Monday, November 1, 2010

Trip to the USA

Well, today I am wrapping up my trip to the US. I won't spoil the upcoming posts, but a lot has happened and I am happier than ever. I took a ton of pictures which I will be posting soon, so keep checking back.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NK News: Jong-Un Warned to Not Touch Jong-Nam

Kim Jong-Nam (38)
People close to Kim Jong-Un have said recently that Jong-Un planned to attack his older brother Kim Jong-Nam, pictured here. Jong-Nam, known for his loose lips about his discontent with the current North Korean regime, was exiled to China in 2001 after trying to visit a Disney Land in Tokyo with a fake passport, indicating he was from the Dominican Republic. Sources close to Jong-nam said Jong-un's aides tried "to do something to Kim Jong-nam, who has a loose tongue abroad," but it seems China warned them not to lay a hand on him on Chinese soil. All of this comes after Jong-nam said Sunday that he is against hereditary rule in North Korea. He also actively refuses to return to North Korea.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Demilitarized Zone: An Unforgettable Silence

In July, I was invited to go on a tour of the Demilitarized Zone with a few co-workers. Ever since I attended the tour, I have been wanting to do an in-depth write up about my thoughts of the area and the history. My tour of the DMZ has stood out as one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life, so naturally I feel inclined to share it with the world. I'll start off with a little bit of history and then go into the tour and it's contents.

I've Heard of the DMZ, but what's the history behind it?
Map of the DMZ
The DMZ, demilitarized zone, is a buffer zone 2,000m on each side of the military demarcation line (MDL), totaling 4km from north to south. The MDL is the 'line' that cuts the ground portion of north and south Korea roughly in half at the 38th parallel. It runs 248km from east to west and, along with the Northern Limit Line (NLL), are used as the center-point of ceasefire activities between the two nations. The NLL is the used to cut the sea portion of north and south in half, allowing for each country to have fishing grounds and lanes to their respective islands.

The DMZ was put into place in 1953, when North and South Korea, along with NATO, signed  the armistice agreement. The DMZ was used to push back each side's troops 2,000m on either side of the DMZ to prevent aggression and outbreaks of violence. The MDL pinpoints the exact line where the two fronts were separated. Behind the 2,000m buffer, both North and South house a large number of troops, estimated at over two million troops on the North and two hundred and fifty thousand on the South side. Throughout the many years the DMZ has been in-place, there have been numerous acts of aggression, mainly from the Northern side. You can find a list of these on the DMZ Wikipedia Page.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Couple of Videos from the DMZ

Nothing too major. I'm working on a big write up about the DMZ, which I should have out tomorrow. Until then, enjoy!

Friday, October 1, 2010


Today, I am officially promoted to Air Force rank E-5, known as Staff Sergeant. This is a big day for me. It marks the day that I inherit new responsibility as a supervisor of airmen. It's kind of like I am taking a role fit for an adult (finally). It was six years in the making, but I've finally done it. Finally, I can have some bragging rights over my brother who left the military as an E-4. Great success!

Air Force Staff Sergeant

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Korean Food Vol. 2 - Soup!

Korean soup...great for any meal!
Today, we are going to be looking at the backbone of any Korean meal: soup and stews! Koreans like to eat soups or a stew with just about every meal and these dishes vary greatly in ingredients and taste. I want to cover some of my favorite dishes and share some of the varieties of food offered in most Korean eateries. I will rate each dish on availability (1 being nowhere, 5 being everywhere), cost, taste (1 being terrible, 10 being amazing), and spicy-ness (1 being not spicy, 5 being spicy as hell).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Travel Photos

So, I finally got around to uploading all of my photos to Picasa. Check the link above labeled 'Photo Albums' for links to the individual collections. Please ask for my permission if you intend to use my images.

NK News: Kim Jong-Un Promoted

Party members heading to the meeting
Kim Jong-Un (김정은), the son of Kim Jong-Il (김정일), was promoted this week to the military rank of General, 4 stars. This is the highest possible rank attainable within the military. On top of his promotion, he was also appointed delegate to the party Congress, which all but solidifies his status as heir to his father's throne. This has been forecast for some time now by all the major news outlets in South Korea and Japan. The grand meeting of Congress has produced no other real announcements outside of the promotion of Kim Jong-Un. According to news outlets, party leaders stressed the two ideals of Juche (self reliance) and Songun (military first) that have been the back bone of North Korean society since Kim Il-Sun was in charge.

These kinds of times are worry-some to me. I am worried about the transition of power once Kim Jong-Il passes on. They way I see it, one of two things can happen: Kim Jong-Un takes power smoothly or, because of his age and inexperience, someone attempts to seize power, throwing the already unstable country into calamity. Even if power does pass smoothly to the new heir, depending on how he wants to play with the rest of the world, he will have to prove himself to the international community. His father did this through acts of violence and aggression. I sincerely hope Jong-Un will not try to ostracize himself like his father did.

Even though I am an outsider looking in, the situation between North and South is heartbreaking. Korea has suffered through so much adversity in the past, and to see the country permanently ripped into two would be unfortunate. Families and friends forever separated, hatred for those not unlike yourself, and worst of all, the atrocities suffered by the Northerners. I suppose it's hard to know much outside of your world when your rulers will never let you experience it. I hope that one day the two Korea's can successfully reunite under a common banner of peace and prosperity.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Birthday and the Great Baekje World Festival

So, on Sunday September 26th, I happened to advance one year in age, progressing into the 24th season of my life. There was not much fanfare to be had, as I don't really have that many friends out here in Korea. One funny thing about birthdays is, since the advent of social networking, hearing from the "once-a-year" people who always check in to say "Happy Birthday!", and then go silent for another year. But I digress. I ended up celebrating my birthday on Saturday with Yumi, traveling two hours to use the tickets she bought me for my birthday. The tickets were for the Great Baekje World Festival 2010, which I had no clue about. I didn't even know where or what Baekje was until we went on Saturday.

Military procession at the Great Baekje World Festival

Chuseok (추석) and Baekryeong-Do (백령도)

Last week brought with it the largest annual Korean holiday known as Chuseok (추석), celebrated from the 21st to the 23rd. Chuseok can roughly be translated to a Korean Thanksgiving. More accurately, it is the autumn solstice according to the lunar calendar. Either way, Chuseok is a time when Koreans leave the city to return to their hometowns and be with family. It is a season of giving and celebration. Elaborate meals are usually involved, along with paying respect for lost, but never forgotten, family members. Koreans place a large amount of respect on the dead, which is something I think we have lost in our society.

My Chuseok consisted of a trip with Yumi to her hometown of Yeongju (영주). We spent the weekend prior to Chuseok with her parents, where I was honored to take part in her family's celebrations. Her father invited me along with the other males in the family to clean up the grave sites of their parents. We spent a few hours in the rain clearing brush, cutting grass, and performing traditional Buddhist prayers at the hills. A note on Korean grave sites: Unlike America, Koreans bury their dead "sitting upright", so their grave sites look like mounds of grass and dirt. They also bury their dead on mountainsides, and the higher up, the more respect the person was given.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blog 1: Who am I?

So, since I started this blog, I haven't really updated much with information outside of what you see in the videos. I want that to change. I feel like I have time to update more often and I feel that what I am going through may, in some ways, help others who come to Korea for work or pleasure. So, here's the first official entry into my written blog.

Who am I?

Basic question, right? Who am I? Why am I writing this?

Basic answers. My name is Corey and I'm 23 years old. I live in Seoul, Korea by way of Toledo, Ohio in the USA. I have worked in the field of telecommunications in the United States Air Force for 6+ years now and hold an AS in electronic systems. I am working towards my BA in Information Systems, but I haven't had much time for classes lately. I will be leaving the military in November 2011 for greener pastures (AKA college and a future). I was single when I came to Korea in November 2009, but have since become serious with my fiancé and decided to marry. I am currently learning Korean in my spare time, but have run into trouble staying focused with it.

I am writing this blog for a few reasons. First off, I am trying to kill boredom. This is key where I come from. I don't really have any hobbies other than playing video games, so this helps kill time. Secondly, the information I have may be beneficial to someone else. I have found it hard to dig up information about living in Korea and going through the military hoops that come with this territory. Thirdly, it gives my friends and family something to read to check up on how I am doing. I am terrible at communicating with people, so hopefully this will help bridge that gap.

Beyond that, this is me on paper as far as I'm concerned. These posts will be uncensored and probably poorly worded, but that's who I am. Feel free to drop me a line, leave a comment, and check out the links. Thanks for reading!

Korea Vlog 5: Day Trippin'

Once again, Yumi and I travel to some crazy place 4 hours away. Only this time, I remembered to bring my camera! This trip had a few different things involved. First, we hopped on a KTX train and spent two and a half hours travelling to a remote city on the west coast. We proceeded to hop on a bus and head towards our next destination. We visited a beach on the west coast of Korea in a small cape town called Ilpo (일포). After spending an hour there, we hopped back on the bus and travelled to Boseong (보성) to visit the green tea plantation. It was pretty cool, but the weather was unforgiving. After that, we returned to the bus and travelled some more until we came to our final destination: a railbike tour of a small Korean town. I don't remember the city, but I know I had fun! Rate, comment, and subscribe!

Korea Vlog 4: Seoul Tower (남산)

Yumi and I travelled to Namsan Tower a while back and I shot some video of a cool laser light show they did hourly. Enjoy! Rate, comment, subscribe!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Korea Vlog 3: COEX Aquarium

I took some video of an in-mall aquarium, located inside the famous COEX mall in Samseung-do, Seoul. The aquarium turned out to be a hell of a lot more impressive than it looked from the outside. Watch and enjoy. Don't forget to rate, comment, and subscribe for more Korean travel videos.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Korea Vlog 2: Buseoksa Temple (부석사)

Second video in the series. This one covers my trip to Yeongju city (영주시), in particular my day at Buseoksa temple (부석사). Rate, comment, subscribe!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Korea Vlog 1: Love Motel in Taegu

So, we travelled to Daegu (대구) for a job and ended up having to stay the night. A friend of mine recommended we try staying in a "love motel", called that because Koreans tend to take prostitutes to them due to their cheap cost and tacky decorations. I paid 45,000W for my room, which came with a big screen TV, a computer, a fridge, coffee, condoms, plush couches, and leopard print pillows. In my book, that's a damn good deal.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Korean Food Vol. 1

Typical Korean meal setup

So you have never had Korean food, right? Maybe you have heard stories of the infamous kimchi, or heard rumors about dogs for dinner. I'll help you by dispelling some myths about Korean food and perhaps preparing you for what you can expect when eating the native cuisine here. I'll even try to help with table manners and how to eat the food properly.

Things You Need to Know

Korean food is usually crazy spicy: Imagine southern food taken to the next level. It is seen as an accomplishment for restaurants to make the hottest food.

Koreans eat a lot of plants and vegetables: They eat leaves, random plants, soybeans, radish, and just about anything else that grows in the ground. Key tip: most of it is delicious.

Koreans cook food on their tables: When going to a restaurant that serves any type of meat, just know that they will bring you a hotplate and mini-burner to cook the meat on.

Meals usually have multiple dishes to "play" with: The usual Korean meal will look like the picture above, where you have a lot of different dishes to deal with. Don't be overwhelmed and just keep this one tip in mind: There is no wrong way or combination when it comes to eating these. Simply partake and enjoy.

Korean meat dishes consist mainly of pork, beef, chicken, dog, or squid: Just keep in mind that squid is very popular out here. Dog is not as popular, but can often be seen as a substitute for some meats if a store is running low.

Ramen is a separate food group here: Ramen is split into two groups here: spicy (normally "shin ramen", 신라면) or not spicy (usually "jjajang ramen", 짜장면). Spicy is obviously a red color, where non spicy jjajangmyun is a thick black color. Koreans pronounce the word 'ramen' as 'ramyun', due to spelling differences.
Kimchi Ramyun

I'll post some more tips along with recommended foods in my next volume of Korean Food.

COEX Mall and Aquarium

Seoul has an amazing amount of malls, shopping districts, and traditional outdoor shopping areas. Today, I'd like to introduce you to one of the malls I visited when I first got to Korea back in November. It's a fairly large mall known as the COEX. By fairly large, I mean three floors, one of which is underground, and hundreds of shops, food places, arcades, and book stores. There is even a nice size zoo/aquarium inside the main building. For someone like me who is from a not-so-large city, a mall of this magnitude was nothing short of overwhelming.

I happened to go in the middle of what seemed to be a flower festival. There were flowers arranged in decorative displays, so I assumed it was a holiday of sorts. I entered the COEX through the main entrance, which leads into the display area. Various schools, associations, and businesses set up kiosks to display their products and/or services. The first and second floor of the COEX mainly consist of display areas, with a few large restaurants mixed in. The main shopping area of the COEX is in the basement, which is also attached to the Samseong subway station and two hotels. Stores in the basement range in variety from small Korean shops to brand name outlets including Adidas, Nike, American Eagle, and many others. The food court within the COEX is massive. There is everything from Chinese food, to Mediterranean, to American. You name it, they got it. Not to mention, there are probably 20+ coffee shops and a ton of restaurants randomly in the COEX, including a TGI Fridays. There is a full service movie theatre attached to the COEX as well.

The most impressive part of the COEX is the aquarium within. I really should call it a zoo, though, because there were other animals besides aquatic ones inside. The aquarium looks tiny from the outside, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised with how massive it actually is. The entrance fee is 15,000W, which is about $13.50 depending on the exchange rate. For that price, this exhibit is absolutely worth it. Take a few hours to check things out, snap photos, and just have a good time.

Getting to the COEX is fairly easy, whether you take the subway, a taxi, or the bus lines.
  • Subway: Depending on your location, you need to find the nearest transfer station for line 2, the green line (or inner-city line as they call it). Head towards the Samseong station, which is where you will exit. Exit #6 will lead straight into the COEX mall.
  • Bus: Depending on your location, you want to make your way to Samseong subway station. This can involve many transfers depending on your location, so I would recommend the subway instead. You can use this site to find a direct bus route to the COEX.
  • Taxi: Unless you know Korean or have a friend that can translate for you, I would not recommend a taxi trip. Some taxis do offer service to English speakers, but are few and far between.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What is this blog?

If you have stumbled upon this blog, chances are you have some sort of curiousity about Korea and what it's like to be a foreigner here. Let me start of by introducing myself. My name is Corey and I live in Korea. In particular, I live in Seoul (the capital). I am 23 years old and currently serving my time in the US Air Force. From this date, I have another year and eight months left in Korea. Why am I blogging about my time here? Mainly because I knew nothing and could find hardly anything about being a foreigner here in Korea. Most of the info I found was written by teachers who are here for only a year or two and couldn't provide much info. I want to share my experiences and challenges here and hopefully someone can get some use out of it.

A little more about me. I love culture, history, and languages. For all three of these things, Korea satisfies me immensly. Over 5,000 years worth of history, a truly unique culture, and an intelligently designed language...what more could a culture nut ask for? I am currently dating a Korean girl by the name of Yumi who will be helping me write some of these posts. In particular, she will help with basic Korean lessons and my food blogs.

Alright, enough introduction. Posts will come soon and as often as I can remember. See you on the battlefield!