난중일기(亂中日記) is the diary that was kept by Admiral Yi Sun-shin(이순신 장군) from 1592 to 1598, during the Japanese invasion of Korea, which Koreans refer to as the 임진왜란(壬辰倭亂). The diary is a national treasure in Korea. In fact, it is National Treasure No. 76 (국보 76호).
The diary was mentioned in a story on the Korean Lab Web site entitled "현충사를 다녀와서." 현충사 is the shrine erected in honor of 이순신. The shrine is located in Asan County(아산군) in South Chungcheung province (충청남도). If you want to learn more about 이순신 and his shrine, you can go to this great site. If you want to read the diary, you can go here, where there is a version for children and for adults. To turn the page of the children's version of the diary, you have to click and hold on the corner of the page and pull it as if you were turning the page with your finger.
Since the diary is mentioned in a third grade textbook, we can assume it is something every Korean grade schooler is expected to know, which means that serious students of Korean should probably know about it, too.
난중일기(亂中日記) literally means "diary during the disturbance." Here are the Chinese characters:
- 亂 어지러울 란(난) disturbed; confused; disturbance
- 中 가운데 중 middle; during
- 日 날 일 day
- 記 기록 기 record
Koreans usually attach the character 亂(란) to other characters to designate a specific war, rebellion, riot, or disturbance (i.e. 임진왜란, 병자호란). 亂(란) is the same 亂(란) found in the word 난리(亂離), which can mean "an uproar," "a disturbance," "a riot," "a revolt," and even "war." Koreans use "난리 났다" to describe a scramble for half-price items in a department store, a fight between a husband and wife, a labor riot, a natural disaster, and almost any situation where there is much confusion. A "flood" can be called a 물난리, and a "fire" can be called a 불난리.
I like reading the textbook stories and poems on the Korean Lab Web site because they do more than just teach me Korean; they give me a glimpse into how Koreans think, and why they view the world the way they do. If you start with the stories in the first grade textbook and work your way up, you have a chance to develop the same language and thought patterns that Koreans have. What Koreans learn in their grade school years most likely stays with them for the rest of their lives. That is why elementary education is so very important. Unfortunately, prejudice and hate can also be taught in these formative years.
One thing that I did not like about the story, "현충사를 다녀와서," was that the writer used to word 왜놈 to describe the Japanese. 왜놈 is a derogatory term equivalent to the English word "Jap." Here is the relevant piece of text from the story:
이순신 장군이 세계 최초의 철갑선을 만들어 왜놈들과 싸워 이겼다는 생각을 하니 가슴이 뿌듯했다.
Admiral Yi Sun Sin built the world's first iron-clad ship and beat "the Japs" in battle. When I thought about that my heart filled with pride.
I do not think it is right to be teaching children such derogatory terms. It would be like American textbooks teaching children to refer to Koreans, Vietnamese, and other Asians as "gooks." Children learn enough hate and prejudice from their parents and peers; they should not also be learning it from their teachers.