Actually I was trying to google Cheonggyecheon.
Google is pretty good at guessing when you misspell an English name or word… but heaven help you if you don’t know the exact spelling of a Korean name! If you have any ‘ch’ in it don’t be surprised if “ching chong” comes up. I’ve had it happen more than once.
If you haven’t heard this before: it’s a very offensive and derogative term for Asian people. Originally used in the 19th century when Chinese miners came out to the Australian gold fields. It was used as an insult for Chinese people. It was also used like “Ching Chong Chinaman.” It mimics their names and their language but in a very stupid and uneducated way. Since then it has been directed at any Asian person by racists because if someone is that racist, well they are obviously too dumb to know that there are different Asian countries.
Unfortunately it is sometimes still used. A few years ago a Korean friend who worked on a building site in Australia asked me one day, “What does ching chong mean?” I was hesitant to reply just in case he had misheard and I didn’t want him to have something horrible explained to him if it wasn’t needed. My fears were confirmed though, when he said one of the white Australian workers had yelled at him “Hey ching chong!” He didn’t know it meant but had seen the boss yell so harshly at that worker and he realised the guy had said something so bad.
My husband also said that when he was working in an abattoir on one of his working holiday visas a white Australian called a Korean worker that insult. The white Australian worker was fired on the spot even though he’d been working there for years and years.
At least most bosses don’t tolerate it but it is upsetting that there are still morons using such an offensive insult.
So it’s always a ‘WTF’ moment when just innocently searching for a Korean name google says “did you mean this?” No I did not mean that google!
I really love history and try to visit historic sites whenever I can. We visited the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney last year. It was built in 1819 for convict men and boys and is an important part of Australia’s convict history. It is now a museum but has a large room filled with hammocks that showed the sleeping conditions of convicts- emphasizing that it was many smelly men all crammed in. So not exactly a pleasant place to sleep.
Sometimes things just go over my husband’s head though. Especially when everything is in English and he is tired.
Waiting for Mummy by Tae-Jun Lee
This is a famous children’s book that has only been published in English somewhat recently. It was written in 1938 by author Tae-Jun Lee who wrote many famous stories and was well loved in Korea. In this edition the illustrations are by Dong-Sung Kim and they are painted on traditional Korean paper (han-ji) and use traditional Chinese ink line techniques (muck-sun).
I saw this book in an Australian book store and noticed the Korean names on it. It was only after I bought it and did some research that I realised how special this book is.
It is a simple but heart-wrenching story of a young boy waiting for his mother at a tram stop. The first time I read it I thought there was no conclusion or indication of whether the little boy’s mother returns or not. I actually cried. I realised later that the ending is shown on the very last illustration but you have to look carefully.
Though simply written, the story is incredibly moving – particularly when you know Korea’s history and that this was written during the Japanese occupation – and it really stuck in my mind for days. The illustrations are beautiful. Some are quite simple but they convey so much. And the little boy is so adorable but looks so small and insignificant. What is even more poignant is that the author Tang-Jun Lee was actually an orphan himself. He was a war correspondent during The Korean War but settled in North Korea afterwards and disappeared in 1956…
I have seen some comments online by parent’s that think the book is too sad and they wouldn’t read it to their children but I disagree. It is such a beautiful and moving book that I will be reading it to my future children- in both English and Korean.