Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Presseum. Newspaper History Museum. The best part of this little museum in the Dong-A building (it's beside the new sculpture at the start of the Cheonggyecheon), is the exhibition of over 100 front pages of newspapers from around the world from their Jan 1st 2000 edition. Trying to guess the country of the less obvious ones was a good game.
They have a nice shiny brochure in English which makes it sound interesting and informative, but all the exhibits are in Korean (as you'd expect) unfortunately there is no English explaining any of them. On the top floor you can have your photo taken, enter some text and they print the front page of that day's paper with your photo replacing the main picture for you to take away! Not great value at 3,000 Won each. ( They had a website www.presseum.org, but they seem to have let the registration expire!)
The Agriculture Museum, Not an inspiring name, but actually turned out to be very interesting. Lots of large dioramas over three floors telling the story of food production in Korea through history. They also have very realistic reconstructions of a village and shops and houses in old Korea. The handset in English was a waste of time and did not add anything to the English exhibit descriptions. Free admission.
Contemporary Art museum. This is out at the Seoul Grand Park, so a bit of a trek out on metro line 4 to get to. Skip the "elephant ride" road train. It's 800 won for a 2 minute ride that is almost quicker to walk. Also out there is the Zoo, Seoul Land amusement park and a Botanical garden. In the museum the huge installation in the foyer with hundreds of TV screens showing bright, fast cutting images is very eighties. There are plenty of lines, swirls, blotches, plain colours and stockings in the artwork to enjoy.
Bukhansan. (again) I tried another route into the park recently. About 10 or 15 mins walk from Soyu station on Line 4 is the Hwagyesa entrance, which, when I went, was deserted. From there I climbed to Daedongmun which is a gate in one of the fortress walls. It was quite a difficult path from that side, but going back I arrived at Jeongneung ticket booth along a very easy path. My good friend Erkin took some photos when he was there.
Monday, November 27, 2006
One of the most important pieces of orientation we had from the building manager was an introduction to the rubbish and recycling area in the basement.
Here’s the deal, at least in our building:
Glass bottles, metal tins and cans go in one bag.
PET bottles go in another bag.
Other random large bits of plastic and polystyrene go in another bag.
Large cardboard items are piled up here:
Other paper is collected in boxes in the corner.
Newspapers are collected in a separate pile.
Fabric and material goes into a bag.
Small cardboard and paper items go into another bag.
All organic waste is emptied into a small bucket outside the front door and the plastic bag you brought it down in goes into another bucket beside it. (You really don't want to see a photo of that as it does not get cleaned very often!)
All these various bags are collected by men who pile them high on to their small trucks and cart them off to various recycling depots around the city. I would be very interested to know the economics of this whole chain and what happens next, if anyone has any information please let me know.
Anything else that does not fit into those categories, usually very little, goes into special taxed waste bags, they come in 10,20,50 and 100 liter sizes and are collected by the dustmen.
There's a small truck that makes the rounds once a week collecting old electrical equipment, monitors and computers etc. It plays a recorded announcement that sounds like 'foobar hamnida'. Quite apt for old computers.
Koreans are also coming round to the idea of secondhand shops. Whereas in the UK the high streets are often crowded with charity shops offering second hand clothing, books etc etc they are not so prevalent here. There are second hand furniture shops, but they tend to congregate in one place, for example Noryangjin. The Beautiful Store is one chain that is expanding here and I have been to their shop in Seoul Station.
In a similar vein, one waste reduction measure that I thoroughly approve of is charging 50 Won for carrier bags at the supermarket. I don't think it is a tax the way they have done it in Ireland, but still, it's a small incentive to bring a bag with you. It's something the carrier bag manufacturers are keen to prevent in the UK.
Friday, November 24, 2006
said "Island Park, The Sharp". [I guess no one told them the other name for that little symbol is the hash sign].
Of course any new building round here would not be complete without the obligatory outdoor sculpture / artwork and, as befits its size and prestige, this building has a total of four. One in the middle of the courtyard :
This one :
and there's another one of similar size opposite, along with a large collage, neither of which I've successfully photographed yet.
This type of outdoor sculpture work was something that I noticed very soon after arriving in Seoul. The range and quantity is quite amazing. They range from the small, plain and simple :
(That one is outside Kyobo securities building beside Yeouido metro station) to the large, colourful and complex. This fish fountain is just along the road from the one above.
It was only later that I heard of the regulation requiring some outdoor work of art for each building, we had only guessed until then.
Two more good places for sculpture are the Olympic Park Sculpture Garden and at Seoul Grand Park outside the National Museum of Contemporary Art there are 70 artworks.
I have been building up a collection of photos and I hope to upload them all onto flickr at some point. But since I have already used up my bandwidth with the free account for this month, either I'm going to have to pay for it, or that little project may have to wait.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
I duly collected the car from the Downtown Yeouido branch on Saturday morning (the rate of 110,000 won for 2 days was even better than I'd been quoted from the Hertz site) and we set off. Almost immediately we hit heavy traffic, which continued for over 50 km. We finally arrived at 1:30pm after four hours.
We looked round the birding fair and had a delicious lunch including fried fish and fresh prawns, it was just warm enough to be able to sit outside.
Coming down from the embankment into the paddy fields to go birdwatching required taking a different route to the one the bus trip had taken last time. There was an attendant preventing access on that specific track, but the next one along was not guarded. I finally got a good look at the geese and identified them as Bean Geese. At dusk it was an incredible site and sound when the thousands and thousands of them left the paddy fields where they had been grazing and flew out on to the open water to spend the night. We were lucky enough to be right in middle of it on a deserted stretch of track beside the estuary. The noise of their wing beats as they flew over was fascinating.
We struggled a little in the dark to find a way out of the paddy fields back onto to the main road but succeeded by retracing our route. Continuing west we headed towards Anmyeondo and chose a small pension just off the main road south of Bangpo which turned out to be very good value (40,000 won) for a small warm room with a kitchenette area too.
On Sunday we drove up the coast, most of which is part of Taeanhaean National Park, to Mallipo and headed for the Cheollipo Arboretum. Luckily we had not consulted the Lonely Planet guide at this point, because it is out of date and suggests it is only open to members and membership is 60,000 won. In fact it is open to the public for 10,000 won each. This peaceful and scenic little spot was setup in 1966 by an American who bought the land and has lived there ever since, amassing a collection of over 6,500 species of local and exotic plants.
We had another excellent seafood lunch in Mallipo, crab soup this time and had time for a walk around the small town. You cannot really miss this motel :
The Statue of Liberty is visible all around the town. The beach here is very nice, I'll bet it's crowded in summer :
It wasn't actually that bright and sunny, I've enhanced the photo a bit :)
This is nothing to do with Mallipo, but it came out rather well :
(And as Max Headroom used to say "think of the m-m-m-m-m-moth")
We set off back for Seoul at 5:30pm and immediately encountered slow moving traffic on the expressway so it took five hours to get home. So it was still faster than public transport getting there, but not on the way back!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I was reading Soju and I and I watched and enjoyed the video of Jaurim live in Japan, so I watched a few more of the recordings on YouTube. I liked the video to this song the Ha Ha Ha song:
Friday, November 17, 2006
While wandering around the ecology park I stumbled across this modest little monument to the building of the embankment around the island. There are some pretty impressive statistics there:
7.6km in circumference
21-50 m wide
8.5 million cubic meters of reclaimed soil
58,400 construction machines used
4 million cubic meters of rock
The dedication reads:
Here stands an embankment. A threshold to a miracle of the Han River and a promise for the prosperity of the Yoi-do community. Built with the heartfelt support of President Park Chung Hee and four million citizens of Seoul. This embankment was dedicated on June 1 1968 after 100 days of work launched Feb 20 1968.
And they have been building ever since.
Directly opposite our building is the building site that caused the fire in our apartment. It does not seem to have set them back. The 14 storey building has been totally gutted and refurbished since I arrived mid August and it looks like it's going to be ready in the next few weeks.
The building site beside the National Assembly has been making steady progress:
There are a couple of other office blocks and a large apartment complex this side of the park that are almost finished. The two large Marriott serviced apartment blocks will be completed in April 2007.
The five towers of this new apartment complex are starting to make an impression on the local skyline.
They have just started site preparation work on what was a parking lot, beside the Yeouido Transportation Centre bus stop. The trees have been very carefully removed and it looks like the hoardings will go up in the next couple of weeks, there is no indication yet of what is to come.
In contrast there is a site right beside it, which has a large poster promising Parc1. This Richard Rogers Partnership designed project is really impressive, the website is worth a look. It will have two 70 storey towers, at 270m the largest towers in Korea, hotels, a conference centre, a shopping mall and a cinema complex. Construction work is supposed to start in 2006 according to the website and open in 2010.
Work has just begun beside Yeouido metro station on another skyscraper project called S-Trenue.
Running down the middle of Yeouido is part of the massive linear construction site for the Seoul Metro line 9. This huge project started in 2002 and due for completion at the end of 2008 will see 25.5km of new metro. It will have three tracks to allow express trains to run between the interchange stations as well as regular trains. There will be a new station outside the National Assembly building, an interchange with line 5 at Yeouido station and a new station at the eastern end of the island.
The method of construction is interesting. They have excavated the road along the route of the line and then covered over the excavation with steel girders and heavy iron roadway sections that can be removed as required. A common sight is to see concrete being poured into the worksite beneath the street:
notice how many cement trucks there are lined up ready to continue the pour.
As you can see, plenty to keep me interested, and that's just in Yeouido. Around Seoul and the rest of the country cranes are all over the place.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
You may recall in a previous review of blogs I mentioned Occidentalism and how it included some detailed posts about the issue of these tiny islands in the middle of the East Sea (Sea of Japan).
Well, yesterday the president of the university Gerry works for in Incheon has asked him not to post anymore about Dokdo on the Internet.
He told me that it was a sensitive issue in Korea and that he had been contacted by individuals complaining of my postings on the subject. He said that he was worried about the school's reputation.
It seems some Korean students, unable to keep up with his detailed analysis, have formed a smear campaign to get him to fired for daring to suggest that well, actually, they might belong to the Japanese.
I've heard of people getting fired for blogging about the company they work for, but blogging about the sovereignty of a couple of islands? Considering the blog is his own personal work and does not even mention the university it seems a big mistake on the part of the president to prevent him blogging. His suggestion that Gerry should :
Write an academic paper or hold a seminar rather than broadcasting it over the Internet.
seems to miss that point that the posts could be classed as an academic paper, but because he is not a historian he is unlikely to get published. I suggest Gerry sends them to History Today and other sites.
It will be interesting to see if this story hits the newspapers tomorrow.
All Gerry's posts, along with the numerous comments they generated, are here if you'd like to follow the story :
Lies, Half-truths, & Dokdo Video, Part 1
Lies, Half-truths, & Dokdo Video, Part 2
Lies, Half-truths, & Dokdo Video, Maps 1
Lies, Half-truths, & Dokdo Video, Maps 2
“The Struggle for the Japanese Soul”
“South Korea must choose sides”
Lies, Half-truths, & Dokdo Video, Maps 3
Lies, Half-truths, & Dokdo Video, Part 3
Lies, Half-truths, & Dokdo Video, Part 4
Lies, Half-truths, & Dokdo Video, Part 4 Supplement
Lies, Half-truths, & Dokdo Video, Part 5
Lies, Half-truths, & Dokdo Video, Part 6
(I copied the links from Shaun who mentions the story too.)
I have to admit I've only read the first three at the moment and my eyes are starting to glaze over.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
A Year In Korea Ryan is a fellow Englishman. He's working at the English Village in Seoul. He arrived in July and seems to be finding his feet.
Adventures In Korea Colleen is a Canadian teaching English in Yongsin. She's been blogging since Oct 2004.
Ahssa! Is an unusual blog. It's tagline is 'An on-going Roman a Clef blovel About Life as American Expat in Korea'. Contributors include Shelton TeaCher, Lester Aswepe and Coy Askew and seems to be about life working at a hogwan.
Alive In Daejeon James works in Daejeon, and posts regular updates on his life and friends there.
American Family Living In Korea Becky and Bob Eller have been posting regular updates on their family life in Sacheon since April, including plenty of photos and their recent trip to China.
An American In Ulsan TSF has some amusing and interesting updates on his life and travels in Korea as a teacher in Cheonsang.
An American Studying In Seoul Baily J has just gone back to Oregon after a year in Korea. Sounds like he's having a hard time adjusting to life back in the USA.
Art life and Everything Penelope Thompson is an Australian performance artist in Busan. She's got pictures and videos of her art on her blog.
As Far As I Can Go Some strange random burblings from someone on Live Journal there.
Live Life! Love Life The life and times of an American student over here. Featuring "Miniskirt Monday". The inspiration for FeetMan Seoul he says.
Ranting on the ROK Stef is a Kiwi ESL teacher and has some interesting posts.
Janes Daily Blah I think I'll let Jane speak for herself : "I'm short, I'm weird, and my life goal is to become a professional hermit. Or a traveler-writer-photographer. In reality, I tend to go back and forth between the two, so I'd say life's going well. Please check out my photographs, located at Jane's Journeys (last updated on 10.15.06), and be sure to visit my store!" She's keen to sell her book : Prisoner of Wonderland: an ESL misadventure. Published by Lulu for $7.95.
Aussie in Seoul Simon moved to Seoul in June 2005 to work in a five star hotel. His blog is currently showing his pictures from his trip to Italy.
Rost in Transration was a great title for a blog but Erin seems to have created a new blog and then stopped posting.
Queer Eye Korea Lots of pictures of male swimmers if you like that sort of thing here.
Korea, travel, Babes, Politics is how the nomad describes his blog on the Korean list. 'A Kayaker's journal of traveling, living abroad, Korea, and some personal thoughts' it says on his site.
Life and Seoul Brian and Patty Breuhaus blog about their life. He is a journalist.
Gusts of Popular feeling Matt has some very interesting posts on the history of Seoul. The latest one has a lot of photos of Seoul as it was in the 1930s and 40s.
Snapshots from Korea by EM Herbert. She has recently arrived and teaches English.
Kimchi loving canucks Does what it says on the tin. Matt and Hannah teach English and live in Uiwang, south of Seoul, with their 2 year old son.
Korea Pop Wars Mark Russel has notes on entertainment, culture and more. Including regular lists of the month's box office returns.
Suddenly Susan This is a link to a blog from MetroPolitician's blogroll, but you have to be invited to read it and there seems to be no way of contacting her. I'll try emailing Michael again.
Well that's enough for now. There's a few more I've looked at that have stopped posting now or moved back home which I have omitted. Still 167 on my list to go! In the meantime, best get on with real life.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
"It's just such a big moment in my life right now I can't explain it in words," said an overjoyed Yang. "Now that I've won, I want to play a lot of tournaments overseas in Europe, the United States and Japan. I want to compete against the best in the world, now this gives me the chance."
Here's a picture of him courtesy of Yahoo / AP:
For a country that is so obsessed with golf it is a surprise there are not more internationally known golfers, but then as I have no interest in golf, maybe there are.
Having written that, and now done the research, it seems Korean lady golfers are doing very well indeed: Se Ri Pak, when she was 21 in 1998, won both the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Championship and the Women's U.S. Open (she was the youngest player ever to do). More details on her and her friends on the SeoulSisters website.
There are few golf courses in this country but plenty of huge driving ranges, the green netting is visible from a long way away and all the gyms have special golf rooms where you can practice as well. I'm sure there is a Korean equivalent of CaddyChicks too.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Arriving at the small, almost deserted, station we found the tourist information office. There are two different city bus tours, one takes the ferry across the bay to the island where the main Seoul international airport is located. The other one, around the local city area, was just about to depart. So, for a mere 1,000 won each, we joined a bus full of Koreans for the one and half hour sightseeing trip.
The first half of the tour was around the Port of Incheon South Korea's second largest port after Busan.
The Korean bus driver kept up a commentary which the rest of the bus seemed to enjoy, sadly he did not make any allowances for us two foreigners. I assume he was giving some statistics because there were lots of satisfied exclamations. Sadly bypassing the New Songdo City public information hall we passed the Incheon Landing Operation memorial Hall at high speed. The bus stopped at Neungheoda and we had 15 minutes to stretch our legs and walk round the tiny park, feed the fish and admire this establishment created out of an old aeroplane:
It seemed to be deserted whether it was a restaurant or club or something I don't know.
Arriving back at Incheon station we wandered round Chinatown and Jayo park before getting a taxi to Wolmido which is the seaside promenade area. It's like Blackpool or Brighton with Hangeul! But rather than fish and chips all the restaurants sell sliced raw fish. After long deliberation we settled on one with a sea view and ate a huge a amount of food. Quite unexpectedly we got some of these little wrigglers:
They don't get much fresher than that. They are very chewy indeed, a bit like chewing gum, and you have to be careful to swallow them without them getting stuck in your throat. I made sure they had completely stopped sucking before swallowing.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Foreign students not integrated enough
and then today I see this on the BBC website
Foreign students 'do not mingle'
Students found living costs were higher than expected
Foreign students at British colleges say they rate their courses very highly - but most do not mix with the locals.
It seems students the world over are not mingling!
which I'd not really paid attention to. I had assumed that either the site was down, or it had moved or such like.[ I wonder how long the Japanese are going to host it for them?] I finally got around to putting the Korean text through the Google translation tool which did a reasonable job and came back with this:
You connects the site at law to be including the illegal contents which it forbids, the connection against a corresponding site was intercepted to inform, it gives.
This management passes by the mind of information communication ethics committee in request of the charge agency and it follows lawfully, in the telecommunication enterprising law and a thing which will be intercepted with the cotton lower part field star charge agency and there is a doubt fact regarding hereupon and about under meaning of a passage it gives it wishes.
Together for information cultural window month which is healthy request it gives you active cooperation.
Now I didn't quite get all of that, but it seems this KISCOM bunch want to stop me accessing the site. When I mentioned it to Richardson at DPRK Studies, from where I had followed a link from one of his regular North Korea in the news posts, he pointed me to the National Security law. It doesn't explain much, however he did suggest a couple of proxy sites Atunnel,Btunnel etc, which one can conviently use to annonymise one's IP address. Wikipedia has a bit more on the subject.
To paraphrase Francis Urquhart: 'You might think that works, I cannot possibly comment'. But why do the South Koreans not want me to hear that 'him oop north' has just published his father's 65th volume of collected works? (not yet available from North Korea bookshop but vols 1 to 44 are), or that he visited a stock farm?
North Korea is not surprisingly one the 13 countries on the Reporters without Borders blacklist for suppressing freedom of expression on the internet, I wonder how closely they looked at South Korea?
Here's hoping I will be back for another post next week and not reporting from a South Korean prison.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Every couple of days, sometimes everyday, you see around town, police buses and policemen standing around with shields and helmets in groups. Usually you don't see the protestors as they have not arrived yet. Demonstration organisers have to give notice to the police of any demo they are planning. We have seen them get violent only a couple of times. Normally the protestors all just sit or stand in the road and listen to speeches.
This one today was larger than average with a stage built and several lanes of the road cordoned off. Sometimes there is just a small portable stage on the back of a truck and some speakers.
Here is a little experiment of a video I took of them protesting this afternoon in Yeouido on the road in front of the National Assembly building.
They are still going on now at 19:30 and I can hear them from the apartment even with the windows closed to give you an idea of how loud it is!
Sadly I have got no idea what they are on about. Any ideas?
UPDATE: I've been told one of the signs is for the Korean Health and medical workers Union
who have a webpage in English.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Arriving at Seosan bus terminal at 12:40 I bought a ticket to Ganwoldo. (I'd prepared this time and had some Korean text to show the ticket seller) A friendly local pointed out the correct bus stand to wait at (Stand 17, it's labeled Buseok in Hanguel) when I asked. I tried a 'Bulgogi Burger' set meal from the fast food outlet Lotteria at the station. Suffice to say, I shan't be eating one of those again.
The bus trundled south until I eventually spotted the signs for Ganwoldo; I saw the white tents I assumed held the fair and saw the helium balloons in the sky used to indicate events, so I buzzed to get off the bus and alighted at 14:00. Approaching the white tents I realised they were empty. Continuing round the headland I saw a temple on a small island and observed hundreds of small stalls selling fish and seafood.
I was dejectly returning towards the main road along the track on the other side of the headland, when, rounding the corner, I finally came across three huge tents, large banners saying 'birdwatching fair', several buses, a large car park and a few people milling around.
I looked round the displays, they had an impressive collection of stuffed birds and a number of very good photos of wild birds, labeled in Korean and English and also including the Latin names. I then heard an announcement, which I guessed to be about the imminent departure of the birdwatching tour advertised on the website. I quickly purchased a ticket for 5,000 Won and hopped onto the coach. The other 14 participants, including a small group of girls who seemed to recognise me from the bus down from Seosan, were issued with binoculars and we set off.
The land behind the embankment that the main road runs along, has been reclaimed from the sea and consists of acres and acres of rice fields on which thousands of birds were feeding. The coach drove slowly down the gravel track between the fields for 30 minutes, with the lady tour leader keeping up a constant commentary and pointing out various things. We stopped at a simple straw shield beside the estuary and were allowed off the bus to see the large flocks of geese on the mud flats. In the distance was a small group of spoonbills.
(Sorry the photo is so poor!) After only 10 minutes we were herded back on to the bus and continued north along the estuary before crossing the river and returning at the same speed until finally arriving back at the fair site at 16:30. There were plenty of birds to see, including grebes, herons, egrets, ducks, geese, and moorhens but, because the bus did not stop again I was unable to closely observe anything at all! However everyone seemed to really enjoy the tour and whatever the leader said, kept them interested for the whole trip. When we got off the bus I showed her the page from the field guide with the brown geese on, but it was still not clear to me exactly which of the four species we'd seen in such large numbers.
I asked her when the next bus back to Seosan was: 18:00. After I expressed my dismay she immediately indicated that she was going to Seosan and volunteered to give me a lift. She did not speak a world of English so conversation on the journey was impossible, but I was extremely grateful for her kindness.
I bought a bus ticket back to Seoul. [I still don't understand why you cannot buy return tickets in Seoul]. I saw a bus ready to depart but the ticket collector saw my ticket and would not let me on. After a minute or two of confusion I understood that for an extra 3,000 Won I could get on it as it was an express bus. Great, I thought, home in less than the two hours it took to get here. WRONG. Friday evening is also heavy traffic day it seems. After 2 hours 40 minutes we finally arrived at Kangnam express bus terminal. On the bus the TV was showing YTN (the Korean equivalent of CNN) and amonst other things I saw footage of goats being rescued from some flooded country three times. I finally arrived home at 9pm. All that for 10 minutes in the field with the binoculars! Next time, I think we will try hiring a car from Seoul and driving down there.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
These are some of the monks from the temple, including several female monks on the right, though it is hard to tell.
This one taken was taken at the temple gates:
This is one of the procession almost at the very end, carrying the tablets into the temple storage building.
I've just uploaded them to flickr as well, but they are not visible yet as my account has to be moderated. I've taken over a thousand photos since we've been here. While most of them are not worth the disk space they are saved on, there are some reasonable ones. So, do you want to see more photo on this blog? Please let me know via comments or email.