God's Gift To Men

A short time ago I met a group of women from China at a dinner party.    They had large brown eyes and snow-white skin as well as white teeth and cherry-coloured lips.    I was startled by their elegant appearance and posture that, I'm told, was something like the typical Korean beauty of the past.

Times have changed, but in ancient China, when a baby daughter was born, people usually told the parents, "Hey, congratulations!    You've got a daughter worth a thousand pieces of gold."

In China, there were continuous wars, so grown-up sons went to war and often died.    On the other hand, the daughter could be exchanged for cash at any time.    According to Chinese thought, a woman is like the earth, or Yin (the negative principle in nature), which refers to water.

In Korea, still some people are glad when a daughter is born, because it is supposed to make their businesses more sucessful.    In the olden times of China's Shaoxing region, people buried a vat of liqour in their backyards whenever baby girls were born.

Years later, when the daughter got married, the vat would be dug up and the alcohol could be served in the ceremony.    This drink is a favourite Chinese liqour, Shaoxingjiu which is made of glutinous millet.

In ancient Korea, when a baby girl was born, the father planted a paulownia in a vacant spot of the garden.    The tree could resist moths and was solid, so when parents prepared articles for their daughter's marriage , they used part of it to make her wardrobe.    Usually, whenever a daughter started the marriage period, the mother had her wear a red ribbon in her long braided hair.

Also, mothers taught their daughters over and over again about good behaviour, patience, diligence, frugality and prudence.    They knew that silent smiling or speaking in a low voice were espeically attractive qualities in a woman.   

Ancient Koreans regarded a woman who had two white colours, two red colours and two black colours as a real true beauty - white skin and teeth, red lips and cheeks, and black hair and eyes.    Some time ago it was reported that blonde hair would disappear altogether in 200 years due to its recessive genetic material.

Recently, so many women are having plastic surgery on their noses, chins, cheekbones, eyelids and breasts.    I was told that dyeing hair harms the pores of the skin and hair, and plastic surgery is harmful to the body and has horrible side effects.

Traditionally the eyelids of typical Korean beauties are single-edged, and blond hair doesn't match Korean faces at all.    The North Korean cheering squad and brass band, consisting of 293 people, came to Busan for the Asian Games .    I was so moved by their extraordinary natural beauty, without dyed hair, and with their beautiful traditional Korean clothes.    Also, I felt they put on little make-up were modest, and quiet.

Frankly speaking, as of now, thanks to wonderful western culture, it's pretty hard to find such women in South Korea.    Such natural, innocent, elegant and decent ones remain in my memory.    It's an old and lost story.    I guess the North Korean women are examples for South Korean women who use plastic surgery to change their natural and pure, innocent features.

Recently, most men from western countries want to marry Thai women more than those from other Asian nations.    The main reason is their modest, quiet, gentle and obedient attitude, which was cultivated by the mercy of Buddha.    Well then, how about South Korean women?    What do we honestly think of them?
By Seoh Bong'seong,
Senior Professor,
Cheju University.

... and that my friends is the text of an article taken from a recent edition of the Korean Times.    Reading the newspaper every day is just one of things I've come to appreciate about living in another country, rather than just travelling though.    You can get some small idea of the daily life in the country by flicking through the headlines.    Fortunately my school orders a copy the english-language paper every day, so I get to take it up to my classroom and have a little read whilst I'm supposedly "preparing" for my classes.

That's later in the day though... first thing I do when I arrive in school is to go to the staffroom, where the newspaper is usually kept, pick it up, flick through the pages until I find what I want, and then read for about a minute.    Then I close the paper, put it back, and go out of the room again.    I've done this pretty much every day here, and I've noticed that the other teachers are more than a little curious about what I'm reading for just those few moments every morning.    The Koreans are far too polite to ask such an intrusive question though, and I'm getting far too much of a kick out of it to let them in on the little secret.    But I'll tell you of course... :-) Dilbert has made it to Korea!    Which makes a lot of sense I guess, since no country fosters such a supply of great pointy-haired nitwits. :-)    I should have know there would be a market for everyone's favourite ray of bitter sunshine in South Korea too. :-)

On the same page in the paper, they also have a really nice section.    A few spare column inches devoted to what they call the 'Poem For Breakfast'.    Of course it's long past breakfast when I'm reading it, but, along with Dilbert, it's a beautiful little start to my working day, and something of a ritual reading that I take real pleasure in.    Indeed, I've started really looking forward to it.. it's probably the only reason I can face going into the staffroom in the morning.    Here's today's entry:

Moonlight filling the yard is a smokeless candle,
Mountain shade obtruding is an unexpected guest,
The pine tree plays an unannotated melody,
All this with prudence, lest others find out.

Choe Hang
I read that a couple of times to get the flavour of it, but unfotunately, it isn't as imaginative as it sounds.    Underneath the poem they publish a little explanation, and apparently that style of poem and the imagery used are as common as muck in the classic literature of China and Korea.    It's still a nice poem though.

Later on in the day I go through the paper properly.    You get a strange mix of weird opinion pieces (like the 'True Beauty' piece cited above) and pretty nifty politicial coverage.

One story I've been following is about the fate of two US soldiers here.    Apparently they were driving some type of armoured vehicle on a trainnig exercise here and ran over two Korean schoolgirls, walking on the road home after school.    Now the Korean police can't touch them, since American GIs are totally exempt from Korean law and so they were handed over to a US Court.    The US Court has just cleared them of all wrongdoing.    No one was expecting a murder charge, but at least manslaughter, or homicide through negligence or something.    Nothing.    These US Soldiers are totally innocent according to the US Court.

I'm on the american State Department's mailing list of travel warnings, and no sooner had I read the story than I received a mail telling me that military personnel and civilians (including English Teachers) should consider themselves in danger.    It's hard to make Koreans angry.    Politeness is a deep part of their culture, espeically to guests and foreigners.    Even more so, they tend to avoid confrontation, because they know that it'll only cause one of the parties involved to lose face.    But they've had it up to here with the GIs roaming around Korea, and the 'Not Guilty' verdict in this trial could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.    One of the candidates for this year's Presidential election has gone as far as to say that if GIs don't come under Korean law, then he's going to expel them from South Korea altogether.    Very patriotic etc., but maybe not very wise when your North Korean neighbours are busy developing Nuclear Weapons?

And that's the roundup of today's news in the Korean papers.    Now I'm off to have a nice weekend, and hopefully find myself some of those pure, innocent, silently-smiling natural beauties that us western men are going crazy for.   


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