colonial

3 Things you need to know about Gwangbokjeol (Aug 15), the National Liberation Day of Korea

광복절

August 15 is one of the most meaningful days to Koreans. It is Gwangbokjeol, the National Liberation Day of Korea . You can see many Korean national flags “Taegeukgi” hung in the street or on the windows of the houses.

1. Why is Gwangbokjeol so special?

광복절5


An Origin of Korean Discontent

A thought struck me as I was taking a shower before work this morning. With the renewal of tension along the North-South Korean border it’s a sharp reminder of the results of history, and what we’re looking at here, could be considered as one of the final plays in the game of the Great Powers. It, like so many skirmishes before, is taking place in a distant field which effects the lives of people so far away they don’t even look real. Well as one of these people I can assure you that it’s quite real.

Since Korea opened up to outside influence in the late nineteenth century, much like many other small kingdoms, was turned into a pawn in the chessboard of empire building. This process set Korea up to be misused and abused by forces outside their control, and today we are experiencing the continued results of this.


Quito and the middle of the world

Quito, the capital of Ecuador and the start of our adventure in the southern hemisphere.

We arrived by plane from Guatemala to the first city (along with Krakow) to be named a UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest capital in South America, founded at the end of the first millennium, is situated at 2,800m (9,350ft) above sea level. Whilst researching Latin America we’d read horror stories of travellers being hit with altitude sickness who had been unable to function for several days, in rare cases the height had been fatal as it caused swelling of the brain and/or fluid in the lungs. Symptoms include; dizziness, confusion, severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, convulsions, swelling of the extremities and shortness of breath. Not wanting to be bed-ridden or end up six feet under we took the precaution of buying some Diamox (altitude sickness pills). Thankfully however our three-day stay in the elevated capital produced no ill-effects.


Antigua: A tree-house away from home

We took the overnight bus from Flores to Antigua via Guatemala City. We shared the double-decker luxury transport with locals and a troupe of God-fearing Christians. Although the two are normally synonymous in Latin America this particular religious group were fresh out of the United States ‘to make a difference’, one of them had said.
They were instantly recognisable as they all wore the same outfit; bleached pure white shirts, sinfully black ties and shiny laminate name-tags that clasped to their top pockets bearing their name and ‘Jesus Cristo’ in large bold italics.

I mention them because the ten hours south to the capital consisted of a chorus of incessant babbling with Bible anecdotes as a theme.


Driving Through the Cameron Highlands

The road was dusty and the road was hot. Inside the air-conditioned car much of this didn’t matter as much. From Ipoh, the highway curved steadily between limestone bastions that seemed to have risen from the earth like mushrooms. Eventually the road climbed and these individual giant outcrops melded into larger formations, and before long we were winding through these formations that were now the beginning of a larger mountain range.

The more the road climbed, the further it went from what would commonly be referred to as civilisation. With that, the jungle seemed to take over as the trees rose higher and the variety, from what I could see from the back seat, seemed to be changing every time we went another hundred metres above sea-level.


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