Monday, April 30, 2012

Night View of the Cheonggyecheon

Love this view overlooking Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul. It has a completely different, yet lovely, look at night.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Advertising through music videos in Korea

This ad popped up while watching stuff on youtube today. It is pretty ridiculous. Particularly the chorus. O-raen-ji fanta! Pa-i-nae-peul fanta! Po-do fanta! It does kind of make me want a fanta...

This isn't the only time they've used K-pop to advertise products. LG's Chocolate phone had their own music video (and a sexy one at that) this time performed by the ever-popular Girl's Generation. The chorus was pretty catchy. Chocolate Love was often heard in clubs when it originally came out.

Chocolate Love doesn't really make me think of cellphones, but inter-racial relationships. Is that just me?

Big Bang and 2NE1, two groups I really like, also made a song and music video promoting the Lollipop cell phone. Aptly named Lollipop, the song was a big hit. Plus, the outfits in this music video inspire my wardrobe today.

I also really liked this Son Dambi and After School music video that was all about Samsung's AMOLED phone. The first time I heard this song, I really liked it but did not understand what the heck they were singing about. Then I realized it was an advertisement. Still, I heard this song a lot in clubs back in 2010.

 Are these phone commercials jingles or legitimate songs?

This beer music video / commercial is pretty interesting as well. The dance includes making the X's of the 2X Cass Beer. X bringing up images of the so-called X-line that some women strive for in Korea (and if you want to read more about the X-line, check out The Grand Narrative (one of the best blogs about Korea)). I like the music video though because it includes one of my favorite Korean actors: Lee Min Ho.

All of these music videos are pretty smart advertising. Not only are the songs earworms, but they also can be purchased. And you get tons of free advertisements from clubs and bars that play your songs.

I doubt the Fanta song will have the popularity of these other cell phone songs. It just isn't as catchy. Also, singing a song about cell phones may be cool, but singing about drinking Fanta instead of going to school is just, well, lame.

The weekend in food

Had some wonderful things this weekend, including a meat buffet and some Thai food in Itaewon. Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of most of them because my camera died. Friday I was craving something other than school fare so I went to a restaurant and got a delicious pork cutlet with a side of two deep fried fish fillets. All for under seven dollars.

I also had a chance to go to on of my favorite Korean places in Itaewon. Tofu kimchi and, pictured below, fried pork with kimchi. Spicy and satisfying.

Walk near Samgakji

It feels almost like summer is here. The flowers are starting to look beautiful and the trees on the mountain outside my window are getting pretty green. Love this time of year.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012


This is going to sound like a product placement, but I pretty much adore Kanu (카누). It's pretty much like Starbucks Via. Unlike most Korean instant coffees, you can buy it black. And it dissolves in cold water. AKA instant iced americanos for one tenth the price with a pretty decent quality- the ten pack costs about 3900 won. Of course, it doesn't compare with the coffee you can get at a real coffee shop, but it has been saving me three dollars a day. ^^  Their website is really well done, and stars Gong Yoo of The First Shop of Coffee Prince fame. I need to stop endorsing this coffee unless I start getting a commission . . .

Suyu Walkometer

I decided to actually check out this wheel thingy that I pass by every day on my way to work. You can spin the wheel to match with your weight and then the amount of time that you plan on walking. It will calculate approximately how many calories you burn. Apparently, for a guy my size I burn 360 calories during a one-hour walk.

360 calories doesn't sound to bad, but the little wheel says that a cup of rice is 300 calories. I didn't know rice was so caloric. I eat a lot of rice, but if anything my body processes it quicker than bread. I really should switch to whole-wheat rice though... I guess white rice is way better than 1120 calories for the pizza.

I don't know if there is a specific walkway associated with this sign. It is right next to my school and apparently 1.1 km to Suyu station. This must be some sort of exercise campaign, but I haven't seen any other information about it.

Afternoon view at my school

It is really feeling like spring these days. Nature is bursting out, the weather is so warm, and the yellow dust seems to be subsiding a bit. This weekend is the first weekend in a long time that is going to be rainless (knock on wood).
The courtyard at my school is lovely in the spring. Lots of trees, students happily playing outside, ajjummas hawking their products right outside of the school's gates (lettuce, yogurt, peppers, fruits). Lovely day indeed.

New MV: B.A.P. Power

I like this new video from B.A.P. even though it isn't my usual Kpop fare. The dancing is pretty darn good. However, I don't really get what they are trying to say halfway through the chorus (check the 1:30 mark). It sounds almost like they are saying 'hey, Jew'. Maybe they were going for 'hey, Jude' or 'hate you'. . . Anyways, check out this single:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

수유 사랑! (Suyu Love)

I love Suyu. I've been living in this northern part of Seoul for about 8 months now, and it just makes me so happy to walk around our neighborhood. It has everything you need: restaurants, bars, noraebangs, young people, hotels, saunas... you name it.

When I got there back in August, I was a little disappointed. My first year in Korea was in downtown Kangnam, which is one of the busiest parts of new southern Seoul. I was a block away from some of the best Mexican food in Seoul and down my street was the delicious, albeit expensive, Tea Purple coffee shop. Life was good. Getting to Suyu, everything looked a little drab. Until I walked down what us waygookin's affectionately refer to as 'Neon Alley' after the sun had gone down.

Super Asian

This was taken last night on a rainy Wednesday, and it was still swarming with people heading to bars and restaurants. And little old me trying to find a quick snack for dinner. Neon Alley has some really good restaurants, including the best dalk galbi I've had in Korea, as well as some of the famous chain restaurants. On the other side of the main intersection in Suyu is what I like to call nostalgia alley, with some 1980s era restaurants as well as the cheapest well-made coffee I've found in Seoul. 2500 for an iced americano that has actually been hand-roasted? And includes an extra shot of espresso if you need the caffeine? Yes, please. On the main drag you can find a lot of international restaurants, including an Outback (gross), McDonalds (maybe ok when you are drunk) and Italian and Vietnamese restaurants.

There are also tons of markets surrounding the main area of Suyu station (수유역). I should leave that for another post with lots of pictures and a map, because there are a LOT. I can think of at least five within a ten-minute walk from exit 5...

The number of foreigners living in Suyu is actually surprisingly high. I think in my building alone there is probably twenty. It is a pretty friendly crowd and there is nothing better than sitting outside a Mini Stop with a beer on a warm day and having a nice and easy conversation with native English speakers; you don't want your English to get too rusty. 

Since we are somewhat close to Nowon, people tend to think we are up in the boons. Yes, it would be a little nicer to live closer to the city. But being on line 4 is super convenient. 12 minutes to Sungshin University (great for buying women's clothing), 15 minutes to Daehak-ro, with all of its amazing theaters as well as decent, and ever-improving, night life, and 18 minutes to Dongdaemun. It used to take me an hour to get to Dongdaemun from Kangnam.

I guess that's enough of my pride for now. If you are being placed around Suyu, don't worry. It is a great place to live. If you are up bopping around in the northern part of Seoul, meet a friend in Suyu for what surely will be a good day or night.

If you are real lucky, you'll run into this guy selling chicken

Monday, April 23, 2012

New find: Jungang Market (중앙시장)

Walking from Daehak-ro to Dapsimni the other night, I ran into this market. Really random, but cool. It had a lot of delicious looking food and also some art work hanging around. I was kind of in a rush so I didn't take much time, but I'll come back later and check it out.

To get here, I think you can go to 신답역 (Sindap Station on the 2) and get out at exit 1. It should be on your right.

Champion Weekend in Food

This weekend was pretty fantastic food-wise. First of all, we had 회 (hoe), which is Korean raw fish. It also came with sushi. 맛있어요 (delicious).
Sushi and cold kimchi soup

Some sea squirt, fish with bean sprouts, gross corn, seaweed soup

Fried fish

Shrimp and oysters with cheese

Tasty crab

The main dish!
The next evening a good friend made a delicious meal. It must have taken him hours to cut up all the vegetables in the thin strips. I love the pickled radish slices that you roll the vegetables and eggs in. He served it with Korean beef stew. Awesome.
Good job Gi-eung!
Sunday afternoon I had a pretty good lunch at my favorite dingy restaurant in Itaewon. Kimchi jjigae and spicy fried squid. Unfortunately, the aunts that normally cook dinner weren't working, but the uncle did a good job.
Sunday evening finished with a healthier dish- vegetarian well-being buffet. I've been to this restaurant before (straight out of exit 4 of 답십리) and I recommend it. Really cheap and plenty of toppings to make your own bowl of brown rice bibimbap. They also have soups, teas, and mock duck. Delicious.

Ice cream!

Unhealthy food night at Margaret's. Grilled cheese, tomato soup, and Catie double-fisting. 나이스!

Suyu at night

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Talk to me in Korean video...

I love this video made by the Talk to Me in Korean crew. Cute, kind of silly, and some useful vocabulary.

Seen in Daehak-ro

Even though it was rather rainy today, I made sure I got in a nice walk. I like this bike thingy next to a Seoul advertisement.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Girl's Day New Single: Oh! My God

I like Girl's Day... well, both of the songs that I've heard. There new music video is kind of ridiculous and cartoony, but still catchy. I've never seen a K-pop video with so many silly sound effects. And I love there outfits: very Korean. I don't think it is as good as their last single, but still worth checking out.

The guy at the beginning of this music video was the love interest in Twinkle Twinkle (반짝반짝). Apparently, he isn't popular anymore? Their earlier single is a lot catchier.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I love the Cheonggyecheon... and Tom

One of my friends has this ridiculous 'travel show' about his wanderings. His humor is a little different than the random Canadian, but I absolutely love this video he made about Cheonggyechon stream in central Seoul. Check it out:

Keep up the good work Tommy!

The Roots of K-pop

I love this video... tracing the roots of K-pop to the Joseon dynasty. Ha! Almost as good as the Mr. Pizza advertisement. Keep up the tongue-in-cheek advertisements Korea!

This video is for a campaign for Buzz Korea that includes winning tickets to visit Korea for five days, and a 5000 dollar gift certificate. Too bad I already live here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Afternoon View: Walking home from work

Spring in Korea can be really beautiful. It's inconsistency can be frustrating, but when you have a warm afternoon like today with all of the trees in bloom, life just feels so freaking good.

The Joys of Eating in Tents (Pajangmacha)

Pojangmacha (포장마차) are some of my favorite places to eat in Korea. These tents were originally just cheap food for workers, but compare to the recent increase and professional recognition of food trucks in the states. Seriously, you can get some excellent grub for a decent price at one of these tents. Nothing is better than snacking on chicken gizzards, grilled eel, and clams, drinking soju, and sitting on a plastic stool. Well, at least that sounds pretty ideal to me.

Of course, not all tents are created equal. Two of my friends introduced me to this specific tent, which I will be re-visiting in the not so distant future. First up was gizzard, which in Korean has the unfortunate name of 'chicken poop house' (닭똥짐). While the name is definitely not appetizing, the chewiness of the chicken and hot peppers makes it a great accompaniment to a glass of soju.

After our 'first course' we continued with grilled eel on a bed of sesames leaves. I think I've had raw eel before, but this was my first time eating it grilled with sesames leaves. This was seriously one of the best fish dishes I've had. I can't wait to eat it again / introduce it to all my friends.

This picture does not give this dish justice...

Stumbled Upon: Jungbu Market (중부 시장)

On my walk yesterday I randomly entered Jungbu Market in the Dongdaemun area. Although it is a lot smaller than the other major markets in Dongdaemun (Dongdaemun market and Gwanjang market being two that come to mind) it had its own character and some products that I haven't seen in other markets. Plus, how could you not love this entrance?
Just smile!
I walked around for a bit and just enjoyed being the only foreigner in the market. Sure, that meant some stares from the shopkeepers, but it also meant some friendly smiles as well. I was really excited to see dried fruits and nuts, and if I ever get around to eating a healthier diet I'll have to come back here for pecans and walnuts. Delicious! They also had various sizes of dried anchovies. Not as delicious... Apparently, as much as half of the dried fish trade goes through Jungbu market. Opening at 3 or 4 am for re-sellers, the market closes a little early (around 6 pm) so get there before dinner. Apparently, the area is also known for its mulnaengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles) so I'll need to head back there with a friend for dinner.


To get there, go to Euljiro 4 Ga Station (을지로 4 가) and take exit 7. Walk straight and take the third left. After 100 meters, Jungbu will be on your left.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Weekend in Food

Another delicious weekend. Since I was in Jeonju, the food was especially delicious. Especially the banchan. Banchan are the side dishes that come with Korean food, and all of the banchan in Jeonju were fantastic. Our first meal on Friday was just some makkeoli with tons of delicious banchan. Check out this spread:

The meal included skate, Spanish mackerel, mackerel, octopus, raw oysters, fish paste soup, quail eggs, kimchi pancake, various greens, some sort of grass dish (which the ajjuma spoon-fed to Andie), some sort of mucus covered vegetable (not the best), and a salad. All of this for about fifteen dollars. Since there were three of us, that only meant a five dollar meal. And that included the drink. Awesome.

Jeonju is particularly famous for their bibimbap, so of course we had to try that. It really was better than the bibimbap you find in Seoul and the banchan they served with it were delicious as well. I might have to go back to Jeonju just for the food alone!

On Sunday, we went to the cherry blossom festival in Dongdaegu and there were also a lot of amazing culinary things going on. I loved the look of this roasted pig on the spit, but unfortunately we didn't get to try it. They also had whale, which saddened me and, even worse, piqued my interest in the meat. I would never eat an endangered animal, but now I'm just wondering what they taste like. I can restrain myself.



Jeonju Weekend

An awesome friend of mine that used to teach in Korea, Andie, was visiting this past week so we planned a trip to the city of Jeonju and the green tea fields of Boseong. It was a pretty great weekend and nice to get out of Seoul. Kaleigh joined us to make a trio of travelers.
The two-and-a-half bus ride from Express Bus Terminal brought us to the express bus terminal in Jeonju and then a cheap taxi ride later we were in the Hanok Village (한옥 마을). Hanoks are traditional Korean houses with in-floor heating. Although we had planned to stay in a hanok, they were more expensive than my guide book had informed me and way more expensive than the hanok we stayed in at Gangneung. We ended up staying at Jeonju Hostel near the hanok village which was nice, and had beds, which were probably more comfortable than the floor of a hanok. Also, the hostel had once had some Minnesotan guests, so that made me happy.

Saturday morning we wandered around the village and took a bunch of pictures. Unlike other hanok villages, Jeonju's is not just a tourist attraction; people continue to live in the traditional housing. This meant that some paces were inaccessible, but we were still able to peak over people's walls and see their beautiful yards. Jeonju has a lot of flora, and it was great to just wander and get lost in the narrow streets.
Pungnam Gate

Someone's backyard

One of the more interesting buildings is the Jeondong Cathedral. Built in the early 20th century, it was the site of the first Korean martyrs back in 1781. One martyr was decapitated and his head was displayed at Pungnam Gate to set an example.

After our wander, we continued on to Nambu Market (남부 시장) to see all the fresh vegetables and very Korean products for sale. I thought that there was a good place to eat bibimbap in the market, but apparently I was wrong. Time was running short, so we took a taxi to get a bus for the green tea fields of Boseong.

For some reason, I was being a rather bitchy person on Saturday. Andie and I had planned to go to the tea fields way back when, but I did not want to get on a bus for a long journey to see something I had already seen. In hindsight, I realize I was being rude and a bad host, but at the time I wasn't thinking clearly. Although I feel bad about this decision, I split up with Andie and Kaleigh. They continued on to Boseong and I stayed behind in Jeonju and looked around for another six hours.

Admittedly, I regretted leaving Andie. Nonetheless, I had a great time wandering around Jeonju. From the bus station, I decided to walk back to the city center and saw parts of the city that demonstrated the poorer side of Jeonju. While it is definitely a developed city, historically funds have tended to go to Gyeongsang-do rather than Jeolla-do, and I could see it was a little less developed than the cities I have seen in Gyeongsang.

Backyard cabbage
I wandered on to the Jungang Market (중앙 시장) and eventually to the modern Daegu-esque city center. Jeonju is home to JIFF: the Jeonju International Film Festival. It opens in two weeks, but there is still a street in the center with many movie theaters and street art with histrionic themes.

After walking down Film Street, I continued on to what was referred to on my map as the "Street that's desired to walk". A pedestrian-only area, the street was a nice walk, but a little too crowded for actual sight-seeing. At the end of the street was the Jeonju Gaeksa, which is a pavilion built in the 15th century that is now used to just relax and catch up with friends.
Unfortunately, most Korean architecture looks exactly the same
The walk continued through China Town (more touristical than ethnic Chinese) and then a walk along the stream that flows through the center of the city. As I was walking, a man approached me with a friendly smile and joined me on my walk for a good hour as we chatted back and forth in a mixture of Korean and English. It was a very random experience, but I learned about this guy's life and family and we actually talked a bit about politics in Korean, which made me happy. When I was leaving, he told me that I need to study more grammar. He's correct. It is so hard to make a sentence in Korean.
Maybe modeled after Seoul's Cheonggyecheon?
The walk up the stream brought me to Deokjin Park, where there is a lake pond crowded with couples. It was quite a romantic spot. Alas, I was alone.

The walk finished at University Street (대학로). Like any university area in Korea, the area was buzzing, and while before I wasn't that keen on Jeonju as a place to live, I realized I would enjoy life if I lived near University Street. It had all the restaurants and coffee places, both independents and chains, that would make my life pleasantly comfortable. Maybe I should look into teaching positions at Chunbuk University...

My type of street
Overall, it was a good Saturday. I still feel bad that I ditched Andie and Kaleigh, but I'm also happy I had a chance to see more of Jeonju. I might head back, as it is under three hours from Seoul. But next time, I'll make sure to actually spend the night in a hanok!

Nami Island

During the first weekend of April, a couple of friends and I took a day trip to Nami Island (님이 섬) on a warm Sunday. Located in Chuncheon, Gangwon-do, you can get to Nami through public transportation, although it is a bit of a hike. Upon arrival, we just ended up walking around and enjoying the beauty and strangeness of the island.

The famous drama Winter Sonata was filmed on Nami Island, so it is pretty popular with Japanese tourists. This has probably taken away from its natural beauty, as it is filled with kitschy shops and statues. However, the trees and nature were beautiful, and I can imagine it is especially nice in the winter.
Ridiculous statue

The island is also a face micro-nation. Apparently, it declared independence back in March 2006. This means that you get a fake passport to enter the country and apparently they have their own currency (which I did not see). Really a strange place. However, as we left the island with the sun setting, I couldn't help but appreciate its beauty.

To get there, take the Gyeongchun line (up in the NE on subway maps... it is teal colored) and get off at Gapyeong station. From there, it is a cheap taxi ride to the ferry terminal, and then from there a short ferry to the island. Enjoy! The trip should probably take around 2 hours one way.