It's no secret that Koreans are some of the hardest workers in the world. From a young age, one spends his or her school days buried in books, memorizing endless pages of material, and hopping from math to English to art academy. There's very little time for play, or childhood even. Things don't change much by the time one reaches the workplace. Of the cities across the globe, those working in Seoul put in the most working hours per week on average. Efficiency has nothing to do with it, but because of their propensity to work hard, they find it necessary to play hard, too. And very few can play as hard as Koreans do.
This year too Google has published the zietgeist for 2012 highlighting the top 10 most searched people in South Korea. The list is dominated by females K-POP stars with only two male celebrities making it to the list and one of them is not even a K-POP star. Surprisingly Lee Min Ho does not feature in this list.
Top 10 Most Searched People in South Korea for the year 2012
I am not a list maker on this blog. If you look back through the years there have been only a few times where I have made lists. But I think it is important to "list" in some way what I have liked about living in Korea for this long. I am sure whatever I mention here might be useful to the newcomer to Korea and also help them see what makes living here worthwhile.
Getting around: You could be freezing your ass off outside in the icy temps or roasting hot in the summer, but the busses and trains will always be there. Seoul provides many means of transportation that generally come on time and get you to your location quickly. It's one of the benefits of living in a compact country and certainly doesn't hurt your wallet after using it often. Even traveling outside of Seoul one has subway and bus options. If not then a taxi will do!
I was in a cafe, where a Buddhist monk came to bang on his hollow wooden moktak for exactly three seconds before the barrista, a chubby man who had been chomping and slurping at his noodles like a ravening horse not five minutes before—shaking the windowpanes with the barbarous thunderous smacking of his tongue and his lips—ordered him to get the hell out, almost before he even started chanting, like this:
I'm very excited to say that my piece, "Picnic Like a Pro: Korean Outdoor Dining Culture" has been published on the Korea Blog! Covering everything from picnics to snack tents, this blog talks about Koreans and their far-out outdoor dining.
Thanks to Psy and the constant replay of Gangnam Style (which was recently just declared the second most watched video on YouTube EVER), the world now knows that there's much more to Korea than kimchi and electronics companies. Finally, westerners are seeing this other, hipper side of the country that Korea's neighbors discovered long ago. Korean pop culture, particularly its music (K-pop), TV shows, and and cinema have become increasingly popular around Asia and in Europe over the past decade or so. This trend, also known as the Hallyu Wave has become a big export of Korea and is one of the primary reasons tourists flock to Seoul, the Hollywood of Asia, on a regular basis.
Although music may seem to be the bigger component of The Wave, Korean cinema has become increasingly recognized and celebrated around the world. Just recently, the Korean film Pieta took home the win at the Venice Film Festival. The Thieves was just proclaimed to be the most popular closing night film ever at the International Hawaii Film Festival. Even Hollywood is getting in on the Korean film action. Oldboy, a controversial revenge film, is currently being remade by Spike Lee and is expected to come out in October of next year.
Although I have always been a fan of foreign films, I didn't get into Korean films until I moved here. I've seen my fair share of them via MySoju, a web database of Korean movies and TV shows that can be streamed with English subtitles. I have, for the most part, been impressed with the ones that I've seen. Romances tend to be a bit cheesy (with inevitable endings of cancer or amnesia) but dramas and horror flicks are done quite well. I've also learned a lot about Korean culture in addition to some useful phrases through these movies. Still, watching the films on a 10 inch netbook with the occasional error or freeze leaves something to be desired. Fortunately, I, along with other foreigners in Korea, no longer have to rely on the internet to get our Korean film fix.
It's time for more not-so-normal norms! This time, I talk about the Korean version of a milkman, cell phone accessories, personal space, and movie theater culture. Please remember that this segment has been written to point out differences that I've noticed in cultural norms between my home country, America, and my new home, Korea. My comments are in no way intended to degrade Korean culture or Korean people.
Recently, I wrote a post about all of the wonderful reasons to love autumn in Korea. Not listed in the post but very much included in my reasons for loving the season is that of Chuseok. Chuseok is a Korean holiday that celebrates the autumn harvest and is held around the autumn equinox based on the lunar calendar. It is usually three days long and is one of the few times of the year that Koreans take time off of work and visit their hometowns to share an autumn feast with their families in celebration of the harvest. Chuseok is also a time to remember ancestors through various ceremonies.
So it is the time of year again in Korea where the town empties out and stores close for the Chuseok holiday. But you know what? It's also my birthday and so I am a happy camper this Chuseok as I get to celebrate my birthday and also get a 5 day weekend!
Even though most places will be closed I will be out hunting for one that is open with friends in hopes of celebrating the occasion. If on Sunday this doesn't work out then I'll have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to celebrate. Plus there are festivities going on at the palaces (which will be free to enter) and with weekdays off next week I could do more exploring.
I'm one happy gal this Chuseok :) Thank you Korea!
Typography: known as the process or art of arranging types and printing from them. Basically evolving from writing stuff down to making it available to the masses. Certainly the history of typography is something of interest, but why not check into a gallery celebrating contemporary works in the medium?
There's a crispness in the air that whispers fall is close. So close, in fact, that the first hints of autumn colors can be seen streaking the mostly verdant leaves that canopy the green spaces of Seoul. The aroma of roasting chestnuts permeates the busy streets downtown. Sweaters take over the storefronts of Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, and Sinsa, the shopping havens of the city.
Yes, I can feel it. And I'm giddy.
You see, there's something about autumn that makes my heart beat a little faster. There always has been. When I lived in America, it was tailgating and trick-or-treating that did it for me. But here, in Korea, there are a number of things that instill a sense of infatuation deep within me that keep me waiting for this beautiful season every year.
It never ceased to amaze me how abruptly summer vacation came to an end as a kid. The magical, care-free days of summer seemed to cease overnight, without the slightest warning of abandonment. It was always a depressing time for me, knowing that there would be no more trips to the beaches of Florida or endless afternoons spent watching Nickelodeon. But, the end of summer did mean one good thing: new school supplies. For the strangest reason, that annual trip to K-Mart for new supplies filled my little heart with such content. Looking back on it, I wonder why I ever felt that way about notebooks and erasers, but I'm glad to now see that I wasn't the only one who gets excited over new pencils.
Having kicked off earlier this month, the 7th annual Korea in Motion Festival is once again showcasing the very best nonverbal performances the country has to offer. The lineup this year is fantastic, with shows including genres of dance, traditional culture, music, comedy, and action. For the month of September, theater enthusiasts can see Seoul's top performances for up to 50% off the normal ticket price. Schedules and prices can be found at the KOINMO website and tickets can be purchased at the Korea Tourism Organization building located on the Cheongyechon in downtown Seoul.
As part of the promotion, I was one of the KTO's K-performance supporters invited to attend MiSuDa, one of the showcased performances of the festival. As it turned out, it was more of a cultural experience than a performance, but I was excited to be there regardless.
If you live in South Korea, and if you and your love are wandering about Busan at loss for something to do this Saturday night, I recommend that you grab your better half and head to city centre for a date night in Seomyeon. The commercial hub of Busan, Seomyeon is home to the hip and energetic people that make this seaside city so great. With trendy shops and clubs lining the streets and stylish youth crowding the sidewalks, Seomyeon makes for a fun evening out, with plenty to see and do.
One of the more enjoyed parts of my trip to Damyang this summer was the simple time I had wondering along the Yeongsan river at dusk. Located near the restaurants and bamboo forest, it was a great place to relax and unwind.
I love cooking. Sometimes I cook too much food that my husband and I can’t finish. Instead of letting the food spoil or keeping it in the fridge for days, I sometimes give the rest of it to my husband’s brothers or friends who live nearby.
While in Damyang I did my best to eat the local specialities. If you recall I was treated to some bamboo bread on my first arrival. After I ventured through the bamboo forest I was hot and wanted something to eat. So I walked around the city area of the town and found a mul naengmyeon restaurant (물 냉면).
After I ventured through the bamboo forest I decided it would be best to cool off in a museum. However the bamboo museum, 담양 대나무 박물관, was located a bit out of town so I took a taxi instead of walking over there. In fact I was comfortable getting around the area via taxi and it was fun getting to know local people this way, along with using some Korean.
Korea wasn't always an incredibly modern, high tech, "bbali, bbali" ("hurry, hurry") country. In fact, back in the day before it was a nation of Samsung and skyscrapers, its residents preferred a simpler, slower paced lifestyle.
I remember when this fact was first brought to my attention last year. I was walking with a Korean friend amongst the trees on Namsan Mountain. The leaves were beginning to change colors and an early autumn wind blew up the trail on which we were walking. We sat down on a traditional wooden gazebo like the ones that are commonly found in parks and outdoor resting places throughout Korea. As I was taking in the scenery, my friend informed me that gazebos like the one we were resting on were originally used by the royal and noble classes of the former dynasties. There, they would recite poetry, drink tea (and alcohol, I'm sure), play music, and dance all the while having a 360 degree view of the environment surrounding them.