Tonight my family and I ventured out in the cold to see the Christmas scenes in Seoul. The central district of Seoul, Jongno-gu, forms a large triangle. To the south lies Seoul City Hall. To the northeast sits Insadong Market, and to the northwest, Gyeongbok Palace forms the apex of the triangle. Cheonggyecheon Stream, recently unearthed and developed into a city park, bisects this triangle. The area between Cheonggyecheon Stream to the north and Seoul City Hall to the south is the Myeongdong Shopping District. This small section of Seoul is brilliantly lit with thousands of Christmas lights and sprinkled with Christmas scenes. It’s quite a beautiful site to behold. I posted some of the best photos, Dear Reader, to give you a glimpse of the gorgeous Christmas scenes you can see in downtown Seoul.
The morning dawned with a dusting of snow. The temperature today was cold but not frigid. By nightfall however, the temperature dropped considerably and the wind picked up. It was extremely cold outside! Korea is not as cold as Siberia, but it was still bone chilling. We braved the cold and started our evening in Namdaemun Market, where we shopped for Christmas toys. The market was festive with myriad colorful lights strung above our heads and small shops converted into makeshift Christmas stores. Don’t let the photos fool you, though. It was far cold than the evening appears in the photos I posted. It must have been miserable for the Namdaemun Market vendors who stayed out in the cold, trying to earn a few thousand extra won from cold passersby.
Following our trip to the market, we took a taxi to Cheonggyecheon Stream and walked along the stream for a couple of blocks, snapping photos amidst a crowd of amateur photographers. After that, we took our son to a coffee shop and stayed there for awhile, drinking hot cocoa and sharing a pastry. We ended our journey at Seoul City Hall, taking a few final photos of the large Christmas tree and snowflake castle displays beside the City Hall ice rink. Although we were freezing, the Christmas scenes in downtown Seoul made the trip worthwhile. Our son was a trooper for braving the cold with us. He thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Every so often, we asked him, "Are you cold?" to which he answered, "Nope. It’s cold outside."
Blog Notes: Well, the uncertainty about Dr. Hwang’s fate lasted just one day after I mentioned his case. Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk resigned today from his professorship at Seoul National University after the school found that his team faked nine of 11 samples used to support his 2005 Science paper. What will happen with his World Stem Cell Club is still uncertain. However, the Korean Government is likely to take action, perhaps recouping some of the $39 million it invested into Dr. Hwang’s research. Dr. Hwang’s previous work, including the cloning of human embryo cells and of a dog, are still under investigation.
On a happier note, I was in our cafeteria today and saw workers preparing for the reopening of our cafeteria. The previous cafeteria vendor shuttered operations in early March 2005. On January 6, 2006, the cafeteria will reopen. I am so excited! It’s been a long time coming. Also, the coffee vendor I mentioned a few weeks ago signed a one-year contract with our community association. We briefly had a scare when the vendor’s corporate parent demanded they invest thousands of dollars into the empty space. For a few days we thought we’d lost our new vendor. The corporate parent relented, and the vendor signed the contract this week. They will open their doors in late January. Now, if only our community association could just fix the roof! That project has been in work for almost a year. It will cost a bundle to fix the roof, so we’re taking a "go slow" approach to fixing it.