South Korea; we had a bit of a love hate relationship and we often wondered if we’d made the right decision not renewing our contracts for another year. This past weekend we took the opportunity to stop over for a couple of days in the place we called home for 12 months and found ourselves battling a mixed bag of emotions.
Posts tagged ‘South Korea’
When I suggested meeting our friend Sarah at Embankment on Saturday I hadn’t given the Thames Festival a second thought. However failing to find a pub that wasn’t overflowing with tourists or crazy expensive we soon found ourselves on the banks of the Thames and right in the thick of this year’s festival.
As we’re about to embark on our next adventure I thought it only fitting to summarise the last one.
In the 12 months we were teaching in South Korea I took close to 3,000 photos, perhaps a little bit obsessive but when everyday is a new experience it’s hard not to document it. Here are my favorite ten.
A while ago the folks at the South Korean Travel Guide were looking for people to write-up some info on cities in South Korea. Certain that almost no-one would write something on Cheongju I took up the challenge and now it’s online for everyone to see. Check out Cheongju, courtesy of yours truly.
There’s info on attractions, festivals, transport, restaurants, bars, amenities and even exercise, with a few pretty pictures thrown in. Enjoy!
According to a report released by the World Health Organisation earlier this week, “the world drank the equivalent of 6.1 liters of pure alcohol per person in 2005 and the biggest boozers are mostly found in Europe and in the former Soviet states.” As indicated by the bright red area on the below image.
New Zealand pops up at 7.5 – 9.99 litres per average person, less than Australia (10 – 12.49L) and significantly less than South Korea (12.5 +), who as a result also qualifies for the biggest boozer category.
Per capita consumption
SK: 11.8 liters of pure alcohol
NZ: 9.1 liters of pure alcohol
Consumption by type
SK: 81% is spirits. Soju is the drink of choice here.
NZ: 44% is beer, followed by wine at 33%.
In South Korea there are no restrictions for on/off premise sales. Alcohol can be sold at all times of the day and night at specific events, to intoxicated persons and at petrol stations as long as that person is of aged 19 and above. There are no rules about drinking in public places either, it’s not uncommon to see people drinking outside the local mart or wandering along the street with a couple of beers or more likely; two bottles of soju.
In NZ the legal minimum age for off and on license alcohol purchases is 18 and there are some restrictions for these premises. You’ll be fined big time if you sell alcohol to an intoxicated person and you definitely can’t purchase it at your local petrol station.
Now comes the interesting part. “The WHO estimates that alcohol results in 2.5million deaths a year, more than AIDS or tuberculosis.” So what mortality impact does it have two countries who have share a similar drinking culture?
Alcohol Use Disorders
SK: Males 13.10% and females 0.41%
NZ: Males 3.5% and females 2.2%
Death Rates, 15+ years (per 100,000 population)
Liver cirrhosis Road Traffic Accidents
SK: M: 38.4% F: 7% * SK: M: 29% F: 9.6% *
NZ: M: 4% F: 2% * NZ: M: 19.5% F: 8.6% *
Binge drinking is a big deal in NZ and many people argue it’s ingrained in our culture. As such it’s not uncommon to see headlines discussing this issue on a regular basis.
After a year of living in a country where drinking is a part of every day life the statistics in this report come as no surprise. Entertaining and drinking go hand in hand and are an integral part of establishing business and personal relationships in South Korea. It would appear that South Korea has a much bigger problem with their consumption than little old NZ but I’m yet to see anywhere near as much media coverage of the issue as NZ.
Food for thought.
* 2004 statistics only.
My students have a habit of surprising me; sometimes it’s a cute gesture, sometimes it’s a simple sentence in English and sometimes it’s something completely random. Today I received a gift from one of my 4th grade students that fits into all three categories – an English storybook written especially for me about milk elves.
Earlier in the year I blogged about Korea’s many love days. Today is another day for love in SoKo - Pepero Day. Pepero is Korea’s answer to the Japanese product Pocky; a cookie stick dipped in chocolate syrup. It comes in ten different flavors including; strawberry, almond chocolate (YUM), lemon cheese, cheese or plain.
Why November 11? It involves some simple symbolism…
What do two sticks of Pepero look like together? An eleven.
What do four sticks of Pepero look like together? Eleven eleven..tada!
Pepero Day is mostly observed by young people, couples and expats (that’s me!) who exchange pepero sticks as romantic gifts. Initially created by Lotte, the company who created Pepero, it’s taken off in Korea and my kids go crazy for it.
Watch the Pepero day song here.
Happy Pepero Day everyone!
There are two major theme parks in South Korea; Lotte World and Everland and now we’ve had the chance to visit them both. Let’s compare the two.
40-1 Jamsil-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul
Admission Price: 34,000 won (special coupon discount for foreigners)
Annual Attendance: 4,261,000 *
Number of Roller Coasters: 3
Lotte World is the largest indoor theme park in the world and also home to a hotel, department store, fitness center, ice rink and museum. The main attraction here is Atlantic Adventure; the only Intamin AquaTrax coaster in the world. Though the Gyro Drop comes a close second. Read about our Lotte World experience here.
310 Jeondae-ri, Pogok-eup, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do
Admission Price: 34,000 won (special coupon discount for foreigners)
Annual Attendance: 6,169,000 *
Number of Roller Coasters: 5
Everland is divided into 5 distinct zones; Global Fair, Zoo-Topia, European Adventure, Magic Land and American Adventure. The main attraction here is the T Express; the steepest wooden coaster in the world (at 77 degrees) and the 6th longest in the world.
After much discussion we both decided Lotte World gives you more bang for your buck, in terms of wait time for rides and attractions. It’s easier to get to (via subway) and more compact. Everland is HUGE and you’ll exhaust yourself walking from A to B all day. Everland is also much more popular with schools and groups thus making it seem more crowded.
One major complaint for both parks is wait time, an hour plus is not uncommon. South Korean theme parks employ a queue jump system, where you pay more for you initial admission ticket which allows you to choose a time to return to the ride and skip the massive queue of people already there. Unfortunately this means the people who have been queuing for an hour plus get bumped back when massive groups of people return for their set ride time. A little frustrating to say the least.
* Amusement park annual attendance figures are from 2009. Results can be found here.
Neil and I celebrated two anniversary’s this past weekend – we’ve been married for two years and we’ve been in South Korea for eight months. We celebrated both with a trip to Seoul, where we enjoyed massages, Mexican food, shopping and sightseeing.
Aside from shopping and eating we wanted to do something romantic so I booked us for a couples massage at Healing Hands in Itaewon. We’ve had massages before, but not Korean massages and this was quite the experience. The first hour was bliss and I could feel all the stresses of teaching small children melt away. The second hour was a little more interesting… a combination of a foot, leg, chest and stomach massages and stretches that stretched parts of my body that hadn’t been stretched in a LONG time and probably shouldn’t be ever again.
Everything was very professional, no awkward nakedness or anything like that but there were some interesting and painful moments. A couple of times I opened my eyes and my masseuse was up on the table above me, pulling and pushing my arms and/or legs. When I snuck a look at Neil I tried not to giggle, as he too was being put through his stretching paces by his tiny massage master. After lunch we shared a few laughs about the experience and decided that we weren’t really fans of Korean massages but enjoyed it all the same. Tip – If you’re heading to Healing Hands they’ll charge you an extra 10% if you want to pay with your debit / credit card, so take cash or be prepared to cough up the extra.
Next up was Sinchon and a return visit to On the Border, an American Mexican chain and the reason we headed to Sinchon in the first place. We feasted on burritos, quesadillas, chimichangas, sour cream, guacamole and fruit margaritas. YUM! We enjoyed Sinchon a lot more the second time around. Turns out the area has a great collection of restaurants, shops, bars and love motels. If you’re looking for something a bit more chilled than the craziness that is Hongdae (one stop over) Sinchon is that place.
Sunday morning Neil and I enjoyed a yum breakfast – at the Hello Kitty Cafe!! Not as pink and cutesy as I was expecting, but fun all the same. Hello Kitty is pretty popular here, even though it was born in Japan…We enjoyed a nice hot drink, a hot dog and some waffles and I managed to add another picture to my ‘photos with giant things’ album.
We’d decided earlier in the week that we should see a few more of the touristy parts of Seoul so we made a visit to Gyeongbuk Palace and later Insadong.
On the edge of the palace grounds sits Hyangwon-jeong, one of the most painted and photographed places in Korea and it’s easy to see why. At this time of year the colours are really gorgeous. The pavilion is three stories high and hexagonal in shape; with access limited to the bridge across the lotus pond. This is one of the prettiest places we’ve seen in Korea and definitely worth a visit. If you time your visit correctly you’ll also see the changing of the guard (unfortunately we didn’t).
Ignoring the our sore feet we set off for Insadong - one of the more traditional parts of South Korea. At one time the area was the largest market for antiques and artwork in Korea. Many of the traditional buildings originally belonged to merchants and bureaucrats. Most of these are now restaurants and shops selling all kinds of Korean souvenirs; pottery, crafts and art. Aside from the shopping Insadong is also home to Jogyesa temple, Tongmungwan, the oldest bookstore in Seoul, and Kyung-in Art Gallery, the oldest tea house.
We spent a couple of hours shopping for gifts (you’ll have to wait until February people) and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere. By the time we left, the streets were packed with people eating, drinking and browsing the stores; Sunday afternoon in Insadong is super popular!
The bus ride back to Cheongju was a welcome relief for our weary feet! We spent some of it watching the wet Formula One on the bus TV but the majority was spent sleeping. Zzzzzzz.
Gyeongbuk Palace – Gwanghwamun Station, exit 2.
Healing Hands – Itaewon exit 2.
Cross the street to Hamilton Hotel. Walk two blocks, past the body shop until you get to Between. Healing Hands is on the third floor, across the street from the GS gas station.
Hello Kitty Cafe – Sinchon exit 3.
Walk straight for a block and turn right at the Nature Republic. Walk straight another two blocks until you get to Naughty Cat (an accessories store) and turn right. The Hello Kitty Cafe is on your right.
Insadong - Anguk exit 6.
Walk straight until you get to a shopping street on your left. Welcome to Insadong.
Sinchon - On the Border – Sinchon exit 4.
Walk straight along the main street. About 100 meters on the left.