BECAUSE the official Korean romanization system promulgated at the start of the new millennium can render unfortunate (and in some cases hilarious) connotations, I use the McCune-Reischauer system instead, albeit in the revised form created by the Korean Ministry of Education in 1988. This allows me to use “shi” for sounds previously transcribed as “si,” which does not represent the actual sound and therefore defeats the main purpose of transcription. I make exceptions in the case of commonly accepted alternative spellings, such as Seoul and Pyongyang, and where Koreans used an alternative spelling of their name in an English language publication. In the bibliography references to the latter are listed under that name, followed by a systematic transcription between brackets. In the narrative I retain the order of people’s given and surname as common in what I take to be their country of residence. When referring to place names, I occasionally leave suffixes like—san and -dong untranslated when they are commonly treated as part of the township’s name in English. When the vernacular clearly deviates from the McCune-Reischauer system, such as with words like pohopŏp and Sejon-kut, which the system would have me romanize as pohobŏp and Sejon-gut, I disregard the rules and transcribe the word as I hear it pronounced. Although I add hyphens to separate suffixes from nouns and numbers, the transcription reflects how the sound of the noun’s final consonant is inflected when it is followed by the initial vowel of a suffix. Therefore, rather than pohopŏp-ŭi I use pohopŏb-ŭi. In order to avoid confusion I also add a hyphen when a single compound word is separated upon romanization, as in “30-nyŏndae” (1930s) and “1970-nyŏndae” (1970s). I have transcribed Chinese terms according to the pinyin system and Japanese according to the Hepburn system.
All translations are mine unless other wise specified. In my transcriptions and translations of printed text and recorded interviews I have tried to stay as (p.xii) close to the original as possible, but I have slightly corrected the grammar and terminology where, for example, it was absolutely necessary in order to maintain the flow of the text or where an informant used more profanity than even I thought was cool. Song titles are given in romanized Korean, followed by, where possible, a translation or the official English title. Although I was not always able to find them, I provide birth and death dates for those I believe played a crucial role in the events and traditions deliberated. I omit such dates for scholars unless seniority may have awarded them particular leverage in decision-making processes.