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How to enjoy the Coolest Water Sports in the middle of Seoul: let’s flyboard on Han River!

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Summer in Korea is humid and hot. One of the best ways to fight against the hot hot summer is definitely WATER SPORTS!

One of Trazy’s customers, Yoonhee C, went on a one fine day in June to explore what exactly flyboarding is.

I visited Jamwon Hangang Park to ride flyboard. The staffs are very kind and you can the instructions on how to prepare the ride in many languages (English, Chinese, Japanese). The staffs are fluent in English so foreigners don’t have to worry about the language problem.

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After watching the instruction on how-to-ride, you will change to the swimming suit (you have to bring your own swimming suit). And before you ride the flyboard, you will learn how to ride it. It is not difficult at all because the experienced instructors tell you in details how to do it. So don’t worry about riding the flyboard!

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Listening to details!
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Getting ready.

image (1)While riding the flyboard, you have to control yourself for balance. And it’s totally interesting and fun after you know how to do it!!

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After you enjoy riding, you can take a shower at the facility so don’t forget to bring shampoo & body wash and also clothes that you can change after the activity.

And because you ride flyboard on Seoul’s most beautiful central river- Han river, it will be memorable and worthy.

In the case of people who are worried about the falling into the river like me, this is the perfect challenge! Because you wear an air jacket while riding, you do not have to be afraid of falling into the water too much!

flyboardAnd of course, you can book this special flyboarding water sports activity exclusively on Korea’s #1 Travel guide-Trazy!

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The MERS Panic and Painfully Obvious Need to Clean-Up the Korean Regulatory State

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2015.6.23号(6/16発売)

I wrote a story about the South Korean MERS panic for this week’s Newsweek Japan (available here). Basically, I make the same argument as my friend Se-Woong Koo from Korea Expose (which you really need to start reading). The panic shows just how much South Korea needs to get its act together on public safety and competence in government.

It is ironic that when Park entered office, the biggest fear was ideological – that she might imitate her father’s harsh governing style, or that her term would trench warfare between conservatives and progressives over her father’s legacy. Now – after NIS, the nuclear materials scandal, Sewol, the staffing circus, MERS, and so on – the questions are far more elementary – do Park Geun-Hye and her closest aides just have the basic technocratic skills/focus/interest to run a modern complex country and bureaucracy? I would be surprised if her approval rating breaks 50% again before her term ends. It’s once again around 30%, as it was after Sewol. Competence is almost certain to be main line of critique from the opposition in next year’s parliamentary election.

For previous essays on this topic, go here, here, and here. The full essay follows the jump.

 

It is now more than three weeks since the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) came to South Korea. This is the largest outbreak to date outside of the Middle East. An elderly Korea tourist apparently brought it back from a trip to Saudi Arabia. Korean doctors originally did not recognize the symptoms, and early patients were either sent home or placed in crowded hospital facilities in close proximity to other patients. This allowed the virus to spread in hospitals where the outbreak has been worst and where public pressure, trending toward paranoia, has been most intense.

At the time of this writing, the total number of infections exceeds one hundred and twenty. At least four people have fully recovered, while ten, all elderly or otherwise ill, have passed away. Approximately three thousand others are in preventive isolation. The virus appear to be most lethal for seniors, the very young, and the infirm. The American Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 35% of MERS patients die. In Korea, the outbreak remains mostly clustered in Seoul and its regional hospitals.

Korean media are now suggesting that the virus is mostly ‘contained,’ and that this week may be its peak. If the number of new cases drops in the next week or two, it seems likely the crisis has passed. Neither the CDC nor the World Health Organization (WHO) have issued major travel alerts or otherwise discouraged people from visiting South Korea. They recommend only basic hygienic action such as regular hand-washing. There has been no break-out into the larger population and that seems increasingly unlikely.

Bungling, then Panic

By the standard of the best known recent epidemic – Ebola in 2014-15 – Korea’s MERS contagion is relatively minor. Ebola hit west African states like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea very hard. Over 11,000 people have died since March 2014, with more than 27,000 people infected. Unlike Korean MERS, Ebola broke into the general population. Medical personnel were so routinely infected as well, that the sick sometimes went untreated. Social prejudice and superstition lead to discrimination against survivors. In some cases, military intervention was need to maintain order. Treatment personnel wore dramatic biohazard suits. Foreign attention grew as panic increased of a global spread.

MERS in Korea has seen nothing like this ‘Hollywood’ style disease outbreak. There are no helicopters, camps, or public disorder. Korea’s health system is vastly more advanced than those combatting Ebola. When Korea fought Swine Flu and SARS last decade, it resisted well. Not a single case of SARS was reported because of vigorous monitoring at ports of entry and a dedicated government response structure.

Unfortunately, such protocols were not followed in this case, and a mini-panic ensued, greatly over-inflamed by a sensationalist media response both in Korea and abroad. The government’s initial response was fairly passive, for which it has been strongly criticized. Early suspected patients were sent home and told only to sleep alone and maintain distance from others. No public guidelines were forthcoming to citizens; the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Koran analogue of the US CDC, were not heard from as the early anxiety brewed toward panic.

Little information was shared on who was sick and where, a decision which generated particularly intense anger and confusion. The government initially refused to provide the numbers of the ill, their demographic information, or the hospitals they were in. There is a widespread belief that if the government had provided such information, those who later contracted MERS in hospital might have avoided it by choosing a different hospital. Lawsuits are almost certain in the future, as victims’ families blame the government and seek restitution. In fact, so bad was the panic flowing from the information blockage, that the opposition mayor of Seoul broke with government protocol and provided such information on his own in a dramatic late-night press conference. The ensuing infighting and back-biting suggested that the government simply did not know what it was doing.

The problems continued. Unlike SARS, the government, until recently, did not step in to coordinate the response. President Park Geun-Hye did not hold a cabinet meeting on the issue until June 9, three weeks after the first case appeared and well into the national panic over its spread. Only just this week did she agree to cancel a foreign trip due to rising pressure to lead on the issue. Now, multiple government agencies and task forces have been assigned the problem, yet further compounding confusion about who is leading the central response. In practice, the spread has been stopped by local doctors in the Seoul area hospitals, the real heroes of this story.

Given this botched response, hard on the heels of similarly botched response to the Sewol ferry sinking last year, a minor paranoia has gripped the country in recent weeks. Panicked parents have pressured thousands of elementary schools to close, even though the outbreak is clustered in hospitals. Lurid stories referencing Hollywood imagery of epidemics and contagion have filled the internet. Many trips, vacations, outings, tourist holidays, and so on have been cancelled, again due to spiraling anxiety rather than widespread uptake of the virus.

The hysteria has spread around Asia as well. Hong Kong issued a ‘red’ travel alert. The Shanghai Film Festival told Koreans not to come. Tourists from China and Japan have cancelled thousands of trips. Airlines from southeast Asian countries, including Singapore and Malaysia, have cancelled flights. All in all, it is an awkward regional embarrassment for the world’s fifteenth largest economy and member of the G-20.

Indeed, so much hysteria has built up, both at home and abroad, that the government is now worried a ‘MERS effect’ will tip the economy into recession and damage the country’s national image. This week the Korean central bank cut the prime rate by twenty-five basis points, to an all-time low of 1.5%, to spur post-MERS spending. President Park said, “I urge citizens to refrain from excessively reacting to MERS for the sake of the economy.” So distrustful of their own government are Koreans now, that major media have taken to referencing foreign health authorities, such as the WHO and US CDC, to reassure people that Korea is safe.

The Politics of MERS

As the outbreak winds down, the political debate will only heat up. An enormous outpouring of confusion, then anxiety, and now increasingly anger has washed over the country. The government’s response has been widely criticized as late, botched and, half-hearted, even by conservative media outlets traditional aligned with President Park and her conservative Saenuri (New Frontier) Party.

Indeed, Saenuri itself has split over the issue, with Saenuri parliamentarians turning against the Blue House and their own president. National Assembly elections will occur next year, and the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) is sure to use MERS against the government. President Park though is term-limited to one five-year stint. Hence the internecine Saenuri split. Park’s tepid response does not threaten her own non-existent electoral prospects; she will likely retire from politics after her term, as do most Korean ex-presidents. But Saenuri parliamentarians in the National Assembly will face an angry electorate next year with little help from the unpopular Park. They are turning on her now in hopes that some distance from the administration will help them retain their seats.

It is easy to imagine that the NPAD next year will tie the botched MERS response to last year’s similarly flubbed response to the Sewol sinking (April 16, 2014), as well as the Park administration’s continuing staffing scandals. President Park has seen multiple high ranking officials either resign or be forced to withdraw their names from nomination. For example, she has already had three prime ministers – constitutionally the second in charge, similar to the American vice president – in just twenty-nine months, with yet another expected soon. All this will likely be tied into an overarching opposition narrative that President Park is incompetent to hold the office, and that her party is disinterested in clean government reforms.

President Park’s approval rating has lingered under 50% for much of her presidency, and at one point in the wake of the Sewol disaster it fell below 30%. Gallup Korea places it now at 34%. Given the scandals, Sewol, and now MERS, it is unlikely her numbers will rise above 50% before her term expires in 2017. This could bring the left into power for the first time in a decade.

Competence and the Korean Regulatory State

Longer term issues lurk in the background of this entire debate. MERS, Sewol, and the staffing scandals are only the latest indicators of the deep need to improve the Korean regulatory state and tackle endemic corruption. Park is hardly the first Korean president to wrestle with corruption and scandal. Almost all of her predecessor have been investigated after their presidencies. One even committed suicide, because indictment was imminent. Transparency International (TI), an NGO that ranks countries by perceived corruption, gives Korea a mediocre 43 out of 175. (Japan is ranked 15th; a lower score is better.)

The Park administration however has compounded these traditional Korean corruption problems with even more basic questions of competence and managerial ability. Are she and the people around her – many of whom date from her father’s time in the presidency decades ago – actually qualified and interested enough in directing the Korean state to perform its duties properly? Park’s continuously low approval ratings suggest the majority of Koreans do not believe so.

Park has always been susceptible to such critiques. She is the daughter of a previous president (dictator really), so much of her electoral appeal was in her name, rather than her accomplishments. Although an effective political operator for Saenuri, Park had little actual governing experience before assuming the presidency. Her predecessor, by contrast, had extensive previous executive experience as mayor of Seoul and a corporate CEO. As many people have said of US President Obama, the inexperienced Park may simply be overwhelmed by the sheer complexity and demands of the office. A similar critique was made of ex-President George W. Bush. His president father had established the family name which later made the son a viable presidential candidate. But the son lacked the actual professional qualifications for the office and was then overwhelmed when the Iraq occupation went off the rails and Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.

Korea, like most modern, wealthy states, has a large, complex bureaucracy tasked with insuring public safety and regulatory safeguards in an even larger and more complex economy. Yet again and again, issues of public safety arise that suggest that Korean bureaucracy is perforated with cronyism and corner-cutting. Park’s term alone has been deeply unnerving for public safety: In 2013, nuclear power plants around the country were shut down because of faked materials certificates, raising huge safety concerns and depriving the nation of power in very hot summer. The 2014 Sewol investigation suggested rampant cronyism in the regulation of maritime traffic. The ferry was significantly overloaded and a poorly trained crew was allowed to operate the ship, because inspectors looked the other way. And now MERS 2015 once again suggests Korea’s regulatory state is simply not up to the task of competently, dispassionately regulating in the public interest.

These problems are hardly Park’s fault personally, but her disinterest in the necessary reforms is unnerving. Park has repeatedly emphasized more economic growth, with her ‘creative Korea’ and ‘new miracle on the Han’ rhetoric. But much like China today, what already-wealthy Korea really needs now is not just ever more headline growth, but cleaner, less cronyistic, and more transparent growth. Unfortunately, the Park administration has gone the other way on this. Its response to criticism has been a press clamp-down so tough that it has affected Korea’s press freedom scores with external observers like Freedom House. On MERS, it sat on information until a public panic broke out, and the investigation of Sewol was politicized from the start and the ensuing reforms tepid. Indeed so big is the issue of clean, functional government in Korea now, that I predict it will be the centerpiece of the opposition’s legislative campaign next year.

Such questions bedevil any modern bureaucracy: the US looked callous and incompetent on Katrina and Iraq; Japan has been regularly accused of covering up the extent of the Fukushima disaster. But Korea’s TI score and seemingly endless government and regulatory scandals suggest the rot is deep. It is so widespread, that it has even hit Korean foreign policy. Park’s cancelled trip this week was a major visit to the United States to meet Obama, while last year the US and Korea agreed not to turn over ‘operational control’ (OPCON) of the Korean military in wartime to the Korean government in part because of competence concerns on the part of the US military. If nothing else, perhaps Park will embrace a clean managerial agenda, because she will leave the office as one of Korea’s most unpopular presidents if she does not.


Filed under: Corruption, Domestic Politics, Korea (South), Modernization, Newsweek, Scandal


Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
robertkelly260@hotmail.com

 


Daegu Confirms First MERS Patient

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Originally published by Korea Medical Hub

 

MERS virus outbreak in Daegu was reported on June 16. According to the Daegu city authority, a 52 year-old man had fever and his specimen was examined two times by Daegu Research Institute of Public Health & Environment and Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both results out of these facilities said positive to MERS-CoV.

  This guy took a rest at home due to the chills but visited a public bathhouse around his town on 13 June. It was 15 June when he visited the public health center. Currently, he is now under isolation with negative pressured room in the Daegu Medical Center.

  Despite of his MERS infection, his wife (47) and son (16) have received negative response to the first MERS diagnostic exam and they are now self-quarantined. However, his sister was diagnosed with MERS infection on 10 June, who has visited their mother in the 2nd ER of the Seoul Samsung Center (Irwon-dong, Gangnam).

  To make matters worse, it turned out that he was working at his company and had dinner with his colleagues until he was diagnosed with MERS virus. Therefore, 50 group of people who have ever contacted with him are now under quarantine. Also, Daegu city ordered the community center where was worked for closed and reinforced investigating his moving route and monitoring the contacted citizen.

  In total, 3 MERS-infected people in Daegu are isolated and treated for MERS infection.


Notice: I translated this original article in Korean to English. However, I am not a professional reporter or translator so my English article may not be accurate as much as the original Korean article is. Hope you understand this.

Original article from Yonhap News (대구도 뚫렸다, 50대 공무원 메르스 첫 확진 Latest Update 2015-June-16 06:42)

- See more at: http://www.kmhglobal.com/daegu-confirms-first-mers-patient#sthash.12iliSVJ.dpuf


Jane Jang
Tel.+82-2-519-8021
Kakao ID : medicalcurator
Viber/WhatsApp Available

Korea Medical Hub (KMH) is a multilingual web portal designed to provide a list of clinics and hospitals in Korea and information on facilities and medical services they offer for international patients coming to Korea for medical tourism.

 


25. – 29. Caffe Pascucci, Hands Coffee, Coffeesmith, Cafe Nada, Babeans (Gwangan, Busan)

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Once upon a time, expat revelry (not to be confused with L’revelry) revolved mostly around Haeundae Beach and the famously-wealthy district surrounding it. Today, it remains a popular destination for foreigners, offering many varieties of food and drink, both Korean and western-owned-and-designed (as well as a dizzying multitude of coffee shops. Soon, soon). Not to mention Burger King.

But, in recent years districts such as Gwangan have gained traction. While Gwangan’s beach has been quite popular for a while, relatively few nighttime options (at least for the expat crowd) tended to send many off to other areas like Haeundae and the Kyungsung University area, for more opportunities to drain one’s wallet well into the wee hours. Today, both daytime and nighttime adventures can be had all along this strip of commerce running from one end of the beach to the other, and beyond.

So much to see and do requires so, so much coffee.

Caffe Pascucci is an Italian coffee shop chain. However, its dominating presence appears to be in east Asia. Fun fact: I think they still give your second cup for free if you're having them inside the cafe. At least, that's what they were doing a year ago at a location in Seomyeon, Busan. From Wikipedia: Caffè Pascucci is an Italian coffeehouse chain, with branches in Greenland, the U.S.A., South Korea, Egypt, and Japan. ...The locations in South Korea are run by SPC Group...SPC Group (hangul:SPC 그룹) is a large South Korean chaebol (conglomerate), producing food and confectionery products and headquartered in Seoul. Sangmidang, the precursor of Samlip General Food was founded in 1945, and the group was launched in 2004. SPC Group is one of the oldest brands in the confectionery and bakery industry in Korea. Its catering centers are based in Seongnam Gyeonggi-do.
Caffe Pascucci is an Italian coffee shop chain. However, its dominating presence appears to be in east Asia. Fun fact: I think they still give your second cup for free if you’re having them inside the cafe. At least, that’s what they were doing a year ago at a location in Seomyeon, Busan. From Wikipedia: Caffè Pascucci is an Italian coffeehouse chain, with branches in Greenland, the U.S.A., South Korea, Egypt, and Japan. …The locations in South Korea are run by SPC Group…SPC Group (hangul:SPC 그룹) is a large South Korean chaebol (conglomerate), producing food and confectionery products and headquartered in Seoul…SPC Group is one of the oldest brands in the confectionery and bakery industry in Korea.
Hands Coffee. My first encounter with what appears to be a Christian-owned company (if the scripture and
Hands Coffee, based in Daegu. My first encounter with what might be a Christian-owned company (if the “hands of God” stuff on the cups is any indication) was in the Kyungsung University area of Busan. Located near the KSU subway exit and next to a Starbucks, I actually preferred Hands’ warm, wooden interior to Starbucks’ predictable patterns. I still, however, prefer Starbucks coffee (note: that Hands location is still in business as of this writing).
Coffeesmith. I cannot share much about this coffee chain except to say I used one of their bathrooms once. It might have been at this location, although I believe there is another location near Busan Station.
Coffeesmith. I cannot share much about this coffee chain except to say I used one of their bathrooms once. It might have been at this location, although I believe there is another location near Busan Station.
Cafe Nada is in a unique location, nestled just off the strip and amidst Gwangan's famous fish markets. It has grown popular among both Koreans and expats, and even recently hosted an arts show that had attendees spilling out onto the street. Sadly, it was closed on the Sunday Wart and I tried to go and see the arts on display without the stress of the crowds.
Cafe Nada is in a unique location, nestled just off the Gwangan strip and amidst its famous fish markets (and equally famous, somewhat sketchy miniature amusement park). It has grown popular among both Koreans and expats, and even recently hosted an arts show that had attendees spilling out onto the street. Sadly, it was closed on the Sunday Wart and I tried to go and see the arts on display without the stress of the crowds.
Babeans Coffee is located just a little beyond the Gwanganli Beach strip. I have never been to any locations (I am pretty sure I saw another location in Centum City, Busan), but I am in love with the name. It just begs to be said in a faux Brooklyn accent.
Babeans Coffee is located just a little beyond the Gwanganli Beach strip. I have never been to any locations (I am pretty sure I saw another location in Centum City, Busan), but I am in love with the name. It just begs to be said in a faux Brooklyn accent. “Babeans! Babeans! Fuhgeddaboutit!”


JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.


lol… 

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lol… 


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sealbb replied to your photo “Yayyy my laptop came! #happy”So pretty!Thanks! I am really loving it....

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sealbb replied to your photo “Yayyy my laptop came! #happy”So pretty!Thanks! I am really loving it....

South Korea’s CARS Epidemic Enters Fourth Decade

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A Yangpa News Special Report

SEOUL – The OECD has announced that 5,869 South Koreans died of CARS in 2014, which marks the 30th consecutive year that the number of fatalities from the epidemic has topped the 5,000 mark.

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One of Seoul’s many high-risk areas

CARS, or Catastrophic Automobile Ramming Syndrome, is believed to affect nearly a quarter million people a year in South Korea. In a country of 50 million, this means that nearly everyone can name a close friend or family member who has been stricken by CARS.

Delivery driver Kim Yeseok has had several bouts with CARS and survived, but some of his friends were not so lucky. “Last year I lost two colleagues to CARS,” said Kim, “A Sonata and a Bongo, to be precise.”

While most victims of CARS survive, many suffer a range of severe symptoms, including massive trauma, internal bleeding, paralysis, compound fractures, third-degree burns, lacerations, coma, profuse bleeding, and death.

The World Health Organization has traced the beginning of the CARS epidemic in part to the rise in private automobile ownership in South Korea. “Since 1985, when the number of privately owned automobiles exceeded one million for the first IMG_8976time, South Korean CARS-related deaths have consistently been among the highest of all OECD nations,” said Doctor Park Jin-hyuk.

While there are a variety of treatments for CARS-related symptoms, experts say that prevention is the best medicine, and that people can greatly reduce the risk of CARS by following a few simple precautions. “Slowing down and wearing a ‘safety belt’ are effective,” says Doctor Park, “but the best thing may be merely paying attention to the warning signs. You can usually see CARS coming and take effective countermeasures.”

NKfreeofcars

Despite the epidemic south of the border, North Korea remains largely free of CARS

Despite the perennially high death toll, the South Korean public maintains a relatively calm attitude about the threat of CARS. “I am very worried about MERS,” said Seoul pedestrian Lee Soon-ja, voicing a popular concern about a disease which at press time had killed a total of 16 people – roughly the same number who are killed by CARS in a typical day in Korea. “I was just now reading about it on my smart phone as I was crossing the street. It’s utterly terrifying.”

 


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Seoul Admin Court rules that KQCF will have its parade!


The Korea Queer Culture Festival's parade will open according to plans on Sunday, June 28th.  



On the 16th of June, the 13th court of the Seoul Administrative Court accepted the application of the Queer Culture Festival Organization Committee ruling, to, in effect, halt the notice of a prohibition of an outdoor assembly by Seoul's Commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. According to the court's ruling, the notice of prohibition of the KQCF's parade is no longer in effect, making the parade legally permissible. 

The court stated that "By law, forbidding an assembly is only allowed in the case where a direct threat to public law and order is clearly in existence" and that "Rather than restricting the assembly's freedom through prohibition, there are other ways. Forbidding an assembly is the last choice after considering every other possible means. " Furthermore, the court added that "the Queer Culture Festival has taken place yearly from 2000 through 2014, and in consideration of the fact that the Festival Committee has been planning the queer parade for quite some time, upholding the notice to restrict the parade would be damaging toward the Festival Organization Committee in a way that would be difficult to recover from." 

The Queer Culture Festival's Chairman Myeong Jin Kang stated, "This court's decision in relation to the police's unjust notice prohibiting assembly is important. Within a democratic country, built on civil society, the guarantee that society can use their voice has a deep meaning." Furthermore, he stated that he was "grateful for the decision that the Queer Culture Festival's parade can continue into its 15 years, legally working as a communication method in society."

Representative for this lawsuit Chairwoman of the Committee for the Human Rights of Sexual Minorities and lawyer Suhyeon Chang stated "The fact that permits are needed for assembly and demonstration is in violation of Constitutional Law while prior prohibition of assembly and demonstration is severely limited by the Law on Assembly and Demonstration. This is a decision that means that sexual minorities have the freedom to assembly and are treated with equal rights."  

Finally, a total of 112 human rights, civil society, religious groups and political parties of the Queer Culture Festival Board of Directors stated that "The Queer Culture Festival is a place for LGBTQIA individuals to stand together, express themselves, and stand against discrimination, hatred, and prejudices as it relates to queer individuals. The Queer Parade is an event with deep meaning as a place where sexual minorities can march with pride."  They added "As human rights, civil society, and political parties, we welcome this decision of the court, and we will make our best effort to work together so participants can enjoy a peaceful parade as planned." 


24. L’Revelry (Random Weekly Review)

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There are real people behind the many, many, many coffee shops that line the streets of South Korea.

Recently, I noticed the closure of a cafe owned by a friend and former associate of Wart’s here in Gimhae. I had planned to get a photo of it and even do one of these “RWR’s” for it because of its personal connection, as well as its Konglish-y name, (which I won’t mention here. Why kick the coffee cup when it’s empty?). Now, in place of yet another coffee shop, will be yet another barbecue restaurant (it seems). Hopefully, Wart’s friend did not lose a lot of money from the business venture. But, I have to imagine at least something was lost.

I thought about this when I popped into L’Revelry after work today.

L'Revelry, in Gimhae.
L’Revelry, in Gimhae.

On a street corner busy mostly with cars passing through, this shop specializes in coffee and cup cakes, which seem to be gaining momentum these days.

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Walking inside after riding my bicycle in the humid, late-Korean-spring air, my sweaty, disgusting mass was greeted by a sweltering, stagnant cafe, as the lone person inside (perhaps the owner, I am not sure) did not have the air conditioner on for obviously awhile.

I was also met with… silence. No music played and it reminded me just how a part of our lives ambient sounds have become. It felt very strange to walk into a room and not hear any kind of music, be it K-Pop or smooth jazz, coming from a speaker off-stage.

Americano, two shots of espresso. 3,500 won.
Americano, two shots of espresso. 3,500 won.

After ordering my coffee, the man rectified both the air and sound issues. 3,500 won later, I was given a cup of Americano, with a requested two-shots (which I have recently realized is a must, since most Americanos here taste like coffee flavored water, and the cafe’s never seem to charge extra for the extra coffee).

Tiramisu cupcake. 3,500 won.
Tiramisu cupcake. 3,500 won.

I decided to also order a cupcake, since it is supposed to be this place’s specialty. Another 3,500 won later, a “Tiramisu” flavored treat came to my table.

It was fine. Good, even. Very sweet on its own, it paired well with the coffee, which tasted like it had come from quality beans. But, it definitely was not fresh. And for the price, I really hoped for a lot more than what I got.

About 20 minutes after I sat down, another couple walked in. The woman ordered an Iced Americano and sat down. I watched as the man behind the counter got to work making her drink, and thought about whether or not he was the owner, or just some underpaid schmuck trying to scrape by. Or both.

The number of coffee shops in South Korea is absurd. It’s unsustainable. It’s beyond overboard. A coffee shop closes. Despite this, two take its place. This has not appeared to slow down in the three continuous years I’ve called Korea home. I cannot help but wonder when or if these young business owners will decide that this location, or this business venture might not work and that it might be wise to consider other options. I shake my head.

But, it’s easy to pass judgement when there are no consequences. It’s interesting and fun for me to chronicle the absurdity, but it’s important to remember that behind the absurdity are people who are hoping more than one couple and a sweaty foreigner come into their coffee shop today.



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