Monday, April 30, 2007

Free Cinema in Seoul

I just read in the Joong Ang daily that, as part of the 44th Daejong Film festival, there will be free outdoor screenings of movies for a whole month. Hosted by the Motion Picture Association of Korea and the Daejong film festival, 31 new movies submitted to the film festival will be shown at 7:30pm and 10:00pm daily but, sadly, with NO English subtitles.

I saw the huge screen being erected last night and I assumed it was part of the Hi Seoul festival, but it's another free event happening in the Hangang Park, starting May 1st with the Korean blockbuster 'The Host' at 10pm.

There are over 2,000 seats, but no advance reservations are possible, strictly first come first served. The website is Korean only, so take pot luck and see what film you end up with.

It's a three minute walk from Yeouinaru subway station on line 5. Exit 2. Bring warm clothing as it gets chilly out by the river in the evening.

It was only after I wrote this posting that I re-read the newspaper and I realised that it said NO English Subtitles. I don't think I would have bothered otherwise.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Events currently on in South Korea

Here are a few events starting today in South Korea you may be interested in:

The World Ceramic Exposition starts today (April 28th) at three different locations Icheon, Gwangju and Yeoju. There's plenty going on including : The Clay Olympic Potters' Competition, a Pit Firing Festival, Craft Pavilion, The World's Largest Ceramic Musical Instrument and a Fringe Festival.

There is a bamboo festival which runs until 5th May in Damyang.

hi Seoul Poster image
The Hi Seoul Festival kicked off yesterday with a fireworks display over the Hangang River. Events will be taking place at several sites around the city of Seoul until May 6th. The Hi Seoul Festival is the Korean capital's biggest bash of the year. Seoulites come together to celebrate the character and heritage of the city with concerts, street parties and other cultural events. A riverside stage in front of the landmark 63 Building in Yeouido will be the venue for daily performances. There are also smaller events including the Hi Seoul Food Festival, Seoul Magic Festival and the 1st world Hi Wire Championship is taking place beside the fountain on the Han river beside the Seonyudo park opposite the World cup stadium [May 3(Thu)-May 5(Sat) between 10:00-18:00] which will include a Guinness record attempt of the world’s longest single rope walking achievement across the Han river.

Han River fountain Seoul

For regular updates on events in South Korea, subscribe to the Seoul Selection Newsletter.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The latest Korean Blogs

This blog was added to the Korean Bloglist on Aug 15 2006. At the time I made a rash suggestion that I might try to sample all the 361 blogs on the list, and during the first three months I made a reasonable attempt, however since then another 131 blogs have been added to the list, so I've decided to call a halt to that endeavour. Instead, for today's post, I sampled the latest twenty blogs added to the list.

Mulloskeys Adventures Abroad Erin and Sean live in Ansan and have some good photos of their adventures in South Korea so far.
Temple Of Ddaeng Describes himself as "Long time Korea expatriate. Affiliated with the U.S. military presence in the country, though I am no longer a servicemember. Single father of one. General imbecile." Has made a very good start to his blog.
Lost In Translation An English Teacher in Daegu, who it seems, is about to go back to LA.
Cathy In Korea Has some good photos of the Bamboo forest and also her students.
The Korean Law Blog: Republishes articles from the local press and appears to be an advert for the Ahnse Law Offices. "They are a full service law office capable of handling a broad spectrum of legal matters which challenge most enterprises today."
Six Happy Feet David in Daegu, is "Dodging scooters, choking on Kimchi. This is life in Korea." A very well presented new blog. A good clip of some Korean TV was amusing and some good photos.
Depth Of Fish Lots of photographs from this person, living in California as far as I can tell.
Random Adventures Of Saradevil Sara in Daegu : Artist, teacher, musician, fashion designer, and sometimes writer. She has plenty to write about in her life, her shopping for a banana replacement experience was very amusing.
Alternative Take On Korea Ipsofacto describes himself as : "Having rinsed a number of credit providers and other financial institutions to the tune of 30k, I now find myself in self-imposed exile in the arse-end of Asia." Amusing tales of a high spending Englishman.
Reporter's Notebook Chris Gelken, a reporter with the Korea Herald and TV presenter on Arirang, has recently started a blog with some good insights into current news stories. His recent post on ESL teachers shafted by hagwon owners shows the sad state of affairs for the unfortunate foreigners who don't have quite such a great time that most do here.
Superlocal Via Poketo Describes itself as "Poketo’s featured blogger section. We’ll have different artists, eaters, life lovers, blog and share their experiences from around the world." and has some random Japanese photos.
East Asian Strategist "The East Asian Strategist was created by Jeffrey C. Kotanchick, PHR, in order to provide effective global business communication and networking tools for leaders throughout Korea." Has some business related news stories featuring Korea.
Kiss My Kimchi PhoenixStorm is "A thirty something SoCal refugee, born and reared in the heartland (as if the midwest only has heart) searching for his place in the world and a sublime slice of chocolate chocolate cake." who has recently started teaching English in Seoul.
Through Whitey's Eyes "South Korea as seen through the eyes of a foreigner living and working in Seoul." Some insights into life in the big city from whitey.
Incheon Landings Some good photos from Incheon and surrounding area form a new blogger.
An Artist Teaching ESL In Gumi. Arty photos from the city Gumi. I see another construction site junkie for our club.
Jamie In Suncheon Jamie's an ESL teacher who describes himself as a 'Hanger out'. He records his adventures and avoids capital letters.
Korean-wannabe In Singapore Pamela (18) is studying in Singapore she loves rabbits,cats,mushrooms,fruit punch,sour berries, Anything from Korea, Christmas and music.
Diapers, Budgets & Paint Kim is a working mom with some good advice on child rearing.
Left Flank Another very well presented blog from a "Bal(t)imoron" with some intelligent comments on the latest political news stories in Korea and the US.

I update my blogroll, in the righthand pane, with blogs as I discover them added at the bottom.
To all the bloggers who have just started : Good luck and keep up the good work.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Tale of Two Motor Shows

Compare and contrast The Sexy Green Car Show at the Eden Project in Cornwall England and the Seoul Motor Show in South Korea.

Where do think these photos were taken?

It seems the plan to cut down on the number of girls used to promote the cars by the Korean car manufactures didn't go much beyond the planning stage after all.

Both shows run until April 15th, for those sick of the cheery blossom already.

Cherry blossom and Korean music

Cherry blossom in Yeouido. This was the scene Saturday with a merry band of drummers.

For those interested in the flower arrangements I mentioned before, here's a sample of twelve I uploaded for your amusement. They are from the Bangsik Florist Meister Schule in Seoul. It's a kind of Ikebana meets Bauhaus style where rubber gloves, perspex and tin cans are all components in the constructions.

This was the drumming group that opened the Korean traditional music festival on Friday night.

It was an excellent performance including Pansori, a fan dance, a fusion band and traditional dancing. One group we particulary enjoyed was a trio of three young ladies who played Kayagum (traditional harps) and a Haeguem (two stringed zither). One of their songs was a very catchy little tune, the chorus sounded like they were singing 'Whitmann Soggy'. The programme says they are called 'IS'. Does anyone know anymore about this group of three girls. I took a video of the song, apologies for the poor camera work.

The show was broadcast by KBS-TV and also covered by National Assembly TV who were very keen to interview us because, she told us, we were the only foreigners there. Modestly we declined her request, twice.

The cherry blossom trees were illuminated until midnight and the streets were still crowded with Koreans enjoying the atmosphere.

More Korean cherry blossom here on flickr Korean photos group, Dave in Gyeongju and Sam, also in Yeouido.

We saw the Rope Dance play on Sunday, Jultagi is a superb performer on the rope. If you've seen 'The King and Clown' you will enjoy this. He's on at 4pm behind the National Assembly building until the 11th April.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Cherry Blossom festival in Yeouido

It's Cherry Blossom time of year and there is a big festival on our doorstep in Yeouido. The road that runs around the National Assembly building has been closed to traffic and Seoulites in their thousands are flocking to the spectacle of over one a thousand Cherry trees (Prunus Yedoensis) in full blossom along the 5.7km road. This is the sculpture outside the Yeouido full gospel church:

In addition to the Cherry trees there is a display of interesting and unusual flower arrangements along the road; caricatures artists have setup their easels; and apparently you can also sample free beer, though I've not found that stand yet. Face painting is also on offer for the youngsters.

There are two large stages setup, one behind the National Assembly which has performances of traditional Korean folk music; traditional dance, outdoor theather and a six act rope dance play ending on the 11th April. The other stage, beside the Han river, includes ballroom dancing, and Taekwondo performances.

To get to the festival, which runs until 15th April, take subway line 5 to Yeoinaru, exit 2 and walk along the Han river towards the LG Twin towers, Or Yeouido station exit 2 and walk towards the National Assembly. To get you in the mood, Yeouido station has been decorated with cherry blossom on the advertising from Samsung for their latest PAVV range of plasma televisions.

Photos of the blossom later, today's were not great. The details of the performances don't seem to be on any website, but I have the leaflets so if you need more details please drop me an email or leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Prison in Korea

Brother One cell book cover No, not me, but Cullen Thomas, a young American lad who has just published a book about his experience titled Brother One Cell. While on holiday in the Philippines he made the stupid mistake of posting a block of hashish to a post office in Seoul. The police were there waiting for him when he turned up to collect it.

He was sentenced to prison where he met a wide range of colourful characters. As a native English speaker, he was in great demand from prisoners and guards alike who were keen to improve their English skills with him. Prison conditions sound harsh; in winter water freezes in the unheated cells but Thomas does not complain. Inspite of the boredom he remains calm and takes pleasure in the small things of his sparse life.

I must admit, I have not read the book yet, but I came across a review of the book in the International Herald Tribune. As the metropolitician and I have both noticed, the IHT seems to be printing an increasing number of stories on South Korea these days.

Lonely planet Korea coverMeanwhile, for those needing the more normal style of guide book, you will be delighted to know that the latest edition of The Lonely Planet Korea was published last week.
I have seen copies of the book in Kyobo bookshop in town priced at just under 30,000 won. The new fully updated 7th edition replaces the previous edition published in April 2004.

Glancing through it briefly I noticed it mentions the new Incheon railway as expecting to be open by the end of March, but has no details. Since the book no doubt went to press several months ago it is excusable not to have the very latest details.

That excuse does not apply to the Incheon Airport website, which 10 days after the opening still does not mention the new railway link. Having no new pages ready to publish for such a large and important piece of transport infrastructure seems very poor indeed. My e-mail to the webmaster has elicited no response as yet.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sandy Sunday

Guest posting from The Bat

Since I’m very careful with my health ( and that of my husband ), he has asked me to write a blog on a topic that is consuming all my energy currently : DUST.

For those of you outside Korea I’ll summarise : Every spring Korea experiences a phenomenon called “yellow dust” or “yellow sand” lasting anything up to 8 weeks. It hails from the deserts of China and as it travels across that country it picks up a cocktail of harmful pollutants, toxins, carcinogens. The dust carries effortlessly across the Yellow Sea and some falls to earth over the Korean Peninsula, the rest continues to Japan and even the USA. This is our first dust season in Korea. I’ve been dreading it since I first heard of it, and yet it seems to have crept up on us, and I’ve now joined the other confused foreigners here wondering if it’s fog or dust and if I’m going to die.

Here’s my story :

It all started last night when my keen senses told me all was not well; I’d noticed that Seoul was looking yellow the last few days, and this wasn’t just my jaundiced view. I’d taken my usual morning walk across Yeouido Park and the atmosphere was oppressive, I felt the sun weak behind a coat of cloud and dust and I felt I ought to be on the other side, the sunny side. Friday afternoon I walked with Jon to Seoul Tower, again the atmosphere was heavy and I thought about those “futuristic” films set in foggy twilight.

Soylent Green was such a film. Soylent portrays a dark world where humans are too many and resources too few. Looking down over Seoul from this elevated position I couldn’t help but wonder if the future was indeed now, as the advertising slogan goes. The surreal qualities of the scene were enhanced by the sight of two female pheasants ( Phasianus colchicus ) close to the hiking trail. We are keen birders yet these are the first pheasants we’ve seen in all of Korea, right here, in the heart of Seoul. Anyway...

By Saturday evening I felt the need to apply science to my recent observations; I needed to quantify and qualify this curious gift from the people of China. I laboured over a hot search engine for hours finding precious little in the way of metrics, until Zen Kimchi pointed the way. And so I found my way to the US military who ( bless them ) provide exactly the kind of data I was looking for here.

I couldn’t sleep for a long time, I could feel something at the back of my throat . Was it purely psychological or was the dust getting in ?

On waking I went straight to the home of the 18th Medical Command and was delighted ( Am I crazy ?) to see that the particulate count had been building overnight, peaking at 1233 micrograms / m3 at 12:00 hrs today at Yongsan Army Base. Since the little blue graphs peak at 1000 micrograms ( you wild optimists, you ), we were clearly off the scale. What to do ?

I phoned the mobile number given on the Medcom Information Card. YES, they confirmed we were off the graph. Since >1000 means “Hazardous” what does 2000 mean ? I asked myself. Medcom seemed to be suggesting that above 1000 it doesn’t matter. Is that like saying 15 inches from the point of impact of a Weapon of Mass Destruction is the same as 10 inches ?

Medcom’s data is available for different bases and CPs around S Korea; at several CPs the day’s peak was above 2000. In practical terms this meant that things looked very very hazy and dull.

Here's the view from our apartment at midday today. This is the National Assembly Building.

This graph shows the average from all observations made in S Korea - peaking at 2019 at 1600 hrs today.

In the midst of all this excitement I could make out through my binoculars the forms of tennis players beside the Han River ! Well, if you’d paid in advance and there was a no-refund policy, what would you do ? But then how did that explain the jogger ? Had he just bought his shoes ? Maybe a gift from his mum ? She’d be cross if he didn’t use them.

Today, 1st April 2007, and no April Fool, was only the fourth time that the “high level” yellow dust warning has been issued in Seoul. The first was in March 2002 and the last was April 2006. This according to Yonhap News. This is clearly wasted on the die-hard sport fanatics out there.

I tried to corellate my realtime observations ( from my window ) with the Medcom graphs and the “Asian dust” satellite images from the Korean Meteorological Administration ( KMA ). This was not helpful. What I supposed was “Asian dust” on the satellite pics seemed to have blown across the peninsula by the time the graphs were peaking. Any meteorologists out there who would be kind enough to explain ?

Some recent stories on air pollution in S Korea.
Korea Times :
Worst Yellow Dust Blankets Peninsula
Environment Diplomacy
Air Pollution Reaches Serious Levels
The Hankyoreh
The Joongang Daily

The China Meteorological Agency (CMA) stress the natural and seasonal nature of yellow dust. Though readers should bear in mind its unnatural toxin-laden qualities.

The dust is held responsible for around 200 deaths annually in Korea, yet the toll on health generally and the psychological effect of living behind a yellow filter should not be under-estimated. The consequences for industry and agriculture are very significant and possibly easier to quantify than is the human cost. I find the experience of dust less irritating (from the safety of a sealed apartment) than depressing. It’s depressing because nobody here can avoid it, because this year's peaks are greater than last years, and because it’s symptomatic of a planet that is being pushed and pushed. Sandy Sunday's here to stay.