It’s December and my end of year party schedule is in full swing…
Posted on 14 December 2011.
It’s December and my end of year party schedule is in full swing…
Posted on 29 September 2011.
A number of Thursdays ago, I was invited by the fearless and mighty Cynthia Yoo, the nigh-superhuman juggernaut behind Nanoomi.net, and TNM’s connections with English language blogs, to attend an introduction of a new “media mashup project” between Yonhap News and TNM. Personally, I think this is a really cool project.
(What’s a mash-up? Originally, it was two songs that seem dissimilar, combined by a clever DJ, in a way that just really, really works, despite the dissimilarity.. that’s a mash-up. Mash-up is starting to stretch its meanings to include things other than songs, it seems.)
Posted on 31 May 2011.
If you enjoy writing and aren’t afraid to publicly put pen to paper then there’s an exciting opportunity that may just be for you…
Posted on 22 May 2011.
On Thursday night the Nanoomi crew (including your humble KTLIT correspondent) were lucky enough to be involved in a dual launch party that featured Zen Kimchi, Eat Your Kimchi, and several folks who write about Korea without having to invoke kimchi.^^
The first launch was that of Benson Lee’s (the director of Planet B-Boy) Obangsaek project, which is aimed at bringing modern Korea to the global community and the second launch was of a Nanoomi ReadBuild book (the first, we hope, of many). Benson began with a short speech outlining the lack of information on Korea available to the Western world. This point was driven home by an alternately amusing and sad video in which he asked people from various countries, what they knew about South Korea. The answer, of course, was, “pretty much nothing.” Further, he asked 40 random folks in Times Square what they knew about Korea and 39 of them answered “North Korea.”
Posted on 12 January 2011.
It’s January 10 and Indieful ROK is celebrating its 3rd anniversary! I’ve had a marvelous year and most of it can be attributed to this blog. I’m so very grateful for all you wonderful people reading and commenting, or contributing to the existence of Indieful ROK in some other way.
Posted on 10 November 2010.
Nanoomi is a community website supported by Tatter and Media. Its purpose is to bridge the English language K-blogging community with Korean readers by providing a focal point where everyone can cross-post their goodies. Some of the articles, like our review of Resilience, can get nominated for translation by some rather nice and mysterious volunteers.
If you haven’t been to the site yet, you can hop over there by clicking here.
Last weekend, they held a party, which I’m posting about early. I usually get around to posting things about 2 weeks after they occur, but this one is going up early because parties always sound better when fresh.
Posted on 25 September 2010.
Or as Fast Company might have you believe: “B+“
I have been meaning to write this for a wile, but it came to the forefront of my mind with Samsung’s official release of details about the much vaunted (by me) Galaxy Tab, its latest member in the Galaxy family which, with some reason, is being touted as the first possible tablet type computer with a chance of unseating Apple as king of tablet computing.
My ire stems from Sammy’s release of a 3G version without a WiFi-only version for those of us that a) don’t want another mobile contract and b) don’t want to have mobile contracts at more than one provider. (No way Samsung will let KT have their hands on the Galaxy Tab – not after another successful iPhone launch. (This time iPhone 4.)
Leaks from various corners have promised a WiFi-only version, as well as a 10″ (iPad size) version next year.
But no word on a Korean release as far as I can see. (Anyone who reads Korean can correct me on that one.)
In fact you would think manufacturers and telecom providers are still stuck on this whole “smartphone” kick… So 2009!
Which is not to say I wouldn’t want one if it was freely given… (Or if Samsung would like to be my pimp.)
Posted on 12 July 2010.
Kim Young-ha’s “Your Republic is Calling You,” has a decent chance to be a breakthrough Korean novel in English. Kim, who has shown brilliant flashes in his past works, creates his most integrated and human work here – this is the work of an author who has substantially mastered his themes and tools. The story, a web really, reveals the clandestine agent common to humanity through the tale of one particular spy and his family.
Intricately plotted and multiply narrated, “Your Republic is Calling You” begins a bit jerkily, as if Kim is trying to work too many things into too little space. There is lots of expository internal-monologue revealing histories, judgments, and nostalgic presentations of apparently random events.
As the book settles down, however, and focuses on characters for longer periods of time, it catches its stride. At about 20 pages in author Kim takes a breath, and the book itself breathes. The plot is deceptively simple – it follows one day in the life of a North Korean spy who is apparently being called back home.
This call unravels his life in ways that are predictable and unpredictable.
The “spying” metaphor is at the heart the book as all its characters are, one way or another, undercover. It is one of Kim’s skills that he reveals in a matter-of-fact fashion the difference between the public images of his characters and the lives they lead in their heads, in seedy motel rooms, prosaic offices, schools, and even in shootouts on the beach. Kim never shows his cards early, and as he makes each reveal, the tension and angst increase. By the end of “Republic,” the undercover agent in each character has been exposed and each character squirms in the unexpected light.
Readers of Kim’s previously translated works will see much here that is familiar and comfortable. Kim’s writing is semi-existentialist, internationally oriented (his “North Korean” protagonist imports foreign films and drinks Heineken), and socially modern. These have always been features of Kim’s writing that has recommended it to me, but at times in previous works, particularly in some passages of “I Have The Right To Destroy Myself,” (reviewed here at KTLIT) Kim has seemed to be trying these approaches on for size, not entirely certain how to internalize them. This is, of course, the process of growth in an author, and in “Republic” this growth has borne fruit. In this book, with one exception, Kim’s themes and internationalization seem integral to the story and flow seamlessly within the plot.
That one exception is my other slight cavil with “Republic.” Kim works in a strongly sexual vein in this work and at the outset of the book he has a sex/urination scene that does not seem integrated into the story. The scene seems hurried in (similar to the breathlessness of the first few pages in general) just to get a sex scene in. This quickly introduced and then discarded scene had the unfortunate effect of making me initially distrust the critically important sex-scene that slowly comes into being through the second half of the book. And this later scene provides one of the most “undercover/revealing” moments in the book.
This is a trivial complaint about a work that kept me riveted as it went along and Kim has also, to some extent, stepped back into more ‘traditional’ modern Korean themes as this “Republic” is strongly premised on issues of separation. Kim Jae-gon (KTLIT’s Korean contributor), did a quick translation of a Korean review (from the 한겨레 ) of this work that noted Kim Young-ha’s theme:
Ki-young was born in 1963 and sent to South Korea in 1984 and now gets the order to return to home. His 42years of life is divided into two 21-year-long periods in two countries. The inner conflict about whether he follows the order is also the one between the former life of North’s 21-years and the latter life of South’s 21-years. The agony of struggling 24-hours implies his complete 42-years of life, or the division of 60 years between two Koreas.
Interestingly, that review also comments on Kim Young-ha’s sexual themes, but focuses on the sex that betrays a marriage vow, rather than a random hookup between a young woman and an older man for a bit of semi-not-really-consensual urination (noted above). To my western eye, the latter seems much less likely than the former and it is revealing that a Korean reviewer would focus on what to me is the much more likely event.
Kim’s writing is razor-sharp. Any reader who has been faced with the threat of loss will recognize Kim’s description of the “premature nostalgia” that such a threat engenders. His writing about this general condition is specific and clever. A good example of Kim’s specific descriptive ability is when he describes the illicit but often silly (and still dead-serious) thrill that comes with youthful rebellion:
For Southern youth in their early twenties, having been indoctrinated in anti-Communist education in schools, speaking this way felt vulgar, much like hearing a prim woman refer to a penis as a cock. At first, it was difficult for them to refer to the two heads of state as Dear Leader or The General, but once they did, they shivered with the excitement that came with breaking the law.
That’s a passage that brilliantly outlines the borders and overlaps between “Big R” rebellion and the “Little R” rebellion of all young rebels. “Republic” is full of this kind of brilliant writing.
Which leads to a word related to translation: Kim Chi-young, who translated “Republic,” has done a job that even surpasses her previous excellent translation of “A Toy City.” Kim Chi-young is one of the few translators whose name alone, on a dustcover, would persuade me to purchase an unknown book. I counted exactly two instances in which I wondered at a phrase, and that would be a low number for a book written by an English author in their native language. ^^
As a novel, “Your Republic is Calling You,” is a triumph, but it could also be important on a larger scale. It is notable that this was NOT translated through the traditional Korean national translation institutions. This means, wonderfully, that it does not seem to have been chosen in order to show “representative” Korean culture or history. This work was chosen for translation because it is interesting to potential readers, not for pedagogical reasons. Above and beyond my respect for Kim’s work in general, and this work in particular, I root for its success hoping that such a success could open up the eyes of Korea’s national translation institutions to the opportunities in translation.
This is an outstanding book and as the important threads tie together at the conclusion it moves at relentless speed. “Your Republic is Calling You” is taut, engaging, ironic, scathing, brutal and resigned in turns. The last 40 pages are exceptionally tightly written and the screws tighten, page by page, as life and a history of subterranean decisions conspire to strangle the lives of all the “agents” of the story.
In a brief coda Kim leaves us with a vision of a “new day” that can be read as ironic, hopeful or merely repetitive – In a world where everyone is a tout and ‘hopeful’ is lagging at the rail.
Buy this one. It comes out in September and can be ordered now.
You can read KTLIT’s original post here.
Posted on 26 May 2010.
Earlier this month, a new kind of service called Looah (www.looah.com) was launched open beta.
It is a social translation service. The platform’s goal is to translate content in different languages into English. It is called social translation because people with English language skills can translate collaboratively.
It is similar to a wiki because the user first registers and then post blogs. It is also compatible with twitter and blogging. Users can translate an article together, paragraph by paragraph. Looah believes the service could benefit people who are studying the English language because the translation log remains.
Looah was started because people questioned the way mass media handled the news. They disliked the way news articles portrayed people and events abroad, as though they were aliens, of the extra-terrestrial kind.
Um Taehoon(CEO), who started Looah, said, “If we say no to mass media and instead translate articles, blogs, bulletin boards, and Twitter in a nuanced way, it will help people understand other cultures better.” That’s why he added the word ’social’.
There is a misconception that machine translations are of high quality, I want to call this service ‘nuanced translation’. My idea is for people to put their heads together and make a translation which remains true to the flavor of the original idea.
I met Taehoon last year in person. And when he spoke about his dream he was so persuasive that I decided to help him. The service is still in the fledgling stages and communication with them is not easy because they are situated in the US, but I am still eager to help him achieve this dream.
After Looah opened its website, the twitter stream of Lee Oisoo, a well-known Korean Novelist, was translated and the website started to receive a lot of recognition.
As they started their beta service I interviewed Taehoon, and here is the interview. I modified the Korean a little, without changing its meaning.
1. Congratulations on your beta opening. Can you briefly describe your service?
In a nutshell, social translation is a wiki-style translation. It allows people to collaboratively translate contents. Looah is the platform that connects social media, such as blogs and Twitter, with a social translation community.
2. Are there any other examples of social translation?
Good examples of community websites are Facebook, Meebo and Hi5 that localized their sites with the help of their users’ translations. It is well-known that Facebook is translated into French within 24 hours. Another example of social translation would be Ted.com. TED ’s volunteer translators have translated thousands of videos into more than 70 different languages.
3. Machine translations, such as what Google uses, have been getting a lot of worldwide attention these days. Why use human translators?
Machine translation and human translators don’t compete, but complement each other. High quality translation is not a matter of simply conveying meaning. Translating is a re-creation process that not only requires deep understanding of the language, but also reflects the philosophy of the translator. No matter how much technology has evolved machine translation can only convey meaning. However, human translators can translate content using high quality machine translations. They can do this easily and more quickly by modifying the translation the machine presents, by adding expressive phrases and accurate grammar to their language.
4. Having used the service, I noticed that you support translations from non-English to English only . Will you add more languages later?
We will support a translation from one language to another in the future. However, in the beginning, we believe it’s critical to build a focused community and decided to use English. English is the third largest spoken language by number of native speakers, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. The number of people around the world who can read and understand English, is greater than any other language. (So we started with ‘to-English’ translation first)
5. Posting articles is little difficult… Do you have any plans to add a social link to make embedding easier? Translated contents remains in Looah. Is there a way that an user can bring back a translated article and post it to the original article? (this is not working yet.)
We’re going to roll out features that effectively facilitate the sharing of contents in the existing social media ecosystem it originated from. (meaning, it’s coming soon)
6. What is your vision for Looah?
When the internet was first introduced, people dreamed of an information utopia where all the ideas were shared transcending social classes and national borders. However, a language barrier still existed and hindered cross-cultural communication both online and offline. About 10% of the local news in the US is international and more than 80% of that is focused on war or natural disaster.
I doubt if the news in Korea is any different. Consequently, aliens have become aliens(extraterrestrial). We live in a world where people by befriending other people from different cultures learn to understand each other and live better together. That’s the vision we are committed to pursuing.
7. So, who are the people behind Looah?
There are four people working in the US, including myself, and one engineer and two other Apac team members who are located in Korea. We also have partnered with www.nanoomi.net and www.tattermedia.com since the opening of the beta service for content sharing started.
Posted on 17 May 2010.
Although this is my first mention of it on the blog, for a couple of months Indieful ROK has been part of a Korea-focused English-language community from Tatter&Media going by the name Nanoomi (more on that later, I hope). Thanks to Nanoomi I’ve gotten to know the lovely Cynthia who kindly introduced me to some really nice people while I was in Korea, including a couple of entrepreneurs working with projects related to Korean indie music.
One of those entrepeneurs, Hwang Ryong, operates something called Blayer which is basically an online music player with Korean indie music. The acts on Blayer are primarily unsigned, fairly new names, but as I’m sure you’re aware that doesn’t mean the music isn’t good. One of these days I’m hoping to find enough time to make a playlist with personal favorites.
The same guy is arranging a series of concerts under the name Acoustic Coffee at various cafes in or around Hongdae Monday through Sunday (May 17-23). Hongdae – the area where just about everything fun music-related happens in Seoul – is absolutely packed with cute and/or stylish cafes so if you’re in the neighborhood this could be the perfect opportunity to try a few of them while entertained by live music. Check out the schedule here, where there’s also more info on the cafes if you have a look in the “category” section of the side bar.
If you want to hear something from the artists before heading out for that cup of coffee, Blayer is your friend.