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A doodle for the new year!

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Happy New Year!

A doodle
Doodling the letter A :)

Another A doodle
Another A doodle.

A doodle for ABC Wednesday 

Korean Words: Memorization Made Easy

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Stop right there! This just may very well be the most important technique you learn to aid you in your Korean language learning journey.

It’s not common for you to see an explanation of a memorization technique in a language-learning program, but going forward, this technique can be very useful and so it is appropriate to learn here.

Starting to learn a new language is the hardest part — the sounds are new, the words have little meaning to you in the beginning and it’s hard to grasp new concepts and associate new vocabulary words into your knowledge base.

This forces many language learners to rely on straight memorization, which can halt progress, incite boredom or destroy motivation.

Oh my!

On the other hand, using a mnemonic device system can allow to associate new words devoid of meaning to us with with words we already know.

Here’s a simple and easy-to-use system that has worked for many 90 Day Korean learners to rapidly increase their ability to memorize lists of words and recall them in any order!

Peg System

Take a look at the following list of ten words. Each word rhymes with the number it is associated with.


If we memorize this list, which is easy to do since it rhymes, we can associate new words we learn with the corresponding number really easily. All we need to do is make a picture in our head.

Go ahead and memorize the list of ten words now! Do it as a rhyme: One, bun. Two, shoe. Three, tree. And so on.

Ready to move on?

The beauty of this list of words is that they rhyme with the number so they are easy to recall and they are words that are easy to picture in our heads.

Imagine we were memorizing the following list of five random English words:

1. Telephone

2. Gum

3. Ax

4. Hole

5. Head

We could associate each with the rhyme we just memorized.

The best way to do this is to make a strange and memorable image in your head. If you’re a visual learner anyway, this will be easy!

Making Pictures in Your Head

1. a bun with a telephone in it instead of a hot dog. Yummy!

2. a shoe with a big pink piece of bubble gum stuck to the bottom.

3. an ax chopping down a big tree.

4. a door someone kicked that has a large hole in it.

5. a person’s head that got stuck in a bee’s hive! Ouch!

Take a moment and make these pictures in your head now. Try it!

These are very memorable images that we can’t easily forget, and all we did is associate the new words to the word pairing list we memorized before.

Did you make the pictures in your head? Well then it should be easy to recall the new list of five words now. Go ahead and try!

What was number 1? How about 2, 3, 4 and 5?

Ready to check? Let’s get to it.

Use the rhyme to assist you.

Check Your Answers

1. One, bun. A bun with a phone in it. Telephone!

2. Two, shoe. A shoe with a piece of gum on it. Gum!

3. Three, tree. An ax chopping down a tree. Ax!

4. Four, door. A door with a hole in it. Hole!

5. Five, hive. A head inside a beehive. Head!

And that’s not all. You could now recall these in any order, not just in the order they were presented.

For example, if asked what number 4 on that list was, you could easily remember it.

Four, door. Hole!

The associations stick and allow for easily recollection.

By memorizing the first rhyming list of 10 words, you create your own “peg” system for memorizing future vocabulary words. The words and numbers are the “pegs” that you can associate new words to.

Remember, this is just one way to memorize new words in the beginning, when appropriate. You won’t always rely on this. After using the new words you’re learning a few times in sentences and conversations, it will be second nature to use them and you won’t need this technique.

When associating new Korean words with the list, you have to get creative with the system since you are using a new language and words that have no meaning to you in the beginning.

But there are a few techniques you can use to do so effectively, and the best way is to find words in English that sound similar to the Korean words or words that you could easily link up in your mind.

Let’s take a look at an example of how we could use this to learn the numbers 1-10 in Korean.

How to Memorize Korean Numbers Quickly and Easily 

Recall, the peg system would just act as a reminder of the actual words.

In Korean, you may know that the numbers 1-10 are the building blocks for learning the rest of the numbers. It can be hard to associate them at first.

Here is the list:

English 한국어 (Korean)

To do this, you may use the following system for example, making these absorb pictures in your mind to help link up the peg system word and an English word that sounds similar to the Korean number word.

1. Eel One, bun.

A picture of a giant electric eel (일) on a hot dog bun.

2. “E” Two, shoe.

A basketball sneaker with a gigantic letter “E” (이) on the side.

3. Same Three, tree.

The silhouette of three identical (same) (삼) tall trees on a hilltop

4. Saw Four, door.

A saw (사) cutting through a door. Think of the horror movie “Saw.”

5. “O” Five, hive.

Honey Nut Cheerios. Os (오) covered in honey from a beehive.

6. Yuk! Six, sticks.

Using sticks to poke at something yucky” (육) in the forest.

7. Chill  Seven, heaven.

Arriving in heaven. A soft wind blows, giving you the chills (칠).

8. Pal Eight, gate.

A good pal (팔) opening the gate for you and patting you on the back as you enter.

9. Goo Nine, vine.

Tarzan swinging on a vine that is covered in goo (구). He falls down into the river.

10. Ship Ten, hen.

A big ship (십) transporting only hens. Imagine the chaos!

Be careful not to use this as pronunciation guide, but rather a compass pointing you in the right direction toward the Korean numbers.

You still need to memorize the number words, but linking them up with the corresponding number can be difficult in the beginning. In other words, you may remember the names, but it’s hard to quickly recall which number is which.

Many people may just memorize the list of numbers 1-10 in order and then when using them in real-life scenarios, need to to count on their hands or think for a while before responding or taking action. You need the preceding number as a cue to recall the next. This is especially troublesome in situations that require a quick response or action, like when paying for goods at the counter in a big lineup, for example.

Using a peg system has many advantages, including being able to recall the numbers in any order instantly. However, feel free to use any method to memorize the words — whatever works best for you! Repetition works just as well if you get to the same result in the end!

You could use this to memorize lists of daily vocabulary or themed vocabulary like the ones in the 90 Day Korean Inner Circle.

Do you have any ideas about how you could use this system to help make memorizing Korean words easier?

Image Credit: Allan Afajo

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Visit Korea to Hear These 6 Surprising Things

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First time travelers may be in for a surprise when they visit Korea.      

Upon your first conversations, all may seem normal.

However, when you get to talking more with the locals, you will notice quirky, unusual, or hilarious things that only foreigners get to experience.

Here are six surprising things you’ll here from Koreans when you visit Korea. Each statement or question is written in both English and Korean. Bonus points if you can recognize people saying it in Korean.

If you can’t read Korean, now’s the perfect time to learn. Read this free Hangul guide, and within 60 minutes you’ll be set to read the Korean alphabet!

1. You Use Chopsticks Well! – 젓가락 잘 쓰시네요!


Nice skills!
Source: Stefanus Ming

One thing that may surprise people visiting here is when Koreans compliment you on your ability to use chopsticks. It will be especially strange if you come from an area of the world that uses chopsticks regularly. It would be similar to you telling your dinner guests that they use a fork well!

While it could sound strange, it’s a Korean’s way of being polite. Plus, some Korean’s really can’t use chopsticks well, so you might be a pro by comparison!

2. Can You Eat Spicy Food? – 매운 음식 먹을 수 있어요?


Spice up your visit to Korea
Source: Chloe Lim

If you visit Korea and order a spicy dish at a restaurant, be prepared for some strange and concerned looks from the server. She might even ask your dinner companions to confirm that it’s ok for you to order spicy food.

Koreans are told at an early age that foreigners can’t eat spicy food. Since Koreans consider their food to be very spicy, they will be concerned about your wellbeing. Be prepared, this question will undoubtedly come up!

3. You Speak Korean Well! – 한국말 잘 하시네요!

This one might be especially shocking to hear.

That’s because Koreans may say this to you for simply saying the word “thank you” in Korean.

Korea is a small country with about 50 million people in the South, 25 million people in the north, and another 5 million Korean speakers in other parts of the world. While you may have more chances to speak Korean than you thought, it’s still not an extremely common language. Therefore, it’s not studied nearly as much worldwide as other languages.

On top of that, many who visit Korea don’t learn Korean. It’s possible to get by in Korea using only English. Because of that, a lot of people don’t learn Korean. Koreans don’t expect you to know their language, so when you do, they try to show their gratitude by complimenting your speaking abilities—even if it’s only one word.

4. How Many Bottles of Soju Can You Drink? – 소주 몇 병 마실 수 있어요?

If Americans use gallons and Europeans use liters, then what standard do Koreans use to measure their liquids?

The correct answer is also liters, but it seems like soju bottles would be a close second!


Bottoms up!
Source: Graham Hills

Soju is the national alcohol of Korea. It’s hard to walk more than five minutes in any direction in Korea without seeing some trace of the delightfully distilled beverage. It’s served at restaurants, sold at convenience stores, and consumed anywhere you can think of. The alcohol content is between 16 – 45%, with most brands at about 20%. Most bottle sizes are the same.

Koreans have one of the highest alcohol consumptions per person nation in the world. Since Koreans have a strong connection with alcohol, it’s natural they will be curious how much you can drink. And since soju is a fairly consistent way to measure one’s drinking ability, that question will more than likely come up in conversation.

Make sure you’re careful how you answer it. You may have a long night ahead of yourself!

5. How Old Are You? – 몇 살이에요?

If you decide you learn Korean, you’ll notice that it has rank and social status weaved into it in a number of ways. This is because Korean culture requires people speak to each based on where they fall into hierarchies.

Age is the main determining factor for how Koreans speak to each other. Therefore, they typically find out early on in a conversation where they fall in relation to the other person’s age. That will help them know how they should address each other.

They also will want to know your age so they know where they stand relative to your age. If you’re talking in English, it won’t matter quite as much. However, they may still be curious, especially if they haven’t met many foreigners.

6. You Look Like X celebrity! – X 같아요!


You look like someone I know
Source: adifansnet

There are three reasons why Koreans may say this to you:

  1. They think you look similar to that celebrity
  2. They are complimenting your appearance
  3. You really do look like that celebrity

Hopefully it’s an attractive star that they’re comparing you to!

Even if you think you bear no resemblance to that celebrity, simply say “thank you” and keep the good times rolling!


Those are the most common surprising statements that we hear people asking about. If you learn Korean, you’ll likely hear them more than you expect! They’re all meant to be friendly and complimentary, so you should feel confident about engaging Koreans. More often than not, they’ll be polite, especially if you can speak even a little bit of Korean.

Photo Credit: Martin Cathrae

My Top 5 List for 2104: 5 Biggest Foreign Policy Events in Korea

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This is a follow-up to my previous post – a top 5 list of events for US power in Asia in 2014.

South Korea had a good year. President Park’s cozying up to Beijing is starting to pay off. China-North Korea relations are frosty, which is important progress. Seoul also got OPCON delayed indefinitely, which is great for Southern security, as well as its defense budget (but not so great for the US). And the UN report on North Korea human rights has gotten a lot of traction – way more than I thought – and looks increasingly likely to show-up China and Russia for what they really are out here – shameless, cold-blooded supporters of the worst regime on earth. The more that point is made in public and Moscow and Beijing suffer the embarrassment costs of that support, the better.

The full post comes after the jump; it was originally written for the Lowy Institute:

The end of the year is a nice time to reflect on big events and try to prioritize them. This is often seen as a fool’s errand. There are so many events, and weighing their causal significance, in real time particularly, seems impossible. Still, assigning causal weight is what we are supposed to do in social science; it is what makes us different from pundits who just assign causality to their favorite arguments. So even if our judgments are poor, we still have to try.

What that in mind, here are the top five foreign policy events for Korea (where I live and work) for 2014. The relevant benchmark is security – those events which impact the security of the two Koreas, specifically those which impact their competition and move the debate about North Korean collapse and/or unification. All in all, South Korea had a pretty good year, while North Korea struggled. Indeed, North Korea is now so isolated (points 1 and 5 below), that denuclearization is becoming ever more unlikely: to give up its best deterrence against a hostile region would be folly. Anyway, here’s that list:

1. Improving Xi-Park Relations, and the Mini-Freeze between Beijing and Pyongyang

There’s a lot nattering about the good relationship between South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Pro-American South Korean conservatives have accused her of being a sinophile and preferring Xi to Obama.

I must admit that I have never understood this criticism. I suppose very partisan Americans might see Park’s supposed ‘sinophilia’ as a threat to the alliance. But that is pretty myopic. The whole point of the alliance is to control, if not eventual dispose of, North Korea. And this is precisely what Park is trying to wrangle from Xi. China more than anyone now holds the key to North Korea. It pays its bills, allows massive sanctions-busting along the border, provides it political cover at the UN and elsewhere (point 5 below), and so on. North Korea has no other meaningful allies to carry its costs. So if Park can slowly pull Xi away from Pyongyang, that is a huge achievement. We should all be cheering for this and the distance it has already created between North Korea and China.

2. Kim Jong Un’s Disappearance

Ah, wasn’t the autumn fun? For six weeks you could indulge all your paranoid fantasies and conspiracy theories about North Korea, and by mid-October, Kim Jong-Un’s disappearance was so lengthy that saying nutball stuff like, he was overthrown in a coup and that his sister had taken over the country, was actually credible.

Too bad none of the fun was true. But we did learn some things few of us want to admit, the most important being that the regime can fly on autopilot for away. There may be a neo-patrimonial sun-king cult at the top, but there are also institutions below – however deformed, neofeudal, or mafiaosi. And they did a pretty good job holding the DPRK together during Kim Jong-Il’s sudden illness (fall 2008), after Kim Jong-Il’s sudden death (December 2011), and again this time. So don’t get too excited for regime collapse next time some high figure dies suddenly or is purged.

3. Decision to Permanently Delay OPCON Transfer

This probably the most under-reported of all my points in this list, given how dull and bureaucratic it is. I wrote on this last month for Lowy. OPCON is the ‘operational control’ of the South Korean military in wartime. OPCON is currently in the hands of a US four-star general, in order to insure unity of command during a war. (In peacetime, i.e., right now, OPCON belongs to the South Koreans naturally.)

Needless to say, this is controversial. Many South Koreans, especially on the left, see US OPCON as an infringement on South Korean sovereignty (it is) and a major provocation to North Korea (it isn’t). So under South Korea’s most recent liberal president last decade, an agreement was struck to return OPCON to the Seoul. But the Southern right strongly opposed this as (correctly) reducing the American sense of commitment to South Korean defense. After conservatives re-won the presidency, OPCON was repeatedly delayed until last month, the delay was effectively made permanent by pushing the issue to the 2020s. In other words, the US commitment here will indefinitely remain as it has been.

4. The Kono Statement Pseudo-Review

2014 was another bad year for rapprochement between Japan and Korea. The low point was probably Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to revisit Japan’s apology for the sexual enslavement of Korean women (the ‘comfort women’) during the Pacific War. This apology, known as the Kono Statement, was examined for politicization, and Abe indeed found what he wanted – that Seoul pressured Tokyo over the crafting of the statement. But then Abe decided not to alter the statement.

I must admit that I don’t understand this at all and said so for Lowy at the time. What is the point of running a ‘review’ – which everyone knew would be politicized and give Abe what he wanted – but then not changing the statement in response? Abe thus got the worst of both worlds: He convinced the South Koreans once again that the Japanese right is unrepentant about wartime atrocities, while simultaneously inflaming and the disappointing Japanese conservatives who want to dump the Kono Statement altogether. This outcome makes everything worse – Seoul and Tokyo are as far apart as ever, while Japanese conservatives’ revanchism has now spread into government. Yikes.

5. The UN Commission of Inquiry Report on North Korean Human Rights

Early this year, the UN told everybody what everybody already knew: that North Korean gulags are on par with the Nazi Holocaust. But this has turned out to be a pretty big deal, bigger I think than most of us thought when it was released. The COI report has acquired a credibility globally that no amount of reports from the US government or NGOs could, and now there is discussion of sending the North Korean leadership before the International Criminal Court. I think this report broke through, because many less developed states intrinsically distrust US human rights pronouncements as either self-serving, hypocritical (post-Abu Ghraib), or ‘human rights imperialism.’ But the UN is trusted in much of the global South, because it is far more open to their concerns. So a UN report on North Korea is turning out to have far more weight in moving global public opinion than anyone thought.

Happily, China may be forced into publicly voting to prevent a referral of North Korea to the ICC. That would be a huge victory, as it would starkly reveal to the world just how much China protects its hideous, orwellian client. And such embarrassing publicity is probably the best way to pull China from North Korea.

BONUS: ‘Events’ that weren’t:

6. The Curious Lack of Impact of the Sewol Tragedy

At the time, the sinking of the Sewol ferry got enormous play in the local and global media. Pundits across Korea talked of it re-setting politics for years and beginning the decline of the Park presidency. The opposition took up the banner of Sewol for the year’s elections – and lost three times on it. What happened to all the social anger of the time? It’s still not clear.

7. Japan’s Non-Remilitarization

If there were a list from within the Korean media or government, I have little doubt that it would include the re-militarization of Japan. This is perennial Korean concern, frequently wildly exaggerated, and under Abe, it has gained new life. But Japan actually woefully underspends on defense, a truth widely recognized outside the region.

Happy New Year, all.

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

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University


Crawling Through Windows

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IMG_1889Without a doubt, art is one of the most defining elements of any culture. It captures the spirit of people, places and time, and expresses mood, opinion, and thought, in such a way that transcends even the greatest of language barriers. Whether it be a song, play, dance or a visual composition like pottery, painting or drawing, every piece of art is a window into that culture’s world. When we attempt to learn about and experience other cultures, sometimes it’s enough to remain on the outside looking in; to go to a museum or a gallery, or attend a concert or production. But other times it’s fun to crawl through the window and become part of the action, immerse in that same spirit of people, place and time, and gain a first-hand understanding of those moods, opinions and thoughts; either by moving to another country, enrolling in a class of some sort, or both–which is exactly what I did/have done!

Five weeks ago I signed up for a Minhwa (traditional Korean/folk) painting course after learning about it on UlsanOnline, every foreigner’s go-to site for information about living in Ulsan. The course met once a week, for three hours at a time. It set me back about $150, but considering the length of each session and the fact that all the materials were provided for me, it seemed like I’d be getting plenty of bang for my buck…er, wham for my won.  Plus, at the end of the class, I’d be going home with my very own Korean masterpiece!

The instructor, Choi Yu Jin, is a young, soft-spoken but very talented painter. Her English skills, though basic, are more than enough to lead you through the painting process. I was just grateful she spoke any English at all! That being said, the language barrier did prevent us from being able to talk about painting techniques and styles. I would’ve liked to learn more about how to properly mix the colors, and pick her brain about blending and fading the paint on the canvas. But instead, she kindly insisted on preparing the necessary colors for me and with a repeated nod and smile said, “Outside painting, inside blending” (meaning, only use the blending brush on the insde of each leaf/petal). The resulting way of working was clear and easy, with a bit of a “paint by numbers” feel. I still walked away from each session having learned at least a little something about painting, but it was more through my own trial-and-error and observation than Yu Jin’s graceful demonstrations and fragmented instructions.

To quickly describe the process: I started with a pencil sketch of my subject on a piece of tracing paper. Then, I flipped the paper over and darkly scribbled over all the lines in the drawing. After that, I flipped the tracing paper back over to the front and, with it taped to my canvas, retraced the subject with a red ballpoint pen (so as to see where I had already retraced). This was how the preliminary drawing got transfered to its final resting place on the canvas! The lead from the dark pencil scribbles on the underside got pressed onto the canvas as I retraced. Cool, huh? From there I enhanced the faint lead lines on the canvas with a fine tipped brush charged with Korean ink. It took me the entire first two classes just to get to this point! The remaining classes consisted of applying layer after layer of thin, water color-like paint to the paper canvas. “Outside painting, inside blending.” During the final session, when there was no more outside painting and inside blending left to do, Yu Jin gave me another ultra fine tipped brush to outline the flowers, stems and leaves in various colors, which really gave it the finished/polished look I was waiting for. All in all, it wasn’t a perfect first attempt but I’m still very pleased with it!

As I said, I may not have learned as much about the actual art of painting as I would’ve liked, but I at least have a rudimentary understanding of the process, as well as an appreciation for the time and patience required to produce such simple yet beautiful artwork. I look forward to continuing with these art classes, as well as finding other windows to crawl through while living in Korea!

Dark scribbles used to transfer pencil lead to the canvas. Retracing the original drawing, transferring scribbled pencil lead to the canvas. Beginning to enhance transferred pencil lead with Korean ink. After enhancing pencil lead with Korean ink. Progress! Base layers of color. The end of class #3. Almost done! End of class #4. Looking good! Minhwa painting is serious business. The finished product!

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A Cheltenham Wishlist

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So I learned recently that my home town Cheltenham is getting a Carluccio’s Italian restaurant, and I couldn’t have been more excited because it’s one of my favourite places to eat. And I realised that over the past couple of years there have been so many great additions to Cheltenham. After literally years of wishing for an H&M, one finally opened in 2013; Yo Sushi appeared to bring good sushi into the town (it was sad to say goodbye to Pizza Hut, but you can’t have everything); and Patisserie Valerie provided everyone with temptation to spend too much money on delicious pastries. There’s even a new Caribbean restaurant opening soon, which is very exotic and exciting.

Despite the great, and increasing, variety in Cheltenham, there are still a few eateries and shops which I’d love to see come to Cheltenham. Here’s my wishlist:

1) Pret


Yes, it would cause us to spend ridiculous amounts of extra money, but it would be worth it. Toasties, hot wraps, super-food salads, and don’t forget super-trendy kale crisps.

2) Eat


Another perfect lunch spot if you’re looking for a treat after a bad morning at work.

3) Krispy Kreme


I know you can get them from Tesco, but it’s not the same as having a whole Krispy Kreme cafe, with a complete selection of delicious doughnuts to choose from.

4) Zara


A high street fashion shop with such a good range of clothes, it would be amazing to have a Zara in Cheltenham. Please…

5) Fro Yo


Frankly I don’t care what type of Frozen Yoghurt place it is, as long as it’s good.

6) Ed’s Diner

Firstly we need an Ed’s because it’s a cool retro-style diner which does the most amazing milkshakes ever (and it’s not too expensive either). But secondly because there’s one in Gloucester, which just makes me jealous that they have one, and we don’t.

7) Gourmet Burger Kitchen

It would be good to have a good burger restaurant, especially after last year when burgers seemed to increase in popularity, with new restaurants and types popping up everywhere and giving  me serious burger-envy.

8) Ikea


The first ever Korean Ikea opened recently and caused such traffic jams on the surrounding roads that it faced a business suspension. Now I’m not saying that I want that to happen in Cheltenham, but I definitely wouldn’t mind a store opening locally at all…

9) Wagamama

After the success of Yo Sushi, I think another Japanese restaurant would go down well in Cheltenham. Especially as at Wagamamas you would be less likely to end up going bankrupt after spending too much money without knowing how (damn the revolving sushi belt at Yo Sushi).

10) Toys R Us


The place where both adults and kids to enjoy shopping and have fun. Perfect.

That’s my Top Ten Wishlist for Cheltenham. Don’t get me wrong, I love the independent shops, cafes, and restaurants that Cheltenham has to offer, but if any of these places was opened in Cheltenham, I’d be extra happy. Fingers crossed for 2015…

Filed under: England, Food


Kathryn's Living

Queer Links from the Week: Human rights, Korea, and mistreating AIDS patients

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Not much in terms of news in English other than a Youtube video titled Because I'm Gay. However, I'll try to do a quick summary of the news stories I saw this week.

On January 6th, human rights expert Vitit Muntarbhorn visited Korea and held a forum on the Yogyakarta Principles, which stipulate the application of human rights law as it concerns sexual orientation and gender identity. He specifically brought up issues concerning the military and anti-discrimination laws.

Protests aiming for the resignation of board member of the Human Rights Commission Choi-i-u, who, as reported earlier, has a record of anti-gay rhetoric and behavior, continued last week. Particularly, human rights lawyer Lee Eun-gyeong accuses him of opposing the Seoul non-discrimination charter and worrying about divine rights (신권) over human rights (인권).  

Kim Do Young wrote an op-ed for the Gwangju Dream, writing about how even though it shouldn't matter if being gay is a choice or not, it has genetic determinants and being different should not result in discrimination or violence.

Sudong Yonsei Sanitorium is bringing charges against 60 Minutes Korea for an accusation that they were mistreating AIDS patients. (Remember the protests by the Coalition for Sexual Morality?) I'll try to follow these accusations of libel as they unfold.

In pop culture, Im Seong-han has gotten criticism up to the point of demands for resignation due to the lack of quality in Apgujeong Midnight Sun. Viewers have pointed out other poorly written scenes, including one in Princess Aurora where Natasha is able to pray away his homosexuality at a temple

Neunggasa Temple – 능가사 (Haman, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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 The amazing riverside view of Neunggasa Temple in Haman, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the southern banks of the Nakdong River is the scenically located Neunggasa Temple in Haman, Gyeongsangnam-do. As you first approach the temple from the temple’s parking lot, you’ll notice a large granite statue dedicated to Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). This shrine area is fronted by equally beautiful stone lanterns, as well as a recently constructed stupa.

A sharp left from this ten metre tall statue is the temple’s main courtyard. To your left is the recently built bell pavilion. Straight ahead, and elevated over top the temple’s visitors’ centre, kitchen, and monks dorms, is the temple’s main hall. The main hall is beautifully decorated with Palsang-do murals that adorn the hall’s exterior walls. Stepping inside the rather spacious main hall are a triad of statues that sit on the main altar. Sitting in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who is joined to the left and right by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). Hanging on the walls are a collection of masterful murals. To the immediate left is a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Hanging to the right, and by the same artist, are two murals. One of these murals is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while the other is the rather long guardian mural.

To the right of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon. The exterior walls to this hall are decorated with various murals dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Most memorable of the lot is the painting of two parents praying for the loss of their child. Seated inside this hall, and all alone on the main altar, is Gwanseeum-bosal. To the left of the main altar hang two older, and unique, shaman murals. The first is dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), while the other pays homage to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). To the right of the main altar hangs an equally older looking mural, no less original in composition, dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King), who appears to be surrounded by protective spirits.

But perhaps the most striking feature to Neunggasa Temple is its amazing location. Rarely will you find a temple located next to a river. Of course there are exceptions like Oeosa Temple, but these are the exceptions, and not the rule. Stepping outside the temple grounds, and hanging a left, you can make your way across a blue pedestrian bridge that you can enjoy some amazing views of both the Nakdong River at one of its wider berths, as well as the crowning Neunggasa Temple on the neighbouring hillside.

HOW TO GET THERE: You’ll first need to make your way to the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal. From this terminal, you’ll need to take either Bus #705 or #707 and get off at the Masan Post Office stop. From there, you’ll need to board Bus #113-1 and get off at the Namji Bus Terminal. From this terminal, take a taxi the rest of the way to Neunggasa Temple. The fare should be about 4,400 won and the ride should last about seven minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Neunggasa Temple is one of the most beautifully located temples you’ll find in Korea. With the commanding view of the neighbouring Nakdong River, it’s a bit of a surprise that Neunggasa Temple isn’t better known. With that being said, and as a compliment to all its natural beauty, the shrine halls, shaman paintings, and the towering Yaksayore-bul statue can only help elevate the temple’s little known reputation. While the city of Haman isn’t that well known for its temples, Neunggasa Temple definitely takes a bit of a bite out of that reputation.


Yaksayore-bul that welcomes you to Neunggasa Temple.


The temple courtyard.


The Gwaneum-jeon at Neunggasa Temple


The consoling Gwanseeum-bosal.


The main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon.


The older-looking Sanshin mural in the Gwaneum-jeon.


As well as Yongwang inside the Gwaneum-jeon.


A look towards the main hall at Neunggasa Temple.


One of the Palsang-do murals.


A look inside the main hall.


The neighbouring bridge that allows for some amazing views.


A picturesque view of the temple-by-the-river.


 And a view of the neighbouring Nakdong River.

The post Neunggasa Temple – 능가사 (Haman, Gyeongsangnam-do) appeared first on Dale's Korean Temple Adventures.

Leaving Korea: Was it just a dream?

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It’s funny, half way through the year it felt like the longest six months of my life and now here we are back in Canada with Korea appearing as a dream like memory. Were we really there? Did all that actually happen? It seemed never ending at the time and now it seems like it didn’t occur at all!

Were we really in Nampo?

Were we really in Nampo?

But it did. I know that! And you would think that after already completing two years there I would be used to the ‘living abroad and returning home’ scenario. No matter how many times I do it though, it always feels strange and unusual at first! There are so many things I missed about home while away and now that I am here those very things I longed for seem irrelevant and not quite as important as I thought. I find myself wishing I was back in the cement jungle hopping on and off the subway grabbing a 20 cent coffee and pumping tunes through my earphones to drown out the foreign languages squawking around me. What I wouldn’t give to be able to walk out my apartment door right now in fall attire and stroll down to the local Donenu BBQ to cook up some galbi along with drinking a nice bottle of Dry Finishee! I know Graham would second that and throw in an order or two or three of kimchee simmering on the grill.

Now that's a meal!

Now that’s a meal!

Sitting here in our temporary makeshift office back home I now long for so many things Korean it almost makes me forget all those Canadian things I wished for while away. I have come to realize that in order to live for today or make the most of each moment I have to remember both sides of the coin! I can’t always hate where I am and wish for where I want to be. Reminiscing is proven to brighten ones day, but I must also love where I am in the present moment because, no matter where it might be, I am one lucky girl to be there. If I could do that I would definitely have a smile on my face all the time!

So I am going to make a list of loves, both Canadian and Korean, to remind me of all the great things I have experienced and to keep me smiling for days to come! I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions because I cannot keep them even if my life depended on it, but let’s just say this is more of a new mantra to try and repeat to myself every day (… fingers crossed I remember)! Hopefully that will heat me through the cold because that is one thing I do not love about Canada right now! It’s minus 22 with the wind chill and I am finding it hard to smile even inside the house!


Things I miss about Korea:

1. My Students

Hands down one of the best things about Korea is always going to be the amazing students I have the privilege of working with. Here you have some of the most over-worked young people in the world who get up before the sun rises and get home well after it sets attending at least three to four different schools each day and sometimes even on weekends. They are usually enthralled with stories from my childhood where I describe what it’s like to actually be a carefree kid who only went to school from nine to three and then dare I say played with friends or had an afterschool job once I hit high school! Unimaginable to them. Every story is met with gaping mouths and wide eyes. That saddens me, but then I remember how much fun we have when they are in my class and how many of them thrive and continue to strive in an unruly system. They are incredible kids and I miss them each and every day!

My faves!!!

My faves!!!

2. Our Friends

One of the greatest gifts of traveling and working abroad is the gift of friends you would never have had the chance to meet while at home. People from all over the world have become very dear friends to both Graham and I while we were in Korea. They most definitely helped both of us get through some of the not so fun times that come with living in a foreign land. Many of these people you only know for a short time, but it is absolutely amazing how quickly someone can become your true friend and sometimes even your family. I’ve said it many times before, living abroad is like a rollercoaster, some days you are up and some days you are falling straight down, but no matter what you can always find someone who understands and has been exactly where you are. They are perpetually ready and willing to head to a pub for a beer or just go right for the somek erasing all memories from that day! Those people, and they know who they are, are irreplaceable and a single thought of a memory made with them brings a smile to even the darkest of days.

A little Long Island between friends

A little Long Island between friends

Get by with a little help from our friends

Get by with a little help from our friends

3. Traveling

For someone who just cannot scratch that itch, Korea provides some of the best opportunities to travel. Whether it be a subway ride downtown, a bus to a nearby city, the KTX to explore Seoul, or a flight to another exotic place, you are never left without options for things to do and see. Touring Asia is actually quite affordable once you are already over there! Our best deal ever was purchasing a flight to Osaka for $30.00 (one way) which is cheaper than a train ticket from London to Toronto (Ontario Canada)! It always blows my mind how much cheaper it is to travel on the other side of the world! The amount it costs you to travel across Canada would get you at least a few decent trips through multiple countries in Asia.

Busin to Gyeongju

Busin to Gyeongju

KTX to Seoul

KTX to Seoul

4. Culture

Part of what I love about traveling is experiencing all the different cultures of the world. It always amazes me to think that right at this moment so many people are living in so many different ways around the globe. I love that in Korea many stores and places of business don’t even open before 11am to compensate for the late hours spent drinking and doing business the night before. Older ladies seem to reach a certain age and give up all their fashion passion for mismatched floral attire combined with oversized visors and terribly permed hair completely transforming into ajummas. My all-time favourite characteristic of Korean culture is the rarity of crimes or violent acts on a daily basis. I have seen many business men passed out on the street with their briefcase and wallet present only to wake several hours later and stumble home with everything still intact. No theft, beating, or any other random act of violence would occur. You just step over the sleeping man and keep going on your way or maybe move him to the side of the road just so he doesn’t accidentally get hurt. Where else in the world would that ever happen?

Ajummas working

Ajummas working

Late night street nap...

Late night street nap…

Honestly now that I am in a groove this list could go on forever, but I will stop there as I am sure you do not have all the time in the world to read it.

Stay tuned for my list of Canadian favourites!

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