The Starlights of PyeongChang

Absorbing all of last week’s impressions in South Korea has taken us a moment, apologies for the delay in reporting. Here are the most epic moments in a nutshell blogpost, you’ll have to join us on one of our talks to get the full story!

Meet Park Jae Dong, aka haraboji number one (‘haraboji’ in Korean means grandpa). © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Mr Park lives in the Cha-Hang village in the Daegwalnyeong township, PyeongChang county, in the glorious Gangwon province, in case you want to visit. Cha-hang is famous for its wild boar hunting tradition and Mr Park is one of the few remaining masters. Here he is demonstrating the tools of this dying art. The boar is driven by a team of hunters towards the spear to which the boar impales itself. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Mr Park is also an ambassador for the local crafts tradition and can produce pretty much anything from snow shoes called ‘dalle’ or ‘moru’ to ‘botnam’ – they looked very much like skis to our untrained Scandinavian eyes, but Mr Park made a clear distinction between botnams and any old skis. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
This is a ‘jige’ with a ‘basugari’ basket, also the handiwork of Mr Park. This is genious carrying device for awkward loads up and down mountains. As soon as he pulled this out from his shed our shoot plan was scrapped and it was all basugari business for the rest of the day. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Like many of his fellow villagers, haraboji number one spends his summers farming. His visits to his surroundings focus on gathering materials for his crafts, although when walking in nature he follows the custom of throwing small food offerings to both human and nature spirits in the mountains. Winter is supposedly ‘resting season’, but whenever we saw Mr Park he was running his very own assembly line producing these carrying baskets.  © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
His ideal day involves playing drums and singing songs. While we prepared the shoot gear on his porch, the phone rang and he popped to do a little bit of both at the community center. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Masterchefs on the dumpling duty! Best way to warm up after a freezing shoot on a mountain top is of course: Hot soup with ‘halmonies’ at the epicenter of action. The overflowing generosity of this crew would sweep most everyone into eternal shame and we owe our toes and fingers to this team. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Ms Sim Young Ja calls herself a ‘city girl’ and her favourite hobby is to travel all over Korea to hang out with her friends. She is a singer, drummer and a member of the Hwang Byng San hunting heritage center. While talking about drumming affairs of the society, she very casually mentioned that they are practicing a drill for the opening ceremony of the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang…no big deal…. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Here we are at the top of the Hwang Byng San mountain, preparing ‘surichi’ stems for halmoni Ms Sim’s shoot.  © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
It was gloriously (read: ruthlessly) sunny for photography purposes all week. This crevasse provided a rare shadow. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
When halmoni Ms Sim was younger she wasn’t always able to do what her heart desired. Now in her seventies she is living life to the max and tells her children and grandchildren to live their lives exactly as they want to. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Born and bred in Cha-Hang, Mr Choi is the director of the Hwang Byng San hunting heritage center, a proprietor of one of the many guesthouses in the village, an acupuncturist, a Tae Guk Kwon (the Korean tai chi) teacher in the alternative high school in town, a Pungsan dog breeder (a very rare breed of Korean hunting dog, hardly know outside of Korea), and an expert on traditional medicine and manual pulse diagnosis. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
The forest floor was covered in fully grown mini bamboo. Of course Mr Choi knew the best way to prepare a delicious and healing drink out of it. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
He enjoys meditating in the mountains of the nearby national park called Odaesan, sometimes sitting on a mountainside, other times by taking an inhale on the left and exhale on the right step along the path. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Meet halmoni Mrs Oh and haraboji Oh Kyu Myung (fourth and fifth from the left) along with Daham Yeo, our video artist documenting the production for the week (far right), and Jiwon Lee from the indispensable Viceversa production team (second from the left) © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Mr Oh has been very involved in developing various industries in PyeongChang. He has lived here for 55 years and raised five of his children in the foothills of the ski slopes visible from his livingroom window. This has of course resulted in a skiing mania in the family, with most of them having had professional skiing careers.  © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
We asked all of our collaborators this week what they thought of the climate today compared to the past and most said they were grateful for the easier life the lack of three meters of snow has brought along. In general there was not too much worry about climate change, nor the constant news about their neighbouring country up north. Our shoot location happened to be on the riverbanks in the proximity of the military training grounds taking place that week, and in the middle of our shoot troops marched past waving cheerfully. We continued business as usual with cameras rolling to a background soundtrack of distant explosions. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Haraboji Mr Choi Dong Sun invited us to his home that he built himself in the sixties. He has fended for himself since he was six years old when he lost his parents. He didn’t get the opportunity to go to school and remembers working on his uncle’s farm so hard he would fall asleep on the porch with his boots on. His early twenties were gruellingly difficult and his determination to succeed kept him from giving up for good. He bought a little cow with his hard-earned money and managed to buy back his great grandfather’s patch of land, little bit at a time.  © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
At 57 he retired from farming and started renting out his farmland to villagers. At 58 he taught himself the Korean alphabet in two days, followed by memorizing 36 generations of his family tree, translating each name from Chinese characters into Korean.  © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Mr Choi researched the PyeongChang area and created a new map form where ‘life meets geography’. It combines mountain data, wishful forecasts for his family, notes on ancestors’ resting places and the four cardinal directions amongst many other details. His home and the most important burial mountain of his ancestors lie in the bullseye of the map. The mountain which he preferred not to name, will be inherited by his son, while his seven daughters will share the vast farmlands.  © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Haraboji Mr Choi’s wife passed away three years ago and after sadness that ‘turned his face to wood’, he has come out on the other side as a happy man again. He realised he had two choices; to wollow in misery or to ‘count his blessings’. He chose the latter and focuses nowadays on celebrating the lovely wife he shared his life with, his large family (17 grandchildren!) and his accomplishments in life against all odds. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Shoot over with shoes full of snow, Mr Choi happily declared he enjoyed being a ‘mountain monster’ for a day. What a trooper of a man! © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
On our way back to Seoul we stopped over at the 700 Village to debrief with Mama and Papa who we met last year while working on the other side of the mountains from Cha-Hang. What a view to wake up to! © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Mr Choi and Papa are friends and share a passion for equestrian sports. Therefore we thank horses for the serendipitous events that led our production team to the magic at Cha-Hang village. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
This festive gang gave a Michelin star farewell feast topped by a decadent gravity-defying-candle-lit-sweetiecake. Thank you dream team! © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

4 thoughts on “The Starlights of PyeongChang

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback! And happy new year to Australia!
      Best wishes,
      Karoline and Riitta.

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