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Asking Koreans Why People Learn Korean | 외국인들이 한국어를 배우는 이유

20 hours 47 min ago

So many more people are learning Korean these days than ten years ago. When I first started learning Korean, it wasn't popular at all, and I had no other friends who were interested in it. But just a few years later, I started seeing Korean courses pop up online, new books appear in stores, and study groups focusing on learning Korean at my local college.

Why did Korean suddenly become a lot more popular then, around ten years ago (give or take a few years)? Was it due to Kpop? Is it because of the delicious Korean food, or the culture? I had some of my own ideas, but I wanted to find out what Koreans themselves thought was the reason so many people are learning their language.

This summer I flew to Korea to ask Koreans directly what they thought about this. Here's what they said~

The post Asking Koreans Why People Learn Korean | 외국인들이 한국어를 배우는 이유 appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.




6 Fantastic Tips for Dating a Korean Girl

Mon, 2017-08-14 09:00

Have you set your sights on a lovely Korean lady? You’re not alone — Korean women are absolutely sought after, and for good reason! While obviously everyone is different, it’s safe to say that there are plenty of beautiful, intelligent, interesting Korean women around the world, so more than likely you’ll fall pretty hard for a Korean woman at some point in your life.

There’s even a dating phenomenon called “Korean Fever” — supposedly, once you date a Korean woman, you’ll never want to go back to dating women from any other country. You’ll have to see for yourself if there’s truth to that!

If you’re planning on dating a Korean girl, there are some general dating practices and tips you should be aware of beforehand. While every girl is different, in general many Korean girls have similar expectations when dating and will utilize similar dating rituals and techniques. Familiarize yourself with these expectations, and you’ll be that far ahead of the game! No one likes to be turned down, so you may as well make it as likely as possible that you’ll succeed if you’re planning on approaching a Korean girl.

Read on for our best tips and techniques for making your dreams of dating your Korean crush a reality!

*Ready to learn Korean yet? Click here to learn about our 90 Day Korean learning program! If you’re a foreigner, you’re an instant playboy

If you’re visiting Korea from another country on vacation or as a new resident of Korea, beware that you will instantly have some dating misconceptions assigned to you whether you like it or not.

In Korean dating culture, the assumption of visitors from other countries (especially young white men) is that you’re a player or a womanizer. It doesn’t matter if this couldn’t be further from the truth — it’s an instant association that gets made, so you’re pretty much walking around with the label “CAUTION: playboy” above your head as you make your way through Korea.

Fear not! This is not an instant deal breaker, and if you ask out a Korean woman that you have chemistry with, there’s a very good chance she’ll accept your invitation and go out with you. That being said, if you begin dating each other, she’ll also treat you as guilty until proven otherwise.

It’s more than likely that she’ll want to look through your texts and chat history, and she’ll probably comb through your social media to see if there is even a tiny bit of evidence that suggests that you’re a womanizer. If there is, you’re done. If there isn’t, she’ll slowly but surely begin to trust your intentions and your interest in her (and only her).

If your new girlfriend wants to go through your phone, don’t deny her request based on principle. It’s not that she doesn’t trust you, it’s that Korean culture is telling her you’re probably talking to other girls. If it makes her feel more comfortable, you should consider it.

They’re worried about you thinking they’re ‘easy’

In Korean dating culture, something that women worry about is being perceived as an easy target by foreign men. If you’ve recently started dating a Korean woman, there’s a good chance that she’s apprehensive about whether or not you consider her ‘easy.’

To help reassure your new lady that you don’t see her that way, make sure you treat her with respect and that you respect her boundaries. She’ll probably want to take the beginning stages of your relationship slowly until she’s sure that you’re committed to her and not just looking for a quick fling.

Slow down, treat her right, and you’ll have no problem!

Be prepared to pull out your wallet

Ah, the age old question — who should pay at the end of the date? Everyone has an opinion one way or another, and Korean women are no different in that regard.

For decades, the norm has been that the man pays for not only the first date, but also the vast majority of dates that couple goes on. Splitting the bill was extremely uncommon, and the woman on the date was not expected to pay for any portion of the date — not even after dinner drinks or dessert.

While this has been considered normal and still is by many, Korean dating culture has begun to shift to a new, more modern paradigm. The man is still expected to pay for dinner, but if she’d like to, the woman on the date might pay for after dinner soju or ice cream. The couple would then take turns paying for each stop of the evening — so, for example, if the man paid for dinner, the woman would then pay for soju, then the man could pay for ice cream, etc.

The moral of the story is assume that you’ll need to pay, but don’t keep your new girlfriend or date from paying if she’s like to pick up the tab for dessert or coffee. If that happens, then you’d pick up the next check. If she doesn’t offer, assume that if you’d like to continue this relationship you’ll need to pay for everything the two of you do socially.

As far as gifts go, most Korean women will be receptive to you conveying your affections with lavish gifts and tokens of your love (and honestly, most Korean girls will expect it). Be prepared to spend big on birthday gifts, and be prepared to also purchase gifts for each of the love-centric Korean holidays. There’s one every month on the 11th (yes, seriously), so these don’t have to be as large as a birthday or anniversary gift.

Korean women are good at dating

If you’re crushing on a Korean cutie, you’ve already proven this next point for us — Korean girls are good at dating. While anyone can go on dates, dating itself can also be a sport if you’re good at it, and Korean women are champions. So be prepared to compete!

When a Korean girl becomes your girlfriend, of course she’ll demonstrate loyalty and commit to you. But until that happens, be prepared to be at her mercy. She’ll likely know how to turn on the charm and somehow be cute, mysterious, and seductive all at once — you’ll be wrapped around her finger before you know it.

Before you consider approaching a Korean girl, be warned! If she sets her sights on you, you’re going nowhere. Enjoy it — they call it ‘Korean Fever’ for a reason, and you’ll catch that fever soon enough.

You’re competing through social media

When you’re dating a Korean girl, you’re competing with everyone constantly, whether you like it or not. How is that even possible, you ask? You can thank social media.

Social media is huge all over the world, but in Korea it’s larger than life. When you take your Korean girlfriend to a fancy dinner or buy her a lavish gift, she will photograph it and post it to every social media platform and instant messaging platform that she uses so that her friends can see it instantly. Get used to being on a chat app to keep her attention!

While social media can be great because it lets you keep in touch with friends from afar and stay connected to your social circle, it can also cause a lot of pressure and anxiety for both the girl and the guy in the relationships. If you’re sharing everything with everybody, it means that you’re comparing yourself to everybody.

As a result, your girlfriend will likely feel the need to measure up to what her friends are displaying from their lives — if someone else is on a nice vacation, you’ll probably want to start planning one as well. Similarly, you’ll feel the need to blow your girlfriend away with the gifts and dates you plan so you give her something to really be excited about.

While it sounds exhausting, this also means a lot of fun! You’ll be enjoying beautiful restaurants and making your new girlfriend happy with beautiful gifts. You also always have the ability to remind your girlfriend that social media only highlights the absolute best from her friends’ lives — they’re not posting about arguments they’re having or bad days, they’re only posting the highlights. (That doesn’t mean she’s guaranteed to listen to that logic, though!)

Korean girls are educated, and expect you to be, too

If you’re currently dating a Korean girl, one of the things that probably attracted you to her initially was her intelligence and her quick wit. Three quarters of the adult women in Korea have a university education, so you’ll definitely be having high-minded conversations with your lady.

This also means you need to make sure your Korean language skills are sharp so you can keep up and so you don’t bore her conversationally! Nobody wants a boring date (or a boring boyfriend).

If your Korean language skills aren’t where they should be and you want to brush up on them quickly, check out our 90 Minute Challenge and learn the Korean alphabet in just an hour and a half! It’s a small investment to make for all the return you’ll get — the ability to ask out the Korean girl you have your eye on. Good luck!

Photo credit:

Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series:

Korean lessons   *  Korean Phrases    *    Korean Vocabulary *   Learn Korean   *    Learn Korean alphabet   *   Learn Korean fast   *  Motivation    *   Study Korean  


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Basic Workflows for Luminar

Mon, 2017-08-14 07:34

Since my last post about Luminar, I have altered how I process a lot of my images. The reason being that Luminar has for the most part provided such a creative solution to making photos pop in every way possible. However, if you are new to photography and editing, Luminar may seem a little complicated. Trust me, it gets easier with practice. However, to get you going I have chosen two very simple workflows for you that can help you get your photos looking amazing!

Start with a Preset

If you absolutely have no idea what you want from your image then I would suggest starting with a preset and see where that takes you. The reason that I say that is because at times, we just don’t know the capabilities of our image and the presets not only give a starting point but the set up the workspace as well. From here you can tweak the settings, as many times the initial preset effects may not be the desired result. Often adjusting and deleting some of the filters will be all that is required.

You can pick up  a number of filters online from people like Jim Nix and whatnot. I find that if you are looking for just a simple solution or some quick edits then presets (just like in lightroom) are the way to go. However the drawback is that many (if not all), do not exactly match the look that you are trying to achieve. This is why I suggest using them as a starting point to get your image most of the way there and then tweaking after.

If you are looking for more presets click on the “+more” button on the bottom of the preset panel inside of Luminar or head there directly with this link.

If you are looking for some really good presets then check out Jim Nix’s preset packs. I have just picked up his cityscapes pack for $10 and it is great! You can check out all of his presets here.

Start with a Workspace

If you have an idea of where to start then you can choose a workspace that best suits you. I typically go with “landscape” because I feel that it gives a good assortment of overall filters that I use on a regular basis. From there it is just a matter of working your way down the screen and adjusting as you go. If you reach the bottom and you feel that you need another filter, then just click that “add filter” button and choose the filter that you need from the drop down menu.

This workflow is best use when you have an idea of a particular look or you are wanting to apply some basic edits outside of lightroom. Typically, all I need for most landscapes is the “landscape” workspace, but sometimes I like to add in a few favourite filters like HSL and Golden Hour. If you find yourself using the same few filters over and over again, I would highly suggest making your own custom workspace.


The bottomline here is that Luminar may seem a little complicated when you start out but as you learn the program it gets a lot easier to use. These two basic workflows will not only get you comfortable with using the program but will get your images looking amazing as well.

Click here! if you want your own copy of Luminar

The post Basic Workflows for Luminar appeared first on The Sajin.


LTW: The Barking War

Sun, 2017-08-13 14:09
LTW: The Barking War Good morning,
A series of bellicose rhetoric exchange between North Korea and Donald Trump keeps raising tension in Korean Peninsula. North Korean Foreign Minister threw the first punch on Aug 7, declaring his country will “teach the U.S. a severe lesson with its nuclear strategic force.” Trump countered on Aug 8, saying “North Korea best not make any more threats to the U.S. They will be met with fire and fury the world has never seen.” The commander of North Korean Army responded on Aug 10, threatening they can fire four Hwasung-12 ICBMs over Japan to lfall 30km (19 miles) away from Guam with the final order from Kim Jung-un. Donald Trump then tweeted on Aug 11 that U.S. military plans are “locked and loaded” and ready to go “should North Korea act unwisely.” Gen.Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff met with President Moon Jae-in Seoul on Aug 14.

While the rest of the world is watching Korean Peninsula in worries, South Koreans are not really feeling the tension. South Koreans have lived under Kim family’s verbal threats since Korean War ended in 1953. If South Koreans cannot sleep because of Kim Jung-un’s recent bad words from his mouth, neither can Japanese because of earthquakes. My wife can be more concerned about possible Louis Vuitton store pullout from Lotte Department Store than possible North Korean ICBMs flying over Japan to Guam. The recent exchange of menacing words between Kim Jung-un and Donald Trump fits below scenes to many South Koreans.


Escape: Top Reasons Why Bali’s the Perfect Getaway to RELAX!

Sun, 2017-08-13 09:50
Bali: Your Relaxation Destination!

Guest Post by: Wander with Jo!

The mere mention of the word Bali, is bound to instantly conjure up visions of an island paradise, surrounded by party beaches and resorts, big and small. The real Bali, however, is much more than just a happening destination, it is an aspiration about the mood and essence of the Balinese that sets this tropical retreat apart from the other usual tourist hot spots.

The generous, smiling and lovely people of Bali, along with the rich diverse culture and amazing sights, really take Bali to another level. At the end of the day, a vacation to Bali is sheer fun, no matter who you are or which part of the world you are from.

For the tourist who is looking for relaxation and wants to get away from the chaos of Kuta or the pleasures of Seminyak, there are many lavish resorts and wellness retreats on the Bukit Peninsula. These excellent villas and hotels have one thing in common, that they allow the guest to relax and unwind in some of Asia’s best environment. With the world becoming an increasing stressful place, day by day, a demand for such retreats is on the rise.

Bali has a great reputation for making the art of wellness combine equally well with the special luxury spas that adopt the most unique and beneficial natural therapies. This growth in popularity can be gauged by the increasing number of airlines, from all over the world, offering direct connections to Bali. Over the years this Island of the Gods has managed to master the exotic art of healing and relaxation using traditional Asian techniques.

As more and more travelers head to the health and wellness retreats of Bali, to find a balance in their busy lives, the local travel industry has geared itself for this phenomenal rise in medical and cosmetic tourism. Resorts such as the Chill House, in Canggu, provide delicious organic food, surfing, biking, yoga and other soul and body treatments. For those with a penchant to spend good money, some of the most well equipped and luxurious hotels can be found in Bali. Apart from excellent hospitality, guests can relax in lush gardens, have access to multiple swimming pools and spend quality time with families on private beach fronts.

Bali has plenty of cliff-side resorts, which offer stunning views, seemingly perched on an edge. In case you intend to enjoy the cuisine in the privacy of your room, a personal butler will be on hand to prepare a fresh meal whenever you please. Then there are private villas available, each with a private plunge pool and dedicated butler service for the entire duration of your stay. Some high end hotels in Ubud have top- notch yoga experts and fitness classes which incorporate cycling through paddy fields or trekking up to volcano peaks. Stunning overflowing infinity pools are everywhere as are gushing waterfalls and cascading rivers. Another ideal way to embrace the expanding health trend is by going on nature walks in the scenic rice fields and tropical ravines of Ubud. There is no better way to stay fit and at the same time get up close to the culture, folklore and herbal medicine as you are introduced to trees with therapeutic properties.

There are exclusive super deluxe spa villas located within dense jungles from where you can enjoy a spa treatment in the privacy of your room which overlooks the lush green forest. A tropical garden and an enchanting waterfall, makes for a magical place to relax and meditate.  The ultimate in luxury are the retreats which cater to a very limited number of people in order to provide top class service. These spacious  Balinese huts, come with a 25m pool, hanging vines to create a jungle like environment.

Women have expressed their eagerness to visit Bali for wellness and yoga because of the number of high class retreats which cater to only women. The seven day packages offered here include exclusive spa treatments, yoga classes, health programs and outdoor activities like snorkeling, Indonesian cooking classes,rafting and market tours among others. For those who can stand up, adrenaline pumping surfing sessions are included.

The special treatments include Ayurveda, reflexology, stone massage and acupuncture. Dietitians and doctors are on hand to offer constant advice. Heated hydrotherapy pools are in place for relaxing the sore body parts. The main reason why people flock to Bali is that they can have the best of both worlds in one destination – party and relaxation. There are so many wellness resorts, that one can easily slip away from the island’s party scene and revive the body doing yoga, meditation or simply communing with nature.

Bali is the most popular destination with travelers from all corners of the planet. Beautiful beaches, warm climate all make an ideal backdrop for that perfect spa holiday. This is the only place where you can incorporate the Balinese way of life and their philosophies by detoxing the mind in these beautiful surroundings.   

With just 900 odd inhabited islands, out of a total of over 17,000, Bali and Indonesia can claim to be the number one destination for holiday and relaxation.  Think infinity pools, yoga retreats, luxury villas with pools, beach yoga, surfing, meditating to sound of the waves and all these things can give you instant feeling of rejuvenation. You can easily say Bali is the ultimate place to unwind.  

The post Escape: Top Reasons Why Bali’s the Perfect Getaway to RELAX! appeared first on The Toronto Seoulcialite.

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No, North Korea’s Nuclear Missiles are Not an ‘Existential’ Threat to the US

Sun, 2017-08-13 08:45
No, NK's Nuclear Missiles are Not an ‘Existential’ Threat to the US

This is a re-post of an article I just wrote for The National Interest. It is a response to the increasing hawk threat inflation – presumably to justify possible airstrikes –  that even one North Korean nuclear weapon is intolerable, or that even one North Korean nuclear strike on America would bring down the country, or that the NK nuclear program is an ‘existential’ threat to the US.

None of that is true. Is it bad that NK has nukes and missiles? Of course. Would it be a humanitarian catastrophe if NK nuked one or several American cities? Obviously. Would that bring down the American state, the US Constitution, and the American way of life? No, it would not. Is it creepy and strangelovian to talk like this? Yes. But NK nukes are here to stay; we need to adapt to this reality. We need to start thinking soberly about these sorts of frightening questions, especially if we are contemplating the use of force against North Korea, with its huge attendant risks.

The below essay argues that the US has some resilience against even the disasters which would follow a North Korean nuclear attack on the homeland. Many people would die but that is not the same is bringing down the whole country. Killing people is not the same as breaking the state, and way too many hawkish threat-inflators, like President Trump or John Bolton, are eliding this point. In the four US strategic bombing campaigns of the 20th century – against Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, North Korea, and North Vietnam – none of them lead to governmental breakdown and domestic anarchy. We are not on the cusp of Lord of the Flies or Mad Max, and we should be honest about that, even as we try to contain the NK nuclear program. To do otherwise just scares the hell out of the country even more than it is now. Even in the worst case scenario, which this essay presents, NK almost certainly does not have the ability to destroy America, even if it can kill many Americans. That is a distinction, however macabre it may seem to point it out.

The full essay follows the jump:



Late last month, the American Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats called North Korea’s nuclear weapons program a “potential existential threat to the United States.” Coats hedges a bit by throwing in the modifier “potentially,” but he has spoken this way before. Unless he has spectacular secret information, this is woefully inaccurate. North Korea is a growing threat to the United States with its nuclear missile program, and it is indeed an existential threat to South Korea and Japan. But its threat to the US is actually not existential – as, for example, Russian and Chinese arsenals are – and is unlikely to become so.

Language is important here. North Korea is a indeed a threat to the US, but it is a greater threat to US regional allies, and its proven ability to strike the US with a nuclear warhead is still hotly disputed. Ranging the US with a missile is not the same as hitting the US with a reentry-survivable nuclear warhead that could evade US missile defense. Nor, even, does one or two or a dozen North Korean nuclear strikes on the US mainland constitute an “existential” threat.

Such a scenario would, of course, be terrible, but for North Korea to actually threaten the existence of the United States would take dozens of nuclear strikes across almost all of America’s major cities. The humanitarian costs of even one nuclear detonation would be enormous, of course, and the national psychological shock would be akin to nothing in US history, bar perhaps the Civil War. But this is not the same thing as actually hitting the United States hard enough that its society begins to fragment and its government collapse. DNI Coats does not use those terms, but presumably that is what an “existential” threat is. Large numbers of civilian casualties, even in the millions, and the loss of several American cities is not existential. Horrible, yes. A dramatic reorientation of American life, absolutely. But not the end of America.

In fact, the United States is actually well postured to survive – or ‘ride out,’ in nuclear war parlance – a nuclear strike. The US is a large country, with a widely dispersed population. According to the Census Bureau in 2015, it has only ten cities whose populations exceed one million people. And twenty percent of its population lives in rural areas, distant from any realistic North Korean target. That is sixty million people. Residents of large cities like New York and Los Angeles are threatened, but much of the US population is not. It is important to be honest about this.

American governmental federalism is another benefit. Even if Washington, D.C. and other large US metropolitan centers were devastated, the US has multiple levels of government which would continue to operate. States, counties, and cities would continue to function, uphold law and order, and provide points from which to rebuild damaged national structures. By way of example, the collapse of government in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 did not lead to cascading collapse across Louisiana or the Gulf Coast. Even Imperial Japan in 1945, after months of punishing US bombing, managed to ride out the nuclear detonations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki without a national breakdown.

Nuclear strikes in America will not necessarily lead to apocalyptic outcomes, and we should be cautious about using Coats’ frightening language. Highly centralized states are at greater risk than America. Where one national capital represents the national center gravity – as with Seoul in South Korea, or Paris in France – the risk of a nuclear ‘decapitation strike’ to throw the country into chaos is real. Hence North Korea’s greater threat to highly centralized, and more proximate, Japan and South Korea. But America’s thick decentralization makes it more resilient.

Finally, long-term US political stability suggests socio-political resilience. Assuming again that North Korea strikes Washington and America’s other large cities, it is not obvious that the US would then fall into some manner of political anarchy or revolution. The US is a wealthy, stable state with the world’s longest running constitution (230 years). Its population has never had any meaningful political traditions besides liberal democracy. There are no serious revolutionaries waiting for social chaos to strike, like in czarist Russia or Weimar Germany.

Indeed, Coats himself likely knows all this, which is why he appended “potentially” to his comments. By calling the North Korean nuclear missile threat “existential,” he is probably trying to capture and focus attention, both in the US and, especially, China. But adding “potentially” allows him to pull back so that he does not appear too alarmist and incur the jeering of the analyst community over something that is really not true. This political and somewhat contradictory phrasing leaves Coats’ actual beliefs rather unclear.

His exaggeration is understandable, however, due to China. In fact, I imagine much of the overheated rhetoric coming from the Trump administration about North Korea is intended to pressure China to finally do something on the issue, rather than accurately portray the threat from Pyongyang. But this is risky threat-inflation. Scare-mongering contributes to the growing drumbeat for airstrikes against North Korea which could ignite a disastrous regional conflict, even though North Korea almost certainly does not intend to offensively strike the United States with its nuclear weapons.

Filed under: Korea (North), Nuclear Weapons, Strategy, The National Interest, United States

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University



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When You Only Say 안녕하세요 and Get Complimented (feat. Andy)

Sun, 2017-08-13 01:46

Have you ever been complimented for speaking Korean? It sure feels good.... Or does it? How about when you receive a compliment at the very beginning of a conversation? What if you only say 안녕하세요 and receive a compliment saying that you sound just like a Korean? Does it feel genuine or fake? How do you reply when a Korean compliments you?

I met up with my friend Andy who lives in Korea, and we talked about this kind of situation and what we'd do.

Check it out~

The post When You Only Say 안녕하세요 and Get Complimented (feat. Andy) appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

Faces of Seoul Workshop with David Guttenfelder

Fri, 2017-08-11 18:29

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a lecture and workshop with the esteemed National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder. If you are not familiar with his work then you should really check out his site and his instagram. David is probably one of the most interesting photographers that I have had the pleasure of meeting. His accomplishments are amazing and the stories that he told during not only his lecture but the workshop were unlike anything that I’ve heard before. I will leave the fanboy gushing for a later time and just let you read his about page to fully understand how awesome David is.

The lecture

It was interesting to see the different people that collected in the Seoul City Hall building on that Saturday afternoon. From mother’s to longtime expats like myself, it was a great collection of creative minds. It was inspiring to hear how dedicated David is to photography and the stories that he is trying to capture. What came across to me was not someone “faking it til he made it” but rather someone willing to risk everything for a cause or to tell the right story.

David mentioned about how places like National Geographic are looking for “purpose driven photographers” and those who are committed to a cause. I find that these are the types of photographers that are better equipped to tell a story than those like me who are simply after a beautiful sunset.  He noted that good photographers use composition, intent and humour to illustrate a point. That was something that stood out to me along with some very poignant photos.

One of the more interesting things that was brought up in the lecture was the use of iPhones and camera-phones. David mentioned that in recent times his iPhone has almost become his primary camera. This was something of a shock to me as I was expecting him to have his own line of Leica cameras or something. However, David related a story of how difficult it was to process film in 3rd world countries. Noting that he and his fellow photographers were overjoyed when digital cameras were made available. David remarked about how “you have to speak the same language as the subject” and often times that is as simple as just using a cellphone instead of a DSLR. He mentioned how even people in North Korea have smartphones and are more comfortable having their picture taken with them.

Adding to the digital revolution David talked a lot about how social media really opened the doors to the world. David, in the past was named inaugural Instagram Photographer of the Year by TIME magazine and also consults with the people at Instagram about mobile photography. He also chooses the photos for their Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project or #WHP.

During this lecture, David related a story about the reach of platforms like facebook and instagram. After the 2013 earthquake in the Philippines which caused mass destruction across the entire country, he was there documenting the situation. When people saw his camera, instead of crying out for food or help, they told him to put them on facebook and instagram. Sure enough, once he did, people saw the photos and offered to help. It is that kind of reach that has changed the world of photojournalism forever.

Image courtesy of Leigh MacArthur

The Workshop

I must say that this was a long day. Initially, I thought that the workshop would be just a couple of hours at a prominent Seoul tourist spot. However, we were taken around to 3 different locations and had plenty of time to talk with David and see how he takes his style of photos. It could have been the jetlag but David seemed really intense when we got out and that was an interesting thing. One of my biggest challenges is that I tend to focus more on talking than on the photos when I am out with other photographers. David was busy with the 10 of us and not to mention the Seoul City hall people. However, he never seemed to break his focus.

One of the lessons that he taught me was to try to include a human element in my landscapes. Now this is a fairly basic thing but it was something that I constantly overlooked. To be honest I sort of thought that people in the frame were a bit of an annoyance. David explained how they [people] can add in that certain something that the image maybe lacking. Sometimes this could be scale or just to fill in a gap where the eye is naturally drawn.

During a meal break, we got sit down and talk with David about pretty much anything. It was an interesting discussion as I think everyone really seemed to be choosing their words and thinking of the best questions that I could. I was trying hard not to gush too much and really learn from this experience. David’s responses were full of information, humour and focus. Some of the stories he told had the group just sitting in awe. When someone is telling you about being embedded with marines and the horrors of war, you realize that the frustrations of your daily life are seemingly insignificant.

As the day turned into evening, we changed locations from the Seoullo to the Namsangol Hannock Village. By this time, the  we were getting a little sweaty but still fired up. Many of us were cautious not to be too annoying to David. Thus, we all set out in different locations around the village. I think that this was a great move as we would capture something and then regroup to share and talk about the shots. Seeing the different images that we all took from Namsangol really showed the creative energy of this group.

We decided to head to the Hangang River near Yeouido to capture the cityscapes and life along the Hangang. Due to Seoul’s traffic we missed the blue hour but in the end we all came out with some great shots. Most of us headed directly to the bridge to try and capture the cityscape initially but the real energy came from the riverside. There were buskers and food trucks  dotted along the riverside that emitted the true energy of Seoul. It’s that mix of food, music, and people mixed into this urban environment that really makes Seoul what it is.

The Bottomline

The day finished with a short farewell outside of Seoul Station. David set off to travel around Korea and well all set off home. I was an amazing learning experience that I shall not soon forget. There were so many elements that I have overlooked in my years as a photographer. What makes photographers like David Guttenfelder the best at what they do is the fact that they are focussed and can pull from years of experience to make a great shot. While many of us read and watch tutorials we often lose focus when we are out getting the photos. We (or I) revert back to what we know for sure rather than accessing techniques that we’ve read but are not quite 100% on.

Watching David go around and effortlessly take shots that could be one the cover of National Geographic was as humbling as it was interesting. It was the focus and the intent that really stood out to me. Not to mention being able to take an amazing photograph with his iPhone was another. I left the workshop with my head spinning and less fear about being “stuck” with only my phone. I would like to thank the city of Seoul for setting this amazing event up. As well as I would like to thank David for his patience with all of our questions and taking the time to explain everything to us.

The post Faces of Seoul Workshop with David Guttenfelder appeared first on The Sajin.

Nights Out Up North – Where to Go in the PNU Area in Busan

Thu, 2017-08-10 10:33
Nights Out Up North – Where to Go in the PNU Area in Busan Read more a

Originally appeared in HAPS, Aug. 9, 2017. Click here for the original story.

Do you have any suggested places for fun nights out, in the PNU area or throughout Busan that you would like me to check out? Leave a comment.

This article took a lot longer than I expected it would. I am not entirely sure why. I didn’t have much trouble getting comments from sources, especially Liam Cullivan, who is a wealth of great information and conversation if you’re curious about Busan’s expat history at least since the mid-1990s. Super fun.  I think it was just a lull in my desire to write. That happens to a lot of people. I don’t know if it’s ever happened much to Stephen King. That guy seems to churn out book after book, even when he got run over by a van almost 20 years ago. But, I get those times where I just don’t feel like it. A good trick to get the juices pumping again is to suck it up, buckle down, some other cliche phrase or two and then follow the sage advice of the Nike “swoosh” and Shia LeBeouf.


That’s from Liam Cullivan, owner of Basement, in the Pusan National University downtown area on a Facebook post announcing a new venture: pizza at an adjacent establishment dubbed “Cullivano’s.” While meant to be tongue-in-cheek, this long-established member of the Busan bar community hammers home the point that, despite the popularity of other downtown destinations in Busan like Gwangalli, the Kyungsung University area and tourism-heavy Haeundae, PNU too has remained a popular spot for both foreigners and locals looking to have a fun night out further north.

Local history wonks will also note the Pusan National University area is also where expats found their first Busan nights about two decades ago.

“The English teacher population exploded with the introduction of EPIK (English Program in Korea) in 1995,” says Cullivan, who has operated Basement since 2002, and previously managed a bar in Masan.

As new metro lines and additional stops on existing ones made it easier to commute across this vast city, and as more Korean business owners sought to appeal to expats, other locations besides PNU began to flourish. Cullivan specifically cites the Thursday Party chain, which started in Busan but now has more than 20 locations throughout Korea.

“It was hard to find any western style bars,” Cullivan notes of years past. “So, people flocked to havens where they could speak English and be understood.”

In Busan, that haven was the PNU area. “This is what the old timers gush about,” he says.

But, like everything in life, change was inevitable. “Frankly, Korean bar culture and English abilities have changed,” Cullivan says. Despite the shift in customer base, Basement has remained.

But, while many expats moved on from PNU, Cullivan says “we still had a huge student population at our doorstep. We became more of a student bar.”

In its current incarnation, Cullivan notes that, while expats have started to return to PNU, “it’s not who you think. PNU (the university) has really upped their game in attracting students from around the world, especially from Europe and the former Soviet republics.”

Still, some “old timers” find themselves in PNU “for mostly music events,” Cullivan says. “But, in general, the expat crowd in PNU is much younger and frankly everything in PNU is a little bit cheaper because of the college students.”

Cullivan also notes a couple new bars, like Galmegi Brewing Company, have found a place in PNU. “So, yes, the big wave of teachers who arrived a decade or more ago did move on to other areas, but we haven’t been lonely in PNU,” he says. “The students and punks stayed and now I think some of the expats outside of the ‘hood are starting to realize what a cool little place PNU is.”

To see for yourself, here’s a shortlist of destinations to try on your own PNU night out:


416-1, Jangjeong-dong, Geumjeong-gu, Open daily 6pm-5am, 010-5557-4626 , Facebook

What began in 2011 as a single-story dive in an old industrial storefront has turned into a two-story must-visit destination. The freshly-renovated Someday offers a cool and laid back venue for live music, or simply a place to sip a variety of adult beverages. These range from assorted cocktails to a wide selection of beers, from OB for the skinflint, to Goose Island for those who want a little craft in their draft.

“The old Someday was kind of just a local bar in PNU,” says Donghyuk Heo, one of three partners responsible for the renovations. “Now, we hope many people will come to know about it and enjoy it.”

Heo says Someday is a place for everyone, Korean or foreign, a neighborhood spot for those with a liberal mindset. “I can’t explain it well, even if I explain it in Korean,” he laughs. “But, it has something different, an atmosphere you can only feel here. I suggest you come here and feel it for yourself.”

Galmegi Brewing Company

Pusandaehak-ro58, Jangjeong-dong, Geumjeong-gu – Monday-Thursday, 6pm-midnight; Friday and Saturday, 6pm-1am, Sunday 6-11pm – 010-3782-6116 – Facebook

Galmegi Brewing Company ushered Busan into Korea’s burgeoning craft beer movement back in 2014 when it opened its Gwangan brewery (they first began serving contract-brewed suds the previous year at a location closer to Gwangalli Beach). Its PNU location is Galmegi’s fifth (following the popular brand’s other locations in Gwangan, Haeundae, Seomyeon and Nampo) to open and sixth overall (a location near the Kyungsung University/Pukyong National University subway station opened in July).

PNU Galmegi owner Andrew Bencivenga prides himself on adding his own signature to the location, including a playlist that lends itself more to a chill night chatting with friends than competing with the sound system. There’s a full slate of familiar bar food favorites as well as special menu items like handmade sausages and location-specific pizzas. Those seeking a liquid diet can choose from a number of bottles and drafts that cannot be found at any other location, from throughout Korea and around the world. And, if beer is not your thing, Galmegi PNU has several bourbons and tequilas to whet your whistle with, as well.

Red Bottle

Jangjeon-dong 417-2, 2nd floor, Geumjeong-gu, Monday-Saturday 7pm-4am, Sunday 6pm-1am, 010-6213-2198, Facebook

The bartenders at Red Bottle, opened in 2010, pride themselves on their cocktail skills, something owner Nanhee Lee says has created a loyal following at her relaxed second-floor establishment.

“We’ve made a unique atmosphere in front of Pusan National University,” she says of Red Bottle. “I want to have even more live events for indie bands. I am trying to make this a place for exchanges between Korean people and foreign people.” Live music is also a regular facet at Red Bottle.


389-51 Jangjeon 1dong, Geumjeong-gu, Daily 7pm – 3am, 051-515-1181, Facebook

Owner Juhee Kim points to consistency for this 20-year-old PNU landmark’s staying power. Folks can enjoy music from the 1970s to today at Crossroads, which offers both local and imported beers, as well as over 30 cocktail choices, with prices that haven’t changed in many years.

“It’s cheap and it’s for everyone who loves music and enjoys drinking,” Kim says. “Anyone can be friends with anyone and can enjoy it comfortably. That’s what’s attractive about Crossroads.”


418-32 Jangjeon 3dong, Geumjeong-gu, Daily 7pm – 4am, 010-3221-2500, Facebook

One of PNU’s mainstay establishments. They recently began to offer pizza by the slice next door under the moniker “Cullivano’s,” a nod to owner Liam Cullivan. Cheap drinks and cocktails, with a number of Korean and international indie acts passing through for raucous concerts.

JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.

5 Fantastic Tips for Dating a Korean Guy

Tue, 2017-08-08 10:00

There are a million reasons to learn the Korean language — it gives you access to a whole new world of amazing movies and music, it will allow you to travel through Korea and be able to speak to the interesting people you meet, and as a bonus, you’ll also be able to understand what you’re ordering the next time you’re in a Korean restaurant.

While these are some of the most popular reasons to begin studying the Korean language, there’s one very valid reason that is less talked about, and it’s that learning Korean will help you if you’re interested in dating a Korean guy!

Whether you’ve fallen in love with the Korean men that croon K-pop songs and star in Korean dramas or if you’ve met somebody while you’re visiting Korea that you’ve become quite smitten with, you’re probably wondering what you should do to make dating a Korean guy a reality for you.

Between differences in Korean dating culture and Korean social norms from those of other cultures, there are definitely some things you need to be aware of to ensure your success. Fear not, we’re here to give you the scoop! Read on for a list of tips to land that cutie you’ve had on your mind.

Disclaimer: Of course, all men are different, and while these tips will help you with a majority of the Korean gentlemen you meet abroad, make sure you use your gut, too. You know your situation better than we do!

*Ready to learn Korean yet? Click here to learn about our 90 Day Korean learning program! Don’t expect to be ‘asked out’

If you’re spending time in Korea in the near future and you’re interested in dating while you’re there, be warned: just because Korean men are not asking you out does NOT mean that they’re not interested.

Dating culture in Korea is a little bit different than many other countries when it comes to the early stages of dating. For example, in the dating culture of most Western countries, a guy will approach their potential date when they’re interested and strike up a conversation, even if the person is a stranger.

In Korea, especially if you’re not from Korea and are noticeably a tourist or a new local, you are far less likely to be approached by guys because they’re generally pretty shy when it comes to approaching strangers. However, that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t love for you to approach them and introduce yourself! There is no stigma against approaching a cute guy and making the first move. Don’t be shy — go say ‘hi’!

Get ready to be glued to your phone

Are you a fan of texting? Good, because odds are that your new Korean beau is as well.

Most Korean guys are big fans of constant communication via text message and instant messaging apps on their smart phones. (Korea does have some of the best smart phone technology in the world, so that’s no surprise!)

Unlike dating cultures where there is a stigma against texting a romantic interest too soon for fear of seeming too interested or clingy, the norm in Korea is to be updating your significant other as often as possible. What you’re eating, what you’re thinking, what you’re looking forward to about your date tonight — it’s all fair game!

Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that a guy you date while you’re in Korea is way more interested in you than guys in the past who have texted and called less. It’s just the norm, so everybody does it.

The next time you get home from a date with a Korean guy that you’re into, send him a quick text that you had a great time after he drops you off at home! You’ll get the ball rolling in the right direction. And if you’re unsure about the norms of Korean texting we’ve got you covered!

Who picks up the bill?

Ah, one of the most awkward parts of the early stages of dating — should you reach for the bill after dinner? If he paid for dinner, should you offer to pay for drinks after or wait until the next date? Why does figuring out who pays for dinner feel like an intricate math problem?

There are two different schools of thought in the Korean dating scene, and lucky for you, you’ll figure out very quickly which camp your man is in. The old school approach is that the man should foot the bill for not only the first date, but also all subsequent dates. If you’re dating a guy like this, don’t expect an opportunity to pay for the second date, the third, or the fourth — it’s generally an attitude that will persist as long as you’re together.

The only downside to dating a Korean man who holds this belief is that occasionally, it can go hand and hand with being somewhat patronizing. For example, your date may expect you to be slightly submissive and quiet while you’re enjoying each other’s company.

If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, no worries! A more modern approach to payment is also gaining ground in Korean dating culture. For some young Korean men, the new norm is to pay for dinner on the first date, and then let their date pay for coffee or soju at the next stop, and then they’ll alternate payment throughout the evening or throughout dates.

This approach is definitely more balanced, and there’s less of an implication that you should feel obligated to put on an act for your date.

While both of these approaches are different and there’s not quick and easy way to determine which school of thought the Korean guy you’re crushing on will fall into, it’s usually pretty safe to wait until the second stop of the evening and offer to pay. If he declines, he’s probably old school, and if he takes you up on it, he’ll be a fan of the newer approach to splitting payment. Either way, don’t stress — have fun on your date, and you’ll figure it out at the end!

Being ‘Oppa’ and Korean chivalry

Photo credit:

If you’re a fan of K-pop or Korean dramas, chances are that you’ve been exposed to the term ‘Oppa‘. ‘Oppa’ is a term that shows respect to an older guy, but it goes way further than that in Korean dating culture.

Rather than being a simple term meant to show respect and deference to an older guy, ‘Oppa’ is also what Korean guys want to be when in a relationship. Korean guys, whether they’re older than you or not, will typically want to be in a protective, responsible, and respected role while in a relationship.

This desire to be ‘Oppa’ can be an amazing thing when you’re in a relationship with a Korean guy. For example, they’ll check all the boxes for the classic signs of chivalry. Prepare to have your chair pulled out for you, for his coat to be handed to you when you’re cold, and to never arrive to the restaurant you’re supposed to meet at wondering where your date is — he’ll always arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of you to secure the table and make a good impression.

There can also be drawbacks to the ‘Oppa’ dynamic. Like we mentioned in regards to always picking up the check, Korean guys that lean heavily on this ‘Oppa’ identity could possibly expect you to act in a demure, respectful way — always trusting his opinion and judgment, not talking back, etc.

This is certainly not expected by all Korean men, so don’t worry if you’re thinking to yourself that you’d rather not deal with those expectations. Go out there and date your Korean crush without worrying about lofty dating expectations, especially if you’re only in town visiting — but don’t be surprised if he refers to himself in the third person as ‘Oppa.’ Consider yourself warned!

Valentine’s Day has got nothing on Korea!

Valentine’s Day is a special day in many countries. It’s an excuse to shower your partner with love, affection, flowers, and probably chocolate (or something equally delicious). What’s not to love?

If you’re a fan of Valentine’s Day and all that comes with it, you are going to absolutely swoon over all of the love related holidays and traditions that Korea has to offer. They put the rest of the world to shame when it comes to celebrating love!

Once you’re in a relationship with a Korean guy, don’t worry about waiting for your one year anniversary for a big celebration — you’ll be showered with affection in celebration of your 1 month anniversary as well as the 100, 200, 300, and one year markers of your relationship starting. Hello, chocolate and flowers!

Korea also has a ton of national love holidays that are fun to celebrate. These holidays always fall on the 14th, and the nature of the holiday can range from Valentine’s Day (yes, it’s celebrated in Korea, too), to Kiss Day (June 14th), to a day you’re meant to give your partner chocolate (White Day, March 14th)– there truly is a love holiday for everybody, no matter what your style is.


Are you interested in asking out a cute Korean guy? If so, you now have all of the knowledge you need to get through the early stages of dating and have a great time! Make sure you check out our 90 Minute Challenge, which will help you learn Hangul, the Korean alphabet, in just 90 minutes to help you get started on learning the Korean you need to ask your crush out on a date.

Have some advice for snagging the heart of that Korean hottie that we didn’t cover here? Please share it in the comments below!


Photo Credit:

Saturn Return-ing 30 in Korea

Mon, 2017-08-07 16:24
Saturn Return

This week, I prepare to bid farewell to my roaries twenties and celebrate entry into the dirty thirty club.  This year in particular (29) has been pretty magnificent, but it hasn’t been without heartache and disappointment.  People keep bringing up this idea of Saturn Return .  “The longer, more elaborate version: This is the astrological period of our life when the planet Saturn completes its orbit around the Sun, coinciding with the time of our birth. It happens every 29.5 years, so if you have skated by in your late 20s, this period could get you in your late 50s.”  Is this where the No Doubt album name originated?  Gwen Stefani was 30 or 31 when it was released.  I was obsessed with these tracks.  I was 13 when Return of Saturn was released, but the lyrics seem more relevant now than ever!

I don’t hold steadfast and true to astrology, but one can find poetry and life lessons in just about anything.  The idea that I should learn something from the craziness of my twenties is certainly not lost on me.  While I’ve been a teacher in Korea, life in Seoul in Busan has thrown me some curveballs.  I’d like to share what teaching and living in Korea has taught me in an elementary kind of way.  Here are a few Dr. Seuss memes to, pardon the pun, bring it all full circle.

I’ve Learned to Love My Body

Being naked isn’t a crime.  Ajummas (the old gals) at jimjilbangs (bath houses/ spas) strut around, full bush and fupas out with pride.  They don’t give a rat’s ass about my curvy stomach and hips or my prickly legs.  I’ve worked hard to drop the weight I gained after joining the workforce and quitting my varsity days.  Now I’m in the maintenance stage which means I really have to dedicate quite a bit of time and energy to not balloon again.  I have to nourish my body even if that means being a hunter for protein and veggies at my own grocery store.  Now that I’m mere days away from 30, I know I’m never going to be perfect.  Getting a luxurious facial or massage is allowed and should damn well be in the budget.  If I want to get botox or lip injections then that’s my own personal choice.  Through fitness, nutrition, a Korean skin care regime, and time to treat myself I aim to strike a balance.  I strive to be a better me than yesterday.

What the Fuck is this Shit?

Sometimes you’re just not going to have a damn clue what’s on your plate, written on a kid’s test, or walking down a runway.  Just learn to roll with it.  There’s no point in getting up in arms over something you don’t understand.  Culturally – take some time to do some research if you’re even feigning an interest.  If you’re living in or even just visiting another country, their customs will likely be foreign to you.  Try to figure ’em out.  If it’s just some other expat prick leaving you scratching your head – dealbreaker.  Move the fuck along.


Tough Memories

Is dating shitty guys all part of Saturn Return?  Looking back on Taipei and Tokyo suuuuuucks.  I remember the amazing moments we shared and the distances we traveled together.  I try to see the silver lining in it all, but it’s not easy especially when I’m pinpointing the exact moments in Tokyo when he was texting his…less than reputable woman.  The best I can do is reflect on the good times and, instead of looking for negatives, think of learning opportunities for the future.  I got to feel the bliss of romance in Taiwan and Japan.  That’s pretty rad.


A decent person will respond when txted, messaged, or called.  Don’t give out your phone number if you have no intention of ever seeing the person again.  If you’ve had interactions you don’t want to continue, find a nice way to tell the person.  It’s one thing to have a friendship or dating situation fizzle out, but hiding behind technology is so cowardly.

No Fucks Left

Guys, I’m 30.  I’m exhausted.  This isn’t my first rodeo.  If you’re a flakey friend or a douchey date I’m over it.  I have zero fucks (red, blue or otherwise) left to give.  Sorry if that offends you, but I’m just outta chances to hand out.

  • If he’s not giving me what I need, I should just move on.
  • I’m not going to change him.  If he wants to become a better version of himself he will.  If I can help…great!
  • Change yourself for yourself.  Never change for him.



On the Subject of Impact

Sometimes it’s hard to be a lifestyle blogger with a major focus on dating.  The impact of constantly trying to put myself out there has definitely taken a toll.  Of course I believe in love and want to find the right companion…for me.  The whole idea that I have to work on myself by myself is a little ridiculous, in my opinion.  My gal pals keep telling me to stay single and work on myself.  I think that’s a load of hooey.  I’m definitely a more organized and productive person when in a relationship.  I’m a busy person and I really have to carve out time to spend it with the people I like.  “Love yourself first” is an over-used phrase.  I love myself just fine, thank-you very much.  Why is it that the last three men who have tossed those three little words my way suddenly run in the opposite direction when I finally return their affection and say them back?  I say “I love you” to my friends constantly.  There are plenty of poetic ways to speak and show your affection.  By the time I return home I’ll have no partner and no job.  Will I have prospects?  Who knows…but it’s terrifying to look into the unknown.  Hopefully “terrifying” will be spun as “exhilirating” sometime soon.

Most People Are Cunts

This, ladies and gentlemen, is truer than true.  While there are some great, salt of the Earth human beings out there, most people are only looking out for #1.  I’ve seen countless men and women be treated like absolute shit because they’re just an option and not a priority.  So much time is wasted because people are shitty to people.  We like to hurt one-another.  Plus, let’s talk bloggers.  I’ve encountered some amazing, supportive women in Korea.  Most people think that expat/ travel/ beauty/ foodie bloggers are all in competition.  That’s not true at all.  If you look through any of my posts here or on The Toronto Seoulcialite you’ll find I try to take any opportunity to link to the supporters in the community.  That said, there are some real assholes around.  I don’t know how I’ve been unable to identify the patterns.  I want to give everyone a fair chance, but it’s exhausting when people want a piece of you for a free hotel stay or meal.  Boys and girls, there’s no such thing as a free meal.  If I’m working in contra with a brand there’s a multi-faceted marketing plan to go along with a post.  You don’t just get to share 1 sly pic on instagram and live a life of luxury.  There’s plenty of work to share around.  Stop being cunts and just support one-another, dammit.


The Internet

Can people on the internet just stop and realise that bloggers are people too?  The number of degrading comments and threats I’ve received for discussing fluffed up dating scenarios is insane.  You can’t take anything some angry troll with a firewall security blanket says seriously.  This one is still something with which I struggle, as these people know exactly who I am (and often where to find me), but they’re safely behind fake profiles with stolen profile pictures (or none at all).  I love to get helpful suggestions from readers.  They’re few and far between, so if you’ve got something then please go ahead and e-mail me or leave it in the comments.  Recently a faceless Korean instagrammer told me to start YouTube as my lengthy posts aren’t always the easiest to understand.  That was a great suggestion!  Telling me to go back to Canada because I’m clearly someone who couldn’t get a job back home?  Not so helpful.  Ps. I was the Director of Sales and Marketing for a group of companies back in Toronto.  I took a major pay cut to come to Korea and don’t regret it for a second.

Stand Out

In the Apgujeong area of Seoul, Korea, there are so many versions of the same face it’s scary.  I don’t want to look like anyone else.  I want to feel authentic.  I don’t, however, need to have my natural hair colour or bags under my eyes to feel authentic.  If someone is telling me I look tired and should ‘take a rest’, maybe I am tired and should slow down.  Having blonde hair in Korea constantly means I stand out.  Will I keep it back in Canada?  Who knows!  I definitely feel more like myself as a blonde (having gone back to the dark side earlier this year).  I enjoy the liberties Koreans take with style.  Some of the conventions are a little weird (the shortest skirts, most conservative tops, and most heinous shoes).  I hope I can feel free enough to stand out with my own personal style when I go back to Toronto.



Those Who Matter Don’t Mind

I don’t think in 30 years I’ve had a birthday as amazing as this one.  The most important people showed up and completely showered me with love (and food – the true way to my heart and Seoul).  Having all of those people in one room was overwhelming, hysterical, and incredibly fun.  I’m amazed and humbled that I can be the brassy, unapologetically honest, wild, and sensitive person I am with the people I have met in Korea.  We’re never gunna survive unless we get a little crazy, but I know mine can be a lot to handle.  Thank you for showing me all kinds of crazy love.  My Saturn Return feels like a positive renaissance.  Here’s to the next 30.  Peace out, Saturn.

The post Saturn Return-ing 30 in Korea appeared first on That Girl Cartier.

The North Korea Travel Ban is Probably a Good Idea at this point

Sun, 2017-08-06 08:16

This is a repost of an essay I wrote for the Lowy Institute recently on the travel ban preventing Americans from going to North Korea as of September 1 this year. The picture is the US State Department mailer to this effect from a few days ago on my iPhone.

Basically my argument is that the ban is a good idea at this point given how many foreigners Kim Jong Un seems to be snatching during his reign. The numbers have gone up, and although I went to North Korea as a tourist myself and have recommended it in the past, I no longer do so, especially for Americans. It’s just way too dangerous now.

Otto Warmbier’s death is the last straw, as I figure it was for Tillerson. At the time of his death, I thought a travel ban might well be the next step. I still find it curious that Kim Jong Un did not let Warmbier leave earlier. The tourist trade brings in needed dollars, and Pyongyang is already complaining about the US halt. They easily could have let him go when he fell into a coma and then just pretextually snatched the next idiot US tourist who drank too much to replace Warmbier. But they held onto him to the point where they’re responsible for his death. Pointless. Just shows once again how awful North Korea really is.

My full essay on the travel ban follows the jump:

Beginning in August, US citizens will no longer be allowed to travel to North Korea. The death of Otto Warmbier appears to have been the final straw. Warmbier was a young American tourist arrested after a drunken prank in North Korea in 2016. Imprisoned, he received ‘medical care,’ likely from a hack doctor, given that high-quality care in North Korea is rationed for elites. He fell into a coma, was returned to the US this spring, and died shortly thereafter. Naturally, North Korea accepted no blame for this young man’s pointless death.

Once again, North Korea demonstrated its breezy disregard for global norms. Warmbier was an apolitical youngster in far over his head, clearing not attempting to ‘bring down the state’ as he was charged. It is transparently obvious that he was picked up to use as a bargaining chip. It is widely assumed that US citizens arrested by North Korea are only returned after some backroom deal is made. Presumably that was the intent with Warmbier as well. That even his life-threatening health crisis did not move the regime to release him until too late is likely the cause for Rex Tillerson’s State Department to finally push through the ban.

The notion of a North Korean travel ban has lurked on the fringes of the analyst community debate for a long time. The increasing taking of US hostages under the Kim Jong Un regime had revived the policy idea, while Warmbier’s unprecedented death – no other American tourist-cum-hostage has died from North Korean custody – suddenly elevated it. Kim’s predecessor and father, Kim Jong Il, took the occasional hostage but likely saw the tourist trade as valuable source of income. Under Jong Il, the military’s position in the economy was elevated, and North Korea’s economy unsurprisingly contracted, including a famine that killed nearly 10% of the population. In that environment, every dollar counted. Jong Un though has explicitly focused on economic growth, and it seems to be working. Hence, he may feel freer to take hostages as political bargaining chips as their relative economic value shrinks.

It is difficult to know how much the tourist trade nets North Korea. The regime provides no statistics of course. My back-of-the-envelope math suggests North Korea will lose about five millions dollars from the US ban. I travelled to North Korea in 2012. I went through the largest of the tour companies, Koryo Tours. (Warmbier went through Yong Pioneer Tours.) I spent approximately $5,000 on a standard, mid-range ten-day tour. Roughly 1,000 Americans go to North Korea each year. Hence my guesstimate of five million USD lost.

For perspective, North Korea’s economy is approximately 35 billion dollars, and it raised annually around $80 million dollars from the now-closed, North-South joint industrial park at Kaesong. So that five million is not large. But North Korea has repeatedly sought the re-opening of Kaesong, and the loss of tourism income, both from banned Americans and others now frightened off from visiting, does have two impacts:

First, North Korea exports almost nothing (legally). So hard currency is in great demand to fund the imports of luxury goods and foreign technologies for the nuclear and missile programs. It is widely thought that the Kims keep the loyalty of their retainers by showering them with gifts like foreign cars, HDTVs, top-shelf alcohol, and possibly narcotics. Dollars are needed for this and to participate in global WMD black market. It is curious that Kim simply did not let Warmbier leave. It would have been easy to do, and he could easily have been replaced by another tourist later. Instead, Kim lost an easy source of US dollars.

Second, legal western currency, even in small amounts, has a multiplier effect. Legal tender allows North Korea to wash revenue from its (presumably) much larger currency-raising operations of illegal activities. Chinese banks, where North Korea likely parks its money, are coming under greater scrutiny as the sanctions debate turns increasingly toward financial restrictions. Legal monies from tourism and Kaesong were a nice way to deflect that pressure. Indeed, conservatives in the US and South Korea long argued to stop tourism and inter-Korean projects – for which North Korea always insists on payment – for precisely this reason. It is again curious that Kim did not simply make the minor concession of releasing Warmbier.

Given Warmbier’s death and Kim’s zeal for US hostage-taking, the ban is probably a good idea at this point. When I went, it was still pretty safe. But I have not counseled anyone to go in years given the up-tick in snatchings. The ban does violate the basic right of freedom of movement. The US rarely bans travel; even the Cuba restrictions are fading. But it has become quite obvious that Kim is happy to use in-country foreigners as hostages; he did the same with Malaysians a few months ago. The ban is also a way to punish North Korea at a time when we are genuinely at a loss for how to retaliate against it for its many regular provocations. President Trump’s impulse is to strike North Korea, but he cannot, and yet more sanctions seems (but is not) stale and redundant. So this is at least a mild, and justified, counter-punch.

But it does come with a loss. American tourism into North Korea was the last, only way for regular, non-elite Americans and North Koreans to interact. Yes, it was all highly staged. Yes, it was perverted for ideological purposes by the regime. But there still was some people-to-people contact removed from the high politics of distrustful elites. North Koreans in stores, at parks, on the street, and so on could see, at least a little bit, regular Americans in the twenties and thirties talking, laughing, asking to buy lunch or find a bathroom like everyone else in the world. And vice versa. It was not much, but at least it was something to humanize the other side. However necessary the ban is, it is too bad that that is all over.

Filed under: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Korea (North), Lowy Institute, United States