2.5 months in Seoul, South Korea
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Korea's Last World Cup Game
Saturday morning.... 4 AM!
We were ready the night before. Went to this really good kalbi place, you can get the beef for only $7, including all the sides. It's located near Yonsei, behind TGIF's.

Kaila is showing off her strong, un-Korean-girl bicep.

The bar we went to was MORE expensive for World Cup night! Cocktails, beers, and shots were twice the price...

that's okay, we're happy anyway.

Walking around Hongdae, we encountered Condomania.. the cute animated sperm on the window is a nice touch, don't you think?
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

We ended up going to Harlem, since the big hiphop club NB was closed. Don't go! The constantly flickering strobe lights there gave us all a headache. They were going to play the World Cup inside the club:

Korea put up a good fight. In terms of patriotic enthusiasm, at least, I think we won the Cup :)

Ah it's Sunday already! Gotta get started on that big pile of Korean h/w which I haven't looked at yet; I'm planning to do it in this place called Mindulay. Mindulay means Dandelion in English, and it's a cafe where you pay about $5 for 3 hours. You stay in a large, decorated building with several floors, eat, drink, and relax. Or in my case, learn Korean vocabulary. Woohoo.


posted by Jane @ 12:48 AM   1 comments
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Ganjang Gongjang
"간장공장 공장장은 공장장이고 된장공장 공장장은 된공장장이다”
"Ganjang gongjang gongjangjang-un gan-gongjangjang-eego dwenjang gongjang gongjangjang-un dwengongjangjang-eeda"

Say it really fast.. can you do it?

Ganjang = soy sauce , one of the most consumed products in Asia
Gongjang = factory
(dwenjang is soy bean paste)

Sempio is the top producer of soy sauce in Asia. Yesterday my class went to the Sempio factory, located in the countryside, to see how soy sauce is made!

The first thing we saw was boxes and boxes of Sempio soy sauce, being prepared for delivery to everywhere from Germany to Seoul.

When we walked into the conference building we got to try one of Sempio's new products, a cold drink made out of.... VINEGAR.
Yes, vinegar. It also contains black honey. It's surprisingly really good-- sweet, sour, and cold. The rice vinegar drink is supposed to have lots of uses-- an everyday health drink, a mixer with soju, and a hangover remedy.

Can you tell which one is the real person...?

Haha, we all had to wear white hair nets and lab coats for the tour:

Looking up at the giant soybean silos.. they put the soybeans in here to ferment and grow bacteria! Then when the beans are all furry and white with live cultures, Sempio boils them for consumption. Hm... I never knew that I was eating live bacteria in my soy sauce and bean paste.

My 3 Sunsengneems (teachers). From right to left- writing teacher, reading teacher, and speaking teacher. Awww, so cute ^.^

The presentation that Sempio gave us at the beginning was somewhat boring... also I only understood about 60% of it. Here's part of it in video format below... turn up your volume and see if you can decipher what she's saying:

Then we watched a BIZARRE British animated movie about a woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to an infant which immediately dies. Here's a particularly shocking scene:

Yes, you are seeing multiple knives plunge into a baby! The woman's imagining things that could happen to her yet unborn child, such as electrocution, suffocation in a plastic bag, and death by being burned under a spilled pot of boiling oil on the stovetop. ^.^; This was part of a cultural film festival thing.

No photos were allowed inside of the actual factory... basically there were big vats of steaming, fermenting, or roasting soybeans. The smell was yummy!

And then it was time for lunch, which we ate in the Sempio cafeteria.

Jun is so happy he's dancing while deciding what to eat.

Ca-uri's quite pleased as well!

Okay, I admit that I was probably the happiest =p

Seriously, I have to get a job at Sempio just so I can eat in the employee cafeteria.. you get reallllyy good kimchi, just the way I like it: not too fermented or soggy, fresh tasting with lots of crunchy little baby pieces. You also get the "yulmoo kimchi", or summer kimchi, fried salted pieces of kelp, these little hush-puppy type things with ketchup, curry rice, and dwenjang chigae (stew) made from Sempio's best bean paste. Mmm..

Our class:

It's called the Angel Class because we're just that great O:-)
....actually it's because we meet in room 1004. The number 1004 is pronounced chun-sa (chun means 1000 and sa means 4). And chunsa means angel in Korean... haha.. because we're *soooo well-behaved* ^.^;;

When it was time to leave, we each got a present from Sempio:

Containers of soy sauce, bean paste, dipping paste, red pepper paste, and Solomon's seal tea! All of my favorite Korean foods.. I just have to go to Grand Mart and buy some cucumbers and red leaf lettuce to eat with them.

Food factories aren't generally on tourists' top attractions, but they can be a lot more interesting than museums or nature scenes! If you come to Korea, I definitely recommend going to one :) Plus you get free food..

I'll post about last night in a bit.. Koreans v. Swiss >.<


posted by Jane @ 12:24 AM   0 comments
Sunday, June 18, 2006
shoppers' paradise + korean clubbing
Only in Korea can clothes shopping become a form of nightlife =)

Dongdaemun Market is a huge area that sells name brand and fashion clothes at cheap wholesale prices! But the wholesale market is only open from 10:30 pm to 8 am, so you need to choose between Shopping or Sleep. Easy decision. We went on Friday night; no class the next morning!

Here are some of my new Korean *yooheng* (fashionable) clothes.. I'm going to return to the States looking like a fob. But I can't help it--all these clothes were so cheap! And so Koreanly cute. Dongdaemun nighttime markets are good places to bargain, getting from 10 to 50% off of the originally quoted prices.. Make sure you call the store owner "Unnie", Korean for older sister ;)

These shoes are impossibly uncomfortable, like all heels here.. See how they end in a small pointy heel? All of your foot's weight is put on this one pressure point. Here's some advice, if you come to Korea, make sure you bring plenty of comfortable heels, as women always wear high heeled shoes here, and the ones sold in the country are torture devices.
Lol, I ended up buying these heels on the way to the club on Saturday, since I had come out wearing flip flops (no admission). Straight off of the street, for 10,000 won ($10).

They sell more than clothes in Dongdaemun--

cute!! But I'm pretty sure that the ones here are too young to be taken away from their mothers =/ They kept squinting in the bright light and snuffling with their heads under the blanket.

The puppy seller pushed one of the puppies at Kaila so she could hold it, a smart selling tactic.

^ Kaila didn't want to let go...

On the subway to Dongdaemun, we were able to see an attractive scene:

Middle aged man passed out right on the floor! People were giving him strange looks and edging away. Then when the subway doors opened, the drunk guy's foot rolled into the doorway and people had to push his leg out of the way..
LOL, he ended up hugging this random stranger's leg.. The poor stranger looks pretty uncomfortable, but he's not pushing the passed out guy's arms away..?

Saturday night we went back to Hongdae, this time to go to some of the dance clubs in the district!
Although we started out with some drinks, I'm proud to say that it seems that I don't suffer from the infamous asian flush.

After the bar, we went to a place called S Club; it cost 10,000 won (about $10 USD) to get in, with free tequila, Sprite, Coke.

Choi Sunsengneem would be proud.

Everyone looks so happy! Thanks for showing us around, Jun!

S Club played hiphop music, and so we got our dance on =p
American dancing stands out in a Korean crowd..

especially because of our excellent facial expressions:

and inventive movements.

The last Friday of each month is Club Day in Hongdae. For $10 to $20 you get admission to most of the clubs in the area. Of course we're going back!


posted by Jane @ 6:13 AM   1 comments
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
World Cup Fever
In the past week I've noticed a gradual buildup of red... and more red... until everything finally EXPLODED last night.

Huge crowds gathered all around Seoul to watch the Korean team's World Cup game against Togo, a country that was competing for its first time. We went to the district of Gwanghwamun, where multiple giant television screens showed the game from sides of tall buildings, and spectators were either standing or sitting on newspapers.

There were so many Koreans shoving through the crowds that we were flattened. This is nothing like an American crowd. I was practically sitting on peoples' heads at one point, some people were so close that they could have probably gotten married after being in that crowd, and all you could hear was high pitched "aiiiiiii!!!" (from girls whose high-heel-clad feet were being trampled on) and angry yelling from Korean ajusshis (middle to old aged men).

While the game was going on, a random guy would start banging on a drum, a signal for the crowd to start chanting, "Dae han min gook!" (Our great nation!) Watch the video that I took below to see the chant in action...

Every time a Korean player fell, spectators would, of course, collectively groan and mutter to each other.... After Korea scored its first goal--> hugs and a standing ovation!

First goal scored by Lee Chun-Soo ..the dyed hair makes him stand out.

The winning goal? Scored by Ahn Jung-Hwan, the guy on the team who elicited "wooooowwwww"s from females' voices every time he came on the screen:

Even my Korean teacher has a crush on him! She says that she doesn't mind her short curly perm hairstyle as much, since Ahn Jung-Hwan has a similar one (^.^)

We also got into the World Cup spirit and bought red Korea t-shirts for the game! They were selling these all over the place, along with light-up devil horns, temporary taegukgi (Korean flag symbol) tattooes, inflatable "thunder stick" noise makers (did you know these were invented in Korea?), and bandannas.

We didn't buy horns so I drew some on...

There's even a Korea World Cup dance! It's called the kkokjijeum dance and the characters are doing it in the poster below.

and, Baskin Robbins has been selling World Cup ice cream for a while.

The shirt I bought in the subway was too little-I think the 7/8 that I thought was a size number was actually the recommended age of the wearer. With some strategic cutting on the sleeves, sides, and neckline, it fit!

Some people were too cheap to buy a shirt (starting from only $6!) and wore any old red t-shirt:

"English literature"... very patriotic.

Others saved money on apparel for their lower half. You usually see Korean women wearing pretty modest clothing, but the World Cup seems to be an excuse to break out and support Korea by being scantily clad.

The inspiration? Shin Mina, dubbed Miss World Cup by Korea. First discovered wearing a tube top and Korean flag in a cheering crowd at the 2002 World Cup, she became famous and is now a singer/model!

Lol, truly a rags to riches story..

The next morning we had to get up early again for class :( Then in the afternoon we took a trip to Namdaemun market, the biggest traditional market in Korea.

The weather was cold and rainy... monsoon season.
Namdaemun is huge, disorganized, and full of people ~ vendors are yelling out to you to come in and look at their products, people selling food are pretending that you've already bought it (a tactic to get customers), and the whole time motorcycles and cars and going through the same streets that you're walking through!

I bought a blanket... the bed in my room comes with only a lower sheet. The Korean blankets that they sold are thick and also double as floor mats.

Among other things, you can buy clothes, imitation Coach and Gucci purses and wallets, hanboks (traditional Korean dress), keychains, pottery,

live baby eel,

and ginseng!

Ah, well I'm off to catch up on sleep (World Cup game = sleep deprivation). The next game is Korea vs. France, at 4 AM on Monday morning..



posted by Jane @ 8:11 AM   0 comments
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Hongdae, Hyundai, and Ho Bar
On Friday my Korean teachers gave us no formal homework...aside from the pages of vocab to learn... and told us to rest and have a good time on our weekend :) So we did just that~
Right after class we went to Yongsan electronics market to get webcams, electronic dictionaries, cell phones, etc.

Webcam: $29 , bargained down from $32

Korean-American Electronic Dictionary (Sharp brand) - $135.. I think we got ripped off. We asked for a discount since we were buying four dictionaries and paying in cash so the guy told us that he would throw in a dictionary case and an extra battery for free. The dictionary case turned out to be already included in the box, and the extra battery we later found in being sold in the subway for $1 for a pack of 10. Hmm... not being able to speak perfect Korean = gullible "waygookins" (foreigners)

Cell phone! $30 + $20 Phone card. We bought prepaid phones; the used phones go from $30 to around $200. It's cute how the cell phones are on display in Korea, they're on little stands with Christmas lights looped around them =)

After Yongsan, we went to a place called "Rotary" for dinner, located on the Sinchon Rotary (the Korean name for roundabout). It has the cheapest Korean food ever! Rotary's always packed with college students, and except for the rice, entrees, and banchan (side dishes), is self-serve. Basically, you get yourself water from the water machine, napkins from a bag on the wall, and chopsticks and spoons from boxes on the tables.

The entrees are similar to those at traditional Korean restaurants in America which range from $9 to $20. Except here they are from $2 to $4!

The Hongdae district, adjacent to Sinchon where I am staying, is the center of nightlife for Korean college students.

If you walk around after 8 pm, every square foot of building will be covered in neon signs advertising "Hoff" (Korean bar), "Soju", "Norehbang" (Korean karaoke rooms), Sports bars, and also random signs that we saw like "Happy Hippopotamus", "Sexy Banana" (?!),


and "Ho Bar III". We now have a mission to find Ho Bar's I and II before we leave..

We ended up going to a Japanese bar called "Aska".

Aska advertised fruit soju, which we got in the watermelon flavor.

Basically they crush up watermelon pieces and add it to a bottle of soju... good! We toasted by saying, "건배" (gun-beh) which is Korean for "Cheers!"

The best thing to eat after drinking is samgyupsal, fatty pieces of pork meat, since the fat absorbs lots of alcohol =) I accidentally broke 2 shot glasses..

Apparently the Korean subway system closes at midnight, so we had an interesting walk back to Sinchon. Since Friday is a big drinking night for Koreans, we passed random drunken couples and even a large male who had passed out on the sidewalk..

Saturday we went to see the horror movie "Omen" at a movie theater located on the 10th floor of Hyundai Department Store.

Ahhh.. it reminded me why I only watch one horror movie per year.. We were practically the only ones in the theater for the "Omen"; I wonder if my low tolerance for horror movies is a Korean thing?

Hyundai Department Store has a pet section! That's like Macy's selling small animals next to the Shoe section.. Since everything is smaller here, they have dwarf bunnies and dwarf hamsters which were right next to geckos, chameleons, and baby hedgehogs! They also had something which I wasn't sure anyone would want as a pet:

WHAT IS IT?!! I asked the department store worker and he said that they were rhinoceros beetle larvae. They grow up into something like this:

Slightly less repulsive..

Almost every time we go out, it's blatantly obvious that we're Americans =p The way we're gawking at things that native Koreans find perfectly normal (Ho Bar III? The bathroom courtesy bell?), taking photos everywhere from movie theaters to the subway, speaking loudly in English, and not knowing how to eat and cook foods like samgyupsaal and shabushabu..
At first, when asked about ourselves, we launched into long, painful explanations about how we were from America, but knew some Korean because one/both of our parents was Korean, we were here for a few months to study the language, etc, etc. But eventually we found the perfect explanation....


Simply say "gyopo" whenever you get a strange look or inquiry, and the Korean will nod knowingly "ahhhhh". Gyopo = foreign-born Korean
Incidentally, since Mark and Foster don't look Korean (1/2 Korean), they get stranger reactions from Koreans than Kaila or I.. the other night a little boy started laughing, saying, "Where did you pick up the Korean language?" He also called them a name which we never really figured out the meaning of..."bokdo saram"? If anyone finds out what this means, please let me know =p


posted by Jane @ 5:14 AM   6 comments
Posts by Category: click to expand
Culture and Society
Events and Performances
Places of Interest
About Me

Name: Jane
Location: New Haven, CT, United States
See my complete profile
Recent Posts