I learned musical rhythm theory in a primary school in Seoul.  Probably I was a first or second grader.  To teach us how different 4/4, 3/4, and 2/4 times are, our Korean teacher told us to mimic the sounds of big and small drums as “쿵” and “짝.”  The entire class yelled in unison “쿵 짝 짝!” “쿵 짝 짝!” over and over again before we even began to sing a song together.  That was for 3/4 time, like a waltz.  Now you can imagine how all the Koreans count 4 beats per measure – “쿵 짝 짝 짝!  쿵 짝 짝 짝!”  And of course, 2/4 time, i.e., 2 beats per measure is “쿵 짝! 쿵 짝!”   In the classroom, all of us were giggling and laughing, amused by the funny sounds made in our own voice.  At that very moment, I understood that my linguistic life will be spiced up with all kinds of funny-sounding onomatopoeia (의성어.)  Decades have passed since then, and as an adult I don’t remember anything else about music theory. ^^

Fortunately, though, culture is what is left when everything else is forgotten, they say.  In the first episode of an on-going blockbuster drama “이상한변호사우영우 Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022),” a Korean gentleman unpretentiously helps a “이상한 (Strange)” attorney colleague to go through a revolving door, using the “쿵짝짝!” sound which every Korean knows from their musical education.  As I recognize the unforgettable onomatopoeia from my distant childhood, the camera captures the rhythmic moments waltzing in a hazy, slow motion, round and round the portentous revolving door intimidating like a bully.  When the very first episode of a drama shows you this level of cinematographic mastery doing justice to amazing acting talents that project most delicate emotions on screen, that’s the keeper.  No wonder the viewers’ rating goes skyrocketing in hyperbole up to ~14% for this new Korean-style humanism drama.  Today I am at Episode 8, the latest one.  And if you are like me, you won’t be able to wait for the next episode the whole week.  You might even find yourself on the verge of tears at the end of each episode, brought by its smart humor and beauty of presentation, and your empathy.

The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.

Apparently by Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

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