Dasom’s Reflexive Essay on Learning about Tradition

I made a video that introduce Korean tradition to foreigners. And this was my second time making video in my whole life. I made a video about Dongji[동지] and Korean natural dyeing. I think teaching someone’s tradition to other people is an end in itself. The act ‘teaching’ contains the kind mind that want to share our special thing. And by learning other’s tradition, we can get the chance that understanding other culture and also can compare with our tradition.

Frankly say, I never believed that I can do this. From making video to uploading my video on youtube. Because I thought this is kind of the work that special social organization and government usually do. But I am so proud that I can do this. Even I am a just freshman who learns about Korea just few months. I need to spend more time and effort to make my video, but truly this chance was really make me proud. And this was reconfirmed me that I can do this and what I should continuously do.

While making a video about Dongji, I learned our tradition more. If I didn’t make this video, I even don’t know what Dongjiheonmal[. But now, I can clearly explain the whole thing about dongji to foreigners and I can easily organize the information by thinking my video order. I thought this was real study. To make a video and teach others, at first I have to be an expert on that topic. By doing this, we can learn and memorize the whole thing even we do not have to try to memorize it consciously. Just without my being aware of it, I know the point and can memory the whole thing. I feel this is real study. Usually, to me, dongji is just a day that we eat red bean porridge. When the morning news tells me that today is the dongji, then I usually eat out to eat red bean porridge. No more, no less. But now, dongji become a more special day to me. I want to follow the tradition that my ancestors do. And I want to modernize those forgotten traditions. If we cannot do, then change it into modern way. Actually next dongji, I will present little socks to my mother to do not forget the meaning that present beoseon[버선] to their female family member. There are lots of ways to revive those old meaningful traditions and also we can make new traditions and improve it.

And also, while the process of doing natural dyeing, I feel happy to do what my ancestors usually do. If I picked the flowers and make dye, It would be more meaningful. But I thought this is kind of adapting (or compromising). This is modern society. So that people find more easy way to do something and buy pre-made products. So using the cochineal powder is kind of compromising, I thought. And I learned huge thing while do this with my mother. As my mother teaches me how to do natural dyeing and give me some her special tips which came from her experiences, I thought this is the real transmission. During with my mother, by watching her processing, each second I learned how to do natural dyeing. Just with her and saw what she is doing, I learned and I can do the same thing to my future daughter too.

While this process, I feel the most important thing is ‘just try’. Just try, then someone will learn you and as time goes by continuing this, some descendent will search one’s memory and record what she saw. And this will be a tradition. Like current intangible cultural asset usually do. Same here, the important thing is ‘do’ the tradition. We all know this is tradition and that is the historic holiday, but they really don’t care it. But when they know the meaning of it and do that, then each small act become a precious thing. And I learned how much you know about the tradition and how often you do the tradition is the most important thing. And finally I feel some responsibility as a Koreanist that not only just inform tradition but instruct why we have to keep it and how can we keep our precious tradition.

Video on Dongji and on natural dyeing.

Dayeong’s Reflexive Essay on Harmonizing Food Culture with Modern Society

The way to be harmonized Korean food culture with modern society

When I found out about Korean traditional culture as a Korean folklore assignment, I searched about ‘Korean jang’ and ‘gamasot’ in detail. I was unaware of correlation between these two subjects in choosing subject. In hindsight, two subjects have something in common. They are connected with Korean food culture. In Korean, the necessaries of life are considered to be food, clothing and a place of live. Seeing that I choose two subjects related to food culture, I probably think food is most important thing among three things. So, through this assignment, I want to review modern value of Korean food culture and find a new method to inform its value. I classified Korean food culture into two sections – ‘food itself’ and other Korean food culture. In light of my folklore assignment, ‘Korean jang’ is ‘food itself’ and ‘gamasot’ is other Korean food culture.

First at all, I look for ‘food itself’. I think food can easily interact with people compared to other traditional culture. If we go to the major supermarket, we can find traditional Korean food. With the purpose of informing Korean culture to the world, Korean food is used and branded. I think, the theme of Korean traditional food is ‘slowness’ and ‘healthiness’. In the article written by Han Gyeong-Gu, he mentioned about one of the traditional Korean food, gimchi(kimchi). He said that “A new interest in healthy cuisine has fostered a new regard for traditional Korean food”(Han. 2011: 150). We can know about theme of ‘healthiness’ into not only gimchi but also traditional food setting. By looking Korean food setting(sangcharim), we can know our ancestors ate nutritional food. Han also said that “The slowness of kimchi seems to refer to the fermentation process itself”(Han. 2011: 153). In the cases of gimchi and ‘Korean jang’, it is needed fermentation. In my ‘Korean Sauces, Jang’ video, I also mentioned this fermentation process. “The main ingredients in three Korean sauces or Jang are beans and they are fermented, ripened and stored. Through the processes, fermentation changes the properties of the ingredients and makes a unique flavor for the Jang”(Yi. 2014: 0.44-0.57). The process called fermentation is basically time-consuming. And gimchi and Jang is basic element for making Korean food. So, I think the term of ‘slowness’ could be used the theme of Korean traditional food.

I think, other Korean food culture can be included many things – manners, tools for eating food(spoon, chopsticks, traditional pot called gamasot, etc), community for making food and so on. Among this many things, I want to find out about ‘community for making food’. Han mentioned related content like “kimchi network” and said that “The network provided not only kimchi but also the opportunity to learn how to make better kimchi and how to live together”(Han. 2011:151). I also think Korean food is related certain group. In my ‘gamasot’ video, I said gamasot is connected family culture like that “Gamasot is necessary for Korean traditional Kitchens, and representative of family. When some family establishes a residence or moves into a new house, first of all they hang the gamasot on the Wood-burning stove. In this kind of practice, it is said that family members or people who live together for a long time are ‘eating hansotbab’ or ‘eating rice from the same gamasot’”(Yi. 2014: 0.39-1.07). I think this community comes from Korean traditional family or village culture. In old days, extended family was a very common style of a family and all people who lived in same village was on friendly terms with each other. This family or village culture makes an impact to food culture.

But, these days, the value I mention above of Korean traditional food is being lost. I think the value of Korean traditional food comes from its devotion and the process of making Korean food. As time passed, this process is simplified and substituted by someone else. “It has becoming possible to enjoy kimchi as a sort of instant food. This is quite ironic because kimchi is often praised by the Korean press for the “slowness” of its production and its healthiness”(Han. 2011: 153). I don’t think change is bad for Korean culture. Today, even ancestral rites are simplified and offspring bought some of ritual food at major supermarket, it didn’t mean lack of devotion. So, I think during making or eating Korean food, if you can feel its devotion, it is also good to feel our tradition. In explaining my other experience, I have had traditional class about making gimchi for Japanese students who are visiting to Korea. In class, instructor told the students about ingredient and process one by one. And then we can experience last process of making gimchi – just mixing kimchi seasoning. I think, this kind of class is also needed for Korean as well as Foreigner. It can be present interest and information about Korean traditional food.

As the structure of the traditional family is disintegrating and people barely says hello between the neighbors, we don’t find traditional food community like it used to be. I think instead of traditional community, by making new form of food community, we can overcome crisis of food community. Most people who like cooking foods may experience that finding new recipe through internet or SNS. Of course, direct experience is most important thing to develop culture. But, through new form of data – not only writing but also photo, video etc, I think we can overcome some differences between direct experience and indirect information.


Han, Gyeong-Gu. “The Kimchi Wars in Globalizing East Asia.” In Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late Modernity, edited by Laurel Kendall. 149-166. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2011.

Korean Sauces, Jang.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE3ORgdKHGc/2014/11/DayeongYi. Accessed on 12/8/2014.

Gamasot – Korean traditional Cooking Pots

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUQSSq1tdQM/2014/11/DayeongYi. Accessed on 12/8/2014.

Yeseul’s Essay on How Korean Traditional Culture is Adapting to Modernity

I argue that ancient culture should change their form simply or conveniently to reconcile with a modern world in our life. These days, many modern people think ancient culture is outdated and very complex to enjoy. Because of those reasons, many ancient cultures are disappearing. Modern society regards convenience and simplicity as important things, because modern society is more complex than the past and requires so many things in a short time. So I think we should change ancient culture more simply and convenient for enjoying. I found good examples in the changes of Hanbok (Korean traditional clothes), how to make Hanji (Korean traditional paper), the changes of Hanok (Korean traditional house) and the application of Korean traditional wedding to new Korean style wedding way.

First, I made a video about how to put on women’s Hanbok, so I could find some good changes in wearing Hanbok. The hardest part of putting on Hanbok for people who don’t wear Hanbok often is tying Goreum. So modern people changed it to be convenient. They get rid of Goreum, and use a frog closure or snap fasteners. And Korean traditional socks, Boseon, have ‘Sunuk’. Traditionally, people had to look at Sunuk to see which was the left and right Boseon. However these days, people make Bosoen which doesn’t have left or right, so people can wear it more easily. Also, the skirt of Hanbok was changed. The length of the skirt is shorter than before, because traditional skirt was too long for people to walk quickly in everyday life. Besides, people reduced the width of sleeves of Hanbok for convenience. Putting on traditional Hanbok took more time than wearing western style clothes. So modern people changed the forms to wear it easily and conveniently. I also found an internet shopping mall to sell modernized Hanbok. I think this is the solution about how to reconcile ancient culture with a modern world. If we stick to original and traditional Hanbok, modern people cannot feel interest in Hanbok and they do not pay attention to Hanbok. As a result Hanbok can be forgotten by a modern world. Also, the internet shopping mall makes younger people access easily to buy Hanbok. So I think we should accept modernization and adjust our ancient things to a modern world. I think this is the solution to prevent ancient things’ disappearing and reconcile with a modern world.

Second, I could find the effort to make ancient culture more simple and convenient in how to make Hanji. Traditionally, to drain Hanji, ancient people used stone or heavy wood. However in these days, people use some machine to drain Hanji. If people use machine, they can drain quicker and conveniently. And modern people also use machine to dry Hanji, while ancient people used this methods: Sunlight drying, Wooden board drying, and Floor heating drying. Sunlight drying is to dry Hanji under the sun. Wooden board drying is using wood when they dry Hanji. Floor heating drying is to dry Hanji on warm floor. These methods require too much time, and the maker should care more to dry Hanji. So modern people started to use machine to dry Hanji much faster and easier than using traditional methods. I think this change is very important, because ancient culture should think about its productivity and cost. These days, a lot of modern people don’t find Hanji for their everyday life’ paper. In short, there is a scant demand, so now paper makers have hard times to earn money. However through they changed the process of making Hanji, they can produce more Hanji in a short time and less cost. These days, we live in capitalism society, so we should care about the cost. I think if enjoying ancient culture requires too much money and time, modern people don’t want to cost their money and time. So I think we should find strategies like Hanji production.

Third, Hanok is also changed its form for convenience and simplicity. Traditionally, Hanok heated itself with Ondol which is the traditional heating system. However I think Ondol system is not proper in a modern world. Ondol system is complex to establish and people couldn’t control the temperature freely. Also, people needed firewood to heat house, if they use Ondol system in Hanok. So people accepted new boiler system in Hanok. Besides, Hanok accepted western style toilet. Traditionally, the toilet of Hanok was located in outside of house. However it was so uncomfortable, so people changed it. And traditional door of Hanbok was made with wood and paper, but it was hard to retain. So Hanok use glasses for its doors, but it maintain the form of traditional doors.

Fourth, I want to talk about the wedding style to explain how to reconcile ancient culture and a modern world. I watched Haeon’s video and I found there are some limits to allow strictly the rules of traditional wedding. For example, a groom can’t appear with riding a horse in the city. And the rules of the traditional wedding can be complex for new generation in these days. So modern people simplify the rules and add it in modern wedding style. It is called ‘Pyebaek’.

Consequently, the ancient culture which I mention in this paper: Hanbok, Hanji, Hanok and the traditional wedding maintain the essence of them, but they changed their uncomfortable things to reconcile with a modern world in our lives. And also the ancient culture accept modern thing like internet or machine to reconcile with a modern world. So I think these changes are good and necessary, because these changes make ancient things remain around us and reconcile with a new world, not becoming extinct, for reason which is uncomfortable and complex. However also, I am little worried about that people more concentrate the convenience and simplicity, so it can cause losing of our own ancient culture. Therefore I think we should be careful to change our ancient things to be more convenient and simple. In short, we should change properly to harmony modern life, but also we should be careful not to lose our own things.

Haejin’s Reflexive Essay on the Importance of Experiencing Folk Arts

I participated the 21st national youth folk arts festival and the 55th Korean folk arts festival as a university student supporter on October 2, 2014 through October 5, 2014. “Since 1994, the 21st national youth folk arts festival has been hosting with Korean folk arts festival for teenagers continuing interest and transmission in Korean folk arts” (Yi 1992: 447). And Korean folk arts festival is held every year in order to transmit and preserve. After watching performances of the Korean folk arts festival and national youth folk arts festival, I conducted an interview and survey about 25 people in there. As a result, I felt and learned many things there. There is many Korean folk art performances mainly with Pungmul. However Korean folk arts festival is performed so many different kinds of Korean folk arts. I learned various Korean folk arts that I have ever seen through this opportunity. I felt Korean folk arts has resentment (han) and fun (heung). It was like I saw performances in the Joseon dynasty. While I watched these performance, I was thinking I hope young people contact various Korean folk arts. For now, young people often contact the popular arts. On the other hand, most young people aren’t contacting folk art. So young people should be contacted with Korean folk arts often in the future. Because, if they have interest in folk art, Korean folk arts can be passed down in after times.

I first knew Korean folk arts festival in this year. Young people don’t know well about Korean folk arts festival in despite of big festival which is supported by government. Before I attend Korean folk arts festival, I didn’t know about folklore. Before then, I only knew Samulnori, Pungmulnori, Talnori. But, after attending Korean folk arts festival, I felt lots of things and discovered the wonders of Korean folk art. And I learned Sangyeo sori, Jakdu geori, Geobuk nori and various other things while watching Korean folk arts festival for 4 days. I also actually realized ‘Heung[1] and ‘Han[2] because I learned these two things in only textbook. I thought most Korean folk art are similar until attending Korean folk art festival. However I realized that it’s different now. I hope especially young people contact folk art more than now. I think many young people watch Samulnori, Pungmulnori in Korean folk art. But if they contact various Korean folk art, I think they would think Korean folk art is not boring.

I surveyed teenagers to participate in the 21st national youth folk arts festival and adults to participate in the 55th Korean folk arts festival for 4days. One of the question is ‘what do you think about how many young people learn about Korean traditional art in future’. The most impressive student who participated in Balwu Gongyang of Incheon metropolitan city team said “Yes, and if I dance Beopgo chum continuously, I am willing to train disciples. I really like Beopgo chum.” Thus, there is a students who really interested in Korean folk art, on the other hand, some students participated in Korean folk arts festival for suggestion of teacher. But, I think that if the young often contact Korean folk art, they will be help to preserve definitely. And a 23-years-old woman who attended in Korean folk arts festival said “I attended Korean folk arts festival in second. In the past, I had no interest in folk art. But, through Korean folk arts festival, I became interested in folk art. Now I really love Korean folk art.”

While attending Korean folk arts festival, I changed my thinking and excited to get to know Korean folk art throughout the 4days. Through the survey, I knew that now teenagers played Pungmul more than other things. However students who performed a folk play except for Pungmul and Samul are rare. The 21st national youth folk arts festival showed most of Pungmul. I hope more people have interested in folk art. Such as Sangyeo sori, Geommu, Gut noreum etc. I think if young people have interest in various folk art, these wonderful Korean folk art will be passed down generation after generation. For preservation of Korean folk art, we need young people’s love and attention urgently. And I think that after collecting people’s attention and love, transmission of Korean folk art will be shine at last.


Yi, Hyeonjae. Encyclopedia Korean Culture, 19th ed., s.v. “National folk arts contest.” Seongnam: The Academy of Korean Studies, 1992.

[1] ‘Heung’ means fun and excitement in Korean.

[2] ‘Han’ means sorrow, regret in Korean.

Gimjang (Making Kimchi)

My name is Hwang Heon (황헌), and I am a first year student majoring in Korean Studies. Please watch the video I prepared on the topic of Gimjang (The process of making Kimchi)

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비에 젖은 해금 (Gang Eunil)