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Fun Things to Do in Korea

Tue, 2017-03-14 10:00

While Seoul is the biggest and most vibrant city in Republic of Korea, the fun things to do in Korea that are available for you aren’t limited to just the capital area. We have an article focused entirely on the fun things to do in Seoul, and although some of them might appear in this article as well, the focus is to show you the fun things to do in Korea outside of Seoul. Check out this article and let it help you form your travel itinerary for while you are in Korea!


#1. Visit the border of the two Koreas

Let’s start off with something you definitely won’t be able to do anywhere besides Korea. While the two Koreas are technically still at war, the border between the two countries is open to tourists around the year. The only way you can see the parts inside the demilitarized zone, however, is by joining a tour group. For the tour you can choose between going to DMZ (the demilitarized zone) or JSA (the joint security area where you are actually at the very border), or by combining the two into one big day trip. It’s a must-see trip for everyone visiting Korea, as it’s extremely cultural, and exciting, but also quite chilling.


#2. Spend a day at Everland

Everland is a large amusement park in Korea, close to Seoul. It holds a small zoo, the steepest wooden rollercoaster in the world, and many more fun activities and rides separated into different zones. Going around the amusement park and seeing and doing everything can easily take an entire day from your itinerary. Right next to Everland is Caribbean Bay, one of Korea’s most exciting water parks, and it’s possible to even combine the two parks into one day trip – but in that case, do start from Caribbean Bay as their slides will close earlier. Both Everland and Caribbean Bay often also have great discount offers for foreigners.


#3. Check out the K-pop scene

If you are anywhere in Korea, it’s almost impossible not to have yourself surrounded with K-pop, from the music being played everywhere to CD signing events held in the middle of shopping malls to the merchandise stores and even beauty product advertisements. There are also concerts held all the time! If you are a big fan you might want to try to get into the concert or music show of your favorite artist or group, but even if you aren’t that knowledgeable with K-pop, there are free or easy to attend concerts held all around Korea every week where you can get a bit of a taste of the local popular music culture.


#4. Explore the traditional villages

While much of Korea has now become urbanized, there are still traditional villages spread all across the country that are definitely worth a visit, most notably Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul and Jeonju Hanok Village in Jeonju. The latter, especially, is going to make for a fun trip with its streets filled with cute cafes and restaurants and shops, with the option of staying overnight in one of the traditional houses. Also, in Jeonju Hanok Village, just for a few bucks, you can get yourself dressed in traditional Korean costumes and get the most out of your afternoon stroll around the village!


#5. Try all the Korean food

Although it’s possible now in many countries outside of Korea, too, to get a taste of Korean cuisine, there’s no better way to eat Korean food than by eating it in Korea! The country has a very diverse food culture, with each region having their own specialties. So from street vendors to luxury restaurants, there’s always a new dish to try!


#6. Go clubbing

The nightlife in Korea is like no other, especially in Seoul. The clubs are open until dawn and they’re almost guaranteed to be packed. Most clubs play either hip hop or EDM. If you are in Seoul, the big clubbing areas are Hongdae, Itaewon, and Gangnam, all of which have a strikingly different mood to each other. Clubbing is certainly a fun way to spend the night with your friends.


#7. Hike up a mountain

Hiking is one of the favorite activities of the locals, and Korea definitely isn’t running out of mountains to hike regardless of what part of the country you are in. It’s often said the best time of the year to go hiking in Korea is late October to early November when the mountains are filled with tree after tree of full, colorful leaves. Seeing the nature won’t get much better than this! Some of the most famous mountains in Korea include Bukhansan, Seoraksan, and Hallasan.


#8. Attend Boryeong Mud Festival

If you happen to be visiting Korea in the middle of the summer, then this might be something to pique your interest. While it’s an event invited by a Korean cosmetics company, it seems especially popular among foreigners. The Boryeong Mud Festival, on Korea’s Western Coast, consists of ten days’ worth of wrestling and swimming in the mud, as well as mud massages and other events.


#9. Bike around Gyeongju

Gyeongju is a city in the Southwestern part of Korea, with plenty of sights to see and visit all around the year. And what’s a better way to see them all than by biking around the extremely biker-friendly city? It gets especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season and fall foliage season.


#10. Stay at a temple

Another great activity to add to your bucket list for Korea is an overnight temple stay. Live the life of a monk for a day in Korea! These temples can be found all around Korea, though most of them are situated in the vicinity of mountains. It’s not as easy as it might sound, but it’s definitely relaxing and rewarding.


There’s so many fun things to do in Korea that you’ll hardly have time to get bored! Do take the chance to get out of Seoul for a little bit and see what else the country has to offer.

How to Enjoy in Gwangyang Maehwa (Plum Blossoms) Village

Mon, 2017-03-13 22:23
How to Enjoy in Gwangyang Maehwa (Plum Blossoms) Village

Gwangyang Maehwa Village, also known as Seomjin Village, is a small, charming local village tucked in the city of Gwangyang, Jeolla Province, at the downstream of Seomjin River, the cleanest water among Korea’s 5 largest rivers.

Every spring, the picturesque view of more than 100,000 plum trees covering the hilly Seomjin Village bursting into bloom fascinates both local and international visitors. I, a restless traveler and a member of Trazy Crew, can’t have missed it out. Let’s peep into what my wanderlust presented me this time!The village is quite far away from downtown Gwangyang, around a 4-hour ride from Seoul, and there is no way to reach Maehwa Village directly. Therefore, the easiest way is to sign up for Trazy’s one-day trip which will take you to the village hassle-free.

The tour is available only on March 18, 2017, so don’t hesitate and book the tour or you will have to wait another year to see these beautiful plum blossoms in Gwangyang Maehwa Village! Sign up for the tour here.

The tour package provides a round-trip transportation and an English speaking tour staff. And you can depart at 2 locations – Sindorim and City Hall subway stations.

For more information on the tour, click here.

Now, if you have booked the tour, take a look at the things you must try or enjoy at Gwangyang Maehwa Village!

1. Get inside Cheong Maesil Farm

The plum blossoms are the starters of spring flowers that mark the arrival of spring in Korea. So if you want to fully enjoy Korea’s spring, this village should be the first spring destination on your list.

And yes, when I got there, these plum blossoms were already greeting heaps of people with their families, lovers and also on their own at the village.

Hong Ssangri Cheong Maesil Farm

It’s this female farmer’s own devotion of 50 years that the whole mountain has turned into a vast orchard that only grows organic plums.

24-year-old young lady Hong SSangri, married to a native Seomjin villager, felt lonely in the rural countryside with a very small population. She thought more people would visit her town if the place was covered by beautiful plum flowers. So she started planting plum trees adding to already existing 5000 plum trees inherited by her father in law.

Now Hong’s Cheong Maesil (Green plum) Farm has become the biggest plum plantation in Korea and thousands of tourists visit the village to see this breathtaking scenery. She made her dream come true! A huge monument greets visitors and tells now you’ve reached the entrance of this plum orchard.

1. Take in the Plum Blossoms Off the Beaten Path

Walking in the uphill path, not only have I seen the scenic view of plum blossoms but also the 50-year dedication of the plum master who planted and grew the plum trees from the bottom of your heart as she brought up her own children.

While it is fun to walk the main orchard paths with other visitors, I also adventured to take narrow paths of which the entrances were somewhat hidden behind the bushes.In contrast to the lively main paths with street vendors, loud music and people beaming at their cameras, I was able to sit and fully appreciate the floral spring ambiance. 

2. Quench your thirst at the beautiful Hanok cafe

The day was sunny and warm, and I soon became quite thirsty. There. I found a cafe with bustling people. This touristy village but still keeping the local tradition has a Hanok cafe boasting the beauty of its curved roof.

3. Try Maesil Ice Cream!

I got out of the cafe and as I headed towards the tip of the hill, I found these countless jars used to preserve plums for various purposes. The plums will be made into plum tea, plum juice, plum ice cream etc.Curious about what it would taste like, I decided to try the ice cream out of plums.

Maesil Ice Cream Shop

A piquantly plummy-sour and sweet ice cream doubled the joy of the spring excursion! Don’t forget to try this ‘Maesil (plum) ice cream’ if you visit Gwangyang Maehwa Village. It’s a MUST!!!! The ice cream costs 3,000 KRW and you can buy it with your credit card. 

4. Cool off at the bamboo forest

After quenching my thirst with ice coffee and plum ice cream, I realized that there was much to explore. Here, as you move your step, the scenery you encounter continuously changes.

On the way to the observatory deck, there is a path that you should not miss. With plum blossoms on the left side and a bamboo forest on the right side, you will feel like walking inside a movie!

5. Hike up to the observatory deck

After passing the bamboo forest, you will see people climbing up the wooden steps, which take you to the observatory deck. It can be strenuous to walk all the way to the top, but definitely worth it.

6. Try Maesil Bibimbap & Maesil Makgeolli

Although lunch is not provided, you can find several restaurants and booths around the village and inside the Cheong Maesil Farm where you can taste a variety of local Korean food and dishes.

The dishes served at the booths inside the farm are relatively cheaper than the ones outside the farm and near the parking lot, so I strongly recommend you to have a lunch inside the farm if you want to save money. The dishes cost around 7000~10,000 KRW per person.I had ‘Bibimbap’, Korea’s famous dish, but it was extra special because it was topped with plums. Other dishes served at the booths include ‘Pajeon (Korean-style pancake)’, noodles, ‘Nakiji Bokkeum (Stir-fried Octopus)’and many more. Some of the booths seem to serve the Cherry Blossom Oysters, or ‘Beotgul’ in Korean, which are also one of the popular local specialties in the area, as well.

Another thing you may want to try or take home with you is ‘Maesil Makgeolli’, which is Korean rice wine made of plums.

7. Get down by the riverside

If you are done navigating the Cheong Maesil Farm, get down to the riverside and you will find the Toad Square. According to legend, a swarm of toads scared the Japanese army away from crossing the Seomjin into northern Jeolla. The name of Seomjin River, or Seomjin-gang, literally means “toad ferry”, from the Chinese characters ‘seom’ (toad), ‘jin’ (ferry), and ‘gang’ (river).


Do try and visit this charming local village in Gwangyang before the plum blossoms are gone!

Once again, as I have mentioned before, it can be very difficult to get to the village for foreign travelers, especially this is your first-time visit. Even driving on your own to the village can be very tiresome as it is located far south of the country. So, it will be the best for you to join Trazy’s day tour to the village on March 18.

Things to check before you visit

Around mid-March, it is warm during the day and cold in the early morning and night time in Korea. It will be wise of you to wear thin clothing inside and bring a thick outdoor jacket as well. Also, make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes as the village area is hilly and you will be doing some hiking.

See more stunning photos of Gwangyang Village and the spectacular plum blossoms that I took from the day of Trazy’s tour!




Looking for other spring festivals in Korea?

Browse more spring packages and tours at Trazy.comKorea’s #1 Travel Shop, and savor the delights of spring with us!

Korean News Update – Monday, March 13

Mon, 2017-03-13 15:20

Several journalists have been attacked by pro-Park Geun-hye supporters in the aftermath of the ruling that removed her from power, after vacating the presidential residence the now former president says “the truth will emerge,” & a video of an expert on South Korea being interrupted by his children during a live interview has created hilarity & also sparked a debate on racism. All that & more on the latest Korean News Update podcast episode from Korea FM.

Stream the episode online at

Download the full episode at

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This episode is brought to you by Podcast Assist & its $30 per hour flat rate podcasting voice overs, editing, mastering, transcriptions & even hosting (select a topic, they’ll create & host the podcast). Visit for more information. 

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The post Korean News Update – Monday, March 13 appeared first on Korea FM.

Buddha has been evicted

Mon, 2017-03-13 12:34

….long banished by the new people of the peninsula, the Koreans. He was slowly inched into his final refuge in tiny cordoned off mountain asylums without any say in the new country’s day-to-day operations. His polyvalent homes, spotted throughout the façade of meaningful mountains live in a parallel universe that is only allowed a whisper, a peep, and a peak into ours, every now and again. Things, things upon things consciously constructed, unconsciously deconstructing. Where once silence sat supreme, there is now the unbroken sound, that is made aware by the existential ennui awaiting us in the space just past the day’s finish line and before the next’s beginning, where we lay awake mapping out our plod through modern uncertainties unto death. Buddha’s gong still rings in from the Korean mountains, reminding the ears walking the perimeter of their accessory to this mindfully mindless crime, while the pedestrians interior have become too far gone, out of reach to hear this millennia old call.

Confucius’s fate even worse…having been relegated to a subterranean apartment beneath the grid and far away off any subway line, he’s the great grandfather with pee stains in his PJs. He’s the old man fading away in fading structures, dilapitating vestiges of a time that wasn’t too much of a time when it was a time. And now, totally out of sink with the times. all but considered completely senile, he’s not taken at all that seriously anymore, really, yet is paraded about every so often on certain days as to feign some respect for something that’s perhaps never been quite understood.

It’s the technicolor Jesus that’s filling the suede spiritual seat of modern Korea. The Jesus that facilitates business networkings, plastic enterprises of all sorts, and dreams of redemption from  holy folly around exciting, semented, elbowy corners under the keeeeeeeen little neons of back alley-way warmgasms. His concrete & glass palaces right off the transit lines, spreading like an urban herpes, sprouting between gas stations and faster food. The golf loving  messiah and bearer of the 401k…better get in line…the job forecast looks like a scorcher for eternity.

How to Make Kimchi - I Try Making Kimchi (+ Recipe)

Sat, 2017-03-11 02:14

Kimchi is fermented cabbage, and there are dozens of varieties. The kind that I'll be making is standard napa cabbage kimchi.

It's not that difficult to make, as long as you're willing to put in the time. It can take several days to properly ferment, so you'll want to make it in advance before you're planning to serve it at your next Korean meal.

In this video I make kimchi and share it with my mom. She's been exposed to a lot of Korean food before, and already likes kimchi.

I've also included the recipe below this video. Check it out~!

Here’s my recipe that I show in this video:


  • Napa cabbage (2 lbs)
  • Green onions (1 bunch)
  • Korean radish (1/2 lb)
  • Fresh ginger (1 small knob)
  • Garlic (1 bulb)
  • Red pepper powder (1/2 cup ~ 1 cup)
  • Coarse salt (1 cup)
  • Fish sauce (1/2 cup)
  • Brined shrimp (2 Tbsp)
  • Sugar (2 Tbsp)
  • Asian pear (1)
  • Water (2 cups)
  • Rice flour (2 Tbsp)

Wash the outside of the cabbage, and remove any undesirable parts. Divide into quarters (with hands). Soak in a bowl of cold water to let the cabbage absorb moisture. Remove the cabbage from the water, and drain the excess water. Coat the cabbage with coarse salt completely, between all layers. Place cabbage quarters horizontally into a large container, and place a heavy object on top to press down. Let the cabbage sit until it wilts (approximately 5 to 6 hours). Then remove the cabbage from the container, and rinse off most of the salty water. Let the cabbages air dry.

Sauce Base:
Boil 2 cups of water with 2 Tbsp of rice flour in a pot. Remove from heat, and let it cool to room temperature.
Sauce: Peel ginger and garlic, then blend together until fine. Chop brined shrimp into smaller pieces. Chop green onions (length is not important). Peel and slice Korean radish and Asian pear (thin slices). Add everything to the sauce base, as well as the fish sauce and sugar. Finally, add red pepper powder and mix everything together.

Cover each of the cabbage quarters completely in the spicy sauce mixture. Make sure the mixture gets into every layer of the cabbage. Pack the cabbage into containers, and let the containers sit covered outside of the refrigerator at room temperature for 2 to 5 days (no less than 2 days). Fermentation will take place during this time, which replaces bad bacteria with good bacteria. Refrigeration is not recommended during this time, as the colder temperature will actually stop fermentation and decrease the kimchi's shelf life. However, you can safely taste the kimchi at any time, even before the fermentation is ready.

The post How to Make Kimchi - I Try Making Kimchi (+ Recipe) appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

Teaching Without a Safety Net

Sat, 2017-03-11 01:39
Teaching ESL Abroad: What Happens After?

Hey there everyone, it’s Jackie here. After teaching in South Korea for 10 years, I left, and went back to my home country, Canada in February 2016. I was pretty worried about the whole thing. 10 years in a foreign country is a long time, and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do for work. I was also planning to not return to my hometown, but to make a new start in another place.

In order to help alleviate some fears, I did a bunch of research and wrote a book about the process. I interviewed teachers who’d made the transition before me, and gleaned all of their wisdom. The result is the book, Life After ESL: Foreign Teachers Returning HomeThe previous link will take you to Amazon.

I also like to feature in-depth stories of teachers such as this one. I really appreciate his focus on what happens as an ESL teacher abroad when you get a bit older. From my experience in Korea, I found that teachers older than 55 or 60 had a particularly hard time finding good jobs. It is a factor that should be on your radar if you’re planning on teaching for a decade or two, or just getting into it as a second career.

Want to share your story too? Get in touch! Now, onwards to the guest post. Thanks John for sharing it with us.

John Kenmuir: Teaching Without a Safety Net

One of the first things that new or younger teachers need to be aware of is that, as you get older, it gets harder to find teaching jobs. Many of my colleagues who are 60+ have told me that it is very difficult to find work; some have taken “volunteer” positions where the school provides accommodation and an “under-the-table” stipend to cover living costs. Forget about being reimbursed for airfare or having health insurance provided for you; you’re on your own for those.

That’s why it’s so important to have a back up plan, especially for those who transition into another career at a later age. I originally began teaching partly because I love helping people but also because my real goal was to be a writer. Just not a starving writer, working at Starbucks or living hand to mouth. That was before I realized, too late, that teaching will consume your life and not leave time for anything else. This was actually a benefit for me, because I always knew I wanted to write but didn’t have anything I felt passionate about or much life experience to share.

Advance Preparations Necessary

I’m 55 now, and the job offers are starting to thin out, in spite of my teaching experience. Teaching has offered me a lot of opportunities, starting with ESL/EFL and then expanding my skill set into academic subjects and other part-time, teaching related jobs. My first suggestion is to give yourself 3 to 5 years advance warning if you decide to transfer out of the teaching industry. Unless you are very well off or semi-rich, you will need this time to set things in motion. It’s not enough to decide what you would like to do, you will need time to research your new career, network and make contacts, and so on. You might even want to think about trying to pick up part-time or volunteer work in your next career, while you are still gainfully employed.

Teaching Leads to Other Opportunities

One of the things I have loved most about teaching is the opportunities I’ve had to learn new things, acquire new skills and so forth. I also love to talk about teaching and often involve myself with education forums on sites like Linked In. This has aided my transition into freelance writing but it hasn’t yet provided me with an actual income; I’m not worried, though, as it is helping me to network and make contacts, and providing me with a portfolio I can use when sending out queries. My teaching experience has led me to writing my first book, “Surviving IELTS Speaking”, which will be published soon on This is going to look very good in my portfolio.

Going Back Home-Not Always Easy

Other teachers who are leaving the field will also tell you how difficult it is to re-assimilate to your home country. Since 1995, I have spent 17 of the last 22 years living abroad; returning home to Canada during my summer vacations was hard enough, but I realized even before I began teaching that I have a travel bug. Even at 55, it’s not going away, so I have moved for now to Mexico in search of a potential retirement destination. Retirement meaning that I’m not working 60 hour weeks; I love my work, both teaching and writing, and will probably never stop until I plop face first into my laptop and stop breathing. There is no clear answer to moving/not moving back home. If you have been honest with yourself during your travels, you will know what you need and where you need to be.

About John Kenmuir

Since beginning in 1989 as a volunteer, John has taught EFL in Canada, South Korea, China and Saudi Arabia. He has worked as an IELTS Speaking examiner and is the author of the soon-to-be-released book “Surviving IELTS Speaking”. He currently resides in the Yucatan province of Mexico, where he is planning to write more books about education, his travel experiences and the local grackles (Mexican crows), whom he is pretty sure are mocking him.

Jackie Bolen: How to Get a University Job In Korea


My Life! Teaching in a Korean University:

University Jobs Korea:



Persistence: Playing the Long Game

Fri, 2017-03-10 22:54

We live in an age where people want instant results. Gone are the darkroom days where you had to wait until your film was properly exposed. Now, we have more gigabytes of data on our memory cards than some people do on their computers. However, that does not always mean that we will all be great photographers overnight simply because we have the ability to create a consistent stream of content. What it means is that we have the ability to consistently improve, if we so choose. That is the catch. We must want to learn and must play the long game in order to get the rewards.

Last week we talked about “Fauxtographers” and what we can learn from them. This week we look into how you as a photographer need to play the long game rather than look for cheap ways to get more followers. While getting a lot of followers may look great, having a strong following that is supportive is another. Having 50,000 followers and only 5 that actually care what you produce is the same as only having 5 followers in my books. This post is not about followers, this is about putting time and effort into something you love and reaping the benefits of that labour later on.

Be a Lifelong Learner

This sounds like something you’d hear at a teachers conference and that is probably where I picked it up from. The truth of the matter that we live in an age where you can get information simply by checking an app on your phone. So then why are you still struggling with off-camera flash? The truth of the matter is that often we forget or simply don’t want to actually study the craft. I remember offering one of my courses to a friend who later refused. The reason was that he did not want his clients to know that he was still learning. It was a strange thing because I have rarely met clients that would be put off by the fact that I was upping my game. See that is the way that I look at learning; upping my game.

Using events like the 5 Day Deal to get the materials that you need on a wide range of photographic topics is a start. Their yearly deal gives you an insane amount of material to study from and it will real increase your knowledge and skill. Once you have the thirst for knowledge, your images will certainly improve.

Use What You Know

The second step is to actually get out there and use what you know. Experiment with new techniques that you pick up along the way. After all that is why you invested either your time and/or money into learning, right? The biggest mistake that I make with pretty much anything that I study is not actually using it. I have hundreds of books and videos on my hard drive that I have read or watched but then completely forgot.

So get into the habit of using what you learn. If you read an ebook try it out the next time you go out. Even better, you can focus what you are learning to the problems that you are having with photography. So rather than blindly watching some cool guy on youtube do a tutorial on something that you don’t have the right equipment to do, try finding out how to use that off-camera flash that you are struggling with.  Look for videos related to that technique and see how far down the rabbit hole you go. I am sure when you finish you will be a master or at least have a better working understanding of your flash or whatever it is that you were researching.

Invest in People

This means get out and meet people. I have a bad habit of crawling into a bit of a hole when it comes to shooting. I like to be inside my own head when I am out getting some photos. However, there comes a time when you do have to get out and see real live PEOPLE! This is also a good time to learn and to teach others about what you like to shoot.

Taking the time to teach or even to simply just listen. The other thing is to really be a fan of the photographers in your community. Being a part of a supportive community is something that I love. While being based in Korea, I have had the chance to meet some amazing photographers. This is also great when you are commenting online or showing your work on facebook. After all, these are photographers and not your mom, so getting a compliment from them goes a long way.

This also goes towards helping people out when they need it. Many photographers are making courses (wink,wink, nudge, nudge) and helping them get the word out is a major way to help build up a community and build that fan base. Too often we look at other photographers as competition when we should really be looking at them as friends.

Be Patient

There are too many people out there thinking that they are going to be the next “Humans of (insert your current city here)” Rather than getting out there building their own brand. While some may be lucky and stumble on to something great, the rest of us have to slug it out in the trenches. However, do not let that put you off. Just because you don’t wake up with a billion emails asking you to work for Nat Geo, Magnum or clients wanting to pay you thousands of dollars for your work.

I previously wrote about how nothing happened when I was published in National Geographic and that was a huge learning point for me. As I said in the post (read it here) I was really hoping to “hit it big” but as you can tell, that hasn’t happened… yet. However, what has happened are a lot of great things that only took place because I kept my head down and produced better and better images.

The key here is that you’ve got to work at it to make it. It is that simple. There are so many people picking up cameras these days that you have to work hard and be the best. Don’t get jealous either. Chase Jarvis talks a lot about this and the idea of trying to please everyone. The key is to make images that you love and in the long run you will get better through practice and people will love what you do.


The post Persistence: Playing the Long Game appeared first on The Sajin.

Korean News Update – Friday, March 10

Fri, 2017-03-10 19:12
Korean News Update – Friday, March 10

South Korea’s Constitutional Court has permanently removed President Park Geun-hye from office over a corruption scandal, triggering an automatic presidential election to be held in 60 days. All that & more on the latest Korean News Update podcast episode from Korea FM.

Stream the episode online at

Download the full episode at

Rate & Review this podcast at

This episode is brought to you by Podcast Assist & its $30 per hour flat rate podcasting voice overs, editing, mastering, transcriptions & even hosting (select a topic, they’ll create & host the podcast). Visit for more information. 

Interview answers, both in written & audio form, have been edited for length & clarity.

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Logan’s Dystopic America, Hopeful Canada, & Invisible Korea

Fri, 2017-03-10 12:35
Logan’s Dystopic America, Hopeful Canada, & Invisible Korea

***Spoiler alert for the X Men movie: “Logan”***

Watched Logan recently and agree with many: Wolverine just is the best superhero of our time. But aside from all that, it did leave me a little depressed for ole USA. I just want to point out the America depicted in the Marvel flick is a hopeless place that they spend the entirety of the movie simply trying to avoid and/or suffer a little longer in order to escape, first to a boat, then under different circumstances, to promising Canada. The three remaining X-men have abandoned what appears to be an overtly militarized dystopic nation, controlled completely by nefarious forces, and among other reasons, nudges them to take up residence just south of the border, a very timely topic. However, the king of the X-men himself does spend his days sneaking up north into the capitalist grind as a limo driver, saving up to die in his pie in the sky boat, working tirelessly on that dream, and trying his best to avoid concerning himself with the world of power.  Logan seems tired of the America we see along his routes. Its a depraved, criminal, and moronic state of affairs. Were taken for rides with Logan as he has to suffer privileged drunken American youth in tuxedos holding champagne bottles as they taunt deportees with rabid chants of USA USA out of the sunroof. We get to sit among a ridiculous group of made for facebook bridesmaids who demand the limo driver’s attention to show him their breasts, to Logan’s distaste. The only other Americans we see are casino goers and military  or some kind of para-military force, that seem to operate carte blanche, without hindrance, across the country doing as they please. The movie left no redemption for the country. No hope in the immediate future. And in the end, all the good guys leave it to its own devices…

Oh yeah, there was one wholesome speck of America that made its way in…. that nice Black family that takes them in for what Xavier describes as the most perfect evening he’s had in a long time. But with their gruesome executions came the movie’s loudest commentary on what is left of future USA.

Korea may not be perfect and some of its humility only skin deep, even self-destructive at times, and perhaps its ethic of collectivism is being exploited by capitalist enterprise, yet there still remains  a sacrificing of self for the greater good. This ethic is perhaps most central to the health of any team…and if there was a light in this movie, if it left any redeeming quality for the USofA, it was Logan’s final act, sealed with an X.

Korean President Park struck out

Fri, 2017-03-10 11:53

Good morning,

Breaking news. South Korean president Park Geun-hye got fired on Mar 10 when Constitutional Court has unanimously upheld a decision by the National Assembly to impeach her. Park became the first president to be impeached. Park's problem began on Oct 24 last year when local TV station revealed the unhealthy influence scandal Park's female confidante Choi Soon-sil had over the president. South Koreans have been deeply divided between those who were for the impeachment, and against. The downtown in Seoul near Park's Blue House was packed with tens of thousands of protesters every Saturday,holding candle lights (for impeachment) and Korean flags (against) in the past four months. 
An election will be held within 60 days to replace Park. If the election is held today, Moon Jae-in from opposition party is likely to be the next president with nearly 40% approval rating, far ahead of the runner-up with 15%. Despite the court decision, the Korean political theater is expected to be pretty noisy and chaotic until the next election.
My first son just joined the same company his father did exactly 30 years ago. Like father, like son. My son was sitting on the South Pole while his father was camping on the North Pole over Park's impeachment. Unlike father, unlike son.


North Korea Survives. Start Hardening South Korea for a Long Contest

Fri, 2017-03-10 08:30



This essay is a local re-post of an essay I wrote last month for The National Interest. Basically this is my sketch of how to deal in the medium- and long-term with North Korea. North Korea is not going to collapse anytime soon. It has some source of strength we don’t fully grasp, and China is willing to bail out North Korea indefinitely. That means South Korea needs to start hunkering down – hardening itself – for a long-term conflict of attrition. There is not magic bullet – barring China pulling the plug, which, honestly, doesn’t look like it is going to happen soon.

So it’s time for South Korea to get more serious about winning the stand-off with North Korea and carrying the costs and inconvenience to do so. On the other hand, if South Korea only continues to manage North Korea, it will still be here in 20 years. If the ROK wants to win this stand-off – not manage, but win – then it needs to do a lot of things it doesn’t want to do, such as spending a lot more on defense, moving the national capital (so that it’s not right on the border, which makes it so vulnerable that South Korea can never hit back when North Korea provokes), consider drafting women (due to precipitous birth-rate decline), nuclear civil defense, and so on. This will be hard.

So far, South Korea has ducked these sorts of dramatic steps in the permanently short-termist expectation that North would just collapse one day, or that it could be bought off and somehow go away. But of course, it won’t. So if South Korea doesn’t still want to be ‘managing’ North Korea in 20 years, it needs to start thinking long-term now. For example, it should have moved its capital 40 years ago, like West Germany did during the Cold War, but it never did. And now North Korea has a massive city hostage it can threaten whenever it like to prevent South Korea from taking any kinetic action, like airstrikes on its missile sites. Yes, it will take a long time to unwind that, to decentralize South Korea, but then, North Korea is not going to collapse. Constantly hoping/expecting it would, and therefore taking no steps to check Seoul’s growth, is exactly the problem. Time to think long-term.

The full essay follows the jump:



With a new president in the White House, it is the season of reviews and re-assessments, with no problem more thorny than North Korea. Previous President Barack Obama apparently told incoming President Donald Trump that North Korea is now at the top of America’s foreign challenges. As North Korea continues its missile and nuclear tests, this is almost certainly the case. The yield of the North’s most recent nuclear test exceeded that of the weapons used by the US in World War II. Its missile program has dabbled in submarine-launched ballistic missile, road mobile launchers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. If these platforms genuinely work – a huge ‘if’ – North Korea would become the first new country to be able to strike the continental United States since the depths of the Cold War decades ago. Coupled to President Trump’s explosive, erratic personality, the possibility of a serious clash is greater than it has been in years.

Yet there is simultaneously a strong sense that North Korea lives on borrowed time. As Victor Cha says, it is the ‘impossible state’: Its economy is weak. Its ostensible ideology is long since bankrupt. Its people are increasingly aware that their Southern kinsmen live vastly healthier, wealthier, and happier lives. The regime, for all its ferocity, is alienated from its own people whose uprising it fears. Its capital approximates a feudal city-state estranged from its own impoverished piedmont. It is extremely dependent on China for both licit and illicit trade and financial services. Its conventional forces are technological dated. Hence the regular references, going back decades, that North Korea’s fall is imminent. It seems like we only need to find the final magic bullet to finally put this zombie down.

But of course, it does not collapse. Even if it violates much of what we ‘know’ in political science and economics, it has some source of strength – extreme race nationalism, a genuine belief in the Kim cult, the regime’s willingness to do anything to survive? – that helps it through crises which would bring down similar states. North Korea has survived: the end of the Cold War and the cut-off of Soviet aid; the death of founder-turned-godhead Kim Il Sung (1994); the famine of the late 1990s; ever-tightening United Nations sanctions; the death of Kim Il Sung’s heir, Kim Jong Il (2011). If the North survived all this, none of the various ideas out there for change – chasing North Korean money in Chinese banks, inward information flows, airstrikes on missile sites, more sanctions – are a likely to be that magic bullet. All are worth discussion of course, but given what the regime has survived to date, we must admit North Korean survivability, that it will be with us for a long time. This will be a long, grinding stalemate – as it has been to date – in which the side that ‘hangs tough’ will triumph.

Seen in that light, the Obama administration’s much-maligned ‘strategic patience’ is not so bad after all. It recognizes that the democracies on the outside – particularly South Korea, Japan, and the United States – can do little to proactively force change in the North. They can cut it off and harden themselves against its provocations and misbehavior, but it will a long grind. Sanctions, missile defense, the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the crack-down on North Korea’s diplomatic relationships (which frequently double as sanctions-running) are necessary to slowly choke-off North Korea, pushing it back to a precarious, exclusive dependence on its Chinse patron. Just as the Soviet Union was slowly internationally isolated and eventually ground to a halt, so the democracies of this cold war can hunker down too.

The heaviest burden falls on South Korea, where the desire for the magic bullet – the solution that permits the least amount of domestic inconvenience – is strong. In the eight years I have lived here, I have always been amazed at the blitheness about North Korea. On the one hand, it is admirable. South Koreans are far less intimidated by North Korea than American cable news crisis reporting would have you think. But this has also created a insouciance that is often disturbing. My students and acquaintances have no idea what to do if there is a North Korean missile attack. No one knows where shelters are or takes civil defense seriously. When I tell my students they should go up Korea’s many mountains to escape ambient radiation in the wake of a nuclear strike, they look at me in amazement that I know such macabre details. My male students regularly find their required military duty a frustrating diversion, while my female students are shocked when I tell them that Israeli women are conscripted too. Military duty is often corroded by social stratification networking and hazing. When the previous administration sought to impose a unification tax to prepare for that eventuality, the nation revolted. North Korean defectors – immediately identifiable by their accent – are often treated poorly and slotted in close to the bottom of South Korea’s punishing social hierarchy. The South Korean government has insisted that the United States pay for installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in the country. Cooperation on North Korea with Japan continues to be seen as a concession to an enemy rather than a wise pooling of resources against a shared existential threat. And South Korea continues to spend far less on defense (2.5% of GDP) than it should.

It is long since overdue for South Korea to take more serious ownership of North Korea and gird itself to win a protracted, expensive, uncomfortable struggle. One possible model is Israel, a democracy hardened to win a long-term, low-intensity conflict of attrition. For example, South Korea might invest in civil defense. 75% of its population lives on 25% of its land space – due to the mountainous terrain – which means missile and nuclear strikes could be especially devastating. This also suggests that the government finally take decentralization seriously – not just for oft-discussed regional equity – but for national security. The Seoul-Kyeonggi-Incheon corridor now contains a staggering 55% of all South Koreans and is the heart of the nation in every field, yet it lies right on the border with North Korea. This is astonishingly irresponsible. Such hyper-centralization makes South Korea vulnerable to a decapitation strike, and that capital lies less than 50 miles from the border, placing it within artillery range, much less rocket range. It is long overdue for South Korea to learn from West Germany and move its capital. This greater security would also make kinetic counter-strike options after a North Korean provocation less risky. Finally, the South must consider female conscription. Its birthrate (1.2) is far below the replacement rate (2.1), steadily shrinking the force size. If North Korea is still here in ten or twenty years – and twenty years ago, no one thought it would still be here today – then South Korea will almost certainly have to find substantial new manpower.

More generally, there needs to be a greater, Israeli-style social commitment to a long, expensive conflict of attrition if the South truly wants to end, rather then just manage, this ongoing stalemate. North Korea is not going to soon collapse or disappear. Ignoring it or appeasing it will not make it go away or tame it either. Nor is it primarily a problem for China, the US, the UN, and so on. This is firstly a South Korean issue, and it will be costly, domestically inconvenient, time-consuming, and socially fatiguing to finally throttle North Korea into collapse. ‘Hanging tough’ worked against the Soviet bloc, even if it took forty years; hardening can work here too. 

Filed under: Defense, Domestic Politics, Korea (North), Korea (South), The National Interest

Enjoy Everland’s Spring to the Fullest!

Thu, 2017-03-09 17:44
Korea’s perishing winter has gone. The weather is getting warm, spring flowers with vivid colors start blooming, and it’s high time we planned a day trip to Everland, the biggest theme park in Korea. Yay! Let’s have a look at what we’ve got here today:) 1. Everland Tulip Festival 2017 Four Seasons Garden at Everland is filled with … Continue reading Enjoy Everland’s Spring to the Fullest!

South Korea “Undisputed Asian Masters Of Chicken”

Thu, 2017-03-09 16:28

It’s no secret that South Korea has an obsession with fried chicken and beer, but last year’s article from Canadian expat & Vice writer Dave Hazzan brings the phenomenon into focus by calling South Koreans the “undisputed Asian masters of chicken.” Korea FM reporter Chance Dorland spoke with Hazzan to learn just how far the ROK’s appetite for chicken goes, & how China, before icing relations over the deployment of THAAD, used to go bonkers for it, as well.

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