Speaking my Language

gwangbak

What I’m saying is that, I’ve considered moving to Korea because I’m aware that at least my emotions have migrated there already. I became a super fan overnight which also, is dramatic in itself. When I say super fan, I mean of Korean culture itself. It all started unplanned on a weekend in June when I watched Korean Drama, ‘Wangs Family’ for the first time on very stuffy Sunday afternoon. Its grip on me was also as instant and close-fitting, as the heat. The sympatico of this unknown language became suddenly proverbial to me, a place for me to rest. Since I’ve entered this biosphere with such intrigue, it’s dented my psyche to the degree where I’m struggling to watch anything in English anymore, simply for the reason that I miss my Korean dramas during the working day, in a way that’s far from fleeting, but more the way you may miss your mothers homemade pancakes —with a wild urgency.

hobak

Korean dramas are as comforting as stretching your body in the early morning, or like that first sip of hot tea after a long day. It’s a clean cut, pleasant place to be, to simmer alone while snacking and to watch ‘Wang’s Family’ with the subtitles on. It’s a place that allows you to feel like your leaning on a beanbag, a place to perch over characters woes. Like when Subak apologizes to her family for single handily losing their home, or as her grandmother and mother heatedly discuss relevant family affairs that foreshadow the entire show. I’m emotionally invested when characters like Sangnam frets over his life troubles, like his lack of education when approaching Gwangbak’s family to propose marriage, and they ungracefully decline. I too, sit with the Wang family at dinner, cross legged on the living room floor of their home in Seoul, and consider the depth of their father’s voice, Bong Wang, as he scolds his adult children for not following the family motto of ‘putting yourself in the shoes of others.’ I wince when this sixty year old man, cries to his wife that he feels he has not raised his children well, when they all simultaneously disappoint him.

What I’m picturing is the intensity of Minjuing’s face in episode #6 where he looks as though may burst a vein in his neck, enduring his wife’s Subak’s Banshee like screams when she finds out he’s now bankrupt, proclaiming ‘‘How can I handle this?’’ Then, her further cries when they move to a small, cheap apartment where she clarifies that she regrets marrying him, and regrets their children ever being born even. And in her desperation, succumbs to using a chamber pot as a bathroom equivalent. Subak is a horror to watch, and her words though stinging, are also phonetic poetry to my English ears. The contraries in her tone when speaking Korean are as telling as moods, sharp sometimes, tapered at others, but always true to the situation. The drama however does not mask what the shows unshakeable purpose is —the capacity to understand and sympathize with your family at least, but above all to show respect to all.

It’s reflected in the show, this idea that throughout life, things happen, things made to clip our tolerance, and to ration our understanding. In Korea, it seems to be things like financial strain, marriage ideals and cultural norms that though dramatic, Korean dramas house the notion that we are highly aware anyway of life’s intensities and their effects. The events that transpire in Korean dramas, are real to Korean culture and eye opening to the western eye and ear. For example, if a character is upset, her distress is realistic because she is shown to be troubled in real time, for four, five, maybe even six episodes even.

wangs familyThese days, I could be at work, and hear down the corridor the faint hum of noises from an everyday conversation, and it will get me wondering about the honorific form; pronouns used in Korean, meaning politeness and humbleness. Ultimately, there’s something about the imagery of the side dishes, chopsticks and of the clean city of Seoul, about how you must bow when you see your parents and grandparents that rearranges me. Check out Wang’s Family Episode 1 below:

 

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