29 April 2004

Swellfish and Swell Conversation on a Beautiful Spring Evening

O.K., so just a warning, if this is the last thing I write, it is because this evening’s dinner was … (is the suspense building yet?) … Bok. What is Bok, you ask? Well, at the Bok restaurant, they translate it as “Swellfish,” but you may be more familiar with “Blowfish” or perhaps Fugu. Yes, this was the infamous deadly sushi, the kind that, if prepared incorrectly, I will stiffen up with paralysis in a few hours and then I won’t really have to worry about SARS in China. But since I am still feeling fine, hours after the meal, I guess it was prepared well.

Speaking of Fugu, here are two pages devoted to the classic Simpsons episode, One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish. Page 1. Page 2.

My host for dinner wanted to take me someplace unique and special, as he heard that I am a connoisseur of new and interesting foods. If I wasn’t before this trip, I certainly am now. I am getting close to having tried most of the creatures from the sea, be they dead or still alive, raw or cooked, or a combination of all four. Anyway, as with the live octopus and the kaebul, the Bok really didn’t have much of a taste all its own, aside from a very simple fish. But the presentation, the six or seven variations in serving styles and the general mood of the meal was exceptional.

My host is the husband of one of my wife’s school friends. He works for a German multinational, and has quite an interest in everything from history to language to social issues to engineering to… So it was an interesting conversation for an interesting meal. Much of our discussion centered around language and language learning, a topic I may address later. Another large chunk addressed the history of Korea, the idea of being Korean and the differences between China, Korea and Japanese regarding the people.

Here I will briefly describe his ideas, offering no judgment on their legitimacy other than to say this is the way at least one Korea with some broader sense of the world sees things. The first part is the spread of humanity out of Africa. The Human race splits, one part going to Europe, the other through the Middle East to Asia. The Asia branch splits, one half going North to Mongolia, the other half taking the southern route through India and Southeast Asia to southern China, Korea and Japan (The Japan branch links back to the people of Paekche, a state in what is now western Korea that came up in an earlier post on Korean voting patterns).

Now, while the Korean genes are like 60 percent from these southern Asians, they are 40 percent from the Mongolian Asians, and their language is linked to the Mongolian Asians (who also spread through Russia into Northern Europe). The northern Mongolian Asians ruled over the Korean Asians of southern descent, imposing their language system on them. The genetic similarities come not from the northern Mongolian Asians marrying into Korea or moving there, but actually the northern Mongolian Asians RECEIVED the Korean Asian blood because the Korean Asians were required to send their women to the northern Mongolian Asian rulers.

So, breaking my earlier pledge not to discuss this idea, it rebuilds the concept of a single Korean race, despite the “mixed” blood of Koreans and Mongolians, re-claims the right of ancestry of the Japanese for the Koreans and in general plays into the revisionist Korean history that is emerging amid new genetic studies. Interestingly, there is an addendum to the story he added, that the Chinese characters didn’t originate in China but in people of the Koreas, and it was later adopted in China. Another addendum was that the Chinese and Japanese, in all their fights in Korea, always lost many more of their own citizens that the total number of Koreans killed in these conflicts, from the earliest regional battles right through the Korean War.

But anyway, after writing this long diatribe, I am still fine, and the paralysis has not set in, so another victory for a very fine Fugu chef!

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