Ajummas are in Mobile Bang [room]

Smart ajummas are watching DMB in the subway (Please do not use this photo without a permission!!! 사진의 무단도용, 게시 및 재가공을 금지합니다)

I found this photo from one of my twitter friends today. These two ajummas put their mobile phone on the triport and watching TV through DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) while they’re travelling in the subway in Seoul. They share the earphones as well.

I already wrote about how the subway is important for Seoulite’s daily life in my Master’s thesis that is called ‘Mobile Bang (2010)’. The subway shouldn’t be considered as just a sort of public transport. Rather it means a lot more for people in Seoul or South Korea. I call it as a Mobile Bang (room in English) and commuters do various things in the subway especially through uaing their smartphones while they’re travelling.

We’re now having very hot and humid days in South Korea (35c/70-80 % humidity). People want to find any place where they can avoid hot and humid weather. The subway could be one of those places I think. So I really love this photo and want to share these Smart Ajummas in Mobile Bang with you.

Thank you for my friend (from twitter) who allowed me to use this photo for this blog.


Digital Ppal-let-ter is now on YouTube as well!

Now you can watch this Digital Ppal-let-ter video on YouTube as well.

I just uploaded.Please enjoy watching Digital Ppal-let-ter!

디지털 빨래터 비디오를 이제 유툽에서도 볼 수 있습니다!

많이 봐주시고 더 많이 즐겨주세요!

Inspiration for Digital Ppal-let-ter Project

Digital Ppal-let-ter is a new digital space which illustrates the interactively remediated space and time of both the wash place before the 1960s and Kakao Talk’s group chat room in the 21st century. Digital Ppal-let-ter will encourage audiences to consider the existence of  middle-aged and married women’s communal space that has formed and has been developed by those women from the non-digital (pre-smartphone) era before the 1960s to the digital (smartphone) era in 2015.

Digital Ppal-let-ter will take both analogue and digital technology to present a new digital space where ajummas communicate with each other. It is an imaginary space located in a time of coexistence between the face-to-face communication era and the mobile digital communication era. In other words, Digital Ppal-let-ter is located in an in-between space and time of actuality and digitality. For this reason, the creative project of Digital Ppal-let-ter is a converged metaphorical space of communication that transcends time and space among middle-aged and married women in Korea.


I tried to do an installation art but I’ve changed to produce a video instead.


Digital Ppal-let-ter is an imaginary space that does not exist in the real world. However, it asks audiences to think about how communication amongst middle-aged and married women in Korea has always existed even though various communication tools and the locations of communal spaces have changed over time. Digital Ppal-let-ter aims to emphasise that specific features of communication have developed subliminally through continuous interactive communicating among middle-aged and married women in Korea.

Middle-aged and married women used to be considered a peripheral group by the digital technology industry in Korea whereas younger female groups were given attention. However, it is time to look intensively at how these middle-aged and married women, ajummas, communicate with each other in the pre-digital communication era before the 1960s to the digital communication era of today. In general, ajummas used to be considered a group of ordinary middle-aged and married women but they are not ordinary when people look at them with affection. The group ajummas now attract respectful attention from the digital technology industry and Korean society. The creative project Digital Ppal-let-ter presents how the ordinary but not ordinary ajummas build their own communal spaces and have their own ways of communicating which have developed in line with technological developments in communication

Digital Ppal-let-ter is based on Korean sentiment but the convergence of digital and analogue technology in the project is universally relatable. To create this complicated but poetic and new experimental media art project that includes interdisciplinary academic research and mixed media art forms.

Digital Ppal-let-ter (VIDEO)

Digital Ppal-let-ter is a new digital space where the wash place before the 1960s and a Kakao Talk group chat room in 2015 coexist together. As an imaginary space that has been planned and created based on interdisciplinary research and creative concept of thinking, I have carefully considered how to present the concept of Digital Ppal-let-ter to audiences. Initially I planned for Digital Ppal-let-ter to be exhibited in a gallery or other space in the form of an installation. However, the plan changed to using video due to the difficulty of installing a reproduction of a wash place and the Kakao Talk group chat room. Through the video, the audience can experience the wash place prior to the 1960s with village women and a Kakao Talk group chat room in 2015 with Smart Ajummas at the same time.

The project will also encourage audiences to reconsider the communal spaces, the ways of communication and the communities of middle-aged married women, ajummas, in Korea from the past to the present. Furthermore, it can be expected that this opportunity will increase interest in ajummas and their ways of communication among audiences and the general public. Hence, both the creative project, Digital Ppal-let-ter, and the research project, Smart Ajumma, will awaken thoughts and value about the existence of ajummas and their unique way of communicating that has gone unnoticed.

Digital Ppal-let-ter (Wash place) from Jung Moon on Vimeo.

Are you an ajumma?


Well,  since I’ve started this research project people keep asking me a same question so many times. They asked me, “are you an ajumma?”

I put the URL of this blog (smart-ajumma.com) on my Twitter profile, Facebook and Instagram. People who follow me on these various SNS, they kept asking me a question that “Are you an ajumma??? I didn’t know that!!!”. Then I had to repeat the same answer that defend against this question. I replied or explained, “No! I’m not an ajumma, I’m just doing my research about ajummas and their use of smartphones in everyday practices…blah blah blah.”

I know being an ajumma is not a problem at all, but whenever people ask me a question like that, I always answer with a serious face to protect myself. (protect I mean!)

There’s one thing. I’ve already mentioned in one of blog entries that I uploaded previously, people are curious about the reason why I’m doing research about ajummas even though I’m not an ajumma yet! People think it is very strange when non-ajumma researcher researches about ajummas. Also they expect that research about ajummas is not an attract thing at all. For these many reasons, people keep asking the same question to me for many times and I had to explain to them whenever they asked questions.


I’m still enjoying my research about ajummas and I will be doing this research continuously. Ajummas are attractive people in Korea and there are voluminous research topics to study about ajummas. Through this blog, I will keep doing my research about ajummas and their use of new media.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 5.41.41 PM.png

Fighting ajummas!!



Digital Ppal-let-ter Project

Digital Ppal-let-ter Project

Jung Moon

PhD Candidate

Centre For Ideas, University of Melbourne


Through various and deeper ways of study such as an academic research (e.g. literature research) and qualitative/quantitative research (survey and deep focus group interview), I could realise and identify who ajummas are and their behaviour of mobile communication through using smartphones in their daily lives. Digital Ppal-let-ter project is a part of Smart Ajumma research project that expresses my research findings and interpretations metaphorically through a video humorously but the stories are still based on academic research in order to avoid losing the purpose of this research project.

Ppal-let-ter (wash place)?

I was amazed through enjoying this research project for last few years. Ajummas in Korea, they actually have their own communal spaces and keep doing communication with each other by their own ways. We didn’t know about their communal spaces and their ways of communication because we just stared at them rather than looking inside deeply.

After I found that there are communal spaces for ajummas’ own through doing field research, I could keep continuing this creative research project. And I thought about Ppal-let-ter (wash place)!

Of course, there are many countries had wash places but a wash place in Korea can be considered as a characteristic place than other countries’. As I mentioned so many times, a wash place in Korea is more likely a women’s communal space before 1960s. There are sill wash places in Korea but those places haven’t been used as a wash place for a long time. They rather became tourist spots today because we have washing machines at home to do our laundry instead of going to wash places regularly.

Whereas, going to the wash place regularly was a matter of course for village women (or ajummas) not only doing their laundry, but also meeting other village women (or ajummas). In other words, the wash place was a place for ‘socialising’ and ‘communicating’ for middle-aged and married women in Korea during 1960s.

They don’t have an appointment with each other, but they could meet someone whenever they visit the wash place. So it was possible to have conversations with each other about various topics from complaining patrilocality to boasting their children. The wash place functioned as more than ‘wash place’, rather it played a role as a women’s communal space. Thus, I got inspired by this important but being forgotten wash place to start doing my creative project so called as ‘Digital Ppal-let-ter’.

Women’s place?

Even though there are various types of women’s communal spaces such as hair shops and jjim-jil bang (sauna), the reason why I chose a wash place as a key space to do my creative project is because I thought a wash place is one of women’s communal spaces and it has sentiments of Koreans and Korean culture.

In the late 18th century, ‘the wash place’ by Hong Do Kim shows how a wash place in Korea could be a women’s place even though there were no law and regulations that prohibited men from coming to a wash place.

Digital Ppal-let-ter?

Through survey and focus group research, Kakao Talk’s group chat room was the most preferred way of mobile communication among ajummas. Some of interviewees responded that they purchased smartphones only for using Kakao Talk’s with their friends and family. Like this, Kakao Talk’s group chat rooms were now newly used as communal spaces or the ways of communication today.

Of course, Kakao Talk is one of mobile chatting applications that anyone can use freely. However, I discovered that Kakao Talk’s group chat room in 2016 and the wash place in the before 1960s have much analogy with each other in many ways. (I already wrote about the 6 similarities between wash place and Kakao Talk’s group chat room in my blog)

These two dissimilar places that came from totally different time are very much similar with each other. This makes me so exciting.

Digital Ppal-let-ter = A communal place for Ajummas?

These two places are dissimilar, it is so true. However I realised that they are very much similar with each other at the same time. We’re now using smartphones and the use of smartphones allow us to do many things that we never imagined in pre-smartphone era.

I think ajummas in Kakao Talk’s group chat room and their communication in mobile space are not an entirely new things that could be possible due to the development of new technologies. Maybe, they’ve been communicating with each other in their own communal spaces by their own ways of communication.

In other words, the wash place in the before 1960s was not disappeared at all, rather I consider the wash place continues to exist with us in the shape of Kakao Talk’s group chat room.

We’re now using different communicative tools and methods. And we’re communicate in dissimilar communal spaces compared with pre-smartphone era. Even though many things had been changed, we shouldn’t forget one thing that middle-aged and married women in Korea have been communicating continuously regardless communicative tools, methods, time and spaces.

Digital ppal-let-ter in the future?

Digital Ppal-let-ter is not a new thing at all. It is a women’s communal place today.

The communicative method (from face-to-face to mobile communication), communicative tools (from direct dialogue to smartphones) and communal spaces (Ppal-let-ter (wash place) to Digital Ppal-let-ter (Kakao Talk’s group chat room) are changed, I expect that communication among ajummas will be evaluating continuously with their own ways.

Thus, a discovery of Digital Ppal-let-ter is very important and it must continue to research how this Digital Ppal-let-ter will developing or changing in the future. We shouldn’t be overlooked ajummas in new media and communication research. They’re one of unique female group in Korea and we’re ready-to-be ajummas in the future as well.

Kakao Talk and Ajumma (2)

So now you know or you got an idea what Kakao Talk is through reading a previous post, ‘Kakao Talk and Ajumma (1)‘. I know it might be hard to understand what it is exactly before you actually use that application. If you know more about Kakao Talk, you should try to download Kakao Talk app and use it. It is a global and free service so anyone can use it through their smartphones. But I’m sure that using Kakao Talk in Korea have more various options (such as Kakao Shop, Kakao Pay etc.) that bring you to have a lot of fun. Anyway, try to use Kakao Talk first, I recommend.

Today, I want to talk about Kakao Talk more deeply. Having communication through using Kakao Talk is pervasive in Korea because it is a sort of main tool for communication in our everyday practices. In short, we communicate with each other on Kakao Talk everyday. So we say “Let’s do Ka-Talk!”, “Send me Ka-Talk!” or “See you in Ka-Talk!” etc.

참고이미지-1-카카오톡-4.0-스플래시-이미지Koreans love abbreviations and we call Ka-Talk instead of Kakao Talk. And when you see the sentence of “Let’s do Ka-Talk!”, you can tell ‘Ka-Talk’ is a kind of act. Ka-Talk in this case means ‘doing communication in Kakao Talk’s chat room’ or ‘we will talk about something in our Kakao Talk’s chat room’, etc. Thus the word Ka-Talk means not only one of applications, but also an actual action of having mobile communication in Kakao Talk’s chat room through using their smartphones.

In my experience, I could be connected to my parents and friends all the time because of using Kakao Talk. Even though we were physically separated from each other, we could still be together technologically or mentally in the third space (e.g. Kakao Talk’s chat rooms). Compared with few years ago when there were no smartphones or Kakao Talk’s, (pre-smartphone era, I named) I had to buy international phone card to call my parents in Korea every time. This (sort of) traditional way of phone call communication restricted our time and space whenever we have a talk on the phone. However, Kakao Talk sets us free from the barriers of time and space whenever we have conversations on Kakao Talk’s chat rooms. This means that we can do mobile communication on Kakao Talk’s chat room regardless of time and space if there is wifi connection. And it is free.

For next post, I will talk more about how ajummas use Kakao Talk with their family and friends.

Kakao Talk and Ajumma (1)

Have you heard about Kakao Talk? For me and Koreans Kakao Talk is an inextricable mobile communication app today. Kakao Talk is an application for smartphones which allow people to have instant mobile chatting without having barriers of time and space. If there is wifi connection with your smartphones, you can have message chatting, voice chatting, video chatting and sending various types of files (e.g. photos) in your chatting rooms. Kakao Talk is similar to WhatsApp , but Kakao Talk has more functions than WhatsApp. For example, Kakao Talk has Kakao Shop (buy gifticon), Kakao Pay, Kakao Style, Kakao TV, Kakao Taxi (you can call taxi through your Kakao Talk app whenever you need to take a taxi) and etc.

File 11-02-2016, 1 06 37 PM


File 11-02-2016, 1 06 56 PMVarious brands of ice cream shops you can choose and send gifticon through using Kakao Talk to your friends or family.

Gifticon has a diverse selection to choose from such as a range of clothes, accessories, foods, e-coupons for cafes or restaurants etc. People who receive gifticon from their friends through Kakao Talk, can simply show the e-code of those gifticon to the counter of the shops when they want to use them.

Kakao Talk is a one of apps for mobile communication on smartphones.  Kakao talk allows people to have constant mobile communication whenever they need and wherever they want to communicate with their contacts. It becomes a huge mobile communicative tool for Koreans. Group chat rooms are good example to explain how Kakao talk became a major mobile communicative application for Koreans. For example, companies have mobile meetings on their group chat rooms, family discusses their next meeting on their group chat rooms and especially ajummas love group chat rooms! Through using group chat rooms in Kakao Talk, people can do ‘group chatting’ with their friends or colleagues easily. They don’t have to send the same messages to each person one by one.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 1.25.49 PM.png

Y Kim: 

Yes, Kakao Talk’s group chat room is so convenient to organise meetings with friends.

J Han:

All I need to do is just create a group chat room. And then it is very easy to send a message to everyone at once! It’s so easy!

Interviewees responses of a question about using group chat room of Kakao Talk

According to the interview above, the main reason to use group chat room of Kakao Talk was for sending messages to several friends at once and organising meetings as well. As it is easier to send the messages to everyone who are in the same group chat room, it is convenient to organise meetings without hassle rather than send the same messages to each person separately. Besides, people in the group chat room can discuss or manage together to set a place and time for a meeting with ease. This means that, everyone can see the content of conversation at one view and even though they might miss the conversation, people can come back to read those conversations at any time with their smartphones. The advantages of using Kakao Talk’s group chat room attracts ajummas who used to call to each friend to organise the regular meetings.

The beginning of every month, my mom’s smartphone gets busy because of Kakao Talk’s alarming sound. Her friends send Kakao Talk messages endlessly to organise their regular meeting. My mom wasn’t familiar with using her smartphone and Kakao Talk before. But now she is an expert of Kakao Talk! She purchased another cute emoticon for Kakao Talk few days ago. She told me that her friends got so many emoticons so my mom also want to buy another new released emoticon to send her friends in the group chat room. How cute she is! And how cute our ajummas are!


How did they become Smart Ajumma?

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 6.53.44 PM.png

Ajummas are now becoming smarter, especially in the way of they communicate due to their use of new technology in their everyday practices such as smartphones. They are now smart ajummas and becoming smarter constantly according to the development of new technologies. However, it ought not be concluded that smart ajummas are named so only because they use new technology. They also actively attempted to acquaint themselves with new technology in daily lives.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 11.17.15 AM

The penetration of smartphones in Korea is significantly higher than the average in the world and it reach 83 percent as of end-March, according to the data compiled by Digieco (Yonhap News 2015). For me, Korea is like a heaven of smartphone because ‘you can do almost everything with your smartphone’ in Korea. But convenience is not only technology’s best friend, I mean there are always problems to use convenient technology, such as smartphones. Yes, smartphone is a double-edged sword, like the Internet! If you can do almost everything with your smartphones in Korea, this means that you can’t do anything without smartphones. (I won’t talk too much about smartphones because this blog is more about smart ajummas)


Anyway, smartphone is a pervasive mobile communicative devicenow. People use smartphones in their everyday practices regardless age and gender. Ajummas are no exception. There are exact data about penetration rate of smartphone users of middle-aged women in Korea yet, it can be assumed there are increase of using Internet among middle-aged women.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 11.17.22 AM

I know this is not a thesis but I think if I put an actual ‘data’ in this post, it might be powerful to support my idea why I can call ajummas as smart ajummas. I can’t just assume ajummas in Korea became smart ajummas because they use smartphones a lot. So I attached these data which help you to understand my argument (or thought) how I can call ajummas as smart ajumma.

For next post, I will explain in detail why ajummas should be considered as ‘smart ajummas’ today in Korea.