This is just a brief note to say that I participated in the latest Seoul Podcast, which was put online yesterday. The show is two and a half hours long, but I only stick around for about the first hour. I haven’t listened to it yet, so I can’t really say how the rest of the show went, but I can say a few things about my part in it.
I was a bit apprehensive going in, because I wasn’t quite sure how things were going to be or how I was going to fit into the podcast. Joe, one of the hosts, told me before hand via email that it was basically like a bunch of friends hanging out over a few beers, and I quickly discovered that he was right. This helped make me less apprehensive, but I got nervous again when the hosts came out of the gate with some questions about Korean folklore that proved tough to answer. I don’t know how I did, but at this point I only remember the things that I think I did wrong.
For example, when we were talking about the Dangun myth, the evil Jennifer (being Jennifer Flinn, with whom I will be doing a panel in Daejeon this summer) mentioned that some scholars believe that the various players in the story (such as the tiger and the bear) represent tribes. I commented that they had made an historical drama based on that premise, and someone else asked if it was with Bae Yong-jun. I said that it wasn’t, but now I realize that I was thinking of a different historical drama (the one about Jumong), and the one about the Dangun myth did indeed star Bae Yong-jun. I realize that this is going to make very little sense to 99% of my readers, but it bugged me when I thought about it later.
I was also a little concerned when we ended up talking more about religion and mythology than we did about other types of folklore, but that was probably my fault, too. When Joe asked me what distinguished Korean folklore from folklore elsewhere, the first thing that came to mind was Korea’s dual mythology of foundation myths and shamanic myths, as well as some of the characteristics of shamanic myths. I think that got everyone thinking about mythology and religion (in particular shamanism), which was unfortunate, because I don’t consider myself especially learned in either field. I’ve studied both, obviously, but my specialty is folk tales in particular, so I feel more comfortable with that than with mythology or religion. This led to some unfortunate utterances on my part, such as when I called shamanism “the red-headed stepchild of Korean religions,” or something to that effect. The truth of the matter is much more complicated, of course—shamanism suffered far more under Confucianism than it did under Buddhism, and in fact Korean Buddhism has always existed in a very syncretic relationship with shamanism (that is, shamanism has influenced Buddhism heavily here). That was something else that pissed me off later when I thought about it. There’s nothing worse than simplifying a complex concept for a laugh. Well, unless you’re a comedian, I guess.
My biggest regret, though, was that we never got around to talking about folk tales, and the trickster in particular. I have a lot of funny trickster tales I could share. Joe did try to give me an opportunity to segue into the trickster when he asked me about what types of characters appeared in Korean folklore, but somehow I missed the opportunity. If I remember correctly, I don’t think I ever even answered the question.
But I don’t want to make it sound like a negative experience—I just happen to be really critical of myself. In fact, I had a good time, even if I said some stupid things and never really managed to get on track. The hosts and my fellow panelist were all very nice and quite pleasant to chat with. There was even a few minutes of silence where everyone came over here to Liminality and started playing around with the color schemes. Stafford pronounced Liminality the best designed website in the Korean blogosphere, or something to that effect, which surprised and humbled me. Very nice things were said all around before I left, and I really didn’t know how to respond. But it was all greatly appreciated.
So, anyway, I thought I’d mention it, just in case anyone wants to give it a listen.