crush v surge v stampede

The Sydney Morning Herald is calling the Itaewon disaster a crowd crush, the Korea Herald a crowd surge and the Korea Times a stampede. To me, a stampede involves running and falling, which doesn’t seem to be the case here, a surge involves a group of people actively moving towards an already crowded area, and a crush is everyone moving together. The distinction is probably irrelevant to those who were killed and injury, or their families. Wikpedia’s article calls it a crowd crush, but its main article on the phenomenon is crowd collapses and crushes.

PS the next day. The Sydney Morning Herald is now calling it a stampede and is headlining that one Australian was killed.


Tourism Korean, part 1

Visitors to Seoul are very likely to encounter at least one of Seodaemun, Namdaemun or Dongdaemun. Even if their tour guide (human, printed or digital) doesn’t tell them, it’s probably possible to figure out that they are the original west great gate, south great gate and east great gate of Seoul. Seo, nam and dong, therefore, are west, south and east. Dae might be great or gate, and mun might be vice versa, but the head of any compound noun is more likely to be in the first or last position, and finding that Gwanghwamun is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung palace firmly points to mun as gate. 

These actually have (or had, in the case of Seodaemun) official names, which are 돈의문 (don-ui-mun), 숭례문 (sung-nye-mun) and 흥인지문 (heung-in-ji-mun) respectively (which are also rendered in hanja (Chinese characters used in Korean), but tourists don’t have to worry about any of that). Seodaemun also refers to a gu (local government area), park and prison, Namdaemun to a market and Dongdaemun to a gu, market, former baseball stadium and design plaza (and I’m sure a lot else each). Bukdaemun (north great gate) (officially 숙정문 (suk-jeong-mun)) exists but is far less known, partly because it is perched in the mountains, a moderate hike from anywhere.

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여러 분 추석 잘 보내세요!

Chuseok isn’t a holiday in Australia, of course, so I spent the day working, listening to Korean music or semi-watching Korean hiking videos for most of the time. Youtube suggested two videos of old photos of Seoul, dating from 1884 and 1984 respectively. (A lot happened in between!)

The first is on the 대한여지도 Korean Geographic channel, and has photos taken by Percival Lowell. (There are other similar videos – follow the links.)

If you can’t see a video above, try here, or search for eg ‘youtube korean geographic seoul 1884 percival lowell’.

The second is the 복원왕 Restoration King channel, and has colourised photos. (There are other similar videos – follow the links.)

If you can’t see a video above, try here, or search for eg ‘youtube restoration king life in seoul 1984’.

The next video I watched was from 1979, and the Yeouido 63 Building was conspicuously absent (it was started in 1980). While I was watching it, I had the sudden thought that it would be interesting to compare then and now (if possible). The screenshot for the second video above should be relatively easy, but the screenshot for the first video is probably under an apartment building or department store.

I also remembered seeing a video at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza of the view from Namsan, with the buildings risings up animatedly over time.

An unconventional high school

For one year of my first stay in South Korea, I taught English at an information industry high school (정보 산업 고등학교, jeong-bo san-eob go-deung-hak-gyo). I would otherwise have stayed at my previous hagwon, but I needed a job close to where my wife lived, and found this at short notice. Teaching at the high school was a challenge, and I learned possibly more than the students did. Looking on Google Maps yesterday, I found that it’s now an international convention high school (국제 컨벤션 고등학교, guk-je keon-ben-sheon go-deung-hak-gyo). I couldn’t find any explanation in English, but searching in Korean found an article on, which states that the name and academic focus changed in 2012. The major streams (alongside standard high school subjects) are convention management, convention tourism, convention advertising design (I’m surprised that those three require separate majors, rather than being specialisations of the same major), IT software and fashion coordination. I can’t remember exactly what the majors were when I was there, but information technology and management and tourism management were among them. Generally speaking, the tourism management students were the best at English, because the better or best jobs in that sector require English. The IT students were the worst, because there is a massive technology sector there. 

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Good luck getting there

(Google Street View)

This sign straddles a motorway west of Seoul. Most notable is the panel at the left. While it used to be possible for some people (workers, tourists in authorised groups) to travel as far as Gaeseong, travel to Pyongyang hasn’t been possible for as long as this motorway has been here. I suspect that everyone driving here knows that. I have a memory that a sign gives distances. Either I’m misremembering or there’s another sign. Seoul and Pyongyang are 195 km apart, and it is theoretically possible to cover that in approximately 2 hours. Practically …

The text at the bottom of the left-hand panel says South-North exit/entry ticket office

(I suspect that the road signs on the other side of the border don’t include Paju and Seoul.)

not ANZCA Day

The notice board of a local pub advised of the pub’s activities on ANZCA DAY, presumably commemorating the college of anaesthetists, or chartered accountants, or Australia, New Zealand and California, or Canada, or any one of the 315 other people, places and things listed on The Free Dictionary’s acronym finder. Several days later, that had been changed to ANZAC DAY, commemorating the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

See here for a discussion about whether it should be ANZAC or Anzac (and also generally on acronyms and initialisms. The public holiday is officially Anzac Day. (The pub’s notice board has upper-case plastic letters.)

Also note the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian involvement in the Battle of Gapyeong (22-25 April 1951).

Joseon zombies

A Korean drama about zombies appearing in the Joseon era has been cancelled because of complaints about historical inaccuracies. The inaccuracies in question involved Chinese-style costumes and props, and showing King Taejo (r 1400-1408) cruelly slaughtering innocent people because he was hallucinating. Viewers have apparently accepted the appearance of zombies in the Joseon era as not historically inaccurate.

Cold hands, 따뜻한 마음

Last night my wife and I had dinner with friends in their new apartment. After dinner, we watched an episode of the Korean drama 응답하라 1988 (eung-dap-ha-ra), of which I was previously unaware (more about that later). Unlike the dramas my wife watches online, this one, on a streaming service, had English subtitles, so I was was able to follow most of the story (apart from figuring out who was who and how they were related). At one point the female lead and one of her male friends are sitting in the rain. He asks “Why are your hands so cold?”. She replies “Because my heart is warm”.

That is equivalent to English “Cold hands, warm heart”, which I haven’t seen or heard for years. My wife later told me that the full expression in Korean is 마음이 따뜻하면 손이 차갑다, or If you heart is warm, your hands are cold. (There are variations on the internet, including some which put the hands first, as in English.) I haven’t been able to find whether this expression is meant to be literal, figurative or both, and which way round the cause and effect is. My Facebook friends have been unable to help me. As is the often way with most of these sayings, there are multiple interpretations.

I later found that 응답하라 1988 was shown on Korean cable tv in late 2015 – early 2016, which explains why I didn’t know it. I was in Korea at the time, but not watching any cable tv (and very little free-to-air tv). The title 응답하라 1988 is officially given as Reply 1988, which doesn’t make much sense. Some sources give it as Answer me 1988, and Google and Bing both translate 응답하라 by itself as respond, both of which make more sense.

Early in the episode, one character refers to McDonald’s in Apgujeong. Yes, the first McDonald’s there opened in 1988, at the time of and almost certainly because of the Olympic Games that year.

vowed their heads

According to an article in the Korea Herald, people “vowed their heads” at a paying-respects site for the mayor of Seoul, Park Won-Soon. I hope not. Google found three other instances of “vowed their heads”, at least two of which relate to actual vowing of heads, and the third probably a error for bowed

A seemingly self-published novel set in Norse saga times includes:

And therewith they vowed their heads for ever to the infernal gods if ever one of the blood brothers should desert the other, in danger or in need.

A very serious history of ancient Rome includes:

[S]o far did some strain in their expressions of their affections, that they vowed their heads and lives for [Caligula’s] restoring.

Another seemingly self-published novel set in fictionalised/fantasy medieval Roman Catholic Europe includes:

“We will serve you and your god, your holiness.” his servant vowed.
“We will all serve you master” affirmed by all while they vowed their heads before him.

Phonetically, it is more likely that a Korean will say or write bow instead of vow than vice versa, because there is an equivalent of b in Korean, but no equivalent of v; compare 비디오 (bi-di-o) for video.

The Korea Herald’s writer’s English is way better than my Korean, but she also refers to “a grassy plaza outside City Hall”. I would unhesitatingly write “the grassy plaza outside City Hall”, because there is only one grassy plaza outside City Hall. In fact, I would say and write “City Hall Plaza”, given that most of the Korea Herald’s readers know Seoul City Hall and its grassy plaza. The fact that the plaza is grassy is, in fact, irrelevant to this story.

The really important king of Korea

I assure you that I don’t set out looking for typos in my personal reading, but sometimes they’re just too obvious. I borrowed a book from my local library on world languages. It is a full-scale production, with two pages on the biggest languages, one on the medium-sized ones and a quarter of a page on a selection of smaller ones. There are many photos and examples of words or phrases. 

Unfortunately, there are two errors on the page about Korean. One is the name of esteemed originator of hangeul, King Sejeul. Say … what? Do they mean King Sejong, the most important Korean in history? So important that most of the time he’s not just King Sejong, but rather King Sejeong the Great.

The other is that the one-syllable block of Korean it provides as an example is completely not Korean and instead one of those random things you get when the software you use doesn’t recognise the script you are trying to use. To make matters worse, it is immediately followed by an explanation of the letters which make up the syllable block. Even a reader who doesn’t know hangeul would figure that the explanation simply doesn’t match up with the random thing immediately before it.

I mentioned this to some colleagues at work, then on the way home on the train spotted two more typos on consecutive pages, both a correctly spelled word, just the wrong one in the context: lightening instead of lightning and each instead of ear.

No names, no blames, but it they’re going to put that much effort into a full-scale production, they could at least get a native speaker to proofread it.

(If there are any mistakes in the preceding, bear in mind that this is not a full-scale production, and I don’t have a team of proofreaders.)