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Are N Korean outbursts in the Yellow Sea ‘Communication’?

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Is this what’s going on in these regular Yellow Sea clashes?

Last week, I wrote an essay for Lowy on why these North Korean outbursts in the Yellow Sea take place so regular – most recently this week. Lowy editor Sam Roggeven suggested the above scene from 13 Days, a film about the Cuban Missile Crisis, as an example my argument. That’s a nice catch I hadn’t thought of. It would be awfully nice if we had better information from North Korea by which by to make these judgments. For my similar, earlier thinking on North Korea crisis behavior, see this on the 2013 spring war crisis.

Here’s that essay:

“Yesterday North Korea conducted artillery exercises in the Yellow Sea (West Sea). Approximately one hundred rounds feel across the border, prompting the South to counter-fire and scramble F-15s to the area. (Here is a useful write-up of the incident.) South Korean residents of local islands were evacuated. No casualties were reported, and the incident seems to have ended.

While unnerving, there is little reason to believe these sorts of incidents will spiral out of control. They are surprisingly regular, and South Koreans have tuned them out to a certain extent. (I live in South Korea and, while I used to respond with alarm, I have now slipped into the apathy I see around me.) I did not even know about it until a foreign journalist asked me if this would lead to a serious conflict. It will not, and the real ‘kremlinological’ question is what, if anything, North Korea is trying to signal with these shootings. I see three possibilities, although it should be admitted that we have little evidence from North Korean decision-making by which to verify the following speculations:

 

 

1. North Korean incidents are often tied to some event they dislike.

Missile tests, nuclear tests, Yellow Sea incidents, arrests of tourists, and so on often seem to occur as a response to a discrete event. Usually these are related to the Americans. So when President Obama meet with President Park last week, missiles were tested. When George Bush placed North Korea on the ‘axis of evil,’ the Northern nuclear program went into overdrive. When the South Korean navy outperformed its Northern counterpart in a 2009 Yellow Sea clash, the North struck back the following year by sinking a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan. More generally, when South Korea and the US conduct annual training exercises, the North almost always pulls some stunt in response to US ‘imperialism’ and so on.

This is a dangerous way to express geopolitical displeasure, but North Korea is so badly isolated that mini-aggressions like these may serve a curious purpose. North Korea lacks a serious diplomatic corps. It lacks formal diplomatic recognition with many important states, particularly its major proximate adversaries – South Korea, the US, and Japan. This may then be a way for the North to ‘talk’ with the outside world. And while this seems quite risky, in the context of the world’s most militarized state governed by a cornered, paranoid elite (see the next point), there is a (disturbing) logic to it.

2. The North Korean military is acting out to justify itself and its gargantuan budget.

The regularity of incidents in which the North Korean military plays a role suggests that the Korean People’s Army (KPA) may nudge such clashes along. It is widely speculated that both the state administration and the party find the military’s role in North Korea too large. South Korean and American intelligence reckon Northern defense spending to eat up a staggering 25-35% of GDP. Under Kim Jong-Il, the military’s status was upgraded in the constitution under the ‘military-first’ policy (son-gun). Many analysts think this was to prevent a coup. Kim Jong-Il, the successor to regime founder Kim Il-Sung, did not have his father’s party and military connections and deep loyalty. Son-gun was to buy off the brass and keep the Kim family in power. But the opportunity costs was high. The military’s predation on the economy has accelerated North Korea’s economic decline and sprawling corruption, and it hardly seems like a coincidence that the terrible famine of the late 1990s which killed perhaps 10% of the population also occurred at the high point of son-gun. In such a context, it would be not surprising if the KPA pushes through incidents and tests like this in order to stir up tension. Such tension justifies unaffordable defense outlays, particularly in a ‘new order’ period as yet another Kim successor (Jong-Un) is settling in.

3. Incidents keep up tension with outside world for regime justification.

A final structural cause for these out-lashings may be the regime’s ideological need for tension. North Korea is a barracks state. Always heavily militarized, son-gun put this into over-drive. North Korea is an army served by and dominant over a population rather than vice versa. All this regimentation requires some explanation. No other state is governed like this. Even cold war-era east bloc diplomats found North Korea bizarre and disturbing.

The previous ideological structure, Marxism, is long gone now. By the logic of communism’s collapse and Germany’s reunification – as the most obvious analogue of Korea’s national division – North Korea should no longer even exist. It is poorer, less healthy, less developed, ideologically defeated, and so on.

But unification would be hugely risky for Northern elites. While west Germany treated eastern elites with some magnanimity, that is not expected in the Korean case. Northern elites have been far harsher to their population than the east Berlin ever was. This is one reason South Korea retains the death penalty. The Kim elite will almost certainly face capital punishment when North Korea finally collapses.

So if communism is over and unification to risky, then a new ideology of tension is needed. The US defense commitment to South Korea fills in perfectly. The US is the imperialist dominating South Korea – the ‘Yankee Colony’ – and a regular diet of clashes and conflict needs to be readily served up. The regular cycle of provocation and alarms keeps North Korea in the permanent crisis state necessary to explain why, to a population aware that the Cold War is over and that South Korea is far more prosperous, that the privations and strictures will not end.

All these explanations look for wider regime explanations rather than tit-for-tat possibilities. The alternative, implicit in press narratives that these incidents may spiral into conflict, is that local KPA commanders enjoy a lot of local autonomy and actually regularly run the risk of sparking a major conflict. I find that highly unlikely, but of course we just do not know for sure.

Yesterday North Korea conducted artillery exercises in the Yellow Sea (West Sea). Approximately one hundred rounds feel across the border, prompting the South to counter-fire and scramble F-15s to the area. (Here is a useful write-up of the incident.) South Korean residents of local islands were evacuated. No casualties were reported, and the incident seems to have ended.

While unnerving, there is little reason to believe these sorts of incidents will spiral out of control. They are surprisingly regular, and South Koreans have tuned them out to a certain extent. (I live in South Korea and, while I used to respond with alarm, I have now slipped into the apathy I see around me.) I did not even know about it until a foreign journalist asked me if this would lead to a serious conflict. It will not, and the real ‘kremlinological’ question is what, if anything, North Korea is trying to signal with these shootings. I see three possibilities, although it should be admitted that we have little evidence from North Korean decision-making by which to verify the following speculations:

1. North Korean incidents are often tied to some event they dislike.

Missile tests, nuclear tests, Yellow Sea incidents, arrests of tourists, and so on often seem to occur as a response to a discrete event. Usually these are related to the Americans. So when President Obama meet with President Park last week, missiles were tested. When George Bush placed North Korea on the ‘axis of evil,’ the Northern nuclear program went into overdrive. When the South Korean navy outperformed its Northern counterpart in a 2009 Yellow Sea clash, the North struck back the following year by sinking a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan. More generally, when South Korea and the US conduct annual training exercises, the North almost always pulls some stunt in response to US ‘imperialism’ and so on.

This is a dangerous way to express geopolitical displeasure, but North Korea is so badly isolated that mini-aggressions like these may serve a curious purpose. North Korea lacks a serious diplomatic corps. It lacks formal diplomatic recognition with many important states, particularly its major proximate adversaries – South Korea, the US, and Japan. This may then be a way for the North to ‘talk’ with the outside world. And while this seems quite risky, in the context of the world’s most militarized state governed by a cornered, paranoid elite (see the next point), there is a (disturbing) logic to it.

2. The North Korean military is acting out to justify itself and its gargantuan budget.

The regularity of incidents in which the North Korean military plays a role suggests that the Korean People’s Army (KPA) may nudge such clashes along. It is widely speculated that both the state administration and the party find the military’s role in North Korea too large. South Korean and American intelligence reckon Northern defense spending to eat up a staggering 25-35% of GDP. Under Kim Jong-Il, the military’s status was upgraded in the constitution under the ‘military-first’ policy (son-gun). Many analysts think this was to prevent a coup. Kim Jong-Il, the successor to regime founder Kim Il-Sung, did not have his father’s party and military connections and deep loyalty. Son-gun was to buy off the brass and keep the Kim family in power. But the opportunity costs was high. The military’s predation on the economy has accelerated North Korea’s economic decline and sprawling corruption, and it hardly seems like a coincidence that the terrible famine of the late 1990s which killed perhaps 10% of the population also occurred at the high point of son-gun. In such a context, it would be not surprising if the KPA pushes through incidents and tests like this in order to stir up tension. Such tension justifies unaffordable defense outlays, particularly in a ‘new order’ period as yet another Kim successor (Jong-Un) is settling in.

3. Incidents keep up tension with outside world for regime justification.

A final structural cause for these out-lashings may be the regime’s ideological need for tension. North Korea is a barracks state. Always heavily militarized, son-gun put this into over-drive. North Korea is an army served by and dominant over a population rather than vice versa. All this regimentation requires some explanation. No other state is governed like this. Even cold war-era east bloc diplomats found North Korea bizarre and disturbing.

The previous ideological structure, Marxism, is long gone now. By the logic of communism’s collapse and Germany’s reunification – as the most obvious analogue of Korea’s national division – North Korea should no longer even exist. It is poorer, less healthy, less developed, ideologically defeated, and so on.

But unification would be hugely risky for Northern elites. While west Germany treated eastern elites with some magnanimity, that is not expected in the Korean case. Northern elites have been far harsher to their population than the east Berlin ever was. This is one reason South Korea retains the death penalty. The Kim elite will almost certainly face capital punishment when North Korea finally collapses.

So if communism is over and unification to risky, then a new ideology of tension is needed. The US defense commitment to South Korea fills in perfectly. The US is the imperialist dominating South Korea – the ‘Yankee Colony’ – and a regular diet of clashes and conflict needs to be readily served up. The regular cycle of provocation and alarms keeps North Korea in the permanent crisis state necessary to explain why, to a population aware that the Cold War is over and that South Korea is far more prosperous, that the privations and strictures will not end.

All these explanations look for wider regime explanations rather than tit-for-tat possibilities. The alternative, implicit in press narratives that these incidents may spiral into conflict, is that local KPA commanders enjoy a lot of local autonomy and actually regularly run the risk of sparking a major conflict. I find that highly unlikely, but of course we just do not know for sure.


Filed under: International Relations Theory, Korea (North)

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

 


Muwisa Temple – 무위사 (Gangjin, Jeollanam-do)

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The amazing and historic interior of the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Muwisa Temple. 

Hello Again Everyone!!

Muwisa Temple is located on the south side of Wolchulsan National Park near the city of Gangjin. The temple is first believed to have been established in 617 by the famed monk, Wonhyo-daesa. It was known at that time as Gwaneumsa Temple. It was later expanded in the early 10th century by the equally famed monk, Doseon. It was at this point that the temple changed its name to Muwigapsa Temple.

You make your way up to the rather open temple by way of the Iljumun Gate. The next gate to greet you is the Cheonwangmun Gate, which houses some pretty intense Heavenly Kings. Uniquely, this gate is painted simple brown and white colours. Finally, you’ll pass through a pavilion to gain access to temple courtyard.

Straight ahead lies the Geukrakbo-jeon hall that dates back to 1430. It’s reminiscent of the main hall at Buseoksa Temple in Gyeongsangbuk-do. This hall is National Treasure #13. Inside this main hall, and sitting on the main altar, are three Buddha statues. Sitting in the centre is an earthen made statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). It’s believed that this statue dates back to the 15th century. It’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). These were not constructed at the same time as the central statue, as they are made of wood; however, they are similar in design. Behind the triad of statues, and on the reverse side of the central altar, is painted a famed white mural of Gwanseeum-bosal. This hall is packed with historic paintings. In fact, there used to be 29 historic murals inside this hall. Now, most of them reside inside the temple museum. There are, however, still two remaining murals up near the eaves of the hall. The first, and to the west, are a collection of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Nahan. Below this painting is a modern day painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). On the east side is, perhaps, the more famous triad dedicated to Amita-bul. This fading mural is National Treasure #313, and it was painted in 1476. This hall is one of a kind for its historic beauty both architecturally, but artistically, as well.

To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall. Just as you step into the hall, you’ll be surprised by two eye popping guardians. Trust me! A little further into this hall, and you’ll be greeted by a green-haired Jijang-bosal and the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the left of the main hall are a collection of halls, a pagoda and a stele. The three-story stone pagoda is believed to date back to 946 and is rather plain in design. It’s joined by a stele dedicated to Supreme Master Seongak, who lived from 864 to 917. He was key in the re-establishment of Muwisa Temple, and the stele is well kept with its tortoise base and life of the monk written on its body-stone.

Behind these two structures, and to the left, is a rather ordinary Nahan-jeon hall. Its plain exterior is matched by is rather sparsely populated interior. Behind this hall, and slightly to the right, are two smaller sized halls. The first one to the right is a hall with a larger sized stone image of the Buddha of unknown origins or date. To the left of this hall is the Sanshin-gak. Inside is a rather plain style contemporary painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

The final hall to visit at Muwisa Temple is the Cheonbul-jeon hall that lies between the Nahan-jeon and the Sanshin-gak. Up a small trail and over a small bridge, you’ll find this newly constructed hall. Well populated with a thousand bronze coloured images of the Buddha, and fronted by a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul, is the beautiful interior to this hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Muwisa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Gangjin Intercity Bus Terminal from wherever it is you live in Korea. From there, a bus leaves at 06:40, 08:35, 10:30, 15:00, 16:00, 17:20 to get to the temple.


크게 보기

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. By far, the main highlight to this temple is the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Muwisa temple. The date of this hall, 1430, combined with the historic paintings that also date back to the 15th century are truly unsurpassed in Korea. Additionally, there are several other halls, gates, and a historic pagoda and stele to see at this beautifully situated temple in Jeollanam-do.

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 A look through the Iljumun Gate at the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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 A closer look at the plainly painted Cheonwangmun Gate.

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 A look at the side-wards glancing Heavenly King.

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 A look back at the Iljumun Gate as the sun rises in the early morning hours.

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 The pavilion you pass through to get to the temple courtyard.

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 The famed Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Muwisa Temple.

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 The beautiful statues that adorn the main altar. In the centre is the 15th century statue of Amita-bul.

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 Behind the main altar is this famed painting of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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 A collection of Buddhas inside the historic painting.

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 The Amita-bul painting that dates back to 1476 and is a National Treasure.

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 To the right of the main hall lies the Myeongbu-jeon.

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 The frightening guardian that welcomes you to the Myeongbu-jeon.

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 The altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon.

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 To the left of the main hall is this collection of halls.

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 The face of the stele that bears the history of the Supreme Master Seongak.

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The rather plain interior of the Nahan-jeon.

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 The contemporary Confucian-style painting of Sanshin.

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 A large sized stone image of the Buddha.

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 The Cheonbul-jeon hall that lies outside the main courtyard at Muwisa Temple.

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 A look inside at the 1,000 Buddhas.

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 And finally, it was time to head to the next temple.


Learn Korean Ep. 53: Even

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This week we've got a brand new episode in the "Learn Korean" series.

There's also a free PDF version of this lesson, with extra information and examples, on the YouTube PDFs page (link at top).

Learn Korean Ep. 53: Even


-Billy

www.GoBillyKorean.com

 Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean

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Representative Jasmine Lee Urges Lawmakers to Pass Bill To Protect Rights of Undocumented Children

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Representative Jasmine Lee, the first Filipina and naturalized Korean to become a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker, is urging her fellow lawmakers to pass a bill that will safeguard the fundamental rights of undocumented foreign children in South Korea. The bill, which she plans to submit before June, will give unregistered foreign children the right to a public education and govenment health services. As of today, unregistered children are allowed to attend primary and secondary schools, but they cannot avail of national health insurance. Hwang Pil-gyu, a human rights lawyer, also suggested that the children be given exemption from compulsory deportation and be permitted to live with their family in Korea.

To read more, please click the article “Unregistered children need protection” from The Korea Times.


From Korea with Love
Chrissantosra.wordpress.com


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Sprung

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Spring has moved beyond it’s intial flex and is now well into the process of ejecting life from within the winter locked bowels of the plants and people longing for the seasons much anticipated warmth.

For me, without a doubt, the finest part of spring in Korea has to be its first couple of weeks as the first rain soaks and nourishes the earth, then the yellows of the forsythia and other plants slowly poke out in the yellow dusy haze. Before long the bushes on the streets begin to glow a warmer green, and the ever present cherry blossom trees have pre-bloom fur about their branches as the white petals rest just a few days from when they explode everywhere.

Did I mention the azaleas, which are the true jewel of the Korean spring?

It is this time when Korea’s spring is at its best, in my opinion. Yes, we all obssess over cherry blossoms (just spend a moment on my instagram page) because, well as impractical as they are, they are very nice to look at. However, before their emergence, this is when I find any extra skip in my step. The added warmth in the air makes this all the more easier.

Of course, it’s hard to resist arming myself with my camera on those short walks to work. Here’s a small set of some of the views on the way too and from work.

*

 

-

 

 


Gwangali TeaHouse Okada

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 Spring is here and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The beach area is just starting to warm up. Down in the middle of Gwangali beach there is a new teahouse called Ogada or by its English name Korean Tea & Time. It is a great place to sit back and enjoy the seaview.

The tea house is centrally located right on the beachfront road.
Here's their phone number if you have trouble finding them though it should be rather easy.


I took these photos a few months ago, a week after they had first opened. They are much busier now and most likely will be very busy this summer. They have an awesome view of the beach and Gwangali and plenty of comfy seats.


Their teas are all distinctly Korean. They offer the traditional teas that can be found in most traditional teahouses around Busan and in Seoul.
However they also offer Korean tea blends : with nuts or cinnamon or other natural ingredients.
They do take-out as well as 'drink in'. Their website is www.ogada.co.kr
and there you can find their full menu. Most of it is in Korean however when you click the links you'll find that all their teas are written in English and in Korean making it very easy to select and order.





A great view and quite a menu. I'll post more details when I return there this weekend and check out another, though much smaller, teahouse in Gwangali. Until then stay steeped!
MWT.

About the Author

Matthew William Thivierge has abandoned his PhD studies in Shakespeare and is now currently almost half-way through becoming a tea-master (Japanese,Korean & Chinese tea ceremony). He is a part time Ninjologist with some Jagaek studies (Korean 'ninja') and on occasion views the carrying on of pirates from his balcony mounted telescope.

Blogs
About Tea Busan  *   Mr.T's Chanoyu てさん 茶の湯   *  East Sea Scrolls  *  East Orient Steampunk Society


Becoming a Brand?

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A good way  for any business to retain customers is to generate brand recognition.  Brand recognition brings with itself a status that parents can carry around like a badge.  The problem with branding is it can easily bite you in the ass too.

When I first opened my school, I asked people around and they immediately said “Ohhhh looks expensive!”, even though prices in Korea are regulated ….  I thought that image might have been in my advantage but it seemed to work against me.  Since people had the perception of me being “too expensive” they didn’t bother inquiring.  When schools advertise, they have to add their prices in their advertising, it is just that no school does that, and no punishment is given, at this point.  It is also dangerous to do that since you might actively start a price war with your competition.  Koreans are very good at starting rumors, especially bad ones.  As a foreigner, you will have absolutely no recourse against this problem.

This is probably why franchises do better in South Korea.  Since the brand recognition is there.  But most of us silly foreigners don’t get that part, and are convinced we can do better.  We do better, but your customers don’t know that.  Certainly not at first.

It took me three years to get my “brand” recognized on city level.  It is when I reached my peak that my brand recognition started to backfire.  I had two negative incidents with 2 different teachers not too far apart ( +- 6 months) which turned my brand into a negative added value.  I am still trying to turn back around the negative implications of those incidents.

The customers I have know this, but the customers I don’t have (and would very much like) don’t.  They rely on past information.  It is very difficult to expunge these bad ideas when you are a foreigner.  You have zero control over information spread in your area.  Going viral, as they like to say, is a two-edged sword.

Koreans Trust The Gossip.  The Gossip train is run by mothers who are not pro-actively seeking the truth.  They are very much ingrained with a herd mentality.  What the truth is don’t matter, what everybody else is saying matters.  Exasperating when you are swinging on the wrong side, Exhilarating when you are on the right side.

You want to get that early success, you need to get that Gossip Train work in your favor, but beware, you make a faux-pas, it could well bite you in the ass.

Cheers


Wangjangnim.com


Another Queer Weekend

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Another queer weekend in Seoul! What I would be doing tonight is heading to the pre-party for the upcoming Seoul queer film festival.

It starts at 9 pm on Friday night, April 4th, at Club Jess in Hongdae. Entrance is 15,000 won.

Saturday night at GQ Bar in Jongno has their typical Club Party with K-Pop music (both current and retro) throughout the night. This one is for singles and apparently you are supposed to kiss in the dark.



If you wanted something a bit different on Saturday night, you could go to the Charity Date Auction for CARE. CARE has an ongoing spay and neuter campaign. At the Bull & Barrel in Itaewon, there ae both straight and queer folks you can bid on for a lovely date!



Have a great weekend! 

Dude!

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I'm still here!

This week came and went... friday is almost here and we've done too many things.

Currently I'm singing "GZB" while my sis and I remember what we've been through with our Instagram pictures. I know you must be tired of me saying how Blessed I feel but I really do feel Blessed everyday.

Today I was walking while waiting for the train and I was thus close to take a picture of a random tree because I thougjt it looked amazing and it made my day brighter (despite being cloudy and rainy all day).

Yesterday GD (hey... you already know I'm a fan here!) Posted a quote that said something like "When a door closes another one opens but sometimes you are so busy pondering about the closed one that you don't realize another one has been open" and that's very true... I got a job yesterday doing marketing in Spanish but I wasn't convinced it was a legit company so, I decided not to take it and instead I decided to focus on what was going on at the moment and BAM! I received another proposal!!

I then went into my 1st and most loved job and ended up cooking Pizza with a student and my sister, we had a great time...like we always do~~

My boss got me a Giant baguette because she knows I love REAL bread (nothing against Korean bread but its not the same), she is awesome and always worry about us ♡.

We have also RSVP'd  for a party with Jay Park next weekend! Wooooo~~

This weekend we have 2 videos to make for our Vlog and then is Chillin' time because I have the worst Dark Circles ever... my boss even told me today that she felt sorry cuz I cooked and I looked VERY tired 헐.

Anyway, just wanted to post a little update, I'm working on a "Single Mom in Korea" post but the next weeks promise to be very busy ones.

Have a great weekend and I'll see you wjen I see you!

-Gisela V.


The Julie/Julia/Gisela Project
Food & Culture
TheJulieJuliaGiselaProject.blogspot.com

 
 
The Julie Julia Gisela Project

 

 


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