Author Archives: Eugene Sung

“Not knowing is the medicine” (모르는게 약이다)

Main Piece : 

“모르는게 약이다.”

Original Script : 모르는게 약이다

Phonetic (Roman) Script : Morununge yak-ee-da

Transliteration : Not knowing is the medicine.

Full Translation : There is truth that is better off not knowing. 

Context :

My informant is an adult male who was born in the Gangwon Area of Korea, which is located on the East side of the peninsula. He received Korean education throughout his life and he now works in Korea. Here, he is describing a commonly used proverb that is used in the Korean society. He is identified as S in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was translated into English. 

S : So this proverb, which sounds more like a common saying is used when, for example, some person is trying to dig up information that will be harmful to them. For example, if your friend is trying to dig into a gossip full of drama, you would tell her, “there is truth that is better off not knowing”. This saying translates into how knowing unneeded facts can be harmful to you and thus makes not-knowing a medicine. 

Analysis :

I personally liked this example because this is a saying that I, myself use it a lot too. This is one of the best known proverbs in the Korean society, and it applies to a lot of situations. This proverb reminds me of my grandmother telling me this proverb whenever I became curious about what the adults were talking about whenever we had big family gatherings. Whether it is a school gossip or politics, there are some things that are better off not knowing. I like how the description of ‘knowing unneeded facts’ is considered harmful and not knowing is not even neutral but a medicine for one. 

Gokwoosari Yeonggwang Gulbi (Dried Yellow Corvina) Festival (곡우사리 영광굴비축제)

Context : 

My informant is an adult female who works as a photographer in Korea. She specializes in taking photos and filming festivals around Korea and has been working in the photography industry for 7 years. Here, she is describing the Gulbi Festival of the Yeonggwang area of South Korea. She attended this festival several years ago and he is identified as Y in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was later translated into English. 

Y : This festival is not considered as one of the most famous festivals in Korea. However, the Yeonggwang area has been known for their gulbi (dried yellow corvina) for a very long time as the city developed it as their mascot and special regional product. During the festival, they would hold events such as storytelling behind the development of gulbi business of Yeonggwang, food tasting event that has gulbi in it, gulbi cooking activity, and more. They would also call local traditional music performance companies and hold performances. 

Analysis :

I think this festival is an example of folk marketing. While the city is well known for their dried yellow corvina, the city chose to step up from that and connect it with the local folklores and make a festival out of it. This is a marketing strategy that benefits all people who are involved in the festival; the fisherman can sell more fish, the city council can make more money from the festival and make the local area known to the public, local folklore storytellers can spread the local folktales to the audience (passive bearers) and people who attend the festival can buy local goods in a cheaper price. 

Chunhyang Festival (춘향제)

Context : 

My informant is an adult female who works as a photographer in Korea. She specializes in taking photos and filming festivals around Korea and has been working in the photography industry for 7 years. Here, she is describing the Chunhyang Festival that is held in Namwon city of the Jeollabuk-Do area of Korea. She attended this festival 4 years ago and she is identified as Y in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was later translated into English. 

Y :

Chunhyang Festival is an annual festival held by and in the city of Namwon. This festival is based on the traditional Korean folk love story called “Chunhyangjeon (Story of Chunhyang)”, where Chunhyang, a female protagonist from a very poor family falls in love with Mongryong, a male protagonist from a wealthy family. Honestly, it’s a pretty obvious storyline. The class differences between the characters almost rips them apart, but their true love always finds a way and ends with a happily ever after Disney-like ending. This story was set in Namwon city and that’s the reason why the city spends a lot of money in this festival every year.

During the festival, there are several events that take place. To name a few, there is a Pansori (traditional Korean music) performance of the story, a dance performance, a night market, and a beauty pageant. Because in the story, Mongryong first falls in love with Chunhyang for her outstanding looks, a beauty pageant is absolutely one of the main events. Female participants, ranging from children to grandmothers, come out in their own Hanboks (traditional Korean clothing/dress) that they own and walk with the parade while non-participants cheer for them. 

Analysis :

As this festival is one of the most well known local festivals in Korea, even though I haven’t attended it yet, I’ve heard a lot of stories about it. I like how people developed a folk love story into a festival and celebrates it annually by gathering participants. This festival is also significant in the sense that it’s not only a show where people sit down and passively enjoy the show; people dress up with costumes they have prepared themselves and join in the performance and thus becomes an active bearer of the folk story and folk culture. The Chunhyang Festival lets everyone have a chance to enjoy the performances and events regardless of age or gender. 

The movie version of Chunhyangjeon was made too, under the name “The Love Story of Chunhyang”. It was directed by Hong Seong-Gi and was released in 1961. 

“3 Cobblers are better than Zhuge Liang” (三臭皮匠葛亮)

Original Script : 三臭皮匠葛亮

Phonetic (Roman) Script : Sān chòu píjiàng gé liàng

Transliteration : 3 Cobblers Are Better Than Zhuge Liang

Full Translation : Two heads are better than one 

Context : 

My informant is a high school student who was born in Denver, Colorado. His family moved to the United States before he was born from mainland China. Even though his first language was technically English, as his family used Chinese at home, he grew as a bilingual student. Here, he is describing a proverb that his grandparents and parents taught him when he was young. He told me that since he couldn’t remember in detail and had to ask his parents again, a lot of the dialogue is summarized. This piece was collected over a phone call. 

The informant started off with who Zhuge Liang is; Zhuge Liang is a very well known Chinese politician and a military strategist that is known for its excellent strategic skills that have led past China to victory in multiple battles. The informant implied how he is the symbol of intelligence and often admired and looked up by people. However, cobblers are jobs that are not always favored and are less significant when compared to a nationally-known military strategist. However, this quote is meant to show how 3 less-significant people can beat Zhuge Liang, who is an individual. 

Analysis :

Zhuge Liang is an admired figure in Chinese society for its intelligence and military strategy. On the other hand, cobblers are considered as an ignorant people when compared to Zhuge Liang. In this proverb, it is implied that no matter how ignorant cobblers are in comparison to Zhuge Liang, when three cobbers come together and think as a whole, Zhuge Liang, he himself as an individual cannot win the cobblers. This shows that more than one person is always better than an individual regardless of their intelligence and educational levels. The comparison to Zhuge Liang also shows how Chinese people admire Zhuge Liang as a smart intelligent person. 

I wanted to add the Korean version of this proverb: “It is better to hold a single piece of white paper together with someone rather than yourself (백지장도 맞들면 낫다)”. While a piece of paper is very light and everyone can simply carry it without any hardships, it is always better to hold it with someone. This can be translated into no matter whether an issue might be easy to handle, it is always better to do it with someone. 

“Do not rest under a bad three and do not drink bad water” (恶木盗泉)

Original Script : 恶木盗泉

Phonetic (Roman) Script : È mù dào quán

Transliteration : Do Not Rest Under a Bad Tree and Do Not Drink Bad Water

Full Translation : Do not do anything bad that you will be shameful in the future regardless of the situation you are in

Context : 

My informant is a high school student who was born in Denver, Colorado. His family moved to the United States before he was born from mainland China. Even though his first language was technically English, as his family used Chinese at home, he grew as a bilingual student. Here, he is describing an idiom that his grandparents and parents taught him when he was young. He is identified as Z in the dialogue and this piece was collected over a phone call. 

Z : The idiom “do not rest under a bad tree and do not drink bad water” means that you must not do anything that you would be shameful of in the future no matter what situation you are in. You might be in a very tired state and want to rest and drink lots of water for recovery but resting under a bad tree and drinking bad water will influence you in a negative way and you will regret your rash decisions later on. 

Analysis :

This idiom indicates not only that people shouldn’t do anything that will embarrass them later on but also the fact that when a person is tired and desperate, their sense of what is right and wrong might be distorted too. This idiom tells the people that even in those hard times, one must not lose their consciousness and know how to make right choices to prevent the aftermath.