Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food, Soongsil University and Comfort Women’s Station

October 24th

Food in Korea is an amazing adventure here. Today I had a “traditional Korean breakfast” of a type of “boiled” scrambled egg, a broth soup, a small bowl of rice, and four small bowls of varied tastes of onion, mushroom, kim chi (a type of pickled spicy cabbage), and a type of bean. Guiding me through this process was Kyung Hi Kim, a friend and professor at Kyungnam University. For lunch and dinner, Youngwha Kee, professor at Songsil University treated me to special eating experiences. For lunch, she identified a special restaurant with a central heated wok-type utensil with an onion soup type of broth with sliced beef, onion, and mushrooms cooking at the table. Again, this main course was complemented with six small bowls of varied side “tastes” of varied onion, shredded cabbage, kim chi, and other varied possibilities. And for dinner, I experiences a neighborhood café offering Korean barbecue, with a central small grill about 1 ½ feet in diameter and the “grilling” over coals” of pork, mushrooms, and kim chi. As the pork is grilled, it is cut with a scissors into small bite-size pieces and eventually placed (with chop sticks)in a lettuce leaf or sesame leaf, with green onion slices, grilled slices of garlic, and a bit of chili paste. Again, there were a number of additional small condiment bowls. Part of the challenge was sitting on the floor and eating with chopped sticks. Yes, all of the meals were hearty and could have been interchanged from one meal to the next…yet Koreans are fit and slim. I suspect they eat selectively and eat mostly vegetables and small bits of meat.
This Saturday I meet with a graduate course, presenting my research on adult meaning making in the classroom. It was a fascinating experience to share my work in English and then hear translations and discussions in Korean. The student were attentive and about half of the class appears to immediately understand English. This course is part of a typical 9 semester hours taken on Saturdays by education graduate students. (Because traffic is so heavy and problematic, professionals can best get graduate coursework on Saturdays). So, these student take three courses throughout Saturday for their entire graduate program. One striking difference…The students were all dressed professionally, with men in suits and ties (a typical style for those attending graduate courses- supposedly as a sign of respect to the professors).
In the afternoon, we drove to a museum dedicated to the memory of Comfort Women, a social atrocity of the Japanese colonial rule during WWII, where between 50,000 and 200,000 women became sex slaves to Japanese soldiers and distributed throughout the pan Asian area. After the war, they were either abandoned in the current country of their settlement or killed. Many never returned to Korea, while some came back through efforts of the allied forces. The women were so ashamed and often alienated by their families, that the first women to speak out at this human injustice occurred in the 1990’s. Japan had not yet accepted their responsibility for these horrid actions. Every Wednesday a number of the original women who suffered these injustices as well as a number of women’s groups march and protest at the Japanese embassy here in Seoul. The Museum has a House of Sharing – which provides homes to about 12 of these women. It was a very moving experience.

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