November 06, 2012

The Symmetry Gestures

What is the gestures I'm going to talk? I'm not sure. It's a terminology issue again as always. In my English writing classes in Davis, California years ago, I was recommended to have my words filtered through a native proofreader. However, I'm just going to bring it on here as there's no scoring stuff in this blog! Instead, interesting observations and open arguments will be.
The gestures here describe My friend Kiho having lunch outside with his colleague Seyoung. She paid for the lunch, he paid for coffee. She spent a little more than Kiho. But it's OK. Both thought they're even. A month earlier, Kiho paid for lunch and that was it. She said thanks for the lunch so next time she would treat lunch. 2 weeks later she did it actually. They're so even.
Why didn't they just go dutch? Doing so might have been looking not so warm in Korean culture. As they are both Koreans and used to see the oldest in the group treats all, they let one of them swipe the credit card whoever the one is even there's no such elder one between Kiho and Seyoung.
The gestures also describe this Heewon and his father preparing his marriage. Last Sunday dinner was at a fancy Bulgogi restaurant with Heewon and his close friends. The wedding is in a month. He announced he's getting married soon and the friends congratulate. He distributed invitation cards to 6 and paid for all the dinners. It was 210,000 won total, 30,000 each. The 6 on the way home had an online conversation about how much they should give Heewon at the wedding for gift money. Since they ate slightly over his budget they expected, 50,000 won isn't going to be enough. It's the most common figure for wedding gift money not to mention it's Korean culture every guest at the entrance of the wedding stands in line, turns in a money envelope, watches the event, and eat complementary buffet costing the wedders 30,000 to 50,000 normally. That's how the 6 can't gift just 50,000 to risk Heewon to see minus. They agreed to raise it to 70,000 minimum. Closer friends could surely do more.
Cases can vary but one common sense seen above is the fund flow between Koreans doesn't prefer going dutch but it later seeks the symmetry by complementary funds in return. It tracks an analog route but today's giver would be tomorrow's receiver. What's this fuss for? Funds may come and go between people to find even, but there remains sticky bond in which people treat people. Going dutch makes me feel comfortable because I don't owe, but after that I would forget who I had lunch with. Otherwise, I might remember because I owe lunch. I have to recontact and remeet. Oh, the opposite has a stronger motive who needs to get lunch back from me. Social network seems more interesting when it's analog.

June 03, 2009

“Children of Yoo”, My Vulnerable 90s

I was a quiet boy. However, I have to admit I was rather a somber kid. Scrutinizing people has been my hobby since I was in kindergarten. Usually alone, I would observe how other kids behave in given situations. When I was curious why some boys kept playing tricks on girls, I watched and listened to the before-and-after. After thoughtful consideration, I determined what the boys’ behavior meant. They liked to hang out with the girls: I insist four is definitely an age old enough to love! At home, I was a heavy reader. I was a four year old who liked to read day and night from dinosaur picture books to European fairy tales. However, reading could not satisfy my curiosity. I would compare the world in the story books to the real world of kindergarten although I am not sure if I was able to distinguish the two worlds apart. The fun hobby did not change after I entered elementary school, middle school, and then high school. My personal research became more sophisticated as I lived through the 90s. That was one way how I dedicated my teenage years to the 90s: I was eight in 1990 and eighteen in 2000. The enormous data that were inputted to my teenager ears and eyes applied to my research. As a result, I created a name for a certain group of boys.

“Children of Yoo” defines some young men in the 90’s who would listen to the songs of Heeyeol Yoo while they were teenagers in South Korea. Yoo is a famous singer-songwriter in the South Korean pop scene. Since his debut in 1993, his fans have always been loyal. He might be a genius because he graduated from the Department of Composing in Seoul National University, one of the best music colleges in Korea. Yoo’s songs maintain a typical style that he would follow so that his fans can tell whose songs they are. Basically his songs are tearjerkers. The genre is easy listening ballad in which soft melody leads the flow. The singer is not Yoo in most cases because he thinks he is not a good singer. Instead, he had other singers sing his songs. Their voices are weepy for sure. The real character of his songs lies beneath the lyrics. Different lyrics talk about the same theme: the one-sided love story of a guy. For example, his songs always feature a guy who falls in love with a girl but never sets his heart forth. Instead, he sings and narrates his love to the listeners: he performs a soliloquy.

Below are translated lyrics of his hit song Are You Still Beautiful? It is about a guy who broke up with a girl but is still missing her so badly:

At first, I really enjoyed the freedom I gained after the break-up.
I thought I had totally forgotten you. I believed so.
However, I break into tears when I wake up in the morning without you.
Have you changed? Do you still have the way you talk that made me smile?
I have changed. I don’t smile often anymore. I’ve lost weight.
I misunderstood your generosity as annoyance.
I didn’t say I love you because I thought that was manly.
But I break into tears when I write your name over and over on the blank paper.
Have you changed? Do you still have the beautiful smile?
I have changed. I don’t smile often. I’ve lost weight.
How is your new boyfriend? Does he treat you better than I did?
Please be happier with the better man.

Also, “Children of Yoo” refers to a tendency of some men of similar mindsets that make them feel unworthy of love in South Korea. They are a generation that shares the same timid and pitiful behaviors when it comes to love. A list of typical stories in his songs is below as follows. Supposing B is the main character in his lyrics, B would:

1. Hide and watch his lovely girl always from afar.
2. Feel satisfied when she smiles.
3. Still watch in the distance even when she’s with another girl.
4. Assume the new guy has a better background to make her happier than B can.
5. Weep and wish her happiness.
6. Surely bear her happiness with the new guy like B should.
7. Praise her for dumping like, “It was better that you dumped me.”
8. Justify the break-up by thinking he does not deserve her.
9. Maintain an opinion that men must be kicked in a break-up. It looks much nicer than the opposite.
10. Use the cliché when saying goodbye, “Please meet a better man than I am.”

I didn’t think I was addicted to his songs at first, but suddenly I felt B was reflecting me. I used to play, rewind, and then play his audio tape repeatedly. Unlike CDs or MP3s in the 21st century, song tapes in the 90s would wear out so easily that it ended up sounding funny. Listening to Yoo’s songs for years, I just began relating to the songs more than deeply. When I had my second girl friend in high school, I truly abided by the lyrics I listened to. I would cry on her lap with my nose running when our relationship was low. I never said break-up when I felt it. I waited and waited over and over until I heard, “Let’s break up.” And then, I cried again. She came back. I repeated it until she complained about my weird pattern of relationship. Later, I found some friends doing the same. One friend had liked a girl for two years but never said a word to her. He broke into tears when he heard of her new boyfriend. Another friend let his girlfriend go because he thought he did not deserve her love. He explained why she had to meet a richer guy than he was. He wept over some presents she wanted to receive but he could not buy to her due to his relative poverty. I wondered if this is not a personal behavior but a culture, possibly.

Maybe I have discovered a culture theory that suggests an ideal man figure in the 21st century. If the world now needs more feminine and emotionally sensitive men, “Children of Yoo” can be the sincere volunteers. They are brave. They dare to realize a fantasy world of “thoughtfulness”. Everybody can imagine a life like a song, but only the brave make it happen. The “Children” display a true inspiration in pursuing imaginary life.

Are people really inspired by songs? Gloomy Sunday the movie is based on a true story about mysterious massive suicides of people who listened to the same song. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger isn’t a song, but it is almost an urban legend that the novel book is found on the serial killers’ book shelves. People may be affected by songs or novels, but it is not always necessarily true. When 2 students from Columbine High school committed a random shooting in the school, media pointed at Marilyn Manson’s music as if it was criminal just because they turned out to be his fans. Michael Moore asserted how illogical the blaming on music was in his movie Bowling for Columbine. At that time, Marilyn Manson was preparing his first concert in Seoul, South Korea. I was so looking forward to seeing the concert that I would sing his song, Antichrist Superstar. Yet YMCA people did not want it to happen because they believed that Marilyn Manson’s music has evil influences to youth. They organized a small veto movement and then finally accomplished the cancellation of the concert. “Jesus Christ!” I listen to Marilyn Manson, but I love Jesus.

Likewise, my theory is incomplete and self-denying. Sometimes I am even confused whether the songs inspired the “Children” or they inspired the songs. I guess I am just guilt-tripping over Yoo’s innocent songs. “Children of Yoo” might be what I have mistaken “peer pressure” for. Peer pressure refers to the influence exerted by a peer group in encouraging a person to change his or her attitudes, values, or behavior in order to conform to the group. Growing up as a quiet kid, I might have wanted to feel a sense of belonging. In my theory, “we Children” were sharing the same behavior patterns, and I was glad to be one of “us”.

I do not suppose my discovery can explain the whole world. I will be glad enough if only some of those who spent their teenager period in the 90s agree. What I value more about my theory is the sympathy to the generation. Everybody may have their own nostalgia. Therefore, everybody can have their own definition about their teenage years. I want to dedicate mine to my vulnerable generation to find some nice justifications and get over their sad, gloomy, and even pathetic love stories. My teenage years are gone. Our glittering moments are gone. The 90s are gone. Yoo got married on June 10th, 2005.

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