Caveat: 辛라면

One reason I enjoy my friend Peter’s company is that we both have a rather geeky, quasi-philological approach to the Korean language. This is not necessarily the best approach to language learning, but it is what it is.

Our neighbor Jeri brought by some home-made kimchi that had been given to her by another friend of hers. Just imagine: Alaska-made kimchi – such is globalization. To taste-test the kimchi, I broke out my stash of Korean style spicy ramen, of the famous brand 신라면 [sinramyeon]. As Peter and I ate kimchi with spicy instant ramen for lunch, we ended up speculating on the Chinese character, 辛, prominently displayed as the brand mark for the product, as in this picture below.

picture

We both assumed it meant “new” – the most common stand-alone meaning for the Korean syllable 신 [sin]. I also speculated it might be a family name. But neither of those are the case. After a bit of searching on the online naver.com dictionary (the best online Korean dictionary) we found that in fact the definition is given as follows:

1. 맵다 2. 독하다(毒–) 3. 괴롭다, 고생하다 4. 슬프다 5. 살생하다(殺生–) 6. 매운 맛 7. 여덟째 천간(天干) 8. 허물, 큰 죄(罪) 9. 새, 새 것(=新)

That definition #1? “Spicy.”

So in fact sinramyeon means exactly what the English label says: “spicy ramen.”

The kimchi, by the way, was quite acceptable.


Later, Peter and I drove down to Hydaburg, to look at totems and witness the isolated, mostly-native Haida village. We saw bilingual street signs.

picture

It rained all day.

After that, on the way back home, we stopped and saw the totems in Klawock, too. Peter gave a stump speech in the Klawock city park.

picture

Caveat: 누은나무에 열매 안연다

I have been neglecting my Korean aphorisms, for this past year. That should change – just because I’ve left Korea doesn’t mean I intended to abandon the Korean language.

I’ll try to return to a once-a-week habit. Saturday seems like a good day to make “aphorism day.” Here, then, is a Korean aphorism from my book of aphorisms, and relevant to my new lifestyle.

누은나무에 열매 안연다
nu.eun.na.mu.e yeol.mae an.yeon.da
lying-tree-FROM fruit NOT-open
A fallen tree does not yield fruit.

I am of some doubt about what verb it is at the end. The best guess is 열다, “open,” conjugated in the plain present indicative. The dictionary doesn’t suggest that “yield” (as in yield/give fruit or profits) as a possible meaning. But I could see it as an extended meaning, metaphorically, in the sense that a tree “opens up” and gives its fruit.

The aphorism book suggests the pragmatic meaning is parallel to “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I’m not sure I quite see that, but I guess so. I would rather imagine the point being that you have to think about the future – if you cut the tree now, you’ll not get any fruit in the future. That’s not exactly the same as “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” But it’s related.

Regardless, I think the aphorism-creator wasn’t thinking of all the firewood you can get. I speak from experience.

Caveat: 사람들은 때때로 수평선 밖으로 뛰어내린다

사람들은 때때로
수평선이 될 때가 있다

사람들은 때때로
수평선 밖으로 뛰어내릴 때가 있다

밤이 지나지 않고 새벽이 울 때
어머니를 땅에 묻고 산을 내려올 때

스스로 사랑이라고 부르던 것들이
모든 증오일 때

사람들은 때때로
수평선 밖으로 뛰어내린다

– 정호승 (한국시인 1950-)

Life

Occasionally there are times
when people turn into horizons.

Occasionally there are times
when people leap beyond the horizon.

When dawn arrives before night has passed,
when descending the hills after burying one’s mother,

When things that once called themselves love
are all of hatred,

Occasionally people
leap beyond the horizon.

– Jeong, Ho-seung (Korean poet, b 1950) (Translated by Anthony of Taizé and Susan Hwang)

Caveat: 한국어영화

Having nothing better to do on the 15 hour transpacific flight, I happened to stumble across the fact that the Air Canada movie selection included quite a few foreign films – including 4 Korean movies.

I decided somewhat arbitrarily that transpacific flights should include Korean movies (such movies have been included, so often, in the past, because my most frequent transpacific carrier has been Korean Airlines).

So I binged on Korean movies. No comment with respect to quality – this is not, nor has it ever been, a movie review blog. You can find summaries and reviews elsewhere, better than anything I could write.

But I enjoyed watching them – a few hours of immersion in Korean culture, absent from my day to day life since last summer.

The movies I watched:

picture

돌아와요 부산항애 – a violent cops and robbers thriller where the two antagonists (cop and robber) are twin brothers.

picture

스타박스다방 – a comedy involving a guy starting a coffee shop in a small coastal village in Korea, where many of the characters die at the end.

picture

선명탐정: 흡혈괴마의 비밀 – an anachronistic comedy adventure involving vampires in Joseon Era Korea (1700s).

Caveat: 잘될거야! 걱정마~

Curt and I were discussing my situation and imminent departure, and all the accompanying uncertainties.

He used the phrase, 잘될거야! 걱정마~ which he helpfully wrote down for me because he knows I learn best visually.

picture

I more or less understood it but had never tried to parse it grammatically.

잘될거야! 걱정마
jal.doel.geo.ya geok.jeong.ma
well-become-FUT-BE-FAM(?)! worry-DON’T
It’ll turn out alright. Don’t worry.

The “-야” verbal ending (not to be confused with vocative -야, which attaches to nouns) is one that I see and hear all the time, but I’ve never seen it explained in any of my grammar books.  I’ve labeled it “BE-FAM” above, for “BE, familiar” – meaning it seems to be a kind of slangy version of the copula that does’t get explained in grammar books. Or maybe I’m wrong and it’s something else, but anyway, I get the meaning of it.

Later I accused him of “irrational optimism,” which he took badly, but in fact I see that as a positive trait: irrational optimism is stronger than rational optimism, because the latter is subject to sudden dissolution in the face of facts.

[daily log: walking, 7.5km; carrying heavy box to post office, 0.5km]

Caveat: 새도 가지를 가려 앉는다

I found this aphorism in my book of aphorisms.

새도 가지를 가려 앉는다
sae.do ga.ji.reul ga.ryeo anj.neun.da
bird-EVEN branch-OBJ be-picky-FIN sit-PRES
Even a bird is picky [when choosing] a branch to sit on.

This advocates for the thoughtful, intentional life, I think. One should choose one’s place, setting, friends, career with care.

I’m not sure what an equivalent English aphorism might be.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: 웃음조절장애

Sometimes my middle school students talk to me in Korean, even though they’re perfectly capable of expressing themselves in English. Partly, this is to indicate a different pragmatics: it shifts control of the discourse from me to them, since I’m the one with limited Korean ability. I think they derive some satisfaction from that. So, especially during times of just chatting or joking around, they’ll start talking in Korean, but still talking to me. This is remarkable, because half the time I don’t understand them, but I fake it pretty well, and I guess they enjoy the notion that they’re “teaching” me, too.

On Friday night, some girls in my HS2M cohort had the giggles. Well, certain types of 8th grade girls often have the giggles. I said, somewhat jokingly, “Are you going to stop laughing? Ever?”

One girl, Gayeong, said, painting a serious face for just a very short time, “But, Teacher! I have 웃음조절장애!”.

I laughed pretty hard. “웃음조절장애” means, roughly, “Laughter control disability” – with the same formal or vaguely medicalized discourse level. It’s the way a Korean child psychologist might talk about it, if it were considered an actual disability. So it was a joke.

I’ll have to remember the experession.

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: 100% 보이스피싱!

My Korean cellphone service provider, KT (Korea Telecom) likes to send me public service announcements via text message. Mostly these seem useless – though one time it warned of some flooding up in Paju, where I might, conceivably, have been going. Mostly I just scan the messages and try to get the gist of them, and then delete them.

I got one a while back that had me stumped. It said:

[Web발신]
검찰, 경찰, 금감원을 사칭하여 현금이나 계좌이체를 요구하면 100% 보이스피싱!

I read the message, and despite having a general idea of the gist of the message – something about inappropriate impersonation of police or prosecutors, some kind of warning about a scam – I nevertheless was unable to the parse the last word. That last term was "100% 보이스피싱!" – well, the transcription would be [bo.i.seu.pi.sing], which I knew would be some kind of English borrowing – the last syllable -싱 [-sing] gives it away, since it's a fairly rare syllable in Korean, and certainly doesn't occur at the end of words. It was clearly the English "-ing" ending, which the Koreans love to borrow, sometimes inappropriately. But sounding it out, the best I could come up with was "boys pissing". Unfortunately, that seemed like an unlikely bit of English borrowing for a public service announcement from my cellphone carrier. Were people impersonating boys pissing? Was this a problem?

After having given up on figuring it out on my own, I plugged it into the googletranslate, which gave me the obvious choice: "voice phishing". It was a warning about voice-phishing, not about boys pissing.

I think it was more interesting, before. Although kinda weird, right?

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Everthing okey dokey 참지마 그냥 욱해

So busy.

Burnout mode…

What I’m listening to right now.

블락비, “닐리리 맘보.”

가사

Ha Ha Yeah BBC follow me
Bounce like this eh eh
Bounce like
Block B in the House
Z and pop time Muzic
is officially over now
Bye guyz
Hi ladies
징한 놈들 나왔다
빠라 바라 밥
나팔을 불어라
어디 몸 좀 풀어 볼까나
다라 다라 닻을 높이 올려라
뻣뻣한 몸치 박치들
우리 보고 배워
쿵치 타치
Rhythm AH
We bobbin’ to the music music
This song is groovy groovy
눈 깜빡 해도
아른거리는 아우라 baby
둔탁한 비트 위로
짖어대 왈왈 eh hey
Move Right now
어디 수위 좀 높여 볼까
떠들 준비들 되셨나
우예 모두 놀라
윽박 지르는 거야
다 꿈 깨 발악해
점잔 떨지 말고
Everthing okey dokey
참지마 그냥 욱해 욱해 Yeah
아무나 다 데리고 와
Rock and roll
Let’s go
닐리리 라라라
닐리리야 닐리리맘보
닐리리 라라라
닐리리야 닐리리맘보
닐리리 라라라
닐리리야 닐리리맘보
We bobbin’ to the music music
This song is groovy groovy
아잇
작정하고 나와라
사람마다 정신 나간 Holiday
이 곳 분위긴 여름바다
걸리적 거리는 윗도리 탈의해
어수선하게 벙찌지 말아
양치기 소년 같이
사방을 전전하며 Blah Blah
동해도 내가 다이빙하면
아담한 풀장
죄다 박살내라
Click Clack boom pow
Come on everybody just tap tap
Twist your body
아무리 죽을 힘을 다해서 덤벼도
쨉 쨉도 안돼 안돼
제대로 놀아줘
This is real B.B
닐리리맘보
We be big pimpin’
박수치고 손들어 이건 바이킹
탈진할 때까지 계속 샤우팅
Bbbbrrrrrrrr
우예 모두 놀라
윽박 지르는 거야
다 꿈 깨 발악해
점잔 떨지 말고
Everthing okey dokey
참지마 그냥 욱해 욱해 Yeah
아무나 다 데리고 와
Rock and roll
닐리리 라라라
닐리리야 닐리리맘보
닐리리 라라라
닐리리야 닐리리맘보
Go left go left go left right left
Go left go left go left right
Woops
우예 모두 놀라
윽박 지르는 거야
다 꿈 깨 발악해
점잔 떨지 말고
Everthing okey dokey
참지마 그냥 욱해 욱해 Yeah
아무나 다 데리고 와
Rock and roll
Let’s go
닐리리 라라라
닐리리야 닐리리맘보
닐리리 라라라
닐리리야 닐리리맘보
닐리리 라라라
닐리리야 닐리리맘보
We going to the top forever
We going take it to the next level

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: 吉降下

"Teacher, what's your name in Korean?"

…One possible answer, but not the most easily explained or accepted (though it does, by chance, conform to the two-syllable requirement), would be to look to the Biblical passage where the name "Jared" makes an appearance:

(15)마할랄렐은 육십 오세에 야렛을 낳았고(16)야렛을 낳은 후 팔백 삼십년을 지내며 자녀를 낳았으며(17)그가 팔백 구십 오세를 향수하고 죽었더라(18)야렛은 일백 육십 이세에 에녹을 낳았고(19)에녹을 낳은 후 팔백년을 지내며 자녀를 낳았으며(20)그가 구백 육십 이세를 향수하고 죽었더라 — 창세기5장15-20

The standard Korean transcription of the Hebrew trilateral YRD is 야렛 [ya.ret], while in English Bibles it's "Jared". The Hebrew trilateral has been proposed to be related to the meaning "descended" (i.e. God descends upon him [?]). 

In fact, though, the use of "Biblical names" is not typical in Korea, even among the many hardcore Pentecostals. The Catholics, at least, generally baptize their kids with saints' names, but even these baptismal names are not the ones used legally or day-to-day. Instead, most everyone follows the traditional naming practices (which are essentially Chinese in origin). The use of non-hanja names (i.e. non-Chinese ones) is on the rise, but in most instances these non-Chinese names are still not Biblical in origin, but rather vaguely nationalistic "Pure Korean" names (e.g. common nouns, like the popular 이슬 [i.seul] for girls, meaning "dew").

Slightly less problematically, I generally translate my family name as simply 길 [gil]. This is an actual used family name in Korea [hanja: 吉]. I use it as translating the English common noun "way". This is not etymologically accurate in English, since my surname is in fact Welsh, not English. Nor is it etymologically accurate in Korean, since the family name "Gil" is not related to the Korean common noun "gil" = "way", but rather the term 길하다 [gil.ha.da = to be auspicious, to be fortunate]. Perhaps the double etymological inaccuracy cancels out, and it ends up being appropriate?

Hence, my "Korean name" might be: 길야렛 [gil.ya.ret]. Doesn't actually sound Korean, though.

Perhaps returning to the Hebrew trilateral, YRD [ירד], we could look for a hanja equivalent, and make that my name? There is 강하 [gang.ha, hanja 降下, meaning "fall down, descend"]. That sounds much more like a typical Korean name, 길강하 [Gil Gangha], and furthermore offers a parsable hanja form: 吉降下.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: 자는 범 코침 주기

I ran across this aphorism in my book of aphorisms.

자는 범 코침 주기
ja.neun beom ko.chim ju.gi
sleep-PRESPART tiger nose-needle give-GER
[It’s like] giving a poke at the nose of a sleeping tiger.

My book says this is similar to “Let sleeping dogs lie.” One shouldn’t provoke those more powerful. I’m not sure these are exactly the same, but good enough.

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: 도둑 맞고 사립문 고친다

I found this aphorism in my aphorism book.

도둑 맞고 사립문 고친다
do.duk mat.go sa.rip.mun go.chin.da
thief visit-CONJ hedge-gate repair-PRES
The thief visits and [then you] repair the hedge gate.

Clearly, this is the same as “Closing the barn door after the horse has already left the barn.”

I’d say more, but that horse has bolted.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: 카롱마

My student Jiwon emailed her homework to me with the following subject line: 카롱마 [karongma].

This is evidently a play on the name of the hagwon (afterschool academy) where I work: 카르마 [kareuma], which is itself a Korean representation of the English word Karma, in turn borrowed from Sanskrit, I suppose. I have always assumed this name serves as a kind of oblique reference to the underlying Buddhist ideological stance of the business’s owner, just as another hagwon down the street goes by 시온 [sion = Zion] to indicate its being run by Christians.

As far as Jiwon’s alteration of the name, I’m not quite sure what all the semantic valances are, but off the top of my head I think there’s at least two things going on.

The first is the substitution of the syllable “rong”, which is a possible reference to the English word “wrong”, which has wider semantics in Konglish than in English (i.e. it can mean a mistake, or general badness – I suppose American slang takes the word in a similar directions, cf. an American teenager snarking “that’s so wrong”).

The second is that syllable final “-ng” on the substituted syllable. In Korean script, this sound is represented by the circles (“ㅇ”) at the bottoms of the glyphs: 롱 [rong], 잉 [ing], 강 [gang], etc. – which is the letter called “ieung”. This sound suffix is used on open syllables (those ending in a vowel) in informal talk, especially by women and girls, to sound “cute”, e.g. “안녕하세용” [annyeonghaseyong = “hello”, said cutely] versus standard “안녕하세요” [annyeonghaseyo = “hello”].

So you have the negative valance of “wrong” but the positive one of “cute”, mixed together.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Aillucinations (Pseudosystematic significance)

When an AI (artificial intelligence) hallucinates, what shall we call it? I suggest aillucinations.

These AIs are not really that smart, though. Useful, yes, and intriguing, in a science-fictiony sort of way. But they have a long ways to go.

Case-in-point: google translate, which I use quite often, does some strange things, when you give it long strings of garbage. Its neural nets try to make sense of things, and the result is hallucinatory. This has been written about extensively at the Language Log blog – here is the most recent discussion (which includes links to earlier discussions).

I was curious about instances specific to the Korean-English domain (because I'd like to show some of my students, who overly trust online translators). So I set about finding some of my own examples. 


With google translate, I can get some pretty weird stuff in the English -> Korean direction, with the following string:

ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
eieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
eieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
eieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
eieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
eieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
eieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
eieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
eieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
eieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
eieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei
ieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieieiei

These give:

상상력
신상품
상상력
도미니카 공화국
상상해 보아라.
신상품
상상해 보지 못하다.
도미니카 공화국 인민 공화국
상상해 보지 못하다.
신상품
상상력
도미니카 공화국 인민 공화국 의회
상상해 보지 못하다.
신상품
상상력
신상품
상상력이 풍부한 사람
신상품
상상해 보아라.
신상품
상상력이 풍부한 사람

Which, translated, in turn, back to English, gives:

imagination
new product
imagination
Dominican Republic
Imagine it.
new product
I can not imagine it.
Dominican Republic
I can not imagine it.
new product
imagination
Dominican Republic People's Congress
I can not imagine it.
new product
imagination
new product
Imaginative person
new product
Imagine it.
new product
Imaginative person

Can you imagine that? The google translate "imagined" it.

Going the reverse direction, Korean -> English, I got a nice result with:

유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유유

Which gives:

It is the oil that is used in the oil industry and the oil is the oil. The oil is the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil and the oil. In addition to the above, the term "oil" is used to refer to the oil as the oil and the oil as well as the oil and the lubricant. In addition to the above, the term "oil" is used to refer to the oil as the oil and the oil as well as the oil and the lubricant. It is a good idea to have a good night's sleep. It is the oil that is used in the oil industry and the oil is the oil. The oil is the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil and the oil. It is the oil that is used in the oil industry and the oil is the oil. The oil is the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil, the oil and the oil. You can not go wrong.


As a matter of curiosity, I decided to experiment with papago, a clone of google translate being created by the Korean web portal Naver. So, English -> Korean, I got a result with:

u oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oeu oee ieoe iou u oe

Which gives:

넌 너의 아내를 보고 있어

Which returned to English is:

You are watching your wife.

I like that. Such a succinct translation! I found papago was easier to "trick" into hallucinating – it will begin getting creative with much shorter strings of nonsense. But it's clear the underlying technology is similar and has the same weaknesses.

Finally, I put in the following in the Korean -> English direction:

의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유의유

And I got:

CAUTION of a Pseudosystem of Pseudosystematic significance of significance of significance of significance of significance of freedom of consciousness of libertarian of liberate of liberality of freedom of libertarise of freedom of freedom of proceedings of freedom of proceedings of proceedings of freedom of will of proceedings

Which is awesome. Pseudosystematic significance, indeed!

Do note that finding strings that produce these kinds of aillucinations is a bit of a hit-or-miss proposition – there are many strings which "don't work" – i.e., they return simple nonsense in return for nonsense. But it can be rather addictively entertaining to keep trying various combinations and seeing what pops out.


Happy aillucinating! I, for one, seem to have found a new, useless hobby.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

 

Caveat: 게으른 선비 책장 넘기기

I saw this aphorism in my book of aphorisms.

게으른 선비 책장 넘기기
ge.eu.reun seon.bi chaek.jang neom.gi.gi
be-lazy-PPART scholar book-page turn-over-GER
[Like] a lazy scholar turning a book’s pages [to the end].

This means a student or worker who is just “going through the motions” or “watching the clock,” only interested in doing the minimum necessary to get by.

I have been like that, in some stages of my life.

[daily log: walking, 1.5km]

Caveat: 韓山

Last week my friend Peter blogged on his blog about the origin of the name of the community where I live – Ilsan. He included a fairly flattering digression about our meeting a few weeks back. I learned some things about the name of this place that I didn’t know.

What I said back to him about it is as follows. They are really just speculations. For context, read what he wrote first.

I’m surprised you omit (or did Choi Jae-Yong omit?) mention of a very notable fact, which is that the hanja 韓 [han] is the same element in [hanguk = i.e. the modern name for Korea as used in South Korea], and [hangang = the Han River] (although the latter there seems to be some additional confounding factors of yet another hanja, 漢 [han], and there is another Han River (Han Jiang) in China, here, which seems to use both characters – check out 漢江 and 韓江 in Naver’s hanja dictionary).
So, I have no idea how accepted this next thought is among Korean linguists / philologists… but personally I find compelling the idea that this particular (very important) Korean word came into Korean directly from a Mongol or Turkic proto language (Altaic), and is cognate with the well-known word Khan, which means “great leader” or “chieftain”.  Hence rather than saying that hansan means “big mountain” it would be more etymologically accurate to call it “chief mountain.” Likewise, hanguk is simply “land of chieftains” or somesuch. Check out the “names of Korea” discussion at wikipedia – 韓 [han] seems to mean more than just “big”, to the extent it became the representation for this non-Chinese-origin Korean word (although as mentioned above, the Chinese seem to use it more broadly, too, than just big, and may be tracking back to the same Altaic source).
Peter responded with some additional observations. Anyway, I think it’s all very interesting. Finding etymological information of Korean place names is nearly impossible for non-Korean speakers, so I suppose that’s a good reason to post this here.
[daily log: walking, 7km]