Sunday, August 31, 2008

Freedom of Speech?

On August 26, a liberal scholar was arrested for "propagating socialism" in South Korea. Evidently it is actually against the law here to denounce capitalism because it is seen as a national security threat. I was just a slightly astounded to read this. I guess I just assumed that because I was living in a democracy, people would be allowed to have have their own opinions about politics, but I guess I was wrong. Fortunately the professor was released today because of a lack of evidence against him, but the police will continue their investigation.
For more information, you can read this article in the Korea Times: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2008/08/113_30227.html

Does anyone out there have any more info on this topic?

McCain's Running Mate

I've been quite curious to see who McCain was going to pick as a running mate. I was quite scared for a moment that he was actually considering choosing Mitt Romney.. in which case I would have lost the last shred of respect for the man that I still have. I really did like McCain until this presidential race. Anyway, he chose Alaska governor Sarah Palin which seems to have come out of the blue, but probably an extremely wise choice for him. As far as Republicans go, she seems like an excellent candidate. I still don't think I'd vote for McCain because Paulin is also anti-abortion and against gay marrage. But, I don't think our country would really turn to shambles if McCain & Paulin were elected to office like I believed correctly about Bush. Anyway, to learn a little more about Paulin quickly, Boston.com has a slide show of some of her life and accomplishments.
http://www.boston.com/news/politics/gallery/Sarah_Palin_chosen_as_Republican_running_mate?pg=10

It's quick and visual. Which is always nice. I'm sure you can find some real articles on her if you look as well though.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Just some random thoughts.....

Fall is on it's way here, I can feel it. Maybe it's the lack of humidity.. at least relatively speaking, or maybe because it hasn't rained in... almost a week. I'm almost starting to feel as if I can safely walk to work without an umbrella, which has become my safety net here. I've even brought it out to the clubs at night... sadly. Autumn is supposed to be the best time of year here, and I'm getting excited for it.

Thursday was my birthday. Nothing really eventful. Long day at work... Tuesdays and Thursdays are my longer days. And it was test day. Actually, test day is not very stressful at all, since I don't have to teach. Just give exams. But this time of month around SLP feels quite crazy really. Everything is due at once. Our lesson plans for the next month (all 10 of mine) are due on Monday. All my tests need to be graded by Wednesday, and the grades need to be entered into the computer. But worse than that, I need to write a paragraph comment for each of my students. All.. 58 or so of them. All of this needs to be done by Wednesday. So, needless to say, I brought home all my books this weekend to do some work. I really should be working now, but I'm not of course. I only have two of my lesson plans finished. I suppose this makes up for the other 3 weeks out of the month where things are quite easy for us afternoon teachers. Not that teaching is easy, but as far as lesson planning goes, there's not much to do most of the month.

I'm settling into my new life here pretty well. My apartment is starting to feel like home, and I've got myself into a good routine. It still frustrates me that I can't communicate, but 90% of the time it's not an issue. I've started taking a Korean class that meets on Saturday afternoons. It's near Sookmyong Women's University station. It's pretty good, but I really need to study more than one day a week. But I find that every week I pick up one or two useful words, which is better than nothing. I do like this school also, because they offer different levels. 0-4 depending on how well you can speak. I'm in level one. I mostly already know the grammar, but my vocabulary is sadly deficient. If you're interested, check out thier site: http://kongbubang.wordpress.com/

My mom and friend from home have decided they are comming to visit me in October for a week. I am very interested to see how they find the country. Neither one of them is accustomed to traveling, especially not to forign countries, and Korea is about as foreign as you can get... at least in certain respects. It will also be interesting to see if three people can really fit into my tiny studio apartment. I guess people have lived in much worse conditions for much longer than a week. I'm sure we'll all survive.

Next month is Chusok, which is more or less a Korean Thanksgiving holiday. We have a four day weekend, and myself and one or two of my friends/coworkers are going to fly to Taiwon. Taipai to be exact. It's only a 2.5 hour flight so we should have most of the day Friday and at least the morning on Tuesday to see the sights. Evidently there is a lot of good hiking and nature to see quite close to the city. I'm sure I'll have at least one if not many more posts about Taipei when I'm home.

Well, I need to stop procrastinating and continue with me lesson planning. Oh joy!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hongdae Club Scene, Seoul Fring Festival, and Staying Out 'Til Dawn

This week there is a a big music festival called the Seoul Fringe Festival. Many artists from around Korea, and 7 other countries participate in the festival with music, performing arts and visual arts. We decided to make our way to Hongdae (Hongkik University area) to see what the hubbub was all about. Unfortunately many of the shows were in clubs and required a cover charge. I'm poor, as I haven't been paid yet, and some of my other fellow club goers were not willing to pay cover charges, so we missed out on most of it, but we were still able to catch a few things and get the full Seoul night scene experience by actually staying out until the subway opens again in the morning. Usually when I go out, I'm cabbing it home before 3:30AM. The first thing we saw when we arrived was this "sick clique" as my friend put it, that I put in the video above. They were a Korean rap group and they were pretty good, and were really getting the crowd going. They were just performing in a park, so I assume they were part of the Fringe Festival.

Oh, yes. Maybe this would be the point in the story where I explain what I'm drinking. Drink prices can vary in clubs. You can actually get tequilla shots for as little as $2 or $3USD and beers as low as $2 or $3USD in the clubs, although you never know how much beer you will get for that price. That of course is the low end. High end could be just as expencive as the US, or even more. For me, its a safer and cheaper alternative to pick up something at the local mart (convenience store). Convenience stores here are on at least every corner, if not a few in between. They all sell beer, soju, makkoli, and probably other types of alcohol that I've never looked for. And it is ridiculously cheap. I can get a bottle of soju (Korean vodka, not as strong as a normal vodka though) for $1.50 USD and a bottle of Coke for $1.30 USD. A friend and I will split the soju between the two of us, mixing it with our Cokes.... we're not as hard core as the Koreans who will drink the entire bottle doing shots. Hopefully not the whole bottle, but I've heard stories about that too. I'm all about the cheap when I go out.

From there we headed to a bar called Go Go's. It's a decent bar, mostly just people mingling, no dancing. Lots of foreigners... mostly Americans. We never seem to stay there long. We then headed over to Rocky Mountain Tavern. This is another bar full of westerners, in fact at some of these types of bars you can forget that you are even in Asia. Whether or not that's a good thing, I suppose depends for everyone. They play some fun random music and there were a few people up dancing, ourselves included.

We headed over to S Club. This is a hip hop club, and they were charging 10,000 won to get in. Somehow someone in our group finagled us in without paying. Those are some skills I need to learn... Anyway, this club was ok, but we couldn't stay more than 15 minutes. Besides the fact that it was packed (which I'm getting used to around here), it was at least 200˚ degrees in there. We were suffocating. Thank goodness we didn't pay the cover charge. Anyway, I did take these pictures and video while we were there though. We



video

We Then wondered around, and got some dukboki. It was now about 4:00 AM. I wasn't tired at all. I just suggested we just wait until the subway opens to go home instead of paying for the taxi. Everyone agreed and we looked for somewhere to dance some more. For some reason or other we decided to go to TinPan2. I don't quite know who's desision that was, but it wasn't mine. I'd heard some sketchy things about this club TinPan 1 and TinPan 2 actually. All I had ever heard about this place was that it was the place you go if you are looking to get laid (not to scare my family when they read this). Evidently one is where you go if you are a forign guy looking for a Korean girl, and the other is where you go if you are a forign girl looking to pick up a Korean guy (does that actually happen though???). I'm pretty sure we were in the one where foreign girls can pick up a Korean guy... or should I say a Korean guy can pick up a foreign girl... We were shaking guys off of us all night, but I did eventually find a nice guy or two to dance with for a while, so my night ended on a positive note.


When we finally stepped out... we got a little surprise because it was 5:45 and the sun was up. That was definitely a shock, and at that point we KNEW it was time to go home. We headed back to the subway and I arrived at my apartment at 6:30. I didn't realize how high the sun was at 6:30 AM, which probably explains why I sleep so badly in the mornings. Here's me on the elevator going to my apartment at 6:30 after 7 hours of clubbing.


I didn't have any problem falling asleep....

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jeongdongjin: A cruise on a hill and lots of waves!

Yes, that is a cruise ship on top of a hill.....

This past weekend was a long weekend for us (I love having so many national holidays in this country), so we decided to take off for the beach. We had been thinking of going to Busan, since that seems to be where everyone goes to go to the beach, but a Korean friend of ours came up with another idea.. and since she was willing to plan the entire trip for us, it seemed like a better plan than trying to do it ourselves going south.

Our friend chose Jeongdongjin. This is an area on the coast of Gangwon-do province in the northeast corner of the country (see map at end of this entry). This place is famous for its sunrise, which is popular for couples to go see. We weren't so motivated to get up to see any sunrise... maybe because I am lacking in the significant other department.. although.. it's more likely that I just am lazy. But, there certainly more to see here than just a sunrise.

One of the most prominent features of the landscape is the Sun Cruise. This is a huge cruise ship on top of a hill that looks out over the ocean. The ship is actually a hotel, but it has other things there that you can check out if you don't feel like shelling out all the money to sleep in a cruise ship on top of a hill. We ate at the restaurant. It was a bit pricey, but we had live entertainment by a Filipino man and woman who sang and played piano, the restaurant was on an upper floor of the hotel so you could see all around the area, and sitting near us was a famous Korean entertainer (as if I would have even known if our Korean friend hadn't pointed him out to us... Oh! Oh! Look! A famous person!). Actually, all things considered, it wasn't that expensive. I'm just getting spoiled by cheap food in Korea... and I'm still waiting for my first real paycheck which won't come for another 22 days (yes, I'm counting down).

From there we made our way up to the bar on the top floor of the ship. The perk of this bar was that it rotated around 360˚ so you could really get a good view of everything. Although I'm not sure that a rotating bar was the wisest idea for drinkers.. I only had one drink... yet everything was moving on me.... I wasn't drunk.. I swear. Oh, and our entertainers followed us up to the bar, and they accepted requests. They sang a duet just for us, since we asked so nicely....

After our drinks in the bar, we headed down to the bottom floor of the ship to find the norebang. I haven't written about norebang here before, and I feel as though it really deserves its own post, but simply put, its karaoke where you rent a private room for your friends so that you can sing your hearts out without torturing the ears of strangers like traditional American karaoke bars. Basically, its karaoke the way it should be. Anyway, we got our room, and the nice man in charge actually gave us almost an extra hour for free because the first room that they put us in didn't have as many English songs, so after 30 mins in that room, he put us in another room with a little over an hour on the clock. It was excellent. After norebang we hit up the little store in the basement of the ship to buy breakfast (ramyon... ramen to all you folks not in Korea) and we made our way back to our motel.

This is the view of the cruise ship from my balcony window of the motel. We stayed at the DaVinchi Motel (or dapinshi if you're Korean). I'm still not sure if it was a love motel or not, but it was nice enough, and because we had 3 people in each room, we only had to pay 54,000 won or $54USD per person total for two nights. Not too bad, but if we had had 4 per room it could have even been a little less. I slept on the floor but there was a double bed. I don't mind the floor though, and they provided a traditional Korean bed mat for the floor.

Here is another view from my motel balcony

Another famous attraction of this beach is the giant hourglass. I believe this is the largest hourglass in the world. We were trying to figure out how much time the hour glass measured. We guessed a day. We were slightly off I just found out now with a little research online... it lasts for a year. At midnight on New Year's Eve every year the hour glass is turned.


These were some electric trees that we found by the hourglass. Not quite sure what's up with them, but they are kind of cool I guess.

And then of course.. there is the beach. Saturday's weather was kind of miserable.. rainy and cooolddd... but we tried to make the most of it and still rented a table and chairs and umbrella on the beach... and some of the braver ones of our group went in the water as far as the life guards would allow... the surf was very rough because of the sour weather that it really wasn't safe to go out farther than waist deep. For me it was a bit too cold for playing in the waves. But I did put my feet in an get splashed quite a bit by huge waves. Sunday was our day for the beach. The weather was perfect. Sunny, not too hot, but not quite cold either. We rented another table and chairs and umbrella, three people in our group rented some bright yellow tubes to float around in and we jumped in the surf. The waves were incredible. I wanted a boogie board so bad. It reminded me of Coastguard Beach on Cape Cod where I used to go often enough back at home.

From looking at photos of Haeungdae and other beaches in Busan, I'm so glad I went to Jeongdongjin. It wasn't wall to wall people. In fact, I was surprised how few people there were really, considering it was a long weekend. I mean, it certainly wasn't deserted, but there was really just one long row of rented tables along the beach. No blankets or anything. By afternoon, the water started to feel a little crowded, but that was mostly because so many people were floating around on blow up tubes which were tossed pell mell every time a wave came by, which was like every 30 seconds or so.

Another interesting cultural fact I noticed is that no one seems to lay out and sun tan. In fact, they kind of hide from the sun. At first it seemed crazy, but it's probably pretty smart actually... maybe they don't all get skin cancer like we do. They also generally don't wear bathing suits. Just regular clothes. Probably clothes they don't care about. Junky t-shirts and shorts. Oh, and by the way, if you're coming to Korea, bring enough sunscreen to last you a year. Bottles here are small and expencive. And you have to be careful not to buy the ones with whitener in them. Yes, that's right. They put some sort of skin bleach in their sunscreen. Koreans really don't find it attractive to be tan, evidently. Sometimes you see women with quite unnaturally white faces. I don't find it very attractive at all. I guess they do though.

Anyway, if you are interested in getting here I can tell you how I did it. From Dong Seoul bus station by gangbyeon station on line 2 you can take the bus to Gangneung. Make sure you get on the express bus, because we accidentally got on the bus that makes 4 stops or so on the way and it took us 6.5 hours to arrive. Coming home it only took 3 hours and 45 mins, and that included sitting in some traffic coming home from a long weekend. Once you get to Gangneung, you can take a city bus to Jeongdongjin. The 109 bus takes you right to the beach and up to the Sun Cruise. It only comes every two hours. I suspect other buses run on slow schedules as well, so make sure you know what bus you want and what time it comes. It was fairly simple, but it was facilitated by the fact that we had a Korean with us who could navigate everything for us.

It took me a while to find information on this place. It's not as well known by western travelers, although I did see a couple of white faces though. Here are some helpful sites that I used while writing the blog.
http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264165
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&q=jeongdongjin&spell=1

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hi Seoul Festival! (Part II)

So... Sunday night I made my way back to Yeouido to catch what I missed Saturday night once it started to rain. We got there just in time to see the second half of the Hangang Fantasy Show.

video

The Fantasy show was very cool.. but very confusing... The acrobats were awesome to watch.. but I think there was supposed to be some story line that involved ocean creatures or something... not really sure. But the wildest thing about the show was the band that flew through the air on suspension ropes or something. The violinist was insane, and he could play awesome music while spinning upside down. I've never seen anything like it!

Next up was the Monster Ballet. This was choreographed by a Korean soloist from the Paris Opera Ballet. This was... odd. I guess with a name like Monster Ballet, it had to be strange, but I just had to see what it was all about.

I guess the basic plot was that monsters (aka construction equipment) have taken over the world. There were some mutated humans.... I that were controled by the machines, and there was a King that... was.. somthing or other. And a maiden.. who died, but her soul was reborn, and danced for the king, and he was touched.... and I think the ending was happy... but... one can't be too sure about that though...



Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hi Seoul Festival! (Part I)


Today we headed over to the Hi Seoul Festival in Yeouido. We saw many interesting sights. I wrote Part I here, because hopefully we'll make our way over there again this week. This picture shows the 63 Tower. It is one of the tallest (if not the tallest building in Seoul). People were able to go kayaking in the Han River here. When we got a closer look, there were tons of ajummas paddling in the water. Why are they all in better shape than me. They are all at least 45 years older than me....


There were giant colorful balls covered in cloth that kids were pushing around everywhere. I almost got run over a few times actually. Very dangerous these large balls.

So, evidently, in an attempt to recruit us into the ROK army, they let us try on military outfits. Well, I don't think I'll be joining the military any time soon, but it's always fun to dress up..........


Pull the lever and get water dumped on you. That's the way we play this game. Thought, it was so hot, it was kind of tempting......


Hangang Fantasy Show. You just need to see it to understand. Thats all I have to say.


So just as things started picking up...... well, as you can see, it started to rain. But, the good thing is that they have performances for the next few days. Hopefully tomorrow will be nicer. All I know is that the show started out with a rock band (that included a violinist.. kick butt) that flew through the air. How much more awesome can life get.. eh? Don't forget the Monster Ballet that is supposed to start at 21:00 at night for the next two days. What is a monster ballet? Well, although I'm not completely sure, it sounds like construction equipment that dances to classical music. Think backhoes and bulldozers. Why wouldn't you check this thing out????? I will post any more cool hi Seoul stuff I see out there!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hi Seoul Festival!

This weekend there is going to be lots of events for the Hi Seoul Festival! There will be music, dancing, water events in the Han River, and even a Monster Ballet. :-)

See you there :-)
Hopefully I'll have some pics to show too!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Much Bigger Palace: Gyeongbokgung


We made our way over to Gyeonbokgung Palace last week as well on our touristic safari of Seoul. This palace is probably 10 times bigger than Doksugung where I ventured to on my own on my first weekend in the city. Some cool things about this place is the changing of the guards that takes place every hour, on the hour from 10:00 to 16:00 and the free English tours which take place at 11:00, 13:30 and 15:30 every day. I love the fact that you can find free English tours here at almost every tourist site. Anyway, in the photo above, you can see some of the guards at the entrance into the palace. Not quite as rigid as the soldiers in London or at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

A quick history of the palace before I show some photos. This was the main palace during the Joseon Dynasty in the year 1395. It was destroyed by the Japanese in 1592, and was not rebuilt until 1868 during King Gojong's reign. During the Japanese ocupation in the first half of the 20th century, most of the palace was yet again torn apart by the Japanese, save for only a few buildings. The booklet that I recieved upon entering the palace describes the restoration effort as "ongoing".


Gyeonghoeru: This building was generally used for events held to entertain foreign emissaries because of the wonderful views that you can't really see in this photo.

Figures on the top of Gyeonghoeru


Geoncheonggung: Described as a palace within a palace, this was a place where the royal family might go to relax or drink tea. The Empress was assasinated here by the Japanese in 1895.


The National Folk Museum
. This museum is right next to the palace, and has free admission for the next few months, and has some very interesting exibits of Korean culture and history. You can see what kings and queens wore in various dynasties, see 20 different kinds of kim chi and view some old skool cars.. and anything in between. And its free right now, so it makes it even more worthwhile. :-)

This was outside the museum, but it shows something that we saw within the palace. Before they had things like clocks, people used the sun to tell the time (duh), but instead of saying a number representing the time of day, they used animals of the Chinese zodiac. Each animal represented a position of the sun, so for example, midnight would be mouse time, and... some other time of the day would be monkey time. (Haven't you ever wanted to shout that it was monkey time?) This shows it in a sort of sun dial the animals. I think two of the animals were left out of the Korean time system, but I don't remember which ones....

Anyway, if you want to check out Gyeongbokgung and/or The National Folk Museum, take subway line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station and use exit 5, and you will find yourself right in front of the palace.

Monday, August 4, 2008

My new favorite thing to cook :-)


So I picked up this package of curry in the Home Plus Express last week, because it looked yummy, but I then realized that I couldn't read the directions. So, in my eternal wisdom, I found the web site on the back of the package and found that they not only have a web site with directions how to cook thier food, but an entire English language part of the site with cooking directions :-D :-D

This is so easy to cook and it makes several meals, which is my kind of cooking. All you need is like one carrot (which for some reason tend to be huge here), a potato and an onion. Chop 'em up, fry them, then boil them, once they've boiled for a little bit, throw in the curry mix, and let it thicken. Throw some rice on the burner while you're at it and once they're both done, voilá! yummy dinner.

Oh, and I'm not sure if you noticed, but that does in fact say Ottogi Vermont Curry Medium. Yes, folks Vermont. We Vermonters are world famous, evidently. Here's the description straight from the product description on the web site:
1. Created with concern on health, using original apples and honey from Vermont in northeastern US.
2. With added apples and honey, everybody can enjoy this premium curry.
Anyway, for anyone ready for yummy cooking time, check out the web site for cooking directions: http://www.ottogi.co.kr/index.jsp . The English option is up at the top of the page.

War Photos from Iraq

So, while listening to NPR on podcast (I'm an NPR addict, even over here... I'm a geek, but I'm proud of it) I head about this blog:

http://www.zoriah.net/blog/

This blog is by a war photographer named Zoriah who takes some incredible photographs. He is significant right now though, because he was embedded within a battalion in Iraq when there was a suicide bomb attack. He was able to get photos of many of the casualties before the military officials of his unit were able to stop him. They tried to confiscate the memory card of his digital camera, but he refused to give it up, because that is not within the regulations regarding journalists in Iraq. He posted many photos on this blog, but within hours the military had discovered what he did, and essentially dragged him out of the his unit and shipped him back to the Green Zone. Although the military tried to get him to take the photos off his blog, he refused. Now the photos that he took of dead American soldiers are some of the only that exist in publication of the entire Iraq war because of the extreme control the military has put on free press regarding photos taken in Iraq.

If you want to see these pictures of this suicide bombing in Anbar, you can find the link here:

http://www.zoriah.net/blog/suicide-bombing-in-anbar-.html


But, please keep in mind that these are real images of a real suicide bombing attack. It is gruesome. But, as I see it, it is the truth.

Oh, and if anyone is interested in the NPR podcast, it was broadcast on August 1st, 2008 from the program called On The Media. Just search for the program in the iTunes store, all NPR/PRI podcasts are free. It was very interesting, and had an interview with Zoriah himself.

Incheon

On Thursday, we decided to leave Seoul for the first time since we've gotten here and head over to Incheon. It's about an hour on Line 1 on the subway, unless you grab the express train which skips over more than half the stops between Yongsan and Incheon Station.

Our first stop when we got here was lunch in Chinatown. This is the only Chinatown in all of Korea. According to the CIA world factbook, there are only about 20,000 Chinese in South Korea, although I have a feeling that is a slightly low estimate. But, either way, it's still a small number. We got cha-jang myon 자정면 , which is black bean sauce with noodles. It's I guess the Koreanized form of Chinese food. It's pretty good, a nice break from the crazy spicy Korean food.
From Chinatown we just climbed the stairs that are half way down the main street and went through the big gate to get to Jayu Park (Freedom Park). Within Jayu Park, if you climb as high up as you can, you can find the US Treaty Memorial. It has a very interesting design if nothing else.
To one side of the park, a short walk from the US Treaty Memorial, you can find the monument dedicated to General McArthur.
After Jayu Park we caught the #2 bus and headed over to Wolmido (do means island, so I guess you could call it Wolmi Island, although, its really more of a peninsula than an island). You can catch this bus right in front of Incheon Staion, and it costs the same as a Seoul city bus and T-Money cards work too. In Wolmido we stuck our feet into the Pacific Ocean, which is always a nice accomplishment to have when you're from Boston. There is a boardwalk here with some restaurants and such.
We walked over to Wolmi Park, where there is a hill you can climb over or around. We sort of took a middle road. We'd had too much climbing after our trek up Inwangsan to think about climbing another hill. The paths here were paved and nice for walking. If you can read Korean, there were signs showing the local flora and fauna to keep your eyes out for. At the bottom of the park, you can find a small park with some nice buildings to check out.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Dokdo Island Controversy

Have you heard? Maybe not. The past few weeks have brought out some good old anti-Japanese sentiments. Why? Well, Japan published in some text books that the Dokdo Islands were considered part of it's territory. These islands were seized by Japan when they took over the rest of Korea in the early 20th century, but theoretically, they should have been returned to Korea after world war two in 1945. For some reason though, the nationality of these islands has been a bit ambiguous over the years.

To make matters worse, about a week ago, the U.S. board of geographic names (didn't know we even had a board of geographic names) declared Dokdo as "Undesignated Sovereignty" giving more legitimacy to Japan's claims on the territory.

Furious, Korea pulled its ambassador temporarily out of Japan. Protests were held in front of the Japanese embassy here in Seoul on the 18th of July, and even some adds for Japanese products were pulled out of the metro.

The Korean government staged a large military drill over the island this week which included maritime police and six naval ships including a destroyer and the air force's newest jet, the F-15K.

Things are finally settling down though here. Bush apologized for the mistake of changing the nationality of the islands, and restored it to Korea, it's obvious rightful owner (at least in the eyes of Koreans). Ambassadors have been sent back to Japan and things should be back to normal soon I think. Now the Koreans can go back to being angry about US beef again.

So, what's the big deal about these islands you ask? Well, let's first start with the island's population. There are TWO permanant residents.. who are by the way of South Korean decent. There is a a Korean police department there, and light house staff. What's on this island that everyone wants so bad? Well, here's a picture. you tell me.

Yup, these are just two hunks of rock in the sea.

Ok, ok, there might actually be some value to these hunks of rock though. It's more about the water surrounding these hunks of rock. I won't admit I totally understand the politics of it, but the owners of the islands also will control the fishing rights surrounding the islands, and any other potential natural resources that might be present.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

In and around Insadong

Today we ventured into Insadong, another shopping area of Seoul, but very different from Myeongdong. Streets here are lined with shops containing Korean Celadon pottery, antiques, caligraphy brushes, pressed paper, and plenty of other odds and ends. Saturday and Sunday are the best days to go, because the streets are closed to vehicle traffic, and there are many stands in the street vendors in addition to the normal stores.

While we were here, we passed a small anti-China demonstration. These folks were protesting China's treatment of North Korean refugees. Many North Koreans who manage to escape across the river into China are rounded up and shipped back to North Korea... where god only knows their fate once the North Korean Government gets a hold of the escapees. This picture below is some Koreans acting out the Chinese turning over North Korean refugees to the North Korean soldier. I'm not quite sure what it is, but I've found that Koreans like graphic demonstrations of injustices committed against them. First I saw at the prison the life-like torture demonstrations and figurines. Now this. The "North Korean soldier" was acting out kicking the two "escapees". Oh, and by the way, if you're interested more in the topic of North Korean refugees in China, you should read The Ginseng Hunter by Jeff Talarigo. It takes place in fairly recent times, and really shows the strife of the North Korean people, not only in North Korea, but the hardships that they may face when they make it into China as well.

We wondered out of Insadong after a little bit of wandering, and found ourselves in Tapgol Park. This is a small park with some a memorial to the revolutionaries of the Sam-Il (March 1st) Movement. The Sam-il movement was an independence movement that started on March 1st, 1919, against the Japanese occupying forces. If you go to the Prison museum, you can learn a lot more about this though.


These folks here featured on either side of this monument are two of the most famous revolutionaries of the Sam-il movement. To the right is Yu Gwan-sun who was a 16 year old student leader of the movement. She was arrested, and died in Seodaemun prison. To the left is Kang Ugyu (I think.. but please correct me if I'm wrong), who was an independence fighter who threw a bomb at a Japanese official as an assassination attempt. He was also imprisoned in Seodaemun as well.
Another view from within Tapgol Park