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Should the US Retrench from South Korea, part 1: Yes

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This is a re-up of a debate couplet on the US position in South Korea, which I wrote for the Lowy Institute. Part one, the reasons for US retrenchment, is here (and below); part 2, the arguments against a US departure, is here. And that pic is me and my North Korean minder at the North Korea side of the DMZ. Note the KWP pin above his breast pocket.

Whether the US should stay or go is a perennial issue, that surprisingly, doesn’t get discussed much. This is probably because if you really supported a US withdrawal, you would not be taken seriously in much of US or Korean foreign policy establishments. US foreign policy is dominated by a hawkish, interventionist consensus of neocons and liberal internationalists for whom the US positions in Japan and Korea have become ends in themselves as symbols of US hegemony (in neocon-speak, that’s read as: ‘global basing means we’re f****** awesome!’). In tandem, the Korean discussion, for all its lazy anti-Americanism, assumes a permanent American presence to the point of irresponsibility. But all this misses the real hole at the center – the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the North Korean conventional threat (and before you say, ‘heh wait, they could blow up Seoul,’ recall that South Korea easily has the resources to ramp up in a big way; it just doesn’t do it).

The essay starts after the jump:

 

“Over at War on the Rocks, Christopher Lee, a former officer in the US Forces Korea (USFK), and Tom Nichols of the US Naval War College, have gotten into a useful debate on whether US forces should remain in Korea. This issue is not widely discussed – surprisingly, given the end of the Cold War and the huge margin of advantage in South Korea’s favor. Although I have taught international relations in South Korea for six years, this idea is almost never mooted in academia or the media here, so I applaud War on the Rocks for broaching it. But I think Lee and Tom (full disclosure: Tom Nichols and I are friends) have missed the strongest arguments for a pull-out. Specifically, I think Lee understates his case and Tom will have to work harder to justify staying – although I think it can be done. Today, I want to lay out a more robust case for departure; tomorrow I will lay out the counterargument. In brief, I think that the case for staying just barely clears the bar and that the tide is running against it.

Why could/should the US leave South Korea:

1. South Korea is free-riding. It only ‘needs’ the US, because it is doing less than it would otherwise.

Free-riding is controversial issue, one that has bedeviled all US alliances for many decades. An entire literature within international relations is built around the curious dynamics, such as ‘buck-passing’ or ‘reckless driving,’ that characterize allies’ efforts to shift burdens to other allies, or tie others unwittingly to their own national preferences. The most acute free-riding problem in the US alliance structure is in Europe. NATO informally benchmarks 2% of GDP as a minimum for members’ defense spending. Yet only four NATO states break that marker. This has systematically crippled NATO, forcing the US to take the lead on should-be-European contingencies such as the Balkans wars, Libya, and the Ukraine. Japan is even worse at less than one percent of GDP.

By contrast, South Korea spends 2.6% of GDP on defense. This sounds better, but unfortunately is far from enough given its security environment – the massive garrison state of North Korea sitting right on top of it. There is no formal spending target – USFK places no such demand on Seoul – but the number I hear widely thrown around is that without the US, South Korea would spend two or three times as much as it does on defense now. Every foreign security analyst I know in Korea thinks the RoK needs to spend a great deal more: South Korea has significantly under-invested in C4ISR, missile defense, and counter-insurgency tactics. It is woefully under-prepared to occupy North Korea. It does not draft women, despite a declining birth-rate that is leading to a major shrinkage in the ground force. With a GDP twenty-five to thirty times that of North Korea, and a population more than twice as large, South Korea has the room to make a far greater effort. Where Lee and Nichols spar over the small amount of money the US contributes to Southern defense, the real issue is getting South Korea to take its own defense far more seriously.

2. The US presence in Korea (and Japan) discourages Japan-South Korea rapprochement.

I have written about this issue several times (here and here). In brief, the US alliance almost certainly inhibits much needed cooperation between Japan and Korea on regional issues, most obviously China and North Korea. Specifically, the US alliance permits ‘moral hazard’ in both: neither Tokyo nor Seoul suffer any consequences for ridiculous criticisms of the other, because the US insures them both against the consequences. Hence Japan, and Korea especially, focus far too much attention on each other, and not nearly enough on the real regional threats. There is a great deal of agonizing in the US over how to get these two allies to bury the hatchet and start working together, but no one wants to admit the obvious solution – a genuine threat of abandonment. Hawks will disagree, and there are indeed downsides to abandonment, but let’s stop pretending that US regional alliances don’t have costs, such as this, either.

3. USFK’s presence ideologically props up North Korea.

One point that neither Lee nor Tom brought up is the obvious propaganda boon to North Korea of the US peninsular presence. Overlooking this is not uncommon. Most researchers on the North tend to assume that its ideology is a lot of empty talk, bunk to fill the airwaves, demonize Seoul, and so on. It is just a smokescreen over a degenerate, gangster-ocracy whose real ‘ideology’ is living the high life and hanging onto power by any means necessary. While the elite’s emptiness and cynicism is certainly clear, I think this is too easy. My own sense though – perhaps from having visited North Korea and been bombarded relentlessly there with ideology – is that ideology is actually very important. North Koreans are expected to attend ideology training ‘classes’ at least once a week, and more often for officials and higher-ups. The (North) Korean Central News Agency and the three newspapers of Pyongyang exert tremendous ‘intellectual’ effort on ideological reinforcement. The focus of that ideology, particularly since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism, is anti-colonial nationalism, in which the United States has taken the place of the Japanese invader, and South Korea is the bastardized, globalized ‘Yankee Colony.’ An imminent American invasion symbolized by USFK is the primacy explanation of the regime to its people for their privation and the permanent national security emergency. Take that justification away, and North Korea loses its primary raison d’etre. If South Korea is no longer ‘occupied,’ then why does North Korea need to exist at all?

4. USFK’s persistence keeps China from cutting North Korea loose, which would accelerate Pyongyang’s collapse.

In the same way that USFK perversely acts as an ideological crutch for Pyongyang, so does it act as a reason for Beijing to endlessly prevaricate on North Korean bad behavior and unification. China is formally committed to Korean unification, but in practice this is a lie. Instead, the Chinese openly refer to North Korea as a ‘buffer’ between them and the robust democracies of South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Personally, I detest this logic; it suggests a breath-taking cynicism about the catastrophic human rights condition of North Korea. That China would callously instrumentalize a state that the UN recently likened to Nazi Germany is just appalling (and goes a long way to explaining way so few in Asia trust China). But that is the situation. However, were the US to retrench from South Korea, the Chinese fear of USFK on its doorstep would be alleviated. Indeed, South Korea could swap a USFK exit plus a promise of post-unification neutrality for a Chinese cut-off of aid to North Korea and pressure for unification. Hawks in the US and South Korea might not like that, but alleviating the extraordinary suffering of the North Koreans should be our primary goal here. If a USFK departure, tied to a major Chinese policy shift, could bring that about, it should be considered.

5. US is not an empire. Where it can retrench, it should. Commitments should not last indefinitely.

This is an openly normative argument. If one embraces a full-throated version of US hegemony – militarized, globalized, interventionist – then this will not appeal. But post-Iraq, there is clear public desire to rein in American interventions, and the normative case for restraint, on liberal democratic grounds, is strong. The costs of hegemony – not just financial, but the regular war-making and killing of foreigners; a sprawling, hugely intrusive national security state; domestic nativism; torture, indefinite detention, rendition, and similar penal abuses – suggest that retrenchment would be good for American democracy and liberalism. Allies may not like that. They will complain of abandonment. But sacrificing America’s liberal ideals at home to promote them abroad is strange brew. It is increasingly obvious that hegemony abroad is deleterious to American liberalism at home. Where allies can stand on their own, as South Korea very obviously can, US retrenchment would be domestically healthy.”


Filed under: Hegemony, Korea (North), Korea (South), United States

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

 


Seoul's Video Game Alley

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Attention Gamers: IF you haven’t been to Video Game Alley yet- RUN THERE! Game consoles from every generation and games can be found here!

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Happy Market Monday! We’re back after a month of travel (videos and posts coming soon)!! Yesterday I headed back to the Electronics Market in Yongsan to purchase a card reader. Before heading that way I stopped in at a friends house. His beloved Xbox 360 had just stopped working so we decided to check out Video Game Alley and see if we could find him a new power brick. The unfortunate state of his Xbox lead us to explore another interesting specialty market in Seoul!

 

Many Games to choose from at Video Game Alley
Many Games to choose from at Video Game Alley

Video Game Alley is located directly past the electronics market. If you walk through the tunnel continue straight. You will see a giant PlayStation poster on your left hand side. Directly underneath it are some stairs with a red sign. Walk in and the down to the basement.

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Nearly every gaming console that has ever been in existence can be found in the Alley with hundreds of games and accessories. I relived my childhood as I found a TV hooked up with Super Nintendo and played a few levels of Mario Brothers while a girl next to me used the gun accessory to play duck hunt.

Video Game Alley
Seoul, Korea

 

We were instantly able to find the Power Brick, along with several other models for other Xbox 360s, that we needed. The vendor that sold it to us was very helpful. Prior to coming we took a picture of the label and he made sure that the voltage was correct and it was the exact power cord we needed. The vendor was able to read our picture to determine the precise model required.

 

They also sold a number of bargain bin xbox 360/playstation games, including recent releases for only 9,800 won. Xbox 1 releases in Korea next month.

 

If you are into Video games I highly recommend making this trip!

 

Directions: Sinyongsan Station (Exit 5)

Walk straight through the underground tunnel, just to the north of Ipark Mall.

50m past the tunnel you will see a giant PlayStation billboard on your left.

Look for the Red sign underneath and go down the stairs into Video Game Alley


 


Woljeongsa Temple – 월정사 (Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do)

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The Nine-Tier Stone Pagoda at Woljeongsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Woljeongsa Temple, which is located in Odaesan National Park, means “Moon Vitality Temple,” in English. It was first founded in 643 C.E. by the famed master Jajang-yulsa. Like a lot of creation stories, Woljeongsa Temple has an interesting one of its own. Master Jajang was chanting in front of a stone statue of Munsu-bosal, hoping to see the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. On his seventh night of chanting, the Buddha gave Jajang a poem with four lines written in Sanskrit. The next day, a monk said to Jajang that he looked both pale and troubled. Jajang told this monk that he had received a poem that he couldn’t understand. The mysterious monk explained the poem to Jajang and told him to go to Mt. Odaesan, where he would find 10,000 Munsu-bosals. After seven more days, a dragon revealed itself to Jajang. The dragon told Jajang that the old monk he had formerly seen was in fact Munsu-bosal. The dragon went on to tell Jajang that Jajang now had to build a temple dedicated to this Bodhisattva. So in 643 C.E., Jajang reached Mt. Odaesan. However, when he arrived, Mt. Odaesan was covered in fog, so Jajang couldn’t see anything. During the three days that the mountain was covered, Jajang built a thatched hut that would eventually become the site for the future Woljeongsa Temple. More recently, Woljeongsa Temple was completely destroyed, all ten buildings in total, by the Korean Army during the Korean War (1950-53) because it had become a refuge for opposing forces.

Woljeongsa Temple is one of the most beautifully situated temples in Korea, and it becomes more and more obvious as soon as you approach the temple. You’ll first cross over a wide bridge whose rails are decorated with stone statues of the twelve zodiac generals. Finally on the other side, you’ll pass under the Boje-ru, which is adorned with various guardians like Heng and Ha, to gain access to the temple courtyard.

Straight ahead, you’ll immediately notice the nine-story, octagonal shaped, stone pagoda from the Goryeo Dynasty. The uniquely shaped pagoda is not only the main highlight to the temple, but it’s also National Treasure #48. Wind chimes hang on each corner of the pagoda, while a seated stone Bodhisattva is situated out in front making an offering. The original ancient stone Bodhisattva is now currently housed inside the temple museum, which is to the right when you immediately enter the temple courtyard. And to the left is the two-story bell pavilion.

Behind the nine-story stone pagoda is the temple’s main hall, which is framed on the other side by a grassy hill. The rather spacious interior is only occupied by a large sized solitary statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The pillars that neighbour the statue of the Buddha are painted with interweaving dragons. As for the exterior walls, they are adorned with Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.

To the left and rear of the main hall are four more shrine halls at Woljeongsa Temple. To the far left is the Sugwang-jeon, which houses a highly elaborate relief and statue dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This seated statue is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).

Just to the right of this hall is the Samseong-gak, which houses three murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). All three murals are beautiful, but perhaps the Chilseong painting is the most elaborate of the set. Just outside the entrance on the left-hand side to this hall is a mural of a tiger having a smoke with a rabbit. Have a look at this rather playful mural. The other two halls at the temple aren’t open to visitors; they are the Gaesanjo-gak and the Jinyeong-gak

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Woljeongsa Temple, you first need to get to Jinbu Intercity Bus Terminal. From this bus terminal, take a city bus bound for Woljeongsa Temple. This bus leaves 12 times a day, and the ride lasts 30 minutes in total. The bus will let you off just in front of the temple. You can take a bus, or you can simply take a taxi from the Jinbu Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride will last about 30 minutes, and it’ll cost you about 20,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10. Woljeongsa Temple is beautifully located in the folds of Odaesan National Park. Next to the setting, the main highlight to this historic temple is the nine-story stone pagoda that is National Treasure #48. Other things of note at the temple are the shaman murals housed inside the Samseong-gak and the original Bodhisattva making offerings to the pagoda inside the temple’s museum.

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The road that leads up to Woljeongsa Temple.

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The beautiful bridge that spans the neighbouring stream.

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A better look across the zodiac laden bridge at the Boje-ru Pavilion.

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The Boje-ru Pavilion that imposingly obscures the temple courtyard.

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The temple’s bell pavilion.

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The main hall and the nine-tier pagoda out in front.

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A closer look at the hexagonal Goryeo Dynasty pagoda.

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And a look at the Bodhisattva out in front of the pagoda.

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A look inside the main hall at Woljeongsa Temple.

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The shrine halls to the rear of the main hall with the Samseong-gak to the far left.

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The Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural inside the Samseong-gak.

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A look up at the Sugwang-jeon.

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A look inside at Amita-bul on the main altar.

The post Woljeongsa Temple – 월정사 (Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do) appeared first on Dale's Korean Temple Adventures.


Reading List: The Pollen of Flowers and The Subversive Strain in Modern Korean Films

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Adam Nicholson at All Over Korea wrote an article recently on The Pollen of Flowers (화분), which is apparently one of the first films to contain a gay relationship in Korean film. The film sounds disturbingly violent. Do not expect a loving homosexual relationship. After reading his article, I recommend checking out Susan Menadue-Chun's The Subversive Strain Strain in Modern Korean Films. While doing her master's at the University of Sydney, she wrote this piece which gives a good outline of the laws censoring and/or promoting domestic films under various Korean administrations as well as introducing the Pollen of Flowers and other films that had themes which challenged repressive regimes.

If either of these pieces pique your interest in the film, Pollen of Flowers is available at the Korean Movie Database. With a free membership, you can watch a bunch of films online. KMDB also made The Pollen of Flowers available on youtube.


Parade Celebrating 20 Years of Chingusai (Between Friends)

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If you missed gay pride this June or are in need of a second parade, come out to Jongno tomorrow to celebrate 20 years of Chingusai (one of Korea's gay rights groups).


The parade starts at 7 o'clock in Jongno 3 Ga. You will have a chance to chat with people who work at Chingusai as well as learn more about the organization. 


From 6 o'clock the organization is asking for your opinions in their office and from 6:45 pm in front of the Chingusai Office they will explain the parade route and method. To get to the Chingusai Office, go out exit 8 and cross the street. At 7 pm, the parade starts and from 7:30 pm there will be a birthday party for the organization. From 8 pm, fun!


You can take pictures and videos. People who purposefully distort images of the gay community will be actively prosecuted by Chingu Sai. 

Sampling Seoul: A Night Dining Tour with O'ngo Food Communications

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Korean cuisine, much like the country's people, is vibrant, flavorful, eclectic and packs a lot of punch. It's so diverse that it would take years to try each banchan (side dish), variety of kimchi (there's over 200!) and regional and seasonal specialty. Fortunately for gastronomes eager to sample Korea's tastiest cuisine in a limited amount of time, O'ngo Food Communications offers a number of food tours that take all the guesswork out of the search for the country's best restaurants.

This week, I joined O'ngo on their highly popular Korean Night Dining Tour, an activity that consistently ranks in the top 5 list of things to do in Seoul on TripAdvisor.  After meeting my tour mates- a diverse group of friendly Singaporeans, Germans and Australians- and our enthusiastic local guide Gemma, we hit the streets of Jongno with our mouths watering and our bellies growling.

From the get go, Gemma gave us fun tidbits about the landmarks we passed and the streets we wandered, including Galmaegisal-gil, the first stop on our tour. This street, a cramped alley of tiny restaurants, smoking grills and boisterous businessmen perched on plastic chairs downing soju, was incredibly picturesque and captured the true essence of the city.


We took our seats at an unassuming corner restaurant, the first in the city to serve galmaegisal, pork skirt steak. The table had already been prepared for our group, and the servers were kind enough to do the cooking for us, a big plus for foreigners less versed in the art of table grilling. Gemma explained how to wrap the perfectly cooked pork in mustard greens and sesame leaves, adding just the right amount of mung bean and sesame powders, salt, and ssamjang (dipping sauce), all the while devouring it in one bite.


Suddenly, the entire table was quiet as we stuffed our mouths with the deliciousness that is ssam (lettuce wraps). But, the silence wouldn't last long, as Gemma didn't waste any time in serving us cojinganmek, a "bomb" shot of Coca-Cola, soju, and beer. We were all a bit flushed and full by the end of the meal, but it was soon off to the next stop.


Weaving through Insadong's alleys, we found ourselves at a hidden tteokbokki joint. The rice cake snack we sampled was a twist on the original, and rather than being spicy, was sweet and soupy, and was mixed in with carrots and fish cakes in a soy-based broth. Although I still prefer the original, it was nice to try something new. We slurped up the tasty dish, and washed it down with few shots of maehwasu, Korean plum liquor.


We managed not to stumble to our next destination, a pojangmacha, or tent bar. Gemma explained to us that these quintessentially Korean drinking establishments are expected to be extinct within the next ten years, as the government has been doing away with them, firmly believing their existence tarnishes Korea's image as a clean and forward-moving society. (They've yet to understand the fact that they're one of the favorite places of foreign tourists and residents to experience the country's culture.)


We may have looked a bit out of place to the elderly gentlemen that surrounded us, but we were welcomed with smiles and hospitality. Despite the warm summer weather, the generous portions of dakbokkeumtang, or spicy braised chicken stew, hit the spot and was the perfect companion for the somaek (beer and soju cocktail) that Gemma so impressively whipped up for us. By this point, we had all bonded, not necessarily because of the alcohol, and were having a great time exchanging funny travel stories and telling jokes.


It didn't take long to reach Gwangjang Market, one of Seoul's oldest and most famous traditional markets, particularly popular for its food. The market was packed and scents of fermenting seafood, fried goodies and spilled alcohol permeated throughout. We were led to a three-story restaurant and were quickly served up plates of bindaekduk (crispy savory pancakes) and mixed jeon (fried veggies, meat and seafood). By this point, I wished I had worn elastic pants but still managed to shovel down a few bites. Gemma poured us bowls of makgeolli (Korean rice beer) and taught us a few basic drinking games. We couldn't stop laughing at our ineptitude to play, yet were still probably the tamest group in the entire place.


After a night of drinking games, wandering Seoul's streets, meeting new friends and gorging on the city's tastiest treats, we parted ways. Half of the group headed out to Dongdaemun for some late-night shopping while the rest of us, practically in food comas, went home. 

Overall, I was extremely impressed with O'ngo's Korean Night Dining Tour. Even after living in Seoul for five years, I was introduced to neighborhoods I had never visited and dishes I had never tried. The guide was fun and helpful, the tour well-structured and organized, and the price excellent for the value. It's the perfect tour for those wanting to make the most of a short trip in Seoul, but is also fun for long-term expats like myself looking to learn more about the hidden gastronomic gems of the city.


Photo courtesy of Chang Thuy.

More Information

The Korean Night Dining Tour runs daily at 6PM and is three and a half hours long. The tour begins at the O'ngo Culinary School, located just a few minutes' walk from Insadong. The cost is $88 USD per person and there are discounted rates for those not drinking alcohol, kids, and groups of eight or more. For more information about O'ngo or to make a reservation for this food tour, click here and fill out the form.


*Although this post is sponsored by O'ngo Food Communications, the opinions are, of course, my own. 

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



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Learn How to Pronounce Korean

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By the way, there's only one day left to check out the project for my new book, "Korean Made Simple 2" on Kickstarter.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gobillykorean/korean-made-simple-2-the-next-step-in-learning-kor


Just like the first book, this sequel will be packed at around 350 pages, will contain over 1000 new vocabulary words and phrases, advanced notes and practice sections in every chapter, an introduction to Korean idioms, culture notes on Korean holidaysfoodculturehistory, and an extra appendix for reading practice.

And this week we have a brand new "Learn Korean" episode. Learn basic Korean pronunciation, including sounds that most people have difficulty pronouncing. Hopefully this video should help to improve your pronunciation of the Korean language.

Remember to also check out the free PDF version of this lesson, with extra information and examples, on the YouTube PDFs page (link at top).

Check out this week's new video right here!


-Billy

www.GoBillyKorean.com

 Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean

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Love is like Ice, it will Trick you! - Unique museums in Seoul.

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4th episode with our dearest friend, Charly!

She went to explore the most unique and popular museums right now in Seoul. If you want to have some fun then this is the place for you.

In the middle of Hongdae, the street of youth and indie music, stands a very special museum that you can enjoy. It’s called Trickeye Museum and it recently added two more theme museums- Ice & Love.

The first museum that Charly visited is the Ice Museum where everything is made of ice, which means it’s cold and perfect to cool down during hot humid Korean Summer.

Secondly, she went to the Trickeye Museum which is right next to the Ice museum. As the name suggests, it’s all about tricking your eyes. It’s fun because you can take super fun pictures with different situations. Not only kids but adults actually love this place as well.

Last is the PG 19 (in Korea), the Love Museum which is one step above the Trickeye museum. It basically offers the same experience as Trickeye but with a sensuous and sexual theme. The background and pictures are pretty raw and down to earth(?). No kids or teenagers are allowed here!

Trazy offers free coupons for all three of the museums so simply click on the name and download it.

Also, don’t forget to vote for your favorite! :)

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XOXO, Trazy.

 


Trazy.com
a service for travelers to easily share and discover the latest hip & hot travel spots from all over the world. 
We are currently focusing on Korea as our destination and plan to expand to other countries gradually. 


The Weekend Warrior’s Guide to… Siem Reap

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With the city’s innumerable temples, overeager moto drivers, unofficial tour guides, flocks of one-dollar kids, and absurd humidity, 48 hours in Siem Reap can be a rather beguiling experience for the unprepared. This weekend warrior’s guide will set you straight.

Siem Reap By Day

Roughly 900 years ago as the Khmer god-kings were busy subjugating Southeast Asia into their ever expanding Hindu-Buddhist empire, the architects back in the capital were busy putting the finishing touches to the city’s centerpiece, Angkor Wat. Today the second largest temple complex in the world is largely intact, a mightily impressive feat considering Cambodia’s difficult past. Inside you’ll find plenty of tourists milling around the stone facades, hindu-buddhists murals, monks, seven headed serpent balustrades, and posing for an endless array of kodak moments.

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At the entrance to Angkor Wat (and pretty much everywhere else in Angkor) you’ll find plenty of hawkers selling drinks, snacks and all manner of tourists whatnots. You might also find English speaking tour guides of various skills and legitimacy. You don’t have to hire them, though they could be handy.

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With massive trees growing atop once grand buildings, and their roots slowly cracking the stone floor, Ta Prohm is a touristic vision of a post-apocalyptic future. Another slightly spooky temple, thanks to the ever present serene face of the long dead King Jayavarman VII staring down at visitors from all angles, is Angkor Thom. If you want to be all cheesey then go check out the sunrise / sunset atop the mountain temple of Phnom Bakheng. It gets pretty busy up there, but the sun rising over Angkor Wat is almost unbearably beautiful. Your entry ticket will cost US$25 per day, or US$45 for a three day pass, and are to be hung around your neck at all times.

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Getting around the temples is easy; literally every moto driver in town that catches a glimpse of you will offer to escort you around. They’ll likely offer to drive you to any restaurants, bars, or hotels around town, as well as the shooting range and the landmine museum slightly out of time. They’re all pretty friendly guys and charge roughly the same rates.

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The Angkor National Museum is also worth checking out not only for its glorious air-conditioning, but also for its vast array of Angkorian artifacts and all the historical understanding you will likely acquire.

By Night

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The francophiles among you will certainly want to check out Siem Reap’s Indochina architecture and cuisine in the centre of town near the Old Market. The narrow streets around there are lined with all manner of shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and bars to dine the night way. A favourite of mine is the Le Tigre de Papier, which serves up great Khmer and western food, and also doubles as a cooking school. Siem Reap isn’t much of a party town, but there are tonnes of lively bars, convinently located on Pub street, to strut in and down copious amounts of Angkor Beer.

Bear in mind…

Cambodia is still recovering the Khmer Rouge and their diabolical aspirations which deprived the country of roughly 2 million people in the late 1970s. Poverty and inequality is rampant across the country, including the temples around Angkor. You’ll likely come across little kids selling tourist trinkets for a couple dollars. It’s up to you whether you buy them, or give them sweets, gifts, food, or not. You might also consider donating to a charity (such as the Cambodian Children’s Fund) or volunteering.

A note from the Editor-in-Chimp: This article was originally posted here on Travel Wire Asia. Go and check them out, will ya! They have some great stuff

The post The Weekend Warrior’s Guide to… Siem Reap appeared first on Monkeyboy Goes.



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