The trend of online first-birthday party among Korean mothers (mums)-(1)

What do you feel about the first-birthday party? Of course, I don’t remember my first-birthday party but I do know my parents, grandparents and anyone who knew me came to the party to celebrate my first-birthday party almost thirty something years ago. We call it ‘Dol Jan-chi’ in Korean which means Dol is for first birthday and Jan-chi is for party. On first-birthday party, mothers (and fathers as well) prepare the special feast table, Dol-sang. On the Dol-sang, usually a book, money, rice, noodle, jujube, a pencil, thread are placed beforehand. When parents seat the baby in front of the table, the baby picks up one of the objects for fun, which helps the family to foretell the baby’s future. For example. if the baby picks thread, it means she or he will live a long life. There is a traditional Korean style Dol-sang for the baby’s first-birthday party, but mothers also do prepare the modern type of Dol-sang in these days. As other countries (I experienced that Australian people also think the first-birthday part is important like as Korean people) think the first-birthday party is important because the baby grows well last 12 months (1 year) and the parents also hope their baby lives well for the rest of her (or his) life. At the same time, the parents want to share the happiness with the guests and express appreciation to the guests as well. So they share the food that the parents prepared for and the guests give words of blessing to the birthday baby.

Like this, the first-birthday party is a big thing for the parents and the baby. So they try to prepare the ‘best’ birthday party for their baby and the guests. In my case, my grandma and mum prepared all the food at home for lots of guests. Yes, it was the home party which is very classic and traditional style of the first-birthday party. At that time (about 30 something years ago) this kind of first-birthday party was the only and common thing for everyone. How about today?

Some of my friends got babies and whenever I saw the photos of the first-birthday party on the Instagram, it is quite different from my birthday party. These days, the birthday table becomes more fancy (e.g. matching colours with dishes, flowers and props on the table) and the parents also prepare the ‘online first-birthday party’ besides the actual birthday party (offline birthday party).

In 2006, there was a service for a party given to a hundred-day-old baby in Cyworld. Similar to the first-birthday party (Dol Jan-chi), the hundredth day since the baby was born is important day to celebrate in Korea. Usually, this 100th day party isn’t as big as the first-birthday party but the parents still prepare the ‘white rice cake’ for 100 people includes their family, neighbours, friends or anyone they know. For the baby’s 100th day, Cyworld provided a service for the parents who wanted to celebrate their baby’s 100th day through Cyworld in 2006. Through using the baby Cyworld (specially designed for the parents who want to have online space for their baby), the parents were able to celebrate their baby’s birthday with their Cyworld Il-chon (Cyworld’s friends). Also, Cyworld gave 100 white rice cake for baby’s 100th day birthday, so the parents could send cyber-rice cake item to their fiends in Cyworld. With this cyber-rice cake, people could decorate their mini hompy. (It is common thing to distribute 100 white rice cake to people on baby’s 100th day birthday in Korea. People believe that distributing the white rice cake will bring the baby’s healthy life)

–I couldn’t find any image reference of the white rice cake item on Cyworld and the baby Cyworld couldn’t be found anymore.

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Mum and her son use the Cyworld’s baby service together (2006)

Image from SK communications, <>

Blog post about ‘online first-birthday party’ will be uploaded soon. 


How to create Digital Ppal-let-ter Project (1)

For my PhD thesis, I had to write a dissertation (thesis) and make a create project. This creative project is generally called as a project-led research but my PhD project is different. I rather call my creative project as ‘research-led project’. Digital Ppal-let-ter project (Creative project) is mostly based on academic research then I put my imagination to create this Digital Ppal-let-ter project. Without advanced academic research about ajummas and their use of smartphones in everyday practices, Digital Ppal-let-ter couldn’t be created at all. Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 12.37.34 PM.png

To create this project, I tried to use many different ways of ‘making’ an art work. I’m not an artist and my background is fully media studies. I had various experiences of working in the media industry and I worked as a script writer, producer, video editor, etc. I know how to use tools for making a film but I don’t want to make an actual film for this project. I rather try to experiment using non-professional filmmaking tools for this project. I always admire people who propose a new method so I tried to find a new method for this project. Through this blog, I will explain how I made this video with my own ways of using tools and softwares.

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Firstly, I used still photos for Digital Ppal-let-ter project. The photos for the Digital Ppal-let-ter project were all taken on a iPhone 5 over a period of 2 years from 2014 to 2015. The majority of photos were taken in Seoul, South Korea. The subjects of the photos are mostly middle-aged women, ajummas, in Seoul. The photos were taken randomly in Seoul during the field research in 2014 and 2015. The reason why an iPhone was used as a camera for this project is because it has many advantages such as portability, convenience and instantaneous viewing. Using an iPhone camera for making this creative project has reminded me of the diverse theories about digital communication technology, especially the use of mobile communication devices (e.g. smartphones).

An iPhone allowed me to take photos whenever I found suitable subjects.I became a ‘phoneur’ (2006, Luke) as I took photos while observing people and the city in Seoul and it became a natural part of daily life during my stay in Seoul for the field research in 2014 and 2015.

The subjects of the photos that were used in the video were not asked for permission, however their faces were covered by a hand-drawn sticker of a smiley face to protect each subject’s privacy.
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Most photos of ajummas that were used in the video are not taken from the front and some of them are blurry. Consequently, the subjects in the photos that were used in the video are not recognisable. In addition, the video in the Digital Ppal-let-ter project is not made for commercial use, rather it is produced entirely for a creative project which is a part of the PhD research project. For this reason, the privacy issues of photos that were used in the video should not be a problem at all.









Jeong is an ambiguous and amorphous concept. There is no word that replaces the meaning of Jeong in Korean vocabulary. Also I can’t find any equivalent English word to Jeong. According to Kim ,

“Jeong encompasses the meaning of a wide range of English terms: feeling, empathy, affection, closeness, tenderness, pathos, compassion, sentiment, trust, bonding and love… Koreans considers jeong an essential elements in human life, promoting the depth and richness of personal relations… With jeong, relationships are deeper and longer lasting… Jeong is what makes us say “we” rather than “I”, “ours” than “mine” (U Kim 1994, cited in Kim 1996, p.14)”.

If someone asks me what jeong means, I probably cannot answer immediately not only in English, but also in Korean. To explain what jeong is not simply thing at least for me. I might say, to know what jeong means should be realised through experiencing Korean culture rather than learning by books or any academic theories.

Jeong is similar to love but jeong is different from love. (see below)

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Figure 1. (Kim 1996, p.15)

Jeong is ‘more relational’,  ‘more connection-related’,  ‘more unconditional’ and ‘less differentiated and more fused (think about ‘Korean collectivism’ that I mentioned in previous post)’ than love according to figure 1 that I attached above.

So, Koreans or ajummas could do gold collection campaign to support Korean economic during IMF because this Korean collectivism led them to feel being woori (we-ness). And being woori (we-ness) was possible because they were connected to jeong with each other.

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Thus, they could be ‘woori (we-ness)’ because of having jeong with each other and also they belong to the same group (Korea society).

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In Korea, there are various groups and sub-groups. For example, when I was a uni student, I belonged to catholic church group, high school friends group, ski group, uni friends group, English study group, home town friends group etc. Like me, many Koreans belong to various groups and sub-groups because belonging is important for us. And this belonging allows us to have relationships with others to become ‘woori (we-ness)’ and sharing ‘jeong’ with each other. (Think about examples that I’ve posted in previous post, Group Singing is also a good example of ‘woori, jeong and belonging’)

If I apply this theory to the group of ajummas, ajummas can be one of sub-groups of Korean society. They become woori (we-ness) through having jeong with each other and they belong to similar interests, age and gender group. So ajummas could be considered as a kind of sub-groups of Korean society that are intertwined with jeong. 

For next post, I will (finally) talk about Smart Ajumma!!


Korean collectivism (we-ness)

The gold collection  campaign were possible because of Korean collectivism which is We-ness, Uri (or Woori). Uri,  we-ness, or in group-ness as a more essentially relevant feature of Korean collectivism. The social relationship among Korean in-groups are based on social networks, the sophisticated genealogical system, the power of school connections, or regionalism. For Koreans, group is very important. To explain or talk about Korean collectivism in one blog post is not enough but this blog is not a ‘thesis’ rather a blog that I would like to share my research project, especially about ‘ajummas and their usage of smartphones in everyday practices’. In addition, I need to mention about Korean collectivism to support some ideas (e.g. gold collection campaign). Moreover, it might be helpful to you to understand Korea and ‘ajummas’ in Korean society if you know what Korean collectivism (we-ness) and Jeong means.

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This image explains how ajummas have similar hair styles in Korea. More stories about ajummas will be posting continuously.

image from <>


Of course, there are negative opinions how Korean collectivism ignores everyone’s individuality and force to be standardised. For me, Korean collectivism can be pros and cons in many ways. It leads people to be united and do something together such as Red Devils (supporting group for the Korea Republic national football team), Group Singing or Gold collection campaign. This Korean collectivism brought people to feel like ‘We are Koreans’ or ‘We are  one’. And in my experience, this Korean collectivism doesn’t allow me to be different from others. In other words, being different from others is not an ideal thing to be in certain groups. Thus I have to become similar with others in groups to stay in certain groups. This is just my opinions so there should be various ideas about Korean collectivism.

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image from <>


Group Singing

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High school students wear the same North Face jumpers at graduation ceremony

image from:  <>

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Ajummas wear similar mountain-climbing clothes in the subway


This Korean collectivism can be explained with the concept of ‘Woori (we-ness)’.

Woori (we-ness)

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We is a plural of ‘I’ in linguistic. So a group of ‘I’ can be interpreted as ‘Woori’ (because Woori means ‘we-ness’ in English).

However, Woori is not simply a plural of ‘I’. As you can see above, woori is not a simply a plural of ‘I’, and it needs ‘jeong’ between ‘I’ to become woori.

Then, what is Jeong?