Friday, September 28, 2012

A Very Happy Chuseok/Hangawi or Korean Thanksgiving Festival

Stay healthy with colorful foods/fruits

The temperature is dropping as autumn settles in. Observed in the change is an increase in the number of people coughing and sneezing by seasonal influenza.

This year poses especially high health risks since the country had an extremely hot summer. A wide summer-autumn gap in temperature weakens the immune system, making people more vulnerable to cold viruses and other germs, according to doctors.

The upcoming week unfortunately has another risk factor: the Chuseok holiday.

Chuseok is Korea’s biggest traditional holiday that, this year, runs from Saturday to Monday, during which time millions of people will hit the road to meet parents or relatives living in remote areas and hold celebrations for grain harvests.

Massive traffic jams will clog up highways, resulting in drivers and passengers becoming extremely stressed while stuck on the road. Long-lasting stress causes health problems. Many people suffer indigestion caused by heavy eating and drinking in family gatherings.

Ahead of Chuseok, The Korea Times conducted research and interviewed several doctors and nutritionists about vegetables, fruits, and other kinds of agricultural products with proven effects in preventing these troubles.


Experts said consuming vitamin-rich foods is helpful in preventing or enabling a quick recovery from colds. Several medical journals confirm that vitamin C and D are good as cold remedies.

Fruit usually contains more vitamins than other foods, especially jujube or red dates, nearly eight times richer when it comes to vitamin C than apples and peaches. Nutritionists suggest frequently drinking water boiled with jujube and ginger in it will help stop coughing and reduce phlegm.

“Ginger and jujube is the best harmony to fight colds,” said Chang Yoon-young, an Oriental medicine doctor. “Ginger is a body warmer that also helps reduce phlegm, coughing and sneezing. Vitamin C from jujube helps the quick recovery of the immune system, making your body capable of recovering from colds on its own.”

Among other vitamin-rich fruits are tangerines, tomatoes, persimmons, pears, and kiwifruit. Kiwis contains twice as much vitamin C as oranges, eight times more vitamin E than apples and as much fiber as a banana. Chang said frequent consumption of hot water with pear will lead to early recovery from sore throats. Among vitamin-rich vegetables are spinach, cabbage and broccoli.


Constant stress causes hormone imbalances in your body which leads to various health issues such as depression, over-sensitiveness, chronic exhaustion, headaches, indigestion and problems sleeping.

Experts say stress depletes vitamin B levels and when you are stressed, consuming more vitamin B, especially B5 and B6, is necessary to stay healthy.

“Stress weakens your body’s self-defense system. The best solution should be reducing stress. Consuming foods rich in vitamin B would make it easier and quicker,” said doctor Lee Si-hyung.

He said foods with high amount of vitamin B5 and B6 include mushrooms, broccoli, eggs, sunflower seeds, and pistachios nuts. Pistachios contain more vitamin B6 than the amount found in three slices of watermelon, experts say.


The best way to get your digestive system back on track is skipping one or two meals and leaving stomach with nothing to work with, health experts advise.

Slowly sipping warm water may sooth indigestion pain, they said, adding having water with boiled Japanese apricot in it will lead to a quick recovery. The sour taste of the fruit facilitates the release of gastric fluid in the stomach.

Fluid from pear and radish also helps cure indigestion. Drinking warm water mixed with fluid from ginger is also helpful, they said, since gingery elements get body warm and help boost health of digestive organs.

Sundubu Jjigae Makes the Ideal Healthy Winter Meal

Sundubu Jjigae 

When a chilly wind begins to blow and mufflers don't help to keep warm, many Koreans long for a hot spicy tofu soup. And besides being a perfect winter warmer, sundubu jjigae also clocks in at a mere 204 calories per bowl.   

But just because it has few calories does not mean it is bland or insufficiently nutritious. On the contrary, sundubu jjigae is a flavorful dish. It is made with soft tofu, which is rich in protein and vitamins. Soft tofu is made from white soy beans that are steamed, peeled and whisked in a large boiling bowl. This base for soft tofu is then put into a cotton cloth bag to squeeze out the water. Afterwards, brine is added to the soybean milk, forming clusters of soft tofu, which has such high protein levels that Koreans call soybeans "meat harvested from the ground."

To make the dish, red pepper powder, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and spring onion are added, finished off with the addition of a raw egg to the piping hot traditional earthen pot. According to taste, other ingredients like seafood, beef, clams, seaweed, sprouts, onions, or mushrooms can be added. Some people add Kimchi, as well as dumplings of various sorts. There is even sundubu jjigae with ham and cheese in specialty restaurants BCD Tofu House, a successful chain not only in Korea but also in the U.S., Thailand, Taiwan, and Japan.

Low in calories, full of nutrients, and varied to match each and every person's taste, no wonder sundubu jjigae has been called by the New York Times "the ideal winter meal."

 Cookbook Writer Reveals 'Secrets' of Healthy Korean Food 

Kim Yong-ja Kim Yong-ja

Her version, "I've travelled to over 30 countries around the world, and bookstores everywhere had cookbooks on Indian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese food, but very few on Korean cuisine," says Kim Yong-ja, a 64-year-old Korean cooking instructor and cookbook writer based in New York. "I sensed the need for an English-language Korean cookbook so I started writing one about four years ago." The result is the recently published "Korean Cuisine: The Secret to Staying Young and Slim," containing over 100 recipes.

"I included the Korean pronunciation for each ingredient and the English name in parentheses," Kim explains. "When I showed the book to foreign wives living in Korea, they were delighted and said they could use it to go grocery shopping." She wrote the book for foreigners who live in Korea or are passionate about Korean food, and second-generation Korean-Americans who are not proficient in Korean.

After graduating from Sogang University with a bachelor's degree in English literature, Kim moved to the U.S. in 1967 and worked in the fashion industry. It was only after she got married in 1981 that she began to take an interest in cooking. "Before I got married the only thing I could cook was boiled eggs. As a housewife, I thought, 'I have to cook everyday so I want to do it right.' That's how I started learning how to cook seriously," she says.

After completing a course at the New York Restaurant School, Kim came to Korea in the mid-1980s and learned Korean cuisine such as the food that was served in the royal court. She later studied cooking in Florence, Italy and Paris, France. "I thought it was crucial to have field experience, so I took a job making food for a catering company in New York," she says. She developed her skills even further in various New York restaurants. In 1995, she published a Korean book on Western cuisine, explaining how to cook Western food as well as its history and the origins of culinary terminologies. She currently works as a cooking instructor. "I'd like to go to different countries and teach Korean food to local teenagers, because the tastes you get accustomed while you're young last forever," she says.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

BMW opens new chapter in Korea

This is the first in an eight-part series highlighting BMW Korea’s success story here. The Korea Times has selected eight key success factors and analyzed these based on interviews with company executives and industry experts to understand its strategies and knowhow. — ED

These days, luxury is a term used indiscriminately across the retail, manufacturing and service sectors. Indeed, the term is in danger of losing its meaning because almost everything is promoted as luxury goods.

Jean-Noel Kapferer, author of “The Luxury Strategy,” argues there is confusion today about what really constitutes a luxury product, a luxury brand or a luxury company.

In the book, Kapferer analyzes in depth the essence of luxury, highlights its managerial implications and clarifies the difference between “premium,” “fashion,” and “luxury.”

He uses the example of BMW because it has successfully confirmed its position as the leading luxury brand in the world.

But it would have been better if he had chosen BMW Korea because it would have been an even better example for his analysis of luxury marketing, because the local unit has become a benchmark operation for the German-based automaker due to its unprecedented success.

BMW Korea’s annual sales were only 833 in 1999 but this figure jumped 14-fold to 23,293 last year, putting the company in poll position in the imported car market. It has differentiated itself from other foreign brands in its growth rate, both in terms of sales and its customer base.

The Korean arm of the German auto giant has been studied by the company’s strategic analysts in order to share its growth story with other overseas outlets. The case provides insight, not only for foreign companies seeking to gain a foothold in Korea, but also for Korean firms aiming for global success.

German automaker's local unit creates its own customers

BMW Korea is very clear about its targeting and has successfully created its own loyal customers.

BMW only targets the premium-priced car market, which means it does not strive to compete in every sector of the auto industry. But what makes BMW Korea stand out among other luxury car brands is that it breaks down consumer demographics to formulate tailored marketing campaigns for target groups.

BMW is well known for its excellent consumer research, but its Korean unit focuses more on the characteristics of local consumers and their needs.

“One of the key factors behind the success of BMW Korea is its tailored marketing campaigns,” said Ko Young-suk, partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group.

BMW Korea has launched about 60 models ranging from the Mini Series to BMW 7 Series with prices ranging from 37 million won to 185 million won.

But Ko said BMW Korea has successfully diversified marketing strategies for customers who buy different cars across different model ranges.

As a result, it succeeds in targeting a wider-range of customers including younger customers and female drivers, as until the 1990s, high-income male customers in their 40s and 50s were the mainstream customers.

In fact, the ratio of young customers to total buyers of imported cars has surged by over 10 percent in six years.

According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, the number of buyers of foreign-made cars in their 20s and 30s accounted for about 25 percent of customers in 2012, compared to 12 percent in 2006.

The proportion of young customers in the import automobile market, which stayed below 10 percent 10 years ago, continued to increase to 17.6 percent in 2009 and 20.3 percent in 2010.

While other premium carmakers only emphasized status, practicality or safety as the main selling points, BMW Korea has given the brand a new dynamic, sporty and young image.

The brand image has become younger as owners of BMW became associated with such words as leaders, who work and play hard, or early achievers, who are actively engaged in sports,

It has also held various fun marketing events to appeal to young customers. Since 2004, BMW Korea has promoted sales of the British designed car in a variety of unique and interesting ways. For example, it suspended a Mini from a huge commercial balloon over Seoul and modified another as an amphibious vehicle which crossed the Han River.

As a result, various versions of the Mini and the 3 Series became a mega hit here among young customers, even though their price tags start at over 30 million won.

Ko said young owners of the Mini or 3 Series are likely to own upper end models such as the 5 or 7 Series after being fully satisfied with their current cars.

Additionally, BMW Korea has avoided alienating older consumers by maintaining its core premium image with high-end models such as the 7 Series.

It has offered more luxury and exclusive marketing for higher-end customers such as for the 7 Series.

BMW Korea has opened the BMW 7 Series Mobility Lounge, an exclusive showroom for VIP customers in Choengdam-dong, southern Seoul, when it launched the latest 7 Series on Sept. 6.

The BMW 7 Series Mobility Lounge is now used to provide the utmost customer care and differentiated lounge services for high-end customers.

“It’s true that BMW is considered as more luxurious than Mercedes-Benz here, different from other overseas markets,” said Kim Pil-soo, a professor of automotive studies at Daelim University. “Everyone dreams of driving a premium car and BMW Korea helped people’s dream come true by offering a range of different premium cars in various sectors.”

As part of attracting new customers, BMW Korea also started to come up with new strategies for promoting affordable premium models.

After the free trade agreement (FTA) between Korea and the EU went into effect in July, tariffs began to go down and European carmakers are now able to cut their prices. The FTA allows BMW Korea to become more competitive.

But BMW Korea did not give up its luxury image by maintaining premium features.

“Many imported automakers cut their prices thanks to the FTA but they also reduced many premium features as well,” Ko said. “But BMW Korea is one of a few automakers that maintains premium features to meet the needs of customer who experience real premium cars.”

He also said that BMW Korea helped imported automakers lower their prices and local manufacturers such as Hyundai and Kia improve the quality of their vehicles.

In Korea, high-end customers are also very sensitive about fuel efficiency, which led to the diesel sedan fever here.

The 520d and 320d are the most popular models that BMW sell.

For those with fuel-efficiency in mind but want to drive a premium car, the two models are a perfect solution and limit concerns over fuel prices.

“High-end customers here want to make sure that their car is fuel-efficient,” Professor Kim said. “That’s why BMW’s 520d and 320d are so popular here.”

To better understand various demands of customers and broaden customer scope, BMW Korea did not just depend on surveys.

In a recent interview with The Korea Times, BMW Korea CEO Kim Hyo-joon said he tried to meet and listen to customers when he was appointed to lead the Korean unit.

“After taking charge, I visited the showrooms of BMW Korea without revealing who I am. For about half a year, I met around 350 people and concluded that premium services were the answer,” Kim recalled.

BMW Korea therefore increased the number of repair shops, and the move broadened the scope of BMW customers, who tend to want premium services for their premium cars.

Experts also point out that BMW Korea also helps drivers take pride in owning a premium car through its corporate social responsibility (CRS) programs).

BMW Korea has been making contributions to society by selling luxury cars, and at the same time it allows customers to join their program and feel pride when driving their premium cars.

The company’s CSR arm, the BMW Korea Future Fund requests customers to donate 30,000 won to charity when they buy a vehicle from BMW Korea.

When the buyer accepts this, the dealer in charge of the sales and BMW Korea pay the same amount apiece so the total contribution is 90,000 won. If they embrace a financing format, BMW Financial Service will also offer an additional 30,000 won.

“By helping customers make contributions to the poor, BMW Korea also allows them to have more pride in owing a BMW car,” Professor Kim said. “That is a very unique marketing strategy to encourage customer loyalty to the brand.” 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Korean Palace meets Contemporary Art

Lyu Jae-ha’s “Time” is projected on Junghwajeon, the royal audience hall of Deoksu Palace in central Seoul.
Light is projected across royal audience hall Junghwajeon while three Korean mattresses lie in the royal bedchamber of Hamnyeongjeon at the storied Deoksu Palace. “Deoksugung Project,” a series of commissioned works by the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea (NMOCA), revives the palace’s 400-year history in central Seoul.

Co-organized by the NMOCA and the Deoksugung Office of Cultural Heritage Administration, the exhibition brings the past into the present and infuses new life into the palace buildings.

Nine artists from varying genres including design, dance and sound art, have unleashed their imaginations on the palatial edifices and grounds.

The history of Deoksu Palace began in the late 16th century, when King Seonjo of Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) returned to Seoul after the Imjin War, or Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592 and stayed there. However, the palace was not in use for centuries until King Gojong arrived there from refuge at the Russian Legation in 1897.

He renamed the nation the Daehan Empire and tried to protect it while residing at Deoksu Palace but his efforts were in vain and he was forced by Japan to abdicate the throne to his son. Since then, Deoksu Palace, unlike other Joseon palaces, has become a mixture of traditional Korean and Western architecture, capturing a wave of modernization.

“This project will make visitors look at the palace more carefully,” said Kim In-hye, curator of the exhibition.

Suh Do-ho’s “Hamnyeongjeon Project — East Ondol Room” at Hamnyeongjeon, the bedchamber of King Gojong, is the artist’s way of restoring the building as it was during the king’s reign.

Suh was inspired by testimonies of court ladies that three “boryo,” or Korean mattresses, were prepared for King Gojong every night and portrays the inner conflict of a king who lived when the nation’s existence was at stake and who lost his two wives.

Suh cleaned up the building in a traditional way and choreographer and dancer Jung Young-doo joined the opening performance, reenacting a day in the life of King Gojong. All these processes were documented as part of Suh’s work.

Suh will leave for Chicago this winter to find the original mattress of King Gojong he sent to Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

“Deoksugung Project” also gives viewers a rare chance to step into palace buildings usually off limits. Furniture designer Ha Ji-hoon installed “Jari” at Deokhongjeon. Originally, it was a shrine for Empress Myeongseong but was renovated as a reception chamber under Japanese rule.

The building has astonishingly beautiful patterns on the ceiling but it is a result of the Japanese reform, distorting the original purpose. Ha’s work is composed of chrome-coated chairs which reflect the splendid ceiling paintings. Visitors can sit on these unique chairs and listen to sound artist Sung Ki-wan’s music which features laments, laughter and the rattling of teacups.

Lyu Jae-ha’s “Time” is a video projection on the facade of Junghwajeon, the royal audience hall. The projection beautifully incorporates existing patterns of “dancheong” (multicolored paintwork) and latticed doors.

The contrast between light and dark and the modern buildings in the backdrop of the royal building, can put the viewers into a meditative state.

The projection will be screened on selected dates including Sept. 29 and 30.

Sound artist Sung turned Junghwajeon Haenggak (corridor building) into a literary space through “Audiorama — Novels of Royal Ladies.” A professional announcer reads novels read by royal women in the Joseon era such as “Cheonsuseok,” offering a glimpse of royal women’s pastimes.

Two artists present in Seogeodang, a building where King Seonjo lived after taking refuge during the Imjin War.

Yee Soo-kyung, known for her “Translated” ceramic works, presents “Tear Drop.” She came up with various ideas for the building, where Queen Inmok was locked up during King Gwanghaegun’s reign, who was later overthrown, and finally decided to make a tear drop-shaped sculpture with numerous light bulbs. “Tear Drop” shines brightly but is difficult to see clearly due to refracted light, as if it reflects the destiny — the joys and sorrows — of the women in the palace.

“Hanbok” (traditional Korean costume) designer Kim Young-seok’s “Better Days” is also on display. He brought furniture and craftworks from his collection to recreate the time of Princess Deokhye (1912-1989), the last princess of the Joseon Kingdom. Though she lived a tragic life, Kim tries to capture a sweet moment of her life. Lee Jung-hwa will perform in front of Seogeodang on Oct. 3 and 11 at 4:30 p.m.

Artist Chung Seo-young has thought outside the box of tourists visiting the palace. Jeonggwanheon is a building of diverse origins — it is said to be designed by Russian architect Afanasij Seredin Sabatin and Korean traditional patterns of dragon and plum blossoms coexist with exotic ones such as bats and peaches.

Chung, denying ordinary experience, has brought modernity to this building by setting up a mirror between existing tables and chairs. She also brought “broken, erased or fragmentally summoned records” when a performance by sound artist Ryu Han-kil is held in the backyard of Jeonggwanheon.

Choi Sung-hun and Park Sun-min as a team present “Crystal vs. Decision” and “Daystar” in the grounds of Deoksu Palace.

The outdoor exhibit runs through Dec. 2 while indoor exhibitions at the National Museum of Art, Deoksugung, through Oct. 28.

The palace and museum are closed Mondays. The entrance fee is 1,000 won for Deoksu Palace and 2,000 won for the art museum. A docent program in English is available upon reservation. For more information, visit or call (02) 2188-6114.

OECD meeting focuses on 'green' tourism

MUJU — The 90th session of the OECD Tourism Committee and the OECD/APEC Tourism Working Group Forum opened Monday in this southwestern county, North Jeolla Province, attracting tourism experts from all over the world.


 Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD Yves Leterme, second from left, speaks during the opening session of the OECD Tourism Committee meeting at a conference hall in the Deogyusan Resort in Muju, North Jeolla Province, Monday. The participants include Alain Dupeyras, far left, head of the tourism unit at the OECD Center for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development; and Isabel Hill, third from left, chairwoman of theOECD Tourism Committee. Also among them are Shin Yong-eon, fourth from left, director-general of the tourism industry bureau at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; and Sergio Arzeni, fifth from left, director of the OECD Center for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development.

/ Courtesy of Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism

 The meeting, co-hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and supervised by North Jeolla Province, kicked off a two-day run under the theme “sustainable and green” tourism.

More than 150 representatives from 40 OECD and APEC member countries were present at the meeting.

The gathering began with the opening remarks of Isabel Hill, chair of the OECD Tourism Committee, under the presence of Korean Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Choe Kwang-shik and North Jeolla Province Gov. Kim Wan-joo.

Other key participants included Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD Yves Leterme, and Sergio Arzeni, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and Local Development of the OECD.

Choe welcomed the foreign participants during a banquet held Monday evening.

“I sincerely welcome you to Muju, which is home to the cleanest and most beautiful natural environment in the country. We are delighted to hold the OECD tourism committee meeting here at Muju where tradition harmonizes with the natural environment,” said Choe.

He stressed the importance of the opening of the committee and the significance of the theme to be discussed.

“The tourism industry is becoming more widely recognized as an important means to create jobs and invigorate the economy. Sustainable and green tourism is also becoming more important,” he said.

“The Korean government, with such a concept in mind, played a significant role in including tourism in the agenda for sustainable development at the Rio+20 Conference held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June this year. In such a way, we are striving to contribute to developing the global tourism industry.”

He went on to say that Korea is putting its utmost effort into raising the country’s competitiveness in the tourism industry and boosting the role of tourism.

“Korea held various international events such as the G20 summit in 2010, UNWTO conference in 2011, the Nuclear Security Summit and the Yeosu Expo this year,” Choe said.

“According to statistics by the Union of International Associations, Korea was 12th in the country ranking on holding international conferences in 2008. But it reached sixth in the world in 2011 and is becoming an optimal country for developing the MICE industry,” he said. MICE stands for meeting, incentives, convention, events, and exhibition.

During the meeting, participants will discuss the tourism industry’s success cases in developed countries. On Tuesday, OECD/APEC forum on tourism will be held to discuss ways to strengthen competitiveness of the tourism industry.

During the conference, not only will participants review the tourism industry’s policies by theme, but also exchange ideas and share experiences and strategies for attracting foreign tourists.

The biannual meeting was established in 1948 to utilize tourism as a method of developing the economy. The 89th Tourism Committee met in Paris, France.


 Participants in the OECD Tourism Committee meeting watch Master Bang Hwa-sun glue bamboo sticks onto hanji, traditional handmade paper, to make a patterned fan called “taegeukseon,” at the Muju Deogyusan Resort in North Jeolla Province, Monday. Various demonstrations to make traditional artwork are on hand during the tourism committee meeting to promote Korean culture. / Korea Times photo by Yun Suh-young

Participants in the OECD Tourism Committee meeting can enjoy a variety of cultural events during the meeting held in Muju, North Jeolla Province.

On a pre-tour held Sunday, participants were taken on a four-hour tour around the venue to Mt. Deogyu, Bandi Land, and wild grape wine cave. Bandi Land is an insect museum exhibiting 2,000 species of insects. The wild grape wine cave which used to be a pumped-storage hydroelectric power plant, now stores and sells around 20,000 bottles of wine made with wild grapes.

On Monday, the first day of the tourism committee’s meeting, two cultural events took place. Masters of “taegeukseon” and “minhwa” demonstrated how traditional artworks are made.

Master Bang Hwa-sun, designated as intangible cultural asset number 10, pasted hanji or traditional Korean paper on bamboo to make taegeukseon. Taegeukseon are patterned fans with a round “taegeuk” shape in the middle representing yin and yang which symbolizes the fundamental law of nature. The pattern signifies harmony of all things in the world.

The making process involves seven intricate steps beginning with splitting the bamboo into thin and flat ribs. The ribs are then spread out evenly on paper and glued. Finally, a round shape is cut out and the edges are smoothed.

In a second demonstration, Master Han Mi-young drew “minhwa” using the traditional method.

Minhwa, or Korean traditional folk painting, has its own distinctive aesthetic qualities and historical significance.

Koreans believed that folk paintings possessed shamanistic powers to protect them from war, disease and famine and paintings of animals could drive away evil spirits.

Symbolism was used in these folk paintings to convey feelings of happiness, anger, love and delight. Humor and satire are important elements of the paintings.

Similar traditional artwork demonstrations will take place Tuesday.

Master Hwang Yeon-soon will demonstrate how to make traditional knots called “maedeup” with silk and Master Lee Myeong-soon will demonstrate making handicrafts with “hanji,” traditional paper made from mulberry trees.

Maedeup is a traditional knot used for various purposes. They were used as ornaments and decorations on clothes as well as belts and identity tags throughout Korean history. Maedeup was used across all social classes. In Buddhist temples, knots were decorated as ornaments for religious purposes.

Hanji, or traditional handmade paper, is made from mulberry tree also known as “dangnamu” in Korean. Hanji, despite its thinness, is surprisingly strong and was used to cover floors, walls, ceilings, windows, and doors. There are two types of hanji art — two dimensional painting and three dimensional sculptures much like papier mache.

After the tourism meeting is over, a night tour will be held Tuesday evening to see traditional fireworks called “nakhwa-nori” and flying of wind lamps called “poong-deung.” These lamps are made of bamboo and hanji and are believed to make people’s wishes come true.

On Wednesday, a technical tour is scheduled for foreign participants to take a tour around Jeonju Hanok Village and the Saemangeum Seawall, the longest manmade dyke in the world stretching 33.9 kilometers.

The Jeonju Hanok Village is a living traditional village that serves to preserve Korean traditional houses from the late Joseon Kingdom. The village features old streets as well as the buildings. There are various cultural activities visitors can experience.

The village is located in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. Jeonju used to be the capital city during the ancient Baekje Kingdom and later became the birthplace of the Joseon Kingdom’s cultural renaissance.

At the hanok village, visitors may taste bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables) famous in the region. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

‘Gangnam Style’ breaks Guinness Record

Korean rapper-singer Psy performs during the 2012 iHeart Radio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, Friday.

/ Reuters-Yonhap
There seems to be no stopping Psy as he continues to horse-ride throughout the world and break records.

Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video has broken a Guinness World Record to become the most-“liked” video on YouTube video of all time.

According to Guinness World Records on Sept. 20, the video of the 34-year-old rapper racked up 2,141,758 likes since it was first uploaded on July 15. It added that the video quickly overshadowed the previous records by LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” (1,574,963 likes), Justin’s Bieber’s “Baby” (1,327,147 likes) and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” (1,245,641 likes).

Dan Barrett, Guinness World Records Community Manager, commented, “Having been the ‘Have you seen this?!’ video of the last two months across the web, it’s great to be able to award a record for this tremendously popular video. In years past it was unthinkable that something would be viewed a hundred million times, and now ‘Gangnam Style’ has achieved more than twice this figure in just three months on YouTube.”

Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show earlier this month and taught the host along with Britney Spears how to do the invisible horse-riding dance. The artist also topped the iTunes Chart in 30 countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Argentina and Brazil.

The song also climbed to 11 on the U.S. Billboard music chart, a first for a Korean song to ever make it that high on the American music chart.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

World Conservation Congress Kicks Off on Jeju

A record 10,000 delegates from more than 170 countries are taking part in the 2012 World Conservation Congress that kicked off its 10-day run Thursday on Jeju Island.

The world's oldest and largest environmental conference has been organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 1948. The IUCN boasts the world's largest global environmental network with 89 member states, 124 government agencies, and over 1,000 NGOs that can influence future laws and policies.

The Jeju Congress consists of 450 forums, and a summary of key agreements at the congress will be presented for the first time in IUCN conference history under the name "Jeju Declaration."

The quadrennial conference is presenting its theme of "Resilient Nature" with five agenda items -- climate change, food security, green economy, governance over natural resources, and the protection of biodiversity.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chuseok holiday spirits at Hotels

This is special news for those who visit Korea during Chuseok of Korean Thanks Giving time

At the W Seoul-Walkerhill, guests can recover from holiday fatigue through a massage and nail coloring service in the “W ReWard” package.

/ Courtesy of W Seoul-Walkerhill

Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving Day, is just over a week away. For either people who visit their hometowns or those staying put, the three-day holiday ― five days if taking advantage of the bridge day before National Foundation Day ― is a good time to take a rest.

For this occasion, hotels are offering packages focused on relaxation.

The Grand Hyatt Seoul’s Chuseok package offers a one-night stay in a grand double or twin room, free use of the gym, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and free shuttle service to Namsangol Hanok Village at the foot of Mt. Nam where guests can capture the spirit of the traditional holiday.

Travel kits will also be provided on a first-come-first-served basis, featuring a passport wallet, travel bag nametag and a travel laundry bag or shoe storage pouch.

The offer is available from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3 and the price starts from 170,000 won for two guests. Club Lounge benefits, including free breakfast, are also available with an upgrade to a club floor room for an additional 90,000 won. For more information, call (02) 799-8888.

The Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul presents a package from Sept. 29 through Oct. 3.

It features one-night’s accommodation, breakfast for two at the Granum Dining Lounge, a special dinner at the club restaurant, and a 90-minute spa treatment for one person. Another person can receive a 20-percent discount for the treatment.

Those making reservations and completing payment seven days before the planned stay can receive a 20 percent off the package, the cost of which differs according to room type. Prices are from 573,000 won for a deluxe room or start at 460,000 won when paying seven days in advance. For more information, call (02) 2250-8000.

Two packages are available at the Ritz-Carlton Seoul between Sept. 28 and Oct. 7.

The “Refresh With You” package includes a one-night stay in a superior deluxe room, a 90-minute treatment for two at the Themae Spa, and free access to the fitness club and indoor swimming pool. It is priced at 299,000 won.

A more affordable “Stay With You” package features a one-night stay in a superior deluxe room and free use of the fitness club and swimming pool at 139,000 won.

The hotel also offers guests a chance to try their luck. The “Lucky Suite” package features a one-night stay in a club premier room, the use of the club lounge including breakfast for two and other refreshments and free use of the internet at 299,000 won. When checking in, guests take part in a prize draw and if they win, their rooms will be upgraded to a Ritz-Carlton Suite (regular rate 1 million won), executive suite (580,000 won) or premier suite (500,000 won). The chance of winning is about 60 percent.

For more information, call (02) 3451-8114.

The Renaissance Seoul Hotel presents three different packages from Sept. 28 to Oct. 7.

General benefits of all the offers are a one-night stay in a deluxe room, complimentary use of the indoor swimming pool, the Renaissance Recreation Center and the sauna, as well as traditional Korean rice cookies and rice cake prepared along with breakfast at the Cafe Elysee.

The “Chuseok Package” offers the general benefits at 149,000 won. The “Chuseok and Cinema Package” adds a free breakfast buffet for two at the Cafe Elysee and two Megabox movie tickets at 205,000 won.

The “Chuseok and Wine Package” provides a breakfast buffet and a wine set on top of the other benefits for 279,000 won. For more information, call (02) 2222-8500.

The Grand Ambassador Seoul offers two packages between Sept. 28 and Oct. 4.

The “Relaxation” package offers a one-night stay in a superior room, a 50,000-won voucher for Balneo Therapy, the hotel’s spa facility, a breakfast buffet for two at The King’s, and a bottle of French red wine and snack, at 203,500 won.

The “Happiness” package features only the room, red wine and snack for 148,500 won.

General benefits of the two deals are free use of the fitness center, swimming pool and Internet as well as two cups of coffee. For more information, call (02) 2270-3112.

The W Seoul-Walkerhill offers its “W ReWard” package from Sept. 24 to Oct. 7.

It features a one-night stay in a Wonderful Room, breakfast buffet for two with a special holiday menu, mini hand massage and basic nail coloring service for one, and access to the WATER Zone for two including the swimming pool and fitness center.

A 30-percent discount at the hotel’s hair salon, 10-percent discount for spa treatment and 15-percent discount at the hotel’s two restaurants, Kitchen and Namu, are also available. The price starts from 299,000 won. For more information, call (02) 2022-0000.

The Hyatt Regency Incheon offers two packages from Sept. 24 to Oct. 3.

The “Sweet Gourmet Holiday” program offers a one-night stay and access to the “Afternoon Delight” dessert buffet and breakfast at Restaurant 8. Children under 12 can have the dessert buffet and breakfast for free. It is priced at 280,000 won.

The “Special Gourmet Holiday” deal features a one-night stay and six-course Autumn Signature Menu from Monday to Thursday or the Weekend Dinner Buffet from Friday to Sunday. It is available for 350,000 won.

Guests of the two packages can enjoy fun with their children at the Kid’s Room which is available for free during the period, as well as the swimming pool, sauna and fitness center. For more information, call (032) 745-1234.

The Hyatt Regency Jeju presents two “Welcoming Full Moon” packages from Sept. 28 to Oct. 6.

The Family Package offers a one-night stay in a deluxe room, breakfast buffet for two at the Terrace Cafe, free use of a rental car for 24 hours and free entry to the Kids Village. The Dining Package includes the room, a holiday buffet for two at Omi Market Grill and free use of the sauna.

Children aged between five and 12 will be able to enjoy cooking classes and learn how to make Chuseok rice cake. Prices start from 250,000 won. For more information, call (064) 733-1234.

The Grand Hilton Seoul has two packages available from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3.

The “Welcoming the Full Moon” package offers a one-night stay in a deluxe room and two cans of makgeolli “iCing” at 135,000 won, while the “Full Moon” package adds a breakfast buffet for two to the benefits above.

Guests will have free access to the swimming pool and fitness center and a discount for La Clinique de Paris spa treatments. For more information, call (02) 2287-8400.

Grand Hyatt Seoul offers wine with gourmet pairings in a professionally designed wooden box. / Courtesy of Grand Hyatt Seoul

As we already knew that Chuseok is a national holiday when people share food and exchange gifts among family, neighbors and friends.

These leading Hotels offer premium gift sets for the occasion. While most offer the usual sets of beef, seafood and wine, others prepare distinctive items to meet customer demand for unique presents.

JW Marriott Seoul offers Revive Bedding sets, available only at JW Marriott hotels, presenting a special opportunity to experience top-of-the-range hotel products in your own bedroom.

Enjoying high popularity from JW Marriott guests, these sets are found in JW Marriott hotels all over the world and made from top-quality Hungarian goose down and 300-thread-count premium linen.

Each set includes a Hungarian-made goose down duvet, duvet cover, two goose down pillows, two pillowcases, two bathrobes with the JW Marriott logo on them, two bath towels and two face towels. A complete set costs 1.3 million won.

The set will be on sale until Sept. 30 at the Deli Shop. Delivery orders must be made at least 48 hours in advance and bulk orders, at least three days. For inquiries or to place orders, call (02) 6282-6738.

Ritz-Carlton Seoul presents a set of traditional Korean sauces made by Rev. Myogwan, a Buddhist monk who has made temple food for 30 years on Mt. Cheongnyang, North Gyeongsang Province.

Made of beans the monk cultivates himself, this set of “doenjang” (bean paste), “gochujang” (red chili pepper paste) and soy sauce is priced at 140,000 won. Another set of vegetables dried and seasoned with the sauces, including Japanese apricots and codonopsis lanceolata, costs 260,000 won.

The hotel also has sets of wild ginseng, a popular gift for the elderly. A set of five eight-year-old wild ginseng costs 500,000 won, and that of three pieces, 300,000 won. Reservation should be made at least three days in advance. The orders are available until Sept. 30. For more information, call (02) 3451-8278.

Grand Hyatt Seoul presents several sets put in professionally designed hampers through Sept. 30.

Prepared for wine lovers, each of the four sets combines a premium wine with homemade cookies, chocolates, cakes, cheese and other gourmet pairings. The Deli’s most treasured items are packed in a luxurious wooden box to convey a sense of elegance.

The price of the hampers ranges from 260,000 to 450,000 won. For more information, call (02) 799-8167.

Renaissance Seoul Hotel offers traditional gift sets to Oct. 5.

A set of traditional liquor consists of “Moonbaeju,” “Yigangju” and mulberry wine in elegant porcelain bottles, while a Korean cookie set is also available. In addition, vouchers for use at the hotel’s steakhouse Manhattan Grill, Italian eatery Toscana and buffet restaurant Cafe Elysee are available for purchase.

Free delivery service is available during the selling period and limited to Seoul and Gyeonggi region. For inquiries, call (02) 2222-8654. 

CNN made me world star: Psy

Korean rapper-singer Psy, who has jumped to worldwide stardom thanks to his hit single “Gangnam Style,”has expressed his thanks to cable news channel CNN.

In an interview with the station Wednesday in New York, he said CNN played a key role in helping him succeed, the Yonhap News Agency reported Thursday.

“I hope to express my thanks to CNN more than anything else,” Psy said in the interview. “Although it was some time ago, I could become a star as CNN first introduced me to the world.”

It is also reported that Psy expressed his thanks in an email to the producer of CNN in charge of Asia news early this month.

As one of the world’s influential broadcasters, CNN on Aug. 2 reported that “Gangnam Style” had attracted popularity worldwide.

At that time, CNN reported the music video topped 11 million views on YouTube in two weeks and said, “This is astounding.” The views hit the 100 million mark on Sept. 1, one month after the news aired.

“It’s Gangnam Style which is elegant at daytime but crazy at night,” Psy told a walk-in interview with CNN on Sept. 7, teaching the horse-riding dance to the reporter.

“When I first composed and choreographed the album, it was totally targeted at Koreans,” he said. “I never imagined that it would be loved throughout the world.”

When Psy introduced the horse-riding dance, the scene with the title “Psy teaches Gangnam Style” was put on the web site of CNN.

Chuseok Travelers Face Worst Traffic Yet

Travelers leaving for their ancestral hometowns for Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving next week are expected to suffer severer traffic congestion than last year because the break is shorter.

According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs on Wednesday, it will take up to nine hours to get from Seoul to Busan by car, and seven hours to Gwangju on Sept. 29, the day before Chuseok, when congestion is expected to be worst.

This year it could to take an hour and 40 minutes longer than last year to get to Busan, and an hour and 10 minutes longer to get to Gwangju. The trip from Seoul to Daejeon will take four hours and 40 minutes and to Mokpo seven hours and 30 minutes -- 40 to 50 minutes longer than last year. The trip from Seoul to Gangneung will take four hours and 20 minutes.

But the return trip is likely to be easier since people are expected to stagger it until National Foundation Day on Oct. 3.

In a telephone survey of 8,000 households across the country by the Korea Transport Institute last month, the largest proportion or 34.8 percent of respondents said they would leave for their hometowns on the morning of Sept. 29. Next came the afternoon of the same day with 20 percent, the morning of Sept. 30 with 14.7 percent, and the afternoon of Sept. 28 with 14.4 percent.

For the way back, the biggest proportion or 31.3 percent said they would pick the afternoon of Sept. 30. Next came the afternoon of Oct. 1, the last day of the holidays, with 29.8 percent.

A total of 29.25 million people are expected to go to their hometowns for Chuseok since many can extend the break to six days from Sept. 28 until Oct. 3. But the daily average number of travelers is expected to be 4.87 million people, 8.6 percent fewer than the 5.33 million people last year.

Twenty percent said they have decided not to go to their hometowns this year because the Chuseok holidays alone are too short.

As for means of transport, 81.5 percent will drive in their car, followed by bus (13.9 percent), train (3.6 percent), airplane (0.6 percent), and ferry (0.4 percent).

The ministry pledged to increase the number of train cars and other public transportation services during this period. For people who travel back to Seoul, it will extend the service hours of metropolitan buses and subway trains until 2 a.m. on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Teachers emerge as Korea’s new ‘export’ item

          Few would argue that people’s zeal for education and dedicated teachers were a driving force for the country’s rapid economic growth.

Korea’s education system is now being emulated by numerous developing countries around the world as it is regarded as a good example of how education could create a virtuous circle of social change and innovation, and successfully contribute to cultural and economic development.

According to Kim Sang-young, president of Busan National University of Education (BNUE), Korea has become an educational powerhouse that can bring positive changes to underprivileged countries.

“It’s time to send more teachers to these countries so that they can share our best teaching practices and ultimately contribute to their economic development. Teachers should be a major export item,” Kim said in an interview.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has signed agreements with a number of countries in Asia, Africa and South America to train teachers ― especially in science and mathematics ― there.

The ministry also plans to provide resources worldwide to meet the growing needs for Korean language learning amid the popularity of K-pop and K-drama.

The BNUE is now sending students to the Philippines, Ethiopia, China, Japan, the United States and other countries.

“We call them educational ambassadors because they help strengthen partnerships with the countries. It’s a good experience for the students as well because they can have global mindsets and learn about cosmopolitan values,” said the 60-year-old physical education professor.

The school is currently working with Pohang University of Science and Technology to develop joint training programs for Ethiopian elementary school teachers.

The ministry will finance the project in a bid to boost people-to-people exchanges between Korea and Ethiopia. The two Korean schools plan to provide courses on science, mathematics, music, culture and educational theories.

Kim recently visited the African country to discuss the project with educational policymakers.

“Ethiopia is one of the countries that are eager to learn from Korean educators. We will send a team of BNUE teachers to Ethiopia to help it nurture teachers and develop its own teaching programs,” he said.

The school is also focusing on teaching Korean language and culture to the younger generations of ethnic Koreans abroad as well as foreigners who are interested in learning Korean as a second language.

Kim said that’s necessary because the country’s international presence is expanding and the number of foreigners who want to learn Korean and customs has been growing rapidly.

According to the ministry, the number of foreign elementary and secondary schools which have set up Korean language courses increased to 695 in 2011 from 522 in 2009.

Last year, about 121,500 people from 47 countries took the Test of Proficiency in Korean, administered by the Korean government, compared to 50,133 from 28 countries in 2007 and 85,000 from 35 countries in 2009. The exam has become a must for foreigners who want to study and work in Korea.

“We need to boost efficiency in providing language education to ethnic Koreans and foreigners and introduce cultural exchange programs that meet their needs. There should be more administrative and financial support for them,” Kim said.

Best school for teachers

Since he took office in March 2009, he has adopted new teaching methods centered on creativity and character building of students.

He stressed the importance of character education at primary and secondary schools, saying the surging cases of bullying among peers are largely attributed to a lack of this and a competition-oriented system.

“Creativity and character education can lead to creating new knowledge and new solutions for problems. That’s because, in a globalized, knowledge-based world, we must engage, exchange and collaborate with each other based on mutual understanding. That’s what educators should always keep in mind,” Kim said.

The school has been ranked the best institution for educating elementary school teachers in Korea for several years in a row, but it is relatively cheap to study there.

Its tuition for a semester is about 1.5 million won, about 45 percent of the average tuition at four-year Korean colleges. It has frozen tuition for three consecutive years, while providing more scholarships to the students from poor families as well as those with academic excellence. The school said about 75 percent of its 2,000 students received scholarships this year.

“It’s our social responsibility to nurture good teachers and provide them with an excellent learning environment. We are trying to reflect the school’s educational philosophy of love, service and wisdom in our policies,” he said.

Kim is sharing its teaching programs with other universities. He is now serving as chairman of the President’s Council for the National Universities of Education and co-chairman of the Development Committee for the Universities of Teacher Education. He is also vice-chairman of the Korean Council for University Education.

Kim said he will increase the number of students chosen by admission officers so that more talented and well-rounded students can become teachers.

“In the past, Korean universities picked students only based on scores from the annual college admission test. We should evaluate applicants based on their potential and extra-curricular activities,” the president said. “That’s because teachers are examples of students. They should not be judged by only test scores.”

“The purpose of schools is not to foster students who do well on tests. Ethical and moral education is also important,” he added.

Top 10 Korean 'cultural genes'

"Fun," "patience" and "affection (or sharing)" are among the top 10 "cultural genes" characterizing South Korea this year, the culture ministry said Tuesday.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korean Studies Advancement Center, a think tank affiliated with North Gyeongsang provincial government, announced its selection of 10 most notable Korean cultural genes for 2012.

The selection was made based on in-depth interviews with 100 experts and a survey of 1,000 rank-and-file citizens, according to the ministry.

Cultural genes, also called memes, are ideas, behavior or styles that spread from person to person within a culture.

The other seven items chosen were "humor," "fermentation," "politeness," "dynamism," "community culture," "harmony" and "naturalness."

"Resentment," or "Han" in Korean, which has long been cited as a traditional Korean emotion, was not on the list as many see it as being overcome by such emotions as "fun" and "cheerfulness" as South Korea experienced brilliant economic growth and co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup with Japan, according to the ministry.

The ministry said it plans to conduct an in-depth study on the Korean cultural genes for three years from 2013.

"We'll analyze how Korean cultural genes have changed and how they have been expressed so far," the ministry said in a release. "We will make efforts to find individuality and universal values of Korean culture and use them for making creative content in the culture-arts and tourism industries." (Yonhap)

Paju Prepares for Annual Documentary Film Festival

An international documentary film festival will begin its seven-day run in the demilitarized zone on Friday. In its fourth year, "DMZ Docs" is being co-hosted by Gyeonggi Province and Paju city.

The opening ceremony will be held in Dorasan Station in the civilian control zone. It will be attended by Governor Kim Moon-su, also head of the organizing committee, actor Cho Jae-hyun, executive committee chair, and the boy band 2AM, who are serving as promotional ambassadors.

Other attendees include director Kim Ki-duk, who won the Golden Lion award for best picture at this year's Venice International Film Festival with his latest film "Pieta," and starring actors Cho Min-soo and Lee Jung-jin. The director has visited the festival every year since it was inaugurated.

The opening British film "Ping Pong" portrays a global table tennis competition for the elderly.

LG also release Optimus G Smart Phone

LG Electronics released the Optimus G here on Tuesday, a handset it hopes will put it squarely amid the global smartphone race. LG said it is up to the challenge and plans to release the new phone in Japan in October and the U.S. in November. As of last month, LG sold around 5 million LTE smartphones worldwide.

The release of the Optimus G overlaps with the arrival of its rivals iPhone 5 and Galaxy Note 2.

Industry sources forecast that LG will sell around 2 million Optimus G handsets during the fourth quarter amid intense competition. The figure pales in comparison to the Galaxy S3, however, which has already racked up sales of 10 million units just two months after its release. Nonetheless, if LG meets the predicted figure it would still mark a two-to three-fold increase from recent sales of its existing smartphones.

LG Electronics vice president Park Jong-suk (center) shows the Optimus G smartphones at the launch in Seoul on Tuesday. 
LG Electronics vice president Park Jong-suk (center) shows the Optimus G smartphones at the launch in Seoul on Tuesday.
"The Optimus G and LG's other new smartphones have improved features that can match their rivals," said Kim Hyun-yong, an analyst at SK Securities.

The Optimus G is thinner than its predecessors by integrating the cover glass and touch sensor into one component, courtesy of new technology developed jointly by LG Display, LG Innotek and LG Chemical. Additionally, the battery is built into the phone, while its screen is 4.7 inches, smaller than the 5-inch screens used by many smartphones these days. But LG insisted that the size difference is negligible.

"As you can see in the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen, smaller is not always bad. We will bolster our large-screen products including the Optimus View2 and other smartphones," LG said.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Korea’s 17th Busan International Film Festival

Korea’s 17th Busan International Film Festival will present over 304 movies from 75 countries this October...................

12 Indian movies will be screened at the fest in various sections....

Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) i

s held annually in Haeundae and Nampo-dong, Busan, South Korea and is one of the most significant film festivals in Asia. The festival presents over 304 movies from 75 countries and will be held from 4th October till 13th October 2012.Beginning in 1996 as the first international film festival in Korea, it is now a major global event.
The focus of the BIFF is introducing new films and first-time directors, especially those from Asian countries. Another notable feature is the appeal of the festival to young people, both in terms of the large youthful audience it attracts and through its efforts to develop and promote young talent.

The main program themes include: A Window on Asian Cinema, New Currents, Korean Cinema Today, Korean Cinema Retrospective, World Cinema, Flash Forward, Wide Angle, Open Cinema, Special Programs in Focus and Midnight Passion.
Korea’s 17th Busan International Film Festival will present over 304 movies from 75 countries this October...................

12 Indian movies will be screened at the fest in various sections....

Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) i
s held annually in Haeundae and Nampo-dong, Busan, South Korea and is one of the most significant film festivals in Asia. The festival presents over 304 movies from 75 countries and will be held from 4th October till 13th October 2012.Beginning in 1996 as the first international film festival in Korea, it is now a major global event.
The focus of the BIFF is introducing new films and first-time directors, especially those from Asian countries. Another notable feature is the appeal of the festival to young people, both in terms of the large youthful audience it attracts and through its efforts to develop and promote young talent.

The main program themes include: A Window on Asian Cinema, New Currents, Korean Cinema Today, Korean Cinema Retrospective, World Cinema, Flash Forward, Wide Angle, Open Cinema, Special Programs in Focus and Midnight Passion. 
Photo: Korea’s 17th Busan International Film Festival will present over 304 movies from 75 countries this October...................

12 Indian movies will be screened at the fest in various sections....

Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is held annually in Haeundae and Nampo-dong, Busan, South Korea and is one of the most significant film festivals in Asia. The festival presents over 304 movies from 75 countries and will be held from 4th October till 13th October 2012.Beginning in 1996 as the first international film festival in Korea, it is now a major global event. 
The focus of the BIFF is introducing new films and first-time directors, especially those from Asian countries. Another notable feature is the appeal of the festival to young people, both in terms of the large youthful audience it attracts and through its efforts to develop and promote young talent.

The main program themes include: A Window on Asian Cinema, New Currents, Korean Cinema Today, Korean Cinema Retrospective, World Cinema, Flash Forward, Wide Angle, Open Cinema, Special Programs in Focus and Midnight Passion. 

This year 12 Indian films will be showcased at the fest scattered across various sections.

In the ‘A Window on Asian Cinema’ section, there are four Indian movies: 
Born to Hate…Destined to Love (Ishaqzaade) by Habib Faisal,
I.D by Kamal K.M, 
Shyamal Uncle Turns off the Lights by Suman Ghosh and 
Valley of Saints (India/United States) by Musa Syeed. 
In the New Currents section: Filmistaan by Nitin Kakkar 

In the Wide Angle section : 
In God’s Land by Pankaj Rishi Kumar, 
The Artist by Siddartha Jatla, 
Arjun by Arnap Chaudhuri, 
Char… the No-Man’s Island by Sourav Sarangi 

In the Open Cinema section: 
Barfi! by Anurag Basu 
In the Midnight Passion section: Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1 by Anurag Kashyap and 
Gangs of Wasseypur  Part 2 by Anurag Kashyap

Tickets for opening and closing films can only be purchased online. 20% of seats for regular films (including films screened in theaters or outdoor venues) will be available for sale at on-site ticket booths.

For more details visit:

This year 12 Indian films will be showcased at the fest scattered across various sections.

In the ‘A Window on Asian Cinema’ section, there are four Indian movies:
Born to Hate…Destined to Love (Ishaqzaade) by Habib Faisal,
I.D by Kamal K.M,
Shyamal Uncle Turns off the Lights by Suman Ghosh and
Valley of Saints (India/United States) by Musa Syeed.
In the New Currents section: Filmistaan by Nitin Kakkar

In the Wide Angle section :
In God’s Land by Pankaj Rishi Kumar,
The Artist by Siddartha Jatla,
Arjun by Arnap Chaudhuri,
Char… the No-Man’s Island by Sourav Sarangi

In the Open Cinema section:
Barfi! by Anurag Basu
In the Midnight Passion section: Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1 by Anurag Kashyap and
Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2 by Anurag Kashyap

Tickets for opening and closing films can only be purchased online. 20% of seats for regular films (including films screened in theaters or outdoor venues) will be available for sale at on-site ticket booths.

For more details visit:

This year 12 Indian films will be showcased at the fest scattered across various sections.

In the ‘A Window on Asian Cinema’ section, there are four Indian movies:
Born to Hate…Destined to Love (Ishaqzaade) by Habib Faisal,
I.D by Kamal K.M,
Shyamal Uncle Turns off the Lights by Suman Ghosh and
Valley of Saints (India/United States) by Musa Syeed.
In the New Currents section: Filmistaan by Nitin Kakkar

In the Wide Angle section :
In God’s Land by Pankaj Rishi Kumar,
The Artist by Siddartha Jatla,
Arjun by Arnap Chaudhuri,
Char… the No-Man’s Island by Sourav Sarangi

In the Open Cinema section:
Barfi! by Anurag Basu
In the Midnight Passion section: Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1 by Anurag Kashyap and
Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2 by Anurag Kashyap

Tickets for opening and closing films can only be purchased online. 20% of seats for regular films (including films screened in theaters or outdoor venues) will be available for sale at on-site ticket booths.

For more details visit:

Japan renews provocation over Dokdo

In an unprecedented provocation, all of Japan's overseas missions are uniformly conducting public relations campaigns to claim Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo, officials here said Tuesday, indicating that a countermove by Seoul is under way.

"All of Japan's overseas diplomatic missions are in the midst of an extensive public relations drive over Dokdo. Such a move is unprecedented and it seems to be a very serious provocation," said a diplomatic source familiar with the matter.

The simultaneous launch of the campaigns by different missions worldwide is considered impossible without the orchestration of the foreign ministry in Tokyo, the source speculated.

Diplomatic tension between Seoul and Tokyo remains high following the unprecedented Aug. 10 visit to the rocky outcroppings of Dokdo in East Sea by President Lee Myung-bak, who cited Tokyo's unrepentant attitude over its brutal 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula as a key reason for the trip.

According to sources, Japanese embassies around the world have been contacting major figures from each country's political, academic and media circles, while sending materials about Dokdo to major institutions. The campaign probably began last week when Tokyo placed ads in its newspapers renewing its territorial claim over Dokdo, they added.

Seoul's officials expect Japan to target the United States for its extensive PR campaign, as it cites a San Francisco Peace Treaty, among others, as the basis for its territorial claim.

In the treaty that took effect in 1952, Japan renounced all of its rights, titles and claims to Korea, but made no mention that Dokdo belongs to Korea.

But the treaty mentioned only three Korean islands out of about 3,000, which means the omission of Dokdo does not affect the island's status.

In response to Japan's move, the Korean government has instructed overseas diplomatic missions to promote its stance of "no disputes over the islets as it is a Korean territory historically, geographically and under international law."

Korea is also preparing for an active public relations drive on social networking sites worldwide for Dokdo. Last week, Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told reporters that his government will run counter ads in Japanese media.

Dokdo, which lies closer to Korea in the body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, has long been a thorn in relations between the two countries. Korea keeps a small police detachment on the islets, effectively controlling them.

Korea views Tokyo's claims to Dokdo as a sign that Japan has not fully repented for its imperialist past and denies Korea's independence because the country reclaimed sovereignty over all of its territory, including Dokdo, after the colonial rule ended. (Yonhap)

Sculptor breaks out in fine arts

Irish actor Liam Neeson speaks at a press conference for “Taken 2,” which will open in theaters nationwide on Sept. 27. / Yonhap

Yang Hong-sup, a sculptor for 38 years, is holding his first fine art solo exhibition, “Breaking the Mold” at KOSA Space in Gwanhun-dong, central Seoul.

The 54-year-old is presenting some 15 metallic sculptures, in a move toward fine art. Yang made the objects in geometric forms and cast them in molds of harder metals such as stainless and carbon steel. Then the objects were put into a furnace at over 1,700 degrees Celsius, resulting in random shapes created by happy accidents. The sculptures are not in a fixed form but a result of unexpected shapes coming out of the mold.

Such a process reflects Yang’s thoughts on art. “In a society, there are people with vested rights and their world. The artistic community is no exception. If you don’t have proper educational background, it is hard to hold an exhibition,” Yang said.

He began sculpting in 1974, when he graduated middle school. He is one of the best casters in Korea and has made a replica of a golden incense burner from the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C.- 668 A.D.) in 1995. He also sculpted a statue of Gen. Walton H. Walker at the 8th Army headquarters in Yongsan Garrison and the bust of former U.S. Air Force pilot Cpt. James A. Van Fleet Jr. at the U.S. air base in Osan.

He operates a workshop called Art World while pursuing his desire to study plastic art further. He finally entered the College of Art and Design at Seoul National University of Science and Technology in 2008 and graduated last February.

He cast works by other sculptors while seeking his own art world. “Making my own sculptures are time-consuming and difficult but I found pure delight in pursuing my view through the art,” the sculptor said.

Though people might think him a technician, not an artist, Yang portrays his deep thoughts through his works and they show his effort to overcome his inferiority complex or trauma against the society where educational background is important.

Art critic and Hongik University professor Kim Yi-soon said Yang has a great knowledge of the materials he uses and applies their properties as a means of bestowing his works with significance.

“The extremely hard and heavy stainless and carbon steel signify the existing order, which cannot easily be broken; Yang’s works can therefore be seen as embodying a spirit of resistance to the strong, established framework maintained by those in positions of privilege and the fake outer shell of Korean society, which attaches so much importance to posturing and keeping up appearances,” Kim said in her review of the exhibition.

“Breaking the Mold” runs through today. Admission is free. For more information, call (02) 720-9101.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Exclusive news for Galaxy fans: Samsung is ready to bang its Galaxy S4 soon

Samsung plans to unveil new device at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

Samsung Electronics plans to unveil the latest in its Galaxy line, the S4, at a European technology exhibition in February, according to company officials and local parts suppliers for the technology giant.

The timetable was released just three days after rival Apple introduced the iPhone 5, which has received a mixed response from industry experts and consumers as it is seemingly lacking in innovative features.

``Samsung is ready to unveil the next Galaxy smartphone _ the Galaxy S4 _ at early next year’s mobile world congress (MWC) in the Spanish city of Barcelona,’’ said an official from the firm asking not to be identified, Sunday. The new device is expected to hit shelves globally in March at the latest.

MWC is the biggest exhibition in the world for telecom companies and Samsung, will exhibit the new Galaxy at its booth.

The new Galaxy, expected to be the firm’s most powerful handset yet in terms of hardware specifications and software advancement, will help the Suwon-based outfit further cement its leadership in the global smartphone market.

The official said that the smartphone, due out nine months after the May debut of the Galaxy S3, will be more than enough to curb Apple’s latest iPhone, compatible with long-term evolution (LTE) networks.

In Europe, Samsung is gaining a bigger share of the smartphone market. The Korean company was involved in patent disputes with Apple in Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. A recent ruling in the U.K. said Samsung didn’t infringe on Apple’s design patents.

Executives from Samsung’s local parts suppliers said the company’s new flagship smartphone will ``definitely use’’ LTE networks. It will also sport its in-house Exynos-branded application processors and quad-core chips. The S3 is using both Samsung’s Exynos and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors depending on the country.

``Samsung is asking Apple to pay more to use its mobile application processors produced at its plant in Austin, Texas. The release of the S4 means more market share for Samsung as it is the only firm that can guarantee on-time delivery, output commitment and better pricing for mobile application processors,’’ said one executive.

The screen size of the S4 is expected to reach 5-inch from the the current 4.8 screen size of the S3, while it will use Google’s Android software and sport an OLED display, said the officials.

But Samsung has yet to decide whether it will use flexible display technology for the upcoming Galaxy due to production problems encountered by Samsung Display.

Samsung Display officials declined to comment on the new Samsung smartphone project.

``Samsung wants to keep its one-year product schedule and the Galaxy S4 will be the first to match that strategy. The S4 will see some external changes but retain its popular rectangular shape with rounded corner concept,’’ said an official from one of Samsung’s local partners.

Samsung is currently in talks with major American carriers to apply modified phone designs.

Market analysts and experts view the S4 as a ``clear message’’ to Apple. ``Samsung’s edges in manufacturing will further shine after the patent disputes go further on. In markets, Samsung is confident to widen its lead over Apple, though the legal fight is a totally separate issue,’’ said an industry executive who is familiar with the matter.

Samsung expects sales of the S3 to pass 30 million by the end of the year. It has already sold 20 million in just over three months.

The S4 will help Samsung take on Apple in the United States, according to officials. Market research firm IDC shows Samsung has a 30 percent share, globally, while Apple has 16 percent. But NPD’s recent data shows Apple controls 31 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, followed by Samsung on 24 percent.

The S4 plans come amid escalating patent disputes between the two technology giants in 50 different cases on four continents. Apple won a victory last month after a United States jury found the Korean firm copied key features of the iPhone and awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages.

Last week, the International Trade Commission (ITC) of the United States backed the verdict, ruling Apple didn’t violate patents owned by Samsung Electronics in making the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad.

U.S. Federal Judge Lucy Koh is scheduled to hold a hearing on Dec. 6 to consider Apple’s request for a permanent U.S. sales ban of eight Samsung smartphone models and the firm’s tablet following the jury’s verdict. Seven of the eight smartphones that Apple is seeking to ban are part of the Galaxy line. 


When nature meets Pottery

Potter Hwang Chong-rae explains how the “gwiyal,” or paint brush technique, is applied to a traditional bowl at her Goyang studio.

/ Korea Times photo

GOYANG, Gyeonggi Province — The ultimate pottery creations of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) were “buncheong” ware, traditional works marked by decorative designs and elaborate carvings.

Buncheong porcelain (14th-16th century) is characterized by uniquely bold designs deviated from the aesthetic traditions of celadon and white porcelain that originated from China.

Its unconventional dynamic expressions and variety of abstract designs appeal to modern tastes. That’s why many of the nation’s first-generation potters like Hwang Chong-rae, 85, have specialized in the tradition for more than 50 years.

She is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts in “gwiyal,” one of the six major decorative buncheong techniques in which the brush marks themselves are the decoration. Gwiyal translates to paint brush in English.

In adding the gwiyal drawings as final touches to her Joseon-style porcelain, she mainly finds her inspiration in nature.

“My brush marks mostly depict grass, the sea, ocean waves, the mountains, and other dynamic features of nature,” Hwang said during a recent interview with The Korea Times at her studio. “With energetic brush strokes, I try to give my work a sense of vitality. My goal is to always be vital, energetic and creative.”

Working with the paint brushes is a special skill, which make Hwang’s works one of a kind.

“It is possible to duplicate celadon or cheongja, and white porcelain or baekja. But It is impossible to duplicate gwiyal works,” she said.

Buncheong largely disappeared from Korea after the 16th century due to the popularity of white porcelains. In modern times, the buncheong style has been revived here by Hwang and her generation of potters after the Japanese occupation (1910 — 1945).

She built a studio in this satellite city of 900,000 about 40 years ago, equipped with electric, gas and wood fire kilns. An exhibition hall displays her key works.

Her studio has been frequented by wives of foreign envoys in Korea who go to get a glimpse of traditional Korean pottery.

Hwang is considered a pioneering first-generation potter here but hers is a career that almost didn’t happen.

After graduating from Ewha Womans University in 1950 as a Western art major, she worked as an art teacher at a high school. She began her official training as a potter nine years later, aged 32.

What prompted her to change career path from teacher to professional potter?

It has a lot to do with a sense of mission to revive the nation’s pottery tradition that had been severed during the Japanese occupation.

“I was one of the first seven students to be admitted to the pottery department at Ewha Womans University’s graduate school in 1959. I was determined to revive our pottery culture,” Hwang said.

Family history also played a role.Her father, Hwang In-chun, was a master of cheongja porcelain in Gaeseong, North Korea, during the Japanese occupation.

Hwang has held many exhibitions here and abroad since her first one in 1961, including in the U.S. New Zealand and Japan. Some of her works are displayed permanently in renowned overseas museums, including the British Museum.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Psy Oppa: 1st Korean to top iTunes chart

Our Korean rapper-singer Psy on Saturday topped the iTunes Chart with his single "Gangnam Style," making him the first Korean artist to reach No. 1 on the U.S. online chart.


YG Entertainment, Psy's agency in Seoul, said the chart-topping feat appears to have been aided by the singer's live performance in New York for NBC's "Today Show" on Friday.

"It's surprising to see a Korean song by a Korean artist to reach No. 1 on the iTunes chart, which accounts for about 80 percent of the U.S. online music market," the agency said. "I think it will be difficult to match Psy's accomplishment."

"Gangnam Style" debuted at No. 52 on iTunes on Aug. 27, and then broke the top 10 on Thursday.

The following day, Psy performed his hit single live at Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan for the "Today Show" before hundreds of fans.

He also made a surprise appearance to teach Britney Spears his signature dance moves on NBC's "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and is scheduled to reappear as a main guest next week.

Psy already made Billboard history earlier this week when "Gangnam Style" debuted at 64th on the Hot 100 singles chart, the highest position for a South Korean artist. The Wonder Girls reached 76th in October 2009 with their "Nobody," which was originally written in Korean but later released in English for the global audience. "Gangnam Style" is the first Korean-language single to reach the Hot 100.

"Gangnam Style" quickly became a global sensation after its music video was released on YouTube on July 15. The official version of the video, highlighted by Psy's horse-riding dance moves, has attracted more than 170 million hits YouTube as of Saturday.

In a phone interview with Yonhap News Agency, Yang Hyun-suk, head of YG Entertainment, said he is pleasantly surprised by Psy's international success.

"'Gangnam Style' was at first spread through YouTube and social networking services on the Internet, much like other K-pop groups," Yang noted. "And the song has really taken off as Psy appeared in popular TV programs. He's been a breath of fresh air and I think the song will grow even bigger."

Yang, himself a former pop idol as a member of the iconic group Seo Tae-ji & Boys in the 1990s, said Psy has won over the fickle U.S. audience with his hard work.

"The U.S. market has traditionally preferred 'artist' types to idols," Yang said. "Psy fits the mold of stars like Jay-Z and Kayne West in that he writes and produces his own music."

Psy recently signed on with Scooter Braun, manager of the teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, and Yang noted that Psy's partnership with the "young and creative promoter" should take the "Gangnam Style" sensation even further. (Yonhap)

Powerful typhoon approaches Korea

Be careful my Korean friends and those who are in Korea
Thousands of ships took shelter in ports, ferry services were suspended and access to valleys and other risky areas was restricted on the southern island of Jeju as precautions Sunday as a powerful typhoon was approaching Korea.

Packing strong winds of 48 meters per second, Typhoon Sanba was moving northward at a speed of 26 kilometers per hour from about 80 kilometers off the southern Japanese island of Okinawa as of Sunday morning, according to the Korean Meteorological Administration.

The massive storm is expected to reach about 70 kilometers off Jeju around 9 a.m. Monday before making landfall in the South Jeolla Province in South Korea's southwest. The typhoon is then expected to move over Korea's mainland to reach about 90 kilometers from Seoul on Monday night, officials said.

Up to 400 millimeters of rain is expected before it moves out of South Korea, officials said.

As the typhoon approached, Jeju and other southern regions were already receiving rain Sunday.

On Jeju, about 3,000 ships took shelter at ports around the island, ferry services linking Jeju and nearby islands were suspended, and Mount Halla and other areas considered dangerous in such a storm were declared off-limit as precautionary measures. (Yonhap)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Japan's Dokdo-Envy Spawns Political Party

Japan's bizarre acquisitive designs on Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo have helped spawn an entire political party led by a rising star of the Far Right. The Japan Restoration Party, led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, on Thursday unveiled a logo consisting of a map of Japan that includes Dokdo.

The JRP capitalizes on resurgent nostalgia for Japan's brutal colonial past amid a faltering economy and is expected to become the third-largest party after the general election.

The JPR "represents the entire country, so Takeshima (Dokdo) and Senkaku (Diaoyu in Chinese) are included in the logo," Hashimoto was quoted as saying by the Asahi Shimbun. But both islands are hard to make out in it, and the Senkaku Islands are in any case under Japanese jurisdiction already.


Biennale finds art and digital media

“Six Points” (2010) by Jung Yeon-doo.

Eclectic is the key word to describe the 7th Seoul International Media Art Biennale. This year’s event, titled “Mediacity Seoul 2012,” is ambitious, taking place on all three floors of the Seoul Museum of Art as well as the DMC Gallery in downtown Seoul. A total of 49 artists and groups from 20 countries have contributed to a wide range of installations, videos and interactive media.

What encompasses media art is defined quite broadly by the biennale’s organizers. Outside of classic visual art forms like painting and sculpture, pretty much anything goes.

Most of the works utilize digital and computerized equipment to varying degrees of sophistication and success. Some are incredibly intricate, while others are simple mechanical components roughly melded to more organic ideas.

With every passing biennale, however, the hyper-mediated society described by the participating artists seems to feel more familiar. The language of video art, for example, has become such an accepted part of our lives that it is hard to appreciate it as a separate aesthetic form.

The ubiquity of the digital screen breeds both an intimacy and a level of passivity. We are so used to the lightning-quick analysis and dissection of information that it can feel banal when experienced within the context of a museum.

When Dominic Gagnon of Canada mines Internet videos censored by YouTube, or veteran American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer projects enigmatic texts onto the sides of buildings, there is little surprise left in the strategies. They’ve become art that comfortably coexists with real-time Internet searches and billboard ads.

On the other hand, this year’s event also shows that there is still potential for the poetic left in the digital medium. Jung Yeon-doo of Korea utilizes stop-motion montage techniques seen so many times in feature films to virtually construct poignant street scenes from New York City.

Till Nowak of Germany and Ryota Kuwakubo of Japan take childhood artifacts like amusement park rides and train sets, respectively, and imagine beautiful, mesmerizing worlds.

The majority of the works at the biennale are noisy and flashy and they compete for our visual and aural attention. The sounds and projections from one installation seep into another, often to the detriment of both works.

On the other hand, numerous pieces are given enough space for contemplation. Belgian artist David Claerbout’s video dissection of a black-and-white photograph from Algiers or Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari’s filmic intersection of an Internet chat and an old typewriter are examples of pieces that take time to absorb and process. It may require some effort to see the human components underneath the digital bells and whistles but they are definitely there.

“Mediacity Seoul 2012” will run until Nov. 4 at the Seoul Museum of Art and the DMC Gallery. Admission is free.
For more information, go to or call 070-4473-8858.

N. Korean-born writers join PEN International

A PEN center for North Korean writers was approved to join PEN International on Friday, a writers’ association promoting freedom of speech.

The decision was made at the 78th International PEN Congress in Gyeongju.

     Jang Hae-sung

“We hope to let the world know how much writers in North Korea are suffering,” said Jang Hae-sung, a former writer for North Korea’s state broadcaster Korean Central Television (KCTV) who now lives in the South. Jang will lead the new branch.

A group of 29 writers who defected from North Korea will set up the center to promote freedom of expression. A vote was held during the congress among the heads of PEN centers worldwide Friday to approve the new one for North Korean defectors. Ahead of the vote, a group of North Korean defector writers spoke at a literature forum in Gyeongju on Tuesday, recounting their experiences of oppression and calling on support for freedom of speech in the Stalinist state.

It marks the 144th center of PEN International. Under the theme “Literature, Media, and Human Rights,” the congress hosts forums, lectures and recitation of poems. The recent PEN Congress closed Saturday.

Since the establishment of PEN International in 1921, it has promoted literature, defended the freedom of expression and developed a community of writers worldwide. There are 143 centers in 102 countries. The Korean PEN center was set up in 1954, immediately after the 1950-1953 Korean War.