This is the place for my rants, raves, reviews and just general "stuff". May you be amused, enlightened, and perhaps even a little pissed off.

11.11.2005

What is the word "grunt" in Korean?

My young son has been taking Tae Kwon Do at a local place for just about a year. Recently there was a Grandmaster and a Master that came over from Shiheung, South Korea to do training sessions with the students. In honor of their visit and a visiting Korean trade delegation there was a martial arts show to be given by the students of the various arts that are taught at the center. The center is sort of like a big family and I decided to bring small Korean Turtle ship statue type gift that I received for my participation, many years ago, in the benchmarking and eventual sale of a very large Cray-2 supercomputer to the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). It was the first supercomputer on the Korean penninsula.


I thought it would be nice to make a connection with their culture, especiallly with something that they were extremely proud of in their history. The turtle ship was the worlds first iron clad battleship, circa 1592. During the Im Jin War between the Koreans and Japanese, it dominated the seas. But I digress.

The demos went well and there were all kinds of presentations of plaques back and forth between the delegations. After the festivities were over I took the turtle ship over to the office manager. Seeing it, she was absolutely blown away. She quickly brought me over to a woman who was apparently a translator for the trade delegation and had me explain the circumstances behind how I received the turtle ship. She listened intently and once I was done she hustled over two gentlemen from the trade delegation (one of which was reputed to own 4 city blocks in Seoul) and showed it to them. She went into a long explanation in Korean, which I didn't understand in the least. As she was speaking, their faces became longer and more amazed. At the end their was almost a look of shock on their face. They hailed several others from the trade delegation and told them what appeared to be the shortened version of what the translator had told them. Before I knew it, I was swept into the group for a series of pictures with the whole group. This was the same style of picture that had been taken with the President of the Rochester City Council.


Given that I was in an old t-shirt, jeans, and sandals, I wasn't exactly expecting that to happen. There was lots of reverent handshakes with me, which only made me more bewildered. I talked to the office manager who I had taken it to in the first place and asked what just went on. She thought that it had been explained by the translator that I was responsible for the first supercomputer in Korea. Apparently the word 'grunt' doesn't translate very well into Korean. I just pray that the pictures don't end up in the paper or anything.

To be clear, I worked quite a bit on the benchmark, mostly doing menial type tasks like writing tapes and assisted the various other benchmarkers, but was certainly in no way responsible for it being sold. There were lots of other people that were considerably more responsible than I.

It's an odd cautionary tale about different cultures and foreign languages.

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