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I’m still alive!

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Hello everyone!  Recently I have been getting a lot of mails about what happened and if I decided to stop blogging about Korea since I am currently in LA while Nara works at Disney on “Big Hero 6″ (go see it soon!!)  Last year they hired him to animate on the project so we packed up everything and came back to the states!  I just wanted to say that I am STILL going to blog and I still have a huge amount of backlog posts that I am always talking about, plus on a normal year we do visit at least once for a month so I am bath and forth to Korea even though we changed locations!  This Oct 25th Nara and I are finally getting married in LA, followed by a Korean wedding in Seoul on Nov 15th.  Nara has been super busy with work, so I have been doing the wedding things on my own so it is sucking up a HUGE amount of my time ~_~  I am sorry!  I have also started my home business back up selling art as Miss Kika ( and have had an exciting year selling paintings and making shirts and stuff.  The wedding eats all my free time that should be blog time, so I just wanted to let readers know that I will be back to work on this page for sure after November once my time opens up again since each post is really time consuming for me <3  I miss blogging so much though!

In the meantime, some locations I have featured have since closed or things have changed.  If you learn something please do let me know and I will adjust the blog info to avoid confusion!  Since I am not in Seoul and have been so busy this year I have not had time to keep some things up to date which is super needed in Korea since things open and close really frequently D:

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a lovely summer and if you see Nara and I around Seoul this November please do come up and say hi! I hope after my wedding I can write some helpful wedding posts or at least I will have photos to share haha!



Welcome to my blog about Korea!

My name is Elle and I am an Illustrator & Gallery painter from California, but currently I am living in Seoul with my Korean Fiancé!

read more about me HERE

Enjoy the blog? I'm currently trying to raise donations for a better camera~ please click the button below for info!

Interested in my artwork?

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Copyright © 2012 All licensed content, characters, photos, art etc unless created by Elle specifically are © to their respective owners. Images watermarked on this site not created by the owner have been edited, scanned, etc special for this blog and the marks are intended to show the source of the content if they are shared further online, not claim rights to the images.

Nuruk Namu (누룩 나무)

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Name: Nuruk Namu  (누룩 나무) Location: Insadong (By Anguk Station) Reviewed by: Mamas and Pappas on June 14th   Thoughts: Immediately around the corner and down the tiny alleyway in front of […]

Makgeolli Mamas & Papas

Eating Live Octopus in Korea

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Korea is a land of unique culinary…ideas.

If you’re reading this from back home, you probably think of Korean food as being the K-Barbecue joint in town, or kimchi, rice, and soju.

IN Korea there’s a whole lot “broader” spectrum of choices. I’ll say that. Having grown up eating Korean food, I am familiar with the food even if I don’t know the names. Even if I haven’t tried all the Korean foods out there, I’m very familiar with the smells and textures.
DSC00381 150x150 Eating Live Octopus in KoreaThere are literally endless lists of food choices uniquely Korean that we’ve all probably never heard of. One big area is the whole raw seafood menu.

Very akin to Japan, if it lives in the ocean Koreans will eat it. And they prefer to eat it RAW!

I could probably do an entire YouTube channel traveling around Korea eating all the different foods they have to offer and still not cover it all. I do plan on covering a bunch before I leave though.

I decided to give the live octopus experience a shot. In Korea it’s called sannakji (산낙지).

I went to Jagalchi Fish Market where there is an entire building devoted to eating raw sea-life. You walk into the ground floor to choose your animal and then bring it to the restaurant upstairs where it is prepared.


DSC00379 768x1024 Eating Live Octopus in Korea

Sannakji is basically dismembered and served on a plate with scallions and sesame oil on top of it. There is also a side of sesame oil to dip it in.

One of the main reasons Koreans enjoy eating their food raw is so they can really get a taste and sense of the “freshness” of the food.

Take a moment to imagine what it could possibly be like to chew on many pieces of slimy, bite-sized squirming chunks of rubber that are trying to stick to the insides of your mouth.

Got the image? Yeah, that’s what it was like.


The post Eating Live Octopus in Korea appeared first on The Red Dragon Diaries.

the Red Dragon Diaries

ESL, Travel, and Judo!

Contest Winners – Elementary korean

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Thank you all for participating. We had a good response and everyone seemed to have their heart poured out in their participation to the contest. All of them participated very well. And it was a very difficult task to select the winners so we ended up randomly selecting three names…

  • Mary Hellen
  • Susanna Pillay
  • Yee Teong Ch’ng

Congratulations to the winners above. Tuttle Publishing will be getting in touch with you soon on the email id provided by you.

For those of you who were not able to win this time. Do not fret. We have another contest coming up soon where we will be giving out 3 copies of KPOP Now. So all you KPOP fans keep watching out for our upcoming contest.


A Month In

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By now you will have gathered that I haven’t been blogging with the same level of ferocity as you may have been familiar with. I have given the blog a bit of a rest so that I can settle into life back in Ireland, as well as concentrate on other projects and writing goals. It […]

Registration for August 16th Meeting Open!!

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The location for this meeting has been on the books for over a year!!  We tried to visit last year but it was unexpectedly closed and we just haven’t tried since.  Helen’s Kitchen has a very good reputation for its makgeolli, food and atmosphere and it’s located not far from Coex near Samsung Station.  From what we have heard, Helen spent her early years in growing up in the US and after working for a multinational company decided to open a makgeolli bar.

helens kitchen interior

We are pretty excited to road test this one and put it on the makgeolli map, so if you want to join us send an email to to get on the list!

Dae-oh Book Store 33 Cafe: A Place of History, Culture and Family

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When I first moved to Korea, I spent every minute of my free time getting lost in the neighborhoods of Seoul. Wandering the unknown became a hobby and through it, I was able to learn a lot about my new home and discover many a hidden gem, whether it be a cafe, an interesting sculpture or a peaceful green space to sit and rest for a while.

As time went on and I grew accustomed to my new city, the neighborhoods lost a bit of their magic and I became slightly jaded. Over the past few weeks, however, I began to miss those afternoons spent in solitude and discovery and decided to get back to exploring the streets of the city. The historic district of Seochon-dong was first on my list. I had no expectations, which is probably why I was so delighted to have stumbled upon Dae-oh Book Store 33 Cafe.

Although Dae-oh is certainly no secret, it's obscure location keeps it off the radar of tourists and residents alike. Opened in 1951, it is the oldest second hand bookstore in the entire city and its worn signboard and rickety yet charming facade validate this fact. After the owner passed away, his wife, Kwon Oh-nam, decided to keep the bookstore open for business against the wishes of her family, as it was all she had left of her dear husband.

The years passed and as customers began shopping at larger book franchises and on the internet, the business suffered financially. There were times when Mrs. Kwon could only make a few sales a month. Still, dedicated to her husband and intent on maintaining Dae-oh Book Store for the sake of history and culture, she was able to keep it running. About a year ago, she and her family decided to transform the store into a cafe. One member of her family that has been particularly active in keeping the business' legacy alive is Jang Jai-hun, her twenty-year-old grandson.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jai-hun on my visit to the shop and he was eager to tell me more about the bookstore, the cafe and the hundred-year-old hanok (traditional Korean house) in which the two are housed. Jai-hun told me that at times, there were up to 9 family members residing in the small home. Despite the years that have passed, the house has remained relatively the same, and the furniture, decor and knick-knacks used in the cafe are the family's actual belongings.

I ordered a watermelon juice- the cafe's signature beverage- and it was served on a wooden tray with a map and the story of the home, and a dalgona lollipop, old-fashioned Korean candy made from burned sugar. I took a seat at a small desk overlooking the home's courtyard. Looking around, I felt like I had traveled back in time to the years of the Korean War. Hanji (Korean paper) dolls, an antique wardrobe, wooden sticks once used for ironing and black and white photos all contributed to the homey and nostalgic atmosphere.

The courtyard was just as quaint, with its old water pump, kimchi pots and chili pepper plants. Visitors can also peek into the kitchen and spot old appliances and vintage records. Attached to the courtyard is the remains of the bookstore, a small room which contains hundreds of fading comic books, text books, story books and magazines.

I noticed that there were a number of posters hung throughout the hanok indicating that Dae-oh Bookstore was a filming location for the Korean drama Shark as well as the backdrop for fashion shoots featuring modern hanbok (traditional dress). The photographs are a testament to Dae-oh's importance to the community, even today, as a landmark of the historic Seochon Village.

Jai-hun also told me that he hopes Dae-oh Book Store 33 Cafe can be a space where culture and art thrive, like many of the galleries that surround it. From time to time, there are concerts held in the courtyard and photographs and paintings by local artists hung on the walls.

Whatever the future of Dae-oh Book Store 33 Cafe may be, one thing is for certain: it will always be cherished as a landmark of history, tradition and family.

More Information

Address: 33 Nuha-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Phone: 010-9219-1349

Hours of Operation: Tues.- Sun. 11am-10pm

Website: Click here to visit the cafe's Facebook page.

To Get There: From Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway, Line 3, Exit 2), walk straight for about 400 meters. Turn left onto Jahamun-ro 9-gil after reaching Broccoli Accessory. (If you reach Tongin Market, you've gone too far.) Walk 100 meters and take the second right onto Jahamun-ro 7-gil. Dae-oh will be on your left. For a map, click here.

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

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Scents of Seoul

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Spring just transforms the city and people alike.With the heavy coats off, the sun beginning to caress the skin with warmth, and the stark, bare trees beginning to sprout their little green shoots again, there is then the fragrance of enthusiasm and vigor in the city. Cherry blossoms, azaleas and forsythias emanate sweetness in scents and people come from far and near to rejoice in the longer, warmer days.

Cheery cherry blossoms
Cheery cherry blossoms bloom only for a week in spring

cactus budding

cactus budding

pink buds
Summertime, though, is scorching hot and humid, interlaced with thunderstorms which do not bring any respite from the hot temperatures. But the people are so cool about it and beat the heat at public parks along the Han river, sniffing the scent of rain soaked grass, ordering anything from chicken to pizza which is handed to them within the next 20 minutes! The place just revels in laziness along with the whiff of smoke from the diligent delivery guys, the energy of the people coaxing you to try their secret recipe chicken, and sweaty kids frolicking around along with the deep sense of serenity. 
ice cream in korea- big on binggsu
Binggsu- Beans on shaved ice with marshmallows and fruits. Unique combination to cool it off in Korea.
summer fun at Banpo
Summer time fun at Banpo park
Evening at Banpo
Long summer evenings
Fall, in all its color and splendor along with Chuseok~ the most important festival of honoring the ancestors in Korea~ adds in the aroma of family, friendship and camaraderie. This is also when people travel in droves through the length and breadth of the country and savor a totally different essence of the very same places, incensed with the smell of the sweet persimmon fruit.
Fall colors
fall colors in Seoul.

Sweet persimmons
Sweet Persimmons

Cold, dull winter adds yet another dimension to Seoul, transforming it into a white, icy wonderland. It is easy during this time to succumb into the toasty smell of chestnuts baked on beds of coal or the roasted sweet potato in makeshift stalls that seem to appear in every street corner. But the most satisfying smell comes from ice fishing in Seoul and immediately getting your catch on your plate, roasted, grilled or baked in spices in any of the restaurants nearby.

Early winter

Bare trees in winter
And then, there are some smell that just leaves one shell shocked. 
Fermenting soybean in huge pots
Doenjang is made from fermenting soy bean in huge pots and has a bad smell
The Doenjang (된장) or the fermented soya bean paste might have all the anti-carcinogenic properties, flavinoids, vitamins and minerals but it still smells disgusting. 
Drying fish
Drying fish

Dried Fish: Fish smell funny cooked or uncooked. But dried fish which is used as both toppings and side dish and of course, as the main course of a meal, smells really bad.

Kimbap preparation
Kim is the green, papery seaweed, used here for making kimbap. 
The See Weeds: Laver and Kim (김.) The green wonders, packed with nutrition and properties to get rid of cholesterol still smells really peculiar and the taste for it has to be cultivated ...

Screening of Short Films at the Circle Foundation

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One of my good friends directed one of the short films at the upcoming Imagine Short Film Festival.

Although the films are not necessarily gay-related, my friend's film (titled Sinchon) does have a gay theme. As it is this Thursday and I have my final test on Friday I won't be able to attend, but I encourage my readers to go.

The screenings will be at 7:30 on Thursday, August 7th at the Circle Foundation. I will be interviewing my friend about the short film later, and hopefully be able to provide a clip...

To get to Circle Foundation, take line 2 to Yeoksam station and go out exit 1. The foundation is on the third floor of the Narae Building.  

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