서촌마을 ; Seochon Village

Explored on February 8, 2016

Sorry for my extremely long hiatus! Hopefully this post (and the others to come!) will help you forgive me a bit faster!!

A couple of weekends ago, I visited 서촌마을/Seochon Village – although it took me a while to find. I actually walked into a police station for the first time in my life because I needed to ask for directions. It was definitely worth the experience. Seochon was amazing, even with the gloomy weather. In my opinion, the gloomy weather brought out the town even more! The small alleyways that were lined with vintage stores – not just clothing but even old mechanics – seemed like it fed off the dull lighting. And I’m not sure if I’m explaining my thoughts well, but the dull lighting didn’t make the atmosphere more melancholy or spooky. It just made it even artsier, like the town is!

One of my favorite aspects of Seochon was its amazing architecture. There were several rows of galleries; from obscure ones to well-known ones, each with interesting exhibitions! And wow, the architecture of those buildings was inspiring. The simplistic surfaces, the clean colors, the big doors, the modern windows, make up exactly the type of buildings I love!! Sadly they were all closed because of the Lunar New Year holiday, but I would have walked into every single one, at least to see the interior!!

Seochon was definitely a place where I learned to appreciate the details again. The big picture of the town was neat for sure, but what captivated me even more were the bricks that made up each building. The parking signs and murals that were hand drawn with one black marker. The dim colors of the doorknobs. The excitement that filled each store and restaurant! The fuzzy lighting was no match against the enthusiastic and artistic mood this town resonated. And in a city in which most of Google Images show bright lights of the high-rises and colorful reflections on the Han River,  it’s important for us to stop and really appreciate the small details. The craftsmanship of the Korean people that sometimes go unnoticed. My country is filled with it. We are a culture that embodies 흥/heung, or joy and energy, and that embraces creativity. So why do we get forget it? Why do we get swamped in the flurry of all our work?

And I’m at fault of it just as much as anyone else. So I challenge you, and me, to stop one day; whether it’s in the earliest of dawns or the latest of midnights, and look at the little details that make up our world. Mine being the wonderful Seoul, South Korea.Maybe even smile at someone new. Then perhaps, the hustles and the stresses will be no match against your enthusiastic and sunny mood!

 

  
  
  
  

“No parking (do not move the sign)”


  
  
  
  
  

In this place, dream exists and fun exists. Fun store

하이서울페스티발; Hi Seoul Festival

Explored on October 4, 2015

Yesterday, I went to the Hi Seoul Festival (a street art festival that went from October 1 – October 4), and WOW. The streets were not only packed with people but also with color!! The main road from City Hall to 경북궁/Kyungbookgoong was blocked for people to freely roam. Looking at the ground I walked on was relishing in itself. From drawings of rainbows to perfectly replicated illustrations of famous cartoons (like 뽀로로/Pororo the Little Penguin), the streets were so (x1000) lively! In addition to the chalk arts that adults and children alike could partake in for free, there were performances every few blocks. I was lucky enough to squeeze in to watch the DRFTRZ Bboy crew break it down! I don’t know how they spin so quickly, contort their bodies so easily, and jump like Michael Jordan, but they did. And the best part about their dancing was their facial expressions; their faces screamed happiness and passion. I hope I look like that when I’m doing the things I love!!

The whole time I was venturing through this festival, all I could think was how neat it all was. I got chills at the sight of overflowing passion, excitement, and artistic abilities. I love how this festival encouraged and celebrated the arts and the creativity – something I think people lose sight of sometimes. It’s so easy to get lost in the craze of wanting to succeed (get into a good university, find a stable job, earn money, etc.) and wanting to “be the best” that we forget to add color and passion into our lives. We forget to stop and think of the other things we can do once we set our minds to it. Not to say that getting into a good school, earning money, being the best aren’t important. But to remind us about the importance of having fun. Enjoying your life to the fullest. Taking time to follow your dream – no matter how small or big. One thing I’ve realized while being a student in this competitive world is that sometimes you’re too busy looking at others that you don’t stop and look at yourself.

I know this blog post wasn’t much about Korean culture, but it was definitely something I wanted to say. Go out and explore this world, but most importantly, explore yourself. You’ll be surprised to see how wonderful, Seoulful (hahaha, see what I did there?), and COLORFUL you are.

 

  
  
  

DRFTRZ Crew

담양 죽녹원 ; Damyang Juknokwon

Explored on July 25, 2015

Vibrant blue skies and bamboo trees full of strong green hues make up the wonderful place of Damyang Juknokwon. My family and I have been wanting to visit this very celebrated bamboo forest. As we walked up the long steps, I couldn’t help but think – wow, this is a painting. It was beautiful. There was a traditional gate at the entrance to welcome guests from everywhere and a long hiking path surrounded by tall, graceful bamboos. I kid you not, the trees looked like they were dancing. Besides the elegance of the bamboo trees, I saw families and couples walking in front of us, behind us, next to us, basically all around us. It was touching to see the old couple take a selfie or a baby pose with the panda figurines as his parents called after him to look at the camera.

Family is a very important part of Korean culture, especially in mine. Families  – nuclear and extended – most definitely get together during Chuseok, the mid-autumn harvest festival (it’s similar to Thanksgiving in the States) and Lunar New Year. There are always plates of food overlapping each other on the table because there isn’t enough space to fit all the delicacies! The living room is crowded and filled with voices and laughter. The traffic to get to the family 고향/gohyang, the hometown, during these holidays are crazy. There really isn’t a time where it isn’t rush hour. Everyone tries to leave as early as possible, assuming they’ll avoid traffic – it doesn’t really work out. Yet despite all this chaos, once you get there, you know you’re in for some good family love. You’ll get to eat great  food, first of all, play some traditional games (like 윷놀이/yutnori, a traditional Korean board game where you throw sticks – how they are laid out determine how much you go forward or if you go backwards on the cloth board – and aim to reach the “finish point” as quick as possible. Each team is given four tokens/chips that they must get to the finish point), and maybe even get a little allowance to buy snacks from your grandparents!

          

광장시장 ; Kwangjang Market

Explored on August 1, 2015

 The Kwangjang Market / 광장시장 is a whole other level of crazy, especially when it is 32 degrees Celsius with 80% humidity. I kept tiptoeing and sucking in my whole body to get through the crowd. Ajummas/아줌마s from multiple vendors would call after me asking if I wanted to eat their food. And I did, but I had just eaten lunch before (darn it!) and my stomach could not handle it all! I barely was able to fit in some Bindaetteok/빈대떡, a Korean style pancake made of ground beans, onions, and peppers. It was crispy on the outside, yet beautifully chewy and textured on the inside. As I walked through the marketplace, I could only focus on the steaming ddukbboki/떡볶이 (rice cakes made with sweet and spicy chili sauce) and odeng/오뎅(fish cakes cooked in a warm broth) or the colorful bibimbap/비빔밥 (rice mixed with various vegetables). It was super chaotic, hot (and of course, tasty!) but all the stickiness was never a problem. I loved and love these Korean markets because of the kindness of the vendors, from their “service” mindset to them just always smiling at you.

“Service”, or 서비스 in Korean, is the act of giving extra items with no charge, just out of the goodness of the seller’s heart. This can be seen when you order noodles, for example- sometimes the owner will bring out an extra plate of dumplings. Or when you go to the market, the seller will add two or three extra peaches when you asked for ten. This willingness to give and share comes from Korean jeong, which is a very important part of our people and our culture.

Very difficult to explain in either Korean or English, jeong is a feeling of love, affection, compassion, community, sympathy, attachment, and friendship, all put into one. It comes from when Korea was a third-world country, and especially during the Korean war; people would share food with their neighbor or offer shelter to refugees. Jeong spreads to people you have known for years and even people you have just met today! An example is if a elderly woman is pulling a cart filled with boxes and other recyclables up a hill, many people would stop what they’re doing (talking to a friend, parking their car, etc.) and help this lady pull the cart. Another example of jeong is Korean people’s willingness to share their food. At the restaurant or at home, we would share our dishes.

 

  

빈대떡/bindaetteok – stacks on stacks on stacks

  

“We will always serve you with a thankful heart”

  

김밥/kimbab in the making!

떡볶이/ddukbboki


오뎅/odeng

  

비빔밥/bibimbap in the making!

한강 ; Han River

Explored on July 23, 2015

Roads, specific for bikers and runners/walkers, line the shore of the Han River; bridges offer shadows to escape the hot sun, and the cityscape acts as the perfect background to the clean urban yet natural 한강공원/Hangang Park. It’s a great place for families, couples, singles, friends, and everyone in between. With lots of green pastures, families could set up tents with their children and let them play soccer while letting the dog roam free (which I would do everyday if I had one … sad panda). Or couples could rent tandem bikes from any of the abundant bike rental sites and ride with the wind, laughing and doing all sorts of couple-ey stuff. Singles could go running, enjoying the breeze and that right amount of sunlight – and maybe even take a picture of the running shoes and the sunset for the Instagram! And friends could lay mats or sit on one of the benches under the large tents, order fried chicken, and finish the tiring day off with jokes and food!

치맥 (Chi-maek), which is an abbreviation in Korean for chicken and beer, is a very popular combination. Many people enjoy sitting at Hangang with a chicken leg in one hand, a canned beer on the other, and the people you love around you. I have yet to try this “perfect combination” but if you are of age to drink alcohol, you should try it! Have a taste of a the Korean culture!  Other than chicken, you can order anything to anywhere, including Hangang Park. That’s the beauty of Korea – 배달서비스 / delivsry service (tip free!). Every couple of feet, there are lamp posts with a code labeled on it. And that is the code you use to tell the restaurant where you are – you could even use it to locate yourself to the police station if in danger. When I first heard that, I was thoroughly impressed. Or if you’re feeling more 라면/ramyun and less chicken, you can simply walk over to the nearby convenience store (which is set up in several locations around the HUGE park), buy a bag of the spicy noodles, and place it into a machine that cooks it for you!!

Obviously, Hangang is the hub for urban fun and eats in Seoul. You don’t even need to spend that much! Besides the basic camping or biking that I mentioned above, you can watch free concerts or movies (not on your laptop, but on a huge screen!), or watch the bridge water show – water sprays out of the 반포대교/Banpo bridge with rainbow lights, making it even more majestic! Or during the hot days, you could go to the public swimming pools, decked out with bouncy castle slides. The possibilities are endless.

No need to go to amusement parks when you have Hangang! 🙂










The location tag!

The location tag!

Photo from rudelulu.blog.me

Photo from rudelulu.blog.me

광복절 ; Independence Day

Explored on August 10, 2015

Happy 70th Anniversary of Korea’s Independence from Japan! Korea was freed from Japanese colonization on August 15, 1945 after thirty-five years. And today, the whole nation celebrates the liberty. All the lamp posts have the South Korean flags attached to them; many buildings have a huge flag plastered on the sides. And the former City Hall, now the 서울도서관/Seoul Metropolitan Library, has a grandiose 한옥 /hanok (traditional Korean house) exhibition built in front of the main entrance. It is supposed to show how the Seoul City Hall may have looked if the Japanese hadn’t occupied Korea.

When Japan invaded Korea, our citizens were forced to obey Japanese laws, speak the Japanese language (which explains why my grandpa speaks fluent Japanese), and change their names to Japanese ones (my grandpa’s younger sister still goes by her Japanese name). Many were brutally killed or abused, and many females, usually referred to as comfort women or 위안부 (euphemisms for prostitutes) were sexually exploited during this period. My knowledge on the colonization period is limited, but I definitely am interested. I’m hoping to read and learn more about the thirty five years Korea was occupied.

To honor this day, as well as to learn more about it, I visited downtown Seoul (a couple of days earlier to avoid the traffic and crowd) to take pictures of the nationalistic and celebratory atmosphere of Korea’s independence. Besides the usual view of 경북궁 / Kyungbook Palace or the 세종대왕 / King Sejong statue, flags were placed everywhere and several museums had special exhibitions going on about the occupation or Independence Day. Maybe I was under the influence of this very nationalistic day, but looking around downtown, I felt even prouder for my country. We were resilient and were able to rebuild our identity as Koreans even after decades of being ruled by another government.

Statue of King Sejong, who made the Korean alphabet – 한글 / hangeul




The start of the Joseon dynasty

The start of the Joseon dynasty 1392

무궁화 / Hibiscus syriacus South Korea's national flower

무궁화 / Hibiscus syriacus
South Korea’s national flower

무궁화 / Hibiscus syriacus South Korea's national flower

무궁화 / Hibiscus syriacus
South Korea’s national flower

Map of South Korea made out of plastic bottles

Map of South Korea made out of plastic bottles


The

The “hanok” exhbition


디올 정신 ; Esprit Dior

Explored on July 7, 2015

Recently, there have been many world-famous fashion shows and exhibitions in Seoul – the Louis Vuitton exhibition in May, the Chanel Cruise Show also in May, and the Esprit Dior exhibition (20 June – 25 August). I don’t know where the sudden rise in popularity for Korea came from – but I am very glad it happened. Koreans have always been quite fashionable. It’s definitely not the same style that is apparent in the United States, but Korea has its own unique mind for fashion that I love. Right now the 유행s/trends I can spot when I walk around the streets like 가로수길/Garosugil or 홍대/Hongdae are wide-leg pants, bucket hats, Birkenstocks, cute tanks worn over tight or crop tees.

Going back to the various spectacles. I was very disappointed that I couldn’t visit the Louis Vuitton Series 2 exhibition because of the all the schoolwork that was piled all over my desk and my head – May was the cruelest month (hello, T.S. Elliott allusion!). I couldn’t go to the Chanel Cruise Show even if I had the time because it was invitation only…and sadly, the genius Karl Lagerfeld doesn’t know me 😦

BUT! I was able to visit the Esprit Dior exhibition at the 동대문디자인플라자/Dongdaemun Design Plaza this past weekend. It was more than alluring. Each room had a flavor of its own and immersed you into the brilliant world of Christian Dior. Flared tea party skirts, peplum tops, wide ribbons, wool coats, clean-cut pants, I wanted it all. The pieces, even the ones designed in the early 1900s, screamed classy yet trendy. On the walls, there were descriptions of Christian Dior and his works. I remember one saying (not word for word) how Christian Dior wished to give women the joie de vivre / love of life through his works, which I felt was a very empowering and beautiful statement. (If I was wearing one of his designs, I definitely would love life!!) I didn’t take too many pictures because I was in too much awe – I completely forgot to take photos! Plus, I don’t know if I could capture the magnificence of Dior through an iPhone lens. The best lens to capture it would be your own eyes. So PLEASE go visit the Esprit Dior Exhibtion and see for yourself the great talent of Christian Dior and his successors.

http://www.dior.com/couture/en_int/the-house-of-dior/exhibitions











Jennifer Lawrence's dress from the 2015 Oscar Awards!

Jennifer Lawrence’s dress from the 2015 Oscar Awards!



Christian Dior signing off

Christian Dior signing off

PEACEMINUSONE

Explored on June 22, 2015

I have been a fan of Big Bang since their song 거짓말/Lies came out in 2007. Their irresistible swagger and obvious talent captivated me (and almost all of Korea) through my big fat television screen. Now, at the top of the music industry, they have stolen the eyes, ears, hearts, and basically every single body part in the human body, of fans all around the world. From pop icon G-Dragon(GD)’s impeccable skill of creating music, TOP’s charismatic glare and his deep, husky voice, Daesung’s endearing 눈웃음/smile with his eyes, Taeyang’s spectacular dance moves, to Seungri’s hilarious confidence, Big Bang is a unique group that far surpasses the expectations and prejudices that comes with being a “boy band”. They bring out a sense of “go cray”, have fun, “you do you” through their performances – from their free spirit on stage to their fashionable yet shocking (for a conservative nation like Korea) outfit choices. It breaks the standards Koreans tend to have for students like me (yes, the Asian stereotype is PARTLY true) – do well in school, only pursue careers that will bring you a steady income, stay conservative, don’t rebel. Perhaps that is why they are so popular – they go against the norm. And I am happy they do. It may seem rebellious, but I believe they inspire fans to do what they love. Slowly yet steadily, through their music and performances, Big Bang is re-shaping the culture of Korea.

In addition to music, each of the members continue to woo and encourage fans through their solo activities. Recently, GD has collaborated with several other artists to open an art exhibition at the 서울시립미술관/Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA). A topic of criticism and praise, his exhibition has wow-ed me as much as his music has. Trying my best to hold back on details because I really (x infinity) hope that you will visit the museum to see the arts for yourself (it ends August 23rd), I’ll quickly try to express my awe in words – although these words really won’t do this exhibition justice.

When I first entered into the black wall-ed room, I didn’t know where to put my eyes. Filled with goods from Big Bang and GD’s solo music videos, GD’s personal possessions and favorite artworks, and large cubes portraying pictures of GD on every face, the first section of the exhibition was chaotic yet beautiful. Continuing to venture into other light, dark, dim rooms spread out across two floors,  I stared at each artwork in amazement. As an artistically challenged person, I wondered HOW DO ARTISTS COME UP WITH THESE IDEAS, AND HOW DO THEY EXECUTE THEM? Every inch of the exhibition enticed me, keeping me mesmerized in there for who knows how long. It was a place where artists, art enthusiasts, and even people who know nothing about art (like me) could stand together and simply be amazed. From video art to structural art that wrapped the staircases, this exhibition was everything but lacking.

*Check out the official site for more details on this wonderful exhibition!

http://peaceminusone.modoo.at/?link=9lokjjqd


Lyrics from GD's song, Coup D'État

Lyrics from GD’s song, Coup D’État












덕수궁길 ; Deoksu Palace Road

Explored on June 22, 2015

I fought the scorching heat and sticky humidity of a typical South Korean summer day and walked down the endless brick road. It wasn’t yellow and it didn’t lead to Oz, but it followed the walls of Deoksu Palace. The Palace wall to my right was the perfect background for a new Facebook profile picture or a clever Instagram post. The lighting was on point; my outfit was cute; I was ready to pose. It seemed quite odd that I was the only one taking photos of this beautiful street, shaded by the plethora of trees planted around it (the sun still managed to get through, however, and make me wipe the sweat droplets that formed on my hairline every few minutes). Where were the couples in their matching outfits, selfie sticks, and cringe-worthy 애교s/aegyos (acts of people trying to be cute)? Perhaps it was because it was a Monday, but the only people I saw walking this road were workers with their company name tag around their necks. Or maybe it was because of the infamous legend of the Road of Deoksu Palace.

It is said that if a couple in love walks the road together, they will soon break-up. I thought it was hilarious and outrageous when I heard it but after hearing the origins of this rumor, I saw where it came from – it was still funny and extraordinary though. This legend came about because of two past stories. One is that in the past, jealous palace servants who were not chosen to be the King’s mistress would spread rumors so that the chosen servant would soon be kicked out. The second, and perhaps more realistic, is that there used to be a family court near the Deoksu Palace. Therefore the story suggested that if a couple walks the road together, they are walking towards the family court and eventually, their “divorce”. Although there isn’t any legitimate evidence to support this legend, it would be quite a story to tell if a couple coincidently happened to break up after walking down the road of Deoksu Palace. Please report any ex-couples who broke up post-stroll down this notorious, yet enchanting street!




I fell in love with the stretched/stout feeling of these sculptures! What do you think?

I fell in love with the stretched/stout feeling of these sculptures! What do you think?

Leading up to the Seoul Museum of Art

Leading up to the Seoul Museum of Art