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My Winter Survival Kit

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I was pretty excited for December, to officially get into the Christmas Spirit, and even more to be able to start on the Malteser Chocolate Advent Calendar sent to me from home. And rather fittingly, the 1st December brought with it winter weather. Proper, bitterly cold winter with face-numbing winds and an actual snowstorm too. Cue us walking home from work completely unprepared for the sudden drop in temperature, with numb hands and feet and frozen faces.

So that evening it was time to get my winter gear out of the wardrobe. All of the things I bought last year to help me survive the freezing temperatures of Korea. Here is a list of my winter survival gear:

Huge Winter Coat

It might sound silly, but I never really realised how important a coat was until last year, when I bought a proper coat for the first time in my life, and it was so worth it. It comes past my knees, has a thick, padded interior and a fur-lined padded hood which covers my whole face. It might make me look like I’m wearing a man’s coat which is several sizes too big (my sister’s words, not mine) but it does the job and keeps me warm. In fact, by the time I’ve walked the 10 minute to school, my head is usually too hot. Best investment ever.

 Gloves (x 2 pairs)

Again, the first time I’ve bought proper gloves (rather than pretty ones). One thin Lycra pair for underneath, and a thick padded pair to wear on top. I can literally not move my fingers once I have both pairs on- it makes entering the code to get into the apartment quite difficult- but it does stop my fingers going completely numb. Which I see as a positive.


I knew my normal thin scarves/pashminas wouldn’t do the trick in Korea, so I bought a huge, woolly snood to keep my neck warm. Turns out that it barely fits underneath my coat because it’s so thick, but it’s nice for wearing once I’m at school.

Fur-Lined Leggings

I can thank Lotte Mart for this purchase. Not just normal leggings, but thick leggings lined on the inside with soft, warm fur. A definite treat for your legs. I wear them with dresses, underneath trousers, underneath my pajamas…basically I alternate between different pairs all winter. And, in Korea they come in men’s sizes too; leggings are no longer a female-fashion-item as they are in England, but a useful piece of clothing to help you against the cold weather. And I love them.

Fluffy Slipper-Socks

Uniqlo was where I found these life-saving slipper-socks. As we have to take off our shoes inside, I needed something warm for my feet, something better than the sandals given by the school (if I worethem, my feet would be frost-bitten by the end of the day).

These slippers are lined with fur and super-snug, keeping my feet nice and toasty all day. The students with their freezing feet are pretty envious.

Furry Welly-Boots

1382417_10201627246675910_1275793581_nAnother amazing purchase was my furry welly-boots which are the comfiest, coziest shoes I’ve ever owned. They’re soft and snug and it’s like having your feet in a cotton-wool cushion. Before I bought these, my toes would be numb by the time I was halfway to school, but now they’re actually warm, even when walking through snow.

Again, I may not look too cool, sporting thick, un-elegant wellies (especially next to my Korean co-teacher, who wears high-heels even in the snow and ice), but I feel good. Which is way more important in the freezing weather!

Hot Water Bottle

To be honest, the minute I get home I’ll make a boiling-hot water bottle, and keep it next to me all evening. I would tie one to myself all day at school if it wouldn’t be so hard to carry around everywhere.

Heat Pads

This is a good alternative to a hot water bottle, and is easier to keep with you all day. The best version I’ve tried is a sticky hot-pad which you stick to your clothing and which keeps warm for hours. In fact, it gets so hot that my co-teacher warned me not to stick it straight onto my skin, or I’d actually get burnt. Now that’s a good heat-pad.

Endless Cups Of Tea


Any excuse to drink more tea is fine with me, and the winter isdefinitely a good excuse. I pretty much chain-drink tea during the cold months, and keep a kettle by my desk at school. It’s a little expensive when you get through an average of 10 mugs a day, but it’s worth it.

Fluffy Pajamas

The pajamas in Korea are so cute, and so soft and fluffy, that I’m glad of the excuse to buy myself numerous pairs. The best part is they’re so much warmer than a lot of pajamas. And when you wear them over the top of fluffy leggings too? Your legs will never go cold.


Of course there are obviously other things to do to keep warm; electric blankets and central heating, to name a couple. But, I find that if you don’t want your bills to sky-rocket by having your heating on 24/7, you can survive without it, as long as you take other precautions. And if you don’t want to cry every time you step outside and are hit by icy-cold air, you definitely need to buy some proper winter-gear. 

 The best part of having a proper cold-survival-kit? You can actually (kind-0f) enjoy winter, going outside to take pretty walks in the snow or alternatively, play in it. Happy winter, and here’s hoping for a White Christmas…



Kathryn's Living

Queer Links from the Week: Anti-gay protesters halt human rights charter, human rights activists and Jason Mraz speak up

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Unfortunately, anti-gay protesters have halted the passage of a human rights charter in Seoul. Many Christian groups had opposed a clause that banned LGBTQ discrimination. To get a sense of the level of hate toward this law, check out Media Today's article where an anti-gay pastor says that homosexual sex is something not even a pig would do (Korean). Or, check out a column in the Korean Education Newspaper; Chuncheon's director of the Korean Teacher Federation screams about the danger of teaching that homosexuality is normal (Korean) and warns that if a non-discrimination law is passed, gay kissing will be allowed in schools just like in foreign countries. Scary! Almost as scary as these women in hanbok holding up signs saying 'homosexuality, same-sex marriage, out!'.

Human rights activists are frustrated over this step back for LGBT rights in Korea, and called for Mayor Park to stop letting anti-gay groups get in the way of the establishment of a charter. In response to this hullabaloo, Jason Mraz defended gay rights in Korea when he was visiting. If only more Korean celebrities would speak up about this issue...

December 2014

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We are finally in December!

I will be flying to Korea tomorrow night and will arrive on Thursday morning.
Tomorrow marks the last day of my NUS undergraduate life. After taking the final paper, I will officially be part of the Singapore's "middle-class" (as soon as I find a job), have to manage my own finances, can no longer ask my parents for money etc. Quite depressing to think about at this point.. But first, I will enjoy myself in Korea till mid-February 2015.

This is going to be one exciting winter! Yesterday Korea received its first snow - which was something I have always looked forward to but never got a chance to catch, because Real Estate papers are always one of the last few in the NUS exam schedule. The exciting part of this winter is that my parents will be visiting us in late January!

Here's a pic of our baby. No longer a baby though. 
He now has a permanent home in Kimchi boy's backyard.

I will be updating more when I arrive in Korea. For now, I shall contain my excitement and attempt to revise for my final paper tomorrow.

My Favorite Things: Korean Gifts from Around the Net

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With Christmas just around the corner, Seoul has quickly transformed into a winter wonderland. The twinkling lights that adorn the facades of the city's biggest shopping complexes, the familiar ring of the Salvation Army bell and even the never-ending loop of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" have me feeling more festive than usual this year.

Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that I'll be going home to America for a few weeks to celebrate the holidays with my family. I couldn't be more excited and have been loading up on goodies and gifts to bring home for family and friends.

If you're like me, when it comes time for gift shopping, you stress over what to buy, what to give and if it'll actually be used and enjoyed by the receiver. That's why I've put together this fool-proof gift list of some of my favorite Korean-inspired goodies from around the net that are sure to please any of your Koreaphile friends this Christmas.


Looking for a unique way to remember your trip to Korea, or to share it with a friend? Then look no further than Boomf, a website that offers netizens the opportunity to print their Instagram photos on marshmallows. Yes, you heard that right.

I, too, was skeptical, but was incredibly impressed with the clarity, the quality and the taste of my edible Instagram images of Seoul, which surprisingly paired well with traditional Korean tea. The price ($25.00 USD for a box of 9) may seem steep, but come on... these are your memories on marshmallows! Give them as a gift and never be forgotten.

Alternatively, you can have your exs' faces printed and then roast them over an open fire. With chestnuts. Just like the Christmas song. Follow Boomf on Facebook or on Instagram @boomf.


Gone are the days of shirts and bags with funny English words and expressions. These days, Hangul is all the rage in Seoul. From couture to streetwear, everyone who is anyone is sporting prints that incorporate the Korean alphabet. And why wouldn't they? The Tetris-like characters developed under the rule of King Sejong are not only scientific but beautiful as well. For these very reasons, I am obsessed with the Hangul gifts at Nuishu, a Spain-based Esty shop that sells bags and prints.

I've been sporting Nuishu's Korean Optical Test TOTEBAG ($11.00 USD) all around the city and have received countless compliments on it. It's incredibly unique, fun and kinda sorta inspires me to get back to studying Korean. A fan of makgeolli (rice wine), I've also got my eye on the "Keep Calm and Drink 막걸리" print... might have to get that one framed for my kitchen in the near future.


Coasters have never been the most popular gifts. Practical, sure. Interesting and thoughtful? Not so much. Until now, that is. What once was the most boring present ever has now been transformed into something fun and memorable thanks to Coastermatic, an American business that converts your Instagram photos into absorbent stone coasters ($25.00 USD for a set of 4). Use your (or your friends') photos from your last trip to Korea and relive your favorite travel memories every time you enjoy a beverage.

Mine have proved to be an excellent conversation piece and a great way for me to introduce some of my favorite places in Korea to my friends and guests. Check out others' coasters via @coastermatic on Instagram.

Paper Tree Shop

Nothing is more beautiful than a gift hand-crafted using hanji, or traditional Korean paper. Which is why I adore Paper Tree Shop, another Esty vendor. London-based designer Moon Munson incorporates iconic Korean patterns and colors to delicately craft a variety of jewelry, boxes and cards that are most certainly works of art.

Her hanji greeting cards, which are intricate and cut by hand, are especially memorable. The Plum Blossom card ($14.39 USD/ card), is my personal favorite, as the delicate buds, which bloom during the bitter Korean winter, are symbolic of enduring hardship.

Soko Glam

When I experienced Korean winter for the first time, my skin freaked out and I spent an entire season with flaky, dry red skin. Fortunately, I had two guardian angels (in the form of two Korean girlfriends) take me under their wings and save me from future winter-induced torture. They taught me the ways of Korean skincare and I have been hooked since.

Fortunately, because I live in Seoul, I have instant access to any Korean product I want. Those living outside the country, however, weren't as lucky until Charlotte Cho, founder of Soko Glam, America's most popular Korean cosmetic retailer, came to the rescue. Charlotte has since shared with the world the secrets to beautiful skin and works hard to find only the best products on the market for her curated online shop.

I know you're all wanting to add these awesome goodies to your Christmas list and I am ready to play Santa, with the help of my generous sponsors as elves. I will be giving away one of the above goodies every week for the entire month of December. Keep your eyes on this site, as well as Seoul Searching's Facebook and Twitter pages, to stay updated on how to make this happen. Until then, happy shopping!

Seoul Searching

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Sponsored Video: All Aboard with Airbnb

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Travel, as we know it, is constantly changing and evolving. Now, more than ever before, we have the opportunity to not only explore faraway lands, but to do so on a much deeper level, and in a more convenient fashion.

One website that is particularly helpful in ensuring travelers have the best experience possible is Airbnb, an online marketplace that connects users with local residents to locate and share accommodations.

In their latest video marketing campaign, they demonstrate how their services work by giving users a window seat view on an animated train as it makes its way around the globe. And anyone who has ever traveled by train knows that the coveted widow seat offers an unrivaled, up-close-and-personal view of the journey and all the pretty places along the way. Unsurprisingly, Airbnb offers many of the same benefits.

This is especially true in Korea, where Airbnb's verified accommodations include everything from enchanting hanoks to luxurious high rises, located in the center of Seoul all the way to the hidden corners of the countryside.

The website allows users to interact with local hosts by booking a room (an option that usually also involves good food and lots of laughs), or offers guests the choice of reserving the entire residence for a bit more privacy.

So, on your next trip to Korea (or anywhere, for that matter), don't settle for a characterless space to rest your head at night. Go on. Claim that window seat and let Airbnb make your stay a memorable one. Start by checking out the video below.

Although this post is sponsored by Airbnb, the opinions are, of course, my own.

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

Progress Report

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One week ago I had a “tough love” conversation with my most difficult high school ESL class. Today was my first lesson with them since then, and I must say, I think it made a difference! With the exception of one or two students, everyone was awake when I entered the room to start the lesson; everyone paid attention the entire time; AND everyone participated! Sure, the last part was still a bit like pulling teeth, but students did a much better job of overcoming their reluctance and lack of self-confidence. I was really proud of them and I made sure to tell them when our time together was up!


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Pet Alley

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 Dongdaemun Pet Alley

Dongdaemun, is there any place like it in the world? Set in the middle of this concrete city is a district of Seoul that sprawls out housing every kind of store one could ever image. From huge mega malls and midnight wholesale markets to it’s tiny huts, stands and street markets, the thousands of streets winding around in a shopping maze will easily have you occupied for hours. It’s nearly impossible for tourists to navigate along the roads without a specific agenda.   Luckily common items are housed in the same districts, making it easy for shoppers to browse once they have found the appropriate section.

Snails and Fish at Pet Alley, Seoul

Dongdaemun’s Pet Alley sells every pet imaginable, specializing in the exotic. Even if you aren’t in the market for a new furry friend, the line of pet shops is a spectacle to see. Thousands of cages fill the stores housing exotic animals. If small rodents are your idea of a great pet then you will be overjoyed to see the hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets and mice. Along with the common household pets are chipmunks, squirrels and hedgehogs. A pretty wild concept for my western brain to get behind the idea of living among a squirrel, but to each their own



Hedgehogs at Pet Alley

There are hundreds of varieties of reptiles. My personal favorites were neon frogs. I’ve never seen anything like it. I also loved the many varieties of mini turtles! If a bird is what your after, there are hundreds of varieties. It’s easy to understand why the bird storeowner is hard of hearing, when you step inside and see (or hear) the endless cages of cawing birds.  Fish are also in no short supply, as well as all of the equipment to make a spectacular aquarium.

turtles 20131102_182636 20131102_182910

Seoul has the capability to keep foreigners for an extended stay. Many come for a a year and stay for many! If you’ve come to the decisions to make Seoul your home, and want to share your pad with a pet, get yourself to Dongdaemun pet alley!


Directions- Dongdaemun Station: Exit 7 Walk left before the Cheonggye Stream walking eastward. You will find Pet Alley about 300m down.



Mat Gori 맛거리

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For real Makgeolli lovers or the Makgeolli curious, Mat Gori has something to offer everyone.

Makgeolli Mamas & Papas

Sister Angel Libron of Filkorcomm Guri Exodus to Receive Presidential Award

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The first time I have heard of Sister Angel Libron, I was at a hospital in Guri with my husband, and was told that I had to visit the doctor every week, sometimes on weekdays. That time, I was just learning … Continue reading

From Korea with Love




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