Friday, October 21, 2011

Fact's about Korea

An American missionary, George Heber Jones, once described Korea as a land of demons and ghosts.

He wrote: “They haunt every umbrageous tree, shady ravine, spring and mountain crest. On green hill slopes, in peaceful agricultural valleys, in grassy dells, on wooded uplands, by lake and stream, by road and river, in north, south, east and west they abound, making malignant sport out of human destinies.”

The Seoul metropolis was equally susceptible. In early 1883, the first Western advisor to the Korean government, Paul Georg von Mollendorff, stayed in the home of Min Gyeon-ho — a Korean official slain during the unrest the previous year.

Rumors circulated that a ghost haunted the residence and King Gojong was actually concerned that Mollendorff would take offense at being housed in a haunted home but Mollendorff scoffed at such metaphysical ideas and merely complained that the house’s low ceiling made it uncomfortable for his Western guests.

But Mollendorff was not the only one to live in a haunted house. According to Horace Allen, an American missionary who arrived in the summer of 1884, most of the Westerners in Seoul dwelt in homes with evil pasts.

Most of these abodes were said to be haunted by the spirits of their murdered owners — victims of Korea’s political instability. Many of the Westerners rebuked the rumors and took advantage of the homes’ undesirability among the Koreans and purchased them for relatively low prices.

The American legation was also said to be haunted by the “valiant decapitated Mins, who even now in unquestionable shape, periodically stalked about the premises.” Amongst the Korean servants “there were gloomy recitals that skulls and headless skeletons which had missed honorable burial, had been turned up in the gardens.”

The first Western hospital, established by Horace Allen, was located in the former home of Hong Yong-sik who was a Korean official slain during the Gapshin Revolt in December 1884. His family was not spared and like him, they were brutally murdered. Allen reported several months later that the floor of one of the rooms of the house was “gory and thick with blood.”

Allen thought it somewhat ironic that the name of the hospital translated to mean the House of Civilized Virtue. He later learned that his translation was wrong and the name actually meant Royal Hospital.

Even the palaces were not exempt from the haunting horrors of the past.

In 1885, Horace Allen reported that Queen Min complained that the palace was filled with the spirits of the dead Chinese, Japanese and Koreans killed during the previous year’s upheavals.

According to him, the queen could hear their voices asking why they had been murdered.

Some 10 years later, Isabella Bird Bishop, a spry elderly British explorer, wrote that the ghosts “taking possession of the fine Audience Hall of the Mulberry Palace, rendered the buildings untenable, frightful tales being told and believed of nocturnal daemon orgies amidst those doleful splendors.”

Not only confined to buildings, these ghosts were also said to prowl the streets. Jongno was an especially haunted area because the execution site was located there.

Women were said to be afraid of the district as the numerous headless ghosts continually accosted them.

Men on the other hand, avoided Independence Gate because malevolent spirits would cut the top-knots from the heads of the unwary.

To be fair, moreover, not all ghosts were Korean.

Japanese ghosts haunted the streets molesting Korean women. In defense, the women needed to carry packets of round red pepper to protect themselves — apparently the Japanese ghosts had an aversion to the spice. Another foreign ghost with a white face, yellow hair and blue eyes, haunted one of the city’s gates in hopes of snatching Korean children for its nefarious delight.

Is it any wonder that Jones concluded that the belief of ghosts plagued the Joseon Koreans “with indefinite terrors” and left them in a “perpetual state of nervous apprehension?”

Source: The Korea Times

2012 KOICA Scholarship- Korea University GSIS

2012 KOICA Scholarship- Korea University GSIS
Here's another scholarship you might be interested ^^ It's offered by KOICA and one of Korea's best universities, Korea University.

Program Title: Master’s Degree Program in International Development

Duration: February 16, 2012 ~ February 28, 2013 (13 months)

Training Institute: Graduate School of International Studies, Korea University

Number of Participants: 20 persons
Language: English

Accommodations: International Cooperation Center (ICC) and at the Dormitory of Korea University (CJ I House)

Scholarship: KOICA and Korea University Graduate School of International Studies together provide full tuition coverage for the program participants. KOICA provides financial support to meet costs of extramural training and to cover allowances and other
related expenses.

For more information about the program, support services etc. of the scholarship click this link

Please check these links too for more information


KIM DAE-JUNG Presidential Library and Museum

Have you been to this wonderful Library? If yes then I am sure you must have enjoyed well and learned a lot and if not then you can join me here in my blog and see this marvelous library the Kim Dae-jung Library.

The library was established in 2003 with motto and goal of realizing democracy, peace and poverty reduction, becoming Asia's first library established after a former president. The library's goal comes in light of South Korea's 15th president, who won the Nobel peace award, donating some 16,000 articles, some 10,000 books and the prize money from the Nobel Peace award to Yonsei University, together with the founding philosophy of Yonsei University.

The library operates an exhibition center where visitors can observe the life of Kim Dae-jung and the modern history of South Korea through articles from Kim's pre-presidential to post-presidential days, including the winning of the Nobel Peace award.

Researchers at the library organize and study materials donated by Kim Dae-jung, which spans over half a century covering domestic politics, democratic and unification movements, statesmanship and international diplomacy.

The library carries out commemorative projects to applaud the former president's past works. We conduct research projects pertaining to various aspects of the former president. Partial funding for the research comes from the government under the bill governing honorable treatment of former presidents.

The library also produces a digital archive of video interviews of Kim Dae-jung as well as key opposition figures involved in the country's road to democracy. We also collect and organize various data regarding the country's democracy and unification efforts.

The library conducts researches in conjunction with internationals research councils such as the June 15 inter-Korean summit accord council, the Nobel Peace award council and the Oslo Nobel Peace Center.

The library holds education programs relating to democracy, peace and poverty reduction. They carry out various education programs on peace and unification through the Kim Dae-Jung Peace Academy course.
Under its arms, the Kim Dae-jung Library houses the Kim Dae-jung Peace Research Center, International Cooperation Center, Record and Document Center and Exhibition Center. Visitors can refer to our provided information on how to use the library's facilities.

The Kim Dae-jung Library, while part of Yonsei University, is run independently through support from the university and volunteer workers. Pliz do visit if you have not been there before, I can assure you will love this place.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The mission! Find Autumn Festival and Revitalize Yourself

This summer was truly hot. The steamy heat and discomfortness were stronger than ever. But now, fall is back. Not only the newly harvested crops and fruits satisfy our taste, but also the exhilarating air and infinitely deep sky give us refreshingness. We can’t miss this moment. A variety of festivals of many regions are waiting for us. Let’s enjoy the autumn festival!

Autumn-Day Eats, Gizzard Shad vs Shrimp

Gizzard shad gets more delicious especially in autumn. Most of them have more unsaturated fatty acid in fall season. Also the gizzard shad is often referred in many proverbs and sayings, which shows that it is close to our lives. For example, “There are a lot of roasting sesame seeds in gizzard shad’s head in autumn”, which means it is the most delicious in autumn, and the other one is, “Your runaway daughter-in-law comes back when she smell the smoked gizzard shad in autumn”, which is pretty famous. They all tell us how delicious it is.

There are many styles of its cooking, such as sashimi style, salad style with chili sauce, and so on. The grilled shad is also delicious. With one bite, you will see. There will be many shad festivals with various events in port of Secheon-gun, Bosung-gun and Gwangyang city from the end of September to early October. Refresh yourself with gizzard shed in these festivals.
Well, shrimp is another delicious eats of autumn. It is very chewy and tasty during the fall season. The king prawn is a kind of kuruma shrimp, but it is much superior in size, flexibility and sweetness.

< Fresh shrimp with low price during the festival> (Source: Korea Tourism Organization)
The prawn festivals are held from mid-September to mid-October in Anmyundo beach, Namdang port in Hongseong and Muchangpo in Boryung, Chungcheongnam-do. Fried shrimp is just perfect for children’s snack. But above all, the best recipe is grilled shrimp cooked with natural salt. You will taste good flavor in it. You can also set a rich table with seasonal shrimp you buy with a low price in each festival. It would be healthy cuisine for your family back from the summer heat.

Marathon and Walking Festival to Refresh Your Body
It is a time for walking shoes. The advertisements on walking shoes are becoming common these days. It shows that walking for exercise is along with a boom. Sport shoes and walking shoes were useless due to heavy rain and heat, however the time has come. Walking stimulates feet and helps blood flow and metabolism. It is an aerobic exercise that helps weight loss. More interest in athletics than the past was shown during IAAF World Championship in Daegu. In particular, marathon is amazing because the runners challenge to their limit.

< Citizens participating in walking festival> (Source: Yonhap News)

Thanks to this trend, many regions are preparing a variety of festivals such as the 4thGapyeong Marathon Contest, Gyeonggi Marathon for Peaceful Unification, Sunday Marathon 2011 for Success of Pyeongchang Olympics and Seoul History Trail Walking Contest 2011. These festivals have various race courses. You can participate by choosing one of the courses, full and half course, 10 km and 5 km. Why don’t you take some time and run a marathon over the weekend? It would be tough for your legs. However, your brisk arms and breezing air will make you feel refreshed. Your stress and fatigue will disappear with sweats falling on your forehead.
Internatinal Jass Festival in Jara Island for Romantic Autumn
The 8th international jazz festival, loved by in and out of Korea, will be held this year in Jara island. The performance played by local and international musicians will make you feel exciting. Jara island has a magnificent scenery that gives a joy through ears as well as whole body. Particularly, the island located in Northern Han river provides a full comfort of rest for city residents. Once the musical performance is added, you will see a paradise.

< Romantic stage of jazz musicians> (Source : Korea Tourism Organization)

Jazz festival is held in Jara island of Gapyeong, Gyeonggi-do. You can take a day trip by Gyeongchun metro line at Sangbong station, Seoul. Take a journey to jazz festival with your friends or lover, you will have a wonderful memory of autumn into your heart.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Facts about Korean History

In the winter of 1883/1884, an American visitor to Seoul, Percevial Lowell, noted that there did not appear to be much crime in the city, especially at night.

After the sun set, two-men teams patrolled the darkened streets — the senior was armed with a lantern and a bell while the subordinate was equipped with a massive chain and bar used to restrain any criminal that they might encounter.

Lowell noted that the bar and chain were rarely used. Of course, the curfew barring all men (except the blind and those with extreme emergencies) from roaming the darkened streets may have also played a part.

But in 1898, the curfews were lifted. William Franklin Sands, an American advisor to the Korean government, noted that crime in
Jemulpo (modern Incheon) was virtually non-existent when they employed a Chinese night watchman.

The watchman was a “very old and respectable Chinese (man) with a huge sleep-dispelling wooden clapper.” The sound of the clapper, much as the earlier mentioned bell, warned the would-be thief that a patrol was about; they were more hesitant to attempt any thefts.

Annoyed by the sound of the clapper the Westerners at Jemulpo had the watchman replaced with a former British sailor. He was well-armed, much quieter and far more expensive. Almost immediately a crime wave struck the foreign community. According to Sands,

“(No) house was safe from robbers. Burglaries took place right under the nose of our constables.”
It was later deduced that because the Western constable was so quiet it embolden thieves instead of deterring them. He was promptly fired and the old Chinese watchman brought back. The crime wave ceased.

Lee Kyeong-jae, author of “Cheonggye Stream is Alive,” says because men were unable to enter some areas ― particularly women’s buildings ― undercover policewomen were used.

These policewomen could disguise themselves as servants and secretly investigate possible crimes. Interestingly enough, women candidates had to be at least five feet tall, able to carry an 88-pound bag of rice, and be able to drink three bowls of makgoeli, which is a Korean rice wine.

Despite the success of the old methods, Korea was determined to modernize its police force.

In early 1897, Alfred Burt Stripling, an Englishman who had served with various police organizations including Scotland Yard and the Shanghai Metropolitan Police, was hired as an advisor to the Korean police department.

Almost immediately he conducted a physical examination of each of the just over 1,000 policemen. He found the tallest to be just under 6 feet and the shortest at 4 feet 9 inches. He also tested them on their knowledge of the police regulations.

Nearly 50 men were found unfit to be in the service on account of their physical and mental disabilities and Stripling asked that they be dismissed.

An Whan, the assistant chief of police, took offense with Stripling’s attitude and declared he had no use for a foreign advisor. To punctuate his strong feelings, he hurled an inkstand at the Westerner. An was later forced to resign.

There were others not pleased with the changes. Isabella Bird Bishop wrote that the new police, dressed in their “semi-military uniforms, with shocks of hair behind their ears and swords in nickel-plated scabbards by their sides” had changed from “docile and harmless” to “truculent, insubordinate, and ofttimes brutal...without civic sympathies or patriotism, greedy of power and spoil.”

With nearly 1,200 policemen, Seoul was, she declared, “much overpoliced.” She summed up the revised police force as a “useless and extravagant expenditure.”

Source: The Korea Times

South Korea Conductor Gum Nanse gets Sejong Culture Award

Conductor Gum Nanse of South Korea received the Sejong Culture Award for his contribution to society, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced Thursday.

The former music director of the KBS Symphony Orchestra was recognized for his efforts to introduce Western classical music to the underprivileged and rural audiences.

He founded an orchestra composed of young musicians from farming and fishing families and has also led performances in remote rural parts of the country.

The 64-year-old musician is one of the most popular conductors in the country. He now serves as the artistic director for the Eurasian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Choe Kwang-sik hosted an award ceremony at his ministry near the Changgyeong Palace in central Seoul.

Gum graduated from the music composition department of Seoul National University and the conducting department of the Berlin National Music College. He formerly served as the conductor of the KBS Orchestra, the Suwon City Orchestra, and the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1998, he founded the Eurasian Philharmonic Orchestra for the popularization of classical music.

Other recipients of the award included veteran actress Kim Hye-ja.

As a goodwill ambassador for World Vision, she has been actively involved in relief efforts in poverty-stricken African countries.

Girls' Generation South Korean Pop group to debut in US in November

Korean girl group Girls' Generation will release a single in the United States on the same recording label as Lady Gaga and Eminem.

The group's agency SM Entertainment announced Wednesday that the nine-member girl group will release a maxi single including a new song "The Boys" in November through Interscope Records owned by Universal Music Group.

Universal Music Group will also release a Girls' Generation album in Europe and South America, making the group's music more global.

Girls' Generation will release "The Boys," produced by Teddy Riley, Oct. 19 across the globe through iTunes and other channels.

Originally scheduled to be released last week, the group postponed it to promote their music worldwide.

On the same day, the group will release their third studio album in Korea

Korea raises 'comfort women' issue at UN

Korea demanded that Japan take “legal responsibility” for Korean women coerced to provide sex services to Japanese soldiers during World War II at a United Nations’ meeting in New York, officials said Wednesday.

“This systematic rape and sexual slavery constitute war crimes and also, under defined circumstances, crimes against humanity,” Shin Dong-ik, Korea’s deputy chief envoy to the U.N., told the Third Committee of the U.N. General Assembly, one of the six U.N. committees specializing in human rights and social affairs.

Shin urged participants in the meeting to educate their citizens about the heinous crimes against women during wartime in order to prevent the recurrence of such organized sexual assaults.

This is the first time in 14 years that a Korean diplomat has raised the issue at the committee, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said. Korea has raised the issue at the less-influential U.N. Human Rights Council each year since 1992, it added.

“It’s quite meaningful that we raised the issue at the U.N. committee although it will not bring about any U.N-level actions to resolve it,” a foreign ministry official said.

The move came after the Constitutional Court ruled in August that it was against the Constitution for the government to take no specific action to settle the dispute with Tokyo over its refusal to compensate the victims. Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910 to 1945.

Following the ruling, the foreign ministry established a task force to handle the issue. It has also pressed its Japanese counterpart to accept the proposal of holding a bilateral meeting to discuss the matter, to which Japan has refused.

In response to Shin’s demand, a Japanese representative at the meeting said Japan had acknowledged that its wartime military used sex slaves, euphemistically called “comfort women,” and expressed remorse for it. Nevertheless, the envoy insisted all compensations for victims were settled by a 1965 compensation package, which the two countries agreed on while normalizing diplomatic relations. Korea reportedly received $300 million from Japan in the deal.

In reaction, Korean Minister Kim Soo-kwon refuted the allegation, saying Japan’s liability for compensation has not been cleared, citing reports from the U.N. and other institutes.

The issue will likely be discussed during a summit between President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Oct. 19 in Seoul. But it’s very unlikely to be settled in the near future, experts said.

In a preparatory meeting for the summit last week, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba reiterated Japan’s stance of refusing to directly compensate victims, arguing that the issue was settled by the 1965 deal.

Up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were forced into sexual servitude at frontline Japanese brothels during World War II. Only a handful of former sex slaves here survive.

They stage a rally every Wednesday in front of the Japanese Embassy in downtown Seoul, urging Tokyo to apologize for the inhumane activity and offer proper compensation. The 1,000th rally will take place on Dec. 14. Participants plan to erect a memorial stone in front of the embassy on that date.

Source: The Korea Times

Catwalks make way for Seoul Fashion Week

All eyes of the local fashion industry will be on the annual six-day Seoul Fashion Week, which starts Oct. 17 for an elaborate display of Korea’s best fall/winter 2012 collection at the Seoul Trade Exhibition Center (SETEC) in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul.

The 23rd Seoul Fashion Week will be composed of new looks from emerging and veteran designers in four categories — the Seoul Collection, Fashion Take-off, Generation Next and Fashion Fair.

“As part of the fast-growing ‘hallyu’ industry, Korean fashion is gaining more popularity abroad,” said Taylor Yoon, PR director for the Seoul Fashion Week. “We are seeing more overseas buyers interested in local designers.”

A new segment this year is the “W Beauty & Fashion Week,” organized by the fashion magazine W. Many household names in cosmetics and hair products, like Aveda, Benefit, Laura Mercier, Nars and more, will hold promotional events during the fashion week.

Seoul Collection

The Seoul Collection is the highlight of the biggest Korean fashion event.

A total of 27 collections will be presented, including the collections of 23 top star designers, two “prestige designers” that have significantly contributed to the Korean fashion industry and two “national Korean brands.”

An Yoon-jung and Choi Bo-ko were chosen as the “prestige designers” this year.

An specializes in luxury suits of comfort and minimal lines, catering to the needs of professional women. Choi’s designs are marked by strong, vivid colors and geometric patterns to expresses ethnic fantasy.

Jung Ku-ho and Han Sang-hyuk are the two artists for the “National brand fashion show” to be held on Oct. 17 and 21.
Jung is the creative director of HEXA BY KUHO, which recently concluded a successful show in New York.

Veteran designer Gee Chun-hee will present a show on the opening day with a theme “Silhouette of the Wind.” Gee’s basic philosophy is rooted in bringing out the femininity of every woman with minimal decorations.

Fashion Take-off

First introduced in the previous Seoul Fashion Week, the “Fashion Take-Off” is a professional buying show centered on the works of 10 emerging designers who seek to advance into the global market.

“The Fashion Take-off received enthusiastic reviews from buyers last year. So we organized it again this year,” Yoon said.
One of the interesting shows will be created by Lee Hyun-chan under the theme “Restaurant and Chef,” inspired by a conversation in Italy the designer had with a chef who seemed to go about his job with sheer joy.

Choi Ji-hyoung, creative director of fashion label Johnny Hates Jazz (JHZ), will introduce and launch her new line of clothing and accessories “JiChoi.” The theme of JiChoi 2012 Collection is her recreation of bold and vivid graphic prints of the 1910s Art Deco Movement and marine look.

Generation Next

This is a program for fostering new designers. This year, new outstanding designers will introduce their works in a creative and sensual show.

One of the young artists is Song Yu-jin, creative director of s=yz, who will give a show on Oct. 20.

The budding designer focuses on versatile everyday-wear pieces that espouse effortless sophistication alongside a spark of youthful individuality.

Her theme here will be “Mermaid escaping from the sea,” expressing the concept of a modern woman letting go of life on the land and returning to nature.

Fashion Fair

A total of 69 companies in clothing, shoes, bags and accessories will hold exhibitions throughout the six-day fashion week at the SETEC.

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kansong museum to open fall exhibition

In the tranquil neighborhood in Seongbuk-dong, Seoul, every spring and fall, numerous visitors will patiently line up to tour Kansong Art Museum.

The long hours of waiting won’t be minded because it’s the only time that the art museum holds rare antiques exhibitions.
Showcasing the progress of folk paintings, including portraits, during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), this season’s exhibit will run from Oct. 16 to 30.

Some 100 paintings of 52 Joseon master painters such as Ahn Gyeon and Kim Eun-ho will be displayed.

The paintings of the early Joseon period were influenced by Chinese styles — largely that of Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism style that originated from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) — to the extent of imitation.

As time passed, Joseon scholar Yi I (1536-1584) developed Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism into Joseon’s ideology, Joseon’s own colors and flavor were created.

Since then, Jeong Seon (1676-1759) completed the heyday of the Joseon’s landscape paintings featuring its own geographical traits and society.

Using the pseudonym “Gyeomjae,” meaning humble study, Jeong was one of the most influential landscape painters in the 18th century Korea with his realistic style. He was influenced by Chinese paintings in his earlier life, but later developed his own approach. For example, a traditional Korean A-frame carrier, which was usually used for carrying firewood, was first depicted in his painting titled “Oechomundap (Fisherman and Woodcutter in Conversation).”

Cho Young-seok (1686-1761) realistically portrayed the ordinary lives of people such as a low-class woman working in her kitchen in a shanty thatched house in his painting “Travel to Rural House.”

The flourishing growth of the paintings peaked when Kim Hong-do (1745-1806), Kim Deuk-shin (1754-1822) and Shin Yun-bok (1758-) produced prolific folk works reflecting Joseon’s beauty and particular characteristics.

“Jamoyuka (Mother Feeding Her Baby)” drawn by Shin Han-pyeong, Yun-bok’s father, captures a mother feeding her daughter in her arms and a son and another daughter touching a pouch of his mother. The painting is known to be an ordinary scene that could be found at any household at that time. Some critics say the work depicts Shin’s family.

Kim Hong-do’s “Giubusin” portrays an innocent boy carrying firewood and riding on a cow in a rural place while “Masangcheongaeng (Listening to an Oriole from Atop a Horse)” captures a scholar who listens to a bird’s song on the back of a horse.

Shin Yun-bok often described the entertainment culture of young elites through “Portrait of a Beauty,” “Chunsaekmanwon,” “Sonyeonjeonhong” and “Yeonsodapcheong.”

Towards the late Joseon period, the Joseon’s painting styles began waning as the Qing’s portrait styles dominated.

The museum was the first modern private museum opened in Korea in 1938, in the middle of the colonial period. It was named after the penname of its founder Jeon Hyeong-pil, which means a “pine tree standing in the clean streams.”

Standing on a lot of some 13,223 square meters in northern Seoul, the museum and its surrounding area have an extremely quiet and peaceful quality. The main building, “Bohwagak,” is home to the cultural treasures that Jeon collected during his lifetime. The majority of the collection are as precious as national treasures.

It exhibits its collections for two weeks in both May and October and publishes a catalogue entitled Kansong Culture to coincide with the biannual exhibitions.

Admission is free. For more, call (02) 762-0442.

Rain gets preview of military life in new film

BUSAN — Rain will be entering the military to complete his mandatory two-year service for Korean men this week, but the mega pop star says he has already had an intense preview of army life through his upcoming air force movie.

“I experienced seven months of life in the barracks while shooting the movie,” said the 29-year-old Friday about “Soar Into the Sun.” “It was painful not being able to eat whenever I wanted.”

The press junket for the film, which is slated for theater release in 2012, marked one of his last public appearances.
In “Soar,” Rain, or Jung Ji-hoon as he prefers to be called for acting projects, plays a free-spirited Air Force pilot who, after pulling off a dangerous stunt during an air show, gets demoted to the combat flying team.

There he meets the unit’s ace pilot (Yoo Joon-sang), to whom he loses for the first time. He matures through forming new rivalry relations, friendships and romantic ties and is put to the ultimate test when the team ventures into enemy territory.

The filming process entailed intense training that only the most elite minority undergo. The g-force test, which involves spinning in a machine at high velocity, proved to be especially difficult, say the actors.

“I almost fainted but regained consciousness almost miraculously,” said Rain. Yoo on the other hand passed out twice before finally passing the test on his third shot. “I was like the guinea pig for the movie; because I was the youngest among those that were set to do flying scenes I always had to go first.”

“Soar” is the first local project to feature a Boeing F-15K. It is also the first time an Asian film is portraying the Air Force.

“The movie will offer fans aerial sequences that have never been seen before in Korean cinema,” said director Kim Dong-hoon. He added that the film outsourced to the Hollywood team that worked on blockbusters such as “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” for the flying scenes.

For Rain, the film marks a special homecoming after working on Hollywood projects “Speed Racer” and “Ninja Assassin.”

Special homecoming project

“After shooting movies in the United States I really missed speaking Korean lines again,” he said. “But I was first and foremost drawn to the script and was amazed how all the actors that I thought would be perfect for the main roles ended up taking part in the film.”

In addition to Rain and Yoo, other cast members include starlet Shin Se-kyung, who recently made her big screen debut in “Hindsight”; actress Lee Ha-na, who makes a comeback after a long hiatus; and popular TV drama personality Kim Sung-soo.
“We all became very, very good friends during the filming. We had a great team,” said Lee. Her co-stars revealed how talented a singer she is and Lee admitted that she is working on an album to be released next year.

Shin, who appears as a mechanic, said she felt more comfortable playing her down-to-earth role, wearing minimal make-up and casual clothes. Yoo, on the other hand, said he had to work out very hard to create a muscular build for his part. It marks a break away from his usual guy-next-door roles, most notably in dramas a la Hong Sang-soo. The actor is set to appear with the seminal French actress Isabelle Huppert in Hong’s next film.

“We had a lot of fun on the set but it was painful because everyone kept reminding me of how I was due for military service. I am happy though that I can leave with happy memories,” said Rain.

The singer-actor will begin his stint as an active-duty solder at the Uijeongbu 306 Reserve Battalion on Tuesday.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Did You Know That ... (29) Queen Min

In the early hours of Oct. 8, 1895, members of the Japanese legation, accompanied by discontented Koreans, stole into the Korean palace and savagely murdered Queen Min. They then, possibly while she was still alive, doused her with a flammable liquid and set her on fire reducing her corpse to a few bones and a pile of ashes. It was a heinous act that still haunts Korean-Japanese relations and is remembered annually in the media.

An examination of Queen Min’s past reveals that her character was also subject to assassination. Her legacy as a beautiful and strong woman was sullied by allegations that she took the advice of court ladies and shamans and wore a necklace of cats’ vaginas in a desperate attempt to gain her young husband’s ― King Gojong ―

attention. Her fury at being ignored by Gojong was said to have manifested itself in her attempted murder of one of her husband’s pregnant concubines. She has also been blamed for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Koreans through court intrigue.

There is no question that Queen Min was a powerful personality of the late Joseon era and used whatever means she could in order to maintain her power. But she was also a warm person with a sense of humor and motherly love.

Queen Min loved children and often invited the Western ladies of Seoul to bring their children to the palace so that she could observe them. Her own son, Sunjeong, was the center of her life and it has been claimed that he slept in the same room as the queen up until her death. Even as she was being murdered by her assassins her last thoughts seem to have been on the well-being of her son.

She was also extremely curious and often satisfied her curiosity in amusing ways. Perhaps one of the most humorous incidents involved Annie Ellers, her American physician. Ellers had just married a Dalzell Bunker, an American English teacher in Seoul, and Queen Min was extremely curious about the wedding dress so she commanded Ellers to don the dress and appear at a private audience with the queen. In her private chambers, the queen examined the dress ever so minutely “even to the innermost.”

Realizing that the young American woman was probably just as curious, Queen Min reciprocated. According to Annie:

“A week later I was again bidden to the palace, again conducted to one of the Queen’s private rooms. There was her Majesty, with the Crown Princess in her wedding dress. The Princess had been married a short time before I had. There she stood all dressed as on her wedding day with eyes sealed, red spots on cheeks and forehead and the hair on her brows plucked just right. I was told to examine the Korean style of dress and I did so, ― even to the innermost ― and how the Queen laughed! She so enjoyed my doing as I did!”

Even though she has been demonized by some ― perhaps rightly so ― as a hard woman who utilized whatever means she could to maintain power during the turbulent late Joseon period, she was also a mother who doted on her son and a friend to those around her.

Source: The Korea Times

Friday, October 7, 2011

Prince Edward Island full of hidden charms

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, Canada ― It’s as if the imaginative, red-haired orphan girl from “Anne of Green Gables” would pop out at any moment and cheerfully say “hello” to anyone who travels here.

The setting of the famous book by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, the island preserves its picturesque environment as many would have imagined while reading the book.

Prince Edward Island (PEI) may not be a popular destination for Korean travelers and many may not even know where it is. Some may even think it is an imaginary place only existing in the book.

Tucked away in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and nestled between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the smallest island province spans just 280 kilometer from tip to tip with a population of only 141,000 residents. PEI attracts millions of domestic and foreign travelers with scenic coastal and pastoral landscapes and also offers outdoor adventures, culinary delights and a taste of island culture and heritage for visitors to enjoy year round.

It also conveys historical importance as it is the birthplace of Confederation and the current Legislative Assembly.

The journey begins

Whether you are a big fan of Anne or not, it is worth it to visit the related attractions of the book.

Travelers can visit the Green Gables house, located in Montgomery's Cavendish National Historic Site, where the author had the inspiration for her classic tale.

They can also enjoy the musical version of the book, which has been running every year at the Charlottetown Confederation Centre of the Arts since 1965.

Along with the red-haired frenzy, however, the island also offers travelers plenty of opportunities to get out and enjoy this beautiful province.

For those who want to explore the scenic views, it can be ideal to rent a car or bicycle. On your way, you will have no choice but to stop for a while to enjoy the unspoiled wildlife, stunning mountain and ocean scenery.

One of the interesting observations would be the island’s red soil, sand and cliffs. The high iron content of the soil and sand gives it a rusty coloring and prominence.

Especially, cycling is a popular activity as the island has gentle slopes and the Confederation Trail offers cyclists and hikers plenty of opportunities to experience different communities and landscapes through a 357-kilometer course.

Thanks to warm summer waters, travelers can also enjoy various water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, deep-sea fishing, and sailing or simply swimming in notable red beaches.

A number of fishing charters are also available, offering fishing trips for mackerel, cod, herring, tuna, crab and even lobster.

Of course, the island is also a paradise for golfers with more than 30 golf courses and multiple vendors offering all types of golf packages.

Culinary delights

Hours of outdoor activities will surely make you hungry, and the good thing about PEI is it is famous for the abundance of fresh seafood such as crabs, oysters, mussels and most importantly lobsters.

Especially during the two main food festivals in the province ― PEI Fall Flavors Festival and the International Shellfish Festival held in the month of September every year, travelers can enjoy a range of local cuisine while celebrating this harvest season with locals.

If you missed those events this fall, it won’t be a problem as the island has various other culinary festivals and there are a range of chances to sample the bounty of fresh seafood and farmland products all year round.

If you join a crab digging or fishing boat tour, you can enjoy catching crabs or mackerel and have them freshly cooked on board by crew members.

As PEI is also famous for lobsters and has numerous fishing harbors, travelers can experience a traditional lobster dinner.

Travelers can enjoy lobster on menus all year around, although the best season is from April to June when the spring season opens. Even at MacDonald’s, you can enjoy a McLobster sandwich with 100 percent Atlantic lobster meat during the summer.

Eating PEI's famous potatoes is also something that you shouldn’t miss. People believe PEI potatoes have a unique flavor thanks to the Island's rich red soil.

Winter in PEI

Autumn is always a great season for travelling, and it seems especially true when it comes to PEI. Wherever you will go, you can enjoy breathtaking landscape and exploring the beauty of the island as the fall foliage borders red clay roads in a thousand shades of red and gold.

Fall is also a great season for traveling in PEI as hotels and cottages offer special rates and vacation packages.

But the upcoming new season is also perfect for those who enjoy snowy adventures. You can enjoy skiing, hiking, snowshoeing and skating and PEI also offers over 700 kilometers of snowmobile trails as well as typical winter outdoor activities.

During the snow season, travelers can also enjoy Winter Carnivals, art exhibits, hockey tournaments and other community events.

How to get here

There are various ways to arrive. But most international travelers will come via Charlottetown Airport, which places you in the central part of the Island, an ideal starting point for your tour.

But be prepared for a long journey if you leave from Asia as there is no direct route. You may have to transfer at Vancouver International Airport or Toronto Pearson International Airport.

When you get here, it’s always good to take advantage of the Welcome Centers. They are located across the island and staff there is ready to help you plan your itinerary, or give you other necessary information on the latest local activities.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

'Looking for' rediscovers family values

A new musical “Looking for Family” brings the story of two old ladies and three animals living in a rural area to the stage, accompanied by hearty yet fun numbers. The homegrown play portrays how they grow into a real family, sharing their sorrows and secrets.

It is set in Palhyeon Village, situated on the outskirts of the southern city of Daegu. An old lady, Park Bok-ja (played by Kim Hyun-jung) lives with a dog named Mong (Nam Jung-woo), a cat named Nyang (Kim Tae-gyeong) and a hen named Kko (Lee Sang-eun). She makes a living by collecting scrap paper and selling wild herbs.

Her peaceful days with the three animals are broken when another old woman, Ji Hwa-ja (Ju Eun), enters into her home with an envelope bearing the house’s address. Curious and talkative, Ji insists the property belongs to her son since he sent a letter from the address and refuses to leave. Dumbfounded at this invasion, Park tries various ways to throw Ji out, but ends up helping her look for the son.

They head downtown and visit a post office and police station and stop by a photo studio to make fliers. Ji applies make-up to Park and they take a photo together in an awkward yet heartwarming scene.

The two remind the audience of typical old ladies who easily become acquainted with others and know the importance of having company at mealtimes.

The three animals also have their stories. Mong was rescued by Park after escaping from a dog seller, while Nyang the cat was beloved by her former owner, but abandoned after she became pregnant. Kko the hen has a strong maternal instinct to save her eggs, without knowing they are unfertilized. But they have one trait in common _ they are all gluttonous.

Oh Mi-young, the writer of the original story and director of the musical, got the idea of “Looking for Family” from a documentary featuring two elderly women. She explored Palhyeon Village, designated as a greenbelt zone, and listened to the tales of residents there, adding a more realistic, folksy atmosphere to the show.

The playwright-director first wanted to cast actresses who are actually about the same age as the characters to play the role of Park and Ji, but it was difficult to find such people as they have to sing, dance and act for 100 minutes for months on end. Luckily, she found two actresses who have abundant experience in playing older roles, having done so from their 20s. The actresses are now in their 30s.

The music composed by Cho Sun-hyeong covers Korean folk songs to popular music and children's songs. Park and Ji's number "You Are Pretty" at the photo studio shows how they open up to each other and become friends, while Kko sings of her agony over which came first, the chicken or the egg.

The musical does not have spectacular sets or fancy projections like other local hits, but a remodeled "hanok," or Korean-style house, with a slate roof reminds people of typical rural area in Korea.

Though the title is translated as family in English, the original Korean wording "sikgu" means family members as well as people who live under the same roof and eat together.

In these days, it is difficult for real family members to sit at a table and have a meal together as each of them are busy with their own lives, but "Looking for Family" awakens the true sense of family.

The production runs through Nov. 6 at Theater Blue in Chungmu Art Hall, central Seoul. Tickets cost 30,000 won. For more information, visit or call (02) 2230-6601.

Bridging Korean Buddhism and the West

Musang Temple at forefront of globalizing Buddhism

GYERYONG, South Chungcheong Province — There is no better time than fall to visit a Buddhist temple in Korea. Many are nestled in the mountains, providing a refreshing retreat for the body and soul in the midst of gorgeous autumn foliage.

One such retreat is Musang Temple in Gyeryong, a small town near Daejeon, about an hour from Seoul on the high-speed KTX train.

Gyeryong is known for the Gyeryongdae complex, the tri-service headquarters from where all military operations are planned and controlled.

The city of around 40,300 people is also the home of Mt. Gyeryong National Park, considered the mountain with the most “gi” or spiritual energy in the nation. As such, the area houses many Buddhist temples, including the Musang Temple.

The Musang Temple has a unique history and status among the some 2,000 Buddhist temples in the nation.

Currently led by non-Korean monks, it was founded with the purpose to serve as a bridge between Korean Buddhism and the West. It is the only Buddhist temple in the nation where both the positions of the spiritual leader and the abbot are filled by foreign monks.

In just over a decade, the temple has firmly established itself as one of the most prominent international Zen centers in the country, hosting a community of foreign monks, nuns and laypeople who practice Zen following the teachings of the late Great Zen Master Seung Sahn (1927-2004).

His spirit is still very much alive at Musang Temple, according to Ven. Dae Bong, one of the most respected Dharma heirs of Ven. Seung Sahn and the temple’s spiritual leader since its founding in 2000.

Ven. Dae Bong recently came back from a visit to South Africa, carrying on a tradition of missionary work pioneered by his teacher by opening additional Korean Zen centers in Cape Town.

“I was really impressed by how many people were interested,” the 63-year-old monk said during a recent interview with The Korea Times.

The continued growth of Korean Buddhism institutions outside Korea is a testament of the widening influence of the religion that has a history of more than 1,700 years.

What are the reasons for the surge of interest in Buddhism in foreign countries?

“In the West, many people are interested in meditation. Many people in the West are now quite aware of the benefits of meditation. And the tradition that has the most experience with mediation is Buddhism,” Ven. Dae Bong explained. “Buddhism can teach meditation, not dependent on belief.”

Another reason is that more people are interested in learning about the spiritual message of Buddhism.

“By that, I mean the ability to really see this life clearly. This could help you improve your personal relationships with others, the way you live in the world, your relationship to nature,” he said.

The American Zen master has practiced with other foreign monks at the Musang Temple and has taught with the temple’s abbot Ven. Dae Jin, another prominent American student of Ven. Seung Sahn.

Together they have led various projects at the temple, which has produced and continues to nurture devoted Zen masters who often go back to their native countries to lead Korean Zen centers.

Ven. Dae Bong came to Korea in 1984, after studying and working extensively with Ven. Seung Sahn in the U.S.

Ven. Seung Sahn captured the Western Zen followers with the famous “don’t know mind” philosophy, which basically urges people to detach themselves from holding onto any kind of idea, which is the root of human suffering.

Ven. Dae Bong’s impassioned speech and a generous spirit are reminiscent of Ven. Seung Sahn, whose teachings, despite being delivered in broken English, had a resounding impact on inquiring Western minds of Dharma and Buddha’s teachings.

“It was an incredible treasure to meet him and practice with him. Even when he was sick, he was always so amazing. He turned everything into some teaching, but it was never self-conscious,” Ven. Dae Bong said of his teacher.

Pioneering monk

Ven. Seung Sahn is a towering figure in the history of Korean Buddhism who disseminated Korean Zen to the Western world in the 1980s-90s by establishing more than 120 temples and Zen centers in around 30 countries.

His pioneering efforts laid the foundation for the “globalization of Korean Buddhism,” which has emerged as one of the major policies of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

Because he spent so much time abroad, he is relatively unknown in Korea. His final achievement was the establishment of Musang Temple.

“(To honor his legacy), we’ve continued holding a conference ‘The Whole World is a Single Flower’ every three years,” he said. This year, it will be in India in November, with a delegation from Musang Temple and Hwagye Temple, where Ven. Seung Sahn had served as spiritual leader until his death in 2004.

Like all Korean Zen temples, Musang Temple hosts two or three-month intensive meditation retreats called ‘kyol che’ a year during the summer and winter. Kyol che is a time when one can completely devote oneself to meditation away from worldly distractions.

At other times of the year, the temple organizes short weekend retreats and holds a English Zen meditation class every Saturday.

“For young people, I’d suggest they go to the temples and connect with the monks and nuns there and some practicing friends. Buddha’s teachings are alive so they come through live people.”

For more information, visit

Who is Ven. Dae Bong

Ven. Dae Bong was born in 1950 in Philadelphia, U.S. After studying psychology in university, he worked for five years as a psychological counselor in a hospital and as a welder in a Naval shipyard.

He first met Grand Zen Master Seung Sahn in 1977 at a lecture at the New Haven Zen Center. That time someone asked the Master, “What is crazy and what is not crazy?” The Zen Master replied “If you are very attached to something, you are very crazy. If you are a little attached to something, you are a little crazy. If you are not attached to anything, you are not crazy.”

Ven. Dae Bong thought that answer was better than anything he had learned in University or while working, and realized he had found his teacher. After that he began living and practicing full time with Zen Master Seung Sahn at different Zen Centers around the world.

Ven. Dae Bong has been the abbot of Zen Centers in Paris, France and Berkeley and Cambridge in America. He has practiced and taught in America, Europe and Asia, and since 1999 has been the resident Zen Master of Gye Ryong San International Zen Center in Musang Temple. He became a monk in 1984.

He received Inka from Zen Master Seung Sahn in 1992 and Dharma Transmission in 1999.

Beginners' guide to Zen

City people tend to hold the misconception that Buddhist temples are not readily accessible, since many are situated in the mountains. But there are facilities that offer Dharma classes and platforms for Zen practice in town as well.

A good example is the International Zen Center in Yangcheon-gu, western Seoul, which opened in November 2010 to cater to a growing number of Buddhist followers and Zen practitioners.

English Dharma classes are available every Saturday at 7 p.m. It also has a temple stay program and classes on temple food, which is gaining immense popularity among healthy eaters here and abroad. For more information, call 02-2650-2200 or visit

For the YouTube generation, watching videos of Dharma talks on the global video-sharing website is helpful as well.
There are many videos by prominent foreign monks of Korean Buddhism like Ven. Dae Jin, Ven. Hyon Gak, Ven. Chong An and Ven. Wu Bong, all of whom are students of the late Grand Zen Master Seung Sahn. They relate to everyday life and are given in simple language.Videos of Great Zen Master Seung Sahn are available as well.

English Dharma talks are held on a monthly basis by the International Dharma Instructors’ Association (IDIA) at the Templestay Information Center in Jongno, central Seoul. Its next Dharma session will be led by Ven. Dae Bong of the Musang Temple on Nov. 5.

After the talk, one can visit the Buddhism bookstore in the basement of the building and check out temple stay brochures on the first floor of the center.

National Art Museum Seou nicknamed UUL

The new branch of a national contemporary museum, which will open in 2013 in Sogyeok-dong, Seoul, will be called the UUL National Art Museum.

The “UUL” part of the new name comes from the Korean word meaning fence. The “UUL” also incorporates an abbreviation for the word “uri,” which means “us” or “our” in Korean.

“UUL states that the National Art Museum is ‘our’ museum, enclosed in the fence of art and culture. It also refers to the name of the city, Seoul,” said Kang Seung-wan, head of the new museum’s planning and construction department.

The museum will be built on the site of the former headquarters of the Defense Security Command located between Gyeongbok Palace and Samcheong-dong.

The logo for the museum identity symbolizes the name UUL. Composed of lines and dots, the logo embodies a tree, connecting traditional and contemporary aspects, Kang added.

UUL’s site is well-known for its historical value. It was used for several royal institutes during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) including Saganwon (censors office), Gyujanggak (royal library) and Jongchinbu (office of royal genealogy).

Under the Japanese colonial rule (1910-45), Gyeongseong Medical College Hospital was built on the site and it was later used as the Defense Security Command headquarters.

To keep its rich history, UUL preserved a building of the former Defense Security Command headquarters and restored the Jongchinbu building, which was moved to Jeongdok Library, to its original place.

Fences become artwork

In 2010, artist Chung Seo-yeong colored fences in bright pink with “Catch Your Rabbit.”

This time, the museum revamped the fence of the construction site with commercial designer Yi Je-seok, also known as Jeski. He is known for installations such as “Now Disrobing,” which was set up during the restoration of Admiral Yi Sun-sin’s statue in Gwanghwamun Square last year and won many advertising awards from organizations including Cannes International, Clio and the New York Festivals.

Yi’s work imbues a fresh twist to the construction site. The west side of the fence is a teaser for the museum’s opening titled “Naked Museum.” Figures in noted paintings, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and Shin Yun-bok’s “Portrait of a Beauty,” stand behind the fences, naked, with graffiti-like writing announcing the new museum’s name.

On the north side, “Amazing Korea” features surprised looks of foreigners, symbolizing the development of the country.

“Conventionally, the museum asked to create installations for artists, but we decided to work with advertising professional Yi this time, since his exceptional creative, spirit is well-matched with the new museum’s future,” Kang said. “ UUL will approach the public in an intimate way just like Yi’s project.”

The National Art Museum Seoul is scheduled to open in 2013. MOCA is preparing a temporary site in Samcheong-dong to promote the new museum from the end of October.

“The store will introduce the new art museum and sell exclusive UUL products,” Kang said.

For more information, visit (Korean and English) or call (02) 2188-6000.