Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'Gwanghae' sweeps Korean Oscars

The local costume drama "Gwanghae: the Man Who Became the King" scored a knockout victory at the South Korean "Oscar awards" for this year on Tuesday, claiming best picture and 14 other trophies.

The box-office hit about King Gwanghae, the 15th ruler of Korea's last kingdom, the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) was given the best picture award at the 49th Daejong (Grand Bell) Film Awards.

Dokdo beautiful island of Korea

Few could have named it better.

The number of Koreans visiting Dokdo has been sharply rising recently, reflecting the controversy surrounding the islets. One such visitor gazes at one of their two peaks. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

Dokdo means “Sole Islet” or “Solitary Island” in Korean. Of course the nation has at least 3,000 more islands, but the lonely pair of volcanic outcroppings in the East Sea are the only ones still suffering from the diffidence of an unrepentant neighbor to the east.

It also is a sad reminder of Northeast Asia going a century back while the rest of the world is busy moving forward. A former aggressor’s self-denial is turning three economic powers into three bumbling incompetents.

This turns our attention inward and the ongoing presidential elections: Which of the three major candidates will do the best job to put an end to this consumptive and abrasive diplomatic war-of-nerves and bring back trilateral harmony and progress in this part of the world? He or she must be rational but resolute, not emotional and impulsive like the incumbent.

A survey The Korea Times conducted on the occasion of its 62nd birthday, however, showed that voters’ confidence in the candidates’ ability in national security and diplomacy hovers at around 40 percent at best.

Again, they will likely have to remain content as long as the leaders don’t repeat the mistakes of using diplomacy for domestic political gains, as the current leaders of Korea and Japan are doing.

Media outlets are not much freer from the blame for fanning, rather than subduing, their shortsighted, parochial maneuverings. This paper, as the bridge between Korea and the world, has been trying its best to remain objective and neutral, but, we must confess, not always successfully.

We will continue to criticize both Korean and foreign leaders, based not on blind nationalism but on the newspapers’ first and foremost mission ― seeking and delivering facts, including historical ones.

And all such facts say that Dokdo is our island, our territory.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kyobo chairman wins Personality of Year

Kyobo Life Insurance Chairman Shin Chang-jae, left, poses with Sivam Subramaniam, editor-in-chief at Asia Insurance Review, after winning the Personality of the Year Sunday at the Asia Insurance Industry Awards 2012 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for his innovative leadership.

Kyobo Life Insurance Chairman Shin Chang-jae was named Personality of the Year Sunday at the 16th Asia Insurance Industry Awards 2012 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for his innovative leadership and contribution to the insurance industry.  

He is the first Korean to win the award and it is another big achievement for the insurer following the Life Insurance Company of the Year award in 2009.

Kyobo officials said Shin’s leading the firm to become one of the most trustworthy and financially-healthiest insurers in the world seemed to draw votes from the panel of 29 eminent insurance experts. 

It included Michael J Morrissey, president and CEO of the International Insurance Society; Dave J Matcham, chief executive of the International Underwriting Association; and Huang Tien-Mu, director-general of the Insurance Bureau at the Financial Supervisory Commission, Taiwan.

Shin took over the reins of Kyobo Life in 2000 after the Asian currency crisis and introduced “Vision 2010,” a long-term corporate plan that shifted the company’s focus from volume to value and strongly pushed for quality driven management.

The initiative turned out to be successful as the customer-driven and quality-oriented business culture with focus on stable profitability and risk management capability allowed the firm to survive the hard times and become one of the top insurers in Korea.

Outside Korea, Shin plays an active role in international bodies like the Geneva Association (GA) and the International Insurance Society (IIS), where he is vice chairman of the FY2012 board of directors.

He has also been sponsoring the highly-respected Shin Research Excellence Awards, a research partnership program between the IIS and the GA designed to foster original, practically-oriented applied research in insurance.

Lee Bo-young Discovers Joy of Acting

Lee Bo-young poses after being appointed goodwill ambassador for the 10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, at COEX in Seoul on Thursday. /Newsis


Lee Bo-young Lee Bo-young

Lee Bo-young ditched her trademark girly image for the KBS weekend drama  "Seo-young, My Daughter."

"I used to stick to more peace-loving and easygoing roles, but I thought it was about time to show people that I can also perform well as tougher characters, and so far so good," she said. The drama started airing a few weeks ago, already attracting favorable viewer ratings.

In it, Lee plays the role of a woman who is angry at her father, whose gambling addiction led to her mother's death, yet she struggles to keep the family together and make ends meet.

"Playing the role requires a greater depth of emotion than any of my previous roles, which usually leaves me drained after the day's shoot ends, but I also feel a greater sense of achievement," said Lee.

Lee, who majored in Korean literature at Seoul Women's University, originally dreamed of becoming a news presenter. She was one of 15 finalists in MBC's annual recruitment drive in 2002, but she fell at the final hurdle.

"I had never thought of becoming an actress until that point," Lee recalled. That same year, she debuted in showbiz as a model for a commercial.

"I still have a lot of admiration for TV presenters," Lee said. "But I tend to be very positive, so I consoled myself with the thought that, if I got the job, I would have had to dress formally every day, which would have felt very stuffy."

Lee said it took her a long time to feel comfortable in front of the camera, adding that she has only got to grips with this nagging anxiety in recent years.

"Sometimes I feel suffocated if I worry too much about what other people think of me. It's also difficult due to all the exposure you get as an actress, which limits what you can do in your personal life. But now I'm very grateful to have this great job," she said.

"I belatedly realized just how fun it can be. I want to be remembered as an actress who is always trying something new."

Keep Signs of Aging at Bay with Seasonal Fruits

As fall is the season when your skin begs for moisture, here are six seasonal foods to sate the demands of your body's largest organ.

◆ Pomegranates
Regarded as a fruit with numerous benefits for women, pomegranates contain natural estrogen to help protect the skin from wrinkles and stay firm. They are rich in minerals and vitamins that keep the skin looking youthful and clear.

The alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) that are produced naturally in pomegranates improve the texture and surface of your skin, and the fruit is also known to be an effective agent in delaying the effects of aging.

◆ Apples

Rich in malic acid, vitamins and sugar, apples help keep the skin supple and soft, while, on another level, the pectin content is effective in preventing constipation. There is no better food at preventing skin problems linked to poor digestion. As most nutrients are contained just below the apple peel, it's best to eat apples without removing the skin after washing them thoroughly.

◆ Pumpkins

Pumpkins are rich in beta carotene, an inactive form of vitamin A. They also contain vitamins B2 and C, making them a great tonic for a range of dermatological problems including inflammation of the skin, which occurs easily in fall. They also help keep freckles and creases at bay.

As beta carotene is impervious to heat treatment, it doesn't degrade even when pumpkins are stir-fried, giving you numerous ways to enjoy cooking this delectable fruit without compromising its health benefits.

◆ Peanuts
As well as being a great source of easily digestible protein, peanuts are great for dry skin as they are rich in vitamin E, which makes the skin supple and lustrous. However, if you have oily skin and suffer from acne, you would do well to avoid them as they can aggravate the condition.

◆ Jujubes
Jujubes contain more vitamins than tangerines, which spring to mind when thinking of solid vitamin sources and stockpiles of that all-essential vitamin C.

Jujubes are not ideal if you are on a diet, because of their rich sugar content, but they strengthen the skin's capillaries and contain heavy doses of vitamin P, making them a formidable weapon in the war against aging. They make a great snack if you are worried about signs of aging, such as wrinkles.

◆ Mushrooms

Mushrooms are rich in protein, vitamins and dietary fiber. They are also low in fat and are cholesterol-free, leading scientists to believe they can delay the onset of aging and help prevent wrinkles. Eating mushrooms with meat can help prevent cholesterol from building up.

Korea Renames Dokdo Peaks to Highlight Sovereignty

The government has given new names to two peaks on Dokdo in a bid to highlight the country's sovereignty over the islets.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said Sunday it has decided to rename a rock formation on the east side "Usanbong" and one on the west side "Daehanbong."

The name Usanbong is derived from historical records. Dokdo itself used to be called Usando during the Chosun Dynasty. The word "Daehan" comes from the country's name in Korean.

The names will be used on official maps, textbooks and websites.

Source: The Chosun Ilbo

Monday, October 29, 2012

Olympians' handprints

Ulleung preserves remnants of Japan's colonial rule for a reason

 Kim Pil-ryeon poses in front of a Japanese house owned by a former governor on Ulleung Island on Oct 24. Kim, a native of the island, has many memories of Japanese neighbors and songs.
/ Korea Times photos by Shim Hyun-chul


 Kim Pil-ryeon, 85, a native of this island, has a dying wish that will most likely be unfulfilled — meeting her Japanese classmates and neighbors with whom she shared many fond memories in her hometown.
Kim may not be aware of how the rest of her compatriots feel about Japan after its provocative claims to the Dokdo islets. But there are some relics dating from the Japanese colonial rule on the island that will ensure people never forget the dark chapter of Korea’s history.

Tourists enjoy the scenic view of Ulleung Island from the Naesujeon Observation Deck on the east coast of the East Sea island. Dokdo,
a sister island of Ulleung, can be seen from there on a fine day.

Nevertheless, Ulleung islanders have preserved a few of the Japanese houses to teach succeeding generations about the country’s colonial occupation by Japan, instead of razing them to allow the bitter past fade into oblivion. .
Lee Won-hwi, curator of the Dokdo Museum on Ulleung, says some elderly on the island feel nostalgia for the co-existence of Korean natives and Japanese new settlers, who occupied a large part of the island in search of better lives.

 A Japanese house built during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of Korea.
“The Japanese taught Koreans how to catch squid and made their living by logging and renting modern fishing boats,” he said.
“It is regretful that some former Japanese Ulleung settlers and their decedents continue to have a misleading belief that their occupation of the island was justifiable.”

An exterior view of a house built by a Japanese businessman in the 1910s on Ulleung Island.

Lee stressed that descendents of Japanese residents in Ulleung sometimes pay visits to the Dokdo Museum and often find themselves baffled to find out that Dokdo has long been a part of Ulleung residents’ life and both Dokdo and Ulleung were strategically used for the colonization of the Korean Peninsula and Japan’s war against Russia.
Japanese troops even built watch towers on the hills of the island’s coast in September 1904 to prepare for a naval battle in the East Sea during the Russo-Japanese War.

An interior view of the old Japanese house shown in the left picture.

A year later, Japan annexed Dokdo to construct watch towers and a telegraph station on the easternmost islets.
Historical records show an Ulleung Governor permitted Japanese fishermen to reside in the island and do business as migrants since 1897, more than 10 years prior to Japan’s colonization of Korea on the condition that they pay taxes to the Korean government.
Gina Anindyajati, an Indonesia medical doctor who toured Ulleung last week, says she sees layers of hope that Ulleung Island becomes a thriving international port town with throngs of Japanese tourists.
She, however, noted that the Japanese government and right-wingers should make sincere apologies first for the atrocities it committed during the colonial rule, such as sex slavery of Korean women, and unlawful annexation of Dokdo.

Samsung gains on consumer choice's approach

Consumers talk with a shop assistant at a sales outlet of Samsung Electronics in Seoul in this undated file photo. The Korean technology giant has widened its market gap with Apple in smarthphones on the back of brisk sales of the Galaxy S III. / Korea Times file

Samsung’s final argument in the San Jose court, Calif., in August was ``customers make choices, not mistakes.’’ Then Samsung legal counsel Charles Verhoeven insisted no analysis was presented on whether or not any customers were confused at the point of sale and contended that there was no deception or confusion.

But the claim was simply rejected as the nine U.S. jurors awarded Apple $1.05 billion for Samsung’s willful infringement on Apple patents. Verhoeven’s claims seems right, at least as Samsung is receiving more favorable responses from customers globally since the California verdict.

The reason seems clear ― Samsung is shipping more phones than Apple, though Apple is keeping the factory utilization rates of its major suppliers such as Foxconn Technology high.

Apple has had impressive sales of its popular iPhone and iPad over the past few months. But they were mainly in the important United States market, its home turf. Leading market research firm Strategy Analytics said Samsung achieved a record 35 percent global share, followed by Apple.

During the July-September period, Samsung shipped 56.9 million smartphones, globally, which is enough to send it to grab a 35 percent market share.

``This was the top number of units ever shipped by a smartphone vendor in a single quarter,’’ said Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston.

Despite the deepening patent litigation with Apple and rivalry in outlets and stores, Samsung has continued to deliver what Strategy Analytics described as ``numerous hit models’’ from the high-end Galaxy Note phablet to the mass-market Galaxy Y.

In contrast, Apple shipped 26.9 million smartphones globally, giving it a 17 percent market share, a 3 percentage point increase from a year earlier.

``No matter what the situation is, Samsung mobile devices are selling well, globally, as the firm is ideally-positioned to mass-produce various models with different sizes. The California verdict was the factor that persuaded our technicians and designers to do more work,’’ said a senior Samsung executive by telephone asking not to be identified.

The executive, directly involved with Samsung’s mobile business, stressed the company will push more to widen its gap with Apple further. IDC Corp., another leading research firm, said Samsung shipped 56.3 million handsets, followed by Apple with 26.9 million. As part of its aggressiveness in Web-connected devices, the Korean company confirmed that it will build another handset factory in Vietnam.

``Samsung is ready to significantly boost its annual production output to enjoy a stable lead over rivals in the smartphone race,’’ said the executive.

``Cross-licensing only makes sense for either party if there is something in it for both of them. I cannot see that that is the case, unless one party has or will achieve a technological advantage over the other in a technology that is crucial and imperative to maintain market share,’’ said Severin de Wit, the founder of the Intellectual Property Expert Group (IPEG) consultancy, in an interview.

The former judge in The Hague District Court, who managed various litigations, related to the electronics industries, continued: ``As soon as a dominant player in the market loses market share (Apple) against a forceful newcomer (Samsung), the fight shifts from the marketplace to the court. Both Apple and Samsung perfectly realize that there has never been any company in the world that managed to throw competition out of the market all together by means of patent litigation only, so what is the ultimate goal of this costly litigation strategy?’’

According to his observations, this fight is aimed at keeping market dominance for Apple or to achieve effective market entrance by Samsung. ``So, patent litigation is therefore not a goal by itself but rather a supporting market tactic, but always part of a larger corporate strategy to increase market share,’’ he said.

Samsung is aiming to ship more than 300 million smartphones next year capitalizing on developing Asian nations such as those in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where Nokia had enjoyed a firm lead a couple years ago, said Samsung officials.

Horim Museum celebrates 30 yrs with dual shows

On Dosan Road in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, a building resembling comb-pattern earthenware stands out among the towering skyscrapers and posh restaurants. The conspicuous Horim Art Center, which houses the Sinsa branch of the Horim Museum, is a bold reminder of the growth of one of Korea’s elite private museums.

A gilt-bronze “Standing Buddha at Birth” from the sixth century, National Treasure No. 808, is on display at the Horim Museum.
The Horim began 30 years ago in a small property in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul. Today it has grown into a museum with 15,000 artifacts including 54 state-designated cultural properties.

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the museum’s founding, the Horim on Oct. 18 kicked off a special exhibition showcasing the most renowned artifacts in its collection.

The Horim is one of the few private institutions in Korea that has all the ingredients needed for an elite museum: State-of-the-art technology, a source of stable and continuous funding, and the ability and determination to continue to buy highly sought after artifacts.

The man behind the scenes who made it all possible is Yun Jang-sub, the chairman of the Sungbo Cultural Foundation (Horim is Yun’s pen name). A renowned art collector in the early 20th century, Yun is the only living witness of the museum’s long narrative. He accumulated his wealth through trading firm Sungbo Industry and a chemical firm Sungbo Chemical, and has funneled much of his funds into the arts.

In celebration of the 30th anniversary, the museum has also published a book that details Yun’s collections, establishment of the Sungbo Cultural Foundation and Horim Museum, and his handing over of the rights to the artifacts to the foundation so that more people could appreciate them.

Yun, who is 90 years old, made a rare appearance at the Oct. 18 press event and even held a short question and answer session with reporters for the first time. He had previously turned down all requests for interviews, but he seemed particularly overjoyed and overwhelmed by the special exhibition and book, through which people can share the joy and difficulties he had experienced while collecting the art for the past 40 years.

Asked what kind of moments were the happiest of his life as an art collector, Yun said, “Moments like now - when we are sharing with the world the artifacts we love.”

“Rabbit” by Choe Puk (1712-86) from the 18th century is part of the 30th anniversary exhibition at the Sinsa branch of the Horim Museum. Provided by the museum
The exhibition titled “Horim, a Promenade Through the Forest of Cultural Heritage,” is divided into three sections. The first, dubbed “National Treasure Designated by the Government,” displays state-designated cultural properties. The second section, called “Masterpieces: Celebrities’ Choices,” showcases 30 items selected by 30 scholars, professors and experts in Korean art, history and cultural properties. The final section, called “Treasures that Horim Loves,” displays items that Yun has a special attachment to and fond memories of.

One item not to miss in the first section is the Buncheong flask with sgraffito lotus and fish designs - National Treasure No. 179. Buncheong ware is a ceramic type produced during the first 200 years of the Joseon Dynasty (1392?1910), known for a relatively coarse gray body in various shapes and a green-tinted semi-translucent glaze.

In the second section, which is certainly the meat of the exhibit with many choice artifacts, making it hard to pick just a few, the earthenware pieces stand out. Horim’s selection of earthenware is well-appreciated in art circles and is part of the reason behind the design of the Sinsa branch.

Pieces of white porcelain from the Joseon Dynasty are also notable, and they are bound to change previous notions that they are not as elegant and precious as the celadon from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

Meanwhile, “Celadon Gourd-shaped Lidded Ewer with Inlaid Willow, Reed, Lotus and Bamboo Design” is one of the highlights of the third section.

“After I purchased this celadon from Yang Yeong-bok, an ancient art broker, in May 26 of 1971, my life as an art collector began,” Yun reminisces in the book. He added that he really appreciated the beautiful and fresh shape of his first purchase and continued to buy from Yang.

“Continuous financial support and a discerning eye are crucial for a private museum,” said the honorary chairman of the Korean Museum Association, adding that Horim Museum is a rare museum with both.
 Along with Hoam and Kansong, Yun protected our country’s cultural properties. If you want to run a museum, you should do it like Yun.”

Hoam is the pen name of Lee Byung-chull (1910-87), the founder of Samsung Group, and Kansong is the pen name of Jeon Hyeong-pil (1906-62).

* Admission to “Horim, a Promenade through the Forest of Cultural Heritage” at the Sinsa branch is 8,000 won ($7.25). Hours are between 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. The museum closes every Monday. It’s near Sinsa Station, subway line No. 3, but not a walkable distance.

* The Sillim branch is also holding a special exhibition “Appreciation of Memories” which wraps up the past special exhibitions at the Horim. Admission is 4,000 won. Hours are between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. It is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Go to Sillim Station, subway line No. 2. People can view both exhibitions for 8,000 won.

Friday, October 26, 2012

For the up comming Halloween

Photo of the day

Falling Love in autumn package

Guests taking the Mayfield Hotel & Resort’s Fall in Maple packages can enjoy tinged autumnal leaves in the hotel’s gardens and surrounding hills.

/ Courtesy of Mayfield Hotel & Resort

Autumn is at its peak. Before winter comes when you have to brace yourself against the chill, it is a good chance to enjoy hotel packages designed for the relaxation of both body and mind.

The Renaissance Seoul Hotel offers autumn weekend packages for those wanting to spend a quiet, relaxing fall through Dec. 2.

Four different packages are available, and all of them include one night in a deluxe room, complimentary use of the indoor swimming pool and Renaissance Recreation Center and a 50-percent discount on the use of saunas.
The Autumn Saving Package is a cost-saving choice that offers the accommodation and the general benefits for 179,000 won. The Autumn Night Package features one night in a deluxe room with free Internet access, one free movie, plus a bottle of red wine with cheese plate for 199,000 won.

For guests seeking healing and relaxation for the mind and body, the Autumn Healing Package is available with breakfast for two at the Cafe Elysee, free in-room Internet, two traditional Korean teas or fresh persimmon juice, a special “Healing Box” comprised of Canadian natural brand Fruit & Passion’s four aroma therapeutic products, and a book priced at 309,000 won.

The Autumn Family Package offers breakfast for two adults, with two children under 12 allowed to eat for free, Internet access without charge, a glass of orange juice and a snack for children and a wine and cheese plate for adults as room service, at 249,000 won.

Those packages are available from Friday to Sunday and holidays. For inquiries, call (02) 2222-8500.

The Mayfield Hotel & Resort presents three types of Fall in Maple packages through the end of November.

The first offers one night in a superior room and two cups of maple tea for 157,000 won, while the second adds a breakfast buffet at Michelin and a cosmetics set to the first package’s benefit at 207,000 won.

The third package features the benefits above plus a special dinner for two at its Italian restaurant La Festa and a 20-percent discount coupon for the hotel’s winter package. It is priced at 284,000 won.

Guests of the three packages can enjoy free use of the swimming pool, health club and Kids’ Club, a 50-percent discount on use of the sauna and a 10-percent discount at restaurants and the Par 3 golf course. For information, call (02) 2660-9000.

The Ritz-Carlton Seoul offers three types of packages through Nov. 15.

The Fall in Gourmet package features sandwiches and drinks as room service. The meal can be prepared to-go if advance orders are made. It is priced at 275,000 won. The Fall in Memory package offers Ritz-Carlton Seoul’s private brand goods ― a choice among a set of two cobalt blue goblets or mug cups or a teddy bear ― at 290,000 won.

The Fall in Relax package includes a 90-minute treatment for two guests at the French-themed spa for 395,000 won.
All the packages include one night in a superior deluxe room and free use of the fitness club and the indoor swimming pool. For reservations, call (02) 3451-8114.

The Grand Hilton Seoul presents special packages just for the ladies, named Autumn Ladies Package, until Nov. 30.
The first package offers one night in a three-bedroom unit at the Grand Suite serviced residence, which has a kitchen and a living room, for up to four guests at 199,000 won. The second package, catering to a group of up to six people, presents accommodation in a four-bedroom unit.

Designed for a girls’ night out, both the two packages include everything needed for a party, such as two bottles of wine, Pocari Sweat, juice, Pringles, mixed nuts, Lindt chocolate, a Hilton chocolate box and a balloon decoration. Male visitors and minors are not allowed to stay.

Free use of the gym and swimming pool is also available. For inquiries, call (02) 2287-8400.

The JW Marriott Seoul presents Autumn Getaway Package through the end of November.

It includes one night in a superior room, two tickets to a movie at Megabox Central movie theater just next to the hotel, a bottle of Santero Pinot Chardonnay Spumante sparkling wine, and free use of the fitness club and swimming pool.

The package is available from Friday to Sunday for 299,000 won. For more information, call (02) 6282-6282.

Imperial Palace Seoul offers a Free Fall Package, which includes one night in a deluxe room, a breakfast buffet for two at Cafe Amiga, two glasses of persimmon juice at the Lobby Lounge and two tickets for a movie at Lotte Cinema theater.

Free admission to the fitness club and the indoor swimming pool is also available.

The price starts from 245,000 won. From Nov. 1, the package is available only from Friday to Sunday. For inquiries, call (02) 3440-8000.

The Sheraton Seoul D Cube City Hotel offers a package until Nov. 30 under the theme of “reading books.”

Guests taking the package can relax at the hotel’s Lobby Lounge/Bar, enjoy an afternoon set tea and read books in the book corner at the lounge for free. The package also includes one night in a deluxe room and free use of the gym and swimming pool.

The prices are 220,000 won on weekdays and 250,000 won on weekends. For information, call (02) 2211-2100.
Those visiting Jeju Island can enjoy the Shilla Jeju’s Autumn Travel Package through Nov. 30.

Guests can enjoy nights swimming at the outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi, outdoor live music, a tango performance by Argentine dancers of the Moonlight Fever Tango Festival, and a variety of wines at the Classic Winery Tour program in the hotel’s garden.

The package also includes one night of accommodation, a breakfast buffet for two at the Parkview, free use of the hotel’s private beach house and in-room Internet access.

Prices range between 290,000 won and 400,000 won. For reservation, call 1588-1142.

The Mercure Gangnam Sodowe offers Wine Night Party Packages on weekdays through the end of November.

The package features one night in a standard room and a wine buffet at the hotel’s sky lounge Kloud where guests can have unlimited wine, draft beer and snacks. The buffet is available between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

It is priced at 180,000 won for two people and is available from Monday to Thursday. For inquiries, call (02) 2050-6000. 


Seoul Fashion Week SS 2013

Designer Sheen Je-hee’s SS 2013 collection

/ Courtesy of Seoul Fashion Week

Seoul strives to become fashion capital

Korea’s leading designers and fashionistas gathered for Seoul Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013, which started Monday.

This year’s event boasts a lineup of 48 collections, 12 next generation and seven presentation designers.

Despite the bad weather on its first day, the two venues, the War Memorial of Korea and Seogyo Xi Gallery, were packed with dedicated followers of fashion.

“I arrived here two hours earlier to see the very first show of Seoul Fashion Week,” Kim Sun-a, a design student, said Monday.

According to the fashion industry’s concept of scheduling, the shows ran on time. This meant that most of them were still about 15 minutes late, but that’s better than other leading fashion weeks — in Paris, for example, it’s a minimum of 40 minutes.

The venues, on the other hand, were a mistake; they were too small to host such an international event where visiting buyers and editors should be able to at least secure a seat. Front rows were adorned with celebrities as usual and sponsorship has done its best to support the event.

The good news is that there now appear to be more than five Korean designers producing work close to world-class standards, compared to a few years ago when the city used to rely hugely on only two to three names.

TBut Korea’s capital still can’t shake off the feeling it’s an underdog in the fashion world. Untrained employees and a disorganized seat designation system at the event means the city still has a long way to go to before it can be regarded as a serious player among the world’s fashion capitals. But the other good news is that the number of international press and buyers is steadily increasing, compared to a few years back when the city used to be bypassed altogether.

Trend round-up

For men, the year 2012 is one in which many sports events took place and that influenced the imagination of designers everywhere. On the London, Milan and Paris runways, parkas, shorts and t-shirts were the winners that will invade our wardrobes next summer.

In Seoul Fashion Week SS 2013, shorts, in particular, are seen as a must-have item with a variety of length and styles such as super shorts, tailored or minimalist, teamed with a blazer or a t-shirt. Shorts from such collections as Kim Kyung-min’s Sneezer Parade and Ko Tae-yong’s Beyond Closet were clear winners at the show.

The color palette consists of bright colors such as yellow, as seen in Sheen Je-hee’s total yellow look, blue and beige. The season also has a white look; a model clad in white from top to bottom seen at Lee Sang-hyun’s LEIGH collection looked comfortable yet sophisticated. The summer coat, as with womenswear last season, is the new must-have item of the season ranging from demure classic raincoats to military style jackets.

Unlike the men, the world’s leading fashion weeks presented a range of different styles for the SS 2013 season in womenswear, acknowledging their heritage. But there is one thing in common — lightness in terms of palette and fabrics such as chiffon and organza in white and pastels. The shows also exhibited black for summer and even some fur.

Designers such as Park Choon-moo and Moon Young-hee presented some white-and black-pieces that are less hugging and a variety of trousers including palazzo have earned their place on the runway. Lee Suk-tae also showed the total white look, oversize t-shirts tucked in short skirts, and some strong prints that were more gusty than girly.

Beyond Closet by Ko Tae-yong

For each season designer Ko presented different themes for his collection, and this year, he came up with “travel,” featuring sailor and outdoor looks with stylish backpacks. While last season was about boyish charm and college sports appeal in hues of grey and beige, he lit up the runway this time in such bright colors as yellow and blue.

Ko is well-known for dressing chic, preppy men. Prints especially stood out in his practical yet sophisticated collection. For those who are less adventurous, the collection gives some simply-designed pieces such as a bottom side zipper blazer and loose fit trousers.

Resurrection by Lee Ju-young

The veteran designer’s collection appeared on the runway to the raucous sound of heavy metal. The American-educated artist whose clientele includes Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas saw its front seats adorned with Korean celebrities including members of Jewelry, Chae Yeon and Seo Ji-seok.

While she took inspiration from her collection from last season, her military-themed collection was definitely more toned down in relation to her past “rebellious men” clothes, showing off some black and white modern chic outfits towards the end of the show. All of her outfits are well matched with her popular eyewear as well. Resurrection’s dark, sexy look is a little break from the multitude of well-heeled looks seen on most Seoul runways.

LEIGH by Lee Sang-hyun

The designer known to reinterpret the concept of “classic” showed his predilection for minimalism this year, while continuing his usual “chic casual” look using limited shades of blue, grey, white and black.

The zipper detailing on the coats and trousers was minimal but demanded attention. In particular, his precision-cut tailored summer coats and jackets with black leather sandals ruled the runway

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hanwha proud owner of leading solar cell firm

Halmae Nakji

Halmae Nakji baekban consists of spicy stir-fried octopus with rice, fish cake soup and sides. By Lee Jee-eun
Autumn is the time of year for colorful trees and hearty appetites. It is a season when hot food is an ideal complement to the cooler weather, and it’s hard to beat a plate of spicy stir-fried octopus.

Other than the decision to order the traditional Korean dish, there aren’t a lot of other choices to make. Most spicy stir-fried octopus recipes call for chili paste, chili powder, sliced vegetables, and, of course, the eight-legged cephalopod mollusk.

For a simple, homey dish with no artificial flavors,  Halmae Nakji (Grandma’s Octopus), which is supposedly one of the oldest and most distinguished restaurants to feature this food. The restaurant has been in business for 62 years.

When  order for the Nakji baekban meal - spicy stir-fried octopus, a bowl of rice, fish cake soup and side dishes - the server asked how spicy one can have in their palate of octopus. Many customers seemed to have a preference for “very spicy” .

One of the side dishes was the familiar plate of boiled bean sprouts, frequently served to help alleviate the heat.

Fortunately, octopus arrived just as  ordered it; although, it is also a short of meat. With  chopsticks, peole counted eight pinky-sized pieces of octopus overloaded with vegetables, and the taste was not what it should have been for a restaurant regularly found in many tourism-related magazines.

According to the customers ( I searched for more octopus, I noticed that nearly all the customers around me were elderly people who seemed to be Halmae Nakji regulars, ordering their usual dish and wiping their sweat-covered foreheads).

The restaurant is clean enough given that the chairs and dining tables were fairly old and a bit shabby.
Taking into account the quantity of the food, the 8,000 won ($7) price seems okay. But I had to wonder why Halmae Nakji receives so much publicity.

Halmae Nakji is located near Myeongdong subway station, line No. 4, exit 5.

(02) 757-3353. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Menu is available in Japanese. 

Easy steps to brewing your own veggie teas

Dehydration is the most important step of the tea-making process. Above, roasted lotus roots [JoongAng Ilbo]
Lotus roots and white radishes are most commonly eaten in Korea as side dishes. But they can also be dried and brewed. Cho Hee-suk, a traditional Korean food researcher, lays out a few recipes and tips on how to make your own unique teas at home out of ingredients typically used in traditional Korean meals.

“Almost all edible things can be made into a decent cup of tea,” says the 54-year-old food researcher who serves as an adviser for the exhibition titled “Becoming One with Tea,” which runs through the end of this month at the Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation.

“The weather is perfect for drying vegetables. The sunlight around this time of year is strong enough to dry them in two or three days. You have to dry them before the mercury drops below zero.”

Since October is part of the root vegetable harvest season, Cho has prepared lotus roots and white radishes, both widely used for typical Korean side dishes .

Of the many types of lotus roots, Cho says white lotus roots that later bloom into white flowers are most suitable for teas. The white roots are more aromatic, she says.

In order to prepare lotus root tea, wash a lotus root with running water and slice the vegetable into pieces about three millimeters (0.1 inch) thick. Rinse the sliced lotus root with cold water and add a bit of salt and vinegar.

When a small amount of salt and vinegar are added to the cold water, the combination prevents the lotus root from browning and adds flavor to the tea.

The next step is finding the perfect place for dehydration, which is the most important step of the tea-making process. A well-ventilated place like a balcony is ideal, but using electric fans or electric food dehydrators are also okay when there is no suitable place for drying.

Clockwise from above: Buckwheat tea, lotus root tea and radish tea

When the lotus roots are completely dried, roast the vegetables with a heated pan without cooking oil until the lotus roots turn slightly brown. When the roasting process is done, cool down the lotus roots by placing them on wicker trays. Air-tight containers are needed for storage.

While the tea-making process is a bit complicated, the brewing is as simple as it gets. Brew three or four pieces of lotus root in hot water for three minutes.

Keeping leftover lotus roots after emptying a cuppa is one way to fully use the root vegetable, Cho says.

Her suggestion is to put the leftover lotus roots into a rice cooker because they are a great source of fiber. Lotus roots are known to prevent anemia and high blood pressure as well.

The same process can be applied when making radish tea.

Peel the radish first and then slice it into thin, square shapes. Put the thinly sliced pieces onto wicker trays and dry them. The roasting process is also the same. Roast the dried radish with a heated pan without cooking oil. Radish has a strong, tangy flavor, so just one or two pieces are enough for the tea.

Since radish helps with digestion, the tea can be especially useful for those with indigestion.

Other than lotus roots and radish, balloon flower roots and burdock roots, also widely used as side dishes in Korea, are suitable tea ingredients. Fruits and grains also become fine tea options.

Buckwheat tea is available at grocery stores, but homemade buckwheat tea is much richer, Cho says. The process is similar to those of the lotus root and radish teas.

“Grain tea is good to drink early in the morning because it calms down your stomach,” says Cho.

Traditional Korean food researcher Cho Hee-suk roasts dried lotus roots without cooking oil.   
Making tea with peaches, mulberries and Japanese apricots is also easy to follow. Mix fruits and sugar until bubbles appear from the mixture. Cho says bubbles are a sign of fermentation beginning.

It takes about three months for Japanese apricots and one month for peaches and mulberries to be fully fermented. The next step is scooping fruits and keeping the rest of the liquids refrigerated.

These fruit tea contains a significant amount of enzymes and are better when served with cold water. By doing so, you can minimize the destruction of the enzymes.

The exhibition dedicated to tea and the artwork inspired by it is currently being held at the Arumjigi center, located in Insa-dong, central Seoul. The Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation is a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting and preserving Korea’s traditional culture and beauty.

Revisiting the women who changed Korea with their pens

Women has been always favorite for all.

“It was a fight in which there was no victor,” Park Kyung-ni (1926-2008) wrote in the preface of her famous novel “Toji” (“The Land”). “Just like the army that burns its bridges, only by shouldering despair was I able to take a step forward.”

Park was one of the most prominent Korean novelists and “Toji,” a 16-volume epic saga set in the turbulent late 19th and early 20th centuries, is a must-read for those interested in the Far East. The words in the preface show the agony and torment she went through to complete it.

Writing a novel is an extraordinary accomplishment in any environment, but attempting to convey the pains at the turn of the 20th century in Korea and life under Japanese rule was an especially difficult task given the rapid changes on the peninsula. Park was also balancing life as a mother, wife and daughter-in-law in a very patriarchal, Confucian society.

She was not alone in her remarkable attempts to break free from societal constraints. Museums and historians are beginning to rediscover the female literati of the dawn of modern times on the Korean Peninsula, revisiting the professional works and narratives of Park’s contemporaries.

An exhibition titled “Korean Women’s Literature, 30 Years” is currently underway at the Young-in Literary Museum in Pyeongchang-dong, central Seoul, which looks into the lives of 13 female writers in Korea who pioneered modern literature on the peninsula. In addition to Park, the exhibit centers on Na Hye-seok, who was born in 1896, and Kim Nam-jo, who was born in 1927.

Na and Kim Il-yeop, who were prolific in the 1920s, are part of the first generation of modern Korean authors. They were followed by Mo Yun-suk, Choi Jeong-hee and No Cheon-myeong, who were primarily active in the 1930s. Han Mu-suk, Son So-hee and Kang Shin-jae were prominent in the 1940s and Kim Nam-jo and Park Kyung-ni in the 1950s.

During the early 20th century, many women sought to break away from Confucius restraints and looked for a footing in society. To many of these authors, writing was a symbol of freedom.

The pen and the sewing machine

A common theme at the exhibition is the balancing of a passion for literature with life as a mother and a wife. Many of these influential authors had a pen in one hand and a sewing machine in the other - quite literally.

On display are the contemporary household items used by many of the women, like the tables, paper, pens and inkstones as well as the sewing machines, spools, bowls and hanbok, or traditional Korean attire.

Personal letters are also on display at the exhibit.

“Dear Ik-jo, I just received your letter. I am so thrilled that I instantly stopped writing the novel and am writing to you now. Thank you also for copying down the report card. It seems you are not so good at physics, geometry or algebra. I was also bad at those. You must have taken that after me.”

Novelist Choi Jeong-hee (1906-1990) was writing to her son in 1952. Choi was married and had the son with her husband, but became a widow not long after. She had to leave her son at her in-laws, and letters were the only way she could keep in touch and express her love.

In addition to the letter, the writing table used by Mo Yun-suk (1910-90), the sewing machine used by Han Mu-suk(1918-93), perfume that belonged to Son So-hee (1917-86), and the dress and accessories worn by Kang Shin-jae (1924-2001) are on display.

Photos at the exhibit show that many of these writers knew of each other and even met on a few occasions. “?‘Come on in, girls. You are a little late,’ No Cheon-myeong greeted us in a little nasal voice with a big smile. I forgot where her house was. But it wasn’t a small one, with two large rooms on the ground floor and a second level. We chatted like teenage girls on a school retreat.”

This is the account of novelist Son So-hee (1917-87) on a visit to the home of No (1911-57). The article was published in a literature magazine in 1979. No is known for the poem “Deer,” which starts with the well-known phrase “Dear an animal that’s sad because of its long neck.”

In the article about her visit, Son drew a slender girl in a dress riding a large deer and wrote on the side, “No was a sad poet because of her lofty ideals, and she was a lonely woman because she had a tender heart.”

From Cinderella to destitution

Among the female literati of the times, Na Hye-seok had it the hardest.

In her early years, she seemed to have it all. She was the second daughter of Na Ki-jeong, the governor of Yongin. She graduated summa cum laude from Jinmyeong Girls’ High School and enrolled in Joshibi University of Art and Design and majored in Western painting - the first Korean woman to do so.

She held her first solo exhibition in Seoul at the age of 25 and married lawyer and diplomat Kim U-yeong and traveled the world with him. But she challenged the culture of tolerating men’s affairs and concubines. She had an affair of her own and got divorced in 1931.

Na struggled financially and became ill. She was found dead on a street in 1948 and was kept at a hospital morgue until she was identified as Na, Korea’s first Western-style painter and a respected writer.

Beside the exhibition at the Young-in Literary Museum, a group of scholars launched on Sept. 1 the Na Hye-seok Research Society, which will be dedicated to studying the works and life of Na. In addition, the city of Suwon, Gyeonggi - where Na lived - is building a memorial hall for the late artist, hoping to complete it late next year.

At the general meeting held to celebrate the launch of the society, scholars - including Seo Jeong-ja, professor of Korean literature at Chodang University - unveiled never-before-seen photos and letters.

In one letter, dated Nov. 29, 1931, Na writes to her Japanese patrons, asking them to purchase one of her paintings that won an award in Tokyo, which indicates how financially difficult it was for her after the divorce.

Meanwhile, the Young-in Literary Museum said that although this exhibition is limited to female writers born in the early 20th century, it hopes to obtain more materials on female writers born after the 1930s.

“I always envisioned making a map for the 30 years of female literature [between the 1920s and 1950s], but the lack of materials has been a problem,” said Kang In-suk, the director of the museum. “We were able to expand our collection thanks to some new donors like the daughter of Mo Yun-suk, who lives in Canada, and Song Yeong-sun [a scholar of Korean literature].”

One can visit Young-in Literary Museum by going to Gyeongbokgung Station (line No. 3) and taking bus 1711 or 1020 from exit No. 3. Hours are between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets range from 3,000 won ($2.70) to 5,000 won. For more information, call (02) 379-3182.

Courtesy: Korea Joongang Daily

Seasonal Gingko Nuts

Gingko nuts with their subtle flavor and soft, chewy texture have been an essential ingredient in high-quality dishes for centuries, prized for important occasions such as weddings and ancestral ceremonies in Korea.

The nuts are in season now, and Korean people are busy harvesting them. They are best eaten , when  they rest for about 15 days after harvesting.

As the fruit ripens, it becomes much easier to get the outer layer off, which reveals the hard shell. Inside that is the light yellow gingko nut in the shape of a small egg.

The reason why gingko nuts are much loved in Korean cuisine is their healthful properties. Traditional medical books, including the "Dongui Bogam," claim that gingko nuts are effective in treating respiratory diseases. Mothers used to feed roasted gingko nuts to their daughters as they were carried on a palanquin to their wedding.

"It's difficult to go to the toilet when you are in a sedan chair. Roasted gingko nuts discourage urination. But raw gingko nuts have completely the opposite effect: they are diuretic."

But too much of a good thing can be harmful. Gingko nuts contain toxic cyanogenetic glycoside which in large doses can cause stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea.

"If you find it difficult to peel off the hard shells of ginko nuts, put them in empty milk cartons and heat them up for three minutes in the microwave. Then the roasted nuts inside the shell will pop out like popcorn," says a farmer who plants ginko trees at a farm in Yesan, Sough Chungcheong Province, where about 40 percent of Korea's total gingko production come from.

Enjoy Pastoral Pleasures at Korean Provincial Festivals in Fall

Various festivals are in full swing across the country this month as people take advantage of the beautiful autumn weather.

A fermented seafood festival ( has been taking place in Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province since Wednesday. Visitors can buy salted seafood at discounted prices and enjoy 79 events, such as making kimchi with salted seafood, until Sunday. For more information, call 041-730-3224.

At a hanok village in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, a festival based on its regional specialty of bibimbap (rice with assorted vegetables) is being held from Thursday to Sunday. Visitors learn the latest trends relating to regional dishes, while locals will make bibimbap for 6,000 people, hold a cooking contest and stage various events. For more details, call 063-281-2380.

In Suncheon, South Jeolla Province from Friday to Sunday, representative local foods will be displayed for tasting, and a cooking contest for authentic side dishes will be held. Visitors can enjoy Korean folk music concerts, rope-walking, traditional wedding ceremonies and making jeolpyeon (rice cake). Foreign envoys from 15 countries and their wives have also been invited to sample local foods and show off their cooking skills. For more information, call 061-749-4221.

From Thursday to Tuesday, a ceramics festival will take place in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, which is famous for its buncheong (grayish-blue) porcelain that traces back to the Chosun period. Also in Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province, a persimmon festival will run from Friday to Sunday. For more information on either festival, call 055-330-3241 or 054-370-2471, respectively.

Coffee lovers may want to head to Gangneung, Gangwon Province, between Friday and Oct. 28 to enjoy a coffee-themed festival there (033-647-6802). The area is filled with coffee shops, factories and plantations.

Around the Imjingak area in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, a ginseng festival highlights the efficacious properties of the herb this weekend. Last year, it saw a huge turnout as 760,000 people showed up. Visitors can enjoy hunting for ginseng in the woods, tasting liquor made of the root, participating in a ginseng auction and making dolls with ginseng, among other scheduled activities.

In Icheon, a city famous for producing rice in Gyeonggi Province, a festival ( awaits those who are interested in making various dishes using the staple food. Visitors will be able to buy agricultural produce and other local products such as newly harvested rice and ceramic items, while also roaming a marketplace and enjoying various performances. For more information, call 031-644-4125.

Meanwhile, at Gwangalli Beach in Busan, some 80,000 fireworks will be set off against the backdrop of Gwangan Bridge. For more information, call 051-888-3392~6.

Huge Flash Mob in Milan Shows 'Gangnam Style' Fever Still High

Fans of the smash hit "Gangnam Style" staged a large-scale flash mob in front of Milan Cathedral, a world-famous tourist attraction in Milan, Italy, late last week.

A clip on YouTube shows over 20,000 people assembled at the huge Gothic cathedral as either participants or spectators. They are seen performing Psy's signature horse-riding dance in unison while singing along in Korean.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Big Brand "Gucci" begins scholarship program specially for Korean Students

Italian fashion house Gucci will start accepting applications for its five-year scholarship initiative.

“The Gucci Scholarship Program” will award bursary aid to five Korean university students majoring in fashion-related fields.

The program is organized in partnership with the Korea Student Aid Foundation (KOSAF).

Applicants must be four-year college fashion students in their first, second or third year. All candidates must submit their applications via KOSAF’s website through Nov. 16. After the initial screening, 15 applicants will be called for a second test, slated for Dec. 8

The contestants will be judged on their ability to design a women’s bag and present their work at the test. The brand’s creative director Frida Giannini will select the winners in January after screening their designs, innovativeness and practicality.

Giannini visited Korea in April and gave a special talk in front of about 450 seniors at Hongik University in Seoul. Fashion design/textile art professor Gan ho-seob from the university also participated in the event.

Those selected will also be offered the opportunity to visit Gucci’s leather goods factory in Florence and a fashion show in Milan.

For more details, visit or

Writers' festival coming to Seoul and Jeju

The Seoul International Writers’ Festival will take place in Seoul and on Jeju Island from Oct. 29 to Nov.3. Under the theme “Reality and Imagination,” the five-day event will invite 20 writers, including prominent writers from abroad for lectures, discussions and tours.

The biennial event has been hosted by the Literature Translation Institute of Korea since 2006 to help Korean writers’ overseas activities.

This year, the institute has changed the title of the festival from the World Writers’ Festival to the Seoul International Festival and will intensify the interactive program with audiences in Daehangno, deemed a mecca of culture and art here.

Korean writers such as Kim Yujine, Kim Tae-yong, Yun I-hyeong, Jung Young-moon, Choi Jae-hoon, Kim Ki-taek, Kim Yi-deum, Shim Bo-seon, Jin Eun-young and Choi Jeongrye will participate in the event.

Fay Chiang, Ivy Alvarez, Jakob Hein, Jean Philippe Toussaint, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Johannes Goransson, K. Srilata, Leon Plascencia Nol, Minato Kanae, Phillippe Besson and Uthis Haemamool will attend the festival as international guests.

Dobbs was born in 1975 in Wonju, Gangwon Province and adopted to the United States. Best known for her novel “Paper Pavilion,” she is now collecting unwed Korean mothers’ narratives with the Korean Unwed Mothers and Families Association.

The participants will visit Jeju Island on Oct. 29 and 30 to experience the traditional culture and natural environment. They will also go on sightseeing tours, hike and visit folk villages as well as holding free talks along with a reading session during the festival. Writers will discuss the role of literature today and art created from the imagination and multiple realities of the world.

For more information, visit

Mount Naejang one of most appreciated mountains during fall

Located a short distance outside Jeonju in the undulating hillsides of South Jeolla Province in the country's southwest, Mount Naejang is one of Korea's finest and arguably one of its most visited attractions. The mountain brings hordes of people to view its foliage during the autumn months every year.

Courtesy :

"The best time to go is the first week of November," said Jin Hyun-ju, a visitor's guide at the mountain's national park. "This is often the busiest time of year, and we see visitors from all over the country coming here."

The name "Naejang" means "many secrets," and dotting the park are temples, cliffside waterfalls and stunning views from the summit. Given the arduous conditions and inevitable dangers of getting lost, it's promising to know that all courses start and finish from the same entrance.


Despite it being one of Korea's most visited and admired mountains, it is by no means an easy hike. The walk alone from the where a bus drops you off -- along a quaint street lined with traditional Korean restaurants -- is between 2 and 3 kilometers. From the entrance of Mount Naejang National Park, it is another 500 meters or so to Naejang Temple, the starting point of a number of different trail options.

"We come here every year during the fall to hike the Ridge Course," said Kim Min-young, an accountant from Seoul. Not for a casual day-tripper, this course stretches over 12.8 km and takes seven hours to scale the park's eight peaks, the highest of which is 763 meters (above sea level). "It's not easy, but it's really the best way to take advantage of the views," Kim assures.

A less daunting option is the Seoraebong Course, assures Jin the guide, which is 5.9 km and takes a little more than three hours to complete. It winds up along Byeongnyeonam all the way to Seoraebong's 624-meter summit, the first of eight peaks that circle the park's colorful grounds below.

Much of the path on the way to the summit of Seoraebong hugs precariously close to a cliff wall. The course then stretches over to Bulchulbong (622 meters) before descending via Wonjeokam, a smaller temple said to have been built during the third year of the reign of King Seonjong (1083-1094), and back down to Naejang Temple.


Legend has it that if fog enshrouds the summit of Bulchulbong, severe drought will follow for that year.

Regardless of which course one chooses, each offers its own set of challenges and what awaits visitors above makes them worthwhile. The sign at the summit of Seoraebong claims the valley below resembles a "flowing traditional Korean dress" in the way the hillsides seem to drape and flow to the ground below.

Before the hike up, it is recommended one explore the peaceful Naejang Temple. First built in 636, during the reign of King Mu of the Baekje Kingdom, by Youngeunjosa, one of the founders of Korean Buddhism, the temple has endured several tragedies. It was burned down twice, first in 1539, after which it was rebuilt in 1567 by a prominent Buddhist priest. It burned down yet again in 1951 during the Korean War (1950-53), before being restored in 1971, when the grounds were designated as a national park.

Another interesting site in Mount Naejang National Park is the Byeongnyeonam Temple, the second temple along the Seoraebong Course, which sits at the foot of Seoraebong. It was originally named Naejang Temple and largely considered to be the park's most noteworthy temple. Its buildings were also pummeled during the Korean War and later restored by prominent Buddhist monks.

Buddhist legend has it that the foundation stonework for the temple was made from stones collected at the summit of Seoraebong by a monk named Huimuk. He is said to have thrown the stones down to his fellow monk Huicheon who caught them and proceeded to build the temple as it stands today.

On the way down from Bulchulbong, the course winds past Wonjeokam Temple. Originally built as a stand-alone structure comprising seven rooms in the reign of King Seonjong, it was also completely destroyed during the Korean War and restored as a small temple in 1961.

There are few better ways to finish one's hike than in any of the restaurants that flank the main road from the bus stop for makgeolli (rice wine) and Jeonju bibimbap, the region's signature dish featuring the area's vegetables and diced raw beef on a rice base.

Naejangsan bokbunja, a Korean fruit wine made from wild or cultivated Korean black raspberries, is also delicious.

For those wishing to spend a night in the area, there are a number of accommodation options also along the main street beside the bus stop.

How to get there: The KTX is the easiest and fastest option. From Yongsan Station it takes 2 hours and 19 minutes to get to Jeong-eup Station. From there, take bus number 171 just up the street from the station -- as you leave the entrance, cross the street and keep straight. The bus stop is 100 meters from there. (Yonhap)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Incheon transforming itself into economic hub

A bird’s-eye view captures the sprawling Songdo New City inside the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ). The IFEZ, the centerpiece of the city’s plan to become a regional business hub, is now in its second-phase of development, slated to finish in 2014 to host the 17th Asian Games.
/ Courtesy of Incheon Free Economic Zone

Incheon, the country’s second-largest harbor city located just west of Seoul, has gained global attention in recent years with the construction of the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ), the centerpiece of its plan to become a business hub in Northeast Asia.

The IFEZ is now in its second-phase stage of development that will continue until 2014, when the city will host the 17th Incheon Asian Games. By then, the economic zone will house the Northeast Asian headquarters of hundreds of foreign firms, scores of foreign universities and international organizations, Incheon officials say.

Yet it has a bigger goal and greater ambitions.

Despite growing economic uncertainty in the wake of U.S. credit downgrade, Incheon is positive about realizing its goal of becoming one of world’s top 10 cities by 2020 by drawing 20 million foreign visitors and tourists annually.

Even though it had a slower start compared with Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai in the fierce competition to become an Asian business hub, Incheon has outgrown such rivals thanks to various advantages.

First, it has a superb distribution network, with Incheon International Airport in the city. Equipped with cutting-edge facilities, the airport has been lauded as one of the world’s best international plane terminals.

Korea’s advanced information technology has also boosted its position. Incheon plans to foster state-of-the-art business circumstances in its free economic zone with a district specializing in global businesses to help firms establish regional headquarters for R&D, finance and distribution.

The theme of the development project is “Compact, Smart and Green.”

As a “compact city,” everything from high-tech industries, medical services and leisure activities to housing will be in a cluster within a radius of five kilometers.

It also aims to become a “smart city,” in which all buildings will be equipped with state-of-the-art technologies so that residents can live a truly ubiquitous life.

The push to be a green city shows Incheon’s desire to be eco-friendly. The IFEZ will have the highest rate of green areas among new towns in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, according to the city government.

“That’s not just a dream,” Incheon mayor Song Young-gil said during a recent interview with The Korea Times. “We are positive about the future of Incheon and its potential to become an economic driving force for the whole country.”

Smooth transition

What will make the dream come true is the IFEZ, now being built on reclaimed land three times larger than Manhattan.

Incheon officials said one of the reasons why the IFEZ is attractive to international investors and firms is Korea’s optimal geographical location, with easy access to mainland China and other major Asian markets.

The country also boasts of advanced information technology and manufacturing facilities, as well as talented human resources.

The IFEZ has also been making an all-out effort to create a state-of-the art business and residential environment for international investors and companies, with roads, bridges and other urban infrastructure currently under construction.

“The IFEZ has been playing a key role in attracting foreign direct investment, spearheading Korea’s plan to transform itself into a financial, logistics and business hub of Northeast Asia,” a spokesman said.

By 2020, when the development plan is completed, about 4.84 million new jobs will be created and gross domestic product will increase by 1 percent every year.

“We are aiming to attract about $27.6 billion in foreign investment by 2020,” he said.

The IFEZ comprises of three designated areas ― Songdo, Yeongjong and Cheongna ― on a total area of 50,000 acres.

Songdo is being developed into an international business district with knowledge-based information technology complexes, including the Techno Park, a digital entertainment cluster and bio-industry complexes.

It will have a population of 430,000 by 2014. Thousands of residents and hundreds of global companies and research centers plan to move to Songdo or have already moved there, which would provide up to 40,000 jobs.

The Yeongjong area includes the 13,888 acres of the international airport, 4,900 acres of the airport support area, 1,740 acres of the Yongyu-Muui Tourism Complex, and 703 acres of the Unbok Leisure Complex.

The IFEZ plans to develop the area into a world-class leisure and recreational tourist zone.

In addition, the Cheongna area will have international sports and leisure complex and floral complexes on 4,400 acres.


One of Incheon’s top priorities is to create a better place to live in and do businesses for foreign residents.

The IFEZ has developed diverse programs to reflect their opinions on drawing up related policies and promote cultural exchanges with Koreans. In early August, it invited 44 native teachers at Chadwick International School in Songdo to sessions on how to adapt to Korean society.

“We taught them various rules they must know to live in Korea and shared information about Korean culture, food, laws and custom,” said a spokesman of the IFEZ Global Service Center, which organized the sessions.

“Foreigners can feel many inconveniences due to cultural differences and lack of practical knowledge about living in Korea. We plan to hold such sessions for foreigners regularly to help them adapt to Korean society.”

As part of such efforts to make Incheon a foreigner-friendly city, the IFEZ has been conducting surveys among foreigners residing in the area about living conditions there. Based on the data, it has improved community services for expats.

The poll is divided into several categories such as general living conditions in Songdo, habitation, transportation, medical services, culture and community services provided by the IFEZ.

In the poll, respondents can evaluate the business and living environment in Songdo as well as locals’ attitude toward visitors. They also can suggest opinions on improving public transportation services inside the IFEZ as well as foreign language information services, according to the Global Service Center.

International conference due on promoting medical tourism

An international conference will be held here Wednesday to promote Korea's quality medical services combined with tourism, the provincial government said .

The conference at Daejeon Convention Center in Daejeon, South Chungcheong Province, will host more than 2,000 people from China, Russia, Kazakhstan and seven other countries, a spokesman for the Daejeon City government said.

The three-day conference features seminars on promoting the international medical tourism industry and cooperation on health care strategies among medical institutions, alongside exhibitions of medical equipment and familiarization tours for medical tourism.

Sun Medical Center and Konyang University Hospital said they will sign agreements with several Chinese, Russian and Kazak medical centers and hospitals at the conference on the exchange of patients for medical treatment and tourism.

"The conference will be the biggest of its kind in Asia with more than 2,000 people attending to exchange information on medical tourism," said Yoon Tae-hee, who is in charge of health affairs for the city government. "We are trying to establish a global network to pave the way for making inroads into overseas medical tourism markets."

South Korea attracted more than 5.3 million foreigners in the first six months of this year with the total number of tourists estimated to surpass the previous 11 million record for the whole year. That number is supported by more than 150,000 foreigners expected to come to the country as medical tourists. (Yonhap)

Global festival in Myeong-dong

Global festival in Myeong-dong : Members of a marching band dressed in traditional Korean clothes parade during the opening day of the 49th Global Myeong-dong Festival in downtown Seoul, Friday. The biannual event co-sponsored by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Jung-gu office will run until Oct. 27 and showcase a variety of performances. They include nanta, a non-verbal percussion show, hip-hop dancing by the local B-boys, and a Maori tribal dance from New Zealand.