Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Learning Korean Culture

We started going to Korean church again this past weekend. I’ve attended a Korean church in the past, and I’ve been very cautious about getting involved again. Despite leading the English children’s service at the church we attended, I always felt we were outsiders, and sometimes the other Korean children looked down on my kids. I didn’t want to put them in a bad situation again. However, here in Guam, I felt this opportunity was right. The church offers everything in English and Korean and would like to expand its non-Korean membership. Through taking Korean classes and tutoring English, I’m already friends with many of the church members. Most importantly, we don’t otherwise have a church home on Guam. Guam is 99% Catholic and we aren’t! Indeed, the experience went well, and the kids really like Sunday school, so we will be going back.

However, as I sat in the church last Sunday, I felt a familiar feeling of "why am I doing this?" For sure, being around so much Asian culture has in no way made me anti-American. In fact, it really makes me appreciate US culture. However, having come from a very mainland white-American life, I know the way Americans can trivialize other cultures. I know because I did it! In college, I can remember making fun of the Asian grad students that were our lab teachers in college. Oh the shame to admit that! I guess my first experience of really getting interested in other cultures was when we moved to Washington DC and started the adoption process. Wow did that change my life. My co-workers were from Vietnam, China, Pakistan, India, China, and Korea. In addition, my husband started working for the US Attorney (Janet Reno at the time- such a wonderful person!). He traveled around the world with her and really came to appreciate her respect for people. When it came time to adopt, my husband was adamant that we travel to Korea. I wanted nothing to do with going to Korea. I was completely scared of going to Asia (even though I had been to Europe in college- but that was different!). After we traveled, I was so thankful that I went. I completely fell in love with Korea.

Now, I don’t think you have to cook Korean food or learn Korean, but I think it is helpful for adoptive families to have a real life view of Korea. At a certain point, a Korean child will have to be comfortable with being Asian-American. It may be more difficult for parents that don’t want to learn anything about Korea to understand this issue, and they may even harbor their own prejudices. I'm guilty of that! In the past, I know for sure I never used to check out Asian guys (wow has that changed!). I’ve had my friends from the mainland on Guam tell me they never check out the Japanese and Korean guys cause "there is nothing to look at." Of course, they don’t equate that to talking about my Korean son, but what happens when he is older and wants to date one of their daughters? It goes the same way with the chatter about the Asian girls. In fact that gets sickening! For sure, I don't view the world the way I did before.

It is that racial identity issue that I think makes it important for adoptive parents to fall in love with Korea at least a little bit. You don’t have to live there, learn the language, or like Korean food, but I do think it is important that you have some respect for the race. Again, I think the Korean dramas and movies are such a great way to make Korean culture real. Attending a Korean church or learning Korean isn’t for everyone (nor is being a drama addict like me!), but checking out a drama is an easy way for an adoptive family to move beyond the basics of bulgogi and the Tol celebration.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

School Has Started!!

Woohoo, it was the first day of school today! For sure, both mom and kids were ready for it to start. It seems like the last few weeks, the fights between brother and sister have been endless! Jack, who is 7, started second grade, and Emma, who will soon be 6, started the first grade. I put them on the bus this morning then drove up to school to make sure that they found their way to their new teachers. I was most concerned about Jack, my little worrier, who very nervous when he got on the bus. However, my worries proved unfounded. By the time I spotted him in the mass chaos of kids, teachers, and parents, he had already hooked up with several of his friends. When I tried to guide him to his new teacher, he said "Mom don’t hold my hand!" Ok, well that is that- my guy is growing up. I briefly waived to my daughter as she was headed to her new class. She had met up with her kindergarten teacher from last year and was thrilled that "Ms. Bamba" was walking her to her new class (though I did find out later that she was very disappointed that Ms. Bamba wasn’t her 1st grade teacher!). As I walked away from the school, I felt a lump building in my throat and fought back tears. Day one of school can be hard on moms too!

Of course, when I got to the gym later that morning, Jay, the regular front counter guy, realized I wasn’t dragging in two kids into "Club Kids" and threw his arms up in the air- "School has started!" he cheered. I reached up and high-fived him. LOL Being a SAHM has it moments!


Drama Review: Alone in Love

Alone In Love (SBS 2006)
Number of Episodes- 16
Main Cast- Gam Woo Sung, Son Ye Jin, Gong Hyun Jin, Lee Ha Na
Korean Wiz Link:

This drama marks the return to the small screen for Gam Woo Sung and Son Ye Jin, both with very successful movie careers. Son Ye Jin plays Yoo Eun Ho, who works as a personal trainer at a Seoul health club. She is divorced from Lee Dong Jin, played by Gam Woo Sung, who is a manager at large bookstore. The couple divorced after the stillbirth of their first child. Dealing with the grief tore them apart, and only 2 months after the baby’s death, they decide to divorce rather than to continue fighting each other. However, despite their divorce, neither Eun Ho nor Dong Jin has moved on, and their lives continue to be intertwined. They meet every year at the same restaurant on the anniversary of their wedding, they see each other at the same donut shop every morning before work, they visit the grave of their child together, and they still share the same friends. While each feels pressure to move on, it is obvious that neither is ready, and both carry the heavy weight of unresolved feelings over the death of their child. To balance the complex issues surrounding Eun Ho and Dong Jin, the drama includes a colorful cast of supporting characters including Eun Ho’s sister, Ji Ho, who is always ready for her next meal, and Dong Jin’s best friend Joon Pyo, an OB/GYN doctor who has developed a sudden fear for delivering babies. Throw in as well a lady professional wrestler, a gay bartender, the gym crowd, and Dong Jin’s book store co-workers.

I read somewhere that this is the non-Korean Korean drama because it lacks the typical elements of a K-drama, like a Cinderella story or a love-triangle. In fact, when I first started watching the drama, I thought it may be too slow moving for me, but by the third episode, I was completely engrossed. No fancy story lines here- the main characters are average people with normal jobs and normal lives. The misunderstandings that led to their break-up are sad, but very real and understandable. In particular, I found myself so drawn to Eun Ho, who grieves over the loss of her child and in reality, her husband. Each episode is loaded with rich dialog, moving scenes, interlaced with lots of humor. As The Man, a regular on the HI drama board stated: "every scene, every expression, each piece of dialogue, every move, EVERYTHING in this show, sad and comedic (yes, let's not forget the morsels of hilarity in this show; it's half the reason why I decided to order the boxed set) MATTERED; and all that was a mere testament to giving all in love a lesson of sorts. Nothing was wasted." In addition, the cinematography is superb with so many wonderful scenes of modern Seoul. I highly recommend this drama.

For now, the complete drama with subs is loaded on d-addicts. Here is the link to ep 1, part 1


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Real Life K-Drama?

I read this article in the Digital Chosunilbo. I thought it was interesting because it sounds like basis for Korean drama. I wonder if he is actually in love with another MIT grad student, who struggles to support her poor family in Korea. Or wait- No could actually be in love with a cameraman- or her bodyguard- and her family is pushing the wedding. OK, just kidding, best wishes to the new couple.

’Ice Princess’ to Wed Hyundai Prince

With her sophisticated looks and precise enunciation, the KBS presenter No Hyun-jung (27) is sometimes called an "ice princess" despite enjoying greater popularity than some movie stars. On Tuesday, her handlers broke a lot of hearts by announcing that No will soon be marrying Chung Dae-sun (29), the third son of the late Hyundai Aluminum chairman Chung Mong-woo, and a grandson of the Hyundai conglomerate’s founder Chung Ju-young. The two will tie the knot on Aug. 27 at the Seoul Hyatt on Mt.Namsan.

No presents the KBS morning news program Newsplaza and is also a regular on the network's flagship entertainment program “Old & New” and on “Star Golden Bell.”Chung graduated in accounting at the University of California at Berkeley and since September has been continuing his studies abroad at MIT.

The match came to pass because No’s father got to know the Hyundai family after working as a supplier for the company and by chance found himself talking marriage with them. The two families reportedly met up in Japan, and the date for the wedding was chosen on Monday. Born in 1979, No majored in Child and Family Studies at Kyung Hee University and in 2003 started as a presenter on public channel KBS, and has since risen to a preeminent role.


Monday, August 14, 2006

What A Small World!

My husband Kevin was in Bangkok, Thailand last week with a couple of his friends. Besides vacation, a main goal of the trip was to get suits made for upcoming work he will be doing in the mainland. Since we moved from Washington DC in early 2002, he has worked in Hawaii and Guam where he had no need for suits. But, he now needs them for an extended work assignment starting in September.

So, he is in Bangkok, using the restroom at a bar when in walks another haole. Kevin says hi to him and he responds. Kevin says, "you must be American." The guy says yes, and they start chatting. It turns out this guy works for the same agency as Kevin and his buddies. The guy is from Washington DC. He joins Kevin and his friends, and they talk about work, etc. The DC guy asks Kevin if he knows Greg R. Kevin thinks a minute then says "Yes…in fact, he bought our house when we moved to Hawaii." The guy seems surprised and says, "You mean the house in Falls Hills?" Kevin say yes, and the guy says, "I’m living in that house." Turns out the people we sold our Washington DC home to are on temporary assignment in Europe and rented the house to this guy rather than sell it. Wild uh? He even knew our dog Hazard, who we "sold" with the house when we moved to Hawaii. She was too old to do the move and quarantine in Hawaii, and the people that bought the house loved her and offered to keep her.

How is that for a small world?


It All Started With Korean TV!

Last night, I was watching Sunday night game shows on KBS World. They have this soccer show that is a group of kids coached by different Korean celebrities. The kids play teams from other countries. In last night’s show, they were in England playing a group from an English soccer club. Super cute stuff…. Anyway, on they show, they had the "Free-Style" soccer champ who did all sorts of tricks with the soccer ball- bouncing it on his head, feet, legs, knees. Cool stuff and fun to watch. My son loved it.

So, this morning, my 5 yr old daughter Emma sat down at the kitchen bar to eat breakfast. She had already taken a bath and was dressed for the day. She was just digging into her Fruit Loops when brother appears with a ball, saying "Look Mommy, like THIS!" He proceeds to bounce the ball twice off his head, and before I could utter one syllable of "not in the house", the ball bounced off his head, onto the counter, and into the bowl of Fruit Loops. The bowl of Fruit Loops shot onto Emma’s lap, then to the floor, where the bowl split into 3 pieces. Hana the lab was quick to move in for the spoils. I cleaned up the bowl, then took Emma with me to the shower to hose her down. I was washing her hair when she slipped and did a face plant in our shower. Poor thing split her chin wide open. One look at the cut, and I knew she needed stitches.

Now, in Guam, medical treatment can be a bit scary. The hospital is not accredited and suffers from lack of doctors and money. In the past, I could use the emergency room on the Navy Base, but since we moved off base, we are no longer eligible to use them. So, I called our local clinic, which has a prompt care and was hoping they could see her. Yes, bring her in! Thankfully, my husband had arrived back in town Saturday night. I was able to call him at work to pick up our son, and then we were off to the clinic. At this point, Emma’s only worry was whether she would get a "girl band-aide," but I knew getting her to hold still for this would be next to impossible.

They took us in right away at the clinic, and I could tell there was some discussion among the nursing staff as to which doctor to get to do the stitches. I started getting nervous about the entire thing. I could tell a nurse we call "Auntie Fay" wanted Dr, Pittman to do it. We waited several minutes then they had me resign the consent to treatment form because they did indeed change doctors. THANK YOU Auntie Fay. As it turns out, Dr. Pittman, who we had seen before through family practice, has extensive experience in doing stitches on the face. Whew!

Dr. Pittman asked Emma "are you scared?" and she said "yes". He explained that the painful part was the first shot, but then she wouldn’t feel a thing. We tried to do it without holding her down, but one look at the needle and she was hysterical. So, they wrapped in a sheet, and we held her down. I basically laid on top of her! UGH! They used 3 shots to numb her, and she was screaming the entire time. Through her sobs, she demanded, "ARE YOU A DOCTOR?" and he said "yes" and she shot back, "WELL YOU ARE A BAD DOCTOR". We all couldn’t help but laugh. Finally, after she was numb, she did settle down to be stitched. As she was calming down, she said, "I’m sorry I called you a bad doctor. You are really a good doctor." It was SOOO cute! I kept my hands over her eyes, and she held very still. One of the receptionists came back to see her. She asked if we knocked her out! She said the entire waiting area could hear her screams of "bad doctor." I said they probably heard her in Saipan!

Ten stitches later we were out of there. Dr. Pittman said that mom probably needed a valium after that! Haha. Actually, I was very pleased with the care she got and so relieved that it went well. When we left, Emma even said Kamsahamnida to the Korean nurse that was helping us. As for big brother, no more soccer tricks in the house!


Friday, August 11, 2006

Check out a Korean film

I was reading on that youtube has been removing uploaded k-dramas and movies if they find them. It must be a copyright issue. So, I wanted to make a quick list of K-movies to check out. Enjoy these links while you can. I linked to part 1 of some of my favorite Korean movies. I’m by no means an expert on Korean films. Often I find them too violent and grim for my taste. However, I do think they make awesome romantic comedies. You can always check out the Hawaii Drama Board for reviews on Korean movies. Also an excellent resource for Korean film information is Darcy Pacquet’s

My Sassy Girl (love this movie- romantic comedy, great soundtrack too)

Too Beautiful To Lie (romantic comedy)

Mr. Handy (romantic comedy)

Please Teach Me English (romantic comedy- does have an American adoption subplot as well)

The Classic (a romance movie that I haven’t watched but everyone says I should!)

Once Upon A Time in High School (drama)

My Wife Is A Gangster (comedy)


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Drama Review: My Girl

My Girl (MBC 2005)
Number of Eps: 16
Main Cast: Lee Dong Wook, Lee Da Hae, Lee Joon Ki, Park Si Yeon
Korean Wiz link:

Along with All About Eve, Kim Sam Soon, Friends, and Sweet 18 (review coming soon!), My Girl is a drama I would easily recommend to a first time drama viewer. This drama centers around Lee Da Hae’s character Joo Yoo Rin. We are first introduced to Yoo Rin, who works as a tour guide, running into the Cheju-do airport begging the airlines to hold up a flight while her partner is frantically driving a tour bus to the airport loaded with tourist needing to catch the plane. When the airline people tell her that they can’t hold up the flight, she throws herself on the ground in tears begging to see her oppa, who is leaving her, one last time. Taking pity on the sobbing woman, they let her on the plane to find her boyfriend. She keeps the charade up long enough for her tourist customers to arrive and catch the plane. We later learn that thanks to her gambling Dad, Yoo Rin, grew up a survivor, living all over the world and fleeing when her Dad would get them into trouble. Consequently, she speaks Chinese and Japanese, and she can pull off a scam when needed. However, her heart is in the right place. While they’ve settled on Cheju-do, Dad gets in gambling trouble again and flees. The thugs are after her to make good on his gambling debts, so she is on the run again. She meets Seol Gong-chan, played by Lee Dong Wook, who runs large hotel in Seoul and in Cheju-do. After a series of events makes him aware of her fibbing capabilities, he hires her to play his long lost cousin, who his dying grandfather has desperately been seeking for, but Gong-chan has been unable to find. Gong-chan wants to use Yoo-rin to fulfill his grandfather's dying wish to see his granddaughter.

Absolutely a comedy, this drama is light and funny and never loses its sense of humor. Yoo-rin’s character is good-hearted and very likeable, and you sympathize with her as she gets buried deeper in her lies as the "fake cousin." The serious-minded Gong-chan makes a great straight-man to her antics. In addition, the supporting cast is wonderful with colorful characters and story lines to go along with the main plot. Playing Goong-chan’s close friend and his rival in Yoo-rin’s love is Lee Joon Ki, who stars in The King and The Clown, a recent top grossing film in Korea. Joon Ki is the rage in Korea right now, and he raises the bar on the term "metro-sexual." The drama even pokes fun at him "looking like a girl." A bonus in the drama is fun Christmas time scenes in Seoul and lots of great scenes atop the 63 Building. There is also a great karaoke scene that takes place in the "country" after Gong-chan and Yoo-rin get lost and she scams their way into a local gathering. The drama has a great soundtrack too. Anyway, watch the drama and as Yoo-rin says "You will be blessed." BASHA!!

The entire drama is loaded with English subs on youtube by a user named byako. I linked to page 12 of her video list to get to ep 1.

While I dld this and watched it thanks to d-addicts and fan subs, I want to buy it to add to my collection. YA will be releasing it in September:

Finally, it can be downloaded at:


Changes in Korean Adoption

According to the buzz on the Korean adoption bulletin boards, Korea has put a halt to referrals for international adoption until new policies on international adoption can be digested and put into place by the Korean agencies that handle adoption. In addition, Korean lawmaker Ko Kyung Hwa has proposed a law that will make international adoption illegal. From what I’ve read in the Korean newspapers, this law is in part a response to Korea’s declining birth rate. However, since the Seoul Olympics, Korea has fought to shake its image as a "baby exporter." Currently, there are quotas in place that limit the number of babies that can leave the country each year. I read in the newspaper that last year roughly 41% of adoptions were domestic, while the remaining adoptions (just over 2000 babies) were international. It appears that under the new rules, a baby can’t be placed for international adoption until the child is at least 5 months old. All options of domestic adoption must be attempted first. Also, Korean families will be given financial incentives to adopt and singles will be allowed to adopt as well.

Obviously, the rule changes have caused a bit of angst to those in the process of adoption. To be sure, if you are hoping for a child, uncertainty and delays can be maddening. In fact, one of the reasons we chose to adopt from Korea many years ago was the predictability of the process. One US agency is encouraging adult adoptees to write to Ko and let her know that adoption was a good thing for them. The agency of course says they support domestic adoption, but do not want to see international adoption ruled out as an option. As pure as their intentions are, it did make me uncomfortable to see a US agency organize this effort. From the US side of things, I think we need to step back and let Korea figure this out. It is really their issue.

If Korea does cut back on international adoption, I do worry for the children caught in the middle. It would be nice for international adoption to die out on its own because of the increase of domestic adoption and the support of the single mom. However, maybe it takes such a definitive step to finally end overseas adoption for Korea and force change. Have views on adoption changed that much and will the society be more supportive of the single mom? Any drama fan knows that being adopted can be considered a bad thing in Korea. Single motherhood is also a struggle for sure- in drama world and in real life. A good friend of mine is a single mom. She moved from Korea because she did not want her daughter to face discrimination. So, she runs a Korean restaurant here in Guam. In the year and half I’ve known her, she has not once taken a day off. She had her dad helping her for awhile, but he returned to Korea. With no family support, her daughter pretty much lives at the restaurant. I think it would be so much easier on her is she didn’t feel the need to leave Korea. In addition, I think it would be sad for more children to end up in orphanages. A Korean lady that cuts my son’s hair was raised in an orphanage in Korea. She said she was forced to quit school and go to work after the 8th grade. She says her life was lonely and hard, and she knew no family until her 30s when she was reunited with her sister. I always think that international adoption should be the last resort for a child, but I wouldn’t wish life in an orphanage on my kids any day.

I absolutely realize this is such a complex issue. I spent too much time today reading the blogs of Korean adoptees disenchanted with adoption. I always try to read with an open mind, but as an adoptive parent, they sure make you feel sleazy. Honestly, I think the purposed rule changes are a good thing for Korea. Regardless, while things are changing, reality for my kids is a life with us. As a snuggled with them at bedtime and tucked them in, it really doesn’t matter to them that I’m white and they are Korean. We are a family, and a day at a time, we will make it through this world together.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Drama Review: All About Eve

All About Eve (MBC 2000)
Number of Episodes: 20
Main Cast: Jang Dong Gun, Chae Rim, Han Jae Suk, Kim So Yeon
Korean Wiz link:

This story focuses on the relationship between two women, Sun-Mi (played by Chae Rim) and Young-Mi (played by Kim So Yeon). The show opens with death of Young-Mi’s father after a work-related accident on the construction site of a company owned by Sun-Mi’s father. Sun-Mi’s father takes pity on Young-Mi, who is left an orphan by her father’s death. He offers to sponsor her when she goes to college in Seoul. She has the goal of becoming a TV news anchor. Through flashbacks, we realize that Young-Mi’s alcoholic father abused her and made her life miserable. She is now motivated at all costs to succeed and breakaway from her past. Meanwhile, Sun-Mi is getting ready to start college and has a goal similar to Young-Mi’s. She initially welcomes Young-Mi into their lives, but soon becomes distrusting of Young-Mi’s manipulative ways. In addition, Woo-jin (played by Han Jae Suk), Sun-mi’s first crush, falls in love with Young-Mi. Realizing she has lost Woo-jin to Young-Mi, Sun-Mi heads off to London to study and meets Hyong-Chul (played by Jang Dong Gun). Hyong-Chul’s family owns MBC, but he has stayed away from the family business because of a dispute with his father.

AZN TV says All About Eve is rated one of the top dramas of all time by its viewers, and I agree with that. I love this one. Unlike other dramas, no deep life lessons here other than evil doesn’t pay. It is just a great story line that is fun (and at times, heartbreaking) to watch. The competition between Sun-Mi and Young-Mi is fierce. It is very entertaining to watch them battle it out once they start to work at the TV station. Young-Mi's character is often pointed to as one of K-dramas top villains, and yet you can sympathize with her and pity her. Sun-Mi is adorable, loyal, and innocent, and Hyong-Chul is her prince. This drama is also a chance to see Jang Dong Gun, who is a top movie star in Korea. AZN TV is scheduled to air AAE online in September.


Monday, August 07, 2006

An Introduction to K-Pop

I thought I would give a small sampling of Korean Pop music to check out. All the links are from For more on K-pop and to follow the latest hits, you can check out KBS World Radio’s K-pop interactive: Have fun!

Shinhwa- Around since 1998, this boy band represents major star power. Almost all the members have been successful as actors or solo singers. They have just recently released their 8th album State of the Art.

Brand New- Music Video (from their 7th album in 2004)

Fly To The Sky- This male duo, made up of Hwanhee and Brian (a Korean American), have been around since 1998. They released their 6th album Transition in 2006. For sure, one of my favorite groups- I have 4 of their albums.

Blood (live performance on SBS- from 2006)

Like A Man (live performance- from 2006)

Sea Of Love- Music Video (FTTS-from 2002)

Kang Ta- Lead singer for the 1990’s hit group HOT, Kangta is a big star throughout Asia.

Polaris (live on KBS Love Letters)

Lee Hyo Ri- She is beautiful, sexy and an awesome dancer. The song 10 minutes was a huge hit for her as a solo artist (she was formerly part of the girl group FinKL), and the song has become a symbol of sexiness in Korea. In fact, I just heard it in a church skit done at a Korean festival last weekend! She has just released her 2nd solo album Dark Angel. Enjoy the video!

10 Minutes- Music Video (from 2003)

Se7en- He released his first album in 2003 and is known for his dancing.

Performing in April on SBS- Nan Alayo

Bi (Rain)- One of the major stars of the Korean wave, Bi performed a few months ago in New York City. He is known for his singing and dancing as well as his acting. He is the star of several dramas. I love to watch him perform!

I Do- Music Video

It’s Raining- performing on SBS

Buzz- A K-pop rock group that debuted in 2003, I have their 2nd album Effect and love it. Here is their performance on KBS’s Open Concert. I like this video because the hangul is in big print and making it easier to sing along… if you want to practice your Korean.

Coward- live performance- 2005

Koyote- This group, made up of 2 guys and 1 girl, has been around since 1999. The main members are Kim Jong-Min and Shin-Ji, plus a rapper, who has changed through the years. Love this kids love this group. Their dance music is tons of fun and we listen to them often.

1, 2, 3, 4- Music Video

Sung Si Kyung- He is a ballad singer that gives me chills when he sings. I have 2 of his albums and have gone out of my way to study the lyrics, so I can sing along. The music video is one of my favorite songs, but the video is a little strange! Be sure to check out the English song Try To Remember.

Waewuh doosaeyo- Music Video

Try To Remember- Live Performance

Jewelry- A girl group that is one of my daughter’s favorites. Superstar was a huge hit for them in 2005.

Superstar (on KBS Music Bank)


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Drama Review: Friends

Number of Episodes: 4
Main Cast: Won Bin, Fukada Kyoko, Lee Dong Gun, Park Hye Jin
Koreanwiz Link:

This 2002 MBC drama was a joint production between MBC and the Japanese station TBS. The drama opens in Hong Kong, where Korean college student Kim Ji Hun (played by Won Bin) is taking a break from his studies to explore Hong Kong and work on his films. He has a goal of becoming a movie director, but it is soon clear that he is facing big pressure to return to his hometown where his very traditional Korean family expects him to take over the family business. While in Hong Kong, he meets Asai Tomoko, a Japanese girl on vacation who mistakes him for the purse snatcher that took her purse. Once the misunderstanding is cleared up, a relationship develops in their short time together, but alas, the vacation ends, and they must separate. However, with email and a little help from Ji Hun’s Japanese speaking roommate, they are able to keep in contact with each other.

The drama centers on the love story between Tomoko and Jin Hun and how they must overcome the challenges of both a long-distance relationship as well as dating someone from a different country. However, a big part of the drama is the growth of each character individually. Despite wanting to purse his dreams of making movies, Ji Hun must first come to terms with his responsibility to his family. In Japan, Tomoko is a high school graduate working at a dead-end job in a department store. Unlike Ji Hun, she lacks any kind of dream at all. In addition, her mother is a successful business woman, and Tomoko feels guilt that she can’t match her mother’s accomplishments. Her mother is aware of her daughter’s struggle and longs to support her, but is afraid to push too hard. At first, Tomoko wants to learn about Korea for Ji Hun, but eventually, her love for Korea and learning the Korean language ends up fueling her own dreams. For me, one of the most moving parts of the drama is watching Tomoko blossom and seeing the growth of her relationship with her mother.

Visually, this drama is loaded with wonderful scenery of Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea. The fall scenery filmed in Seoul is beautiful, and the scenes of Ji Hun’s military training are intense. Also, because of Ji Hun’s family, the drama gives a glimpse into more traditional Korean culture. Again, I really loved the way Tomoko’s character fell in love with Korea. To me, her character is a glimpse of what it will be like if my children would ever choose to immerse themselves in their birth country and live in Korea. I highly recommend this short drama.

I’ve seen this drama loaded on youtube with subtitles, but this could always change! For now, here is the link to part 1 of episode one. If you run this, you will see the other episodes in the "related links."

Ep1 (part 1 of 6) uploaded by h0pezz

This can also be downloaded at:


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Drama Review: My Name Is Kim Sam Soon

My Name Is Kim Sam Soon
Number of Episodes: 16
Main Cast: Kim Sun-Ah, Hyun Bin, Jung Ryeo Won, Daniel Henney
Korean Wiz Link:

One of the things I wanted to do with this blog is share drama reviews. For sure, this 2005 MBC drama goes at the top of my list of dramas to check out. The drama is about Sam Soon (played by Kim Sun-Ah), a feisty pastry chief, who gets dumped by her longtime boyfriend on Christmas Eve. About to turn 30, she is unmarried, overweight, and finds the chances of meeting someone to marry growing dim. In addition, she is strapped by the name Sam Soon, which in Korea is considered a "country bumpkin" name. In fact, one of her life goals is to change her name to Hee Jin. She takes a job as a pastry chief for a restaurant owned by Hyeon Jin-Heon (played by Hyun Bin). Jin Heon is the rebellious son of a wealthy hotel owner, who is angry that her son chooses to run his own restaurant rather than work for her hotel. Jin Heon, cocky and arrogant, is aloof and sarcastic towards women and his mother’s repeated attempts to find a wife for him. However, it is clear that his still harbors unresolved feelings for his first love, who suddenly left Korea for the United States without explanation three years ago. While Jin Heon is cool towards the idea of marriage, Sam Soon still hopes for the chance to meet someone and marry. As she explains, "Life is like crossing the ocean in a row boat and it is too difficult to row by yourself."

Sam Soon is such a wonderful character- average looking, middle-class, and easy to admire and relate to. She is strong, tough, and committed to her work, yet still vulnerable when it comes to matters of the heart. And, as most women can relate to, she is always worried about her weight and is always trying the latest diet, but can’t resist ordering extra syrup in her latte and sneaking a late night snack! For first-time drama watchers, this drama is vogue and still packed with classic Korean culture issues, like getting the parents’ approval for a relationship. The drama is smart, funny and packed with great dialog and banter between the main characters. It also carries a great overall message about having love and respect for yourself. The drama was very popular in Korea, with a rating of over 50% for the final episodes. In an adoption related note, Daniel Henney, who plays an American doctor in the drama, is the real life son of an Korean adoptee. In the drama, his character is also the son of an adoptee.

**Currently, this drama can be watched online on AZN TV.


Book Review: Korea: The Land of Miracles

I recently wrote this review for the Hawaii drama board, and I wanted to post it here as well:

When I was getting ready for our trip to Korea last fall, I kept checking our bookstore for Lonely Planet Korea and Lonely Planet Seoul, but had no luck (ended up using for them). However, in the travel section, they had stocked this book by Simon Winchester called Korea- A Walk Through the Land of Miracles. At the time, I was irritated by this because I was looking for practical information like a map of the subway system, but one day, while letting the kids browse the children’s books, I picked up the book and read the preface. I was so drawn in that I had to buy the book.

The book chronicles the journey of author Simon Winchester as he travels by foot in the late 1980s, just prior to the 1988 Olympics, from the very southern tip of Cheju Island to the DMZ. His journey of Korea was forced to stop at the DMZ because he could not get permission to travel into North Korea. He patterned his journey after the crew of the Sparrowhawk, a Dutch merchant ship, which crashed on Cheju Island in August of 1653. The crew was captured by the Koreans and sent by the Governor of Cheju to Seoul to go before the King and his court. They were brought by ship across the Strait of Cheju and then transported north “by horse and foot”. Ultimately, the crew was exiled to the southwest corner of Korea until they managed to escape to Japan via a stolen fishing boat ten years later. The ship’s secretary Hendrick Hamel recorded the crew’s journey, and as he mirrors the crew’s trek into Seoul, Winchester begins each chapter by quoting from Hamel’s book “the Kingdom of Corea.” On a side note, Hamel’s book, published in 1668 is thought to be the first European account of Korea.

I confess that when I started this book, I really knew very little about Korea’s post-war environment. To me, Korea was the Korea I saw on dramas like Kim Sam Soon- hip, modern and westernized. So, I was immediately taken back when he wrote in the author’s note: “In a while, with good luck and a fair wind, the people of South Korea will enjoy a high degree of human rights. But for now it is a sad reality that they do not.” Granted, this was written in the late 1980’s, but to me, Korea seemed to enjoy political freedoms similar to the US. This book made me appreciate the tense environment in Korea, living in a state of war with the North, always on the look out for invasion from the enemy. He gives a vivid overview of the Massacre of Kwangju from both sides of the issue (Massacre or Uprising?) and discusses in detail the political fallout from the event. He also spends time with “the Peacekeepers” on one of the US military bases. The disrespectful behavior towards Korea of some of the soldiers he spent time with will make you cringe for sure.

Apart from the political stuff, he gets into vivid descriptions of the beauty of the Korea, its people, and his admiration for the work ethic of the country. He gives great accounts of things like going to a bathhouse, playing cards Korean-style, and drinking soju…all things drama fans can appreciate. He also details the logistic difficulties of making the trip by foot. I must say, as a fitness junkie, part of the intrigue of the book for me was the fact that he made the journey by walking. I found myself immensely jealous of the ability to take on a month-long adventure like this both because of my love for Korea as well as the physical challenge of the trip. A caveat I will add is that the book is written by an Englishman, so it is a outsider’s view of Korea. That is the one thing I like about learning about Korea through the dramas- it is learning the culture first hand rather than through a westerner’s perspective, which can make it feel distant and unfamiliar. Overall, I recommend this book as a great way to get a feel for the post-war Korea and the challenges that it faces.


Where To Find Korean Dramas

Subtitled Korean TV is shown in many cities including Chicago, Honolulu, LA, Seattle, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Atlanta. KBS America subtitles all its dramas plus many other programs and is available through the Dish Network as well as many cable companies. Others stations like AZN and Imaginasian show Korean programming. In fact, AZN recently launched a media player where you can view dramas via the web. KoreanWiz, a great place for all your drama info, has a good list of TV stations showing Korean programming at

To rent dramas, you can check out Ramen City. They have a nice selection, and I’ve heard good things about them. I've never used them because they won't ship to Guam! If you are willing to watch the dramas in 10-minute segments, you can find dramas on I will share youtube links when I can. If you are interested in downloading dramas, check out This is where I get most of my dramas. The latest dramas are available here with fan-subtitles. Also, I recently found a blog called Silent Regrets Dot Com where you can download k-dramas, movies, and soundtracks. This site uses the fan-subs from d-addicts, hard-codes the subs, then uploads them in a smaller file than what is on d-addicts. It appears a bit more user friendly than d-addicts. I haven't used this site yet, but it looks like a great resource.

Finally, you can buy dramas at places like YesAsia. YA is a leader in adding English subtitles to Korean dramas, and their subtitles are top-quality. I often order dramas from the Hong Kong based Prices are cheaper than YA; however, you have to be careful about the quality of subtitles. In general, it has been my experience that if the subs are rated as "good," they are ok. For a great list of dramas available to purchase on DVD, check out this list maintained on the Hawaii Drama Fans board.