Posts Categorized: Republic of Korea

Saturday stroll through rainy Changdeokgung garden

After weeks of sunshine it started to rain in Seoul today. We had a day off and decided to have a look at the Changdeokgung palace, close to our home.
The greatest building in Changdeokgung, used for official ceremonies.

The tone gate is called Bullomun. “Bullo” means “not to age”. Will it work?

[Pictures] Han river in Seoul

Some pictures I took of the Han river during the last months here in Seoul. The total length of the Han River is 514 km. Although it is not a long river, the lower Han is remarkably broad for such a relatively short river. Within Seoul city limits, the river is more than 1 km wide. We visited the second skyscraper on the left of this picture and decided to cross the river with the bridge.

This picture is taken from the Namsan Tower in the center of Seoul.


[Pictures] View over Busan city from hotel

We decided to head out to Korea’s second largest city — the harbor city Busan. Very moist and clear upon arrival, but dark and foggy when we woke up. I was curious about Busan because I like cities next to the sea, we spend some time on the beach, had an interesting night.

Do you see those grey shafts with the blue P on it? That are parking spaces… A big elevator for cars. No driving, very efficient.The Busan harbor is ranked internationally as the third largest seaport in terms of cargo volume, it reminded me of Rotterdam.

Paragliding at a Korean army base

Want to join paragliding this weekend? – off course! that’s a no brainer! In reality, the relaxing chair and the calm speed got me disappointed, I should have thought of bringing a good book to read. Some people manage to stay up there for a long time! As the first foreigners at this Korean army base, I had some joy in getting a good overview of the ‘secret’ weapons on the camp.

What do you get when you combine a cinema, pool and cheap hotel?

We visited a jjimjilbang in Busan last night; The jjimjilbang concept comes close to a bath-house, it is a combination of sauna, hotel and gym. I just spend a night there for $10, and I am excited, what an experience! I slept on the marble floor but had a massage in return!

Imagine a 24 hour serviced building with cinema room, hot baths, sauna, bars, restaurants and pc/tv rooms. You walk around in comfortable clothes supplied by the staff. Very relaxing athmosphere.  Woman and men are separated, except for activity rooms.

Why would you go here? I guess this concept is an answer to the busy life most people have here. The jjimjilbang is a place for people to come together, rather then sitting in a small 30th floor appartment. A feeling of space and luxury in a world were space is limited. Visitors vary from drunken business men (drinking is a burden obliged by boss for many) and families that gather in the weekend. I wonder if something like this would work in Europe.

Learn to read and pronounce Korean Hangul in 2 days

You don’t need a black belt in Taekwondo to master the Korean language, actually… reading Hangul (Korean writing) is surprisingly easy!

That’s the main point I am trying to make in this post. While the Korean characters seem complex at first, they are easy to read within one week. Skip the touristic English metro maps, and start learning the way the correct way!

Truth is that this information applies for a specific group, but I stumbled upon a few useful things to master the Language quickly.

Korean Language

There are about 80 million Korean speakers, with large groups in Korea, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan. There are more people that can speak Korean then there are people that speak French or Italian.

Korean language was previously written using Hanja, which ‘borrowed’ Chinese characters, but pronounced them in a Korean way. In the 15th century, the national writing system called Hangul (meaning Korean) was developed.

Master the alphabet in less then a day

I’m not going to write down how to learn the alphbet. There are many guides out there that done the same. I would suggest to do only one exercise: try to master this Flash game made by Aeriagloris. The game shows a letter, and suggests 3 to 5 answers to that question. It is good because the game allows showing either Korean or English writing of the symbol. Much better then flash cards! Master the 24 Hangul letters in less then a day. [edit: here is an alternative]

Writing Korean

Hangul alphabet is applied into syllabic blocks. Each blocks contains at least two of the Korean letters. Hangul may be written either vertically or horizontally. The traditional direction is the Chinese style of writing top to bottom, right to left.

Correct Pronunciation

My friend Byeoung Cho (designer) created a colorful Korean hangul practice sheets, which proved useful when I mastered my intonations. I decided to share his work for others that want to learn as well! Note: The grey characters indicate low usage. You’re invited to leave a “thank you” in the comments when you use them!

The pictures are A4 sized, click on them for full view.

I added the contents in text here as well:

가 나 다 라 마 바 사 아 자 차 카 타 파 하
갸 냐 랴 먀 샤 야 쟈 캬
거 너 더 러 머 버 서 어 저 처 커 터 퍼 허
겨 녀 뎌 려 며 벼 셔 여 져 쳐 켜 텨 펴 혀
고 노 도 로 모 보 소 오 조 초 코 토 포 호
교 뇨 료 묘 뵤 쇼 요 죠 쵸 쿄 표 효
구 누 두 루 무 부 수 우주추 쿠 투 푸 후
규 뉴 듀 류 뮤 뷰 슈 유 쥬 츄 큐 튜 퓨 휴

그 느 드 르 므 브 스 으 즈 츠 크 트 프 흐
기 니 디 리 미 비 시 이 지 치 키 티 피 히
개 내 대 래 매 배 새 애 재 채 캐 태 패 해
걔 섀 얘 쟤
게 네 데 레 메 베 세 에 제 체 케 테 페 헤
계 례 셰 예 폐 혜

과 놔 봐 솨 와 좌 콰 화
괘 놰 돼 쇄 왜 쾌 홰
괴 뇌 되 뢰 뫼 뵈 쇠 외 죄 최 퇴 푀 회
궈 눠 둬 뤄 뭐 숴 워 줘 춰 쿼 훠

궈 눠 둬 뤄 뭐 숴 숴 워 줘 춰 쿼 훠
궤 쉐 췌 퉤 훼
귀 뉘 뒤 뷔 쉬 위 쥐 취 퀴 튀 휘
늬 의 틔 희
까 깨 꼬 꼭 꽃 꾸 꿈 꿈 끝 끼
따 땅 때 또 뚜 뚝 뜨 띠
빠 빼 뻐 뽀 뿌 쁘 삐
싸 쌍 쌔 쏘 쑥 씨
짜 째 쪼 찌

What can you leave to your descendant?

I visited a Korean art expo on Saturday the 23rd, and met a fascinating artist named Hae do Park. He dedicated his life to learn a new skill, and aims to inspire younger artists with his work. The combination of using silver and his apply his technique create objects that almost seem real. The bird on the picture is so detailed and beautiful that it just attracted me, like most shiny objects do. Actually, the bird should attract anyone, since it took the creator more then a year to make, and it’s claimed to be worth a million dollars. He is out for a mission to create a grand piece to get interest in Korean traditions from the youth.

Motivated to inspire the youth

Someone told me that people find creativity in different situations. For him I guess its based on his life long experience as a smith. The artist asked himself what he could leave to his descendant, and noticed that the Korean society is slowly changing their preference to western jewels. In his quest he saw an opportunity. He looked at the old techniques used in traditional woman hangers, and based his technique on it. He currently creates the sculptures with scaring precise work. He learned a new skill, and applied it to a new idea. His noble cause is to use the technique to create eye-catchers like this bird. His believe is that small jewelry can’t get the attention of young artists. He is currently working on his masterpiece — a big phoenix (3 legged bird), that he isn’t going to sell. He might show it on the exhibition that he plans in five years from now.

Meanwhile, at the blind-Korean-GPS-marketed-witch-doctor’s house

I visited a very special practitioner on Friday the 22nd. A blind chiropractor called Mr Ahn, with a special approach. — for his diagnose, he touches certain body points, after which he gives lifestyle advice or prescribes natural medicines. The man has gained popularity, and people from all corners of Korea are lining up in front of his house. Interesting part of his popularity is the relation with GPS technology, an example how old traditions meets new technology in Korea.

Free GPS marketing

Mr Ahn was trained as an acupuncturist by a monk ever since he was just ten years old. At the age of forty, he had a car accident and became blind. At that point he became a chiropractor and became popular in an interesting way.

The CEO of an in car GPS company had a very sick son, the baby had something with his intestines. The hospital couldn’t do much, and planned a second operation in the same month. The CEO couldn’t stand the approach of the hospital and decided to visit mr Ahn.

The blind practitioner pressed his stomach, and closed the babies nose and anus. The mom had to breathe air through the babies mouth, and when she did, and the parents visited the hospital, the problems for the baby seem to have vanished.

The CEO was so happy with the result, that he made Mr. Ahn a point of interest on all GPS maps that were produced by his company, so people would be able to find the practitioner that saved his baby.

The point of interest is unique in the catalog, and its a good way for customers to find them. He lost his sight with a car, but gained popularity with the technology designed for cars.

So what did he tell me?

To be honest, I am not very open-minded towards alternative medication. My whole family works or has worked in a hospital at some point of time, including me. I prefer allopathic approaches to medical problems. Call it luck or coincidence, but I had the opportunity to visit him for free, and without a waiting in line, so I decided to experience his approach and see it for myself. Open minded towards the culture, and some curiosity I guess…

Inside the typical Korean house (no tables, and a big HD tv) I had to lie down on the floor, with my head on a pillow. He felt my hand and feet and told me that I had a high salt concentration. He told me that jogging would be the best sport for me to keep cholesterol levels low in the future. Then he explained that I was to stressed, and that I should take things more slowly. He started to write something in Braille and finished with a joke.

The advice was pretty general, jogging reduces cholesterol and everyone thinks they are stressed. The only thing that really struck me is his story about the salt. The Dutch cuisine is generally accented with salts, while the Korean cuisine is accented more towards sugar and sour tastes. I prefer to eat a lot of salt, and his immediate response that I ate to much of it, still boggles my mind today. What do you think?