October 20, 2014

Gam - Fall has its compensations

I’m not one of those 4-season loving people. Summer all year round sounds just fine to me. But if there must be fall, at least it brings persimmons. These are one of my favorite fruits. They are not the pointy-tipped sour kind, but are flat-bottomed and sweet. The longer you let them ripen, the sweeter they get. This can be a slow process though (I’m talking weeks), so buy some that are already slightly soft to eat right away.

In the U.S., these persimmons are sold under their Japanese name, Fuyu. In Korea, they are known as 감 (pronounced gahm). Sometimes you can see gam trees in Korean dramas, where the fruit shows up well because the leaves have already fallen.

If you are going to try gam, check out your local Asian market. Don’t procrastinate- the season is short!

October 15, 2014

Still Here - Mihansa News & Korean News

Wondering what I’ve been up to? Adventures in self-discovery. They’ve been interesting, but time-consuming. I miss Mihansa, and still plan to get back to it, as soon as I figure out how to spend my time on what I want to be doing instead of on what I have to be doing. I’ve been surprised and happy that so many people continue to visit in my absence.

Korean newsWhile I haven’t had time for Kdrama, I’ve kept an eye on Korean news. The Sewol ferry tragedy hit the country hard, much as 9/11 hit the U.S. But for Korea, the enemy was within.

Koreans are finally starting to question the Confucian bargain, which sacrificed economic democracy for stability. The Korean mainstream is suddenly a lot less willing to trust people in power, and accept without question that they have the greater good in mind. About time.

There has been another big scandal that contributed to this – bullying to a sometimes fatal extent in the military. Several instances that resulted in suicides or shooting sprees have come to light this year.

Young Korean men are required to serve for about 2 years, which seems to make sense at first glance. Loose cannon North Korea is on Seoul’s doorstep, and for years, now, Japan has been ramping up their denial that they did anything wrong when they occupied Korea for 30 years and sexually enslaved thousands of Korean women.

You can see why Koreans would be anxious. In fact, I’ve always suspected their geopolitical situation had a lot to do with the heavy drinking in Korea.

But are ground troops really much good in the era of drones and missiles? Especially when time spent in the military can be so traumatic that young soldiers kill themselves, or each other, or their supervising officers?

That’s what Koreans are asking. Time will tell whether the questioning of previously sacrosanct institutions blows over, or has a lasting impact on hierarchies in Korean culture.

April 23, 2014

세월이 가족은

Close up of altar for victims of Sewolo ferry disaster showing photos of 5 students surrounded by floral arrangements

당신은 세계하고 같이 울다습니다

A multilevel altar with hundreds of altar photographs of the dead surrounded by  flowers rises up to the ceiling of the gymnasium

Photos by Channel News Asia & Getty UK

April 13, 2014

Wonderful Days music

I can’t say the Wonderful Days music is knocking my socks off. The opening instrumental theme is especially nondescript. I’d swear I was listening to a long forgotten (and rightly so) 1960s European film. The Korean affection for unremarkable mid-twentieth-century pop music from the west is mysterious. I asked a young Korean student whether 70s and 80s American Top 40 hits are really played in all the restaurants, as we so often see in dramas. He confirmed that they are indeed. I asked why? Why not Kpop? “Kpop doesn’t have the right…,” I waited in suspense while he looked up the English word he wanted to use. “…ambiance,” he said. Unlike the Carpenters?? Still baffled.

But back to Wonderful Days. The opening theme works a lot better as a ballad. The singer sounded a bit like one of my favorites, ALi, in the stronger passages, but not so much during the softer parts of the song. It took some digging to find out who it was – Seo Young Eun, of whom I haven’t heard before. This and the other ballads in Wonderful Days are well sung.

I decided it was time to track down the lyrics, which often serve as background narration on important points of plot or motivation. I’ve been watching Wonderful Days on KBS, since my TV screen is bigger than my monitor (and I’m too impatient to wait for Viki), but KBS doesn’t bother to subtitle song lyrics.

Never fear, though – the fansubbers that do subtitles on Viki DO subtitle all the lyrics. This is why I love fan subbers – they think like viewers. Thanks, No Place Like Home Team!

I’d like to give the Wonderful Days director credit for using the background swish of the waves in the beach scenes in episodes 11 & 12 to good advantage, and at just the right volume, and not mucking those moments up with unnecessary music. Beach scenes are pretty common in Kdrama (Korea being surrounded on three sides by water, and all), and so is artistic framing (lamp posts are particularly popular – there was even one in the beach scenes), but these were some of the nicer ones I’ve seen. The timing of the gulls was so fortuitous, they might’ve been part of the cast.

I also enjoyed the love poem in episode 12 (it sounds better in Korean :). That adorable young Hae Won, who looks about 13, is actually 20-year old Kpop starlet Kwon Min Ah, from the group Ace of Angels. Weird they aren’t crediting her more noticeably, in the English credits, anyhow. Still wondering who plays young Dong Seok.

April 7, 2014

Passion Distraction Poll - Move Over, Colin Firth

Episode 10 of Wonderful Days is highly gratifying to those of us who enjoy seeing a man tortured by longing. Colin Firth has long been acknowledged as the hottest frustrated lover of all time, but Lee Seo Jin is giving him a run for best passion distraction scenes – literally!

Lee Seo Jin as Kang Dong Seok in Wonderful Days runs on a treadmill to try and shake off his longing for Kim Hee Seon as Cha Hae Won;Lee Seo Jin stares into a mirror in a steamy bathroom thinking about the woman he loves

Colin Firth in a damp shirt and rumpled hair from the BBC 1995 miniseries Pride & Prejudice

Passion Distraction
Who is the hottest frustrated lover ever?

March 15, 2014

Wonderful Days, episodes 1-3

Now why is it so intriguing to see Lee Seo Jin speak English? I’m liking how real he looks in this drama (if you disagree, you may find this video from a recent Cosmo shoot more to your taste). But it’s weird that they have him playing a 33-year old. He makes 43 look good, but 33 he is not. Would it have been that hard to adjust the script to the casting??

Mihansa.net is not a Lee Seo Jin fan site. However, if for some unfathomable reason you don’t find him worth watching, better come back in about 6 months when Wonderful Days is over, ’cause I am going to be mentioning his name a few times until then.

I wonder what children are really like in Korea. They are always so incredibly sophisticated and wise (not to say mouthy) in Kdramas. Hard to understand how they become such tortured teenagers and neurotic adults after such a promising start.


March 10, 2014

Watch Wonderful Days on Viki

North and South American viewers can now watch the new KBS drama Wonderful Days on Viki (many thanks to Kim for bearing this excellent news).

Lee Seo Jin’s talent for non-verbal expression is a great fit for his outwardly cold but internally turbulent character. 2 pm’s Teac Yeon plays a more straightforward character, and so far is doing a respectable job of it for a Kpop star with limited acting experience. There are great female characters in this drama, too – loving feisty Kim Hee Sun and Yoon Yeo Jeong, whose role promises a depth worthy of her versatility, for once.

Viki’s page for Wonderful Days has extremely helpful character (not actor) bios to help sort out the rather complicated family relationships and back stories. They are a little spoiler-y after only two episodes, though, so be warned.


March 9, 2014

Mihansa.net on Twitter

Twitter cheeping bird logoThere is no way I’m watching 50 episodes of Wonderful Days without having something to say about it! But how to find the time? Solution: Twitter. Enforced brevity :)

So follow me. Hurry, please. It’s creepy when I’m talking to myself.


(Don’t forget to drop the dot, and keep the net at the end. SA Mihan beat me to the Mihansa Twitter handle fair and square).

February 24, 2014

Wonderful Days, Korean Numbers App, and Happy Birthday to Mi

Mihansa.net turned two last week. My schedule has been too crazy for the past few months to even watch Kdrama, much less write about it. However, I’ll make time for Lee Seo Jin’s new drama.

Wonderful Days | Wonderful Times | Very Good Times | Wonderful Season | Good Times Indeed

Series poster for Wonderful Days참 좋은 시절 – translated variously as above – debuted in Korea on Saturday to healthy ratings, easily outranking the numerous competing dramas in the same time slot. We have seen a lot of Lee Seo Jin in commercials since his success in the Grandpas Over Flowers series (the 3rd installment of which was filmed in Spain last month, but has not yet aired). That’s all very well, but it’ll be nice to see him in something that’s longer than two minutes!

Where to Watch

Happily, Very Good Times is a KBS drama, so I’ll be able to view it on the local KBS America station starting March 8th. For those less fortunately situated, Viki is in licensing talks. KBS World has full episodes of the previous drama in this time slot available to U.S. audiences on YouTube (scroll down to KBS Drama). I would expect Wonderful Times eps to be added on the same schedule as the KBS America broadcasts (late afternoons Saturday and Sundays, starting March 8th).

More about Wonderful Days
Cast and Location

The other leads (including the obligatory Kpop star, 2 pm’s Taec Yeon) are new to me, but I recognize many of the supporting actors, from the versatile Yoon Yeo Jung to ubiquitous comic sidekick/hoods Kim Kwang Kyu and Kim Sang Ho. Refreshingly, this drama gets out of Seoul, and is set in a country village, a rarity for contemporary dramas. Looking forward to 50 episodes!

Korea Numbers Android Game

Korean Bubbles screenshotKorean Bubbles is a great little falling bubbles game for Android that matches the numeral to the Hangeul (or Hangeul to numeral, your choice) for both Korean number systems, and it has Korean colors, too. A fun way to speed up your Hangeul reading skills. As my regular readers know, I try to make my studying as pleasurable as possible :) And it’s free!

There isn’t an iPhone version, as far as I can tell. The developer (Clever Turtles) also makes a check splitting app.

October 27, 2013

10 Common Kdrama Phrases, and What They Really Mean

Certain frequently-used words and phrases in Korean drama have a special significance. Some of them are customarily translated in a way that doesn’t fully express their implications. Others signal a particular plot development ahead.

Here is a handy guide to significant Kdrama phrases:

1). I have something to tell you.

It’s something of the utmost importance to you and the storyline, but I can’t stop to tell you now, as I have to go fall into a coma, contract amnesia, disappear, or die.

2). I like you.

I’m in love with you.

3). Are you crazy?

Don’t burden me with your feelings. Can’t you see I’m busy?

4). I love you.

Female to male: We can have sex now.
Male to female: Can we have sex now?

5). Trust Me.

The situation is even worse than you think, and the odds of things ending well are miniscule, but I’m in total denial.

6). Get Some Rest.

You are obviously overtired, or you wouldn’t have raised a subject I have so little interest in discussing.

7). Kill me now!

If I efface myself out of all proportion to my error, you’ll have to go easy on me. Avoid if your boss is a warlord, gangster or pirate.

8). Never!

Eventually, but I’ll make you pay heavily first.

9). Did you have a drink?

I see you’re totally plastered.

10). I will definitely do that.

Why do I have a feeling I shouldn’t have said that?

Related Posts:
5 signs that you are watching a Korean drama
7 familiar characters in Korean drama
10 Obstacles to Love in Korean Drama