Archive for the 'Korea' Category


Korean Independence Day–광복절 (Gwangbokjeol)–A History Lesson

In response to a comment on a previous post about this holiday, I decided to do a post related more to the history of the holiday (although I might have done this in previous years, I can’t remember).

Korean Independence Day–광복절 (Gwangbokjeol)–is celebrated on Aug. 15 each year and it commemorates a couple of significant events in Korea’s history.

First, on Aug. 15, 1945, Korea was liberated from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule. During it’s time a Japanese colony, Koreans were required to give up their culture and heritage. They were forced to take on Japanese names, speak Japanese, learn Japanese history, and eat Japanese foods. So when Japan surrendered the Koreans had much to rejoice over.

Then during the process of liberating the Korean peninsula, the country that had been one for thousands of years was cut in two. This happened when the US liberated the southern part of Korea while Russian troops (our ally in World War II) come in from China and liberated the northern half of the country. Russia and the US agreed to meet in the middle at the 38th parallel. From what I’ve read the US troops truly believed that when they met the Russians it would be to give Korea back to it’s people–all of Korea.

But the Korean peninsula is valuable property to it’s geographical neighbors, and not everyone involved in the liberation process had the same idea. China and Russia wanted Korea to be communist. Russia also had a vested interest because control over Korea would provide Russia with much needed sea access. The US, of course, had no plans to turn the peninsula over to the communist.

So Russia retained control over the northern part of Korea, while the US held the southern half. Three years after liberation Korea remained divided; the US helped the South Korea become its own country while Russia helped establish the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).

On Aug. 15, 1948, Syngman Rhee (who had been educated in the US) was sworn in as the first president of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Gwangbokjeol was declared public holiday in South Korea on Oct. 1, 1949.

North Korea celebrates the liberation holiday on Aug. 15 as well. Their holiday is called Chogukhaebangui nal (조국해방의 날; literally “Liberation of Fatherland Day”).


Dual Citizenship for Korean Adoptees

This week 13 Korean adoptees were granted Korean citizenship in the first dual citizenship ceremony held since Korea changed it’s laws about dual citizenship.

I’m far from an expert on this subject but I am trying to gather more information. If you’re interested in more information about dual citizenship for Korean adoptees, here’s a couple of places you can go to learn more.

G’OAL (Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link), one of the groups who held get the legislation passed, has an online forum where you can get more information. The address is You’ll have to register for this site.

And G’OAL has also published a booklet on the subject that can be purchased from Amazon. Right now it’s only in Kindle edition, but I’ve been assured they are working on releasing the booklet in other formats. You can check find the Kindle edition here:

As I learn more, I’ll pass along what I learn and where I’m finding the information. I excited that this is now possible for our kids!


Shouts of Reds by Big Bang with Kim Yuna

The Shouts of Reds bigbang MP3 | Music Codes

This song has taken over our house! It’s the victory anthem to cheer on the South Korean 2010 FIFA World Cup team and is sung by K-pop group Big Bang with some help from Kim Yuna, the 2010 Olympic figure skating gold medalist.

Our son loves this song and must play it several times a day. He belts out the lyrics and wants to watch the video to learn the dance that goes with the song. Thankfully, we love the song too and the fact that he’s so into the Korean World Cup experience.

Be the Reds! Go Korea!


Dreaming a World: Korean birth mothers tell their stories

I just finished reading Dreaming a World, edited by Sangsoon Han, which is a follow-up to I Wish for You a Beautiful Life. I read the first book while we were waiting for our son to come home, and it moved me to tears. Dreaming a World has just been published by Yeong & Yeong Book Co.

This book is equally good; in fact, I think I might have liked Dreaming a World a little better than the first book. Looking at the situation from an American prospective, it’s hard to understand the prejudice and discrimination that an unwed mother and her child face in Korea. This book brought to light those difficulties. Many of the stories are more recent, and each birth mother letter/story is followed by an update by the book’s editor, who is the director of Ae Ran Won (a home for unwed mothers in Seoul). Since after reading each story you feel like you know the woman, it was nice to read an update and see how they were progressing.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is that not all of the birth mothers whose stories were printed chose adoption, and a couple of the stories involved domestic adoption (within Korea). It was interesting to read the stories of the women who chose to parent and see an open adoption in Korea, which is rare.

One stories that really touch me was a young woman who went into labor but was refused delivery at two hospitals because she was alone (no husband or parents). Even when a friend and her mother came to serve as her guardian, one hospital refused to deliver the baby because the guardians must be relatives.

Another theme  I saw in many of the stories was that the birth mothers chose international adoption mainly to have a more open relationship with the adoptive families. Several of the birth mothers stated that since there is a prejudice against adoption in Korea, they felt that a domestic adoption would be close with little to no hope of receiving updates on the child or getting to meet the child in the future. International adoption, they felt, would afford them a chance to receive updates, photos, and meet at some point. The thought of meeting their children spurred the birth mothers on to better their lives, even in the face of hardships.

No matter which choice the mother made, each agonized over doing what would be best. Some felt parenting would be a selfish act since children without fathers have a difficult time in Korea. Others decided to face the hardships head on in hopes of someday being a part of changing attitudes in the country. Each woman loved her child and made the decision she felt was best for her and for her child.

Someday I’ll have my son read Dreaming a World and I Wish for You a Beautiful Life. Both books are great resources in helping Korean adoptees understand the role society’s attitudes play in adoption placement.


Love and Lunar New Year (설날, Seollal)

설날, seollal (aka, Lunar New Year), is one of the most important holidays on the Korean calendar. Since the date is figured based on the lunar calender, it’s date on the Gregorian calendar changes every year. And all of that is to say that this year, 설날 falls on Feb. 14, yes on Valentine’s Day.

Last year I did a comprehensive post about 설날 and ways Korean adoptive families can celebrate. I’m not going to repeat all of that.

Just remember it’s not New Year without tteokguk (rice cake soup), your best or new clothes, and games such as yut nori. If your child likes to color, you can find a coloring sheet featuring a Korean family in their new clothes for Seollal here. (You can find last year’s detailed entry on Seolnal by either clicking on the Korean holiday how-tos category and scrolling down or looking at the January 2009 entries.)

2010 marks the year of the tiger so you could also have tiger-themed crafts or coloring sheets for Seollal. You can one tiger coloring sheet on the Crayola site. And here’s an interesting Korea Times article on Korea’s connection to tigers and the year of the tiger.

Since lunar new year shares it’s date this year with Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about Valetine’s in Korea. Although it’s still a day about love and chocolate, it’s celebrated a little differently in Korea.

You see many American guys would just as soon forget Valentine’s Day. Well, in Korea they can. In Korea on Feb. 14  girls give chocolates to guys they like, but the guys don’t have to give anything on that.

But don’t think that Korean guys are totally off the hook. One month later, on March 14, Koreans celebrate White Day. It’s a day for guys to give candys and gifts to the girls in their lives. Tradtionally the candy given on White Day isn’t chocolate, although I’ve read that some guys now give white chocolate.

Researching this post led me to find out about the “love days” in Korea. More on that in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, 새해 복 많이 받으세요! (saehae bok manni badeuseyo). That’s Happy New Year in Korean.


Korean Independence Day–광복절 (Gwangbokjeol)

Well, my plan had been to remind everyone a week or so ago that August 15 is Korean Independence Day. Sorry to say, that didn’t happen. But I thought I’d share some thoughts about the day, even if it’s too late to encourage you to celebrate.

On this date in 1945 Japan surrendered to the Allied forces during World War II, thus ending the Japanese occupation of Korea. Then on this day three years later in 1948, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) was officially established.

Our family spent the day at an event hosted by our local Korean association. The day was beautiful and sunny–the perfect setting for a celebration. (Unlike last year when it poured rain and many of the festivities had to be cancelled because they were outdoor-only activities, like a volleyball tournament.) We enjoyed lots of Korean food, heard the Korean national anthem and a celebratory song about the day, did three cheers of “Mansei,” which is like the English hurrah, saw a performance of Korean drummers (drumming is one of J’s fascinations so he loved this), and visited with Korean-Americans from our area.

But for me, it’s also a day to reflect on our son’s first family. Having read several histories about the Japanese occupation of Korea and Korea’s liberation, I wonder about his family’s experience. Were they originally living in what is now North Korea? Were they separated from family members during the Korean War? Did they lose sons, uncles, grandfathers during the fighting?

And I wonder if these are questions J will ask when he’s older. Will he wonder about his family’s experiences? They are questions that may never be answered. But I know that may not stop him from wondering. It doesn’t stop me.

Every year the Korean association invites our local Korean War veterans to the Independence Day celebration. Because, as everyone knows, the fight for the Korean penisula didn’t end with the establishment of an official government in South Korea. In 1950 North Korea invaded the South and a three-year battle ensued with each side at one time or another taking almost the entire penisula for themselves, before things settled back with a division at the 38th parallel and cease fire between the two countries.

A few years ago I met a Korean War vet and thanked him for his service. He then thanked me because he said most people don’t think much about the service these men gave or appreciate it. So it’s wonderful to see these men recognized each year at our local celebration. It is easily to see that the two communities–Korean American and the veterans–have such an affection for each other.

So today, I’m thankful for Korea’s independence and thankful to all who helped bring it about. I pray that someday the people in North Korea will experience the same freedoms that those in South Korea now have. And that the country will be one again.


Learn to Sing in Korean

Singing is a great way to introduce language to kids. Or so I hear. Our kid sure seems to be picking up Korean now and sings the songs he knows over and over. The Teach Me Tapes series is one way to introduce Korean songs into your daily lives. Or, if you’d like to get started before shelling out any cash, YouTube is a great option. In this post I’ve included some of our favorite Korean songs and link to a YouTube video for each. When possible I’ve also included the lyrics in hangul, romanized, and English.

Tadpole Song
개울가에 올챙이 한마리
꼬물꼬물 헤엄치다
뒷다리가 쑥~ 앞다리가 쑥~
팔딱팔딱 개구리됐네
꼬물꼬물 꼬물꼬물
꼬물꼬물 올챙이가
뒷다리가 쑥~ 앞다리가 쑥~
팔딱팔딱 개구리됐네

Gae eulga e olchangi han mari
GGomul GGomul hae umchi da
dweet dariga ssok~ appdariga ssok~
palddak palddak gaeguri dwetne~
Ggomul ggomul(3x) olchangi ga
dweet dariga ssok~appdariga ssok~
palddak palddak gaeguri dwetne
In a little stream, there’s a tadpole.
Wriggle, wriggle wriggles around.
Hindlegs out, forelegs out,
hoping, hoping, he became a frog.
wriggle, wriggle, wriggle, wriggle, wriggle, wriggle, a tadpole.
hindlegs out, forelegs out,
hoping, hopping, he became a frog.
곰세마리가 한집에있어
아빠곰 엄마곰 애기곰

아빠곰은 뚱뚱해
엄마곰은 날씬해
애기곰은 너무귀여워
히쭉히쭉 잘한다

곰세마리가 한집에있어
아빠곰 엄마곰 애기곰

아빠곰은 뚱뚱해
엄마곰은 날씬해
애기곰은 너무귀여워
히쭉히쭉 잘한다 –

kom se ma-ri-ga
han chi-be-i-so
appa gom
omma gom
ae-gi gom
appa gommun dung-dung-hae
omma gommun nal-shi-nae
ae-gi gommun no mu-gwi-yo-wo
eeshuk eeshuk cha-han-da
There are three bears in a house,
Father bear, Mommy bear, baby bear!
Daddy bear is fatty,
Mommy bear is slim,
Baby bear is too cute!
Shrug! Shrug!* You are doing well!
First Verse:
산토끼 토끼야 어디를 가느냐
깡총깡총 뛰면서 어디를 가느냐
Second Verse:
산고개 고개를 나혼자 넘어서
토실토실 알밤을 주워서 올테야
First Verse:
San-toki, toki-ya
Uh-dee-reul gah-neu-nyah?
Kang-choong, kang-choong tee-myun-suh
Uh-dee-reul gah-neu-nyah?
Second Verse:
San-go-gae go-gae-reul
Nah-hon-jah nuhm-uh-suh
to-shil to-shil ahl-bahm-eul
Joo-wuh-suh ol-tae-yah
First Verse:
Mountain bunny, bunny
Where are you going?
Bouncing, bouncing as you’re running.
Where are you going?
Second Verse:
Over the mountain peaks, peaks
I will climb them on my own
Plump, plump chestnuts
I will find and bring
Saranghae (I Love You song)
saranghae nanun neorul saranghae
saranghae nanun neorul saranghae

saranghae saranghae saranghae saranghae
nanun neorul saranghae

I wish I’d known more of these when our son came home. While the pronunciation wouldn’t be exact, I believe hearing some of the familiar words might have helped him feel safer.

My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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