Korean Characteristics And Habits Come Anew Amid Photos Taken Far From Home
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Korean Characteristics And Habits Come Anew Amid Photos Taken Far From Home
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2003.09.03 00:00
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Albums are opened. Photographs of rural and metropolitan scenes of Europe fill the books. As we turn over the pages, our cognitive faculty recognizes and categorizes similar images.

The subjects in the pictures differ in background, personality, and volition. But these youths have several commonalities with each other. They are Korean backpackers to Europe who all happen to be in shorts that come half way down the calf, a simple shirt, and a fishing hat. This is not to comment on their taste, but to show that it is possible to do the impossible: make a generalization of the modern appearance of a nation. The so often singled out Korean quality of conformity and lack of individuality is once again the issue.

The expressions of the subjects in the photographs remain unchanged throughout the pages. They are hard set, expressionless. Even those who smile, seem to do so out of obligation. They probably counted down to three, as if they had to momentarily order themselves to smile and then let it fade away once again. Why is it so hard for us Koreans to let an effortless smile spread across our face? Interestingly, it is easier for Koreans to smile and greet foreign strangers than to do the same with our compatriots. Surely people feel closeness toward people of their own nationality. However, the reason for this reversal of initial friendliness must have to do with the double-standard of education. Koreans are taught two different standards of behavior for Koreans and for foreigners, more specifically to Westerners. How can we be friendly to strangers, when we are not so with our neighbors? It may be time to treat nighbors and strangers alike and freely express our natural emotions.

Five by threes and occasional seven by fours. In such repeated dimensions, we find similar outfit, the same uneasy countenance, and the most prevailing of all, a set frame. A person is set at the center with the object, usually a monument or a historic building, put to the background. Plaza Mayor, Eiffel Tower, Roman Colosseum, canals of Venice, Tower of London: these main tourist attraction spots are never missed. The historic sites which guide books highlight with vivid pictures are once again taken into the frames of personal cameras. The pages in the albums seem to show special camera effects seen in science-fiction movies. The person in the picture experiences instant transport. A person with the same expression and pose appears in different locations; none of those taken at unknown places. The photographs never diverts from a traveler"s guide. Everybody may be sued for plagiarism.

People want to retain the untangible memories with the tangible. Thus, the camera has become an essential item to traveling. Now this is even more so with the convenient digital camera, whose memory chip allows for incessant photo takings, out in the market. However, how is the photograph better than a professionally taken postcard when it is taken without any special significance transferred to it by its taker or its subject? It is understandable that the short trip"s itinerary does not allow a long moment of meditation. Nevertheless, it makes us wonder about the very motive or reason of going backpacking. A trip is not to be planned as a result of bandwagon, or as to take pictures to boast about having been there to others. Having a significant personal purpose for being there in person would do much to enhance the absorption of elements encountered. One must not see or prove one has been there, but feel it and know it.

The album is like a photo diary. How possible is it for people to have the same diary? Then, how should numerous Koreans having the same album be explained? A diary, a photo diary, is only worth its value by its uniqueness and personal touch.

neyessioui@ewha.ac.kr

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