Korean Folk Village (with Photos)


This is an update of two blog posts I published in July 2005 about our first visit to the Korean Folk Village near Seoul, South Korea. Although other folk villages in Korea also showcase traditional Korean architecture and culture, this is the one most locals think of when they hear the term “Korean Folk Village.” The village is featured on my list of Top Ten Things to Do in Korea. This post combines the original two posts into one and includes photos. The original posts are here and here.

My family ventured July 15 to the Korean Folk Village in Yongin, an exurb of Seoul. Reputed to be one of the best daytrips out of the city, it lived up to its reputation. If you visit Seoul and only have time for one daytrip, this is a great place to go.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (1)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (2)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (3)

Opened in 1974, the village is the grandest of all the folk villages dotting South Korea. Although it was built as a tourist attraction, it’s fully functional. Many of the employees dressed up as peasants and in hanbok (traditional Korean dress) also live there. It’s an intriguing sight to see next to the modern high-rise apartment buildings that loom next to the village gates.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (4)

The route to the Korean Folk Village two hours south of Seoul is not well marked, and finding northbound Interstate 1 heading north is not easy.We missed the Giheung exit off Interstate 1 on our way to the village and ended up driving past it to Osan. We backtracked on an arterial road that paralleled the freeway.

By the time we arrived, we were so hungry that we stopped to eat at “Korea Restaurant” near the village gate. We thought that a restaurant with a lofty-sounding name representing the entire country had to have delicious food, but it turned out to be a cafeteria-style, massed-produced food operation with a limited selection and mediocre cuisine. All the restaurants near the entrance looked the same. At least the friendly help took a liking to our young son! If you visit, you’re better off making your way to the far end of the village and eating at the open-air village “Bazzar.” We eventually arrived at the “Bazzar” and saw some of the delicious foods sold there. Live and learn.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (5)

After lunch we went to “Seonangdang,” a religious shrine where one can pray to and solicit favors from the village’s guardian spirits. Koreans, like many peoples around the world, at one time carved ancestral totems out of wood. The ones in the village reminded me of the totem poles made by the Native Americans and First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest, although these totems were bit more free spirited (no pun intended). Korean totems can be whimsical and a bit chaotic with laughing, asymmetrical faces. They also follow the curvature of the wood and occasionally lean.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (6)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (7)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (8)

We walked to the ceramic village, where I bought my first kimchi pot (a ceramic jar used to make kimchi, not kimchi-flavored marijuana). As the national dish of Korea, kimchi is held in high regard in Korea. No meal would be complete without a side dish of spicy and sweet cabbage, radish, or cucumber kimchi. The Italian restaurant where my wife and I occasionally dine in Seoul serves sweet pickles as a substitute (western restaurants in Korea often serve sweet pickles in lieu of banchan, or side dishes).

I’ve wanted to buy a pot for quite some time because I thought they looked decorative. Mine is not too big, perhaps one gallon (two kiloliters). It’s not large enough to make enough kimchi to feed a family. To do that, you would need to buy at least a 20-gallon drum! Although I overpaid for the jar, I was happy to buy one from the shop where it was made. Knowing its source gave it character and an identity.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (9)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (10)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (11)

We made our way through the village and visited a replica of a typical traditional Korean peasant farm.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (12)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (13)

We stopped to watch two elderly women in hanbok making silk. I had never seen how it’s made. One woman boiled silkworm cocoons, killing the larvae, separating each from its cocoon and casting it aside, and helped another woman unravel silk from the cocoon. The second woman spun the raw silk thread around a spinning wheel. Watching them produce silk was fascinating. It’s amazing that such a manual, unglamorous process ends with the creation of one of the world’s most luxurious fabrics.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (15)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (14)

In an open area in the middle of the village, we came upon some traditional Korean games, the see-saw and arrow throwing. In a simulation of the ancient Korean game, some locals tried to throw three-foot long sticks into narrow jars. (Arrow throwing is akin to the western carnival game of throwing balls through holes on a backboard.) The Korean see-saws were thick planks of wood straddling sacks of hay. My son enjoyed giving it a try. Daddy put his foot on the plank and bounced him up and down. He laughed and held on for dear life as daddy rocked him. He then took over and did it himself.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (17)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (16)

Ready for a treat, we went to the “Bazzar” and stopped for ice cream. I loved the atmosphere of the open-air market filled with traditional buildings and workers dressed in peasant clothing. At that moment, contemporary Seoul seemed far away.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (18)

We left the “Bazzar” and crossed the Arch Stone Bridge, a picturesque structure straddling a gentle river flowing through the village.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (19)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (20)

We wandered along the far bank of the river through a group of farmhouses modeled after those found on Jeju Island made of volcanic rock. For the first time, my son saw farm animals that he knew well but had never seen before—rabbits, chickens, pigs, goats, and geese. His eyes lit up when he saw the real version of animals he had read about in books and saw as toys. He especially liked the rabbits. Unfortunately, the geese were unruly. We stood about ten feet from them until four decided to come after us. We backed away quickly and moved out of their territory. I wasn’t about to get bitten by a goose and end up getting rabies shots. That would have been a lousy end to a beautiful day.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (21)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (22)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (25)

I enjoyed trying some of the rudimentary milling equipment, a gristmill and hammermill. It made me thankful that I buy my bread, rice, and pasta at a store.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (23)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (24)

After wandering through replicas of old Jeju Island farms, we ventured into an open area where a Korean acrobat on a high wire performed a delicate balancing act. He did a fabulous job defying gravity, bouncing up and down on the rope, sitting on it, straddling it, and balancing himself on top. He balanced himself grasping only a handkerchief in one hand and a large white fan in the other. He used the fan to control his balance, waving it slowly, then feverishly to bring his body back into equilibrium. Dressed in a white traditional costume, he wore a black Korean-style hat reminiscent of a Korean sage. I enjoyed his performance.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (26)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (27)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (28)

We then headed to the Manor House, where we witnessed a traditional Korean wedding. The condensed ceremony that took place in the main courtyard highlighted some of its interesting aspects. As the ceremony began, the groom took his place to the east of the wedding altar and faced west, sitting cross-legging awaiting his bride. Symbolic foods lay atop the altar, waiting to be parceled to the bride and groom. An old sage to the north of the altar faced south and read the vows from a wedding book.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (29)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (30)

A few minutes later the sage called for the bride to come. She left the Manor House and descended its steps, entering the courtyard with two female assistants. They escorted her to the altar and helped her kneel on both knees to the east so that she faced towards her future husband facing west.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (31)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (32)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (33)

As the sage chanted the wedding vows, assistants offered food and drink to the betrothed couple. They ate chestnuts, a symbol of the yangban, or Korean aristocracy, and other delicacies. The bride’s arms were crossed and positioned over her face so that the groom could not see her until the ceremony ended. Prompted by the sage, the groom and bride stood and bowed to each other. Dressed in hanbok, they made a handsome couple.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (34)

The sage pronounced the couple married, and the ceremony ended as quickly as it started. Having seen many weddings around the world, I enjoyed this unique depiction of an age-old tradition.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (35)

After the ceremony ended, we headed to a modern children’s amusement park in the southern portion of the folk village across the river. Filled with amusements, modern architecture, and contemporary sculptures, it was much different than the rest of the village. We took our son on several rides. He had been such a good sport putting up with our wandering that we knew we needed to treat him to something he would enjoy. He first rode a roving mechanical dog. He was apprehensive about getting close to real animals but had no qualms climbing aboard this slow-moving “dog.” Afterwards, mommy took him on a carrousel for his first merry-go ride, and daddy took him on his first train ride aboard the children’s train. He had a great time.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (36)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (37)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (38)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (39)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (40)

Our son had so much fun that he didn’t nap all day long. Once we finished and went home, he was out like a light. I was tired too and wanted to do the same but had to wait until home to crash. Our fun adventure at the Korean Folk Village wore all of us out.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (41)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village

Map picture

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

I Received the Versatile Blogger Award!


versatileblogger11I was surprised to receive the Versatile Blogger Award (VBA) from esteemed author and blogger Ella Medler. Thank you, Ella! It’s an honor. Ella is a super duper colleague in the writing field. Please check out her awesome work!

Versatile Blogger Award (VBA)

What is it?

As far as I can tell — details are rather sketchy and only the creator knows for sure — this lofty-sounding award is basically a mutual admiration society where bloggers recognize their peers for writing quality blogs that touched them in some way. The VBAs honor the blogger rather than specific posts. It’s a chance for bloggers to pat themselves on the back like the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does with the Oscars. Until someone starts giving out Blogscars, the VBAs will have to suffice.

What are the criteria?

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award. I nominated 15 outstanding bloggers below. Congratulations!

Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.

Thank you, Ella. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.

Visit Ella’s blog at http://ellamedler.wordpress.com/. You’ll be glad you did.

Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. (I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)

The envelope, please…

Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.

And the nominees/winners are (in alphabetical order):

  1. August McLaughlin – Savor the Storm (http://augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com/)
  2. CR Hiatt – McSwain & Beck (http://mcswainandbeck.com/)
  3. Craves Adventure – Our Travels Out West (http://cravesadventure.wordpress.com/)
  4. CrissCrossingIndia – Adventure Travel and Photography Across India (http://crisscrossingindia.wordpress.com/)
  5. David C. Cassidy – Because Life is a Really Good Story (http://davidccassidy.com/)
  6. Donna B. McNicol – 2 Taking a 5th (http://www.2takinga5th.com/)
  7. KG Arndell – Musings of a Dark Fantasy Writer (http://kgarndell.com/)
  8. Jeff Whelan – SpaceOrville (http://jeffwhelan.wordpress.com/)
  9. Lada Ray (http://ladaray.wordpress.com/)
  10. Lesley Carter – Bucket List Publications (http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/)
  11. Pranjal Borthakur (http://pranjalborthakur.wordpress.com/)
  12. R.M. Wilburn – Ponderous Things… (http://ponderous-max.blogspot.com/)
  13. Sheila Pierson – I Write, Therefore I Am (http://sheilapierson.wordpress.com/)
  14. The Jumping Polar Bear (http://jumpingpolarbear.com/)
  15. Vanna Smythe – Fantasy Author (http://vannasmythe.com/)

Congratulations, winners!

Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Hmm, seven things about me. Okay, here goes:

1. In the past decade I’ve lived in nine different locations in five countries on four continents.

2. I proposed to my wife on one knee in a gravel parking lot. She said “yes” anyway after I whined about how much the rocks hurt my kneecap.

3. I joined the Cub Scouts for the first time with my son and am his den leader. I did not participate in scouts as a kid, and this is the first time in my son’s young life that he’s lived where there’s a troop. It’s been fun scouting vicariously through him. Today we built and shot off bottle (water) rockets. It brings out the kid in me!

4. My favorite sport is baseball, but I took a liking to cricket when I lived in Africa because it looks like baseball with different rules.

5. I have a falsetto singing voice like Roy Orbison and Chris Isaak and love to belt out the karaoke version of “Oh! Pretty Woman.”

6. I enjoy getting to know people from around the world. One of my favorite things to do is to meet up in one location with friends I met elsewhere. Today, in fact, I’m getting together in Bangkok, Thailand with friends I met several years ago in Seoul, Korea.

7. One of the toughest challenges living overseas is missing those foods that you love but can’t buy abroad. I miss dishes from my favorite restaurants, not to mention perishable foods that I can’t ship. Thank goodness I can buy and ship beef jerky, cereal, and granola bars. But every once in a while I suffer from store-bought Christmas eggnog withdrawals.

Congratulations to the new VBA winners, and thanks again to Ella Medler for nominating me!

 

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Top Ten Things to Do in Korea (with Photos)


Here’s a list of the top ten things you should do if you visit South Korea. These suggestions are based on my experience when I lived in Seoul. The activities will give you a good taste of what Korea has to offer. My ranking is based on how fun they are and how close they are to Seoul.

1. Walking tour (Seoul): Take a walking tour of Gyeongbokgung, the royal palace of Korea’s last dynasty, the Joseon.

Gyeongbokgung

Gyeongbokgung (2)

Stop by the Chongwadae, or Blue House, the official residence of the South Korean president.

Blue House

Walk along Cheonggyecheon, a canal walk just two blocks south of Gyeongbokgung off the main thoroughfare downtown, Sejongno.

Cheongyecheon

Cheongyecheon (2)

Sejongno

Keep walking a couple blocks south to Seoul’s City Hall. There aren’t many residential or shopping areas in the heart of downtown, but you will feel the pulse of Korea there.

Seoul City Hall

2. Shopping (Seoul): Shop for souvenirs and good deals at any one of a number of open-air markets and shopping districts in Seoul. The most popular are Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, Myeongdong, and Insadong. Namdaemun is the most famous and lies near Korea’s #1 Treasure, Namdaemun Gate. It’s your best bet for Korean souvenirs. For more traditional arts and crafts, try Insadong. Myeongdong is a trendy shopping area. Dongdaemun is less touristy and a bit off the beaten tourist path.

Namdaemun

Myeongdong

Night Market

3. Namsan Mountain (Seoul): Take a cable car to the top of Namsan Mountain in the heart of Seoul for some of the best panoramic views of the city. N Seoul Tower is more functional than beautiful but has a great view. Explore the paths in Namsan Park and check out the frequent events held there.

Seoul Tower

Seoul Tower (2)

Then visit nearby Namsangol Hanok, a traditional Korean village in Pildong on the north side of the mountain, for a taste of pre-modern Seoul.

Namsangol (2)

Namsangol

4. Dining and Entertainment: The dining and entertainment options in South Korea are endless. Great Korean food is available throughout the country; the best international cuisine is in Seoul and Busan. Try something different than bulgogi. Have some galbijim (beef ribs), bibimbap, or spicy takgogi along with kimchi and other banchan (side dishes). For vegetarians, dine at a Buddhist restaurant.

Korean Food

Korean Food (2)

Wash it down with soju, a Korean rice alcohol that some say tastes like vodka, or baekseju, a sweet alcohol.

Night Life (2)

Then head out for noraebang (karaoke) and sing your heart out with friends. Enjoy the nightlife in Hongdae, the bohemian area of Seoul, or trendy Gangnam. Seoul is a happening place in the evening. If you’re out late and need to refresh yourself, try some haejangguk (hangover soup) and then head to the jimjilbang (sauna) to relax.

Night Life

5. Panmunjom / DMZ Tour: Take a tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the Joint Security Area (JSA) between North and Seoul Korea. No visit to Korea would be complete without a tour of the de facto border between the two countries. If possible, visit the “Truce Village” of Panmunjom and take a bus tour of the No Man’s Land between the two Koreas. Not all foreign nationals are allowed to tour Panmunjom, so check with a tour guide to see if you’re allowed to visit.

DMZ

DMZ (2)

6. Korean Folk Village: Located in Yongin, 45 minutes south of Seoul, the Korean Folk Village was built for tourists but is arguably the best example of Joseon-era Korean life. The attraction also has a lot of kiddie rides great for children. A fun daytrip from Seoul.

Folk Village

Folk Village (2)

Folk Village (3)

7. Seoraksan National Park: With great hiking and awesome views, Seoraksan is considered by many Koreans to be the most beautiful national park in South Korea. Visit a nearby hot springs to relax after a long hike.

Seoraksan

Seoraksan (2)

Seoraksan is not far from other great destinations in mountainous Gangwon Province, including Pyeongchang, future site of the 2018 Winter Olympics; Yongpyong Ski Resort in Pyeongchang, made famous by the biggest Korean drama of all time, Winter Sonata; and Odaesan National Park.

Yongpyeong

Yongpyeong (2)

8. Busan: Korea’s second largest city and its busiest port, Busan came into its own when it hosted the 2002 Asia Games and 2005 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit. Stay on the beach in the suburb of Haeundae and try the bokguk (pufferfish soup) — if you dare. If not, Busan is famous for its charcoal-grilled bulgogi.

Haeundae

The most notable attraction in the area is Beomeosa, a Buddhist temple. It’s a daytrip just north of Busan.

Beomeosa

Beomeosa (2)

9. Gyeongju: Head to Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom (57 BC – 935 AD). The historic area is full of artifacts, including grassy burial mounds holding the tombs of the Silla kings and the Cheomseongdae Observatory. The area offers beautiful views of the Korean countryside. Numerous Buddhist temples and statues are hidden in the hills, and the Pacific Ocean is a half hour drive away.

Gyeongju

Gyeongju (3)

Gyeongju (2)

10. Jeju Island: A large island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, Jeju Island is beloved by many Koreans for its beauty, warm weather, interesting rock formations created by volcanic lava flows, and a local culture unique to Korea. Stay in Jeju City and explore the island’s beaches, parks, and towns in several daytrips.

Jeju (2)

Jeju (3)

Jeju (5)

Jeju (4)

The island’s main symbol, phallic statues called harubang, are considered guardian spirits to ward of evil. It’s likely that they were inspired by, well, Jeju’s rock formations.

Jeju (6)

Jeju

Extra! Yeosu: Visit Yeosu, site of the 2012 World Expo, in South Cholla Province. The World’s Fair runs from May 12 to August 12, 2012. The theme of the Expo is “The Living Ocean and Coast.” Wolchulsan National Park, also in South Cholla not far from Yeosu, is a great place to hike. Many Koreans say that the Cholla region serves up some of the country’s best Korean food.

Wolchulsan (2)

I couldn’t list everything you can do when you visit Korea. Some honorable mentions include the National Museum of Korea, the War Memorial of Korea, and Bukhansan National Park in Seoul; Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon; and Ulleungdo, an island off the coast of Korea.

War Museum

War Museum (2)

Suwon Fortress

Spring is lovely, especially when the cherry flowers blossom in April and May. Summers in Korea are hot and humid, especially during the monsoon season, but the trees and flowers are in bloom, and the country is a sea of green. Watch out for yellow sand from Mongolia around June and heavy monsoon rains from the South China Sea in July-August.

Bukhansan

Bukhansan (2)

Winters are cold, but the snow blankets the land with a brilliant white.

Snow

Snow (2)

The best time to visit Korea is in the fall, when it’s not too hot or cold and the leaves turn into bright fall colors. The country is ablaze with shades of red, orange, and yellow.

Wolchulsan

Anytime of the year, Korea is naturally beautiful.

Wolchulsan (3)

Map picture

 

Note:  This is an updated version of an earlier entry posted in 2007. This update includes photos and some new destinations.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming book, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be released on March 31, 2012. He lived in Seoul, Korea in 2005-07 and now lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

 

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Korean Folk Village


My family ventured today to the Korean Folk Village in Giheung, an exurb of Seoul.  Reputed to be one of the best daytrips out of Seoul, Korean Folk Village definitely lived up to its great reputation.  If you visit Seoul and only have time for one daytrip out of the city, visit the Korean Folk Village.  It is well worth the visit.  Opened in 1974, the village is the most comprehensive of all the folk villages dotting the Korean countryside and cityscapes.  It’s truly a functional village.  I’ve heard that most of the people who work at the village and dress up as peasants and in hanbok (traditional Korean dress) actually live and work at the village.  It’s an intriguing sight to see next to the modern high-rise apartment buildings that end at the village gates.

We saw too much today to document in a single blog entry.  I will continue my story tomorrow or early next week.  We puttered around the house in the morning, until my wife finally lit a fire under me.  I dragged my heels a bit because weekends are sacred to me.  So much happens at work during the week that I prefer to hang out at home and unwind.  My wife and son want to venture further a field because they spend a lot more time at home than I do.  During the drive to the village, we missed the Giheung exit off Interstate 1 and ended up driving down to Osan (the village is situated between Giheung and Osan, closer to Giheung).  We backtracked on an arterial road that paralleled the freeway.  The route to the Korean Folk Village is definitely not well marked, and finding northbound Interstate 1 heading north Seoul isn’t easy either.

By the time we reached the village, we were very hungry, so we stopped to eat at “Korea” Restaurant near the village gate.  We decided that eating at a restaurant with a lofty name like “Korea” surely must be delicious.  It turned out to be a cafeteria-style, limited selection, massed-produced food operation.  All the restaurants near the village entrance are that way.  The food was mediocre at best.  The help was friendly and took a liking to our son.  If you visit the village, you’re much better off making your way all the way to the far end of the village and eating at the open-air village “Bazzar.”  We eventually arrived at the “Bazzar” and noted what other visitors ate there.  It looked delicious!  Live and learn.  I’m sure we’ll go to the Korean Folk Village again when we entertain my family next year, and we’ll eat there.  We’ll spare them the cafeteria-style lunch.

After lunch we went to “Seonangdang,” a religious shrine where one can pray to the village guardian spirits and ask them for favors.  Traditional Koreans, like many peoples around the world, carve ancestral totems out of wood.  They remind me of the totems made by the Native Americans and First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest, although Korean totems are bit more free spirited (no pun intended).  Korean totems can be whimsical and a bit chaotic with laughing, asymmetrical faces.  They also follow the curvature of the wood so that they occasionally lean.

We then went to the ceramic village, where I bought my first kimchi pot (I mean a ceramic jar, not kimchi-flavored marijuana).  As the national dish of Korea, kimchi is held in very high esteem in Korea.  No meal would be complete without a side dish of spicy and sweet cabbage, radish, or cucumber kimchi.  Even the Italian restaurant where my wife and I dined on Friday served sweet pickles as a kimchi substitute (western restaurants in Korea often serve sweet pickles in lieu of panchan, or side dishes).  I’ve wanted to buy a kimchi pot for quite some time.  Mine is not too big, perhaps one gallon.  It’s not large enough to adequately make kimchi, because it’s easier to make in bulk.  To make kimchi you would need to buy a monstrous 20-gallon kimchi pot.  Although I paid more for the pot than I needed to pay, I was happy to buy a pot from the ceramics shop where it was made.  I saw the artisan who made my kimchi pot making another ceramic pot, and I saw the mud used to make my kimchi pot.  Buying from the source is worth more to me than buying an anonymous one in a market.  This one had character and an identity.

We made our way slowly through the village.  We visited a Disneyesque replica of a typical traditional Korean peasant farm, and we stopped to watch two elderly women in hanbok making silk.  I had never seen how silk is made.  One woman boiled silkworm cocoons, killing the silkworm larvae.  She separated each larva from its cocoon and cast it aside, and she helped a second woman unravel the silk cocoon.  The second woman spun the raw silk thread around a spinning wheel.  The silk-making process was utterly fascinating.  It’s amazing that such a manual, unglamorous process ends with the creation of one of the world’s most luxurious fabrics.

We moved on to an open area in the middle of the village.  We came upon a couple of traditional Korean games, arrow throwing and see-saw.  We saw some Koreans trying to throw 3-foot long straight sticks into narrow jars.  The game simulated the old Korean game of arrow throwing.  (Arrow throwing is akin to the American carnival game of throwing baseballs into small holes).  We also saw Korean see-saws, thick planks straddling sacks of hay.  My son enjoyed giving it a try.  Daddy put his foot on the plank and bounced him up and down.  He laughed and held on for dear life as daddy bounced him on the see saw.  He then took over and did it himself.  After that, we made our way to the “Bazzar” and stopped for ice cream.  I really liked the atmosphere of the “Bazzar” filled with old buildings and workers in peasant clothing serving customers in the open air.  At that moment, Seoul seemed so far away.

We left the “Bazzar” and crossed the Arch Stone Bridge, a picturesque bridge straddling a calm river that divides the village.  A water wheel mill next to the bridge is absolutely idyllic.  We wandered along the shore of the southern bank of the river.  I discovered my son is an adventurer like his dad.  As I crossed over a foot-wide footbridge to take a picture of the Arch Stone Bridge, he started to follow me!  Mommy caught him and helped him to the edge of the bridge.  I came back and took him with me partway across the bridge so mommy could take a picture of us together.

We then wandered through a group of farmhouses modeled after those found on Jeju Island (made with volcanic rock).  For the first time, my son saw farm animals he knows well but had never seen before—rabbits, chickens, pigs, goats, and geese.  His eyes lit up as he saw the real version of animals he reads in story books and sees as toys.  He especially liked the rabbits.  The geese were quite unruly.  We stood about ten feet from them, but four of them decided to come after us.  We backed away quickly and moved out of their territory.  I would have liked to scare them away from my family, but geese are notoriously temperamental and I decided to be non-confrontational.  If a goose comes after you, don’t confront it.  It could attack you.  I remember hearing stories of geese attacks in Seattle.  I wasn’t about to get bitten by a goose and end up getting rabies shots.  That would have been a lousy end to a beautiful day.

To be continued…

Happy New Year


Happy New Year, dear reader!  2004 has been quite a year for us.  It started in the Seattle area, where I was working for a local accounting firm as an IT consultant.  It ended in the Washington, D.C. area working for the Foreign Service, studying the Korean language in anticipation of our departure to Korea.  Although the tsunamis put a huge damper on this year’s festivities worldwide, life is good in our home.  I am very thankful for the changes in our life and the unique opportunity we have to travel and work overseas.

Have you made a New Year’s resolution?  I usually make a few, but this year I haven’t thought about it much.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve been too busy.  If I were to make some resolutions, they would have to be as follows:

  1. Finish Korean language class with an adequate testing score
  2. Arrive in Seoul safely
  3. Take a real vacation

Weight is always something to watch, but fortunately I don’t have to check off a lot of the typical New Year’s resolutions.  The three goals listed above are definitely achievable.  I feel a lot better about learning Korean now.  It will always be an uphill battle for me, though.  I’ll know soon whether we make it to Korea safely without event.  Hopefully the worst that will happen is dealing with a fussy child on a trans-Pacific flight.  The third may not happen anytime soon because I first need to adjust to working in Seoul, get through my job’s busy season, and prepare for the upcoming APEC Conference in late 2005.  If the APEC Conference in Seoul is anything like it was in Chile this year, it should be interesting.  I’m sure that President Bush won’t have to pull his security guard into meetings like he did in Santiago.  We may not be able to go on an extended vacation until next November or December.  I have plenty of vacation saved up already.

I hope you had a wonderful 2004.  Please pray for the safety and restoration of those affected by the tsunamis in Asia and Africa.  Let’s hope that 2005 is better than 2004 for everyone.

A New Chapter


My in-laws left yesterday and returned to their home in China.  They have lived with us for over two years.  Before they arrived in 2002, I mentioned to my wife that it was the start of a new chapter in our lives.  Now the page has turned and yet another new chapter has started for us.  They lived with us since our son was born–they have always been a part of his life.  Now as we prepare to head to Korea, we are again a family of three.  Life has been very hectic for us with our impending move, but I can already tell that life feels a bit more settled now that we’re together as a smaller family.  My in-laws were a big help to us.  They were always around to help take care of our son, and for that I am very grateful.  I know that my son already misses them very much because he’s old enough to be aware of their move, but he has been very well behaved the past couple of days.  I hope it continues until we finally arrive in Seoul.  Living together as an extended family has brought blessing, tension, happiness, and frustration–all the human emotions that rise up with family members living together.  I will look back at the last two years fondly and wax nostalgic, but at present I am happy that a new chapter has started.  For me this is the start of our transition to Korea.  We have been in limbo here in the Washington, D.C. area since we arrived in early 2004, and now within 2 months we will be in Korea, our new home for years.  Korea is yet another chapter to be experienced, and this is page one.

The death toll from the tsunamis in southeast Asia and eastern Africa has risen to 77,000+.  What a tragedy.  I am happy that the U.S. and other nations have pledged millions of dollars and logistical aid to combat the ensuing humanitarian crisis.  The tragedy seems so distant to many of us, but it has touched us nevertheless.  Out of this tragedy comes the opportunity for the world to come together to show support just as it did when the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001.  I’m planning to contact World Vision to see what I can do.

I downloaded and tried the new Mozilla Firefox browser.  It’s the new open source browser that is competing with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.  Over 12 million copies have been downloaded.  Most people download it because they either don’t like IE or are concerned about security issues with Microsoft’s browser.  Hackers and virus makers have designed nasties around the IE browser because over 90% of Internet users use IE to access the Web (mass audience).  I had to check it out for myself.  I have tested the Firefox browser, and so far I have not been very impressed.  If it will boost my PC’s security I will use it, but I may have to sacrifice some speed and functionality.  Pages appear to load more slowly in Firefox, and you have to manually load some add-ins such as Flash that boost the Web’s functionality.  Still, I will continue to test Firefox and use it for the time being.  I was happy to see that Google is Firefox’ default search engine.  Google appears on the Firefox home page and as a built-in browser toolbar.  If Firefox takes off in 2005, then the Firefox-Google alliance bodes well for Google.  Google impresses more every day.

Sharing a vehicle


This is my first day going solo since I started Korean in July.  My wife has been going with me to Korean class from the very beginning, but today I’m on my own now that she has finished her language course.  She finished early so that she can take care of our son.  Until now her parents had been taking care of our son, but now they’re returning home in anticipation of our departure.  My wife will stay home with our son full time until at least mid-February when we head to Seoul.  After we get to Korea she may work part-time or full-time if she can find a good job there that does not require fluent Korean.  In the meantime she’ll be a stay-at-home mom.

We only have one car now.  We got rid of our other vehicles before we moved to the D.C. area, and now we’re down to one vehicle.  That was fine when we both had the same schedule, but now that we’re on different schedules we will have to time-share the car.  It takes a bit of creativity.  The weather is cold now and it won’t be fun walking outside for extended periods of time or waiting at a bus stop.  The Metro isn’t as convenient as it could be.  She will drive me in and pick me up while her parents are here, but after that I’ll be on my own if she needs to keep the car.  Having a second vehicle is so convenient.  I wish mass transit were convenient, but unfortunately not.  Perhaps when we return to the D.C. area in the future mass transit will be a more viable option for us.  In the meantime we’ll have to do some fancy schedule coordinating, and I’ll have to spend more time getting to and from school on my own.  It’s just two months–that’s not too bad.  I just hope that I won’t get caught in a big snowstorm between now and when we leave for Seoul.  We won’t always have a car around the world, but in most parts of America it’s such a necessity.