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Folk Korea
November 30th, 2003

Modern Korea can be quite artificial as we see modern 4 line highways, nested in between multi storey elevated highways against the backdrop of small tight roads, reminiscent of former times.  Over the last 100 years, the country has been overtaken by brutal occupation from the Chinese, then the Japanese, finally to be liberated by the UN and US forces in 1953.  As the country struggles through to find its place in the modern world, it leaves behind a history full of tradition unfortunately, is not witnessed by many.

In folk Korea, we found that homes tend to be made of a combination of timber, brick (mud and straw) with little windows, timber doors and a thatched roof – much like ones we saw three years ago back in South Africa.  The building you see Jeanette standing next to in the left is a Dugout hut.  Its made by digging up the ground and a live charcoal pot was in the middle of it and finished the floor with mud.  In the picture, you can also see a watermill.  This watermill has an axle is connected to a cistern  then operates a heavy hammer to mill grain, to make flour.  As long as they have grain and a flowing stream, flour is made.  Generally, there are 5 major grain types we’ve seen in Korea – rice, barley, wheat, millet and bean. Grain collected by the farmers are milled to make flour, made into wine or simply dried to make food for the winter. 

The red millet pictured right is also complimented by the normal beige variety, which I was convinced is wheat.  This is not pictured because it looks exactly the same, except beige in colour. Corn, technically not a grain is another food which is dried up and hung for the winter.  Actually, it is more appropriately called maize is cultivated here in large numbers and often steamed up and sold by the farmers.  Be careful, these are NOT sweet corn is generally tasteless.

We see these grain dried up in larger quantities in the provincial Korea rather than in Seoul.  So far, we’ve seen lots of beans, seeds (for eating), seaweed etc sold in Korea.  These all come from traditional Korea.  The melding of the old folk Korea and the modern Korea makes it what it is today.  However, we really enjoyed some of the folk Korean foods more than we did the modern fusion stuff that must have just come off the Korean drawing board!

At the time of our visit, Autumn leaves have fallen, contrary to the picturesque stories you received from us in the last episodes, the landscape is rather barren today.  Leaves have fallen off trees, most fruits have fallen off (except from some red berry looking like things which still needs a bit of investigation) and I guess, snow will soon begin to fall.  Firewood will soon become very important – as they are desperately being dried now to remove any trace of water – not wishing for smoke to form from their burning in the winter I presume.

The picture you see to your left is one of a raft with a straw shelter, used by the Koreans as a fishing home.  As there are many rivers and lakes in Korea, this would be suitable for the calmer waters.

A traditional Wedding

We visited a traditional wedding, where a local holy man is in presence.  The drawn up ceremony sees the bride make the necessary offerings and worship in front of an altar, followed by the bridegroom all dolled up (literally) and flanked by two maidens will be “offered” to the groom.  Villages (we called then “rent a crowd”) started dancing, banging their drums and other percussive musical instruments to rejoice the wedding. 

The happy couple then was led away in a wedding procession - the man sitting up a donkey and his wife in a little sedan chair beside him.  The sedan was lifted by 4 men

Especially interested in what the Korean’s do for leisure, we discovered a game called “Nolttwigi”.  This game,  consisting of a see saw (note: seesaw is not bolted to anything, the seesaw rests on a rolled straw mat).

A wooden board, 3 m long, 30cm wide and 5 cm thick, is placed with its centre buttressed by a bundle of straws. Two girls stands at opposite ends of the board. As one stamps her feet on the board, the other soars into the air. As one descends, the other rises up. Taking turns, the two partners continue to seesaw until one of them fails.

Quite interesting but rather difficult as we were embarrassed to find that elderly couples (pictured to the right) would be able to play the game – younger ones have forgotten the art. But as you can see, if done right, the partners can be launched very high into the air.  They call this acrobatics.

By the way, the pictured to the left is a professional acrobat, or at least we think she’s a professional acrobat because she wore a costume, smiled a lot according to the music and people clapped as they finished their performance.

Farmers' music and dance was performed by the farmers' band during seasonal farming activities or in religious rites and festivals. The members of the band marched, performed rites, and played musical instruments such as the brass gong, drum, hourglass drum and large gong.  From what I understand, they dance to pays homage to a good harvest and publications we read during our visit said that the dance and music consists of delightful, quick tempo rhythms, dances and shaman rituals tempered with various military activities

We found the experience to be very colourful, lively and somewhat interesting.  We say somewhat interesting because there didn’t seem to have any form in the rhythm of the drumming, just a whole lot of noise, colour and people running around shaking their heads so that the ribbons attached to their heads would fly in the air.  I guess we don’t appreciate this part of their culture enough, just yet.

We are looking forward to coming home to Melbourne next weekend.

The Sun God

Red Millet

Riverraft Home

Bride in Traditional Korean Wedding

Old couple playing Nolttwigi



The Farmers Band

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