Friday, August 31, 2007

Seoul Fine Arts Competition

On my last day in Seoul I visited a number of museums and events.

The Seoul Fine Arts Competition was interesting. It was only 2,000 Won to get in and I was brusquely informed that it was "Only Korean, no English". So nothing new there. It was in two halls. The first had some modern art pieces which were quite good. In the second hall were hundreds of scrolls of hanguel and chinese characters. Here's a collage of the photos I took:

collage of images of scolls of hanguel and chinese characters

The exhibition started Aug 21st, but I'm not sure if it's still on or not. If it is still running, it's at the Seoul Museum Annex beside the Seoul Musem of History building.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm A Seoul Man, In Tokyo

We arrived safely in Tokyo last week and moved into our new house. Today J:COM installed our internet and telephone connection. It has taken a week from first contact. Not quite as fast and efficient as KT were when we arrived in Korea, but just as easy.

The commute to work is quite acceptable: 4 minutes walk to the local station, three stops to Shibuya, then one stop on the Yamanote line. I've barely got time to read more than a few pages of the Japan Times newspaper. I've observed that the total fare deducted from my Suica card for the two journeys is 240 Yen. In the morning both journeys are 120 Yen each, but in the evening the Yamanote trip is only 110 Yen, but the Inokashira line trip is 130 Yen. Strange.

The Koreans will be pleased with a letter to the editor in yesterdays paper from William Wetherall reminding the Japanese how much they owe to their friends across The sea that we still can't agree a name for.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Korean Adventurers

Various people are setting off on adventures of one sort or another in the next few weeks and months.

President Roh is off to North Korea in October. He can't use the expensive new train route, so rather than fly to Pyongyang, he has decided to take the limo and drive there. On the way, he will perhaps see the devastation the recent floods have caused. The summit meeting, will be only the second time leaders of the two countries have met since the end of the Korean war.

Two Kiwi gentlemen, Andrew Douch and Roger Shepherd, are planning to walk the Baekdu-daegan Mountain Range running down the middle of South Korea. They will be hiking from Jiri-san northwards to Seorak-san, over a period of about nine weeks starting in September. They are probably the first non Koreans to attempt this trek. Follow their progess on their expedition blog.

Daniel Martin, currently teaching English in Seoul, has planned a trip by bicycle from Korea to Cape Town, South Africa. Daniel has already cycled from London to Cape Town, and has now found a tougher challenge: "The Axis of Evil (by bike)". He plans to depart from Seoul and cycle to the border with North Korea. Unlike President Roh, he's not planning on trying to cross the DMZ, but will get the bus back to Incheon and fly to China and then on to North Korea. He would like to cycle to the border with China, but how much cycling they will let him do remains to be seen. After NK his route includes Tibet, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and on through Africa. He is setting off on Sep 1st and raising money for the charity Wild Day Out. I will be following his progress on his blog.

Kevin, The Big Hominid, is planning a walking trip in the US from the west coast to the east coast next year. Check out his blog for more details.

Joe is still trying to leave the country. Meanwhile, Chris Gelken has safely arrived in Tehran, Iran to start his new job.

And today marks the last day of our Korean Adventure. Tomorrow my wife and I fly to Tokyo and move into our new house. I will be starting work on Monday 27th.

Korea has been a fascinating country to live in. I have met a number of interesting people and learnt a great deal about this country and it's history. I hope that, through this blog, I have shown tourists and foreigners living here that there is plenty to see and do.

This blog will continue with posts about Korea; I've still got plenty of pictures and places to share with you. I will also be adding items of interest about Tokyo and beyond as I explore Japan and experience working there.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Top 30 ranked Korean Sites

I spotted a list of the top 20 Most popular Japanese websites on Ken's blog What Japan Thinks, which gave me the idea to do the same for Korean sites.

Following his methodology I downloaded the list of the top one million sites from Quantcast and searched for various Korean related words including Korea, Seoul, Kimchi, any domain ending in .kr and I included the English language sites that I am aware of. I filtered out the adult content sites and came up with this list of the thirty highest ranked sites on Korea.

Update : Thanks to Gdog for pointing out I forgot what is actually THE top ranking korean site : Cyworld!

14252 cyworld.comHome of the mini-hompi
23405 naver.comThe two biggest Korean portals are popular in the US as well by the looks of it.
25986 chosun.comChosun Ilbo newspaper
36657 A huge site about the war
37930 The airline
40836 Dave's ESL cafe. The hangout of a lot of teachers.
47295 Broadcasting company.
49606 donga.comDong-A Ilbo newspaper
55900 commercial site of some sort.
56209 National university
56614 lifeinkorea.comPopular site with a lot of tourist information
56819 korean-war.comAnother war site
57748 worldcupjapankorea.comHasn’t been updated since the 2002 Japan/Korea World Cup, but must have been heavily linked to when it was on.
60731 tour2korea.comKorea National Tourism Organisation
73997 hankooki.comKorean newspaper with English section on the website
77368 koreandrama.orgA blog in English with "Details, Synopsis, Cast and other info of all Korean Drama TV Series"
80311 Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
80773 very high in the rankings
81855 koreatimes.comEnglish language newspaper
83797 koreanfilm.orgProvides a wide-ranging introduction to Korean cinema.
84343 small commercial website
91736 broadcaster
92195's Korean presence
92289 koreadaily.comEnglish Language newspaper
102197 hankooktireusa.comHankook Tires
104207 Another war site
107369 National University
111793 Auction site
123827 trailing MSN
128346 theseoultimes.comThe Seoul Times

Interesting list. The newspapers do well, the war is popular and the only blog is one I've not heard of before! Are there any sites I've missed out?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Korean Clubs and Societies

This may be of interest: Teaching in Korea, Survey if you are interested in giving your opinion to a researcher in the US. There is very short summary of a research article and some questions on that and then about twenty questions asking about how you would rate certain facilities and services a teacher might be offered. She is offering a 1 in 25 chance of winning a 20,000 won gift token for Kyobo Books. I noticed it in the free adverts in the Korea Herald this week.

I was complaining last week that I'd not seen a copy of the magazine The Groove, so it was fortuitous that I should pick up a copy at The Wolfhound on Sunday. Their website had not mentioned that it was free. I initially dismissed it as not that interesting or relevant, but closer inspection revealed the short articles were not that bad. The interview with Peter R Brown, animator of the TV series who lives and works on the show here in Korea was interesting.

The small ads yielded a huge range of clubs I never knew existed here. I hope these will be of interest to some:

The Seoul Vegetarian club. They meet twice a month to check out veggie friendly restaurants. Non-vegetarians welcomed too!

MeetInSeoul "Come and hang out with a large free all volunteer social group. No membership fees, just pay for your own cost of the events (movies, dinners etc). "

Friendship club Their purpose is to meet at a bar on Saturdays and meet new people.

Conservatives Abroad. For supporters of David Cameron back home, they host social events, fundraisers and possibly public speakers from London.

American Women's Club They meet at the Hyatt hotel once a month.

The Australia and New Zealand Association They also meet at the Hyatt once a month.

Seoul International Women's Association They meet once a month at the Sofitel.

The British Association of Seoul They meet once a month at the Seoul Club.

Career Women in Korea They meet once a month at the New Seoul Hotel.

Suwon Scuba Club A dive club close to Osan Air base and Camp Humprehreys. They teach PADI courses and run regular tours for fun dives to the East Sea. The club also has a major social element.

Seoul Stich and Bitch They meet twice a month for a crafting get together in Haebangchon in Seoul.

Yongsan Kimchi Hash House Harriers Join them every Saturday at 10am if you like running walking and trekking through Seoul. There is also a SouthSide HHH group.

Korean Movie club They show Korean movies with English subtitles on a 120inch screen at a venue near sinchon station.

The Club Italia They host a lunch every Sunday for 15,000 Won. All welcome.

The International Hikers club meets every Saturday.

These groups also had adverts, but no webpages. For contact details see The Groove Website.

The Sinchon Toasmasters club are looking for members keen to improve their public speaking.
Fusion Art, seeks members involved involved in various arts for regular meetings.
Mostly over 40,This club meets once a month for lunch and consists of people mostly over 40.
Seoul Board Riders, for surfers keen to discover Korea's secret surfing spots.
The Canadian Women's Club meet several times a month.
There are also four different football clubs, two Rugby clubs and a Korean Cricket Association.

I hope you can find something you are interested in if you are short of things to do.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Free Furniture in Seoul

The Korea Bloggers meetup last night was a resounding success. I was delighted that so many people showed up. There was Jes, ExpatJane, Matt, Daeguowl, ZenKimchi; the bloggers; Derek, Suzanne, Joon, YoungDoo, Bill, Vicky, Stephanie, Isaac and David from flickr; and Kurt, Henny, Torento (sp?) and Joe who were friends of the aforementioned. I was delighted to meet you all. The photographers amongst us were very busy taking photos all evening, so if you check out some of the members photos you may recognize a few people.

In the excitement of so many people I completely forgot to mention the fact that we have some furniture to give away before we move out. We have offered it to several people, but no one has committed to taking it away yet.

Update: All the furniture has been found a home.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Various items of interest

Some things I found recently:

Brendon Carr, regular commenter at the Marmots Hole, has started Korea Law Blog including insights into getting a job, and setting up and running a company in Korea.

One of Stafford's co-workers, Grant, has just arrived in Seoul to teach ESL and started a well-written and interesting blog A Year in Seoul.

James Tunbull has started The Grand Narrative which looks interesting too, and not just for the pictures of Jang Sin-Yeong.

The creators of Galbijim have started a new blog called Korea Beat. They claim to be "The web’s only spot dedicated to Korean news articles translated into English!". I found them from a picture in the blog Asian Off Beat.

Danny Kim has just started Techno Kimchi. His goal is "To focus on the social dynamics, cultures, and economics behind the rise of Web 2.0". His Korean blog Taewoo's Log has about 5,000 RSS subscribers and 4,000 daily visitors, so he must be doing something right.

I mentioned tonight's K-bloggers meetup in the Korea Images group on flickr. That led to a comment about the 24hrs of flickr, Seoul meeting. 7pm Aug 23rd in Gangnam. It is being held to celebrate the launch of the book 24 hours of Flickr which I mentioned back in May. You can join members of the Flickr team for an evening of fun. They will have copies of the book and other "fine Flickr schwag" on hand.

News Update: Mike "I've battled a hoard of attacking ajummas for a pair of shoes" Hurt, of the Metropolitican maybe coming along tonight.

I've heard stumbleupon talked about a lot recently, mostly on, so I signed up recently. It's another social bookmarking site. It's simple to use: sign up, select a couple of categories, and install the toolbar. It can get quite addictive to keep clicking the 'Stumble!' icon in the toolbar to find new sites that others have recommended. Almost all the sites it has linked to have been interesting and relevant.

This site may be of interest to ESL teachers and travellers looking for a place to stay and a chance to meet like minded people CouchSurfing. I discovered there are nearly 1,000 members in Korea so if you are travelling around the world and looking for a couch for the night with a friendly local, check out this site.

I tried to start a meme 'Going for a walk, somewhere new' last month. Thanks to Daeguowl for his walk. Other bloggers who've been for a walk include Robert, The Marmot, who has continued his theme of Churches of Korea with a trip to Jeondong Catherdral Jeonju. He has produced some excellent photos of all the churches he has visited, I hope he publishes them as a book, as several others have suggested.

Diamond Geezer blogged about a series of walks around East London documenting the landscape before the builders move in for construction of of the 2012 Olympics. [See his comments on their website for a good laugh.] It would be fascinating to see the equivalent photos for the area of Seoul before the facilities for the 1988 games were built.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Finding out what's on in Seoul

Finding out what's on Seoul has been a bit of struggle at times, so it's ironic that just as we are about to leave I find out about two events magazines that might have been useful. The item in the JoongAng daily brought to my attention two English language magazines ROKon and The Groove. Both have been running for several months now, but I've not seen them for sale anywhere. They both have websites: ROKon where you can download the latest issue and The Groove which has a calendar of some events but does not offer a download.

Seoul Selection, a monthly magazine edited by Robert Koehler of The Marmots Hole, provides 100 pages of reviews, articles and photos of cultural events and social activities. It also includes a calendar of what's on. A weekly email newsletter is available and they have recently added the ability to to download a PDF of the magazine. These three magazines and the three daily English language newspapers provide the mainstay of printed news of what's on in Korea.

SeoulStyle used to have a calendar of events but sadly it stopped being updated in Dec 2006 after the owner moved to Hong Kong. The site is still for sale, if anyone is interested in taking it on. Seoul Steves have started a similar events calendar but while it is not extensive yet, it shows great promise.

The Joong Ang often prints photos of events from the previous day. A good example was the picture of crowds queueing to buy railway tickets for the Chuseok holiday. Residents will know that this holiday date, which falls on 25th September this year, is when the whole of Korea is on the move visiting family members. To ensure you get a train ticket for travel during that period you have to book tickets as soon as they go on sale. It's a shame they did not think to mention it the day before. [And while we are on the subject of trains, what happened to the website It used to be an English site where you could look up all Korean train times and book tickets. It's been replaced with a new version that looks very flashy, but only does Korean. I attempted to email them to ask what happened, but all the Email addresses listed on the contact us page bounce with the message Bad connection (io timeout)!]

The Korea National Tourist Office website has a good list of upcoming festivals and events and there is a emailed newsletter that highlights two or three forthcoming events that you can subscribe to. There is also a list of some of the cinemas in Seoul, but the majority of their websites are Korean only. The one notable exception is Dansungsa cinema in Jongno Seoul. The Korea Herald and Joong Ang daily write a weekly summary of the movies that are showing, but they do not print any showtimes. Mark of Korea Pop Wars pointed me in the direction of Cine21 (Korean) which has a list of all currently showing movies and where they are on.

Update: The Expat-Advisory website offers a regular newsletter of what's on in Seoul. Subscribe here.

Maybe one day TimeOut will come to town and cover everything to do with 'What's on in Seoul', but until that time you will have to hunt around, or learn Korean to figure it out from the local resources.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Korean Internet communities

The Ministry of Information and Communication introduced a new law to force Korean Internet users to identify themselves by their real names when posting comments on Korean electronic forums.

This rule was implemented at the two largest Korean portal websites on July 1st 2007 Naver and Daum and has, just this week, been applied to 21 more sites with more than 300,000 visitors per day. All users have to enter their names and resident registration numbers when using the service to post comments. The law was proposed to try to prevent the increasing spread of anti social and abusive comments being made by portal users.

However, as the Korea Times reported yesterday, it seems these measures have not been entirely successful. The hostage crisis in Afghanistan has given rise to a number of offensive postings by some Koreans. "Terrible postings continue to inundate our news pages or bulletin boards." Daum spokeswoman Jody Chung said to the Korea Times reporter.

Now, I don't know exactly how Naver and Daum work, but they are commercial enterprises out to make money. When one signs up to use their services I assume there are some 'Terms and Conditions' (T&C) that one agrees to. I have joined a number of similar forums in the past and in all cases there has been some sort of clause about undesirable behaviour on the forum that would cause the account to be closed by the forum moderators. For example I have belonged to the CIX conferencing system for many years and the 'Acceptable Use Policy' is quite clear that I could be thrown off for posting indecent, obscene, offensive, abusive, disruptive,libellous or defamatory comments.

So what is the situation with these undesirable postings on the Korean portals? It seems these users have not had their accounts closed and they continue to upset the rest of the portal users with their remarks. Are the portal T&Cs not specific enough? They need to rewrite them. Are these posts only offensive to some? In that case maybe the portals need to be enhanced to allow the functionality of a killfile whereby you can setup a list of users whose posts you do not wish to see.

With the requirement to enter one's registration number it would be straightforward for Daum and Naver to build up a blacklist of users that have been banned. These users can then move on to the other sites, that have not been forced to implement the requirement yet, and spread their undesirable opinions to a smaller crowd.

The pros and cons of the right to free speech and censorship are some of the biggest topics for discussion on the Internet where anyone can spout their opinions to the world from behind a keyboard. As the ministry has discovered, just trying to prevent anonymous postings does not really solve the problem.

Related reading : Nameless in Cyberspace. An 8 page paper from the Cato Institute on proposals by the Supreme Court to limit anonymous communications on the Internet.
Free Speech and the Internet Links to websites that concern themselves with the issue of the free flow of information on the Internet.
People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. A Civil organization dedicated to promoting justice and human rights in Korean society through the participation of the people. They are strongly against the real-name validation scheme.