Monday, May 31, 2010

Weddings, K-Pop, Korean Food & Purity: Who Owns a Culture? Part 2

Korean Cultural Change Abroad

Soundtrack time:

Lemon Tree, by Fool's Garden, covered by Park Hye Gyeong.  Is it Korean culture (Korean remake/words) or German culture (Fool's Garden is a German band), or Irish/Dutch/Norwegian culture (three of the countries, along with Germany, where the song hit Number 1)?

I've decided to make part 2 of the series about Korean opinions on cultural change abroad, and then to talk about Western views on Korean handling of Western culture last, so that we shift from the Korean view to the Western view more smoothly, and to provide a context for the reactions westerners in Korea have to Korean adaptations to Western culture.  The similarities might be interesting.

Click to read more.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Weddings, K-Pop, Korean Food & Purity: Who Owns a Culture? Part 1

Korean Cultural Change - to older Koreans

During a discussion class, an older fella who attended my class got onto his hobby horse. This isn't a rare occurence, but he was riding one of the tropes that just irks me: the classic line, "Korea is losing its culture because of America." Sigh.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this topic... I recommend reading The Joshing Gnome's description of"cultural junk dna" - bad/useless stuff spreads from one culture to another, swept along with the good stuff: "Korea got democracy and spam at the same time, after all."

Maybe (probably) i'm missing a lot of the nuances in the arguments these (usually) guys make, but regardless, there are a few things I'd like to ask/tell them.

1. I don't want to hear what you have to say about Korea losing its culture if you're not ready to discuss the contributions of rapid growth, industrialization, a shift in ideology (not just capitalism and free enterprise, but also race-based nationalism, which could only have been invented and propagated by Koreans, for Koreans), and mass-urbanization. It's intellectually lazy to pull the America card when Korean cultural change comes up, and think it covers everything.

2. All cultures are always changing.  If a culture stops changing, it's dead.  Absent interest in Shakespeare, Mozart, Hanbok, or Korean court cuisine, preservation attempts will fail: if nobody's picking up the mantle, it means the culture has found a new way of defining itself, not that the culture is losing itself.  A culture can't lose itself: how a group of people lives, and what they do, that's their culture.  It might not look the same as the way their grandparents lived and did things, but that's true everywhere in the world.

It might make my old ajosshi feel comfortable to believe that he has a handle on koreas true culture, while those young kids are losing it... but he's just wrong.  When his parents were his age, they felt the same way about him, and when he was 20, he liked stuff that was new and exciting, stuff that his parents didn't recognize as their own culture.  Twenty years later, those same artists are no longer the adventurers, but the fuddy-duddies.

The Beatles were new and exciting in 1962; hell, they were controversial! Now they're old hat.  Paul McCartney is a KNIGHT, for goodness' sake!  Mozart was also a rockstar in his day - he did the same thing with the piano - a relatively new instrument at the time - that George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards did with the guitar.  Young people, who grow up and become the establishment, set the arc culture follows, and young people generally seek out stuff that's fun, exciting, and different than what came before.  Those kids' grandparents don't have to like it, but they don't really have much say.

So Captain Fogey complains, because the culture's moving in a direction he didn't set (the way it did when he was 20).  He can complain about it, but the stuff Korea's creative people are using, doing, creating and creating and creating, has more energy and power than the influence of those who only consume, and way more than those who only complain about what others create and consume.  Consumers can encourage some stuff above other, and they might cause some outdated stuff to fade into obscurity slower than others, by going to reunion concerts, but if they aren't going the way the wind is blowing, they'll end up irrelevant.  

To draw a parallel in my own culture, how about the song in the youtube clip below: maybe it's uncomfortable to some of us; my grandmother would call it outright blasphemy: the sample in the background of this song is "her" music...but now it's "their" music, and if grandma can either accept it, or go back to her archives, and recognize that's what she's doing.  If Busdriver is what it takes for kids to learn about Vivaldi, if Clockwork Orange gets somebody into Beethoven's 9th, if a White Stripes reference gets my kids interested in Citizen Kane... great!

...this too?  Sure!

(Not that I'm never a purist, though: this song offends me, because Pachelbel's Canon has a really special, important meaning in my family.  Someone else is free to like it, but it bugs me.)

3. The people of a culture NEED to accept something for it to be incorporated.  You can't foist parts of a culture onto another culture -- it has to resonate with the locals, or it won't stick.  Maybe McDonalds had a good marketing strategy, maybe it didn't, but McD's, Quiznos, Taco Bell, and Tim Horton's have to be accepted by the locals, to catch on.  Koreans WANTED McDonalds.  And some western products don't catch on here, too (or there'd be as many Subway Sandwich shops here as there are in the US; this proves that America CAN'T 'spoil' Korean culture without Koreans accepting the product that's been introduced.  Some cultural artifacts catch on better here than back home: Queen is way bigger here than back home; so is Abba, Mariah Carey, and "My Heart Will Go On."  Meanwhile, very few here know about Creed, Travis Tritt, or even U2.  Wilco? The Flaming Lips? Bwahaha.

It's asinine for my student to deny Koreans have their own agency (power to make their own choices) in the process of choosing which aspects of a culture catch on here.  Koreans like blockbuster movies, or they wouldn't go to them.  It's hypocritical, and just stupid, for Captain Fogey to blame America for the fact Korean young people WANT to drink Starbucks.

4. And finally, I wish I could just read minds to see what these guys' image of an ideal Korea is like. I always suspect it looks more like the idyllic and very fictional Dongmakgeol than any actual place. If they refuse to acknowledge that Choseon dynasty had its own problems corruptions and evils, or that Korea's modern culture has a lot of good going for it, then I'm debating nostalgia (read: wasting my breath). I wish people wouldn't bring intractable opinions to discussion class, because it's discussion class, not screed class.  Koreans have more wealth freedom and opportunity now than ever before, and I wish they'd admit that, not because I think western culture and prosperity/"advancement" are inextricable, but because they're being dishonest or lazy if they don't acknowledge the baby while they curse the bathwater.

So that's what I'd say to the guy in my class... if it were my policy to engage in these discussions.

That said, I'm being harsh on this guy: not to buy into the "he's had a hard life" claptrap, but Korea has changed so damn much, so insanely quickly, that emotionally, I can't blame Ajosshi covey for taking this purist attitude toward all these weird new changes that make his (former?) home into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable place, barely recognizable as home.

I wrote about this before, in my "On Ugly English Teachers" series, and sorry to quote myself, but here's here's why I feel like this generation deserves a little understanding:

[Instead of] a military aggressor/villain trying outright to outlaw the Korean Language ...there's this wacky Western Culture, and rather than hammering iron spikes in's causing young people to tan, [etc.]... and it's seeded the whole country with...apartment blocks... brand-name shops, and people aren't learning to respect their elders like they used to, and... they're being forced to learn English ... on pain of stunted career opportunities, and finally one morning they wake up and don't recognize the country where they were born. Can you imagine anything lonelier than finding yourself a stranger in the only land you know, anything colder than being called anachronistic and outdated in the place you grew up, at an age when you'd expected to be growing old with honor and respect?
In the face of all the change that's happened in Korea, maybe we can forgive them for retreating into what's familiar.  Folks in our home countries do, too.  Hell, Rolling Stone's album reviewers still spot four free stars to any artist who they liked when they were 24, and James Taylor and Mick Jagger are still thanking them for giving them full-page reviews, three decades after either of them were relevant.

Here's part two of the series: When Cultures Move Abroad

Haebangchon Festival, Chicken Festival This Weekend

Three Wise Monkeys, a new Webzine that's worth reading, has the skinny on the HaeBangChon May Festival.  Check it out if you're in the neighborhood.

At COEX, There's also a Chicken Festival going on that sounds yummy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Weddings, K-Pop, Korean Food & Purity: Who Owns a Culture? Introduction

Jason, over at Kimchi Ice Cream, has a really interesting post up that discusses Korean Wedding Hall culture, and the ways it resembles weddings back home, but that resemblance, in the end, only serves to bring the differences into even starker, more jarring contrast.

This reminds me of one of the most interesting insights Brian in JD had talking about Korean Christmas: Brian uses the "Uncanny Valley" idea to talk about Korean treatments of Western cultural practices, and I think it's apt.

The uncanny valley is a robotics term: experts found that as AI and robots behave more like humans, we respond to them more positively, but beyond a certain point, it creeps us out instead of making us like the robots, and we focus on the differences instead of the similarities: it's easier to sympathise with the cartoonish Mr. Incredible than with the nearly photorealistic characters in the Final Fantasy movie, and in NHL '94 it was SO COOL that you could make Wayne Gretzky's head bleed, but in NFL 2010 those touchdown dances seem a little too graceful for NFL players.

(from Swingers: warning: language)

Jason's description of Korean weddings, which is highly worth reading, seems to support this uncanny valley idea.  I think a wholly traditional Korean wedding, with Korean-only reference points, would be a nicer experience than the "Disneyland/Vegas" wedding Jason describes.  The wedding that seems to want to be taken on Western terms gets under our defenses... but then smacks us in the face even more sharply with its differences, because it seemed to hint that it would meet our expectations for weddings from back home.  It's the old bait-and-switch.

Korean Christmas is another good example of this.  The music is similar...ish; the decorations are similar...ish but it's a freaking couple holiday!!!

I'd like to look a little more at this funny spot where expectations and practices clash between cultures.  I began writing about it, and the post ballooned into what I'll break up into a series, for the sake of me, you, and time.  I'd been planning to write an article about the other side: observations about my Korean students' views of cultural change - for a while anyway, so now seems like a good time.

The three parts will be as follows: first a look Korean cultural change as viewed by Koreans, next, Korean cultural change (especially co-opting of foreign elements) as viewed by expats, and finally, Korean culture abroad: what will Koreans do if Korean culture really DOES become popular in the West, as everybody allegedly wants to happen?  I'll use a lot of my own observations, and stuff I've noticed during this semester's discussion classes, in the series.  Until the next post, you should go read Jason's article about Wedding Halls/Castles.

Jason takes a thoughtful, intelligent look at the way Koreans have taken Western weddings, isolated a few elements, exaggerated a few elements to cartoonish heights, and discarded the rest.  He mentions purity, which triggered some stuff for me, because I've been thinking about writing about this topic of what I call cultural cross-pollination, but from the exact opposite side.

Here's part 1 of my series: Korean cultural change to older Koreans

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tom Waits Interview Text

Pitchfork: There is a rich and wonderful American history of tough, scrappy songwriters-- everyone from Ramblin’ Jack Elliott to Bob Dylan-- compulsively mythologizing themselves, inventing backstories, changing their names, developing personas to work alongside songs. Is there a Tom Waits mythology? Tom Waits: I’m sure there is. The fact is most of the things that people know about me are made up. My own life is backstage. So what you “know” about me is only what I allowed you to know about me. So it’s like a ventriloquist act. And it’s also a way of safely keeping your personal life out of your business. Which is healthy and essential. I’m not one of those people the tabloids chase around. You have to put off that smell-- it’s like blood in the water for a shark. And they know it, and they know that you’ve also agreed. And I’m not one of those. I make stuff up. There’s nothing that you can say that will mean the same thing once it’s been repeated. We’re all making leaner versions of stories. Before there was recording, everything was subject to the folk process. And we were all part of composing in the evolution and the migration of songs. We all reached out, and they all passed through our hands at some point. You dropped a verse or changed the gender or cleaned up a verse for your kids or added something more appropriate for your community. Anything that says “Traditional,” it’s “Hey, I wrote that, I’m part of that.” Just like when a joke reaches you-- how did it reach you? If you could go back and retrace it, that would be fascinating. Pitchfork: So the second you write something down, it’s fiction. Tom Waits: There is no such thing as nonfiction. There is no such thing as truth. People who really know what happened aren’t talking. And the people who don’t have a clue, you can’t shut them up. It’s the same with your own stories, the ones that circulate around with your family and your friends. We’re all part of the same hypocrisy. Pitchfork: Do you keep a notebook? Tom Waits: Oh yeah, everybody does! Life is too confusing. Monkey wrenches, pocket knives, dog food, instant coffee, lipstick. You gotta get it organized somehow. Pitchfork: Thanks so much for talking with me. Tom Waits: Oh! OK. Alright. I’ll leave you with a few little things out of my book here. In Los Angeles, it’s illegal for a man to beat his wife unless he’s on the courthouse steps. In Tulsa, it’s against the law to open a soda bottle without the supervision of a licensed engineer. In Texas, the Encyclopedia Britannica is banned because it contains the formula for making home brew. In Claradon, Texas, it’s illegal to dust any public building with a feather duster. In Washington, it’s illegal to paint polka dots on the American flag. There are only two things you can throw out the window of a moving car, legally. Do you know what they are? Pitchfork: Um… Tom Waits: Water. And feathers. Everything else you can get in trouble for.

Who can say no to a Free Trip To JAPAN!

10 Magazine is having a video contest, and the top prize is a trip for two to Japan.

You should enter the contest.  Holy crap!  A trip to Japan is pretty sweet!  You'll also stay at the Tokyo Hilton, too.  There are other prizes to be won for the other top ten videos, including stays at sweet hotels in Seoul or Busan, and tickets to performances.

Your video will be shown on 10 Magazine's website, so this is a good way to pimp your site if you make videos.  Then, readers will vote on which video they like the most, and a panel of judges' decisions will be weighed along with voter totals, to determine the final winners.  Finally, there'll be an awards ceremony on June 12th.  

You can go here to learn about the contest, or to upload the video you made.


More K-Pop And Kiddie Songs:

from here

Lee Hyori has a song with the inexplicable title "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"

Now, any lover of Dick...VanDyke movies (what?) knows that this is the tune that should pop into your head when you hear the words Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Lee Hyori's taking over the phrase, in a song and video that seem to have nothing to do with the original, except a car theme in the video.

Honestly, I like Hyori. She's cute, her music is getting noisier and more fun, and really, what's not to like? She's the apotheosis of a K-pop star, but this trend of nonsense words in English needs to stop.

Does Super Junior's "Bomanama" have any meaning in Korean?

Because to my English eye it reads like this: (though it doesn't SOUND like that in the song, fortunately... or not)

(for the record, Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo was also a mistake)

Also on the butchering things from my childhood front:

No, I am absolutely NOT watching The New Karate Kid with Hong Kong's Jackie Chan playing the Japanese Mr. Miyagi, and perpetuating the idea that "they all look the same; may as well get a Chinese to play a Japanese..." as well as the idea that "them martial arts are all the same too, aren't they?"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Am I Allowed to say I'm Disappointed with Frank La Rue's Discussion of Freedom of Expression?

Frank La Rue, a UN Special 
Rapporteur who just spent 12 days in Korea investigating human rights situations in Korea, with special focus on freedom expression, has given a report about South Korea's progress in supporting freedom of expression.  The summary of his report is linked above, and here.  The full statement can be found as a PDF here.

A few of the most salient points:

(image source)

1. even when they eventually get acquitted, the fact bloggers have gotten arrested for expressing their opinions (see Minerva), throws cold water on public discussion of issues.

2. The Real Name Identification system sucks

3. The Korea Communications Standards Commission has an opaque process for deciding which websites get blocked, which basically means no accountability.

4. It's ridiculous that you can go to jail just for spreading false information.

5. It's also ridiculous that defamation is in the criminal code, rather than just being a civil offense.

Freedom of assembly is being stifled... though the laws in the books say it's protected, having to get approval in advance for a demonstration, and the government's ability to block a demonstration for fear that it might block traffic, amounts to a de facto curtailing of that freedom.

7. Teachers and government officials should be free to express political opinions... even if they disagree with the police.

8. It's also ridiculous that public officials can sue for defamation (and even press criminal charges) when they're in public positions, and it's natural for their actions to come under scrutiny because of the position they've taken.

9. The ban on commenting about upcoming public officials elections is also uncool, especially when the law is interpreted in a way that makes people feel like they can't discuss key issues.

OK, fair enough.
Like the article mentions, I'm more interested in comparing those situations to how things were in those regards, in Korea, 15 years ago, than in comparing Korea with other countries that have been free democracies for longer.  After all, 1987/1993 is not really that long ago, and most people will tell you that one of those two years was the one when 
Koreandemocracy really, REALLY began.

Here's the thing that really disappointed me:

"Mr. La Rue met with 16 State institutions; however, he was deeply disappointed that he could not meet with the President, the Prime Minister, nor a single Minister of Government. “Despite my requests, I was unable to meet with the Prosecutor-General nor members of the National Intelligence Service, despite the fact that I came to the country on an official invitation,” added the expert."

 the unhelpful attitude of high-level government officials concerns me more than any of the particulars of Korea's freedom of expression situation.  Getting stone-walled - nothing more than the lip-service of inviting the guy in the first place - seems to me to give an indication of how important the current government considers freedom of expression.  That's disappointing.  And concerning.  But mostly disappointing.  And also very, very 1973.

Shit, am I allowed to say that?  Why do I need to ask myself that question before I post?

My two bits on the elections stuff: between the real name identification system, and the election commentary ban, here's what I think:  
(image from here)

1. Now that Youtube won the war with Korea, and Koreans are allowed to upload to Youtube without giving their ID number, that opens the door for other google services to hold to the same standard.

2. Now that blogger platforms can come in all Korean settings, as well, and...

3. Now that mobile devices are finally forcing Korea to update its internet standards and come in step with international norms, and people are going to start using iPhones to check blogs, and have trouble with accessing Korean webpages on those devices...

I predict that a lot of Koreans will move to platforms like blogger, where their anonymity is a little safer, and that in either these or the next elections, we'll see a huge increase in Korean presence on blogger and other non-Korean blog platforms, where people can talk a little more freely about issues like this.

Fact is, Korea can't block google, or they lump themselves with 
China as "enemies of the internet" - there'd be an outcry.

And eventually, the conservatives in power will finally, FINALLY realize, that it's impossible to control information in today's world... unless you want to be like China.  And maybe even then.

Last thing, re: 
freedom of speech: (picture is from here)

Rue mentions that a culture of tolerance regarding criticism should be promoted.  I agree.  I have no idea whether La Rue paid any attention to netizen bullying, or only police bullying of people practicing free expression, but I do know that there's a group thatseems to have a "hit list" of what they call "Anti-Korea Blogs" they're trying to take down.  The irony is that the behavior of Korea Sentry is exactly the kind of narrow-minded, myopic, "truth is secondary to whether I agree with it" attitude that many of the anti-Korea blogs discuss.  By bullying and hounding the people who say things they don't like, Korea Sentry at least partially proves them right.  These clowns too, would do well to realize that you can't stop information.  Even if you intimidate a blogger (and create/confirm a bad impression of Korea while you're at it - who's stirring up hate for Korea and Koreans when your behavior is so obviously hateful?) you just stir up more negative talk about Korea and Korean netizens, and the blog will turn up again on google cache soon enough anyway.

So far, I haven't had much trouble with the "Why do you hate Korea" crowd myself... for obvious reasons

Knock on wood.

On the other hand, from KRD:
You simply cannot have a free society without the right to criticize, or to raise controversial points. We need this discussion. We need to be allowed to speak without fear of being killed or deported. We need to have the right to speak openly, and we need to have the right to speak anonymously. Dangerous precedents are being set this year in South Korea, and without intervention – without some sort of change – this country will become a little more like its buddy up north.
 Update: speaking of Mad Netizens, Brian D. has this one about Korea's latest internet pariah.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Writing from prisoners: my friend Tamie

My friend Tamie writes an awesome blog called "The Owls & The Angels" and these days she's teaching a writing class to inmates at a prison in the town where she lives.

She wrote a beautiful piece, brimming with respect and compassion, for the inmates she interacts with there. You should read it.

She also has a blog where she publishes (with permission) the writings of her students. You should read it, too, and write comments.

Go read, dear readers. This is important. Humanizing other people humanizes us.

Tamie writes:
My brother told me recently that he thinks someday future generations will look back on the US incarceration system as we now look on slavery or genocide: as something unthinkable and horrifying, something we cannot understand how humans could do to one another. The more I hear the full stories of the people in jail, the more I am convinced that my brother is right.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Random thoughts:

1. Instead of rating movies with stars, I think the new rating for a movies' quality should be:

Watch it in the cinema, then buy the DVD and watch all the special features.
Watch it in the cinema twice. Tell your friends about it.
Watch it in the cinema.
Download it and watch it fullscreen.
Download it and watch it while doing other stuff.
Download it and skip to the action/nude scenes.
Avoid it.
Watch it ironically so you can rip it in front of your friends later.
Watch it ironically, but be too embarrassed to talk about it later.

2. (My facebook friends will recognize this)

Little words count for a lot: a student dropped the 'with' and told me,
"Yesterday I ate out my wife at a restaurant."

3. I look dazzling in a suit. (last weekend, instead of 2S2, here's what I was up to)



Lecture on Freedom of Speech

In light of Michael Breen's recent situation, you might be interested to know there's a special lecture on freedom of expression in Korea going on tomorrow.  Information here, from Ben Wagner, in a comment on Brian's blog.

Opportunity to see the 4 Rivers Project in Person

Got this message earlier this week, than punted on posting it. Sorry. If it's not too late, here's a chance to go see the 4 Rivers Restoration Project - President Lee's hotly contested big project - in person.

To get an idea of what the 4 Rivers Project seems to be doing to the river ecosystems, look at this, from nanoomi.  (photo from link)

Here's the message I got from a contact:
Want to see what is happening to the rivers under the 4 River Restoration Project? Them come walk along the South Han River on May 15, 2010. This trip is brought to you by the Eco Horizon Institute of Korea. Don't miss the chance to get the tour in English!!!!!

Program: Walking along NamHanGang road, visiting Yeoju 4 river project construction sites, talking with SuGyeong Buddhist Monk
Who: Foreigners interested in learning about the 4 River Restoration Project
Cost: 20,000 won (have to wear comfortable shoes for a walk)

9:30 Meeting at Gangbyun station exit 2, in front of Techno Mart
Get on a eco tour bus
11:30 Arrive at Yeoju
1130-130 Walking along 바위늪구비 BaweeNeupGubi
1:30-2:30 Lunch
2:30-4 Walking along DatDunRi - Sunrising mountain road
4-4:30 Gangcheobo(catch basin)-Construction site visit
4:30-5:30 생명평화여강마당 (신륵사) Visit Life Peace Garden at SinReuksa Temple
5:30-7 수경스님과의 대화 Discussion with SuGyeong Buddhist Monk
7-Departing for Seoul

RSVP: Vanessa Falco, 010-4694-4720

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Large and Tall T-shirts: General Request

Hey there.  I have a few friends who are taller and/or larger than the average Korean, who need to buy a few new t-shirts for the summer.

So... especially these days, when there are more big and tall Koreans than ever before, there MUST be more big and tall shops where Korean folks can get the big and tall sizes they increasingly need...

Where are they?  Can any of my bigger-than-the-average-Korean readers - particularly the females - recommend a place where my friend could either buy, or have made, some summer wear?  She's looking either for a tailor where they actually know how to fit larger women (not just slapping an elastic waistband on a tent with feet holes), or a shop where they have sizes for her.  She's also a bit tired of digging around the big-and-large shops along "wanna buy a suit" street in Itaewon, where she's been all through the wringer with bad experiences.

So... help me out here, folks.  Directions are good, links to google maps are better, links to websites for shops and even online stores help, too.

I know someone will come through for me on this one.  My coworker is waiting on it.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

All over the Korea Herald Today

Hello Readers.

I'm Roboseyo, or Rob Ouwehand. This is my personal blog. You may have found this blog because of the articles in today's Korea Herald, about ATEK's Legal Assurance Program, which is big news, and my new position as ATEK's National Communications Officer.

To find out more about me, go ahead and look around the blog; some of my best or most popular posts are on the right. However, I should be clear that these are all my own, personal opinions, and they don't represent ATEK.

To learn more about ATEK, visit ATEK's website. You can also check out ATEK's Twitter feed, to the right.

Friday, May 07, 2010

2S2 On Saturday: Gwangjang Market And All the Good Vittles

Remember: 2S2 Wonju is also a go.

So Amy and Chris, minor deities in their own rights, have offered to help me out by running the upcoming 2S2 by Tag-Team, so that I can go tuxedo shopping on Saturday with my fiance, and still get married in July. Thanks, you two.

The plan remains as stated: Meet at 2PM on the second floor of the Twosome Place coffee shop by Anguk Station (Anguk Station exit 1, turn right).

Look for either this handsome guy (stolen without permission from Chris's Blogger Profile), who answers to the name "Chris" or "Thou Austere Keeper of the Sword That Wails, And Curator of Awkward Silences"

Or this curly-haired young lady, who radiates "awesome" (picture stolen without permission from her facebook photo album... I didn't have time to check if the picture was a good one; it's late and I wrote this in a sleepy rush.  Sorry if it's not you at your best, Amy.)
She answers to the name Amy.  I think the picture might be old; she may have changed since it was taken.

Once the crew has gathered, there are two ways to get to Gwangjang Market. Either by following this path:

View 2S2 Saturday May 8 2010 in a larger map
(If the weather's awesome and everybody is healthy and mobile)

Or by subway, Anguk Station, transfer at Jongno 3-ga station, get off at Jongno 5-ga station, exit 8, and head for the center of the market, where all the best food awaits.

From there, on the other side of the market is the Chunggyecheon Stream, which is a nice walk, and if some of you want to go to the Seoul World DJ festival, you'll have to work that out. The facebook page is here. The google map is here.

If you really want to go to the DJ Festival (which is awesome, by the way, but'll cost ya), here's the map to catch the bus from World Cup Stadium Station;

View Seoul DJ Festival in a larger map

Wish I could be there, readers. I'll post pictures of me in my tuxedo when I can. Don't you know I look dazzling in a suit.

If I have the energy (clothing shopping tires me), and Girlfriendoseyo has the patience, and the store has one in stock, I'll be sure to get at least one picture of me in a ridiculous tuxedo for you. If all those things occur.  Have a good time eating food and walking around a market I wish I could join you for, readers.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Great Jimjilbang... cleaning my desk

I've had the business cards of a great jimjilbang cluttering my desk for months now, so I'm just going to scan and post the info and let you know that this place is pretty sweet: the clay kilns out back are a wonder, and the coal roasters where you can buy rice cakes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn, and then roast them yourself, are AWESOME.

You should go there.

Here's the place.  No promises the website will be useful.

It's between the Shinchon/Hongdae area and the Jongno area, and the masseurs are hella strong.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

2S2 Saturday: Here's the Plan; Come Hungry; Here's what I Need

OK, readers...

Here's the problem.

I have a great idea for this Saturday's 2S2... except one thing.  I'm double-booked.

See, I'm getting married in July ... you might have heard about this ... and Fiancoseyo (no. That's not working) Girlfriendoseyo set the tuxedo shopping appointment for this Saturday, at 3pm.  Given that 2S2 meets at 2pm, it pretty much means that I could be there for about ten minutes before I had to split.

I love you all, my readers, and I care a lot that people get the connections they need... but I'm completely unavailable this Saturday.

So here's what I need: a friend who can fill in, and lead people around.  I'll even plan out the thing, as long as I have someone who can hold a map and keep a group together.

You can read about 2S2 Suwon here, or at the 2S2 blog, once it's posted there; I hope 2S2 Wonju will be putting something up soon, and 2S2 Yongin/Suji also has a facebook page.

Here's my idea: about a 20 minute walk from 2S2's Anguk Station meetup, there's a fantastic market called "Gwangjang Market" where you can get some of the best jeon (seafood pancake), bindaeddeok, kalguksu (Korean cut noodle soup), and a whole swack of other old-style Korean foods - the kind of stuff that reminds Koreans of their childhood, all served up in little food-stalls.  The prices are ridiculously low, the food's awesome soul-food - there's pig's feet, but there's also some awesome not-gross, cheap food like kimbap, chapchae, noodles, egg and fish-cakes -- all the best Korean cheap-foods you can think of.  And the market experience is as authentically "Korea" as you can get.  Read more here.

Here's Dan Gray, from Seoul Eats, my nemesis, describing some of the foods:

From there, right next to Kwangjang market is the Chunggyecheon stream, which is a nice stroll to work off all the food you ate, and if you're really ambitious, Kwangjang Market is not far from Jongno 3-ga station, where line 3 takes you to line 6, from which you can head down to the Seoul DJ Festival - I've gone before, and it was awesome.  (learn more here, or here, or here)

So... any takers?  Help a fella out!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Inwang Mountain and JjimDalk: Awesome Day

Given such fantastic weather, Girlfriendoseyo, Mom-in-law-oseyo, and I climbed Inwang-san, or Inwang Mountain, this Saturday.
The mountain was in fine form, with cherry blossoms and magnolias still in bloom.
The tree cover had pink peeking through.
The air was clear enough to see from Inwang Mountain, all the way to the 63 Building on Yeouido.
Girlfriendoseyo playing with her dog.  Cherry blossoms through the opening in the wood grove.
Mother-in-law-oseyo loves the mountain.

After a good climb on the mountain, we had a special treat in store: Andong JjimDalk.  Andong JjimDalk is so good, that it's just not worth eating it anywhere except in Andong... but Girlfriendoseyo heard that some of the JjimDalk restaurants in Andong will actually deliver their recipes to you in Seoul, if you order them a few days ahead of time.  Girlfriendoseyo did exactly that.  We'd been planning a jjimdalk party sometime, but before we ordered it to eat with a bunch of friends, we wanted to try it, and make sure it was the same stuff on deliveray, as it was in Andong.  After climbing the mountain, Mother-In-Law-oseyo warmed up the recipe that had been delivered, and readers... it was almost as good as making the trip to Andong.

A bit closer:
And this, readers, is a picture of a full, and happy Roboseyo.
Bravo my life!

And then, on the way home, I saw something amazing: on the subway, this old lady got on the subway, and fell into the most amazing kimchi squat I've ever seen. She curled into a tiny ball on her heels, fell just about asleep, and no matter which way the train pitched, rolled, accelerated, and decelerated, she stayed put. I've never seen a kimchi squat so stable. People were getting on and off near her, and bumping her, and she was unperturbed. Impressive.