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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Writing for a Korean newspaper!

(2004.8/18)Sarah Hasan (The Kookbang Ilbo or The Korea Defense Daily)사라 하산 회원 국방일보 기사2006/10/08 18:34:21
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It has been almost two years since I first arrived here in Korea. I do not feel that I am away from home. When we arrived, Soccer World Cup was in full swing. These were very exciting times and we had a lot of fun. It is one of the most cherished moments of my life.
We live near Itaewon therefore; I was advised to take a walk to Itaewon from my home which took me about 10 minutes. My first trip there took place in the evening hours and I saw giant TV screens set up all over the place to broadcast soccer matches live. It was thrilling. People from all over the world were there, the flags and colors of different countries were flying all around and I could feel the hype in the air. It was thrilling just to be there and be part of this excitement.
As the days went by, I saw floods of people dressed in red, supporting the host nation Korea. Not long after, I found myself to be one of them supporting the hosts. Although I had no knowledge of Korean language at the time –not a single word – I could not say “ANNYONG HA SAE YOO” because it seemed difficult but nevertheless, I enjoyed a lot and discovered how very warm, welcoming and helpful the Koreans had been to me. I must mention that they are a bit shy – which seems adorable.
In the beginning, the most difficult part for me was my lack of understanding of Korean language and hence, I was not able to express myself well enough. This was at times quite frustrating. One day I out went to dine at a nearby restaurant along with my mother and when we ordered our food and had tasted it, we could not say how very delicious it was and how much we enjoyed it. I felt bad that our feelings were not getting across, although gestures and facial expression do convey the essential message, being able to put it to words is always more pleasant.
Thanks to God that since then, I have learned quite a bit of Korean. Now, I can have a simple conversation with people, thanks to the Kyung Hee University, where I learned Korean language, and also to some of my very good friends who helped me on and off with everyday Korean (it is also called Hangul).
Learning a language as rich as Korean was quite an experience. It took me a few minutes to learn how to pronounce/read and write it, which was quite encouraging for me. However, as we learned more, I realized that it is actually not that simple, like any other language. As we passed into successively advanced levels, we got into the complications of the language, especially the grammar. My early days in Korean language class are also one of my best souvenirs, as they bring laughter to me and my other classmates when we recall the silly mistakes we used to make at the time, for instance, I often confused “SON SANG” NIM [teacher] with “SANG SONG”[fish] Nim.
During the past two year of stay here, I have found that Korean and Pakistani cultures have many things in common, in particular the hospitality, warmth and friendliness of the people. Whenever and wherever I had any difficulty or problem, I got help from my Korean friends. Another thing that I admire a lot and that is valued much in our Pakistani culture as well is the respectful attitude of younger generation towards the elderly which indicates that they have not forgotten the real values of Korean culture. All I mean to say is that these gestures and love make the foreigners feel confident and happy of making a right choice to come to Korea.
As we know that there is always room for improvement so I would like to say that there are certain things in which a slight change in attitude might actually make it all the more friendlier, in particular for foreigners coming from other cultures. For example, one thing that was rather uncomfortable for me was when I was asked personal questions in quite a blunt way by people I would meet the very first time. I know that it is out of curiosity to know the visitors better but a little subtlety and patience always pays off. I also know that in Korea they justify it with their tradition and for the reason of Confucius values but still- going slow on it is safe and respectful.
Overall Koreans are very warm, helpful, friendly, peace loving and honest which is an important quality for any nation. I found the Korean economy very vibrant and dynamic and I am pleased to see an Asian country rising as an economic force in the making. Unlike many cities in other countries that I have been to, it was interesting to note that Seoul doesn’t sleep. Here the night hours are equally active, busy and bustling with all sorts of activities, both entertainment and business as the day time working hours. This city really never sleeps!
I remember that during my early days in Seoul when I woke up late one night to drink water and looked outside my window - I was surprised to see that the traffic on the roads was as much as it was during any time of the day. It was an amazing scene for me to see the road packed with traffic at 3 am. This was one of the first indications of a strong and ever growing economy that this country has.
Another characteristic of the Korean way of life that touched me was the cleanliness inside the subway stations and other public places. I have been to other countries in the world as well but I must say that the Koreans have successfully maintained a very efficient and clean subway network which runs like the veins throughout the city and connects almost all important places.
The National Railways system is also very efficient and well maintained. Recently, the National Railways inaugurated their first high speed train, the KTX, like bullet trains of Japan and the French TGV, which travel at a speed of nearly 300 km an hour. It is indeed a pleasure to travel. The Korean highway network interconnecting various cities in the nation is also excellent and it is getting better with every passing day. I must give credit to all who worked so hard to bring it to this level, to maintain and improve it as I’m very well aware of it due to the trips that I took within Korea. Extensive roads network and the very well organized and disciplined public transport system is probably one of the best.
Of course no account of Korea will be complete without mentioning the Korean food. I would say that it is simply delicious, and at the same time, very light and healthy. Koreans use a lot of vegetables in their diet, less animal fats, and a lot of sea food, which are all components of a nutritious and easily digestible diet. I will recommend Korean food to every one because ever since I switched to Korean food, I feel more active and less heavy after meals.
Sea food is in abundance here and it will be a pity for any visitor to miss the delicious seafood dishes prepared all so perfectly. As for me, my personal favorites are Bibim Bap (rice and vegetables) , Kimchi che gay (Kimchi stew in tofu) and Bulgogi. The defining feature of the Korean food is the different kinds of side dishes that are served, which add taste and color to the main dishes. Not that they are delicious- they look very pretty too. While talking food and not mentioning their staple food would be unjust. The most famous dish here which has got its reputation soaring around the world due to its health benefits is KIMCHI – with a unique taste and texture. It is served with every food and in every home. Young and old, rich and poor- all love it and can not imagine a meal being served without Kimchi. I have even learned how to make Kimchi.
Well, life is not all roses anywhere in world, and no place is perfect. Seoul, being a huge metropolitan city like London , Paris or Rome, is no different and has its own disadvantages and demerits. One reason is the overpopulation: almost one in every six Koreans lives in Seoul! The network of roads within the cities is too complex, roads are themselves quite narrow (except for major roads), and there is severe lack of parking spaces which practically clogged roads during the rush hour. Driving is quite a challenge in Seoul. I feel that Seoul needs more vegetation in general, and trees along its highways, in particular. However, I will reiterate that these are the problems faced not by Seoul alone, but by most other big cosmopolitan cities around the world which, like Seoul, are also popular tourist destinations.
I would sum up by saying that the positive things about Korea in general, and about Seoul in particular, are far out numbered and make you overlook the other problems and still make your stay a wonderful one. I am glad to have had the opportunity to get to know and enjoy the Korean way of life which is simply amazing and is quite an experience.

In Korean:

내가 본 한국,한국인<17>서울의 거리 활기 넘쳐 차량 행렬서 역동성 느껴 노인 존경하는 풍습 감명 가족 중 한 명이 한국 주재 파키스탄대사관으로 발령이 나면서 나도 한국으로 오게 됐다. 한국에 도착했을 때 처음 마주친 것은 월드컵 게임이었다. 월드컵 게임은 아주 흥미롭고 재미있는 하나의 축제였다. 그 축제 속으로 뛰어든 것은 내 인생의 가장 중요한 경험 중의 하나가 됐다. 서울 거리 이곳저곳에 설치된 전광판에서는 축구경기가 방송되고 있었다. 전세계에서 모인 사람들이 그곳에 있었으며, 그 나라를 상징하는 깃발과 색상들이 나부꼈다. 정말 흥미로운 광경이었다. 며칠 후 나는 개최국인 한국을 응원하는 붉은 옷을 입은 사람들의 거대한 행렬과 마주치게 됐다. 그리고 얼마 후 그러한 행렬에 참여하고 있는 나 자신을 발견할 수 있었다. 무엇보다 그곳은 정열로 가득 차 있었고 단지 그 장소에 같이 있다는 사실만으로 즐거움을 느낄 수 있었다. 당시 나는 한국어에 대한 지식이 전혀 없었고 ‘안녕하세요’라는 간단한 인사조차도 제대로 하지 못했다. 그러나 한국인들이 수줍어하면서도 내게 보여 준 호의와 환대를 충분히 느낄 수 있었다. 나는 활기가 가득 찬 한국 경제에 대해 한국에 입국하기 이전부터 호기심이 있었다. 이곳에서 한국을 포함한 아시아 국가들의 경제적 힘이 만들어지는 과정을 현장에서 지켜볼 수 있게 된 것을 기쁘게 생각한다. 서울은 내가 본 많은 외국도시와 달리 밤에도 활기가 넘친다는 점이 놀라웠다. 서울에 입국한 지 얼마 되지 않은 어느 날 밤, 물을 마시기 위해 잠에서 깼다가 소스라치게 놀랐다. 새벽 3시임에도 불구하고 창밖으로 보이는 도로에는 차들이 가득했던 것이다. 즐기기 위해, 혹은 일하기 위해 서울은 밤에도 부산하게 움직이는 사람들로 넘쳐난다. 서울은 잠을 자지 않는 도시였던 것이다. 나는 새벽 공기를 가르며 움직이는 수많은 차량 행렬에서 한국의 힘과 경제적 역동성을 느낀다. 마지막으로 한국의 음식에 대해 언급하지 않을 수 없다. 한국 전통 음식은 맛있으면서도 살찔 염려가 적고 몸에도 좋은 것이 특징인 것 같다. 한국 전통 음식은 어떤 메뉴든 채소가 많이 들어간다. 다른 나라에 비해 식단에서 육류가 상대적으로 적고, 해산물은 상대적으로 풍부하다. 이런 특성 때문에 한국 전통 음식은 영양분이 풍부하고 다이어트에도 안성맞춤이다. 나는 한국 전통 음식을 접한 이후 만나는 외국인들마다 한국 음식을 먹어보도록 권하고 있다. 특히 해산물로 만든 멋진 한국 요리를 미처 접해보지 못하고 한국을 떠나는 외국인들을 보면 안타깝다. 현재 세계 전체로 급속히 확산되고 있는 김치는 특히 인상적인 음식이다. 가장 맛있으면서 독특한 향신료 냄새가 나며, 매우 아름다운 색깔을 갖고 있는 김치는 언제 어디서나 먹고 싶은 독특한 맛을 가진 음식이다. 나는 심지어 김치 만드는 법을 배우기까지 했다. 2년 동안 한국에 머무르면서 한국과 파키스탄 두 나라의 다른 점만을 발견한 것은 아니다. 사람들의 친절함과 온정·우정은 두 나라에서 공통된 것이었다. 내가 한국생활에서 어떤 어려움이나 문제에 봉착할 때마다 한국인 친구들은 도움을 주었다. 나는 젊은 세대들이 노인에게 예의를 갖추고 존경을 표하는 파키스탄의 전통 문화에 무한한 자부심을 갖고 있다. 21세기 최첨단 문화를 달리고 있는 한국에서도 파키스탄과 동일하게 노인에 대한 존경과 예의를 지키는 풍습이 남아 있다는 사실에 기쁘고 감명을 받았다. 물론 세상에 완벽한 곳은 없고, 세계 어디라도 장미꽃 향기만 가득한 것은 아니다. 한국이나 서울도 마찬가지다. 서울은 런던·파리·로마 같은 도시들과 마찬가지로 거대한 대도시이고 그에 따른 교통 문제를 비롯한 단점이 있다. 그럼에도 불구하고 서울은 머무를 만한 가치가 있는 곳이며 잊을 수 없는 추억의 도시가 될 것 같다.
▲파키스탄 이슬라믹 인터내셔널 대학 졸업
▲파키스탄 변호사
▲2002년 6월 한국 입국, 현재 경희대 대학원 재학 중 〈사라 하산 파키스탄 변호사〉 2004.08.18

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