Sure, Make Fun of my Rockin’ Magazine Book Thing and When Is a Suspect a Criminal?

“Wait, wait! 보호 [boho] is ‘protection’ and…” I racked my brain. “보조 [bojo] is ‘support.’ 보장 [bojang] is ‘guarantee.’ Are all of these 보s related?”

Good Man nodded, “Yes.”

I stared at him. “Wait. You don’t know anything about Chinese characters. Are you just going to nod and agree anytime I come up with some seemingly related words?”

Good Man pointed at me, “That’s right, yeah!”

I slapped the table. “보험 [boheom]! That’s related, too!” Insurance. I looked in my Hanja book. “보수적 [bosujeok], too!” Conservative.

This 보/保 means “protect.”

Saturday night, Good Man and I spent way too money on two gimbaps ($15!). At the restaurant they had a freebie tabloid newspaper called 특종! 연예스포츠 (Exclusive News! Entertainment and Sports). This is one of those “newspapers” where 60%+ of it is ads, the first part is made up of news about stars, and the actual news happens only in the last 20% of the pages.

So over dinner I started reading some article about Madonna and her 22 year old “beautiful boy model” boyfriend.

Good Man wouldn’t stop making fun of me. “Why are you reading that shit?”

Because I can. I don’t read this in English, but I can read it in Korean. And I can read most of it without a dictionary. Compare this to the higher-minded articles about typhoons and helicopter crashes and racism against Koreans in the UK that our Meetup teacher has us read. I might have to figure out or look up 20% of a Madonna article (still too much to be considered an appropriate reading level), but I have to look up a good 85% of the stuff in the typhoon articles. When given the choice between junk and frustration, I choose junk.

A few nights ago I cannibalized the paper. I cut out about a dozen articles I was interested in reading. Madonna made the cut, as did my F4 boys from Boys Before Flowers. Articles about the American economy, a violent fight with a police officer, and murder of Japanese babies were included, too.

I glued the articles into a composition notebook, leaving the right page open for vocab and notes.

I read an article about a bank robbery. I learned about twenty words, including 권 (handgun), which is related to a word I am learning in WordChamp, 소 (rifle). I learned a useful time ending (-경, meaning “about”) and some method of describing dates was reinforced.

I put the vocabulary in WordChamp and added the words to my AbsoluteRecall stack. I tested on them today for the first time. Ugh. My brain was really working for those words.

I was reading the article with Good Man. I got to this sentence/paragraph.

경찰에 따르면 범인중 1명은 권총을 들고 있었고 한명은 칼을 들고 있었으며 아프리칸 어메리칸으로 추정괸다고 밝혔다.

I learned a few words (according to, handgun, presumed) and was left with something like, “According to police, one of the 범인 was carrying a handgun while the other had a knife, and they appear to be African-American.”

“So 인 is ‘suspect,’ right? Like…um…죄? Crime?”

“No,” said Good Man, “it is ‘criminal.'”

“OK, but in America we call them suspects, because they haven’t been tried yet.”

Good Man stared at me. He pointed at the pictures. “They are on camera! They are criminals!”

“OK, but American newspapers would call them suspects. Even after Cho Seung-Hui shot up everyone and himself, American newspapers called him ‘the suspect.'”

Good Man looked at me. “That is crazy! It is ‘criminal,’ not ‘suspect!””

“But in America, in this context, I think ‘suspect’ is a better translation.”

Good Man shook his head, “OK, we are in America, but this, you may know, is Korean newspaper. It is ‘criminal.'”

Our conversation was so obviously not about the English language, but about English language as used in American culture.

It got me thinking: is a named person a ‘suspect’ until proven guilty? Is a ‘criminal’ always a criminal? How would other English-speaking countries with a different judicial system describe these men?

I searched for some articles in English about the robbery (yes, I do find it odd that I first read/heard about it in Korean). And sure enough, my conditioned assumption was correct.

Both suspects were dressed in dark clothing and wore baseball hats. In addition, the suspects’ faces were covered.