Sunday, June 05, 2011

Item From the Past: Admiral Jung Bal and I

This is the only image I have of myself, and in fact the only image I have at all, from the week I spent in South Korea in early June 1990.

That I have it at all is peculiar. I was once the kind of tourist who didn't carry a camera, and so I was then. But I met a fellow on the boat from Osaka to Pusan who had a camera, and after we arrived in Pusan we spent part of the first day walking around together. He took this picture of me at the base of a distinctly martial statue somewhere in Pusan. Before we parted we exchanged addresses, and a month or two later the print arrived in the mail.

The more I think about that, the more I'm glad I didn't grow up in a world in which such an image could have been, and probably would have been, instantly uploaded to the cloud for all the world to see, or maybe e-mailed to me a few hours later. Something about the lag, and the complications of sending a physical object rather than bytes through space, adds to my experience of looking at the image, even 20-odd years later.

When I got it, I thumbtacked it to my wall in my apartment in Osaka, and left it hanging for a few years -- thus the circle with the pinpoint mark through it in the upper left corner. Until recently, I never bothered to find out just whose statue I'd stood under. On those rare occasions (maybe twice) when someone would ask, I would say it's the "gentleman who invented kimchi."

After scanning the image, however, I got a little curious, and figured that the world of 2011 might be able to provide me information that the world of 1990 could not. Sure enough, there are a few other images of the statue on line, so I've been able to identify it as Admiral Jong Bal (also spelled Jung Bal), whose exploits are scantily attested in English on the Web. But I like the text that goes with this photo. It's not technically correct English, but it's sure got heart.

"Admiral Jung Bal of Busan lived in 1553-1592, the Busaness braveman who lead volunteers to fight Jappaness aggressor until end of last blood droop. Their sacrifice is unforgetable of Busan people."

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