When I asked around, I found that most people know Korea by either its TV shows, its pop music or its cuisine. Those all play a big role in promoting Korea. Some of these have very broad resonance, to the extent that we can say that "everyone on the internet has seen it" or heard about it.
For example, you can read Korea.net Honorary Reporter Arij's article here (http://koreanetblog.blogspot.com.eg/2017/01/gangnam-all-over-world.html).
Today, I'd like to talk about another way to learn about Korea. I'm going to talk about a magical way to learn about Korea: a fictional, special, unique way. Today I'm going to talk about Korean literature.
Personally, I learned about Korea from my friends. However, they just tell me about it and give me a few books, so I'll share my readings with you.
Korean literature is characterized by being one of the best ways to look back in time. It's also special because it existed before the internet, and you can view it both offline and online, too, if you want! In any case, literature will take you away, spark your imagination and carry you into another time and another place, from whenever or wherever you are.
Sometimes, literature is turned into television soap operas, or it inspires writers to write songs. It's a wonderful way to publish and promote a country, and I think this is true for every country in the world.
My first text of Korean literature was the story of Chunhyang. It's one of the most famous traditional Korean folk tales, so we'll talk about her story today.
I read the story of Chunhyang in Arabic, a version put out by the National Center for Translation in Egypt. It was translated into Arabic by Professor Lee Dong-oon. I've read it more than once, and each time was at the library of the Korean Cultural Center in Egypt.
In the southwest of Korea, there's a city called Namwon. There once lived a woman there who was a gisaeng, a form of governmental legal entertainers. Her name was Wolmae. Wolmae was a courtesan of one of the important officials in the city. She stayed with him until he moved to the capital. After this, she had a baby, a beautiful baby girl named Chunhyang. Wolmae raised Chunhyang in the best way possible. She raised her to be like a young women from the aristocracy.
So Chunhyang behaved like a princess, even though her family was poor. She was pretty, tactful and wrote poetry.
Wolmae raised her even after her father's death. Chunhyang couldn't live with her father's wealthy family, but she looked like one of them, thanks to her mother.
One day, specifically on the traditional holiday of Dano, the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the son of Governor Lee Han-lim, a young man named Lee Mong-ryong, was walking with his servant in the fields. He saw Chunhyang and was captivated by her beauty. He admired her manners and he saw that she was a well-raised girl. So he went to her house that night and asked her mother if he could marry Chunhyang. Her mother said that he should be serious and that he should know that she was a gisaeng entertainer, that they were poor. However, he said that he sees no problems with any of that, and he said that if Chunhyang is a chaste and pure girl, and if they loved each other, that only that would matter.
After some time, Governor Lee Han-lim was promoted and moved to the capital with his wife and his son, Mong-ryong. Mong-ryong cried and said goodbye to Chunhyang and promised to come back after passing the royal bureaucracy exam and after becoming a respected civil servant. She promised to wait for him and to save herself.
After the promotion, in came a new governor, Byun Hak-do. He wasn't like Lee Han-lim. Lee was responsible, respectable, honest and sought the best way to serve his people. Byun was a heavy drinker of alcohol and a lustful man. He didn't care about the people, and he made it his priority to make Chunhyang his courtesan.
Chunhyang refused and told him that she was a pure women, that she loved Mong-ryong and that she would never betray him. She told Byun that the "parish does not serve two kings, and also that a woman must not love two husbands."
So Byun went crazy, imprisoned her and ordered his soldiers to torture her. She persevered, endured and hoped for the return of her husband-to-be. She decided to hold on until her husband-to-be returned, or to die before that with her honor and dignity intact.
Mong-ryong kept his promise and came back after he passed the royal exam. He became a secret royal delegate. He surveyed the people of the city and was shocked to hear what had happened to Chunhyang. He saved her from the vermin governor and, in turn, imprisoned Byun. He and Chunhyang then lived happily ever after for 100 year, just as he promised.
Chunhyang is famous as a symbol of chastity and purity, and the story is celebrated every year as part of celebrations in the city of Namwon.
Some people call Namwon the "City of Love" because this story took place there.
This story shows us that Korea and Egypt, or Korean and Arab society more generally, are based on the same great values.
The story includes concepts of honor, honesty, purity, patience and keeping promises. Those are common factors between Korean and Arab societies.
When I read this story, I didn't feel totally strange at all! I felt that there was something relatable in the story, relatable to me and to my society. This is what encouraged me to read more Korean literature.
Finally, crossing the language barrier between two societies doesn't make it easier to communicate. It also helps them to accept each other and makes for good relationships and friendships, especially if the relationship is based on mutual respect. This is exactly what's happening here.