Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Planes, Trains and Automobiles in Korea

Transport in Korea can be surprisingly easy but also frustratingly difficult. Here are a few tips I've picked up so far.

Korean Air is the larger of the two Korean airlines. They have a good website where you can check their flight schedule and seat availability but when it comes to booking a seat and getting a ticket, unless you have a Korean credit card forget it.

The site does claim to handle certain North American credit cards, but for those of us with European credit cards you have to phone them, tell them all the details you've just worked out on their site and you get a booking reference. You have five days to go to their office or a travel agent to pay for the ticket in person. Quite why the website insists on reservation and booking in one step, rather than allowing online reservation and subsequent payment in person is beyond me.

For our Visa run we've chosen to fly to Tokyo for a few days. We will return next week on tourist visas. We had a reservation for Korean Air tickets for approx 500,000 each. However we subsequently found cheaper tickets through a travel agent GoNSee flying with NorthWestern Airlines for only 390,000 won. I recommend GoNSee for their friendly and efficient service.

The other airline is Asiana Airlines. I have no experience of them but others seem to rate them highly.

Korail have what at first sight looks like a good website, but there are several shortcomings worth knowing about. You can check schedules and seat availability but to make a reservation you have to become a member. Nowhere on the site does it explain that you need to go to your local train station with your Alien registration card and pay them 8,000 Won for a year's membership.

Armed with your membership number you can make reservations on the website, but again, unless you have a Korean issued credit card you cannot pay for it online. At least with this site you can book your seats online and then pay at the local station giving them the reference number of the booking.

The website cannot handle return journeys, so you have to re-enter the details to check the return leg which is tedious. More significantly it requires that you know which station in Seoul the trains to your destination leave from. Try searching for a train from Seoul to Yeosu and you get no results, that's because the trains leave from Yongsan, a couple of miles down the line from Seoul Station. Similarly if you'd like a train to a destination on the line to Chuncheon you have to know that it starts from Cheongnyangni.

We have rented a car once through Hertz with no problems. The most important stipulation is that you have an International Driving Licence.

Intercity Buses.
There are six intercity bus terminals in Seoul. The smallest is Sinchon Bus terminal, which is very easy to miss, especially if there are no buses there, as it is simply a converted container with a couple of ticket machines inside. The other five: Central City Terminal, Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, Seoul Nambu Terminal, Sangbong Bus Terminal are much larger and easier to find. They offer varying levels of services to all cities and large towns in the country.

On the few trips I have made I've been unable to pay by credit card and unable to buy return tickets, so be prepared with cash and don't be surprised if you have to buy your return ticket at the other end.

The Tour2Korea website has a useful feature to find out which bus terminal you need for your chosen destination, but this time the limiting factor is that you need to know which province it's in.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

How ready are you to leave Korea?

You are 97% ready to get out of Korea

as long as you are exporting the maximum amount of hard currency back to your home bank account you are probably good for another 25 years.

The "Is It Time To Get Out of Korea?" Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

More details later, but yes, sad to say we will be leaving Korea.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Leeum the secret museum of seoul

Leeum, The Samsung Museum of Art is one of Seoul's best kept secrets. Tucked up on the Namsan hill below the Hyatt hotel close to Itaewon, this small museum has some outstanding works of art.

Exhibition hall 1, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, features a central white helical staircase reminding me of the Guggenheim in New York. It houses more than 120 works of Korean traditional art including Celadon porcelain from the 12th century and Buncheong pottery from the 15th century. One floor is dedicated to traditional painting and calligraphy while another shows a selection of Buddhist Art and metal work.

The second Exhibition hall is a complete contrast, displaying Korean and foreign modern and contemporary works of art from artists such as Cy Twombly, Antony Caro, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko.

Outside these two sculptures by Louise Bourgeois dominate the plaza.

More photos on flickr.

Don't be put off by the requirement to register in advance by telephone or internet for your ticket. No reservations are required on Thursdays if you want to avoid the bother.

Tickets cost 10,000 Won, The nearest subway, 5 mins walk away, is Hangangjin station on Line 6.

There is a temporary exhibition of the work of Andy Warhol starting March 15th 2007, so you may want to hold off visiting until then.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Can you dig it?

Readers may be familiar with the site where website links are submitted by users, other users see the link and if they 'Digg' it enough it will get on to the front page.

The Koreans have noticed this and, since is English only, have created their own version It's only in beta at the moment, but it may catch on. For Korean readers it may be of interest to you.

I put it through google translate and most stories seem to be technology related, but it did have a link to the photos of Daegu in 1954 that have been referred to on The Marmot and other blogs.

Whenever I see 'Digg This' links I think of a song which includes the lyrics 'Can you dig it, oh yeah' however I cannot find who sings it. I have found various songs either titled or including the phrase, but none of them seem to be the song. It may be The Mock Turtles, but I've not found an online recording of it. Does anyone else know the song I mean?

Meanwhile I'll leave you with a photo of these Korean digestive biscuits :

Can you dig it?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday things

A few items of interest from the news.

Today was "Dear Leader's" Birthday. The North Koreans are celebrating the 65th birthday of their leader Kim Jong-Il. As a special treat they might get round-the-clock electricity supply during the holiday, instead of the usual limited periods, along with extra rations.

Today the exodus from Seoul starts for the Lunar new year celebrations. About 34 million people are expected to travel to their hometown during the three-day holiday for the Lunar New Year’s Day, or `Sollal’.

At Sollal children are treated to small packets of foreign currency. The Korea Exchange Bank has sold over 360,000 presentation sets of 'sebae’ or good luck money. One set includes a $2 bill, a 10-euro bill, a 10-Canadian dollar bill, 10-Australian dollar bill and 100-yuan bill and costs around 42,000 won. The price is subject to change according to exchange rates. What the youngsters are supposed to do with these small bills is a mystery to me. Perhaps the Western EFL teachers in these parts should start buying them up from the children at a discount.

Seoul City Subway and bus fares will rise by 100 Won from 800 to 900 for those using the smart cards starting from March or April. This is the first rise since 2004. For those paying in cash the rise is the from 900 to 1000. This a contrast to the situation in London where the cash fares are almost double the equivalent fare with an Oyster Smart Card.

However to make up for that Beef prices may fall 23% if American beef imports are allowed again.

Wearing traditional Korean clothing may get you into museums for free according to a new proposal designed to revitalize Korean style and traditions. I would be tempted to borrow some Hanbok and see if it works.

The JoongAng has some eco friendly fashion tips. "Cut out pieces from an old pair of jeans and use glue to attach them to an old pair of shoes." thus turning an old pair of shoes into something even more shabby than before! It sounds like one of the 'top tips' from the comic Viz.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rail link between Seoul Airports Incheon and Gimpo to open next month

Travellers to South Korea will be interested to hear that the new rail link from the main International Airport of Seoul at Incheon will open next month March 23rd.

The new rail link to be known as AREX does not, as yet, take you right to Seoul city centre, but it does take you to the other airport in Seoul : Gimpo. From there you can travel on the Seoul Subway into downtown on Subway line 5.

However, judging by the timing and price quoted in the article I'm not sure how many customers it is going to attract. The journey between the two airports will take 33 minutes and cost 3,100 won on the slow train (every 12 mins). The express train (once an hour) will take 28 minutes for a price of 7,900 won. By comparison, a bus takes about 30 minutes and costs 4,500 won.

I guess the trains will be more frequent than the existing buses, but most visitors who are travelling to parts of Seoul beyond Gimpo will probably continue to take the limousine bus services. They go direct to a number of different parts of Seoul and beyond, which is easier than taking a train and then changing to the subway and possibly changing to another subway line as well, especially if you have luggage.

The second part of the line continuing on from Gimpo into Seoul Station is not due to open until 2010. Construction is well underway on the line mostly in tunnel. I'll be posting some photos of the work sites later.

North Korea's 007 and Hennessy XO

Never mind all that boring news about North Korea in the six party talks. North Korea is getting some fuel in exchange for agreeing to maybe let a few international inspectors come in and have a look round. Oh, and if you are lucky, they may break up a nuclear reactor, but they won't actually be dismantling the nukes that everyone is worried about.

This is much more amusing :

It's a spoof movie by some Chinese of the story of North Korea's special agent 007 trying to get a vital part of their country's imports : Hennessy XO for the Dear Leader.
It has been watched 2,839,288 times and received 2,119 comments on a single site alone (6rooms) as of 11:22 PM, February 2, 2007.

YouTube has it in four parts(two three four), the whole 30 minute movie is available here and here too.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Blogger Update and Blogging statistics

One item of feedback I received from my father Grumpy Old Bookman was that after I moved to the new version of blogger, he saw 25 posts he'd previously read, as "new" in his RSS reader, . So apologies to the people using, I did not see this problem with the RSS reader NewsNetWire that I use.

As mentioned before, I also had to fix the template so that clicking I'm A Seoul Man takes you to the home page as before. Since the ItemPage attribute no longer worked, I removed the four references to it and it now seems to work.

This ensures anyone reaching one of my posts from a post-item link can easily go to the home page without having to edit the URL in the address bar.

So, how do people reach the blog? The wild and wonderful stats of Google Analytics lists these search strings, amongst others:

seoul man
gerry bevers
ask enquired clothing
sk korea send sms to england
places to go in seoul
prisoner of wonderland: an esl misadventure
christmas in korea
national arboretum seoul
polham clothing
yang yong-eun
korean pop bands
recycling in korea
korean blogs
noryangjin fish market
seoul blog
aussie in seoul

All of these I can understand, but some of the other 320 people who came here last month from Google were looking for something I cannot provide :

cameron diaz privat cell phone
mind charity shops dulwich village
photo of man walking in london fog
urban myths in wimborne
i'm a snow man
the man who cooked his girlfriend for dinner

I find it all quite fascinating, particulary the last one!

It also provides a list of the number of visitors that have been referred from other sites. A very large number come from Gdog's blog The Daily Kimchi. He puts a huge amount of effort into writing and promoting his blog. I hope one day he makes as much money as Darren Rowse who claims a six figure income from blogging. (and he's not talking South Korean won here either).

Another big source of referrals is The Korean Bloglist. I have not completely given up my idea of trying to visit all the blogs on the list, but I have certainly slowed down.

All these great blogs have provided me with visitors, so go check them out:
Between pee and kimchee
A Geek in Korea
Kimchi For Breakfast
Soju and I
The Road Not Taken
DPRK studies
Chosun Bimbo
Expatriate Games
Looking @ Reflection
Seoul Hero
The Marmot's Hole
Joe Seoul Man
Guano Island
Student in Korea

The other sites from which I've had a few referrals include, Thorn Tree, and

So if you have a blog and not signed up for Google Analytics go for it. It's free and provides hours of entertainment!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Upgraded to New Blogger

Notice anything different? No neither do I. Which is good because I just logged into and I was presented with the option to upgrade to the new 'Out Of Beta' Blogger or whatever they are calling it.

It said 'you can skip this only once' so I crossed my fingers and clicked OK. The upgrade requires a Google login. I already had a Google account, which saved some time. After that it took a minute or two before it came up with the message 'All Done'.

Creating this post there is now a line below to add labels which are one of the new features of the upgrade. It will be interesting to see if you need to add something in the template to make the labels appear in the sidebar. I've not read the manual yet!

Another other good feature is that they have added RSS site feed as standard, which is something I have been persuading several fellow bloggers to add to their blogs. This will save you having to go to Feedburner.

The spelling checker is a lot more friendly. It highlights all the problem words in one go and provides a drop down list of suggestions when you click on them.

The only thing that seems to have changed is that the 'I'm A Seoul Man' in the box at the top of the blog is no longer a link to the front page of the blog. I'll fix that next.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Win a Free trip to Korea (from the UK)

The Korea Tourist Office in London is running a promotion with the first prize of a return ticket to Korea for two people. All you need to do is register at their site and complete a short survey.

For those of you in Korea who, like Joel, have run out of ideas for things to do and places to go at the weekend, do not despair. Starting Thursday (Feb 8th) the KTO is hosting the biggest domestic travel expo of the year at the COEX mall.
“You will be saying ‘I never knew there was such a place in Korea’ when you see them,” said Park Young-hee, one of the event’s organizers.
He has also selected the photos for a display at the show featuring the work of amateur photographers . Hours are 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Visit the Korea Travel Expo 2007 website to print out a free admission ticket before you go. Admission is 2,000 won at the door, and the Expo runs until Feb 11th. However, if it's anything like a similar show we stumbled upon the last time we were at the COEX mall, there will be no English in any of the leaflets, so don't get your hopes up!

Hyundai recruiting Foreigners

For anyone wanting to work in Korea and not teach English, get yourself over to Hyundai Automotive Group. They are looking for expats to work in CorporatePlanning/Strategy, Finance,Sales, Marketing,HR and Procurement. But hurry, applications close on Monday Feb 5th.
Thanks to JoongAng.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Windows Vista in Korea

As you may have heard, Microsoft has just launched Windows Vista in Korea and around the world. However most Koreans will be leaving it well alone for the moment due to the number of Korean websites that will not work with the new operating system.
“Vista has [re]vamped security functions, which caused certain Internet security programs or video-streaming programs running on Web sites and software to crash,”
said Seo Byeong-jo, of the Information Ministry.
Stafford and ZDNET have some more details as to why Vista will not work with a number of Internet banking sites. The banks affected are expecting to have updated their websites within the next few months to allow Vista users to be able to use them.

There were some complaints earlier in the week about the high cost of the software in Korea compared to other countries, but it was revealed that the higher cost was due to the Korean vendors adding a hefty markup. [The story is in the bottom left hand corner, I don't seem to be able to find the story on their site.]

I made a trip to the Yongsan electronics market area today to see what impact it has made on the plethora of computer shops there. This was the largest poster I could see :

Wandering around the hundreds of shops in three different malls, Vista was available on some new machines, maybe 2-5%, but by far the majority of computers were on sale with Windows XP. There was not a great deal of publicity for the new operating system and I had to look quite carefully to see which machines were running it. The new LG X-Note machines running Vista were the most prevalent, and Samsung had Vista based offerings too.

I could not find Vista as packaged software for upgrading existing computers and the two vendors I asked both said it won't be on sale until Feb 7th.

Mac users with Intel machines will be able to install Vista if they are really keen.