Tag Archives: korean folklore

Stomach Ache? Try a Needle in the Thumb

Piece:

Interviewer: “Do you know any folk medicine?”

R.B.: “…oh my god… actually yeah. My mom used to tell me if my stomach hurt to stick a needle in my thumb and the it will go away.”

Interviewer: “R.B, what that makes no sense… did it work?”

R.B.: “… I mean I guess. It lets out all the bad blood”

Informant:

The informant is  half-Korean, half- caucasian young adult female, who grew up in Seattle, Washington. Her mother is an immigrant from Korea and spoke to her frequently in Korean growing up, but was not surrounded often by her asian family as they lived in Korea. Her father is white American man of European descent who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She spent a lot of time with her white side of her family growing up because they lived nearby.  

Context:

Informant R.B. and I were at dinner when I was interviewing her for the folklore collection project. When asked if she had any weird medicines, this is the folklore she remembered.

Interpretation:

Informant R.B. took this piece of folklore very seriously. And, when asked later if she would still use this method of treatment, she responded yes and that she would tell her friends to because it worked. R.B. received this piece of folklore from her mother her learned it from her own mother in Korea. For their family, this folklore represented more than a cure, but a lasting family tradition. I found this piece to be very interesting because it showcased how different cultures treat their illnesses.

 

Em-chang

Context:

The subject is a college freshman, born in South Korea before moving to the United States when they were 12 years old. I wanted to get to know more about any folklore they might have experienced growing up, so I conducted an interview with them to find out.

Piece:

Subject: Okay, so kids, you know how kids like swear on their mother, right?

Interviewer: Right.

Subject: So like, in Korea we do this one our forehead [It’s basically the Shaka sign but with the end of the thumb on the forehead] and stick our tongue out and say em-chang.

Interviewer: Em-chang?

Subject: Yeah it basically means, if I’m lying my mother’s a prostitute. And it varies between places in Korea, sometimes you put the hand vertical on your face, or you don’t stick out the tongue, sometimes the thumb goes on the tongue.

Interviewer: Wow, and this is common?

Subject: Yeah it’s the equivalent for swearing on your mom’s life. Arguably harsher.

 

Analysis:

Upon further research, it seems that a lot of different cultures have their own forms of swearing on their mother. The common link is always the mother figure. It begs the question as to why, however I think it’s a simple answer. The mother figures in our lives are extremely important to us, especially when we’re very dependent children. The importance of the mother role is very clear across the globe.