The stuff that some masters are made of

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The stuff that some masters are made of

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In order to be called a master of a particular field, how much skill should one develop? A guitarist should be able to perform extremely well, even when playing the guitar behind his back in the style of Jimi Hendrix, the best guitarist of the 20th century.

“Dal-in,” or “Master,” is the name of one of the most popular sketches on the KBS comedy show “Gag Concert.” It pokes fun at a supposed master of something who is not actually any good at it. On the show, Kim Byung-man claims he is a master tightrope walker, but he is really a complete sham. In Korea, people attach various honorifics to a master of his or her trade. In baduk, the ninth level is the highest rank and called ip-sin — literally translated as “entering the world of God.”

Likewise, there are different honorifics for heavy drinkers in accordance with their rank. It starts at ju-dang, or a drunkard; goes next to juseon, a drinking hermit; to ju-seong, a drinking saint; and finally to ju-sin, a drinking god.

But ascent to such high ranks is not easy because not only the quantity of drinks matters, but also the quality. One should know how to enjoy the drinking spirit, which makes it difficult to ascend to the top.

The poet Jo Ji-hun once said that there were 18 grades for drinking, starting from nondrinker to the highest grade of “nirvana,” which can only be applied to someone who dies after drinking.

Jonggyeolja is a new word coined by Internet users to refer to a person who excels in one field to an unimaginable degree. It literally means a person who ends all arguments because he has an unrivaled ability in a particular field. For example, if one is in excellent physical condition, he is called a body jonggyeolja, and if one looks younger than their age they are a baby-faced jonggyeolja.

Choi Joong-kyung, who has been nominated to be the next minister of Knowledge Economy, was recently suspected of having made speculative investments in real estate because prices of the land his wife purchased skyrocketed quickly after she bought it. His confirmation hearing concluded with him being branded a “speculative investment jonggyeolja.” The nickname sounds like bitter irony. I wonder whether Choi and those who nominated him really understand the public’s mood. Clearly the public still harbors resentment about speculative investments.

*The writer is a culture and sports reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Ki Sun-min
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