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Why Drunk Ajossis Scare Me

My husband always tells me not to get involved in other people’s business, especially among Koreans.

Who's Who: Korean Ghosts, Goblins, and Gumiho

With Halloween festivities in full swing here in Seoul, it's hard not to be in the spirit.  Jack-o-lantern cutouts plaster the windows of restaurants, costumes have been donned, and posters in the city's nightlife districts advertise Halloween-themed dance parties.  Vampires, zombies, and mad scientists wander the streets, snapping photos with other cleverly costumed folks.  And while Halloween would not be complete without these classic characters, it would not be Korea without a few of their own mythological creatures mingling in the mix.

But who are these creatures, you ask?  Read on for a who's who guide to Korea's most famous ghosts, goblins, and monsters.

Seoul's Salsa Scene in Full Swing

The excitement is palpable, as it always is just before any dance competition.  Upbeat Latin tunes echo through a hall of dressing rooms that buzz with giddy conversations in a number of languages. Inside, flamboyantly dressed men ensure that every tassel of their costumes are in place while their female partners apply thick eyeliner and bright lipstick.  Nearby, nervous teams rehearse choreographed moves a final time before the show begins.

It is a scene one might expect to see in Bogota, Havana, or even New York City.  But this is Seoul, South Korea, an unexpected locale for a salsa competition.  Yet, Latin dance fever has taken over one of Asia's biggest cities and this year's Asia Latin Music & Salsa Festival proves it.

Dancers from all corners of the globe have flocked to Seoul to compete for the $11,000 first prize and refuse to return to their home countries without bringing their best to the stage.

Getting Into the Halloween Spirit, Seoul Style

Halloween isn't a traditional holiday here in Korea but over the past decade or so, it has begun to slowly seep into the nation's culture.  In Seoul, decorations can occasionally be spotted in store fronts and costumes can be purchased at super-centers like E-Mart and Home Plus.  Kindergartners go trick-or-treating at their English hagwons and bars offer cash prizes to the best-dressed vampire, cartoon character, or sexy bunny.

There are a number of events going on in Seoul around the 31st (including a Halloween booze cruise and a Freak or Treat Marathon) but if you're like me, you just can't wait until the end of the month to start celebrating.  Check my suggestions below on how to get into the Halloween spirit, Seoul style.

First Gay Marriage in South Korea Causes a Stir


The Dilemma of Giving Gifts in South Korea

What’s in a brand name? 

Busan Slut Walk Sat. Aug. 31, 6-7 PM, Seomyeon

TONIGHT! Busan Slut Walk Sat. Aug. 31, 6-7 PM, Seomyeon
This flyer was created by the event's organizers: Don't Do That

Exploring the Hidden Market Streets of Euljiro

Before the days of discount supermarkets and department stores, markets were the primary locales for shopping, trading, and gossiping in Korea’s major cities.  Sadly, due to rapid modernization and an increase in more convenient shopping facilities over the past few decades, traditional markets have continuously lost patronage and are quickly diminishing in size and number.  While efforts are being made to preserve them, citizens predict that they will cease to exist in the next twenty years.

Although Seoul is abundant with must-see destinations and attractions, few of them provide an authentic glimpse into Korean culture as well as the city’s traditional markets.   Recently, I went on a self-guided walking tour through the maze of markets in Euljiro, central Seoul, for an insightful look into the daily lives of the Korean working class.

Korean Mail-order-bride Syndicate Caught in the Philippines

A fellow blogger, Chris Palasz of An American in Korea sent me this news link:

Philippine authorities have rescued 29 women after busting a mail-order bride business and arresting two South Koreans and their four local partners, a police official said Thursday.

Police raided a house Wednesday in Bacoor city near Manila used by the syndicate and found the women, including a 16-year-old girl, said Chief Superintendent Reginald Villasanta, executive director of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission.

The syndicate collects thousands of dollars in fees from Korean men seeking Filipino wives, telling them falsely that the money will go to the women’s families, Villasanta said.

The Philippine embassy in Seoul has reported receiving many complaints from Filipino womenabused by their Korean husbands and whose marriages have ended in abandonment or divorce.

It said that the women, who were given false information about their husbands’ family backgrounds, were wed through illegal “marriage brokers” in the Philippines, the embassy said in a statement.

Villasanta said the police were tipped off by victims. He did not give details of the police operation.

He said the suspects will be charged with violating the human trafficking law, which carries a 20-year prison term, and another law that prohibits mail-order brides, punishable by six years in prison.

Read more here:

I am sharing this news with my FKWL readers to warn Filipinas and other foreigners who are planning to marry a Korean to be cautious of illegal matchmakers (or all matchmakers, in general).

Marrying someone from a different country OUT OF LOVE is already difficult. What more if you marry someone from a different country who is a total stranger, someone whom you met through a matchmaking agency and have known after only a couple of days?

In the Philippines, matchmaking is illegal. I have discussed this in a previous post, Why I Married a Korean. Let me reiterate the Anti-Mail-Order Bride Law (Republic Act 6955 Section 2):

It is hereby declared unlawful:

(a) For a person, natural or juridical, association, club or any other entity to commit, directly or indirectly, any of the following acts:

(1) To establish or carry on a business which has for its purpose the matching of Filipino women for marriage to foreign nationals either on a mail-order basis or through personal introduction;

(2) To advertise, publish, print or distribute or cause the advertisement, publication, printing or distribution of any brochure, flier, or any propaganda material calculated to promote the prohibited acts in the preceding subparagraph;

(3) To solicit, enlist or in any manner attract or induce any Filipino woman to become a member in any club or association whose objective is to match women for marriage to foreign nationals either on a mail-order basis or through personal introduction for a fee.

Though it is illegal in my country, Korean matchmakers find ways to scout for brides, mostly from poor families. These women are promised an affluent life in South Korea, but often fall victims to domestic violence or end up having unhappy marriages.

High Kicks and Wood Breaking at Arirang Taekwondo

When I graduated from high school, I thought my days of field trips were long gone.  So, when I was told at the beginning of the semester that my Sogang University classmates and I would be participating in an off-campus "cultural experience" this past week, I got a little bit excited, mostly because it would be a day off from studying.  Considering I've lived in Korea for about four years now, I figured we'd be going to a museum or on an outing to a palace, things I've done many times before.  So, I was surprised and somewhat hesitant when I was told that we would be learning Taekwondo.

Foreign Spouses to Take Korean Language Test for Marriage Visa

Photo from Koreatimes, May 29th, 2013

Photo from Koreatimes, May 29th, 2013

Starting next year, foreign spouses will be required to take a Korean Language test when applying for a marriage visa. As of now, there is no rule requiring foreign spouses to take the Korean Language test, but because there have been many reports of interracial marriages ending up in divorce and several cases of domestic violence and marital problems caused by language barrier and cultural differences, theMinistry of Justice is implementing stringent language requirements.

According to the Koreatimes, the test will be given during a visa interview. If you have acquired the beginner level certificate of the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK), the interview will be waived. To pass Level 1 of TOPIK, you should be able to understand and construct simple sentences for practical writing and daily life (such as introducing yourself, greeting, shopping and ordering at a restaurant) using 800 basic vocabulary words and simple sentence structures in Korean. To obtain Level 2, you should be able to comprehend and express common and personal topics (such as schedules, hobbies and appointments) using 1,500 to 2,000 words and more basic grammar structures, as well as distinguish between formal and informal use of the Korean language. If you want to know more about TOPIK, you may visit

Let Me Tell You Something about My Korean Parents-in-law

The Buzz on Seoul's Urban Beekeepers

On a warm spring afternoon, Jin Park, a 32 year old Korean citizen, guides me to our destination on Nodeul-seom, a seemingly unremarkable island smack dab in the middle of Seoul's Han River.  Park looks like any other guy his age, donned in cargo pants and a navy hoodie.  Those passing him probably suspect he designs software, works for a company, or, perhaps is still even a student.  It's not until we reach the far end of the island that Park reveals he is quite different than the rest of his city-dwelling peers.  As he takes off his baseball cap and replaces it with a veiled hat, he makes it evident that there is a new subculture emerging in the Korean capital: urban beekeeping.

Not “Gay” Lovers, Just Friends

App Guide to Korean Culture – My First App on Google Play

The past few days I have been spent my time developing this app on Korean culture and learning Android at the same time. Developing this app has been a challenging and a fruitful experience for me. Finally I have managed to upload it on Google Play. I request you to download this app on your android device and experience it, rate it and review it on Google Play. Since this is my first attempt at developing the app I am sure I might have left a lot to be desired. So I request you to let me know your suggestions on improvement and enhancement of the app in the comment section below.

App Guide to Korean Culture – The Curtain Raiser.

App Guide to Korean Culture

Tong-in Market Dosirak Cafe: The Ultimate Korean Lunch Box

When I was in elementary school, I refused to anything that the school cafeteria spit out.  I was an extremely picky eater and because of this, my mom had no choice but to prepare a lunch box for me everyday.  I would get so excited to see what she had packed at lunch time: a crust-less turkey sandwich, string cheese, a bunch of grapes, pasta salad.  On a really good day, I'd find a Lunchable waiting for me, along with a note wishing me luck on whatever test I'd be taking that day.  My lunchbox meals were not just food... they were special moments in my day, provided courtesy of my thoughtful mother.

Terms of Endearment


Last night, while I was doing my usual beauty ritual before going to bed, my husband said: “You know what, sometimes I forget your name.”

I turned to look at him, a bit amused: “That’s a joke, right?’

On Death, Dying, and Funerals in Korea

As an expat living abroad, I am often exposed to many unique cultural experiences.  While most of them are positive and happy (weddings, holiday celebrations, and special birthdays) others can be crushing and tragic.  Although I never imagined I would attend a Korean funeral, expat life is still "real life" and as such, a dear friend of mine lost her father to a heart attack last year. I didn't know what to expect, and, to be honest, was quite nervous about going, but knew I had to be there for my friend and attend his funeral.

To prepare myself, I did a bit of research about death and funeral culture in Korea. As it turns out, the modern funeral is quite different than the ones of the past, which is to be expected in an ever-changing country like Korea.

Let's talk Alcohol...

If you know anything about Korea you might be aware they like to drink a lot, so, why don't we talk a little bit about Korea's Alcoholic Beverages!


Beautiful Hanbok Collection 2013 – Types of Hanbok

Today, hanbok is worn mostly on special occasions, and is divided into categories based on its function. These include, but are not limited to, weddings, 61st birthdays, first birthdays and holidays. The various kinds of hanbok are classified according to the social status, class, gender, and age of those who wear them.

The Most Beautiful Hanbok Collection Korea

One Last Stroll Through Insadong

It's the center of Seoul, and the place where you will likely make your first memories in Korea. When I first came here it was indeed one of the very first tourist areas I walked into. I am talking about Insadong, the tourist trap of Seoul. Despite this nickname, Insadong delivers souvenirs, art and traditional food. It was once an area known for it's art galleries and secret alley ways. Nowadays it has let make-up shops and typical cafes move in. 

Spin Kicks, Spirituality, and a Sunrise: Templestay at Golgusa Temple

It's never a bad idea to start out a new year with a few extra good karma points... you never know when you'll need them.  So, instead of spending New Year's Eve drinking too much in a crowded, overpriced bar in Seoul, I decided to ring it in at Golgulsa, a Buddhist temple located just outside Gyeongju, South Korea.
Templestays have been gaining popularity amongst tourists and usually involve a short-term stay in one of the 900 traditional Buddhist temples in Korea.  Participants follow a rather strict schedule to experience a day (or two or three) in the life of the monks that reside there.  A templestay was something that had been on my bucket list for a while, so when I found a special New Year's program on the official Templestay website, I knew I had to sign up.
It was about a five hour trek from Seoul to Golgulsa Temple that required two bus trips, a bit of waiting around, and a short walk to the temple grounds from the final bus stop.  Once I had arrived, I was given a brief introduction to the program, a map of the complex, and special clothes that I was to wear during my stay.  I was then directed to my room where I would be spending the night with about fifteen other women.  The room was a rather large common area with pillows and blankets spread out on the floor for sleeping.  There was a bathroom with a toilet, a few open showers, and sinks that were to be shared.  I've become use to this arrangement after living in Korea for a few years but wondered how other Westerners not used to copious amounts of nakedness would handle the situation.

MBA in Hallyu (Korean Wave) at Hallyu Graduate School

If your interest in Korean Culture and Entertainment (Hallyu – Korean Wave) lies beyond watching Korean Dramas and K-POP videos and if you seriously interested in building a career in the Korean Entertainment industry then doing an MBA in Korean Culture from Hallyu Graduate School would be your first stepping stone towards the realization of your Korean Dream.

Hanok Hideaways

The creak of old wooden floors.  The sliding of beautifully crafted doors.  The upward curves of tiled roofs and the enchanting calm of courtyards.  Hanoks, or traditional Korean houses, are delightful dwellings where those who enter them can't help but be hypnotized by their charm.  Constructed in accordance with nature and geographical location, hanoks were the preferred type of home by Koreans until last century.  Due to population growth and lack of space, Koreans in bigger cities have since been forced to build upward and live in unattractive cement structures.  This is especially true in Seoul, where residents prefer more modern homes with larger living spaces.  Still, there are a few places in the Korean capital where visitors can bask in the beauty of the hanok.

Christmas in Korea

This year was the second time I spent the holiday season in Korea, and how I wish I had spent it in the Philippines instead. There’s nothing like Christmas in a country that celebrates the LONGEST Christmas (and New Year).

Not-So-Normal-Norms, Part V


 In the latest segment of "Not-So-Normal Norms", I talk about letterman jackets, MTs, condiments, the excessive wearing of high heels, and the lack of gray hair in Korea.   As usual, I must note that this post has been written to point out Korean cultural norms that are different from those in my home country, America, and the West in general.  My comments are in no way intended to degrade Korean culture or Korean people.

Cosplay and Cartoons at Seoul Comic World

There's no doubt that cartoons are loved all around the world.  Comic books and animated television shows conjure up images of childhood, Saturday mornings, and spent allowances.  Yet, there are few places where cartoon culture is as prevalent as Eastern Asia.  In Korea, comics are taken to a whole new extreme.

Looking Back on 2012 Through The Seasons

This last year has been filled with ups and downs, adventures and good times with friends. When 2012 started I was mostly focused on the upcoming school year moving to 2nd grade. I was busy with planning lessons and considering the school year ahead as a team leader. At the same time I was single and getting accustomed to this new life style. As 2012 grew on I learned some important lessons and some good times.

I am going to take you through the last full year I experienced here in Korea, and I will do this by showcasing it through the seasons.

In February I went back home to Florida and visited family. I was able to get away from the cold of Seoul and enter the warmth and sunny skies of South Florida.

Braved The Cold and Celebrated Christmas

For Christmas I braved the freezing temperatures and ventured into the Jongno area for some Middle-Eastern food and cupcakes. I met a like minded friend who wanted to enjoy this holiday season and we had a jolly good time.

We picked up cupcakes from Goodovening near Euljiro-1 station.

The Couches

There are two of them in my apartment, and several months ago they were both bought together for around $350 from a friend who claimed to have gotten them from the American Embassy in Seoul, on top of that claiming that they were made in America, which is supposedly famous for producing good couches. I don’t know anything about those assertions, but I do know that the couches are comfortable. I know this because for many years I lived in a house with couches of such staggeringly powerful embraces that after five minutes they would put to sleep guests who were unused to their charms, and so I have some knowledge of what constitutes comfort. After three years of sitting on hard Korean floors and in hard Korean chairs without any neck support, after aching and groaning and leaning forward on hard tables to rest like a convict, my neck throbbing with pain even in the tackiest cafes, these two new couches came as a revelation.

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