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November 22, 2016
I went up to Jamsil Indoor Stadium in Seoul to see Sigur Rós with some friends. The concert was great! I still find Korean concerts kind of bizarre, as they’re completely different from the United States’. What makes them different? Well, first of all, tickets are twice the price at 110,000₩ ($95 USD). No opening act. Also, no encore. Takes some of the magic out of the concert-going experience.
I’ve listened to the music of Sigur Rós off-and-on over the years but I’ve never been a hardcore fan like a handful of my friends are. Maybe it’s because I didn’t listen to them at the right time in my life, or… not enough drugs. You know what I’m saying. Still, it was interesting to see them perform live.
The view from Seohaksa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Hello Again Everyone!!
Seohaksa Temple is located on the eastern side of Mt. Muhaksan (761.4 m) in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do. And the view out towards the Masan harbor, especially in the early morning, is stunning.
Up a steep incline, and a paved road, you’ll find Seohaksa Temple on a 250 metre plateau on the mountain range. The first thing to greet you to the right of the temple grounds are the monks’ dorms and temple facilities. It’s past this cluster of buildings that you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard at Seohaksa Temple.
Standing in the middle of the temple courtyard are a pair of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) statues. The one to the left is a taller more refined image of the Bodhisattva, while the one to the right is a little less polished. And both statues are backed by a wall of mountain rocks.
To the right of the main hall is an all brick shrine hall. I haven’t seen too many of these around Korea. Housed inside this hall is a contemplative statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).
To the left of the courtyard statues is the temple’s main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls to the main hall that looks out towards Masan harbor are a pair of mural sets. On the bottom are the ten Ox-Herding murals. And on top of these murals are eight standard paintings of the Palsang-do set. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll see a triad of statues resting on the main hall. In the centre sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And he’s joined to the right by Gwanseeum-bosal and to the left by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). All three statues have a fiery golden nimbus surrounding their heads. To the right of the main altar is the guardian mural and a rather plain Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. And to the left are two older murals. The first is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King); but it’s the older, more curmudgeonly image of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) that you’ll need to keep an eye out for.
To the rear of the main hall, and up a very steep set of stairs, you’ll find the extremely compact Sanshin-gak. Housed inside this hall is a rather plain looking image of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). But it’s from this shaman shrine hall that you get the best views of the valley and harbor down below.
Rather strangely, and to the right of the actual temple grounds, is another Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. You’ll need to exit the temple grounds and climb your way up a set of uneven stairs that run alongside the main temple grounds, to get to this shaman shrine hall. It’s strange because this Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is on the other side of the walls for Seohaksa Temple. I’m not sure if this is a Samseong-gak for Mt. Muhaksan or whether a monk is making a statement at Seohaksa Temple; but either way, it’s a first for me. Housed inside the Samseong-gak are two rather plain images of Sanshin and Dokseong, but it’s the older image of Chilseong that’ll catch your eye.
And it’s just above this Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, and up another set of uneven stairs, that you’ll find one last shrine hall at Seohaksa Temple. This time, it’s a compact Yongwang-dang dedicated to the Dragon King. This time, there’s a stone image and a painting dedicated to Yongwang.
HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Seohaksa Temple is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. From the stop, walk about twenty to twenty-five minutes to Seohaksa Temple. There are several signs that lead you in the direction of the temple so just follow them along the way. But be prepared for a bit of a hike at the end.
OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. It’s the views at Seohaksa Temple that gives it such a high rating. The views are pretty special. Adding to the temple’s natural beauty is all the shaman iconography spread throughout the temple grounds, as well as the main hall’s statues that rest on the altar. While a bit of a climb to get to, this temple is worth the effort.
The sign out in front of the temple bathroom leading you towards the temple grounds at Seohaksa Temple.
The monks’ dorms and temple facilities.
The shrine hall that houses Mireuk-bul.
A look inside at the Future Buddha.
The pair of statues of Gwanseeum-bosal in the temple courtyard with the Sanshin-gak perched above them.
A look at the main hall at Seohaksa Temple.
One of the Palsang-do murals.
As well as one of the Ox-Herding murals.
The guardian mural housed inside the main hall.
Joined by this Chilseong mural to the right of the main altar.
The beautiful view even from inside the main hall at Seohaksa Temple.
The main altar statues with their decorative fiery nimbus’ surrounding each of their heads.
The Yongwang mural to the left of the main altar.
Joined by this angry looking Dokseong mural.
The Sanshin-gak to the rear of the main hall.
The plastic covered painting dedicated to Sanshin.
The amazing view from the Sanshin-gak at Seohaksa Temple.
The sun peaking in under the roof of the main hall.
The temple’s slender pagoda and the wall that separates the temple grounds from the outlying Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
The aforementioned Samseong-gak.
Which houses this older image of Chilseong.
As well as this rather plain image of Sanshin.
To the rear of the Samseong-gak is a Yongwang-dang that houses both images of the Dragon King.
There are three big challenges for South Korean security this year:
1. Will China insist on South Korean removing American missile defense? And how far will they go to insure that? (It’s looking pretty far.) Is China prepared to alienate one of the few countries around that is genuinely ambivalent about China’s rise (where most others are nervous)?
2. Does President Trump care about Korean security? If his inaugural address is anything to go by, then no, he doesn’t.
3. Will South Korean President Park Geun-Hye’s successor – almost certainly from the left – accommodate (read: appease/sell) out to North Korea and China?
The full essay follows the jump:
As 2017 breaks, South Korea faces a potentially turbulent year. Confronting orwellian North Korea, South Korea is uniquely dependent on an American security guarantee, and erratic, poorly-informed Donald Trump is about to take over the US-side management of that alliance. Simultaneously, the current South Korean president has been partially impeached. She may well be out of office in the next few months, sparking a new election shortly afterward. The current president is a conservative, which will likely empower the left in the next election and therefore, a significant foreign policy shift on North Korea. Finally, North Korea has just suggested it may test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which Trump has threatened to prevent.
Is Trump Vested in Korean Security?
Not since President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s has a US major party candidate called into question the US commitment to South Korea as Trump has. During the campaign, he repeatedly suggested that South Korea, among other allies, should pay more for the US defense guarantee. He hinted that it (and Japan) should consider building nuclear weapons instead of relying on the United States. And he suggested off-the-cuff that he might meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
This obviously flies in the face of decades of US policy. The US has generally treated North Korea since its inception as an errant part of a Seoul-led unified Korea, rather than as a genuinely independent state. (This is why North Korean media so incessantly invokes the North’s sovereignty – the leading state in the system rejects that.) That North Korea morphed into the world’s most servile personality cult only alienated the US further. President George W. Bush placed it on the Axis of Evil, and the US has led the sanctions charge as its nuclearization has proceeded.
In this context, the US has traditionally opposed Southern nuclearization as a signal to the North and China of benign US intentions. And the US has withheld high-level meetings with the Kim elite as prize for major Northern concessions. That Trump so blithely seemed to throw all this out on the campaign trail with off-the-cuff remarks and tweets shocked the South Korean establishment which broadly wanted and expected Hillary Clinton to win. It is no surprise that the first phone call to Trump after his victory came from the South Korean president looking for assurances.
Will the South Korean Left Reverse Course on North Korea?
If the policy confusion that Trump may unleash were not enough, the next leader of South Korea may very well be a dove dramatically altering the hawkish approach of the last decade to North Korea. Current President Park Geun Hye has been impeached by the South Korean legislature, the National Assembly. That vote must now be confirmed (or thrown out) by the nation’s high court, the Constitutional Court. Those deliberations are ongoing, but there is a general sense here that the Court will uphold the conviction. The National Assembly vote was very disproportionate – 236 to 54 – in favor of impeachment, and weekly rallies since October have sent millions of Koreans into the streets demanding Park’s ouster.
A confirmatory verdict would force a new election within sixty days. Park is a conservative, and the scandal around her has badly tarnished the right-wing party, which is breaking up over the impeachment fight. Much as the US Democrats won a ‘wave election’ after Watergate, the South Korean left is expected to do the same here. Even if Park hangs on, the next scheduled election is in December, which the left would also likely take.
Importantly, all the likely candidates of the left are broadly committed to the ‘Sunshine Policy’ of engagement and accommodation with North Korea. All are also much more skeptical of the United States and Japan. (The South Korean left often argues that the US has worsened North Korea by confronting it, while Japan, the erstwhile colonialist of Korea, should be antagonized over its behavior in the occupation.)
This would be a major u-turn. Since 2008, South Korea’s presidents have been conservatives and North Korea hawks. Since 2010, when North Korea’s worst provocations in years killed 50 South Koreans, there has been a broad consensus in the South Korean and US defense establishments to get tough with Pyongyang. This has been the context for regularly-thickening UN sanctions, the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the installation of the US missile defense (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, THAAD), and intelligence sharing with Japan about North Korea (General Security of Military Information Agreement). The liberal candidates have threatened to roll-back all these changes.
Has Trump Laid Down a Red Line regarding a North Korean ICBM?
The background to these shifts in Seoul and Washington is the spiraling North Korean nuclear program. After five nuclear tests, it is now clear that Pyongyang can build a basic fission weapon, and its constant missile tests aim to give it a reliable delivery vehicle. After Kim Jong Un’s offhand ICBM comment in his New Year’s address, Trump set up a possible showdown by seemingly laying down a redline against it.
If this were not complicated enough, the interaction of these threads could be downright combustible. I find it difficult, for example, to picture cordial relations between a mildly anti-American South Korean president from the left and the flamboyant nationalist Trump. A falling out could widen alliance differences to levels not seen since the second Bush administration. Or perhaps North Korea follows through on its launch threat, and the Trump administration shoots down the rocket (as The Wall Street Journal is already suggesting). Might Trump, sensitive to allied free-riding, demand that South Korea pay for that effort, and missile defense generally? (South Korea is not currently scheduled to pay for the THAAD deployment in its country.) It is easy to foresee a prickly South Korean nationalist from the left rejecting that.
All in all, Trump, a leftish South Korean president, and North Korean missiles stirred together should make the peninsula’s year a helluva tangle.
Filed under: China, Korea (North), Korea (South), North Korea & the Left, The National Interest, Trump
November 17 - 20, 2016, G-Star Global Game Exhibition
Went to the G-Star International Gaming Convention at BEXCO in Busan, but didn’t have the patience to wait in long lines to play games. The only swag I got was a free Rockstar (diet because I’m woman, sigh…). There were lots of mobile games, VR, and Star Wars this year. I loved seeing the big Nvidia and Playstation areas!
I've always wanted my own gym ball. And what a coincidence! Keykat happened to get one the other day. I hope she doesn't mind if I use it for a few minutes... or hours... or if I keep it.
But anyway, let's learn about the form 비해(서). You can use it to mean "compared to~" something else. I'll show you how in this week's new episode.
Remember that there are free extended PDFs available for every "Learn Korean" episode, and each contains additional information or examples not covered in the video.
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With the rise of Instagram many people are more interested in taking photos of the amazing food creations that they make at home. However, as a primarily landscape photographer, this is not as simple as just holding the camera up and taking a quick shot before you dig in. In this lesson, I will take you through the steps that I took to achieve a stunning image and cinemagraph in my home in just a few minutes.
The set up
What you are looking for is a spot in your house with lots of light. This way you won’t have to invest too much into expensive strobes or lighting. You will have to find something to reflect the light back onto your subject matter.
For this, I went to the stationery store and got some large white pieces of poster board and some clips. These acted as reflectors to bounce the light onto the front of the pancakes.
Before cooking anything, I got my composition where I wanted it and made some adjustments. I increased the exposure by about a stop so that the overall image would be brighter. You can do this in lightroom later if you want.
I was shooting with a 50mm at f/1.4 set to Aperture Priority to give me a shutter speed of 1/640 at ISO 100. The camera is on a tripod set at about a 45 degree angle and I feel that this is essential because the focus here is getting the composition right by arranging the scene in front of the camera. I was also setting out to create a cinemagraph for this and thus needed the camera to be steady as well.
The overall composition that I was going for was to create a feeling of early morning and waking up to a hot cup of coffee and a few delicious pancakes. I wanted the light to convey that bright yet not high-noon feeling. Also note that my windows have bars on them due to the fact that I have on the 20th floor and there are safety precautions. I had to work with those shadows as well.
I took a few stills before committing to the cinemagraph. You should take a number of shots before you get the food ready to make sure everything is right as your food will cool quickly and look similar to how your Big Mac looks when it comes out of the wrapper. You know what I mean… So get everything dialed in the way that you want it and then get the food ready. You will only have a few minutes or even moments to work.
At first I wanted to focus on the delicious maple syrup that I received in the mail from the good people at Flixel. However, After seeing how awesome the steam coming off the hot coffee looked, I changed. I wanted the focus to still be on the syrup but for the movement, I chose the steam. This helped create that tension in your brain between what should be moving and what isn’t. For me, that is the magic of a cinemagraph and it is something that you should pay attention to. That is also why I chose to shoot at f/1.4.
At this aperture, the focus is directed to the syrup and the rest is nicely blurred out. I also bumped up the exposure to about 1-stop to increase the overall brightness of the scene. For me I wanted a little more light to make this food cinemagraph a little less moody. The movement is just out of focus and that is the way that I want it. It is a subtle element that forces the eye to explore the frame. Again, you are NOT creating a looping video but a cinemagraph. Thus, creating tension between moving elements and non-moving elements is essential.
In the end, what you have there is a simple set up in your house that only requires a piece of white posterboard and natural light. The dishes and everything are ones that I have purchase and where chosen because they are unique and lack any logos. So let’s review:
- Set up in a bright spot in your house.
- Put your camera on a tripod at about a 45 degree angle.
- Set your aperture to something wide (F1.4 to 2.8 is nice) open so that your background is nicely blurred.
- Use your reflector (poster board) to bounce light onto the front of your food.
- Get everything set up and then make your food.
- Leave the plates and cups in place and then place your food after in order to keep the composition.
- Work fast as the food will start to get cold and soggy in seconds!
- When done, eat and rejoice as you edit some amazing images!
Happy New Year! Can you believe 2016 is officially over? Neither can we!
2017 is the Year of the Rooster and Koreans celebrate the Lunar New Year, or ‘Seollal’ in Korean, which is one of the biggest holidays in Korea. This year, Seollal is from the 27th to 30th of January.
During the holiday period, many Koreans head back to their hometown to see their families and pay respect to ancestors. As most people head out of Seoul during this time to see their families, the city that is usually bustling with people becomes a lot more peaceful and quiet.
Also, many businesses including major department stores and small local shops close during the holiday period. But don’t be in despair as travelers (or you!) can find and partake in Seollal events at many tourist attractions and destinations within and around Seoul.
Check out these destinations where you can celebrate and make the most of your trip during the Korean Lunar New Year holiday!
1. Theme Parks
South Korea’s three best theme parks, Lotte World, Everland and Seoul Land are open during the Korean Lunar New Year and they offer various attractions and winter-themed events like sledding, light shows and parades.
Lotte World is holding a special parade where performers wearing colorful “Hanbok” (Korean traditional costume) will play traditional Korean instruments as they sing and dance. Seoul Land is also hosting a Pond Smelt Festival consisting of a sledding slope, fishing area, indoor children’s playground and food trucks selling delicious food.
2. Korean Royal Palaces
If the royal palaces are somewhere you’ve been meaning to visit, Seollal is the perfect time to go. Four of the royal palaces in Seoul (Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung) will be open and will showcase different programs for the guests.
Programs include traditional rituals and games, activities that you can participate in and performances like the famous “changing of the guards” ceremony with the palace as the perfect backdrop. You can also have an in-depth tour of the Korean royal palaces here.
3. National Folk Museum of Korea
You may perceive museums as mundane places, but head to one during Seollal and you’ll find that it’s actually quite fun and exciting!
During Seollal, the National Folk Museum of Korea, located in Gyeongbokgung Palace offers a range of hands-on programs and exhibitions such as arts and crafts and traditional folk games for visitors of all ages to enjoy.
You can try playing Korean traditional games like “paengichigi (top spinning)”, “jegichagi (hacky sack)” and “yutnori (a board game where you throw sticks)”.
4. Namsangol Hanok Village
The Namsangol Hanok Village is a collection of five traditional Korean houses from the Joseon Dynasty that have been restored. As part of the Seollal festivities, here you can register for various experiences involving Korean traditional percussions, folk songs, games and more. It’s sure to be a lot of fun!
5. Korean Folk Village
The Korean Folk Village is also hosting Seollal events such as folk games and traditional Korean music performances.
There are also performances like tightrope walking, horseback martial arts and role playing by actors donned in makeup and outfits that make it look like they’re from the Joseon dynasty.
Have a private tour to the UNESCO-designated Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and Korean Folk Village in one day here.
6. National Gugak Center
The National Gugak Center is a place that preserves and promotes Korean traditional music and performances.
During Seollal, there are special cultural performances about the history of Korea that are both educational and entertaining!
Other destinations to visit during Seollal holiday in Seoul
Other major tourist attractions that are also open during the Korean Lunar New Year holiday period include COEX Aquarium, N Seoul Tower and Myeong Dong Nanta Theatre. All of them are easy to reach by subway and they are truly wonderful places to visit with your family and friends and have a great time together.
So, what are you waiting for? Do try a visit to one of these spots during Seollal!
If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to check out Trazy.com, Korea’s #1 Travel Shop for more fun and exciting posts like this one!
THERE is a scene in George Orwell’s 1984 at a mass rally when the main character Winston Smith realises the state’s official enemy has just changed from Eurasia to Eastasia.
Though this enormous policy change happens in the middle of a government speech, no-one else in the crowd seems to notice it.
Finding the flags of their former allies, now their eternal enemies, strewn around them, they tear them down screaming: “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia!”
We find ourselves in a somewhat similar case. Not so long ago when this whole “war on terror” began, we were always at war with Islamic fundamentalists; Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Tunisa’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s were our strategic allies and Vladimir Putin’s Russia was a slight annoyance but generally ignored.
Now, at the end of 2016, it seems we have always been at war with Russia and Syria.
Occasionally we are always at war with China, especially when the communists get all uppity about the South China Sea.
However, at least for the moment, it appears all media attention is focused on Syria where the “moderate” terrorists are now our allies.
This is one reason why John Pilger’s latest film The Coming War on China is an essential wake-up call.
When it comes to China, the media rarely, if ever, mentions why the country is so protective over access to the South China Sea. And, as Pilger’s film points out, the media never speaks on how the United States surrounded China with a ring of military bases and an arsenal of nukes aimed at it.
It is in the midst of all this that I got in touch with the eminent journalist with a few questions about his film.
Ben Cowles: Why did you decide to make this film now?
John Pilger: I have been planning this film since 2011 when President Barack Obama announced his “pivot to Asia.”
That strange, innocuous term meant the beginning of the greatest build-up of US naval and air forces in Asia and the Pacific since World War II. The implications were clear — the US was declaring another enemy: China.
I have been a reporter in the Asia-Pacific region and I think I understand the importance of the region to the United States’s sense of its own dominance. Hillary Clinton, in one of her leaked speeches, said the Pacific should be renamed “the American Sea.”
The US Pacific Command’s symbol, or logo, has an eagle with one talon over Seattle, the other over Beijing. “We control of 52 per cent of the world’s surface,” they say. By its rapid economic rise, China is perceived in Washington as a challenger to the top dog.
BC: What were some of the challenges making the film?
JP: The main challenges were raising the money (successful, but only just) and persuading Obama’s Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, the most verbose war provocateur since Donald Rumsfeld, to speak to me (unsuccessful).
The sheer physical harshness of filming in the Marshall Islands also took its toll.
BC: With the business interests both countries have with each other, it is hard to see how either side would benefit from war — although people were saying exactly the same thing about Britain and Germany before the first world war. Could the US’s encirclement of China be empty saber-rattling and nothing else?
JP: Neither side would benefit from war — that’s exactly right. And nuclear war is not a remote possibility; in response to the threats and pressure, which include a full-scale rehearsal of a blockade of China by the US Navy, China has put its nuclear weapons on high alert. Of course, a lot of sabre-rattling is posturing, but as history shows, it also generates an atmosphere of distrust and, as one strategist describes it, “a landscape of potential miscalculation, mistake and accident.”
When one side begins to believe that the other is about to launch nuclear weapons, there is — as a US panel of experts concluded — less than 12 minutes to decide whether or not to retaliate.
BC: What do you make of the arms trade’s role in this? The US spends a huge chunk of its GDP on the military; could China be a useful enemy for this expenditure?
JP: The US arms business is central to the risk of war. In 2014, Congress approved federal contracts worth $440 billion; at the top of the list of recipients were the arms companies.
All but one of the world’s 10 leading arms companies backed Hillary Clinton for president. By the way, Britain is now the world’s second biggest arms dealer. Theresa May’s government says it will send the new multibillion-pound aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to the South China Sea — plus a squadron of Tornado fighters — to join in the fun.
BC: You’ve mentioned that the US’s way of thinking is rooted in 19th-century thinking, could you explain what you mean by that?
JP: US foreign policy has pretty much run in a straight line since the Korean war in the early 1950s. It’s about control of strategic territory, especially the gates to fossil-fuel sources.
This is a classic gunboats policy; there is nothing subtle about it.
Many countries and their governments are perceived in terms of their usefulness or expendability. Genuine independence is barely tolerated.
Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela are “enemies” basically because they are independent, to a considerable degree, of US diktats and influence. That’s classic 19th-century thinking.
This took a different form during the 20th-century cold war, which was fought mostly by the US in so-called Third World countries for strategic and resources gain, as Britain had done. The pith helmet and robocop helmet may look very different but have much in common.
Listen to Admiral Harry Harris, chief of the US Navy in the Pacific, who does a brilliant impression of Lord Curzon.
Unfortunately, imperialism, once a term of great civic pride and endeavour, has been banished from the dictionary of journalists and transatlantic scholars (“realists”) since the nazis gave it a bad name.
BC: Have you had any reaction on the film from China? If so, how has that been?
JP: The response has been unlike any other I’ve had. In China, social media has carried the trailer and almost certainly the film itself to a huge audience.That a Westerner should make a political and historical documentary analysing and critical of both sides, that relates something of the “hidden” history of China, must seem exotic.
As one of the film’s Chinese interviewees says, the Chinese are used to being regarded, behind polite exteriors, as the “yellow peril.”
BC: What do you hope people will come away from the film thinking?
JP: “Information is power” is an enduring truth. I hope people take from the film information that challenges the myths and stereotypes, and lies, that are often everyday currency.
BC: You say in the film that ordinary people can act as a superpower themselves. How can ordinary people stand up to the might of Western imperialism?
JP: Ordinary people in countries that have stood up to Western power, often against the odds and without the privileges we enjoy in the West, don’t have to ask that question.
A note from the editor-in-chimp: This interview originally appeared in the Morning Star, where I work as the deputy features editor.