‘Kabi‘ and Starbucks coffee
Once I ran into an old friend from high school while enjoying the fellowship of my church members at a Starbucks coffee shop.
Since then, I have enjoyed drinking lattes at Starbucks. The taste of the coffee is subtle enough to be addictive, and to drink repeatedly. I can't exactly remember when I start drinking coffee. Moreover, I don't know when Starbucks coffee shops began sprouting around the country. Without a doubt, I have become an accidental Starbucks addict. In my hectic life, coffee seems to give me a small respite from the concerns of a stressful mind.
I went to the movie theater to watch ``Kabi," a recent release. Roughly scanning the storyline, I thought that the story was based on coffee. However, the film’s core covering a broken love affair seems to depict the overwhelming tribulation of transitional periods in which adjoining countries Japan and Russia persistently required Korea to construct diplomatic ties.
It showed us how lonely Korean King Kojong was in keeping his position under these pressures. Anyone who knows Korean history is acquainted with this period in which Korea was squeezed by the friction between Japan and Russia. Whenever Kojong felt lonely, he seemed to drink a cup of coffee. However, he was deeply suspicious that a poisonous component might be mixed into it because he was often threatened with assassination.
In this context, the film is made up of two sections that back up the main storyline. The first lies in how two Russian spies, Danya and her lover, Illrich, could secretly enter the Korean palace. The second lies in why they turned their mind from national traitors to Japan’s betrayers.
Presumably, it arose from either recovered patriotism or true love. Above all, as a spy, coffee was a means to assassinate him successfully because Kojong used to drink it alone. However, Danya had come face to face with fragile Korea in its infantile state. The crisis of Korea seemed equal to a candle in the wind. She began to sympathize with the Korean King's loneliness and powerlessness. Thus, she made a grave decision to become a faithful helper, giving up her love. Likewise, her lover, Illrich, a potential assassin changed his mind like Danya.
Obviously, coffee might have been used to deliver the poison if Danya's mind had not changed. As the King’s servant, Danya witnessed that he barely managed to get through each day without the help of loyal subordinates. Drinking coffee brewed by her was only a relief to jettison his heavy burden. As Illrich's love deepened, so the king's hope to set up Imperial Korea strengthened. As the former did whatever he did for his love, likewise, the king did whatever he could attempt to defend Korea's sovereignty in the face of ruthless pressure to open Korea by force. Coffee seemed to play a pivotal role as a barometer to measure how its taste is sweet or bitter.
The coffee brewed with elaborate skill touched Danya's heart as she did it for the king's agony. These are equivalent enough to constitute both pillars of the story frame. The reality that even a king was forced to drink coffee wasn't greatly different from that of these days in which Korea cannot but drink Starbucks coffee. Russian coffee called ``Kabi" was obviously a kind of by-product.
History repeats itself as Hegel's philosophy dictates. As Kojong mulled over what Korea would gain and lose until Korean Imperial was opened, many Korean politicians must have pondered over the FTA treaty with the U.S. As coffee flowed into Korea in the late 19 century, American beef, corn, pharmaceuticals and automobiles have started coming into the Korean market.
However, Korea is not an infantile partner any longer. It towers up as a lead among the seven Dragons in Asia. If coffee's flavor was sweet, Kojong would taste it bitterly, but nowadays, the spectrum of its taste is diversified because the FTA’s bright and dark side coexist.
Korean products are second to none, thus the Korean market will get stronger by entering larger markets over the world. The Korean government also needs to give farmers who fall into deep anxiety proper subsidized help to minimize economic instability.
Many Koreans now enjoy Starbucks coffee’s flavor and taste, but I think that some people may still feel it tastes bitter like Kojong. While appreciating the film ``Kabi,” I pondered over the depth of Starbucks coffee.
The writer is a girl’s high school teacher in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.