|Abai Village, Sokcho City, Gangwon Province - The only Hamgyeong Dialect-spoken area in the Republic of Korea|
In this fourth instalment of 'Korean Motherfucker! Dost thou speaketh it?', We are NOT going to North Korea in order to explore the dialects in Korean Peninsula. So, we are going to Abai Village in Sokcho City, Gangwon Province where the majority of the residents in this village are the former residents of Hamgyeong Province, DPRK who repatriated to the Republic of Korea during the Korean War (1950~1953).
Abai Village is a small village of North Korean refugees located in Cheongho-dong Precinct, Sokcho City, Gangwon Province, South Korea. The residents of the village consist mainly of refugees originally hailing from Hamgyeong Province in North Korea who escaped south during the Korean War.
In 1950, as the North Korean forces pushed Southward on their mission of unification they were joined by a force of 300,000 Chinese troops from the People's Volunteer Army. This influx of military force proved to much for the UN coalition forces and led to what is known as the 1.4 Retreat as they retreated to the Southeast to the Busan area. It was during this retreat that a group of around 6000 refugees from Hamgyeong Province in the Northeastern part of the country escaped south and set up shelters on a sandbar in Sokcho. Conditions upon their arrival were far from ideal, as the tides upon the sandbar would often leave parts of it incredibly muddy and cause water damage to the homes. Originally the refugees intended to stay only temporarily and head back to their homes in Hamgyeong Province, but the outcome of the war made their stay much more permanent than expected. As the country was divided along the 38th Parallel, they residents of the village found themselves unable to return home. Most of the residents lived out the rest of their lives in the village or other parts of South Korea, but a there have been a few that have applied for residency in the North so that they can return home.
The name "Abai (아바이)" comes from the Hamgyeong Province Dialect (함경도 방언/咸鏡道方言) and means "Father". The nickname became attached to the village due to a large percentage of the refugees being of elderly age. The refugees in the village mainly subsisted on fishing in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), and the area continues to be known today for its seafood restaurants. Since the founding of the village, the population has slowly dwindled down to only a few hundred citizens as families have moved on to live in other urban centers throughout the country. Today the area is a cluster of small homes that haven't changed much since the war, and the seafood restaurants that are run by the fishing families that remain.
Besides the fishing industry, Abai Village (아바이마을) survives on income from tourists who come to the area to visit the village as well as hike Seorak Mountain. Since the year 2000, the area has seen increased tourism due to the popularity of the Korean Drama Autumn in My Heart (가을동화) on KBS. Many scenes featured the main character riding on the Gaetbae Boat (갯배), a floating raft of tires and wood pulled along a cable that served as the main way to get from the little island to downtown Sokcho until the recent completion of a bridge made driving a possibility.
The village also sees a fair amount of tourists come through to try the famous "Abai Sundae (아바이순대)," which is a squid stuffed with a mixture of clear noodles, tofu, vegetables, and squid. Other popular dishes include the North Korean cold noodle dish Naengmyeon (냉면).
Tourists interested in historical artifacts of the village visit to Sokcho City Museum (속초시립박물관), which contains replicas of the original homes that were set up by the refugees. These early huts were mostly made of scrap wood and metal, newspapers, and cardboard.
The Hamgyŏng/Hamgyeong dialects, or Northeastern Korean (동북방언/東北方言), is a dialect of the Korean language used in southern Northern Hamgyŏng, Southern Hamgyŏng, and Yanggang Provinces of North Korea, as well as the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of northeast China. It is one of the more divergent dialects of Korean, and contains intonation, vocabulary, and grammatical differences that distinguish it from the standard Korean of the north or south. Specific vocabulary differences include kinship terminology. For example, "father", in standard Korean abeoji (아버지), becomes abai (아바이) or aebi (애비).
It is reflected in Koryo-mar, the dialect of Korean spoken by ethnic Koreans in the former USSR, as most of them are descendants of late 19th-century emigrants from Hamgyŏng province to the Russian Far East. The first dictionary of Korean in a European language, Putsillo 1874's Attempt at a Russian-Korean Dictionary, was based largely on the Hamgyŏng dialect; the author lived in Vladivostok while composing it.