Buying gochu (hot pepper) at a biologic farm

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Typhoon Goni reached Japan, and I spent the rainy day outdoors!

Meet Mr. Shin, a biologic farmer based a short drive outside Daejeon city. A brief shopping visit turned into an marvelous tour and delicious lunch.

Driving through past the lakes, vast mountains and up the hairpin corners was quite a scenery change to the past few days. The last parts were too steep for our small Hyundai as we came to a stop and slide up the slippery road, so Mr. Shin came down with a four wheel quad to carry us further. He was excited to show us around;

Beside a vast amount of hot peppers, there were peaches, apples, acorn, sweet potatoes, cows, dogs and goats. The quick ‘shopping’ trip turned into an authentic lunch as his wife invited us for a warm meal. Mr. Shin is 50 and he bought the five acre land for about 400k euro in 2013 and has been land scraping, building ever since. Recently he actually started farming outside his office job and he hopes to retire and enjoy this hobby full time within in five years.

The happy couple are building something nice here, not a bad way to retire! We all enjoyed the food and left with a car full of peppers. Going to enjoy a (biologic) spicy year!

Korean Baseball is awesome (+ tv appearance)

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watching the game

Baseball is insanely popular in Korea. We were fortunate enough to score some tickets for a particular exciting game in the season (the local Hanwha Eagles #6 vs. the Samsung Lions #1). For a Dutchy this was all new for me and I have to say that I really liked the game vibe, atmosphere and food*.

Suddenly we were approached for an interview right at the break of the fifth inning. I got a bit nervous when she mentioned it would be a live (but scripted) interview during break time.

So there we were, taken backstage and up to the reporter areas. The 30 second interview was about our family and asked why we came to Korea (obviously for this particular game), and what dutch people think about Korean baseball. Ofcourse we also did a little cheer for the local team. So I’m a proud father of a eight month old daughter who made an appearance on Korean tv!

After a bad start of the match Hanwa (#6 in competition) actually beat the #1 in the competition; The stadium exploded with cheer. We got a signed baseball too!

All and all: We had a great day!

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*Koreans shout ‘FIGHTING!’ to cheer someone or a team on. In terms of food, Chimek is great at sports events; CHIcken and MEKchu (beer); Basically KFC style crispy chicken with hot sauce and a cold beverage, what a combo!

Travelling Korea; The food, the people and the nature

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What is it like to visit Korea? Well, look at the video above from “yongguk namja” and get an idea. It’s really an awesome place to travel to. Additional to the above, some highlights to my trip last week;

Arrived at the beach (Boryeong).

Arrived at the beach (Boryeong).

One of our new year resolutions was to visit the sea this summer. However, it didn’t seem to work out and as the weather turned cold already in the Netherlands I didn’t think it would happen. So I was delighted to visit the sea in Korea! Since the end of the summer season was also approaching here, family was worried that I wanted to swim, but to my surprise the sea was warmer then I’m used to. This Boryeong beach is famous for an annual mud festival. The place is buzzling with small dining ventures and mud therapy centers. And actually, I wasn’t the only one in the water; The people in the water came to swim or hang out on their inflatable boats. However NOT to get a tan on the beach as you see in Europe.

Hwe (회) with fresh sidedishes

Hwe (회) with fresh sidedishes

After swimming we ate ‘Whe”, thinly sliced raw fish and other raw seafood (similar to Japanese sashimi); This restaurant was based right outside the port, full with small fisher vessels. Based on the first floor of the building, we had a great view over the harbor. Whilst getting used to eating while sitting on the floor, the Soju was welcomed with these raw foods. (Korean rice liquor) The food wasn’t cheap but it was quite an experience.

Having a Chuseok dinner with the family. Felt part the group regardless of limited Korean.

Having a Chuseok dinner with the family. Felt part the group regardless of limited Korean.

Another marker of the end of the summer were the Chuseok preparations, which is a celebration of the good harvest, Koreans visit their ancestral hometowns and share a feast of Korean traditional food such as songpyeon and rice wines such as sindoju and dongdongju. It’s a typical time to meetup with the family. Unfortunately I had to travel back to the Netherlands for the real ceremony but I was happy to join the mother’s side of the family for a great dinner. A bit intimate photo but I really enjoyed this authentic experience. You can see me sharing a drink with my uncle’s.

Ran 11km until the 대전천. (new Daejeon bridge)

Ran 11km until the 대전천. (new Daejeon bridge)

To keep in shape and defeat jet-lag, I ran an 11km run upon arrival. I really wanted to run but Korean traffic seems really dangerous and I don’t like waiting for traffic lights while working out. An alternative plan was to do 40 rounds on the university’s running track. Fortunately, I found a river running all the way from our appartment to the city center. This was a great to run, as you can see in the photo there was a dedicated cycle track with soft asphalt. Mountains in the distance and a river. I saw crane birds, storks wonderful. Closer to the city, Koreans were sitting beside the water, I found that a friendly nod leads to smiles like 99% of the time :-)


In Korea, if you ask a barista for a ‘Dutch Coffee’ you get cold coffee with ice cubes.

The chemical lab looking device (photo) works like this: You add a liter of ice water in the top level water container, followed by about 100 grams of grounded coffee in the compartment below, then simply let’s it run and wait for about 6 hours. The ceramic or paper filter starts dripping and you store the dutch coffee in the fridge. Really refreshing! Whilst I saw this device for the first time in 2012, I was able to order Dutch coffee in most Korean coffee places, and even in Shanghai. Read more in my blogpost from 2012 regarding this coffee.

At Kakao office and meeting with Sun Hyun-woo of talktomeinkorean.com

At Kakao office and meeting with Sun Hyun-woo of talktomeinkorean.com

Korea is such a dynamic place which gives me a lot of energy. Yesterday I meetup with Kakao. Their Kakaotalk messenger is the ‘Whatsapp/wechat’ of Korea, and outside. They have 140 million visitors, it’s great technology of which a lot can be learned. Very exciting to see their office from the inside and have a peek into this technology company; It shows that Korea harbors modern and cutting edge technology companies these days. See more pictures from their office here.

Besides Kakao, I also had the pleasure to meet Sun Hyun Woo. Hyunwoo Sun is a YouTube star and the best Korean language teacher in the world. Period. Together with the team he built he has a community of over 110.000 Korean learners (200k facebook likes) around the world. If you are interested in Korea and the Korean language there is no way not to find Hyunwoo Sun’s free lessons on http://talktomeinkorean.com. Since talktomeinkorean and eatyourkimchi.com started a cafe (named you are here cafe) in Hongdae, we couldn’t resist to have a look and meet the people behind this concepts.

Compulsary Korean barbeque on the last night

Compulsary Korean barbeque on the last night

It was a short trip. Almost forgot to eat some Korean barbeque. Actually, Korean food is about way much more then barbeque. But who can say no to such a dinner before leaving back home?

Calligraphy Workshop

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These weekly Korean lessons in Amsterdam are taking a large part of my weekends, so when non curriculum events occur I usually get on my way. However, last week, they organised a calligraphy workshop.

Since my father-in-law considers calligraphy more then a hobby, I felt obliged to partake. Whilst I didn’t expect it, calligraphy is quite fun. There is also something tranquil about putting hangeul or a hanja character on paper. Together with an official stamp, our first attempts looked like the real deal.

Watcha.net; Movie recommendation engine

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Shall we watch a movie this weekend? Yes sure, but which one?

Watcha.net is a movie recommendation engine from Korea. I’ve just subscribed and had to vote on 50 movies that I liked. Now it’s already throwing some good recommendations to me. Building the profile is quite addictive, browsing around the old movies you watched in the past.

There are similar websites like this, but this Korean one seems really good. I’m really curious how this profiling works; is it capturing my movie taste though meta data of the various movies I clicked, or just throwing similar genre’s of previously selected movies? Better vote for a few more movies to be sure…

I like the GUI, link with IMDB top movies, festivals, filmhouse, and little trailers that can give you a snapshot. And better yet, you can recommend movies to your friends too!  The Android app is here, the iPhone app is hopefully in the making.

Living and working in Korea

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I was invited to be a panelist at the Korea Symposium at the Hogeschool of Amsterdam. Since there were mostly students in the auditorium, curious about doing an intern in South Korea, I’ve elaborated a little bit about my time there, even though it’s almost four years ago already.

Getting started

At the time we were studying in Sweden, we were offered to pick an exchange study in another country. For me that was a chance to experience the culture of my wife, Suna. When we flew to Korea in the spring of 2008, I was excited to start studying at the Korean Development Institute (KDI). This university is known for both business and political studies. I still wonder if KDI expected two blonde Scandinavians or if they were okay with us flying over.

After the study, I was fortunate enough to extend my stay with an internship at ING Korea before I had to go back to Sweden.

Finding a job or internship

Some students showed some interest in finding a intern or job in the country. When walking around in Seoul a lot of people will inquire if you are a English teacher, as most foreigners are. If you really want to work there, don’t be picky. But frankly, if you have a skill which can work for big companies you have a bigger chance. It also helps to speak the language, although this is less of an issue in international companies. Be aware that you have to work longer hours and have less days off compared to Europe.

It’s recommended to study some Korean as there aren’t many company that would hire a non fluent speaker. There is a small chance at an international company but studying a little bit will help you tremendously. There is a school in Amsterdam which has a class every saturday where you can learn, visit their website for more information.

Culture

During my internship at ING I experienced a lot of interesting events. In a company of 500 locals, I was one of 10 foreigners. Unfortunately, this also caused some friction with some. One particular colleague wasn’t shy of showing discontent, all until we ended up talking friendly over soju (Korean liquor). He then spoke friendly to me about his feelings and we became great colleagues afterwards. I learned there and then that solving problems are easier in a beer-hof opposed to the work-floor. (A theory that I wasn’t able to bring to China afterwards)

I was really sad ending the internship at the time and threw a party for my dear colleagues.

Business clubs

Once established, my wife shook hands with a former president of Korea, I met the Dutch minister of foreign affairs at the time.
We made it a habit to network and visit business and political events. This also helped me find a job. For one, we joined the Dutch business club in Korea and joined them on many occasions. Since there weren’t a lot of Dutch people at the time (likely about 200), it was easy becoming close with most of them. We joined the club to the BA cigarette factory and to the DHL hub. They also organize a Dutch Orange ball event every year. There are many business groups these days, including the Amcham Korea.

Watch the full video here

Hendrick Hamel

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Almost every Korean has heard about Hamel, have you heard about him? He was the first westerner to write about Korea, back in 17th Century.

In 1653, he arrived at Jeju island (link follows to my holiday at jeju) along with his crewmates. He was a bookkeeper for the Dutch East India Company. They were actually on their way to Japan. The men were captured by the Koreans and were forbidden to leave the country. After 13 years they managed to escape to Japan and bring back his writings to the Netherlands.

Every history book in Korea mentions his name. The first public recognition of Hamel in the Netherlands occurred early in the 20th century, when a local street was named after him. They also made a statue for him. As we passed by Gorinchem yesterday, a visit to his statue and a picture were obligatory.

His journal is published as a book under his name.

Korean class

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Spent my Saturday learning Korean, I haven’t done anything else since 2011. As you all know my goal is to have conversations with my mother in law.

Recently I have been starting to watch some Korean television as classes have become a routine. Make some homework at home and practice speaking with your fellow students in class does seem to help little by little. When that Korean song ‘Gangnam style’ was popular I noticed a lot of new students trying to pickup the language, although that effect seem to have worn off. Recently the teachers allowed me to pass to advanced class, I’m trying to keep up by studying during my Sundays. Last Saturday we were only with three people.

2 days and one night in Geojedo

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It was my first time camping in Korea. I saw some super de luxe tents and learned that Koreans take their camping very seriously. Could camping have been popularized by some camping-themed TV program in Korea? Besides camping I also visited the Oedo island by boat.

Camping in Geojedo

Together with friends of my parents in law, we stayed at the fabulous beach side autocamping in Geojedo, a 400 km drive from Seoul.

it was fun putting up our camp, with tents food and a common area to sit. But it took some time and was a lot of work. When everything was done we proudly sat down and ate our lunch a bit tired but very happy. After lunch I took a walk around the camaping and was surprised how Koreans camp.

So what’s different? Well, I saw a tent with a TV projector – guess no singalongs there. And many hats. For some reason, the hats featured flashlights. Because? I guess they wanted to check up on their barbeques in the dark. Anyway, the guests didn’t go camping because it was cheap. They bought professional gears and we’re fully packed, even if it was for just one night.

Quite different to the ‘as long as there is fire, singalongs and some shuteye’ camping experiences in France and Sweden. Which, also has it’s charm.

There is a populair tv programme in Korea called ‘2 days 1 night’ (1박 2일) and it made camping hugely populair in Korea. In the past year, another television show called ‘dad where are you going’ 아빠! 어디가? (Check out this segment of them camping @ youtube) also features a new lifestyle: children camping with dads and preparing food together. You can see this replicated at the autocamping.

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We made a big hike over the pebblestone beach. Later we climbed the hill and got an amazing view over the cliffs. In the evening we prepared a big barbeque with the three families. There was samyuksal, beers and boardgames. And Korean tales ofcourse.

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Camping in Oedo

A recommendation. We almost missed it. Actually, we packed up after a nice holiday and started to drive back. Suddenly we noticed a tour operator which featured ferries to the ‘Oedo islands’. My mother in law immediately recalled that they were beautiful and we just had to visit them, so we did. We bought some tickets for about 20 dollars each and waited for our ferry to arrive. Actually, during this waiting time, we enjoyed some beers on the dock while watching the boats, very relaxing!

The ferry first takes you to a ‘cracked island’ which is split in half. It’s quite a sight. Our tour operator boat even went inside the crack, which was a bit scary. He then took off to the Oedo island (외도).

We were told we had about 1,5 hours to explore, which seemed like an awful lot to me. Until I turned a corner and saw the majestic garden. Palm trees, nice seatings, roman pilars and beautiful views on the distant island scenery. I cracked open a drink and enjoyed the view for a while. Then we took a walk through the garden and enjoyed the scene’s and flowers.

Before we knew it, we had to get back to the boat and to the land to go back. Certainly a great night and two days!