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The Coolest Ice Creams In Korea

9 hours 38 min ago
The Coolest Ice Creams In Korea

Koreans can be pretty creative and original when it comes to snacking, as I wrote abouthere. And there is no better example of their innovative ideas than looking at their amazing ice lollies: exciting flavours, imaginative designs, and a huge selection at every store. And, most importantly, they’re (on the whole) delicious.

Let’s have a look at some of the best Korean ice lollies, and exactly why they’re so great:

Frozen Milkshakes

A half-ice-cream half-milkshake, creamy, sweet and delicious. It’s way cheaper than going to your local cafe for a milkshake, and tastes just as good.

Jaws Ice Lolly

Top marks for originality with this one. Not only named after ‘Jaws’ but actually made to resemble a shark’s mouth. Pretty random, but it’s fun and it tastes nice too, so you can’t go too wrong with it!

Corn Ice Cream

Another creative design with these lollies- not only corn-flavoured, but made to look like a real piece of corn on the cob and filled with cream. Why you would associate ice cream and corn is anyone’s guess, but at least it’s unique!

Watermelon Ice Lolly

Another replica, this one a bit more normal than corn on the cob! It’s a cool design, and the makers have even gone so far as to recreate little watermelon pips inside the ice lolly. And it doesn’t just look good, it’s also yummy and refreshing- the whole package.

Melon Ice Lolly

I love melon, so I was so excited to see all the melon-flavoured things in Korea. And the ice lollies are as good as expected! This one has an almost creamy texture, which I found an unexpected, but pleasant surprise.

Disney’s Frozen Ice Cream


Because who doesn’t love ‘Frozen’? (Especially in Korea where the majority of children are borderline obsessed). It’s certainly a way to ensure that children beg their parents for this ice cream over the others. Who cares what’s inside, when Elsa is on the packaging?!

Chelsea FC Ice Cream

Another branded ice-cream, this one a bit more random as I’m sure there aren’t too many Chelsea FC supporters living in Korea. You can also find other teams like Manchester United and Arsenal. Maybe there’s the hope that children will enjoy the ice-cream and start supporting the football team on the wrapper…

Squeezy Ice Lollies

A lot of the ice lollies come in these plastic tubes, and you have to kind of squeeze them up. While it might not be the easiest way to eat an ice lolly, it does have the advantage that the thing doesn’t melt all over you within seconds during the hot summer months. And, it’s a better invention than cardboard tubes, which get all soggy and wet from melted ice-lolly.

Fudge Ice Lolly

If you’ve never had one of these, try one now. They are so creamy and taste exactly like liquid fudge. Definitely one of the best ice lollies I’ve ever had, and not too sinful either. These need to start being exported to England before I go home…

Choco Fudge Ice Lolly

Not quite as good as the fudge ice lolly, but good all the same. A nice chocolate exterior, with a yummy fudge filling. It has a consistency somewhere between an ice lolly and an ice cream (much like the fudge version), and it’s a good medium. Another win.

Fish-Shaped Ice Cream

The fact that you have an ice cream which is made to look like a fish doesn’t surprise me any more, which might be a sign that I’ve lived in Korea quite a while. A wafer exterior, filled with ice-cream and red-bean filling, I quite like this ice cream. But that is probably because I’m a big fan of red-bean; if you’re not, then this isn’t the choice for you (and stay away from the other, many, red-bean-flavoured ice lollies too!)

Mojito Ice Lolly

This is one of my favourites. It isn’t alcoholic, unsurprisingly, but I love it (nearly) as much as I love a real mojito. Flavoured with lemon and lime, it’s so refreshing in summer. The best cocktail-replica I’ve ever tasted, for sure.


There are so many more ice lollies which could be added to this list: coffee-flavoured, every fruit-flavour under the sun, weird  flavours like cheese, and endless shapes, sizes and designs. I think it’s fair to say that there’s an ice cream to suit everyone, and I’m very happy to say that there are many to suit me…


Kathryn's Living

Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Eating My Way Through Jeonju: Food Tour Part 1

Tue, 2014-11-18 03:51
Eating My Way Through Jeonju: Food Tour Part 1 Long time no see! Or not see, exactly, but...well...anyways. Sorry I didn't write for so long. I got my first bad cold of the season, and while it tried to knock me down, I got up again because, to quote Chumbawumba, "you're never gonna keep me down." I've been working on a longer post about my teaching style and serious stuff like that, but it's taking too long, so instead I'll take you on a food tour of Jeonju! Because who doesn't love food?

Jeonju is about 3 hours from Wonju by bus, but since I was traveling with a friend, I met her in Seoul on Friday night so we could leave together on Saturday morning. Her apartment is super tiny but really cute, and it certainly made me feel grateful for all the space I have to live in these days. 
We caught the 8 AM bus out of Central City and napped for the first couple hours, if only to escape from the Most Depressing TV Program Ever. We were close to the front of the bus, which is usually a great location, because you can watch the TV that they always have going in front. I usually entertain myself by trying to guess the plots of random dramas without hearing the dialogue. This time, though, it was a curse, because for the entirety of the 3 hour bus ride they were showing a program about different places where volunteers go to help people in terrible situations. Causes included: starving children in Africa, homeless people in Seoul, and a little girl whose skin was so fragile even just water touching her felt like alcohol on an open wound. So yeah. That was wonderful to watch.
On the way, we stopped at a rest stop for a bit of leg-stretching and snacking. Korean rest stops are amazing, at least compared to what I've experienced in the states. There is real food, freshly cooked, and lots of different snacks to try. We only had 15 minutes, though, so Joon suggested we get some potatoes. Best. Decision. Ever. 
I'm drooling just looking at this picture.
Maybe it was because I hadn't eaten any breakfast and was starving, but these potatoes were amazing. I nearly choked on one because I was eating too fast. It was really embarrassing. What's great about this snack, though,  is its simplicity. It's just roasted potatoes with salt, but on a chilly November day it's perfect, and at only 2,500 won it's a steal. If you're ever at a rest stop in Korea and you need a snack, you should definitely try this.

As you can see, we chose the perfect time of year to visit. The leaves were all shades of red, orange and yellow, the air was cool and crisp even with the sun out, and all that delicious food was waiting for us to enjoy it.
There were long lines in front of just about every restaurant, so we chose based entirely on length of line. Luckily, we chose well.
Dramatic angles make food more delicious.
Tteokgalbi (I had to look this up) is made from short ribs (galbi) and pork. The meat is mixed together, then shaped into a sort of rectangle before being grilled over charcoal. You can either just eat it straight off the grill with a bit of salt, or dip it in some spicy sauce. If you have the patience you can even make a lettuce wrap with rice and kimchi. Much like the potato snack, I really enjoyed how simple this meal was. 
Beautiful presentation.
Since no meal is complete without soup, we finished off with some nengmyeon, delicious cold noodles. I went for the spicy version, which sadly wasn't actually all that spicy. Still great though!
For dessert we planned to go to Manil Manil, a cafe famous for it's patbingsu. Sadly, they were out of red bean topping for the day, so we had to make a new choice. 

The name of this cafe sounds like "choose me", so we did, and we were not disappointed. It's hard to see in the picture, but flavors ranged from the basics like strawberry and mango and chocolate all the way to grapefruit, blueberry yogurt, and wasabi, I panicked when I got to the front of the line and ordered the first thing I saw, which was strawberry. No regrets. There were slices of real strawberry embedded in the sorbet, and the flavor was just right. Not too sweet, very smooth, just...perfect. 
Just because it's winter doesn't mean I can't eat popsicles.
While we enjoyed our dessert we waited in line at PNB, a famous bakery that's been in business since 1951. While they bake all sorts of things, they're most famous for their chocopies. I didn't know chocopies could be fancy, but I guess you learn something new every day. The line stretched a couple blocks down the street, and each person could only buy 5, for a whopping 8,000 won. After trying one, though, I can see why they're famous. 

For one thing, they're pretty big-- bigger than your usual packaged chocopie. Nice rich chocolate, slightly crisp cake, classic marshmallow filling, and a bonus: strawberry cream! I managed to eat only half of one before I was full, but I could easily have shared it with two other people. The line maybe long, but I'd consider this delicious treat to be worth the wait.

Finally, a museum that caters to my interests.
After all that eating we decided we had to walk around a bit before exploding. All this food was located in the middle of a Hanok Village, which meant there were plenty of beautiful buildings and historical things to poke around in and look at. We also stumbled across some kind of performance, elementary school dancers and also some great drumming
For dinner, Joon's friend recommended a less well known but delicious beef restaurant. Beef is pretty pricey in Korea, but hey, we were on vacation! What better time to splurge a little?
What dreams are made of.
All this for 35,000 won! NOT BAD, if I do say so myself. A selection of beef to grill, a mountain of side dishes, and some extra vegetable soup that our nice server gave us for free. Speaking of our server, she was the most adorable thing ever. The moment we sat down, this tiny middle-aged woman came over and, upon seeing me, started throwing out random bits of English that she knew. I may have been the first foreigner in the restaurant, based on her reaction. She even mentioned that her daughter studies English in some hagwon. Maybe trying to impress me? I don't know. It was pretty cute.

For dessert we got ice cream macaron sandwiches and then stopped for some bitter and very healthy-tasting tea; the perfect end to a long, delicious day. Stay tuned for day two, which includes famous patbingsu and a series of unfortunate bus events.

Teacher Pretty
Middle school ESL teacher, lover of pink, eater of kimchi, addicted to Etude House, expert procrastinator, meeter of 2-dimensionial popstars: Ana. That's me.

About   Teaching   Advice   Beauty   How-To   Food   Langauge   Tumblr

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Best of 2014 Photo Fest

Sun, 2014-11-16 12:17
Best of 2014 Photo Fest

Do you have some great photos from the past  year lying  around in your computer memory or camera? Do have pictures that have really good stories behind them?  Koreabridge would love to help you share those images and stories with the world (and maybe help you win some prize money). 

We are sponsoring an online exhibition of the best photos from the past year in Korea and we'd love to see your favorite Korea 2014 images AND hear some of the stories behind them.  This is a contest with real prizes, but also a community 'show and tell'.  All are welcome to share their photos.

Quick Facts


  • Photos:  Any photo taken in 2014 in Korea.
  • Photostories:  Any photo taken in 2014 in Korea that is accompanied by a story 
    All images submitted will be entered in the 'photo' category of the contest.  Only images that are tagged as a 'photostory' will be entered in that category of the contest.

PRIZES:  ₩300,000+  in cash and prizes

Submission Period: November 17 ~ December 31, 2014
Galleries:   All Photos  *  Photo Stories

More Details

Who can submit photos?  
The contest is open to anyone - expat, Korean, & anything in between. 

What kinds of photos can be submitted?

Photos need to have been taken in Korea during 2014 . Those who publish photos must have the legal rights to publish the photo. We reserve the right reject photos if they are considered in violation of our posting policies.  Each person can submit up to 20 photos and any or all of those can include photostories. 

How can photos be submitted?

 All photos must be in .jpg format and the maximum upload size is 10MB. (info about resaving your photos here and  here).  For exhibition and  judging purposes all photos will be resized to an image no larger than 1600 pixels in width or height.  To submit a photo, register at Koreabridge.net.  Click 'Create/Photo'.  Each photo needs a title, but description is optional.  For 'photo stories' include the story part in the description field.  Under tags, enter 'bestof2014' and/or 'photostory'.  Include a comma between each tag.    A moderator may need to approve photos submitted by new registrants before they appear online. 


Do photographers retain the rights to their  photos? 

All photo submissions must be the property of the entrant. No images with third party copyright ownership are eligible for entry. We encourage the use of Creative Commons licensing, but licensing is up to the photographers and can be stated in each photo description. Koreabridge reserves the non-exclusive right to use any images submitted to the photo contest in online exhibitions, publications, or for promotional purposes.

What are the prizes?


Top Overall Photo or Photostory: ₩100,000

 People's Choice Photo: ₩50,000
Judges Panel Prize: ₩50,000People's Choice Award: ₩50,000
Judges Panel Prize: ₩50,000


  Honorable Mention: Prizes awarded by assorted Koreabridge sponsors

Top Overall Photo or Photostory
- the photo or photostory that get the highest combined rating of judges and KB visitors

People's Choice 
the photo and photostory that get the highest ratings in online voting

Judges Panel
the photo and photostory that get the top scores from the judges panel

How will the images be judged? 

Koreabridge managment will assemble a 'judges panel' consisting of talented photographers who are not entered in the contest. All Koreabridge users are also encouraged to participate in online voting. 

The judges panel criteria includes the ability for photos and stories to portray a '2014 in Korea' experience in an engaging way, exhibit strong creativity,and demonstrate a high level of  photographic quality (more significant in the photo category than in the photostory category).   

If you have any problems submitting photos or questions about the contest, please contact the the photo contest team at photos@koreabridge.net

Amaj & Jeff

Past Contests

Best of 2011
Summer 2011

Summer 2010
Spring 2010
Winter 2010

Spring 2003
Summer 2003
Winter 2003
Spring 2001 



Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Healthy in Korea

Sun, 2014-11-16 02:16
Healthy in Korea


Korea is known for having low obesity levels, with only an estimated 4% of people being obese, much lower than the 35% of Americans, or 25% of Brits. It’s true that the percentage of overweight Koreans is increasing, but nowhere near as drastically as other Western countries. And I don’t find the trend at all surprising; In fact, I’ve found it a lot easier to maintain a healthy-eating lifestyle since living in Korea.

While it may be true that if I lived in Seoul, I’d be a lot more tempted by unhealthy foods due to the abundance of Western cafes and restaurants, as it is where I live in Wonju, the majority of food places are Korean and therefore offer much healthier menus. Eating out at restaurants, which in England would lead to large calorie-and-fat laden meals, can be just as healthy an option as eating at home because there is always a healthy choice on the menu.

That’s not to say that the unhealthy alternatives aren’t there to choose from; you can still find fried chicken, huge fried donkas, or greasy fried rice, which obviously aren’t as good for your waistline. But, as a whole, Korean food is decidedly more guilt-free than Western food. And luckily, it also happens to be tasty and delicious!

Here are some of the reasons which it’s easier to stay safely on the healthy wagon in Korea:


The most obvious first- Korean meals. Compared to Western meals from around the world (pizza, hot dogs, burgers, fish-and-chips, pies, curries, mac-and-cheese…), Korean meals are decidedly healthy. Soups and stews filled with vegetables; low-fat noodle or rice based meals; barbecue with salad on the side instead of bread rolls, cheese, mayonnaise and ketchup. Then there’s the fact that rice is always given as the carbohydrate component to the meal, in place of mashed potatoes, roast potatoes or chips.

Again, the unhealthy alternative is there if you want to find it, but the vast majority is healthy. Plus, when you eat out, you’re not tempted to order an additional calorific starter or dessert, simply because the option is rarely available. A definite positive if you’re trying to be good whilst dining out.



A lot of the meals are packed-full of vegetables, and if they aren’t you have endless side-dishes: kimchi, radish, seaweed, mushrooms, spinach, bean-sprouts, the list goes on. And they’re varied, so you often get a few different veggies as side dishes; definitely helps you getting your 5-a-day.

Alternatively, choose a main meal packed with veggies: my all-time favourite bibimbap, shabu-shabu where you get a huge plate of greens to add to your soup… There’s no excuse not to eat your veg!

Bakery Items

I’ve found (to my annoyance at times when I crave a naughty treat) that even sweet bakery items aren’t as calorific, greasy, or fatty as their Western alternatives. Fillings such as red-bean, sweet potato, corn, and fig take the place of things like chocolate. Result? The food is more nutritious and you don’t have to feel guilty at the thought of what you’re eating.

In England, all of the options are buttery, greasy, and you’d be pushed to find something for under about 500 kcals (I know, I’ve tried). There pretty much isn’t a healthy-option. In Korea, I wouldn’t call bakery foods ‘healthy’, but I also wouldn’t call them ‘sinful’.

(Again, there are worse options to choose from: doughnuts, cream-filled pastries, fried things, but on the whole, they are nowhere near as bad as they could be).

Rice As A Side Dish


Ok, it would be healthier if it was brown rice, but as side-dishes go, it’s definitely better than a load of buttered bread, chips, or fried potatoes. It’s a good, fat free carbohydrate to add to your meal, and far less calorific than the alternatives.


Lack Of Unhealthy Additions To Food


There’s a definite lack of added sauces, dips, or spreads in Korea. Though you can still find them in foods, the use of things like cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, or butter is a lot less.

You don’t find sandwiches dripping with butter andmayonnaise as you would in England, cheese is usually only found in Western meals like pizzas or burgers, and gochuchang is the most common sauce to be added to food, in place of ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard.

In general, then, it’s not hard to see why the obesity levels are so much lower in Korea. Meals are more nutritious and packed with goodness, fatty-foods like butter, cheese, mayonnaise are used less, and even snacks are, by comparison to other countries, less detrimental to your diet. 

However, there are some mistakes you could make in Korea which could have a negative impact on your diet:

  • Fatty meats: Samgyeopsal is the worst offender here. Barbecue is so popular in Korea, and can be so healthy if you eat it right- what can be better than lean, grilled meat alongside some salad? But, if you choose the fatty meats, it is obviously far worse for you. And Samgyeopsal, with more fat than meat, is the worst option you could choose.
  • Fast food: A bit of a no-brainer, but true nonetheless. There is so much fast-food on offer in Korea, not only the Western burger chains and pizza places, but the Korean favourite of fried chicken. I know people who eat a lot of this, so much so that my students call chicken an ‘unhealthy’ food, because they’ve only eaten it after it’s been deep fried. Um…
  • Instant food (especially ramen): Something which all my students are guilty of, snacking on microwave burgers or instant ramen pots (and for breakfast too, which is just gross). These foods are everywhere and it couldn’t be easier to pop into CU and buy a quick-fix if you’re hungry. But really, these instant meals are unhealthy and completely lacking in nutrients. Not a good option!
  • Eating too much (especially rice): Again, fairly obvious, but it’s easy to do. Especially when rice is added as a side to the majority of main meals, even when your main meal is carbohydrate-based. I’ve eaten a ton of noodles before, only to be offered rice as well. Is there any need for the rice? No. Do you eat it anyway? Well, if it’s there… An easy way to add un-needed calories to your meal. The same can be said for asking for more and more side-dishes to go with your meal, Well, if it’s free…

So, if you choose to eat at places like Pizza School, Lotteria, and Baskin-Robbins, buy instant snacks from CU and eat extra rice with every meal, you might not realise how healthily you can eat in Korea, But, I think it’s fair to say that if you avoid the pitfalls, it’s quite easy to eat guilt-free. And if that involves being able to eat out and enjoy delicious meals, that’s definitely a good thing in my opinion.


Kathryn's Living

Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Spending and Saving in South Korea

Thu, 2014-11-13 04:33
Spending and Saving in South Korea

One of the (many) reasons I love living in Korea is the lower cost of many things which are ridiculously overpriced in the UK. The best example is probably eating meals out; when I’m in England, going out for a meal is a treat and an expensive one at that. Meals themselves are so much more expensive, plus the drinks (water not included in England, and even worse, no free coffee at the end), and 12.5% service charge on top of that… it adds up to a costly evening out, rather than a convenient meal as it has become in Korea. 

And meals are just one thing which is cheaper in Korea. Here are some of the best deals, which we’ve taken full advantage of whilst living here…

Eating Out 

As mentioned, eating is so much cheaper. A cheap meal in England would be, at the least around £10 (18,000 won) and that’s without side dishes, starter or dessert, or service charge. If you were also paying for drinks and a starter/ dessert, you’d end up easily spending £20 (36,000 won)… and that’s at a cheap restaurant.

Comparing that to Korea: my favourite luxury buffet costs £19 (33,000 won), for all-you-can-eat sushi and seafood. £19 in a sushi restaurant in England wouldn’t get you very far at all… In other ‘expensive’ restaurants, meals can cost around £9 (16,000 won), and we feel like we’re splashing out. We’re in for a shock when we get home; I’m going to miss being able to eat out regularly without going bankrupt.

Public Transport

£11 (20,000 won) for a 3 hour journey in a luxury coach? Yes please. Getting a 1 and 1/2 hour train journey into the capital city for about £5 (8,000 won)? Amazing. That would cost you about 5 times as much if you were travelling to London, and that’s if you paid in advance and at off-peak times. Otherwise the prices are even more extortionate.


The ease and comfort of travelling around in taxis is something that will be sorely missed. It’s actually as cheap (if not cheaper if there are a couple of you) than taking the bus. A 20-minute taxi ride in Seoul only costs about £10 (18,000 won). I dread to think how much that would cost in London.


One of my favourite cheap things! I avoid having my hair cut in England because I don’t want to spend £25 (over 40,000 won) on a 10-minute trim. Then I found out that in Korea, you only have to pay £7 (12,000 won) for this treatment. They even style it for free for you. It’s no wonder why I’ve kept up-to-date with hair appointments since I’ve been here…


Extremely cheap council tax, and monthly bills which are about a tenth of the price back in England. Our electricity bill is about £10 (18,000 won) a month… the first time I saw it, I genuinely thought they’d made a mistake. It’s great not wanting to cry when you receive a bill.


I love going to the cinema, and was so excited to see that it’s about half the price in Korea. Even at peak times, it’s only £6 (10,000 won), and that’s without the half-price vouchers you get given pretty much every time you go to the cinema. Needless to say we’ve seen about 10 times the amount of films that we normally would go to watch at the cinema.


I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s so good it deserves to be mentioned again. Being able to buy rolls of Gimbap (the equivalent of Futomaki) for less than £1 (2,000 won) is just the best thing ever. Plus, the pick-and-mix nigri which is less than 50p (600 won) a piece is probably the best thing I’ve ever seen.

Good Cosmetics

 I was a little wary of buying make-up in Korea, simply because it was so cheap I thought it must be pretty rubbish. Then I bought an eyeliner for about £4 (7,000 won) and I was an instant convert, realising that the makeup is actually pretty amazing; the eyeliner was definitely better than the £20 I used to buy in England. I’m going to have to get stuff imported when I leave…

 It’s fair to say that there is also a fair amount of expensive things in Korea, such as imported foods (cereals, sweets, certain fruits, teas), underwear (clothes are relatively cheap, but underwear is strangely pricey here), deodorants (seriously expensive), and pretty much most things Western. If you eat at a lot of Western restaurants and shop at places like H&M or Forever 21, you’ll find yourself spending a lot more money.  

But honestly, being in Korea has been pretty good for my bank account. The best part? If you do end up treating yourself and spending a lot of money on something, it’s likely to be something you enjoy, rather than on a bill/ an expensive train journey. And don’t even get me started on the fact that you don’t lose half your paycheck paying taxes, or I might cry thinking about the fact that at some point I’ll go home and have to start suffering that loss again…



Kathryn's Living

Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Seeking Oldtimer Reflections

Tue, 2014-11-11 12:47
Seeking Oldtimer Reflections

I will be participating in a presentation about the 'evolution of expat life in Busan' this Saturday at the Busan Kotesol Chapter Meeting and would appreciate any input from 'oldtimers' (anyone who feels like an oldtimer qualifies).  Please feel free to share any thoughts, reflections, photos, and/or old stories. 

  • What are some of your favorite memories from the old days?
  • What have been the most significant changes since you first arrived in Korea - educational, professional social, cultural, whatever?
    (What do you miss? What don't you?)

I may post and archive of the presentation afterward, but in the meantime, here is some of the archival media I've been looking through lately:


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Happy Pepero Day & A Look at Korea’s Special Days

Tue, 2014-11-11 01:17
Happy Pepero Day & A Look at Korea’s Special Days  

Happy Pepero Day from Korea! If you’re not familiar with this special day, it’s one in which people exchange Peperos (chocolate sticks) with their loved ones, kind of like Easter without the religion. According to reports, the celebration started because people believed if you partook in the Pepero celebration, you would become taller and thinner, especially if you ate your Peperos at exactly 11:11 on November 11th- 11:11, on the 11th day of the 11th month. And if you’re really superstitious, you should make sure you eat the Peperos 11 seconds after 11:11, for the ultimate thinning/ heightening effect. Eating loads of chocolate to make you taller and thinner? I like that kind of logic!


Last year, our first year here, the holidays took us by surprise in Korea: why were we given tons of Peperos on one day? Why apples another? Why is there loads of Valentine’s-looking stuff in the shops in March? Now it’s our second year, we know what to expect, and what holidays we can look forward to. Here are some of the special days celebrated in Korea (take note Westerners, we should make these catch on back home…)

White Day

A second Valentine’s Day, kind of. On Valentine’s Day, it is traditional in Korea for women to give men a gift. Then, one month later on White Day (March 14th), it is the man’s turn to give a gift. If you’re a romantic, you’d see this as a lovely way to prolong the holiday and increase celebrations. If you’re a cynic, you’d see it as even more of a commercial gimmick than Valentine’s Day already is…

Black Day 


A day for single people, on the 14th April, one month after Valentine’s-type celebrations have finished. Single people celebrate by eating a black-coloured meal of Jajangmyeon (noodles with black soybean sauce). A good excuse to treat yourself to a delicious meal, at any rate.

Teacher’s Day

A personal favourite, obviously! It was a nice surprise when we came in one day to have children giving us gifts and kind notes. Oh, and the song they had prepared to perform for the teachers. A well-deserved celebration of teachers, and one I think teachers all over the world should be able to enjoy!

Apple Day

A slightly random, but nonetheless enjoyable day: give an apple to people you want to apologize to. The Korea word for ‘apple’ is ‘사과’ which also means to apologize, hence giving an apple as a token.


Children’s Day

There’s still a Parent’s Day in Korea, the equivalent of Mother’s Day/ Father’s Day. But in Korea, there is also a day to show appreciation for your children! Children are given gifts and taken to exciting places like the zoo, or a theme park. I would have loved such a day when I was young; it would be like an extra Christmas Day- what could be better?

Korean New Year

New Year’s Day is usually a pretty rubbish day in England: Christmas is officially over, people are tired/ hungover, and worse, feel like they have to start their New Year’s Resolutions, which generally leaves everyone feeling grumpy. In Korea, it’s a pretty good time- three days of festivities in fact. The best part for children? Sebeh: when children wish older people ‘Happy New Year’ by bowing to them, and in return are given money. Imagine how much you could make if you bowed to every older person on that day… sounds like the children get a good deal, that’s for sure!


I think that Korea have got it right with their holidays, and England could do with a few more random gift-giving days. What brightens up your day like getting a few apples or some chocolate sticks? And nothing would improve a gloomy January 1st more than getting some money. Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that England catches on to these ideas soon…



Kathryn's Living

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The Ultimate Guide for Choosing Your Korean Language Course

Mon, 2014-11-10 12:07
The Ultimate Guide for Choosing Your Korean Language Course


Joseph Gerocs, 6 year resident of Korea and puer tea fan, gives an in-depth overview of some of the Korean language courses available. He is part of an online language-learning site called 90 Day Korean, an online rapid Korean language learning program. But that’s only one way to experience the love for language learning. Check out this write-up and map out your next Korean course mission!

“What’s the best way to learn Korean?”

This question pops up all the time, and there is no easy answer!

It’s not because of a lack of Korean learning material. There is all you could ever want of it available, ready to be studied, practiced, reviewed, and perfected.

Think of the available Korean material like the sun. Everyday, we get to experience it for hours, as much as we want. However, it’s not super useful unless we harness it towards a goal.

Maybe you want to use the sun to get a suntan.

Maybe you want to harness it using solar panels to make electricity to charge your cell phone.

Maybe you to want to use the sun to light your living room by building large windows in your house.

It’s the same principle with learning Korean. You have all the resources you need, but that doesn’t really help you until you have one critical piece.

A goal.

Or many goals.

Mainly, you should have specific ideas of what you want to do with the language.

For example, maybe you only want to use Korean for everyday conversations. That’s it. In that case, it’s better to put more emphasis on speaking and listening over reading and writing.

Or maybe you want to become a document translator for the sports industry. In that case, you’d want to focus on reading, writing, and vocabulary that are geared towards sports.

Once you have a goal, you want to refine it so you can know exactly what you want to focus on.

Some examples for goals are:

  1. Have a 10 minute conversation with a Korean local about fashion
  2. Read the full “Deathnote” series of comic books
  3. Order beer and soju at the neighborhood restaurant
  4. Marry a Korean and speak Korean to the in-laws
  5. Understand a full episode of Pororo

These are all very distinct goals.

Imagine what life would be like if you didn’t define your goals. How would you know where you should be heading?

For example, imagine you walk out of your house and see a brand new parked Mercedes Benz with your name on it. You glance down at your hand, and suddenly you’re holding the keys. Christmas came early this year!

You jump in the car, pull out onto the main road, and floor it. There’s no traffic, so you’re able to drive freely without anything getting in your way. Maximum efficiency! Your passenger casually asks, “Where are we going?” Hmm, good question. You don’t know, but that doesn’t matter to you, because you’re making great time!

It doesn’t make sense to do things this way, and that’s what a lot of language-learning attempts look like. It’s full speed ahead without any destination in mind. With that kind of strategy, it’s no wonder people give up so easily.

But not you! You’re different, and you’re going to figure out how to make this work so that language learning becomes a delightful activity instead of a dreadful chore.

If you’re not keen on goals, that’s fine too. Some people prefer to set up systems that lead them in the direction they want to go instead of having a definite end goal in mind. While you’re deciding on these systems, make sure you are taking into account what kind of skills you want to walk away with in the end.

Once you figure out your goals, it’s time to decide on the content you choose. Yes, this makes a huge difference! Let’s look at an example why.

Have you ever heard someone who is using English as a second language use a sentence like this in English?

“Yes, that time would be appropriate for me

What he meant to say was:

“Yes, that time would be good for me

Most people would probably use the second one in English, instead of the first. It sounds more natural. But there are times when you would use the word “appropriate” in order to be more precise.

Do you need to learn the word “appropriate” in Korean? Well, that depends on what kind of results you want to have! Depending on your goals, it may or may not be unnecessary.

Once you choose what kind of results you want, then you can choose the content that will match up with what you want to achieve. After that, it’s all about execution.

We’ll assume that you’re going to put this article on pause right here, evaluate your goals, and then pick up again after this sentence. We’ll wait right here until you get back.

Ok, welcome back! Now that you know where you want to go, let’s take a look at the different options for Korean courses. There are various ways to study, but we’ll cover the big seven. You may find it helpful to combine multiple courses, and it really depends on your resources and how fast you want to get to your destination.

Some of these options will be only for people who are currently in Korea. However, if you live outside of Korea, you can often find a similar alternative.


This is the big one, the Test Of Proficiency In Korean. Some common reasons why people take this test are: 1) for Korean residency, 2) to attend university, 3) to work at a Korean company, 4) love of tests, and 5) bragging rights.

Currently there is no speaking portion of the test. In true Korean fashion, it is focused on listening, reading, writing, vocabulary, and grammar.

This test is offered in Korea five times a year, and two times a year globally in various locations. This will increase to six times in Korea and 4 times globally starting in 2015. There are two different tests (TOPIK I and II). Depending on your score, you can receive six different level certifications (1급 – 6급). The registration fee for the test is 40,000 won.

Here is a breakdown of the times for each of the tests:


If you’re looking to level up with your TOPIK skills, check out the TOPIK Guide, which has plenty of great resources for the TOPIK that are easily accessible. You can also get the practice tests and information straight from the TOPIK website here.

This test is intensive, so make sure you have a clear purpose as to why you want to prepare for it.

TOPIK – Pros and Cons Summary Pros (+) Cons (-) Self-study possible No speaking component Great vocabulary base Some test content is rarely used by Koreans Useful test certification Little chance for conversing

2. University Course

If you’re set on learning lots of Korean fast, then a uni course may be the way to go if you:

  1. Are in Korea
  2. Have money resources
  3. Can dedicate the proper time
  4. Want to be well-rounded in Korean
  5. Enjoy learning in a classroom environment

Many of the universities in Korea have their strengths and specialties. For example, the Yonsei course is vocab and grammar-heavy. So if you were trying to prepare for the TOPIK, then this would be a solid choice. Sogang is known for being focused on speaking. If your goal is to be able to converse better, then check out Sogang University.

Let’s take a look at Yonsei as an example since they have the most well known university courses for learning Korean.

They offer various programs depending on what time frame you can commit to. For example, Yonsei offers a regular program, an evening program, an advanced program, a summer special program, and a 3-week program. Some of these are standardized times, while others may only be open if there are enough students who applied.

Their standard program structure looks like this:

  • 10 weeks per level
  • 200 hours total
  • 4 hours per day
  • 5 days a week
  • 10 weeks
  • Monday to Friday
  • 9am – 1pm or 1:40pm – 5:30pm
  • 6 levels total (1.5 years to complete)

The costs are:

  • 60,000 won application fee (newcomers)
  • 1,680,000 won tuition fee

If you’re thinking about heading down the university route, then scout out some universities and pay them a visit. Some things to consider when evaluating the program:

  1. Cost
  2. Location
  3. Focus of program (grammar, speaking, vocab, etc.)
  4. Program length
  5. Feedback from students
  6. Reputation
  7. Textbook
  8. Feel of the program

The last point is extremely important! You want to make sure you like the program you’re attending so you are motivated to go back. Some people have excellent experiences with university courses, and others regret ever applying. Trust your instincts when you drop in on the administration office. Are they warm and welcoming? Or do they treat you like you’re just another piece of paperwork they have to fill out? Ask what the curriculum will be like. Are they using a book from 10 years ago with dated content? Or does it look like they have fun material that will motivate you to learn? You may even want to ask to speak to a teacher so you can judge what taking a class there will be like.

Here is a list of 10 universities in Seoul with popular Korean language programs. Take a look where they are on your map, visit their website, and then pay them a visit.

Universities in Seoul Yonsei University (http://www.yskli.com/_en/) Sogang University (http://klec.sogang.ac.kr/root/index.php) Seoul National University (http://language.snu.ac.kr/site/en/klec/main/main.jsp) Dongguk University (http://iie.dongguk.edu/user/lieeng/index.action) Hongik University (http://huniv.hongik.ac.kr/~korean/) Konkuk University (http://kfli.konkuk.ac.kr/Korean/index.html) Sungkyun University (http://koreansli.skku.edu/Main.php) Korea University (http://klcc.korea.ac.kr/main.mainList.action?langDiv=2) Kyung Hee University (http://eng.iie.ac.kr/)

If you’re not in Seoul, not to worry! We’ve got you covered all over Korea. Take a look at this list of universities  and see which ones are closes to you.

When you visit or email the universities, make sure to ask lots of questions. If you’ve clearly outlined your goals, then interviewing the universities and asking good questions should make it an easy choice.

Universities – Pros and Cons Summary Pros (+) Cons (-) Effective curriculum Expensive Learn balanced Korean quickly Time-consuming Experienced teachers Fast-paced

3. Hagwon Classes

Or academies, if you prefer to call them that. This is going to be a mixed bag, since hagwons differ greatly in terms of their schedule, programs, costs, and overall quality.

Your best bet is to pop in, interview a few of them regarding their programs, and see which one is the best fit to match your goals and schedule.

Since we’re talking hagwons, let’s jump into an example program to get a feel for what they’re like, and then we’ll leave you with a few options to get you started!

Let’s take a look at the Seoul Korean Language Academy, which not only has a great name, but also seems to be well known in Seoul. You can use their info and process as a benchmark, and then use that to compare their program to the other ones you are considering.

These guys offer three different kinds of classes: 1) Korean conversation, 2) TOPIK preparation, and 3) business Korean. Let’s choose #1.

Here’s one of the Ganada text books that they are using for the course for English-speakers.

You can register for these classes in-person or online. If you register in-person, then you’ll take a placement test before paying the tuition and starting classes. If you register online, you’ll pay first and take a placement test afterwards.

This academy offers a 100% refund as long as you cancel before the class starts. If you cancel after the class starts, then the refund amount is prorated. For example, if you cancel after taking half the classes, then you will get a 50% refund. Make sure you ask about the cancellation policy in detail, since some of the cancellation language can be a bit confusing.

Ready to hit the streets and meet some schools for a 1-on-1? Here’s list to get you started!

Hagwons in Seoul Seoul Korean Language Academy (http://www.seoul-kla.com/) Ganada Korean Language Institute (http://gkli.co.kr/) Metro Korean Academy (http://www.mka.kr/) Easy Korean Academy (http://www.edukorean.com/english/) YBM SISA Academy (http://www.ybmedu.com/)

So how do hagwons stack up against the other Korean language learning choices you have? Let’s take a look.

Hagwons – Pros and Cons Summary Pros (+) Cons (-) Many locations Can be expensive Interact with peers and teachers Quality varies Structured curriculum Classes are cancelled if enrollment is low

4. Free Classes

Stash that cash way in the piggy bank, because you’re getting your Korean for FREE!
Well, these classes are not always for free, but they can be!

Many organizations in Korea offer free Korean classes. If you’re in Korea long enough and keep your ears peeled, you’re bound to hear about these gold mines of Korean language instruction. You’ll often hear about these classes offered at universities, religious groups, and government organizations.

“So what do you mean that they’re not always free?” you might be asking. Great question!

Some of the free classes require you to pay a small amount to cover the cost of printing the class material. It’s often only a few thousand won, so it’s not a huge expense.

In other cases, the class may have an attendance policy, so you’ll have to leave a deposit. If you don’t attend the classes, they get to keep your deposit.

Make sure you know the rules when you sign up!

Most importantly, just because a class is free, it doesn’t mean it’s worth going to. Your time is valuable, and you need to figure out if the class is going to get you to your goal.

For example, if your goal with learning Korean is to be able to explain the precise way you like your gimbap prepared, then you probably don’t want a class where the teacher is lecturing 95% of the time. If that’s the case, it’s time to switch up and look for something new. If the instructor encourages lots of student discussion, then stick with it.

Also take into account the travel costs associated with going to free classes. Long travel times are fine if you’re able to use that commute time to brush up on vocabulary or sing along to some of your favorite K-pop. However, if you know that you’re the type who needs to sit down and fully focus to retain what you’re studying, then find something closer to home.

Think tradeoffs!

So, if universities were offering free Korean classes, why would anyone ever pay for a university class?

The free university courses often go at a much slower pace, are held a few times a month, and are often taught by less experienced Korean teachers. The whole course curriculum is vastly different, and the levels of the students vary. Both options have pros and cons, but don’t expect a free university course to be anything like a paid course.

Have a look for yourself at the free classes offered, and see if any fit what you’re looking for:

Free Korean Classes in Seoul Seoul Global Center (http://global.seoul.go.kr/) The Seoul Global Center and Global Village Centers around Seoul offer Korean classes at their various locations. Most classes are twice a week using the Sogang University book. A placement test and attendance are mandatory. Classes up to 3B as well as TOPIK preparation are available, depending on the location. Sookmyung Korean Education Volunteers (https://www.facebook.com/groups/37465297519/) There are 6 different levels offered every Saturday at Sookmyung University from 3-5pm. There is no level test, you choose the level on your own. The total fee for each class is 3,000 won (1,000 won for the class and 2,000 won for the book). Gal Wol Community Welfare Center (http://kongbubang.wordpress.com/) Four different levels of Korean language classes. Levels 1 & 2 are taught in English, and 3 & 4 are taught in Korean. Buying the class book is recommended, but not necessary. They ask for a 1,000 won donation to cover the cost of copies. Social Integration Program (http://socinet.go.kr/) This is an intensive program offered by the Korean government for people who want to get residency in Korea. There are certain requirements you must meet in order to apply for the program. The website is all in Korean. There are 6 courses totaling 465 hours. The last course is advanced Korean, focused on discussing relevant issues in and affecting Korea.

These are some of the more popular and well-known free courses in Seoul. There are plenty more out there, but it’ll take some searching and asking around since many don’t have websites.

Since these are generally more slower-moving and less intensive courses than some of the other options, this would be a good choice for people who want to get some basic Korean down and are available when the classes are offered.

Free Classes – Pros and Cons Summary Pros (+) Cons (-) Free or low cost Slower-paced Interact with peers and teachers Varied course quality Low commitment Difficult to find and sign up for


5. Paid Online Courses

“Pay for online courses? Are you nuts!? I can get Korean lessons for free!”


Well, the free lessons part anyway. But that’s not the whole story.

Many of the free content available online is organized by people in their spare time, or as hobby. It’s not their full-time job, so it’s not nearly as comprehensive as paid programs, both on and offline.

As a result, free courses and content requires the learner to put together a plan and figure out what need to be added to be comprehensive. The learner also needs to weed out the things that aren’t important.

This works well if you have the time and the focus to organize it yourself.

For some people, this becomes way too much of a headache.

For others, it’s a pleasure. To illustrate, it’s possible that you can learn to:

  1. Fix your clothes when a button falls off
  2. Change your oil every 3 months
  3. Install a new hard drive when your computer breaks

You spend some time learning this skill, and then you are able to do it in the future if it ever comes up again. No need to ask for assistance.

For others, time is way valuable and it’s more efficient to pay a professional to take care of those chores. Korean language learning sites are the same thing. You can cut down your learning time significantly by finding courses that have researched, evaluated, and organized the important content and broken it down into learnable chunks.

So first you need to decide how important your time is. If you have time, motivation, and fortitude to create a detailed learning plan, then you don’t need paid online lessons. There is plenty out there for you to create a detailed course.

If you’d rather follow a structured strategy, then start shopping around for courses. Online classes provide you the benefit of being able to learn Korean from any location that has a computer and an Internet connection. Some require you to be available during certain times (i.e. for live classes), some have weekly lessons, and others have no time frame at all.

There are dozens of online courses out there, so it’s best if you sample them and figure out which one suits your needs the best. Hop on Google, ask around to some friends, and try out at least three of the courses before you make your decision.

Paid Online Courses – Pros and Cons Summary Pros (+) Cons (-) Structured curriculum Quality varies No travel time Little or no peer interaction Can be done anywhere Not free

6. Free Internet Resources

This can be both a great and a terrible choice.

It’s great because:

  • You can study on your own
  • You can study at your own pace
  • There’s no set structure you need to follow
  • It doesn’t cost any money

It’s terrible because:

  • You can study on your own
  • You can study at your own pace
  • There’s no set structure you need to follow
  • It doesn’t cost any money

Yes, the same reasons!

Really this whole setup can be used for good or for evil, it depends on how you put it together.

Let’s start off with what NOT to do first, and then we’ll end on a positive with what TO do.


Let’s go over what happens so often in Korean language learning.

You get to Korea, and you’re super excited about learning Korean. There are all these options you have for classes, but there are also free lessons everywhere! Why spend your beer/coffee/bibimbap money on classes when you can get it for free?

You sign up for some Internet resources, maybe watch a few videos online. It’s not clear where you should start practicing, so you spend a few hours on the first thing you come across.

Then you realize that what you’ve been learning for the past few hours is super-formal, which is not how Koreans speak in everyday life.

Then you spend the next few lessons going over some specific grammar points, but you’re confused about the conjugation.

You go out to practice your newfound skills at the restaurant, and the server has no idea what you’re saying. You get flustered, and go back to using body language and pointing at the menus.

It happens all the time, and is one of the biggest complaints that people have about learning Korean. They do some self-study, try it out, and then get frustrated when nobody understands them.


Start off with your goals, and then form a plan. Once you have a plan, map out how you’re going to get there with the free resources available. You may want to use multiple resources combined together, i.e. one for listening and one for writing correction.

Free resources can also be a supplement to what you’re already doing. For example, if you’re preparing for the TOPIK, then you can use Anki and the Dongsa Verb Conjugator to help you study for the test.

In the end, you need to decide whether or not free resources will get you to where you want to go. Think about the people you know who speak Korean really well. Likely, they fit in some or all of these categories:

  1. Went through a lot of schooling
  2. They are around Koreans all the time
  3. They are able to map out a plan and stick to it

If you fit in with any of these groups, then you’ll be able to leverage these resources properly.

If you need a study roadmap or you have limited time, then consider going with a planned curriculum and then using these resources as a bonus. If you find a good paid program that fits your goals, it will be a shortcut since you won’t have to spend the time evaluating what is necessary and what isn’t. Also, they will have effective ways of explaining what you are learning.

Here’s a list of free Korean resources to get you started!

Free Korean Internet Resources Talk to Me In Korean (http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/) 90 Day Korean (http://90daykorean.com/hangeul-hacks/) Sogang University (http://korean.sogang.ac.kr/) Easy To Learn Korean (http://easytolearnkorean.com/) Matthew’s Korean Study and Reference Guide (https://sites.google.com/site/matthewpluskoreanequalsfun/home) Korean Grammar Dictionary (http://www.koreangrammaticalforms.com/index.php) Dongsa Verb Conjugator (http://dongsa.net/?search=%ED%95%98%EB%8B%A4) Lang-8 Writing Help (http://lang-8.com/) Anki SRS Flashcards (http://ankisrs.net/) Cineaste Korean Subtitles (http://cineaste.co.kr/index.php)

If you’re the type of person who can put together a great study plan, make sure to add in some interaction with Koreans! It’s great if you can get most of this organized on your own. However, since you’re not in a classroom setting with other students and teachers, make sure you are able to practice what you’re learning with real people.

Free Internet Resources – Pros and Cons Summary Pros (+) Cons (-) Free Lacks uniformity Requires no travel time Requires discipline and organization Can be done anywhere People don’t highly value “free”

7. Language Exchange

A language partner is a great way to practice your Korean!

Typically this is a one-on-one meeting between two people to practice their second language with a native speaker. In Korea, it’s often done at a cafe, 1-2 times a week for 2-3 hours per session. This will vary depending on you and your partner’s availability.

Let’s go over the good, the bad, and the successful.

The Good

This is a great way to make friends, and to get help with things that require a native speaker. For example, your language partner may be able to help you with registering for an online shopping mall. Or, maybe you want to know where Koreans go to get the best carrot cake!

The big benefit to this method is that you get to interact with a native speaker who can correct your pronunciation. In addition, you can ask your partner to help you choose which Korean will be suitable for your goal and which is rarely used. If you use any of the free resources available to you, you language partner can help you sort through them.

Extra bonus points for you if you speak better Korean than your partner does English (or whatever language you’re exchanging)!

You’ve probably heard of language exchange romances happening; so make sure you know that is a possibility. If you have absolutely no interest in dating, make your intentions clear from the start.

The Bad

Most language exchange partners are not teachers. Being a native speaker of a language and a proper language instructor are two different things! Make sure you choose someone who is going to be able to help you learn Korean effectively.

Probably the most frustrating part of language exchanges is the fact that they are so unreliable. It has less to do with the individual people and more with the overall structure of the concept. People become busy, more pressing obligations pop up, and usually the voluntary language exchange is the first to get the axe.

In addition, the actual language exchange is burdensome in two ways: 1) you are using effort to study, and 2) you are using effort to teach. It can feel surprisingly unappealing after a while. What usually happens is the partners meet for a few weeks/months, and then slowly one or both parties start to cancel. Weeks start to fly by, and suddenly it’s no longer a priority.

The Successful

Avoid these problems by organizing important criteria and interviewing at least three language exchange partners. You want someone who is competent, reliable, and compatible.

First, you want to make sure that your partner can actually teach you the language. If it seems like he or she is going to have a hard time answering your questions, then it’s time to move on.

Second, ask questions about your partner’s schedule. If your partner is coming from across town, after work, and is squeezing you in for 2 hours before another obligation, then you can bet that you’re likely to get cancellations. On the flipside, make sure that you are not overextending yourself. When choosing the time and location for the exchange, make it a spot where you know it will be easy for you to show up. If it becomes a chore in any way, it’ll be that much easier for you to cancel. Predict your behavior, and set life up to make the exchange a welcomed event.

Lastly, choose a partner who you’ll get along with. If your partner bores you to tears, sets world records for talking, or reeks of alcohol every time you meet, then you’re not going to want to endure two hours of punishment.

Language Exchange Resources Hanlingo (http://hanlingo.com/) Meetup Language Exchange Cafe (http://www.meetup.com/Language-Exchange-Cafe/) My Language Exchange.com (http://mylanguageexchange.com/) Language Exchange – Pros and Cons Summary Pros (+) Cons (-) Practice with a native speaker No structure Choose your own learning environment Language exchange, or dating exchange? Make your own schedule Free isn’t highly valued

Hopefully this gives you a good overview of what Korean language learning choices there are out there. We couldn’t fit them all into one article, but this should give you a bird’s eye view of what each one is like so you can make your decision.

The main takeaway we want you to leave here with is that you need a goals and a plan. If you have clearly defined what you want and how to get there, then you’re much more likely to keep progressing and improve your language skills. More importantly, it’ll be easier to decide which activities are helping you and which ones are wasting your time.

So what are you waiting for? Today is a great day to start your new Korean language-learning plan! Remember the sagely Korean proverb:

“시작이 반이다”

(“well begun is half done!”)


Joseph is part of 90 Day Korean, a rapid Korean language learning program that people can do from anywhere they have an internet connection and a computer. 90 Day Korean focuses on the 80/20 Rule and psychology, so learners can easily remember the 20% of Korean that is used 80% of the time.

Want to learn Korean? Stop by their site for the free Hangeul Hacks series to be reading and conversing in Korean in less than 4 hours.

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Remembering Pat

Sun, 2014-11-09 09:25
Remembering Pat

Busan has lost a good friend. Patrick Cole died on November 6, 2014.   To some, he was a willing listener and level-headed counselor to their drunken ramblings. To others, he was a sweet curmudgeon who could be biting and sweet in the same sentence. To everyone who got to know him, he was a positive presence in their lives.

There will be a memorial wake on Saturday, November 15 at Ol’55.  We will post  details here as soon as they are finalized. There are a lot of fond remembrances being shared on his Facebook page and in bars and homes around the city.  Please feel free to share stories and photos here as well.

Patrick, you will be missed - with a few tears, a lot of smiles, and likely, quite a few 500cc lifted in your memory. 


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Kyungsung Halloween 2014 Costume Contest Prizes

Sat, 2014-11-08 06:32
Kyungsung Halloween 2014 Costume Contest Prizes
  Halloween 2014 Kyungsung Halloween Contest Prizes
Prizes provided by participating bars
(Eva's Ticket,  HQ , Ol'55Eva'sAlmost Famous, and Blue Monkey)
Prize winners, please contact the designated bar to claim your prize. 
Thanks to everyone who participated.
Complete Halloween Gallery
....and without further ado, the prizes go to....

Grand Prize (tie)

₩ 300,000 
₩ 300,000


Bar Prizes (contact each bar to claim your prize)

Almost Famous



Blue Monkey



Eva's Ticket




bottle of pumpkin rum
 bottle of pumpkin rum
 2 meals and 2 Galmegi draughts
1 meal and
1 Galmegi draught 
1 meal and
1 Galmegi draught


Ol' 55


Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Top 6 Korean Drama

Fri, 2014-11-07 08:01
Top 6 Korean Drama



I wasn't surprised when I saw Korean drama on a local channel in South India. I had heard from the giggly girls of my family that dreamy, romantic Korean drama was on their daily menu. I was surprised to see, though, was dream boy Lee Min Ho sweet talk in Tamil :D Few reasons why people get hooked on to K Drama:

  • K Dramas are fast paced. There is all the love, hate, deceit, vengeance that you need and more, but at a very accelerated pace. In around an hour, we come to know that the hero's father has been wronged and the hero is told about it when he comes of age, he wants revenge, plots with his step dad, goes to the US to study, returns from MIT with top honors and a lands a job in Korea that puts him a room away from the President of South Korea! How's that for speed? 
  • Korean Dramas leave you hanging for more. Each episode ends at the exquisite moment when the great terrible truth is about to be unveiled or that the Korean Queen has been kidnapped by the Chinese forces or when the Doctor understands that she has indeed traveled through time, not caught in a movie set like she previously thought. 
  • Not even close to real life experiences. This is the best part of watching K Drama for me. Because it makes me enter a fantasy world where men come up with extremely cute ways to woo their girl friends, Man and woman exchanging bodies (not so bad as it sounds, infact it was quite fun), time travel in a blink of an eye.
  • Songs. Feels kind of weird but the Korean songs are so melodious, nice and catchy. By the time you have finished watching the drama, you almost know the theme song by heart even though you have no idea what it means! 
In no particular order, my favorite Korean dramas are:

My love from the Star: 

Loved this one! Latest and the most popular drama about an alien who is waiting 400 years in Earth to return back home while putting up with a very popular actress next door. The alien is too cute and the female lead is quirky and funny. Their apartment is amazing and their love story so dreamy.
This out-of-the-world love story along with heroine's favorite snack of chimek (chicken and beer) surged in popularity here in Korea and also in China while the drama was on air. Will she ever understand that he is an alien? Will he ever confess his love to her? Did the alien return back home, leaving his true love down here? I finished this drama in 2 days. So riveting!

City Hunter:

Urban super hero doubling as a computer expert in the Presidential Blue house fighting to expose the corrupt while keeping his step father away from murdering them. The heroine is naturally an optimistic, sweet, innocent and extremely poor girl juggling jobs, taking care of her comatose father, keeping up the family home, cooking and cleaning for the hero and also for the dog while protecting the first family. Plot is not new but totally gripping and the love story of will he? won't she? urged me to finish this drama in a few days.


Secret Garden:

Magically, she ends up having his body and the vice versa :) Extremely strong characters in the bodies of the opposite sex makes them bungling while it kept me entertained as well as a Kollywood masala movie. Had to keep going until the end...


I am sucker for Raja-Rani stories. Even more so, if it involves time travel and magical abilities. A King's protector travels through time to bring a surgeon to save the queen. The beautiful doctor thinks that she is stuck in a movie set! The powerless Korean prince tries to overcome the Chinese pressure and build his rightful reign and help the suppressed Korean people. Hero's hairstyle and mannerisms :D As usual, heroine's innocence bordering on dumbness... nice one, in the end.


Sunkyunwan Scandal:

Periodical drama (from when women were not allowed to study) where extreme poverty drives the heroine into college impersonating her brother. College, competition, love, secrets, cute cast! So much fun and scandals. Finished this one in 3 days.


Every girl's dream. She is chosen to be the bride of the current prince, who is her schoolmate, unfortunately though, whom she despises. She is anyhow subjected to the bores of the traditional and tedious rituals of the Korean royalty. With the second in heir vying for her affection as well and the princes' ex-girlfriend in the fray, this was a unstoppable drama to watch as well. This took me 3 days as well. :)

I also enjoyed The deep rooted tree (Drama around the creation of Korean language by King Sejon), Moon that embraces the sun, Dae Jang Geum (lifestory of the chef cum physician of the olden times), Heirs (where Lee Min Ho acts as a gay person to find a hidden secret), Roof Top Prince, Iris. Korean drama could be fun if you give it a shot :)

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The Ridiculous Media Hysteria over Kim Jong Un’s Disappearance

Fri, 2014-11-07 06:15
The Ridiculous Media Hysteria over Kim Jong Un’s Disappearance



Admit it,  you miss the wild speculation about Kim Jong Un’s disappearance last month. It was lunatic fun, right? Was he dead? Was his sister in charge? WAS HE REPLACED BY ALIENS?!! Run for the hills!

To me, in retrospect, the big story was not KJU’s disappearance, but the wild, almost lunatic conspiracy-theorizing it unleashed in the West.

North Korea is a running punch-line in the West. Kim Jong Il was the villain in Team America. The story that the Norks found a unicorn a few years ago got play for weeks in the US for its sheer laugh value. So this essay was an effort to get a handle on this – why do Western media feel license to make any wild, preposterous claim they want about North Korea? Where does this bizarre obsession come from? There’s probably a good MA thesis in here actually if you were serious about it.

The following essay was first published by the Lowy Institute, and then picked up by The National Interest. This was the first time I was published by TNI, so that was pretty cool. My thanks to the TNI editor, my friend, Harry Kazianis.



“For six weeks, from September 3 to October 14, Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea disappeared from view. The rumors it triggered became increasingly outlandish – he was dead or dying; body doubles were being prepared (a favorite theory about his father); his sister was running (a female leader in North Korea – seriously?); factional infighting had broken out in the backrooms of Pyongyang; he had been pushed aside in a coup. As if to illustrate just how untethered the commentary had become, the Onion ran its own pretty funny mock story.

Now that the Young General is back, the hangover has kicked-in. Increasingly the noteworthy story is of the last two months is not Kim Jong Un’s disappearance itself, but the explosion of increasingly over-the-top media speculation it unleashed in the West particularly. In South Korea (where I live) the media coverage was obviously sustained, but not nearly as unhinged. I think we can draw a few conclusions from the speculative fun we all had last month:

1. The Kims get sick too, but the regime can stumble on for awhile.

This seems pretty banal – no, it is pretty banal – but everyone seemed to forget that Kim Jong Un’s father Kim Jong Il suffered from a stroke and disappeared from view for twice as long back in 2008. At that time too, there was some hysteria, but nothing like this time around, even though it was longer. I am not sure why.

It is worth noting that the Kims, obviously, lead pretty unhealthy lives. All three Kim monarchs were seriously overweight, if not obese, in their prime. All were rumored to be very heavy drinkers and smokers, possibly abusing narcotics. Kim Jong Il’s consumption of Hennessey was legend. North Korea even has a semi-formal prostitution service – the ‘joy brigade’ – for its elites, presumably including the top leader. The Kims are the modern versions of the self-indulgent tyrants of antiquity, like Nero, living a lifestyle of gross over-indulgence. Not surprisingly, they have recurrent health issues.

But this does not mean that the state falls apart immediately. Presumably even North Korea, focused as it is on the ‘Sun-King,’ can muddle through on autopilot for at least a few months, a prediction I made before Kim Jong Un resurfaced this month. The Kims are the focus of global media attention, but there is a whole cluster of family, of retainers, flunkeys, high-ranking KPA (Korean People’s Army) and KWP (Korean Worker’s Party) officials deeply vested in the continuation of the Kim monarchy. If these figures did not turn on each other in a factional power-struggle after Kim Jong Il unexpectedly died in 2011 (which many of us expected), it was hard to see them doing so in these circumstances.

I’ve often thought a good analogy for North Korea is the mafia. North Korea engages in all sorts of illicit activities, from its well-known proliferation efforts to its less well-known meth operations and insurance fraud. The DPRK is what happens when the godfather and his cronies manage to take over a whole country; the Kims are the Korean version of the Corleones. In such a structure, all the top players are bound to each other by blood, shared knowledge of each other’s criminality, and desire to keep the lifestyle and money rolling in. In the same way the Corleone family survived the don’s near assassination and semi-retirement, so will the Kim gangster-ocracy. No one (in either family) wants the structure to fall apart, because they are all complicit in its awfulness and enjoying its rewards, so the incentives are huge to put the system on autopilot when el hefe is temporarily incapacitated.

2. The Media Over-focus on the Kims

Part of the problem must be the unique global media focus on the Kims, specifically the leader. In my experience with media as a commenter/talking head, I am routinely asked about the Kims themselves – their personal habits, their mental state, their absurdities (Kim Jong Il’s platform shoes and bouffant hair-style were favorites). The working assumption is often that they’re just ‘bonkers,’ as a Sky TV reporter asked me once.

But clearly no country with a large population can function without some manner of institutions tying the society together. And North Korea, in its own unique, gangster-ish way, has those. The most important are the army and the party (probably – we don’t really know), soldered together by the personal relationships of the extended Kim clan. It is a curiously feudal or patrimonial structure, especially for a state that, in its ideology, formally condemns feudalism as backward and reactionary. It is not ‘weberian’ or rational. It is massively economically dysfunctional; it led, for example, to the famine of the 1990s. For this reason political scientists often define the DPRK as fragile or brittle; it is regularly near the top of the Fund for Peace’ annual Failed State Index.

But North Korea has managed to survive far greater challenges and hurdles than many of us would have thought it could have overcome if asked, say, twenty or twenty-five years. Despite the death of Kim Il Sung, the cut-off of Soviet subsidies, the famines, the extreme isolation following the nuclear tests, the sudden death of Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un’s disturbing desire to party with Dennis Rodman, the regime lurches on. Clearly there is much more going on that just a sun-king monarchy, however relentless the media focus on the top leadership.

3. The Media enjoys the sheer Lunacy and Freedom to wildly speculate that North Korea opens up

Perhaps I watch too much media coverage of North Korea, but I am always struck by how ‘unplugged’ North Korea allows otherwise bland media networks and reporters to be. A year ago, wild unsubstantiated rumors circulated that Kim Jong Un’s uncle (Jang Song-Thaek) had been executed by wild dogs tearing him apart. This ‘story’ originated in some obscure Chinese paper but was quickly picked up by western media with little fact-checking. Almost certainly, the sheer luridness of it was appealing: North Korea is a black-hole; the boy-king is probably bonkers anyway; sure, why not run that story.

Similar media hype of North Korean kitschy ridiculousness can seen in the stories about its discovery of a unicorn. Once again, the story went viral (google it and see), probably for the sheer lunatic fun of reporting on North Korea. It’s almost like you can say anything. That must be fun in a way. Consider all those ‘Kim looking at things’ tumblrs (best one here). At some point, this is almost not really news anymore. It’s comedy. But they are actually really serious ethical issues about laughing over North Korea, a place where hundreds of thousands are executed or imprisoned in appalling conditions. Remember that next time you hear some gratuitously parodic depiction of North Korea.

Filed under: Korea (North), Media

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University


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Amazing Sunset View in Busan – Hwangnyeong Mountain

Tue, 2014-11-04 05:10
Amazing Sunset View in Busan – Hwangnyeong Mountain

One of the things I love about Korea, maybe my favorite thing, is that even after living here for more than 4 years, I can still find amazing places and new adventures in my own backyard. Korean people are very active, and unlike most Americans, they go out almost every weekend to explore their own country. I think this is awesome, and it makes me wish I did more exploring of my own back in the US! There’s still time for that though.

Last time I was in the US, I had to go alone. While I was gone, Evan did a lot of exploring with his new camera, looking for good places to take night pictures of Busan. After some reading online in photography groups, he drove to Hwangnyeongsan (황령산), near Geumyeonsan station in Busan. We’re not avid hikers, so it’s always nice when we find mountains we can drive up to for great views!

Waiting for sunset

Evan sent me excited messsages while I was away, claiming that he found this place with the best night views of Busan he’s ever seen. He sent me a picture of Gwanganli’s Diamond bridge from the top of the mountain, and I was in awe. We went back together soon after I returned to Korea, and again recently with our friends Meagan and Dave from the blog Life Outside of Texas. The amazing thing about the views from Hwangnyeongsan is that because it’s in the heart of Busan, you can see almost all of the major neighborhoods from the top. On this particular trip we arrived in time to catch the sunset, and I can honestly say it was the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen!

I don’t think a lot of people know about this hidden gem, so I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Busan. There are a few places to stop on the way up, with great views of Diamond Bridge, and the summit is relatively flat with a nice park. There were quite a few couples having romantic picnics the last time we were there, and it’s the perfect spot for it!

I’m so glad Evan found this place and that we were able to share it with friends. Now I hope you all go check it out, and if you’re not in Korea, go explore a new area wherever you are in the world! Then leave us a comment about your adventures!

How to get there:
There are lots of ways to get to the mountain, but I would suggest catching a taxi from Geumyeonsan station Line 2. If you walk, it should take a couple hours to get to the top. There are cafes, a few restaurants, and food trucks on the way.
Get more info. and view a map on the Visit Korea site!

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The colorful walk

Sun, 2014-11-02 09:29
The colorful walk It has been so weird in Seoul with the weather being so topsy-turvy. I am waking up to cold, frosty mornings and I end up being over dressed and sweating in the next few hours. Anyway, fall is here and there's a burst of color in Seoul!

SongPa county in South Seoul had organized a walk for charity and Samsung had promised to donate 1 won for every meter its employees walked. Taking this chance, S had registered for all 4 us for it. I was totally happy to participate as I wanted to finish my goal in my latest app S Health. Every day S Health wants me to take 10,000 steps and I am hardly able to cover half of it :(

Anyway, we took the taxi to Olympic park early on a Saturday, cursing the forecast of rain and clouds on this day. It took a good 15,000 won to reach the park. We at least could see some interesting sights on the way.
Lotte World Mall will become the tallest building in Seoul when it is completed. But unfortunately it is plunged in controversy because of the cracks on its floors So many interesting sculptures on the way to the Olympic park.The grand entrance to the Olympic park.

Fun Registration: Indian names are soo huge compared to the three syllabled Korean ones  :)
Fun programs before the walk included an energetic display of skipping rope by the boys
After watching the enthusiastic kids, we were all asked to do a bit of warm up before the walk. It was fun to exercise with so many people!
The park was looking all pretty in the fall the colors.Fall colors of the Olympic parkWe walked with a lot of people and it made it that much more fun!We walked over the bridge

brushing reeds
watching the local fauna
Walking through the tunnelGreeted by the volunteers with waterMaking sure we were on time!Cheered by some musicAfter 5km of good sights and chatting without interrupted by gadgets, we reached the starting point again, where we got some souvenirs for the walk. 

I made my 10,000 steps mark and even went to make my own record of 13,000 steps that day! What a fun Saturday!

 The colorful walk for Our world Tuesday

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Expat Longings

Wed, 2014-10-29 02:08
Expat Longings  

No matter how much you love a country, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was right when she said “There’s no place like home”. When you move away, you find new things you love, you make replacements and adjustments. But sometimes, you just want the real thing: a Mars Bar, some Nando’s chicken, your favourite magazine. And, most importantly, real English tea.

Then, there are the things you don’t even realise you like about home, until you’re not there and can’t have them anymore: the smell of going to a petrol station, turning on the radio and actually understanding what the people are talking about.

Here’s a (rather nostalgic) list of those things that, dare I say it, even a bowl of the best Bibimbap in Korea won’t cure. The little things from home that I miss…


Let’s start with the most important thing, and it’s a pretty predictable one- tea. It’s a mystery to me that even when you buy English Breakfast Tea, it never quite tastes the same as when you’re at home. Why is that? Is it because the milk is different? Well, that leads me onto my next point…




That horrible feeling you get when you go on holiday and the milk just doesn’t quite taste right? Imagine having that every day…do you get used to it? No, not really.





Tesco. Sainsburys. Waitrose. Having that comforting feeling of walking into a supermarket and knowing where everything is, what everything is, what brands are the best tasting, and more importantly, which to avoid.

Imagine our delight when we found Tesco Homeplus in Korea: packages that we recognise! Best thing ever.

Reserved People


I never thought of myself as particularly reserved, but it’s fair to say that since being out of England, I’ve probably lived up to the famous stereotype of ‘The Great British Reserve’. I like socialising, sure, but sometimes I miss the English way; polite small-talk is fine with people you’ve just met, thanks! There is definitely such a thing as too much information, as I’ve recently found out…



There’s nothing like a nice orderly queue, whether it’s standing in line at the bank, a supermarket, or to buy food at a football match. It just makes sense.

And also, queue-jumpers definitely deserve to be regarded as the lowest of the low.




Cadbury’s. Maltesers. Walkers Crisps. Magnums. The list could go on forever really.

Treat snacks from home cannot be beaten and we miss it alot. And no, Hershey’s is in no way a suitable replacement.



Comfort Food


There’s nothing better than a hearty, warming, filling meal. Sunday pub lunches with roast potatoes, gravy, Yorkshire puddings and stuffing. It pretty much cures anything.

What I’d give sometimes for a fish pie with mushy peas, or a good roast chicken with chips. Well, a girl can dream…

English Weather

Sini Merikallio Flickr,Wikimedia Commons

Ok, so we all moan about the weather, but you have to admit there’s something comforting about sitting by a roaring fire with the rain pounding down outside.

It’s not great of course when you’re caught in the middle of a rain storm with no umbrella, but still… it’s weird but true that you do end up missing it.


Sheep and Cows In Fields


This one might sound silly, but it’s true that going for drives just isn’t the same without endless fields full of animals.

Believe it or not, the highlight of going to a Beef Festival recently was to see some cows- I was honestly excited by the thought of it… Weird.



Asenine, Wikimedia Commons

Hearing the familiar tunes, recognising the faces and actually understanding what’s on the screen; it’s definitely something you start to miss.

Oh, and don’t underestimate the pride you feel when foreigners tell you how much they love the BBC…



Something that you take for granted- walking into a shop and actually knowing how much something costs, without having to do quick multiplications in your head.

‘So wait… 10,000 won is $10… which is £6?’ Pretty much guesswork. Let’s just hope I’ve been over-estimating my spending for the past 18 months…




And again, just because nothing says ‘home’ more than a cup of tea, does it? I know what the first thing I do when I get home will be: straight over to the kettle…

Ok, so it’s fair to say that there are also things which I definitely don’t miss: stupidly expensive transport, self-service machines which never work, having to pay 12% service charge in restaurants even if the service is bad… I could go on. And I know that when I’m back in England I’ll be moaning about the things which I miss from Korea.

I guess the saying in this case is true: ‘The grass is always greener’… in the other country.



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Sakhalin – You Are Not Forgotten

Tue, 2014-10-28 22:28
Sakhalin – You Are Not Forgotten Sakhalin Koreans, aka Сахалинские, корейцы or Корейцы, Сахалин

By Sea of Japan Map.png: Chris 73 derivative work: Phoenix7777 (This file was derived from: Sea of Japan Map.png) [CC-BY-SA-3.0],

Off the east coast of Russia, Sakhalin island houses roughly 55,000 Koreans; this island has gone from being under the Empire of Japan, the Soviets, and now a federal semi-presidential republic Russia.

Everyone has citizenship to at least one country and have documentation to prove it.  For Sakhalin-Koreans still residing on the island, they cannot officially call their citizenship to any country.

How Did We End Up Here?

After Japan acquired the southern half of Sakhalin through the Treaty of Portsmouth, semi-skilled workers were needed to harvest the newly discovered profitable island rich with coal, timber, and fish.

During WWII, many Koreans were forced into labor and a total of 140,000 Koreans were scattered throughout southern Sakhalin chopping wood and mining.

Korean Coalminers in Sahkhalin. Source: Japan Focus

Unfortunately, after the war was over, the southern part of Sakhalin, was quickly turned over to the Soviet Union, and consequently left Koreans stranded while 400,000 Japanese civilians were able to return to Japan.  In 1952, Japan officially announced that Koreans – 43,000 in counting – were not under Japanese citizenship, which made returning home to Korea impossible.  The few Koreans who did eventually return to South Korea definitely earned their right to be there.

Many had this idea that they would’ve been given the red carpet treatment under Soviet rule, so some made their way to Korsakov and other port cities of the island’s southern coast with no boat in sight.

A Mixing of Koreans

After the Soviets learned about the vast resources there, about 5,600 North Koreans were recruited to work in Sakhalin.  And a few years, the numbers peaked to about 12-13,000.

To add to the mix, in the 1940’s, communism was taught in classrooms and every child was to be indoctrinated.  However, Koreans that came under the rule of Japan and North Korea were being taught in Korean schools – and they couldn’t be trusted – so some 2000 communistic-Koreans from Central Asia (Russia) were transferred over to make sure children were being taught properly.

Also called the Koryo-saram, they spoke both Russian and Korean – read my previous article about them here – so the Soviets thought they would be perfect teachers to the Sakhalin-Koreans.

However, even though they were all technically Korean, there was unspoken tension amongst the Koryo-saram, the North Koreans, and the Sakhalin-Koreans.

Which Citizen Do You Want to Be?

There were sporadic opportunities to claim citizenship though unsuccessful and not favorable.

It reminds me of the Hunger Games when everyone’s lives were at stake and everything was random, except in this case, it was their citizenship at stake.

Source: hggirlonfire.com

In 1953, Koreans were given the opportunity to obtain Soviet citizenship, however, only about 25% of the people took the offer.

In the mid 1950s, Koreans were given a choice to take up North Korean citizenship, 65% claimed this one. The remaining 10% still chose to be stateless.

No political party and or country was paying any attention to these hardworking laborers and it seemed like they were going to be in citizenship-limbo forever.  But they were not forgotten.

Glimmering Hope

In 1966, Park No Hak, a Korean married to a Japanese woman living in Japan, started a movement to bring the Sakhalin Koreans back to South Korea.  He petitioned 23 times to the Japanese government, and got attention from the South Korean citizens.

Decades of ignorance finally crept up when about 500,000 voices from South Korea formed an organization to officially repatriate Sakhalin Koreans and broadcasted this message to those on the island.

What also aided in their return was through the works of Rei Mihara, a Japanese woman who formed a pressure group in Japan, along with 18 Japanese kickass lawyers who tried to sue the Japanese government.

The End Is Near

When Gobachaef came into power, many reforms led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and also brought back the 1st generation Koreans.

IMPORTANT: ‘1st generation’ are actually 2nd generation but listed arbitrarily as 1st, those born before 1945, and anyone born after this date were then labelled as the 2nd generation.

Limited to 1st generation, 2nd generation haven’t been granted the right so the issues are still remaining. Many 1st generation people have not gone back because that would mean leaving their child and or family behind.

Today, efforts to bring the remaining families back to South Korea still remains and Hae chul Chun, a politician, campaigned just that and very active in other areas of interest.  His twitter and facebook.

1990, Tao Nakayama issued an official apology and helped with the housing project in 2002 where the Sakhalin Koreans now reside in Ansan, South Korea.

To add to the bright note, Sakhalin Koreans can make a trip to South Korea in the meantime under the Japanese government’s expense $1.2 million dollars a year. About $5 million was spent building the Korean cultural center (корейский культурный центр).

Source: vk.com/club1227321

Here’s a short documentary about the history of these people and a campaign if you’d like to get involved.

Fun Fact

Sakhalin Korean writing is of the North Korean standard, while spoken Korean is from Jeolla & Gyeongsang dialects (South Korea).

Liberation Day of Korea from Japanese colonialism is celebrated every year on this island and this year marks the 69th anniversary.  See this event captured on the sakhalinmedia.ru.

End Off

In conclusion, there’s been a lot of neglect in regards to these people which can make you think what other groups out there exist today that are facing the same political duress and waiting for that sweet day to return to their country.

Here are some articles that I used to obtain this information: Korea.stripes, NY Times, Wikipedia

And if you couldn’t get enough of the read, here’s a thorough examination of the history of Sakhalin Koreans.

So what do you think about all this ?  Let us know your response below !


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Lessons For The Teacher- What We Learnt To Expect When Teaching In Korea

Wed, 2014-10-22 06:45
Lessons For The Teacher- What We Learnt To Expect When Teaching In Kor

We came to Korea to be teachers, to help children to learn. Turns out that working as an English teacher in Korea has taught us a lot of things too: lessons in leading, discipline, understanding and eternal patience (ok, still working on that last one…). And, we’ve learnt that school in Korea is completely different than in England; would you ask about a teacher’s relationship status in the UK? Most probably not. In Korea? It’s one of the first questions you’re asked (and repeatedly asked again, and again, and again).

So travelling across the world to teach is a learning curve, to say the least. Here are some of the things that I’ve come to expect as a teacher working in Korea:

Everyone Says Hello

You simply cannot walk down the corridor without being bombarded by greetings from students at every turn. It was quite a shock at the start, although a nice one, of course. Waving, children calling your name, sometimes even giving you a hug. So this is what it feels like to be a celebrity…

Inappropriate Questions

“Teacher, do you have a boyfriend?” “Teacher, do you live with your boyfriend?” “Teacher, why aren’t you married?” “Teacher, how old are you?” If I had ever asked a teacher their age, I think I would have received detention or at the very least a good telling-off.

And I don’t really mind the personal questions, but it’s a bit disruptive when you’re answer that  “yes, I have a boyfriend”, causes about 10 minutes of giggling from your class full of embarrassed teenagers.

Students Being In Awe 


You’d think that the students would be used to Westerners, having been taught by them for years. But still, they are continually amazed by a Westerner’s appearance. If you walk past students who haven’t seen you before at a neighbouring school, their stares are as incredulous (and sometimes as scared) as if you had just arriveded from another planet. Seriously.

The most common feature which leaves the students awestruck? Height: if the male teachers are 6 foot or above, they are regarded with such amazement it’s as if they’re some kind of freakish giant.

K Pop Rules All


I guess working with teenagers, you’re going to expect adolescent obsessions whatever country you’re in. But the love for K Pop really is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. All I need to do is say the word ‘EXO’ in class, and the screams are so loud you’d think that the Pop Band had actually appeared in my class. K Pop pencil cases, wallets, mirrors, photos, folders, makeshift tattoos… Korean schools are definitely in the midst of K Pop mania.

Exams Will Cause All Kinds Of Stress

Exams are a stressful time for anyone, but in Korea it’s a new extreme: students crying in the hallways, accosting their teachers to find out why they lost one mark in their test. And a day of total depression the day the results come out; every student you ask “How did you do”, you’re answered with a tearful “Not good.” Surely everyone can’t fail? Well, it sure seems like it here.

The worst I’ve seen was a student in our office for 2 hours, crying over one mark in her English test; she only finally left because it was time to go home. And no, she didn’t get the extra mark in the end either.

The Parents Are Very Involved

For this reason, I’m very glad I don’t speak Korean. Parents will text and call teachers, come into the school, and again it’s usually to argue over their child’s exam score or because they’ve been put in bottom set. One of our co-teachers was called until 11 pm by parents during exam time; she is a better person than me… I think I would have changed my number! Oh, and then there’s the parent who came into our office and cried over her daughter’s exam score for an hour… which really made it quite awkward for everyone in the room.

Sleeping In Class


So when I was at school, anyone who dared to sleep in class would be thought of as a proper rebel. In Korea, it’s pretty weird if you get through a class without someone falling asleep (or trying to at any rate). I guess the reason for this is the long days they have studying, as I discussed in my Korean Education post.

Still, it would be nice if I didn’t have to spend half my time prodding students awake when it’s all become to much for them. And the individuals who decide to bring along a blanket and cushion to class to make themselves comfortable? That’s really just taking things too far!

The Students Have Power Over Teachers

It’s normal for teachers to write reports and evaluations for students. But in Korea, the students can get-their-own-back by writing reports on the teachers. That little terror who always disrupts class and I’m always telling off? Well, he’s going to give me a bad rating for sure!

If only I could have done the same when I was in school; some teachers would definitely have felt my wrath…

Boys and Girls Do Not Mix

I thought the ‘boys and girls hate each other’ phase was usually over when children become teenagers. Apparently not. A minority of boys and girls and friends, but the majority of students? No such luck. Sometimes if I ask a boy and girl to sit next to each other, or, even worse, work together, I’m greeted with looks of such surprise and worry you’d think I’d suggested they get married.

The one time in my class when the students found out that one boy fancied someone, there was such uproar that I couldn’t calm them down for fifteen minutes. True story. Which leads me on to my next point…

No Kissing. Ever.


Ok, I’m not suggesting that students should be getting up to mischief in school by any means. What I’m talking about is how students can’t even talk about kissing, let alone see someone kissing on TV or in a movie. Before I knew this,I showed Taylor Swift’s ‘You Belong With Me’ music video in class. When Taylor kissed someone at the end… well, the reaction was the same as if I’d shown something on an X Rated Movie Channel.

I just hoped I hadn’t scarred them for life. I felt as guilty as a parent telling their child that Father Christmas isn’t real, making my students lose their innocence. Bad move me.

Students Want Your Food And Drink

Another type of inappropriate questions which the students ask: “Teacher, can I have some of your water?” “Ooh teacher, your lunch looks delicious, can I eat some?” Um… no… you cannot get your germs on my water bottle, and you cannot eat the lunch I prepared; get your own!

Giving Food = Undying Love


This is the last, and most important thing I’ve learnt while teaching in Korea. Food is the best reward you can give, and will earn you top teacher points among students.

If only I’d known this at the start. Food is the answer to everything: a bribe to make the children work, a reward for the hard-workers. All you need to do to get a student to profess their adoring love for you is to give them a piece of chocolate. Works every time. Well, you live and you learn…


Filed under: Korea, Living


Kathryn's Living

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Glamping Under the Stars at Raventree in Gapyeong

Mon, 2014-10-20 10:46
Glamping Under the Stars at Raventree in Gapyeong Fall has officially arrived in Korea. The season may not be the longest, but it is, without a doubt, the most beautiful. The country's autumn colors, crisp air and cool temperatures beckon its inhabitants to don their sweaters and head outdoors for festivals, mountain hikes and danpoong noryi, excursions to see the fall foliage. Yet there is one autumn activity that has particularly taken off in Korea in recent years that sets itself apart from every other seasonal activity -- glamping.

Although camping has always been popular, with campsites often booked months in advance, glamping (or glamorous camping) offers a bit of luxury to those seeking to get the full experience of the great outdoors without sacrificing any creature comforts of civilization.

Raventree in Gappyeong, located just a forty minute's drive from Gangnam, is not only the most conveniently located glamping site in Korea, but is also one of the most beautiful. A couple weeks ago, a friend and I packed our bags and made our way out to the rolling landscapes of Gyeonggi Province. Thanks to her GPS, the site was easy to find, and offered a scenic route which conveniently passed by some tasty restaurants and snack stalls, as the glamping anticipation worked up our appetites.

Upon arrival, our eyes widened at the site of the campground's lavish tents, arranged in a neat semi-circle and perched on the side of a mountain overlooking a picturesque valley. Unable to contain our excitement, we jumped out the car and were quickly welcomed by the friendly manager of the campground who escorted us to our home for the evening. We wasted no time in exploring our two-story tent, an incredible shelter unlike any I had seen before.

In the lower level of this two-story tent was a kitchen and living area that extends out onto the wooden deck. Equipped with a mini-fridge, a hot plate, cutlery, plates, pots and pans, the room offers everything one might need to prepare a hot bowl of ramen, a simple camping meal or a feast (as we would later learn many visitors opt for). The sleeping area upstairs is accessed via a ladder and is completely screened in, so as to keep out bugs. Additionally, it is fairly spacious and easily fits two people very comfortably, but is also big enough for a family with two small children.

We took a walk around the site, which boasts a nice pond, a playground, shower facilities, a dish-washing station, a convenience store that sells snacks, drinks and basic camping necessities, and the quintessential karaoke machine. (This is Korea, after all.)

The sun began to set on the campground and as clusters of constellations and a full moon claimed the crystal clear skies, the friendly manager stopped by our tent with plenty of firewood (that he would refill throughout the evening) to help us start up a fire in the raised pit on our deck. He also delivered the Raventree BBQ Glamping Combo that we ordered ahead of time for an additional cost. Packed in our set was a tasty variety of pork, sausage, shrimp, veggies, kimchi and condiments. We got right to grilling and inhaled lettuce wraps of barbecue goodness and slurped down cold beer. It was all very good but my friend and I agreed that bringing our own food on the next visit would be far more economical.

I had intentionally made the reservation for this particular night, as I knew there would be a full moon, but to to our surprise, a lunar eclipse also took place. Families gathered together after dinner to marvel at the spectacular site, one that I am sure wouldn't have been as nearly as impressive in the city.

Just as we finished up another round of beers, an American gentleman invited my friend and I to join his gumbo party a few tents down. Not ones to turn down gumbo, we joined the feast that was already well under way. The group had packed all sorts of treats and were quick to share as we exchanged travel stories and playlist recommendations. It never ceases to amaze me that despite being out in the middle of nowhere, there are always new friends to be made and laughs to be had.

Unlike most campsites in Korea, Raventree was occupied by families and couples rather than the rowdy groups of intoxicated ajusshi (old men) that tend to shout and blare trot music all through the night. With this added sense of calm, my friend and I had no problem falling right to sleep. Additionally, despite the frigid temperatures, the heated mats under our pallets kept us cozy. From the beginning of November, heaters are installed in the lower level of the tents to provide extra warmth, making camping in the winter not only possible, but also enjoyable.

I woke to a view of misty mountains in the morning and after whipping up a mug of hot cocoa, bundled up and did a bit of reading on the deck, a last attempt to enjoy the great outdoors before check-out.

Sure, a stay at Raventree isn't exactly roughing it and some might even consider it a bit too pricey for a night out in the middle of nowhere. However, I could equate our stay to that of one in a decent hotel, but with the added benefit of good service, friendly neighbors, fresh air, incredible surroundings and a memorable experience that only the nature of the Korean countryside can offer.

More Information: Raventree

Address: 10 Wegoklee Seorak-myeon Gaypeong Gyunggi-do (경기도 가평군 설악면 위곡리 10)
Phone Number: +82 2-1688-8614
Price: Tents 165,000 won/ night (Sun-Thurs); 177,000 won/ night (Friday); 198,000 won/ night (Saturday, holidays); Premium BBQ Combo Set (2 people) 98,000 won
Check-in: 3pm
Check-out: 12pm
Reservations: By the Raventree website (Korean), Glamping.com (English) or by e-mail at raventree@naver.com (English)
Facebook: Click Here
Get There: Take bus number 7000 from Exit 9 of Jamsil Station (Subway Line 2 or 8) to Seorak-myeon (설악면) (4,000 won). The bus runs every hour and the travel time is about 40 minutes. After arriving at Seorak-myeon, take a taxi to Raventree (about 8,000 won).

Disclaimer: Although Raventree provided accommodations free of charge in return for this post, the opinions are, of course, my own.

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

Seoul Searching

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Korean Beauty Standards: Another Pressure Point

Sat, 2014-10-18 05:14
Korean Beauty Standards: Another Pressure Point blog.asiatown.net

Working in a middle school full of adolescent girls is like being transported back in time to a teenage world of worries, insecurities, and an ever-present wish to change pretty much everything about yourself- hair, skin, body- in fact, if you look for it, you can pretty much find fault with anything, and that’s exactly what teenagers do.

It’s true that on the surface, Korean girls don’t appear as obsessed by their looks as Western girls; they don’t wear any make-up until high school (and even then wear a minimal amount), they don’t wear a lot of jewellery, no hitched-up skirts or high heels, and the ponytail is the only hairstyle I see. However, underneath the surface, these girls have far more disdain for their appearance, and it’s only when talking to them that you realise how incredibly low their self-esteem actually is.

Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Myrick, via Wikimedia Commons

The way the word ‘ugly’ is thrown around is shocking; it’s a word only really used in England as an insult or as an extreme, and definitely not a word used normally to describe people. In  my opinion, it’s a word which shouldn’t be used at all due to its overwhelmingly negative connotations.

What’s even stranger is the girls’ treatment of other people, especially that of their friends. Here are just a few of the things my students have said about their friends. Oh, and not in a bitchy, behind-their-back way: this is said to their friend’s face:

“Her cheeks are like an apple, they’re so red from pimples.”

“She is quite ugly. She has a square face.”

“She is not pretty and has thick legs.”

It’s so weird to see friends talking about one another in this way, when for me, it’s always been girl code to automatically support your friends when they’re feeling down about themselves: “You’re not ugly”, “No-one can notice the spot on your chin”, “Of course you haven’t put on weight”.

The fact that friends are so quick and happy to insult, and to receive insults from each other without any offence just demonstrates how low their self-esteem actually is; it’s normal for them to be called ‘ugly’ and to accept this as fact, because they believe it.


With such bad views of themselves and how openly they discuss their ‘bad’ looks, it’s no surprise that plastic surgery levels are sky high. According to reports, ‘1 in 77 people’ now have surgery to change their appearance, and ‘20% of women aged 19 to 49 in Seoul admit to going under the knife’. Double eyelid surgery is increasingly popular and is something many of my students have expressed their desire to get done when they’re older. when I see double-eyelid tape and glue in CU convenience stores, it reminds me how the pressure for girls to change their looks is everywhere. 

Of course, the K Pop girls don’t do anything to boost confidence among teenagers- they actually have the opposite effect, and make the girls feel even more inadequate. One K Pop star admitted that she had so much plastic surgery, people no longer recognised her. Pop Dust website also describes how the stars no longer care about keeping their surgery a secret; one girl group, Brown Eyed Girls sang a parody of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’, called ‘Plastic Face’. Is this a good message to send to impressionable young girls? I think not.


When photos of the 2013 Miss Korea Beauty Pageant finalists were made public, they were criticised by many people who thought the girls had undergone so much surgery that they all looked the same. The desire for surgery was blamed on the desire to look more Western.

Even without resorting to surgery, I’ve witnessed many older girls wearing a lot of make-up, especially eye make-up, to try and look more like the ‘pretty’ girls on TV. Of course, it isn’t just in Korea that celebrities and the media have a damaging effect, it happens everywhere: extreme diets, changing of hair colour, make-up experimentation, fake tans… people trying to transform into someone else. But in Korea, it seems more extreme, perhaps because everyone wants to look the same. This results, as was made clear with the 2013 beauty pageant, in a group of beautiful clones with minimal individuality.


I know that for teenage years, and for many years after, women all over the world use make-up, endless hair and beauty products, and go on fad diets to achieve some sort of ideal. But I feel like pressure on Korea girls is so much worse, and it’s worrying. It seems like all societal expectations of the Western World are magnified in Korea; school pressure is ten-times worse, the pressure on women to find and marry a ‘suitable’ man, and in the same way, the pressure to look good seems so much more extreme than in other countries.

My question (and worry) is ‘when will it stop?’ A lot of Koreans face too much stress in their lives as it is, and beauty is one pressure point too much. Instead of trying to alter their looks, girls should accept who they are and not view themselves with such harsh negativity. I want to shake sense into my students sometimes, to stop them being so down on themselves and make them believe that they are in no way ugly. Teenage years are for having fun, for being with friends and family- not for worrying that you don’t look the same as the celebrities. In fact, I wish I could go back in time and tell my teenage self the same thing… well, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Why South Korean High Schoolers Want Plastic Surgery? Check out their answers here.

Filed under: Beauty, Korea, Living


Kathryn's Living

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In Ulsan (Cups Song – South KoREMIX)

Thu, 2014-10-16 14:23
In Ulsan (Cups Song – South KoREMIX)

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: my most advanced first year high school students singing a revised version of the Cup Song from Pitch Perfect! Enjoy!

So, what do all the references in the song mean? Well, I’ll tell you! Ulsan is the city where my school resides. T-money is a type of “currency” used to travel all around Korea (it’s mostly used for intracity buses and subways, but it’s accepted by taxis too). Soju is the most popular adult beverage in Korea (*disclaimer* I don’t condone under-age drinking. The original song mentions bottles of whiskey, so I changed the lyric to the Korean equivalent, that’s all!). Nam-gu is home to the new downtown area of Ulsan (a “gu” is a district or neighborhood). In Nam-gu you’ll find outlet malls, department stores, movie theatres and restaurants. Dong-gu is the coastal area of Ulsan. There you can go to Ilsan beach, take in the ship yards, and stroll through scenic Daewangam Park! “Munsu” is short for Munsu soccer stadium, which is named after nearby Munsu Mountain. Grand Park is one of two main parks in Ulsan where you can enjoy the outdoors without actually leaving the city (additional mini-parks and bike paths are all over the city too, especially along the Taewha River). And lastly, true to the original song, Ulsan is surrounded by mountains (the gorgeous Yeongnam Alps are only a short bus ride away) and the mighty Taewha River runs right through the city!

I had an absolute blast working on this project with my students, and I think they liked it too!


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by Dr. Radut