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Perfectly Warming Pumpkin-Corn Soup

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McKay Savage Wikimedia Commons
McKay Savage Wikimedia Commons

In the past month, there’s been a distinct change in season; evenings are darker, the temperature has dropped by about 10 degrees, and I’ve gone from wearing sandals and skirts to covering up with a coat, gloves and scarf. I’m only one pair of wellies and a thermal vest away from my full-on winter gear.

Still, Autumn is a great time of year, when the temperatures aren’t arctic yet, and you can enjoy the beautiful colours of the trees before winter kills them off completely. And how can you make a chilly autumn evening even better? By making a nice bowl of hearty, warming pumpkin soup, that’s how!

This is one of my favourite recipes; it’s quick, easy, and extremely healthy- the perfect thing to warm you up on a cold evening. The pumpkin makes the soup velvety and thick, while the corn adds a bit of texture and gives it almost a creamy taste. Delicious. Even better, there is so much flavour from the vegetables that you don’t have to bother adding loads of herbs and spices, which makes the process ever simpler.

(Oh, and if you’re not a fan of pumpkin or find them hard to find, you can substitute them with butternut squash.)


1 Pumpkin, around 1 kg

2 Large Onions

1 Tin of Sweetcorn (or fresh corn if you can get it)

2 Large Carrots

Chicken/ Beef Stock (around 800 ml depending on how thick you like your soup)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Olive Oil

Cream (optional)


1) Chop up the onions into small chunks and saute in the olive oil until they’re soft and tender.

2)Chop up the pumpkin and carrots into chunks and put in a large saucepan. Add the corn and then the onions.

3) Pour in your stock until it is just covering the vegetables. (You can add more or less water depending on how thick you like your soup. I prefer to add less at       the start, and thin later if needed.

4)Bring the water to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft (the pumpkin should be almost mushy).

5) Blend everything. When the soup is ready, add salt and pepper to taste. If you would like to add cream, add some now and then re-heat the soup.

6) Enjoy!


And there you have it…a minimal effort recipe with maximum taste. Perfect.

Filed under: Food, Health, Living


Kathryn's Living

Lecture: Discourse on Homosexuality in Korean History: Facts and Fantasies

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Martin Weiser will be presenting a lecture on Saturday November 15th through The RAS Colloquium in Korean Studies titled Discourse on Homosexuality in Korean History: Facts and Fantasies. 

Different to the literature on China and Japan, homosexuality in Korean history has not received a lot of attention in the field. While there were several scholars who have pointed to cases of homosexuality in Korean history, no one yet tried to bring all the available evidence together and reflect on how it has been used in the academic discourse. Taking a step in that direction, I will give an overview of the alleged cases of homosexuality beginning with the hwarang during the Shilla period and ending with the namsadang troupe in the early 20th century. Through a closer look at the relevant passages in the primary sources as well as the various threads of discourse woven around them it is possible to make a difference between mere speculations and more firm evidence. In the next step, the evidence is then put into the larger social and political context and the political usage of several of these allegations will be pointed out.

No registration is needed to join the lecture, so if you are interested, just show up on the 15th to hear the first lecture at 2 pm. A second lecture on Korean shamanic healing rituals will follow Weiser's lecture.

The lecture is will take place on the 11th floor of Indang-gwan (the Baek Hospital Annexe 백병원 별관) [서울특별시 중구 저동 2 64번지 인당관] with the room provided by the Institute for Hallyu Culture of Inje Graduate University


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Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival , a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. The host for this month is ‘Reach To Teach’, here you can find other similar articles. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article to this blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with me at, and I’ll let you know how you can start participating!

slow-downGiven the premium status awarded to expediency and efficiency in today’s world, it may seem impossible for something “slow” to still hold any sort of value. However, when it comes to travel, some of the most memorable and life-changing experiences are those that came not from racing full-throttle around Europe for two weeks or going 0-to-60 in 3.5 days on a Mexican beach, but from dropping down into first-gear–or even, park–for a more extended period of time in a particular city or country.

Usually in the form of teaching EnglishWWOOFingcouchsurfing, backpacking, or volunteering with the Peace Corps, slow travel offers several unique benefits that can’t be enjoyed during the average one or two-week vacay. Along with the usual photo album of scenic pictures and a handful of crinkled plane/bus/subway tickets, putting down temporary roots gives you opportunities for deeper cultural immersion, greater interpersonal skill development, and nonstop adventure.

Dipping your toe in the water vs. cannon-balling right in; sticking your finger in the frosting vs. throwing your whole face in the cake; sitting in the balcony at a concert vs. joining the mosh pit. I could go on with the metaphors but I think you get the idea. Slow travel provides a level of cultural immersion that can’t be beat. Whether it’s learning another language, chowing down on local cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or adopting a myriad of other social norms, spending an extensive amount of time in a foreign country makes it possible to do all of that to the fullest extent. It’s one thing to “do as the Romans do” for a few days or a week. It’s something else entirely to do it for weeks, months or years on end. It’s definitely not always fun or easy, but it’s absolutely worth it; because upon returning home, after living and breathing another culture for so long, you’ll carry with you not only a deeper understanding of the strange new world that you temporarily called home, but also the safe, familiar one you’re coming back to.

Even if the focus of your trip is unrelated to your college degree or inteded career path, time abroad also arms you with a unique depth of interpersonal skills that will serve you well in the future. Thinking on your feet to scale a language barrier, calmly taking cultural differences in stride, and being flexible when something doesn’t turn out as you expected are all things you’ll have to do at some point on your snail-pace journey. And they’re all experiences that will make you a better employee, friend and person back home. Getting through these situations and acquiring that higher level of creativity, patience and openness usually involves a fair share of growing pains. But it’s fun to feel like you’re standing a few inches taller than everyone else when you go back.

Finally, at the risk of stating the obvious, slow travel gives you the luxury of time: time to do all the big must-see’s and must-do’s, but also time to find the beauty and adventure in the ordinary. Building a life in another country requires all the standard things like shopping for groceries and clothes, getting a haircut and ordering at restaurants. But when you don’t speak the language or understand the social norms at play, trying to do these simple tasks quickly changes from being straightforward and mundane to strangly complex and fascinating.  As a result, slow travel presents you with big time adventures, full of sight-seeing, hotel stays and exotic cultural experiences, as well as small time adventures, full of discoveries about daily life and social interactions. If that sounds exhausting, that’s because it is; but when you’ve resumed your “normal” life having conquered mountains and anthills alike, there won’t be anything you can’t do.

Whether you teach your way across Asia, WWOOF through France, or backpack the length of South America, slow travel is the gift that keeps on giving. The trip itself may come to an end, but you’ll continue to reap the benefits and relive the memories for the rest of your life. So, what are you waiting for? Hurry up! Get out there and take it slow!


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LTW: Flexing Air Muscle, Elder Divorce, and K-Biz Environment

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1. National
1) Leaders of North and South Korea flex air muscle
South Korean president Park Geun-hye thumbed up at a ceremony to mark the first deployment of FA-50 fighter jets manufactured with Korea’s indigenous technologies. South Korea plans to produce 60 FA-50 jets to replace old F-5 fighters. Tit for tat, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un also visited an airbase, pushing buttons in a cockpit of Mig-29. The once warming relationship initiated by Kim’s top 3 cronies’ visit to South Korea a month ago is now cooling down rapidly over propaganda leaflets flown by balloons to North Korea, and the pictures of the two leaders in fighter jets were the testimony of cold Korean peninsula.

Kim Jong-un’s next photo to be released soon would be with his thumbs at his nose in front of a rocket launch pad, Kim offering Obama free carriage of supplies for the International Space Station that Antares rocket failed to do so last week.

2) More old couples divorce than young ones
According to the Office of Court Administration, the number of divorces in 2013 among couples married 20 years or longer was 32,433, or 28.1%, taking up the most of the total 115,292 separations. The number for newly married couples less than 5 years followed with 27,299 cases, or 23.7%.  The top reason for divorce for old couples was irreconcilable differences with 47.2%, followed by financial problems (12.7%), adultery (7.6%) and conflicts between family members (7.0%). In the mean while, the number of total splits has increased for three years straight, from 114,707 in 2011 to 115,292 in 2013.
My marriage was in serious danger during Chooseok, Korean Thanksgiving holidays, in 2001. I had secretly lent some money a few months before Chooseok to a friend of mine whom my wife thought not trustworthy. On Chooseok, my friend paid a visit to my father’s house near Gimpo Airport while I was out for some walk, and returned the money to my father, saying “Please pass this money I borrowed to HyungSik” The problem was my wife was there with my father. The recent frosty Park Geun-hye and Kim Jong Un relationship was a honeymoon compared to mine with my wife for the next two weeks after Chooseok. .

2. Economy
1) Korea scores high in business environment
According to the “Doing Business 2015” report by World Bank, Korea ranked 5th out of 189 WB member nations in terms of providing a good environment for business. The evaluation was based on 10 areas; starting a business, obtaining construction permits, access to electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, contract reinforcement and resolving insolvency. Korea scored high for electricity and trading across borders, but low in registering property. Singapore topped the list with U.S. and Japan ranking 7th and 29th, respectively.
 It was lucky for Korea the survey didn’t have ‘labor relationship’ as one of the categories. The militant labor union culture has been prevailing since 1987 when union was legalized after democracy movement. A case in point. While Hyundai Heavy Industry has been suffering from big loss two quarters in a row, 1.1 trillion won in Q2 and another 1.9 trillion in Q3, its union are on strike demanding 6.51% wage increase and 250% bonus, wrongly thinking HHI is a fountain that never dries up.

3. Auto Industry
1) GM Korea to pay for overstated Cruze gas mileage
The Korean version of Department of Transportation said GM Korea voluntarily promised to pay 420,000 won ($400) to owners of Cruze for exaggerated fuel economy claims. The government said the combined mileage for the 1.8L version did not meet the stated 12.4 km/L, rather recording 11 km per liter.  It is expected to have 33 billion won impact to GM Korea.  This is the 2nd time an automaker in Korea had to compensate for false advertising of gas mileage after Hyundai Santa Fe in August this year.
If the Cruze mileage was a negative story, GM Korea had lots of positive news. Its Malibu diesel model is selling like hot cakes, with its sales only restricted by the diesel engines GM Korea has to import from Europe. The combined sale of its 3 RV models (Orlando, Captiva, and Trax) has increased by 29% from the same period last year. These successes have made GM Korea see its sales quadruple in just 12 years after GM bought it from Daewoo. Big hands to GM Korea!

2) Elantra hits 10 million after 24 years
Hyundai Elantra (Avante in Korea) became the first Korean model to reach the 10 million milestone in cumulative global sale, after 24 years its first generation launch in 1990. Only 10 other models have done so, including Toyota Corolla, VW Golf and Beetle, Honda Civic and Ford Focus. Some 7.4 million units were marketed in 177 countries, while around 2.6 million were sold in Korea. About 6.4 million units were manufactured in its Ulsan plant in Korea, while the rest were produced in China, India and the U.S.

I worked on 2nd generation Elantra that launched in 1995 as a manufacturing engineer. My responsibility was on moving system that includes doors and I had to hear lots of whining noise from my boss who kept forcing me to make better quality Elantra. If you happen to still own a 2nd generation Elantra and hear some nagging wind noise, just be happy with it. It is probably only one tenth of decibel I had to take from my boss. I didn’t say it was you, JJ Kim!


Expat Living- The Highs, The Lows, And Is It Worth It?

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If someone had told me 5 years ago, even 2 years ago, that I’d move to Korea, I’d have thought they were joking: I’m  a homebody with a close family and friends, and have never really had the ‘travelling bug’ tempting me to go out and explore the world. The thought of leaving everything behind would have seemed absurd, something only someone way more adventurous than me would do. Even when I did a TESOL course with the intention of going abroad, I always imagined going to Europe and making frequent trips home.

Then, when job hunting for ESL jobs we saw how good the deal was in Korea (flights paid, rent paid, cheap bills? Yes please!), we changed our plans immediately, and 2 months later moved to Korea. Quite an impulsive move. I don’t know if other people thought we’d stick it out for the year, I didn’t even know myself. I definitely never thought that once the year was up I’d extend my contract.

We’ve experienced a whole lot since being here: the honeymoon period when everything in and about the country is perfect, the scared feeling of being in a completely foreign country where you can’t communicate and just want to see something in English, the homesick feeling when it’s a holiday or birthday of a loved one.

Over time we’ve realised that there are a lot of highs and lows of being an expat, especially in a country so foreign that you can’t even read the language, let alone begin to understand it. Here are some of the good and bad things about Expat Living:

♥ Exploring and Adventure

Let’s start with the most obvious: moving to another country is the best way to experience new places, to have adventures and experiences that you’d never have otherwise. And not just in the country you’re living in, but surrounding ones. If I wasn’t living in Korea, would I have visited Japan, Singapore, Malaysia or The Philippines? Most probably not.

× Missing Holidays

Even when you’re older, there’s something special about holidays: Christmas, Bonfire Night, Easter. It is, I have to admit, quite rubbish being away from friends, family, and festivities at these times. Sure, you can go to a delicious overpriced buffet for your Christmas lunch, but it doesn’t compare to a home-cooked meal.

♥ New Culture

It may be an adjustment, but being exposed to a new culture is not only interesting, but eye-opening. It opens your eyes to a world outside your own. Not only that, but it makes you appreciate things which you never thought twice about before: England may have many faults, but thank goodness I had a fun school-life without incredible pressure and insanely long hours studying.

×Being Ill

That horrible feeling of being ill and having no idea what any medicine is, where your nearest doctor is, or even if they speak English? It’s likely to happen at some point, and it’s one of those times you just want to be at home, in bed, being looked after by your mum (yes, even if you’re 24).

♥ New Friends

Meeting people from all over the world is one of the great things about being an expat. I’ve made friends with Americans, South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders, and of course, Koreans. Similarly to being in a different culture, making friends with people from backgrounds different to your own opens the doors to a whole new world.

The one negative to new friends? Having to ultimately say goodbye to these people, knowing there’s very little chance you’ll see them again. Unless you happen to be flying a few thousand miles across the world, it’s hard to just pop by for a chat and cup of tea.

× Paperwork and Errands

Banks. Bills. Setting up the internet. Tasks can suddenly become a lot harder when you don’t speak the language. Like trying decipher a bill in Hangul. Or telling a plumber what is wrong with your hot-water tap. The smallest things can turn into a mission, which isn’t always fun…

♥ Food

Here I go again with my love of Korean food, but it is a definite positive to being an expat. Going to a restaurant is all the more exciting and way more of a novelty than at home. Plus, the lower prices means it’s something you can enjoy far more often.

× Food

No matter how much you love foreign food, there will be times (as I mentioned here) that you long for the comfort of home cooking: that sandwich from your favourite cafe or your favourite chocolate bar. This craving can lead to you spending a small fortune on getting your favourite things delivered. £50 on Maltesers chocolate? Guilty.

♥Less Judgement

It’s weird, but I love the fact that you care less in a different country; people stare more because you’re foreign, but I find that you feel less judged on many levels. You don’t have to worry about the latest fashion, whether your haircut is trendy, because you’ll never blend in anyway! And when you’ll always be the outside, you don’t really care about trying to fit in. Roll on wearing a baggy man’s jumper to the gym and sporting your welly boots with pride…

× Xenophobia

So you always stand out if you’re an expat of a different race. And while the vast majority of people are friendly, there is always a small minority of xenophobic people who glare at you, disliking your presence in their country.

My most memorable experience? A little boy tugging on my coat in the supermarket, only to scream and cry (actual proper tears) when I turned around and he saw my face. Did his mother apologize or look embarrassed by his reaction? Not at all- she laughed.

♥ Lack of Responsibility

There’s a certain lack of responsibility when you’re an expat, things that you can’t take care of which are consequently taken care of for you: getting your internet set up, setting up a bank account. Instead, there is someone who speaks the language to take care of these things; after all, you can’t call up a company to complain when you don’t speak the language, can you? It’s kind of nice, like going back to a time when your parents doing things for you. Quite a relief sometimes.

× Not Knowing the Language

A pretty obvious one- the language barrier. Of course, you can learn select words and useful phrases, you’d be stupid not to. But unless you’re a genius (or know the language before you move), you’re going to find that a lot of the time, you’re clueless. It can lead to some pretty tough situations: being stranded without a clue which bus to take and no one who can help you, or paying someone else’s bill by accident because you couldn’t read it properly. True stories.


Nothing will help you become more independent than moving away and leaving the people you depended on in the past to move to another country. There’s suddenly a lot less people around to influence or direct you as you make a new life for yourself; it’s suddenly up to you.

× Online Access

This might be a petty one, but how annoying is it when you go to use a website (usually to watch something online) and you can’t because the website ‘isn’t allowed in your country’. Bye Bye BBC, MTV and ITV. Now I’ll just have to stream things illegally.

♥ Technology

10 years ago, even 5 years ago, being away from family and friends would be pretty horrible: having to spend a ton of money texting and calling people. Now, there’s so much social media to immediately share information, updates, and pictures so you feel closer to people… and it’s free. And, of course, the saviour that is Skype, allowing you free conversations and actually seeing your loved-ones too. The pain of missing people is far easier to deal with due to technology, thankfully.

× Missing People

Probably the most obvious one. Even with Skype, of course you miss people. Saying goodbye is the biggest sacrifice when leaving home. And do you ever find that you sometimes miss your pet more than you miss people? Just seeing them on Skype makes you want to be at home giving them a big cuddle.

♥ New Appreciation For Things

The last and most important thing. Being away from your home country makes you appreciate the little things: the ease of going into a shop and asking for help without any complications, only having to take a 2 hour train journey to visit a friend. You have a new-found sense of gratitude for the weirdest things, which is pretty great.


So, with all the positives and negatives weighed out, is being an expat worth the downfalls? 100%, yes. It’s never been easier to keep in contact with people from home, unless you’re unlucky you’ll be looked after and have amazing new experiences, and if you’re a native English speaker, you’re lucky because wherever you go, there’ll always be at least a minimal understanding of your language. I would bet that everyone can understand the word ‘Hello’. Would everyone understand ‘안녕하세요’ or ‘привет’? Probably not. So if you’re an English-speaking expat, you’re in a favourable position.

And as far as expats go in Korea, I think the fact that the majority of people end up staying for longer than their planned year proves that the difficulties can’t be too bad…

Filed under: Expat, Korea, Living

Our 4th Chuseok in Korea, Part 2 – Busan & Yangsan

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This is the 2nd part of our Aunt Kathy’s trip to Korea! You can read about the first part of the trip in Seoul here. Now on to Busan! I was really excited about the train ride from Seoul to Yangsan, because after years I’m still not tired of Korea’s beautiful mountains and countryside. It ended up not being as clear as it could have been but it was still a nice ride! As Seoul faded from our minds, we started focusing on the next couple days in Busan.

First we stopped at our apartment in Yangsan to pick up our car before heading to Busan to check into our hotel. After a quick glass of wine with Aunt Kathy, we made our way to Busan and checked into the Haeundae Grand Hotel. We arrived pretty late and after a small mixup with our check – in, we admired the gorgeous lobby, the grand piano playing classical music, and the calm atmosphere. Then we made our way up to check out our ocean front room. The first thing I loved, CARPET! It’s a rare thing in Korea, and it was nice to feel under my feet. And aside from another comfy bed, the highlight of this room was our spectacular view! The hotel sits on the far end of Haeundae beach, a part we’d never been before. The beach in front of us was quiet and peaceful, I loved looking out of the huge window and seeing that day or night!
View from our room! Delicious afternoon tea set Haeundae Grand Hotel Lobby
At this point we were starving, since we only had some snacks on the train and hadn’t eaten a proper dinner yet. We drove over to the beach and dove into a hole in the wall chicken place. I thought the whole “chicken and beer” culture would be a fun thing to show Aunt Kathy, because it was pretty late at night and family run hole in the wall places are the best! They were really busy, and we were crammed between a couple loud parties of young guys on their 6th or 10th bottle of soju! (who’s counting) After stuffing ourselves, we walked over to the beach and just sat in the cool sand, listened to the waves, and savored the moment together. It had been a long time since Aunt Kathy had been to a beach, and we talked about how healing being by the ocean can be.

The next day we slept in and then made our way to the Busan Aquarium! We had never been before, so it was a first for us as well. We had been to the COEX aquarium in Seoul, and it was awful, so until this trip we had kept our distance from Korean aquariums and zoos. But I was wrong! Although some of the things about the aquarium were kitschy and cutesy, I think the quality of this aquarium far surpasses any other aquarium in Korea. While we were there we got to see the penguin feeding, shark feeding, and we paid a little extra to do the “tour boat”. The tour boat was basically a tiny glass bottom boat that goes in a small circle on the surface of their biggest tank. We saw huge stingrays, sea turtles, fish, and their sand sharks! We even got a chance to feed the fish. It was a short ride but I think definitely worth the extra money to be on the other side of the glass for a bit!
The shark tank An up close look of a stingray! 15011510269_1a8dcdbbeb_k Feeding fish on the glass bottom boat
After another sit on the beach, we decided to take a short drive on the beautiful Dalmaji Road. This famous road has several lookout spots with breathtaking views of the coastline. The traffic was pretty terrible but we did manage to find parking at one lookout spot to snap a few photos. From there we drove to Gwanganli, and sat on the beach just in time for the lights to turn on! My Aunt had amazing luck the whole trip, the travel gods were definitely on her side. ;) The Diamond Bridge got new LED lights this year, and the light shows at night are mesmerizing to watch. Gwanganli might be our favorite neighborhood in Busan, so I’m glad we got to show her the beach and bridge at the perfect time. Soon we realized we were starving, and we made the trek to the other side of the beach with one thing in mind–shabu shabu. I think this a must try dish for people visiting, because it’s not just a meal, it’s an experience. It was packed and we had to wait awhile but it was worth it. Aunt Kathy loved it and was a pro at using chopsticks as usual.
Night view, Gwanganli Admiring the view Aunt Kathy and Me
On our final full day together, we returned to Yangsan. I had booked us a special meal at a really fancy restaurant we had been once before on our anniversary. I wanted Aunt Kathy to try as much Korean food as possible, and this was an easy and delicious way to do it. We ate sushi, raw beef, grilled pork, and delicious side dishes. We had so much we could barely move, and just when we thought we had our last course they would bring out more food! The meal ended with an apricot tea and persimmon, and our server also brought us a gift and a message of thanks to Aunt Kathy for visiting Korea. It was very heartfelt and touching, and we were so thankful for their kindness and generosity. I know we won’t forget that for a long time to come.
With our gift the restaurant gave us! cheers! Pouring soju the Korean way! Sushi platter Korean Raw Beef - Yukhoe
We arrived at Tongdosa just before sunset, the golden hour as they call it. Tongdosa is the largest temple in Korea and our city Yangsan gets to claim it! It’s also a very important place because it houses relics of the Buddha. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment of the day, but seeing Aunt Kathy walk into the Great Hall and see everything for the first time, the golden Buddha, the beautiful murals, the reverent believers really touched me. It was a common theme throughout the trip, but I was really inspired by my Aunt’s spirit, her positivity, her openness, and her ability to be in awe of beauty. A lot of (if not most) people her age just become intellectually lazy, un-curious if that’s a word, and unmoved by the beauty that’s in front of them. It’s even challenging for me sometimes to keep the wonder in my life, but it’s something I consciously fight for, because it’s important. We’ve seen a lot of amazing things in the world, and it’s easy to say, “oh, another temple”. Aunt Kathy inspired me to take a few steps back and realize (again) what a wonderful place we get to live in. As her luck would have it, just as we were leaving, the monks performed a ceremony I had never seen before. It was beautiful, and I recommend watching the video to see it. It was a perfect closing to our trip.
:) Tongdosa at sunset 15197716792_1f75d70d10_k Aunt Kathy with relics of the Buddha 15198057645_7c58517ab9_k Throwing coins in the dragon pond
Aunt Kathy’s visit was a great success and I couldn’t have asked for a better guest. We miss you already! We hope to have more family visit in the future. Has family visited you while abroad? Tell us about it in the comments! :)

The post Our 4th Chuseok in Korea, Part 2 – Busan & Yangsan appeared first on Evan and Rachel in Korea.



Her Midnight Run, My Empathy

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My best friend’s replacement pulled an infamous “midnight run” last weekend.


Her escape wasn’t discovered until, presumably, she was on a plane bound for her home in Australia. Our only indication of this, a presumably-hastily-written email to her recruiter. A “mea culpa” of sorts. Oops.

If we were to write an obituary for her Korean death, it could read: You were only 23, with so much left to see, so much left to do. Or: what was your name again?

She was here such a short time that perhaps only one photo, taken during my friend’s goodbye dinner, is the only evidence this girl ever set foot in this country. Well, that and her suitcase, which she left in the apartment, as well as some ramyeon wrappers and empty soda bottles.

The story could easily end there. Some kid who never worked a day in her life takes a chance teaching in a foreign country, freaks out and bails before she even teaches her first class. But I experienced a similar story almost 10 years ago.

It was hearing about the abandoned suitcase and food debris that did it for me. They tell a very sad story, one of someone feeling impossibly hopeless and impossibly alone.

Between Nov. 15 and Dec. 24, 2005, my debris were hundreds of smoked cigarettes. Dunhills, mostly, snubbed out in overflowing ashtrays, in cups, on plates. There were no food wrappers since I barely ate, spending most of my time with expensive collect calls to a girl I broke up with to come here (this is pre-Skype and Facebook, after all). Hopelessness does wonders to one’s physique.

Unrelated photo.
Unrelated photo.

Instead of attending a dinner for the outgoing teacher, then trudging up a very uncomfortable hill toward a very unflattering apartment on the Green line in Busan, my outgoing teacher collected me from a bus depot in Jinju, then brought me back to a significantly nicer place. It didn’t matter if the place was nice. Within an hour, I asked her if she would consider changing her mind.

There is nothing anyone can say when you’ve lost all hope that will change your mind. I thought then I was making excuses. I know now that wasn’t true.

The anxiety may seem unnecessary when viewed from outside. Sticking it out might seem a better option. But as expensive as it is, for her and for the company she just fucked over, going home was the only thing she could do. It is a conclusion one can only justify, I think, if you have gone through that hell on earth yourself.

And, believe me, it is hell on earth. It’s your mother dropping dead in the audience for your high school school play. It’s being told you have stage four cancer and only a couple months to live. It’s being forced to admit, after living with a certain set of beliefs for the entirety of your life, it all was a lie. It’s moving your life to another country, only to realize once you’ve arrived that you just can’t hack it.

But, there is growth to be gained living Winston Churchill’s quotation about going through hell: Keep going. In 2005, I at least went far enough to find a replacement before I gave my school back its airfare, bought another ticket and touched down at Newark Airport just in time for Christmas. I took two suitcases home but a third stayed behind. Maybe she did that, too. I still miss that pea-coat.

Sticking it out just a little might have put enough of a flavor for this country in my mouth and in my mind that time could only marinate to a point I’d eventually try again. In 2005 I did not know about dweji gukbap or jjimjillbangs but I did know about gimbap and K-Pop. There isn’t much one can learn about a country and a culture in just a few days consumed with thoughts about getting the hell out of there.

Had she experienced this, she may have thought twice.
Had she experienced this, she may have thought twice.

Even so, in time she might consider trying this again, too. If the empathy I feel for what she must have gone through is accurate, I can take the next leap and contemplate her thoughts about this unfinished business, a monster that can weigh on the brain even heavier than a monster hiding under the bed, in the closet, behind the door or in a classroom full of curious Korean children. It brought me back three times.

Recently, a friend I made during that first 40 days in Jinju almost a decade ago contacted me to ask if I knew of any job openings in Korea for next year. I asked him if he was serious. In the time since we’ve seen each other on this side of the world, he has had a fairly successful career in New Zealand as both a voice and television actor. He’s married, with several children. Yet, he said he also still thought from time to time about the “unfinished business” he left in Korea in December 2005. No one likes to admit they’re still scared of the boogeyman.

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

Book Giveaway: Korea The Impossible Country by Daniel Tudor

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This is the Kimchi Queen's first book giveaway! The folks at Tuttle Press have a score of books on Korea and in this sweepstakes will be giving two copies of Korea: The Impossible Country to readers of this blog.

The book is an easy read outlining Korean historical roots, cultural codes, and modern society. Though those who have been in Korea may be quite familiar with most of the contents in the book, there are a few bits that will be surprising to even long-term expats (I, for one, didn't know much about shamanism (musok) and Tudor was able to talk directly with a musok-in. I also quite enjoyed the interview with Oldboy's star Choi Min-sik)

Readers of this blog will be curious about the penultimate chapter "We Are Not Aliens From Another Cosmos" which briefly discusses homosexuality in historical times as well as the repercussions of Hong Seok-cheon's coming out and his recent comeback. Though the chapter itself gives a nice overview, I was a bit surprised by the negativity that Tudor ended the chapter with (that society as a whole may never treat homosexuals equally). One of the Korean aspects that Tudor emphasized was an innate ability to yield to reality, which "has enabled society to accept change when it becomes clear that change is needed." I think it is quite clear that younger generations are realizing that society needs to change (a recent poll showed that 39% of the younger generation believes that homosexuality is sometimes or always justified and it looks like politicians are going to be heading down that path (Mayor Park Won-soon was almost there).I am actually quite hopeful and think gay marriage will probably be legalized around 2020. 

Anyways... So, readers, interested in getting a copy of Korea: The Impossible Country? Through Tuttle Press I'll be giving out two copies. I want to hear your thoughts on whether the LGBT community will be treated equally in Korea in the future and if so, when? Leave a comment below (probably not anonymously or I won't be able to let you know you've won) or send an e-mail to I'll choose two readers at random. 

Oh and in case you are wondering where you heard Daniel Tudor's name from, he is the guy that opened the Booth in Gyeongnidan. Such wonderful pizza and beer...

Good luck!

Amazing Sunset View in Busan – Hwangnyeong Mountain

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One of the things I love about Korea, maybe my favorite thing, is that even after living here for more than 4 years, I can still find amazing places and new adventures in my own backyard. Korean people are very active, and unlike most Americans, they go out almost every weekend to explore their own country. I think this is awesome, and it makes me wish I did more exploring of my own back in the US! There’s still time for that though.

Last time I was in the US, I had to go alone. While I was gone, Evan did a lot of exploring with his new camera, looking for good places to take night pictures of Busan. After some reading online in photography groups, he drove to Hwangnyeongsan (황령산), near Geumyeonsan station in Busan. We’re not avid hikers, so it’s always nice when we find mountains we can drive up to for great views!

Waiting for sunset

Waiting for sunset

Evan sent me excited messsages while I was away, claiming that he found this place with the best night views of Busan he’s ever seen. He sent me a picture of Gwanganli’s Diamond bridge from the top of the mountain, and I was in awe. We went back together soon after I returned to Korea, and again recently with our friends Meagan and Dave from the blog Life Outside of Texas. The amazing thing about the views from Hwangnyeongsan is that because it’s in the heart of Busan, you can see almost all of the major neighborhoods from the top. On this particular trip we arrived in time to catch the sunset, and I can honestly say it was the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen!
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I don’t think a lot of people know about this hidden gem, so I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Busan. There are a few places to stop on the way up, with great views of Diamond Bridge, and the summit is relatively flat with a nice park. There were quite a few couples having romantic picnics the last time we were there, and it’s the perfect spot for it! :)
A coffee truck on the way up.  Look familiar?! :P Night view of Diamond Bridge.
I’m so glad Evan found this place and that we were able to share it with friends. Now I hope you all go check it out, and if you’re not in Korea, go explore a new area wherever you are in the world! Then leave us a comment about your adventures!


How to get there:
There are lots of ways to get to the mountain, but I would suggest catching a taxi from Geumyeonsan station Line 2. If you walk, it should take a couple hours to get to the top. There are cafes, a few restaurants, and food trucks on the way.
Get more info. and view a map on the Visit Korea site!

The post Amazing Sunset View in Busan – Hwangnyeong Mountain appeared first on Evan and Rachel in Korea.

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