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Should the US Retrench from South Korea, part 1: Yes

Mon, 2014-09-01 04:29
Should the US Retrench from South Korea, part 1: Yes

This is a re-up of a debate couplet on the US position in South Korea, which I wrote for the Lowy Institute. Part one, the reasons for US retrenchment, is here (and below); part 2, the arguments against a US departure, is here. And that pic is me and my North Korean minder at the North Korea side of the DMZ. Note the KWP pin above his breast pocket.

Whether the US should stay or go is a perennial issue, that surprisingly, doesn’t get discussed much. This is probably because if you really supported a US withdrawal, you would not be taken seriously in much of US or Korean foreign policy establishments. US foreign policy is dominated by a hawkish, interventionist consensus of neocons and liberal internationalists for whom the US positions in Japan and Korea have become ends in themselves as symbols of US hegemony (in neocon-speak, that’s read as: ‘global basing means we’re f****** awesome!’). In tandem, the Korean discussion, for all its lazy anti-Americanism, assumes a permanent American presence to the point of irresponsibility. But all this misses the real hole at the center – the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the North Korean conventional threat (and before you say, ‘heh wait, they could blow up Seoul,’ recall that South Korea easily has the resources to ramp up in a big way; it just doesn’t do it).

The essay starts after the jump:


“Over at War on the Rocks, Christopher Lee, a former officer in the US Forces Korea (USFK), and Tom Nichols of the US Naval War College, have gotten into a useful debate on whether US forces should remain in Korea. This issue is not widely discussed – surprisingly, given the end of the Cold War and the huge margin of advantage in South Korea’s favor. Although I have taught international relations in South Korea for six years, this idea is almost never mooted in academia or the media here, so I applaud War on the Rocks for broaching it. But I think Lee and Tom (full disclosure: Tom Nichols and I are friends) have missed the strongest arguments for a pull-out. Specifically, I think Lee understates his case and Tom will have to work harder to justify staying – although I think it can be done. Today, I want to lay out a more robust case for departure; tomorrow I will lay out the counterargument. In brief, I think that the case for staying just barely clears the bar and that the tide is running against it.

Why could/should the US leave South Korea:

1. South Korea is free-riding. It only ‘needs’ the US, because it is doing less than it would otherwise.

Free-riding is controversial issue, one that has bedeviled all US alliances for many decades. An entire literature within international relations is built around the curious dynamics, such as ‘buck-passing’ or ‘reckless driving,’ that characterize allies’ efforts to shift burdens to other allies, or tie others unwittingly to their own national preferences. The most acute free-riding problem in the US alliance structure is in Europe. NATO informally benchmarks 2% of GDP as a minimum for members’ defense spending. Yet only four NATO states break that marker. This has systematically crippled NATO, forcing the US to take the lead on should-be-European contingencies such as the Balkans wars, Libya, and the Ukraine. Japan is even worse at less than one percent of GDP.

By contrast, South Korea spends 2.6% of GDP on defense. This sounds better, but unfortunately is far from enough given its security environment – the massive garrison state of North Korea sitting right on top of it. There is no formal spending target – USFK places no such demand on Seoul – but the number I hear widely thrown around is that without the US, South Korea would spend two or three times as much as it does on defense now. Every foreign security analyst I know in Korea thinks the RoK needs to spend a great deal more: South Korea has significantly under-invested in C4ISR, missile defense, and counter-insurgency tactics. It is woefully under-prepared to occupy North Korea. It does not draft women, despite a declining birth-rate that is leading to a major shrinkage in the ground force. With a GDP twenty-five to thirty times that of North Korea, and a population more than twice as large, South Korea has the room to make a far greater effort. Where Lee and Nichols spar over the small amount of money the US contributes to Southern defense, the real issue is getting South Korea to take its own defense far more seriously.

2. The US presence in Korea (and Japan) discourages Japan-South Korea rapprochement.

I have written about this issue several times (here and here). In brief, the US alliance almost certainly inhibits much needed cooperation between Japan and Korea on regional issues, most obviously China and North Korea. Specifically, the US alliance permits ‘moral hazard’ in both: neither Tokyo nor Seoul suffer any consequences for ridiculous criticisms of the other, because the US insures them both against the consequences. Hence Japan, and Korea especially, focus far too much attention on each other, and not nearly enough on the real regional threats. There is a great deal of agonizing in the US over how to get these two allies to bury the hatchet and start working together, but no one wants to admit the obvious solution – a genuine threat of abandonment. Hawks will disagree, and there are indeed downsides to abandonment, but let’s stop pretending that US regional alliances don’t have costs, such as this, either.

3. USFK’s presence ideologically props up North Korea.

One point that neither Lee nor Tom brought up is the obvious propaganda boon to North Korea of the US peninsular presence. Overlooking this is not uncommon. Most researchers on the North tend to assume that its ideology is a lot of empty talk, bunk to fill the airwaves, demonize Seoul, and so on. It is just a smokescreen over a degenerate, gangster-ocracy whose real ‘ideology’ is living the high life and hanging onto power by any means necessary. While the elite’s emptiness and cynicism is certainly clear, I think this is too easy. My own sense though – perhaps from having visited North Korea and been bombarded relentlessly there with ideology – is that ideology is actually very important. North Koreans are expected to attend ideology training ‘classes’ at least once a week, and more often for officials and higher-ups. The (North) Korean Central News Agency and the three newspapers of Pyongyang exert tremendous ‘intellectual’ effort on ideological reinforcement. The focus of that ideology, particularly since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism, is anti-colonial nationalism, in which the United States has taken the place of the Japanese invader, and South Korea is the bastardized, globalized ‘Yankee Colony.’ An imminent American invasion symbolized by USFK is the primacy explanation of the regime to its people for their privation and the permanent national security emergency. Take that justification away, and North Korea loses its primary raison d’etre. If South Korea is no longer ‘occupied,’ then why does North Korea need to exist at all?

4. USFK’s persistence keeps China from cutting North Korea loose, which would accelerate Pyongyang’s collapse.

In the same way that USFK perversely acts as an ideological crutch for Pyongyang, so does it act as a reason for Beijing to endlessly prevaricate on North Korean bad behavior and unification. China is formally committed to Korean unification, but in practice this is a lie. Instead, the Chinese openly refer to North Korea as a ‘buffer’ between them and the robust democracies of South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Personally, I detest this logic; it suggests a breath-taking cynicism about the catastrophic human rights condition of North Korea. That China would callously instrumentalize a state that the UN recently likened to Nazi Germany is just appalling (and goes a long way to explaining way so few in Asia trust China). But that is the situation. However, were the US to retrench from South Korea, the Chinese fear of USFK on its doorstep would be alleviated. Indeed, South Korea could swap a USFK exit plus a promise of post-unification neutrality for a Chinese cut-off of aid to North Korea and pressure for unification. Hawks in the US and South Korea might not like that, but alleviating the extraordinary suffering of the North Koreans should be our primary goal here. If a USFK departure, tied to a major Chinese policy shift, could bring that about, it should be considered.

5. US is not an empire. Where it can retrench, it should. Commitments should not last indefinitely.

This is an openly normative argument. If one embraces a full-throated version of US hegemony – militarized, globalized, interventionist – then this will not appeal. But post-Iraq, there is clear public desire to rein in American interventions, and the normative case for restraint, on liberal democratic grounds, is strong. The costs of hegemony – not just financial, but the regular war-making and killing of foreigners; a sprawling, hugely intrusive national security state; domestic nativism; torture, indefinite detention, rendition, and similar penal abuses – suggest that retrenchment would be good for American democracy and liberalism. Allies may not like that. They will complain of abandonment. But sacrificing America’s liberal ideals at home to promote them abroad is strange brew. It is increasingly obvious that hegemony abroad is deleterious to American liberalism at home. Where allies can stand on their own, as South Korea very obviously can, US retrenchment would be domestically healthy.”

Filed under: Hegemony, Korea (North), Korea (South), United States

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


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Seoul's Video Game Alley

Mon, 2014-09-01 02:11
Seoul's Video Game Alley in

Attention Gamers: IF you haven’t been to Video Game Alley yet- RUN THERE! Game consoles from every generation and games can be found here!

Happy Market Monday! We’re back after a month of travel (videos and posts coming soon)!! Yesterday I headed back to the Electronics Market in Yongsan to purchase a card reader. Before heading that way I stopped in at a friends house. His beloved Xbox 360 had just stopped working so we decided to check out Video Game Alley and see if we could find him a new power brick. The unfortunate state of his Xbox lead us to explore another interesting specialty market in Seoul!


Many Games to choose from at Video Game Alley

Video Game Alley is located directly past the electronics market. If you walk through the tunnel continue straight. You will see a giant PlayStation poster on your left hand side. Directly underneath it are some stairs with a red sign. Walk in and the down to the basement.


Nearly every gaming console that has ever been in existence can be found in the Alley with hundreds of games and accessories. I relived my childhood as I found a TV hooked up with Super Nintendo and played a few levels of Mario Brothers while a girl next to me used the gun accessory to play duck hunt.

Seoul, Korea


We were instantly able to find the Power Brick, along with several other models for other Xbox 360s, that we needed. The vendor that sold it to us was very helpful. Prior to coming we took a picture of the label and he made sure that the voltage was correct and it was the exact power cord we needed. The vendor was able to read our picture to determine the precise model required.


They also sold a number of bargain bin xbox 360/playstation games, including recent releases for only 9,800 won. Xbox 1 releases in Korea next month.


If you are into Video games I highly recommend making this trip!


Directions: Sinyongsan Station (Exit 5)

Walk straight through the underground tunnel, just to the north of Ipark Mall.

50m past the tunnel you will see a giant PlayStation billboard on your left.

Look for the Red sign underneath and go down the stairs into Video Game Alley


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ELT Live - 'Start of the Semester - University Edition'

Fri, 2014-08-29 05:35
ELT  Live Webcast
'Start  of the Semester - University Edition'
August 28, 2014A Group of University Instructors in Korea 'hangout' and discuss our approaches to the first week or two of classes and what projects and goals we're working on for this coming semester. 


Links Mentioned

Next Show: Tuesday, September 2, 2014  8pmKST, 1100GMT Global Times
Event Pages: Google+  
Topic: Hows, Whats, and Whys (or why nots) of class websites and other online resources.  

Chat Log Below


 jefflebow We'll be starting soon... Stay tuned.  Gast 317   Hi to all from an Englishman in North Germany.  Sung Hee Lim   hello~~~^^ Sung Hee Lim   welcome to ELT Live, Gast 317  Gast 317   Thanks! Gast 317 = Dennis (Newson) Osnabrueck, Germany. jefflebow Dennis, can you hear the audio? Gast 317   Very clearly. Daniel Cross   I'm now following through chat, I'm a bit too distracted to keep up with the cam  Daniel Cross   Why am i undefined Robert Dickey   Rob Dickey is watching... Daniel Cross   Why am i undefined  Daniel Cross   there we go  Nina Liakos   Hello all from Maryland, USA  Daniel Cross   Hi nina  Nina Liakos   That's a lot of preps!  jefflebow Hello Nina jefflebow and Rob Nina Liakos   Tuesday morning for us in Maryland, because of Labor Day. Daniel Cross   What apps or tools are you using for the flipping? Nina Liakos   Hi Jeff! Gast 317   Hi, Nina. Nina Liakos   I always start out with diagnostics, because I have to, and housekeeping tasks like student information sheet, syllabus, and of course some kind of icebreaker. Daniel Craig   Daniel Cross, I've used a few different screencast utilities: Present.me has been my favorite so far in terms of quality, features, and ease.   Nina Liakos   I just read back in the chat and realized Gast is Dennis Newson. Hi Dennis!   Daniel Craig   Nina, I like diagnostics for my writing and listening classes. As much for me as for them.   Nina Liakos   @Daniel, yes, plus we need to make sure students have been placed correctly into the right level.   Daniel Cross   I give them 10 answers about myself and they work in partners to think of the questions   Daniel Craig   For me, it wouldn't really matter in terms of placement. I have to work with whoever comes to class :-) However, I could advise them to go elsewhere.   Nina Liakos   I like the idea of providing answers to the questions. Students always struggle with question formation.   Daniel Cross   ex. Then they interview each other with those questions   Nina Liakos   :-)   Gast 317   My wife always loved grouping people into what position they hada in their families - oldest, younger brother , only child etc.   Robert Dickey   fatherhood duties call. enjoy folks... Nina Liakos   In writing, so they can't claim you never told them. Nina Liakos   Give them an inch and they take a mile. True all opver the world, I suspect.  jefflebow  Doctopus Nina Liakos   Are there expectations that American teachers have which Korean teachers do not have, or vice versa? How do you deal with this, as a teacher from the "target culture" in the students' educational culture? Nina Liakos   How do you spell that--doctopus? How do you find it?   Nina Liakos   Actually I use Canvas here at UMD   Nina Liakos   What kind of picture file did they use?   Nina Liakos   I have had a lot of problems with adding timed handwritten essays to electronic portfolios.   James Buckingham   cowchat?   Nina Liakos   kakaochat?   jefflebow Kakao
  jefflebow http://www.kakao.com/services/8
  James Buckingham   Thanks Jeff   Daniel Craig   Sorry, yes. Doctopus. Go to a Google Doc and go to Add-ons for find and install it.   Nina Liakos   Do you train your Korean students to participate orally, or do you adjust your expectations?   James Buckingham   Have you used Doctopus Dan? What's the chief advantage...   Daniel Craig   The pictures worked really well. Zero complaints about that. I didn't have a lot of other complaints :-)   Nina Liakos   Thanks   Daniel Craig   Document management   Nina Liakos   I have heard that Korean (Asian, actually) students do not want to make a mistake publically Nina Liakos   whereas here we tend to think of mistakes as how you learn Nina Liakos   Some of my students are reluctant to open accounts with google, and although I use google everywhere I certainly sympathize with their desire to remain off google's grid James Buckingham   I agree Nina... jefflebow  http://powtoon.com  Rob Whyte   Jeff, any sense of what % your students use your quizzler vocab review files? Daniel Craig   Jeff, I like the animation sites as well. brian dean   Any thoughts on Socrative? Daniel Craig   Nina, I struggled with the Google monster a little, but I decided that it was something I was willing to have them do. Daniel Craig   Brian, I was just going to write about that.   Daniel Craig   My students have really liked Socrative both in terms of using as a student and as a teacher   brian dean   It has been good but little more than a game - not every student was able to connect - some had phones with low batteries...   James Buckingham   would like to learn more about it .. but more from the point of view of the data it collects on students ...   jefflebow http://socrative.com/   brian dean   I use it mostly to test comprehension - I post the questions on my powerpoint slides.   Nina Liakos   Low-tech way to do this: have students hold up cards with A, B, C, or D on them (front only so students are not influenced by others' choices)   Nina Liakos   Confession: I do not have a smart phone.   James Buckingham   the really power of these apps (i.e. Socrative) lies in the data collection.. error analysis   James Buckingham   ... that can be used to check a class' general understanding of a question or set of questions   Daniel Craig   Apps like Socrative are great for quick and dirty assessment. Best for anonymous assessment   jefflebow (Admin) If anyone would like to join the hangout, we're at:https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/hoaevent/AP36tYcgbDfqF5-yrOBBumg2hBJz0Upx2lBFDU9kTpYQCWPIA1_OeQ?authuser=0&hl=en

Remember to mute the Youtube stream before joining.   James Buckingham   Apparently the data collection is there and with some depth. 
From the Socrative site.. http://socrative.com/features.php
Review student understanding in a variety of report types: whole class overview, student specific results or question by question breakdown. All the reports can be downloaded, emailed or delivered to your google drive folder at any time. They are always accessible in your Reports section.   jefflebow http://www.kamall.or.kr/?r=Eng   James Buckingham   ... must be off. Wish I could have come sooner .. and could stay longer. Many thanks for sharing.   jefflebow (Admin) Thanks for stopping by James   Daniel Craig   by James. Thanks for your input   Nina Liakos   That must have been an awesome experience for those students!   Nina Liakos   Thank you for inviting me. I've enjoyed listening in and commenting.   Nina Liakos   Have a great fall semester!   brian dean   Thanks for doing this, Jeff.   Daniel Craig   Thanks for your participation Nina. Nice to (virtually) meet you :-)   Daniel Craig   Take care, Brian.   Daniel Craig   Thanks, Jeff. It was fun.   brian dean   Remember all that the international conference is crazy early this year - Oct 3 or 4 to 5. KOTESOL, that is.   brian dean   You too, Dan.   Nina Liakos   8 am EDT   Nina Liakos   How often are you planning to do this?   Nina Liakos   Thanks, Jeff and all   Nina Liakos   Bye!   jefflebowThanks very much everyone!   



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Sampling Seoul: A Night Dining Tour with O'ngo Food Communications

Fri, 2014-08-29 01:24
Sampling Seoul: A Night Dining Tour with O'ngo Food Communications Korean cuisine, much like the country's people, is vibrant, flavorful, eclectic and packs a lot of punch. It's so diverse that it would take years to try each banchan (side dish), variety of kimchi (there's over 200!) and regional and seasonal specialty. Fortunately for gastronomes eager to sample Korea's tastiest cuisine in a limited amount of time, O'ngo Food Communications offers a number of food tours that take all the guesswork out of the search for the country's best restaurants.

This week, I joined O'ngo on their highly popular Korean Night Dining Tour, an activity that consistently ranks in the top 5 list of things to do in Seoul on TripAdvisor.  After meeting my tour mates- a diverse group of friendly Singaporeans, Germans and Australians- and our enthusiastic local guide Gemma, we hit the streets of Jongno with our mouths watering and our bellies growling.
From the get go, Gemma gave us fun tidbits about the landmarks we passed and the streets we wandered, including Galmaegisal-gil, the first stop on our tour. This street, a cramped alley of tiny restaurants, smoking grills and boisterous businessmen perched on plastic chairs downing soju, was incredibly picturesque and captured the true essence of the city.

We took our seats at an unassuming corner restaurant, the first in the city to serve galmaegisal, pork skirt steak. The table had already been prepared for our group, and the servers were kind enough to do the cooking for us, a big plus for foreigners less versed in the art of table grilling. Gemma explained how to wrap the perfectly cooked pork in mustard greens and sesame leaves, adding just the right amount of mung bean and sesame powders, salt, and ssamjang (dipping sauce), all the while devouring it in one bite.

Suddenly, the entire table was quiet as we stuffed our mouths with the deliciousness that is ssam (lettuce wraps). But, the silence wouldn't last long, as Gemma didn't waste any time in serving us cojinganmek, a "bomb" shot of Coca-Cola, soju, and beer. We were all a bit flushed and full by the end of the meal, but it was soon off to the next stop.

Weaving through Insadong's alleys, we found ourselves at a hidden tteokbokki joint. The rice cake snack we sampled was a twist on the original, and rather than being spicy, was sweet and soupy, and was mixed in with carrots and fish cakes in a soy-based broth. Although I still prefer the original, it was nice to try something new. We slurped up the tasty dish, and washed it down with few shots of maehwasu, Korean plum liquor.

We managed not to stumble to our next destination, a pojangmacha, or tent bar. Gemma explained to us that these quintessentially Korean drinking establishments are expected to be extinct within the next ten years, as the government has been doing away with them, firmly believing their existence tarnishes Korea's image as a clean and forward-moving society. (They've yet to understand the fact that they're one of the favorite places of foreign tourists and residents to experience the country's culture.)

We may have looked a bit out of place to the elderly gentlemen that surrounded us, but we were welcomed with smiles and hospitality. Despite the warm summer weather, the generous portions of dakbokkeumtang, or spicy braised chicken stew, hit the spot and was the perfect companion for the somaek (beer and soju cocktail) that Gemma so impressively whipped up for us. By this point, we had all bonded, not necessarily because of the alcohol, and were having a great time exchanging funny travel stories and telling jokes.

It didn't take long to reach Gwangjang Market, one of Seoul's oldest and most famous traditional markets, particularly popular for its food. The market was packed and scents of fermenting seafood, fried goodies and spilled alcohol permeated throughout. We were led to a three-story restaurant and were quickly served up plates of bindaekduk (crispy savory pancakes) and mixed jeon (fried veggies, meat and seafood). By this point, I wished I had worn elastic pants but still managed to shovel down a few bites. Gemma poured us bowls of makgeolli (Korean rice beer) and taught us a few basic drinking games. We couldn't stop laughing at our ineptitude to play, yet were still probably the tamest group in the entire place.

After a night of drinking games, wandering Seoul's streets, meeting new friends and gorging on the city's tastiest treats, we parted ways. Half of the group headed out to Dongdaemun for some late-night shopping while the rest of us, practically in food comas, went home. 
Overall, I was extremely impressed with O'ngo's Korean Night Dining Tour. Even after living in Seoul for five years, I was introduced to neighborhoods I had never visited and dishes I had never tried. The guide was fun and helpful, the tour well-structured and organized, and the price excellent for the value. It's the perfect tour for those wanting to make the most of a short trip in Seoul, but is also fun for long-term expats like myself looking to learn more about the hidden gastronomic gems of the city.

Photo courtesy of Chang Thuy.
More Information
The Korean Night Dining Tour runs daily at 6PM and is three and a half hours long. The tour begins at the O'ngo Culinary School, located just a few minutes' walk from Insadong. The cost is $88 USD per person and there are discounted rates for those not drinking alcohol, kids, and groups of eight or more. For more information about O'ngo or to make a reservation for this food tour, click here and fill out the form.

*Although this post is sponsored by O'ngo Food Communications, the opinions are, of course, my own. 
Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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Love is like Ice, it will Trick you! - Unique museums in Seoul.

Thu, 2014-08-28 06:37
Love is like Ice, it will Trick you! - Unique museums in Seoul 4th episode with our dearest friend, Charly!

She went to explore the most unique and popular museums right now in Seoul. If you want to have some fun then this is the place for you.

In the middle of Hongdae, the street of youth and indie music, stands a very special museum that you can enjoy. It’s called Trickeye Museum and it recently added two more theme museums- Ice & Love.

The first museum that Charly visited is the Ice Museum where everything is made of ice, which means it’s cold and perfect to cool down during hot humid Korean Summer.

Secondly, she went to the Trickeye Museum which is right next to the Ice museum. As the name suggests, it’s all about tricking your eyes. It’s fun because you can take super fun pictures with different situations. Not only kids but adults actually love this place as well.

Last is the PG 19 (in Korea), the Love Museum which is one step above the Trickeye museum. It basically offers the same experience as Trickeye but with a sensuous and sexual theme. The background and pictures are pretty raw and down to earth(?). No kids or teenagers are allowed here!

Trazy offers free coupons for all three of the museums so simply click on the name and download it.

Also, don’t forget to vote for your favorite! :)

XOXO, Trazy.


a service for travelers to easily share and discover the latest hip & hot travel spots from all over the world. 
We are currently focusing on Korea as our destination and plan to expand to other countries gradually. 

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The Ryukyu Islands, Japan.

Wed, 2014-08-27 05:29
The Ryukyu Islands, Japan.

It feels like a long time since I was in Malaysia and Singapore in February and I almost feel like I’ve forgotten to write a blog post since then. The last few months have been tough for a variety of reasons, bereavement, break-ups and contractual issues at work (I’ve re-signed for what will be a final six months in South Korea) and since I booked my flight tickets six weeks ago I have eagerly been looking forward to just getting away from it all.

After some deliberation I decided to keep the flight cost down, keeping in mind my plans for 2015, and I booked myself 12 days in Okinawa prefecture at the very tip of southern Japan. When people think of Japan I would venture they mostly imagine the snow-capped peak of Mt. Fuji, the quirkiness and blade-runneresque Tokyo streets or the composure of the Buddhist temples in Kyoto. In all honestly when I lived in England this was my distant assumption, too.  When you sit down with an atlas (or Google Maps…) you quickly realise how expansive Japan is, so expansive that Japan, sitting upon the Pacific Ring of Fire, is made up of innumerous islands. (6,852, thanks Wikipedia). This sprawling archipelago therefore has distinct topographical and cultural variations, which to a traveler looking to stay close to home (my Korean home), gives you a multitude of options. With it being summer the snowboarding peaks of Hokkaido and the snow monkeys of Jigokudani would have to wait for another day and I entertained the idea of exploring the isolated Okinawan Pacific Islands to the south.


My journey began with a flight to Tokyo and a nap waiting for my connecting flight to Naha in Tokyo’s rapidly aging Narita airport. A bumpy flight over typhoon Halong  followed. In Naha I took the monorail to a centrally based downtown guesthouse.I arrived quite late and pretty much checked-in and passed out.

On my first full day in Naha I got up reasonably early and set off to one of the most important historical focal points on the main island. Shuri Castle sits atop a hill on the northern outskirts of central Naha. Since the mid-1300’s there has been a castle there and for 450 years it served as the administrative centre of the Ryukyu Kingdom before being seceded to the Satsumas (not the fruit) and then being annexed by the Japanese. It was almost completely destroyed by the Americans during World War II as the Japanese military set-up their headquarters beneath it. What stands today is a reproduction of the castle based on photos and memories,  nonetheless the castle walls shield an impressive burnt-red wooden structure that stands out amongst the surrounding rolling whitewashed concrete urban sprawl. From the monorail I walked down in the searing heat and humidity following the outline of the castle walls to the entrance gate. A reasonable entry fee (Okinawa is significantly cheaper than the other areas of Japan that I have previously visited) allows you access to the castle buildings and gardens that provide a good view across the city surroundings. The Ryukyu kings seemed to have had a pretty sweet deal, entertaining their trading partners from China in simple tatami floored rooms looking out over miniature landscaped gardens and ruling from the elegantly simple throne room. Outside the main castle there are some gates which the significance has since been lost to me but provided some nice photos and there are some mausoleum tombs and ponds to walk around.

From Shuri I returned to the downtown area and got my bearings by walking around some of the main shopping streets. To experience true Naha you first need to get away from the garish Kokusai Street lined with endless tourist shops and over-priced dining offerings and head to the streets that splinter off it where you can find quirky eateries and bars, this is especially the case along the area that is sandwiched between Kokusai Street and the monorail (Kumoji District). Another good area that I wandered upon was along Ushikima, definitely worth checking out for its vintage clothes shops, cafes and bars. Considering I was burning up by this point in the afternoon sun I bought myself a cap and literally found a cafe to chill-out in.

In the evening I had some amazing noodles in a friendly eatery called Mazemen. The two owners, a young couple seemed delighted to see me and I pleasured them with a couple of return visits during my stay. Cheap and delicious. I checked out the ferry times for some ill-fated trips to the Kerama Islands (more on that later) and had a mango smoothie in a coffee shop. Unlike Korea none of the locals were on their smartphones, but rather reading which I found nicely refreshing and a common theme across the islands I visited. It would appear the Japanese love a good book.

My second day began in faltering fashion as I enjoyed a lie-in under the presumption that the bus schedule to Churaumi Aquarium was a little more frequent than it turned out to be. After twiddling my thumbs on Naha’s streets for a few hours I then endured a two hour bus journey to the aquarium on the north-west coast. I say endured because after one hour the air-conditioning on-board packed up. I was beginning to understand why a large proportion of the population walk around with a hand towel either draped across their shoulders, wrapped around their heads (this is definitely a fashion accessory for young men) or easy to hand in their bags. After exiting the sweaty bus it was already early to mid-afternoon and with the last bus running back to Naha I had to rush down to the aquarium.

Churaumi Aquarium was previously the largest in the world and I guess if I was ever going to go to one it wasn’t a bad place to start, although my experience of zoos has never been a particularly positive one. The main attraction here is the whale sharks and they can be found in the main tank along with a wide selection of rays and other large fish. As I worked my way round the tropical reef fish I arrived at the main show, the 7,500 cubic metre tank. Although it is big, I’m sure the whale sharks probably felt it wasn’t big enough. I happened to arrive as their feeding time was held and they gulped down big buckets of krill that were spilt into the tank. The rest of the time they circled around giving the odd small child a fright as they glued their faces to the thick glass aquarium windows.

Across from the main tank was the ‘dangerous’ shark tank. A tiger shark a few bull sharks and some others that I could not name aimlessly swam around. It looked pretty dull and if they weren’t man-eaters before they must be seriously considering the decision to become one. the tiger shark looked especially pissed-off as it swam clockwise with its nose glued to the surface and tank wall. Outside the manatees and turtles fared much worse, crammed into tiny pools that would only suffice as a toddlers play pool at your local community pool.

A dolphin show was on and a rather black and angry looking dolphin (it looked almost like a killer whale) splashed half-gleeful, half-terrified children who had been made to gather at the base of the tank windows by some either cynical or guilty parents.

My time was up and although I had seen some pretty amazing animals it was a bitter achievement in my mind and I decided it didn’t really count unless I was lucky enough to one day encounter them in the ocean.

I managed to have no more bus mishaps and headed back to Naha, showered and headed out to enjoy a walk around the backstreets of Sazaruka and Tsuboya. The highlight of my evening walk being an encounter with a man who had set up a projector in a back alley and was enjoying his own outdoor cinema viewing of Raging Bull on his or possibly a neighbours house.


The next morning at breakfast I had the misfortune to meet the most beautiful girl I may have ever encountered just as I was checking out and heading to the airport. Such is life (or just my life?)… Anyway little was I to know the joys that Ishigaki Island, my next destination, would hold for me. After an hours flying time I arrived in the Yaeyama Islands the most southern points of Japan and landed at Ishigaki airport and took a local bus to Shiraho Friends House in Shiraho village.

On arrival I met the friendly owner Hiro who helps his guests out enormously by giving them expert insider information about the island and some of the trips you can take and the sights you can see. I had some time in the afternoon to check out the main town and look at some of the ferry schedules to the local islands. I ate a small dinner at a local izikaya and then sat on the roof of the hostel with beer admiring the crystal clear sky and the stars that you can so rarely see through the hazy city skies of Busan. The view of the stars was only obscured by the odd giant fruit bat that swooped through my eye line and then some clouds that eventually rolled in to obscure an apparent meteor shower that was expected around midnight.

I woke early as I was joining a snorkeling trip with some of the other guests who were staying at the guesthouse. At around 08:30 Robyn, Stefan, Misato and myself were picked up by the snorkeling company staff Nao and Hazu (Jiyujin) and after a few of my new friends grabbed some wet-suits we headed to the harbour and jumped on the boat with the captain Yama-chan. The plan was to sail the boat to the very remote Kuroshima and Panari islands but because of some dark skies and rough seas we had to make do with a plan to snorkel around Taketomi Island.


We spent the morning snorkeling around the abundant coral reefs encountering some exotic fish before having lunch on the island. We had some time after lunch so I took a walk along the virtually endless beach that encompasses the island. After my walk and everyone’s lunch having settled we hit two more reef spots.

After the first one I half-jokingly suggested I wanted to see a shark and so our final spot was to be in some deeper but equally crystal clear waters. Be careful what you wish for. As we laid anchor and tied up to another companies boats their guides spotted a shark but I didn’t have my mask and flippers on yet so I didn’t manage to see the shark… Nonetheless the deep waters were incredible, the receding tide brought the coral perilously close to you (I already had cut my foot open on some coral in the morning after taking a swim sans flippers) and the coral reef raised an incredible height from the seafloor making it more exciting to dive down and work your way alongside the fish and coral rather than looking down upon them. We had a waterproof camera with us and the staff took some good shots of life on the reef for us.

The whole day, bar the stinging sunburn I got on my shoulder blades and my coral slashed foot,  was fantastic. A great day spent with good people, this was enhanced even further as Nao invited us out to dinner with the dive team and his Hawaiian girlfriend. We planned to go to a popular yakinikuk restaurant, (like a refined Korean barbecue joint) but they were full, instead we went to another one that I can only imagine was equally as good. It was great to get to know Nao and Hazu a little better and we enjoyed plenty of delicious meats and alcohol including the local awamori liqeur. Yama-chan spoke little English but was making up for this with his ability to keep mine and particularly Stefan’s, whose last night in Ishigaki was today, glasses of awamori and iced water full. Hazu was very talkative and the others described her as being a typical Japanese genki girl which I have decided must be a quite endearing feature. Nao was quite the conversationalist and has a vibrant personality. I was beginning to feel that living in these islands was so enjoyable it would be difficult for anyone to have a negative personality trait. The evening gradually drew to a close and we headed back to the guesthouse.

The following day Misato and I took a trip to the neighbouring island of Iriomote. We took an inexpensive high-speed ferry from Ishigaki that included a free multi-use bus ticket around Iriomote. We planned to take the Urauchi river boat tour and then hike into the jungle to see some of the waterfalls. The river tour began slightly upstream from the river mouth at the edge of the mangroves. Our boat was virtually empty so we had space to move around and look at the sights on both sides. The tour was narrated in Japanese but I had been given an English translation paper where I read that tiger sharks like to swim up the river to feed on the abundantly rich river waters. Swimming was immediately vetoed.


The tour was scenic and as the river narrowed and the elevation of the treetops increased we came to the docking point. The water changed from an ominously tranquil murky brown to clear water tumbling between rocks. From here we hiked up a semi-cleared jungle path to a viewing point for the Kanbire waterfall, after taking a few pictures from distance we continued following the path upriver to another section of cascading waterfall. Our time was up, it had taken an hour to get here and we had to be back at the docking point in one hour. The trail was littered with lizards of all kinds and the odd frog and bird. Other things rustled in the undergrowth but it was impossible to see or react to the sounds quick enough with the slippery roots and mud beneath our feet. We definitely didn’t spy one of the elusive Iriomote wildcats, maybe if we missed the last boat and were stuck over night in the jungle we would have had a better chance…

We grabbed the next bus that came along from the entrance to the river centre and headed to the ‘Star Sand’ beach, famous for tiny star shaped shells that can be found amongst the other grains of sand. We found a few and cooled off with a brief paddle in the rock-pools and admired the isolated rocks that had been left by coastal erosion. Time was drawing in on us and perfectly timed our arrival at the dock to catch the ferry. Back in Ishigaki we cooled off after being caught in the hot and stuffy rear end of the ferry by enjoying some salted ice-cream with hibiscus and wasabi sprinkles. Sounds odd but is also surprisingly delicious!

In the evening Misato and I joined Kayoko, a long-term Shiraho Friends House summer resident, at one of the local run restaurants and we tried some goat sashimi with ginger and garlic amongst some other dishes. We went back to the hostel and met up with some other guests from France, Japan and Germany and walked down to the beach to look at the stars in the night sky. Later in the evening when Kayoko and I were reading books on the roof terrace a small rat and a snake came tumbling out of the vines and faced off against each other amongst the outdoor slippers, not a great time to be stepping outside for anyone… The snake didn’t eat the rat as it ran away, but I managed to grab a quick picture of the snake as it slithered off before showing it to the hostel owner, despite being a young snake it turns out it was one of the greatly feared and aggressive ‘habu’ snakes that are responsible for numerous biting incidents every year and quite a few deaths (although not recently) throughout the Okinawan islands. Hiro suggested I could have tried to catch it as awamori producers would pay good money for a snake to place in the bottles during fermentation (in some shops you can even see the awamori being sold with a snake curled up inside). Feeling slightly nervous due to all the open doors in the hostel I watched where I was stepping on my way to bed.

On my final day I hired a car for the day using my international drivers licence and took to a tour around Ishigaki. As always it was nice to be behind the wheel again as I don’t drive in Korea. I began my trip across the sugar cane farmland of central Ishigaki before arriving at Kabira Bay on the north coast. Kabira Bay is a tranquil richly coloured enclosed bay with a smattering of beaches dispersed by undergrowth topped volcanic rock cliffs. I took a walk along one beach and waded around the small cliffs to some of the others.

From Kabira I traveled to Kabiraishizaki a peninsular to the north-west and drove along some deserted roads stopping off wherever I saw a path going off into the undergrowth. By doing this I was able to reach some incredibly isolated and empty beaches and coves at the base of the jutting cliff tops. I spent a few hours basking in the solitude and sun on my own private beach.

My next destination was the breathtaking views from Oganzaki, on the far western peninsula. I walked up to a lonesome brilliant white lighthouse and along the surrounding cliff area that overlooks the crystal clear waters and the outline of the coral reefs below. I took a few sketchy paths that were overgrown to reach some difficult to reach clifftop positions, apart from the uneven rocky surface beneath I was also a little concerned about last nights snake encounter and it wasn’t particularly comfortable putting my feet where I couldn’t see what laid below! The views were incredible, so I think the risk was worth it.

I headed east via a recommended juice shop where I had a tangy pineapple smoothie (pineapples being a popular local product) and a sad encounter with one off the local birds that flew across my path and disappeared up into the air above in a puff of feathers as it failed to avoid my bumper. I took a winding mountainous road through the national park before hiking to the summit of Nosokodake. From the top I was afforded some great cross island views in all directions.

Back at hostel I had a quick shower and picked up Kayoko. I had promised to drive her north to a beach famous for dramatic sunsets after she had finished a Chinese class she was taking in the main town. We hoped to see a phenomenon called the green flash which can occur seconds after a sunset, despite mostly clear skies there were some clouds on the very far horizon and we just missed out on it.

We headed back and walked along the unlit village roads to a different restaurant on the far outskirts of the village in hope of catching up with some other guests, but they were not there so we shared a dinner of pork and noodles with seaweed tempura and bacon, mushrooms and goya (bitter melon) together.

After one final night of stars on the roof terrace and a very local trip to an Okinawan shrine which Hiro suggested I see in the morning, I reluctantly headed to the airport. Ishigaki was an amazing adventure and an incredible place to visit and with the benefit of hindsight I wish I had stayed there for much longer during this particular trip. I was fortunate to meet some amazing people and I think if they read this they will understand that they helped make the experience unforgettable.


Back in Naha I had booked a cheapish hotel for the remainder of my holiday. While staying in hostels is great for meeting people, sharing a room with the odd snorer and the lack of privacy gets to me after a while, those who know me well know I love a bit of my own time. Feeling a bit wiped out from everything I had done over the last six days I took a day off and slept most of the afternoon following my check-in, I headed out in the evening and went to watch the return of the Premier League in a bar called Cafe de Camp Nou. This bar was something special in itself, Hiro (another Hiro) the owner was a fully commited football fan and had decorated the small bar with shirts and memorabilia from all over the world. In his broken English we had a conversation about the new season and I watched Swansea beat United and then Spurs scraped past West Ham much to my personal delight.

The next day was a rainy one and I enjoyed an extensive lie-in and read my Khaled Hosseini novel most of the day. In the late afternoon the rain eased off and I walked to the nearby Okinawan Prefectural Museum and Art Museum. I decided just to view the art museum on this day and save the Okinawan Prefectural Museum for another day. They had an exhibition of post-impressionist French painters, some photos from a local photographer (Taro Okamoto) who had documented the changes in Okinawan life since the 50s/60’s and some local Okinawan fine arts. In a prequel to another night of football at Cafe de Camp Nou I had dinner at an underground place called Afronest. This Jamaican place served me an incredible sizzling and fiery plate of Jamaican jerk chicken. All the staff (Japanese) had well manicured afros and the reggae music was tone perfect the rainy chilled day that I had experienced.

The next day began disastrously at Naha port where I discovered all the boat tickets to the Kerama Islands had been sold for the coming week and I wasn’t going to be able to do the island hopping that I hod hoped to do. Advance online bookings was the only way to go and I had literally and figuratively missed the boat. Instead I went to the bus stop at the front of Tomari Port and took a bus north to Yomitan. Zampa is famous for its beach and cape but neither impressed me, possibly because of the cloud in my mind about the ferry tickets I had missed out on. The beach was crowded and small; jetskis and banana boats zipped around so I walked to the cape. The lighthouse was under renovation and a gaggle of Chinese tourists greeted me on the sharp rock volcanic cliff-tops. Only a walk along the cliff edge and a little adventure down to some rocks below could appease my mind, I relaxed a little and then watched an amateur football game nearby. I walked back past the beach and discovered an adjacent beach to the main one, it was virtually deserted so I relaxed in the sun and felt a little better about everything. I walked through Yomitan village and visited the remaining walls of Zakimi Castle.

From Yomitan I took the bus back to Naha, it was getting insanely hot and I’d had enough sun, but I stopped off briefly at Mihama American Village on the return journey. I had hoped to find some decent clothes shop but found a really tacky complex. Apparently supposed to help American servicemen feel closer to home and to provide a themed tourist attraction for Japanese tourists I couldn’t help but feel they had missed the mark for both. Imagine the English trying to make a Japanese theme park without ever visiting Japan, full of cliches and sub-par food outlets, this is all of course presuming I’m not overestimating America… My day was pretty average and the only thing to fix it was some of those awesome noodles at Mazemen.

Maybe I was a little affected by the previous days disappointments but the final two days were quite mundane in that I found little motivation to do anything. I would have liked to have visited the northern area of Okinawa but I lacked the motivation to endure a long bus ride so I took comfort in being lazy and enjoying some of the good things I had already done around Naha. Maybe it was the product of the last six months or possibly overdoing it in the high summer sun over the last week or so.

I ate some amazing sausages at a little bar called Baku in a back alley and I spent my last evening in Afronest with another generous portion of jerk chicken. Cultural activities included a visit to the Okinawan Prefectural Museum where I learnt about the history of the Ryukyu Islands and the suffering experienced during the American invasion in 1945 and an hour spent book shopping in the Junkudo Book Store picking up some books by Haruki Murakami and another Japanese author.

That was that and my time in Okinawa prefecture had come to a timely conclusion. On reflection I feel that I missed out on some experiences that were out there but my blase attitude to planning had cost me on this occasion when on other trips it has been to my benefit. That being said, the time I spent in the Yaeyama Islands was right up there as one of my best traveling experiences. I would have loved to visit the Kerama Islands, and if you want to as well, heed my advice and pre-book online!



Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Protectors of an Ancient Time

Wed, 2014-08-27 03:31
Protectors of an Ancient Time


Originally Published at TeyMarieAstudillo.com

Today, we have satellites, aircraft, bombs, guns – a whole slew of modern warfare technology that countries use to protect themselves from other nations.

But in ancient times, the only thing that separated people from a potential invasion or destruction by a foreign nation or their soldiers was a simple brick and mud wall.

These defense walls were the common protectors of cities and sovereign lands in ancient times. We can see the remanence of them all over the world – from The Great Wall of China to The Walls of Constantinople in Turkey.

Which brings me to the Seoul Fortress Wall.

Bordering the heart of Seoul, very much in the same manner as it did thousands of years ago, the Seoul Fortress wall winds its way up and down through four mountain ranges – Bugaksan, Inwangsan, Namsan and Naksan.

It perimeters some of Seoul’s most famous and important landmarks including Gyeongbokgung, the main palace of the ancient Korean Joseon Dynasty, and Cheong Wa Dae, the Korean presidential headquarters and residence.

Once a total of about 11.3 miles (18.2km) many parts of the wall were destroyed over the years, primarily from the invasions of Japan in the 1500s and early 1900s and then the Korean War in 1950.

Over the years, the South Korean government has restored many segments of the wall and is continuing revitalization efforts.

**All photography is copyright of Tey-Marie Astudillo and may not be used, distributed or reproduced in any way without consent of the owner.**

Tey-Marie Astudillo
Journalist & Videographer



Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Serious Floods Hit Busan

Mon, 2014-08-25 11:32
Serious Floods Hit Busan

After a couple rainy weeks, up to 30cm of rain fell on the Busan region today leading to serious flooding, casualaties, flight cancellations, and the shutdown of a nearby nuclear power plant.  If you have media or links related to these floods, please comment below or click 'create/photo' to share you photos on Koreabridge. 

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Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Korea's Best Grocery Delivery Websites

Sun, 2014-08-24 13:29
Korea's Best Grocery Delivery Websites Seoul is, without a doubt, one of the most convenient places to live in the world. It's a 24 hour city, with businesses remaining open until the wee hours of the morning. It boasts an incredibly efficient and affordable transportation system.  And you can get just about anything delivered to your house. Including groceries. Which is particularly handy when you live in the hilltops of Gyeongnidan like myself.

Below is a list of helpful websites to use when you don't feel like hauling around heavy bags of veggies or fighting ajumma in chaotic supermarkets.


Although I live in Itaewon and have easy access to a number of international markets, I prefer shopping on iHerb.com for the price, selection of food and quick delivery. iHerb.com is based in America and prides itself on having the best overall value for natural products in the world. You can find just about anything on iHerb, from user-reviewed breakfast foods and baking items to vitamins and toiletries. One of my favorite brands to order is Bob's Red Mill; I'm particularly fond of their gluten-free bread mixes, steel-cut oats, and soups. I'm obsessed with their hearty Vegi Soup Mix for $5.37 USD which sells at Itaewon High Street Market for the equivalent of $10.69. And I won't even get started on the mark-up of vitamins in Korea.

Surprisingly, the shipping is crazy cheap- a flat rate of $4.00 USD for up to 15 pounds. Shipping takes about a week and despite the more complicated customs process as of late, all you need to complete your order is an ARC number (either yours or a co-signer's).

First-time users can use the code STJ541 to save up to $10.00 USD on one's first purchase. Be warned, however, that once you start using iHerb.com, you WILL become addicted.

Gachi CSA

Korean farms use 15 times more pesticides than those in the United States.  Scary, I know. Fortunately, for the health-conscious, there's a new farm-to-table initiative quickly gaining popularity in Seoul. Gachi CSA is a food delivery system that provides residents in Korea with trustworthy, local, organic produce directly from local farms straight to your doorstep.

Gachi offers a base basket of local, seasonal fruit and vegetables in two portions: one for couples, the other for families. The Couples' Basket contains 8-10 different items and is priced at ₩27,000 per week, whereas the Family Basket contains 10-12 different items and is priced at ₩35,000. These two baskets both have a time-frame option of month share, half share and full share (1 month, 3 months and 6 months respectively). For an additional fee, add-on options such as snacks, juice, bread and meat can be added.

Gachi posts recipes using ingredients of their weekly boxes on their Facebook page and those interested can register for the service at their website.

High Street Market

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of High Street's prices are a rip-off, but for those items that can't be purchased on iHerb- i.e. perishables- their website comes in handy. High Street has a great selection of meats, including harder to find options such as pastrami and chorizo. Additionally, High Street offers whole cooked turkeys and hams, which is particularly convenient if you're hosting a holiday party. (Just remember to order a couple weeks in advance.) They also have a good, albeit expensive, variety of cheese, which is nice for those living outside the city with a lack of access to the unprocessed stuff.

The delivery fee for orders under ₩120,000 is ₩3,000- not a bad price, considering they ship all over Korea, including Jeju Island. Check out High Street's online store here.

Waeg Farm

Located in Gyeongju, Waeg Farm is home to 7 goats and former university teacher Doug Huffer, who has made goat cheese available for purchase on the internet in an otherwise goat cheese-less country.  Each 200 gram container of goat cheese costs ₩10,000 and shipping is ₩4,000, or free if you order 4 or more containers. Additionally, Waeg Farm sells their own farm-grown veggies, so inquire as to which are available.

Visit the Waeg Farm website or Facebook page for more information and photos of their oh-so-adorable goats.

Alien's Day Out Bake Shop

Vegans with a sweet tooth will be happy to learn about Alien's Day Out Bake Shop. Opened by Mipa, food blogger and owner of PLANT Cafe in Itaewon, the online store offers tasty cookies, muffins and cakes at prices comparable to other bakeries around the city, but are made using organic, unrefined cane sugar and organic soy milk.

Some of Mipa's especially yummy goodies include pumpkin cranberry oatmeal cookies (₩7,000 for 6 cookies) and banana chocolate nut muffins (₩9,000 for 4 muffins). She also has a nice variety of cakes on sale that start at ₩30,000 and should be ordered a week in advance.

Alien's Day Out Bake Shop ships all around Korea for ₩4,000/order and delivery takes a few days. Visit the website to place your order or visit PLANT's Facebook page for more of Mipa's treats.


For those looking for authentic Indian groceries, spices and sauces, ExpatMart is the place to shop. While the website offers a variety of curries, flours and varieties of rice, it also sells fresh items. Hard-to-find produce like cilantro and okra can also be purchased on ExpatMart, which is perfect for those hoping to whip up some Mexican or Southeast Asian cuisine. Additionally, halal meats are available, making this website a go-to for Muslim residents in Korea.

For orders over 70,000 won under 22kgs, shipping is free. A ₩4,000 shipping fee is charged for orders under ₩70,000. Browse the Expat Mart website here.

Happy shopping!

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


Seoul Searching

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Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Korean Name Creation: 5 Killer Ways to Write Your Name in Korean

Sun, 2014-08-24 10:29
Korean Name Creation: 5 Killer Ways to Write Your Name in Korean

What’s in a name? Well, in Korea — quite a bit actually!

Many Korean parents will spend a lot of time and money to come up with the perfect name for their child. They believe that a person’s name can determine their destiny. With a child’s future on the line, it’s important to come up with a good name.

Here at 90 Day Korean, we want you to have a Korean name as well. While it can be tough to come up with the perfect name, we’re going to help point you in the right direction so that it becomes much more likely. 

As an expat living or traveling in Korea (or even living in your home country and interacting with Koreans), it’s easy to notice a barrier at times due to cultural differences. 

Having a Korean name is a great way to break the ice with Koreans and get started on the right foot. It adds just a little extra layer of comfort and Koreans will have fun calling you by your Korean name. It sounds familiar to them!

You may have seen Korean names before. Maybe you have a favorite KPOP star, Korean drama character or athlete. Any of these names ring a bell?

Kim Yuna  (김연아)

Lee Hyo-ri(이효리)

Lee Min-ho (이민호)

Bae Yong-joon (배용준)

As you can see, most Korean names have three syllables. There are some names with more and some with less, but the huge majority of names have three syllables.

You should probably stick with three as well when coming up with a Korean name for yourself! 

In Korean, the surname is written first. So the first syllable you see is the family name. By far the most common Korean surnames are 김 (Kim), 이 (Lee) and 박 (Park).

The second two syllables you see are the given name.

We’ve come up with a list of five methods you can use to make your very own Korean name. 

Take a look through, try out the different methods, and hopefully come out with a Korean name you can start introducing yourself with starting tomorrow! 

It’s going to be lots of fun. Let’s get started!

Method 1: Write Your Given Name in Korean Characters

The first method you can use to make a Korean name is not to make one at all! You can simply take your name and write it in Korean based on the way it sounds.

While this isn’t a Korean name per se, it is a first step you can take to make it easier for Koreans to pronounce and read your name. It makes things comfortable! 

No matter which method you choose to go with for making your Korean name, you should probably go through this step first anyway. There are many situations when knowing your name’s spelling in Korean will come in handy! If you can’t yet read Korean or don’t know the Korean characters, you can learn them in about an hour by taking our 90 Minute Challenge.

When writing your name in Korean, it all comes down to vowel sounds. It’s important to sound it out just right! 

When you do this, sometimes an English name with only a few letters can have many syllables in Korean. 

Let’s take the English name Michael for example. To write it in Korean, we need to sound it out. 

The first thing we could do is break it into two syllables.

For the first syllable, we need to think which Korean characters could make that ‘long i’ sound. No single Korean character has that sound on its own. 

How about 아 + 이? That sounds right. Let’s add in the “m” sound in front of the ㅏand we’ll be good to go! 

First part: 마이

Now let’s focus on the second syllable. If you sound it out, it sounds more like “keul.” As you remember from the 90 Minute Challenge, the character that makes the “k” sound is ㅋ. It looks like a key! Let’s use that one.

The final step is to add in the “eul” sound. That should be easy! The Korean character that makes the “eu” sound is ㅡ and the “l” ending we can make with ㄹ. Shall we stack them together?

Second part: 클

There we have it, we’re all finished! We ended up with three syllables:

Let’s take a look at some more common names in English as examples:

So go ahead and give it a try yourself! Write out your name in English and then break it into syllables. Work on deconstructing it piece by piece.

There is a smartphone app  called “Write Your Name In…” and it has a Korean function. The main problem we have found with it is that it doesn’t have that many names in its database. However, if you have a common Korean name, this is one way you can check your work once you’re done. 

You can find it here:

Write Your Name In…

Definitely try writing it yourself first though. Not only is it great practice, but it’s a lot of fun! 

Method 2: Use a Korean Name Application

There are some applications and websites out there that can help you come up with a Korean name of your own.

Some of them use your real name to help generate a similar-sounding Korean name, while some use your birthday.  Others seem to come up with a Korean name at random — when you refresh the page, you’ve got a completely different name!

Those are the main reasons we recommend against using this method. However, you never know — you might just get a great-sounding Korean name that suits you or at the very least, it could be the starting point for improvement.

For example, maybe you get a first name you like but the surname sounds strange to you. You could simply customize it yourself by swapping out the surname and putting in one of your choice.

In any case, these apps can be fun to play around with. Here are three of the Korean name applications floating around the internet that you may wish to try out:

AndKPOP’s Get Your Korean Name Facebook Application

Korean Name Generator

Auto Korean Name Generator Application

Method 3: Choose Your Korean Name From a List

Choosing a name from the click of a button not for you?

When Koreans choose English names, they often choose the names of English-speaking stars that they admire. Maybe you have a favorite KPOP star or actor. You can start to get name ideas from them!

Of course, you probably don’t want to take their entire name including family name (imagine meeting a Korean who introduced himself as “Tom Cruise!”), but you could easily switch out the surname to one of your choosing. 

Here are links to lists of Korean names. The first is just a list of baby names like you often see on the internet for English names. They are romanized, however, so if you see one you like, you will have to change it into 한글. That’s the fun part! 

List of Korean Names

The second is a list of popular Korean names. You can see which names parents choose most often. Maybe you’ll find one that suits you! 

Popular Korean Names

Finally, here is a list of Korean family names. Take a browse through and give some thought to which matches you best. 

List of Korean Family Names

Method 4: Choose a Korean Name That Sounds Like Your English Name

Another method for choosing a Korean name is finding a Korean name that sounds like your name in English.

This may require some help from a Korean, however, but you can make use of the name lists and other resources to try for yourself. 

For example, maybe your name is Kimberly Johnson. Through the name lists or from the help of a Korean friend, you come up with the following name:

Some expats may wish to choose a last name that sounds similar to their given name in English! One student named Joe chose the surname 조 when making his Korean name. He then just chose a modern and cool-sounding given name in Korean. 

Be creative!

Method 5: Choose a Korean Name With a Special Meaning

This method may also require some assistance from a Korea friend but it’s a great way to come up with a Korean name that has a story or meaning behind it versus an arbitrarily chosen name!

Some names in Korean have special meanings. For example, these common names in Korean have the following meanings:

Cool! Why not ask a Korean to help you come up with a name that has a special meaning?

Many Koreans are also concerned with a name’s meaning in Chinese characters. This requires added research, but can help you come up with a Korean name that has meaning behind it.

Remember how we said Korean names usually have three characters? You could look up the meaning of each in Chinese characters or have someone assist you. This would help you have a cool backstory for the meaning of your name and what it represents!

Regardless of which method you choose for coming up with your Korean name, it’s important to get feedback from a  Korean. Having a trusted ally on your side can make all the difference in the world to choosing the right-sounding name. 

This guide will help set you off on the right track. Get started by writing your first name in Korean characters. Then try your last name. This will be a fantastic starting point and you may wish to stop there! For those of you that want an authentic-sounding Korean name, however, you can continue on and try the other methods.

In either case, we wish you the best in the quest for your new Korean name! Let us know which name you came up with for yourself below in the comments!


Photo Credit: Robert McLane


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Starting a Business

Fri, 2014-08-22 05:01
Starting a Business There are several preliminary issues to consider before your business can even worry about the usual issues like costs, contracts, advertising, and the actual operation of the business:

1.  Visa (are you here legally and are your workers)?  There is a new "startup visa" and sometime in the future I hope to discuss it in more detail.
2.  Financial law (what restrictions / rights do you have as a foreign investor)?
3.  Business structure (what kind of business do you run)?  This also affects ...
4.  Taxation, which is always a concern.

We've tried to briefly touch on those in our Korea Herald column.  Each area is really quite complex but hopefully you can get an idea of the basics, or places to look for more answers.  If there are more specific areas of law people show significant interest in, we hope to address those in the future so don't hesitate to ask.  (And, of course, please read the disclaimer.)

Starting a business in Korea: Visas, entities, and taxesThe Korean economy has seen a constant stream of new small businesses opening, many operated by non-Koreans. The government has been proactive in trying to reduce barriers to entry, even offering free classes, office space, and money to selected ventures. But whether they are restaurants (and we thank you, tasty Indian and Mexican places that are multiplying), IT services, advertising consultants, hagwon, or other enterprises, all businesses and business owners face some central issues. 

First, you need to be able to legally be in the country and run a business. E-series visa holders and those in the country on visa waivers are generally not permitted to do so. If you invest 100 million won you can qualify for a D-8 visa, but you will be limited to the type of business the company does and cannot open other businesses or accept outside employment. Those who have one of several residential visas (F-2, F-4, F-5, and F-6) have the freedom to basically operate just as a Korean citizen would, with no limitations on business type or kind, except that, of course, the business must be lawful. Leave the drugs and guns overseas, please, and think twice about that “Kiss Bang” with extra services you always wanted to manage.

After you’re sure you can open a business without risking deportation, the next step from a legal perspective is to determine its structure. The most common structures are solo proprietorship (“sa-eopja”), general partnership (“hapmyeong hoesa”), limited company (“yuhan hoesa”) and stock corporation (“jushik hoesa”). Which structure is used generally depends on the ownership and management structure and tax consequences of the business. There are other forms, too, but they are less common.

The first two, proprietorship and partnership, are not separate entities from a tax or liability perspective ― that is, the proprietor or partners directly receive earnings and are directly liable for damages caused by the business. Ownership is simple and, in the case of more than one person, equal. These structures are typical for “mom and pop” style shops and small businesses such as small hagwons, restaurants, stores, or legal offices with few partners. You do not need any formal corporate documents (such as articles of incorporation) but in the case of a partnership, a partnership agreement is recommended to minimize possible future disputes.

The last two, limited company and stock company, are separate entities and taxed separately ―that is, the entity is taxed and then the person is taxed, creating the possibility of double taxation and making planning a bit more complicated . Generally a well-planned entity can minimize tax liabilities. Also, ownership interests can be transferred by sale and broken into different classes, allowing more flexibility in terms of control and profit sharing. You will, however, need corporate documents (such as articles of incorporation) and the law places certain restrictions and liabilities on directors and other parties.

A Korean limited company is like most other nations’ limited liability companies, and has fewer reporting requirements than a stock corporation. Many larger foreign businesses begin life as limited companies and become stock corporations only if they need the additional flexibility or will seek to be listed on a stock exchange. 

Of course, if your business needs to change, the structure can always be changed with a little time, planning, and of course paperwork.

Whichever your type of business, you should register with the local branch of the tax office, and the commercial registry. You will need to pay at least two types of taxes: value-added tax and income tax. Some businesses, including translation, are VAT-exempt so what purpose you pursue can affect how much of your income you keep. Tax itself could be several articles, particularly once you start considering personal and business income tax planning, so we would suggest finding an accountant with whom you can communicate, although we will try to address those issues in the future.

You may also need to register with and meet the requirements of other government entities, such as the Ministry of Education (if you are a teacher) or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (if you are assisting with foreign visa applications). If you invested more than 100 million won you will need to register with the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and you will have some extra legal protections under the Foreign Investment Promotion Act.

The Seoul Global Center has great pamphlets on businesses and registration in multiple languages, as well as information about the periodic sponsorships the government has been giving, so we would suggest starting there. As any small business owner can tell you, there is a small mountain of paperwork to surmount and headaches to suffer, but generally the long-term personal rewards and financial freedom are worth it. 

By Darren Bean and Yuna Lee


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Korean Men's Style for Your Boyfriend#1. "Dapper Casual"

Tue, 2014-08-19 11:25
Korean Men's Style for Your Boyfriend#1. "Dapper Casual"

Originally Posted on Trazy.com 

The Trazy Crew went on a daily journey with our friend Glenn to explore what’s trending now in Korea’s young men’s fashion style. We happen to visit Alvo, which is a select shop located in the small alley in Hongdae, the district of youth, music and vitality.

The shop master of Alvo was kind enough to show us different styles of ‘Dapper Casual’ that Korean men wear these days. Check the video below to see what kind of styles there are.

How would you dress your boyfriend? Which style is your favorite? :)

To make this experience even more fun, we came with a special event for those who watch Glenngogo x Trazy’s first K-fashion video.

In order to participate, simply click on the button below!

Also, we’re going to show you a series of more Korean Men’s Style for you Boyfriend. Please stay tuned! :)

XOXO, Trazy.


a service for travelers to easily share and discover the latest hip & hot travel spots from all over the world. 
We are currently focusing on Korea as our destination and plan to expand to other countries gradually. 

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4 Years in Korea – How Korea Has Changed 2010-2014

Mon, 2014-08-18 14:31
4 Years in Korea – How Korea Has Changed 2010-2014

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but July 13th marked 4 years in Korea for us! We’re a little bit late on celebrating this, but with our Youtube milestones and summer vacation, we didn’t want to overwhelm you guys with too much of the same thing (that thing being awesomeness hehe)!
Anyway, you may be wondering, “Did you plan on staying this long in Korea?” And the answer is, yes and no! We knew we would be here for more than one year. After the first year, I got an amazing job (the same one I have now), and since then we have found no reason good enough to leave! Now that Evan also has a job he loves, I can safely say that we will be sticking around for much longer than 4 years too.

I’ll save you all of the cliche “It went by so fast”, mostly because we said all that in the video. But what I didn’t say in the video is that every year in Korea has gotten better – more adventures, better Korean, better food, better teaching methods, and just all around a more richer and fulfilling life with each year that passes. We still have other passions and things we want to do and accomplish in other parts of the world, but I can very well see Korea as a home base for us in the future, no matter where life takes us.

Now to get to the interesting bits! Change happens fast in a country this size with this many people. Trends in food and fashion change seasonally, and with new fair trade agreements having been signed, we’ve witnessed an influx of western products into Korea over the past 4 years. In the video we highlight some of these things, but we already know we’ve left out a ton! If you can think of something we’ve missed please leave it in a comment below!

Western chains more widespread

Subway – I remember being excited when we lived in Seoul our first year when we saw the Subway in Itaewon, but now there are too many to count in Seoul and we even have two in Yangsan! It’s weird that there are none in Busan, but I think they will be opening soon. Yay for easy access to sandwiches!

Mexican food – It’s been getting more popular with Koreans every year we’ve been here. There have been a lot of attempts of Korean-Mexican fusion food that has recently become popular in California, but I have to say that most of those have been a fail. If it’s not a fail, it’s so inordinately expensive that it makes it taste worse than it is, if that makes sense. But if you’re desperate, you can actually find Mexican food! Definitely couldn’t in 2010.

There are so many more western chains now that we actually made a video about all the western chains we’ve noticed in Korea! You can check that out here and check the comments for all of the ones we forgot.

Personal Hygiene Products

TAMPONS! They have them now. In 2010 I either saw none on the shelves or 1 box(the cardboard kind) for waaaay more than I wanted to pay for them. Now there is much more of a variety and they’re not AS expensive. But pads are still preferred by Korean women so just be aware ladies!

CONDOMS! They have them now. I never saw condoms prominently displayed in convenience stores or grocery stores until this past year! Isn’t that crazy? Korea also just aired its first commercial for condoms this past year, and since then, I’ve several different brands next to every check out counter. A noticeable change for sure.


The bottom line is that Korean beer is not good. It’s worse than Bud Light in my opinion. But thank god the whole craft beer scene has caught on in Korea in recent years! Craftworks in Seoul has expanded but is now not the only place serving up tasty brews. We have a popular brewery in Busan called Galmegi and we just got a craft beer and pizza place in YANGSAN. We really hit the suburb city jackpot here.

As far as imported bottles go, they are much more abundant and cheaper than they were in 2010. Self-serve beer bars have been really popular the past couple years. These bars have large coolers full of imports that you just get yourself and then pay later by the bottle. They’re still more expensive than we would pay back home, but not by that much.

Fresh Produce & Cheese

Everyone complains about how expensive fresh produce is in Korea. I always think the complaints are hyperbolic, but expats were right about the price of some fruit in 2010. Our first year a watermelon would easily cost you 20 bucks, and blueberries were incomprehensibly expensive! These days a watermelon will cost you 5-10 dollars, which is pretty much the same that I paid in the US.
Blueberries are also much more reasonably priced, although I haven’t splurged and bought them yet. I’d say they’re still about double the price than they are back home.
Avocados and limes are something that I see now in stores that I would have fainted at the sight of in 2010. Avocados will run you about 3 bucks a pop, but for some avocado lovers that’s well worth it!
Cheese, cheese, cheese. Good cheese is now available in stores, but it’s still too expensive for me to buy on a regular basis. I would still suggest buying a block of cheese at Costco for 20 bucks, than 5 slices for 5 bucks. Still though, for cheese emergencies, it’s there for you.

Organized Tours for Foreigners

This is something I’ve noticed just in the last year. It seems like there are countless organized trips for foreigners run by English speaking Koreans usually. (Gyopos or otherwise) I may just have not noticed them in previous years, but I only remember Adventure Korea being the main company that ran organized tours around the country. If you’re planning on coming to Korea in the future, you won’t have any trouble finding weekend trips already organized for you! The only one I’ve had experience with that I can recommend to you is Adventure Korea linked above and WINK-When in Korea.

Teaching Jobs

The ESL market is always changing in Korea, and expats have a wide range of opinions on the matter. In my opinion, not much has changed except for the major cuts made to middle and high school teaching jobs in Seoul and Busan. Being an elementary teacher, this hasn’t effected me, but I know many that have to make the switch from middle or high school to elementary in the past year or two.

As for our public school contracts, they recently capped the pay at 2.7 million won(previously you could make more than that), and they took away 1 week of vacation from our re-signing bonus. So now, instead of 2 extra weeks of vacation, we only have one. But considering it’s amazing we get ANY extra vacation just for staying with the same school, I didn’t think that was a big deal.


Myeongdong is the famous shopping district in Seoul, and in 2010 it was the only place you could find Western clothing chain stores like H&M. This has changed a lot since then, with there being multiple H&M’s just in Myeongdong alone, as well as other neighborhoods and in Busan. You can also find Forever 21 and Uniqlo, a Japanese chain that I like to call the Asian Gap.
Also, as obesity is becoming more of a problem in Korea, I have noticed bigger sizes (that fit me) in Korean clothing sections in stores like Emart. Score!

Again let us know if you’ve noticed other changes, or if you have any questions!
It’s been an incredible four years, here’s to four more?!?!

The post 4 Years in Korea – How Korea Has Changed 2010-2014 appeared first on Evan and Rachel.

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Looking For Seomyeon John

Mon, 2014-08-18 02:04
Looking For Seomyeon John

Back in 2003, when there were only two subway lines and every Busan traveler had to make their way through Seomyeon, there was a man named Seomyeon John. He lived in the station, and devoted his life to 'helping foreigners.' He was well known at the time, and got a cover story in the foreigner magazine that came before Haps. But I haven't seen him in a decade, and can't find anyone who remembers him.

In a hope to round up someone who knows something, or just hear another Seomyeon John story, I'm sharing the complete 68 page graphic novel I made about him. If you know anyone who was here in the early aughts, please show this to them! I'd love to know what happened to my friend.

Thank you for reading. If you know anything about John, e-mail me at ryan@ryanestrada.com

If you don't, and you just want more free comics, go to www.ryanestrada.com

If you want to help me keep making comics, visit my Patreon!


Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Confucianism Doesn't Explain Everything, but it can Explain Quite a lot

Fri, 2014-08-15 00:16
Confucianism Doesn't Explain Everything, but it can Explain Quite a lo

Since the Sewol disaster and some rather simplistic reporting of Confucianism being in the reason for so many student deaths, using the C-word has become a bit of a no-no in writing about South Korea.  If you do dare to use it, you risk immediately discrediting everything you write.  "Did he say Confucianism?"  "He must know nothing about Korea, what a fool."

As I wrote at the time, the explanation that it was Confucian values that made those students follow orders and stay below was far too basic.  For a start, many didn't listen and escaped, and in a situation you are not sure about - and rarely are most people experts on ferry safety - you perhaps should defer to those in charge with the supposed experience and expertise.  Not only that, it was insulting, laying the blame on the students for their own deaths, when it was clear they were let down by a grossly negligent ferry company and an incompetent crew.

Turning to Confucianism to explain things was a mistake in this case (for the students, I could see a more complex argument for the company and the crew, but I would more broadly say that Korean, 'respect culture', rather than traditional Confucianism could've been a factor) but let's be honest, Confucianism is a driver of many of the behaviours we see around us on a day to day basis in Korea.  In many cases, common practices have become a slightly altered form of Confucian tradition, but modern culture in Korea still has a Confucian base.  It seems stupid to have to say this, as it is so obvious, but I do think some people might need to be told this brute fact.

Some popular news articles and some in the Korean blogosphere have managed to make using the C-word as an explanation a bit of a taboo.  Actually, I think I agree with the two articles I have linked to and many others on the subject, and I also agree that many people used Confucianism too freely, but it is amazing how things swing to the ends of two extremes and the reactions to such articles have not caused balance.  It has gone from being the one-stop solution to every query about things that happen in Korea, to being ridiculed whenever it is used, even if it is extremely relevant.

I have noticed the ridiculing of those that mention Confucianism a lot in the past few months, but it came to my attention this week when an old post I wrote for Asiapundits on the treatment of women in Korea was shared again by one of the editors and received some attention and comments.  In that article, I used Confucianism to partly explain the culture of patriarchy that still exists in Korea.  If you read that post, you will see it only formed a small part of what I wrote, but sure enough, it was picked up upon and received the usual treatment:

1. "It might further behoove you to read about why these cultural traditions exist rather than throwing it under the gauge blanket of confusion ism." (her spelling, not mine by the way)2. "But Confucianism is such a handy word. Every time I can’t understand Korea, I just use it and pretend I do."
These kind of comments have increasingly become the norm.  But in respect to the treatment of women in Korea, surely it is impossible to say that Confucianism is not involved, it is a huge part of the system of hierarchy we see today, both with young and old and men and women.  In a rather long article, I actually only wrote a few lines about it and I'm not really sure how you can argue against it:

"To do away with nearly two thousand years of Confucian tradition (and about 700 hundred of strong cultural influence through the Joseon Dynasty) is what the women of Korea are up against, so perhaps it is no surprise they are still struggling to make an impact on society for better treatment.  In Confucian thought a virtuous woman is meant to uphold the ‘Three subordinations’: be subordinate to her father before marriage, to her husband after marriage, and her son after her husband dies.  Men can remarry and have mistresses, but women must always remain faithful even after their husbands’ death.  With this is mind it is easy to see why men are still thought of in higher regard."
Most cultures all around the world are still in some state of patriarchy.  I would argue that Western culture is almost completely rid of it now (although I'm sure many would disagree, but that's an argument for another time).  But I don't think it is a stretch to say each of these cultures has had to, or is still battling out of, the old traditions that were enforced by a religion or cultural philosophy.  Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, etc.  Which hasn't tried to subjugate and control women?  They all have their particular ways about doing it, however, and some are worse and harder to escape and fight your way out of than others. Islam is undoubtedly the most oppressive of the bunch in this regard and has easy to identify consequences of its patriarchal philosophy.  The results of Confucian tradition in Korea are not so brutal on women, but they still have a significant affect and the form of patriarchy present in Korea has the obvious stamp of Confucianism about it and the culture as a whole persists in holding women back because of it.  Not solely because of it, mind, but to deny it is a factor is strange to say the least.  My suspicion is that it's down to political correctness.

Political correctness is not always a bad thing, it is good we aren't all going around saying bad words to people and jumping to overly-simple conclusions, and it has raised consciousness about certain issues.  But it regularly goes too far and prevents honest dialogue and that is something I have had to really fight with on this blog.

Reflecting on my time blogging, with just one week left in Korea, I have to say that I have been quite amazed by the aggressive, vitriolic, and ridiculing nature of the responses I have got to my blogs over the last two years or so.  Some people write entire repetitive essays of hate against me on my comments section or on their own sites. In the beginning, it was upsetting, I won't lie, especially as I thought I wasn't really being that controversial or anywhere near hateful.  Nowadays though, it is just time-consuming to deal with.  A new life dawns in Australia and I just don't have the time or inclination to deal with those who say white is black and always misconstrue what I write to be some of the most vile evil know to man, indicative of some of the worst elements in modern society and harking back to the days of Hitler (really, no exaggeration, it's what some people think).  The fact I am a White man also seems to be a real problem for many people (even some White men).  How dare a White man give his perspective on Korea.  What a danger to world my meager little blog must be.

It seems that even with a lightly-read, tiny blog on South Korea, you can't escape the abuse, just by having different opinions to the progressive crowd.  From day one, I have had to fight the assumption that you just can't make and share your own judgements about other cultures and you can't compare other cultures (if what you are saying is in any way negative in nature). Although I should say you can, but Western culture - and in particular American culture - must always come out on the losing side, then it's fine.

Confucianism might be becoming another word us White guys can't use anymore in writing or talking about South Korea, it feels like it is now off the table for discussion.  Keep this in mind the next time you ask a Korean person about why they behave in such different ways to us Westerners, because in my experience Confucianism is as much a 'go to' in their explanations of their own behaviour as it is for us. Why?  Because it really is relevant in explaining Korea, there's no escaping it and people other than Koreans themselves can use it (including White guys), it's just not always relevant in every situation.  So somewhere between 'always relevant' and 'never relevant', I think there might be some middle-ground we can occupy.  How about treating every claim of Confucian involvement in different circumstances on its own merit and arguing the particulars of each case?  Now there's an idea.


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Relax, Korea is not ‘finlandizing’ for China

Tue, 2014-08-12 12:13
Relax, Korea is not ‘finlandizing’ for China

This is the first of two part series (one, two) I wrote for the Lowy Institute last month. I have the feeling that the centenary of WWI this summer has gone to everyone’s head, because I’m reading lots of posts all over the place about WWI and the parallels to the Asia-Pacific. And while there are some, a lot of this is hype. Northeast Asia is actually pretty stable – until Japan decides it has finally had enough of Chinese salami-slicing in the region I suppose. But increasingly, I think there are a lot of hawks out there, especially in the DC think-tanks and the PLA, who really dislike the status quo and hence over-hype small changes like Xi’s trip to South Korea or yet another North Korean provocation. But there’s no need to add to a march to war with threat inflation, which is what I am trying to counter-act here.

The essay follows the jump.


“This summer has provoked a lot of clamoring about shifting security in Northeast Asia. The general vibe is that Japan’s Article 9 ‘re-interpretation’ reflects a looming Sino-Japanese conflict, and that Xi Jinping’s trip to South Korea is pulling South Korea away from traditional commitments and is part of China’s larger effort to woo Asians away from the Americans. No less than a former Japanese minister of defense has made this latter argument.

While it is indeed the case that Sino-Japanese tension is growing, much of this discussion misses basic sources of stability in northeast Asia, or glosses over national particularities that muddy an easy interpretation of northeast Asia as spiraling tension. My post today will turn on the notion that Korea is ‘drifting;’ my post tomorrow will focus on the idea that Japan is remilitarizing. Neither of these are really true. My own suspicion is that various moves in the region get quickly over-interpreted, because there are a lot of hawks on all sides of northeast Asian security debate who dislike the rather dull, stable status quo.

On Korea:

1. Deterrence in Korea is actually a lot more stable than most people seem to think.

Dave Kang has made this point repeatedly in his work, but this argument is often lost in the media and the punditry. In 2013 spring faux war crisis, I noted that the media took the North Korean war-talk much more serious than the analyst community, with lots of predictions of conflict and over-heated CNN ‘analyses’ of what such a war would look like. I made the same point in 2010, after the sinking of the destroyer Cheonan by the North and its shelling Yeonpyeong Island in South Korea. The media ran wild with stories of Korea ‘on the brink of all-out war,’ but no one I know in the analyst community actually believes that. North Korea does not want to fight. They will get crushed, and the Kim family will be lynched or got to jail.

At the risk of sounding cynical, there is a great of media hype that can be ginned up out of North Korea, and alarmism is always an easy approach. Describing the North Korean Kim monarchy as insane alcoholic sex fiends, providing frightening statistics about the number of cannon and rockets pointed at Seoul, listing the North Korean nuclear tests, and so on make for great copy. But the big story in the inter-Korean stand-off is that it has not turned into a shooting war after all these years. When is the last time you saw that story covered in the media?

2. South Korea-Japan tension is bad, but they are not going to fight either.

Another hardy chestnut of the ‘northeast Asia is sliding toward war’ narrative is that Japan and South Korea can’t stand each, so conflict in the region is unpredictable. It is indeed true that South Korea and Japan barely talk at the diplomatic level. They do not work together; they don’t really care to (unless the US simultaneously arm twists); and the arguments over history and territory are indeed deep. (See the nice new CSIS report on this whole tangle and how to overcome it; my own recent thoughts on this issue at the Interpreter are here.)

But the formal disagreements cover-up a fair amount nonpolitical interchange between the two. As a professor in Korea, I see this all the time. My university, in Busan, regularly runs major exchange programs with Japanese universities in a way that it does not with schools with other countries, and this is common in the Korean university system. There are constant seminars and academic conferences on the difficulties of the countries’ relationship. There are regular efforts to work on history textbooks jointly. I constantly meet students around Korea who study Japanese, went to school there and so on. Both counties enjoy the other’s cultural products too. Manga, film, video games, K-pop and J-pop flow back and forth. There is also a great deal of tourism between the two.

Little of this is covered in the stories about the high-level tension. But there is a pretty sharp cleavage between the formal bureaucratic posturing, and the reality of dense civil society interchange. The mutual US relationship also restrains. It is all but impossible to imagine their use of force against each other while both are allied to the US.

3. South Korea is not leaving the US alliance to cozy up to China.

This is most preposterous of all the recent talk. The claim, well outlined in the link from the first paragraph, goes that Korea is torn between the US and China. It is dependent on China economically, while dependent on the US for security. The Korean government is divided into sinophile and pro-US factions. Xi’s successful recent trip illustrates the Sinic temptation of Korea. Korea will in time finlandize and equivocate on liberalism and market economics.

Once again, there is a grain of truth here, but a lot of exaggeration and little evidence. It is indeed correct that Korea is torn between China and the US. But many states in Asia are. The big internal foreign policy debate for lots of medium powers in the Asia in the coming decades is precisely the same: how to benefit economically from China’s explosive growth without getting pulled into its orbit politically? Not just South Korea, but North Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Australia all face the same dilemma.

I am not sure what the answer is. It is a hard dilemma, and all these states are going to have to muddle through. Their defense establishments will fret about looming Chinese hegemony, while their business lobbies will salivate over a billion middle-class Chinese consumers. There will be sharp intra-bureaucratic debates in all these states as they balance these competing pressures.

Ideally they would work together to present a more united front to China, but the failure of anything like an Asian NATO, plus the failure of ASEAN to evolve up from a club of government elites, suggest that each Asian middle power is going to tackle this more or less alone. That Korea is already at this point – because China has rapidly become its largest export market – does not make it unique. Indeed the intense focus on Korea ‘findlandizing’ and abandoning the US alliance, penned by a conservative Japanese politician, suggests fairly typical Korean-Japanese sniping in order to win American favor against the other.

The other obvious reason Korea talks with China so much is that China has leverage over Pyongyang. President Park may indeed be the ‘sinophile’ the Japanese are trying to paint her as, but there is an obvious reason: the road to Pyongyang leads through Beijing. Park has to flatter Xi a little if she is going to get any kind of movement on the North Korea nuclear issue, human rights, or unification. For these reason, we should all be pleased for an improving South Korea-China relationship.


Northeast Asia is reasonably stable. Most of its players would rather get rich than fight. Most of its elites know that a war could easily spin out of control. Even the North Koreans know this. And the Park-Xi relationship ameliorates the one part of the status quo everyone does want change – North Korean governance. Despite decades of predictions that war was likely in East Asia, it has happened. There’s more reason for confidence than the media’s routine alarmism would have you think.

Next week: Japan’s Article 9 changes do not signal incipient militarism.”

Filed under: Asia, China, Korea (South)

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


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Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Pyongyang Racer – Having a Gas in Virtual North Korea

Sat, 2014-08-09 05:05
Pyongyang Racer – Having a Gas in Virtual North Korea

By John Bocskay


Fowle (left) and Miller

The North Korean tourist industry, such as it is, got some bad press this year when two American tourists, Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller, were jailed, Fowle for leaving a Bible in a sailor’s club toilet and Miller for as-yet-unspecified crimes against the reclusive state. They both join Kenneth Bae, a Korean American missionary who last year was sentenced to a 15-year all-expense-paid jaunt to a North Korea labor camp for Bible-related assaults on the North Korean regime. The takeaway from last year’s news for would-be tourists was to either obey North Korea’s draconian laws, stay away from North Korea entirely, or be Dennis Rodman, who was the only visitor who appears to have had a rip-roaring good time.

One may sympathize then with Koryo Tours, a small British travel agency that specializes in tours to North Korea. What do you do when your job is to lure visitors to one of the world’s least enticing places?

You design a video game.

Working with a North Korea-based company called Nosotek, Koryo Tours commissioned a browser game called Pyongyang Racer, the first-ever video game developed in North Korea and released for foreign consumption. Designed by Kim Chaek University of Technology students, released on December 18th, 2012, and hosted by the Koryo Tours website, Pyongyang Racer was described as “a bit of retro fun” that not only gives the player “the chance to drive around Pyongyang” but to do it  “all by yourself”.

Much has been written about North Korea, and some films and videos have afforded an occasional state-sanctioned glimpse into the entertainment they produce for domestic consumption – think the Mass Games featured in A State of Mind and kindergartners playing guitar, but films produced by North Koreans have gained scant international exposure. In the early 2000’s, I jumped at the chance to see the North Korean monster film Pulgasari when it opened in Busan, though it was justly panned south of the DMZ and few South Koreans I have ever mentioned it to have even heard of it. In 2012, the film Comrade Kim Goes Flying (which Koryo Tours also co-produced) played at the Toronto Film festival in 2012 and even won over some critics, who called it “fun” while noting its “unabashed kitsch.” While it didn’t set the cinematic world abuzz, it was nonetheless a distinct improvement over previous offerings, like the 2008 documentary The Respected Comrade Supreme Commander Is Our Destiny, and represented another baby step for North Korean culture onto the world stage.

When I heard about Pyongyang Racer, I knew that my own destiny was to give it a spin. Sure, I assumed that “retro fun” was probably just a way of saying “shoddy crap,” but I share the curiosity many people feel whenever the smallest bit of cultural information trickles out from the most isolated country in the world. Combine that with my interest in video games and it was a no-brainer.

I clicked the Pyongyang Racer link and was disappointed, though not surprised, when the game failed to load, though I later found out that the Koryo Tours website had been hacked within a couple days of the game’s debut. After moving to a new host, they eventually got the game running, and I finally had my chance to visit this Potemkinized, pixilated Pyongyang.



The “About” link on the game site itself explains that Pyongyang Racer “is not intended to be a high-end techological [sic] wonder hit game of the 21st century,” and my first play confirmed that it lives down to its billing. Technologically, the game is a glitch-ridden throwback to the 32-bit era of the early 90’s, though you’re free to think of it as “retro fun” if you prefer.The controls are clunky and unresponsive, the buildings along the road are drab and repetitive, and it’s not even a “race” but an uneventful drive in a Pyonghwa Motors sedan around the mostly deserted streets of Pyongyang, set to an unrelenting soundtrack of bouncy North Korean music oddly reminiscent of the faux North Korean music in Team America: World Police.

However, despite (or because of) its lack of drama or technical brilliance, Pyongyang Racer is loaded with delightful ironies and inadvertent social realism. Unlike American driving games, where the object is usually to compete with other drivers and flout the speed limit without being caught, the two main challenges in Pyongyang Racer are to scrupulously obey the law and not run out of gas, which would seem to mirror the most pressing concerns of actual Pyongyang drivers. One of the city’s iconic female traffic cops randomly appears and warns you to “drive straight” and to avoid hitting three cars or you will be “stopped for bad driving,” and coyly tells you not to stare at her because she’s “on duty.”

As you drive around, your eyes are more likely to be drawn to your fuel gauge, which depletes rapidly (a full tank lasts less than 2 minutes). You replenish it by running over fuel barrels, which lie scattered along the road, sometimes in the oncoming lane. Lest that sound risky, fear not: there’s very little traffic, and the few cars that do appear have no drivers and don’t move at all, perhaps having been abandoned after running out of fuel.

Though it sounds like a fairly simple task, the first time I played I ran out of gas and the game ended. The second time, I was curious to see what would happen if I hit three cars, but there is so little traffic that I ran out of fuel while looking for cars to hit. It wasn’t until my fourth game that I succeeded in keeping the car moving long enough to ram three other cars. Would I be sent to the gulag for working to undermine the safety of the state, I wondered? Nope. After the hitting the third car, the game abruptly ended. Please forgive the “spoiler”, but it was so lame I didn’t think you’d mind.

The only other point of the game is to collect the little icons that appear in the road next to famous landmarks around the city, which are instantly recognizable if only because they are the only buildings rendered in any detail whatsoever. Running over the icons opens a little blurb about that location. For example, the Arch of Triumph icon proudly states, “Without the traffic jams of Paris.”

Gay Pyongyang

Also unlike Paris, there is not a single human being to be seen anywhere on the map, except the cop who constantly watches you and appears out of nowhere. The game makers seem to assume that thething to do in Pyongyang is to be whisked around gawking at monuments with as little human contact as possible, which again jibes with every anecdotal description of Pyongyang tourism that I’ve ever heard. You also have to remain on the predetermined course. Nobody will shoot you, as happened in 2008 to an unfortunate South Korean tourist who wandered into an unauthorized area at North Korea’s Mt. Kumgang resort, but any attempt to drive off the road or take an unsanctioned turn results in a short screen blackout, after which you reappear pointed in the mandated direction as if nothing had happened.

Despite its failings, the game is actually pretty hard to finish. In ten or so plays, I’ve yet to make a full circuit. The main page has a “Top Ten Champions list” though it doesn’t update automatically; if you get a high score, you are instructed to take a screenshot to prove it, and e-mail it to Koryo Tours, along with your time, the number of fuel barrels and tourist sites collected, and the number of cars you hit. The current high score is held by the improbably named Shinmai McBurrobit, who finished the track in 7 minutes, 17 seconds, while collecting all fuel drums and tourist sites and not hitting a single car – in other words, a perfect game. Move over, Billy Mitchell. There’s a new kid in town.

Pyongyang Racer isn’t going to rock your world, but you’re desperate for a unique peek into the Hermit Kingdom, go on and check it out.


Editor’s note: A shorter, less interesting, and more poorly-written version of this piece appeared in March 2013 on Outside Looking In.

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Scents of Seoul

Wed, 2014-08-06 01:31
Scents of Seoul
Spring just transforms the city and people alike.With the heavy coats off, the sun beginning to caress the skin with warmth, and the stark, bare trees beginning to sprout their little green shoots again, there is then the fragrance of enthusiasm and vigor in the city. Cherry blossoms, azaleas and forsythias emanate sweetness in scents and people come from far and near to rejoice in the longer, warmer days.

Cheery cherry blossoms bloom only for a week in spring

cactus budding

pink budsSummertime, though, is scorching hot and humid, interlaced with thunderstorms which do not bring any respite from the hot temperatures. But the people are so cool about it and beat the heat at public parks along the Han river, sniffing the scent of rain soaked grass, ordering anything from chicken to pizza which is handed to them within the next 20 minutes! The place just revels in laziness along with the whiff of smoke from the diligent delivery guys, the energy of the people coaxing you to try their secret recipe chicken, and sweaty kids frolicking around along with the deep sense of serenity. 
Binggsu- Beans on shaved ice with marshmallows and fruits. Unique combination to cool it off in Korea.Summer time fun at Banpo parkLong summer evenings
Fall, in all its color and splendor along with Chuseok~ the most important festival of honoring the ancestors in Korea~ adds in the aroma of family, friendship and camaraderie. This is also when people travel in droves through the length and breadth of the country and savor a totally different essence of the very same places, incensed with the smell of the sweet persimmon fruit.

Sweet Persimmons

Cold, dull winter adds yet another dimension to Seoul, transforming it into a white, icy wonderland. It is easy during this time to succumb into the toasty smell of chestnuts baked on beds of coal or the roasted sweet potato in makeshift stalls that seem to appear in every street corner. But the most satisfying smell comes from ice fishing in Seoul and immediately getting your catch on your plate, roasted, grilled or baked in spices in any of the restaurants nearby.

And then, there are some smell that just leaves one shell shocked. 
Doenjang is made from fermenting soy bean in huge pots and has a bad smell
The Doenjang (된장) or the fermented soya bean paste might have all the anti-carcinogenic properties, flavinoids, vitamins and minerals but it still smells disgusting. 
Drying fish
Dried Fish: Fish smell funny cooked or uncooked. But dried fish which is used as both toppings and side dish and of course, as the main course of a meal, smells really bad.

Kim is the green, papery seaweed, used here for making kimbap. 
The See Weeds: Laver and Kim (김.) The green wonders, packed with nutrition and properties to get rid of cholesterol still smells really peculiar and the taste for it has to be cultivated ...
Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

On US-North Korea Relations: in short, They’re Awful

Mon, 2014-08-04 04:24
On US-North Korea Relations: in short, They’re Awful

That picture would be me and the “Great Chosun Leader, Comrade Kim Il Sung” (“위대한 조선 수령 김일성 동지,” as they told us to call him) in the Pyongyang subway. You’ll notice that the gold stature is nicer than the passing metro car (right) from the 1960s. That pretty much tells you what, and how awful, North Korea’s priorities are.

The Korea Times asked me to comment on North Korea’s relationship with the US as a part of its review of North Korea’s foreign relations. The original is here and re-printed below. My main theme is that most Americans are unwilling to accept the legitimacy of North Korea as a real, independent country like any other. Not only is it run as a orwellian gangster fiefdom which the world would loathe anyway, it should also be a part of a Southern-led, unified Korea.

Naturally, this worries the NK elite who in turn are hostile back to us. I suppose we could accept and recognize the permanent existence of North Korea, as the South Korean left would have us do, but I must admit I find normalization intolerable. The idea of coexisting with North Korea strikes me as deeply immoral, even if the cost of that attitude is near-permanent tension. I suppose North Korea is one of few global problems about which I am still a real hawk, but North Korea’s human rights record is so stupendously awful – the recent UN report on human rights in North Korea likened the place to the Nazi Germany for christ’s sake – that I just can’t take that leftist route of recognition.

Here’s that op-ed:


“Much recent media discussion has focused on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s successful trip to South Korea. It was widely remarked that Xi visited South Korea before North Korea, and this is often taken to suggest Chinese disapproval of the North Korean nuclear program.

This suggests a happy convergence between China and the United States on North Korea. For years, the United States and North Korea have been at loggerheads, not just over the nuclear program but much else. If China is genuinely breaking with Pyongyang, at least over the nuclear weapons program, there may be room for a Chinese-South Korean-US joint position on North Korea. That would be a break-through.

The American relationship with North Korea has traditionally swung between two poles – grudging recognition of its persistence, and an idealistic rejection of it as a brutal stalinist throwback. There is no obvious solution to this dilemma. In recent years, President Barack Obama has channeled the former impulse with his notion of “strategic patience.” The United States now is simply waiting for North Korea to change, seeing no obvious reason to engage it when engagement so often leads to frustration. But there is no active effort to overthrow it or aggressively demonize it. On the other hand, President George Bush pursued the latter, idealistic course. Bush placed North Korea on the “axis of evil” and sought to pressure it into collapse. In this he was similar to former President LEE Myung-Bak of South Korea. Lee was also a hawk who thought he could push North Korea toward collapse.

This is turn raises the central dilemma of US-North Korea relations – Pyongyang’s maddening persistence and the extraordinary incompatibility between it and the United States. While the US has worked with dictatorships in the past, such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Park Chung-Hee’s South Korea, totalitarian North Korea is in a class of its own. It the world’s last and worst orwellian tyranny. It is more stalinist than even Stalin’s Soviet Union. Its human right record exceeds even the Taliban in its awfulness. It also has a demonstrated history of expansionism – the invasion of 1950 – and terrorism, such as the bombing of the South Korean cabinet in 1983. On top of this, it engages in nuclear and missile technology proliferation, brews and sells narcotics, counterfeits foreign currencies, and so on.

The contrast with American political values of constitutional democracy is enormous, making it hard for American officials to accept North Korea as ‘just another country.’ The American instinct is to reject North Korean sovereignty as a fraud, to see Pyongyang as a gangster fiefdom run by an insular, paranoid monarchy that should be unified as quickly as possible with South Korea. South Korean conservatives often talk the same way, and this shared, if usually unspoken, rejection of North Korean legitimacy has been the cement of the American-South Korean relationship. By contrast, the South Korean left has often looked for mutual accommodation strategies, which have frequently generated tension with the United States. It is hard to imagine the US ever accepting North Korea as a state like any other, opening an embassy there, encouraging tourism, and so on.

Yet North Korea continues to grind on, to the enormous surprise and frustration of just about everyone. Decades of predictions that North Korea would collapse have been embarrassingly wrong. How North Korea continues to stumble along is a topic of intense debate, but neither the collapse of communism, the famines of the 1990s, nor the demonstration effects of Arab Spring seem to have made a dent. Leadership passed seamlessly from Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un. Hence, the US-North Korean stand-off looks set to continue for decades. There is no obvious ‘off-ramp’ or ‘exit strategy’ short of unlikely regime collapse.”

Filed under: Korea (North), United States

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


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MegaGuide to Busan Food & Drink (Renovations Underway)

Mon, 2014-08-04 00:57


MegaGuide to Busan Food & Drink

The line between places to eat, caffeinate, & imbibe is pretty blurry.  As such, we've created the megaguide below.  We are currently doing a major update of this guide with the help of the Busan Food Facebook Group and Koreabridge community.  Please comment below to let us know names, locations, & info about any closings, additions, and/or changes. Users can also create listings for places that don't already have one by clicking 'create/business listing'. 


* Beomildong  
* Busan Station 
* City Hall
* Deokpo 
* Dongnae
* Dusil
* Gaegeum 
* Gimhae* Guseo 
* Gwangan  
* Hadan 
* Haeundae 
* Kyungsung 
* Mandeok 
* Namcheon 
* Nampodong 

* Saha 
* Sassang
* Seomyeon
* Songjung 
* Taejongdae 
* Yonghodong 

General Reviews *  Vegetarian Restaurants  *    Food DiscussionsOther Guides 

Types of food sections coming soon


  Koreabridge Directory  *   Busan Awesome  *     BusanHaps.com    
  ForeignerWithChopsticks  * Gastric Canvas  *     Facebook

View Busan Guide Map in a larger map


Busan Station/Texas Street

City Hall

  • 이 랴이랴 - Beef BBQ - 13,000-16,000 (for 1-2 people)

 Deokpo (Green line near Sasang)

  • Peueon Thai - 4,000-8,000 
  • Thu Hiền Vietnamese - 6,000-7,000
  • The Thai Restaurant - Deokpo - Thai - 7,000-10,000


  • Japanese - 20,000 (2 people food & drink)
  • Melbourne Brunch Restaurant - Brunch - 10,000

Dusil Station

  • Cappadocia - Turkish - 10,000
  • 이 랴이랴 - Beef BBQ - 13,000-16,000 (for 1-2 people)


  • The Center of Beans - Coffee & Bingsu - 5,000 
  • Green Hanoi - Vietnamese Shabu Shabu - 12,000



  • Manheejee Coffee - Guseo - Brunch/Western - 8,000-15,000  Map


  • Bong G - takeout bar, wine punch by the bag, map
     Bong G – Wine cocktails to go on Gwangalli Beach 
  • Beach Bikini - bar/restaurant map 
  • Beached - bar/restaurant, vegemite available,  map
  • Beer Check Hof
       Beer Check Hof: Gwanganli Beach 
  • Butcher's Burgers - Burgers - 10,000-15,000  map 
  • Cusco - Restaurant, Spit fired Chicken Map
  • Brunch Cafe Ean - 8,000-10,000
     Brunch Cafe Ean 
  • East Village Cafe - Coffee Shop, free Wifi, nice view map
  • Fam Island Sushi Buffet -
  • Four Season Raw Fish - Restaurant, Korean Style raw fish (and live octopus) map
  • Galmegi Brewing - Homemade Pizza & Brewery - 10,000-14,000
    Galmegi Brewing Company    website

  • Guess Who? Family Restaurant -  Restaurant, Buffet, Map
  • Hauljjim - 남천동 동해바다 해물탕 - Namcheon - Seafood/Korean stew - 15,000 (for lots of seafood)
  • Hoa Bin - Vietnamese Restaurant, map 
  • IRANG - Brunch - 7,500-12,000
  • Korean Natural Food Restaurant - Restaurant, Traditional/Vegetarian, map
     Korean Natural Food Restaurant 
  • Papa's Brunch - restaurant, 
       Papa's Brunch - Breakfast, Italian, Chocolate 
  • Pasta e Vino - restaurant, Italian, map
         Italian on the Beach 

  • Saigon “Pho”-  Restaurant, Vietnamese Map 
  • Sharky's - Western & Tex Mex - 10,000-26,000,  map    
  • Shao mei - Chinese 
        Shao mei Restaurant 
  • Table49 - Western - 8,000-20,000
  • Ten Tables
     Ten Tables Burgers 
  • Tremare - Restaurant, Italian, map
    Tremare Italian Restaurant 
  • Tres Bon French Cuisine
  • 설 빙 aka "Seol Bing" - Fantastic Bingsu - 9,000]
  • 이 랴이랴 - Beef BBQ - 13,000-16,000 (for 1-2 people)



Centum City

  • An Chae - Traditional Korean - 8,000
  • Arun Thai - Thai -  8,000-13,000  map
  • Buccellas - Sandwiches - 10,000
  • Cafe de Cine - Restaurant, Italian, 5th Floor Shinsege Dept. Store  map
  • Dos Tacos - Burritos - 7,000-11,000  map
     Dos Tacos  
  • Restaurant inside Spa Land - Korean - 8,000-15,000  map
  • Johnny Rockets - Burgers & Sandwiches - 11,500  map

 Dongbaek (near Haeundae)

  • Sushi Berry - Sushi - 6,000-8,000 
  • House on a Hill - Restaurant, Swiss chalet style, map
  • Morning Glory - restaurant/bar, steak pizza varied menu, (seen in the movie 'My sassy girl')  map
  • Starface - Bar (with food),
      Starface Dalmaji Hill



  • Almost Famous - bar, map  

Mandeok (near Deokcheon)

  • Kooni - Quirky Western - 8,000


  • Korean Natural Food Restaurant - Restaurant, , map  
    Traditional/Vegetarian (reservation one day prior required for vegetarian option)
     Korean Natural Food Restaurant
  • Namcheon - Patbingsu (fresh traditional ingredients) - 2,500


PNU (Pusan National University)

Saha (near Hadan)

  • Geojang Totem House - Amazing roasted duck inside of a pumpkin, side dishes, etc. - 55,000 (4 people)



  • Beom Tae Yehnal Son JjaJang - Chinese (Black noodles, Dumplings, Pork) - 15,000 (2 people)
  • Bibcock - Mexican food - 8,000 -15,000
  • Burgerful - Burgers - 7,000
  • Caffe Star King - coffee shop, map
    Caffe Star King
  • Chic and Beer Plus - Macaroni & Cheese, Chicken Strips - 7,000-10,500
  • Chir Chir - Chicken - 39,000 (3 people with beers)
  • Dajeon (다전) Restaurant and Teahouse - Vegan/Vegetarian Korean - 5,000-11,000  map
      Dajeon Tea House & Vegetarian Restaurant
  • Gyeongju Gukbap -  Restaurant, Pork Soup, map
      A tale of two restaurants: Pork soup restaurants in Seomyeon (Gyeongju Gukbap)
  • Florians’s - Restaurant, Italian Buffet, W20,000  map
  • Hans Brew House  - brew pub, serving meals, map
     Hans Brew House
  • Hamkyung Myeon-Ok - Cold noodle restaurant,  map
  • Hokkan - Bar/Restaurant, Japanese, website, map
     Hokkan Japanese Bar/Restaurant
  • Judie Nine Brau - Restaurant/Brewpub (Judie's Daehwa 9F)  map
      Two Brewhouses in Seomyeon: Judie's Nine Brau and Who?
     Judies 9 Brau
  • King Beer Mart - bar, map
      King Beer Mart – Seomyeon
  • Kraan - 1 meter long skewers of pork (29,000), or beef (39,000) and veggies (2-4 people)
  • Jaws Jjimdak - Chicken platter with noodles, sauce, cheese, toekkbokki, etc. - 25,000 for 4 people (1,000 discount for posting on social media) 
  • Johnson's Diner - Burgers, etc. -  8,000-10,000
  • Makeoli Salon - restaurant/bar, traditional Korean, map
     Makeoli Salon, Seomyeon
  • Maris Angel - Sushi buffet - 16,000
  • Metal City - Club, map
  • Monglit Wine Bar - Bar map
    Monglit wine bar, Seomyeon
  • Pan Asia 팬아시아 서면점 - Thai fusion restaurant - 10,000
  • The Pancake - Restaurant, Western-style breakfast map
      the PANCAKES
  • Sake Dining Bar - Japanese Bar/Restaurant
     Sake Dining Bar, Seomyeon
  • Sorrento - Restaurant, Italian 
  • Savoy - Fish & Chips - 9,000  map
     Savoy Seomyeon   Savoy Fish & Chips
  • Uncle Tomato
     Uncle Tomato Italian Restaurant, Seomyeon
  • Well Being Namsan Vegetarian Buffet - map  
  • Yaman - Jamaican - 8,000-15,000  
  • Yellow Chicken - Fried Chicken - 15,000 (3 people)
  • Zooza
     Zooza, Seomyeon
  • 4 번 출구 or "Exit 4" - Fried Noodles - 19,000 (4 people, probably filling for 3)
  • 콩 밭에 - Korean-momma-that-you-don't-know's home cooking - 7000
  • 팔 색삼겹살 - set menu BBQ (삼겹살) -  30,000 (2 people)
  • 홍 소족발 (Hong So Jok Bal) - Pig's Feet - 35, 000 for large size (4 people) cheaper/smaller available


  • High Bistro - Burgers - 5,000-10,000
  • Bella Luna - Songjung - Handmade Chocolate - 5,000-10,000



 Vegetarian Restaurants & Information

General Reviews/Multiple Locations

Food & Drink  Topics (from the Koreabridge Forums)

 Other Guides

MegaGuide to Busan Food & Drink (Renovations Underway)
Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed


Main menu 2

by Dr. Radut