Monday, July 26, 2010

Let's learn Korean, shall we?

This is one of favourite treat: dried persimmon. This one is little more special. It is half dried and friezed. During the fall and winter, the season of dried persimmon, my Grandmother set the best looking ones aside for the ancestral ceremony. The last of it is mine.

I have it with tea from its leaves. The fruit, the leaf, and even the flower is edible and much appreciated, though most commonly people would eat fruit.

The fruit, when it is fresh, is called gam. When it is dried, it is called gotgam

Few days ago I found persimmon labeled as 'kaki' in the market. The English word persimmon was not there. Was it special type of persimmon from Japan? NO. If so, it should be labeled as its type, not 'kaki' since the word just mean persimmon. It was ordinary looking and common type of persimmon I used to see every day. All of a sudden it is named as gaki. Not persimmon or Gam.

I often found it puzzling: why are all the names Korea and Japan share almost always known in Japanese?

One of the reason may be that it is much easier to say it in Japanese than in Korean. Korean language has coda (the end sound) in many cases and it is much harder to pronounce if you are not born in the language uses similar sound. For instance, Undaria pinnatifida, the common seaweed often used soup and salad in Japan and Korea is known as wakame, not 'miyeok' . Miyeok is not so hard to say it, I think, but harder than wakame.

But this is not always true. Nori, another seaweed that you found, is known as nori, not gim which equally easy to pronounce. Though Korea is quite famous with gim, and you will find a lot of Japanese tourist buying gim in Korea.

I have to confess it made me little jealous and anxious. Korea has much shorter interaction in modern history with western world compared to Japan. But it also meant that Korean food is not well known along with her culture, which made me sad. Even the Gourmat depicted Korean food with so much Chinese theme, made my blood boil with anger for this blunt ignorance and disrespect. My fear, I must say, is from realizing how small my country is. We have China and Japan, the two big neighbours become more and more bigger and stronger while my country struggles -in some sense- for its existance, which we have always done generations after generations.

So, here are few words. My contribution to my own culture which I cherish and proud of.

감 Gam -persimmon
김 Gim -Laver
김치 Kimchi (NEVER EVER kimuchi. that is an insult since the term kimuchi is the result of spelling Korean word kimchi. Due to the histroy, Koreans are a bit sensitive.)
미역 miyeok - Undaria pinnatifida
배 bea - Nashi, Asian pear
다시마 dasima - edible kelp
청콩 chungkong - edamame, green soybean

And to be continued with my other postings...

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