My days are usually sequences of events following to-do lists.
Attend a uni lecture, participate in a uni tutorial, print lecture notes, file lecture notes, read notes before lecture, read notes after lecture, write lecture essays, zoom with project group mates. Most of my school days follow a routine largely founded on this structure, like many other students’ would too.
I enjoy writing to-do lists on my Moleskine journal and living each day according to the to-do list. (at least most of the time) For a glimpse of the ordinary day of a university student in Singapore, check out my blog post!
But inevitably, when I feel the shadows of a burnout lurking over my life, I like to have a healing, self-care day for myself. Instead of a “things I need to do” list, I write a “things I want to do” list. Especially in this period of Covid- which is lasting a lot longer than anybody would’ve imagined- I like to do a couple of things on my self-care days.
Here’s a few I’d like to share with you!
1. Write a blog post
Studying involves a lot of input.
Facts, statistics, definitions, expert opinions, exam structures and everything in between- need to be crammed into my brain. Studying isn’t all that bad (not that I’m sad it’s ending in 3 years’ time…), but just sometimes, it’s nice to focus on what I like, what I think and what I want to write about.
That’s why on my self-care days, I like to write a little blog post on “HanStyle” 🙂
2. Buy flowers
It’s funny how people change. When I was younger, I used to keep my distance flowers because they attracted bees and insects. Now, I like to get flower deliveries once in a while.
It’s an absolute joy to browse through flower catalogues, to snap away the excess leaves and arrange them in a vase.
3. Have family time
Spending time with friends, professors and cohort mates is on its own fun and fruitful, but nothing can beat family time. Our family of five talk, enjoy home-cooked meals, play Monopoly, and talk some more.
4. Watch a movie/series
Over my recent long break, I watched two series <That Winter, the wind blows> and <It’s okay, that’s love>. That’s right, the common factor is actor Jo In Sung 🙂 Both pieces were written by one of Korea’s best scripwriters, Noh Hee Kyung, who also wrote hits like <Dear my friends> and <Worlds Within>.
5. Get something sweet
A visit to Gastronomia, Paris Baguette, Asayona or Chateraise instantly makes me feel better. Just looking at the rows of delectable pastries and sweet goods is a healing for the heart 🙂
6. Read outdoors
Kindle, sunglasses, wallet, earphones and my phone are all I need. On my free day, I step outside and catch on reading my non-school texts, whether on the benches, in a cafe or nowadays in times of Covid, in my balcony.
7. Walk aimlessly in nature
Taking a walk with no particular destination in mind while taking in the surrounding nature really helps me wind down. I spend most of my days with a fixed destination, with fixed to-do lists.
Not thinking and just walking is perfect healing time.
8. Home yoga
On a day I’m not treading through piles of lecture notes and tutorial assignments, I like to roll out a mat from underneath my bed, sit straight with a MacBook in front of me, and (try to) follow the yoga moves of “YogaBoy”.
MacRitchie Reservoir Park and Botanic Gardens are perfect places for running.
For a view of beautiful flowers and quick access to great breakfast places, Botanic Gardens would be the better choice. For a challenging run up and down hills, MacRitchie would be my pick.
10. Visit a bookstore/library
Something that I can’t do so much nowadays in times of Covid.
The quiet, the smell of books and a scent distinctive of Kinokuniyas and NLBs in Singapore, the high shelves and people reading. The bookstore completely does away with the sense of dizziness and chaos that social media and endless Whatsapp messages bring, at least for the 1-2 hours I spend between the shelves.
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That’s it for the ten things I like to do on my rest days! Hope you have restful and happy self-care days too! 🙂
2021 KBS drama “Youth of May” is set to star two rising stars- actors Go Min Si and Lee Do Hyun. It tells the love story of Kim Myung-hee (Go Min Si) and Hwang Hee-tae (Lee Do Hyun) in the context of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising.
This is not the first time a film/drama is dealing with the Gwangju Uprising.
Actor Song Kang Ho, for instance, most well-known to the international audience for his role in “Parasite”, acted in 2017 movie “A Taxi Driver”
and 2013 movie “The Attorney”, whose plots unfold in the backdrop of the uprising.
I’m really looking forward to this drama series because I loved the two actors in Netflix hit “Sweet Home”, in which they starred as siblings. Their chemistry was amazing, so much so that those who’ve watched “Sweet Home” begged for the two to be cast in another series together- KBS must’ve been listening!
In “Sweet Home”, Lee Do Hyun also played medical student Eun Hyuk, who gave up his dreams of becoming a doctor and did part-time jobs so that he could support the dream of his adopted younger sister Eun Yoo. Go Min Si played Eun Yoo, who had to give up her dream of becoming a ballerina because of her ankle injury.
In “Youth of May”, Lee Do Hyun also plays a medical student who entered med school top in class, while Go Min Si plays a competent and capable nurse.
While waiting for “Youth of May” to finally start, let’s take a look at the context of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, which will undoubtedly constitute a large part of the plot!
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On 26th of October of 1979, a dinner at the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) safehouse inside the Blue House took place. Its attendees included the third president of South Korea, Park Jung Hee, as well as others like a university student, a rising singer, the director and the chief secretary of the country.
Various political issues were discussed during the banquet. At one point, president Park criticized Director Kim Jae Gyu, the director of the KCIA and the president’s security chef, for not being repressive enough in dealing with protestors. These rebukes eventually ended when Director Kim left the banquet room and re-entered with a pistol, which he used to kill president Park.
The death of the president gave way to much political and social chaos, as well as democraticization efforts which have been unable to take place under president Park’s authoritarian rule. Student unions were formed, were the students protested for an end to martial law, the temporary imposition of normal civil functions in response to an emergency.
In response, Chun Doo Hwan, the chief of the Defense Security Command, forced the Cabinet to apply martial law to the whole country.
Students protested against the closing of universities, and clashed with soldiers. According to witnesses, soldiers clubbed demonstrators and even onlookers. Bayonets were used as well, while students used stones. Citizens’ indignation was fuelled when they heard news of the death of a 29 year old man called Kim Gyeong-cheol, who was deaf and not even a participant of the demonstration, but a passer-by. He had been clubbed to death.
The army fired on the protestors, killing many. However, MBC station misreported the situation at Gwangju, reporting only one civilian casualty. Enraged, protestors burned down the local MBC station.
Hundreds of taxis also joined the protest in their show of support for democracy. The troops used tear gas to attack the taxi drivers, and even pulled them out of their taxis to beat them. After hearing the news that their colleagues who had been trying to help the injured and taking them to the hospital were beaten, even more taxi drivers came into the scene. Some were even killed by shooting after some drivers tried to use their taxis to attack and block soldiers.
By that time, militias had acquired light machine guns and used them against the army as well.
From May 18 to May 27, it is estimated that around 2000 were killed. One of the many contributing factors to the Gwangju Uprising, also known as “Oh-Il-Pal” (literally 5-18 in Korean), was that local Chonnam University students who were demonstrating against the government were shot, killed, raped and beaten by government troops.
In 2011, records of the brutal 5.18 incident was designated as “Memory of the World” by UNESCO. Just in May 2020, the May 18 Democratization Movement Truth Commission was launched to investigate the use of military force in the uprising.
Actor Kim Kyung Nam and actress/singer Park Hye Soo are in talks of starring in drama “Red Cuff of the Sleeve” some time in 2021.
The historical drama is based on a novel of the same name written by author Kang Mi Kang, with the script written by Jung Hae Ri who wrote drama “The Emperor: Owner of the Mask”.
Jung Ji In, whose works include “Radiant Office”, “Hold me Tight” and “Shining Romance”, will directing the upcoming drama.
“Red Cuff of the Sleeve”, set in the 18th century, tells the love story of King Jeong Jo and his royal concubine Sung Deok-Im. This isn’t the first time the heartbreaking and heartwarming love of the two has been told in a drama.
In 2007, Han Ji Min, acting as royal concubine Sung Deok-Im, and Lee Seo Jin, acting as King Jeong Jo, starred in drama “Lee San, Wind of the Palace”, whose highest recorded viewership rating was a jaw-dropping 38.6%.
The two most recently united in 2017 in variety show “Three Meals a Day”, in which Han Ji Min appeared as a special guest and friend of Lee Seo Jin.
“Lee San” was a huge hit and depicted the love between the king and Deok Im excellently, with great attention paid to historical details. I’m looking forward to how “Red Cuff of the Sleeve” will feature the much beloved duo of Korean history! 🙂
So while waiting for the drama to start, let’s take a look at its rich historical context!
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Life of Sung Deok Im
In 1762, 10 year old Sung Deok Im entered the royal palace as a court lady, also known as “gung-nyeo”. She was brought into the palace to serve Queen Hyegyeong, the mother of Jeong Jo, as lady-in-waiting. However, with much affection, Queen Hyegyeong personally raised and and treated Deok Im more as a daughter rather than a lady-in-waiting. In 1766, when Deok Im was fourteen years old and the then crown prince Jeong Jo was fifteen, Jeong Jo proposed to Deok Im.
However, despite being of a low position of a court lady and the huge opportunity for power and wealth that came with bearing the future king’s child, Deok Im refused, stating that because Hyoui, the first wife of Jeong Jo had not yet given birth to Jeong Jo’s child, it was not right for Deok Im herself to bear his child first.
According to historical records, Deok Im refused the order strongly, weeping, swearing that she could not accept his proposal on her own life. Jeong Jo, despite having the power to simply ignore her pleas and bring her in as concubine, yielded to her request.
Deok Im’s decision to disobey the to-be king’s proposal is one that’s hard to find in the history of Joseon, and one that might have resulted in her death. But the reason Deok Im disobeyed despite the possibility of her own death, was her sincere devotion and loyalty to Hyoui. Married for political reasons, Queen Hyoui and King Jeong Jo were not on good terms, and Deok Im believed that if Queen Hyoui gave birth to a child, the two’s relationship would improve.
This decision of Deok Im was a shocking one, especially because enmity between a king’s women was very much the norm, with concubines and even the queen fighting to give birth to the son of the king before anyone else. Being the mother of a future king gave a woman possibly the greatest power a woman could have in Joseon at the time.
In 1780, 4 years into the reign of Jeong Jo as king, Jeong Jo repeated his proposal to Deok Im, only for her to repeatedly refuse. Having waited for 14 years and now frustrated, Jeong Jo scolded and punished a servant of Deok Im. Only then did 18 year old Deok Im accept his request and become his concubine.
Deok Im had two miscarriages, first in 1780 and another in 1781. In 1782, she finally gave birth to a baby boy, Crown Prince Mun Hyo. Jeong Jo was very happy when he heard the news of his son, expressing that it was a relief to “finally be called father” and that there was “no other happier news” than the news of his son’s birth among many other happy events.
In 1784, Deok Im gave birth to a baby daughter. Jeong Jo was elated to have not just a son but now even a daughter as well. But at about 2 months years old, the baby princess suddenly passed away, to the devastation of Deok Im, Jeong Jo and Queen Hyegyeong.
In 1786, at age 4, even Crown Prince Mun Hyo died from measles.
Having suffered from the miscarriage of three of her children, soft-hearted Deok Im fell seriously ill from an unknown condition. King Jeong Jo took great care of her, making sure that the medicine she took was of the highest quality, paying attention even to the details of how the medicine was made and served to Deok Im. He made sure that the medicine was always in her bedroom so that she could consume it whenever necessary.
But despite his efforts, in September of 1786, 9 months pregnant Deok Im passed away.
While the illness she suffered from was unknown at the time, from the symptoms she suffered from, scholars speculate that she might have passed due to pre-eclampsia, one of whose contributing factors might be advanced maternal age. Deok Im was 34, considered to be quite old as a mother in the 18th century.
Deok Im was the only woman among Jeong Jo’s wives that he had personally selected. Jeong Jo was heartbroken over her death. In wanting her to be close to her son at least in death, Jeong Jo had Deok Im buried near Crown Prince Moon Hyo.
Jeong Jo frequently visited the grave of Deok Im, so much so that the hill he passed by whenever he visited her came to be called “Geo Dung Go Gae” (“Go Gae” meaning “hill” and “Geo Dung” referring to “the trip of a king to outside the palace”).
Queen Hyoui, too, expressed great sadness when she heard news of Deok Im’s passing, suggesting that the close relationship between Hyoui and Deok Im was a sincere one.
Royal concubine Deok Im was known to be not only beautiful but also an excellent writer who was also proficient at calligraphy writing, math, sewing and cooking. She was also very polite and well-mannered, especially toward Queen Hyoui.
Life of King Jeong Jo
In 1752, Jeong Jo was born as “Lee San” to Crown Prince Sado and Lady Hygyeong. In 1762, when Lee San was 10 years old, he witnessed his own father Crown Prince Sado imprisoned in a rice chest and starved to death at the orders of Sado’s own father, King Yeong Jo.
This cruel order was made despite Lee San pleading and begging for King Yeong Jo to forgive his father. Shocked by the death of own father ordered by his own grandfather, Lee San went to live with his mother Lady Hyegyeong at Hygyeong’s family home, but was soon parted from her as well. He then went on live with Lady Lee, the mother of the late Crown Prince Sado.
This parting was a decision by Lady Hyegyeong, who feared that if King Yeong Jo saw that his grandson was closer to Lady Hyegyeong than to himself, he would become jealous. This concern of Lady Hyegyeong does not seem to be an unfounded one, given Yeong Jo was suspected to be suffering from serious paranoia.
In his young years, Lee San was a much beloved favorite of his grandfather King Yeong Jo. While Yeong Jo had reprimanded and criticized his own son Crown Prince Sado to the point of driving the latter to madness, Yeong Jo never once scolded Lee San and only praised him.
It is believed that Lee San harbored a great sense of debt and perhaps guilt toward his father Crown Prince Sado. Some speculate part of the reason Yeong Jo had his own son killed could be because there was still his beloved grandson Lee San to ascend the throne. The filial piety and dedication Lee San showed toward his grandfather was so great to the point that it’s viewed as stemming from a trauma of losing his father.
Lee San was very studious and diligent, with impeccable scholarly knowledge. This was not only because Lee San liked studying, but also because it was his tactic to stay alive (not killed by Yeong Jo) and rise to the throne.
At age 24, Lee San rose to the throne to become King Jeong Jo. The quiet and studious King Jeong Jo uttered a single sentence in the royal palace then, that made many palace officials tremble in fear.
“I am the son of the late Crown Prince Sado.”
A sizable number of the palace officials were not only those who were complicit in Crown Prince Sado’s cruel execution, but had also actively protested against Jeong Jo being heir to the throne for the reason that Jeong Jo was the “son of a psycho”.
For the four years from 1776 to 1880 he was in reign, Jeong Jo tried to clear his father’s name, and even moved the royal court’s location to Suwon, so that he could be closer to his father’s grave. He built Suwon Hwaseong, a fortress, to guard the tomb. This fortress was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997.
He also ordered for his mother, Lady Hyegyeong, to be given the title Dowager Queen.
In the year 1776, Jeong Jo executed members of the ruling party Noron who had started a military coup d’état and planned to kill Jeong Jo with assassins. Fortunately, Jeong Jo managed to fight off the assassins himself and successfully identified those who were behind the coup. This successful battle was also a win for the late Crown Prince Sado, who had technically been killed because of the Noron party.
King Jeong Jo is evaluated as a competent and good 22nd king of Joseon. Among his many accomplishments is his building of Changyongyeong, the king’s royal bodyguards, who were selected through competitive examination. He also ordered the construction of Kyujanggak, a library in the royal palace which helped to improve the cultural and political position of the country and recruit competent officers to serve the nation. All these decisions spurred the development of Joseon’s popular culture as well.
He also made reforms and changes to existing policies. For instance, he opened government positions to those who were previously not allowed to apply for the positions simply because of their low status.
All these changes and decisions were possible because Jeong Jo himself was highly educated, well-informed and intelligent. Historical records show Jeong Jo often berating court officials, “What is it that you know?”- which was indisputable because Jeong Jo did know much more than the officials.
This was to the point that Jeong Jo one day declared to the court officials who were supposed to teach him, “I have now nothing to learn from you. I will now set out teaching myself.” He even nagged and reprimanded the officials, “Please, study.” (lol)
While Jeong Jo’s decision to scrap some existing systems would have sparked disagreement from the officials, they didn’t dare oppose him.
Jeong Jo was known to be a voracious reader. When those who worked at the royal palace could not find an appropriate quotation to use, he would say something like, “In this book called ____ on page ___ in line ___, there is a quotation which reads ____, which is not the most appropriate line to use in this context. There’s a more appropriate line which I will read out to you, use that.” (clap clap)
When the workers checked what he read out loud against the actual line in the book, they realized that Jeong Jo had not even missed out a single word. Jeong Jo was the only king of Joseon who had completely and perfectly memorized Confucius books of the royal palace. This was because he read and read aloud all lines of the books until he had memorized them.
He was well read not only in politics and humanities but also in books of medicine. Modern scholars presume that his extensive knowledge in medicine (to the point that he even prescribed himself medicine) was because he was constantly under the threat of being poisoned. (Being poisoned to death was quite common in the palace)
Jeong Jo was not only a bookworm but had excellent combat skills. This was because from when he was young, Jeong Jo had always strived to be a king who not only was equipped with knowledge of court affairs but also with military prowess. He was especially known for his unparalleled archery skills.
While the Jeong Jo portrayed by Hyun Bin in movie “Fatal Encounter” is calm and placid, the actual Jeong Jo had a fiery, fierce temper. Coupled with his temper, intelligence and dedication to serving the needs of the common people, when some officials said something stupid, Jeong Jo didn’t hesitate to curse them out angrily. Once, he even bitingly told off a scholar, “Would someone like you be able to carry out such an important task?” (ouchhh)
The evaluation is that Jeong Jo was, among all kings of Joseon, the most outstanding in oratorical skills. Apparently King Suk Jeong, Kyeong Jong and Yeong Jo, all Jeong Jo’s ancestors, were excellent speakers too who often left court officials speechless at the end of debates in the royal palace. (power of genetics)
However, while he often cursed out officials for stupid opinions or lack of knowledge, Jeong Jo was quite forgiving. One official even wrote Jeong Jo a letter which read, “Your working style is bad, the reason being that you are impatient. Your impatience and temper can be partly causes for your ill health nowadays.” This was an insulting and rude letter which provoked officials in the palace to demand severe punishment of the fearless official. At the end, however, Jeong Jo even granted that official with an even higher position and forgave him.
After implementing many successful reforms and policies, Jeong Jo passed away at the age of 47 quite all of a sudden. This was while he was arranging for the marriage of his son Sunjo and before seeing many of his life works come into fruition. Some speculated he had died of poisoning, especially considering he had many arguments with court officials.
However, others reason that considering Jeong Jo was a heavy drinker, smoker, extremely impatient and hot-tempered and over-worked himself to the point of accomplishing so many things which would’ve been challenging and difficult for a single person to achieve, his sudden death was not so surprising.
On top of that, living until 50 was considered living long in the 18th century Joseon era, with barely 5% of the general population living until 60. Jeong Jo was also suffering from boils, which was a fatal condition back in the day.
Kings in the Joseon era rose to the throne at the average age of 23, reigned for an average of 19 years and 2 months and lived for an average of 47 years. With this in mind, Jeong Jo’s death at 47 was not that an anomaly.
Jeong Jo was buried with his wife, Queen Hyoui, at the royal tomb of Geon-leung, in the city of Hwaseong.
I recently visited a dessert shop called “Yenly Yours” located at Suntec City (3 Temasek Blvd, #01-K6 East Wing Suntec City Mall, Singapore 038983), which opens from 11am to 10pm every day. This Thai dessert cafe already had 15 branches in Bangkok before opening in early 2020 at Suntec City. There are plans for expansion to more outlets overseas as well.
The interior is simple and in open space with white round tables, square wooden tables and white chairs, situated right across Hoshino Coffee.
This is the shop menu:
My family ordered a “Your mango treasure”and “Strawberry and Strawberry jelly”.
The mango slices and ice cream were sweet and tasty. I also liked the warm sticky rice drizzled with coconut milk covered by the mango and the ice cream. Warm rice and cool ice cream was such a surprisingly great combination!
The ice cream content of “Strawberry and Strawberry jelly” was also delicious, but the taste seems to be one that would be received differently depending on one’s ice cream flavor preferences. In other words, it won’t exactly be liked by those who don’t like strawberry-flavored things because of how they taste like strawberry syrup/medicine. The mango ice cream, though, I think, would be liked generally by most.
A few days ago, I visited a new Korean Chinese restaurant called “Mukja” which opened quite recently. It’s located along 275 Thomson Rd at Commontown Novena Regency and opens from 11:30am–2:30pm then 5–9:30pm on Mondays to Sundays (Public Holidays might affect opening hours).
The interior is simple and clean, with white walls (with a poster of Gong Yoo’s soju advertisement), a few cute small dolls wearing traditional Korean clothing and wooden tables and chairs.
I ordered a “jjamjamyeon”, a big bowl containing half of black bean sauce noodles (jjajangmyeon) and half of spicy seafood noodles (jjamppong) to share with my sister.
Of course, couldn’t miss out on tangsuyook (sweet and sour pork) too.
My take is that both types of noodles and the tangsukyook were all good.
The noodles and sauce were delicious, and the soup of the jjamppong was good, too. The tangsukyook was crispy on the surface and soft in the inside, not soggy at all despite being served with the sauce already poured on top. I liked the fact that the sauce of the tangsuyook wasn’t too sour- it often is the case in some restaurants- and that the pieces came in slender, easy for one-bite sizes.
The transport to and from this restaurant’s convenient too. There’s a bus stop right in front of the restaurant, and the Novena MRT is only 2-3 minutes walk away (right opposite).
You want to eat somewhere a little fancy- but not too fancy or pricey. Here are my tried-and-tested top 15 favorite semi-casual restaurants that I recommend for an outing with your friends!
1. Dancing Fish
Located at level 4 of Tang Plaza along 310 Orchard Road, this place is definitely one for lovers of Malay-Indo cuisine- or any good food! It opens from 11.30-2.30, then 5.30-9pm. Check out my detailed review on this great diner to find out more.
A Japanese restaurant that offers a quiet, relaxing ambience and simple, high quality Japanese cuisine, Sun with Moon is located at Wheelock Place at 501 Orchard Rd, #03 – 15. It opens from 11.30am to 2.15pm, then 2.30-5.15 for dine-in, and 11.30-2.15, then 2.30-5.15 for takeaways, from Monday to Sunday.
Sushi Tei and Denki Sushi have great food too, but the atmosphere of Sun with Moon is a little calmer than the two, which tend to have a busy, lively atmosphere.
I fell in love with this restaurant first when I walked into the place. A cute small grandfather’s clock hanging on the wall, the few simple tables, the lighting- the simple and classy interior was much to my liking. I fell in love the second time when I tasted the food.
This small restaurant at Goldhill Plaza opens from 11.30-2.30, then 6-10 Mondays to Saturdays, then 6-10pm on Sundays. My advice is for you to go maybe 10-15 minutes before 11.30 so that you can get your name down on the reservation book of the day as soon as possible. There’s competition! Prices tend to be higher in the evenings.
This place at Dempsey Hill is perfect for a casual Western-style brunch. It opens from 8am to 11pm and offers a wide range- just snack bites, delicious full meals, to drinks and desserts. While waiting for the food, you can also check out the wide array of sauces, wines, drinks and various foods on display for sale as well!
Din Tai Fung is the kind of a place you can bring your guest from overseas to with a guarantee of good service and good quality food. Located in various places like Paragon Orchard and City Square Mall, the restaurant promises delectable Chinese cuisine Mondays to Sundays from 11am to 9pm.
This Chinese restaurant is located at Scotts Square and Ion Orchard, with slightly differing opening hours. I don’t know about Scotts Square, but the last time I visited (pre-Covid), the queues were very, very long in front of the Ion outlet.
Yum, craving the custard bun, sweet & sour pork, mango pudding (and more…) just remembering this place.
I fell in love with the ginger chicken on my first visit to Soup Restaurant. Downing the traditional boiled soup immediately makes me feel warmer and healthier. Check out this restaurant at many of its locations (e.g. United Square, Paragon, etc)- opening hours differ!
Jumbo Seafood’s probably on the to-visit lists of most tourists to Singapore, because it probably offers the best chilli crab in the country! Take a bite of the fried bun dipped into the chili crab sauce, and another mouthful of the soft crab meat. Your first visit certainly won’t be your last.
Hai Di Lao’s the largest hot pot chain in China, and for a reason. Walk into any of its outlets in Singapore (e.g. Novena, Somerset 313) and you’ll be able to enjoy not only good hot pot, clean and classic interiors, but also helpful, friendly and polite staff members!
Located at Mandarin Gallery and along Scotts Road, Wild Honey is an all-day breakfast restaurant that offers simple Western style cuisine. On top of the delicious food, I love the casual, comfortable vibe of the diner.
It’d be good to make a reservation call, especially if you’re planning to visit on the weekend! This place is pretty popular.
Located in places like Raffles City and Paragon, P.S. Cafe is a popular restaurant that offers aesthetically pleasing interiors, a generally quiet and calming ambience, and simple, tasty Western style cuisine.
SPizza’s my go-to place with family and friends for actually good quality pizza. (It’s a different level altogether from unthawed frozen pizza! The fresh ingredients and perfectly crispy dough, yum!) The diner’s open from 12-2.30, then 6-10.30pm and is located at three places- Bukit Timah, Jalan Kayu and Havelock.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see the pizza being actually grilled in fire.
Located in various places like Novena Square, Bugis Junction and Takashimaya (etc more), Crystal Jade promises mouthwatering Chinese cuisine like Paradise Restaurant and Din Tai Fung do. Opening hours differ depending on the location!
Historical fiction drama “Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth” aired from December 2016 to February 2017, boasting an impressive main cast filled with current and rising stars like
Park Seo Jun,
and Park Hyung Sik.
Hwarang had a national viewership rating with a range between 6.0 to 11.1%. While the ratings might have been better, the drama received much love and support especially from the younger audience, both in Korea and abroad.
It’s been 3 years since Hwarang’s ended, so here’s a post on the historically rich context of Silla and hwarangs in the era.
When Jin Heung rose to the throne of Silla, he decided that beautiful and intelligent young women in the country would be recruited to become “wonhwa”, a group of approximately 300 female warriors who would eventually serve the country after training.
The wonhwa, however, was done away with when two wonhwas called Nanmo and Junjeong fought over jealousy, resulting in murder. Consequently, “hwarang”, a group with the same intended function as “wonha”, but consisting solely of men, was established.
“Hwarang” literally meant “men like flowers”, so the hwarangs not only honed their military combat skills but also their looks and character. They were not only warriors that fought valiantly in wars, but also (beautiful, intelligent and loyal to the country) representatives/the faces of the country.
The hwarangs, consisting chiefly of the sons of high-status/ranking men, trained and lived in various parts of Silla. Each small group of hwarangs had one “head hwarang”, called the “gukseon”. To be a gukseon, a hwarang had to be seong-gol or jin-gol, both of which referred to, respectively, the highest and second-highest ranks in the whole hierarchal system of status in the Silla era. Each hwarang group also had “nangdo”, who were lower status men that served the hwarangs, some consisting of about a few tens, and others, a few thousands.
Buddhist monks were usually responsible for educating a group of hwarangs. The monks were well-read in not only Buddhism but also in other religions emerging at the time in neighboring countries like China and Japan. Given the opportunities to learning they had, they were considered to be well-educated and hence sufficiently equipped to be teachers to hwarangs.
The system of educating hwarangs was a huge success. The hwarangs are deemed to have been significant contributors to the eventual unification of the three kingdoms, Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, which was done by Silla, instead of other kingdoms which were previously considered to be much stronger, such as Goguryeo.
The hwarang system, for instance, produced a number of renowned heroes of the nation, such as Kim Yoo Sin, Kim Chun Chu, Moo Gwang Lang, Ban Gul, Gwan Chang, Sadaham and many more, who showed unparalleled bravery, loyalty to the country and their comrades, and of course, impressive combat skills. (FYI, Sadaham fought in many wars and was famous for releasing common people captured as prisoners from other kingdoms. When he died grieving over the death of his best friend Moo Gwan Lang, he was only 17.)
Although Silla was a strictly hierarchal society, the hwarang system provided a great platform for brave, loyal and intelligent young men to study, train and work together regardless of their backgrounds, allowing them to bond with a strong sense of solidarity and pride. Despite being chiefly quite young men from the age of about 15 to 20s, when Silla was attacked by other kingdoms, the hwarangs persuaded the king to let them fight in the war despite being much younger and less experienced than most soldiers on the opposing side.
The hwarangs, moreover, could contribute to the victory of Silla and the eventual unification of the three kingdoms only because King Jin Heung created and maintained an environment which respected and supported the learning of brave and loyal young men, regardless of their family background or status in the hierarchal system.
2016 was truly the year of well-loved dramas- with Descendants of the Sun, Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Goblin and of course, Moonlight Drawn by Clouds.
Moonlight, starring Park Bo Gum,
Kim Yoo Jung
and other popular young actors, received much love.
The drama had a happy ending, with Prince Lee Yeong (Park Bo Gum) surviving an assassination attempt (of poison) and eventually ending up with his lover Hong Ra On (Kim Yoo Jung)- although there was no wedding.
Much of the plot, however, is based on fiction. While Hong Kyung Rae, Ra On’s father, did actually exist, it is not known whether he had a daughter called Ra On.
Prince Lee Yeong is a character based on Prince Hyo Myeong- who, unfortunately, passed away at a young age.
Celebrating the 4 years since the drama’s hit, let’s take a look at the historical context of the drama!
Crown Prince Hyo Myeong
Born as the only son to the 23rd king of Joseon, King Sunjo in 1809, the prince became Crown Prince Hyo Myeong in 1812. The crown prince was handsome, intelligent, and talented that King Sunjo had high expectations of him.
In 1827, King Sunjo’s health had deteriorated seriously, necessitating “dae-ri-chung-jung”. (Dae-ri-chung-jung: when a crown prince takes over the king’s duties due to reasons that require the king’s absence; it was used when a king was too ill to actively go over documents, attend meetings with officials and make decisions. It was also used as a tool to test how equipped a crown prince was to become king in future, or to train a crown prince in dealing with national affairs.)
For four years, crown prince Hyo Myeong did dae-ri-chung-jung. According to historical records, when the order of dae-ri-chung-jung was first made known to all officials in the royal palace, the officials celebrated and cheered- (not really because they hated the king) they liked and had high expectations of the crown prince, and were ready to serve him as the next king in future.
Despite being only 18 at the time, the crown prince made firm, swift and meticulous decisions. When he received news that common people in a town were suffering due to the acts of a corrupt official, he made sure strict punishment was meted out. He did not hesitate to punish and go against high ranking officials, too.
Aside from being a good ruler, the crown prince was also highly regarded as a son who showed dedication and filial piety toward his parents. He successfully organized politically important parties, upholding the reputation of his father, King Sunjo. In organizing the parties, Hyo Myeong also showed talent in the arts, personally making suggestions and edits to dance moves and art works.
To the woes of many, however, the crown prince suddenly fell ill, and at the young age of 22, passed away. Certain royal officials brought up the possibility of assassination using poison, but no evidence of murder was found. Some considered that the crown prince could’ve passed due to illnesses resulting from overwork.
King Sunjo grieved terribly over the death of his son. He wrote a long essay, which expressed the terrible sadness the king suffered not only from having lost his loving son, but also over the fact that a wise and good hearted potential king of the nation was lost.
Having already lost his other children before the passing of Hyo Myeong, Sunjo passed away in 1834 from illness and great stress.
For the past 13 years of my school life, I’ve always been going down to the canteen/school diners every break with my friends to enjoy discussing assignments and many interesting school affairs over lunch.
Eating is a communal event at my house. I sit at the table with my parents and siblings, and exempting days of school examinations, we eat, talk, laugh and tuck into our desserts for 1-3 hours before returning to our rooms.
So when I first came across the concept of “honbap” a few years ago, it was, to me, merely a trendy portmanteau coined to explain an activity that was intellectually interesting to observe but irrelevant to my life.
That was until I came across a news article featuring a (2016) drama, “Drinking Solo”. (or: “Hon Sul Nam Nyeo”: literally meaning “Men and women who drink alone”) In one of the still cuts, I saw actor Ha Suk Jin drinking and eating alone after work.
Maybe the samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly) on the hot grill turning to a juicy brown, or the sushi in his chopsticks, or maybe it was just because it’s Ha Suk Jin- that suddenly, I had a thought- “What if I try to actually enjoy honbap?”
I had grabbed a Subway sandwich or a burger when I was in a rush, but that didn’t really count as a legitimate Honbap. Eating alone- especially when I was outside- had made me a tad uncomfortable. (What if people think I have no friends? What if I look like I have no one to eat with?)
So one day when I was in secondary school and studying in library in town alone, I went down to a pasta diner, and ordered pasta with alfredo sauce.
Instead of a little hurriedly finishing my meal as I always had when eating alone, I sat down and enjoyed my pasta for a slow 20 minutes. (Actually not really because the pasta was really not to my liking but…)
The secondary school me felt like a grown-up adult paying for the pasta (I should’ve gone for what I usually go for…) and elegantly enjoying it by myself in the diner. Slowly having a meal, completely on my own, wasn’t so bad (although still awkward).
The awkwardness I have with honbap is shared by my fellow Koreans, as evidenced by the coining of even a whole new term- “honbap”- in the first place. The act of eating alone was and still is not the norm.
Only with the emergence of dramas, celebrities and even restaurants that support honbap did eating alone become more acceptable and even “cool”.
The fact that there’s some stigma that comes with eating alone (and still is to a certain extent) in Korea is quite interesting, given the original eating culture of the country.
Eating alone was in fact the norm even in the Joseon era. Each person was given a “sang” (a round table with rice and side dishes).
Only when the Korean War (25 Jun 1950 – 27 Jul 1953) started, with the lack of resources, a family was forced to sit at the same table and eat. Before the era of Korean War, eating was just a method of addressing one’s hunger- people didn’t talk or eat together.
When Korean society evolved from an agricultural one to one focused on manufacturing and services, opportunities for family members to gather together were drastically reduced, making lunch/dinner rare valuable family time.
So the concern of some people in Korea being perceived as “inssa” (popular kids) eating with a large group of friends, or “assa” (outsider/outcast) if seen eating alone is based on a pretty recent change in the Korean eating culture.
Eating with family and friends is a time of wonderful and precious time of bonding, but with the hectic pace of modern life, eating alone is more and more becoming inevitable. Plus, eating alone allows us some time to really focus on our food, our thoughts and our needs. Especially for those living and working in cities where constant proximity to others isn’t exactly our choice, being able to enjoy alone time is definitely a necessity for our mental and emotional health too.
My hope is that one day, both honbap and eating with others will be natural parts of the lives of people in Korea and everywhere else!