Dear friends, this summer I had the unique opportunity to go to South Korea on a Library & Information Science Study Abroad Program. One of our assignments was to blog our trip, so I posted them to one of my personal websites. I’m re-publishing them here in almost the original format for your viewing pleasure. 

2006.08.01 Tuesday hi seoul well-being korea

hi seoul

well-being korea

being in korea makes me want to live here forever… especially since everything they’re trying to sell me promises a 
Well-Being life, whatever that is. 

2006.08.06 Sunday Seoul

I’m using myspace to blog my thoughts for my LIS Korea Study Abroad Program assignment. Please bear with me while I talk about my love for libraries for three weeks. :o)

On Friday I took a bus from Cheong Ju (where my grandparents live) and arrived in Seoul around 830 am. My friend Yeojoo met me at the bus station and we took a taxi to Ewha. She helped me check into my dorm room. After that we were able to rest a bit, and then we met Rick and Kelly, two other students on the program. An Ewha student escorted us to the IEI building, where we met Wooseob Jeong and Ms. Jay Yoon, who gave us a short orientation. Also, we had lunch with Ms. Yoon and her supervisor.

Now I’ve met all my classmates, had breakfast with them twice, and lunch at Insadong earlier today. Insadong is one of my favorite places to hang out since there are so many crafty stores. It’s a great place to buy gifts.

Becca arrived later on Friday, so I didn’t see her until Saturday morning at breakfast. We’ve been catching up and talking about PULSE and LIS Ph.D. progams. It’s nice to see a familiar face and talk about critical issues that we don’t always get to talk about in other spaces.

The program more officially begins tomorrow. I think we will go on our first field trip, but I don’t remember where we are going. It seems like almost every day we have a field trip to a different university or library. I am very excited. 

2006.08.07 Monday National Library of Korea

Today we had breakfast at 730 am with Professor Wooseob, and then we had a short Q&A (to clarify some confusing details about this study abroad program) before heading out on Subway Line 2 to Seocho, where the National Library of Korea is located. We literally spent the entire day inside the library.

Our morning started with a short talk by a Mrs. Hong, who I think was director of international affairs/relations. Then we met the Deputy Librarian, Mrs. Lee. Chi-ju. She gave us a brief history of the library, told us about the automation process, and the very ambitious digitization project. By 2009, the National Library of Korea will be a major force to be reckoned with in terms of digital resources. The site is undergoing major construction for new buildings and facilities. The entire class was very excited to hear about the library’s projects, aims, processes, motivation, etc.

Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Hong had lunch with us (donkatsu) and then we were given a tour of 6 of the 7 floors of the library. There are a TON of computers… an awful lot for a country that has more computers and internt access per capita than any other nation, even the US. I had been looking forward to seeing the children’s room because it was just finished in May 2006, but unfortunately it’s located off-site in Kangnam. Before leaving at the end of the day, I asked Mrs. Hong to connect me to the librarians at the children’s library so I could conduct some research. She said she would see what she would do, but that the library may be a little chaotic right now because it is so new. Being at the library and hearing about its function made me realize that I really need to change my Fulbright project, and that this library could be a major resource for my research.

After the library tour we were given two wonderful presentations. The first man talked about the old (not “rare,” but “old”) materials room. This library maintains a strong conversation/preservation program for the many old materials Korea has produced over the centuries. I think he said the oldest materials were from 1350 or something like that – a collection of poetry.

The second presentation, given by a woman, was about the several databases offered by the library. There are millllllllions of pages online.

Finally, we had a chance to meet with the most high up director of the library. He got his degree from Texas A&M in Tourism and Culture. We were very impressed that he made time in his incredibly busy day to see us. We had a chance to ask him questions, so I asked him about this library’s relationship to the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles. He confirmed what I already knew – that the two institutions have a special relationship since they are operating under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. I would have liked to talk more with him about selection, and I don’t know why I didn’t.

Before leaving the grounds, we walked over to the WLIC office, which is hosting (?) the IFLA conference. The people there were very busy, we could tell, but Professor Jeong (Ewha) and I forgot the other man’s name (but I have his card at home because I met him in Chicago ALA) made time to talk with us a bit about IFLA. They were very welcoming and warm and gave us a lot of IFLA materials like posters and notepads and such. 

When Professor Jeong mentioned that he was a faculty member at Ewha, I got excited because I wanted to ask him if he knew Yeojoo. As we were leaving, I got a chance to ask him, and he said “Yes! You’re Sarah Park? I heard a lot about you.” We chit chatted for a minute or two; it was nice.

We headed back to the dorm and relaxed for a bit before meeting Song Hyun for dinner. She took us to a very delicious mandoo-gook place behind Ewha U. Then we walked over to a coffee shop called “library cafe Princeton Square” where we enjoyed three types of pat bingsu and coffee. It was a really nice way to end the day – good food, good company, good discussion.

It’s only the first day and I think already we’re exhausted, but at the same time we’re very excited about what we’ve been learning and how warm and welcoming everyone has been. I’m excited about tomorrow – Seoul National University!

2006.08.08 Tuesday Seoul National University Library & Museum

Today started almost exactly like yesterday, except that I woke up super tired because I got crank called at 3:45 am. Turns out most of the ladies on my floor got crank called at the same time. Boys, please grow up.

After having breakfast together, we hopped on the subway and headed to Seoul National University. I was really excited to see the campus and meet the librarians because of SNU’s reputation. Today was definitely a hotter than yesterday. We sweated in the sun while trying to figure out what bus to take into campus (the campus shuttles weren’t operating, contrary to information Wooseob received beforehand).

We finally got onto a (very crowded!) bus and headed into campus. I hadn’t realized how big it was! We drove for quite a ways even after we went into campus. It was intimidating to see how big the campus was, especially since I am planning to take classes there next year. But when I get intimated by the size of the campus, I try to think about all the international students who came to UCLA and UIUC to study. They have a lot of courage. I can do it too.

side note: We all dressed up a little nicer than we did yesterday. We didn’t realize we’d be meeting so many ministers and deputy directors and all of that fancy stuff.

After resting up fo r about 10 minutes, we had 2 lectures. The first was about the various digital projects the library is undergoing. The second was about some of the library resources, I think. The ladies were a little apologetic because there’s a huge 60th anniversary celebration today too, so they’ve also been preoccuped with that.

After the two very intersting presentations (one of the ladies presented a bunch of digital resource collections, including huge pictures of a butterfly and some interesting medical phenomena), we took a tour of the library. We learned that SNUL is open to the public, but the public cannot borrow books. 

After the tour, we had lunch in the faculty cafeteria. The food wasn’t that good.

After lunch, we were escorted to the SNU musuem, where a curator (who I accidentlly mistook for a student) gave us a guided tour of 2 of the 3 rooms, and the special exhibit usptairs on photos from the Japanese colonialial era. Wooseob translated most of it. 

We relaxed a bit in the lounge area of the museum afterwards. Wooseob asked us to edit some documents, so we helped with that. We got into a discussion about how understandable documents are if they are not in proper English. I think, whenever possible, a native Korean speaker who writes in English should get the English checked, especially if it’s for a government or public document.

Becca, Miri and I took off soon after that and headed to the National Children’s Library of Korea. Becca and I got off at Kangnam, but Miri kept going to meet her son at COEX. Becca and I were very impressed with the exterior of the library. It was bright, colorful and inviting. My friend Yeojoo Lim was already in the research room, talking with the librarian. After they discussed her project, Yeojoo explained my situation to the librarian, but she didn’t think she could give me what I needed. She pointed to a few other resources, so Yeojoo and I are going to work that out. Yeojoo and I spent quite a bit of time strategizing on how I can accomplish my mission. Hopefully I’ll have figured something out within the next few weeks.

2006.08.09 Wednesday National Assembly Library

I unplugged my phone last night so I slept well through the night.

We embarked early today to the National Assembly Library, which is located on Yeoido, near the KBS station and 63 Building. It was hot, and we had to wait outside for a free shuttle to take us from the subway station to the Library.

Once we arrived at the library, a lady gave us a minute to rest, and we met one of the directors who spoke briefly about the library. They mentioned that the library was undergoing a major digitization project, and also building a new annex which we could see from one of the windows.

The lady then gave us a tour of almost the entire library. Sometime in the middle I asked about a children’s library (thinking of how the Library of Congress has the biggest collection of children’s literature east of the Mississippi River) and she said yes, they have a small room downstairs. The children’s reading room was small, but it was cozy and packed with books. I took note of two – I found a Korean translation of The Giving Tree and Wooseob pointed out a Korean translation of Huckleberry Finn. I asked the (two) children’s librarians if they had any English language books, and they said no. I told them about my website and gave them my card. I hope it can be helpful to them.

At some point during the day we also watched/listened to a powerpoint presentation about the library and its databases and digitization projects. It really seems like the National Library and the National Assembly Library have a lot of overlapping interests, especially with their digitization projects. They told us that the National Library was supposed to be in charge of the humanities, KAIST should do the sciences, and the National Assembly Library was in charge of the social sciences and theses/dissertations. However, they said that the boundaries leak, and it’s becoming less clear who is in charge of what. The man who gave us the presentation was very nice, and a little apologetic about his ability to communicate with us. I thought he did a phenomenal job, and it seemed that everyone else enjoyed his presentation as well.

Another lady, Ms. Hwang, walked us over to the National Assembly building, which is directly adjacent to the NALibrary. It was still super hot outside, so she led us down a slightly off-track path. Once inside, a man took us to the main chamber, where he explained who sat where, who did what, and some of the functions available in the room. It was really neat to be in the room where so many important decisions are made.

After the National Assembly, we returned to the NAL and rested a bit in the lobby. We had to decide what to do next. People kicked around ideas such as Kyobo, the Hankang pleasure cruise, duty free shopping, and the World Cup Soccer Stadium. Miree was also going to join us for the afternoon! Finally, after major KPLS (Korean Parking Lot Syndrome, which is where people kick around ideas instead of actually getting up to go do something), we decided to break for DFS and Kyobo, then meet up to see Chung Kye Chun, and then go on the pleasure cruise at night when it would be cooler. Becca and I headed to Kyobo, and Miree took Rick, John, Kelly and Diane to DFS. Later, we found out they also went to Chung Wa Dae. 

Becca and I got slightly distracted by the cheap shoes at the Gwanghwamun station. She bought two pairs, and I almost bought one.

We met up at Chung Kye Chun, and decided to have dinner right away since we were starving. The NAL had served us sandwiches for lunch, but they were super small. I think the men in our group probably had it the worst! We decided on Korean bbq – sam kyup sal, specifically. We found a place nearby, which was very cheap and very delicious. Miree ordered some Korean soju, so we each had about 2 shots. It was pretty good~

After dinner we went to Chung Kye Chun, took pictures and walked a bit. The riverbed is beautiful, and it was nice to see so many people out there, splashing around in the water, or just taking a stroll with family or friends.

From there, we took 2 cabs back to Yeoido, where we got on the 1.5 hour round trip boat ride. We went on the live concert one, but we didn’t really go downstairs to listen to the music. We could hear it from the deck, but we were mostly interested in watching the Seoul scenery go by. It was nice to just sit and get to know each other better. 

Yeojoo has been trying to contact people to help me with my affiliation request, and I’ve been racking my brain all day to figure out what the best route is. Relationships, expectations, etc., are so different in all parts of the world, and even though I’m ethnoculturally Korean American, I don’t always understand Korean culture, mores, etc. I’m still figuring out when it’s okay to expect or accept something, and when it’s not. Wooseob and I talked about it briefly this morning on the subway, and I think I was pretty frustrated with not getting encouragement and support (in the form of a formal affiliation), especially since I’m used to people at GSLIS being 100% supportive of the students’ ideas and goals. In any case, I haven’t given up hope, and I still believe I can obtain formal affiliation before I leave.

It’s late, and I’m tired. More adventures tomorrow!

2006.08.10 Thursday Sookmyung University LIS and Library

Today was by far the best day on the program for so many reasons. The day was hot, but not totally unbearably so. As usual, we took the subway and then walked the remainder of the way to the SMU. The entrance to the campus is very impressive, and even more so because they’re celebrating the 100th anniversary. 

Wooseob led us to a convenience store to rest for a bit when we arrived. After a few minutes, a woman walked in and started gushing over him. She had been his student at FSU, and she was very surprised and happy to see him. More and more we are getting the impression of how well known he is, and how far his influence extends. It’s exciting to be under the guidance of someone like that. He had told me as we were on our way to SMU that there was a professor who studied children’s literature. I was really excited about that.

We walked over to the LIS building… it was the first time on our program that we actually went to an LIS program. SNU does not have one, although their library is impressive. However, if we thought SNU was impressive, SMU totally blows them out of the water.

We met a Dr. Yunkeum Kim Chang, who was VERY gracious to us all day long. She told us that Wooseob helped her a lot when she was in the US (she had been in the US for 20 years), and she couldn’t possibly say no when he contacted her to ask if we could visit. She recruited a few other faculty members as well as a gaggle of her own students to attend all the events with us. It turned out to be the best day of our trip.

We started by going around the room and introducing everyone. That was a great way to start because it made us feel like they cared about each of us as individuals, instead of only introducing their faculty/staff. They gave everyone a name tag (which they later collected haha), an agenda and a small gift bag with SMU goodies.

The library director gave us a tour of the newly renovated library. It is by far the BEST university library I have ever seen in my entire life. It was designed with incredibly attention to detail regarding user needs and comfort levels. Additionally, the building itself is aesthetically beautifully designed. The aesthetics and function go well together. The director thought about every single detail, on behalf of the students, when designing the library. We all felt that it was an absolutely 
beautiful structure.

After the tour, we had lunch at a nearby restaurant. We sat pretty mixed up with the SMU students, so it was nice to get to chat with them a little bit.

After lunch, Dr. Chang gave us a short lecture about the state of school libraries in Korea. It was, in her own words, depressing, but it seems the Korean government is doing a lot of work and investing a lot of money to elevate the status of school libraries and enhance the usage of school librarians. Part of that entails training and hiring professional SLMS, but they are not yet at that level. They need to have the infrastructure of providing all the necessary classes, but then that also means they need to hire people to teach those classes. It’s a cycle; if Korea doesn’t train people in SLMS or children’s literature, who then will teach those classes? She used a lot of quotes, statistics, and models from US based publications/organizations. After the presentation, I asked her how Koreans felt about using US as a model, since there is a lot of anti-Americanism, and also because using the US as a standard can also be seen as cultural imperialism or intellectual colonialism. She said Koreans felt that there was such a great need that it was okay to use the US as a model. 

After the lecture, we were given a wonderful tour of 2 of SMU’s museums. The first was a silk/thread/embroidery museum, and the second was Korean objects, such as celadon, teakwood cabinets, and other beautiful Korean goods.

A few of the SMU graduate students wanted to show us around, but some of us had already been to Myongdong and all of us had already been to Insadong. We decided to go Hyehwa, or Daehakro, which is a cool theatre district. We also arranged to meet Songhyun and her friends there. My friends Vicky and Sang met us there as well. 

While the SMU students took some of our students to one of the palaces, I walked around Daehakro by myself and mostly looked at clothes and stationery stores. Afterwards, we met up with Songhyun and everyone. We decided to go for kalbi and naengmyun, and then afterwards we went to IceBerry.

Overall, I felt today was the best day. Most of it was because of our fabulous experience at SMU, but a tiny percentage was also because I wore my flip flops so I was super comfortable all day.

It was incredibly wonderful to meet Dr. Chang and get her support for my research. When she said she would help me, I was so happy I almost cried. Everything we talked about regarding children – the need for training, the importance of children’s literature, the need for a children’s book center, etc., made me so hopeful that there will be a lot of work for me to do when I come to Korea next year. I can’t wait to see how things unravel from here.

Again, it’s late, and I’m exhausted. More tomorrow~

2006.08.12 Saturday National History Institute and Haeinsa Temple

I couldn’t blog yesterday because I was too tired when I came home. I’m exhausted today too, but I want to blog before I forget everything we saw.

Yesterday morning we went to the National History Institute, which is located a little ways outside of Seoul. We had an hour lecture on 5000 years of Korean history. Professor Jeong asked me to help translate in case he became tired, but he made it through the hour. I popped in with comments here and there, especially when I thought something might be confusing or misrepresented, such as making it sound like the US and Soviet Union had no hand in causing the Korean War. I don’t think people leave that our purposely, but I can see how you might not want to say it to a group of American students. 

My only other criticism of the lecture was that the professor didn’t show a picture of Admiral Yi’s kubuksun (turtle ship). I’m really proud that Korea came up with the first iron clad turtle ship!

We also had a lecture about Dublin Core, XML, MARC, and translating/encoding/transliteration etc among Korean, English and Chinese characters. The NHI has come up with amazing thesauri and systems to toggle among the languages. Their databases must be incredibly useful to Korean scholars. I can’t believe I used to want to be a historian. I still love the idea of history, but I can’t imagine learning all the Chinese characters.

After the NHI, I went back to Ewha and met up with Jinha unni and Yeojoo. Jinha is my sunbae at UIUC by 2 years, and Yeojoo is my donggab by 2 years. I’m smack in the middle. They both went to Ewha for their undergraduate degrees, and the 3 of us are in the UIUC LIS PhD program. 

Today we woke up earlier than usual and took a five hour bus trip to Haeinsa temple, which houses the largest collection of woodblock Buddhist scripts. I’m really proud of Korea’s long history in printing. The piles of tiles was amazing, and definitely worth walking uphill for. It was also great to get out of the city and see the Korean countryside. This country is bursting with beauty on so many levels…

2006.08.13 Free Day

Today was an adventure. Seriously.

I woke up around 9 am and planned to leave by 945, but that never works. My plan was to go to the Hwasung baby home and volunteer for a couple of hours, go to the Leeum art museum, Onnuri church, and then have dinner with friends.

Locating the Hwasung baby home was an adventure in itself. The website is not very clear about the directions, so I had no idea where to go when I got ouf of the subway. It was hot and I was in an unfamiliar part of the city. I kept asking people, until finally I went into a PC Cafe and looked up the phone number on the internet (I can’t believe I didn’t do that before I left). So then I tried calling, but no one answered. I debated giving up, but finally I walked into a store and 3 old men told me where to go. I finally found it, and once I got there I felt like it would be wrong to come here to do research. A white American girl was talking to some men in the courtyard, so I approached them and introduced myself as a volunteer. The girl’s name was Tammy, and we ended up hanging out the rest of the day.

I don’t know how to describe the orphanage experience. It seems like the kids have enough clean clothes and food, and there were many adult volunteers playing with the kids. Ron Fowler, the founder of the yheesun.org website that facilitates volunteering, also showed up later. He said, “Come anytime, any day of the week, and do whatever you want with the kids. Just don’t break them!” The children seemed to really like him as well.

One of the men told us it was swimming day, and he kind of looked us over and said, “your clothes are going to get messed up.” I didn’t mind. I took off my earrings and watch and bracelet. I kinda felt like a heel – why was I wearing all of those anyway??? He was right though. I didn’t stop sweating the whole time I was there. The children just come up to you and want to be held and played with. This one little boy attached himself to Tammy as soon as we came in. Later, when the kids started swimming, he attached himself to me. Soon after we got there, it was lunchtime so the kids went into the dining area. They were served their meals on metal trays. The men started to sweep the floors, so I asked if we could help. Tammy and I swept too, until the little boy came out and wanted Tammy to help him go to the bathroom. By the time we finished sweeping, some of the children were done eating and came out to play again. They have a big tv, so a lot of them watched animation. After everyone was done eating and cleaning up, the children went outside to swim. One of the boys I was holding didn’t want to change to go swimming, so we just played a little bit. I finally convinced him to join his friends.

Before I went outdoors, I sat with an infant who was so new to the orphanage that none of the other volunteers knew his name or had even seen him before. I made the dumb mistake of asking how old he was; how could they know if they didn’t even know his name? He was a happy baby though. He reminded me a lot of the cover of the children’s picture book Jin Woo. It was easy to make him laugh. 

The courtyard has an elevated swimming pool off to one side, and some plastic inflatable pools for the younger children. They loved to play in the water, and one of the men played in the big pool with a hose. He even hosed me a bit! They probably played for at least an hour before the adults called them over to have patbingsu. But they ran out of bowls to put the patbingsu in, so osome of the children had to wait until bowls were available. One of the girls dumped her bingsu on a boy’s head. That was kind of funny because it was so unexpected.

Tammy and I sort of chatted about our plans for the rest of the day. I told her about the Leeum art gallery, and asked if she wanted to join me. We left as the kids were eating patbingsu because it seemed like they were pretty well distracted. They didn’t even look up when we said goodbye. I really hope to be able to return at least once while I’m here. Perhaps next week. 

One of the SMU girls we met had interned at the Leeum museum, and she arranged our RSVP for us. What I didn’t know was that she arranged for us to get in free! Sweet~ we got admission to both galleries AND the Rothko exhibit for free. The Leeum art museum is one of the most beautiful structures in Seoul. The two galleries were designed by two different architects, and they did a fabulous job. Museum 1 houses traditional art, and Museum 2 houses modern art. Becca joined us as we were finishing up Museum 1. I left for Onnuri church soon after she arrived, and then we (Tammy, Becca and I) met up at Insadong around 630. Abby, Tammy’s coworker, also joined us by then.

Tammy wanted to eat jjim dalk, which is basically marinated chicken. She knew of a place in Insadong that made it, but we couldn’t find it. I suggested going to Ewha because there are more restaurants, so we hopped on the subway and headed over. At first I was disoriented and went down the wrong streets, but we passed through an alley and I found the jjim dalk place that Alex had taken me to three years earlier. It was just as delicious as I remembered, and I was really glad that Tammy was able to eat jjim dalk, and that Becca was able to try it too.

After jjim dalk, we walked over to Sinchon to meet Kelli, my Korean adoptee friend whom I’ve only chatted with and never met in person. She also had 2 friends with her, and then another joined, and Abby had left by then, so there were 7 of us total. We hung out at Red Mango. One of Kelli’s friends had suggested IceBerry, but I asked if we could go to Red Mango instead since Becca hadn’t tried it yet.

The day pretty much ended there. The morning was emotional, but I think I’ve been blocking out images of the children because if I think too much about them I’ll get really emotional. I definitely want to spend more time with them. Seeing them today made me realize how much social injustice is in this world, and I really want to do something for the children. Ephesians 4 tells us that he who steals must no longer steal but work hard with his hands so that he may help others. In the same way, I feel that I as a sinner need to stop sinning and should work hard so that I can help the children. 

2006.08.13 Sunday august 15 korean independence day 

after about 5000 years of relative peace and isolation, at the turn of the twentieth century korea was ravaged by external threats from china, japan and the soviet union and internal problems of political corruption and infighting. she lost her sovereignty to japan and was offiicially annexed in 1910. for the next 35 years, korea was subjugated to humiliation as japan attempted to eradicate all aspects of korean culture. korean students learned japanese history in the japanese language and were forbidden to speak korean. furthermore, they were forced to give up their korean names and ‘graciously’ allowed to take japanese names. as japan penetrated her imperial powers deeper into the asian pacific region, koreans were forced to use their labor to make supplies for japanese soldiers, while thousands of korean girls were forced to use their bodies for japanese soldiers’ pleasure. japan finally surrendered to the allied powers on august 15, 1945, and korea was liberated from japanese control.

korea has celebrated her independence on august 15th for the past 61 years, but the peninsula still faces some critical issues. the bitter civil war that divided the country from 1950-1953 is still unresolved and millions of families remain separated by what was once an invisible line at the 38th parallel. the dmz is now what politicians call ‘the most dangerous place on earth’ because it is so heavily guarded by south korean, north korean, and american soldiers. japan has not yet apologized for the thousands of ‘comfort women’ they kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. currently, korea and japan are arguing over a pair of islands off the eastern coast called dokdo. historically, dokdo belongs to korea, and korean national and political libraries have collected rooms full of resources to further study the issue. moreover, although korea is a highly developed nation with one largest economies in the world, annually she still sends about 2000 children abroad to be adopted by other countries because of the social stigma attached to adoption, multiracial identities, and single mothers. to date, more than 150,000 korean children have been adopted into other countries, mostly to non-Korean parents.

korea has much to be proud of as well. koreans came up with the moveable type at least 80 years before gutenberg as well as the first iron clad ship, known as “geobukseon.” korean artists produced highly exquisite paintings and celadon. korea rapidly industrialized in the 1960s and 1970s, thanks to president park chung hee’s administrations, dictatorial though they were. korea has hosted both the olympics and world cup, and is bidding to host another olympics in the next few years. korean food and pop culture is rapidly gaining popularity all over the world, with some of the best examples being the popularity of “old boy,” “autumn tale,” “my sassy girl” and the singer bi. samsung and lg electronic products compete with panasonic and sony, although hyundai still lags behind honda. recently, the world saw north and south korea begin to move towards better communication and faciliate the reunification of separated families, although those talks have come to a stop since the bush administration began. and of course, korea is very proud of michelle wie, hines ward and toby dawson.

this is the first summer in recent memory that i’ve been in korea for the independence day celebration, and as we watch the city prepare for the festivities my prayer is that the korean people will continue to take pride in their strong history and culture, as well as critically analyze and seek to resolve the issues that keep this country from moving forward into the twenty first century. i pray for a nation still healing from colonialism, war, and poverty; a nation trying to fix its social welfare system so children and women are empowered and respected rather than marginalized; a nation working towards peace and cooperation with neighboring countries; the nation in which i was born, and my parents and grandparents used to call home.

dae han min kuk~

2006.08.17 Belated Post

I should blog again. I’ve been really busy/lazy/tired. Um… Monday I excused myself from the ceramics activity and Ewha tour and went to Bundang to spend time with some family. I had dinner with one of my older cousins and his mom. I love talking withhim because he’s so wise. I told him about my dissertation project and he made some really wise comments. I was sorry to leave them to return to Ewha.

Tuesday was Korea’s independence day. Yesun unni’s wedding was at 12 noon, so I went to Mapo-gu’s Holiday Inn. It was stinking hot!! The wedding was pretty short but I stayed a little bit longer to watch pae baek. Jin, Yesun Unni’s old roommate, was also there, so we sat together. Yesun unni was so beautiful in her dress… seeing her in a wedding dress made me cry~ I’m so happy for her.

After the wedding, I went to Samcheongdong to hang out with my cousin Jungsoo and his parents. He’s the one in the military. I hadn’t seen my uncle yet, so it was good to see him. We hung out in a coffee shop and then went to a really nice Italian restaurant. Jungsoo loves pasta~ I probably won’t be able to see him again before I leave 😦 But I will definitely see him when I return next year. He will be done with military service and we will hang out and speak Konglish :o)

After hanging out with Jungsoo, I went to Koryo (Korea) University to hang out with Jungsoo’s friends. I met Chunoo 3 years ago at Jungsoo’s house, and another friend named Oh Joong through the internet when Jungsoo asked me to edit one of Oh Joong’s essays. The boys showed me around campus – newly remodeled to celebrate the 100 year anniversary. It was really beautiful and the library was really nice too. I was surprised to see so many students there on a national holiday, and it made me feel
really lazy about taking the day off when I have so much work to do.

On Wednesday we went down to Cheongju to the Early Printing Museum and the Children’s Miracle Library. More to come… must get back to writing these essays!!!

2006.08.17 Thursday Yesterday and today :o)

Yesterday we took a bus down to Cheongju to visit the Early Printing Museum and the Cheongju Children’s Miracle Library. My grandfather took me to both places last summer, so I was familiar with both places already. It was good to get another tour of the museum. There’s always more and more to learn. The man who gave us the tour was very friendly, and he was eager to answer all our questions. That Korea created the first metal moveable type is definitely something to be proud of. It reflects a rich literary history, which is already apparent through other media such as the literature and silk paintings, etc. I think Korea is highly skilled in artsy stuff, not only in the past but also in the present. Perhaps it has something to do with patience and attention to detail.

After the museum, we went across the street and had a really delicious traditional Korean lunch. The tour guide ate with us and it was fun.

After lunch, we took the bus to the children’s library. The team leader greeted us and we spent a few minutes talking to the director in the main office. She told us how the idea of a specifically children’s library came up because although there are many public libraries in Korea, they do not focus on building their children’s collection or having services specifically targeting children. Seeing this need, the people rallied for a children’s library, and MBC answered their call. MBC helped mobilize the people and fundraise. Interested cities had to bid for MBC to build a children’s library in their area. Cheongju was the first such city. The fundraisers provide the initial funds to start the library, and the city has to match it and promise to continue supporting the library. There are now 8 children’s miracle libraries in South Korea. This aarticularly library has about 70,000 books, DVDs, tapes, etc. Everywhere in the main reading room, kids were lounging around reading various types of books. It was such a sweet sight.

Then the team leader gave us a tour of the facilities. She took us into rooms I hadn’t seen on my last visit. I tried to translate, but my Korean still is not good enough so Wooseob and Miri helped a lot. I explained the differences in the Dewey Decimal system here (further dividing the shelves and making it easier for children to locate books) and the way the parents tend to take books off the “return” cart because they think if someone else already the book, it must be good. I also showed my classmates the English/American section with the tons of Eric Carle, and the Braille section, which is right next to the English/American section.

The children’s library is much bigger than it appears on the outside. There’s a lot of downstairs basement space for various programs. They have a huge multipurpose room in the basement too! We saw some pictures of events that have taken place there. The backyard is also very well laid out. There’s a lot of open space for children to run around, as well as a pavilion where they can rest. We saw pictures where the backyard was filled with children and their drawings and crafts and such.

On a related note, it seems like this library gives a lot of attention to the children, and tries very hard to make the children feel like this is their library, that they have ownership over it. For example, a lot of the children’s artwork is displayed on the walls. Also, the library plans an annual sleepover so children can spend more “intimate” time in the library and also see some of the restricted rooms and how the library functions. Parents don’t usually chaperone; teenage or young adult volunteers usually come to help.

There are 7 staff members, including the maintenance lady and 4 librarians. Additionally, many young people come in to work as volunteers.

 We also got a free tote bag. Sweet~

Today we went to SKK university, which started just before 1400. I think 1392? It is thus the oldest university in Korea, and SKK is very proud of her rich history. SKK has one of the most oldest and comprehensive east asian libraries. It’s interesting that few of these organizations do such similar work, and yet they rarely acknowledge what other organizations are doing. I wonder if IFLA participants will be as confused as I am as to why there are so many digitization projects going on at the same time.

We had 2 lectures this morning. The first was about topic maps and the second was about e-resouce statistics. Both professors were very easy to follow and understand. I really appreciated that, especially for abstract topics such as topic mapping. I 
mean, I got it, but it helped that Sam Oh was such a good communicator.

So much more to say, but again it’s almost 1 and we have another long day ahead of us tomorrow. Good night, world! 

2006.08.18 Friday Council on East Asian Libraries and Clara :o)

Today’s schedule said “Yonsei” so I thought that meant we would go to Yonsei University’s LIS program and take a tour and participate in some lectures the way we have been at other universities. Actually today was CEAL’s pre-IFLA conference, and we sat in on the first part. Wooseob Jeong was one of the main coordinators for CEAL – he has a hand in everything, and knows everyone! It was exciting to be at CEAL because of my interest in Korean/Korean American history. I’ve used the East Asian Library collections at both USC and UCLA, so it was fun to meet up with people who work or have worked with those collections.

The day started with a phenomenal keynote speech by a Japanese scholar who traced book routes in the east Asian countries. He was very humble; he acknowledged Japan’s cultural debt to Korea and that Japan has not yet repaid that debt, but he hopes Japan will in the 21st century. It was really cool to see how literature passed from country to country, and how Korea acted as a conduit and transmitter for cultural passage through time and place.

The other sessions were not as interesting as the keynote. They were mostly descriptive about various east Asian library collections. (As I write this I realize that my blogs are mostly descriptive too…) Lunch was good; I ate with Miree and her friend, Kyung Mi Lee, who currently works at the Stonybrook east Asian library. CEAL also encouraged us to pick up a copy of the Korean Society LIS etc journal for free, so I read through some of the articles. It was in English, but I enjoyed figuring out what the abstract said in Korean. One of the articles by Yoonkeum Chang was about LIS education in Korea. Fascinating. Yonsei University teaches a course on resources for children and another course on services for children.

After lunch, the most interesting presentation was by an Australian east Asian librarian named Amelia. She started by presenting the different paradigms used to study the Asian diaspora, beginning with Orientalism (the west studying and defining the east) and postmodernism (everything is relevant/valid.) Her presentation was like a breath of fresh air. It was excellent to finally see a scholar/librarian who is cognizant of real critical issues in the Asian diaspora. She didn’t say straight up that Orientalism was a really outmoded, incorrect way of viewing Asians, but she did describe how it had a lot to do with power structures and basically the west studying and defining the east, so hopefully that will give the scholars in the room enough to know that Orientalism, the word “oriental” (whether for art or people or regions) is an oppressive misnomer, and that the Orientalist attitude is condescending and arrogant. The rest of her talk was about shifting boundaries – where does the Asian diaspora start and end? It used to be that white men studied Asia, but now more and more Asians are studying themselves, or Japanese are studying Chinese, and Chinese are studying Thai, and Korean are studying Japan, and scholars from all over are studying relationships within, among and between countries. How do east Asian libraries adjust to respond to the changing user needs? It was a fascinating discussion on how shifts in research dictate the directions in which a library must go.

Then we had to leave. Wooseob had arranged for us to meet a couple of the Yonsei LIS faculty. Dr. Moon gave us a brief presentation on the LIS program. Afterwards, I asked who taught the children’s lit class and how often was it taught. The chair responded that it was taught maybe every other or every third semester, and that it was taught by a PhD student. First of all, I think having it taught by a PhD student, knowledgeable as s/he may be, shows a very low level of commitment to children’s services/literature. Second, I think not having it taught consistently also shows a lack of commitment. Third, if Yonsei could harness resources to establish a permanent position for children’s lit/services, it would lead the other schools to do likewise. The fact that Yonsei has the oldest and most prestigious library school in Korea puts it in a very advantageous and influential place. LIS programs in Korea need more classes on children’s lit/services. Sookmyung will probably start up a program very soon. I hope the other schools hop on the bandwagon.

We had dinner with Dr. Jeong’s parents in Myongdong, which is a very hip and trendy area in Korea. We went to a really delicious buffet in the Royal Hotel. His mom looks the same age as him. She’s a very talkative, friendly music teacher. His dad does not speak much, but every once in a while he popped in with a comment. They were both really nice, and Miree and I enjoyed sitting with them.

After dinner Rebecca and I went to Gangnam to meet Clara Chu, my former advisor from UCLA. She is an associate professor in the UCLA IS school and is affiliated with Asian American Studies, so she was the chair of my master’s thesis committee. I absolutely love Clara. I meet up with her every time I go home, and last year we met at ALA in Chicago and had lunch and went shopping. It was great being able to welcome her to Korea. After we helped her into her room, the three of us stepped out to grab a drink. We ended up at a pretty lame coffee shop that reeked of cigarette smoke, and it made me wish we had stayed in the coffee shop in her hotel instead. We ended up talking for nearly 3 hours. She must have been jet lagged, but she was very interested in hearing how our Korea program was going, and she also really enjoyed talking with Rebecca about her experience at Pratt and her plans to apply for a PhD. We spent a lot of time talking about the lack of critical discussion in our field, what “diversity” really means and how it’s been in/correctly used, professionalism and inter- and intradepartmental relationships, etc. We also spent a bit of time talking about gender issues – I mean we’re 3 women. Of course we’re going to talk about gender. Every word Clara utters is like a jewel of wisdom. That’s one reason I like talking with her. If I complain about something or ask a question, she breaks it down so we can see it from all angles, and then she challenges me to think more about the situation. I wish I could be more specific, but there are too many details about all the discussions we had tonight.

I also wish I could go to the DMZ tomorrow (it would be my third time) but I’m going to spend the day with my grandparents again. I hope my friends (yes, that’s you!) enjoy your trip to the DMZ, and that it will help you to think critically about Korea’s split situation, and how it’s impacted all areas of the Korean diaspora’s lives… 

2006.08.21 Monday The Librarian Myth Debunked

so the myth goes that librarians are old white women who have humorless, strict personalities, purse their lips, put their hair up in buns, and wear cardigans, spectacles, and pencil skirts.


   

 


friends, i’m happy to report that the myth has finally been debunked. on august 21, 2006 at approximately 9:30 pm in seoul, korea, 4,000+ librarians from all over the world were caught shaking their booties to the tunes of ricky martin, park jin young, etc.

some of the the attendees included dr. wooseob jeong (assistant professor at the school of information studies at the university of wisconsin-milwaukee), dr. johannes britz (dean of the school of infomation studies at the university of wisconsin-milwaukee), dr. loriene roy (president-elect of ALA), dr. alexander byrne (president of ifla), jinha lee, sarah park, and yeojoo lim (phd students at the university of illinois, urbana champaign).

thanks, ifla 2006, for finally debunking the myth. hopefully the world will now recognize librarians as they truly are: intelligent, stylish, fun, open minded, freedom-loving females and males of all colors, shapes and origins.

2008.08.25 Friday SEOUL I F L A : Libraries: Dynamic Engines for the Knowledge and Information Society

One entire week went by without blogging. Every day of IFLA was an adventure, starting with the opening ceremony on Sunday morning and ending with the mayor’s reception on Wednesday night. Coming to Korea for this LIS study abroad program and IFLA is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. Let’s take a look at what happened over the past week..

Sunday morning began with the Opening Ceremony. The numbers haven’t come out yet, but they say almost 5,000 people attended IFLA this year, which I believe might be the highest number yet. The event began with a poem and some visuals, and an angel delivering a book, and a song (especially made for IFLA) that pretty much made it sound like libraries were evangelistic. It was pretty interesting, even as a Christian.

The current First Lady and former President Kim Dae Jung attended the ceremony, and DJ gave our keynote speech. We sat in the very back, but the setup was so grand that there were huge screens to each side so we could see. I’m not surprised that Korea went all out for IFLA. On the one hand, your average American may not know much about Korea. I’ve had people ask me how the country is; is Seoul a modernized city? etc… Korea may like to display all their digital skills and what not because other people don’t really know what this country is capable of. On the other hand, I think Seoul may have spent too much on IFLA… I think I heard it was about $5,000,000? Goodness.

Anyway, I digress… on Monday I went to COEX and walked through the exhibition hall. Muzghan, a doc student in my program, was hanging out near the front so we spoke for a bit. And I finally found Jin Ha (also a U Illinois doc student) at the WLIC area. Turns out she was Alexander Byrne’s personal assistant all throughout the conference! She introduced me to him, and we chit chatted a little, but he was very busy. Later, I attended the FAIFE meeting and ran into them on the way there. Jin Ha had told him about my adoption research and he sounded intrigured.

The FAIFE meeting was very interesting, but I feel like we’re all saying the same thing when it comes to freedom of speech: yes, freedom of speech, but humans should be respectful of each other. I heard that a Muslim community put up some offensive pictures of Jewish something or other to see how far they could go to disrespect the people who disrespected them with the cartoons. It’s just becoming an arms race.

Miree and I went to the Hwasung Baby Home that afternoon. We bought some toys, pastel crayons, water guns and hair pins for the children. She’s very good with kids; probably because she’s had two of her own. Me, on the other hand… I feel clumsy with kids… I think we both had a good time playing with them, though. One, named Park Mun Soo, got really attached to Miree when we first arrived. A while later he got attached to me. He would start to cry if I tried to put him down, so I played with him as much as I could. He kept saying “ah puh” which means “hurt” but there were no scratches or anything on him… there was also a girl named Seul Ki who looked really sullen the whole afternoon. I tried sitting with her and talking to her but she wouldn’t even look at me.

That night (still Monday) we went back to COEX for the minister’s reception. Please see the previous post for how that went 😉

Tuesday was the Education and Training session at Ewha. Clara Chu and Sam Oh presented there. Most of us went to that session – I don’t know if it was because it was at Ewha so it was easy or if we’re sincerely interested in Edu and Training 😉 I think both. All the presentations were fascinating. Clara’s was the most applicable for me, but it was interesting to learn about the state of graduate LIS programs in Australia and South Africa, etc. One thing I’ve noticed on this trip, both during the LIS/library visits and at IFLA, is that a lot of scholars use ALA or US-based standards as their standard. I wonder to what extent it’s okay to do. For example, Koreans must have their own way of recording, storing, sharing information. If Koreans continue to follow the American model, at what point is that intellectual colonialism/imperialism? Doesn’t Korea then continue to be sucked into the American empire? I really wanted to ask questions about de-centering these discussions away from the US or UK, but I didn’t. I don’t remember why I didn’t.

The panelists at the Ewha training session started talking about how to get to the Sejong Performing Arts Center, and Clara called me over. They were talking about going back to COEX to get on the bus, but Sejong is right down the street so we decided that it would be much more wise and time/cost efficient to take cabs of 4 people each. There were about 16 people, but half of them had dinner plans already, so Becca and I escorted 6 of them (including Clara, Kerry Smith, Isaac (South Africa), and 2 gentlemen from Japan to Gwanghwamun for dinner. Becca thought it’d be great to take them to the sam kyup sal restaurant that we went to with Miree the previous week. On the way there, we stopped by Chung Kye Chun, and on the way back 
we stepped into Red Mango for some dessert. Yum~

The performances at Sejong were AMAZING. I absolutely love sam buk choom and all types of Korean drumming. Usually, in the States, when we see sam byuk choom there are only 3 or 4 drummers, but in this case there were 3 or 4 rows of about 15 drummers each, and the fellas on the bottom row had 5 drums, not 3. It was one of the most amazing performances I’d ever seen in my entire life, especially since not a single person made a mistake or lost a drum stick.

By the time we had the Sejong event, I was thinking about what Seoul was doing in terms of advertising itself for IFLA. People say Korea is one of the most hospitable and service-friendly countriesi in the world. I totally agree. But you’ll find hospitality and good service anywhere (well, maybe not at Ed DeBevics…) I was really proud that Korea put on such a great show for all the foreign visitors, though. Most people I spoke with said they’ve really been enjoying IFLA and we’re impressed with such great shows and awsome food at most events. Of course there are a few who thought some things (such as the opening ceremony) were over the top, which is totally fair. Anyway, all of this is also a great opportunity for me to experience some things (such as the Sejong show) that otherwise would have been near impossible to access!

Wednseday wasn’t very eventful. I spent most of the morning in the exhibition hall, had lunch, and then came back to the exhibition hall before going to another seminar. My friend Yeo-Joo Lim participated in the poster session, so I spent some time with her there. I went to the cultural linguistic biases session, but I had to leave early because I wanted to attend the US Embassy reception with Clara and Sunny. We were there for only about 30 minutes (and poor Becca was there for about 30 seconds) before we decided to come back to COEX for the mayor’s reception. Finally, Professor Chang Yunkeum came to the mayor’s reception, so we had a chance to catch up. I hadn’t sent her my essay yet, and she was very gracious about it…. but yikes, I felt bad!

That night I hung out with a friend… I wanted to see Namsam Tower but by the time we got there it was closed. He said we should walk up anyway, so we walked up… I was in heels, but it wasn’t that bad. Coming down was more trouble, actually. The view wasn’t that great from our pedestrian standpoint because of all the trees. I think they planted the trees there on purpose so that you have to pay to go to the observatory. Smart people. We finished the night with pat bingsu – the perfect way to end any evening!

On Thursday, Chang Yunkeum, Clara and Sunny invited me to lunch so I went to Sookmyung U. We were supposed to meet at Yunkeum’s office but Clara and Sunny’s library tour went a little longer than expected. Instead, I went to the library to meet them, which I totally didn’t mind because it’s such a beautiful library. Yunkeum came down to meet with me, so we spoke really briefly about my Fulbright project. I wanted to share more with her, but the library tour ended so we had to go to lunch.

Lunch was great… Professor Oh joined us, as well as another Korean professor from Connecticut. Becca and my friend Yeo-joo were also invited, but they both had other obligations and could not come, so I was the only graduate student. I feel really comfortable with Clara since I’ve worked with her so much, but being in the presence of elder Koreans was a little intimidating…. I think I only relaxed near the end of the meal, when I cracked a joke about Clara editing my thesis… or rather, about me writing 19 versions of my thesis because of Clara… :o) They spoke mostly about Professor Oh’s upcoming sabbatical visit to UCLA and some of the logistical things that he needs to get around. They also spoke of other LIS faculty who knew they (mutual colleagues… does that phrase even make sense?) so it was interesting to hear faculty talking about other faculty, their interests, etc.

After lunch I went back and worked on my Fulbright essay… I also had to finish my Project Athena essay… I think I finished that and sent it off on Wednesday evening so it was really the Fulbright that’s been so stressful these days. The more I think about it, the more I want it, yet I can’t seem to get the words out on paper in a lyrical, purposeful way. I’ve lost my muse 😦

Thursday night we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Miss Jay Yoon from the Int’l Studies building. We presented Miree and Wooseob with flowers, and it seemed like they were both very touched. We all enjoyed this trip so much, and it was a blast having Miree around.

After dinner we took Wooseob to Princeton Square and kicked it. We had a conference room type of thing in the basement, so Wooseob asked us questions regarding what we liked about the trip, etc. It was a good discussion to have, but Rick’s right; it would have been nice to have had touch-base type of discussions every few days starting from the beginning.

Friday night Becca and I woke up early and went to the sauna. We both really enjoyed our massages and the chim chil bang and even the naeng myun!

Since I was heading back to the orphanage to play with the children, Becca and I parted ways at Ewha’s back gate. I’m sure I’ll see her again soon, either in LA or NY or maybe even at UIUC when she gets accepted to the doc program!! :o)

My last visit to the orphanage was both good and bad. I was sad that it was the last time… but more than that, I had been thinking about Park Mun Soo so much over the past week that I wanted to go play with him one more time. However, today I didn’t see him anywhere. I thought maybe they put him down for a nap, but he never showed up. I was afraid to ask if he had been adopted. I mostly spent my time with another little boy who kept wanting to walk barefoot through the dirt… he was quite cute.

At one point when I wasn’t really doing anything, one of the older women called me over and asked me to feed one of the babies! I was really nervous but she just handed me the baby and bottle and left. She’s one of those women who works there regularly (maybe even lives there? didn’t get a chance to ask) and she looks too busy to be bothered.. not in a bad way, but seriously, all the people at the orphanage are so busy that I wouldn’t want to get in their way anyway. Okay so the baby… was a darling little boy who laughed very easily. I think he was the same boy that I saw last time I was there. He must have been starving because he drank that thing up real quick. I just watched him and tried to keep him as comfortable as possible. I also talked to him. I wanted to tell him stories, but nothing came to mind, so I started telling him some Bible stories. I also prayed for him.

After a little while, the ajima came back and told me to hand the baby over to another lady, and she gave me an even younger infant to hold! The children were fascinated with this one because he was so tiny. They kept asking me where he came from, what his name was, etc. They were so involved! They also wanted me to sit down so they could look at him and pet him. Finally, Seul Ki and I had a breakthrough; I let her caress the baby for a second, and she actually smiled at me and tried to climb into my lap.

I was really disappointed not to see Park Mun Soo, but I lifted up a prayer for him as well, wherever he is…

okay, so that’s the LIS Korea/IFLA program….. and we all lived happily ever after!! :o)

Yay LIS COREA 2006!!!

Advertisements