Alex and Chickpea Do Korea

Not-so-much News Flash: Forever 21, purveyors of party dresses and trendy club wear, hails from South Korea!

Sorry for the absence, folks — I know you’ve been awaiting a new post with bated breath. Alex and I have been a bit busy for the past few weeks, what with a Christmas trip to Seoul, a New Year’s trip to Busan, Winter Camp woes, and tackling the Korean postal service in between. Posts about all of that and more are forthcoming, but today I discovered something of such utter importance that it warrants an immediate update.

Forever 21 — aka the greatest brand to ever grace the hallowed hallways of malls across the world — was created by a South Korean husband-and-wife duo. Yes, that bastion of cheap fashion, the purveyors of sublimely trendy and fabulously hideous alike, the paragon of party dresses and trashy club wear, is all the brainchild of Dong-Won Chang and his wife, Jin Sook, who opened the first store (still called “Fashion 21”) in LA in 1984 in an effort to bring South Korean trends to Korean Americans.

How have I lived in Korea for five months without discovering this sooner?! This explains so much, like: Why Forever 21’s sizes are so laughably small; why there is so much glitter and bows involved; and why I love it so much.

But here’s the 21-dollar question: Why don’t they have a store in Daegu?! Show some Korean love! I don’t want to go to Seoul every time I need a cheap bedazzled accessory, t00-small stretch jeans, or weird graphic tee. Actually, now that I think about it, all of Korea is like a giant Forever 21. I see all of those things en masse every time I walk down the street of my little Chilgok suburb, and piles of trendy junk occupy the lion’s share (fashionista’s share?) of Daegu’s largest market, Chilseong Sijang.

But I’d really love it if we got one, anyways.

Alex and Chickpea Do Korea

Korean kids are crazy for gonggi

You like that alliteration? I thought so. I want to weigh in on the school-wide — and, from what I can tell, Korea-wide obsession with gonggi (which also means “air”).

It’s like the Korean version of Jacks, and it goes something like this: Hold all five gonggitdol (colorful, round, plastic playing pieces) in your hand. Toss gonggi on the table/floor/friend’s back/any level playing surface in sight. Strategically choose one gonggi; pick it up. Toss chosen gonggi in the air while scooping up one gonggi; catch the tossed gonggi. On the next turn, scoop up two gonggi, then three, etc.

Of course, there are finer points of the game, as well as different “versions” (which I think just refer to the skill level or style of the player). These include babo (stupid) gonggi (“Boy, you really suck.” This is the category of gonggi player I fall into); genius gonggi (“Damn, you are really good, and spend too much time playing gonggi instead of studying”); and ddalki (strawberry) gonggi (I have no idea what that could possibly mean, but the student who demonstrated did a particular sweeping motion when scooping up the gonggi).

After seeing the rabid gonggi consumption between classes, I decided to integrate them into one of my lessons. After each “level” completed in gonggi, the students had to answer a question about the lesson. This was particularly effective since many of the kids who rarely participate are in the “genius gonggi” category (like I said, too much gonggi, too little study). In this case, their gonggi skills became their downfall, and my victory, muahahahaha! Yes, that’s my evil seonsaengnim (teacher) laugh.

Incidentally, my biffle Kalynn introduced me to gonggi a couple of years ago back in the States, but I had no clue that it was a Korean game until I moved here. The more you know … (cue Reading Rainbow theme song).

Here’s a brief how-to on gonggi: