Thursday, July 5, 2012

각시탈 Bridal Mask: A Retro Korean Superhero

Yes, Korea has superheroes. One is called Bridal Mask, or Gaksital (각시탈), and during the 1930s, during the Japanese occupation of Korea, he fought against the Japanese forces to protect Koreans. This story comes from a Korean manhwa (manga/comic book) by Huh Young-Man, and it has been adapted to a KBS drama, now running on the KBS America channel (which is on Dish Network).

The hero Bridal Mask is so-called because he wears a traditional Korean theatrical mask, one called a bridal mask because it's normally worn by female characters, presumably for weddings. Bridal Mask is skilled at martial arts, and frequently rescues Koreans in the hands of the Japanese police.

It is also the story of Lee Gangto, a Korean who is a rising star in the oppressive Japanese police force in Korea. The role is played by Joo Won (주원) who was also in the K-drama Bread, Love and Dreams ( 제빵왕 김탁구). Joo Won played the part of Gu Majun, the younger brother.  (He is pictured in the lower half of the photo.)

Lee Gangto's older brother Gangsan fought for Korean independence and was tortured by the Japanese police. Since then he has been known as the village idiot. But he may be smarter than he seems--- at the end of episode 3, he seems to be the guy in the mask. At any rate, Bridal Mask saves Lee Gangto from an assassination attempt.

This is a great drama, and I'm glad I caught it so near the beginning--- I caught episode 2 in the afternoon (with Spanish subtitles) and episode 3 in the evening, with English subtitles. Thank God for subtitles!) There will be 28 episodes, running on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. (If you don't get KBS America, you may be able to watch episodes online, or buy the series on DVD on Ebay--- don't forget to check to see if the DVD works in your region, and if it has English subtitles!)

Bridal Mask - Wikipedia 
Bridal Mask - Drama Wiki
Gaksital (Bridal Mask) - Drama Beans

Joo Won, handsome Korean actor

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Learn to Read Korean this July!

First Korean Reading 1
This is my language learning goal for the month--- to finally learn the Korean alphabet, and to gain practice typing the language. I am going to be sharing things about my quest on this blog. I'm also probably going to cross-post to my other blog that has actual readers.

The cool thing about the Korean language is that even though it looks like Chinese characters, it is actually a language with an alphabet, so it's way easier to learn than Chinese or Japanese, but equally impressive to your uninformed friends.

My reading-Korean efforts this month has four basic tools, which I am going to share with you, the reader.
  1. Setting up my computer so it's easy to switch to a Korean keyboard. I will explain how to do this in a future blog post. However, if you download BYKI Express or BYKI Deluxe for Korean, it will tell you how to set up Windows on your computer for Korean.
  2. Using BYKI Express, a free language-learning software available in many languages. It's a series of computerized flash-cards, which can include sound and picture. You drill with the cards, it records how many words you have learned, and can refresh you on 'stale items' which you have learned a longer time ago. There is also a version, BYKI Deluxe, which enables you to make your own sets of cards--- great if you are learning Korean or some other language in school. You can make card sets for the vocabulary words in your textbooks. The main problem I've had with using BYKI is that it's very hard to go from not knowing the Korean alphabet, to spelling out your new words in Korean letters, which  you have to do in one of the steps of BYKI. But that is where item 3 comes in.
  3. First Korean Reading 1 by Yonsei University Press. For the first chapter, it includes only Korean words written with just the Korean vowels. The next chapter gradually introduces the consonants through several word lists. I am planning to create BYKI word lists with my BYKI Deluxe (on my old computer) and share the lists on the BYKI Korean list sharing page. (It won't include audio as I don't know how to pronounce Korean well yet.) You will be able to download these lists for your own study. I have a list of the first chapter words up now, but I am going to be re-doing it as I have the textbook name wrong (it's only in Korean on the book) and I'm going to make a change in the transliteration system as well, so I'm not encouraging you to download the list that's up now. When I put up the new list, I will announce it in a blog post. You don't need to buy the book to get some use out of learning the words in the first few chapters of the book, but it is available through various sellers on
  4. A Korean writing practice notebook. I use a composition book. I first started using the book I have now in 2007, when I first got hooked on Korean soap operas. I only worked on it now and again, which is why I still am not good at Korean. I suggest practicing the new Korean letters you are learning, and the new words. Just do a few lines a day--- think of it like you are doing a crossword puzzle or some other minor little thing you might be doing as a hobby. 
So, are you game? Then download your BYKI Express and some lists, and start learning!