Friday, September 29, 2006

Review of Forums for Korea

In my surfing time I’ve come across a number of forums or discussion boards about Korea in English so I thought I’d review them here:

The most popular site I have found so far is the Korea Bridge Forum. There are 15 conferences, the two most popular are the general discussion and jobs related forums. Postings made are moderated on all conferences, so they do not appear immediately. They claim over 700 users and over 15,500 posts.

The LifeInAsia site has created conferences for South Korea. Split into two halves, there are clubs for the main cities and provinces and then a separate set of discussion forums for topics such as teaching, buy and sell. This does make it very difficult to target a question or announcement since at least half the forums have no postings since the start of 2006.

The Korea Times website hosts three boards Talk Box, Study board and Market place. Postings are on average 2 a week.

The Seoul Times also runs a bulletin board, however all the postings this week seem to be spam type adverts.

The Korea Infogate site has 30 “clubs”, for different interests, however most seem to be completely dormant.

The Seoul city council website has a community page where you can post want ads or find friends. There are 7 items in the "for sale" conference since Jan 2006.

The Korea Joblink site has a forum section: 15 postings in the market place section since July. The job discussion conference has 15 postings in September.

Seoul Selection (home of The Marmot) has a forum section. There are 10 conferences, most have recent postings. Not many have any replies or followups. They report over 350 users. has a link to Also divided into 10 conferences, it is mainly aimed at military expats.

Dave’s ESL cafe has 8 conferences in the Korea section, focusing not only on teaching English but also travel, current events, technology and buy/sell. The site claims over 12,000 users. You cannot tell how many are in Korea but all conferences have very recent posts many with followups.

The @llo Expat site hosts a large number of country specific forums. The one for Korea has 17 separate conferences including 3 each for Seoul, Busan and Daegu. Most of the posts have no replies, some that do are advertising posts that have not been deleted.

The Tour2Korea website has various conferences for discussion on topics including learning Hangul and Korean events. Not many postings in any of them.

Another Expat site has 16 conferences split by continent. The Living in Asia conference has 32 posts since Jan 2006.

The Lonely Planet run a very popular travel forum called The Thorn Tree. The conference on North Asian countries is dominated by questions on China, HK and Japan. Those on Korea get answered quickly and accurately.

Trip Advisor has a forum for Korea, it receives the occasional question, mostly from North Americans venturing into this part of the world. Posts are sporadic averaging two or three a week, but there were 8 today.

Forums need to reach a critical mass. In my opinion the Korea Bridge forum has reached that size. The number of posts indicates a regular number of people that post and reply to questions for it to be worthwhile using.
So my suggestion, if you'd like to ask questions about Korea to as wide an audience as possible, is to create an account at Korea Bridge and ignore all the rest, however Dave's ESL forum does seem to be very popular.

I am tempted to suggest to the other Korean based sites to abandon their forums and just put links to Korea Bridge, it would increase the traffic for all concerned. I'll let you know what their replies are.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hangul Romanization Revision Proposed

Only yesterday I wrote about how the transcription of Hangul into Roman letters was changed in 2000. Today I read in the Korea Times today that they are considering a proposal to change it again due to the confusion I mentioned.
The headline story reports :

Some 75 percent of South Koreans think the government-enacted Romanization system does not reflect the original pronunciation of Hangul properly, a survey conducted by the Yoido Institute, a think tank of the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) showed yesterday.

Of the 2,150 adults polled last week, 66.1 percent wanted the current system to be revised despite the expected financial cost, according to the survey conducted on the occasion of the 560th Hangul Day which falls on Oct. 9.

Hangul was first Romanized using the McCune-Reischauer (M-R) system in the early 20th century, when a number of foreign missionaries came to the Choson Kingdom.

'Confusion we experience today has been caused largely due to the arbitrary attitudes of armchair linguists and some misguided government officials' said Kim Bok-moon, professor emeritus of Chungbuk National University.

Scraping the traditional M-R system, which had prevailed in the past decades, the government adopted a new system on July 7, 2000, shifting Pusan, Kobukson (turtle ship) and kimchi into Busan, Geobukseon and gimchi.

The English-language media, including the state-funded Yonhap News Agency, had resisted the change for a period of time. But, as time went by, all the news media gave in to the new system except The Korea Times, which has maintained the M-R system concluding that it is the most similar to actual pronunciation.

Let alone the tremendous cost of the revision, the main problem of the current system is that it does not ensure the exact pronunciation of the original sound of various Korean words.

Kim, who serves as president of the Research Institute for Korean Romanization (KOROMA), has made sole efforts to end the confusion, submitting a petition to then President Kim Dae-jung and presenting a Constitutional petition.

According to Kim, 16 out of the newly Romanized 21 vowels of Hangul are out of sync with actual sounds when they are read by English-speaking people, who have no knowledge about the premise that 'eo’ should be pronounced as ㅓ. He has devised his own system, which he claims ensures the best pronunciations.

Critics say the Romanization system should be revised in a way that best reflects the characteristics of the Korean language and the reunification of the two Koreas should also be taken into consideration.

North Korea has a system similar to the M-R system, which writes its cities and places in English as Pyongyang, Kaesong and Mt. Kumgang not Pyeongyang,Gaeseong and Mt. Gumgang.

North Korea once proposed the unification of the different Romanization systems used by South and North Korea in a meeting of linguists from the two Koreas in Berlin, Germany, in 2002.

[Text copied from KT site and edited slightly for brevity because the link will only work for 7 days, after which they'd like you to pay to access the historic articles.]

So, as if it wasn't difficult enough already, it may change again. Lets hope Mr Kim and his buddies have come up with a suitably logical and straightforward approach. I wonder how long it will take to get agreed.

I don't normally find much to comment on from the news papers but since I've started there were a few other stories I thought worth mentioning:

Han River Projects to Enliven Seoul.
They are planning to try and brighten up the area around the Han river, the main river that runs through Seoul. I've walked across a couple of the bridges into Yeoido, it really is not a very pleasant experience. It's a long way, there is a lot of traffic and there is not that much to see while walking. I can't see their idea of converting one lane in to a pedestrian zone on five of the cross river bridges is going to make it any more appealing for people to walk when crossing the river.

Buses to have seats allocated for pregnant women.
Pregnant women will get issued badges from their hospital to allow them to use seats set aside for them. This was something Annie Mole mentioned sometime back on her Going underground blog. I'm sure she'll be delighted.

Bye bye Liza The Editor of is leaving for Hong Kong. She told me in an email about a group of house husbands she know of who were trying to start a group to rival SIWA (Seoul International Women's Association). They were calling their support group 'DHIK' Dads, Husbands in Korea. Of course the group fell apart since there weren't enough DHIKS to keep the 'poker coffee mornings' alive.

CCTV to be installed on Metro carriages. A sad reflection on the increase in crime in this country.

The Oktoberfest comes to Seoul The Hilton has waitresses dressing up and Lotteworld has parades, dancing troupes, live music, games and events in a setting that replicates the city of Munich!

And finally, there was also a story, that I can't find on their site, of a rare item of news about the UK. It reported on this story from the Guardian about how the Ministry of Defence tried to prevent the public from finding out about unit DI55 that was investigating reported sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects. Quite why that was of interest rather than any news about the Blair / Brown battle (which they actually covered yesterday) I don't know.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Shaggy Dandy?

I had my hair cut last week. I wanted to go into this barbers and ask for a "Shaggy Dandy" :

But The Bat took me to another place and I ended up with a regular hair cut.

It is amazing how you can get by without speaking a word of Korean. Most people do not speak any English at all. Some people can understand a couple of words but 99% of communication has to be with gestures and pointing.

Inspired by so many people, including Gdog at The Daily Kimchi, who have said it is very easy to learn the Korean alphabet (Hangul) I have started to try and learn the letters. So far I can pick out a few of the consonants. Learning on the metro seems to be a good way because each station is announced and the electronic displays alternate between the Hangul and English spellings of the stations.

One confusing thing about the Romanisation of Hangul is that the Government changed the rules in 2000. So older guidebooks and text may have the old way of writing place names which do not correspond to the current signs. For example Pusan, became Busan etc.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Trip to the DMZ

One of the most heavily publicised tourist day trips out of Seoul is a visit to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). Stretching for 248 km from coast to coast this 4 km wide strip of land divides the two nations on the Korean peninsular : the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea DPRK to the North and the Republic of Korea ROK to the South.

The Military Demarcation Line (MDL) runs approximately along the 38th parallel, this line was agreed after 20 months of talks in 1953 and its agreement marked the Cease fire in the Korean war. Note: It is just a cease fire, the two nations are still in theory at war.

Today at least five companies offer tours of various combinations of the sites of interest that lie around 50km north of Seoul. We went with who offer a full day visit.

Our first stop, after an hours bus ride, was the 3rd Infiltration tunnel. We were shown an upbeat and very optimistic video presentation highlighting some of the history of the war, before being seated in the small cog railway to be taken 300m down the access shaft to intercept the North Korean built tunnel at a depth of 73m.

Information from a defector in 1974 started the search for the tunnel. The method of detection was to drill a number of boreholes, line them with PVC pipes, fill them with water and watch and wait. In 1978 their patience was rewarded when one of the boreholes erupted due to the dynamite explosion from the construction of the tunnel below. [Why they could not use Seismometers, I did not get a chance to ask]. The tunnel is roughly 2m high and 2m wide. Blasted through mostly granite rock it reached 435m into ROK territory, only 50km to go to their intended target of Seoul. It seems to me a highly dangerous and unpredictable method of infiltration, but the North Koreans had other ideas and three other tunnels have been discovered.

The tour moved on the Dora Observatory, where we surveyed the DMZ from the lookout on the hillside. We could also see the tallest flagpole in the world in the North Korean village of Gijeong-dong and the smaller one on the opposite side in South Korea.
The next stop was Dorasan railway station.

This large modern building was opened in 2002 and would be the envy of many British towns and cities. Spacious, clean and modern the only thing missing is a reason to come here. Trains arrive three times a day from Seoul for the local population and military, but tourists cannot leave the compound around the station. One day it could be an International station with the possibility to travel on the Trans EurAsian Railway network, for the moment it's a peaceful tourist attraction in its own right.

The next stop was the Freedom bridge and peace park, this non descript bridge was the scene of the first exchange of prisoners after the Korean war.

After our meal of Bulgogi, we started the second half of the tour with another visit to the Freedom bridge. Not great organisation on the part of the tour company there. The highlight of the tour was the trip into the DMZ to Panmunjeom and the Joint Security Area. After a lecture from our guide on the history of the area we were taken under strict security to the small shack that lies on the actual MDL. One half of the room is in North Korea, the other half in the South. It was here that the Armistice was signed on July 27th 1953.

The whole camp is very quiet and well ordered. The buildings are modern and well kept, it almost looked like a university campus. The American soldiers that escorted us were friendly and knowledgeable. They were pleased to answer questions on life at the base and history of the place. All too soon we had to get back on the bus to come back to Seoul. It was a very interesting tour and it really does bring the history to life, I would highly recommend a trip to the DMZ to any visitor to Seoul.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Pudding Club : Seoul Chapter

Last night, while The Bat was at work, I was out on the town at a local society event at the Millennium Seoul Hilton attending the 8th Pudding Club dinner.

I saw a newspaper story about this regular event, and I was tempted into going by a posting from Rudolf on the Korea Bridge Forum.

After pre-dinner drinks, the meal started with Autumn Mushroom and Scrambled Egg with Smoked Salmon in Chive Cream and it was followed by a Cheddar Cheese Soup.

The main course was delicious Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding with a selection of vegetables and Natural Jus. Sadly let down, we all agreed, by the lack of roast potatoes. It was then time for the main event of the evening: The Pudding Parade. Previous themes have included James Bond in The Pie who loved me, Robin Pud and The Full Monty.

The latest theme was royalty. Each of the nine desserts was introduced to us by someone of royal standing: Prince Charles and Camilla; Prince William; Tony Blair; Mick Jagger; Mr Bean; Posh 'n Becks and to bring in the final dessert of the night, none other than Her Majesty The Queen !

Serenading us on the piano was 'Elton John' who sang a number of delightful renditions of some of his hits including 'And I guess that's why I get Pudding blues', 'A little Creamy', and 'Don't go Baking my Tart' which he dueted with your favourite member of the Spice girls : 'All Spice'.
Other hits of the night included 'Puddings are forever','Can't get no Choco Satisfaction", and 'Bowl Licking'. Lyrics available on request.

The introductions over, we were invited to serve ourselves from the nine desserts offered :
Victoria's Pudding
Lord Randall's Pudding
Queen's Pudding
Rhubarb Crumble
Chocolate Pudding
Ginger Syrup Sponge
Prince Albert Pudding
Banana Rum Trifle
and that most famous of English desserts: "Spotted Dick" which was the only pudding of the evening that I did not taste. [I've had it once before... but the antibiotics cleared it up eventually.]

A photographer from the Korean Tatler was there and I am looking forward to my appearance along with the other distinguished guests at the event in the next issue of their esteemed magazine.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Who's Sori Now?

Thanks to Robert Koehler posting a last minute message on The Marmots Hole on Thursday, we had an extremely enjoyable weekend as guests of the
Arts council Korea visiting Jeonju and the Sori festival

Organised by the Korean Music Festival and Seoul Selection, this visit is one of a series of four tours intended for foreigners to experience Korean culture and visit some historically significant sites.

We departed by luxury coach from outside the Seoul Selection bookshop and arrived three and a half hours later in Jeonju in time for bulgogi lunch at the restaurant Honamgak. For The Bat and me this was our first trip outside of Seoul, so it was interesting to finally see some countryside and get a glimpse of the country from the bus. First impressions are that land is scarce and every available plot is used for growing crops. We also observed how densely packed the apartment blocks are particularly on the outskirts of Seoul.

The first musical event was to see and hear the the great voice of ‘Kim So-hee, The Voice of Heaven’ at the Sori Art’s centre Yeonji Hall. She performs traditional Korean style singing which we had not heard before. It was an unusual sound: opera-like does not really begin to describe it, but very enjoyable. Kim, the other singers and musicians are obviously of the highest standard and it was a pleasure to hear them. I managed to snatch a quick photo :

After an evening meal of bibimbap we came back to the Art’s centre for the opening gala performance of the Jeonju Sori festival. It was a varied and exciting show including a huge group of Korean harp players, traditional folk singing, a fusion group of western players and Korean singers, a Korean Rap singer and Korean break dancing.

Our accommodation overnight was in the traditional folk village of Jeonju, where we were comfortably looked after in a beautiful old building and sampled living in the style of the Yangban (the elite ruling class of Korea of old).

After kimchi for breakfast we were introduced to the Korean tea ceremony. Our host explained some of the customs and traditions associated with drinking the precious tea and we did our best to imitate her style and grace. They also had traditional clothing called hanbok for some of us to try on. Here I am :

We were served another delicious meal at a local restaurant at lunchtime before being driven back to Seoul through the rain resulting from Typhoon Shanshan.

The previous trip suffered a few problems with delays but on this trip we could not fault the organisation and planning in any way. Our group of approximately thirty foreigners from Britain, America, Canada, China, France, India, Australia and New Zealand from a variety of different professions all had a very entertaining and enjoyable trip. Many thanks to Robert and the other organisers and sponsors. We look forward to the next two trips to Damyang (Sep 30) and Songgwang-sa/Seonam-sa temples ( Oct 14-15) Contact Seoul Selection to book.

For those wondering about the title of the post, Sori is Korean for Music.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Movies and Entertainment

Finding movies in English or with English subtitles has not been easy. The Korean government sets a limit on the number of Hollywood movies cinemas are allowed to show. So the only two films in English on at all the big cineplexes are Miami Vice and The last House this month. However thanks to the Seoul Selection website we found one last week : Time. A Korean movie shown with English sub titles.

It was an unusual plotline. The girl of a couple that have been going out for two years is worried that her boyfriend finds her boring and that he wants a change. So she does the obvious thing and has cosmetic surgery. Suddenly leaving him for six months with no warning or explanation. He pines over her and generally has a sad life until a new waitress starts at his local cafe. This girl, it turns out, is the same girlfriend as before, but he does not recognize her. Still pining for his lost love he does not fall for the new girl. When she reveals it is her all along he gets (understandably) upset. There are various recriminations, including him visiting the cosmetic surgeon and fighting with him trying to ask him why he did this to her. Then, in a desire to get his own back, he himself has cosmetic surgery and gives himself a new look. She then tries to find him again, testing out various boys along the way to see if they are him. It is all very confusing. If you can suspend your disbelief long enough then it certainly was an entertaining thought provokin movie. The scenes of cosmetic surgery the surgeon shows her to try and deter her are not for the squeamish.

At the Sponge House cinema that this was showing at, we discovered the Seoul International Film Festival was on this month. The timing of the shows coincide with the times The Bat is working so sadly she has not been able to see any. I have watched two so far and I'm about to go into a third one later today.

The first "Portait of a Lady Far Away" was not to my taste. An Iranian movie about an architect who gets a call from a stranger who says she is about to comit suicide unless he comes. So he does, eventually, and he meets a friend of the caller. They go to a Art performance that she stars in, he figures out it was her who made the call. It goes on. There are various old women and small children involved, families, dreams etc. (Not going to make it as a film reviewer am I?)

The second "Apart from That" was an American movie about the lives of three pairs of people. It was a well observed film about life and people, no real story, just "stuff happened". Pleasantly distracting for two hours. Tonights movie is "Aura" about a taxidermist. I am looking forward to this!

Other entertainment has been to see Blondie last night. Yes the punk rocker of old is still going strong. We really enjoyed her "First and Last concert" as it was billed. We missed the start as I had assumed there would be a support act. D'oh. Not. Oh well, we will know for next time. Gotta go, show starts in 15 mins.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Turning Forty and Eating Bosintang

Yesterday was my fortieth birthday. Star  Trek is also forty. I didn't feel any older yesterday than I did the day before so I am not going to dwell on this little milestone anymore.

Almost the first thing people mentioned to me when they knew I was going to South Korea was “They eat Dog don’t they?” so since I arrived I have been planning to try some. Lets get some myths out of the way first:

1. No Koreans do not all eat dog all of the time. In fact it is a bit of delicacy and quite pricey. You do NOT find it in all restaurants and you have to know what to ask for to get it.
2. They do not eat any old dog off the street. The dogs are bred specifically to be eaten and are treated like other animals bred for slaughter like cows, sheep, pigs, chickens.
3. Yes during the football world cup and the Olympics there was some controversy about how these animals were reared and, having read some websites today, I cannot say hand on heart that I am sure they are not mistreated these days, but can anyone say that about all their food?

My birthday meal was organised by The Bat (my non-carnivorous wife, for those new to the blog). Two other teachers from The Bat’s English School came with us. Richard, who can speak Korean, asked a taxi driver to take us to a
restaurant that sells dog meat stew. The taxi driver phoned his mate and they found us a very small, out of the way place, not that far from Yeouido and we went inside.

It was more of a private house, than a restaurant. We ordered the Bosintang “healthy soup” as it is known. When it arrived it looked very much like pork. The taste was different, not as strong as venison, more like pigeon if I had to compare it to anything. Personally, I could not connect the meat in the stew with an animal but one of the guys had a momentary crisis of conscience at one point.

Some of the other comments during the meal were : “Is that a dog hair or a human hair?”, “Is that the tail. No it’s just a vegetable”, "Do I hear barking", “Can I have a hot-dog” and to round off the meal : “Do you think they'll give us a doggy bag?”

So there we have it: I’ve eaten dog. It was OK, but I am not planning on eating it again, I prefer the beef, chicken, pork etc.

Here is one of the dogs from outside the restaurant :

Postscript. Looking through the Korean blog List there is one blog named No Dog Please. Reading his blog I noticed a recent post about the Gupo Dog market. Not for the faint hearted I am afraid. For more references to dog welfare see here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Convex Magnum Opes

No, I don't understand it either. I wonder what the T shirt designer thought it meant?

Ever since I arrived a few weeks ago I have been amazed by the "English" on some T shirts. Here's a few of my favourites :

Flashers Football

Make the green in heart

Dear the Blue

"Pretty good Baby
Choose Juicy"

Juicy Private school, Never go Home

Ask Enquired This is a brand name around here. They use the Union Jack as a logo!

What's this? Gold dust everywhere

Whose fingerprint is this?
...Stop making sense. I've seen this a couple of times now, it always makes me smile

Beaver Hunters Beware

"Morning & Snack

I keep seeing POLHAM everywhere, which is a local brand name, but for some strange reason they like to add the words "THE JUSTIFIABLE" beneath the name on some of their shirts. What are they trying to justify?

Another brand name is HUM, and likewise they feel the need to add a word as well, so you get shirts saying "HUM BRIMMING", which conjures up some very strange images.

I wish I had photos of some of them, but I fear I may get arrested going around photographing young girls wearing T shirts, so the shot of the couple above is the only one I have I'm afraid.

A cute young couple we saw yesterday had matching T shirts: his (in blue) said 'She's my girlfriend' with an arrow pointing to the left, and hers (in pink) said 'He's my boyfriend' also with an arrow pointing to the right. So sweet. Apparently here it's very important to look the same or to have matching clothing when you are young and in love.

I've just added my blog to and I was looking at other blogs in the area. A lot are either in Korean or have not posted to for more than six months but there are some good ones and I found Miss Koco does korea who has also posted about the same subject this morning!

She also has a great photo of the name of a shop in the earlier post. The best shop name I've seen so far is "Wet Pup".

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bukhansan National Park

In a bid to escape the concrete jungle of Seoul at the weekend, we ventured into the nearest National Park to Seoul : Bukhansan. This is proud to hold the Guinness world record for the National park with the largest number of visitors, over 5 million at last count. ( It's a shame they had to build a motorway through it ). The large park ( 79sqkm) is easily accessibly by Metro and Bus and there are over 40 different ticket booth entrances to chose from.

We went to the north western enterance ( Subway line 6 Yeonsinnae, and then Bus 34 ) which takes you right to the gate. Unsure as to what the catering arrangements were inside we had some lunch at a small shack on the road, it was tasty but not cheap.

The Koreans, we have discovered, are very keen indeed on their hiking. It was a hot day but there were hundreds of very well equipped walkers streaming down out of the park, it was busy, but not crowded. As the day wore on the numbers thinned out a lot. We did not walk all that far, but came across a small buddhist temple in the hills which looked almost brand new and was very peaceful.

Inside one of the temple buildings were all these little statues:

There was not much birdlife around, too many humans, but a number of trees had been labelled in Korean and with their Latin names. We also saw a couple of small mammals a Siberian Chipmunk and Siberian Weasel according to the display boards. We need not have worried about going hungry, there plenty of small places to eat. It was almost like being in a small village at one point there were so many inside the park.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Scenes from the inferno

This was the scene at 08:45 on Friday 1st September from inside the apartment :

I quickly exited the building to watch the fire brigade arrive.

The camera crews were on the scene very quickly . All three of the major broadcasters KBS, SBS, and MBC have their headquarters on the island.

And then this was the scene upstairs in our apartment :

Once the fire brigade had gone, the cleanup operation began very quickly and by 2pm when The Bat came home the floor was dry and clean again.

I've just had someone from the insurance company come round. (It is not entirely clear but I am assuming he's from the company insuring the building opposite) We had prepared a list of the clothes and items destroyed and the cost to replace them. He seemed very keen that I reduce it. Maybe this is some sort of custom or bargaining position I'm not sure, but I've stuck with our figures so I am hoping for a payment that will cover the cost of replacing all our winter gear.

I've just been to the COEX Mall this morning to get a new power supply for the Mac laptop. Luckily it was only the power supply on the floor that got soaked and stopped working, not the computer as well. In spite of the apple website denying they have any offices in South Korea we did eventually find an Apple service center and they have very kindly lent me a power supply until they can give me a new one next week.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Yeouidos Burning

Very exciting morning this morning. I was sitting in the apartment, when I noticed some smoke coming up outside the building. I closed our windows quickly, and retreated as moments later the blue builders netting on the building site opposite burst into flames in front of the window.

I managed to grab a couple of photos before getting outside rather quickly. Outside the extent of the fire was not great but was threatening the local petrol station. The Fire brigade were on the scene fairly quickly and soon tackled the blaze. The news crews were on the scene almost as fast as the emergency services and all three stations had crews covering the fire. After milling around outside I was accosted by our cleaning lady who urgently insisted I go upstairs very quickly.

When I reached our apartment I was greated by a crew of firemen in breathing apparatus who immedidately went into the apartment after I unlocked our door. It turned out that I had forgotten the small room containing the air conditioner had a vent that was open to the outside. A small spark or ember must have got in and set fire to the two suitcases and a box of winter clothing we had stored there. As a result of the firemen dousing the flames there was a deluge of water in the apartment. It was swilling around about 3 cm deep. Mercifully I had put all our bedding up on a chair earlier. As the fire brigade were milling about and checking it was all out the TV crews came in. One who spoke English asked me what happened and after he put a microphone on me I explained the sequence of events. I then repeated the explanation for the other two crews! I then showed one of them the photos I had taken and they took screen shots of the photos.

I spent all morning cleaning up the mess. Luckliy the only damage was the suitcase and box of clothing. The parquat floor seems to have servived intact. The Bat came home after lunch to survey the damage. In fact there was not that much to see. She was upset about the loss of the clothes.

I have plenty of photos but the power supply for the computer has been full of water, so am unable to upload them for now. ( I am at in internet cafe now)

I hope someone can video the local news from either MBC, SBS or KBS to see if the interview of me is on! I must check their websites for any photos. If there are stills of flames in a window, they are mine and want some royalties!

The neigbours have been extremely kind in helping clean up and translate for the various people that have been round this afternoon to deal with the repairs.