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Take a Look into a Korean Folk Village (민속촌)

Fri, 2015-02-27 13:02
Take a Look into a Korean Folk Village (민속촌) 민속촌 means "folk village," and there are only few of them in Korea. The most popular Korean folk village is located in Yong-in City (용인시), which is south of Seoul.A 민속촌 offers us a glimpse into traditional Korean life. There are old-style Korean buildings, arts and crafts displays, performances, and more. You could visit for an hour or spend the entire afternoon, and there are plenty of interesting things to do and see for everyone.Check out the video below for a guided tour of Korea's most popular 민속촌!민속촌: Traditional Korean village and K-drama filming spot

And are you just starting to learn Korean, or want a solid review of the basics? Then my book "Korean Made Simple: A beginner's guide to learning the Korean language" is the book for you! You can check the book out on my site here, or find it directly through Amazon and most online retailers.
Or if you've already started learning Korean and want to take your skills to the next level, check out my second book in the series, "Korean Made Simple 2: The next step in learning the Korean language." You can check out the sequel here, or find it directly through Amazon and most online retailers.





Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

11 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Teaching in Korea

Wed, 2015-02-25 05:32
11 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Teaching in Korea

Bear with me folks. This is a long one, and there are no pretty pictures. Sorry. But I hope you find it useful/interesting. I’ve been teaching in Korea for 6 months now, so it seemed like a good time to reflect and share a few humble words of wisdom. Some of these points are things I thought I already knew, but it turned out that was only true on a superficial level. Other things on the list didn’t hit me until I was already in Korea. Here we go:

  1. The language barrier is HUGE. It’s SO MUCH bigger and harder than I ever imagined. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t felt like a prisoner, an infant, a helpless dog, a moron, or some combination of these things at some point. The feeling never lasts all day, and I do enjoy occasional breakthroughs, but those usually go as quickly as they come. Living in a non-English speaking country is often exhausting and frustrating. And yeah, struggling through the language barrier is “part of the adventure.” But let me tell you, there are days when I’m tired of “adventures” to the corner store and all I want is to buy some frickin Frosted Flakes without engaging in another rousing game of charades. Before coming to Korea, I wish I had put as much energy as possible into learning the language ahead of time. Not only would it have made my first days and weeks in the country easier. It also would’ve left me at a higher level once my language-learning enthusiasm took a nose dive here. If I had known that the very obstacle I was initially so determined to overcome would become such a demotivator, I might’ve worked harder before leaving to arm myself better for the battle. 
  2. Don’t bother caring about things beyond your control, particularly when it comes to teaching. There are days when I’ve worked my ass off to prepare a lesson, or I’ve come up with something really fun and exciting to do, and no one shows up or the class gets cancelled without warning. Do I go and demand an answer from my co-teacher or do I channel my inner Taylor Swift and shake it off? Other times I’m faced with the choice of waking a sleeping student in the middle of class and forcing him to participate, or just letting him snooze away so I don’t disrupt the lesson. Should I take it personally that he finds my material so boring or should I tell myself it’s not MY class that’s drawing out the snores in him (yes, sometimes they actually snore) it’s the SYSTEM as a whole? Harder still are the kids who are awake but blatantly don’t want to be there. Do I bend over backwards to make them like me and my class? Or do I focus on the other students who are sincerely paying attention and engaged? Before coming to Korea, I wish I had known that more often than not, I should be prepared to NOT care; that my happiness on the job would largely depend on my ability to shrug off the frustrations and let go of the disappointments; and furthermore, I would find myself having to “not care” way more than I expected. But, that being said, the result is that the things I DO choose to care about, I do so very much, and I put as much time, thought and energy into those things/students as possible; almost like I’m subconsciously trying to make up for all my other moments of apathy. If, before arriving in Korea, I had been ready to only care/focus on the things I could control, I probably would’ve found peace/satisfaction with the job a lot sooner. 
  3. There was a reason EPIK kept me in the dark. I can remember feeling annoyed and vulnerable throughout the drawn-out application process leading up to orientation, and then still feeling that way for most of that first week. ‘Why was the program so slow to divulge any information about our placements? Why did every step have to take so long to complete?’ Well, 6 months later, I’ve discovered answers to both of those questions. First, EPIK wants to ensure that people don’t try to peace out early if they’re unhappy about their placement, their living situation, or anything else about their future in the program. So they keep everyone in the dark all the way until the end of orientation, at which point they finally turn the damn lights on. It’s also a good way for them to weed out the people who’re applying for the wrong reasons. Second, the application is like the “song that never ends” basically because the program is one big, giant cluster-you-know-what. Imagine several thousand applicants all trying to jump through the same hoops at once, and the wring leaders (aka EPIK staff) are a surprisingly small contingency of young Koreans doing their best to hire the right people to work in a foreign country–a difficult process to complete when it’s just one person being hired, let alone hundreds. So it takes time. A lot of time. In my head I picture the EPIK headquarters perpetually looking like a bomb just went off: official documents and resumes render the floor invisible, and leftover take-out bags and boxes litter food-stained tables because no one on staff ever has time for table manners when they eat. Before coming to Korea, I wish I had better appreciated just how difficult it is to obtain a job overseas and all the paperwork that comes with it, and that waiting and feeling out of the loop isn’t just part of the game, it’s part of the game for a reason.
  4. There’s no real way to fully prepare for the extreme highs and lows that come with living and working abroad, but knowing so might help.  For me, there was an incredible euphoria to the initial weeks of settling into my new life: taking weekend trips, going out with new expat friends every Friday night, and just being enthralled with the exotic new culture. Then, at some point, piece by piece, things started to unravel. In my case, it was a combination of culture shock, homesickness and a disillusionment with teaching that sent me plummeting into what I now like to call The Dark Ages. Then one day a lesson went REALLY well, or I made a new friend, and I was flying high again…only to crash and burn once more around the holidays. You get the idea. Up and down, up and down. Before coming to Korea, to a certain degree I knew I would feel homesick and that I would face many mental and emotional challenges. And I knew it was going to be fun. But knowing and experiencing are two very different things. And that’s what I wish I had taken into account; that even with all of my other experiences of travel and being away from home, this was different, and it was going to be far more difficult than I ever could anticipate. However, all the difficult times made the great ones all the more awesome. I don’t think I could’ve prepared for this any better, but maybe knowing that it was impossible to really prepare would’ve helped…maybe.
  5. The quickest way to make life enjoyable and easy is to have a combination of expat and Korean friends. Here in Korea I need both. For my own sanity and my survival. Expats understand where I’m coming from, literally. They work the same job as me so they understand my triumphs and struggles. And their schedules are similar to mine, so social activities and vacations are easy to coordinate. Oh yeah, and they SPEAK ENGLISH! But Koreans know the native language, the culture and social norms, and all the cool spots/things to do that expats don’t. When comparing cultural experiences/trips that I’ve had with my expat friends vs my Korean friends, the latter offers a greater amount of authenticity every time. However, in the end, there are benefits to both. So, before coming to Korea, I wish I had known how important it would be to break out of my foreigner bubble and strike a balance early on to get the most out of my experience.
  6. The role of EPIK teachers is not to swoop in and “fix” the Korean education system.  Not long after starting at my school, I began to feel guilty that I was contributing to the institution that produces the world’s unhappiest students. Seriously, it’s a fact. As a result, I instantly felt a desire to change the soul-sucking norms of late night hagwon sessions and boring lecture-style lessons. But after talking with my fellow Korean teachers about our students and education in Korea, even they didn’t have any real answers or know how/if things would ever change. It might sound fatalistic, but that’s when I decided it wasn’t my job to find those answers or bring about those changes.  What I also decided, though, was that I could still  make a difference in these kids’ educational lives by exposing them to alternative teaching and learning methods, and make class as fun and painless as I could. I was never going to solve the whole problem, but at least I could do something about it within my own classroom. Before coming to Korea, I wish I had reminded myself that I wasn’t going there to fix the country’s imperfect education system, and that I wasn’t responsible for all (or any) of its flaws; that all I would be able to do is offer my experience and point of view, and show them a different way of thinking/working.
  7. The classes run by EPIK teachers are more of a bonus and less of an actual class. This is not what I expected when I walked in on day one. I knew the class might be seen as “a little different,” since I don’t speak Korean and it’s run by two teachers instead of one. ‘But how much different could it really be?’ Actually, the answer is: a lot. At least in my case, students already have their regular English class twice a week with just my co-teacher. Then, once a week, I come in for a lesson. Unlike in the other two periods, in my class they don’t get graded (though I could probably ask) and there aren’t any other obvious incentives for them to participate or try to understand me. As a result, I’ve been confronted with major motivation issues from many students. The way I’ve skirted around that, though, and gained their interest/respect is by making lemonade out of the giant lemon that is this situation. Instead of trying so hard to be taken seriously as a “real teacher,” I play up the “bonus status” of my class. Before my first day on the job, I wish I would’ve known that the more I take advantage of this “bonus status,” the better things will go. When I break the mold from the usual teacher these kids see and do something outside of the box, it’s almost always a hit.
  8. Signing the EPIK contract = relinquishing all control for the next year. When I signed the official contract, I effectively agreed to have no actual say in where I would live, who I would work with, where I would teach, how much I would teach or when my vacation would be. It was all out of my hands. I knew that going in though. And none of it bothered me…until it came time to book winter vacation plans and I was suddenly at the mercy of the Ministry of Education. Basically the Education Office blew a giant hole in my plans at the last minute and I had to be very flexible and roll with the punches, which they were entitled to dole out since it states in my contract that I can be summoned to teach where I’m needed if I haven’t fulfilled all my teaching hours for the week yet. Fortunately I hadn’t booked anything at that point so there was no financial loss. But it was still frustrating, and it resulted in me purchasing flights later and thus paying more. Before coming to Korea, I wish I had known that at some point I was guaranteed to get jerked around by the system. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when and how badly. S’just what happens when you sign a contract like this.
  9. Speaking of money, banking here sucks. Maybe I just haven’t figured it out, but banking in Korea is a huge pain. I wish I would’ve opened a credit card account in the States before I left. Not only would it have been nice to have for settling-in purposes in the beginning, but also for other travel and online purchases. Korean bank cards and credit cards just don’t work well all the time. They especially don’t like to cooperate with online transactions for whatever dumb reason (maybe it’s just my particular bank, Nong-Hyup). And then when I have a problem, I have to go to a help website that’s entirely in Korean to sort it out, which I can’t do without assistance from my co-teacher. And unfortunately it’s happened at least three times now where I’ve gone to my co-teacher with a simple question about trying to use my bank cards for something, intending to only take up a minute of her time, and it’s turned into an hour or more of her being on the phone with a customer service agent, who sometimes asks us to visit the nearest branch to resolve the issue. End rant. So the moral is: Before leaving the US, I wish I had gotten a credit card and opened an account with CitiBank (they allow no-fee international money transfers and have English-speaking branches in Korea). I’ve recently learned that Korean Exchange Bank is also very foreigner friendly, so I’ll be looking more into that soon.
  10. In the classroom, play to your strengths whenever and however you can. I do not come from a teaching background. I do not possess a strong technical knowledge of English. Therefore, trying to come off as a professional, highly qualified and knowledgeable English teacher is rather stressful and frustrating for me…but that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to be for the most part up until now. And it’s filled me with such anxiety and fear and despair at times that it’s tainted my experience. For these first six months, I’ve had small bursts of successful and enjoyable lessons, but I wasn’t looking closely enough at why I’d succeeded. And now I realize it’s because I was teaching in a way that I enjoyed, that made sense to me and made me comfortable. And once I started working and feeling that way, the kids responded to my enthusiasm and returned the favor. I am a project person. So whether it’s a video, an art project, a creative writing assignment or whatever, that’s where I feel at home and excited. As I said before I’m not a “real” teacher here, so why should I kill myself trying to be one? My co-teacher has literally told me several times not to stress, that my job is to just make English enjoyable and accessible to the kids. I guess up until now I’ve been afraid to take her words at full value and run with them. Not anymore though.
  11. You never know unless you try. Before coming to Korea, I wasn’t totally sure if I liked teaching, if I could handle homesickness, or if Korea would be a good fit for me. At times these doubts really got to me, and they made me second guess myself. After all, a year is a big commitment to make to something that you’re not 100% sure of. But on the other hand, it’s only a year. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And really, for the most part, an experience like this tends to offer nothing but gains, even if we aren’t aware of therm at the time. So my final thought is that, before coming to Korea, I wish I would’ve let go of all my doubts, uncertainties and reservations and just trusted that everything was going to be fine, at the least, and frickin awesome, at best; that the only way to know would be to try, and that I would be so glad I made the choice I did.

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Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Buying a Car in Korea

Wed, 2015-02-25 02:52
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Buying a Car in Korea As usual, I managed to go for weeks without posting, despite my best intentions. There's something about vacation that just sucks away what little ability I ever had to stick to deadlines or regimes, and suddenly it's been weeks and nothing at all productive has been done, even though I actually have more free time. It's a great mystery of my own personal universe.

In my defense, a lot has been going on. I did manage to buy my car, but not after what were probably the most stressful 48 hours of my life. Buying the car itself was pretty easy, but trying to get insurance...well, the phrase "when it rains, it pours" is pretty accurate here. Okay, story time.

So, I was cutting it pretty close, budget-wise, but I was pretty sure I had everything worked out. I'd heard from various people a ballpark range for insurance for a year, and naturally I divided that over 12 months and figured it was totally doable. That was, of course, where I made my first mistake.

Unless you have a KOREAN credit card, you have to pay for a whole year of insurance all at once. Also, at least based on my own experience, that card has to be in your name, so no putting it on your incredibly generous and kind friend's card and paying her back. That was the original plan, but you know what they say about the best laid plans...

So, about 48 hours before I was slated to buy the car, I discovered that A) my plan for paying for insurance wasn't going to work and B) I had to somehow get my hands on over $1000 in a very short amount of time. Normally I'd make a withdrawal from the National Bank of My Mom for an emergency like this, but since it takes time to transfer money overseas, that route was out.

Fortunately, I am in possession of more than one incredibly generous and kind friend. I was stressing to Harry over FB when he just...offered to loan me the money. He even bullied me into accepting his help, totally against my wishes. In the end, his mom helped me to find a slightly more affordable plan, and talked me through the whole process and loaned me the money to pay for it.

That whole 24 hour period of uncertainty about insurance filled me with so much stress and anxiety my body started to think it was having a heart attack. The only other time that has ever happened to me was when I was preparing to move to Korea; it's pretty intense and scary, but at least this time I knew what was happening.

So finally, I reached the day: Friday the 13th. I signed the lease of one of my favorite apartments on a Friday the 13th during a thunderstorm, so I feel that the date is relatively auspicious. I wasn't able to officially leave work early to meet Adele at the car registration office, but my coteacher said, with a wink, that I could take a "long lunch" and promised to cover for me if anyone asked where I was.

Registering the car was probably the easiest part of the process, though if you don't speak any Korean it's probably a good idea to bring a Korean-speaking friend, as all the forms are in Korean. We were also really lucky to have the help of one of the office ladies who spoke fantastic English. She shepherded us through all the different steps, and before I knew it, I was handing over an envelope full of money to Adele in exchange for the car registration and keys.

And then...I drove back to school. In my car.

He's a beauty.
So yeah. That's pretty much the most interesting thing that's happened in the past few weeks. If you need any tips or more specific information, I'd be happy to answer questions to the best of my ability! It's really hard to find reliable information about all this stuff.

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

About   Teaching   Advice   Beauty   How-To   Food   Langauge   Tumblr

Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Busan Shark Dive: Up Close and Personal with Jaws

Sat, 2015-02-21 04:18
Busan Shark Dive: Up Close and Personal with Jaws When I was a young gal, I had an ungodly fear of sharks. Perhaps it was the animatronics at the Jaws ride at Universal Studios, or the threat constantly reiterated by the warning signs on the beaches of Destin, a beachside town in Florida where my family and I spent our summer vacations. So, it came as a surprise to me that I had an extreme desire to swim with them when I learned of the opportunity offered by the Sea Life Aquarium in Busan.

So, I left my nerves (and inhibitions) in Seoul and headed down to the southern coastal city to take a dive with Aquatic Frontier, a foreigner-owned and -operated diving company based just outside of Seoul.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by the bubbly Sammy, my scuba instructor for the day, as well as a British couple who would also be participating in the dive. We were brought to a room where we were briefed in detail regarding the indemnity form we were all required to sign, which basically stated we wouldn’t (or couldn’t) sue, should we happen to lose an arm, end up with a collapsed lung, or find ourselves in some other similar situation.

This had the same effect on my nerves as hearing side effects of a medicine or a medical procedure from a doctor does. But, I did feel reassured learning that in the history of the program, there had been zero serious issues. Sammy was very confident in her instructing abilities, and assured us we would be fine.

We then changed into wet suits and donned our gear, which was ridiculously heavier than I imagined it to be. Fortunately, the buoyancy of the water made the weight bearable.

Sammy taught us the basics of scuba diving: how to deflate our BCD (scuba suit), how to empty our masks should they fill with water and most importantly, how to breathe. While this step seemed as if it would be the easiest, it was one of the more unnatural things I’ve ever had to do. The strange breathy noise the regulator produced, as well as having to practice breathing face to face with a giant sea turtle made me immediately uncomfortable; I all but gave up a few minutes into training. I’m really glad that I stuck with it, though, as I ended up getting it after a few more attempts.

I was convinced I wasn’t ready but followed Sammy into the tank. When my feet touched the bottom of the tank, I instantly felt in control, knowing going back up wasn’t an option. After checking our air gauges and exchanging “A-OK” hand gestures, Sammy proceeded in taking us for a stroll around the tank.

Blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks and sand tiger sharks gracefully glided through the turquoise water, inches away from our faces, obviously disinterested in who we were and what we were doing in their territory. I took comfort knowing that these species of sharks aren’t particularly attracted to mammalian blood, but the mere sight of their menacing jaws and powerful bodies sent a rush of adrenaline through me. Ginormous Queensland groupers, ancient sea turtles and other varieties of alien-like creatures only contributed to the rush I was experiencing, keeping me wide-eyed, seemingly unaware of the waving families on the other side of the glass.

Although our walk was approximately half an hour, it felt like minutes; I’m sure the adrenaline had something to do with that. As we made our way out of the tank, it felt strange to experience gravity once again. My lips were purple by this point and I had lost all feeling in my toes, so I thoroughly enjoyed the hot shower that followed.

After the shark encounter, I took a walk around the aquarium. It had a few exhibits worth checking out, like the touch tanks and rehabilitated porpoises but honestly, none of them could compare to what I had just experienced. And while it was nice to observe the animals from behind a sheet of glass, nothing can quite hold a candle to the strange and exhilarating experience of being a part of the underwater world, walking alongside nature’s most feared predators and majestic creatures.

More Information: Busan Shark Dive / Aquatic Frontier

Dates: The dive dates are pre-scheduled, but usually held on Saturdays and Sundays. You must make a reservation to participate in the dive. Check the schedule here.

Price: ₩150,000 (includes ₩70,000 deposit)

Website: Click Here

Facebook: Click Here

Map (Sea Life Aquarium):

Although this post was partially sponsored by Aquatic Frontier, the opinions above are, of course, my own.

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

Seoul Searching

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Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Inspiration through Dance - Dance To Connect in Busan

Mon, 2015-02-16 10:53
Inspiration through Dance - Dance To Connect in Busan

Being part of a multi-racial society can be a barrier to making friends due to the limitations of language, but recently here in Busan four groups of people crossed that divide in a most unusual way.

The Dance-To-Connect workshop arranged by the American Embassy Seoul and the American Prescence Post in Busan invited the Battery Dance Company (BDC) from New York to hold a week long workshop in Busan.

The worksop was hosted at the Sohyang Music Theatre near Centum in Busan and comprised of four groups of people numbering about a hundred strong.

The four groups were split into, North Korean family members, disadvantaged children, a choir and multi-national housewives.

The theme of the show was to highlight the emotions of the lives of people in each group. I was very fortunate that my wife, a Filipina was one of the housewife group members and became the photographer for the event.

The event started on Sunday 25th January and lasted until Friday 30th January. On the opening day each group was assigned a dance instructor from the famous Battery Dance Company, who would guide them in Modern Dance towards the final performance which was not actually made known to the participants until later in the week. 

Clement Mensah, African by birth but trained as a dancer in London and later joined the Battery Dance Company in New York was the instructor for the housewives group that I followed.

The opening, was to have the housewives talk in their own language about the stereotypical view of the housewife and how it influences their role in society. Clearly sitting in a group trying to talk of such a personal subject needed some encouragement until one or two strongly focused ladies presented their views and issues about life a multi-racial household.

The starting point was for each dancer to dance out their name, this helped everyone to recognise each other when there was no common language between them. This melting pot of nationalities included, Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese and Ukrainian with limited common language skills. There were a few of the group members that knew each other previously but in general they were strangers to each other. It is amazing that even weeks after, I see some of the dancers still recognising others by the name-dance.

Then each member would have to dance out their daily houshold routine in front of the whole class -twice !, and even at this point it was interesting how the second performance improved over the first.

This was the opening for Clement to use their emotions to act out in 'Modern-Dance' style, some of their activities and later to add emotion and build a dance routine around this.

Over the course of the week, Clement built on the subject of the household routines and selected parts to be used in the final performance.

For me there were some memorable days, one of those was asking the group to form either pairs or small groups and try to lift or carry each others weight. With little guidance I saw some very strange moves and efforts and found myself being called to photograph some hilarious moments as they struggled and collapsed into piles on the floor. By the end of the thirty minutes I was the one sweating !

The final performance was on Friday night, the first time the group saw the theatre was about two hours before the performance when they pitched up to practice their routine under the direction of the lighting and performance director's command.

The theatre is a truly beautiful place with almost 1200 seats in two teirs. The stage was enourmous in both depth and width. From the audience the lighting, sound and visual effects were stunning. When I saw the final practice I was amazed and excited and knew that I had to get it right in the camera because this was a remarkable event.

The final performance would have the performance by the amateur dance groups interspersed by a performance from the professional Battery Dance Group.

As previously agreed by the Organisers I have put many of the photos of the amateur performers on Flickr for anyone to look at, these can be found at : (please like your favorites)


The choir had been tutored by Mira, she is a very talented songwriter, musician and dancer. Three of the four songs were written by the children and the last by Mira. All were fantastic and worthy of praise, at the same time they danced out thier routines, clearly some appeared to depict the struggle in North Korea and the survival of these people. It was hard to believe that just a few days before they were not even dancers, now they looked professional. One of the dancers introduced the western influence of break-dancing by spinning around on the floor and using one handed break-dance routines.

The housewives bought their piece of homelife to the stage with real pazazz, it was obvious that the group had bonded well and turned their 26 person routine into real eye-candy using the routines they had designed and practiced themselves during the week.

Not to take anything away from the true professionals though, the routines of (Battery Dance Company) were amazing. In all honesty, and I am sure like so many of you reading this, I never developed a liking for this expressive modern dance style. This is probably due to not understanding it, but after a week with these groups I not only understand the art of modern dance but feel the passion in the story of the dance. Clement put on many solo routines, clearly an amazingly talented dancer with a strong muscular body that most men pray for. His routines depicted the developemnt of 'man'from birth and through life in a way that stirs the passion of the audience. It was like opera without the singing and the music added another dimension to your perception of the dance.

The BDC  were four, they each performed impressively both individually and together in a flawless performance that made the audience pay full attention.

Equally however we must remember that the BDC has turned ordinary people into great dancers in just a few days and that the dancers put a lot of effort into becomming those great dancers to everyone's delight.

From an outsiders perspective, I saw individual people dancing in their own tightly controlled space on day one, clearly aware of the group perception of themselves, to a group of flamboyant dancers using every inch of space they could get, share it withothers and even buckets of tears when they finally said goodbye. If this is about connecting people it worked to perfection. the group have formed lasting bonds, got thier own social network group and will soon attend a reunion dinnner once more.

thanks to the American Prescence Post in Busan; Mr. Kim DB, and Mr. Byung Junghwan in particular for their efforts.

FB : "Battery Dance Company"

Website:   http://batterydance.org


Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

9 Korean School Lunches

Fri, 2015-02-13 13:29
9 Korean School Lunches


Ever since I came to Korea I have never missed a Korean school lunch. By the time 12:00 rolls around I am starving and the K-lunches really hit the spot. They are inexpensive, healthy, completely delicious, and I get to go back for seconds. The principal always laughs about that. I decided to share the culinary dining experience so here are 9 examples of public school lunches in Korea.  Music by: www.audionautix.comSong Title: I Like Peanuts Download Link: http://audionautix.com/~audion/Music/ILikePeanuts.mp3Video shot with: CISCO Flip 720p HD CamcorderFind a Teaching Job: http://www.reddragondiaries.com/find-job Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SeoulTee Twitter: https://twitter.com/SeoulTee 

the Red Dragon Diaries

ESL, Travel, and Judo!

9 Korean School Lunches
Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Now and Then: Beomeosa Temple

Tue, 2015-02-10 04:14
Now and Then: Beomeosa Temple

A bird’s-eye-view of Beomeosa Temple from the turn of the last century.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in the northern part of Busan, on Mt. Geumjeongsan, Beomeosa Temple dates back to 678 A.D. The temple was founded by the famed temple-builder, Uisang. The name of the temple means “Fish from Heaven Temple,” in English, which is in reference to the creation myth that surrounds the temple. According to the myth, there is a well with golden water on top of Mt. Geumjeongsan, which is where the temple is located. Supposedly, golden fish rode a rainbow down from the heavens to inhabit the well.

Beomeosa Temple became known as one of the ten great temples of the Hwaeom sect in Korea, even though it is now part of the Jogye-jong Buddhist Order, which is the largest sect in Korea. During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), there were more than a thousand monks that took up residence at the temple. During the destructive Imjin War from 1592-98, Beomeosa Temple was completely destroyed by the invading Japanese. In 1602, the temple was reconstructed, but was destroyed a few years later in an accidental fire. So in 1613, the temple was rebuilt once more. And it’s from this date that a number of shrine halls and buildings were constructed. These structures include the main hall and the Iljumun Gate.

More recently, Beomeosa Temple is one of the sixth largest temples in Korea. And spread throughout the rolling hills of Mt. Geumjeongsan are an additional eight hermitages directly associated with Beomeosa Temple. In total, besides a dozen shrine halls that a temple visitor can explore, Beomeosa Temple also houses seven treasures within its grounds.

Another amazing view of Beomeosa Temple from 1929.

The Iljumun Gate from 1931.

The Cheonwangmun Gate from 1931.

A pavilion with the main hall to the right from 1931.

A more modern picture of Beomeosa Temple from 1970.

The Iljumun Gate from 1970, as well.

A 2013 picture of Beomeosa Temple.

A more recent picture of the Iljumun Gate.

The temple courtyard at Beomeosa Temple.

The post Now and Then: Beomeosa Temple appeared first on Dale's Korean Temple Adventures.

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Yongpyong Ski Resort

Mon, 2015-02-09 10:57
Yongpyong Ski Resort

This is my second time skiing at Yongpyong, so I thought I’d write a guide for all of you who are thinking of going.

How to get there
The cheapest way to get to Yongpyong from Seoul is to head to the DongSeoul Bus Terminal (Gangbyeon station, Line 2) and buy the 14,500 won bus ticket to Hoenggye (pronounced Hweng-gay). Buses run a few times every hour and the ride takes about 2.5 or 3 hours, depending on the personality of the driver. The bus stops at two other towns before reaching Hoenggye.

At Hoenggye, you can shop for groceries at the supermarket next to the bus terminal before grabbing a taxi to your accomodation. There is also a free shuttle bus to the resort. Alternatively hook up with one of the private rental shops and they will likely pick you up for no extra charge.

Where to stay
The first time, I stayed in the Pension Village (Pen-shun Ma-eul in Korean) which is about 20-30 minutes’ walk from the town centre. We paid 70,000 won a night for a beautiful room for the three of us (two slept on the bed and one on extra beddings on the floor). The Pension Village is generally cheaper and is breathtakingly scenic (photos below), in the midst of snowy fields. But the location is the least convenient; ensure you’ve got a transport plan and are prepared to walk a bit. There is a shuttle bus stop about 10 minutes’ walk.

The second time, I stayed in the Greenpia Condo which is part of the Yongpyong Resort complex. We paid 320,000 won a night for a huge apartment for seven of us, after getting a 35% discount through our rental shop. The apartment has a big living room and two bedrooms, plus a kitchenette with gas stove, fridge, rice cooker etc. Two bathrooms. The best part is that it’s right at the ski field with a great view of the slopes. So you can save money on taxi and ski lockers.

Where to rent gear
Both times, I rented my gear from a private shop called Buy Sports. The owner Kim Min (contact him at facebook.com/hornetmin) speaks decent English and he charges us 15,000 (beginner) or 20,000 (intermediate) for ski and boots rental. He also rents helmet (5,000), goggles (10,000), and whatever else you might need. The best part is that he can help you to book the accomodation and lift passes. He also provides free pickup from the bus station.

Must see/do
Take the gondola to Dragon Peak for amazing views of the surrounding mountains. You can have a coffee at Holly’s Cafe or grab a hotdog and churros from the ahjumma stall. Don’t forget to try the 10-minute hike into the forest that leads to a helipad with great photo opportunities. After you’ve used up your camera battery, grab your skis for an awesome 5-km run all the way to the bottom.

Yongpyong is extremely beginner-friendly with plenty of easy slopes and extremely comprehensive safety features (everything is fenced up, so fans of off-piste skiing or going into the trees will be disappointed). The only problem is that the beginner slopes can get really crowded especially with school groups taking lessons there.

There are not too many intermediate and expert slopes but because most Koreans are beginners, you’ll find that most of the harder slopes are mercifully empty. Silver Paradise in particular is one slope where you might not see another soul at all.

Lift passes are 72,000 won but you can get a huge discount (say 30-40%) with a Korean credit card or through the private rental shops. We paid 37,000 won in December and 50,000 won in January.

When to go
When we went in December, we had great snow but the Dragon Peak was not open, so the runs were limited.

For our second trip, we picked January as we thought there would be more snow. But we hardly had any. Nevertheless, Dragon Peak was open and the snow machines are always active at Yongpyong.

The locals tell me that February has the most snow. Till next year then!

Yongpyong vs High1 vs Niseko
The other place I’ve been to in Korea is High1, which is similar in location and price to Yongpyong. High1 is much newer but overall I’d say Yongpyong is the clear winner. In particular Yongpyong has better variety of slopes while High1 feels like every slope has been divided into 3 lanes to create the illusion of more.

In comparison to Niseko in Japan, Yongpyong is quite a bit cheaper but cannot compare in terms of snowfall, size and off-piste options.

I maintain this site as a hobby and have personally verified or experienced most of the information posted here. However, prices and conditions may have changed since my last visit. Please double check with other sources such as official tourist hotlines to avoid disappointment. If you’d like to contribute an update or additional useful information for other travelers, please comment below!
Prices provided in Korean won or US dollars.

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Best of 2014 Photofest Prizes

Sun, 2015-02-08 03:36
Best of 2014 Photofest Prizes
Photo Contest Results
Complete Exhibition Here
Thanks very much to all those who participated in the Photofest.  It was not easy to select prize winners as judges and website visitors voted for a wide array of photos and final tallies were quite close. As such, we reworked our prize structure just a bit to include more entrants.   That said, contest prizes go to.....
  Top Overall Photo - W100,000Family Walkby : maki Category Prizes  - W50,000 PhotoPhotostoryRiverside Rideby : TheLostLensLife in Technicolorby : Kathryn GodfreyHonorable Mention - W25,000 each
Grandmother at Mt. Geumjeongby : vinodokMarket Manby : rcorbett08Lonelinessby : behbur1Winter pleasuresby : Olga0709Morning Calm and Night Fantasticby : kabayanmark  


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South Korean Love Industry

Sat, 2015-02-07 02:53
South Korean Love Industry

“The beauty of nomadic life is that you’re detached from the flaws of the surrounding society while you soak up the best it has to offer. You’re an observer. You have no stake. You’re just passing through.”- Richard Boudreaux

I recently stumbled upon this quote while reading an article by the famed travel journalist. His words have described life abroad perfectly. Korea is the 5th country which I have called home. When my husband got a job offer to move here, we had never even visited Asia before, never mind considered living there. With a short stay in the farmlands of America, we were ready to be back abroad, and challenge ourselves with a new culture and home.


When I started researching Korea, I read several books on the country’s culture. Korea, an Eastern society with Confucian roots, summed up in a few hundred pages, was more than a lot to take in. The country’s history, beliefs and culture had my head spinning. My husband and I began to wonder what we had just gotten ourselves into!


As I boarded the plane to take the 20 hour flight I kissed my sweet homeland goodbye and was fully prepared to let things ‘get weird’.

However, as I stepped on to Korean soil for the first time at Incheon Airport things didn’t seem that strange. (Of course I was in one of what has been rated the best airports in the world for several years) Since living in Korea I have taken in a lot of ‘bests.’ Best friends, best sites, best food, best memories, life here had been pretty amazing!

Of course, from the American perspective, where our news so often focuses on military activity from the North, it is sometimes hard to explain to outsiders why I love living in Korea. A common question I receive is, ‘Do you feel safe living there?’. In reality Seoul is one of the safest cities in the world! But like any other country, there are flaws.


This fall when I went to Jeju Island over Chuseok with one of my Korean girlfriends it was another ‘best’ memory. Of course we joined the thousands of others and visited Loveland and giggled at the crazy place and didn’t really think about why this place was here.


I love New York based VICE News and recently they did a video documentary about Korea’s Love Industry I was of course excited to watch. As I observed many of the places that I walk through on a daily basis, it quickly reminded me of some of the country’s quirks and flaws that I do have a vague understanding of, but often block out as a foreigner as I enjoy the best of the country.

Watching this documentary reminded me, as we observe with a foreign eye, that bringing foreign perspective into a society is essential to helping tackle many of these issues. I am happy to know many expats that are doing great things to impact Korea! (Groove Korea’s 100th issue is a great example of this) I hope that by bringing attention to some of the less pleasant aspects of Korea’s rapid modern transformation, we can take time to give back to a country that has let us, pass through, with some of the best of times!

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“Korean Age”: Old Before My Time

Fri, 2015-02-06 09:56
“Korean Age”: Old Before My Time

by John Bocskay

People say age is just a number. Koreans say it’s just a slightly larger number.


As an international traveler, you get used to the idea of various countries using different measures to refer to the same thing. The same size-four dress in Australia will translate into a size-five in svelte Japan. That which we call a size-eight trainer in London will smell as sweet in L.A. – OK, maybe not – though it will be labeled a size-ten (and will be called a sneaker). A “small” soda in the States is what Koreans call “large”, and what Americans call large, Koreans call a bucket. I have no trouble wrapping my head around these things, but even so, I found it exceedingly weird to board a Korean Air flight in New York as a 27-year-old and disembark thirteen hours later in Seoul at age twenty-nine. I knew I had flown across the International Date Line, but there seemed to be an International Age Line that nobody had told me about.

If you’re new to this idea, it goes like this: When a child is born in Korea, he or she is reckoned to be one year old, the logic being that this accounts for the time spent in the womb. That’s fine if we are talking about zebras or bottlenose dolphins or some other animal with a twelve-month gestation period, but it fails to explain why humans should not be considered nine months old at birth. If you’re willing to grant that you are one year old the moment you were born, you are then told that you age another year, along with every other person in Korea, every Lunar New Year.

The result of this system of age reckoning is that your so-called “Korean age” will exceed your age as you know it by at least one year and as many as two, which produces a margin of difference that is larger the younger you are. For example, the difference between being 44 (my age in Korea) and 43 is a difference of slightly over 2%, but a baby born one day before the Lunar New Year (February 19th this year) will be two years old the next day – a difference of over 70,000%. A lot of people are fond of saying that age is “just a number”, but it’s the Koreans who put their money where their mouth is and cavalierly assign it a grossly inflated number that bears a fuzzy correlation to the actual time elapsed since your birth.

This system does have its benefits. For starters, it eliminates the need to remember your own or anyone else’s birthday, which is odd to say now but must have been a huge boon in the days before official record keeping. Another plus is that Koreans forever appear at least a year or two younger than their stated age and are pretty much guaranteed a lifetime of flattery. For children, it has sort of the opposite effect: they get to hit double digits that much sooner and feel like one of the big kids.

“Come on, son, let’s go grab a beer.”

There are drawbacks too. When we travel to America, I have to bribe my kids to take an age cut so we can qualify for discounts at amusement parks, museums, and movie theaters. If that sounds simple, try explaining to your daughter that in order for dad to save a few bucks, she needs to be demoted to nine years old for three days at Disney World, the park where everyone becomes a child again yet for some reason gets banged for adult entry fees at age ten. In Korea the system works well enough, but there is sometimes that awkward moment when contrasting your Korean age with the other, you know, whatchamacallit age.

What do you call it? Some have adopted the phrase “international age”, which is ridiculous. Nobody outside of Korea uses the term, and Koreans themselves don’t use it unless speaking to non-Koreans (the phrase they use to refer to their age for official purposes is man nai, or “full age”). Saying “My international age is forty-three” makes it sound as if my age were some grand and noble compromise like Esperanto, hashed out from a multitude of mutually incomprehensible systems, when in fact it’s only few holdouts (Korea, Vietnam, and parts of China) who figure it differently from everyone else.

For the same reason, we have to discard “Western age,” as that makes it seem as if we’re talking about some special quirk of European or American accounting. If I say my “real age” is forty-three I sound condescending, as if to say, “Well, no matter what you say, the truth is I’m forty-three.” And if I try to be clever and say something like “I am forty-three Earth years old,” I only succeed in sounding like a clever dickhead. My age – a previously cut-and-dried fact like my height or my SAT score – has suddenly become kind of hard to explain.

My solution? I just don’t explain it. When asked, I give my age as I reckon it – “I’m forty-three” – and leave it to my Korean friends to mentally add two (or not, which I don’t mind either). Like kimchi for breakfast, “Korean age” is a concept that I appreciate, but have not assimilated even after having lived here for several years. Koreans can be as old as they want to be, and I don’t even care how old they consider me privately, but I’ll be forty-four when I have to.


Quick Culture Tips

  • In Korea, when a woman asks you how old you think she is, the universal rules for reckoning “female age” still apply: silently estimate her real age, then subtract five years and announce your guess with a straight face. Don’t forget to act surprised when she reveals that she is exactly as old as you thought.
  • When in doubt, it is always safer to address a Korean woman as agassi (“young, unmarried woman”) than as ajumma (“indomitable force of nature who always gets the last available seat on the bus.”)


Editor’s note: A shorter version of this piece appeared in Busan Haps magazine about 3 years ago, which makes it 5 years old.


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Nature’s paradise in Jeju

Thu, 2015-02-05 11:00
Nature’s paradise in Jeju

When I posted on why NOT to visit Jeju some months back, some of you disagreed with me, so for the record, here’s what I do like about Jeju.

Jeju Island was voted as one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature a few years ago, and you can probably guess that it wasn’t for the Teddy Bear Museum or Loveland Sex Park. Formed by violent volcanic eruptions 2 million years ago, Jeju is a true geological marvel with natural attractions found nowhere else on earth. So if you’re not heading to Jeju prepared for some outdoor exploration (at bare minimum, comfortable walking shoes, rain protection and clothes suitable for the season) then you’re missing out on the best Jeju has to offer.

The most prominent ‘wonder’ in Jeju is undoubtedly Hallasan, a 1950-metre volcano that rises out of the island’s centre and dominates the skyline. Hallasan has the distinct honour of being the tallest peak in a country of never-ending mountain ranges. It also has a dramatic crater at the top where you can take your trophy picture after the hike up.

We opted for the hardest route (I think it was “Gwaneumsa”) which took us half a day just to get up, but it did pass through some dramatic scenery that can’t be seen on the other routes. For the return trip we took the easier “Seongpanak” route. Both routes are accessible by public bus and have an information centre at the starting point.

Jeju is also known for its beautiful waterfalls, which are particularly majestic in summer. Pictured below is Jeongbang waterfall that flows into the sea near Seogwipo town at the southern tip of the island. In fact, you can visit quite a few waterfalls near Seogwipo.

Lastly, I’d like to highlight the Manjanggul lava tunnel that is said to be quite a unique geological formation. It’s certainly mysterious and a sight to behold.

Now for the warning: Jeju can be significantly more expensive than the rest of Korea and it’s also more difficult to move around, especially in rainy weather. Do prepare yourself by reading my post on Jeju travel woes here.

I maintain this site as a hobby and have personally verified or experienced most of the information posted here. However, prices and conditions may have changed since my last visit. Please double check with other sources such as official tourist hotlines to avoid disappointment. If you’d like to contribute an update or additional useful information for other travelers, please comment below!
Prices provided in Korean won or US dollars.

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Engagement Session - Diversifying the Hanbok

Thu, 2015-01-29 07:31
Engagement Session - Diversifying the Hanbok
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.I should start this post by saying that Ryan and I were not initially planning to do engagement photos, but... I got lucky at a work gala silent auction and happened to win an e-session with David Tran of 8 Degrees Inc. I'm SO glad we did!

Excitement over my winnings! I think the last thing I won was a coloring contest. I won for being 'different' because I colored the moon pink. 
Wearing hanbok (한복), traditional Korean dress, was an absolute must for our wedding. (While certainly not our reason for wearing hanbok, check out this article on 'How hanbok is influencing biggest fashion names'.)  Since we were having them custom-made and I absolutely adored them, I wanted to get as much wear out of the hanbok as possible. In fact, we actually traveled back and forth to Bidulki Judan near Philly (once to select fabric and get measured and another time for the final try-on). I highly, highly recommend them!! They were such a pleasure to work with throughout the whole process. I was more excited about the hanbok than the traditional wedding wear! (Ryan and I unfortunately did not end up doing paebaek (폐백) for reasons out of our control, but we would have absolutely requested the services of Bidulki Judan had we done it!) 

Literally from scratch: fabric + designs
I arranged my hair and make-up trial (with Sabrina of Sabrina Gilbert NYC) for the day of the e-session. (Loved her work! - I generally wear glasses with minimal make-up and hadn't had my make-up professionally done since prom.) Sabrina worked her magic on me in NY that morning, which meant that Ryan and I drove from NYC to Boston just in time to change and meet our photographer David. (Ryan of course forgot his belt so we stopped off at a local thrift store on the way to the shoot. Once he bought the belt, he then had to find/borrow a pair of scissors to poke a hole through the leather so it would actually fit.) We then rushed off to the North End to meet David. (Another sincere apology for being late David!)

(*Side note, I found it pretty hilarious that Ryan, being a guy, was pretty confused by my eyelash extensions. I kept telling him that they photograph well, and he kept whining that they were brushing up against his face whenever we were up close. Ha! I ended up going for a shorter length the actual day of the wedding.)

Being late and flustered for the e-session, we started in our first outfit a bit awkwardly; but David was so laid back and great about leading us through the shots. We ended up changing into the hanbok in a random hotel bathroom, and neither of us could figure out how to tie our belts... even with the illustrated instructions from Bidulki Judan. It was my first time wearing hanbok(!), and Ryan hadn't worn it since he was a toddler. We stood in the lobby mirror trying to tie our respective belts as folks stared walking by - and some even requesting to take pictures. We never actually figured out the belts 100% (as is evident in the photos), but we did our best! At a bare minimum, I wish for these images to diversify the visual representation of those who may wear hanbok. 

Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.
Photo by David Tran, 8 Degrees Inc.

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Fresh, wriggling seafood at Busan’s Jagalchi market

Thu, 2015-01-29 07:27
Fresh, wriggling seafood at Busan’s Jagalchi market

If you want to shock your friends with huge, squirmy octopuses and giant crabs, Jagalchi market in western Busan is the place to be. Forget Seoul’s Noryangjin market, Busan is Korea’s biggest port city and has far fresher (and cheaper) bounty straight from the Pacific ocean.

This is where you can try the infamous “san-nakji” or live octopus. If you’re not sure how to swallow it, it could be dangerous to eat it whole, so do ask the stallholder to slice it up for you. Even sliced into small bits, the wriggling pieces will try to avoid your chopsticks or stick their suckers to your teeth – anything to escape being eaten!

Jagalchi market is at Jagalchi station on Line 1 (orange). Also, read my post on what else to do in Busan.

I maintain this site as a hobby and have personally verified or experienced most of the information posted here. However, prices and conditions may have changed since my last visit. Please double check with other sources such as official tourist hotlines to avoid disappointment. If you’d like to contribute an update or additional useful information for other travelers, please comment below!
Prices provided in Korean won or US dollars.

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Last 2 Weeks: ISIS Teen, Middle Class Tax Hike, K Pick-up, & More

Wed, 2015-01-28 12:34
L2W: ISIS Teen, Middle Class Tax Hike, & More


1. National

1) A Korean teenager joins ISISPolice concluded that a Korean teenager surnamed Kim missing since Jan 10 in Turkey voluntarily went to Syria to join ISIS. Using Mujahideen as his alias, the 18 year old boy inquired on Twitter about joining the terrorist group in Oct last year, and wrote in his Facebook “I want join Islamic state. I want leaving my country and families just want to get a new life.”  Kim had trouble in mixing with friends, and quit his middle school a few years ago. It is the first time a Korean joined ISIS.   If Kim intends to stay in Syria, all Koreans are praying Kim better work as an ISIS cook or a nurse, instead of showing up in black in video with a couple of orange cloth hostages next to him.  2) Anger mounts over tax hike in middle classThe middle class are fuming at the new tax law revised last year that turned out to take lots of money from their pocket in tax return, turning the usual “13th month salary” into a tiny pocket money. People got more upset as the government gave assurance the middle class would be untouched when it proposed the new law that is very complicated to explain with a few sentences. The Finance Minister had to make an apology, and President Park’s approval rate keeps falling from nearly 70% last April to 35% last week.    President Park promised more welfare without tax increase during the 2012 presidential campaign, much like Reagan’s “Read my lips. No new taxes.” Voters had to know there is no hot ice cream, and politicians tend to keep two tongues in one mouth.    2. Economy1) Hyundai Motor sells more, earns lessIn an investor conference call, Hyundai Motor reported its lowest annual operating profit in four years at 7.55 trillion won ($6.95B), despite 4.8% increase in global sales. It sold 4.96 million vehicles, a 4.8% up from 4.73 million units in 2013, making 89.25 trillion in revenue, up 2.2% over 87.3 trillion won in 2013. Hyundai said the drop in profit was mainly due to falling won-dollar exchange rate, and the declining currency value in other nations like Russia. Hyundai also announced two groundbreakings in China in 2015, one in Hebei and the other in Chongqing.  To please its disgruntled investors over land purchase, Hyundai said it will raise the current 1,950 won dividend per share to 3,000 won, a whopping 54% increase, automatically triggering my wife, a Hyundai stock owner since 1999, to thumb through Louis Vuitton catalogues. 3. Automotive 1) Ssangyong Motor launches new SUVSsangyong picked a small Italian town Tivoli as the name for its new small SUV. Tivoli is Ssangyong’s first new model since it went belly up in 2009. Tivoli has 1.6L engine with126 HP and 12.3 km/L Since taking pre-order on Dec 22, it has received 5,000 orders until now, with two months waiting line, expecting to sell 38,500 Tivoli models in 2015.     Lee Yoo-il, CEO of Ssangyong, made a surprise announcement he will retire in March. Ex-Hyundai, Lee was hired in 2009 when the company was in court receivership, turning the company around in six years. Mr. Lee was the head of Hyundai Canada in Toronto in early 90’s while I was a tail in Bromont Plant in Quebec. Well, sorry, I have never met Mr. Lee.  2) Hyundai shows off its pick-up truckHyundai displayed its concept pick-up truck Santacruz (HCD-15) at Detroit Auto Show. Santacruz is powered by 190HP 2/0L turbo diesel engine and features 4WD H-Trac system. Though Hyundai said they have no plan for its mass production, auto analysts believe Hyundai will eventually as a breakthrough to increase market share in North America.     Hyundai once produced pick-up truck, a tiny 1.6L gas engine variation from its Pony passenger car, Hyundai’s first own design model. Launched in 1976, the last Pony was produced at Ulsan plant in Jan 1990. Ex and current Hyundai employees can be divided into two groups; before Pony and after Pony. Old folks if you saw pony production in Ulsan, young chick if you didn’t. I am an old fart while Mr. Lee at Ssangyong is a Cro-Magnon. Regards,H.S. 
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Useful Or Not? Foreign English Teachers In Korea

Wed, 2015-01-28 05:20
Useful Or Not? Foreign English Teachers In Korea



During the last few years, the number of jobs available for foreign English teachers in Korean public schools has significantly decreased. According to an article on The Korean Observer, the number of foreign teachers has dropped from over 9,000 to 6,785 in three years. Meanwhile jobs at hagwons are becoming more competitive between foreigners. The question is whether these cuts are beneficial, or detrimental, for Korean students.

I currently work at a public middle school, but one which is recognised throughout Korea as having an impressive English programme; parents pay fees specifically for foreigners to teach their children. Needless to say foreign teachers are important to the school and their lessons are an important part of students’ timetables. And I think having such a system which incorporates foreign teachers is invaluable.
There are a number of reasons why. Firstly, because Korean teachers can focus too much upon English grammar, rather than speaking and writing, so that their students can perform well on tests. I recently read this article on Korea Times, which states that 7 out of 10 middle/high school students are unsatisfied with their English lessons because they’re too ‘test-orientated.’ Of course it’s important for students to score well, but it’s also essential that they can hold a good conversation and write well in English. As such, lessons with foreign teachers, held entirely in English, can greatly help to improve conversational skills.
Secondly, there are some mistakes which Korean teachers make, or don’t pick up on when their students make them. The Korea Times article mentions that some Korean teachers don’t have the English ability to teach well enough; they aren’t re-trained and don’t have their English skills evaluated properly. And while I’m not implying that Korean-English teachers are incompetent, there are errors made, even if they’re tiny ones. Errors that perhaps only native English speakers pick up on and correct. Here are some example of mistakes I hear daily from students (and teachers):

  • The use of stressed/ stressful/ stress: “I feel very stressful” “Homework is very stressed”
  • The word ‘funny’ instead of ‘fun': “Skiing is very funny” “My vacation was very funny”
  • The word ‘comfortable’ instead of ‘convenient': “My smart phone is very comfortable”
  • Pronunciation to add ‘ee’ sound on the end of words: “Finishee” “Changee”
  • The word ‘until’ being used instead of ‘at': “Until 3 pm, you can go home”

Mistakes like these may not stop someone understanding the speaker (apart from the use of the word ‘until’, which has confused me numerous times), but they prevent even the smartest students from speaking perfectly. And for this reason, having a foreign teacher to correct mistakes is extremely beneficial.

Understanding different accents is also important; American/ Canadian teachers are the most popular in Korea, because their accents are easier to understand. As I’m English, the problem with my accent came up when I was interviewed for jobs, and I didn’t think it would be a problem at all when teaching, but I was wrong. Time and time again, students and Korean friends have found my accent difficult to understand. Similarly South African accents, Australian, New Zealand, Irish, Scottish, or Welsh. But it’s important that Koreans can understand English speakers with different accents; what’s the point in speaking English fluently if you travel to Britain but can’t understand anyone? Or if you only understand the Korean-English accent of a Korean teacher.

There are numerous positives of having foreign teachers in public schools. However, there are ways in which I’d agree things can be improved. Mainly, the fact that English lessons taught by foreigners can be seen by students as somewhat of a ‘novelty’ and aren’t taken as seriously as other classes. In my case, foreign teachers aren’t involved in English exams, we give no homework and as for discipline, we don’t have much authority: we can’t speak to parents ourselves, and we don’t have the same respect as the Korean teachers, so any stern-words aren’t taken too seriously.

Moreover, despite the fact that parents pay a lot of money for us to teach their children, we’re constantly told to ‘play games’ and ‘keep the children happy’ rather than have a strict academic lesson. Of course it’s important to have fun, but if foreign teachers taught in the same way as Korean teachers, having tests, giving out homework, and keeping the focus on structured learning, students could learn more.

A number of South Korea students go abroad to study English.

Given the benefits, it would be detrimental to students to further decrease the number of foreign teachers. There may still be native English speakers working in hagwons, but not all students attend hagwons, and so some will miss out on valuable teaching. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the most fluent students are those who have travelled to English-speaking countries to learn the language: this alone proves how useful time spent with native-English speakers can help English ability.

No matter how good a Korean-English teacher may be, it’s a bonus for students to interact with, and be taught by, foreigners, and I hope that ten years from now, there’ll still be foreign teachers in Korean public schools.


Kathryn's Living

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Korea’s 400-year-old Andong Hahoe village

Tue, 2015-01-27 08:59
Korea’s 400-year-old Andong Hahoe village

The Andong Hahoe (pronounced ha-hwe) village is known for its traditional mask dance, which you can read about here.

But it’s also a really special part of Korea where the traditional homes have been preserved for up to 400 years. That makes it the perfect setting for historical dramas like Arang and the Magistrate (starring Lee Joon-ki and Shin Min-ah).

If you can get up the cliff across the river, you can get a great birds-eye-view of the Hahoe village. There is supposed to be a ferryman who will take you across, but he was not around when I visited, so I had to hike for an hour to get around and across via a pedestrian bridge. Thankfully, I managed to hitchhike back to the bus terminal. Seoul and Busan are both several hours away by bus.

Hahoe village is pretty small and worth about half a day to visit, although it is also possible to book accomodation there. But with fairly large numbers of tourists passing through daily, it wouldn’t be my recommendation for a ‘quiet getaway in the countryside’. Try Gyeongju or Yeosu instead, as they are much more sprawling and more peaceful.

I maintain this site as a hobby and have personally verified or experienced most of the information posted here. However, prices and conditions may have changed since my last visit. Please double check with other sources such as official tourist hotlines to avoid disappointment. If you’d like to contribute an update or additional useful information for other travelers, please comment below!
Prices provided in Korean won or US dollars.

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Fri, 2015-01-23 06:04

This post started life months ago as the third in a series about clashing cultural norms. After more time in Korea and (hopefully) more understanding on my part, it turned into something a bit different…you can read where it all started here.

Here are some criticisms of the UK according to other Europeans:

1. Opaque communications: Our morbid fear of conflict makes our language indirect and gives us a reputation, amongst our continental counterparts, for being dishonest and sneaky. The rest of the English-speaking world, too, complains of the bafflingly high incidence of coded language in British English. For those new to this phenomenon, this handy chart should help:

2. Drinking culture Whereas in most European countries public drunkenness is seen as embarrassing, in the UK it is a bona fide bonding ritual. This tends to be linked to the point above: as noted by our cousins across the Channel we frequently need to be off our faces to lose the fear associated with saying what we actually think – a prerequisite for getting closer to anybody. This means that many British people would be aghast at the prospect of a non-alcoholic social event and, perhaps more interestingly, that bad behaviour when drunk is indulged to a much greater degree than elsewhere. British people tend to excuse almost anything (with a heavy dose of piss-taking) on the grounds that the person was drunk at the time.

3. The class system. This is one of those things that only really hits you when you are outside it, and surrounded by people who find it utterly bonkers and unfathomable. Class permeates every aspect of our communication and lifestyle, from our accent to our choice of groceries to the pubs we drink in.

These issues are uncannily similar to those Brits tend to cite as problematic in Korea. The internet groans with blogs and articles aimed at those making the move here, citing indirect communication styles, an extreme drinking culture and a rigid, unfathomable and outdated social hierarchy. You’d think we’d be at an advantage. So what makes the move so hard? The answer, for many, is Korea’s perceived monoculture which is often seen as the direct opposite of British multiculturalism (‘culture’ here refers both to race and ethnicity, and to culture in the sense of rules governing social interaction).

One of the biggest turnarounds in my own thinking has come from questioning this direct opposition, which is often taken as read by Koreans and Brits both. Whilst there are broad and generalised truths behind it, I’ve felt increasingly that it often comes from a place of privilege which has at times  obscured my empathy with and understanding of Korean culture and people. I want to talk a little more about this over the next couple of posts.

Korean Identity: Popular Wisdom

Korean identity can seem to be shaped largely by ethnicity. The population is around 96% ethnically Korean and children are taught from an early age (with a pride that many Westerners find disconcerting) that Korea is ‘ethnically homogenous’ with a ‘pure bloodline.’ This marginally Malfoy-esque discourse contains both holes and justifications, which I’ll explore in the next post. Nationalism – particularly defined in opposition to Japan – is strongly and frequently expressed while racism, particularly towards Black and South Asian people, is a real issue (see here and here). The attitude to Caucasians is more nuanced, resulting from concurrent feelings of inferiority and resentment – again, I’ll look at these in more detail in the next post.

If the criteria for Korean identity seem stringent, the same can be said of those for social acceptance. Here, there is one way to be beautiful (white skin, thin, small face, big eyes, V-shaped jaw) and one way to be successful (top university, big company, car, house, marriage). Even clothes shops are often ‘one size fits all’, underscoring the idea that if you do not fit that size it is your responsibility to make it happen – why should extra clothes be made for the minority? At school, I notice that ‘tribes’ – the Trendies, Goths, Skaters, Geeks and Townies of my youth – do not exist: all my students dress in much the same way and seem to decide by mutual, unspoken consensus that one jacket , T-shirt or pair of trousers is this week’s must-wear item. Tellingly, they informed me that if they do not conform to such trends it is seen as ‘dangerous’: they are choosing to set themselves apart from the group, upsetting its harmony. My partner and one of my students – raised in New Zealand and the USA respectively – arouse suspicion and resentment because, though they fulfil the ‘ethnically Korean’ criterion, they do not follow the expected rules of dress and beauty, and speak ‘unusual’ Korean. These behaviours are seen to disturb a group harmony which often seems more like group homogeneity and which runs through all aspects of Korean life. It results in things like my student being referred to as ‘America’ by her teachers, and refused help with Korean language and history on the grounds that she ‘should know’, or my partner being told he doesn’t walk ‘in a Korean enough way.’ Foreigners, meanwhile, have a much easier ride but nevertheless occupy a strange place in this setup. At once expected to be a contributing part of the group, we are simultaneously seen as removed from it; reminded of our otherness in ways that can create tension, as when I was told it was fine for me to go to the funeral in a sundress, because ‘you’re not Korean’

British Identity: Popular Wisdom

Back in 2012 as a shell-shocked new arrival in China, I wrote a post in which I described London with pride as a ‘melting-pot of races, languages and cultures.’ This points to my British education which, far from the ‘pure bloodline’ rhetoric Korean children hear, instilled in us the idea of our nation as a happy soup of different racial and ethnic ingredients blended together by a shared British identity. British people will often cite this ‘melting pot’ as the reason why ‘Britishness’ cannot be defined by race or ethnicity. There are other aspects of British life, however, which make defining our identity in concrete terms a tricky prospect. Not least of these is social class: the call made last year by ex-Education Secretary and all-round twerp Michael Gove to include ‘British Values’ in the school curriculum prompted outrage precisely because we remain unsure as to what the term ‘British Values’ actually means. In one of my favourite articles of 2014, Owen Jones said here that this was because there are two histories of Britain: the history told by the ruling classes and that told by those who struggle against them. You could say, though, that there are many more than Jones’ two histories; that we are really a country of tribes, any number of which we may subscribe to at any one point. We may come under pressure to conform, but to what exactly, and to what extent, depends on a number of factors including race, ethnicity, social class, political beliefs, career, and membership of various subcultures. All these provide different influences to which we refer when constructing our identities. The fact that we ‘construct our identities’ at all shows how much we are at odds with the Korean model, in which your expected identity is already prescribed and your role is to fulfill it regardless of personal inclinations. Contrary to ideas of group harmony, our rule of thumb for smooth social interactions tends to be that as long as a person’s actions do not have a negative impact on us personally it is none of our business how they carry on.

Questions and confrontations

Far from home, confused and struggling to navigate the murky waters of Korean life, we are prone to setting up simplistic oppositions between the two sets of identities outlined above in order to make sense of ourselves and our surroundings. Add to this the frustration or bewilderment with Korea that makes us biased in favour of home, and it’s easy to end up with the idea that Korean culture and identity are fixed, unchanging and exclusionary whereas ours are diverse, fluid and inclusive. Although I could see exceptions to both sides, when I started to pick apart the received wisdom and my own uninterrogated views I realised that this was probably the party line to which I defaulted. As someone who liked to think of herself as open-minded with a good grasp of her own privilege this was a slightly painful realisation, but I’m happy to have made it. The results were these:

On the UK

The very term ‘melting pot’ that I was so quick to chuck around in my China post is itself the preserve of white privilege: if you are not white British, is the ‘British identity’ that melts us all together really any more than a colonising force of assimilation? This assimilation extends to our conceptions of beauty, which may seem initially to be more varied and permissive than Korea’s,  but which each subscribe to a Euro-centric and largely unattainable ideal. When it comes to notions of success, in our academic and professional lives we and our children are being pushed more and more towards an aggressively capitalist, individualistic ideal, the top ranks of which are almost exclusively white (and male, and upper-class – but more of that another time). The ‘diversity’ of which we are so proud is often used euphemistically in our own culture(‘Peckham is so…diverse!’) or to describe an ideal we are far from having achieved: as most recently evidenced by new draconian immigration laws and the rise of the Right in the UK, our society is far from the enlightened, equal and meritocratic ideal that our eyes sometimes see, especially if those eyes are homesick and Caucasian.

On Korea

Outside of a couple of novels and history books, the vast majority of reading about Korean culture and identity that I had been exposed to was written by or for foreigners sharing stories and advice about living in Korea. Most of the writers were white. My own blog fits this description, and whilst I hope it’s enjoyable what it won’t tell you is anything about Korean culture or identity from a Korean perspective. To mitigate this, in the next post I want to share some Korean perspectives on national identity, and to explore a little more about how challenging white privilege can change our perceptions of cultural difference.

Wanderings and Ramblings of an ESL teacher currently based in a tiny mountain town near the North Korean border.

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Now and Then: Beopjusa Temple

Wed, 2015-01-21 02:18
Now and Then: Beopjusa Temple

Beopjusa Temple in the early 20th century.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Beopjusa Temple was first established in 553 A.D. by the monk Uisin. The name of the temple means “The Place Where the Dharma Resides Temple,” in English. The reason that the temple was named Beopjusa Temple is that Uisin brought back a number of Indian sutras from his travels that he wanted to house at the temple.

During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Beopjusa Temple housed as many as 3,000 monks. At one point in the 1100’s, over 30,000 monks gathered at Beopjusa Temple to pray for the dying national priest, Uicheon. Beopjusa Temple remained an important part of Buddhism throughout Korea during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910); however, the temple shrank in size as state support for Buddhism nearly disappeared in Confucian led ideology at this point in Korean history. It’s believed that King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, retired to a spot near Beopjusa Temple after tiring from all of his sons’ fighting. Like most other temples in Korea, Beopjusa Temple suffered from extensive damage at the hands of the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). A majority of the buildings at the temple were restored in 1624, including the famed Palsang-jeon wooden pagoda.

The temple is beautifully located in Songnisan National Park in Boeun County, Chungcheongbuk-do. In the 1960s, the temple underwent extensive repairs and refurbishment. In 1988 the massive bronze statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) that stands at 33 metres in height replaced the twenty year old cement statue that resided at the temple. Most recently, Beopjusa Temple participates in the highly popular Temple Stay Program that’s conducted in English. In total, the temple houses three national treasures and twelve additional treasures. Of the three national treasures, the five-story wooden pagoda is National Treasure #55.

The Iljumun Gate at Beopjusa Temple.

The famous Palsang-jeon Hall at Beopjusa Temple.

A farmer to the side of the temple.

Beopjusa Temple during the 1960s.

Today, what the Iljumun Gate looks like.

The Beopjusa Temple courtyard.

With a closer look at the Palsang-jeon wooden pagoda.

The post Now and Then: Beopjusa Temple appeared first on Dale's Korean Temple Adventures.

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Colouring in the Favelas of Busan

Mon, 2015-01-19 20:35
Colouring in the Favelas of Busan

The past six decades have absolutely transmogrified South Korea from poorest nation on Earth to one of great opulence and wealth. Busan has benefited mightily from the country’s change in fortunes, but like cities the world over, booming Busan has its fair share of poor neighbourhoods. Pushed out to the margins of the city, these hidden districts face a similar situation to the famous favelas(shantytowns) of Brazil. With rising costs of city living, it seems that Busan’s incoming tourist and business dollars are forever out of reach for these communities. But a few of these rustic areas are using colourful street art in hopes of attracting visitors.

Anchang Street

A Colorful Favela

Taeguk Village (태국마을) (also known as Gamcheon Cultural Village) is one such suburb on the breadline. In the early stages of the Korean War, Busan became the last bastion of hope and a beacon for those still loyal to the UN-backed government. Taeguk Village was hastily constructed as a temporary refugee camp for the thousands of displaced peoples holding out against the North. With the ceasefire effectively ending the war in1953,Busan gradually evolved into the dynamic megalopolis it is today, yet progress in the camp-like Taeguk Village remained slow.

Oi, you! If you wanna see what Taeguk Village actually looks like, then click here! All these photos are from Anchang Village

The pukatronic bus to Anchang Village

Monkeyboy was here

In 2009, Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism designated Taeguk Village as host to its “Art Village Project”. Street art virtuosos commissioned by the project moved in and transformed the rustic village into something of a living art gallery. The theme stuck and the town has since added more works to its oeuvre, as well as a light sprinkling of restaurants and cafés.

Seeing how Busan surrounds Taeguk on all sides, the descriptive word “village”, at least in Western terms, is a bit of a misnomer. Wording aside, though, Taeguk certainly does give off the small-village vibe thanks to the relaxed pace of life, winding paths, congested houses and nonchalant cats. In contrast to the chrome skyscrapers back in the city, Taeguk Village is awash with bright colors, narrow pathways, curious statues, magnificent graffiti and interactive exhibitions in previously empty homes. To aid you in discovering all of the village’s artsy secrets, grab a trusty village map, which can be picked up at the visitor center near the bus stop or at any of the nearby cafés and shops. Stamping the back of your map at all seven miniature galleries scores you a nifty little postcard when presented to the observatory atop the hill. Or just follow the tropical fish… that’ll make sense when you get there!

In the words of its own tourist paraphernalia, Taeguk Village “has opted for preservation and rejuvenation, rather than redevelopment, using its resources to enrich the cultural content [it possesses].” “Its resources” are, namely, the beautiful view of the sea from atop the hill, the tranquil atmosphere within, the friendly faces of the locals and the feeling of having escaped the city despite being engulfed by it.

Paint by numbers 

Anchang Village (안창마을), another hillside suburb of Busan, has tried emulating the success of Taeguk. It too has allowed artists to come in and color-in its walls, but the village is very much off the beaten track and far less developed for tourists.

However, Anchang Village is way off the usual tourist trail, and is therefore much earlier in its development. Despite this, a growing number of day-trippers do venture to these parts.

Most of the town’s murals are clustered around the bus stop and to be honest, there aren’t that many to see. However, picking a random direction and getting lost in the vibrant, serpentine alleys is the best way to visit. A multitude of wires criss-cross above homes and most doorways are adorned with little pieces of handicraft. The Busan vista viewed from atop of the hillside is definitely something to behold.

Be Considerate

The popularity of Taeguk Village seems to have helped rejuvenate the town as the cafes, restaurants and tourist facilities have spurred some much-needed development. However, it remains to be seen whether Anchang Village has benefitted at all. Remember that both villages are filled with actual homes, so please respect the residents’ property and be mindful of what you photograph.


To Taeguk Village: From exit 8 at Toseong Station (orange Line 1), follow the street around the corner to the right. In front of the Busan Cancer Center, catch bus 2-2 to Gamcheon Elementary School.

To Anchang: Take the No. 1 mini bus from exit 5 of Bomil Station on the orange Line 1. Get off at the last stop.

A note from the Editor-in-Chimp: This post was originally written for 10 Magazine. You can check it out here on their website if you like

The post Colouring in the Favelas of Busan appeared first on Monkeyboy Goes.


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by Dr. Radut