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How to Order from Gmarket in 2015

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What is Gmarket?

Gmarket is the leading shopping mall website in Korea. Almost anything you can think of—appliances, food, furniture, car accessories, cosmetics, and clothing—can be ordered through Gmarket. There are Korean, English, and Chinese versions of the site, and products can be shipped all around the world. Gmarket was acquired by eBay in 2009.

Gmarket Korea

Gmarket’s Korean site is geared toward Koreans ordering within Korea. It’s the main site, and generally has the best selection and pricing. If you are able to search in Korean on this version of the site, you’ll be able to find the largest number of items. This site does not accept foreign credit cards as payment.

Gmarket Global


Gmarket Shipping Regions
Source: Gmarket

Gmarket’s global sites are in both English and Chinese. Products can be shippedworldwide to over 80 countries. Shipping will vary based on weight and the area that the product is being shipped to. Searching on the global sites might not bring up as many results as the Korean version, so it’s good to search in Korean on the Korean site first and then order that item from one of the global sites.

Do I Need to Know Korean?

Short answer: You do not need to know Korean to order Gmarket. It has an English site that doesn’t require you to learn Korean.

Complete answer: Knowing Korean when ordering from Gmarket isn’t critical, but it makes a big difference. This is especially true if you live in Korea. 

Here are the top five reasons why knowing Korean will make your Gmarket life better:

  1. More search options
  2. Instruct delivery person
  3. Read product descriptions
  4. Avoid having to ask for help
  5. Feel at home in Korea

Knowing Korean will allow you to search using Gmarket’s Korean site. This will give you more search results, and you can still use the English site to order them.

If you live in Korea, speaking at least basic Korean will help with deliveries. You will be able to instruct the delivery person what to do with your package. This is extremely helpful if you’re working during the day and there is nobody home to accept the packages.

Most Gmarket product pages are written in Korean. Even if you search using the English site, the product descriptions are all in Korean. That means that if you are ordering a cell phone charger, you’ll need to be able to read the page to make sure it matches what kind of phone you have.

Also, the item selectors are usually in Korean as well. Are you ordering the entire cell phone charger, or just the USB portion? Or do you need a charging cradle as well? The English site is of little help if you can’t choose the item you want.


English Gmarket Site With Korean Descriptions

Many people dread asking for help from other Koreans all the time. It takes extra work and can become burdensome. As a result, they end up doing things on their own the harder way.

If you’ve ordered from Gmarket in Korea before, then you know how great life is once you get in the groove. You can eliminate having to go to the supermarket all together!

Most importantly, you can feel comfortable living in Korea. Knowing how to do basic things for yourself makes a huge difference. It makes Korea feel less like a foreign land and more like home.

You can learn the Korean alphabet (Hangul) in less than one hour for free here.

Ordering Like a Pro

One thing you may notice when ordering from Gmarket is that the search results can vary depending on which version of the site you use.

If you want to order like a pro on Gmarket, the best way to do it is to find the item on the Korean site first. You don’t need to know Korean to do it (especially since you can learn to read Korean in less than 1 hour), but it helps!

The trick is to find out what the Korean vocabulary word is for the item you want. Let’s say you want to order a pair of bear socks. Everyone loves a nice pair bear socks!

Head over to Naver dictionary and type in the word socks in the dictionary. You’ll see something like this:


Search for “socks” in Naver Dictionary

Highlight and copy the word in Korean:


Copy “양말” from Naver Dictionary

Then paste it into the search box in Gmarket.


Paste “양말” in Gmarket Search Box

Press the search button, and “voila!”, animal socks galore!


Animal Socks Search Victory!

Note: It may be possible that the Korean word you found in Naver isn’t the word commonly used to search for your item. In that case, go back to Naver and try using a similar word and search again.

For those of you who love to use Gmarket to practice your Korean, you can move forward with the order right here.

If you’re not confident about how to order in Korean, then you can simply save this to your “Wish List”. Follow these simple steps.

Click on the button marked “관심상품” (“Wish List”).

A drop down menu will appear. Click on “저장” (“save”).

A message will appear confirming that it’s saved.

Now click on the English version of the site at the top of the page.

Next, click on “Wish List”.

Your animal socks pals are waiting at the top of your “Wish List” page!

Photo Credit: Intel Free Press

Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series:

Korean lessons   *  Korean Phrases    *    Korean Vocabulary *   Learn Korean   *    Learn Korean alphabet   *   Learn Korean fast   *  Motivation    *   Study Korean  
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Two of my favorite Korean foods - 떡볶이 and 순대 (GO! Billy Eats)

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Have you ever tried 떡볶이 or 순대 before? These are two of my favorite Korean foods - especially 순대.

떡볶이 is made with soft rice cake (떡 means "rice cake"), and is a sweet and spicy dish that you can buy at many street-side restaurants.

순대 is essentially a blood sausage (it's not an American "sundae"), made with pig intestine.... Should I go on? Don't let the thought of it turn you off. 순대 is my favorite Korean food for a reason, and it's delicious.

Check out the video below to learn more~!

GO! Billy Eats: 떡볶이 & 순대

And are you just starting to learn Korean, or want a solid review of the basics? Then my book "Korean Made Simple: A beginner's guide to learning the Korean language" is the book for you! You can check the book out on my site here, or find it directly through Amazon and most online retailers.

Or if you've already started learning Korean and want to take your skills to the next level, check out my second book in the series, "Korean Made Simple 2: The next step in learning the Korean language." You can check out the sequel here, or find it directly through Amazon and most online retailers.


 Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean





2014: A Year in Review

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2014 was a great year for The Kimchi Queen. Although I was out of country for half of the year, I still was able to write often enough, and almost (almost!) reached two million views. So, what were the most viewed posts of 2014?

January's two most popular posts were on Lil T₩ink in Wireless Peninsula and my favorite news story about a man at a sauna gobbling on another guy's penis and contending that he thought it was fish cake.

A news translation, Heo Ji-ung's Gay Proclamation: "I have experienced skin ship with gays, but I'm not that way", got the most views in February followed by an event notice for Gays are Coming Short Film Festival.

In March, my powerpoint (Queer Korea: A Historical Perspective) got a lot of views, as well as a vocab word: 이성애규범성: heteronormativity.

The only especially popular post from April was a translation: The Dictionary Definition of Love Has Been Restored to a Heterosexual Basis.

A post on a Film Screening for One Night Only got more than 2000 views in May, followed by a translation titled Kim Jae Woong Comes Out: The Problem Isn't Homosexuality but Rather the Directorial Style.

In June, I moved back to Korea and posted a bit more regularly. June being pride month, the most popular posts were on the 2014 Korea Queer Festival (which I unfortunately wasn't able to attend)

The great Stories of Seoul were popular in July, as was a translation on Hong Seok Cheon talking about how he prevented the suicide of a young teen.

In August, the great film Night Flight was pre-released and Chingusai celebrated 20 years of fighting for gay rights.

My posts on The Gays are Coming Volume 3 and a translation piece (Actress Cha Soo-yeon, "For a lesbian role I met sexual minorities in real life") were the most viewed in September.

In October, Park Won-soon backed off from his statement that he wanted Korea to be the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage and the queer word 위장결혼 (fake marriage) piqued readers' interest.

November saw the depressing news that Korea appointed an anti-gay board member to the human rights commission. An episode of PD Notebook released an exclusive on homosexuality in November as well.

December was quite a busy month at the Kimchi Queen. Occupy City Hall brought a lot of readers to my blog, especially my translation of Park Won-soon's 'apology'. A post on Korea's ever growing embrace of homosexuality also attracted a lot of views.

This blog has drifted a bit from my original intention, but definitely in a good way. Readers are obviously interested in politics, films, and translations, so I'll try to post more in these fields. Of course, my most viewed posts of all time are still Korean Gay Porn and List of Gay Saunas in Seoul. I'll try to upload those posts as well, and if anyone has any information, be sure to send an e-mail!

The Last Soju Factory

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by Fred Colton

Journal Entry: 12/31/2015

What we know now is that Patient Zero likely came from Seoul. Probably a chaebol salaryman, the experts say, who reported to work with a severe flu. Of course he did; Koreans only skip work if they’re dead. And that day that’s exactly what they did. Because on that day, this salaryman took a flight from Incheon to Hong Kong International and coughed in a crowded elevator. Then every person on that elevator boarded a different flight and flew off to different countries.

Fourteen hours later the bodies were piled in the streets.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Just a twelve months ago it was the end of 2014, a good year by most measures. I was in the fourth quarter of my rookie year in Korea and had just re-upped my contract for a second round. My friends are I were young kings, getting paid an absurd wage to be white and speak English for four hours a day. Perfect fit for a loser like me. And so it goes in Korea: “just one year” always turns into “just one more year.” In my case, my school, gym, café, restaurant, and corner store were all within a paintball shot of each other on the same road. You could get drunk off soju for less than the cost of a one-way bus pass. Comfort zone—you goddamn bet. Some friends and family said I should leave, but I ignored them. It was either this life or returning to my old job formatting spreadsheets at a mid-level corporation in Anytown USA.

But then it all ended.

I woke up on the first day of the Apocalypse and had just enough time to read the score on my smartphone before the feed cut out. Mankind was on the ropes. They were saying said it was one of these upstart super-viruses NPR was always running stories about. A highly-evolved strain with an incubation period of mere seconds. Drugs couldn’t stop it or even slow it down; it was Kryptonite for the common man. Planes were falling out the sky and entire apartment blocks had been gutted by orange plumes of fire as unattended dinners burned up on stoves.

But there was still more bad news yet. Because while there were bodies piled up from Portland to Patagonia—there were none in Pyongyang.

Today was the day the isolationist North Koreans cashed in their chips. They were the only uninfected nation on the planet. With every soldier on the DMZ dead the border was now as open as a 7-11. Entire battalions of North Korean infantry were just strolling through Panmunjom like it was Costco. I was raised on James Bond and Michael Bay and so my first thought was: guns.

I put on my balaclava in case the virus was airborne and mounted my bike. My destination: the ROK Army installation two kilometers up the road from my villa in northern Incheon. I had to juke the stalled busses and corpses on the way. The bodies had red eyes, like they’d cried themselves to death. I found the compound abandoned and vaulted the rusty fence in the back. I rolled and stood up to find myself staring down the barrel of a K2 assault rifle braced in the hands of a man with a face so weathered it looked like bulletproof dragon hide.

Jackpot, I thought. It was Lee Chang-ho. Of course Lee Chang-ho had survived thus far, he was the toughest nut in the bushel. He’d been part of the Korean contingent that had fought with the US in Vietnam—a war the anti-communist forces had only lost because Lee Chang-ho had been too young to be there for the start of it. Now he was the vice-principal at my middle school, but only because he needed something to do all day besides ride the Seoul metro nonstop, like all the other ajeossis. He was 72 now and the Office of Education had told him he was too old to work; he had told them to go fuck themselves.

Anyway, he’d had the same thought I had: guns.

Lee Chang-ho didn’t shoot me; my eyes weren’t red. He tossed me a surgical mask and motioned for me to follow. He told me to keep quiet, that he would beat me to death with his rifle stock if I made any extraneous noise. I got the feeling that was the only phrase he knew in English. I picked up a K2 of my own and filled a backpack with mags and we low-crawled through the scrub and ended up four klicks west at a Jinro factory in a massive clearing off Yeonhui-dong. Jinro, as in the soju brand.

It was the last day of Chuseok.

A soju factory. A good place to go out, really, if you had to pick one.

“They will come here.” Lee Chang-ho loosened his tie and scanned the trees. “The Northerners. Like us, they love soju. They will come here, and here is where we will kill them all.”

Oh, Christ. He was still fighting the Vietnam War. He was still that seventeen year-old kid crawling through the elephant grass in Khe Sanh with a seven-inch blade between his teeth. He’d brought me here to shoot, not drink. He’d pick a fight with the Korean People’s Army and I was going to get skewered in the crossfire.

But you know, it actually wasn’t so bad. The battles were essentially nonevents; every day or two a North Korean patrol would wander up to the factory gates hoping to scoop up soju for their platoon and Lee Chang-ho and I would cut them down and bury the bodies.

We bonded. Over the weeks we achieved native-level proficiency in each other’s languages and got lit up off the green stuff as we lamented that everyone we’d even known and loved was now rat feast. My shooting—three round bursts to the head—endeared me to him. That’s what a decade of Halo gets you, I guess.

There were some glowing moments of cross-cultural connection and newfound understanding. One day he told me, “You know, I used to hate all you expats. I thought you were like the rest of them, just a talentless schmuck who came to my country because he couldn’t find a decent job in his own. But you’re all right.”

I thought we were needling each other, since he’d said exactly what I was. So I said in return, “And I thought you were just a humorless workaholic by day and an alcoholic by night,” I told him. “But you’re all right, too.”

“I don’t understand,” he said. “How was I not all right before?”

It was New Year’s Eve when the North Korean brass finally figured out there were two holdouts in the Incheon Jinro factory. We were down to our last pallet of soju. Lee Chang-ho and I toasted each other, slapped in our last mags of K2 rounds, and got to work.

Artillery blew off the roof and I took a sniper round through the shoulder. This was the end. Lee Chang-ho’s weapon ran dry but he fought on, improvising Molotov cocktails out of soju bottles and strips of his blazer and shot-putting them out at our attackers. As my hands went numb I heard a sound like a buzzsaw coming from the skies. Just as the black faded in I saw a triangular shadow cut across the factory’s courtyard.

Now I’m writing this on a medical ship off the coast of Okinawa.

Lee Chang-ho and I were saved by a rag-tag group of UN commandos who’d gotten their hands on an A-10 Warthog from Osan Air Base. They staged a flyby and used the jet’s autocannon to rip up the surging North Korean offense. So—Happy New Year to us. It’s almost midnight. Hm, crazy what a difference a year makes.

The doctor relayed to me some good news: that my hometown in the American Northeast was one of the many pockets that survived the outbreak unscathed; they’d gotten a solid quarantine in place early. The US, at least, had had a good practice round with the Ebola scare of ’14.

But I can’t go home, because he also had bad news: I’m about to die. Not from my bullet wound, but rather from a severely inflamed liver. I’ll be lucky to see the first dawn of 2016.  He said that, according to the X-rays, my two years of heavy drinking were the culprit. I guess that’s what you get when you move to a land where you can get drunk for less than the price of a one-way bus pass. Well, goddamnit. This is it, I’m paying it now—the price of the good life.

Korea, man. I should have left when I had the chance.





Learn Korean in 90 Days — No Natural Gift for Language Learning Required!

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I’ve always dreamed of learning languages and traveling the world (haven’t we all). I daydreamed about how I’d order sushi in Japan, travel around South America speaking Spanish and learn taekwondo in Korean.

But even when my dream came true and I first came to Korea, something stopped me. Call it what you will — procrastination, fear of failure, laziness, status quo — it held me back.

I had many false assumptions that I can now look back on. Some of them included:

“I am too old to learn a new language”

“I don’t have a natural “knack” for learning languages”

“Learning Korean will take me hours of boring study”

“It will take too much time to learn Korean”

Good news for all you aspiring Korean speakers out there — I couldn’t have been more wrong!

You don’t need to be “gifted” at learning languages (whatever that means) to have conversations in Korean. You just need to put in a little time, and have fun with it.

Learning Korean is really just about teaching your brain to recognize new patterns that it isn’t used to! Simple.

Set aside just 3 hours and you’ll be having your first conversations. A few months later you can pass as a 5-year “veteran” of the language and be a superstar. Trust me.

For those of you who have considered becoming a Korean speaker but haven’t yet, becoming one is both easier and more rewarding than you could ever imagine.

There are the obvious benefits like being able to order anything you’d like to your house, watch your favorite shows in Korea or guide a taxi without issue.

But there are also the intangibles — the little rewards that only Korean speakers get to experience every day. The way the barista’s face lights up at the cafe when you comment about her uniform. The smile on your new hairdresser’s face when you tell her how you’d like her to cut your hair in Korean. The old lady on the street who asks you for directions only to realize you’re not Korean, then sits amazed as you respond in turn with detailed directions about how to reach her destination. The deep conversations and connections you’re able to have with your Korean friends and loved ones that only come when you’re able to converse in their language.

This post is for anyone who has thought about learning Korean — or any language for that matter — but just hasn’t started yet. Here, I’ll explain:

  • How to read Korean today
  • How to have simple conversations after only a few hours
  • How to learn the right words, the right way
  • How you can reach conversational fluency within a few months

I absolutely love speaking Korean, and I can now say that deciding to learn Korean was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made.

Let’s get started with the break down of how to have a 3 minute conversation in Korean within only 90 days.

You really don’t need to be to have fun with speaking Korean and make your life in Korea more meaningful.

Let me say it again. You don’t need to be perfect! You just need to be understood.

Learning to read and pronounce Korean takes only 90 minutes. All that requires is memorizing 24 basic symbols and associating them with their sounds, which I’l go through. The rest of the 90 days is the fun part, where you get to go out and practice what you’re learning, meeting all sorts of new people along the way that may just change your life forever.

Let’s get started!

The First Four Hours of Learning Korean

Here is your schedule for the next four hours. Copy it onto a post-it note and put it somewhere prominent. The laptop screen works well.

Hours 0-1: Learn the Korean characters and practice reading them. This is not easy, but can be done with a few simple associations and mnemonic devices. Plug in some headphones, get out a notepad, and start associating. Practice

reading words around you and start to speak them aloud. The 90 Minute Challenge should help systematize this step.

Hours 1-2: Keep the momentum going and start building up you vocabulary by learning Korean words that were adapted from English. These are vocabulary words (usually nouns) that require almost zero memorization on your part because they sound just like the English. You can learn and perfect 15-20 of these in just under an hour — spelling and all.

Hours 2-3: Equipped with some vocabulary, it’s time to learn how to ask basic questions and have your first interaction in Korean. Go to the local store and ask if they have one of the items you just learned in your vocabulary study. If you can’t, get on a Skype call with a Korean friend or language exchange partner and ask them a few questions (“Do you have a girlfriend?”). You’ll be using this for years to come, and within 3 hours you’ve already had your first interaction in Korean — score!

Hours 3-4: Upgrade your abilities and learn to make requests in Korean. This requires you putting your head down and learning just one simple language point. Then it’s time to hit the streets once again and make an order in your favorite restaurant or take a taxi.

I’d say that’s enough for one day. After that, take a rest and bask in your success! You’re already miles ahead of the majority and you’ve gotten there in only four hours!

How to Remember the Korean Characters Easily 

This is the only piece of information you need to get started right now.

Did you know that there are fewer Korean characters than there are letters in the English alphabet?

Korean has 14 vowels and 10 consonants.

Unlike Japanese or Chinese, which have thousands of characters and each can have 10, 15 or more strokes, the most complex Korean character has only five strokes.

These symbols look foreign to us at first glance, but you’ll easily recognize them after making a few associations.

Since we’re learning a new language and have never seen these shapes before, it will be very difficult for us just to memorize them. Therefore, we need to ‘link’ them to something already in our minds in order to create an association.

We can do this using a visual learning technique to associate the new characters with pictures and sounds we already know.

The first letter of the English word in the picture has the same sound as the Korean character.

This will help to start to create the associations.

Take the symbol ㅂ for example:

We can associate that with a bed since the character looks like a bedframe and the letter “b” also corresponds with the sound of the character!

korean character b

Need another example?

The character that makes the sound “ch” looks similar to the top of a church. We can associate this symbol with the church and easily remember the sound it makes that way.

korean character ch

Cool, right? Let’s take a look at the rest of the characters that we should memorize:

Korean Character Sound Association
b bed
d door
g gun
h hat
j jug
l ladder
m mail
n northeast
s seashell
k key
t teeth
p pi (3.14)
ch church
silent (or "-ng") zero

That covers the consonants! There are also a few associations we can make for the vowels that simplify everything for us.

Luckily you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Just download 90 Day Korean’s free guide for learning the characters and see all the associations!

Your Korean Learning Schedule for the Remainder of the 90 Days 

For the rest of the days, there are only a few key actions you need to take to ensure you get to conversational fluency. Let’s check back in with our schedule!

Day 2: Set goals (explained in more detail in this post). The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Day 3: Learn the pronunciation rules and character combinations. You’ll want to learn how to combine the vowels to make the 

Days 4-89: Crack open the books for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week and spend at least an hour for every one of those 2.5 hours practicing speaking. It’s all about learning the key “helping” verbs and then peppering in strategically chosen, commonly used vocabulary words to your arsenal. And practice. This can’t be understated.

To help guide you, I’ve put together a list of 6 key elements to any Korean study plan that will help make sure you get 80% of the results with only 20% of the effort. Focus on these key activities and you’ll be conversationally fluent in only 90 days.

Get Help From Helping Verbs

To get early success in Korean and rapidly expand your speaking abilities, you can rely on helping verbs. Helping verbs in English are the verbs that help the main verb to express different tenses or moods.

The most common are be, do, have, will, shall, would, should, can, could, may, might, must, and ought.

With these, you can transform a simple sentence like “I study Korean” to a more complex one like “I should study Korean.”

To rapidly multiply the types of sentences you’re able to make and understand in Korean, you can make use of the same idea in your studies.

In fact, if you’ve gotten through the first 4 hours outlined in this post, you’ve already started to make use of different “helpers” when you asked simple questions at the store or made a request to the taxi driver.

Talk about an early win!

Once you memorize the right vocabulary, which we’ll talk about next, we’ll be able to use these verbs and just plug them into these sentences!

If you want to get a Korean Kickstart and learn a few of the most common sentence types in Korean, venture over to our post about 4 sentences you can start making right away.

Strategically Choose Korean Vocabulary and Phrases to Study

There’s no way to sugar coat it — starting to learn Korean means you’re going to have to learn new words and phrases. But it doesn’t have to be tedious and boring.

You can start with the most common verbs: to eat, to sleep, to drink, etc.

Here’s a list of 10 of the most commonly spoken Korean words to get you started:

English 한국어 (Korean)
To eat 먹다
To drink 마시다
To sleep 자다
To be 이다
To do 하다
To have 있다
To go 가다
To come 오다
To use 사용하다
To see 보다
To see 만나다

But after that, how do you know how to choose which words to study? You can make use of the 80/20 Principle.

The 80/20 Principle is a law written by Vilfredo Pareto, where he showed that 80% of the wealth in a given society was held by 20% of the population. The law was also found to hold up in areas outside of economics. For example, Pareto noticed that in his garden, 80% of the peas were being produced by only 20% of the peapods.

The 80/20 Principle in general can be summarized as: 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.

Therefore in language learning, it’s important to select the most important and relevant materials and focus on the 20% that give 80% of the results.

One way we can make use of this is to study only most frequently used Korean words.

There are a few ways to do this.

You can find a list of the most common Korean words. However, it’s important to differentiate between most commonly spoken words and most commonly written words.

Beware if the resource doesn’t differentiate. Since our goal is speaking, we’ll want to focus our efforts on learning to speak the way Koreans speak (which is quite different to the way they write!)

In each 80/20 Vocabulary lesson in the 90 Day Korean Inner Circle, we’ve carefully selected the most commonly used words – the 20% that will be used 80% of the time.

Once you’ve found a good resource list, you might want to consider using SRS systems or Anki decks to learn the critical words and phrases.

Material selection is most important. Then, once we have the materials properly selected, then we can refine the method. Using psychology, we can better encode the material so that it sticks better, and present it in the right order so that we make deep associations along the way.

To find a list of some of the most commonly used Korean expressions (and more), take a look at our Korean phrases post.

With the right practice, you’ll eventually be able to hit your goal! The three months will fly by, and when you finally reach day 90, it’s time to put your skills to the test. Of course, you’ll have been building up to the grand finale slowly week by week, but now is your moment.

Seize the day!

Day 90: Hit the town and have a 3 minute conversation with a local.

Have fun with it and be sure to crack a bottle of soju in celebration. Hit me up if you need any help along the way!


Image credit: Aleksander Markin

Registration for January 10th Meeting OPEN!!

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Olsu Interior

It’s been a long while since we have had a regular meeting, and our taste buds are just itching to get back in the game!  The new year is getting started and we are excited for another year filled with awesome makgeolli discoveries.  We recently heard about a relatively new bar in Hongdae that has an excellent range of regular, premium and hard to find brews….and we also heard their bossam is to die for.

Olsu bossam

We here at MMPK HQ are absolute suckers for a good bossam, so that means we just have to get in and try it for ourselves!  As always our meetings start at 7pm on Saturdays, and this first meeting of 2015 will be on January 10th.  If you would like to come try with us, send an email to to secure your spot.  We can’t wait to see faces old and new, and look forward to kicking off a great year for makgeolli :)


Makgeolli Mamas & Papas

How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice. Hi, my name is Lee.

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Time. Energy. Access to a computer.

When these three entities are in temporal alignment, a celestial event referred to as a Blog Posting can occur. Such events happened with greater frequency in times past, but two hyperspace anomalies recently supervening in our quadrant have been sucking all resources and material toward their gaping maws, wreaking general havoc on all that was once good and peaceful in the galaxy.

Their names are Ashley and Alex.

Since last posting, much has happened in the world of the Farrand family. No news is good news, as they say. We continue to do very well, despite having neglected my old friend The Blog, who at one time dearly comforted my ego as a friend in whom I could reliably confide.

I am aware that there may no longer remain any remote interest in the life and tribulations of a single expat in the cybersea of one million foreigners currently residing on the Koryo Peninsula

But I can say that I've recently bought an iPhone 6, and no longer have photo storage issues.

A veritable catacomb of myriad orifices may be a good way to describe the daunting labyrinth of unposted photos residing in my desktop image folders.

New folder. New Folder(1). New Folder(2). New Folder(3)... ad nauseum

So what I'll do is post about past events incongruently, and imagine the software-based forensic historians of the future can patch up any inconsistencies, should they care.

I'm of the persuasion that anything we publish online these days has no reason to find itself deleted, save for deliberate action. The reason being that although what we say is of only minute historical significance, the economy of modern memory technology effectively renders deletion a needless activity.

I was recruited by a Korean pharmaceutical company after graduating from SNU in August 2013. The job was lined up from February 2013 due to a lucky mix of contacts and a man called Anthony Nguyen, who serendipitously introduced me to my current boss on the sidelines of a symposium.

And I must say, it's one the best things in life that has happened to me. Apart from growing up in Australia, moving to Korea, marrying my wife and having kids. 

My company, which will remain nameless for search purposes, is an excellent place to work. Sure, the working culture has it's own differences and peculiarities, but nothing is a match for the insanity of Korean graduate school. Having spent more than four years within the immalleable bureaucracy of the SNU machine, nothing is too much for my now experience-hardened and immutable patience.

The work is stimulating, but most importantly, the people I work with are people I like and respect. They make me want to work harder. Although I'm the only foreigner in our company (of 1,500 employees), and despite my sketchy Korean skills, I've never once been made to feel sidelined because of it.

I have a variety of duties including business development, communication with overseas parties and medical writing. I also spend some of my time doing cancer screening experiments in the labs. Each week brings something new and interesting.

An oddity I've observed at this company is that normal work statistics do not seem to apply. My previous formulation of Lee's Law states that, "For every 10 researchers that exist, at least one will be difficult to get along with."

This does not seem to hold true for my current company, as I've yet to identify a difficult person. There could, however, be a secret enclave of difficult people all working together in a unit of the company somewhere, whom I have yet to meet. This would fulfill the requirements of Lee's Law, statistically speaking.

These two gentlemen are both directors in my unit, called the R&D Strategic Planning and Operation Unit. We three went hiking soon after my induction, and ended up walking about 13 km, stopping to drink makkeoli at a cemetery and eating pajeon on the way home.

Nothing is better for bonding than talking about the intricacies of work politics while tipsy in a cemetery. 

I started an English conversation club that's held during Wednesday lunchtimes, which has continued for a year now. It's been a good way to make new friends, and the company has been kind enough to support us with a dinner budget to celebrate every six months.

I joined the company with a group of new employees, and we've bonded well as dongi (fellow inductees). We had a housewarming party at our new apartment, and one of my colleagues brought his two daughters over as well.

I like it when guests play with my kids.

And then there are the company 회식, or work dinners, which are an integral part of Korean corporate culture. At these mythical events, one is expected to get tipsy and become more frank with others, thereby serving an important social function - to maintain harmony amongst co-workers who would otherwise have no appropriate venue to vent or fraternise. 

Although dreaded by some, I tend to enjoy our work dinners immensely. It's free food and alcohol.

Heather continues to be an extremely impressive mother. She is stalwart, steady and comforting. Our relationship has always been remarkably good, and only seems to be getting better. That may also be because I'm losing some of my unseasoned tendencies with age. May time continue to mellow the immature tannins of my personality.

If I had to pass but one piece of advice onto the younger generation, it would be to work on making yourself good enough to deserve someone you admire.

And our two kids continue to bring us much delight, albeit with much energy displacement. The best way to describe them in common terms would be two heavy, spongy, variably-smelling, jumping jellybeans of mischief and entertainment.  

Ashley is speaking a fair bit of Korean and a little broken English these days, while Alex emits random vocalisations from which meanings can be discerned by pitch and duration.

As another new year dawns on us, I do wonder whether I'll be able to post more often, if not for the sake of tracking the rapid growth and development of my aggies. But then Lee's Korea Blog will inevitably become more of a Lee's Kids Blog. I am acutely aware of how uninteresting it can be reading about another person's kids. But what can you do. 

You are more than welcome to follow along if you are interested in seeing two little Korean kids grow longer bones and proportionally smaller heads.

Wishing you a safe and prosperous 2015.

Negativity, Sensitivity, And Defending Your Country

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I read an article recently discussing Korean sensitivity and explaining why Koreans are ‘hyper sensitive to criticisms from non-Koreans’. Before I even started reading, I felt that the answer was pretty obvious: surely Koreans don’t like it because the people complaining aren’t Korean themselves. In my eyes, it’s understandable why, as a native, you’d get annoyed by foreigners coming into your country, only to moan about the way the country is run.

Let’s be honest, every country has faults and things to complain about. Whether it be hating the entire Government, the ‘youths of today’, or simply the weather, you can always find things to moan about. And this is fine- in fact, it’s human nature. In England, I hate losing the majority of a pay cheque on taxes, bills, and my student loan. In Korea, I hate feeling unsafe whenever I’m on the roads. Yet while I would feel comfortable grumbling about England to English people, I wouldn’t be as comfortable doing the same about Korea to Koreans. Why? Because I’m a foreigner in Korea. It’s my choice to live here, to be in a different culture which I might not always understand or enjoy.

Sure, some things in Korea seem illogical, and there are flaws to the system (as you’d find in any country). And while I might moan to my nearest and dearest about these things, I’d never assume that it’s my place to criticise the country openly and publicly to Koreans. Firstly because it’s disrespectful. And secondly, because I know I’d get defensive if a foreigner berated England in front of me (and yes, even if I agreed with what they were saying).

What are some things which expats complain about in Korea? Xenophobia and driving. What do expats mock Koreans for loving? K Pop and Kimchi. I’m not going to lie and say that I never get angry about things in Korea, and I also don’t think Kimchi is the best food in the world, nor K Pop the best music. But that doesn’t mean I spend my time bitching to Koreans about their country, or laughing at their taste in food/music.

Imagine if someone came into your country, and slated something your nation is proud of. What if a foreigner came into the UK and ranted about how stupid British people are for loving tea, or how the BBC is a load of rubbish. I know it would get my back up. Or what if they complained about all the stupid drivers who are way over the speed limit, or the drunken violence and debauchery that takes place every weekend. I’d feel like it wasn’t their place to say. In fact, the most common phrase I hear people in England saying when they hear foreigners complaining is: ‘If you don’t like it, go back to your own country.’

I am aware that I’ve spoken negatively about the Korean education system before, but my feelings towards that come from sympathy towards my students, who I see suffering and stressed every day. And at the same time, I did acknowledge the merits of the system, which produces continually high grades. I wouldn’t voice my opinions so loudly about the other things in Korea which I am not so positive about.

So I feel the reason why Koreans don’t respond well to criticism from non-Koreans is quite straightforward: 99% of people feel loyalty for their country. Why would they enjoy seeing expats laughing at them and ridiculing them, hating on everything and everyone. While they might also dislike things about Korea, it is still their country and they will defend it to outsiders. And I know that I would defend my country in the same way.

Filed under: Korea


Kathryn's Living

Viewing 2015 Through the Lens of 2014

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It’s about noon at the Dunphy house on the east coast of the USA, in sunny but chilly Middletown, New Jersey. Dad just put a small sausage pizza in his NuWave countertop oven and I am writing a blog about it. The pizza from ShopRite was 50% off, which means it will be even more delicious.

Meanwhile, back in Busan and Gimhae, South Korea, 2015 celebrations are well underway. And from here it feels like a dream. Or something long ago. Or something that hasn’t happened yet.

But, it’s something I’ll be back in the midst of in a few days after an 18-day sojourn over several seas. Thus, all the time, sleeping pills, early, early mornings and compromised digestive tracts will need to be calibrated anew. Shit. Maybe a poor choice of words.

This is my first New Year’s being spent at home while still living in Korea. Instead of drinking too much bad Korean beer, sleeping too few hours or thinking some too young girl who just came over from Minnesota/Toronto/Manchester/Cape Town/Sydney/Dublin a month ago wants to make memories with a charming, eligible, 35-year-old writer/wannabe teacher, tonight I’ll hang out with my brother’s family. We’ll devour a shrimp ring, drink a few bad American beers (unless my brother’s packing Molson tonight) and watch the ball drop on Times Square in the living room, perhaps to the dulcet tones of Pitbull, whom I initially wrote as “Bulldog” before realizing that wasn’t right and looking up the picture below.

Who's this guy again?
Who’s this guy again?

It’s a fine compromise, especially since I won’t be seeing them again for at least another year.

“Don’t get old, kid.” “I don’t think I can stop it!” True conversation over Christmas. The future is far from lost.

And this weekend, after my 24-hour-plus journey from Newark to Beijing, to Incheon, to Gimpo and then finally to Gimhae International Airport, then to work for our special 9 a.m. classes with luggage still in tow, all this will begin to feel like the dream, while Korea will again become more and more real.

Please do not tell me this beautiful meal was only a beautiful dream. Best dream I ever had involving pita bread.
Please do not tell me this beautiful meal was only a beautiful dream. Best dream I ever had involving pita bread if it was.

Everything in English. Driving. Family. Eastern Standard Time and a level of familiarity only decades can create replaced with Korean and whatever mishmash of English Google Translate came up with. Sitting on the bus. Family of a different blood, fourteen hours in the future and a sense of the unknown still palpable after almost two years.

Who's flying this thing?? I can't control it! We're gonna explode!!!
Also, my gastronomic journey/experiment, “American Fatty Tour 2,” will come to an end. “Who’s flying this thing?? I can’t control it! We’re gonna explode!!!”

The pictures of happy, intoxicated friends over my Facebook feed remain firmly fixed in some kind of other, like a lifetime ago, when I was a freewheeling college student. Which didn’t really happen as I was far too uptight for that most of the time, a lifetime ago, which might be why I still enjoy this so much and why it all still feels like a fresh adventure.

Be-speckled to protect the intoxicated and innocent.
Be-speckled to protect the intoxicated and innocent.

For now I will eat my ShopRite pizza, write this post and occasionally pick up Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” while 2014 chugs along for another 12 hours. Meanwhile, Busan and Gimhae, South Korea, will continue deeper and deeper into 2015, a dream of something long ago, that hasn’t happened yet.

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.

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