Tuesday, December 15, 2015

One of the Best Nights in Gotham!


When I still lived in NYC on Sheridan Square, my then friend Laurie Steinberg took me out for my 30th birthday bash. It was one of the last fun times I had before moving to LA. It remains an extraordinary Trads in Contempo Life Experience. 

It began at McSorley's Old Ale House which admitted its first female customer only in 1970 as a result of a law suit which mandated that public places could not restrict people due to gender. We had the blue plate special: saltine crackers, limburger cheese and raw onion slices to complement (!) the home brewed ale. 

We next ventured by cab to the Russian Turkish Bath on east 10th St. A brownstone by birth, it had seen better days, weeks, months and years. This joint was built in the late 19th century as a result of a New York State law that all cities were required to have a public bath. 

The entry had a speakeasy feel, with a hairy arm thrust from some dark place through the bars of a ticket kiosk. Thursdays were the only days for women, so we were admitted. In 1977 the locker room, a bank of old metal cabinets next to a long bench shared a room with a really wretched coffee shop counter with brisket sitting out next to a deli case. This solidified my notion that we were out of time and place, more like an independent "art" film in black/white. 


The bathhouse itself was a white tiled steamy place, a great location for a mob murder, I accurately felt, as the place had a checkered past. The steam room had a long bench and a few tubs, as well as a few wands of leafy branches lying about. My memory still holds that there was a design of a red rose in the wall tiles near a small "tub".  No pix to share from my experience, but here are a few from the web. (There was no www, much less a computer, then, nor the notion of a "health club".)

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Post Sai-I-Gu Cultural Triage 1: KCRW's Contemporary Korean Short Stories

Photographs: (top and left) Lauren W. Deutsch

The ways Los Angeles rebounded from "Sa-I-Gu" (4-29), aka the 1992 " Riots", a time of murder, arson and general civil disobedience and panic brought on by the Rodney King "incident" were subtle. It took a very long time from the looting of small Korean-owned liquor stores in Koreatown and southward until the mom/pop owners (as well as some larger Korean supermarkets) would actually trust their Latino employees to handle money at the cash registers. The latter usually began as custodians and worked in the produce sections stocking familiar vegetables with odd sounding Korean names. These guys (usually) have even learned how to speak Korean! 

This was the time when the president of Korea came here to discuss with mayor of Los Angeles concerns for the safety of his "countrymen". Thus, well-armed US Army troops were stationed at the Korean Cultural Center, a branch of the consulate general of the ROK in the "Miracle Mile", once Los Angeles' 5th Ave. The soldiers were dressed in fatigues more suited to a forest than an urban area. Since Los Angeles' tourist trade was devastated, I assumed that the empty hotel beds were filled by the soldiers, but was told that they bivouacked in tents in a parking lot some where. One evening that week I attended the opening of an art exhibition in the gallery there, and on my way out, I asked one of the soldiers whether he had seen the exhibition. "In my estimation, that art isn't worth protecting to this extreme," I commented. He replied, "Yes, m'am."


At that time I was in the midst of producing Contemporary Japanese Short Stories, a 14-hour English-language literary series for public radio at National Public Radio's KCRW,  89.9fm in Santa Monica. I suggested to the general manager, then Ruth Hirshman, that we do a K
orean series to educate our very large listening audience with the cultural values of our neighbors. Los Angeles is home to the second largest urban population of Koreans, after Seoul and before Pusan. "Who knows if they even have short stories," was her reply. Of course, Korean literature is well known for its short narrative style, while Japanese is renown for its long-form novels, beginning with Tale of Genji.

Upon the successful completion of the Japanese series, I embarked as executive producer on the Korean project. The challenge was to find enough works that have already been translated into English. At that time Peter Lee was at UCLA and there were very, very few easily accessible collections of material in English in even academic bookstores. (Amazon did not exist.) Korea Foundation's
Koreana provided a story in each quarterly issue. I searched academic publishers and began to know who were the primary translators; UNESCO was among the more robust. Soon Tek Oh, the renown actor / director / community activist who lived and worked in Los Angeles, agreed to be artistic director. Bruce Fulton served as my advisor, a task required by one of the funders. 


As digital media was not highly developed at that time, I present here a summation of my archived material. I hope one day to be able to post at least one of the 6 one-hour programs that were broadcast. Currently the archive is on audio tape, with copies deposited with the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles, Korea Foundation in Seoul and California Council on the Humanities. The rights and permissions for the production (including actors and publishers) were limited to two broadcasts. 

I am grateful to those whose partnership made this possible. I learned a lot about Korea through its literature. Since then, the Frankfurt Bookfair featured Korea and many more works have been translated.

KCRW'S CONTEMPORARY KOREAN SHORT STORIES


The series includes 16 short works of extant published English language translations by Korea’s acclaimed masters and upcoming stars compiled in six one-hour shows of one, two or three stories. From time-worn rural villages to the emerging modern cities of a conquered and now divided nation, the soldiers and shopkeepers, the farmers, physicians and shamans tell the stories of a resilient, refined culture.

This project is funded by the California Council on the Humanities (a state agency of the National Endowment for the Humanities) and the Korea Foundation, with support by KCRW 89.9 fm, a community service of Santa Monica College and the KCRW Foundation.

S. California Broadcast Premiere: January 3rd week 1997--1 show per week for 6 weeks (400,000 audience)

National (USA) Broadcast Satellite Feed: March 1st week 1997 (1 show/week transmitted) Rights will be secured for two broadcasts a year for three years (from date of first broadcast in 1997) by any Corporation for Public Broadcasting qualified (noncommercial) local (Southern California) and national (USA) radio stations; although; there are no guarantees that the series will be broadcast more than once by any station beyond KCRW.) KCRW offers this program to qualifying stations free of charge. {Note: 20 stations from Main to Washington were interested.] There is further interest on the part of the Korea Foundation to broadcast and distribute cassette copies of this program free of charge to select reference libraries outside the USA.

Contemporary Korean Short Stories Advisory Committee

  • Bruce Fulton, Professor, University of Washington (Project Chief Humanities Scholar)
  • Robert Buswell, Editor Korean Culture Magazine, UCLA Department of East Asian Languages and Literature
  • Bruce Caron, Consultant Cultural and Community Affairs, Korean Cultural Center
  • Chung Moo Choi, East Asian Language and Literature, UC Irvine
  • Kyung-Ja Chun, Director Korean Language Program, Harvard University
  • Stephen Epstein, Professor Department of Classics, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Ju-chan, Fulton, Translator
  • Ann Sung-hi Lee, Professor East Asian Studies Center, USC
  • Peter Lee, Professor Dept. East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
  • Walter Lew, Producer Kaya Productions
  • Carolyn So, Translator
  • Sandy Yi, former president, W.O.R.K.;producer, Asia Society Festival of Korea
  • Chang-Kee Sung, Deputy Consul, Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Korea in Los Angeles
  • Craig Coleman, Managing Editor, National English Section, The Korea Times, Radio Seoul consultant
Works are read by professional actors, all members of the Society for Heritage Performers from Hollywood television, stage and screen, and the Broadway stage, including C.W. Byun, Jeanne Chinn, Robert Fleet, Esther Hyun, Emily Kuroda, Pierre Y. Lim, Sharline Liu, Tim Lounibos, Soon-Tek Oh, Steve Park, Freda Foh Shen and Eric Steinberg.

PROGRAMS (maximum 59:00 minutes)

#1 Portrait of a Shaman: Newly converted to Christianity, a son anguishes over his mother’s indigenous faith and profession as the village shaman.

#2 Seoul 1964: Two men in a sidewalk bar follow a third into an existential black hole; The Rock: Village lepers and beggars consider their future at the onset of the Japanese invasion.

#3 Wonmidong Poet: A child’s view of the myriad characters in her neighborhood in a Seoul suburb; Cranes: The division North and South tests the friendship of two villagers.

#4 Kapitan Lee: A prominent medical doctor is determined to survive successive occupations by Japanese, “Russkis” and “Yankees” with his social status and career intact. Fire: A woman villager avenges the brutality of her husband’s family.

#5 Cukoo: Landing a coveted job, particularly with the victorious Americans, drive people to extreme measures; The Crane: A lyrical fantasy of transformation.

#6 Masks: One full turn of the great wheel of life; Rainy Season: Newlyweds are initiated into intimacy by the dynamic forces of nature; Suffering of Two Generations: Defeated in war, a father and son join forces for renewed victory in life.

Story Descriptions

Hwang Sun-wôn's "Cranes" (Hak) Translated by Peter H. Lee From Flowers of Fire Published by University of Hawaii Press in 1986
Like the American Civil War, that of Korea from 1950 - 1953 divided not only a nation but also individual towns and families. In "Cranes" Korean short story master Hwang Sun-won describes how the war unexpectedly brings together two former friends in a village near the 38th parallel. This story is one of the best examples of Hwang’s gem-like precision and psychological insight.

Kim Yi-sôk's "The Cuckoo" (Ppôkkugi) Translated by Peter H. Lee From Flowers of Fire Published by University of Hawaii Press in 1986
Unemployment was rampant in Korea right after the Korean War, so any job was a gift. But a job with an American company was a delicious piece of Apple Pie in the Sky. This the engine which drives Yisok Kim’s "The Cuckoo".

Chôn Kwang-yong's "Kapitan Lee" (Kkôppittan Ri) Translated by Peter H. Lee From Flowers of Fire Published by University of Hawaii Press in 1986
Koreans have often referred to their land as a shrimp among whales. Three such whales shored up in Korea at the end of World War II: Japan, the Soviet Union and the US. In "Kapitan Le" we meet a very successful surgeon who is determined to survive through their struggle by reinventing himself for each successive occupying power.

Kim Tong-ni's "Portrait of a Shaman" (Munyôdo) Translated by Yongch’ol Kim From Flowers of Fire Published by University of Hawaii Press in 1986
For some 5000 years shamans have served the people of Korea as keepers of their rich, indigenous spiritual traditions and as practitioners of the healing arts. No village was without at least one charismatic mudang who was sought out at every turn of the life cycle. Because of this, shamanism has suffered oppression from every turn of political history, from the influences of Chinese Confucianism, Japanese Colonialism, Soviet Communism and as we shall see, Western Christianity. So who better, then, to author Portrait of a Shaman", than Korea’s quintessential modern fiction writer and literary humanist, Tong-ni Kim. Created in 1936, Kim’s mudang is every bit a Greek tragic hero as she obeys her intuition in a fight for love and life.

Yi Hyo-sôk's "The Buckwheat Season" (Memilggot p’il muryôp) Translated by Peter H. Lee From Flowers of Fire Published by University of Hawaii Press in 1974
Hyo-sok Yi is one of a talented group of young Korean writers whose flame burned brightly in the 1920s and 1930s only to be extinguished by the time of the Pacific War (World War). One of Korea’s best-loved stories, we follow a pockmarked peddler of dry goods, Mr. Ho, and his venerable donkey as they make the rounds of the markets in the beautiful hill country of east-central Korea. And we listen to Ho as he spins a moonlit year about a bygone love.

Yi Ch’ong-Jun's "The Crane" Translated by Stephen J. Epstein From Korea Journal Published by Korea Journal inJun-90
Chong-jun Yi is a novelists of ideas whose works grapple with the nature of time, art, reality and tradition. but he also writes sensitively of the bonds between mothers and sons, as in "The Crane".

Han Mal-suk's "The Rainy Season" (Changma) Translated by Stephen J. Epstein From Korean Culture Published by Korea Cultural Service, Los Angeles in 1992
A flood is not the most auspicious beginning for the marriage of a young rural Korean man and woman. But emergencies have a way of drawing resources that we didn’t know we had. In "The Rainy Season" Mal-suk Han describes how a shy country girl saves her new husband from a near-fatal encounter with hypothermia.

Ha Kun-ch’an's "The Suffering of Two Generations" (Sunan idea) Translated by Kevin O’Rourke From Koreana Published by Korea Foundation in Vol. 9, No. 3
The loss of Korean national sovereignty during the Japanese occupation of 1910 to 1945, and the division of the Korean peninsula beginning with the arrival of American and Soviet occupation armies in 1945 and culminating in the Korean War of 1950 - 1953, are central themes of postwar Korean literature and indeed the collective Korean consciousness. This sundering of Korea is starkly embodied by the maimed father and son in Kun-Chan Ha’s "The Suffering of Two Generations".

Ch’oe Inho's "The Boozer" (Sulkkun) Translated by Marshall R. Phil From Land of Exile Published by M.E. Sharpe / UNESCO in 1993
In-Ho Ch’oe is one of the most popular novelists in Korea today, a prodigy who made his literary debut while in high school. Ch’oe invests some of his shorter works with a touch of the fabulous. He occasionally writes screenplays as well. His sense of the visual and his inventive use of language are apparent in "The Boozer", an early story, in which he weaves a web of haunting images while tracing the odyssey of the title character.
   
Kim Sûng-ok's "Seoul: 1964, Winter" (Sôul, 1964 nyon kyoul) Translated by Marshall R. Phil From Land of Exile Published by M.E. Sharpe / UNESCO in 1993
Sung ok Kim is one of the most prominent members of Korea’s Hangul Generation, writers who, by the grace of history, wrote in their own Korean language rather than in the classical Chinese of the literati or in the Japanese of the colonizers decades before. Energized by the highs and lows of revolts against civilian and military dictatorships, Kim’s "Seoul, 1964 Winter", is a slangy, sardonic signature piece of his times.

Yang Kwi-Ja's "Wônmidong Poet" (Wônmidong shiin) Translated by Julie Pickering and Kim So-Young From Manoa Published by University of Hawaii in Vol. 8, No. 2 Winter 1996
Wônmi-dong is a neighborhood in a satellite city of South Korea’s capital of Seoul, where many countryside people have come hoping to find success. One of today’s most commercially and critically successful authors, Kwi ja Yang has arranged for us to meet a number of the town’s most interesting personalities including the Wonmidong Beauty Queen, the town’s Know-it All, the Wonmidong Crooner and the object of a six-year old’s affection, the "Wonmidong Poet".

Kim Tong-ni's "The Rock" (Bawi) Translated by Chong-Wha Chung From Modern Korean Literature Published by Kegan Paul International
Many outstanding modern Korean stories portray people who have not found a niche in Korea’s highly structured society. A fine example is our first story, "The Rock", written in 1936 by one of the most influential writers in modern Korean literature, Kim Tong-ni. We join a pack of the lowliest of the low to discover how, once again we all must surrender to the forces of nature and fate.

Hyôn Chin-gôn's "The Fire" (Pul) Translated by Katherine Kisray From Modern Korean Literature Published by Kegan Paul International
Imagine a 15 year old girl in the countryside married off to a ma she hardly knows. She bids farewell to her family and moves into a house where she has two new masters: her husband and his mother. She endures domestic chores during the day, wifely service at night. Such is the situation of Suni in Chin-gon Hyon’s "Fire". But Suni is not your typical docile young bride.

Hwang Sun-wôn's "Masks" (T’al)  Translated by Martin Holman From The Book of Masks Published by Readers International, Inc. in 1989
Short story master Sun Won Hwang’s lyrical, poetic piece "Masks" was written in 1971, but the work is in the greatest tradition of the world’s most cherished spiritual texts.


Extra stories produced but not broadcast due to limitation of airtime and story length:

Hwang Sun-wôn's "Folding the Umbrella" (Usan ûl chôbûmyô) Translated by Stephen Epstein From The Book of Masks Published by Readers International, Inc. in 1989
A lone black fish, a bride who dreams her wedding dress is black, a pianist whose left arm is paralyzed: Korean short story master Sun-won Hwang fashions these seemingly disparate elements into a wistful story about aging, loneliness and death. In this story we follow the elderly Mr. Ho, widower, former pianist and collector of tropical fish as he folds the umbrella, bringing his life cycle to a close. (39:18 min.)

O Yongsu's "Bird of Passage" (Hujo) Translated by Peter H. Lee From Flowers of Fire Published by University of Hawaii Press in 1974
A strong sense of decency pervades the people on O’s stories, even as they display the failings that none of us is without. In "Bird of Passage", as in many of O’s other stories, adults are uplifted by their encounters with children who manage to retain their innocence despite circumstances that are difficult if not desperate. (29:44 min.)


CONTINUITY: KCRW PRESENTS CONTEMPORARY KOREAN SHORT STORIES
WRITTEN BY LAUREN W. DEUTSCH     NARRATED BY SOON TEK OH

Appropriate music and narrative material has been created and woven around the approximately 1 - 3 stories per show. To provide the greatest range of image, every effort has been employed to feature a diversity of themes and literary styles, as well as a variety of geographical and historical references, with particular effort made to include work by writers marginalized by prevailing socio-political trends, particularly women.

BOILER PLATE INTRO / OUTRO

(Soon Tek Oh)
KCRW presents “Contemporary Korean Short Stories” ... tales of survival and love, tradition and transition created by some of the most courageous writers of the stormy 20th Century. This is your host, Soon Tek Oh, inviting you to explore the daily lives and dreams, intimate thoughts and world views of the resilient people of the Land of Morning Calm.

(outro / LW Deutsch)
“Contemporary Korean Short Stories” is hosted and directed by the distinguished actor Soon Tek Oh and is produced in the studios of KCRW Radio, Santa Monica California, in association with the Society of Heritage Performers. Executive Producer is Lauren Deutsch. Audio design, recording and editing by Scott Fritz. Robert C. Fleet is production coordinator. This program was supported in part by the Korea Foundation and California Council for the Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For a complete series bibliography, contact your local public radio station or KCRW (310) 314-4636.

SHAMAN
For some 5000 years shamans have served the people of Korea as keepers of their rich, indigenous spiritual traditions and as practitioners of the healing arts. No village was without at least one charismatic mudang who was sought out at every turn of the life cycle. Because of this, shamanism has suffered oppression from every turn of political history, from the influences of Chinese Confucianism, Japanese Colonialism, Soviet Communism and as we shall see, Western Christianity. So who better, then, to author today’s story, “Portrait of a Shaman”, than Korea’s quintesent modern fiction writer and literary humanist, Tong-ni Kim. Created in 1936, Kim’s mudang is every bit a Greek tragic hero as she obeys her intuition in a fight for love and life. We hope you will enjoy Emily Kuroda’s reading of this mystically powerful tale.  And now, Tong-ni Kim’s “Portrait of a Shaman” ...

That was Emily Kuroda reading Tong-ni Kim’s “Portrait of a Shaman” from a translation by Yongch’ol Kim published in Flowers of Fire by the University of Hawaii Press. This concludes today’s “Contemporary Korean Short Stories” This is your host, Soon Tek Oh. Thank you for listening.

ROCK + SEOUL
Many outstanding modern Korean stories portray people who have not found a niche in Korea’s highly structured society. A fine example is our first story, “The Rock”, written in 1936 by one of the most influential writers in modern Korean literature, Kim Tong-ni. We join a pack of the lowliest of the low to discover how, once again we all must surrender to the forces of nature and fate. Here is “The Rock” read by Freda Foh Shen.

That was Freda Foh Shen reading Tong ni Kim’s The Rock” from a translation by Chong-Wha Chung published in Modern Korean Literature by Kegan Paul International.

Our next story is set in the city. Sung ok Kim is one of the most prominent members of Korea’s Hangul Generation, writers who, by the grace of history, wrote in their own Korean language rather than in the classical Chinese of the literati or in the Japanese of the colonizers decades before. Energized by the highs and lows of revolts against civilian and military dictatorships, Kim’s “Seoul, 1964 Winter”, is a slangy, sardonic signature piece of his times. We hope you will enjoy “Seoul 1964 Winter” read now by Sung Kyu Park, Ro-Soo Park and Jungha Suk.

That was Sung Kyu Park, Ro-Soo Park and Jungha Suk, also known as Steve Park, Tim Lounibos and Eric Steinberg, reading Sung-ok Kim’s “Seoul 1964 Winter” from Marshall R. Phil’s translation published in Land of Exile by M.E. Sharpe. That concludes today’s program. This is your host, Soon Tek Oh, thank you for listening.

MASKS + SUFFERING
Korea’s short story master Sun Won Hwang’s lyrical, poetic work, “Masks” read by Ro-Soo Park (Tim Lounibos) adapted from an English translation by Martin Holman published in The Book of Masks by Reader’s International. Contemporary Korean Short Stories is funded in part from a grant from Korea Foundation and the California Council for the Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Suffering of Two Generations says it all. Kun-ch’an Ha’s 1957 work personalizes Korea’s bitter struggles for over half of this Century: the Japanese occupation, the division of the country north and south and the Pacific War. And yet there remains enough life to go on. Here now is R.C. Fleet reading Ha’s The Suffering of Two Generations.

That was R.C. Fleet reading Kun-ch’an Ha’s The Suffering of Two Generations adapted for radio from a translation by Kevin O’Rourke published in Koreana by Korea Foundation. That concludes our program for today. This is your host, Soon Tek Oh. Thank you for listening.

CUCKOO
Unemployment was rampant in Korea right after the Korean War, so any job was a gift. But a job with an American company was a delicious piece of Apple Pie in the Sky. This the engine which drives read now by R.C. Fleet, Sharline Liu and yours truly.

We hope you enjoyed Yisok Kim’s “The Cukoo ” written in 1957. I was joined by R.C. Fleet and Sharline Liu reading from a radio adaptation of the translation by Peter H. Lee published in Flowers of Fire by the University of Hawaii Press. This is Soon Tek Oh. Thank you for listening.

CRANES + WONMIDONG
Like the American Civil War, the Korean War of 1950 to 1953 divided not only a nation but also individual towns and families. In “Cranes” short story master Sun-won Hwang paints delicate natural scenery for a chance reunion of two former friends in a village near the 38th parallel. Born in what is now North Korea, his lyrical pose and sensitive imagery preserve human innocence and spiritual loneliness. Our first story today, “Cranes”, is read by Ro-Soo Park.

That was Ro-Soo Park, better known as Tim Lounibos, reading Sun won Hwang’s “Cranes” from a translation by Peter Lee published in Flowers of Fire by the University of Hawaii Press.

We take you now to Wônmi-dong, a neighborhood in a satellite city of South Korea’s capital of Seoul, where many countryside people have come hoping to find success. One of today’s most commercially and critically successful authors, Kwi ja Yang has arranged for us to meet a number of the town’s most interesting personalities including the Wonmidong Beauty Queen, the town’s Know-it All, the Wonmidong Crooner and the object of a six-year old's affection, the Wonmidong Poet. Without further ado, here is Jeannie Chinn reading Wonmidong Poet.

That was Jeannie Chinn reading Kwi Ja Yang’s Wonmidong Poet from a translation by Julie Pickering and So Young Kim published in the journal Manoa by the University of Hawaii. That concludes our program for today. This is your host, Soon Tek Oh. Thank you for listening.

KAPITAN LEE + FIRE
The stirringly satirical prize-winning “Kapitan Lee” by Kwang yong Chon read by Jungha Suk (Eric Steinberg) from the English translation by Peter Lee published in Flowers of Fire by the University of Hawaii Press.

Author / journalist Chin-gon Hyon’s stories reflect the sufferings of the poor and underprivileged. In The Fire, Hyon takes us to the countryside where a newly married 15 year old girl struggles between two demanding masters, her husband and her mother-in-law. We hope you will enjoy Freda Foh Shen’s reading of Hyon’s 1925 story The Fire.

That was Freda Foh Shen reading Chin-gon Hyon’s The Fire adapted for radio from a translation by Katherine Kisray published in Modern Korean Literature by Kegan Paul International. That concludes our program for today. This is your host, Soon Tek Oh. Thank you for listening.

UMBRELLA + BIRD
A lone black fish, a bride who dreams her wedding dress is black, a pianist whose left arm is paralyzed ... Korean short story master Sun-won Hwang fashions seemingly disparate elements into a wistful story about aging, lonliness and death. Here is Jungha Suk reading Hwang’s Folding the Umbrella.

We hope you have enjoyed Sun-won Hwang’s “Folding the Umbrella” read by Jungha Suk, better known as Eric Steinberg ...It was adapted for radio from Stephen Epstein’s translation in The Book of Masks published by Readers International.

Like wild flowers after a forest fire, it is often the most innocent who are first to poke their heads above the ashes at the end of a war. Kindness and compassion have survived those desperate times in author Yongsu O’s “Bird of Passage.” It gives me great pleasure to invite you to listen as C.W. Pyun joins me in reading this poignant story.

That was C.W. Pyun and I reading Yongsu O’s “Bird of Passage” adapted for radio from a translation by Peter H. Lee in Flowers of Fire, published by the University of Hawaii Press. That concludes our program for today. This is your host, Soon Tek Oh. Thank you for listening.


KCRW’S CONTEMPORARY KOREAN SHORT STORIES
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How Did This Series Come About?
That this series was initiated neither by the Korean community nor from within academia is seminal to its significance. The program was developed from the commitment of KCRW to present cultural programming reflecting the diversity of the community it serves. Fueled by the events of the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest when people of Korean heritage suffered a tremendous setback in community relations and challenged by the fact that we knew little about the cultural foundation and contemporary artistic expressions of our neighbors, it seemed only natural that we consider the literature of Korea worthy of our next “audio book” project. We believe it will prove to be as much as a community outreach tool as it will be an entertaining and informative cultural program on radio.

In Korean Focus (published by Korea Foundation) there was a paper presented by Jahyun Kim Haboush at the Conference on Korea Studies held at the Library of Congress in 1992, which discussed the perceptions of Korean culture in the United States. It stated, "Korea has been portrayed primarily as a political entity and then as an economic entity. ... What of its cultural component? Do other aspects of Korea penetrate into the American public consciousness? There are still few popular representations of Korea." The author cites books in English translation, but states that despite Korea’s 500+ years-old tradition of universal literacy and the emphasis on literary scholarship for all successful political and social leaders, "none has become a household word, nor, for that matter, have they been widely read [even within academic or literary circles.]"

In fact, at a symposium several years ago sponsored by the now defunct Korea Society in Los Angeles with representatives of the news media who had covered Korea, the reporters admitted having little mandate, much less resources in time or funds, from their editors to cover little more than economics, public policy, military activities, politics and occasionally sports (in the case of the Seoul Olympics). An article about a kimchi museum was the only cultural offering in their defense!

A visit to any of the major bookstores in outside this area will uncover few books by Korean authors; a similar visit to the few Korean bookstores will reveal a small number of books in English about contemporary Korea culture. Of the two Korean-community newspapers published in English, one is addressed particularly to Korean-American concerns (focused on challenges as living as a minority population in the USA.), the other, an abridged English edition of an international publication, is very sparse on it cultural articles. One could make a good case that few people who do not read Korean language even have access to literature, much less have read any material. Why has there yet to be a Korean author winning the Nobel Prize for Literature?

What topics will the project address?
The politics of culture in Korea is one definite theme that will be addressed. Uchang writing in Manoa (Vol.. 2, No. 2, Fall 1990), notes that Korea’s literature has been “obsessively political. ... Writers get involved in politics either because they have engaged in some kind of political action or because the government has made them targets of repression because of their writing.” The Korean word han -- living with loss -- permeates much of the genre until the present.  What else could one expect! Entering the 20th Century after 300 years of self-imposed isolation and strict Confucianism, Koreans endured 40 years of Japanese occupation. Then as the battlefield for the Cold War, they experienced a split of nation, families and soul, a daily presence of foreign (US) troops only to emerge via civil protest through military dictatorship into the recent political scandals. Despite the censorship and, in the case of the Japanese occupation, outlawing of the Korean language itself, literary works were created and preserved. Through stories situated in the cities and countryside, alienation and victimization will be revealed.

The voice of women writers, marginalized by Korea’s deep patriarchal Confucian roots, will be heard. There is much work in translation being done in this area and great interest in discovering how women view their own culture and interact with the world. Literature will also reveal how women’s role as housewife and mother is expanded to office worker and political activist with the changing times.

Another topic of investigation will be the influence of the West on Korea. The temptations and realities of rapid industrialization (vs. agrarian life which had been the populations’ major preoccupation for centuries) and internationalization, along with Christianity and consumerism have been felt and are represented in literary works. 

What Marketing Opportunities Exist in Conjunction With This Series?
As was mentioned earlier Los Angeles’ Koreatown is the largest “Korean city” outside Seoul and the Korean population is among the fastest growing immigrant population in he USA.” Thus it is definitely in the interest of corporations and foundations to support efforts to reach the community at large with timely and useful cultural “information” offered in this landmark series. Professor Epstein notes in his letter of commitment to this project that it will have “even greater value for those [people] who are of Korean ancestry living in the USA, especially the ‘1.5 generation’ who came here from Korea as young children.” He explains that the difficult political times and suffering, as noted an ongoing literary theme, is not necessarily discussed in the Korean culture schools here.

Despite several high-budget English language efforts (most notability the Pacific Rim-focused 1991 Los Angeles Festival and the Asia Society’s 1994 Festival of Korea) and two SRO classical performing arts events sponsored by the Korean government (the latter attended by very few nonKoreans), there still exists little accessible cultural material upon which to develop reasonable, informed opinion about one of the fastest growing populations nation-wide.

How Will The Literature Be Selected for Inclusion?
Exactly who is a Korean author -- given the number of people exiled or self-emigrating during the oppressive times -- and who has been doing the translations of which authors is also being debated at this writing. Korean literature translations into English remains a new field for scholars. This project will not “solve” these questions, but will reflect activities to date.  Given current political, we do not expect to be able to find or include work created after 1953 by writers living in North Korea.

A library of many published anthologies and manuscripts in English translation submitted by the Advisory Committee was assembled from which stories were selected. No new translations were made for the series. In addition, the Executive Producer met with translators during a conference on Korean Literature in Translation at UCLA.

The final selection of stories depended upon each one’s ability to be interesting listening as well as be informative and the length (no longer than about 20 minutes when read aloud as determined by director and producer. There was slight editing in some cases to adapt the piece for radio reading and to enhance the continuity for listening purposes. There was one native Korean language speaker involved in this process.

The narrative material used to provide background and continuity of the stories was a collaboration between the Advisory Committee, represented by Bruce Fulton, and the executive producer.

What Collateral Materials Will Be Available to the Audience?
As in our programs of the past, KCRW will create a bibliography of literature included in the series as well as offer additional sources for the growing field of English language translations of Korean literature.

For Further Information:

LAUREN W. DEUTSCH
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
835 S. LUCERNE BLVD., #103
LOS ANGELES CA 90005 USA
+ 323 775 7454
lwdeutsch@earthlink.net

Saturday, December 5, 2015

OIL-TERNATIVE HANUKAH OPTIONS: Low Cholesterol Gifts

The relative abundance of fried foods shared in Jewish homes at Hanukah these days -- from latkes (potato pancakes) and sukaniot (doughnuts) -- makes it unlikely that there will be a shortage of olive oil in the community. Just to be sure, however, it's a good idea to keep these slippery delights near the ner tamid (eternal light) in the stiebel (prayer hall) and away from mundane temptations of this world.  

Thus, it is time to promote oil-ternative, cholesterol - free ways to engage with the holiday celebrating the Maccabees cunning and strength against the desecration by the Greeks of the Temple in Jerusalem. Here are some Spirit of '76 suggestions.

1. Oil Change Coupons from your local quick-fix tune-up joint. 

2. Zvat u'Davash (Milk 'n' Honey) Massage from the local Olympic Spa. 



But if you must indulge ... try these oil-ternative sources of the nectar ...


1. Cal Tech Olive Oil: Out of this world olive oil from the terra firma of the campus that explores the greater and smaller universes.


2. Pick-it-Yourself Map of Olive Trees in Public Domain in Silverlake CA (and other locals). Fallen Fruit's Endless Orchard will point you to fruit trees in public spaces on the Urban Fruit Trails in your 'hood. Dig it!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Basquiat's Spiritual Portraits

Jean Michel Basquat's image (left) reminds me of the warrior Janggung (center) from Kim Keumhwa's shrine at Keumhwa-dang on Kangwhado, Korea and another (right) from Yoon Yeosul's book Searching for Origin of Folk Religion -- Painting of Shamanism. [원형을 찾아서 토속신앙의 巫俗畵|, 2004, Seoul: ICOM].




Coincidence? Perhaps, but I am more than ever convinced that Basquiat "saw" spirits. Perhaps he thought no one else knew their identities. How wrong he was!

Here's another set, including Kim Keumhwa  (center and below) and one of her proteges (male) officiating at a kut ritual featuring the Taegam, official. I particularly like the piece by Basquiat (left) as it illustrates the layering of costumes that a shaman may wear in the course of transitioning from presenting one spirit in quick succession after another. Below you can see many "antique" taenghwa, spirit paintings, in Kim Keumhwa's pantheon. For more information about Korean shaman painting, please see  God in Pictures in Korean Contexts: The Ownership and Meaning of Shaman Paintings by Laurel Kendall, Jongsung Yang and Yul Soon Yoon. (Honolulu. University of Hawaii Press. 2015).




                   




Thursday, June 18, 2015

Up 'n' Away @ LACMA

Chris Burden's Ode to Santos Dumont at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is an elegant piece of engineering, as great engineering should be. I know about that which I speak as my late (actually he was never not on time, usually early) father, Al Deutsch, was a skilled and creative engineer. He as a wonderful draftsman; everything he built in our house, not to mention for his industrial employers, was well sketched, measured and ... did I mention measured and sketched? His desk remains filled with all sorts of mechanical pencils, rulers and templates, and other drafting equipment (something that fits on the side of a table and has an adjustable right angle gizmo so that parallel lines can be made accurately). I have his slide rules with which he built machines and calculated critical dimensions used in the nuclear and chemical businesses.

Thus the conceit of having Burden's kinetic work at LACMA, instead of the airplane/spaceship - filled exhibitions at the Science Museum in Expo Park or in an auxiliary  off-site venue, such as the Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, provokes us to consider the art - forward aspects of the work. The word "elegant", as in "Elegant Universe" is important. Here is where aesthetic meets science. Where the journey is as  gorgeous as the goal. The magical twist of fate makes the energy used well worth the investment.

The artist, who, like my father, was always early, in this case to depart this material plane, must have enjoyed his childhood -- or clearly wasn't done with it, as his Metropolis II Erector Set + Hot Wheels (all trademarked names, of course) work also in the LACMA collection, seems to be an "if you could build anything you would like, what would it be ..." moment.What adult wouldn't enjoy fulfilling a childhood fantasy given all the resources necessary. What child wouldn't love to have grown-up toys? Isn't this what the high-tech design movement was about, with such now defunct stores in LA as Industrial Revolution on Melrose.

The beautiful movement of Santos around the Resnick Pavilion reminds me of the soft, relaxed pace of Hayao Miyazaki's last film The Wind Rises. In the illustrated feature the protagonist Jiro Horikoshi conjures up Italian aeroplane designer Giovanni Caproni as he searches for that elegant solution to a technical challenge that intended nonetheless deadly consequences.

I almost wanted to hear music in the pavilion today. It was as much an ode as it was elegiac.