Gwang Jong, the Korean king featured in drama “Scarlet Heart Ryeo”

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Moon Lovers; Scarlet Heart Ryeo” finished airing in 2016.

It’s 2020, and fans are still petitioning for the second season (myself included)- we desperately want to know how (and if) Wang So and Hae Soo meet again in the modern era. There’s no shortage of fan-made trailers imagining a reunion of Wang So and Hae Soo in the 21st century…

Although Go Ha Jin of the 21st century is a fictional character, Prince Wang So played by actor Lee Jun Ki, definitely isn’t.

The heartbreaking last episode of “Moon lovers” shows the main character Go Ha Jin back in 21st century South Korea, reading about the accomplishments of Wang So, or, King Gwangjong.

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Let’s take a closer look at one of the most interesting kings of the Goryeo era, King Gwangjong.

Birth & Childhood

Gwangjong was born as Wang So (็Ž‹ๆ˜ญ), the fourth son of King Taejo, the founder of the Goryeo dynasty.

According to historical records, he was known to be quite handsome and very tall, at a height of 180cm. Considering the average height of Korean men (as of 2019) is about 170cm and average heights of people have been increasing over time, Gwang jong is considered tall even in modern day South Korea and was probably considered extremely tall in the Goryeo era.

(Fun fact: Lee Jun Ki is 178cm.)

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Gwangjong was born to Queen Shinmyeong sunseong but was adopted by Lady Shinjuwon of the Kang Clan who had lost her son.

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As a king

As Taejo’s fourth son, Wang So wasn’t supposed to be king. But his elder siblings passed away, so at the age of 25, Wang So became the 4th king of Goryeo.

Gwangjong has the reputation of basically transforming Goryeo from a disorganized mess (it hadn’t been a long while since the three kingdoms have been re-united to become the Goryeo Kingdom) into a strong country.

Among many accomplishments, he is best known for these:

1. Freeing of Slaves

Many powerful men of the Goryeo era possessed slaves most of whom had become slaves because they were in debt or had been captured during war of the Three Kingdoms.

Painting depicting a high-class man just chilling while his slaves work. Photo Credits

Gwangjong freed those who had been illegally made slaves or were previously just common people before the war.

It is believed that his true purpose of implementing the policy of freeing slaves was to undermine the power of formidable clans. This was because slaves at the time were used by members of the clans as soldiers and workers, in fact amplifying the military and financial power of the clan members.

Of course, to implement the policy, Gwangjong needed a valid reason. He justified the policy by emphasizing the importance of addressing the chaos in social status/hierarchy in society brought about by the war of the Three Kingdoms.

The policy, expectedly, resulted in enormous backlash from the powerful clan members, but was ultimately implemented.

Gwangjong’s plan was a huge success. It not only strengthened his power and weakened that of the clans. It also further fortified the military power of Goryeo because the freed slaves, now working common people, had the obligation to be part of mandatory military service and pay taxes.

2. Implementing of “Gwageo” exam

According to the suggestion of scholar Shaung Ji, Gwangjong implemented the “Gwageo” exam in Goryeo based on the civil service exam used in Tang at the time.

The “Gwageo” exam, a national civil service examination, could be taken by all male free-borns. The exam was meant to allow all qualified, intelligent men to work in the royal palace.

A drawing of how a “gwageo” exam used to look like. Photo Credits:

This policy completely undermined the status quo; at the time, only men whose fathers were powerful or accomplished could work for the government.

After picking public officials based on their exam results, Gwangjeong also standardized the attire of the officials based on their rank. (e.g. purple, red, green, etc.)

All these changes firmly established the hierarchy and order in the royal palace. They also reinforced Gwangjong’s power as king.

For the first seven years of his reign, Gwangjong had been a king compliant to the wishes of public officials and clan members. The groundbreaking changes he suddenly started to implement after seven years of planning and waiting threw the public officials and clans off guard.

Although the advantage son of high-class men had in working in the palace couldn’t be completely eliminated, the exam encouraged more capable men to contribute their talent to the country.

3. Eliminating opposition in the palace

As Gwangjong implemented various policies to strengthen royal power and establish order in the country, there was strong opposition from many in the palace.

The Gwangjong after seven years was a completely different king from how he was at the start of his reign. He declared he would immediately lock up and execute those who went against his wishes- and he did.

Public officials and clan members who opposed Gwangjong’s wishes were killed or exiled, accused of treason against the king. It was to the point that prisons were insufficient and more had to be built to hold the prisoners.

By the time Gwangjong had stepped down from the throne, only 40 public officials from King Taejo’s time were left in the palace.

There’s another chilling reason Gwangjong is known to be the “bloody tyrant” or “monarch of blood”; years into his reign, he even killed his own nephews and harbored suspicions about his own son, the crown prince.

Regarding whether Gwangjong truly deserves censure for his “bloody rule” is still up for debate in the present day.

Some argue that compared to other kings like King Taejong who only executed those who were truly against his rule, Gwangjong executed even those who supported his rule. It is often asserted that his killing was excessive and stemmed from paranoia rather than rational judgments.

Setting aside the necessity of the executions he ordered, Gwangjong is often also criticized for taking the lives of so many people, given the sanctity of life.

On the other hand, some argue that compared to other kings like King Taejong (who is also known for killing his brothers, friend and many others to become king), Gwangjong’s ruthless killing was in fact necessary for his survival.

Depiction of King Taejong by actor Yoo Ah-in. Photo Credit

In the case of Taejong, for example, when he’d become king, most of the public officials in the palace were loyal to him or generally on his side.

Meanwhile, in Gwangjong’s case, he was surrounded by powerful clan members who constantly looked for the opportunity to dethrone him- perhaps making his ruthless rule necessary for him to become a powerful, effective king.

Depiction of King Gwangjong by actor Lee Jun Ki. Photo Credits

His later years

After reigning for 26 years and 2 months, at the age of 51, Gwangjong passed away from an illness.

One of his 2 tombs is in Songaksan, a volcano mountain on Jeju Island. The other tomb is in North Korea.

Was Gwangjong a good king?

Photo Chttp://: javascript:win_YK(‘/news2011/asp/photo_view.asp?img_fn=20160913.99002132351i1.jpg’)redits

Was Gwangjong a paranoid bloodthirsty tyrant, going on a ruthless and cruel rampage of killing even his family and supporters? Or was he a powerful leader doing what he had to do to survive? Or was he a bit of both?

I leave it to you to give Gwangjong a thought as we hope for a Moon Lovers sequel. ๐Ÿ™‚

“Secret Royal Inspector” drama: historical context

Kim Myung Soo (Infinite L) and Kwon Nara are acting in a new historical drama “Secret Royal Inspector”.

Secret Royal Inspector - AsianWiki
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L is likely to star as a royal inspector of Joseon, and Kwon Nara as an intelligent, beautiful gisaeng. For more information, you can check out this website.

Kwon Nara is most famous for her roles as Oh Soo-Ah in Itaewon Class and this advertisement for Han Don where she awed many with her unbelievable proportions. L is known for his tear-jerking performance in Angel’s Last Mission and role as a judge in Miss Hammurabi.

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The drama casting & date are to be confirmed, but I’m one of many hoping that Kwon Nara and L will star in the drama together ๐Ÿ™‚ As we hope for the casting news to be confirmed, let’s find out more about the historical background of the drama.

Who were royal inspectors?

It was a temporary position that only existed in the Joseon era (1392~1897).

A royal inspector was personally chosen by the king to report on the livelihood of the common people and check for acts of corruption committed by government officials. Throughout his mission, he was required to keep his identity and activities a secret unless he had to arrest corrupt officials.

Who became a royal inspector?

According to historical records, chiefly low or middle-ranking officials who were intelligent, knowledgeable in the common people’s livelihood and experienced in government work, were selected.

The king personally assigned the royal inspector. Naturally, the king and the inspector were on close terms, and any attempt on the inspector’s life was considered a direct challenge to the authority of the king and hence deemed as an act of treason.

Who are some famous royal inspectors?

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Not this guy who looks really good in a uniform…

To the left, Jung Yak-Yong. To the right, his direct descendant, Jung Hae-In. Photo Credits. This comparison picture was circulated in South Korea, touted as the illustration of the “power of genetics”.

But this guy’s direct ancestor, the renowned scientist and public servant Jung Yak Yong. (Fun fact: even King Jung Jo at the time acknowledged that Jung Yak Yong to be quite a handsome man.)

There is also the legendary Park Mun Soo, known as the avenger of the common people. At least 300 tales about his journey as a royal inspector are in the historical records and folk tales. He is most famous for his persistent fight against corruption.

Painting of Park Mun Soo. Photo Credits

How were the inspectors appointed?

A royal inspector was given a “bongseo”, which contained the king’s order to carry out certain duties without revealing his identity.

He was also given a “mapae”, which he could use to borrow horses throughout his journey as an inspector.

From the top left, clockwise: mapae, bongseo, samok and yuchuk. The 4 items a king bestowed upon a royal inspector. Photo Credits

He was always sent out with a group of other officials who often disguised themselves as groups of commoners like merchants. To gather information about villages, they often went to crowded places.

What exactly did a royal inspector do?

An inspector wrote reports…lots of them.

He observed the lives of the common people, the systems and rulers of villages, and occasionally penned down his opinions on how to improve the lives of the people.

If he discovered that a commoner was unjustly judged in court, he reported the wrongdoings of officials, recommended talented, morally upright people to their positions instead, and dismissed even high-ranking officials like governors in the name of the king.

How was the life of a royal inspector like?

Very, very hard.

They could be killed by assassins sent by their political enemies, eaten by tigers (nearly 70% of Joseon consisted of forested areas), robbed (and again killed) by bandits. They could also be accused of being “fake royal inspectors” by suspicious village rulers.

Painting of a tiger in the Joseon era. Photo Credits

Inspectors also had to write many reports to the king, and could be punished for all sorts of reasons like: 1) report written too frequently 2) report written too infrequently 3) messy handwriting (seriously…maybe give them a break?)

Typical image of a royal inspector wielding his “mapae” as soldiers arrest a corrupt official. Photo Credtis

Inspectors even had to pay for their expenses out of their own pockets and could not even receive any form of support (even food) from anyone because it could be considered as bribery.

The job was such hard work that rumor has it officials assigned as royal inspectors occasionally mourned, “Your Majesty, what did I do so wrong that you would give me this job?”

The work of royal inspectors was so laborious and even life-threatening to the point that there even circulates a statistic that the survival rate of royal inspectors was only 30%. This frightening number, however, is not based on any historical record or evidence.

Given that highly intelligent, educated and experienced men of Joseon were selected as royal inspectors, it is highly unlikely that the precious young talent of Joseon were sent to missions of death. The survival rate was probably a lot higher than 30%.

Was the royal inspector policy successful?

To a large extent, yes.

Inspectors like Park Mun Soo are famous for having made the common people’s lives much better by fighting against corrupted officials who exploited the people. Some like Jung Yak Yong are famous for having pushed for policies and even inventions to better the lives of commoners based on the insight they gained during their stint as inspectors.

But unfortunately, as the cases of corrupted royal inspectors and serious political retribution against returning royal inspectors increased, the policy of royal inspectors ceased in the year of King Gojong (1896) as Joseon itself neared its demise.

The last king of Joseon, Gojong. Photo Credits
The last princess of Joseon, Princess Deokhye. Imported

How & whys of Seo Ye Ji’s fashion in drama “It’s okay to not be okay”

Photo Credits to: http://www.bloter.net/archives/392774

Seo Ye Ji in the drama “It’s okay not to be okay” plays Go Mun Yeong, an unpredictable, fiery-tempered beautiful female lead who seems frighteningly cold-hearted and brutal but with a closer look, even surprisingly vulnerable and loveable.

Portraying a rich and popular author of children’s books, Seo Ye Ji is often dressed in clothes that bring out her beautiful features but make viewers wonder, “Isn’t that a bit too much?”

Photo Credits: http://www.kstarfashion.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=201364
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Photo Credits

Large hats that seem more suited for 18th century England rather than 21st century South Korea. Dresses of flashy prints of flowers, bright colors and enormous frills that seem more suited for runways rather than daily life. Long, flamboyant earrings, branded bags, laces and all.

The fashion Seo Ye Ji flaunts in the drama seems to make her already intimidating, fierce character Go Mun Yeong even more unapproachable.

For more detailed information, you can take a look at websites like this and this.

What’s interesting is that the beautiful but questionable fashion choices Go Mun Yeong make are very well intended by the stylists & fashion team of the drama production team.

According to the stylist, the eye-catching, beautiful and strong colors & design Seo Ye Ji is dressed in are meant to show in fact the vulnerability of the character Go Mun Yeong.

The flashy clothes and accessories, according to the fashion team’s description, are a form of “self-protection mechanism” Go Mun Yeong uses to portray herself as strong, unapproachable and perhaps even a little intimidating- all of which she is, in fact, not.

The apt use of attire to convey an interesting aspect of a character was also done in “Hotel de Luna” starring IU (Lee Ji-eun). Jang Man Wol, the character IU portrays in the drama, also sports flamboyant, eye-catching and sometimes even over-the-top attire like this: (FYI, she wore a total of 123 outfits throughout the 16 episodes)

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It’s a relief to see a growing number of K-dramas featuring character and context appropriate attire. Gone are the days when viewers were simply content with aesthetically pleasing scenes and fashion on the screen.

The fashion team of the drama “Doctors” was criticized for dressing actresses Park Shin Hye and Lee Seong Kyung, starring as neurosurgeons, in flamboyant, restrictive and over-the-top attire like high heels, long, lacy skirts and long earrings – attire usually not adopted by neurosurgeons in real life who have to get from one surgery room, ward to another in crocs/loafers and ponytails.

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On the other hand, stylist teams of dramas like “Good Wife” were praised for realistically (at least to a large extent) dressing actors according to the context.

Jeon Do Yeon, portraying a housewife-turned-lawyer, dresses usually in colors like black, grey, blue and white, having to present herself in court. The toned down colors also effectively reflect her sense of loss and betrayal when her character discovers her husband’s infidelity at the start of the drama. As the plot progresses and the character gains more autonomy and confidence, she is seen to be wearing more of brighter colors like pink.

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“It’s okay not to be okay”

One of the reasons I’m really enjoying the drama “It’s okay not to be okay” is of course because of the chemistry between Kim Soo Hyun and Seo Ye Ji:

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But it’s also because of the well thought-out, complex ways in which the two characters are portrayed. I’ve just finished watching episode 12, and I’m really looking forward to watching the rest and seeing how the character developments unfold!

Organic Smooth Move Tea Review

RATING: 4/5

I’m always on a diet (kind of).

How my diet meal looks like on Monday Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com
How my diet looks like on Tuesday Photo by Robin Stickel on Pexels.com

On days high-calorie food entices me more than usual (which are many days), I think of the not so funny joke:

“What goes up like a Ferrari but comes down like a bicycle? The answer: my fat percentage.”

Me trying to calm down after having 6 cheat days out of 7 in a week Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I’m a bit of a skeptic, so I don’t easily believe in products that allegedly “melt my fat away” (as if), “prevent absorption of ____” (hmm maybe some are legit) or “tone up my body” (lol).

For the past 8+ years I’ve been sort of on a diet, these facts are the only ones I’ve truly experienced myself:

1. Exercise makes us happy

It’s not like I’ve gone to Spartan Races, ran marathons or actually did some serious cardio/strength workout. Given the time, frequency and intensity of my workouts, I’ll be embarrassed to even seriously call these sessions “exercise”.

But what I can be sure of, is that whether I played tennis, forced myself to walk around my neighborhood, or went on a run with my friends, exercise is this really strange thing that I don’t exactly love doing (yet) but at least while I’m doing it, makes me happy.

2. This “diet drink” really works.

I know this sounds click-baity, but it’s true. I call this drink the “poop tea” because how it works is very simple. It makes you poop.

Picture of 1 box of “Organic Smooth Move” tea in my kitchen

What does this tea do?

Like I said, it makes you go to the bathroom. That means it helps with constipation and at least temporarily, gets a lot of the undigested/digested lumps of food in your stomach out of the system.

How does it taste like?

After drinking the tea for the past 2 years, I’m still not used to the taste. I’m not a picky eater (somewhat unfortunately), and as long as something tastes pretty average, I’m fine with it.

But this tea really is indescribably, incredibly not tasty.

I solemnly challenge you to drink the cup without frowning/scowling. I just down the cup in one go thinking it’s not tea, it’s medicine- and take a bite of something to get rid of the taste in my mouth.

It may not be my cup my tea (lol), but the taste might be great for you if you like scented, herbal taste, though.

“It’s going to be what brings down my weight by about 0.3-0.6kg.” is what I chant in my head.

Is it really good for constipation?

I don’t like hearing “Depends” as an answer. Despite knowing things don’t work in a black and white way, I often find myself wanting a fixed yes-no answer. Unfortunately, “depends” is the case for this tea too.

This tea is like my (only) diet cheat method. I tend to drink it on days I’ve eaten too much but am not in a mood to go for a run. Within about 6-24 hours, I have the urge to go to the bathroom about 2 times, and really instantly, I feel less bloated.

I feel lighter, I am lighter (minimum 0.3kg, maximum 1kg from experience) and less bloated.

For my friend who regularly experiences bloating and constipation, the tea doesn’t work as effectively.

It’s not a magical tea for everyone. But it is for quite a few.

Where/how can I order it?

I bought it for S$7.40 on iHerb.

You can also buy it from “Traditional Medicinals Official Online Store“.

Does it have any side effects?

If only I could drink this tea after every high-calorie meal.

The reported side effects are: painful cramping (my stomach does hurt), diarrhoea, fluid losses, poor nutrient absorption, and changes in urine color. The tea manufacturer advises consumption of 1 cup (240ml) per day for no longer than 1 week a time. Senna (an FDA-approved over-the-counter (OTC) laxative) in the tea may also interact with certain substances. For more information, you can refer to this article and the official manufacturer website.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend that you drink this tea any 1-3 days before an important event. You wouldn’t want to be breaking out in cold sweat having to go to the washroom when you’re in the middle of a meeting, for example.

For the past 1-2 years I’ve had this tea about once every 2 weeks, I haven’t experienced anything I’d call a “side-effect”. Whether you do experience a side-effect or not depends on several factors (e.g. your digestive system).

What’s my verdict?

I’ll continue drinking this tea for as long as 1) I continue not experiencing side effects 2) the manufacturer produces this tea.

This tea makes my lifelong dieting journey a lot less painful, does away with my bloating and helps with constipation, too. I’ll just have to start liking the herbal taste more.

Photo by Peter Olexa on Pexels.com

That’s it for this review! Hope you’ve found this post informative. If you did, please give it a like/comment! It’ll be even better if you follow my blog “Han Style” ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheers, Han Sol

History of Korean men’s accessories & make-up

Picture of BTS V. Photo Credits

Silver grey hair, a seemingly statuesque face and of course, the long, eye-catching drop earring- of BTS V in the music video of “DNA” (2017) left the millions who watched (and re-watched) the clip in awe.

BTS V wasn’t the first and certainly not the last K-pop idol to sport quite an unconventional accessory for men- long drop earrings.

Picture of Kang Daniel, Photo Credits to “Herald Pop”
BTS Jimin, Photo Credits: Big Hit Twitter.

Lip balm, lip tints, foundation powder, smoky eyes and long earrings. Sported by male K-pop idols, there was as much celebration for this “new” way of self-expression as there was discomfort over the new “androynous fashion”.

Regardless of opinions on this trend in the K-pop industry, with one look at Korean history, it’s clear that this trend isn’t a recent one.

Picture of SHINEE Minho from character introduction pic of drama “Hwarang”: Photo Credits to owner.

The first word that comes to mind for Korean men’s accessories & make-up is “Silla”. Located on the southern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula, Silla Kingdom was founded in 57BC and had united the three kingdoms of Korea- Baekje, Silla and Goguryeo. (Gyeongju, a province in South Korea was once Seorabeol, the capital of Silla Kingdom)

Silla itself is known to most Koreans for its Hwarang-do. Literally meaning “Men like flowers”, Hwarangs were beautiful, intelligent and usually high-class men trained to contribute to the country. These men were trained based on 5 principles:

  1. ์‚ฌ๊ตฐ์ด์ถฉ(ไบ‹ๅ›ไปฅๅฟ ): To serve the king with loyalty
  2. ์‚ฌ์นœ์ดํšจ(ไบ‹่ฆชไปฅๅญ) : To serve parents with filial piety
  3. ๊ต์šฐ์ด์‹ (ไบคๅ‹ไปฅไฟก) : To make friends with faith
  4. ์ž„์ „๋ฌดํ‡ด(่‡จๆˆฐ็„ก้€€) : To never retreat in a war/fight
  5. ์‚ด์ƒ์œ ํƒ(ๆฎบ็”Ÿๆœ‰ๆ“‡) : To discern carefully when having to engage in bloodshed
Photo Credits: A stone plague thought to have been set in the time of King Jinheung of Silla. Contains the list of names of famous Hwarangs like Sadaham, known for his beauty, intelligence and bravery. He led a large group of Hwarangs at the mere age of 16 and passed away at 17 after fighting against Gaya.

Not only were the Hwarang trained in things like military tactics, ethics, morality, language and many more scholarly things, they were instructed to uphold the image of Hwarang-do as consisting of young, beautiful men by maintaining their physical appearance.

The earrings Hwarang wore were often delicate gold pieces in the form of what are now known as “drop earrings”. This was especially because Silla Kingdom valued physical beauty and invested much in the work of accessory makers. The accessories were also believed to ward off evil spirits and used to indicate high class and power.

Picture of a crown made in the Silla era: Photo Credits

In Goryeo and Joseon era, both men and women wore earrings freely. Even very young children used to wear accessories too.

From the top left corner, in the clockwise direction, shows earrings from Silla, Baekje, Joseon, Goguryeo and Gaya. Photo Credits

Korean men wearing lipstick and putting on foundation make-up isn’t a recent fad, too. Men in the Joseon era styled their hair in the morning, washed their faces with powder and carried small pouches containing scented things.

They put on “face masks” made of rice grains to whiten their faces, and put on various types of jewellery on their clothes, too. Higher class men often attached various decorations made of materials like bamboo, gold, silver and jade to the fans they carried around.

Fans high-status men used to use in the Joseon era. A screenshot of Lee Jun Ki in “The Scholar Who Walks the Night”: Credits to MBC YouTube Channel.
Decorations in the string of “gat”, a hat men in the Joseon era used to wear: Credits to MBC YouTube channel
A video clip from the drama “Hwarang” set in Silla. From 0:38, you’ll be able to see the various accessories the actors are wearing that are similar to what used to be worn by men in the Silla era. Video Credits to official KBS Channel

From the 2009 wildly popular drama “The Great Queen Seondeok”. Video credits to “์˜›๋“œ : ์˜›๋‚  ๋“œ๋ผ๋งˆ [๋“œ๋ผ๋ง›์ง‘]YouTube Channel. The characters in this drama wear various kinds of accessories that show how developed accessory making was in the Silla era

Some point to the much loved Korean industry of beauty & fashion as symptomatic of a society obsessed with physical beauty. Some praise the unique adoption of make-up and accessories by both men and women as a step toward acceptance of all expressions of identity and self-love.

As a Korean who had grown in both South Korea and Singapore, I have the privilege of being able to look at my country and the rest of the world through a slightly different lens than a non-Korean or one born and bred purely in Korea would.

My perhaps cliche take is that perhaps like most things in the world, the vast and evolving world of “Korean beauty” has its share of the beautiful and the dark.

The Korean style of make-up emphasizes bringing the best out of existing facial features instead of hiding flaws. But the culture of make-up in South Korea has made no-make up something uncomfortably unconventional, even for elementary school girls. And this culture makes it hard for young girls to accept themselves as who they are when they’re so markedly different from their peers with make-up.

The Korean fashion culture serves as a way for Koreans to express themselves, to bond with others and channel creativity. But that very culture does unfortunately tend to make “fashion sense” synonymous unrelated values like diligence, sensibility and resourcefulness.

What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments section- I’d love to know what you think ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheers, Han Seol

How to get A for A levels General Paper Essay

A fixed system makes any job so much easier.

I got an A for General Paper (A levels), and below are the rules & system I had in place throughout my 2 years of Junior College (high school).

<STUDYING SYSTEM>

Gather good phrases, evidence and opinions

Even extraordinary legends like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen didn’t magically write masterpieces. They started out reading good books.

The logic is simple.

We can’t write good essays when we don’t know what good essays (or writings) look like. That’s why I read opinion articles throughout the 2 years of junior college (or high school).

Opinion articles are quite different from the common newspaper articles which are, to a large extent, essentially just a compilation of facts. These opinion articles (my favorites from The Atlantic, BBC, Vox, Straits Times, etc) contain insightful opinions and analyses of seasoned journalists or industry experts.

I didn’t just stop at reading these pieces. I used something I call the “legend method”.

I had a legend in place:

e.g.

RED (highlight): evidence that I can use in my own essays (quotes by famous people, statistics, etc)

YELLOW (highlight): good phrases that I can use in my own essays

CIRCLED: good vocabulary/words that I don’t know

SQUARE BRACKETS: good connectors I can use in my own essays

After making annotations according to this method, I underlined the sentences in the opinion articles which were the main points the writer was trying to convey.

This method of annotating the opinion articles made my revision efficient and fast.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com

Analyze the essay prompt

I first identified the keywords in an essay, then analyzed their definitions, set the scope of their meaning, and considered their implications.

e.g. “Does a country’s economic progress guarantee quality of life?”

Country: indicates scope/scale of essay

Economic progress: usually entails increase in number of jobs available, increase in GDP, etc.

Guarantee: an absolute/extreme word that indicates absolute certainty. In essays when absolute/extreme words like “guarantee”, “always”, “cause” are used, 99% of the time, the answer to the essay cannot be an absolute yes or no.

Quality of life: on an individual level, usually involves concepts like material (i.e. income level, job) and non-material standard of living (i.e. leisure time, family time, happiness)

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Structure the Essay

Once an essay structure is roughly in place, the essay is as good as half done. Once you have just the main ideas & topic sentences of each paragraph down, you just have to fill in the evidence & further explanation.

For example-

Paragraph 1: Yes, a country’s economic progress can lead to quality of life for the people. (Then explain the mechanism/how the process works)

Paragraph 2: Not necessarily, because of reasons like inequality (and elaborate more)

Paragraph 3: Not necessarily “guarantee”, because economic progress may indeed lead to increase in material SOL (one aspect of quality of life) but it may have unintended consequences (like higher stress levels and less family time) which can lead to a decrease in non material SOL (another aspect of quality of life)

Evaluative conclusion: Reiterate the 3 body paragraph points & explain how while economic progress might increase the chances of quality of life, it does not guarantee quality of life

I’m not saying this is the best way to structure an essay. This is my method- you have to come up with the essay structuring style that you’re most comfortable with.

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Brainstorm

On one sheet of paper, I penned down all the evidence I could use in my essays. On the other side of the paper, I wrote all the good phrases I could use.

When I actually started writing my essay, I tried to use the good phrases & evidence I had put down on the brainstorming sheet.

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Discuss ideas with friends

Should homework be banned? What do you think about the policy that was just implemented? Should animal testing be illegal? Is failure really essential for success? Why do you think so?

Discussing GP essay topics with friends is also a great (and fun) way to learn about different perspectives and internalize new information.

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Study tips

Don’t start studying for GP the last minute after chucking it aside in favor of other more obviously content-heavy subjects. GP isn’t the kind of a subject you can cram for and expect a sudden improvement in your grade.

Have (a) GP file(s) to compile all the good opinion articles, the essays you wrote, the notes your school gave- basically anything GP.

Use dividers to at least broadly classify your notes. You really don’t want to waste time

Use “time indicators”. Once I received a GP content package from my school, every time I read through the notes once, I put down the date I revised the pack. Having the visual indicator allowed me to see which package I didn’t revise as frequently, and which package, even if I did revise quite a few times, was one I had revised some time ago for.

Read through your notes/essays (all GP revision materials) repeatedly. If you don’t have a photographic memory, don’t expect the content you read through once some time ago to be in your head the next time you take a GP test.

When you read through your notes the first time, you’ll take maybe 1 hour. The next time you read through your notes (which are already highlighted according to your system), you’ll take maybe 40 minutes. The next time, it’ll be even shorter.

After you read through your notes repeatedly, they’ll already be in your head. You won’t have to try to memorize them before an exam.

Always ask for feedback. Teachers have gone through batches of students who’ve studied GP, and they’re basically professionals when it comes to studying for GP. Ask for exam & study tips.

“What are the mistakes I keep making my essays?”

“How can I improve my essay?”

“What do you think are the concrete steps I can take to improve ___ of my essay?”

My own teachers very generously gave me feedback on my essays and carved out time from their busy schedules when I requested for GP consultations. Seek out teachers’ help with a sincere desire to improve your GP, and they will give you sincere help.

If possible, write draft 2. Reading through the comments your teacher made on your essay is good, but writing an improved version based on the comments would be even better.

Writing a draft 2 would help you internalize the mistakes you keep making in your essays. You don’t want to end up repeating the same kind of mistakes in your essays.

Keep up with current affairs. Don’t frantically read the news a few days before a GP test (or even worse, before the A levels). Just read the news every day during spare time (e.g. while you’re drying your hair, when you’re waiting for the bus).

Be the kid in class who can give interesting updates on what’s going on around the world.

Write essays. Analyzing keywords, compiling good evidence and phrases, structuring essays- all of them are good, but that’s not what you’re actually going to be tested on for the A levels.

Sit down and actually write essays with a timer on your desk.

Have an “overview chart”. It’s good to have “time indicators” on the notes you revise for, but it’s even better to also have an overview of your progress in GP. On a piece of paper, note down all the commonly tested topics of GP essays, and track your progress on it.

How many times have you written an essay for this topic? How much content have you revised and compiled for this topic?

This chart will give you a sense of assurance. With a look at the overview chart, you won’t have to panic before the A levels wondering if you’re prepared.

My comments

The system I used to study for GP is just one of the many methods out there. If you’re studying for GP (or an essay writing exam), I hope you find what works for you best and get the grade you’re striving for! ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheers,

Han Seol

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How K-Food Dalgona came about

What I’d like to introduce in this post is dalgona, which, contrary to what many believe, is completely different from dalgona coffee.

I like to making dalgona with my family. As a Korean living in Singapore, I like to feel close to home now and then. We even bought a dalgona making set the last time we went back to South Korea.

It looks like this:

It turned out like this: (success!)

What is Dalgona?

It’s a caramel kind of a sweet, a street food (made of sugar and baking soda) that started selling in South Korea in the 1950s. It’s still sold in shops and along streets in many parts of the country.

What’s up with the name?

Word has it that when people first tasted this snack, they remarked, “Dalguna”, which literally means “It is sweet”- and that led to the street food being called “Dalgona”.

This sweet treat is called different names in different parts of the country. Popular versions of it are “dalgona”, “ddong gwaja” (literally: poop snack) and “bbobggi”.

How did dalgona come about?

South Korea in the 1950s wasn’t exactly a developed country. Unsurprisingly, its snack/food industry was almost non-existent. Dalgona came about first as almost a luxury snack when it was first created in the 1950s. Back then, sugar was very expensive for the common people.

Two types of dalgona shops came about. Some shops which sold pre-made dalgona. Others allowed customers to make and buy their own dalgona on the spot.

Was Dalgona always popular?

By the time the Korean War had ended and South Korea was entering a period of stability, dalgona was starting to be viewed as a “๋ถˆ๋Ÿ‰์‹ํ’ˆ”, which literally means “bad food”.

Love for dalgona was only rekindled in the country when a “new-tro” (retro + new) products became a trend amongst the young and old who were eager to buy nostalgic food like dalgona.

How is Dalgona made?

  1. Put sugar into ladle and stir it with a chopstick/stick over a stove fire.
  2. When the sugar turns yellow and sticky, add baking soda and stir. (Too much of baking soda and your mixture will turn out bitter)
  3. Pour the mixture onto parchment paper.
  4. Before the liquid mixture hardens, press a metal shape (any shape; popular ones come in the form of a heart, star, Christmas tree, fish, etc.) onto it.
  5. Wait for the mixture to harden.
  6. Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚
You can start from 1:36
Celebrities make dalgona too

Is dalgona the same thing as dalgona coffee?

They are two completely different products.

Dalgona is made of sugar, milk and instant coffee. The name came about when on a TV show, Jung Il Woo, a South Korean actor, ordered a coffee in Macau and one of the commentators remarked that it was like dalgona candy.

What I think about dalgona

It’s not exactly the healthiest snack, but it’s sweet & easy to make. If you’re a bored at home, give dalgona making a try.

Personally, I prefer pouring the mixture onto a plate rather than onto parchment paper. I almost ended up eating parchment paper as a side dish the last time I used it.

If you’re wearing braces, I would suggest you don’t try cracking it in your mouth. That might cost you quite a sum the next time you visit the dentist ๐Ÿ™‚

SG HealthCare Body Spin Review

RATING: 4/5

I bought an “SG HealthCare Body Spin” a year ago because of some really bad muscle cramps I was having in my legs.

The product looks like this! I love the pink color of the roller. The design’s pretty and simple.

Photograph I took of the roller at my house

How to use

Press the “Power” button and you’ll see a glow of “Lo” on the pink surface. Press it one more time and you’ll have a “Hi”. Press it again, and it’ll switch off. It’s quite easy to use!

The product comes with a free “Body Spin Hot Fitting Massager Cream”.

How the body spin works

1. Cellulite care

It’s hard to get rid of these annoying lumps of cellulite with just stretching. Physically exerting pressure on the cellulite area is apparently the best way to reduce the surface area/severity.

2. Swelling of legs/edema

Exerting pressure and vibration on the calves helps to improve lymphatic circulation. In the long run, that improves conditions like face swelling, dark circles, pimples and cold hands/feet.

How to use (adapted from the body spin website)

Lower body: in the order of abdomen < bottoms < thighs < calves

  1. Abdomen

Use in a round circle around the belly button. On the lower side of the ribs, move the massager in a downward motion. On the upper side of the ribs, move the massager upward toward the armpits.

2. Bottoms

From the lower half of the bottoms, move the massager in small circles, upward.

3. Thighs

Pause at the Y-zone for about 10 seconds. Then, from the knees to the Y-zone move the massager up slowly

4. Calves

Pause on the middle of the calves for about 10 seconds. Then, move the massager from the ankles to the calves

5. Arms

Lift arm up. Move massager from the elbow to the armpit as if you’re pulling it toward the armpit. Pause at the armpit for about 10 seconds.

6. Neck area

If you’re going to use the massager on your right side, turn your head to the left side. (and vice versa) Move the massager from below the ears to the trapezius area, lightly.

*Note: these are the instructions on the website but I don’t particularly pay attention to them hehe- who has time to read through all the how-tos? I just rub the body spin up and down my calves cuz that’s where I always get my muscle cramps.

My take

The body spin is electronic, so you don’t have to exert effort using it like you would have to for massage balls. It’s also pretty light, so if you get muscle cramps a lot, it wouldn’t be too troublesome putting this thing into your luggage/bag.

I was thinking it’d be hard to clean the dust that can collect under the area with the four wheel-like rollers, but I realized the whole set can be detached from and attached back to the body of the product really quite easily.

Another perk of the product is that it’s waterproof. I read somewhere some customers use this while they’re in the hot bath to roll it on their stiff muscles.

The product doesn’t strongly massage my legs as effectively as other devices like the OSIM Massage Chair- even the “Hi” didn’t massage my legs as strongly. But considering the size and portability of the body spin, I think it’s not that bad.

The body cream might not exactly be for everyone. I liked the smell and smooth texture of the cream, but the area of my leg I put the cream on turned red, itchy and red after a while. If the cream isn’t compatible with your skin, you could try using any other lotion you have, or do away with cream altogether.

One inconvenience is that at least for the body spin I purchased, since the product is from Korea, it came with a two-legged charger (since it’s from Korea), so I had to use an adapter to charge it.

I bought the product for approximately 149, 000 Won, which is about S$172.

The last time I checked (July 2020), it can be purchased for about S$400 on Q0010 in Singapore. Not a cheap item, definitely, but I considered the product to be worth the price, especially since my legs get cramped and tired easily.

Here’s a “how to” video by the company “Body Spin” itself. It’s in Korean, but the actions are pretty self-explanatory.

The “Body Spin” website I referred to for the how-to and tips on using the massager: http://bodyspin.co.kr/

That’s it for this review! Hope you’ve found this post useful. If you did, please give it a like/comment! It’ll be even better if you follow my blog “Han Style” ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheers, Han Sol

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