultivate the former habit of spending more time with books (non-academia). When I was younger, I used to read quite a lot… series and series of books but why did this habit die throughout the years? I love reading, but I realised that I cannot stay reading as long as I did last time. So right now I’m just trying to cultivate the reading habit again.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

‘Heaven’ by Ailee (에일리)

Once in a while, as a practice for both my language and translating skills, I would find something to translate (Kor-Eng), be it lyrics or quotes or anything else that doesn’t take too much of my time. Of course, they have to be meaningful at the same time. Today, it’s Ailee’s debut song, Heaven, which is gaining a lot of love in Korea and the rest of Asia right now. I was actually a little late in discovering this awesome song and regretted not opening up to her when she first released this song in February. I really love the beginning of the song in which her voice and melody really pull you into the song. 

Heaven  (English translations by me)

Where you’re at, I’ll be there too
Where you go, I’ll go there too

I smile everyday for you, I pray for you
I fall asleep thinking of you, I wake up calling your name
Stay by my side and stick up for me
You are my heaven

You’re my only way
I only want you, I am thankful for being by your side
You’re the only one babe
I am happy to be with you who showed me what love is in this harsh world
Heaven Heaven Heaven Heaven Heaven x2
If we’re together, we will never cry never never cry

Heaven Heaven Heaven Heaven Heaven x2
Together, forever, never gonna be alone

I breathe in your arms, we kiss in your arms
I feel like I’m dreaming listening to your voice
I can tell from your eyes, I can know your love
You’re my heaven

You’re my only way
I only want you, I am thankful for being by your side
You’re the only one babe
I am happy to be with you who showed me what love is in this harsh world

Heaven, My only one, yeah, the one whom I’ll protect
Whatever sadness, whatever pain, if I’m with you
I do not envy anyone else… Hold my shaking hands
Because you are the reason I live

You’re my only way
I only want you, I am thankful for being by your side
You’re the only one babe
I am happy to be with you who showed me what love is in this harsh world

Heaven Heaven Heaven Heaven Heaven x2
If we’re together, we will never cry never never cry
Heaven Heaven Heaven Heaven Heaven x2
Together, forever, never gonna be alone
Oh, so alone.


Words in purple are the original English lyrics. And click here for the original Korean lyrics. As you can see, there are quite a lot of original English lyrics and there wasn’t any difficult vocabulary, so it wasn’t really that difficult to translate. Even so, I’m still an amateur at translation, so I welcome any feedbacks from experienced translators, fellow language learners or just casual readers (to check English errors)! :)