Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Korean Men Marry Foreign Women ?


Its a big question for every foreigner and student like us , who are always curious about why Korean men marrying foreign women .

The main reason Korean men opt to marry foreign women is because they tend to be less picky than Korean women about the educational background and financial and social status of their husbands, a survey suggests. Matchmaking firm Bien-Aller polled 274 single men and 274 single women through its website.

According to the poll, 32.1 percent of the men said they felt the biggest benefit of marrying foreign women is their lack of interest in their groom's educational background and financial or social status. The next best reason was their belief that foreign brides would be submissive (23 percent), make their lives more comfortable (15.3 percent), and that the men would not have to get stressed about their in-laws (13.8 percent).

Among the women, 31.4 percent said they would marry a foreigner because it would make their lives more leisurely than marrying a Korean. The next most popular reasons were the belief that a foreign husband would be more dedicated to his family (21.9 percent), more mature (17.2 percent) and less picky about the educational level and their financial or social status (12.8 percent).

When choosing a foreign woman, the men said skin color is the most important factor (37.6 percent), while Korean women prefer men from advanced countries (28.5 percent).

"As the educational and income levels of women increase, both men and women are having a tough time finding spouses," said one Bien-Aller staffer. "Women are more selective when it comes to choosing their husbands, so more and more men end up turning to foreign women, while Korean women have increasing trouble finding Korean men who meet their expectations in terms of education, age and other criteria."

The Great white Russian exodus

In late October 1922, a motley fleet of warships, steamers and fishing boats arrived in Wonsan, Korea. Aboard these ships were more than 10,000 White Russians and 1,500 Koreans fleeing the advance of the Red Army into Vladivostok. The authorities in Korea were unprepared for such a huge exodus but did what it could to ease the plight of these displaced people.
The majority of the refugees elected to stay in Wonsan — perhaps hoping to one day return to Vladivostok — but about a third of the fleet made its way to Busan, Korea and then to Shanghai, China. It was not an easy journey. Two ships and their crew were lost in a typhoon. According to one account, when the fleet arrived at Busan there were 1,700 naval officers and men, 800 military cadets and 500 women and children aboard the ships and they entertained the idea of possibly going to Australia as settlers.
Those who elected to remain in Wonsan were forced to live on the ships — their living conditions likened to those aboard “slave ships of the early days of colonial American history.” Many of them were sick. According to one newspaper account, there were 574 Russian invalids of which 270 were treated at the Red Cross Hospital but the rest were forced to find comfort in the discarded Customs sheds, sleeping on concrete floors heated by small stoves.
According to historian Donald Clark, many of the refugees were financially unprepared for their new lives. Those who had money took passage to Shanghai aboard one of the steamers but those without “were forced to stay in Wonsan through the winter. Men offered a day’s work for a cup of tea and some bread, but no one would hire them.”
This seems at odds with the accounts in the contemporary press. Japanese authorities in Wonsan were said to have given away free train tickets to anyone wanting to go to China but only 1,700 accepted the offer. Another article claimed that there were many Japanese in Wonsan who wanted to employ the Russian refugees, especially the railroad which would employ a couple of thousand men. Women would be used as nurses, maids and general servants.
Clark notes that by spring many of the refugees left Wonsan. Those who remained in Korea went to small provincial cities and opened up little shops, went to work for the numerous gold mines or made their way to Seoul where they found any type of employment possible.
Of course, desperate people do desperate things. Some women sold their bodies and some men became pirates who terrorized the waters of northern Korea and Russia while others engaged in smuggling watches and jewelry.
Surprisingly, the Japanese authorities did not confiscate the large number of weapons that the refugees had brought with them. There were several incidents of illegal arms transfers to China that peppered the newspapers in the early 1920s but none of them were as serious as the one involving Capt. Lawrence D. Kearney, an American businessman in China. Kearney seems to have been quite the character. He was about 50 years old, extremely obese and had two artificial limbs.
He clandestinely purchased a large number of weapons from the Russian officers in Wonsan. The weapons were secretly loaded aboard a Russian refugee ship which was then sold to Kearney’s company. The ship then sailed to China.
These weapons were to be used in an effort to make the civil governor of Chekiang, Chang Tsai-yang, president of China. As part of the plan, the foreign population in Shanghai would be poisoned by gas bombs made by a Russian chemist and dropped by former Russian aviators. Fortunately the plot was never carried out.
As for Kearney, an arrest warrant was issued but he managed to avoid — at least for a couple of years — being caught. Like many interesting, if not notorious, personalities of that era, his fate has been lost with the passage of time. 

Psy makes YouTube history

'Gangnam Style' registered most-viewd video 
Psy arrives at the 40th American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California, on Nov. 18. Psy's music video "Gangnam
Style" became the most watched item on YouTube on Saturday, with over 800 million views.
                               / Reuters-Yonhap

Rapper/singer Psy’s “Gangnam Style” set the record for YouTube’s most-watched video of all time with more than 805 million views as of Saturday. It has broken the record in just over four months set by Canadian heartthrob Justin Bieber’s “Baby” in 33 months.

YouTube said the video has “been a massive hit at a global level unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”

“Each day, Gangnam Style is still being watched between 7 and 10 million times,” YouTube trend manager Kevin Allocca said in a blog post Saturday. “The velocity of popularity for PSY’s outlandish video is unprecedented.”

The viewer count for the video registered 10 million views on Aug. 2, 100 million on Sept. 4, 200 million on Sept. 18, 300 million on Sept. 28, 400 million on Oct. 8, 600 million on Oct. 31 and 700 million on Nov. 11.

“The views have been evenly spread across various regions from North America, South America, and Europe to Asia,” YG Entertainment said.

Worldwide sensation

The video, in which Psy performs his now trademark horse-riding dance, became a worldwide sensation right after its release in July through YouTube.

“Gangnam Style” set the Guinness World Record of “The most liked video” on YouTube by receiving 2,295,231 likes from viewers on Sept. 20.

Psy’s song has also topped charts from Britain to Australia. It won Best Video at the MTV Europe Music Awards and a New Media prize at the American Music Awards. “Gangnam Style” has been nominated for Favorite Music Video by the People’s Choice Awards 2013 which will be held on Jan. 9 in the United States.

The video has created international fandom in which tens of thousands joined giant flashmob performances of Psy’s horse-riding dance in cities like Paris and Rome.

The K-pop star, whose real name is Park Jae-Sang, was also awarded one of Korea’s highest cultural honors, the Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit this month.

His popularity continues as he performed a mash-up of “Gangnam Style” with pop icon Madonna during her concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden this month.

Korea has welcomed the rapper’s sensational success as a hopeful sign that “hallyu” (the Korean cultural wave), now supported by the government, will see continued popularity abroad.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ancient Academies Document Korea's Confucian Past

North Gyeongsang Province is full of scenic mountains dotted with ancient Confucian academies. These private academies were established nationwide during the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1897) to equip students with Confucian virtues and knowledge.

Even today, these cultural properties continue to serve their intrinsic function as educational facilities to promote Confucian values. Scholars also use them as venues for memorial rites.

Byeongsan Seowon 
Byeongsan Seowon

Byeongsan Seowon in Andong was built in memory of Ryu Seong-ryong, a renowned Chosun scholar, and is of significant architectural value. The Nakdong River flows in front of the academy, which is framed against the backdrop of low mountains. At the entrance to the compound, stairs lead to a hall that can accommodate over 200 people. Known for its unique layout, this academy features curving wooden pillars and foundation stones that support its pavilion.

Byeongsan Seowon 
Byeongsan Seowon

The use of natural materials shows how nature was revered during this period and architects placed a strong emphasis on designing buildings that integrated harmoniously with their environment.

Oksan Seowon in Gyeongju is home to the largest collection of ancient books among the nation's Confucian academies. During the Japanese invasions of Korea in the late 16th century, as well as during the 1950-53 Korean War, cultural artifacts including some 1,000 literary works now housed in the academy were saved by the efforts of local villagers.

Oksan Seowon 
Oksan Seowon

Traditionally in Korea, buildings are constructed facing southwards, where they provide natural access to the most sunlight. But the main buildings of this academy face westwards to afford those inside the best view as it is surrounded by mountains on the other three sides.

Oksan Seowon 
Oksan Seowon

The academy's main building is Guindang, where Confucian scholars would gather for academic seminars. This structure is unique as it lacks windows so students are not distracted from their studies.

Dosan Seowon 
Dosan Seowon

Korea is now seeking to list a number of these Confucian academies on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including Dosan Seowon in Andong and Sosu Seowon in Yeongju, both in North Gyeongsang Province. The former was built in honor of Yi Hwang, a famous prime minister during the Chosun period, while the latter was the first such academy built during this time.

Galaxy S3 More Expensive in Korea Than Abroad

Samsung Electronics' latest Galaxy S3 smartphone is more expensive in Korea than anywhere in the world except Japan, according to a consumer rights group.

Consumers Korea, which researched the price of the phone in 18 major cities around the world said Thursday that it costs W994,400 (US$1=W1,087) on average in Korea, second only to Japan where it cost W1.03 million. It is cheapest in the U.S. at W736,650, and the average price tag of W874,980 in Europe is still around W120,000 lower than here.

Samsung's Galaxy Note, effectively a larger version of the Galaxy S3, costs W933,900 in Korea, the fourth highest price.

Consumers Korea accused Samsung of exploiting its home advantage by squeezing customers.

Samsung claims the comparison is flawed because different countries have different "distribution systems" and the specifications of the phones differ slightly, according to a company spokesman.

Meanwhile, the consumer group also found that a number of other products are more expensive here than elsewhere. U.S. cosmetics brand Olay's range of moisturizers is the second most expensive in Korea out of the 18 cities surveyed, the price of L'Oréal sun cream is the second highest and of Sisley sun cream the fourth highest. Levi's 501 jeans are the second most expensive in the world behind Japan.

A spokesman for Consumers Korea said goods like wine, cosmetics and jeans are mostly overpriced because they are imported through a single channel. It called for diversification of importers and retailers.

Korea Ranks 11th in Global Soft Power

Korea ranks 11th in the world terms of soft power, up three notches from the last year on the strength of emergence of K-Pop and Psy's global hit "Gangnam Style." The U.K. tops the list.

Soft power refers to means of friendly persuasion through sports and culture rather than "hard" coercion backed by financial might and military power.

The U.K. outpaced the U.S. as the world's most influential nation in the index released by the advertorial magazine Monocle on Monday. Germany came third, followed by France and Sweden. Japan ranked sixth and China 22nd.

The term was coined by Prof. Joseph Nye of Harvard University in 1990.

The U.K. ranked first thanks to the 22 British pop albums that made it to No. 1 in foreign countries, the 65 medals British athletes won in the last Olympics, and Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee events, according to the magazine.

Korea came 19th in the first survey in 2010 and 14th last year. "Now known for more than just good technology, the emergence of K-Pop, as exemplified by Psy's 'Gangnam Style,' is a ready-made export," the Daily Mail reported.

Japan's ranking has also persistently risen from 15th in 2010 to sixth, but China fell to 22nd this year from 17th in the first survey.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Charity bazaar at Seoul History Museum

Claudia Calero de Cabal, center, wife of the Colombian Ambassador Jaime Alberto Cabal, and her colleagues pose for a photo at the Colombian booth at the SIWA bazaar. /  Korea Times photos by Kim Se-jeong

On its 50th anniversary year, Seoul International Women’s Association changed its annual bazaar venue to the Seoul History Museum in downtown Seoul.
“The Seoul Metropolitan Government has helped us” getting the venue at free of charge, said Terry Hartman, president of the association also known as SIWA, told the Korea Times at the bazaar on Tuesday.
For years, Seoul Grand Hilton in northwestern part of the town has been a venue. It was spacious, but visitors had to go through a hassle of getting there because of its remote location. And the visitors had to pay to enter.
Three women from the Brazilian community in Seoul at the food court pose for a photo.

The new location was less spacious, which made venues from 30 something participating groups scatter through in the back of the lobby and on the second floor, but it didn’t diminish an end-of-the-year shopping atmosphere.
The usual items were there — from clothes, jewelries, arts, folk art and crafts from participating embassies, to chocolates and different kinds of authentic food.
But to some expats, it was a poor representation of what it used to be.
Zofia Majka, left, wife of the Polish Ambassador Krzysztof Majka, shows a bracelet to a visitor at the Polish booth.

“I’ve been going to these for a few years. Every nation used to be represented. A lot of expats used to go there to buy food. For example, the British Embassy volunteers sold stuff that you can’t get in Korea. Whereas this year the British Embassy among others, wasn’t even there,” an expat named John said.
Organizers tried to take advantage of the location by disseminating fliers attracting lunch crowds from the office-filled neighborhood.
The Polish ambassador’s wife Zofia Majka, a first-time participant, had a selection of jewelry, porcelain dishes and pots and a painting done byKrzysztof Recko-Rapsa, a Polish painter who recently had an exhibition in Seoul, on her booth.
“I do appreciate this opportunity, especially that we donate all the profits to people in need,” she said. “There’s an old saying that if you have something to share with others, you’re lucky. If not, your soul is empty.”
The annual bazaar’s proceeds benefit more than 30 charities throughout Korea. Some were invited to the bazaar to sell goods for themselves.

Japanese fight their gov't over Korean war-time victims

Kwak Kwy-hoon, left, a survivor of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, points to the dossiers donated by Japanese activists and human rights lawyers at the National Institute of Korean History in Gawcheon, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. Ichiba Junko, center, president of Osaka-based Association of Citizens for Supporting South Korean Atomic Bomb Victims, and Lee Jae-suk, another survivor of the atomic bomb, stand next to Kwak. Korea Times

GWACHEON, Gyeonggi Province – A Hiroshima court’s historic ruling a decade ago in favor of Kwak Kwy-hoon, a Korean survivor of the 1945 atomic bomb blast, would have never been possible without the help of Japanese activists and human rights lawyers, he said recently.

The nature of the years-long legal battle calling for equal treatment for Korean victims was unique, in that Japanese activists were in the same boat with Korean survivors to fight against the Japanese government.

Despite the partial victory in 2002, Kwak, 88, told The Korea Times last Thursday that he, with strong support from dedicated Japanese activists and lawyers, continued the legal fight against lingering discrimination.   

Kwak is one of the approximately 70,000 Korean victims of the atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which occurred in August, 1945.

Nearly 40,000 Koreans died from burns, radiation sickness or other injuries. Among the remaining 30,000, some 23,000 survivors, including Kwak, returned to Korea after World War II without getting compensation for their injuries and forced labor.   

Kwak, who back then served in the Japanese military was based in Hiroshima. He was drafted a year earlier at 19.

“It was a beautiful morning on Aug. 6. I and my colleagues in the military were preparing for our daily routine,” he recalled on the day when the atomic bombs rained down on Hiroshima. “I saw an airplane fly in the sky and thought that it was cool. Suddenly, all the area became as dark as midnight. Later, I found myself bleeding and my back, the back side of my head and other parts of my body were burnt because of the bombing.”

Kwak, then 20, was released two weeks after he was hospitalized.

He said, like him, the majority of the Korean victims were forced laborers.

“Back in 1944, all people of my age who were born in 1924, were forced to work as either soldiers or military personnel by Japan.”    

The Japanese government has provided its nationals, who were victimized by the atomic bomb blast, with medical treatment and allowances.

But these were unavailable for Korean or other foreign survivors of the atomic bomb blast because Executive Order 402 stipulated that only Japanese nationals are entitled to such benefits.

It took nearly six decades for Kwak and other Korean survivors to eventually be considered eligible to receive Japanese government-sponsored medical care and financial compensation following a lengthy litigation process initiated in 1998.

In December 2002, a Hiroshima court made a historic ruling that all victims of the atomic bomb blast, regardless of their nationality, are eligible for such benefits.  Consequently, in 2003, the Japanese government scrapped the executive order in question.

Kwak said he had never imagined that he would win the legal battle.

Ichiba Junko, a veteran Japanese activist who has dedicated her life to fight for Korean victims of the atomic bombings, and human rights lawyers were behind this.

These dedicated Japanese were accused of siding with Korean survivors by their government. But this did little to dissuade them from fighting the good cause.

Ongoing battle

Since joining the Association of Citizens for Supporting South Korean Atomic Bomb Victims based in Osaka in 1978 as a college student, Junko, 56, now president of the organization, has lived up to her commitments of fighting against an unrepentant Japan.

Junko helped Korean survivors in their legal fight against the Japanese government, played a key role in raising awareness of these victims in the Japanese public discourse and raised funds to help the victims. She contacted compassionate human rights lawyers to join the cause.

Nearly 800 grass-roots Japanese people of all walks of life joined hands for the campaign to help Korean survivors. Each of them pays the annual membership fee of 4,000 Japanese yen (approximately 55,000 won) to join the group.         

“We use membership fees to help Korean survivors. If we face shortages of financial resources, we fundraise,” Junko said.

The veteran activist said she noticed a shift in the way Japanese officials dealt with Korean victims before and after the 1990s.

“When I and Korean survivors met Japanese foreign ministry officials in the 1980s to ask them to consider the victims for medical support and compensation, they used to be snobbish and arrogant. I saw some Korean survivors I took to the ministry weep after the meeting as they were hurt by the way Japanese officials treated them,” Junko said.

“But after the 1990s, Japanese officials treated them nicely, although they repeated the same old rhetoric that all compensation was over in 1965 when Korea and Japan signed an agreement. They provided us a cup of hot tea, saying they sympathized with the victims for the plight they were forced to face back then.”

The Japanese activist observed that South Korea’s rise from a poor, authoritarian nation to a thriving economy with full-blown democracy after the Seoul Summer Olympics in 1988 was probably at play behind the shift of Japanese officials’ attitude toward Korean victims.    

She visited Seoul last week for a seminar on the atomic bomb survivors held at the National Institute of Korean History based in the suburban city of Gwacheon.  

The event took place to commemorate the Japanese activists’ donation of dossiers they compiled for the legal battles to the state-run institute.

Inbound travelers to top 10 million

The number of visitors to the country this year is expected to top the landmark 10 million for the first time within this week, thanks to the surge of Chinese and Japanese tourists.

The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said today that they expect the 10 millionth foreign visitor to arrive in Korea on Wednesday.

Their forecast comes after examining immigration data in recent months: between January and September, 8.44 million foreigners visited Korea, a 19-percent rise from a year before, and the October tally almost reached 1 million.

“We expect about 11.3 million to come by the end of the year, surpassing our goal for this year of 11 million,” a KTO official said.

The state agency and the ministry will hold a welcome ceremony for the 10 millionth traveler at Incheon International Airport.

According to the KTO, the annual number of inbound travelers exceeded 1 million in 1978, 3 million in 1991, 5 million in 2000, and 7 million in 2010. Since 1978, the figure has grown by 15 percent annually on average. Last year, the nation had 9.79 million foreign visitors.

The average growth rate for the last three years was 12.4 percent, which is far higher than Italy’s 2.6 percent and the United States and China’s 2.9 percent, respectively, according to the official.

“Among top 50 nations attracting largest numbers of tourists, Korea was the only country to record double-digit growth for three consecutive years,” the official said.

They said a surge of Chinese and Japanese tourists has contributed to the huge growth: this year so far, the number of Chinese travelers was 2.9 million, up 30 percent from last year’s total 2.2 million. From July, more than 300,000 Chinese have been coming here every month, exceeding the figure of Japanese which used to be highest.

The number of Japanese travelers is still high, up 19.5 percent from last year.

“Hallyu, based on K-pop and soap operas, was the major factor to attract visitors. Travel agencies have also developed various tour programs,” the official said.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

'NGOs should actively promote NK women's rights'

Deborah Thomas-Austin, president of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (World YWCA), speaks during an interview with The Korea Times at the Hi Seoul Youth Hostel in southwestern Seoul, Tuesday. She was in Seoul for the International Training Institute hosted by Korea YWCA from Nov. 8 to 13. / Yonhap
South Korean nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should work to provide support for women and children in North Korea whenever they have the opportunity, said the president of the World Young Women's Christian Association (World YWCA).

"They should work to provide a safe space to receive the refugees as well as aid them in accessing the services and facilities they need," Deborah Thomas-Austin, the head of the international body of young women's rights, said in an interview with The Korea Times, Tuesday.

"They can also help the North Koreans through collaborating with other agencies including the YWCA member associations whose governments can have access in areas South Korea may not have access to," she said.

Thomas-Austin was in Seoul for the 2012 International Training Institute hosted by the Korea YWCA from NOV. 8 TO 13, which was attended by 50 female participants from 29 countries.

During the workshop there was a visit to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) ― the heavily fortified border between the North and South ― as part of an effort to have the participants connect to the reality of the conflict situation and understand how people in the communist regime are being affected by it.

The international body has been actively involved in women’s rights issues in North Korea. At the 2011 World YWCA Council, a resolution was passed on bringing awareness to the situation faced by women and girls in the isolated North as well as refugees coming to the South.

The Trinidad and Tobago native joined the women’s organization in 1985 and has been dedicated to eliminating violence against women.

She was part of the Veil of Silence project, which filmed a documentary on the issue of violence against women in several countries of the Caribbean.

“It was all about removing the secrecy and silence of the issue which was widespread but hardly talked about,” said Thomas-Austin.

She said this should be the first step in resolving issues related to women’s rights. At the same time, she stressed the importance of having a properly-established and functioning framework.

"It is important to ensure that there are laws and policies in place to protect and respect women's rights and freedom, and ensure that they are being upheld and implemented," she said.

Thomas-Austin added it should be the role of NGOs to make sure that they hold governments responsible for international treaties they have signed.

“Only then will women be able to exhibit their qualities in leadership positions,” she said.

She said women possess different qualities compared to their male counterparts ― they tend to be more sensitive and compassionate to people’s needs, more collaborative and less competitive.

“There is room for BOTH TYPES OF LEADERS as long as we have the opportunity and women should not be denied that opportunity based on structural barriers,” she said.

'Doraji' for atopic dermatitis

Herb used for cooking and medicine found to decrease lesions in mice

Bae Hyun

“Doraji,” or balloon flower, is used a lot in herbal dishes in Korea. The herb is effective in treating atopic dermatitis, according to a research team at Kyunghee University’s Oriental Medicine College. The research was published in the latest edition of “Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin,” an international journal.

The team led by professor Bae Hyun-

su and doctor Kim Jeong-jin at the school noted that incidences of atopic dermatitis have increased dramatically recently, now affecting up to 20 percent of children in industrialized countries. Until recently, steroid therapy was widely used for treatment, but it causes side effects. There have been clinical trials on complementary or alternative medicines, though their efficacy and safety remained mostly unclear.
The researchers at Kyunghee noted that the “doraji” root has been used as a traditional oriental medicine for the treatment of pulmonary and respiratory disorders such as bronchitis, tonsillitis and asthma. “In the concept of oriental medicine, the lung is believed to control the skin; asthma and atopic eczema are both allergic diseases which are dominated by allergen-specific Th2 cell immune responses,” the research notes.
“And it has also known that atopic dermatitis patients have a higher rate of incidence of asthma. So we hypothesized that doraji, which has been used to treat asthma in the oriental medicine, may also help treat atopic dermatitis.”
The researchers fermented extracts from doraji with lactobacillus in kimchi, as the lactic acid bacteria strains have been reported to reduce some allergic manifestations in mice and humans.
Then they fed mice that had atopic dermatitis with the fermented doraji. It turned out that lesions decreased from 150 micrometers to 50 micrometers in thickness.
The researchers said that fermented doraji helped balance the dermal immune system, thus helping treat atopic dermatitis that results from an increasing allergic immune reaction.
“The research proved the effectiveness in atopic dermatitis treatment by showing the mechanism discovered in clinical tests, thus suggesting a new solution for treatment,” professor Bae said.
“As overuse of immunosuppressant hinders immunity of the skin, it could be problem for patients suffering from atopic dermatitis from the mid- to long-term. We expect that fermented doraji will open up possibilities for new medicine,” doctor Kim said.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Delicious delights in sweet indulgence

Gateaux et M’amie located in Hongik University area offers rich chocolate
fondant as well as other desserts including pastries and mulled wine.
/ Courtesy of Rachel Lee

Over the last two to three years, Seoul has seen lots of coffee places spring up everywhere, especially outlets of massive franchises. And Seoulites have in tandem developed a sweet tooth. New small dessert cafes are sprouting throughout the city with simple yet unique and fresh menus attracting a steady stream of people.
40192 Roll
 Most roll cakes in Korea can be cloyingly sweet. But cafe 40192 Roll serves the softest, less sweet Japanese-style roll cakes.
“It’s much tenderer and definitely less greasy,” Kim Jin-a, a customer, told The Korea Times.
Gateaux et M’amie

Opened in April this year, 40192 Roll, has been doing well. With a seating capacity of about 15, the cafe is located in the quiet yet trendy residential area of Kyungridan in Seoul’s Itaewon-dong.
“Our customers ask what the number 40192 stands for. Well it’s the circumference of the earth,” Nam Ran, the owner of the shop said Tuesday in an interview. “I chose the specific measurement because you know, when I thought of the way our cakes are rolled up, it seemed the earth and the cakes have some sort of relevance in that sense.”
The cakes are available in five flavors; plain, green tea, tiramisu, caramel and chocolate. Of which, the plain ones are the best seller along with coffees. The shop also offers delicious choux pastry and a few other desserts including brownies and cheesecake.

“We have very limited menu but it means I am 100 percent confident about the quality and taste of our food, especially the rolls,” Nam said.
She added that all the patissiers at the cafe are Japanese-educated and make cakes with rice flour.
“Our cream is also made from 100 percent milk and it makes the cakes a lot softer. Many pregnant women and even diabetics visit our shop pretty often for these reasons. They are easy to digest, plus they are not sweet.”

40192 Roll in Itaewon-dong, top right, serves Japanese-style roll cakes, choux pastry and a few other desserts including cheesecake and brownies.

Prices for the cakes range from 4,000 to 4,500 won, and coffees and teas are 3,000 to 4,000 won. 40192 Roll is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Takeaways are available. For more information, call (02) 790-4192.
Gateaux et M’amie
The gooey chocolaty goodness of a chocolate fondant is irresistible to many. French dessert cafe Gateaux et M’amie offers this rich treat for the most devoted of chocolate lovers.
The small, cozy cafe is located in the heart of the Hongik University area, a trendy part of Seoul that meets the diverse tastes of young consumers. Gateaux et M’amie’s version is luscious and is served with three different sauces; cream anglaise, coulis framboise and glace chez M’amie. It’s optional.

“We have kept the same menu and prices since opening despite the rapidly increasing number of big coffee chains,” owner and chef Jung Sung-ho said Tuesday in an interview. Jung runs the cafe with his wife.
“You know, some places in Apgujeong and Garosu-gil in Gangnam tend to orient to fancier, pricier menus. I don’t want to follow suit and will just stay where we are now instead,” Jung added.
Apart from chocolate fondant, the cafe offers pastries like tarte tatin and ananas caramel, all of which the chef explains, are healthier since they are made with 100 percent pure butter, unlike big bakeries that use processed butter. The chocolate fondant takes eight to nine minutes to bake and the pastries take about 20 minutes.
Among the drinks menu including eight different hot chocolates, coffees, mulled wine and sodas, the citrus berry smoothie is a best seller, especially among women.
“It was my idea to add that smoothie and the funny thing is I didn’t expect it to be that popular. I realized women are into things with berries,” the chef said. “But it doesn’t mean most of our customers are female. More male customers are coming to our cafe these days. Men are also big fans of sweet dessert just like women.”
Jung describes his cafe as “a place where you can enjoy your free time as long as you want while enjoying homemade French desserts.”
Gateaux et M’amie is open from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Prices range from 4,000 to 7,000 won. For more information, visit or call (02) 326-1095.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

South Korea's nationwide college entrance exam will be held tomorrow

Pupils hold up placards to wish their seniors good luck at a high school in Seoul on Tuesday, two days ahead of the college entrance exam.

Bus Tours Bundle Best of Incheon into One Trip

City bus tours of Incheon can be hard to beat for a relaxing day out that takes in the beach, historic towns and modern city landscape at the same time. The city offers three themed routes starting from Incheon Station every morning for up to W10,000.

The bus starts off by heading to Korea's first museum on immigration, which includes a guided tour.

Unlike many bus tours, where boredom can set in as travelers end up spending so much time being ferried between stops, this is not the case as the driver continually regales travelers with witty explanations about the area as they appreciate the scenery outside.

The next stop is Incheon Port, where travelers can enjoy breathtaking city views along with glimpses of the floodgate and inner harbor, not to mention Incheon Bridge, the longest in Korea. For lunch, visitors can enjoy various kinds of seafood at nearby Eulwang Beach. Meals are not included in the package.

The final destination is the observatory at Incheon International Airport and local waterways, both newly added to the program. Adding to the tranquil scene, yachts float nonchalantly by and kids ride bicycles along the shore.

"Sometimes I'm dying to take a break but I don't want to be bothered with all the hassle of planning, searching for places and making reservation. So tours like this are a real godsend," said one visitor. " I'd like to join another city bus tour next time."

The 10th Gyeonggi International Travel Mart

Photo Credit: Gyeonggi Tourism Organization
The Gyeonggi International Travel Mart 2012, a travel information and services expo, will be held from November 8th through the 11th at KINTEX in Ilsan-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do Province.

Marking its 10th anniversary, the expo will invite over 40 major travel agencies from home and abroad to present their products and services. Visitors will be able to obtain information on traveling in different regions in Korea and countries around the world, as well as on tours with such themes as education, experience, festival, leisure, etc.

Moreover, the expo will host a series of subsidiary programs. A highlight program will be the fashion show featuring 43 foreign ambassadors to Korea, each walking down the runway in their traditional costume and staging traditional performances.

Admission to the event is free.
More info

< Gyeonggi International Travel Mart 2012 >
☞ Venue: KINTEX Exhibition Hall 2 (Ilsan-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do)
☞ Period: November 8-11, 2012
☞ Admission: Free
☞ Homepage:
Gyeonggi International Travel Mart - (Korean, English)
Kintex - (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ Inquires:
Gyeonggi International Travel Mart +82-31-259-7308 (Korean, English)
Kintex +82-31-810-8114 (Korean, English)
☞ 1330 tt call center: +82-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

Courtesy of Gyeonggi Tourism Organization

Korean sensation Psy Oppa to receive top state honor

The government announced for awarding rapper Psy, who swept the world with “Gangnam Style,” one of its highest cultural honors.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said Psy will receive the Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit for his contribution to increasing the world’s awareness and interest in K-pop and Korea.
Psy Oppa  will be awarding with the order — the fourth among five grades of orders of cultural merit — on Nov. 19. Although, the Oppa will be  unable to attend the ceremony due to his overseas commitments.
The 35-year-old rapper’s “Gangnam Style” set a new paradigm for K-pop by ranking second on the U.S. Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart and topping the British charts. The music video is currently the second most-watched YouTube video of all time.
Psy is currently in Europe to promote “Gangnam Style” and more than 20,000 people came to see him at Trocadero Square in Paris Monday.
He will fly to the United Kingdom where he has been invited to be a guest speaker at Oxford University’s Students Union, and then on to Frankfurt, Germany to attend the MTV Europe Music Awards, where he has been nominated for the Best Video.
Other popular singers who received the medals, including Cho Yong-pil, Lee Mi-ja and Ha Chun-hwa, have performed for more than 30 years and it is exceptional for Psy to get the order of merit.
Along with Psy, nine other cultural figures will receive the order. Kim Ki-duk, director of “Pieta,” winner of the Golden Lion for best film at this year’s Venice Film Festival, will receive the Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit, the second highest award. The film’s leads Lee Jung-jin and Cho Min-soo will also receive the Okgwan Order.


Afghan student builds up dream to be Korean diplomat

Fahim Nezam
 Fahim Nezam, 24, is pursuing an unusual dream: joining the Korean foreign service.
Born in Afghanistan, Nezam arrived in Korea eight years ago. He followed his father, who was sent to work as a cook for the Afghan Embassy in Seoul.
He now has a student visa, and is studying political science and international affairs at the Hankook University of Foreign Studies. In two years, he will be eligible to apply for  South Korean citizenship.
“I want to be a Korean diplomat to promote Korea-Afghanistan relations,” Nezam said in fluent Korean during a recent interview with The Korea Times.
And all is on its way. He has been working as a translator/interpreter for Afghans who come for Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) training since 2010.
His primary responsibility is interpretation of lectures and translation of texts. With its subjects varying from gender equality to agricultural and medical development, he says the job has been a formidable learning process for him, and his dream was also influenced by this experience.
In his Itaewon home, signs of hardships are easy to find.
The apartment looks too small for the family of five currently occupying it. They all share the living space, a situation that his younger brother deplores.
At night the sofa in the living room is converted into a bed for his father, then his mother helps herself to the floor, covered with a Persian carpet.
The family hardly gets by with his father’s meager monthly income. Nezam’s earnings from KOICA are very precious as it covers the rest.
He receives a scholarship from the university, which means he is required to maintain good grades. He has school on Tuesday and Wednesday. The rest of the week, including Sunday, he either works on KOICA projects or does other work. Despite sometimes feeling overwhelmed Nezam instead of complaining, prefers to count his blessings.
“Compared to other people, especially people in Afghanistan, my situation is very good. I do have a place to stay. I can walk outside safely. I have running water and electricity,” he said.
Afghanistan at the time of his departure was in deep ruin. A war waged by the United States against the Taliban was engulfing the country. The capital Kabul where his family was living at that time had become a ghost town filled with gunbullet holes and rows of tanks. His unique status and fluent language skill got him an interesting experience with TV. He was invited to a couple of shows. For six months, he was a guest on a“Misuda” style talk show comprising of guests of different cultural backgrounds aired on KBS.
Korea is Nezam’s second home, and he truly means it when he says that.
What he has received from people around him is truly phenomenal.
The most outstanding experience is the support and care he has received from a local pastor here, since his High School days. The pastor financed his high school tuition and other miscellaneous expenses. Whilst touched by the pastor’s benevolence, he was struck more about the level of religious tolerance in this country.
“He never asks me about my religion. He never asks me to convert to Christianity, after all these years of support. This really shows love of Christianity and I do really respect that,” he said. He is a Muslim.
He also expressed thanks to his friends at the embassy, who have helped him and his family settle down in Seoul.
There are very few Afghan immigrants in Korea and even amongst those here, the majority are traders dealing in exporting garments from Korea to Afghanistan. They live between Korea and Afghanistan.
“I’d like to give back to this country for the sake of others in future,” he said.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Which Fruits Are Good for Weight Loss?

Korean pop singer Seo In-young, 27, a former member of the girl dance group Jewelry, came back after a hiatus with a much slimmer figure. "I was able to lose 6 kg in just two months through a strict diet and exercise," Seo said. She became a huge proponent of bananas, claiming that not only do they taste great, but they are terrific for keeping your figure. What other types of fruit can help you lose weight and make your skin more beautiful?

Seo In-young Seo In-young
◆ Bananas Great for Breakfast

People often skip breakfast due to their busy schedules. But since bananas can be easily eaten on the go, they make a great morning meal. Although a bit high in calories (80 kcal p/100 g), they are low in sugar and rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. They also contain fructooligosaccharides, which are simple carbohydrates.

Dieting often leads to a significant drop in intestinal movement due to the decreased amount of food intake and this frequently results in constipation. But bananas contain pectin, a soluble fiber that alleviates constipation. Pectin absorbs moisture and makes a person feel full even when consumed in small amounts, while stimulating the large intestine thereby curbing constipation. However, unripened bananas contain tannin, which can cause constipation.

◆ Kiwis Effective in Lowering Fat

Kiwis contain actinidin, a digestive enzyme that enables the body to absorb animal proteins in the form of amino acids. Amino acids stimulate the dissolution of fat in the body, and as a result excess fat inside the intestines and other parts of the body is reduced. Kiwis also contain substances that improve skin complexion, including antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, which prevent aging.

◆ Tomatoes Low in Calories

While you might not think of tomatoes as watery, they are actually about 65.2 percent water. To consume the same amount of calories as in a bowl of rice, a person would have to eat 2.1 kg of tomatoes. This means that a dieter can eat a lot of tomatoes without gaining weight, and the water in them quenches thirst after exercising and lowers body temperature. But eating tomatoes on an empty stomach triggers the secretion of digestive fluids and can lead to heartburn. To prevent heartburn, eat them cooked.

◆ Things to Watch Out For

A fruit-only diet can shave off extra kilos in a short amount of time, but this is often the result of dehydration stemming from nutritional imbalance. This can lead to a yo-yo effect, with the lost weight being regained after the diet ends.

"Different types of fruit contain different nutrients so single-fruit diets are not a good idea," said Lee Yoo-sook, a nutrition expert at Sogang University. "A basic rule of dieting is to maintain nutritional balance by consuming a variety of different foods.”

Fruits are best consumed raw. Eating them in liquid form speeds up digestion and ends up increasing sugar intake. Also, eating fruits after a meal could have negative effects on health and dieting. Although low in calories, fruits contain a great deal of sugar which can be a burden on the stomach. The best time to eat them is on an empty stomach or 30 minutes before a meal.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Is a Glass of Water in the Morning Good for Your Health?

Doctors tend to disagree over whether drinking a glass of water just after waking up in the morning is an effective way of treating constipation, despite this being a widely-held belief in Korea.

Some say its only useful property in this regard is that it delivers a jolt of energy to the system if the water is cold and consumed quickly; while others argue in favor of warmer water and some dismiss the entire notion as an old wife's tale.

"Some people who suffer from constipation have benefited from drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, and they have kept this up for a long time. But other patients have seen no change in their condition," said Lee Bong-eun, a physician at Pusan National University Hospital.

"In theory, though, your intestines are not very active when you awake on an empty stomach, so a glass of water could stimulate your digestive tract and soften up the contents."

But Lee said the effects may vary from person to person. He also advised those who have benefited from the practice to switch over to consuming lukewarm water. "Gulping down ice-cold water on an empty stomach could actually do more harm than good to your digestive tract," he added.

'Dancing together' with Dokdo issue

 This is the 13th in a series of contributed articles by international and Korean experts shedding light on Japan’s claim to Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo and other affairs that illustrate Japan’s lack of remorse over misdeeds it has committed. ― ED

 “Dancing together” is a skill of diplomacy that may apply even between enemies who share the common goal of generating political gain in each other’s jurisdiction by dancing together.

“Dancing together” seems to explain why the Dokdo issue has recently escalated.

Of course, initial responsibility for this dispute lies among the leaders of an elite Japanese group. They never heartily recognized the harm they inflicted on neighboring peoples before and during the colonial war period.

Obviously, they do not have genuine intentions to pay reparations to the “comfort” women or their descendants and to correct ultra-right wing views as described in their history books for the next generation of Korean and Japanese students.

Without solving this puzzle by themselves, how can historical healing and mutually-beneficial coexistence between former colonial powers and colonized countries begin in Northeast Asia? 

Korean politicians are also to blame. Their excuse to escalate the territorial dispute with Japan is to pressure the Japanese leadership to solve the historical puzzle.

However, they are well aware that territorial escalations will only delay any problem-solving efforts between neighboring countries.

By creating headlining tensions between Seoul and Tokyo, political leaders on both sides are seeking immediate political gains.

Indeed, the falling level of popularity of the political leaderships in Korea and Japan is due to their respective current hard-line policies against each other.

Tacit agreement of “dancing together” between political leaders across the East Sea seems to exist and functions well.       

Other than this popularity gain that is evanescent, there is nothing to gain from engaging in a hot debate over the islands between the neighboring countries.

The status quo is that Dokdo is under Korean sovereignty, and has effectively been occupied by Korea for more than half a century.

Experts acknowledge that the basic position of the Japanese government is not to break that status quo ― despite its political gesture of occasional protests ­― because such breakage may only generate more troubling confrontations with the neighboring states including China.        

This means that there is no need for Korea to escalate the territorial dispute with Japan.

Any further escalation will only make it more difficult to solve bilateral problems, and have ramifications for economic, social and military relations between the two countries.

Already, serious symptoms are evident: for example, the only market in which the invisible-horse dance by the Korean singer Psy is not popular is Japan.

At the same time, Korean and Japanese leaders need to be aware that their dancing together will necessarily induce the Chinese leadership into the political popularity game.

Having its own territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands with Tokyo, Beijing cannot afford to remain silent. Indeed, the territorial confrontation has become an infectious disease in the region.

While global society is actively engaging in dialogues to pursue comprehensive regional economic integrations such as Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), ASEAN plus Six, and Pan-European Cumulation Zone, Northeast Asia is struggling with a vicious cycle of debate over territories.

It seems impossible to initiate talks for the Korea-China-Japan trilateral Free Trade Agreement any time soon, not to mention any genuine arrangements for financial, cultural and environmental cooperation in the region.

One may hope that politicians will cool down soon, and stop exploiting the corrosive emotions of people and stimulating ultra-right groups in both nations.

If this hope is helpless, and if their dancing together doesn’t cease, it might become inevitable for the international community to intervene in order to prevent a serious crisis in Northeast Asia.

Indeed, it is likely that Japan will unilaterally send a written submission to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) soon, stating its claim over Dokdo.

It is true that without consent of the Korean government, the ICJ cannot exercise jurisdiction over the dispute.

Nonetheless, upon further escalation, the Security Council of the United Nations might confirm the existence of this international dispute (despite the persistent denial of it by the Korean government) and recommend that Korea and Japan solve the dispute peacefully under the United States judicial system.

As a responsible member of the U.N. system, with its citizen being the secretary general, Korea cannot continuously ignore such recommendation.

Unfortunately for Korea, it is obvious that the current political atmosphere in the region seems to drive the Korean people gradually into this possible scenario.

Although politicians are short-sighted, bureaucrats and people in Korea need to be prepared for that possibility on a long term basis.

Their preparation should start by answering a series of questions: Is Korea ready for legal debates in the international court?

While the final text of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952 is silent about the territorial ownership over Dokdo, can Korea still persuade ICJ judges by relying upon its drafting context in which colonial imperialism of Japan is generally condemned?

Can Korea make a credible and acceptable submission based on the ancient Korean record called the “Samguk Sagi”, which refers to a Korean general named Yi Sa-bu who conquered the Usan Kingdom, which allegedly included Ulleung Island and its satellite Dokdo?

How can Korea prove that its occupation of Dokdo over 60 years is “continuous and peaceful control” while Japan has regularly expressed its opposition and protest against the Korean occupation?

If answers to these questions are not apparent or if the answer is not confidently “yes,” my recommendation to the Korean people is that they should spend precious time and energy studying hard to substantiate their claims, instead of going out on the streets where disputes will only escalate.

Plus, they should remember not to vote for those politicians who imposed those questions on them.

 Choi Won-mog is a former law professor at Ewha Womans University.

Wooden figurines reborn from scraps to artworks

Han Myung-chul, a wood sculptor, holds an exhibition titled “Ho Ho Ho Tigers” at Kokdu Museum in Daehangno, Seoul, through Dec. 30.
/ Courtesy of Kokdu Museum
“A Smiling Tiger”

“An Angel Candidate”
Wood sculptor Han Myung-chul
Admission is 5,000 won for adults. For more information, call (02) 766-3315 or visit

'Arirang' recommended for UNESCO Heritage

A poster for the 1926 film “Arirang.” Traditional folk song Arirang has inspired various cultural genres. / Yonhap

Korea’s traditional folk song “Arirang” has been recommended to be listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by a UNESCO subsidiary body that has examined nominations from countries around the world.
The subpanel of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage recommended Arirang be placed on the list after screening 36 nominations, according to the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) Monday.
A final decision will be made in the main committee meeting set to be held from Dec. 3 to 7 at the U.N. body’s headquarters in Paris, the agency said.
Korea currently has 14 items on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity, including the Royal Ancestral Rite and Ritual Music at the Jongmyo Shrine, which the kings of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) used in ancestral memorial ceremonies, and “pansori,” a traditional Korean style of narrative song.
“The subpanel highly rated Arirang for having been constantly recreated generation after generation, playing an important role in forming an identity of Koreans and consolidating unity among them,” a CHA official said.
Seoul previously planned to make a joint request with North Korea for UNESCO to recognize Arirang as World Heritage, but made a solo bid in June instead. Cultural officials from both sides have not been able to discuss the issue since the sudden death of former North Korean leader in December 2011.
The application was a belated response to China’s registration of Arirang as its own national intangible cultural heritage last August, claiming that it was a folk song of an ethnic Korean group living in the northeastern part of the country.
Arirang is not just one song but a variety of local versions handed down throughout Korea. Experts estimate the total number of folk songs carrying the title “Arirang” at some 3,600 variations belonging to about 60 versions.
Arirang in pre-modern times conveyed the joys and sorrows of commoners in traditional society. During the colonial period, it gave expression to personal and national sufferings of Koreans and fanned hopes for independence in their hearts.
As the song has been around for more than 600 years, it is in the heart of not just South Koreans but for those in the North as well.
Today, Arirang serves to unite the Korean people. The unified team of South and North Korea sang Arirang as they marched together in the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Film director Kim Ki-duk sang the song instead of giving a thank-you speech when his film “Pieta” won the top prize at Venice Film Festival.
Arirang itself has been a popular subject and motif in diverse arts and media, including cinema, musicals, drama, dance and literature. With surging interest in Korean popular music abroad, Arirang today has greater potential for global exposure as Korea’s foremost cultural emblem and source of fresh musical inspiration.
Olympic champion Kim Yu-na skated to an Arirang theme, “Homage to Korea,” at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Best day and weekend trips from Seoul, by season We love the world's most wired city, but sometimes we need a break. Preferably an amazingly scenic, easily accessible one


There's just so much to see in Seoul, it may take a few trips to the Korean capital before a traveler's mind turns to seeing places outside the city.
Apart from the terrible traffic on weekends, traveling around Korea is not as daunting as it may seem, with government-launched initiatives such a foreigner-only national bus tours, and convenient high-speed trains from central Seoul.
So when the city's fast pace and crowds get too overwhelming, some time away might be just the thing. Here are nine great day and weekend trips, according to season.


1. Heyri Art Valley, Paju

The flowers are definitely a lovely respite from Seoul's steel and concrete. Just north of Seoul is a valley officially described as “the loveliest village on earth/all artists are dreaming.” It's an ambitious statement that seems believable once you’re actually there.
In Paju, nearly 400 artists have contributed to one of the most carefully created villages in Korea. What was once a desolate and conventionally ugly expanse of land has now become a haven for artists.
Visitors can see firsthand how the painters, photographers, musicians and other creatives who live and work there create and thrive, and can even join in and learn a few crafts themselves.
But those who aren’t too good with their hands can still find plenty to enjoy. There are enough museums, book stores, cafés and restaurants to occupy even the most left-brained.
How to get there
Head to Hapjeong Station (Line 2) and get on bus #200 or #2200 from Exit 2 and get off at Heyri First Gate.
Approximate travel time from central Seoul: 90 minutes
Approximate cost: ₩2,100 (US$2)
More on CNN: 5 reasons to visit Paju Book City 

2. Busan


The second largest city in Korea, Busan isn't exactly a pastoral getaway. But it's not just a smaller Seoul -- it has the advantage of the sea. This southern city is one of Korea’s most well-known locations outside of Seoul. Some travelers even choose Busan as their primary destination for a Korea vacation, but that doesn’t mean that the trip can’t be done in just a day, thanks to the incredibly convenient KTX, Korea’s express train.
With good planning, a plane trip to Busan may cost only a little more than the KTX, shaving even more off the travel time.
And though Busan is famous for its beaches, there are plenty of sights to see and things to eat not involving getting stuck in a crowd of sun-fearing beachgoers.
You can eat hoe at the Jagalchi Fish Markets and then head to the Haeundae district, where you will find the famous Haeundae Beach, the Busan Aquarium, Dalmaji Hill, Jangsan Mountain and Shinsegae Centum City for shopping.
Given the relatively long travel time, a weekend trip may make more sense. 
How to get there
Take the KTX from Seoul Station (Line 1, 4, A’REX, Gyeongui) to Busan Station.
Approximate travel time from central Seoul: 2.5 hours by train, four hours by car.
Approximate cost: ₩110,000 (US$100) for KTX roundtrip.
More on CNN: Pocket guide to Busan: 11 best eats and sights  


1. Jisan Forest Resort


Instead of a crowded club in Seoul, this could be your Saturday night. Jisan Resort may be better known for its summer bash Jisan Valley Rock Festival, but the sloping green hills that turn into stages for international musicians are actually more regularly used as ski slopes.
While no ski resort that’s close to Seoul is going offer very challenging runs, Jisan Forest Resort is perfect for a quick ski/snowboarding fix.
There are almost 10 slopes and five lifts, and lessons (in Korean and English) are available. Food is available inside the resort, but the area surrounding the resort has plenty of supermarkets and restaurants as well.
How to get there
Shuttle: reserve a spot on the free shuttle bus via the website or call +82 31 644 1552.
Public transportation: head to Express Bus Terminal (Line 9) and take the bus to Ichon Terminal (이촌종합터미널) and take bus #12 or a taxi to Jisan Resort.
Approximate travel time from central Seoul: 40-60 minutes
Approximate cost: ₩35,000 (US$32) for bus and taxi roundtrip

2. Bearstown Resort


If you're looking at these kids and thinking, "Amateurs!" you're probably right. Bearstown is more about bunny slopes and safety. But that just makes it perfect for curious beginners.Bearstown is another resort that won’t offer much in the way of challenges for experienced skiers/snowboarders, but it is an option for those looking to just have a fun snow day.
The resort not only has 11 slopes and nine lifts, but also offers several sledding slopes as well as lessons and inexpensive rental equipment.
As it is a beginner friendly resort, there may be an excess of youngsters and snow bunnies, but if the slopes get too crowded, Bearstown also has an indoor pool, tennis court, sauna, bowling alley and more.
How to get there
Shuttle: free and paid shuttle buses are available and reservations can be made online or by calling  +82 31 540 5000.
Public transportation: take the #11 bus from Gangbyeon Station and get off at Bearstown Resort.
Approximate travel time from central Seoul: 90 minutes


1. Boseong (Green Tea Fields)  
Boseong green tea fields  

The tea fields at Boseong have been the backdrop for many a love story, both real and fictitious. Boseong's green tea fields may be a little too obscure to dedicate a full vacation to, while far enough from Seoul to deter enough travelers from making a quick trip.
But while the travel time is long for a day trip, as long as you depart early, there’s enough time to go and be back in time to make the last subway train home. We recommend a weekend trip, however.
The fields are beautiful and the trip is a nice breather -- literally, since the fresh scent of tea is everywhere. Visitors can walk through the seemingly endless fields of the Daehan Plantation for a small admission fee.
The surrounding restaurants offer plenty of green tea-flavored goodies, including green tea samgyeopsal, ice cream and rice cake soup.
The annual Green Tea Festival takes place in the spring, when visitors can pick their own tea leaves, make tea and other products, as well as view several exhibitions.
For those with enough time, Yulpo Beach is 10 minutes away by bus, where a green tea-themed spa features deep seawater mixed with green tea. Transportation back to Boseong Terminal also tends to be easier from Yulpo Beach.
How to get there
Bus: from the Express Bus Terminal, take the bus to Boseong Beolgyo Express Terminal and take a bus headed to Yulpo Beach or take a taxi to the green tea fields for approximately 10,000 (US$9).
Train: take the KTX from Yongsan Station to Gwangju, and then transfer from the Gwangju Bus Terminal and take a bus headed to Boseong Beolgyo Express Terminal. From the terminal, transfer to Yulpo Beach-headed bus, or take a taxi.
Approximate travel time from central Seoul: five hours
Approximate cost: ₩70,000 (US$64) for KTX and taxi roundtrip, ₩55,000 (US$50) for bus and taxi roundtrip

2. Jinhae


Jinhae may have more than just cherry blossom trees, but judging by this photo, cherry blossom trees are reason enough to go. Jinhae is another place that’s a little far for a day trip, but on the flip side, it is also one of the best places in the world to see the cherry blossoms in the spring.
Of course, this naval city is home to a lot more than just cherry blossom trees, but the Naval Academy and museum are only open to the public during the annual Jinhae Naval Festival, a festival commemorating one of Korea's biggest heroes from history, Admiral Yi Sun-shin.
But be warned: the festival, combined with the allure of the cherry blossoms, means that there will be swarms of tourists, so unless it's a personal must, long lines are only a waste of time.
Hardier tourists can also walk up Mount Jangbok, which has been paved with stairs, and be rewarded with a view of the 300,000 or so cherry trees in blossom.

How to get there

Bus: take a bus from Seoul Express Terminal to Masan Express Terminal and take a bus to Jinhae, or take a bus from Nambu Bus Terminal to Jinhae Bus Terminal.
Train: take the KTX from Seoul Station so Miryang, and transfer to the Saemaeul train to Jinhae.
Approximate travel time from central Seoul: three to five hours, depending on traffic and mode of transportation.
Approximate cost: 100,000 (US$91) for KTX roundtrip50,000 (US$46) for bus and taxi roundtrip


1. Daecheon Beach (Boryeong)


A roomier alternative to claustrophobically crowded beaches like the more popular Haeundae in Busan. Boryeong is famous for its mud festival, but getting dirty isn’t the only thing that the city offers. The city’s Daecheon Beach is three kilometers long and filled with people actually playing in the water and the sand, rather than hiding out under umbrellas (although those are available as well).
The tide comes in early during the summer, and the lifeguards will clear out the beach for a few hours.
Once that happens, you can head out for an early dinner as there are restaurants a-plenty selling seafood all along the shore. There's also the Daecheon Fish Market, which is about a five-minute cab ride away, where visitors can choose from an assortment of fish for fresh hoe and seafood stew.
How to get there
Train: take a train from Yongsan Station headed to Daecheon Station and transfer to a bus bound for Daecheon Beach or take a taxi (approximately 10 minutes).
Bus: take a bus from either Express Bus Terminal or Nambu Bus Terminal headed to Boryeong Bus Terminal and transfer to a local bus to Daecheon Beach or a taxi.
Approximate travel time from central Seoul: three hours
Approximate cost: ₩40,000 (US$37) for bus and taxi roundtrip

2. Nami Island


With avenues like these, we suspect Nami Island would have been popular without its Korean drama fame. This tiny island is the final resting place of General Nami but most visitors come not to pay their respects to the famous Joseon Dynasty general, but to see the location of the mega-hit Korean drama, Winter Sonata. But if that latter fact is a deterrent, rather than an incentive, there’s more to see than just signs pointing out the filming locations of a decade-old drama.
The island, which declared its cultural independence in 2006, offers bike rentals as well as an electric car tour, but also has cleared out walking paths, all of which help the island stay environmentally friendly.
The island also has a small theme park with merry-go-rounds, not roller coasters, a sky-bike where pairs can "cycle" on a track five kilometers long and six meters aboveground, a large outdoor pool and other activities.

How to get there

Shuttle: reserve a spot online or call +82 2 753 1247 for a bus from Insadong or Jamsil Station. Approximate cost: 15,000 (US$14) roundtrip
Train: take the subway to Gapyeong Station and take a bus or taxi to Gapyeong Wharf (Nami Island)
Bus: take a bus from East Seoul Terminal to Gapyeong Bus Terminal and take a bus or taxi to Gapyeong Wharf (Nami Island).
From the wharf, take a five-minute ferry ride to the island or take a one-minute zipline from Nami Skyline Zipwire Ziprider Tower (38,000, approximately US$35).
Approximate travel time from central Seoul: three hours

3. DMZ (Demilitarized Zone)


At Dora Observatory, you can try to squint across the DMZ to catch a glimpse of North Korea, or you can enjoy the greenery of the wildlife haven that is the DMZ itself. The world’s most heavily militarized border in the world is an odd place to become a top tourist destination, but somehow it’s the most popular -- among foreign travelers, anyway.
As there are few other places in South Korea where visitors can get so close to North Korea, the DMZ, at the 38th parallel, continues to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists despite numerous border conflicts.
South Korean citizens are not allowed near the border, and even foreigners must go as part of an official tour. The USO (United Service Organization), Korail and Incheon International Airport, among others, all run tours to the DMZ and back.

Depending on the tour, visitors can go inside a North Korean infiltration tunnel, stand on the Freedom Bridge and access the Odusan or Dora Observatory, the Joint Security Area and more.
The atmosphere lends itself to a mostly obedient crowd. It's a good idea to check for permission before taking photos, unless you are prepared to risk the ire of the soldiers on guard.

How to get there
Book a tour (USO Incheon Korail).
Approximate travel time from central Seoul: one hour
Approximate cost: ₩70,000 (US$64) for a booked tour.