Peace Corps, Korea VI

My homepage (self introduction) is at genehillman.wordpress.com. Two pages on Korea which I no longer maintain are a Google page which has many useful links, and some broken. and an earlier WordPress page on Korea and my 2012 visit may be found at https://korearevisit.wordpress.com/. The following list is links to sections of this page.

tiger map

Seeing this as a map, I lived in the tiger’s belly.

My Experience in Korea

peace_corps_korea_trucker_hat-r869091ed484840dea22f7a340e8480b3_v9wzw_8byvr_324In the late 1960s I was a Peace Corps (평화봉사단) Volunteer (see also National Peace Corps Association) in Korea (Korea-6: Rural Health Program). When Peace Corps asked me to go to Korea I felt an immediate connection. My uncle Fred (“Bud”) flew as a navigator in C-47s for a group called the Kyushu Gypsies in the “war” and was killed.

In October 1967 our group began three months training in language and public health at Camp Armac near Bothell, Washington, provided by the University of Washington, with language training conducted by teachers from Yonsei University Korean Language Institute. We arrived in Korea in late January 1968. After a brief orientation in Seoul our whole group was assigned to rural sites in the province of ChungCheongNam Do (충청남도, or Chungnam for short). I was assigned first to Yugu (유구), a small town in the north of Kong Ju 1 County which would swell on market days (every five days) when people would come into town from the surrounding area, and the public bath and movie house (a hall with folding chairs) would be open. There were several restaurants in town (two Chinese) but most meals (rice, kimchee (김치), tubu (두부, tofu), dried fish (밀치?), bean sprouts, sometimes soup, and sometimes an egg) were taken at the boarding house or taken with me to work in a dosirak (도시락, unlike the one pictured mine was aluminum and had three compartments: rice, kimchee, and something else such as tubu or dried fish). My Korean name, 진휘문, was given to me by two school teachers one night while sitting in a tearoom in Yugu. I used it on my tojang (도장, personal seal): at the office, for banking, and for other official purposes. My pay was transferred from Seoul to the local bank (Agriculture Coop in Yugu in my case) where I had an account.

Some pictures

I have very few pictures from my Peace Corps  years in Korea. I took hundreds of them but unfortunately they were 35mm slides and I no longer had a projector, so in my last move I got rid of almost all of them. I did have prints of some of them. for my album, and have scanned them, including two wedding pictures. There are also a few pictures from Louise Van Horne (in the photo below left seated on the left) who was assigned to the village about 20 minutes (by bus) south of Yugu. She was the only blond the children had ever seen, and not having a point of reference, they would call her grandmother. Bob Sala is seated to the right of me. Here also are 382 pictures of the Korea I remember on Flicker, by Stephen Dreher, or on Facebook by Designersparty.

GongJu Public Health Center, Then (1968) and Now (2013 while on re-visit)

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Here is a full list of blogs and pictures of my times in Korea (pages identified as Cavtel are from pre 2012 visit, and prone to bad links):

Neither Peace Corps nor the Korean Ministry of Health and Social Affairs seemed to know what we would be doing. In the spring the two health groups (K-4 and K-6) met at Beopjusa (법 구사) in Chungcheongbuk-do to consider our project. Some of us changed to teaching English, but for those of us who continued with health work some major changes were made. The focus was now to be tuberculosis (TB) control and I was moved to the county health center in Kongju (Gongju or 공주). (pictures above were taken in front of it). From AD 475 to 538 Gongju was the capitol of Baekje , and is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Most of what I now see on the internet had not been excavated when I lived there. To PC-Microscope-2prepare us, we all got extra training in Daejeon.

Most of us were getting roped into teaching English on the side, so some of us spent a summer at the Provincial University in Gwangju (Kwangju), Cholla Nam Do, training in TESOL while teaching English conversation to Korean high school English teachers as part of an in-service program at the provincial university. Back in Kong-Ju I worked in the health center and taught English conversation part time for the adjoining Provincial Nursing High School. TB control work in Kongju was problematic: I participated in BCG inoculation campaigns (using UNICEF kits with alcohol burners to sterilize the needles between injections); but home visiting was out, what with the crowds of screaming kids I gathered, it was hard to be discrete; dispensing medicine was difficult with my limitations reading medical records written in cursive Chinese characters; and Gongju had a perfectly competent microscopist so I wasn’t needed there.

GEH_Korea_In Gongju I made a few friends including the health center staff with whom I’d play ping pong (there was a table on the second floor), or yut after work. For yut we’d go to a nearby wine house and scratch the yut board in the dirt outside, playing to see who would pay. We’d drink makoli while eating dried squid dipped in gochujang (고추장, hot bean mash). Sometimes in the evening I’d stay home and play hwatu with the maid, or other boarders. The son of my boarding house owner introduced me to the piri (click here to hear traditional Korean sanjo (산조)). I also started learning yudo (Jap=judo) until I was injured and was in a brace until I moved to Seoul. I also learned to play baduk (바둑), better known as by its Japanese name igo, or just “go“).

Go

I learned the rudiments of go (Jap=IGo (囲碁); Kor=baduk (바둑)) while in high school, from Simon Nicholson, an English artist who appreciated the designs resulting from the play. I refined my game while living in GongJu, learning from a Mister Hwang who taught at the teachers college. I played very little after my return until we moved to Annapolis, but after that I would sometimes play with my Karate teacher after practice, or at a club in Rockville, and would occasionally organize groups which would meet in Dahlgren Hall at the Naval Academy. I was probably no better than a 10 kyu at my best.

On moving back to Pennsylvania I purchased Many Faces of Go on 3 1/2 inch floppy discs from someone who taught judo and had organized a small go group at the YMCA in Wilmington, Delaware. The program had adequate resources for learning and since I wasn’t playing much, I gave away my small library to a fellow worker at Friends Center. Until recently my play has been limited to occasional games against the computer using this program.

My wife now has sole custody of our Windows PC, and I use an OS Chrome machine, so I play server based games since many are platform independent.  You can find servers at the American Go Association (as well as instruction,  bookssoftware, and more) and at several sites by enthusiasts. Sensei’s Library  and 361 Points are particularly good. Weiqiok is a Chinese site (click blue oval button top right for English). Kiseido is a Japanese site (in English) with server, bookstore (ship anywhere) and some essays.

While in Gongju I borrowed a statistics text from the local university library and taught myself enough stats to help me in my work, comparing case finding results in various parts of the county. This effort may not have been helpful. But on my return I was able to place out of the introductory stats course (and then some) so it was well worth the effort, and it laid the ground work for a master’s degree and what was to be my career as a statistician for the next sixteen years.

The Japanese Legacy

A post on the Facebook Korea RPCVs group on August 21st addressed the 70th anniversary of the end of the Japanese occupation. I posted the following :”I served in GongJu in the late 60s (K-6, health). The teacher’s college had the outhouse in front of the main door. It was explained to me that that had been [the location of] the Shinto shrine during the occupation.”

After I married Kyung-Sook, whom I had met in Yugu when she was home on college break, I moved to Seoul (서 울) so we could live together while she continued college. The marriage, officiated by the Minister of Health and Social Affairs, lasted 15 years and resulted in the birth our son Geoffrey (in picture below). I took a bus to work, first for a few weeks to the Suwon (수원) Health Center for a special project, then to the Yeongdeungpo (영등포) Health Center in Seoul, where I spent my days looking for little red squiggly lines ( tubercle bacillus) on a blue field under a microscope. The microscopes I used were provided by UNICEF, and had the country of manufacture scratched out (Communist Romania: these were the days of rabid anti-Communism during the Park Chung Hee [박정희] regime). We arrived in the United States in December, 1969, just in time to celebrate Christmas with my family.

More Recent Visits

In 1976 Kyung-Sook and I returned to visit her family in Seoul, and the family graves in Yugu. We also visited Jeju (제 주, or Jeju-do with the “do” meaning either island or province depending on the Chinese character). Jeju is a large volcanic island off the southern coast with a unique history, culture and dialect. There are a few pictures from this trip at Picasa. From there we flew to Japan where we stayed for a few days before flying back (see Japan box, with more pictures, below).

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Geoffrey (left) mountain climbing with coworkers near Changwon.

In the spring of 2012 Geoffrey was offered a position with Ducom, Inc., as a logistician working on a Korean army base in Changwon. For much of the 19 months he was there he was the only American on the base. In October of that year  I combined a visit  to Geoffrey, in Changwon with a Korean government sponsored “Revisit” for 50 former volunteers in Seoul. Five of us were from my group, K-6. We were all put up at the Somerset Palace near Gwanghwamun and GyeongbokGung (palace), and visited our sites. See my blog of this trip at Blogger and more pictures at Picasa.Seoul2012

In 2013 I visited Changwon again for Geoffrey’s wedding to Kim Yeji (김예지) at Smyrna Presbyterian Church.2013-10-18 22.20.46

They are now living in Media, Pennsylvania and have made me a grandfather.

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Yeji and Geoffrey with Solomon

My exposure to Korean Philosophy: The Three Teachings

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The Vinegar Tasters

The Chinese traditionally spoke of “the three teachings,” or doctrines, to include Confucianism, Taoism (Daoism) and Buddhism . These three teachings are ingrained in Korean culture, The Korean flag (top of page) is the Taegeukgi which features the t’ai-chi, or great ultimate (being the proper name for what is often called the yin-yang) and the four primary triagrams described in the I-Ching This book is a classic, basic to both Confucianism and Taoism. Before leaving for Korea I bought a copy and took it with me. The forward by C.G. Jung and introduction by Richard Wilhelm were helpful but I never really understood it (who has?).

Living in rural Korea I couldn’t help but be exposed to the three doctrines in their popular form. In addition to the flag, all social relationships were conditioned by Confucian rules, down to how deep one would bow to different people, and the kneeling bow (“kowtow”) due to parents (parents-in-law too) on new year’s and after an absence. I can remember being awakened at my boarding house on special days by the chants of Sokamuni-bul (석가모니불) emanating from a neighborhood temple, repeating the Buddha’s name all night. Like a fish lives in water, or we live and breath air, I lived in an ocean of the three doctrines. There was a missionary teaching at the Methodist high school in GongJu who I would see occasionally, but we traveled in very different circles. Christianity was not strong in central ChungCheongNam Do and provided no counter to the three doctrines.

iching

I Ching (click on image to enlarge)

In college I had majored in Political Science with a particular interest in political philosophy, but the political philosophy taught at my school was limited to western political philosophy. I did study Asian political systems, but little attention was given to the traditions out of which these systems developed. It was natural that while in Korea I tried to fill in this gap in my knowledge. I read up on East Asian political thought (see in particular Confucius’s Political Philosophy), and the political implications of Korean Confucianism. When I moved to Seoul, with access to more resources, I wrote a thesis for my bachelor’s degree, titled “Neo-Confucianism in Modern Korean Politics” positing the significant influence of Confucian philosophy on the Korean politics of the 1960s.

I had read the Taoist classics, and in particular The Secret of the Golden Flower on Taoist Meditation, but my real introduction to Taoism had to wait until I began my study of t’ai chi ch’uan.

Buddhism was the official religion from its introduction (from China 372 AD in Goguryeo) until Joeson (aka Yi dynasty) in 1392 when it was replaced by Confucianism. I developed an appreciation for Korean Buddhism, although it was mostly aesthetic at that time, enjoying the peace and beauty (and trees!) found at the temples (except on holidays when they would be overrun, see also Jogye order). The meaning of the imagery in the paintings and sculpture also fascinated me. Peace Corps held its first gathering (debriefing) of health workers at a temple in ChungCheongBukDo: Beopjusa (법구사). I visited Kapsa, near Gongju, on Buddha’s birthday for a picnic with friends; and mostly I would visit nearby Magoksa (마곡사), a walk of several miles over a mountain from Yugu. It was much later, under the direction of two martial arts teachers (see my martial arts experience), that I began a serious study and practice. While living in Annapolis I would visit Buddhist centers in the Washington area on the weekends, and listen to Dharma talks.

I don’t consider any of these “three teachings,” in their pure form, to be incompatible with the worship of the God of Abraham (the God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam). I say “in their pure form” because all three teachings as popularly practiced often contain elements of shamanism. This issue was addressed by the Catholic church in China in the 17th century and on into the early 18th century in what has come to be known as the rites controversy (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/112770/Chinese-Rites-Controversy). Dominican missionaries  would forbid memorials to ancestors by their Chinese converts, while Jesuits (see Matteo Ricci http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-voices/16th-and-17th-century-ignatian-voices/matteo-ricci-sj) argued to allow converts to continue memorials to ancestors under certain conditions.

Cultural Interests

Links to Korean poetry in translation include that found on the Korean poetry pages of Brother Anthony of Taize (An Sonjae) at Sogang University, and David McCann at Harvard. Brother Anthony was a translator of What? 108 Zen Poems by Ko Un (고 은), a nominee for 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, and selections can be found on Brother Anthony’s page. Like Ham Sok-Hon (below) Ko Un, a Buddhist, spent time in jail for his political expression. I have recently developed an interest in the Korean poetic form sijo (시조), even trying my own hand at it (in English). See also Sijo poetry, and an article in the Boston Globe on Harvard professor David McCann). David McCann’s The Structure of The Korean Sijo is an academic analysis of sijo. My Korean was never good enough to read it without help of a translation, and none were available when I lived there. Larry Gross & Elizabeth St Jacques have a blog Dueling Sijo with many links to other pages about sijo in English. The lines at the top of an older Google page, just below the caption “You are at my Korea page” are a rough sijo in form, but not in theme. I’ve “published” several others on Blogger.

Traditional music is often divided into court music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZI1RniW2yA), and folk music. My favorite in the latter category is pansori (http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/RL/00070).

Ham Sok-Hon

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With Geoffrey in front of the Seoul meeting house, 2013.

Ham Sok-Hon (함 석헌 or Ham Seok-Heon 1901-1989) was a well known Korean Quaker and activist for Korean independence. In 2000 he was selected by the Republic of Korea asHamSeokheon_readingBooks a national cultural figure and was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. A short biographical essay, Legacy of Ham Sok-hon by Kim Sung-soo was recently (5-19-2011) published in the Korea Times. Tom Coyner’s Quaker site has Ham’s essay “ Kicked by God” and his book Queen of Suffering: A Spiritual History of Korea, as well as Kim’sSok Hon Ham’s Understanding of Taoism and Quakerism. Tom’s Ham Sok-Hon Resource page has many more links to some of Ham’s other writings, and another Korea Times piece by Kim Sung-soo (2006).

During this stage of my life I had no religious faith. I am sorry I was not then a Quaker and would have attended Seoul Friends Meeting, and possibly have met and learned from Ham Sok-Hon, whose pen name was Albatross (바보새, literally “foolish bird”). In 2012 I was able to visit Seoul Friends Meeting with Geoffrey (picture left), and help from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s International Outreach Committee.

Martial Arts

Many Korean martial arts trace their origin back to the practice of subak and taekkyeon in the Three Kingdoms period (until 668 AD). Taegwondo (taekwondo), an Olympic sport, is South Korea’s national sport. Two other popular Korean martial arts are Tang Soo Do, and Hapkido. The latter is an eclectic system developed in the 20th century, largely from Daito-ryu-Aikijujutsu, with Korean style kicks and strikes. Note that those martial arts ending in “do” are practiced as a “way” of personal (mental, physical, spiritual) development; jitsu, as in jujitsu or aikijitsu, means technique.

Like the Shaolin Buddhist monks in China, Korea had its own Buddhist warrior monks or monk-soldiers. Bruce Cumings (a Korea RPCV) tells us there “were fighting monks : the Koryo “subdue demons corps” held off Jurchen invaders, just as monkish guerrillas later helped turn back Japanese invasions.” (Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History, p. 44). In 1592, during the Japanese invasions under Hiedoyshi (the Imjin Wars, also click on picture of Turtle Boat to the right), the monk Sosan, noted for his poetry, calligraphy, and efforts to revitalize the meditation branch of Buddhism, at age 72 organized a monk militia that was instrumental in helping defeat the Japanese. This unit was called upon again in 1627 and 1637 to defend the capital during the Mongolian invasion. Today, Golgulsa in Gyeongsangbukdo teaches Seonmudo (Sunmudo). (see also The Korea Times)

See my martial arts experience.


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM or 한약)

meridian

My interest in, and regard for TCM, was first peaked by my father-in-law in Korea, a practitioner of TCM who would give me herbs for everything from colds (the herbs were boiled, then the stew strained, to yield a foul tasting broth which I would drink; now available in pill form as Ganmaoling) to sexual potency (not really needed but the thought was appreciated). My present wife, Patricia Daly, currently finds acupuncture an important part of her pain management program.

Notes

1 When I lived in Korea the McCune-Reischauer Romanization system was standard and so I use it for names of places I write about from that time. Currently the Revised Romanization system is standard and I use that for things out of my recent experience.

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