death by overwork (no, not me)

From How your job is killing you by James Adonis in the Sydney Morning Herald (I try to avoid giving free publicity to companies, but I’ve got to credit my sources):

The Japanese have a word, karōshi, to describe people who work themselves to death. … In China the word used is guolaosi. … South Korea, too, has a term for this pervasive condition: gwarosa.

A little bit of linguistic knowledge shows that those are actually the same word, in the pronunciation systems of those three languages. Japanese and Korean have borrowed a large number of words directly from Chinese, and have also created new words themselves from Chinese characters.

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Korean movie – A melody to remember, revisited

Twice last year I saw the Korean movie 오빠 생각 (o-ppa saeng-gak, Thoughts of my older brother or Thinking of my older brother, titled in English A melody to remember) once in a cinema in Korea (without English subtitles) and once on the aeroplane returning to Australia (with English subtitles), and blogged about it here and here.

I occasionally browse through a language bookshop in the Sydney CBD. Some months ago, sometime after I returned to Australia I saw a book called something like Korean Songs and Stories. One of the songs is Thinking of Older Brother, which provides the title, but not the story, of the movie. (The song dates from the Japanese occupation; the movie is set during the Korean war.) The background to the song is:

During the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945), eleven-year-old Choi Sun Ae’s brother went to Seoul to buy shoes and never returned, inspiring her to write these lyrics. The cheerful music – written by Park Tae Jun – may seem like a strange contrast to the sad words, but during the occupation the Japanese prohibited songs that were negative or depressing in nature. Having a relatively “happy” melody was a way of masking mournful sentiments.

I didn’t want to buy the book for one song (though I might have been able to make use of the other ones), so I surreptitiously took a photo of this song. Unfortunately I can’t credit the editor and publisher. I am posting this now, some months after finding that book, because I’ve just been sorting through old photos.

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Lotte World Tower, Seoul

In July 2016 I visited Lotte World Tower in the Seoul suburb of Jamsil. At that stage the building was complete (at 555 metres, currently the fifth highest building in the world) but still being fitted out, so the observation decks weren’t open, but a shopping mall at the base was open. It was officially opened last week, on the 3rd of April, preceded by a fireworks and laser display on the night of the 2nd.

Short documentary about the building and the fireworks (from Lotte World Tower-Mall’s Youtube Channel)

News report about the fireworks (from YTN News)

My own photo

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Last thoughts about South Korea

Last Sunday, I attended church in Korea for the last time. At the end of the service, the congregational leader announced that I was leaving, and the priest invited me to speak. I noticed that a Korean woman who’d lived in England for some time, and spoke English well, had also come to the front and was standing next to me holding a microphone, obviously to translate for me. But I surprised everyone, including her, by speaking in Korean, about 30 seconds of thank you and goodbye which I’d been composing in my head the day before and during the service. At the end, I turned to her and said ‘Please translate that’. She was so flustered that she gave a brief summary in English!

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Don’t worry, be happy

I was sitting in the bar at which a social group of teachers usually meets, at the time we usually meet, but I was by myself, because everyone else has gone away on holiday already. Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ came on the sound system. I got wondering about how to translate that into Korean. I know the negative imperative verb form, but not the verb worry, and I know the positive imperative adjectival verb form and the adjectival verb happy.

I checked don’t worry on Google Translate when I got home. It depends on your politeness level. Plain speech (said to same-age friends or juniors) is 걱정하지 마 (geok-jeong-ha-ji ma), which clearly does not fit into the rhythm of the original English. Standard polite speech (said to general acquaintances in semi-formal situations) is 걱정하지 마세요 (geok-jeong-ha-ji ma-se-yo), which even more clearly does not fit the rhythm.

Be happy is 행복 해 (haeng-bok hae) in plain speech, which does actually have the right number of syllables, but doesn’t fit the meter, or 행복 하세요 (haeng-bok ha-se-yo) in standard polite speech, which doesn’t and doesn’t.