bookmark_borderPost-352: Twenty Thousand Photographs

Photographs I Have Taken
2013: 6,847
2014: 5,570
2015: 5,613
2016 through August 16th: 3,727
= 21,757 photos taken in 44.5 months, or about 490 per month.

Some hundreds of these appear on this very website. They direct a lot of the traffic that comes from strangers to what is now called

This seems like a lot of pictures. I don’t remember at all what the great majority were. How could I? Why did I take them?

I do know exactly why I took about a thousand of those taken in year 2014 (nearly 20% of that year’s total). They were very explicitly taken to “preserve the past.” I photographed many of the papers, writings, and other miscellany of my grandfather in Connecticut who died eighteen years ago. He was born a hundred years ago this year.

His files were then still intact. Without going into details, in 2014 I had a fear that everything might be thrown away at any moment. When I visited Connecticut on one of my trips there in 2014, I figured I could prevent the total loss of it all by photographing, no matter what comes later. Then, I reasoned, I could transcribe some of his writings and upload them to a website that I could create for that purpose. This has not yet been done.

There were many good writings, all of which were bound to be lost. I had the power in my hands, literally, to preserve them. His writings were things like letters-to-the-editor, essays, short stories, newsletters for the clubs he was in, and of course his full-length comedic novel from the ant’s perspective (two animation movies quite similar to his novel were produced in the late 1990s; he had his manuscript done already by the mid 1970s; among his files there was much correspondence with literary agents trying to get that novel published). There were also speeches he gave, personal histories and reminiscences, and travel writings, such as from his trip to East Germany in 1979.

He was also a photographer and a longtime member of a local camera club. My attempts to take digital photos with my phone camera of his old black-and-white photos, some from the 1930s, were not totally satisfactory. There were some photographs around even older, mostly family pictures. Of those he took, one interesting set shows him with buddies in the 1938-1940 period with the Connecticut National Guard. The guardsmen, himself included, are photographed horsing around, often with shirts off, and grinning. This was a military outfit, even if in peacetime, so this surprised me. My grandfather had lied about his eyesight (it was below standard for the army) and when they figured it out, they kicked him out. That was before the war began…

Then there was the slide projector. My cousin B.W. helped get it working, after some difficulty. It was a 1970s model. It was my first time using one of those. There were boxes full of slides and  was able to photograph some very nicely. He was a comedic writer and a comedic photographer. He made entire visual stories out his slides. The one pre-loaded in the projector was made with the help of a local family, a boy and his mother. I could recreate the slideshow on these pages. It hasn’t been seen by very many people in recent decades. I think it was made in the 1970s as well.

The only failure of this historical preservationist endeavor was in my cousin B.W. and I wasting an hour or two trying to get the film projector to work. We did finally get it to work, whirring along and projecting those “moving pictures” our grandfather had filmed decades before we were born. The reel we’d spooled in was of some kind of trip they;d taken, perhaps in the 1950s. The case was marked ‘Florida.’ We’d seen a minute of it, a scene filmed in the airplane, a scene of palm trees swaying, a scene of people walking on the tarmac after getting off the plane — then — poof! — the light bulb burned out. It was not easily replaceable at all and they’d stopped making them long ago.

The burning out of that lightbulb, when I look back on it, is a clear metaphor for the whole endeavor, for trying to hold onto the past, or maybe to “find” the past, but being unable to do so.

Is remembering the past now much easier than before? It’s true that enormous amounts are now being recorded — Three years of my occasional writings on these pages, for one thing. Then there is the Facebook behemoth. For all that sort of thing, though, there really is no perfect repository of “what has actually occurred.” For instance, despite the thousands of words on these pages, written by me, rather little of my “life,” really, has shown up here, just what I choose to write about. I prefer writing, when time allows, about other subjects than my day-to-day life, though aspects of my own life sometimes play supporting roles.

Then there is the ephemerality of the Internet. Much of the Internet that I remember from the old days has vanished totally, including my own first-ever webpage, a tribute page to The Simpsons that I made about year 1999 when I was in middle school (while trying to learn HTML). The second website I tried making, about year 2001, has also long since vanished (no big loss). My early email accounts have, likewise, all vanished with no access, that I know of, to the archives. Various discussion forums I used to visit in the mid-2000s are now totally gone, with all posts lost.

It would seem that memories themselves are like this, too. Not all survive. Even to recall, in the evening, precisely what one did that very same morning can be difficult. How, then, can we hope to really remember one year ago, ten years ago, and so on. At some point, things fogs up, and at some point beyond that, things vanish. This can happen quickly. As soon as events happen, they start slipping away.

What, then, is “history”? It can’t be “telling us what happened”, because of the slide towards the loss of most information that starts as soon as something occurs. Much more can be said on this and the historian E.H. Carr said it well.

Is the attempt to “preserve the past,” in general, to fight a hopeless rearguard action against a superior enemy force that will eventually win? Yet still we fight.

bookmark_borderPost-351: “Falling Flower Petals” [Korean Poem, My Translation]

내가 최근에 알게된《낙화》라는 감동적인 시를 한번 영어로 번역해보겠다. 우선 이 시를 소개한 사람한테 고맙다고 하고 싶다. 감사해요, M씨.

이 시를 쓴 시인의 이름은 이형기(李炯基)다. 진주에서 1933년에 태어났고 1956년에 동국대학교를 졸업하고 2005에 돌아가셨다. 검색해봤더니 낙화라는 시가 1963년에 출판한 것 같다. (그런데 출판년보다는 언제 처음 쓴 것을 알고 싶다…) 이 시의 내용을 이해하기가 좀 어렵긴 어려운데 사실 모국어로도 그런거죠. 당연, 보통 길 아니고 시 때문이죠. 나 같은 번역하려고 하는 사람이 꼼꼼하게 최선을 다할 수 있지만, 이중적 의미를 갖는 원래 나온 단어와 표현들이 같은 뉘앙스로 번역할 수 없는게 분명하다. 아무튼, 어찔 수 는 것이다. 내가 최선을 다했다. 내가 번역한 것을 읽으실 분께도 고마워요.

I am translating a poem by a Korean poet named Lee Hong-Ki (1933-2005). The poem’s name in Korean is “Nak-Hwa” (낙화, 落花, these characters meaning “fall” and “flower”). This is entirely my own translation with the help of various dictionaries.


낙화 / 이형기 시인


가야 할 때가 언제인가를
분명히 알고 가는 이의
뒷모습은 얼마나 아름다운가.

봄 한철
격정을 인내한
나의 사랑은 지고 있다.


분분한 낙화……
결별이 이룩하는 축복에 싸여
지금은 가야 할 때,

무성한 녹음과 그리고
머지않아 열매 맺는
가을을 향하여

나의 청춘은 꽃답게 죽는다.
섬세한 손길을 흔들며
하롱하롱 꽃잎이 지는 어느 날

나의 사랑, 나의 결별,
샘터에 물 고이듯 성숙하는
내 영혼의 슬픈 눈. 


Falling Flower Petals
By Lee Hyong-Ki [1963]

To know, with certainty,
when it’s time to go.
Now that is a thing of true beauty to behold.

My love has long persevered
through passions,
but is now, as the petals of a flower,
descending to the earth.

Oh, that sweet fragrance of falling petals….
With kind words, it is ended. Farewell.
The time to go is now.

Behold, greenery and lush shade,
There will soon be fruit for the taking,
as the autumn is coming.

My youth, much like a flower, dies.
One fine day, as we part ways,
I see the waving of a delicate hand,
and the falling, one after another,
of flower petals.

My love, the parting of ways.
What is left is as tranquil as a pool of still water.
The sad eyes of my matured soul look on.


이형기 시인 / Poet Lee Hyong-ki, 1960s?

bookmark_borderPost-350: “Scolded by the Thief”: China’s Resentment of THAAD Missiles in Korea [News Translated]

It was during the now-forgotten MERS Virus Panic of Summer 2015 that I first heard of “THAAD” (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a U.S.-made anti-ballistic missile system).

Public places in Seoul were largely empty at the time, with the great masses afraid of inhaling a gulp of MERS-tainted air and staying home. Schools and hagwons were closed by the thousands; cafes were deserted; tourist spots, likewise. The TV news at the time consisted of wall-to-wall MERS coverage, as more infected persons were discovered and some began to die. A war panic, without the war.

Anti-government protestors, though, kept vigil, as they always do, at the broad avenue in front of Gwanghwamun [광화문] in central Seoul. As so many of those normally out and about were hunkering down during the MERS Panic, these protestors were more visible than usual. I was there. I was not particularly afraid of MERS and used the opportunity to take full advantage of the emptiness of the streets. (The final MERS death toll was 36, almost all of them elderly; I don’t think there was ever evidence of any sustained general airborne transmission.)

I recall vividly two things from Gwanghwamun on that MERS days: (1) The unusual daytime silence, and (2) The handful of predictably dour protestors, some masked to prevent MERS. One of the protestors’ placards had the word THAAD on it. “What’s THAAD?” The placard called for U.S. military expulsion from Korean soil. I guessed THAAD must be something the U.S. military was doing. (See post-318, “A Glance at the Gwanghwamun Protestors, “. I will repost the photo here:)


Photograph taken by me, June 2015. See here Post #318: The Gwanghwamun Protestors
(Note #1: Some would call the group behind that burgundy placard above “친북성향” [“Rather Friendly Towards North Korea”], a kind of political slur in South Korea. These groups are worth watching because they are political spearhead groups, by which I mean that they are the first to speak up on issues that often get traction. Their influence is much greater than the vote totals that their explicit parties can secure.) (Note #2: THAAD will, as far as I can tell, be under ROK-Army control and not USFK control, so the sign is factually incorrect in that it insinuates the USFK is bringing in THAAD. [See Post-#318 for a translation of the slogans on the placard.])

A few weeks ago, the THAAD deal between the U.S. and ROK was finalized and the deployment process begun. There was some opposition from the left-wing Democratic Party [더불어민주당], who performed well in the recent elections, but the issue was never put to a vote in the National Assembly. It was simply a government initiative. Full operational readiness for THAAD, they say, will be at hand before the end of 2016.

My impression in mid-2015 was that THAAD had very low awareness in the Korean public mind, and Koreans I asked about it had never heard of it. By this summer (2016), a year later, it has become perhaps the top international political story in Korea, and a significant one for East Asia as a whole.

China has been publicly resentful of THAAD.

The Korean Democratic Party organized a visit to reassure China about THAAD, sending some of its top parliamentary figures. The visit may not have achieved much, according to a news report which I will translate here:


From SBS News. Story here, with video
더민주 의원 6명 방중…’사드 비공개 좌담회’

<앵커> 더불어민주당 소속 의원 6명이 논란 속에 2박 3일간의 사드 관련 중국 방문 일정을 시작했습니다. 중국에 도착한 의원들은 당내에서도 엇갈리는 찬반 논란이 부담스러웠던지 베이징대 교수들과의 좌담회를 비공개로 열었습니다. 베이징 편상욱 특파원이 보도합니다.

Six Democratic Party Representatives in China for Closed-Door Talks on THAAD  [Translated by Peter] August 8th, 2016

<Anchor> Amid the controversy over THAAD, six representatives of the Democratic Party have begun a  three-day official visit to China. Despite the division within the Democratic Party itself over this issue, the party reached an agreement to hold closed-door talks with Chinese academics on the matter. Our Beijing correspondent Pyun Sang-Wook reports.

<기자> 오늘(8일) 오전 베이징 공항에 도착한 더불어민주당 의원 6명은 이번 중국방문에 집중된 이목을 의식한 듯 매우 신중한 모습을 보였습니다.

<Reporter> Six representatives of the Democratic Party today arrived at the Beijing Airport, and all seemed determined to concentrate fully on the task at hand during their official visit to China.

[김병욱/더불어민주당 의원 : 한중간의 관계가 중요하죠. 지금까지 잘 발전돼왔고, 앞으로도 좀 더 보다 성숙된 모습으로 발전하기 위해서….]

[Kim Byung-Wook / Democratic Party National Assembly Member: “Korean-Chinese Relations are, of course, important. They have been developing well. Moving forward, we intend to improve ties even more and develop a more mature relationship…”]

하지만 공항엔 중국 기자가 단 한 명도 나타나지 않았습니다. 한국 야당 의원들의 방중을 연일 대서특필하던 중국 관영 언론의 태도와는 사뭇 다른 것입니다.

But in fact not a single member of the Chinese media appeared at the airport. Past official visits by Korean opposition figures received headlines in the Chinese state media. The reception this time stands in marked contrast.

도착 첫 일정은 베이징대 교수들과의 간담회였습니다. 주제는 한반도 사드 배치 등 한·중 간 안보 현안이었습니다. 민감한 주제를 감안한 듯 3시간 동안의 간담회는 전면 비공개로 진행됐습니다.

The first item on the agenda: A round-table discussion with academics at Beijing University. THAAD deployment on the Korean Peninsula was one of the topics discussed, as were others related to ROK-Chinese relations and security. The sensitive nature of topics under discussion meant that the three-hour-long talks were held behind closed doors.

[박 정/더불어민주당 의원 : 사드가 배치되는 과정에서 소통 부재가 제일 컸다. 두 번째는 양국의 언론들이 너무 이 문제를 키운 게 없잖아 있다 이런 말씀을 (베이징대 교수들이) 하셨습니다.]

[Park Jung / Democratic Party National Assembly Member: “The biggest problem in this whole THAAD matter is the lack of communication. The second problem, according to the esteemed Chinese academics with whom we spoke, is the press — in both our countries the press bears some of the responsibility for this problem.”]

인민일보 자매지인 환구시보는 청와대가 ‘사드 배치로 한중 관계를 긴장시킨 책임을 북한과 중국에 전가하는 건 적반하장’이라는 내용의 칼럼을 실었습니다.

The Global Times, an organ of the Chinese People’s Daily, published an op-ed saying that Seoul is damaging ties with China through THAAD deployment. It accused Seoul of hypocrisy and bad faith in accusing China and North Korea of being in the wrong, using a Chinese proverb [적반하장, 賊反荷杖, “Thief Instead Scolds”] in which a thief scolds his victim rather than being scolded himself, comparing Seoul to the thief.

하지만 나머지 관영 언론들은 연일 맹공을 퍼붓던 사드 문제에 대해 오늘은 자제하는 모습을 보였습니다. 중국이 사드 공세의 속도 조절에 나선 건 지, 좀 더 지켜봐야 할 것으로 보입니다.

베이징에서 SBS 편상욱입니다.

But the relentless attacks by the Chinese state media seem able to be brought under control. The pace of China’s attacks on THAAD may soon start to be reigned in. We have to wait and see how the situation develops.

In Beijing, this is Pyun Sang-Wook reporting.

Final thoughts:

1.) The Democratic Party of Korea (더불어민주당) is, curiously, is still called the “opposition party” [야당] in the Korean press despite winning more seats than the government party (Saenuri Party 새누리당) in the April 2016 election. No party now has a majority.

2.) I recently re-read the first-ever account of Korea written by a Westerner, the journal of Hendrik Hamel [published 1658]. I can’t help but be reminded by this Korean delegation of the regular tributary visits and payments that Chosun Korea made to China. Hamel talks about these some length in his book. (Hamel and the other shipwrecked Dutchmen were held against their will in the Kingdom of Chosun [i.e., Korea], and the Chosun king was very afraid of the Chinese learning about the Westerners. He locked them up when a Chinese delegation visited.)

3.) Whether you agree that a walk down the above path of historical analogy is valid or not, at least you’ll agree that this THAAD issue is a metaphor for bigger things.

4.) A similar deployment just twenty-five years ago would never have generated a high-profile official state visit to China no matter how angry China was — I say this with certainty because until August 1992 there were no official ROK-PRC relations at all and thus no official state visits.

5.) Say unification occurs. Unified Korea would share a long border with Manchuria, China. Some Koreans feel that they have historical claim to parts of Manchuria.

I have known some ethnic Koreans from China [조선족] who have come to Korea. One, born in the 1970s, is married to my friend M.P., now in Texas. Another, P.G.H., a male born in 1988, gave up on Korea in late 2015 and returned to China because the jobs he was getting were of the “handing out flyers” sort. His Korean was rather worse than mine. The reason he gave us, though, for giving up on Korea, was that all his friends were in China. Another ethnic-Korean-from-China, K.J.H., born 1991, majored in linguistics in China, briefly taught English there (though we have only ever spoken Korean and she says she knows English only ‘academically’) and got TOPIK-6 (the highest Korean level) after coming to South Korea last year. She says she can’t understand most of the TV news, which makes me feel relieved. These ethnic-Koreans-from-China seem certainly culturally more Chinese, but they may seem something different to Chinese, I don’t know.

Anyway, this pool of Koreans-in-China is several million strong.

I was once handed a leaflet in front of Tapgol Park in Jongro, Seoul [종로 탑골공원앞] by a thin and grinning ajeosshi in his fifties or so, the type you’ll find somewhere on a mountain trail on a sunny Saturday drinking magkeolli alcohol. Why did he give me, an obvious racial foreigner, his four-page-long Korean-language leaflet? I’m glad he did, but he’d not have been able to know I could read it. The rambling treatise, as far as I could understand it, called for “reclamation” of “our land.” This would mean parts of the Chinese provinces of Jilin and Liaoning on the below map, and maybe even some of southern Heilongjiang: