We now have a group page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/236778466397430/. Check us out! :-D

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Surfers' Dinner at Jeon Ju -- Worth the wait to hear people's stories!

Scroll down and watch these clips of our great discussion! Sorry it took me so long to post them, but definitely worth the wait! If you look at the clips, you'll know that there's a reason why we have continued to meet -- there's tremendous value in learning about other cultures and sharing our experiences, especially our passion for Korea, its culture -- including music, dramas, and films -- and, of course, the Korean language. It's been great not only to go to events and see films together, but also to have a chance to discuss them with wonderful friends as we enjoy good (Korean!) food! A few of the people that met at Jeon Ju had seen the film Lifting King Kong at MPark4 (www.mpark4.com), and then came to dinner. I wasn't able to see the film, so can't really comment; however, the dinner and conversation were great -- documented in the clips that follow!

Again, do scroll down to view the other clips. Now here's the last clip -- starring Antionne! Saved the best for last? Actually, everyone's comments were great that night! I'm just sorry that it took me so long to realize that I could capture our discussion with my flip camera, so I missed out on half the group!!! SOOOO sorry!! Well, here's Antionne! (Don't look at the weird lady sitting next to him! Wish I were a better editor and knew how to edit myself out and just capture his comments!)

Dinner @ Jeon Ju: Sharing the importance of cultural understanding within families

Thanks to Aryf for inviting more friends from Korean class at KCC!! Stella, a professor at Golden West College, her mom, and her sister, Jacqueline, joined us and shared the importance of cross-cultural understanding and communication within their family.

Besides her interest in Korean language and culture, inspired by her love for her nephew, Jacqueline has also spent time in Morocco --small world! I was in the Peace Corps in Morocco -- my first teaching position was in a small village called Souk Sebt, halfway between Fes and Marrakech. But that's a different story... (Gotta talk to Jacqueline sometime!)

Stella and Jacqueline's mom had the best story to tell -- family is about reaching out to all and supporting those we care about! Great message for this holiday season! (Now I don't feel so guilty taking so long to post these clips!!)

Surf Club Dinner @ Jeon Ju: Aryf shares his story and insights...

Dinner at Jeon Ju - a chance to share how we got into studying Korean and developed a passion for Korean culture. Aryf's story is particularly moving -- also check out his essay in the archives of this blog. (Nov. 5, 2007)

around the table at Jeon Ju...

Except for the blonde with the blank stare (who's she!?!?!) towards the end of the clip (!!!), everyone in our group is gorgeous and brilliant!! Great place - great food - great company - and great insights into the importance of ongoing cross-cultural experiences at a very personal level. (See people's comments in my next few posts --videoclips still to be uploaded.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lee Yoon-Ki's "My Dear Enemy" - Q&A Notes

In the Q&A after the screening of My Dear Enemy on Saturday, Director Lee Yoon-Ki explained that he'd been in a bookstore in Korea, scanning the display of best-sellers, and a lonely little stack of the Japanese novella One Fine Day caught his eye. Drawn to the lonesome stack, like one quiet, lonely person drawn to another, he picked up a copy. He said he found the story heartwarming and thought he'd like to make a film that would touch people's hearts the way the book had touched his.

The title was a problem: there are lots of films with the title One Fine Day, for example, the one starring George Clooney. Director Lee thought of the term "enemy" because it can be used in Korean to refer to lovers, friends, even children. Thus, he thought the title My Dear Enemy might work. (I can understand that. Isn't it the people closest to us who can cause us the greatest heartache?) Director Lee mentioned that in adapting the story for the screen, he also had to adapt it to the Korean culture. He discussed how he had to expand on the novella, adding to the number of people the ex-lovers encounter as the two spend the day trying to borrow enough money to pay the woman back. Some other changes were made in bringing the story to the screen, including the scene toward the end, when the woman smiles, which is very different from the end of the Japanese story, in which the woman laughs out loud and claps her hands. In his adaptation of the story, Lee brings us subtle images of two people, played by Jeon Do-Yeon and Ha Jung-Woo, caught between closure and a new beginning. Like Ad Lib Night, the story line and the characters' emotions and relationship are subtle, somewhat hidden from us, and thus, a little hard to figure out -- like people can be. However, as Director Lee said in response to a question from a confused viewer, "It's all there in the film." Although he apologized to that viewer for not being clear and promised to do better next time, it seems that he has mastered the skill of withholding the immediate so that viewers can engage more deeply with the characters and their emotions.

Director Lee did say that he's working on a new project with a cinematographer from the same team and that the male lead, Ha Jung Woo, will be in it. The new project will have slightly more melodrama and more comedic features. My Dear Enemy is funny in spots, and charming, but also frustrating as the characters proceed through a long, difficult day. As such, though not a comedy in the typical sense, My Dear Enemy captures a slice of the human comedy we're all in - as we try to fill in the blanks and understand what happened as we go back - literally or just in reflection - to people we've known and choices we've made.

The atmosphere Director Lee has created in the film is greatly enhanced by the wonderful jazz film score -- with influences from the 20s and 30s as well as Latin/Brazilian jazz. Director Lee said he'd insisted on using this type of music despite disapproval from many on the production team.

Thus, I'd recommend that you try to see My Dear Enemy for the great performances as well as for that great music! Tomorrow, Monday, June 22, My Dear Enemy will be showing at the Regent at 1:30pm. Not sure of the plans for distribution -- hopefully, it will be at MPark 4 in the near future, too. For a great summary/review of the film, see http://jbspins.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Manhwa 100 - Exciting New Exhibit at the Korean Cultural Center L.A.

Thursday's opening of "Manhwa 100" at the Korean Cultural Center (5505 Wilshire Blvd Los Angeles, CA) was a great event! Hyung Min Woo, creator of "Priest", a popular manhwa being made into a live action film in Hollywood, was the guest of honor and patiently autographed beautifully matted prints from "Priest" for the crowd. (I swear the face he drew into his signature really looked like me -- including the heart for how much I love Korean entertainment!) The striking orange Artist Wall highlights some of the artist's most popular work.

Turning the corner, the east wall of the exhibit presents a dynamic timeline of the 100 year history of manhwa. Especially distinctive were the manhwa created in the 50s, immediately following the Korean War. The accompanying text explains that few examples of manhwa from that time have survived due to poor quality paper and printing. However, for people exhausted by war, the manhwa published at that time were extremely important! The exhibit continues through the mid- and late 20th century, finally taking a leap into the future as it focuses on the exciting films and other projects currently being developed from popular manhwa series.

Further along that wall (past the delicious food provided for the opening) is the "reading room" where many young people sat comfortably reading, waiting for their parents.

This is really a great exhibit -- you should check it out if you can! The historical overview is as informative as the selected artwork is colorful, dramatic, enchanting, and inspiring. The whole experience created by this thoughtful exhibit -- thanks to Hee Seon Choi, curator, and her team! -- makes you want to see and read more! For hours and other info, call KCC at (323) 936-7141.

Also, you should stop at your local Borders or go online (www.borders.com) to pick up "Priest" -- several volumes (#11-15) are available. Others could probably be ordered. I plan to find out more about "Priest" as well as Hyung Min Woo's other work, some based on Chinese literature and legends. I'll share what I learn in future posts.


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Favorite Restaurants (mostly Korean)

Just adding now: Tender Greens (9523 Culver Blvd., Culver City): http://www.tendergreensfood.com/

Banchan a la Carte (141 N. Western, LA): http://losangeles.citysearch.com/profile/45654877/?brand=smx_restaurant-nc Enjoyed their delicious chap chae with grilled veggies!

San Ya (2897 W. Olympic Bl. between Normandie and Vermont - exact cross street is Fedora): They have an 'unlimited' special for $14 right now.

***ChoSun Galbee Korean BBQ : http://www.chosungalbee.com/

***BCD Tofu House:



***Dong Il Jang Restaurant (3455 W. 8th St., LA): http://la.foodblogging.com/2006/01/21/korean-bbq/

***Bon Juk Porridge Shop: near Kingsley and Wilshire

***Mu Dung San Restaurant: http://www.ktownsearch.net/details.asp?id=230

***Cafe MAK: See link below in "Sweet Spots"

Recommended Sweet Spots:

***Union Bakery in South Pasadena (1138 Fair Oaks at Monterey Road): http://www.insiderpages.com/b/3711088944

***Bulgarini Gelato in Altadena: http://www.bulgarinigelato.com/

***Vanille in San Marino: http://www.insiderpages.com/b/3710358077

***Perfectly Sweet in Alhambra: http://www.cityofalhambra.org/about/dining/Sweet.html

***Cafe MAK in LA: http://losangeles.citysearch.com/profile/42539398/?brand=smx_restaurant-nc

***Jin Patisserie in Venice (recommended-can't wait to go there!):http://www.jinpatisserie.com/

A Persistent Passion: Episode Two

By Sharon Allerson

Episode One (Re-Cap):

Two summers ago, our heroine found “My Lovely Sam-Soon” while channel-surfing, and “tiny” Korea jumped off the map and into her life! From “Sam-Soon,” she went on to “Winter Sonata,” and moved from awareness and fascination to…..love, not just for Bae Yong Jun, but for Korea itself! During that year, she watched dozens of Korean dramas, sharing her newfound love with her family and friends. Most got hooked, staying up till 4 or 5 a.m. to watch DVDs she lent them. (You’re reading this, so you understand!)

She made new friends, too: Choonhee, the librarian at her college, and June and Wally (aka Yun-Suk), owners of a neighborhood bakery. They tried to teach her to say “Anyeong Haseyo” and “Gamsahamnida,” but her tongue tripped badly on the new sounds. Given our heroine’s bigger, better world view, she wanted to learn more. When Choonhee recommended the Korean classes at the Los Angeles Korean Cultural Center (KCC), our heroine’s addiction was about to lead her way beyond her TV……

Episode Two: Close-up of our heroine, during break at Korean language class, awkwardly picking up kimbap with chopsticks.

“But how did you become so interested in Korean dramas, Sharon?” That was Jenny, a communications major from Singapore, just finishing her degree in L.A.

“I don’t know. I just started watching and knew,” I replied as I grabbed a napkin, “knew that true love still exists somewhere in Korea.”

“Oh, Sharon,” she said, evidently concerned about my delusional state. I shrugged, smiled, and we both laughed.

They say that something is love made visible. I don’t remember. Maybe it’s Korean dramas. I do remember another thing people say about love - that it isn’t just a feeling; it’s an action. This past year, I know I moved past the feeling part of loving Korea to the action. As I summarize all of these changes, I will probably amaze myself!

A year ago, when I started studying Korean at KCC, people asked, even KCC asked on the application, why I wanted to learn Korean. All I could say was that I wanted to know more, to understand. In just a few weeks, I was amazed - I could read! I went from not knowing if a storefront sign was in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, to knowing it was hangeul, and I was able to sound it out. I didn’t know what it meant – but I could read! Now I have some basic conversation skills and am building my vocabulary. I can say: Hangook drama-reul sarang hamnida! (I love Korean dramas!)

Korean language classes were just the start! This spring, I attended KCC’s Korean Entertainment lecture series and learned more about Korean dramas, film, and animation. At the last lecture, I got the names and contact info of people who wanted to keep meeting to discuss Korean films and dramas and to explore other avenues of Korean culture – especially those avenues in nearby Koreatown! I’ve organized several gatherings for the “Hallyu Surfers” to have dinner, see films and attend cultural events – surfing the Korean Wave together! I now have my favorite Korean food – bibimbap – and favorite places to go – Chosun Galbee and CafĂ© MAK, where Elisa helps me with Korean! This new leadership role has been good for me – and so much fun! I’ve made some wonderful friends! I’ve also delved deeper into Korean film, doing some research to help prepare for a possible lecture series, even contacting scholars about participating and being delighted by their positive response! Perhaps they, too, crave more opportunities to talk about Korea!

I’ve attended KCC’s art exhibit openings, tea ceremonies, and musical performances. Images related to my experiences with Korean culture now appear in my writing. I hadn’t realized that the connection being formed was so deep. Several poems later, I was writing one screenplay about a kidnapping in Korea and another about a young woman who leaves Jeju Island in the 50s for Seoul and meets a young American soldier – someone like my dad, who actually served in Japan. That story, entwined with my own family’s history, further deepens the connection with Korea.

As I’ve continued to learn more, I’ve gained the wisdom to know that this “Persistent Passion” is not a five-episode drama, like “Freeze.” It’s an epic, like “Dae Jang Geum,” that will have more twists and turns than I can imagine. In fact, just this week I started my first blog, where I share some of my Korean-inspired poetry. I foresee a serious addiction to managing the online discussion on all things Korean!

Back when I was just “in love,” not actively loving and courting Korea, I had this fantasy: Bae Yong Jun would thank me for writing such a great screenplay for him, and I would – oh so eloquently thank him for touching my heart in “Winter Sonata.” Adapting that drama’s metaphor of finding your home in the heart of your true love, I would say something like, “Invisible walls were knocked down as I watched ‘Winter Sonata,’ and my heart grew and grew! Now my heart isn’t just your house, it’s your summer palace, big enough to hold all of Korea – North and South! – and even most of Asia! You can come visit whenever Seoul gets too darn hot!”

Since that fantasy, when an eager fan waited in a breezy, elegant, empty palace for her Yonsama, things have changed. As you can see, I have less time for all my dramas – though I still watch them and continue to get my friends addicted! Now I am busy with a real connection to Korea, one that started out in stories about love, loss, family and friendship in a culture I knew so little about. Once I watched, however, I understood, and it became a part of me. I am so thankful. I wasn’t bad before, but now I am so much better! And if Bae Yong Jun comes to visit his summer palace, he will have to wander the crowded hallways to find me among all the people I’ve come to know and love. When he finds me, of course, I will give him a big hug – one of those “Korean hugs,” when usually the guy pulls the girl close to him, and suddenly they know how much they mean to each other. Then, I’ll say “gamsahamnida, oppa!” - - and let him go....

Bae Yong Jun watches as our heroine walks over to the TV in the palace living room and turns it off so her friends can talk. He is suddenly grabbed by Auntie Lourdes, who looks like she’s going to faint! “When I watched you in ‘Untold Scandal,’ I – I – can’t breathe!” She collapses in his arms! A beautiful young Asian woman, Michelle, rushes over to help. Bae Yong Jun looks on as Michelle revives the older woman. Michelle looks up, and Bae Yong Jun gives a start as he gazes into her eyes. A look of recognition? His long lost sister? A reunion of souls destined to meet? Be sure to watch Episode Three of “A Persistent Passion”……