Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bring Them Home: Remains of Korean War Heroes

The National Museum of Korean Contemporary History put on a special exhibition of the soldiers who died giving their lives for their families and countries but unfortunately because of the war were buried in the nameless place. The special exhibition is a tribute to these soldiers and to the efforts made to repatriate them to their families … “until the very last [soldier] is found”. (The following commentary is taken from the museum placards and displays.)


Section 1: In memory of those who could not return from the battlefields

Countless young Koreans participated in fighting against North Korea in the Korean War. The Korean War broke out when North Korea launched a surprise attack in the wee hours of June 1950. Around 163,000 Koreans lost their lives. During the war, 29,000 remains were recovered and returned to their families. However, there are 133,000 remains yet to be recovered. The pain of war is not limited to the front lines; it ricochets all the way back home to the family members. Discovering that their loved one had been killed in combat via a single casualty notification letter, the families were forced to live with their loss. The MND Agency for KIA Recovery & Identification (MAKRI, activated in 2007) launched a project to recover and identify the remains of the fallen heroes who are still waiting on the battlefields to be returned to their families. As of 2017, MAKRI has recovered 9,500 remains and has confirmed the identity of 121 remains. MAKRI spares no effort in fulfilling the noble promise and the duty to bring all the heroes back home.

Lives sacrificed for the country

When the Korean War broke out, the ROK Armed Forces had 103,827 soldiers and there were 48,283 police forces. Overwhelmed by the North Korean Army juggernaut, the ROK Armed Forces lost Seoul in three days and was cornered into the defense line at the Nakdong River. The United Nations came to the aid of Korea. Together with the UN Forces, the ROK Armed Forces assault continued north to the Aprok (Yalu or Amnok) River until the intervention of the People’s Republic of China in the war. A series of fierce battles took place all over the peninsula. More than 700,000 people answered the call to serve the country and student soldiers as well as the Civil Defense Corps soldiers were mobilized. Countless young soldiers lost their lives during the course of the war and 130,000 remains are still left behind on the battlefields.


Called to serve the country

At the beginning of the Korean War, there were already 21,478 casualties. The battle of Nakdong River itself caused 14,125 casualties. The number of casualties continued to rise and there was a great need for new soldiers. During the early stages of the war, not only was the ROK Armed Forces unprepared, but it was also ill-trained and ill-equipped to face a surprise attack. It was impossible to properly train new soldiers, including student soldiers, due to the rapidly evolving battlefield situations. In some cases, new soldiers were placed in battlefields only after a few hours of basic shooting training. It was not until August 1950 that the first recruit training center was established in Daegu. The newly recruited soldiers were posted to respective divisions after receiving basic military training for 4-16 weeks. Upon the completion of the basic military training, the soldiers were allowed to spend some time with their families before heading to the battlefields, leaving all the memories behind.

Number of deaths of civilians by province
Damage status to schools
On the front line

As the battles were fought all across the Korean peninsula, the last footprints of the soldiers are spread all over the country [sic]. Fierce battles took the lives of countless young soldiers. One of the war veterans said he lost two comrades in the Battle of Angang in September 1950, burying one comrade across Hyeongsan River and the other one at the 300 height [sic] towards Gyeongju. Another war veteran said he had to continue to fight against the enemy forces right after burying eight squad members in the Inje and Gimhwa in Gangwon-do in the summer of 1953. The ROK Armed Forces fought against the North Korean Army and the Chinese forces. More than half of a century has passed since the last soldier was buried on the battlefields.

Casualty notice

While there were already countless casualties during the early stages of the war and in the defensive battle around Nakdong river, there were more casualties from deadlocked battles on the front after 1951 as well. There were 50,000 casualties during the deadlock period. Both parties kept snatching back hilltops. In October 1952, there was the Battle of White Horse in Cheolwon, Gyeonggi-do. In the battle, the 9th Infantry Division of Korea fought against two divisions from the Chinese forces. The Korean Army had to give up the dominant hilltop position six times, but eventually managed to take and keep the hill after the seventh attempt. While the ownership of the hill continuously changed, it was impossible to collect dead bodies from the battlefield. In the summer of 1953, when the long war had finally ended, families awaited their sons but to no avail. All they received in the end was a casualty notice letter and an MIA (missing in action) confirmation letter.

Section 2: Unforgettable people

How can you forget a comrade left alone in a bullet-riddled trench? When can you fulfill the promised that you would at least take his remains to his family? From right after the war until the 1960s, there were efforts to find the remains of those who had lost their lives in the war. In fact, some of them were found and collected in the Pohang region in 1967. After that, there was no KIA (killed in action) recovery and identification project for a long time. However, the hope and the desire to find those who must not be forgotten has always been there and it led to a new KIA recovery and identification project in 2000. Thinking of the comrades they fought alongside during the war, we have been determined to deliver the promise that is long overdue.

Warfare is ugly ... Remains of cartridges recovered along with remains of some soldiers.
In pursuit of finding those who lost their lives in war

A project on compiling the history of the Korea War was carried out until the 1990s, and information of the battlefields was gathered. It was also suggested that a proactive approach on KIA recovery be introduced as the war generations who were able to provide information on the possible locations of the remains of the fallen soldiers were getting older. Against this backdrop, the Armed Forces commenced a KIA recovery project in Dabu-dong, Chilgok-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do, and the MND Agency for KIA Recovery & Identification was established in 2007. The agency analyzed the memorial tablets and gravestones at the National Cemetery in Seoul and put together a list of main battlefields based on information and advice provided by war veterans and war history documents. At the same time, the agency collected DNA information from the families of the missing soldiers to help in the identification of bodies recovered.

Nameless remains

The KIA recovery process is done as follows. The first thing is the preparation for the KIA recovery. The battle records are analyzed based on the testimonies from war veterans and information offered by local residents, and then the possible recovery sites are surveyed. After looking at traces of battles, such as foxholes, trenches and battle ruins, the specific locations are selected where the recovery mission will take place. After that, recovery and collection begins. An opening ceremony is held before excavating the site to recover the remains of the fallen soldiers. The recovery remains are temporarily placed and kept in paulownia caskets. Now it is all down to identifying the nameless soldiers.

Talking about the day

Along with the remains of around 10,000 soldiers, a few hundred thousand personal artifacts were recovered. There were helmets, rifles, ammunition, casings, bayonet, bayonet cases, belt buckles, raincoats, combat soles, shovels, and whistles. They were worn and eroded as many years have passed. In some cases only the buttons have survived the years as military uniforms with names tags have disappeared. There were traces of everyday items as well. Water bottles. Spoons, plastic combs, toothbrushes, soap cases, bowls, lighters, shoe cream cases, hand mirrors and wrist watches were recovered. Some artifacts conveyed the pain of going separate ways from loved ones. Fountain pens used to write letters to family members, harmonicas that would have made those in the battlefields feel sad and emotional, and necklaces that must have been carried by the owners at all times while they were alive. These bring us back to that day, more than 60 years ago.



Pictured in upper left: small glass bottles with antidotes for illnesses and the ubiquitous mosquitoes. Combat soles, bullets, and plastic spoons were some of the commonly recovered items ... they could withstand the weathering toils of 60+ years in acid soil which has high moisture content.
Section 3: Coming back to long-lost homes and families

The person who has been yearning to be returned to his family is finally returning. There is a welcoming placard in the neighborhood and a soldier knocks on the door of the departed one’s family house. Hearing the trembling voice of the messenger mentioning the name of the fallen hero who has returned to his family in a small box, the family cannot help but cry and caress the box. This is one of the very lucky cases. Around 10,000 remains recovered from all over the country are yet to be identified, by the following process. First, we determine whether the remains belong to the ROK or enemy forces. Thorough identification procedures, which involve equipment such as 3D scanners, take place; then DNA sample is compared with the families’ DNA information saved in our database.

Identifying the names of the fallen

At the discovery sites, friends from foes cannot be distinguished. Remains of the ROK, the UN, the North Korean and Chinese soldiers are often found together at the sites where fierce battles took place. It is likely that all of them have families somewhere far away from the battlefields. It is challenging to tell the difference between the North and South Korean soldiers by simply looking at the remains. The rifles and ammunition found together with the remains are carefully examined. The battle history is thoroughly studied to understand the attack and defense tactics used at the time. For some of the remains reaching the final conclusion, to determine whether it belongs to friends or foe, is sometimes postponed despite careful steps. It is a long journey to find the names of each and every soldier.

Recovered munitions of North Korean and Chinese forces.
Recovered munitions of South Korean forces.
With the power of advanced technology

Once the remains initially are identified to belong to a ROK soldier, they are transferred to the Central Identification Laboratory of the MND Agency for KIA Recovery & Identification for further analysis. Artifacts recovered with the remains are also transferred to the laboratory. When there is an artifact with an identification marker, photo or name, the DNA of the appropriate family is compared to confirm the identity. If there is no artifact found with the recovered remains, the DNA remains is compared with that of all families in the database. As DNA identification technology is highly advanced these days, the technology is used to a great extent. When performing DNA procedures, mt-DNA for material family members is used first and then hn-DNA of paternal family members is used. The mt-DNA method is used to compare the DNA information of the recovered remains with that of a living family member. The success or failure of this identification process depends on collecting DNA samples from family members.

Family members getting back together

Nobody foresaw that their father, older brother or baby brother would return to them. Waiting for 60 years has done that. Was it the lucky dream? Was it the food they served for the ancestors without skipping a year? Now they have the artifacts returned with the remains in front of them. Families share their stories. They show the photos the departed family member had given them before the final battle. They talk about the times passed holding on to the letters and postcards from them. They remember the farewell song their father had sung. They say they finally feel relieved from the lifelong grief of living without their father’s presence. Some remains found in the North were returned to the families after traveling halfway around the world. Each of these stories is heart-wrenching.

The notice of one's family member who was known to have died or gone missing in the war. This box of information was delivered to a family ... the only remains that most would ever get of their family member perhaps forever buried in an unknown nameless site.
Heading to a far-away country

As the armistice agreement was signed in 1953, the remains of the KIAs were recovered and exchanged between both parties. Around 4,000 remains from the UN forces and around 130,000 remains from the Red Army were exchanged during that time. However, there was no full-scale recovery project for the remains of the UN forces, the Chinese forces and the North Korean forces until 2000. Since the MND Agency for KIA Recovery & Identification commenced recovery work, they have found over 10,000 remains, some of which were found to belong to the UN, the Chinese and the North Korean forces. The agency held a mutual repatriation ceremony in 2016 and returned 10 American soldiers to their motherland. They have been repatriating the remains of Chinese soldiers every year since 2014. With the remains belonging to the North Korean forces, they have not been able to return them to North Korea, but they have set up a single cemetery for them in Paju, Gyeonggi-do.

Waiting for decades

The pain of waiting for family members who never returned after the war has been a shared grievance in the country. The ache of waiting, the sadness and the consolation are found in Korean literature, popular songs and films. Many literary works describe the memories of the war through stories and emotions about parting with loved ones, horror and conflicts. Sang Gu’s poem ‘The Poem of Burnt Land’ is one of them. Recording artist In Hyeon’s song ‘Farewell to My Comrade’ had a strong appeal for the affected families. The war has been covered by many films as well. Bongchun Yoon made a film called ‘On the Western Front’, which was about the Allied Forces’ Seoul recovery operation and advance towards the North.

Until the very last person is found

The main building MAKRI is located on the east side of the National Cemetery in Seoul. Elderly people relying on walking sticks who have not been able to find any remains of their family members visit the building. They visit with the shred of hope that the newly recovered remains belong to their lost family members. They do not have many more years left, but they are still hoping to hear the good news before it is too late. To the right of the building is Kuksunjae, a storage place for unidentified remains. The carefully kept 10,000 containers that are stacked together up to the ceiling have numbers instead of names on them. In continuous pursuit of recovering 124,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the war, members of MAKRI walk the valleys and ridges even today.


Monday, April 17, 2017

7th Korean Archery Competition by Jongno-gu Office

The Royal Asiatic Society (and friends) were given a personal invitation to attend the 7th Traditional Korean Archery Competition sponsored by the Jongno-gu office. The competition was to be held at the Hwanghak-jeong, literally "archery" plus "club" or "pavilion", which was the king's archery range in former times. Hwanghakjeong is, by reputation, the strictest among the ranges, which means rules of etiquette and silence while shooting and the ethics of shooting are rather formally conducted here. Its reputation is high and the respect given and received is also high. So attending this competition has a bit more impetus than attending others.

As I understand it, almost every archery range in Seoul (there are 7 or 8, and about 360 overall in Korea) hold annual competitions. I don't know about the other competitions, but this one lasted all day. Koreans love ceremony, and because this range has the perhaps the richest history, its ceremony is also a big deal. High-statused very elderly men who were instrumental in building the Korean society gave well-wishing remarks, read ceremonial lines, introduced key players. The initial ceremony of course began in the pavilion, the Hwanghakjeong from which the range derives its name and which was built by King Kojong near the end of the Joseon Dynasty and transferred to this site in 1923.


The prize was visually presented to the participants at the beginning of the ceremony. No gold cup here. Just a large heavy acrylic placard that read of achieving success and was presented by the mayor of Jongro-gu and head of the 39th steering committee of Hwanghakjeong Korean Archery Range in Seoul. 


All players, after having been properly greeted, welcomed, heard explanations of the rules, and seen the ultimate prize, lined up in the field whereupon everyone in the compound stood and sang (listened to a broadcast, actually) the national anthem while facing the Korean flag. 


Pictures were taken. And the deep mahogany velvet-like flag that had been presented to the winning guild last year was returned to await the competition outcome of this year to see who would take the trophy flag home. [The mahogany flag is in the foreground of the picture below.]


The preliminaries ... coming to a close. Notice the distance to the target! More than twice that of a western archery range, which averages 70 meters!


The weather was perfect, one of the best days we've had to far! About 21C with cherry blossoms occasionally fluttering along the far edge of the field, warm rays touching cheeks, and the grass greening beneath the archers' feet. Just glorious!


All archers know their own arrows. They are never notched but might have markers or fingernail polish painted on them to give them distinguishing marks.

Fiberglass arrows. Traditional arrows tend to be of one length and a bit shorter than these. Since traditional arrows are handmade and are pricey (to the tune of W30,000 or more each), synthetic arrows are the preferred. I was told, however, that when someone reaches 4th-dan (or level), it's kind of expected that the person use the traditional arrows. The drawback of that is traditional arrows tend to be of one size (bamboo of the ideal diameter is typically short), while the arrows below fluctuate in length as these arrows were chosen based on one's personal arm-reach. Someone who's quite tall and learns on the arrow that suits his/her arm-reach but then tries to use the shorter traditional arrows would feel a bit cramped as he/she would have to adjust to a different range of pull.





Cho In-souk, RAS member and the new 부사두 or rather the "vice-president + archery + ?" of the archery range, swept all non-Koreans to the prized archery gallery for a special guided tour -- the Norwegian ambassador and his wife, two Japanese and one of whom is a kendo master and who also enjoys archery, and then myself and another RAS member. Cho In-souk was assisted by the director of the archery range Mr. Shin Dong-sul and an equestrian-nursing professor of Seoul National University. Quite the interesting mix of people all coming together to talk about archery!


The equestrian-nursing professor of Seoul National University gracefully posing beside the Korean-made battle devise for discharging 100 arrows at one time. Ah the irony (grace mixed with martial arts) of this picture!


Back at the archery range the competition was picking up speed. Archery participants were grouped in groups of 7, and the announcer via the microphone would set the pace of the archers shooting. He would announce the groups, and then each archer with 5 arrows to shoot, would take his/her turn to shoot the five arrows. No calling, congratulating, exulting, etc was to be done doing this time (Hwanghakjeong is, remember, very strict on proper rules of sportsmanship conduct). The archers would pull back their bowstrings, hold the position while confirming in their minds (remember, traditional archery is a meditation sport) that their minds and bodies were in harmony with their intention to hit the target, and, whiiiiiish, the arrow was shot. For those striking the target board, a flag was waved. No signal was given if the arrow missed the target.


Turn by turn, the archers shot. There are three groups simultaneously shooting, so potentially three people could be shooting at one time. The pace was still slow and unhurried. Traditional archery is, remember, a meditation sport.


While western archery aims for targets of about 70 meters, Korean traditional archers aim for targets at more than 140 meters away ... and they hit them!



Another RAS member and I left at 3pm as the individual competition was coming to a close but the group/guild competition had yet to be fought out. We didn't see the prize distribution or ceremony, but we did network with other guild members and I am sure we will both be back!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Traditional Indigo Silk Dyeing (Naju, SK)

How to make the indigo dyestuff:

  • Sow the indigo plants in early April and transplant the seedlings to a field in mid-June. The harvest is done in October.
  • [While the plants are growing, prepare the oyster shells. The lye is best prepared in the late fall when the straw from rice or dried indigo stems are burned.]
  • In the fall cut down the indigo stalks and put them in a large pot overflowing with water to sit and begin the fermentation process. 12 hours later when the indigo plants have fermented, stir the plants, pushing them down into the water. 
  • By the next day the leaves (not the stems) of the indigo plant will have fermented. Check the color of the water. If it is not deemed colorful enough (as judged by the master), then the plants can ferment an additional day or two. Temperature plays a big factor in the readiness of the fermenting indigo plants. One way to judge if the plant has fermented enough for extracting the rich color is by the stems becoming soft and looking like they have been boiled. When they reach that stage, stir once again, rotating the top and bottom plants, and then wait 3-4 more hours. 
  • Remove the plants from the indigo water, and combine other pots of indigo water to make large full pots. 
  • Gradually mix in a bowl of oyster shell powder (made from carefully burned oyster shells) into the indigo water, then stir the mixture with a long wooden stick for 30 minutes or until white bubbles come to the surface. After stirring, the water color will change from yellow to blue and the bubbles appearing will be as large as jujubes. When the water becomes the color of an eggplant, it is ready for use. At this time the bubbles will diminish and virtually disappear. (If the water only becomes a light eggplant color and still has a few bubbles, then this is called a bland state. It will color cloth but is not particularly ideal for obtaining the most arresting colors.) The dyestuff water is done when the bubbles disappear and the water reflects a person's face.
  • The dyestuff water then is allowed to settle. The clear floating water is then bailed out of the pot, leaving only the denser dyeing sediment. 
  • The sediment is then transferred to a small pot or bucket and allowed to sit for three days or so. During that period the indigo dyestuff enters a tofu-like state, whereupon it is transferred to a big suiri pot. The pot is allowed to sit until the indigo dyestuff becomes jello-like, whereupon the water is again drained off. Then the pot is stored in a cooling area for 3-4 months. (The cooling stage is only for cooling, not freezing. If the dyestuff becomes frozen, then it becomes porous and has inferior dyeing power.)

How to make lime powder:

  • A large 1.5 meters in diameter and 70 cm deep hole is dug into red clay. It is then lined with pine needle kindling and packed with oak or pine firewood. The firewood is stacked from 1 meter to 1.5 meters thick with wood, then the pyre is spread with straw mats, upon which are emptied 3 larges bags of cleaned oyster shells. The shells are then covered with more straw mats, a measure for preventing sparks and retaining the smoke within the pyre while also retaining high heat for long hours. The pyre is like a kiln, and in a bottom vent the fire is lit and allowed to burn for 20 minutes, whereupon the vent is blocked and sealed with earth, preventing air from flaming the fire. The banked fire then burns the wood to a charcoal, smoking the covered oyster shells and eventually charring them. To prevent the flames from burning the straw mats, cups of water are continually thrown on the smoking pyre. Smoke pours out but flames do not. The process takes around 5 hours and the burning-baking oyster shells can be heard crackling.
  • Early in the morning 24 hours after the bake, when the shells have cooled, the pyre is dismantled and the burned oyster shells are carefully separated from the other waste. The shells are then ground into a lime powder (not clear how), and 20 days later the powder is sifted in a sieve. Out of 140 kg of oyster shells, only 4-5 kg of lime powder can be obtained. 

How to make lye:

  • Lye is an important element in the dyeing process. To make it, dried indigo stalks are burned. To obtain merely 40 kb of lye, about 2 tons of indigo plants or rice straw must be burned. The burning process takes about an hour and should be done in a clear field or space in order to collect as much of the lye grounds as possible. The lye is raked or swept up and put into water, whereupon it is strained twice through a hemp cloth. The Master Craftsman checks the lye to ensure it has reached the correct pH of 11; this process is done through expertise, not with modern machinery. 
  • To make the dyestuff, the jello-like indigo paste and the lye are added together at a 10:1 ratio. The two are mixed in a large pot and kept in a warm place to stimulate further fermentation. The well-fermented mixture becomes black. Within 2-4 weeks, the indigo dyestuff changes to yellow, but when a blueness shows within the yellow base, the dyestuff is ready to be used. 
  • To dye material, the material is completely submerged in the dyestuff, not allowing the material to float into the light or be exposed to air. Immediately after submerging for a minute or two, remove the material from the dyestuff and allow to dry while exposing the material, including folds, to as much light and air as possible. Repeat the submerge and expose to air and sunlight method several times for best dyeing results. The color depends on the submerge and sun-exposure process -- from green to blue to navy. 
Organized participation in the silk-dyeing event:

Before we even could begin, we had to receive "education" on the dyeing process, and this entailed going to a large conference hall and being informed of 3 very strict rules:
  1. No talking during the lecture or 20+ minute instructional movie.
  2. If you have a question, clap your hands but do not shout or use your voice in any way.
  3. No leaving for the bathroom because emphatically you cannot return to the work center.
  • We weren't told to not carry our phones, but I was reprimanded for having my iPad ... but I also have a blog and want to retain memories for myself and to share ... so I risked censure, but often asked one of the Master Craftsmen's young kids (they're raising their 6 children to be future Master Craftsmen!) to take pictures of specific steps in the process. 
About 40 of us were participating. Sonja Glaeser, the organizer of Hippies Korea, based in Suwon, organized this phenomenal event. We had a very memorable weekend tour of Buan and Naju, in Jeollanamdo, but this experience was the ultimate and an absolute must-share!

To protect our clothing, we wore rainwear with large plastic aprons
and then gloves to protect our hands from the potent lye.
All of us were divided into teams of 5. We later learned that these teams were made so we could share buckets of indigo dyestuff and then each team was assigned a clothes line for hanging our hand-dyed indigo silks. Very organized system!
Then we accordion folded length-wise our silk scarf, doubled it over, grasped both ends of the folded cloth to make a tight unit. Even-ness is of importance.
Then the folded middle part we tucked into a large plastic bag, wrapped three rubberbands around it, then tied the plastic excess out of the way. The rubberbands tightly around the cloth are to prevent the middle part of the cloth from getting stained while dipping the rest of the cloth.
Each team gathered around their bucket of indigo dyestuff and waiting for the command to gently plunge their cloth up to the rubberband marker into the cloth. Teamwork means we put our clothes in at the same time and likewise removed them at the same time.
The cloths were held submerged in the indigo dyestuff for about 2 minutes each time. During that time we were to gently fan out the loose material to ensure that the cloth would dye evenly. 
After dipping our cloths and removing our cloths to give them air and sunlight exposure and back to dipping (done about 5 times), we removed the rubberbands and plastic bags and unfurled our cloths. The indigo as yet appears very dark but as it interacts with the sunlight, it'll lighten to a brilliant blue. The undyed area looks rather grubby, so next we dye the center. 
Sonja Gleaser of Hippies Korea showing off her talent in dyeing. Awesome setting a
nd in the best season with cherry blossoms just emerging!
To dye the as-yet undyed area, we dipped only the undyed area into a solution (have no idea what it was), squeezed out the excess and then took the cloth to the Master Craftsman.
One of the daughters held each cloth at the ready while the Master Craftsman expertly fed the cloth smoothly into one of the indigo dyestuff buckets. He confidently swished the cloth around, squeezed out the excess and then was whisking the next cloth into the dye almost as quickly as he passed the dipped cloth to its owner. 

This is the first wash-pan in the rinse cycle. Each of the washpans reveal less and less indigo wash-out, which is good.
Once the cloth was dipped, we were cycled through a 15-washpan factory line of rinsing out the indigo dyestuff and alkali from the lye process. The alkali is important to wash out, and this 15-washpan cycle gets most ... but not all. It does stop the dyeing process so that the colors, when exposed to the sun, can obtain their indigo richness.

The colors are already becoming vibrant. The direct sun is definitely having a positive effect on the color outcome. 
Rinse, rinse, rinse.
Team A's silk scarves right after they were hung. It is VERY important that the scarves dry before they are moved. Not sure of the consequences but the wife Master Craftsman kept stressing this. We ate a beautiful traditional buffet-style lunch while we waiting for our scarves to dry ... so we could head back to Seoul with peace of mind.
Hanging the last of the scarves to dry!
Most of us gathered to proudly say, "We created these beautiful pieces!"
One of my team members!
Team B. Sadly, we were the only team that danced with our fashionable scarves!
Beautiful items for sale in the indigo-dye shop. I love that jeogori

Care instructions for our beautiful indigo-dyed silk scarves:

Indigo is a permanent dye but direct sunlight does have an effect on it and the color will diminish in direct sunlight. Air also has an effect, so when not in use, fold or roll the scarf and place in a sealed plastic bag, and the silk scarf with its natural colors can last centuries.

Also, because lye was used in the process, even though the scarves were washed in 15 water baths, alkali still remains. To ensure that the scarf can last for uncountable years, the alkali must be removed, so in the following 7 days, every day rinse the scarf in cool water up to 40°C. If the water still shows yellow after 7 days, rinse it out for a couple more days. In follow-up care, only wash with mild detergents, but a water wash without scrubbing is best.

Caution, however, for its use. The natural color blue has a cooling effect on the body and, especially in contact with the skin, particularly at the back of the neck, the indigo can pull body heat and reduce a person's temperature by as much as 2-3°C. [Hence, Lawrence of Arabia always a wearing blue indigo scarf in the desert, and the Blue-men of Mali wearing blue robes while living in and crossing the desert on their camels.] This caution is in particular reference to children and older people, age groups that have a hard time managing body heat.

Traditional Indigo Dyeing Company: Myungha Hatgol

Yoondaam K-blue is Korea's top traditional indigo dyeing brand owned by Myungha Hatgol Co., Ltd., a company committed to carrying out old traditions into modern times and into the future. The 5th-generation family business is a social enterprise established by late Byung-un Yoon (Important Intangible Cultural Asset #115, dye master) and gives back two-thirds of the profit it makes by manufacturing and selling indigo dyeing products and by providing services to society. The plants used for natural dyeing are cultivated by villagers by Myungha Indigo Village, and Myungha Hatgol purchases them all. This is the way of following Byung-un Yoon's wish to make 100 villagers live off of indigo dyeing. Initially, 37 households were supported by the dyeing processes, but currently with numbers of family members moving to the city, only 22 households are available and are supported by the indigo dyeing business.

Email: totocece@naver.com
Web: www.K-BlueYoonDaam.co.kr
Tel: 061-336-5557
Fax: 061-336-5811
13-7 Myeongha-gil, Munpyeong-myeon, Naju-si, Jeollanam-do
절라남도 나주시 문평면 명하길 13-7 
The husband and wife Master Craftsmen of traditional indigo-dyeing.
The indigo of Korea Yoondaam, the dyeing brand created by the later Byung-un (important Intangible Cultural Asset #115, dye master). Byung-un's son and apprentice is now the Master Craftsman, and is the 5th generation representative of the traditional art. He and his wife, also Master Craftsman and leader of the Myung-ha community, are raising their 6 children to be future Master Craftsmen.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Nat'l Master Doseon Guksa: His Pungsujiri Legacy

Professor David Mason, of Chung-Ang University, is a long-time researcher (32 years in Korea) on the religious characteristics of the mountains in Korea. In 2011 he was appointed Honorary ambassador of the Baekdu-daegan ranges by the Korea Forest Service. He has authored 10 books on Korean culture and tourism, including the Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism and Spirit of the Mountains, which is about Korea's traditions of spiritual mountain worship. His has a website on sacred Korean mountains and mountain-spirits.

Back in May 2015, Professor Mason presented at the RAS on Doseon Guksa:

Doseon Guksa [Tao-Abundance National-Master] (826-898) is one of the most important and interesting Buddhist leaders of Korean history, but often remains overlooked, including by the mainstream Jogye Order. He lived during the collapsing end of the Shilla Dynasty, presaging the foundation of the subsequent Goryeo Dynasty. He was both a great Buddhist master of meditation of the Seon [Zen] tradition as well as an enlightened Sutra-Master, an extremely rare combination of achievements. But the main reason for his fame are his masterful creation of Korean pungsujiri (geomancy), the concept of the Baekdu-daegan mountain-spine-of-Korea, and the establishment or improvement of some of our greatest extant temples. Professor Mason will explain Master Doseon’s biography and explain Master Doseon's significance in the shape of Buddhism today.

National Master Doseon Guksa: His Legacy of Pungsujiri & the Great Temples

Brief biography
  • Doseon Guksa, literally "Dao-Abundance" (826-898), was uniquely double-enlightened. 
  • He presages the unification of Korean Buddhism.
  • He was a Buddhist master of geomancy and became the creator of Korean punsujiri-seol.
  • He created the concept of the Baekdu-daegan (spine of the Korean mountain).
Birth and early life
  • Born in Yeongam-gun [Spirit-rock county] of Jeollanam-do, on the western slopes of Wolchulsan. Popular thought is that he descended from a secondary son of Silla's Great King Taejong Muyeol (r. 664-681).
  • His mother had a conception-dream of her swallowing a beautiful pearl, very propitious, so during her pregnancy she chanted Buddhist scriptures and like a good Buddhist abstained from meat, onions and garlic.
  • From infancy Doseon was a Buddhist prodigy, learning to chant Buddhist sutras soon after he learned to talk. 
  • One local myth has it that he was accidentally abandoned after birth, but was protected by birds at a gigantic boulder called Guksa-am [National Master Rock], located behind Wolchusan's Gukam-sa hermitage.
Becoming a monk at Wolchusan
  • Doseon spent the latter part of his childhood at Munsu-am [Boddhisattva of Wisdom Hermitage] on the wester slopes of Wolchulsan.
  • At Wonam-sa [Moon-south Temple] on the southeastern side of Wolchulsan his hair was first shorn as he officially became a novice-monk. 
  • At the age of 15 he moved to Hwaom-sa in Jirisan, [Exquisite Wisdom Mountains] but locally known as "the mountain of the odd and wise people", where many people devoted efforts to seek truth and happiness. There he was accepted to study Hwaom Buddhism
First enlightenment at Hwaom-sa, Jirisan
  • Legend has it that he attained "the ineffable wisdom of Munsu-bosal and the mystic gate of Bohyeon-bosal, penetrating the great meaning of the Hwaom-gyeong Sutra" in only three years!
  • He was given the name "Yeong-gi", which was a great honor as that was the name of the missionary-founder master-monk who first built Hwaomsa in 544.
Monk at Taean-sa
  • By age 20 he was already highly respected as "a very wise adept with unusual spiritual powers of the sort usually attributed to Daoist masters", and he began to study Seon [Zen] under the great master and sect-founder Hyecheol Jeogin-seonsa (d. 861) at Taean-sa monastery.
Second enlightenment as monk at Taean-sa
  • He achieved full Seon enlightenment at Taean-sa, receiving the mubeob-beob [the Dharma without Dharma] transmission from Hyecheol, in just 3 years, becoming Hyecheol's leading successor.
  • As a result, he was "double-enlightened" in both scholastic Hwaom and Seon schools, the only known case from ancient and medieval times. (300 years later the Unification of Korean Buddhism was accomplished by Ji-nul Bojo Guksa and these two schools were no longer separated in large ideology.)
Studies in China
  • Around 850, Doseon Guksa then traveled to China for further advanced studies, which focused on esoteric Daoist and Buddhist astronomical, astrological, mathematical, geomantic (feng shui aka pungsujiri), cosmological and I Ching (Juyeok-gyeong) teachings. [Some modern scholars, perhaps for reasons of national pride, doubt whether he went to China at all.]
Return to Korea: Establishing Dogap-sa
  • Legend says that upon Doseon's return from his studies in China, he reconstructed Wolchul-san Munsu-am on the upward parts of a valley and renamed it Dogap-sa. [All that scholars know for sure is that Dogap-sa was large, famous and prosperous during the Goryeo Dynasty, and its official history claims Doseon as its founder. The temple is within the Wolchulsan National Park and is well-known today. It promotes Doseon as the leading factor of its legacy and now has a museum dedicated primarily to him.]

Return to Korea: Observant wanderer
  • After establishing Dogap-sa, Doseon trekked widely around the Korean peninsula, observing its geography and searching for the source of its unique energies, refraining from basing himself with any particular temple.
Return to Jirisan
  • After his extensive travels, he built a hut to rest, located on Nogo-dan, Jirisan.


Pungsujiri
  • In Jirisan at "Sand Chart Village" sanshin appeared to him, offering the deepest of pungsujiri as (another "method by which great Bodhisattvas grant salvation to humankind." [Perhaps a nationalistic claim that his pungsujiri system/wisdom came from an indigenous-Korean source and not from a Chinese feng-shui source.]
  • Punsujiri, aka Korean geomancy, is derived from Chinese feng-shui, but is in some ways different. Doseon applied it to Korean geography and outlook. 
  • Pungsujiri had been practiced for over 1100 years and by all Korean traditions: shamanists, Buddhists, Neo-Confucianists, Daoists.
  • It applies to tombs, buildings, towns, gardens, temples, etc, but Doseon raised its practice to a national scale.
  • Doseon's system is often called "bibo-pungsujiri", bibo being the Chinese character for "hidden treasure" or "national property", and this style focuses on "harmony of nature". 


Baekdu-daegan [White-head Great-ridge]
  • Doseon conceptualized it as "the spine of Korea".
  • Mountain system running down the entire peninsula with a mildly sacred character.
  • Baekdu-daegan is comprised of:
  • divider of regions
  • magnificent scenery
  • origin of spring waters
  • Buddhist temples
  • Neo-Confucian shrines
  • shamanic shrines
  • historical and folk sites
  • passes through 7 National Parks and 4 Local Parks
Two maps of the baekgu-daegan - the right map focuses on the primary mountains of the Koreas, and it was on these primary peaks, which Doseon believed flowed with natural earth energy, and where he built his primary temples most fiercely associated with pungsujiri principles.

Settling at Baegunsan
  • Doseon finally settled down to teach disciples in what he called Baeghak-dong [White Crane Village, paralleling Jirisan's Azure Crane Village] on the southern slopes of Baegunsan [White Clouds Mountain] after determining it as an ideal geomantic location and would be safe from troubles. 
  • He then founded, constructed and lived at Okryong-sa [Jade-Dragon Temple] in what is now Gwangju city, and subsequently taught there for 35 years with occasional travels around Korea. He assisted hundred of adepts to achieve enlightenment.
portrait of Doseon at Baegun-sa Unam-sa

Great Master of Silla
  • He is said to have been a man of few words, teaching the mubeob-beob by museol-seol [the explanation without explaining], and was able to spark realization with only a piercing gaze.
  • His reputation for wisdom and insight-powers eventually got him proclaimed as Silla's leading Master Monk by King Heon-gang, and Doseon was invited to lecture at the palace in Gyeongju several times.
Doseon became a builder of temples:

Seoul's Samgak-san Doseon-sa

Seoul's Ansan Bongwon-sa

Seoul's Bulamsan Bulam-sa

Posthumously the advisor to Goryeo Taejo Wang Geon
  • Doseon was the most influential advisor to Wang Geon (born 877), destined to become Goryeo's King Taejo (r.918-943) in founding the Goryeo Dynasty ... although they never met.
  • The tale often told is that in 875 Doseon passed by a mansion under construction at Songak-san (near today's Gaeseong City) and recognized the grand auspiciousness of the site that would confer a fresh mandate of heaven, and predicted the birth to a son who would grow up to be a great man, to lead a new age for Korea. He gave the man a sealed document and told him to keep it safe and secret, only giving it to the boy when he attained maturity. This was done ...
Architect of Goryeo Dynasty
  • The advice and ideas Doseon left behind him, especially in the Doseon-bigi, were important in choosing the site of the capital and other important cities and fortresses, and in constructing many new grand Buddhist temples at geomantically-auspicious sites around the nation. It is recorded that when Taejo Wang Geon had defeated the last of the rivals and re-unified Korea, he first built Gaetae-sa [Exalted Beginning Temple] in a long narrow valley just south of the highly sacred Gyeryongsan, which Doseon had recommended, to express his gratitude towards the Buddhas and mountain-spirits, and to seek their further beneficence.
Improvements to Hwaom-sa

Passing on to Nirvana
  • Doseon is recorded to have died in 898 while sitting in the lotus position in front of his many disciples at Baegunsan, Okyong-sa, but no budo was found there.
  • The remarkable budo behind Jirisan Yeongok-sa might be his, and its architectural elements support this theory, but its accompanying biseok is missing (probably destroyed) so we can't be sure.
  • Some Koreans believe that Doseon actually became a shinseon [Daoist-type "immortal"] upon achieving nirvana, and continued to advise Taejo Wang Geon and than Muhak Wangsa, founder of Seoul, in spiritual form.
Legacy of temples
  • Around 70 monasteries, both large and small, are claimed to have been founded either under Doseon's supervision and direction or by the orders of Taejo Wang Geon (following Doseon's recommendations). Most of them still thrive.
  • The 22 temples said to have been founded by Taejo Wang Geon under Doseon's influence are all fairly minor today; the most significant among them is probably Gyeryongsan Gaetae-sa.
  • Temples that are claimed to have been established either by Doseon or Wang Geon at the places that Doseon decided would be most auspicious are called bibo-sacheol, and pagodas built at such places are bibo-satap.
  • There are dozens of pre-existing temples that are thought to have been reconstructed, renovated or added to (usually with a pagoda) due to Doseon's influence. These include some of Korea's greatest, such as Jirisan's Shilsang-sa, Yeongok-sa and Jongyesan Seonam-sa.
  • Additionally, a dozen important stone-carved Buddha statues and pagodas are said to have been carved or built by Doseon himself, including the famous gigantic Gwanse-eum-bosal relief at Doseon-sa, not to mention a dozen caves and crags around Korea that claim to be sites where he practiced his mystical arts.