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This post is a local re-post of an article I wrote for The Diplomat earlier this month on the the Korean presidential scandal.
Honestly, the whole thing is so bizarre that I am at a loss for words. And the more information comes out, the weird it becomes. The only analogy I can think of for the extraordinary influence Choi Soon-Sil had over Park Geun Hye is Rasputin. I know that seems pretty extreme, but the more you read about it, the more that’s what it sounds like. Choi may have influenced areas as wide as Park’s North Korea policy and her wardrobe. There are even rumors that Choi’s gigilo was on the gravy train too. Yes, really; it’s that weird.
Anyway, Park’s presidency is now over, even if she manages to hang onto the office. She will get nothing ever again from the legislature. She will retain some authority of foreign and defense policy, but even that will be hemmed in. If she does anything controversial, she’ll be hammered for it. So good thing THAAD went through before this all exploded.
Can’t say I have a lot of sympathy for PGH. She ruled as an aloof aristocrat, and she treated the Korean media terribly. I think that’s why there is so little sympathy out there. If she had remembered she was a democratic president instead of a monarch, she might have had a reservoir of public good will to draw on. Alas, a lot Koreans think this is her come-uppance.
My full treatment of the scandal comes after the jump.
Park Geun Hye, the president of South Korea, has lately been engulfed by a scandal that may bring down her administration. Choi Soon Sil, a long-time friend and mentor of the president, allegedly used her relationship with Park to extort money from South Korea’s largest corporations (chaebol). Corruption scandals, abuse of power, kickbacks, embezzlement, and so on, are, unfortunately, established problems in South Korea, as they are in many democracies. ‘Choi-gate,’ as it has inevitably become named, attracts so much attention, however, because of the sheer oddity of Choi’s relationship to the president.
A Korean Rasputin?
Choi’s relationship with Park goes back to the 1970s, when Choi’s father befriended Park’s family in the wake of Park’s mother’s assassination. Choi the elder claimed he could speak to Park’s mother’s spirit, and he seems to have lead some kind of shamanistic cult leader. It is unclear how much Park was taken in by all this, but a US diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks noted long-standing rumors that the Choi family had ‘complete control over Park’s body and soul.’ The Chois’ influence on Park has repeatedly been likened to Rasputin’s influence over Russian Czar Nicholas II. Choi the younger was given all sorts of curious access to the Blue House (the South Korean equivalent of the White House) including oversight of the presidential wardrobe, staffing decisions (having Choi’s personal trainer hired, e.g.), and editorial input on Park’s speeches.
It is unclear at the moment if that relationship involved criminal activity. Park Geun Hye, like any politician, is entitled to personal friendships, and democratic office-holders have long sought the counsel of old friends who do not necessarily have rich topical expertise but whom are nonetheless deeply trusted. On assuming the American presidency, Harry Truman is rumored to have said ‘I need some Missouri around me,’ by which he meant long-time friends from his home state whom he trusted more than the experts around him from the Roosevelt administration. Nevertheless, the sheer oddness, utter lack of credentials, and wide influence Choi had is bizarre and disturbing; as one AFP journalist put it: “Why so much fury over Choi in Korea? Imagine if your head of state had a Gypsy palm reader as a key aide and let her handle cabinet formation/policy.”
Korean Presidential Scandals
Park’s defenders note that South Korean presidents regularly get in trouble for corruption and cronyism. Indeed, this is true. Every South Korean president since democratization has been investigated after he left office; some have gone to jail, and one even killed himself over the allegations. More generally, South Korea’s Transparency International score for corruption is a mediocre 56 out of 100 possible points. Corruption is so widespread that South Korea recently enacted an extremely tough anti-graft law. It is also true that Korean presidents routinely suffer crashing approval ratings.
In this sense Park is in good (bad) company. Just over the previous three presidencies:
Lee Myung Bak (POTROK, 2008-13) got entangled in a corruption scandal involving his family and political associates, mostly involving bribery. Lee, like Park, was forced to make a public apology. Lee was also questioned regarding stock manipulation, and his signature Four Rivers project was dogged by allegations that it was far too elaborate and olympian to reasonably succeed and really about kickbacks to cronies in the construction industry.
Roh Moo Hyun (POTROK, 2003-2008) was also pulled into a family corruption scandal involving bribery. He too felt compelled to apologize and committed suicide over the issue.
Kim Dae Jung (POTROK, 1998-2003), we now know, effectively bribed Kim Jong Il to participate in the ‘Sunshine’ process with a cash payment of $500 million. He too got sucked into a family bribery scandal.
What makes Park’s trouble unique in this otherwise depressing history of pay-to-play is the oddity of her scandal. This is not a typical or ‘understandable’ scandal. Scandals over money, political power, sex, or helping friends and family are comprehensible, if still deplorable, because we all suffer from those weaknesses. What sets Park’s troubles apart is that she went to such great lengths to help someone whom most of us would immediately have tagged as a grifter and a charlatan. When Richard Nixon paid off Howard Hunt during Watergate, both were sharp characters looking for a serious pay-off over a major issue. It was illegal but deadly serious.
By contrast, Park looks like a dilettante. What she ever saw in an obvious con-artist like Choi; what serious benefit Park ever got from the relationship; and why she allowed Choi to manipulate her so easily for so long baffles the entire country. Park comes out of this looking, not like a nixonian schemer, but a lightweight mark conned by a snake oil salesman. How does one ascend to the presidency of a major country while simultaneously being a marionette to some weirdo Rasputin character? South Koreans strike me as more mystified and unnerved, rather than dismayed, at their president. As one K-blogger put it, what is so strange is how utterly irrational Park’s downfall is compared to other Korean presidents’ ‘normal’ corruption.
The Future of Corruption in Korea
Park Geun Hye’s case is so bizarre that I doubt it will have lasting impact on the corruption debate here. Her presidency is probably fatally wounded, but Choi-gate does not touch on the sources of more normal corruption in Korea:
– A deeply rooted gift-giving culture: The giving of gifts is an important social bonding mechanism in Korea, which, when transferred to professional environments, can appear like bribery. Successive governments have struggled with this; it would be a shame if the healthy instinct of communitarian generosity inherent in gift-giving were criminalized. Nevertheless, the government is now taking a hardline with the new anti-graft law.
– A large, intrusive state: The South Korean developmentalist state is very active in the economy. It routinely directs resources toward favored sectors and companies (‘picking winners’), opening ample space for business and political elites to interact regarding money. The opportunities for graft are as obvious as they are extensive. These are the sorts of relationships that have repeatedly done in Korean political and chaebol elites. Until the state steps back from the economy, such scandals will continue.
The good news however is that corruption in South Korea is often uncovered and subject to scrutiny. Prosecutors pursue it, and the public gets incensed. All this sunlight should eventually improve the situation as future grifters and cheaters must reckon with the likelihood that they will be caught and punished. South Korea, for all its corruption, is not like Russia or many other states far down on the Transparency International index. Corruption is routinely revealed, and even top officials are punished for it. Cleaning out the dirt may ugly, but it is happening. It is not swept under the rug, as in so many other places.
As for Park, my own sense is that this is a friendship run badly amok. Park’s parents were both assassinated; she is estranged from her siblings; she never married; and she has few personal friends and a distant demeanor. It sounds a lot like she was lonely and lost sight of proper boundaries. Choi’s influence was likely inappropriate and unethical, but it is not obviously criminal. Barring some bombshell revelation, I doubt Park Geun Hye will step down.
Much like our other little furry friend the dog, cats are also popular among Koreans. Therefore, knowing how to say ‘cat’ in Korean is a splendid little addition to anyone’s basic vocabulary. As such, in this post, you’ll find out how to say ‘cat’ in Korean!
*Can’t read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!
‘Cat’ in Korean
In comparison to the word for ‘dog’ in Korean, the word for ‘cat’ might be considered slightly more difficult to remember and pronounce. But what is the actual word? The word for ‘cat’ is 고양이 (goyangi) in Korean! It’s three syllables, but it’s actually quite simple to pronounce. Bonus good news: The word for ‘cat’, 고양이 (goyangi), can also be used to mean kittens!
To best enhance your learning and memorization, below are some sample sentences through which you can see and remember how the word for ‘cat’ is used in practice.
우리 고양이가 보통 개를 안좋아해요 (uri goyangiga botong gaereul anjohahaeyo)
Our cat doesn’t usually like dogs
너는 고양이와 개 중에서 어느 쪽을 더 좋아해? (neoneun goyangiwa gae jungeseo eoneu jjogeul deo johahae?)
Do you prefer cats or dogs?
오늘 같이 고양이카페로 놀려 갈래? (oneul kachi goyangikapero nolleo gallae?)
Do you want to go to a cat café together today?
Other Related Vocabulary
Although there officially isn’t another word for ‘kitten’ in Korean, if you want to make a clear distinction between a ‘cat’ and a ‘kitten’, you can use the words below.
고양이 (goyangi) = cat
새끼 고양이 (goyangi saeggi) = kitten
Also, here is the word for the sound that cats in Korea make.
야옹 (yaong) = meow
Here’s a sample sentence on how to use it:
고양이가 야옹야옹 울고 있어요 (goyangiga yaong yaong ulgo isseoyo)
The cat is meowing
A Word of Caution About Romanization
Even though we provide the romanized version of the Korean words we teach, you’ll do much better if you learn Hangul (the Korean alphabet). Romanization is done by taking the Korean word and using similar sounding letter combinations in English. Since it’s much less precise than Hangul, it’s easy to mispronounce words, or to not understand what the other person is saying.
It’s much simpler to learn the Korean alphabet, especially since it only takes 60 – 90 minutes. It’s very motivating to be able to read the Korean characters. Once you do, you’ll find yourself reading Korean letters all the time!
The word고양이 (goyangi) specifically means cat – and the other equivalent words for ‘cat’ in English – so every time you see the word around, there should be very little confusion over the meaning of the word! Now that you know how to say ‘cat’ in Korean, it’s time to go use it in the real world; perhaps by visiting your nearest cat café?
*Want more Korean phrases? Go to our Korean Phrases Page for a complete list!
Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series: http://www.90DayKorean.com/learn
Greetings, travelers! I’m a member of Trazy Crew, back with a review, this time about my experience on my fall foliage trip to Naejangsan National Park!
Since South Korea is well known for the beautiful fall colors, I wanted to venture out. So last week, I signed up for our own tour package which was the ‘Korea Fall Foliage Small Group Tour‘.
What/Where is Naejangsan National Park?
In case this is your first time hearing about the park, Naejangsan is a famous mountain located in Jeolla-do Province, which is not too far from Jeong-eup City.
It’s one of the best destinations for viewing a gorgeous color palette of autumn leaves (mainly maple leaves) and breathing in the fresh air in South Korea. Plus, there are also waterfalls and temples to explore.
Naejang means ‘many secrets’, implying that there are many beautiful things to discover in the park. Though fall is definitely the park’s peak season, it’s also gorgeous during the spring when azaleas and cherry blossoms bloom, summer when the mountain turns greener and in winter when the rock cliffs are blanketed in snow.
The Best Way to Get to Naejangsan National Park
By Train: You can take the KTX from Yongsan Station to get to Jeong-eup Station, then take a local bus to get there. This method can be quite confusing for first-time travelers and the train ticket price may be a little bit expensive as it costs around 40,000 KRW (around 39 USD). And fall is a high season in Korea, which means the train tickets may run out real fast.
By car: It takes around 4 hours from Seoul, but during weekends or peak season, it may take even more. Also, during the peak season, access to the mountain can become quite difficult, especially if you arrive late. The parking lots fill up before noon and the roads get packed. It’s best to arrive early in the morning and leisurely explore.
For those who merely need a transport and do not want to go through the hassle, signing up for a tour package can be a great option as it provides a round-trip transportation and an admission fee.
Trazy’s fall foliage tour package also provides a round-trip transportation, which was a van along with a friendly tour staff member who spoke English. The admission fee is also included. I was picked up at Hongik University Station at 6:00am, but departure locations also include Myeongdong Station and Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station.
*Note that for a larger group of people, a bus may be used instead of a van. On the day of the tour, my tour group consisted of 6 people including myself.
By any means, if you would like to get there by yourself, click here for directions!
There was one rest stop halfway where we could use the bathroom and buy some food. We arrived at the park at around 10:30am ready to explore!
The Top 4 Hiking Trails We Recommend!
In Naejangsan National Park, there is a total of 10 hiking courses in the park. But here are the top 4 hiking trails and courses you should try.
1. Seoraebong Course – The most visited course that starts from the Hiking Information Center and passes through Seoraebong Peak (624m) and Bulchulbong Peak (622m) before ending at the Information Center again. It’s not too challenging, but there is a steep steel staircase that can be a little tiring to climb. 2. Nature Observation Course – Also an easy one composed of mainly gravel roads and dirt that’s great for families, children or the elderly. The entire course can be completed in about an hour and 20 minutes. 3. Baekyangsa Walking Trail – For those who want more of a challenge and really want to get in some exercise, these two trails are recommended. This trail contains several steep slopes and has lots of steps.
Here’s How Trazy’s Fall Foliage Tour Goes…
We took one of the easier courses that involved barely any steep inclines or difficulty. From the parking lot, we took a free shuttle bus to the ticket area, which took less than 5 mins. By walking, it would take around 15~20 mins.There the tour staff member bought us tickets for the second shuttle to the entrance of the National Park. All courses start and finish from this entrance where the ticket booths are.
The bus fee is part of the tour so we didn’t need to pay but it is normally 1,000 KRW. The first shuttle was big, but this one was smaller and more cramped but it didn’t matter since the journey was short. We passed lots of hikers and tourists despite it only being 11am. On the way, you can find this sign in the picture below. If you are the left was the cable car, which people could ride at an additional cost. 0.5 km to the right was Naejangsa Temple, which was where we were headed and further ahead was Byeongnyeonam Temple.The walk to the temple takes around 5 minutes, and is so enthralling and beautiful that you’ll be stopping for photos constantly! There were also many restaurants and vendors selling vegetables, herbs, teas, kimchi, meat, makgeolli (rice-based alcohol) and acorn jelly as well as various trinkets.
3 Attractions You Should Not Miss!
1. Naejangsa Temple
After a leisurely 5 minute walk from the entrance of the park, we arrived at Naejangsa Temple.The temples had people praying inside them and outside pretty much every spot was a photo zone. The trees and floor were coated with leaves and there was a pond with statues spurting out water.Korean temples also have wells called ‘Yaksuto.’ These wells pour out water that is fresh and drinkable, which you can do with the plastic cups provided. The highlight was hands down a singing performance by one of the monks. He was singing a pop song with a voice that you would expect to hear from someone like Pavarotti or Bocelli. He was amazing.
Recommended photo spots:
*Illjumun Gate: It is symbolic because it is the entrance to the Buddhist temple and is apparently good for taking group photos. *The lanterns: These were located in front of the temple. I LOVE the colors and found that they made the perfect background for a photo as they swayed gently in the wind. *The pagoda: It houses the purported remains of the Buddha and makes for the perfect photo with the backdrop of the foliage and blue sky.
*Resting area: This area was where a lot of people were sitting down to take a rest. There were stairs leading up to the top where many photos were being taken too. The photographer would stand there and point their camera down so that the foliage would be captured with the subject in the middle.
2. Uhwajeong Pavilion
The leisurely downhill walk from the temple back to the parking lot was about an hour and 40 minutes down a long path called ‘Five Colors Danpoong (Korean for autumn leaves) Path’.
As we walked down, we saw Uhwajeong Pavilion.
The name is derived from the legend that the pavilion once grew wings and ascended into the heavens. Various flowers, trees and foliage surrounding the pavilion created a view that looked almost fake. The water was also so clear that I could see fish swimming!
The one that stands today was built this year to replace the original one (pictured above) erected in 1965, which was criticized for failing to harmonize with its surroundings.
Recommended photo spots:
*Stone path: I noticed many people taking photos on the stone path leading to the pavilion. They would stand in a line and pop their heads out in alternative directions while flailing their arms, which made for a cute photo.
*From a distance: I also found that taking a photo from further away made the pavilion look like something out of a postcard. This was thanks to the foliage and trees appearing in the surroundings as well as the ray of sunlight!
3. Sinsun Waterfall
Located further down from where Uhwajeong Pavilion is, Sinsun Waterfall is a historical river bank where Japanese and Korean soldiers fought. Since the river is old, natural stones were stacked in efforts to reconstruct it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to see the water flowing out on the day of the tour, but when it does, it just looks amazing!
Recommended Photo Spot:
*Sinsun Waterfall and Uhwajeong Pavilion: Because Uhwajeong Pavilion is visible behind the waterfall, it makes for the perfect photo as you can see it in its miniature form in the background behind the cascading waterfall!
Trazy’s Survival Tips – Know Before You Go!
*Wear comfortable shoes! I wore a pair of combat boots that were relatively comfortable, but sneakers would be better. Wear hiking shoes if you plan on trekking along the more challenging courses.*Skip the cable car or be prepared to waste a good two or three hours waiting. It’s much better to explore the paths by walking in that time.
*Stick to bibimbap if you’re not into foods that have strong seasonings or taste. The tour staff told us one of the tourists ordered a bean paste soup, but it turned out to have such a strong taste that was like ‘cheonggukjang’, a fermented soybean paste that has a pungent scent).
*Avoid weekends. If you head to the park on a Friday, there may be an increased amount of traffic when you head back in the evening. This is normal, though.
Review on ‘Korea Fall Foliage Small Group Tour’
Overall, I had a really great time at the park. I was dreading it at first since I am by no means an outdoorsy person, but it wasn’t bad at all! The trail was nice and easy to walk along and the weather was amazing. I captured so many amazing photos and got some exercise too.
I do kind of wish that I had visited earlier since the foliage is in full bloom during early November. Plus it had rained heavily the day before, making lots of leaves fall to the ground.
So, if you are thinking of joining the tour next year, check the weather forecast regularly and book your trip during the month of October.
At any rate, the Fall Foliage Small Group Tour was excellent since I was driven to and from the park by the tour staff. Since the tour is not guided, we were also free to explore the area on our own and be back at the parking lot at a designated time.
For those of you who have never been to Naejangsan National Park or other national parks across South Korea during fall, check out Trazy’s fall foliage tournext year and book in advance if you want to save your seats during the peak season!
Found this post helpful? Don’t forget to check out Trazy.com, Korea’s #1 Travel Shop for more fun and exciting things to do in South Korea.
Life After ESL: Story Time
Guest Post Awesome
Shaun Dell: Life After ESL
Okay, all set. But what about after arriving home?
That’s all there is to it? No sweat, I’ll be fine!
About Shaun Dell
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|Jackie Bolen: How to Get a University Job In Korea|
My Life! Teaching in a Korean University:
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미안합니다. 죄송합니다. These are just two ways that Korean people say "I'm sorry." But these two phrases don't work in every situation. In some cases, you'll want to use the verbs 안타깝다 or 안됐다, or the phrases 어떡해요 and 유감입니다. Each one is a little different in meaning, and also has a different use.
Find out their differences, and when to use them, in this first episode of the new series "A Glass with Billy."
The post How to Say "I'm Sorry" in Korean – A Glass with Billy Episode 1 appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.
Here is a story of three coffee shops. Since Korea does seem to love its stories, I thought it appropriate.
The other week, the better half and I felt a hankering for some after work coffees. We first headed to the bustling “Jeonpo Cafe Street” area, where we decided to try a new (to us) spot. We ended up at Cafe the Red (Jeonpo subway exit 7, next left, second right, turn right at Coffeesmith) the home of… Cheese Americano?
Am I reading that correctly? Anyway, neither of us were brave enough to find out whether the aforementioned cheese in this drink (price: 5,000 won) was closer to a Danish or deli Swiss. I went for my usual cafe beverage, a Cafe Latte (price: 4,500 won) while the better half went for her usual, a Caramel Macchiato (price: 5,000 won).
Both drinks did their jobs just fine. Neither of us were wowed by them, but neither were offensive, either. And, depending on what you’re looking for in a cafe, Cafe the Red could be the spot for you. It’s a bit “shabby chic,” with black and red the dominant colors on display and a bit of tchotchkie for spice.
But, was it the spot for us? Probably not as repeat customers. There’s just too many spots to sort out, you know? But, what Cafe the Red did is get us buzzed on caffeine. Did you know a “Pub Crawl” isn’t the only crawl you can crawl? Why not give a “Cafe Crawl” a try?
Matin Coffee Roasters (Jeonpo subway exit 7, turn left, pass Starbucks, walk down to next intersection and turn left, walk straight and you will see this on your right, above a “Mart”) caught the eye of the better half a few weeks before. Not because of its cat theme, or even a wellness theme (they encourage people to talk to each other instead of staring at their phones, there is no wifi and no outlets to plug in your devices. However, all of this is written in English, so one has to wonder if they are serious or it’s seriously a gimmick).
And, true to their word, Matin Coffee Roasters did not have a kid in sight.
The aforementioned “wellness” initiative may or may not be a gimmick, either, but we enjoyed a few moments following its advice before checking something out on her iPhone. Hey, there might not be any wifi, but that doesn’t mean your data won’t work.
The atmosphere inside and outside Matin was very, very nice, and felt like a comfortable, modern cafe we might have discovered in the States. Popular acoustic-driven alt-rock of the 1990s and early 2000s dominated the speakers. And, it was being enjoyed by lots of people on the day we popped in for our second round of two in our caffeine crawl.
But, enough of that rub-a-dub. How were the drinks? I’ll say… fine?
As this was our second of two stops on the crawl, we both opted for drinks that differed from our usual benchmarks of a cafe’s quality. Instead of her Caramel Macchiato, the better half got a hot chocolate (pretty decent, pretty chocolatey, she said) and I got a “Busan Latte,” which was a little too sweet for my liking but it would likely please those with sweeter preferences. Prices? I can’t remember, but they weren’t cheap. The Busan Latte, I believe was 6,000 won. The hot chocolate went for a little less. An Americano, I think, was closer to the 3,500 to 4,000 won range.
That said, we’ll definitely check it out again. We bought a 200 gram bag of one of their bean blends (12,000 won, yeowch that’s not cheap!) which we thoroughly enjoyed during a casual Saturday morning at home. Next time, we’ll try our usuals and report back our opinions.
While Matin would be the last coffee we’d drink that evening, our caffeine crawl was merely paused until the next night, when we went to a shop just a block past Matin that we’d seen the night before and vowed to try.
Espressivo was definitely the quietest and “homiest” of the bunch. Down a somewhat dark, somewhat broken alleyway, you’ll find this small, old building, where the proprietor has just a few old, comfortable chairs and tables, a lot of bric-a-brac and some fairly decent coffee to make your stay an overall warm one.
Prices for our Caffe Latte and Caramel Macchiato were a little cheaper than most Korean cafe’s we’ve frequented, but by no means cheap. Expect to pay about 4,000 won for most coffee-based drinks.
Of the three cafe’s we patronized over this two-day span, Espressivo turned out to be my favorite. I thoroughly enjoyed its motif, as well as the pleasant quietness that was lacking at both Matin and Cafe the Red. And, the coffee was rather decent, too. I could definitely see myself sitting at Espressivo for an extended session with my laptop, one or two latte’s and a sense of calm. The better half might choose Matin by a nose as her favorite, but they’re certainly close, and certainly both places we’ll be heading back to sooner rather than later.
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.