Monday, November 28, 2011

Dokdo, Korea's Eastern-most Volcanic Islands

Dokdo, Korea's Easternmost Volcanic IslandsKorea's easternmost islets of Dokdo are a special place to visit. But those seeking to stay overnight must obtain an entry permit from the Cultural Heritage Administration several weeks in advance as ordinary visitors are restricted to trips of just one hour.

The islets were formed from lava flows resulting from a volcanic eruption around 2,000 m below the surface of the ocean that occurred between 4.6 million to 2.5 million years ago. The creation of Dokdo predates Ulleung Island by around 2 million years, and Jeju Island by around 3.4 million years.

Dokdo is actually composed of two islands -- east and west -- and surrounded by around 90 rock formations.

The two islands lie around 150 m apart. According to the maritime police guarding Dokdo, the water separating the two is very shallow -- it never dips below 2.0 m -- and traversable on foot, but the narrow channel is usually crossed by boat for safety reasons.

Depending on weather conditions, visitors are usually only granted access to Dokdo for about 50 days each year. That means many are forced to turn back without ever setting foot on the islands.

After a short trek around Dokdo, we headed to the west island to stay for a day. Kim Sung-do, the sole inhabitant, came to greet us aboard a rubber boat and we got to the other side in less than three minutes. From the seawall, trumpet shells, sea urchins and other marine life were visible under the waves. The ebbing tides create an optimum environment for a wide variety of marine species.

Early next morning, we hiked for about 20 minutes to the highest point of the island in order to catch a breathtaking sunrise.

The forest on the other side of the island teems with lush vegetation. The high peaks and dry soil make it a tough environment for vegetation to flourish, but around 60 different types of plants can still be found there. Another 20-minute hike led our party to the only freshwater source there, which produces about one barrel of water a day.

After we left the west island and headed east, the situation became slightly more tense. The east island is controlled by the military and photography is prohibited, unless visitors are accompanied by a minder. As a result, we could not set foot on it until we received approval from the maritime police guarding its power generators, radars and communications facilities. The military facilities were off-limits.

Dokdo, Korea's easternmost territory, is open to both Koreans and foreigners, but the latter must go through a routine application process to gain admittance.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Grilled Seafood Just the Tonic at Incheon Port Festival

Gizzard shads are a seasonal favorite in Korea as their flesh fattens up at this time of year with just the right amount of health-inducing fish oils, and visitors could hardly get enough of them at an annual seafood festival in Incheon earlier this month.

The 11th Incheon Sorae Port Festival that ran from Oct. 13 to 16 attracted people from all over the country with its lively program of events and fresh seafood, including fish, crabs and clams.

View of Incheon Sorae Port A tasting session of fish congee served from a huge iron cauldron was wildly popular, but nothing could top the demand for the nutty and salty gizzard shads, delivered directly from fishing boats at the port. Visitors lined up to pluck them off grills, voicing their delight at the succulent fish as they sucked it down with a hot spoonful of rice.

Grilled gizzard shads During the festival, the market was filled with merchants and visitors negotiating prices. Those who bought fish to make into sashimi made their way to the raw fish restaurant, or found a free spot in front of the port for a refreshing picnic amid the cool ocean breeze.

The fish market at Incheon Sorae Port The festival also featured cultural experiences and performances showcasing the beauty of the West Sea and the romantic scenery around the port. Further information can be found at the event's homepage (

Samgyeopsal Leads Foreigners' Favorite Seoul Food

Foreigners' favorite Korean food is samgyeopsal or Korean-style bacon, according to a straw poll by the Seoul Metropolitan Government of 1,984 foreigners on its website and Facebook. The city on Monday said samgyeopsal received the most votes with 558.

Second place went to dishes made with kimchi like stew and soup with 328 votes, and tteokbokki, the popular street snack made of rice cakes and spicy chili paste, came third with 313 votes. Next were bibimbap (rice with assorted vegetables) with 231 and samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup) with 172 votes, galbi (grilled beef ribs) with 76 and naengmyeon (cold noodles) with 43. Bossam (kimchi or lettuce wraps with steamed pork) with 42 votes, pork galbi (ribs) with 34 and gimbap (rice wrapped in seaweed) with 32 brought up the rear.

Samgyeopsal ranked second among respondents from America and Japan, but had a great deal of Chinese support.

Bae Hyung-woo of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, said although one might think that doenjang jjigae or soybeen paste stew would be unpopular among westerners due to its strong flavor and smell, the survey results proved differently. "The popularity of Seoul's unique street food such as sundae [blood sausage] and hotteok [sweet pancakes] went up as well," he added.

Winter Olympics a Bigger Boost for Korea Than K-Pop

Foreigners who live in Korea or have visited the country say Pyeongchang's successful bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics did more to boost Korea's image than K-pop.

The Corea Image Communication Institute, which looks for ways to improve Korea's image abroad, surveyed 211 foreign diplomats, academics, CEOs, artists and other opinion leaders from Oct. 10 to Nov. 7, and 55.3 percent said the Pyeongchang bid played the biggest role in improving Korea's image.

Next were K-pop (18.6 percent) and Shin Kyung-sook's international bestseller "Please Look After Mom" (16.7 percent). Others cited novelist Lee Oe-soo, figure skating champion Kim Yu-na, English Premier League footballer Park Ji-sung and singer Rain.

In contrast, 39.2 percent of 303 Koreans who were surveyed cited K-pop as playing the biggest part in boosting their country's image abroad, followed by the Pyeongchang bid with 36.6 percent.

The most popular Korean food among foreign respondents was a typical family meal with side dishes, soup and rice, cited by 41.4 percent, while 29.8 percent chose a sumptuous full-course dinner. Next were street snacks (5.6 percent) and traditional rice cakes and cookies (3.7 percent).

But some 38 percent of Korean respondents thought foreigners would prefer the full-course Korean dinner.

Choi Jung-wha of CICI said, "Even 10 years ago, foreigners used to say, 'I don't know what to eat' when they were confronted with the typical Korean meal table and preferred the full-course meal instead, but with rising awareness of Korean cuisine through efforts to publicize it, preferences have changed."

The animated penguin Pororo and 16-year-old rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae and junior figure skating Grand Prix bronze medalist Kim Hae-jin were also seen as image boosters.

Shin Kyung-sook goes back to short stories

An illustrator in her 40s, a married woman, ironically, calls her life peaceful because she is free of love. “A peace that I never expected in my life has arrived. I don’t ever want to be caught up in passion toward another person. The desire to own another being incites passion as well as pain. ... I will not push myself into the passion and pain again.”

This is a confession of an anonymous character in Shin Kyung-sook’s new short story collection,“Unknown Women.” The collection of seven short stories is long overdue after Shin’s last collection, “Sound of a Bell,” published in 2003.

Since 2007, Shin has been focusing on novels. Shin has touched a world audience with her heart wrenching family drama “Please Look After My Mom” published in 2008.

Shin’s latest collection showcases new mastery of putting words into descriptions of the mundane moments in life. But also, Shin said in an author’s note that the stories are special because she wrote them when she was most depressed and felt lost. Shin called the unnamed characters in the collection her contemporaries — the ordinary people who are always forgotten.

Indeed the anonymous characters are forgettable. A reporter, who left her country home for life in Seoul, returns for the funeral of a former neighbor. A businessman who neglected his marriage gets into an accident and reflects on this while lying covered in blood. A married illustrator gets a letter from her long lost lover. Their stories revolve around these past relationships.

The gem of storytelling by unidentified characters is Shin’s use of a free indirect style in most of the collection, one in which the writing switches between the third-person narrative as well the first-person in the absence of quotation marks. In the fourth story “After Dark,” the characters are merely “he” and “she.” In the next “Bo Tree in Front of the Gate,” a woman tells her own story.
Shin even wrote “Hidden Snow” entirely as a letter addressed to an anonymous person.

However, the fluidity of the writing makes the readers susceptible to getting lost or even tempted to skim. In Hidden Snow, 14 pages are dedicated to various kittens. Even after a forced reading of such pages, the section’s relevance remains questionable.

Yet, Shin masterfully creates magical incidents. The married illustrator reunites with her ex after 20 years. He hands her a notebook his wife used to communicate with the maid about groceries and housework. Eventually a deep friendship develops between the two, only until when they hit the last page; “I don’t understand why I had to get sick with such a disease. I can’t believe it.”

The ex is devastated because he learned about his wife’s cancer only after she had unexpectedly left him.

The illustrator returns to her life where her husband whines intolerably in a hospital bed after his back surgery. Her bitterness changes slowly but surely into the appreciation that he relied on her when in need.

In the more creative stories, though, the drama is too predictable. The third,“In the Field, He,” the narrator’s wife declares one day that she is suffering from an “alien left-hand syndrome.” Her left hand starts to act on its own, eventually hitting the narrator and strangling him in his sleep. This is a no-brainer; the so-called syndrome is a poetic representation of the depressed and forgotten wife’s anger. Yet it takes a car accident that left the character injured and abandoned for him to see it.

Through the lives of nameless characters, the reader may question the concept of normal relationships. Why do we accept that married couples communicate less and become bitter? Why do we ignore that we’ve lost touch with those we once admired the most, be it a lover or a neighborhood buddy?

But there are moments that we look back on how these deteriorated relationships started and recognize things ugly and forgotten. Shin captures just that; the painful and almost embarrassing moments we look back at all the things that we have lost.

Source: The Korea Times

Thursday, November 24, 2011

BUNDANG, Gyeonggi Province — A single phone call can sometimes make all the difference.

Koo Bohnchang, much too humble about his credentials, had initially refused to be included in this series via email, but gave in after some persuasion over the phone — perhaps it was because the 56-year-old photographer never forgot what it is like to ring up a seasoned artist.

“One phone call altered my fate,” Koo said, recounting his student days in Germany some 30 years ago when he decided to ask esteemed photographer Andre Gelpke to critique his work.

“I am very shy but I can be quite bold when it comes to photography,” he continued, chuckling softly. “I wanted to know where I stood as an artist and worked up the nerve to call Gelpke. The next thing I knew I was on a train to Dusseldorf.”

Gelpke instilled him with confidence and emphasized the importance of crafting one’s own identity rather than mimicking European greats. The encounter also helped launch an international career, to be recognized as a unique artist. His wide-ranging oeuvre includes “still life paintings” of local folk masks and pottery that harness his roots to more universal, artistic ends, as well as less culture-specific, abstract expressions.

Some of these works hung around his studio-home, a chic modern abode accented with Korean antiques. He allowed this reporter to freely explore the space and smiled every now and then, apparently recognizing the excitement he, too, had felt visiting an elder artist’s “habitat.”

The soft-spoken Koo’s gentle demeanor was almost misleading though, considering how he had a knack for making bold decisions.

The Seoul native was a “quiet, ordinary guy” working for a major corporation after majoring in business administration. But when a friend, the renowned filmmaker Bae Chang-ho, left a promising corporate job to pursue his dreams in cinema, Koo, too, felt compelled to follow his creative impulses.

“We don’t live forever and I felt determined to break away from the norm. I didn’t want to live the life everyone expected me to.” His family opposed the idea, treating it as a sort of “belated teenage rebellion” — even the 26-year-old Koo didn’t know that his deviation would pave a new path for fine arts photography in Korea.

He ended up studying the genre along with design in Hamburg, and learned the art of observation from a painting professor. “I was able to purge myself of prejudices, to see how photography allows you to observe something and make that moment your own.” Throughout the session with The Korea Times, he seemed to allow himself to be a subject of examination — being open to questions and photo shoot ideas, and taking initiative only to serve wine or to ask suggestions about his attire (he had prepared several outfits for the shoot).

As a little boy he had loved “conversing with objects,” like rounded pieces of glass buried in the soil that revealed themselves during rain showers. This also reflects in his work today — how he uncovers beauty in overseen, mundane objects like dried up pieces of used soap (“Soap” series, 2007), or paints the passage of time through a dirty wall (“Portraits of Time,” 1998-2001).

Though he can’t pinpoint when, there came a moment when “the camera shadowed what I saw, when it became my own eyes and heart.”

Yet as an aspiring artist in the 1980s, when photography as a fine art genre was still an alien concept in Korea, he did not know how to become a professional photographer. He thus designed his own path; he submitted works to a Korean photography contest all the way from Hamburg. Though he ended up taking part in it as a German interpreter for a guest judge, networking led to his first solo show in Seoul in 1983. Likewise, calling Gelpke resulted in meeting a Japanese agency.

A pivotal opportunity came in 1985. He was invited to partake in an international project in Tokyo, alongside some of the world’s most renowned photographers including Steve McCurry (famous for works such as the National Geographic’s “Afghan Girl”). Ironically, Koo became better known abroad before finding a niche back home.

When he returned to Korea in the mid-’80s, his abstract close-ups and strong surreal images had no place to stand among the local journalistic pieces or landscapes. The artist thus made a living by teaching and taking portraits for a dance company. He used a basketball court as a studio.

But he still sought a way to change currents in the local art scene. While designing postcards for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, he managed to persuade the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel gallery, one of the most prestigious art spaces in the country then, to host a group show. It was the first time the venue had ever held photography exhibition but it ended up drawing the largest crowd of visitors in its history.

“It’s difficult to believe, but Korean fine art photography spans only 20 years,” he said.

Koo’s success, however, was not always favorably received. “Many conservative critics said ‘Koo Bohnchang is ruining photography.’”

He nevertheless continued to achieve more firsts, such as organizing unprecedented shows juxtaposing photos with paintings. In 1998, Koo’s ties to Japan led him to introduce local photographers’ works to museum directors from around the world. Two years later an exhibition opened in Houston, Texas, titled “Contemporary Korean Photographers” for works by Koo, Atta Kim and Bae Bien-u, among others.

In 2008 Koo turned another page in the local arts world by directing the Daegu Photo Biennale. He had finally brought the world photography scene to Korea — 20 years since introducing fine art photography here and 10 years after taking Korean photographers to a global audience.

“It’s funny, I never realized it before, how those three turning points in my life took place in 10-year intervals,” he said.
Though the artist never seems to lose sight of the past, he keeps his gaze forward.

“You need to believe in your talent,” he said when asked about advising aspiring photographers. “It’s going to be tough but you have to persevere and proactively pursue your vision.” Koo has taught at schools in Korea, the United Kingdom and Germany, and says he enjoys giving students the feedback he was not afforded in his youth.

“Fine art photography is disparate from the images that flood our lives in this digital age,” he said. “It’s not about capturing something by chance or creating for entertainment or commercial purposes, to catch the viewer’s attention with something flashy or ostentatious.”

Koo wrapped up Thursday, in Seoul, an exhibition of snow-capped landscapes of Jeju Island. “Photography is more than just depicting the beauty of a scenic view. It requires time and effort to deliver messages and to portray life — to move the heart.”

The photographer thus continues his endeavor to tell life stories — camera in hand, to find beauty in unlikely places, to seize more moments.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

(Yonhap Feature) S. Korean bloggers going through growing pains

Lee Jae-geon didn't mean to become a "power blogger." He rather fell into it, like many in his blogging community. It was about seven years ago, following his army stint, when Lee became interested in cooking and began a small Cyworld blog posting his own recipes. After some time, Cyworld dismantled their blog-service, so Lee moved onto Naver and now he runs blogs on eight separate blog platforms.

Lee, or better known by his blogger handle "Misangyu," makes a living as a freelance food columnist, cooking instructor and writer, in part due to his years of experience as a power blogger. But recently, Misangyu discovered he was being rerferred to as something else: "power broker."
The term "power broker" was coined by the Korean media in response to the BabyRose scandal that broke this past summer. BabyRose is the "wife-logger" ID of 46-year-old Hyun Jin-heui who used to run one of the most popular blogs in Korea, with over 59 million recorded visits and 130,906 subscribers. Her blog has since shut down with a single post of apology to her readers.

South Korean singer Kara Expect 2nd Japanese Album to Outsell Debut

Girl group Kara continue to enjoy sweeping popularity in Japan. As of Friday, their debut Japanese album "Girl's Talk" sold 501,999 copies since it was released at the end of last year.

"Girl's Talk" was an instant hit with sales of over 100,000 copies in the first week of its release, and fans continue to snap it up almost a year after its launch.

Meanwhile, the band's full-length second Japanese album "Super Girl," which was scheduled to be released on Wednesday, has already received more than 360,000 preorders.

The new album includes a mixture of the group's hits from their previous albums and the Japanese versions of songs from their third Korean album, which was recently released here.

Contributor to France's return of ancient Korean royal books dies

A Korean-born French scholar who contributed to the return of Korea's ancient royal books from France died at a Paris hospital on Tuesday, her family and the hospital said. She was 83.

Park Byeng-sen, a Korean historian who studied in France, had been receiving hospital treatment after undergoing surgery for rectal cancer in Suwon, south of Seoul, in January last year.

She returned to Paris to write a history book 10 months later but underwent two more surgical procedures after her disease worsened. Despite the surgeries, her health did not improve and she had been in a coma since Saturday, according to the hospital.

Park, who has no descendants as she never married, had asked her relatives that she be cremated and her ashes scattered in the sea off Normandy in northern France, according to her family.

She also asked them to complete writing the second volume of her book about the French invasion of Korea and the plundering of the royal books in 1866, they said.

The Korean Embassy in France said it plans to build a memorial altar for the late Park at a Korean cultural center in Paris and is discussing funeral procedures with her family.

The Seoul government had earlier said it was considering burying Park at a national cemetery in recognition of her large contribution to the country, even though she was naturalized as a French citizen after 1967.

Park received a national medal from the Korean government in September for helping Seoul retrieve the ancient royal books titled "Oegyujanggak" that were looted 145 years ago.

The books detailing royal ceremonies and rites of Korea's last kingdom, the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) returned to South Korea in May.

She also discovered the presence of Korea's "Jikjisimcheyojeol," the world's oldest metal printing type, at the French national library when she worked as a librarian there in 1972.

In 1977, she found that the looted royal books were among the collections of the library and prompted a campaign in South Korea for the books' return.

After decades of tough negotiations, France agreed to return the books permanently under a renewable lease.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Korean, Aussie contemporary art meets

It has been 50 years since Korea and Australia established diplomatic relations and the friendship is now blooming on the art scene, with two exhibitions “Tell me Tell me” and “City within the City.”

The National Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) hosts “Tell me Tell me: Australian and Korean Art 1976-2011,” in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney, at its main building in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, through Feb. 19, 2012. The exhibition was first held at the National Art School in Sydney from June 17 to Aug. 24 before travelling to Korea.

Co-curated by Glenn Barkley of the MCA and Kim In-hye of MOCA, the title of the exhibition came from Korean girl group Wonder Girls’ song by the same name.

“We hope the exhibition will explain the relationship between the two countries and we are happy to introduce young Australian artists to Korea,” Barkley said.

In the exhibition, not only do Australian and Korean cultures meet, but so do the times of 1976 and 2011.

“Though Australian art is not well-known in Korea, it has hidden charms. Though the history of Australia as a nation is short, it has a longer tradition of its land and indigenous culture that influenced contemporary art,” Kim said. “The beginning of Korea-Australia artistic exchanges date back to 1976. Korean artists like Lee Ufan and Lee Kang-so participated in the second Sydney Biennale and Korean video artist Paik Nam-june also visited the country in 1976.”

Kim said the process of preparing the exhibition was a perfect example of a cultural exchange as she and Barkley had to research each other’s art intensively.

In the lobby, Brook Andrew’s 2008 work “LOOP: A Model of how the world operates” greets the visitors. Andrew’s works are inspired by traditional Aboriginal patterns which he combines with contemporary materials such as neon.

A round, pinkish glass ball in front of “LOOP” is Korean artists Kil Cho-sil’s “The Breathtaking,” which holds a shaman’s breath in it.

The exhibition also introduces Paik’s “Zen for TV” (1963) from MOCA’s collection, which incorporates the concept of Zen through a television monitor, then the newest technology. The curators found Lee Ufan’s earlier work “Situation I,” which was on display at the 1976 Biennale, at the Mildura Arts Centre Regional Gallery in southern Australia and brought it to light.

Australian artist Louise Weaver’s works “No Small Wonder” and “Grey Forester” portray the nature of Australia through knitted objects and animals, while Charlie Sofo creates pieces using everyday objects such as sheets of paper, watermelon seeds and fluorescent light in “Balls” and “Watermelon.”

Yee Soo-kyung’s video “Our Tryst Has Been Delayed” and Christian Thompson’s “Gamu Mambu (Blood Song)” keenly contrasts the two country’s characteristics.

Admission is 5,000 won for adults and free for students. For more information about the exhibition, visit or call (02) 2188-6114.

Exploring urbanity

Artsonje Center in central Seoul presents “City within the City,” examining various issues regarding cities and urban areas. The exhibition is co-developed by Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne, Australia.

It looks at the rapid change of Seoul through a wide spectrum of artists. Alexie Glass-Kantor, director of Gertrude Contemporary said the two cities are very different in historical and cultural background, but both have a drive to keep moving forward.

“The city described in the exhibit is not a physical space, but a place of uncertainty, contradiction and intimacy,” Glass-Kantor said.

Architecture historian Ahn Chang-mo has collaborated with graphic designer Jung Jin-yeoul to research the city and present it in a newspaper-like form, while Seo Hyun-suk explores the people behind Sewoon Mart through a double-screen video.

Jung Yeon-doo chose to look into the life of diverse people and took photos of families living in the Southern Rainbow apartment complex in his work “Southern Rainbow Seoul.” Each apartment is the same structure and same size but the people living there are so different.

Listen to the City presents art activism project “Design Seoul or Gotham City.” The group also offers tour programs of the Han River Renaissance and the Four-River Restoration Project on Dec. 3 and 10.

Ash Keating, who was in Seoul in 2008 participating in Asialink Residency, revisited several locations for “City within the City.” Keating was struck by rapid redevelopment projects and luxurious apartment advertisements and created a fictional development project “Zi Namsan Plus.” His work is on display on a replica construction wall inside the art center as well as on a construction site’s wall behind Artsonje Center, blurring the line between reality and art.

Other artists participating in the exhibition include Andrew McQualter from Australia, Abraham Cruzvillegas from Mexico and Alicia Frankovich from New Zealand.

The exhibition runs through Jan. 15. Entry is 3,000 won for adults and 1,500 won for students. For more information, visit or call (02) 733-8945.

Korea : 'Social media promotes transparency'

With the growth of social networking sites, corrupt governments and traditional media with low journalistic integrity will face an increasingly difficult time to convince the public why they should continue to exist, according to Huguette Labelle, chair of Transparency International (TI).

“People have begun to have increasingly high expectations of social media,” Labelle said in an interview at the Shilla Hotel in downtown Seoul, Sunday.

“It has been a very interesting and chaotic year. The ‘Arab Spring’ followed by an Indian summer and trailed by the European sovereign debt crisis.”

The former Canadian transport deputy minister claimed that the crisis of governance in many parts of the world reflects people’s longing for transparency in handling public interest and taxpayers’ money.

She said more people will seek social networking sites as alternative sources of receiving and communicating information over the existing media.

“Overtime people notice, act and reject certain media that are not independent, responsible and professional,” Labelle said.

“The media is putting itself in a vulnerable position if it does not reform itself.”

She said the world will undergo a massive social change as more people will realize that information that they have been fed is biased or fabricated and certain information has been kept secret from them by those with vested interests.

Labelle claimed that many corrupt corporations will soon have to take responsibility for their unethical business practices.

“It is a matter of time today before they are caught,” she said. “Companies playing under the table in order to gain contracts are making themselves highly vulnerable.”

She argued that when employees see their bosses do not live by the law, they are most likely to do the same in the company.

“Leaders who do not adopt a clean strategy are doing so at their own peril,” she said “Some of your staff will steal from them, while others will find another job and later come up with documents that make them stand trial.”

Labelle urged businesses to adopt a clean, transparent business policy, and join the United National Global Compact, the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative for businesses committed to aligning their operations and strategies with 10 universally accepted principles.

“The minute you start paying bribes, your hand is in the grinder and your whole body goes with it,” she said, adding that most of nations have criminalized bribery.

Labelle said that she has been focusing her efforts on educating the youth about the importance of the anti-corruption drive.

“If they have a strong moral compass, they will be able to differentiate what is right and wrong,” she said.

“I want young people to see themselves not as a victim of corruption, but as a person who provides solutions.”

Labelle arrived in Seoul Saturday to attend the Global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Conference 2011, which starts today for two days.

TI's latest corruption perception index, which measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption, ranks Korea 39th among 178 countries surveyed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Younghi Pagh-Paan: Sharing art

"Art is about sharing and exchanging expressions and forming a community."

This is the sixth in a series of interviews with international pioneers among Korean artists that marks the 61st anniversary of The Korea Times, which fell on Nov. 1, and is sponsored by the Korea Press Foundation. — ED.

By Lee Hyo-won

PANICALE, Italy — “Molto bene (very good)!” exclaimed Younghi Pagh-Paan as she bit into a fig, fresh and juicy right off the tree, and wrapped with prosciutto prepared by the town butcher.

The composer spun out sentences in a rhythmic mixture of Italian, Korean, German and English, depending on whether she addressed a neighbor or a German musician that performed one of her pieces. Regardless of the language, she spoke with the same “jeong,” or affectionate concern, typical of a Korean mother. Though the 66-year-old shares hearty classic local dishes with visitors, her refrigerator is stocked with Korean food.

“Panicale is like North Chungcheong Province. I don’t feel like I’m abroad, as if I’m in Korea except that the people speak Italian,” she said.

Pagh may be one of the most exciting contemporary composers and highly reputed pedagogues to emerge from Germany, where she has lived since the 1970s — but the Cheongju native’s penchant for mountainous regions makes her feel most at home in the central Italian city, and she spends at least several months a year here.

“My mind is at peace here,” she said, climbing to the second floor of the vacation house she shares with her husband (the esteemed composer Klaus Huber occupies the first floor to work on his own music).

This is where she feels comfortable crafting music — where she sits pensively to remain true to the meaning of her pen name “Paan.” She has always sought to be a “philosophical composer” that reflects deeply on the meaning of art and ways to tell life stories through music notes.

“My music has first and foremost been about spirituality and inspiration. It’s not meant to be played or heard any time of the day; but if someone could come and concentrate on a piece of mine for 10 minutes and return home feeling something, then I will have accomplished something.”

The Seoul National University graduate came to Europe on a German state scholarship, with an aggressive purpose “to learn about the enemy” — she felt that a progressive Korean composer could not mimic Western models.

Yet her oeuvre leaps nimbly over binaries of Eastern and Western aesthetics; though almost always titled in Korean, her pieces fuse unique rhythmic structures found in “gugak” (traditional Korean music) with Western composition techniques, and translate fluidly across borders because they evoke basic human emotions and experiences.

After winning the top prize at the prestigious Composers Seminar in Boswil, Switzerland, in 1978, Pagh became the first female composer to premiere a commissioned piece at the Donaueschingen Festival in 1980. She was the second Korean to have the latter honor after the late Isang Yun, and gained wide international attention for “Sori,” a piece meaning “sound” in Korean that gives flight to the spirit of rebellious peasant music.

Classical music, especially contemporary pieces, is often considered esoteric. However, Pagh demonstrates that in the end, music, regardless of genre, is about sharing.

“Art is not a solo act. It’s about sharing and exchanging expressions and forming a community. A composer can write music only if there are performers that can bring it to life, but people can only play if there is an audience that could listen.”

Likewise, she considers her success a shared accomplishment — her parents instilled in her the confidence that uplifts her to this day; her sister encouraged her to learn the piano to ease the pain of losing their father at the age of 10; and even the guard at her elementary school let her slip into the empty classroom at 4 in the morning to play the instrument.

“I was able to settle down in Europe thanks to my friends and family, and I never forgot that. This communion of love has made me who I am now,” she said. Not long after pulling the grin she always wears into a larger crescent moon, however, she had to pause to wipe away a tear. “Oh, it must be all this reminiscing.”

There were also musicians that were instrumental to her growth, she continued. Pagh swore to become a composer upon hearing Ahn Eak-tai’s “Korea Fantasy” as a teenager — “the first time this little girl from the suburbs ever saw instruments in person,” she recalled “the electrifying experience.”

Listening to Germany-trained Yun’s “Reak” as a university student solidified her determination to study in the European country, purging all artistic doubts and the thought of switching majors to psychology. Visiting Beethoven’s home and seeing how even the great maestro had to erase and correct notes taught her the grace of letting go, to eliminate unnecessary notes. She developed a critical eye while studying under teachers like Huber.

Pagh turned to academia in the 1990s because she, too, wanted to give to others.

“I wanted to teach because I wanted to do something for the next generation. Someone has to; composers can solely focus on their own careers but I believed it was equally important to nurture the young. Even retiring means passing on the professorship to the next generation; it’s about sharing,” she said about wrapping up her tenure at the University of Arts Bremen.

She was the first woman to reach such high ranks as vice-president in a teutophone institute of higher education. When asked about the hardships of paving a way through a conservative, male-dominated field in a foreign country, she shook her head. “It was a human, not a woman's, struggle. I risked everything coming to Europe and my life depended on it. It may be difficult to imagine since I look so much at ease now but I fought ferociously in my early days,” she said.

The battle had always been within, as she sought, and continues to seek, the purposes of art. As an educator she wished to instill this attitude in students. “I wanted teach the importance of spirituality in music. There is too much emphasis on technique these days.”

She also espouses the importance of catering to individual needs. “Not all of my students were destined to become composers that are invited to showcase their work at the Donaueschingen Festival. But I taught them to play important roles in society regardless of what they became, by developing their unique individual talent.”

Pagh frowned slightly as she went on to express concern for Korean adolescents. “Koreans today are obsessed with being No. 1 in everything. Society is not comprised of just top dogs. A creative mind is different from intelligence. Anyone, no matter what she or he does, can be creative.”

Creativity, the artist believes, stems from the openness to learn. “I am a perennial student, always ready to learn,” she said. When asked about what she wishes to learn — or teach or compose— in the future, Pagh shrugged. But what seems certain is that her soul compass would be pointing toward her homeland.

Source: The Korea Times

Bhagyachandra National Festival of Classical Dance 2011

This is a part of the upcomming most sought tourism fest called "Sanhai Festival".

Venues: November 10 at Kaina, November 11-13 at Kangla

A brief about the Festival

The ninth edition of the Bhagyachandra National Festival of Classical Dance 2011 is being held for four days from November 10-13, 2011. The Manipur Chief Minister Shri O Ibobi Singh will be inaugurating the Festival on November 10 at Kaina. The highlight of the day’s event is performance of Sankritana and Maha Raas.

The Manipur Governor Gurbachan Jagat will open the Main Performance of the Festival at the Shree Shree Govindajee Temple Complex at Kangla on November 11 evening. Well known artistes from across the country will be in the city to present their art and encapture the spectators with their mastery on the classical dance forms. Young and upcoming artistes from the State will share a common space with the masters during three evenings of thrilling experience.

The festival had been appropriately named after the saint king, Meidingu Chingthangkhomba who is popularly known in Manipur history as Rajarshi Bhagyachandra Maharajah (1759-1798 A.D.). The king is credited as having conceived the form and design of the Raas Leela, the Manipuri classical dance which was introduced in 1797 AD.

This national festival of classical dance had grown out of the desire to provide a platform where artistes from all over the country could present their best performances before an audience well versed in the arts and culture. At the same time, it could provide an opportunity to generate emotional integrity with the rest of the country through art. Within this framework, the Bhagyachandra National Festival of Classical Dance is designed as a celebration of the art of dance, interpreted as an integral part of our lives. We have looked for aesthetic excellence and clarity of expression. We have looked for the best communicators in their respective arts.

The first edition of the festival was held in 1989, under a joint venture of the East Zone Cultural Centre, Kolkata; North East Zone Cultural Centre, Dimapur and the Department of Social Welfare, Art & Culture, Government of Manipur. Since then, eight editions have come and gone, leaving in their wake fond memories of fleeting feet keeping rhyme to estatic drum music, and fluid body movements that kept the spectators glued to their seats, finally erupting in thunderous applause.

In summing up the broad objective of hosting the festival, the former Art & Culture Director, (late) Chongtham Samarendra aptly commented, “This Festival is the first of its kind ever held in the whole of East and North East India. The contribution of Rajarshi Bhagyachandra to the cultural renaissance of Manipur has so far not been properly acknowledged and projected outside Manipur.

The highly artistic Manipuri classical dance form owes its origin to the savant King of Manipur who was the innovator, creator, patron, connoisseur, composer and choreographer of Raas Leela. It is our sincere wish that this Festival will herald a new era of cultural growth in this remote part of the country”.


Kaina is an important worship site of the Vaishnavite Manipuris. The place is associated with the legendary saint King, Meidingu Chingthangkhomba, popularly known as Rajarshi Bhagyachandra, a great patron of art and culture, and who introduced the Manipuri classical dance Raas to the world in 1797 AD. According to legend, the god Shree Shree Govindajee appeared in the dream of Rajarshi Bhagyachandra and He asked the King to create an image of Him and to worship it.

The King instructed his master craftspersons to carve the image of the god out of logs of a jackfruit tree that grew at Kaina hillock. And thus began the worship of Shree Shree Govindajee by the Vaishnavite Hindus in Manipur. Kaina is situated 29 km east of Imphal in Keirao-Bitra subdivision of Imphal East District, and the place is reached after crossing the scenic Ngariyan hill.

An area covering 22x18.40 sq.m. inclusive of the temple complex and its immediate surroundings are protected by the Government of Manipur under the provisions of the Manipur Ancient & Historical Monument & Archaeological Sites & Remains Act 1976.


Standing proud and strong, defying age and weathering, Kangla is a legacy of the Manipur Kings. Each space of the landscape, every inch of the standing monuments narrate tales of the glory and achievements of the Manipur Kings who ruled at Kangla since 33 AD up to the 19th century AD.

The essence of Manipur’s civilization and cultural history are embedded in the walls, the bricks and the fabric of the monuments that stand testimony to the whirling times in history when the Manipur kings ventured as far as the Kingdoms of Siam, Ava, and the hill tracts in the north bordering the mighty Chinese Empire. According to a popular myth, in those ancient times when the earth was covered with water, there was a patch of land that dried first. This place ‘Pungmayon’ was at the centre of the world. As this place dried first, it came to be known as ‘Kangla Pungmayon’.

Kangla is a revered holy place of the Manipuris. There are numerous sites that are held sacred by the Meiteis, such as the Kangla men surung, Nunggoibi, Yaoreibi, Oakshang and Langshang. It was customary for the Manipur kings to ascend the throne at Kangla. When the British forces occupied Kangla in 1891 AD, much of the structures within the fort were severely damaged or completely levelled with the ground. Some structures like Shree Shree Govindajee temple, Bheithap, Brinabanchandra temple, wall portion of Citadel, and the steps leading up to the Uttra Shanglen survived the destruction.

The natural setting and architectural design of Kangla served as an ideal fort capital of the Manipur Kings. The entire landscape is strewn with the aura of a religious setting mixed with historical nostalgia of a past civilization. The architectural design of Kangla indicates the martial character of the Manipuris, while also showcasing the religious temperament of the people. The temple enclosures remind us of the cultural enthusiasm of the Manipur Kings who patronized art and culture.

Maha Raas

Of the five Raas Leelas - Maha Raas, Vasanta Raas, Kunja Raas, Nitya Raas and Diva Raas, the first three are attributed to the saint king, Rajarshi Bhagyachandra (1759-1798 AD). A great patron of art and culture, Rajarshi Bhagyachandra conceived the form, text and concept of the Raas, and for the first time ever, the King dedicated a Maha Raas performance to Shree Shree Govindajee for five consecutive nights culminating in the full moon night of Hiyangei in 1797 AD.

The King’s daughter, Vimbavati, popularly known as Shija Lairoibi, took the lead role of Radha. The theme and sequences of the Maha Raas are based on the Bhagavatam (Ras panchadhyaya) in which the slokas of the Bhagavata text are recited and sung. Manipur owes greatly to Rajarshi Bhagyachandra for founding, creating and designing such a unique dance at once spiritual and graceful in its import and expression.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Korean traditional dancers tour India

A Korean dance troupe led by one of the country’s so-called “human treasures” has set off to share local traditions in India this week.

Under the leadership of esteemed artist Son Kyung-soon, Yeajon Dance Company kicked off its tour in New Delhi on Thursday and will continue onto Chennai for a second show on Sunday.

The program is designed to introduce Indian audiences to various dances including intangible cultural assets. Korea has a unique cultural heritage listing system for recognizing intangible skills that have been passed on through the generations, such as “Salpuri”and “Seungmu.”

Son is a holder of intangible cultural assets in dance and professor of dance at Soongeui Women’s College. Her troupe, comprised of Soongeui alumnae, has previously toured other countries including Australia. The company brings a showcase of folk, religious and court dances to India.

“We have done our best to present pieces that are easy to understand yet of the highest caliber,” said Son. “Whenever I go abroad for a performance, I am a jumble of emotions: excitement to show Korea’s traditional dance to new people, pressure to perform well, and concern about the audience’s response.”

The program includes the festive fan dance, the Buddhism-inspired “Seungmu” as well as “Yeon-Wha-Dae-Mu,” which features graceful choreography originally performed for Joseon kings.

Also being showcased are more dynamic sequences such as “Shin-Sal-Pu-Ri,” a creative modern twist on the shamanistic ritual.

The performances allow the viewer to hear “gugak” (traditional Korean music) not only in the background score but also on center stage. In “Sul-Jang-Gu-Chum,” which originates from agricultural folk culture, female dancers play the hourglass-shaped double drum “janggo” strapped onto their wastes while showing off moves.

The event co-organized by the Korea Foundation and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) comes in time for “The Year of Korea in India/India in Korea.”

Earlier this year in May, India’s world-renowned classical dancer Mallika Sarabhai and Darpana Dance Company toured Korea as part of the bilateral artistic exchange.

“We signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the ICCR and it is very meaningful to have artists from both sides perform in the other’s country,” said the Korea Foundation in a statement.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Every year in my mom's garden at the courtyard the Chrysanthemum flower always bloom this time it's not even budding. During the month of november we celebrate the festival with Chrysanthemum but not this time. I am gonna miss when in other part of the world this particular flower is at peak of flowering now.

Gosta Astami (Sansenba) celebrated at Shree Shree Govindajee Temple Palace Compound and Bijoy Govinda Temple Sagolband on November 03 2011

A traditional and customary play-dance enacted by kids depicting the life of Lord Krishna in His younger days playing around with demons and stealing milk. This is played out every year in Shree Shree Govindajee Temple courtyard - Konung Lampak at Imphal.

source:http: //

'Reason' transmits social messages

It appears “A Reason to Live” has also succumbed to the so-called “BIFF curse” — films that premiere at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) have mostly failed on general release.
The film’s weighty theme of capital punishment and absolution may have deterred some moviegoers, but it also suffered from distribution problems. The few theaters that showed the film alternated screenings with other works.

Nevertheless, “Reason” deserves more screenings in a market dominated by Hollywood-style scripts — especially since it is a rare opportunity to observe from the viewpoint of a female protagonist crafted by a likewise uncommon female writer-director. In addition to marking actress Song Hye-gyo’s return to the big screen, “Reason” sees the big comeback of director Lee Jeong-hyang. The filmmaker has ended a nine-year hiatus since her previous hits “The Way Home” (2002) and “Art Museum by the Zoo” (1998).

From start to finish, the movie maintains a quiet tone while probing social issues. When documentary director Da-hye (Song Hye-kyo) loses her fiance in a hit-and-run, she gives into other people’s pressure to forgive the juvenile perpetrator of the accident by filing a petition for his parole. She firmly believes that absolution is the best way to regain inner peace and embarks on a documentary film about the miracle of absolution with church support.

Meanwhile, the film develops a sub story featuring another main character. Ji-min (Nam Ji-hyun) has suffered from health problems and domestic violence, but cannot forgive her family. Ji-min tries to expose the hypocritical aspects of Da-hye’s action, saying “absolution without receiving an apology is false.”

Da-hye learns that the boy took his friend’s life after being released on parole and also stabbed his mother. She is plunged into confusion and is tormented by how her actions led to another death. The director said she wanted to create a film criticizing modern society for compelling victims and their families to absolve and forget, without fully considering how their wounds take time to heal. Lee’s film unravels from the perspective of victims and argues that they have “the right not to absolve.”

The film also expands its thematic frame to social problems stemming from domestic violence. Lee said she intended to show how juvenile crime is mostly attributed to parental problems through Ji-min. The character seems to mainly exist in order to pose questions on forgiveness and allow Da-hye to reflect; but Ji-min’s family atmosphere tells a story of its own as well as touching upon the central theme of forgiveness.

Song shows solid and restrained acting while depicting her character’s complicated inner state. Considering that her previous roles required relatively shallow displays of emotions, there is no doubt that “Reason” marks a turning point in the actress’ career.

The film itself might not be enough to satisfy some viewers’ high expectation of Lee’s comeback from a long break, but her sophisticated directing style has not changed and even seems to have become more intense than before. However, the overly explanatory dialogue may irritate some audiences as the film chooses to tell rather than show the story. For this reason, some scenes sometimes feel like a sermon from the director. The structure of the story itself is also not very deep or dramatic compared to Lee Chang-dong’s “Secret Sunshine” (2007), which also dealt with the theme of absolution.

Nevertheless “Reason” sheds light on actual social issues that are worth noting. Recently, “The Crucible’s” depiction of a real-life sexual assault prompted the police to reinvestigate the case. Likewise “Reason” reveals contradictory aspects of local criminal law.

A Lotte Entertainment release, “Reason “ is now showing in theaters. Three out of four stars.

Lantern Festival to Transform Cheonggye Stream into Blaze of Light

Cheonggye Stream will light up with 30,000 lanterns from Friday evening as the 2011 Seoul Lantern Festival kicks off, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced on Thursday.

The festival features various types of lanterns, from traditional to modern, domestic and foreign, including many shaped like famous cartoon characters from around the world. This year the venue will be a 1.3 km stretch of road from Cheonggye Plaza to Jongno 3-ga, 1.5 times larger than last year.

On Friday, each lantern will be turned on in succession, heralding the start of the festival. They will light up the night sky from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. through Nov. 20, so visitors can enjoy a piece of living Koreana while strolling along the stream. For further information, visit

Consumer Goods in Korea Most Expensive in the World

Consumer prices in Korea remain among the highest in the world. According to Consumers Korea on Tuesday, the retail prices of 48 items from electronics to food in Korea were higher than in any of the 17 countries surveyed. The countries included the U.S., the U.K., Japan, China, India and the Philippines.

Consumers Korea compared the final retail prices of products of leading global brands in major cities from Aug. 11 until Sept. 5. The data was collected jointly by local consumer organizations and Consumers Korea researchers in these countries. The prices from department stores, superstores and ordinary supermarkets were taken, averaged, and converted to Korean won.

◆ Korean TVs More Expensive in Korea

Even Korean-made goods are often considerably cheaper abroad. Samsung's 46-inch LED

TV D6400 is priced at W2.91 million (US$1=W1,121) at home, considerably more than W2.16 million in the U.S., W2.3 million in Malaysia, and W2.39 million in Germany and France. Compared to W1.72 million in China, where it was the cheapest, Korean consumers have to pay a whopping W1.19 million more.

The situation is similar with LG Electronics. Its 47-inch LED TV LW5700 costs W2.64 million in Korea, compared to W2.35 million in the U.K., W2.3 million in Australia, W2.04 million in the U.S., and W1.69 million in China.

Smartphones are also pricier in Korea. Samsung's Nexus S, which was launched last year, is sold for W700,000 in Korea, but W630,000 in the U.S.

In the past, it was a widespread strategy among Korean companies to maximize profits at home and expand their bases in overseas market by selling goods cheaply there. But consumers feel that must end now that the big conglomerates make trillions of profits every year. The reason Samsung and LG can get away with exorbitant prices here is that they can occupy over 95 percent of the market share.

A Samsung spokesman denied the findings, saying the D6400 model was sold for W2.2 million at E-Mart in August, but Consumers Korea listed it as W2.91 million. He added that it is on sale at W2.23 million at the moment. LG Electronics also insisted that the price listed by the Consumers Korea is over W600,000 higher than the actual price in superstores here.

LG also claims goods sold in the Korean market have higher prime costs because the materials used are superior and the price includes delivery and installation costs.

◆ Korean Consumers at Disadvantage

The price of jeans, shampoo, beer and sun screen in Korea is also among the top five. A pair of Levis 501 jeans cost W168,000 in Korea, second only to W195,585 in Japan. The same jeans cost W71,394 in the U.S.

P&G's Pantene Pro-V shampoo, at W11,140, and Australian beef sirloin, at W49,800 per kilo, are also the second most expensive in Korea following Japan. Consumers Korea said, "The reason for the high price of imported beef is the unreasonable logistics and distribution structure here where middlemen take a huge profit." It said many Korean consumers are disadvantaged because they find it difficult to obtain accurate price information.

It said electronics retailers set the price high and then lower it to more reasonable levels with condescending "special offers."

Historic War Drama Tops Nominations at Blue Dragon Awards

"The Front Line" has been nominated for 11 categories including Best Film at the 32nd Blue Dragon Film Awards, a leading annual awards ceremony organized by the Sports Chosun that focuses on new blockbusters.

Directed by Jang Hoon, the movie revolves around a final battle fought in the early stages of the 1950-53 Korean War after the 1951 ceasefire is announced, showing how soldiers can lose their humanity in the insanity of war. It stars Shin Ha-kyun and Ko Soo, among others.

According to the awards committee on Wednesday, the movie is also in the running for Best Director, Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best New Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Lighting, Best Original Score, Best Art Direction, Technical Award and Best Original Screenplay.

"Arrow – The Ultimate Weapon," starring Park Hae-il as the best archer in the Chosun Dynasty and his odyssey to rescue his sister, picked up nominations for 10 categories, including Best Film and Best Director, while "Sunny" has a fighting chance in eight categories and "The Crucible" seven, including Best Leading Actress for Jung Yu-mi.

This year's Blue Dragon Film Awards will be held at Kyunghee University in Seoul on Nov. 25. A total of 22 films will compete in 15 categories.

Source: Chosun Ilbo

Samsung Leads 3 Big Mobile Phone Markets Worldwide

Samsung Electronics topped the mobile phone markets in North America, Western Europe and Latin America in the third quarter of the year.

U.S. consultancy firm Strategy Analytics on Wednesday said Samsung took 30 percent of the market in North America, 38.1 percent in Western Europe and 25.6 percent in Latin America.

Samsung overtook the world's leading handset maker Nokia in Latin America for the first time. It topped North America for the 13th quarter running and Western Europe for the second quarter.

But Nokia led the other three markets, Asia (28.1 percent), Central and Eastern Europe (46 percent), and the Middle East and Africa (52 percent).

Overall, Samsung took a 22.8 percent share in the global market, behind Nokia's 27.2 percent, but the six global markets are now divided evenly between the two firms.

But Samsung had a substantive advantage. Nokia took larger shares in developing markets, while Samsung finished top in advanced markets.

Strategy Analytics described Samsung the "king of developed markets."

LG Electronics came third worldwide.

Source: Chosun Ilbo

Let’s Go for Some Apples!

Red apple is very luscious enough to make everyone eager to have one bite. Perhaps it might be natural that the witch of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs chose the apple to fascinate the snow white.

(Picture: FlickrⓒMuffet)

Well, thanks to the technological development, we can see apples at any season of the year. There are some people who don’t even remember which is the apple season. What do you think it is the season? The answer is “Autumn” that sunshine paints all the fields gold and apples red. Shall we go for some apples with family? Pick out the apples and enjoy the local attractions.

(Picture: Flickrⓒedenpictures)

By the way, did you know there is an event that let you pick those delicious apples? You can have hands on experience from the end of October near Mt.Sobaeck, Yeongju. You can buy the apples you pick at a discount, too. All the apples will be harvested by the early November, which means it’s better to reserve the event as soon as possible. If you bring your children, they will learn the value of labor.
Moreover, Yeongju has more wonderful attractions to visit other than the apples. It has many cultural legacies around Mt.Sobaek such as Buseok temple, Sosu shrine, Seonbi village and Jukryoung old road. There are many things for families to do in Yeongju.
Especially, Buseok temple is one of ten greatest Buddhist temples in Korea. It has five national treasures and six national valuables including Murayangsujeon. You may want to lean on the pillar of Murayangsujeon. There is another attraction called Sosu Seowon which is the first Confucius educational institutes named by the King. Many leaders of Joseon were the students of this Seowon. It has a lot of precious materials and documents as well.
Now, let’s take a walk along the national treasures. It is the old road of Jukryoung which is 696 meters high from the sea level located between the second Younhwa peak and Dosol peak. The road was used for 2000 years but it was abandoned for tens of years because of the advancement of transportation system. However, the Yeongju city government restored the road of 2.5 kilometers from Hibangsa station to Jukryoung jumak in 1999. Take a walk along the old road and take a breath of forest with your family, looking at autumn foliage. Are you ready ?

Pick Munkyoung Apples and Enjoy festival!
Munkyung is one of the best places for planting apples because the location and the climate are just perfect. Grown in the limestone soil of Mt.Sobaek, apples become very hard and sweet. Although the very wide daily temperature range, and the low temperature at night, plants control their own nutrients, so that they are very sweet, juicy, colorful and aromatic. In addition, Munkyeong apples are very popular for its wonderful climate, rich soil and clean natural environment.

(Picture: FlickrⓒWxMom)

There will be an apple festival around Munkyeong provincial park until the end of month. The title of the event is “Munkyeong apple festival beloved by Snow White”. It sounds like they already have all the delicious and pretty apples to fascinate us.
Once you enjoyed the Picking Apples program and festival, we strongly recommend you the trip to Munkyoung Sae Jae.
Munkyoung Sae Jae is Jo Ryoung mountain ridge used for TV drama shooting spot. It is so steep that there is a word saying “Even birds cannot fly over the mountain”. There are electric cars specially made for children and seniors, which shows the efforts of Munkyoung city government to clean the Mother Nature. Munkyoung Sae Jae Park provides tourists with various things to see. It’s good to walk along the road of old time’s national examination which was chosen as one of 100 beautiful roads in Korea. You can enjoy hiking barefoot there because yellow soil starts from entrance gate to the peak. Children are likely to smile with tickling the soles of their feet. Moreover, there are many other things to enjoy such as a tower of wish, old tavern, and waterfalls. Munkyoung has something that your family would love.

Pick Yesan Apples and Enjoy Festival!
Grown first in 1923, Yesan apples have been well known for hardness and juice produced by the fall sunshine and daily temperature range in rich soil. A variety of apples such as Shinano sweet and Fuji are grown in Yesan. Apple pick-out is available from late September to middle of November. Yesan apple pick-out program attracts many people because it is major producer and located near Seoul metropolitan area.

(Picture: FlickrⓒBryan Maleszyk)

Plus, the Apple Wine festival is held in early November every year. Can you imagine the taste of apple wine? I’ll tell you one thing. Yesan apples are very fresh. You can make it on your own and taste it, too.
Why don’t you refresh yourself in nature forest and pick out some apples in Yesan? Opened in 2007, Bongsusan natural forest has a variety of accommodation for rest. Natural and artificial forests are harmonizing together and many wild life species are existing. Besides, beautiful scenery with Yedang resevior will attracts your mind.
The Hiking course in forest is various from one hour to three-hour course. Hiking course is not tough so it is easy to walk on. You can smell the pine trees with the forest bathing. There are many amusement sites such as houses, children’s park, square and the hand-on hall. These are the rest places for families and group tourists. In addition, tourist can travel Deoksan spa, Sudeok temple, Chungeui temple and a house of Kim Jeong Hee near the forest. What a travel!

(Picture: FlickrⓒAdam E. Cole)
Take a fresh air, have a delicious food and experience a variety of culture on this coming weekend.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Augmented reality blooms with smart devices

The smart age has put the spotlight on augmented reality technology as a future cash cow.

Augmented reality combines virtual and digital information with the real-life environment to create an image. Unlike virtual reality which only shows simulated surroundings, augmented reality adds computer-generated aspects to reality, blurring the line further between what is true and what is not.

When using a navigation system, drivers can become confused as it isn’t easy to read a map while driving. A navigation by Pioneer, a Japanese company, minimizes such confusion by utilizing augmented reality.

It has a camera linked to the navigation system. On the screen is the front view from the car as seen through the camera in real-time. The map is combined with the actual surroundings so drivers can easily identify their route.

The same is true for map services for pedestrians. As the user points the smartphone in different directions, the information on the restaurants, hotels, and buildings being viewed, pop up like digital signboards. As the buildings are shown as they really are, it is easy to find the desired destination.

Patent filings related to augmented reality have been rising rapidly.

According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office, applications for patents related to augmented reality increased to 318 last year from nine in 2006. Augmented reality, which needs technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS), acceleration sensors and a digital compass, has advanced in pace with the greater use of smartphones. “The technology factors of augmented reality are quickly being included in mobile devices, which have become smaller and more widely available. Cameras, GPS, sensors and multimedia chips for complicated video processing are basic features of smartphones. Mobile Internet also makes it easier to access information,” said Hong Il-sun, a researcher at LG Economic Research Institute, in a report.

Diverse use of technology

“Augmented reality changes how users receive information,” KT Technology Institute said in a report. Previously, they had to search by inputting text through a browser, but now the visual object is searched for via a camera or video.

The market is expected to see quantum growth, from less than a $2 million market in 2010 to $730 million in 2014, the report added citing data from Juniper Research.

Businesses are eyeing the technology for marketing purposes. Kwangdong Pharmaceutical recently launched an augmented reality service to advertise its Vita 500 drink.

After downloading the Vita 500 application, the user has only to scan the augmented reality marker on the bottle. Then the smartphone will show a member from girl group Girls’ Generation performing a song and dance. It would appear like she is performing on the palm of your hand.

Games are also implementing the technology. As a real-life space is captured on the camera, it can be used as the backdrop for a game, increasing the sense of reality and immersing players more deeply. It is being applied in the medical sector as well. Doctors can obtain information on patients or the exact location of operation in real time.

According to the report by KT, the new technology is being employed in industries to enhance productivity and quality. BMW provides its technicians with details of car repairs through text, 3D content and voice through head-mounted displays.

Boeing is enhancing effectiveness and preventing mistakes in the assembly of electrical wires for airplanes by overlaying complicated information on real production.

Source: The Korea Times

Wonder Girls back with 'Wonder World'

Wonder Girls is back in Korea with its long anticipated official 2nd album “Wonder World.”

The band’s fans have been waiting for this comeback for over a year. In June 2009, the band suddenly embarked on a promotional tour of the American music scene after enjoying an immense success with the hit song “Nobody.” The band released a mini album “2 Different Tears" in May 2010 and stayed in Korea for about 15 days, but since then the girls spent most of their time in the United States.

The album’s title track “Be My Baby” is already topping numerous charts including Melon, Mnet, Cyworld music charts. The title track of new album “Be My Baby” is a contemporary,up-tempo interpretation of soul music. The video features the band performing dazzling dance moves by Jonte, Beyonce’s choreographer. Unlike the previous albums, the members contributed actively to this new offering; member Yenny,22, participated in producing and writing the lyrics for “Me, In” while Yubin, 23, wrote the rap for “Girls Girls,””Me, In,” and “Dream.”

As many Korean fans are excited about the new album, much attention is directed toward the band’s experience in the United States. Though there were notable achievements, such as ranking 76th on the Billboard chart, many view their time in America as falling short of expectations. Some even speculate that their disappointing performance led the group to come back to Korea.

The Wonder Girls will return to the United States after spending about a month in Korea. The band plans to release an official U.S. album and to star in a TV movie “WonderGirls at the Apollo.”

Wonder Girls will stage its first comeback show on KBS Music Bank Nov. 11.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2012 Korea Grand Sale to Begin in January

Korea Grand Sale, the premier shopping event for international visitors, is set to take place from January 9th through February 29th, 2012.

During the Sale period, visitors will be able to enjoy discounts up to 50% on shopping, dining, accommodation and entertainment in Seoul, Busan, Jeju and other major cities across the country. Approximately 21,100 shops representing 72 different businesses are expected to participate in the event.

Moreover, the City of Seoul will be providing free shuttle bus services to such popular tourist and shopping sites as Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, Cheongdam-dong and Apgujeong.

More info

2012 Korea Grand Sale

☞ Period: January 9–February 29, 2012
☞ Eligibility: Foreign nationals
☞ Homepage: (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ 1330 tt call center: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

Courtesy of Visit Korea Year

Unification minister hopes to expand inter-Korean family reunions

(Yonhap) -- South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik on Monday expressed hopes of expanding temporary reunions of family members separated by the Korean War six decades ago, saying his ministry and the Red Cross should work closely toward this goal.

His remarks came during a rare meeting with Yu Jung-keun, the new chief of South Korea's Red Cross, which handles family reunions with North Korea. Millions of Koreans have been separated from their family members since the 1950-53 conflict ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two sides in a technical state of war.

"I would like to see the number of family reunions increase through cooperation between the Unification Ministry and the Red Cross, and by getting the North to respond (positively)," the minister told the Red Cross chief at the latter's office in Seoul. "If possible, I would like them to be held on a regular basis."

The meeting came days after Yu, Seoul's point man on Pyongyang, told reporters he planned to meet with the Red Cross chief to discuss arranging temporary reunions for the elderly family members.

"If we don't hurry, these family members will live the rest of their lives with deep resentment, as 43 percent of them are aged 80 or older, and up to 4,000 of them pass away each year," he told the Red Cross chief, asking her to work together toward a reunion before the end of this year.

Yu Jung-keun agreed with the minister's comments, saying she believed the family meetings would wrap up this year nicely.

More than a dozen reunions have been held since a landmark summit in 2000 brought together tens of thousands of family members separated by the war. Hopes are rising for another reunion after Yu Woo-ik took office last month on a pledge to exercise flexibility toward the communist neighbor, which has been blamed for raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula through two deadly attacks on the South last year.

Source: Yonhap News