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Archive for the 'Travels in Korea' Category

10 Reasons to visit South Korea

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Click here to discover 30 travel phrases you should know!

For many Korean learners, traveling to South Korea is the main source of motivation.
So, why not give you some other motivations for going to this country? Here our 10 reasons why you should visit South Korea!

1. Eat authentic Korean Barbecue

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2. The cafe culture

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Cafes and little bakeries are everywhere in South Korea. They are meeting spots and people will stay there over coffee for hours before going elsewhere. The themed cafes are not to be missed as well!

3. Cherry Blossoms

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Just like its neighboring country Japan, Korea is also a country with natural beauty during the spring. There are many cherry festivals where you can enjoy strolling around and looking at the cherry trees.

4. Go shopping

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Korea’s got all these trendy stores that don’t exist in the United States, and its young people care a lot about fashion. The big department stores like Lotte and Hyundai are great for exploring, and the markets like Namdaemun and Dongdaemun are also must-visits.

5. A land of beauty

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According to Asian standards, Korea has the most handsome guys and most beautiful ladies. And Korean beauty is not limited to famous actors and actresses!

6. Get tropical in Jeju

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Jeju is a tropical island off the Southern Coast of the Korean Peninsula. It is known as the “Hawaii of Korea,” as it shares many of the same features such as a warm climate, beautiful beaches and tropical mountains.

7. Cultural heritage

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South Korea is a land with a long history. It is home to eleven UNESCO World Heritage sites. It has lots of palaces which are so big that you just have to discover what is hiding inside.

8. Great nightlife

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In Seoul in particular, whether you like to kick back and enjoy a beer with some friends, or dance at a nightclub, the city has something for you. Seoul is a city that may shine even brighter at night than during the daytime. Gangnam and Hongdae are very popular nightlife areas that are worth seeing.

9. The subway

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The stations are also clean and easy to navigate; both the stations and trains have high-speed WiFi that doesn’t stop working even when everybody is using their phone. Some subway stations have big markets that are worth exploring for the cheap clothes and atmosphere too.

10. It’s K-Pop’s country-of-origin

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No matter you think, K-Pop has a significant impact on Asian teenagers. Whether they are girls or boys, everybody has their idols. And one last reason everybody knows K-Pop: Oppa Gangnam Style!

Click here to access the top 30 travels phrases lesson for FREE!

May is Family Month - Save 30%!

The Month of May in Korea is often called Family Month. There’s Children’s Day, Parent’s Day, and Teacher’s Day. Korea takes Mother’s Day to a whole different level! On these days you give your Children, Parents and Teachers gifts to show them how much you appreciate them. Children often benefit the most with candy and money being popular gifts. Teachers get quite a lot of gifts as well as they have many students and parents to receive gifts from. And that’s why the month of May is called Family month in Korea!

Well… did you learn something new about Korea?

If you did, you’ll be glad to know that you’ll learn cultural tidbits in every single lesson at KoreanClass101.com! In every lesson, not only will you learn Korean that will have you speaking Korean in minutes, you’ll also learn cultural tidbits that will amaze your Korean friends! With KoreanClass101.com, you get ALL of your Korean needs; including the language and culture (it’s company policy)!

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Seoul Metropolitan Subway: clean, punctual, and scary

 Subways in Korea.

The Seoul Metropolitan Subway is a thing of beauty. It’s quick, efficient, and cheap. The subway itself also divided into three separate but similar entities: Seoul Metro, Korail, and SMRT (Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit corporation). Where have I heard of SMRT before?
SMRT
Our diligent 현우 has posted a nice introduction to to Seoul’s subways in this forum post. Note the loudspeaker - each stop is announced in both English and Korean. It is very foreigner friendly in that regard. The air conditioning doesn’t hurt, either :)

1000 원 buys you up to 6 miles worth of track and 100 원 for every additional 3 miles. Not bad. Actually that’s more than not bad - that’s a great deal. Remember the post about the size of Korea? We’re not talking more than a little more than 230 square miles for the whole city with the majority of stops located nearby each other. So we’re talking a cheap ride no doubt. Buy a 10 dollar card and call it a day.

The card that I am referring to is non other than the T money card. These nifty little guys really make you feel like you’re paying for your subway ticket electronically…wait…well that’s exactly what they do. Okay so their novelty wears off quick. But not for me. In my case, I almost was so excited by the convenience of them that I was tempted to swipe them twice.

Hey what do you want from me? Texas has a lot of limestone so it’s not like they’re going to build any subways in the Lone Star State anytime soon so just let me swipe my card twice in peace.

Oh and T Money almost begs to be scanned twice - Seoul Metro gives you a 100원 discount if you use the card instead of a paper ticket. I especially like the T Money card’s tap n’ go way of paying. Just tap your wallet or purse on the magnetic reader located on thew top of the turnstile machine, wait for the beep, read your remaining balance, and you’re goo to go. Except I always end up losing my card or have another card already in my wallet that interferes with the subway card in the first place. But that’s just me.

Speaking of which, there are ticket booths available for paper ticket purchases, card refills, and for general directions. Not that you’ll need them - all signs are in English and Korean. But fear not - you will find Seoulites sometimes even checking the subway map prior to swiping their card. I also like how the ticket booth guys will let elderly people  and those who are down on their luck through a special entrance gate for no charge from time to time (like a rain-soaked, broke American who slaughters Korean pronunciation and who also just happen to have left his T Money card on the bench at the last stop where he got lost and frustrated but not frustrated enough to not buy two rolls of 김밥 and then wonder how much it would cost to buy some fruit from that lady but he couldn’t remember the word for the specific type of fruit she was selling so he just asked 과자 얼마예요? but then later realized that 과일 is fruit and 과자 is cookie so then he felt kind of validated when the vendor giggled at him).

But unfortunately, it’s not all bells and whistles for the operators of the trains. Several news articles and TV specials will make you wonder why don’t they raise the fee so as to support these hard-working employees.

As far as being punctual, I don’t have any numbers to support this claim but here goes anyway: Seoul’s subway is the best subway in the whole universe and way better than anyone else’s subway. Bam.

Now as far as the scary aspect - let me explain. Drinking and driving isn’t as big of a concern in Korea compared to America. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that Korea has safer streets - because they don’t. But as far as traveling to and from the bar, the majority of people use public transportation be it bus, taxi, or subway. So, the scary aspect isn’t the same as someone stalking you - it’s more like a creepy drunk person within arms length of you. I mean, drunk people got to get home somehow, you know?

Although it can get cramped as all get out, there are several times when it’s also creepily empty at times. Either way, all things considered, it is clean and quite useful. Foreigners need not fear the subway - it’s well-lit, heavily used, and moderately well-maintained with minimal breakdowns.
The Green Line Mile
Now, subway social culture - who should stand and who should sit - that’s a whole nother can of worms.

Thoughts?

Business or pleasure? (Korean visa regulations)

Visa regulations.

Ever changing and always with controversy it seems.

I should point out that to apply for a visa to go to Korea, one must go through their local Korean consulate. The three most common reasons to visit Korea are for traveling (tourist), teaching (English), and business (international). For this blog entry, we will focus on the first one. Next week will focus on the E-2 teaching visa. Visa application information changes somewhat frequently so it’s important to check with official online resources prior to making plans. This post is intended to provide an overview from a strikingly handsome American citizen’s point of view.
Below is a breakdown of the tourist (C-3 90-day) visa. Information was pulled from the Houston Consulate.

Visitors Visa [C-3]

    If you are a US citizen and are a tourist staying in Korea for less than 30 days no visa is required.

    If you are a US citizen and are applying for a visa to stay up to 90 days for tourism, visiting friends and/or relatives, goodwill match, events,conference, cultural art, training, religious ceremony or academic data-gathering you need to submit the following documents:

  1. A signed US passport with remaining validity of at least 6 months and one blank visa page.
  2. A completed and signed Application for visa 
  3. A recent passport color photo (2″x2″ ) attached on the application form
  4. $45.00 Visa Processing Fee. All fees can be paid by Cash or Money Order.  All Money Orders should be made payable to The Korean Consulate.
  5. If you are applying by mail you will have to include a prepaid postage return envelope (USPS Express mail, Fedex or similar kind of overnight mail) with complete address for the passport to be returned.
  6. If you are applying for tourism or visiting friends and/or relatives - A Flight itinerary or a copy of Round-trip Airline ticket lf you are applying for goodwill match, events, conference, cultural art, training, religious, ceremony, academic data-gathering - Original Documents proving the purpose of entry
  • This office will not make copies, if you need original documents, please bring the original and one copy.
  • This office is not responsible for the loss of any documents including passports.

Below is an index pulled from the Korean consulate website that details the required documentation for certain types of visa. Bolded items are a bit more applicable to KC101 students.
Diplomats (A-1)

Officials (A-2)

Agreement (A-3)

Temporary News Coverage (C-1)

Short-Term Business (C-2)

Short-Term Visitors (C-3) summer jobs, short-term Korean classes, extended travel

Culture/Art (D-1)

Students (D-2) full-time Korean university students

Industrial Trainees (D-3)

General Trainees (D-4)

Residence Reporters (D-5)

Religious workers (D-6)

Intracompany Transferees (D-7)

Treaty Investors (D-8 )

Treaty Traders (D-9)

Professors (E-1)

Teaching Foreign Languages (E-2) common teacher visa, position tied to visa

Research (E-3)

Instruction of Technology (E-4)

Specialty Occupation (E-5)

Art and Entertainment (E-6)

Particular Occupation (E-7)

Training Employment (E-8 )

Visiting& Joining Family(F-1) 

Residence(F-2-1) if spouse is Korean citizen

Dependent Families(F-3)

Korean Residents Abroad (F-4) for Korean decedents and adoptees

Permanent Residence (F-5-9) must be in Korea 5 years or hold F-2-1 for 2 years

UPDATE 1/09: More on student study visas.
Essentially, so long as you go to Korea for less than 30 days (the vast majority of tourist agendas) you’re fine. You won’t need any special visa, but you will need a valid passport and a return ticket (proof of round trip ticket or e-ticket is generally acceptable). But get ready for a seriously long flight. Mine was fourteen hours with no leg room.

I should point out that recently a big change in Korean visa regulations has occurred. Starting in late November, South Korean citizens can visit the United States for up to 90 days without any special visa requirements. Some are grumbling at the possible influx of illegal immigrants with fake passports; however, a new electronic passport system will also now be in place which will most likely curb such practices. Either way, this new law will encourage international exchanges within the two countries and speed up the other “for real” visa process for the rest of us. It also will save South Koreans the $110 visa application fee that they were previously required to pay. Below is a graphic organizer that shows the new step-by-step process for Korean citizens. The new application can be completed as soon as 72 hours prior to departure.

Step-By-Step

What are visa applications like for Korea in your home country (other than USA)? Anyone been to Korea with any special visa considerations?

Here’s a nice little international visa chart taken from everyone’s favorite punchline tourism campaign: Korea Sparkling. The first chart is for citizens who can travel to Korea visa-free while the second chart is for those citizens who can apply for a visa

Visa Exceptions

Woah there Canada, 180 days? No fair.

Thoughts?

King’s Wedding in 경복궁(Gyeongbok Palace)

Hi, 현우 here.

Did you all have a nice weekend?
모두 주말 잘 보내셨어요?

I went to 경복궁 (Gyeongbok Palace)  with Michael, also a listener to KoreanClass101, who was with visiting from New Zealand for a few days before he starts studying in Korea next year, and also some other friends of mine.

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We went to 용산 in the morning to see what’s new at the electronics market and then went to 경복궁 where we were supposed to meet up with my other friends. And we were REALLY lukcy - not only had the rain stopped just a few minutes before we entered the palace, but also this fantastic re-enactment of the wedding of 숙종임금 (King Sukjong: 1661 ~ 1720) and 인현왕후 (Queen Inhyeon: 1667 ~ 1701).

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And here’s the video!

(It might be better if you watched it in high quality by clicking on the video and clicking on the ‘high quality’ button.)
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Two funny facts - 1) even the cameramen are dressed in the traditional costumes. 2) look what they are using to balance the weight of the camera.

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Michael ↑

and me ↓

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And actually the first guard behind me was chewing gum!
And some of the food that we ate ↓
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(Clockwise from left-top: (1) 비빔밥 (2) 파전 (3) 불고기 정식 (4) 돌솥비빔밥)

제주도

안녕하세요. 현우예요. How was your week? I hope you had another exciting week!! ^^

Today I’d like to share a video that I took in the Summer when I was in Jejudo - Jeju Island/Province (제주도), the biggest island and the southern most province in Korea - a beautiful place! 정말 예쁜 곳이에요. It’s a very short video, but I hope it will help you feel refreshed a bit ^^!!

It might be better if you clicked on the video and watched it in high quality. :)
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

감사합니다.

Korea.net’s Promotion Event

안녕하세요. 현우예요.

There’s an interesting promotion event going on at http://korea.net - you can watch videos and participate in the quizes and puzzles, and if you win, you get some prizes ^^ Click [ HERE ] to go to the webs  page!

I can’t eat that… a vegan’s guide to Korean food (vegetarianism in Korea)

Vegetarianism.

If you are 1 in 5 billion people that are vegan (these are verifiable facts here, people), you must be:

1) Angry at something, or
2) Conscientious of something that doesn’t quite sit with you.

Either way, you have chosen a meat-free life that has almost exclusively alienated all of your closest friends and family. Great job! You will continue to live this lifestyle until you are a tired, old, cynical shell of a human being that is known more for vulgarity than eco-friendliness. Wow! I can’t wait to subject my own children one day to this Hollywood-esque lifestyle!

Hey, I’m okay with it. But many vegetarians react to their diet defensively almost like being accused of racism. “But I have lots of meat-eating friends!” Sure, that‘ll convince them that you don’t secretly hate them.

So, somewhere along 37°35′N and 127°’E, there lies a country where vegetarianism isn’t as strange as you might expect. Korean people are indeed eating more meat now, but there is a long-standing history of vegetarian cuisine. Granted, their reasons for a meat-free diet aren’t the same as most western vegetarians, but regardless, let’s go over some key phrases and more importantly, how exactly vegetarianism works for Koreans.

Korean Vegan Vegetarian Food Korea

I’m here to tell you that it blows my mind how Koreans look at the abstinence of meat or other animal products. In America, I simply have to tell someone “Oh, I’m a vegan” or “Oh, I don’t eat meat. No thank you”. Some people ask what exactly is a vegan, but most just take a moment to wrap their head around that idea. “…there goes the Whopper, the Big Mac…” but generally, most Americans understand the idea in general. Every so often, someone remarks “Well you can still eat quesadillas or fried eggs at least” In which case you can simply point out that for many vegetarians and all vegans, those foods are like Paris Hilton - you just don’t want to touch that. Some people get defensive (because come on, who wants to feel like a murderer of sweet little chickens?), others attempt to find common ground (”That’s cool - last year for lent I gave up hamburgers” ) while others are simply baffled (”Well, then what can you eat?”). But really, when you look at the psychology behind the responses, all of them indeed recognize the philosophical aspect - it becomes like a koan - an unanswerable question or riddle.

But with Koreans, it really doesn’t matter. You can tell the cook “채식주의자임니다” all day long and it really doesn’t mean anything. He will still give me 오징어 or some other 반찬 that clearly contains meat. I find it more useful to order food using a three-step process.

  1. say which food you want
  2. say what you don’t want in it
  3. then tell them you are a vegetarian.

This formula usually gives the person taking the order a logical process to absorb the reason. “He wants this, without this, because this”. I also like to add this little ditty in. “고기를 못먹어요” This means “I can’t eat meat” as opposed to the more commonly heard “고기를 안먹어요” “I don’t eat meat”. The latter phrase implies that you may or may not eat meat, but as for right now, you don’t want to eat meat.

Speaking of meat, the idea of vegetarianism encompasses a plethora of meat. This is generally understood to include bacon, pork, chicken, beef, fish, etc. In Korea, it’s not this way. You pretty much have to specifically say what you don’t want/can’t eat. All too many times I have told the 아저씨 that I am a vegetarian, I can’t eat meat, I can’t eat fish - and I STILL get a steaming hot bowl of 순두부찌개 with happy little 해산물 floating in it. From an American mindset it makes me think “What exactly did you think I was talking about it when I said no fish?” His response: “Shrimp isn’t fish. Clam isn’t fish”. He’s a sweet guy though so I don’t let it bother me. More than anything, I just feel embarrassed that he has to make another one. After all, I’m not there to get anyone mad or upset or preach my values - I just wanted some food.

Also, I would strongly recommend giving the 아주머니 or 아저씨 a little credit. Admit it, you have an accent. It might take them a while to understand you as it is. Also, you’re messing with their menu. Exceptions to dishes are not as common in Korea as it is in America. In America, we can order a cheeseburger with no lettuce, extra pickles, no sesame seed bun, and extra cooked and it not be a big deal. In Korea, it is slightly unusual to make changes to a menu item. They are likely used to people just saying “김밥 주세요” and that’s all. So try to order things that are already pretty close to being animal-free but need only a little tweaking.

Here’s a little formula to remember. (모모) 안먹어요. Replace (모모) with anything you don’t want in your stomach.

  • 고기 - beef
  • 해산물 - seafood
  • 물고기 - fish (also 생선)
  • 새우 - shrimp
  • 계란 - egg
  • 햄 - ham
  • 조개 - clam (also 대함)
  • 낙지 - octopus
  • 오징어 - squid

Keep in mind that many dishes are naturally vegan while others can be modified. Most 순두부찌개 comes with 해산물 (seafood) but as long as you point out to the server that you can’t eat 해산물, you can enjoy the spicy goodness that is 순두부찌개. Also, if you are unsure if a menu item has meat in it, you can ask “고기 있어요?” There is another phrase I use and has been met with huge success. “고기빼고 해 주세요” means “Leave out the meat”. Insert anything you don’t want in your food instead of meat and you have a perfectly good formulaic phrase! But keep in mind, it kind of depends on the food. This is appropriate if the restaurant makes its 짜장면 sauce separate from the beef topping. However, many places cook the beef in the black bean sauce in which case you should order something else.

The word 야채 (vegetables) is sometimes placed in front of something to indicate that it is devoid of animal products. I would like to remind you that not everyone considers 계란 (egg) an animal product. In which case, the 야채비빔밥 while likely still have a bright and smiling egg right on top to greet you. However, I am usually pleasantly surprised that 버섯 순두부 찌개 (mushroom tofu jjigae) oftentimes comes completely meat-free without any special requests. Score!

I leave you with a few suggestions. I hesitate to list some non-standard dishes because I don’t want to get anyone’s hope up. The following dishes are pretty common and well known.

  • 돌솥 야채 비빔밥 (or just simply 돌솥비빔밥 minus egg and beef)
  • 비빔 국수 (minus egg on top)
  • 비빔 냉면 (minus egg on top)
  • 떡뽂이 (careful here - usually there’s 오댕 mixed in - it’s your call)
  • 버섯 순두부 찌개 (or just 순두부찌개 minus seafood)
  • 김밥 (carefully poke out ham, crab, egg - these are usually pre-made so no special ordering here)
  • 김차 김밥 (minus the egg and you’re all set)
  • 매운고추김밥 (if you can stand the heat - one of my favorites!)
  • 쫄면 (minus egg on top - careful - quite spicy - but oh so delicious)
  • 빔치파전 (batter contains egg - not vegan friendly)
  • 된장 찌개 (minus seafood)
  • 김치 찌개 (varies - may contain pork, tuna, or other meats - just ask)
  • 야채 민두 (my veggie dumplings will rock your socks)
  • 의김치 (my personal favorite)

So maybe you don’t eat because of animal rights. Maybe you are trying to reduce your eco-footprint. Maybe you are trying to get closer to the source of energy in your foods - take on a more natural approach. Maybe you just want a lighter meal. Either way, it is 100% possible to live a vegan lifestyle in Korea. However, one must realize, though that you will be eating out less than your meat-eating friends. It’s just like in America. I don’t really eat out much; I go out to eat maybe twice a week. I most generally cook and eat at home. Although I must admit, I find it so much easier to eat vegan Korean food than I do vegan American food. Plus veggie Korean food is guaranteed hippie-free!  Bonus!

My advice? Grow tough skin, be confident, and dust your shoulders off if you get some uneatable food served to you. Always remain polite about your choice of foods and people will learn to respect your decisions instead of dread your patronage. I was a vegetarian/vegan for years and years and I always found a way. If nothing, I hope this guide will get you going in the right direction.
Thoughts?

Rainy Season in Korea

Right now Korea is having its rainy season. Although it might not be as intense as rainy seasons in some parts of the world, the rainy season in Korea can make you start hating rain to an extent (in my personal point of view, haha) - and it’s called 장마 (jang ma). This post is not so much about the 장마 itself because it isn’t THAT interesting. I just wanted to share a video with all of you who read the KClass Blog :)

Here’s a video I took on a bus from where I live (near 동대문) to 강남 (a major downtown area in Seoul) on my way to go meet a friend.  The bus goes over one of the many bridges that go over 한강 (Han River) which is about 1 km wide on average. After the bus goes over Han River and you’ll recognize some signs that have some words you must already know written on them :)

그럼, 비디오 재미있게 보세요!  (Well then, enjoy the video!)

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Secret Language

While I was helping teach at an elementary school, I noticed the kids said 멍미 a lot. I asked the English teachers and she said she didn’t know what it meant. I thought maybe I was pronouncing it wrong or something, but later one of the students I tutor said it too, he was in 6th grade and when I asked him what it meant, he said it was ’secret language’ and that it meant just “what?!” . I don’t exactly know what it translates to, because he used it often and sometimes I think saying “what” in some situations wouldn’t quite make sense. but while I was in 서울 he high school kids used what they called “secret language” too. I think it’s more like slang though. Some other words that I learned were the slang words for elementary student, middle school student and so on. they took the normal 초등학생 and turned it into just 초딩.It’s the same for all the others: 중딩, 고딩.I don’t know if 대딩 works but it seems like it should. My cousin used this word when describing his friend, who he said used 초딩말 which is like elementary school language or, like he talks like an elementary student. Does anyone else know any “secret language” words?