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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The End of the Road?

You will see neither pictures nor anything about Korea today. Instead you’ll have to bear with me for some soul searching on my part about this contest. You will find that this will be a very short posting as compared to my usual ones.

Today I woke up from my dreams with a jolt. It is now 04:00, 30th September 2009 in my country as I write this. Yes, today’s the day of reckoning for the selection of the next 30 top bloggers in the next round of the contest. I bet I won’t be in the winners list as the prizes in this round are meant only for those currently staying in South Korea or intending to visit South  Korea during 14th – 16th October 2009. You see the prizes are visits to regional places in South Korea organized by KTO where the winners will be taken all around the country in a special bus. So if I’m not in the running for this round, how can I expect to win? So does it mean the end of the road for us, the outsiders?

It finally dawned upon me that I have been chasing the impossible dream by entering this Blog Korea! Go Korea! contest. How can I, a rookie in blogging expect to compete against the top three bloggers who are professionals and already well known figures in South Korea unless a miracle happens like getting more followers, visitors and comments. Even before the competition started I had already been a constant visitor to their sites, meaning I already knew who they were. They were already established and better known bloggers in Korea. So now I’m asking myself, how can I compete with them? I put in the visitor counter only recently just to satisfy my curiosity of whether there were people reading my blog or not. The number is unimportant. I do not expect my readers to run into the thousands because I don’t have any ads on my page. I did not cheat, I started with zero, and at least I know now that over a hundred and fifty people have visited my site since then. Actually I was very surprised that I even had ONE follower, a university student in Korea and by becoming my follower he has given me the inspiration to go on with my blogging. Even if only one person visits my site a day I’m quite satisfied because I know that I’m not writing in vain.

I don’t even understand the basics of managing my blog as regards to formatting the settings, layout, html etc. Not to mention also the art/technique of further enhancing my blog like what I see in other bloggers’ websites. I have never even stepped foot on Korean soil so I have to face reality and leave it to the real people who’ve been there or are staying there. My blog is just a fantasy. What I really need to do is to see for myself what I’ve only read about, all this while and take my own photographs and videos. Then only, can I really write from my heart, to express my true feelings. I’m tired of using borrowed facts, photographs and videos. You may ask why I’ve never been to Korea since a package tour to Korea is not that expensive these days. You see, in my younger days I was only interested in chasing English and European cultures and every opportunity I had I would head for England and Europe. I have been there no less than seven times; the eighth was a free trip to France for the 1998 world cup which I won in a contest. At that time Europe was my only passion which has since been replaced by Korea, since my introduction to Winter Sonata. I am not interested in short and hurried guided tours anywhere. I prefer to go on longer trips, at least two weeks to explore “the off the beaten track” places that I might discover by chance, on my own. That is the only way to really know the country of destination. The tour guides only take us to the tourist spots, I want to see ‘the other side of midnight” the side which is seldom seen. I want to mingle with the locals, to eat with them, to socialize with them and to go where they go. And that costs money. So in my greed to make more money quickly in order to indulge in my favorite pastime, travelling, I lost a great deal of money in some bad investments which I made. I also bought a property which was left abandoned by the developers leaving my money stuck there till today. They say it never rains but it pours. Then the company I worked for closed down due to the recession leaving me with 6 months unpaid salary. How much worse can life get? That is why I have put on hold all travel unless sponsored. How I would have loved to go to Japan right now to see my Korean idol Bae Yong Joon at the Tokyo Dome. It was a hard decision for me, I could afford to go but then it would mean a big hole in my pocket when I came back, so it had to be a BIG NO! I’d rather spend that money on a trip to Korea Bae Yong Joon or not. There are so many things I want to see and do in Korea but not in Japan. I have looked at other options like volunteer work but there are none that are suitable for me. So that is why I am now entering contests where the prizes are free trips so that I can at least do some travelling.

I already consider myself out of the race since I don’t expect to be able to beat the current top 3 bloggers. However I shall still continue to blog, on all things Korean, but it will be on my own time and pace. No more stress and deadlines for me, nor the sleepless nights worrying about what to write about. In the meantime I have to look for someone who can teach me how to enhance my blog with all the fancy stuff etc. Any teachers? Of course the dream to go to Korea is still as strong as ever but I will have to find other avenues to do that like tracking down some people who owe me money or maybe buying a lottery ticket.  Sponsors anyone? High hopes huh? Guess that’s about all I have to say for today. Thanks for dropping by.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jjimjilbang

Remember, I asked you to stay overnight at a jjimjilbang when I was writing about taking a city tour bus to see the sights in Busan. Well today I’m going to tell you all about the jjimjilbang.

Jjimjilbang are large, gender-segregated public bath-houses in Korea, complete with hot tubs, showers, Finnish-style saunas and massage tables, similar to what you may find in a Korean sauna or mogyoktang. However, in other areas of the building or on other floors there are unisex areas, usually with a snack bar, ondol floor for lounging and sleeping, wide-screen TVs, PCs, noraebang where you can sing to your hearts desire, and sleeping quarters with either bunk beds or sleeping mats.

In Korea, the jjimjilbang is a place where one can not only enjoy the spa, shower, and sauna but also sleep overnight at an affordable price. Jjimjilbang operate 24 hours a day and are popular weekend getaways for Korean families to relax and spend time soaking in tubs or lounging and sleeping, while the kids play away on the PCs. Since most young Koreans live with their parents until they marry, jjimjilbang have become popular places for couples to spend time together.

After you pay the initial payment at the front counter of the jjimjilbang,, you will be issued with a t-shirt and shorts and a towel. You are required to take a shower before you enter the jjimjilbang. Showers are communal and separated by gender. So make sure you look for the right hallway to enter the correct gender shower rooms. After the shower you are free to enter any of the various heated rooms, each designed with a particular theme, including: a salt room, and a series of rooms with different temperatures ranging from 60 to 100 degrees Celsius. There is even an ice room. Be sure to check the temperature sign outside before entering.. These are great places to sweat and relax. After you’re done with sweating it out or soaking in a hot bath, you can leave those rooms to watch television or browse the internet. You can also eat in the specified rooms or just relax in a rest area where you can find pillows and blankets for a nap. Or if you don’t feel like taking a sauna bath just yet you can always go out to the unisex area and find your friends as long as you are dressed in the “uniform” given to you at the front counter. In the cafeteria, you will find cold beverages such as ice green tea, ice coffee, or ice sikhye (a traditional, sweet Korean drink with floating rice), snacks, or simple meals. You can also sleep in the sleeping room or read in the book corner. Also available for free is a fitness room and a movie room where you can watch the latest movies. There are lockers for storing large-size bags, shopping bags, and other items.

The reason why some Koreans like to come to a jjimjilbang is because they miss the ondol, the heated floor most families slept on before they adopted the Western style of sleeping on beds.. The floor is enough of a draw that some families occasionally spend the night in the bathhouse’s common rooms. Because they are open around the clock and are relatively inexpensive, the complexes have attracted a lot of budget-minded travelers, who stay in the communal sleeping room.

But calling the jjimjilbang a bathhouse hardly begins to describe its attractions. According to a Korean national, a frequent visitor to jjimjilbang , “Here, you not only can take a bath and a sauna, but you can also eat, sleep, date, watch television, read, play computer games. It’s a one-stop total service in the Korean way of relaxing.” “The first thing we Koreans think of when we’re feeling stiff and sore is lying on a hot floor,” said another Korean who works for a television station.

How did these jjimjilbang come about? The first public bathhouse was built in 1925, mostly to cater for the Japanese colonialists, but the institution quickly became part of Korean social life. Most urban neighborhoods had a bathhouse, as did small towns. Inside, patrons sat in or around large, sex-segregated baths filled with extremely hot water, gossiping and scooping water on themselves with gourds. Scrubbing other bathers’ backs, even strangers’, was a common practice.

Many Korean adults share a childhood memory of being taken to public baths for no-nonsense, sometimes tears-inducing scrubs by their mothers. By the late 1990s, many bathhouses had turned into true recreation complexes, and going to one became as much a part of Korean social life as going to the movies. In 2006, there were more than 13,000 jjimjilbang in the country, more than 2,500 of them in Seoul some of which can accommodate thousands of people. The pioneers of jjimjilbang were inspired by the ancient Korean custom of sitting in giant charcoal or pottery kilns for heat therapy. Many Koreans believe heat can help cure some illnesses.

You’re allowed to stay for 24 hours after the initial fee that you’ve paid. After the 24 hours are over, you must either pay again to stay longer or leave.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Let’s go to Busan! Part 2

Are you ready to go shopping in Busan? Shopping in Busan means shopping for all that you might want to buy. Whether it be electronic goods, handicrafts or clothes that you want, you won't have to search for it for long because you’ve got everything here in Busan. There are world class shopping complexes where you have to spend more money than time; as well as street side stalls, where you have to spend more time than money! Busan has a wide range of shopping options, including department stores, duty free shops, discount outlets, and large markets.

Two suggestions for gifts to bring back home are Busan’s dinnerware and C1, Busan’s preferred soju / Cheonnyeonyaksok. Busan’s dinnerware is unique to the southern region only and there’s nothing like it in Seoul. So if you are a collector you have to get a set. If you bring home a bottle of Cheonnyeonyaksok (A Thousand Years), for your father’s birthday he’s going to love you more for it. You can also tell him that this Korean liquor was the chosen official drink for celebration toasts at the 2005 APEC summit held in Busan.

Want to buy authentic Korean souvenirs at reasonable prices? But then you have to be in Busan on a Sunday. At the Gudeok Cultural Market-place in Busan the activity is more channelled towards the arts and crafts. It is located in the Seomyeon area, in the area around the Gudeok Stadium, not what you would call a permanent market place but made up of stalls mainly, set up practically on the floor by the many vendors from round the country. The specialty of the Gudeok Cultural Market-place is that all the wares on display are traditional handicrafts and folk art. It is actually a weekly affair, opened only on Sundays. Among the other things that you can pick up at the Gudeok Cultural Market-place are pottery, ceramics, antiques, lacquer works and wood carvings. You can almost call the Gudeok Cultural Market-place an extra large budget souvenir shop. You will find quite a crowd at the place every Sunday bargaining and picking the wares of their choice. The Gudeok Cultural Market-place in Busan is a great place for souvenir hunting at reasonable prices.

Busan Gukje market

Gukje Market in Busan is the equivalent of Namdaemun Market in Seoul. Not far from Jagalchi Market, Gukje Market leads to Bupyeong Market and Kkangtong Market through narrow alleyways. As you make your way through the little shops that line the narrow streets .you’ll find everything you could possibly need. Gukje Market and Bupyeong Market are great places to buy traditional Korean ware, traditional bedding, and hand-made crafts. If you’re looking for a hanbok, there are many Hanbok shops around here. The tiny stores in Kkangtong Market, can barely accommodate one customer. But one can find all sorts of imported goods here. Adding to the joy of shopping in these narrow streets are the culinary pleasures including red bean porridge, pumpkin porridge, and the famous Busan odeng (fish cake). All the three markets are located close to Jagalchi Market and the commercial area of Nampo-dong, making it a favorite destination for both locals and tourists.How to Get There: Take Subway Line 1 and get off at Nampo-dong station; then go out of exit 1. Take the street behind the PIFF Plaza

Shopping mall for foreigners

The Choryang Shopping Arcade for Foreigners, as the name suggests is the shopping area, which caters specially for the foreigners. You can find Chinese and Russians selling Chinese and Russian products here. It is a favourite haunt of foreigners, as here they can find all that they are unable to find in the other markets of Busan such as all the western-sized clothing, is available in this market. Lingerie, perfumes, cologne, dress materials are some of the things you can also get here. The shopkeepers speaking in a familiar language like Chinese, is bound to make you feel more comfortable and at ease. You can even use your American dollars because this is the only region in Busan to accept them. The Choryang Shopping Arcade for Foreigners is not an up market place if you are expecting it to be. In fact it is a very down market place. A bit of bargaining might work wonders if you just give it a try. However, it is advisable to do your shopping here before it gets dark.

Busan International Market

The International Market is located across the street from the Jagalchi Market and is Busan’s largest marketplace. It is connected with various smaller markets such as the Bupyeong Market and the Kkangtong Market. Everything you need can probably be found at the International Market. The market is divided into sections such as the Bag Alleyway, Shoes Alleyway, and more. As the market’s name suggests, it sells a wide selection of imported food and various other imported goods. Main Products: Apparel, shoes, bags, food, industrial products and various living essentials. The International Market is a great place to try Korea’s delicious street food such as odeng, dumplings and twigim (fried foods.

Busan Kolon Underground Shopping

Kolon Underground Shopping Arcade, first opened in 1988, and is located in the famous Nampo-dong area. It is an underground mall unlike big departmental stores. One can get a variety of stuff like shoes, boutique items, casual attire and cosmetics here. The Kolon Underground Mall is open from 10:30 am till 10:30 pm. The best way to reach Kolon Underground Shopping Arcade, is to take the subway Line no. 1 and to get off at Jagalchi or Nampo-dong. Kolon Shopping Mall is a part of the Busan International Market.

    Busan Seomyeon shopping

Seomyeon & Daehyeon Underground Shopping District, Busan is one of the largest and most popular underground shopping center in Busan. This underground shopping center stretches from the Seomyeon subway station to the Judis Taehwa Shopping Mall and has numerous shops selling diverse goods. Seomyeon & Daehyeon Underground Shopping District, Busan is located right on the Seomyeon Street, which is a very busy street because of the Seomyeon Jct, where subway Line No. 1 meets Line No.2, and through which one third of urban bus lines pass.

Busan Seomyeon

Seomyeon & Daehyeon Underground Shopping District is no less than any other developed shopping mall. This underground shopping center has quite a few numbers of shops offering different types of lucrative items on sale. The shops in this underground shopping center has a huge selection of branded products including trendy and fashionable clothes, shoes, accessories, bags, cosmetics, perfumes and jewellery. Other items include electronic goods, handicrafts, home appliances, and necessary items of daily use. Goods sold in the Seomyeon & Daehyeon Underground Shopping District, Busan not only belong to popular international brands but also are of superior quality. And the prices of the goods sold here are not very expensive. Varying between low to medium price the goods are very much within the reach of middle class people.

The Seomyeon & Daehyeon Underground Shopping District, Busan also has cheap restaurants and cafes serving different types of delicacies.

Busan Pusan University Shopping

For trendy and unique clothes and accessories for the younger generation, then head for Pusan University. The area, which extends from the subway station to the gate of Pusan University, consists of two sections.
First, brand shops or brand discount stores selling items at 30% to 90% discount are located on both sides of the street at the first intersection of the front of the university. Here, you can find clothes designed by major Korean fashion shops at affordable prices.
One block further in the direction of the subway station, you will find more mainstream clothing and fashion items at various stores that sell low to medium priced goods. Many shops sell their own clothing designs and accessories. Wander through the narrow alleys and you will be sure to find fashion items to express your personality at a reasonable price. Also, between 3 pm and 4 pm street vendors appear, selling a wide selection of accessories.
How to Get There: Take Subway Line 1 to Pusan University Station, and go out of Exit 1

If you are brand conscious then Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street, is the place for you to shop in. but don't worry about the price because you will get a discount of 20% to 30% for sure. This place is very popular amongst the younger crowd of Busan, who are fond of fashionable clothing and accessories. This region is one of the most hip and happening spots of the city, with all the fashion wear streets and the multiplexes to entertain you while shopping. There are about one thousand shops in the market from where you can pick and choose what you want. However, the shopping in Nampo-dong and Gwangbok-dong is totally different from other local markets. Here, the streets are clean and well-organized with famous, upscale designer brands. It is considered the leading fashion street of Busan. Nampo-dong is also the site of PIFF Plaza, the venue for the Busan International Film Festival. Brand names are not hard to find in the crowd of stalls. Apart from dresses and clothing, you can also find accessories and perfumes. There is one special facility in the Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street, Busan that is the underground shopping arcade. This has been incorporated to make the shopping experience, comfortable during the winter and rainy seasons.

How to Get There: Take Subway Line 1 to Nampo-dong Station; then go out of Exit 2

Department stores, in comparison to other shopping facilities, generally are large stores, which stock a wide selection of different brand names all under one roof. I shall skip

the department stores and the duty free shops as I’m sure you already know what they are like especially the Lotte department stores chain. However I would like to mention two department stores in Busan, the newly opened The Centum City branch of Shinsegae Department Store and the Busan Department Store

Busan Shinsegae Department Store     Busan Shinsegae Department Store 01

The Centum City branch of the Shinsegae Department Store, which opened in March of 2009 in the Haeundae-gu district, is Korea’s largest department store and twice the size of most department stores in Seoul. This department store covers 18 floors and two-thirds of the building is devoted to shopping. Other facilities include leisure facilities such as spas, an indoor ice-skating rink, a movie theater, gallery, sports center, and more. The Centum City branch has been receiving much deserved attention as the ultimate one –stop destination for leisure and shopping. I think that the Centum City branch deserves special mention because “it was recently listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest department store” as quoted in the JoongAng Ilbo dated July 08, 2009

One of the many tempting shopping destinations in the city is the Busan Department Store. It is home to the big global brands and is mainly an up market place to shop in, centrally located in the city and is a shopper's haven. The Busan Department Store houses a good number of other shops within its premises that specialize in the sale of certain goods. Among these specialty stores are folk art centers. So you can pick up a lot of reasonable and authentic handicrafts from the Busan Department Store. The Busan Department Store is open from 09:00 – 20:00 daily except for the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month when they are closed.

Busan Migliore 

Migliore is one of Korea’s most famous shopping malls and has branches in the major shopping areas of Myeong-dong and Dongdaemun in Seoul, and also in the Seomyeon region of Busan. The Busan branch is a great place to pick up original designs by Korea’s young designers. As well as fashions, it stocks accessories and cosmetics all at reasonable prices. The Busan Migliore also includes leisure facilities such as a movie theater, fitness club, restaurants & buffet, large arcade, and much more.

Korea’s large supermarkets are where you can find all the daily living essentials that you might need on your trip, such as groceries, clothes, accessories, and more. Busan’s Home plus is in a building as large as a department store, but has prices almost as low as the marketplace. I love supermarkets and I always shop for food which I can keep in the hotel fridge like fruits, bread, biscuits and tidbits. The prices are cheap and they open till very late in the night.

Busan Home plus Seomyeon Branch

The Seomyeon branch of Home plus is two floors high, and stocks a large variety of merchandise, including groceries, a discount clothing area, accessories, beauty products, consumer electronics, cosmetics, and living essentials. The Seomyeon branch is located near Buam station on subway line 2, and so is easily accessible.
Public Transportation: Exit #4, Buam station, Busan subway line 2; 10~15mins walk from the station
Department Store Hours: 10:00am ~ 12:00am

Busan Haeundae Home Plus    Busan Home plus, Haeundae Branch

The Haeundae branch of Home plus is located near Haeundae Beach. This branch contains a large grocery store, a food court, various other convenience facilities, and stocks around 100 different brands of clothing.
● Public Transportation: Exit #1, Dongbaek station, Busan subway line 2; 3mins walk from the station
● Store Hours:10:00am ~ 12:00am

So, you think you can find your way around the shopping districts in Busan now? What I’m afraid of is that you might run out of money before you run out of shops to visit. So go slow, survey the shops first and buy where it’s cheapest. Don’t be like my friend who bought first and regretted it when she saw the so much cheaper price elsewhere.

Like I promised I’ll tell you now about some of Busan’s many other festivals. I think I already mentioned two in my last post, the Haeundae Sand Festival and the Busan International Rock Festival.

What festival comes to mind immediately when Busan/Pusan is mentioned? Of course it has to be the Pusan International Film Festival or PIFF. The Pusan International Film Festival is an annual event held every year, usually during mid-October here in Busan. It is regarded as one of the major film festivals of Asia. The festival was first started in the year 1996. One of the major aims of Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF), is to introduce the latest films and the debut directors, especially from the Third World countries.

In a film festival different types of film are showcased in a single or multiple movie theaters or screening venues. Usually films of recent times are shown. But then depending upon the theme of the film festival, it can include international releases of major importance and even those films which are made at distinguished and recognized film industries outside of the host country. In some cases the theme of the film festival can be on a specific genre of film such as animation and gay or lesbian films. The annual Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF), showcases over 200 films from all over the world.. And the movies are showcased on huge outdoor screens This year the PIFF will be held from 8th October until 16th October. So those of you movie buffs, there’s still time to catch it.

For those of you car enthusiasts this next festival should be your cup of tea. A popular event in Busan is the Busan International Motor Show which is a biennial event. This year there will be no show and the next one will only be held in May 2010. It will be an eleven-day celebration of all-things vehicular. The exposition's theme this time is "Automobile - Harmony of Human, Nature and Technology."

The Busan International Motor Show, takes place at BEXCO, biennially, between April and May. It is an international motor show comprising of many high-class events. It is held at the Busan Exhibition and Conference Center (BEXCO). Those who are passionate about driving and riding will be able to watch different exhibits of the future's motor technology in Busan International Motor Show.

BEXCO is situated in Busan and it is the industrial and logistics hub of North- East Asia. The global business and tourism is brought together at one place by BEXCO which is a new convention and exhibition center. The BEXCO complex consists of one basement and seven ground floors. The exhibition hall of BEXCO is as big as the size of three soccer fields put together.

Busan Haeundae Dalmaji Walk

I’d like to end here by telling you about the Cherry Blossom Tree Festival. Usually we connect Cherry Blossoms with Japan but here in Busan, Korea, the Cherry Blossoms are just as beautiful. The Cherry Blossom trees appear as beautiful clouds from a distance, whereas the beauty of single blossoms can be enjoyed at a closer distance.

Cherry Blossom Tree Festival, Busan is celebrated during the month of April at Gwangalli Beach. A big festival encompasses the Namcheon cherry blossom complex, Gwangalli beach, and Millakdong, the sushi town. Traditional Korean games like archery and Sirum which is Korean wrestling similar to the Sumo of Japan will be enjoyed by all attending the Cherry Blossom Tree Festival. There are about 20 different kinds of events to be enjoyed such as the cherry blossom festival, live fish festival, folk festival, culture and art festival and more. Visitors will also get a chance to participate in different kinds of contests such as singing and drawing competition for children.

Exhibitions are a part and parcel of Cherry Blossom Tree Festival, which includes a market for Korean traditional food, Korean agricultural and special products. You can also get a view of the popular cherry blossom together with their pictures. Cherry Blossom Tree Festival, not only attracts its native people but even people from all over the country. It is like a representative spring festival of Busan. You can indulge yourself in many different activities such as taking a stroll under the cherry blossom trees, with the sea as a backdrop. The hundreds of sushi restaurants in the area are close by to serve you when you feel hungry. The magnificent view of the beach or a cultural art performance at the Gwangalli Cafe Street can add enjoyment to your stay in Busan during the Cherry Blossom Tree Festival.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Let’s go to Busan! Part 1

We’ve been cooped up in Seoul all this while so I thought why don’t we take a little trip out of Seoul. Everyone knows about Seoul as it is the capital of South Korea. How many of you all know which is the 2nd largest city in Korea after Seoul?

Situated on the most south-eastern portion of the Korean peninsula, Busan or Pusan is Korea's principal port and second largest city in Korea after Seoul and is the nation’s largest port city.. As a port city, it is ranked third in the world in terms of the number of containers handled. Busan’s tourist attractions are mostly found along the seacoast. The fine sandy beaches, precipitous cliffs and temples located along the beach are all fantastic tourist spots.

Busan (Pusan) connects Asia, Europe, and North America. This geopolitically situated harbor city sits adjacent to the Korean Straits and Japan, bringing about an interchange of trade and tourism. This intercultural current has made Busan into the international metropolis it is today. Busan has hosted such international events as the 2002 14th Asian Games, the final match of the Korea/Japan World Cup, and since 1995 has annually hosted the Pusan International Film Festival.

There are many tourist attractions in Busan but the two things that Busan is famous for are its Jagalchi Fish Market and the Haeundae Beach

Busan Jagalchi Market 02

Oiso, boiso, saiso (Come, see, and buy)! — Busan’s common expression, which has become a trademark that originated from the female vendors selling fish at Jagalchi Market. It is here at the area around Jagalchi Market, Nampo-dong street, and Yongdusan Observatory, where you can see how the local people live.                          

The Jagalchi Market is Korea's largest seafood market. Most of the people who sell fish are women, so the women who sell here are called 'Jagalchi Ajumma.' 'Ajumma' refers to middle-aged or married women. The Jagalchi Market is where you can see the lifestyle of the indigenous  Busan  natives.                                                                                       

You can eat fresh raw fish right here at this market. There are even women selling mackerel, sea squirts (ascidians) and whale meat on wooden boxes along the road.
Busan is famous throughout the whole of Korea for this market. Every October the Jagalchi Cultural Tourism Festival is held. The huge size and bustling, lively atmosphere makes a visit to Jagalchi Market a unique experience. There will be small stalls selling fresh inshore hagfish grilled on briquet fires, visitors will be able to try many unusual types of fish as well as excellent sashimi, which is available at low prices. Yes, they say the price of seafood in Busan is much cheaper than elsewhere. This year the Jagalchi Cultural Tourism Festival will be held from 14th October until 18th October, so there’s still time to go to this festival if you’re a big seafood lover.

Haeundae Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches to be found in Korea. Not only is it beautiful but it is probably the most famous beach in the country. "Haeundae" was so named by scholar Choi Chi-Won (857~?) of the Silla Dynasty (BC 57~AD 935). When he was walking past Dongbaekdo Island, he was fascinated by it and left the carved Busan Haeundae Beach 04words "Hae Un Dae" on a stone wall on the island. The white sand is rough and sticks easily to your skin. The sand of this beach is composed of sand that comes from Chuncheon Stream and shells that have been naturally eroded by the winds of time. Haeundae Beach is also famous for the various cultural events and festivals held throughout the year. There is a Folk Square where you can enjoy traditional games such as neoldduigi (seesaw jumping), Korean wrestling, tuho (arrow throwing), tug-of-war and yutnori. There is also the Beach Culture Center and the Beach Library. It’s most crowded from June to August.

Busan Haeundae Sand Festival   Busan Haeundae Sand Festival 02 Earlier this year from May 29th until 1st June the Haeundae Sand Festival was held here with the theme "See Sand," "Feel Sand," and "Enjoy Sand." The festival also offered education about ecology and beach pollution in addition to the fun activities. This was the fifth year of the festival, and there were 17 different programs drawn up which included sand sculpture, a sand mime performance, a beach volleyball contest, sand wrestling contest, sandcastle building, hula hoops and a web-footed walking contest. Some of the sculptures were very creative and beautiful.

Busan Gwangalli Beach 01   Busan Gwangalli Beach

Located adjacent to Haeundae Beach, Gwangalli Beach is famous as a dating place for the many young couples in Busan. At night, the arch-shaped beach is more romantic as it is illuminated by the surrounding buildings and the Gwangan Bridge. Gwangalli Beach is 1.4 km long, 64m wide, and is famous for its fine sand. This area has undergone a water cleaning program, and as a result, the water of the beach is pristine. The clean waters of this area also attract many fishermen. You can prepare raw fish dishes on the spot, right after you have caught the fish. For those looking for some action, there is the Olympic Yacht Rental where you can rent yachts. You can also enjoy water-skiing, jet skiing, windsurfing, and other exciting water sports. On the beach there is an outer concert stage where the Busan Ocean Festival and other various events are held. The area has a cultural center, a museum, theaters for plays and movies, an art gallery, TV station, and famous Korean and non-Korean fashion brand name shops. It is a popular gathering place for young people in their 20s and 30s.

Songjeong Beach is the ideal beach for families to swim together because of its shallow waters and fine sand. The seashell grains that have formed naturally over time, lie beautifully like tiny marbles along the beach. The beach also has the unique feel of the southern region, making the experience all the more fun. At the entrance of the beach is the Jukdo, where you can find relaxation facilities in the evergreen groves. You can enjoy fishing as well at the northeast end of the beach. There is also a dock where you can use motorboats and take cruises in the summer. A particularly famous part of the Songjeong Beach is the Songiljeong Pavilion, from where you can get a magnificent view of the sunrise and moonrise. But this beach is a bit out of the Busan area. Every year the Harvest Full-Moon Seaweed Festival and the Songjeong Beach Festival are held here.

Busan Haeundae-gu  Dalmaji Hill

Dalmaji Hill is a small walkway on the corner to Songjeong Beach. and boasts beautiful cherry blossoms and pine trees, which are located just beyond Haeundae Beach, on the slope of Mt.Wausan. On days with clear skies you can see Japan's Daema Island from the observatory. On the top of the Hill is a clock tower. From the top of the Dalmaji Hill one can get a spectacular ocean view.

Patbingsu

Beautiful cafes are drawing considerable attention to the hills of Dalmaji. Reminds one of the cafes of Montemarte in Paris. While you’re here you might as well sit down at one of the cafes and enjoy a bowl of Patbingsu (a dessert of shaved ice with red bean topping and fruits). It’s just divine! 

 

Dadaepo Beach is located at the estuary of the Nakdonggang River just 8km away from downtown Busan. Here you can see where the river joins the sea. This beach is the perfect place for a family vacation because the depth of water is shallow (around 1.5m) enough for children. People can pick up small seashells and crabs at Dadaepo Beach as well. There are also a variety of facilities such as camping sites so you can enjoy the beautiful sea even more.                                                                         

The Busan International Rock Festival is held here every August where visitors can enjoy listening to rock music on the hot summer nights. It is held on Dadaepo’s sandy beaches and is the world’s only no-charge rock festival, and is very popular among rock fans in Korea. The festival functions as the debut stage for new artists, and also features popular rock artists.
Enjoy the beaches and the surrounding attractions during the daytime and enjoy the rock performances at night. To enjoy the performance fully, visitors should allow themselves to go with the flow of the exciting atmosphere.
There are rock festival promotional booths, face-painting booths, and souvenir booths for visitors wishing to purchase T-shirts and various other items to have as a nice memento of the festival. The stage is installed with sprinklers, water cannons, fire cannons, fire fountains, and more for special effects to create a more dynamic stage to add to the performance.

Busan Dongbaekdo Island There are many islands named Dongbaekdo Island in the South Sea where dongbaek trees thrive. Among them, the Dongbaekdo Island in Busan used to be an island, but is now part of the mainland. At the top of the island, there is a statue and a monument of Choe Chi-Won, a scholar and writer during the Silla Dynasty (BC 59 ~ AD 932). The Busan Tourism Organization has declared Dongbaekdo Island Tourist Site No.46. The island also has a park - Dongbaek Park and a 2.5 m high statue of a mermaid near the beach.

Busan UN Memorial Cemetery and Peace Park

The United Nations Memorial Cemetery and Peace Park honors UN soldiers from 16 countries who were killed in battle during the Korean War from 1950-1953. Some of the sites and memorials include: Memorial Service Hall, Memorabilia Hall, 2 Turkish Monuments, Greek Monument, Australian Monument, British Common Wealth Monument and 2 ponds. The Memorial Service Hall and the Memorabilia Hall were constructed in 1964 and 1968 respectively. The citizens of Busan dedicated the Main Gate in 1966. There are many annual events held here, some of the key events include: April’s Tributary Ceremony of the Veterans of the Korean War, May’s American Memorial Day, June’s Korean Memorial Day, and October’s UN Ceremony Day.

Yongdusan Park, has 70 different species of trees and is a favorite resting area among the citizens of Busan. It is called Yongdusan because the shape of the mountain looks like the head of a dragon that climbs to land from sea. There are many coffee shops around here and the Busan Aquarium is also in the vicinity. The highlight of Yongdusan Park is a night view of Busan from the 120m high Busan Tower.

Busan Aquarium

The Busan Aquarium contains over 35,000 kinds of fish, algae, reptiles, and amphibians. This state-of-the-art facility is one of Korea’s top aquariums. The Busan Aquarium covers an area of 36,000 m2 and has 3 underground levels as well as an outdoor park. On the first underground level you can find a simulator, souvenir shop, and several places to eat, while on underground levels 2 and 3 you can find various kinds of aquariums. The third underground level boasts an 80m main (seabed) tunnel. One feels like they are walking along the ocean floor as they pass through this tunnel, with various species of fish and sharks swimming above their heads. This is one of the most popular areas of the aquarium and is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience. The simulator will stretch your imagination and give you the tingling feeling of experiencing life on the ocean floor.

Designated as a Busan monument, along with Oryukdo Island, Taejongdae represents Busan, and is especially famous for its rock beach. Featuring its highest peak at 250 meters, there are forests of pine trees and other 200 varieties of trees. Taejongdae was named after the 29th king of Silla Dynasty BC57~AD 935), King TaeJong Mu-Yeol (604~661). King Tae-jong had traveled to many places but this was the place he enjoyed shooting arrows. Under the lighthouse of this resort is a rock called Sinseon Rock, named after the myth that gods and goddesses came down here to relax. At this rock is a figure called Mangbuseok, named after the story of a woman who waited for her husband who had been taken to Japan. Taejongdae is also famous for the ritual of praying for rain, performed when there are droughts, and rain on the 10th day of the 5th lunar month is called the 'Taejong Rain'. On days with clear skies you can see Japan’s Daema Island from the observatory.

Busan Geojedo Island

Geojedo Island is Korea's second largest island with breathtaking scenery. At Jangpyeong-ri, simply pass the great bridge and you will be led directly to Geojedo Island, which boasts the bulk of the South Sea's tourist attractions. Haegeumgang, Mongdol Beach and Oedo Island Paradise Island (remember Winter Sonata) are the most popular sites among them.
Haegeumgang, an island made of rocks, belongs to Hallyeo Marina National Park and is also called the Geumgang of the South Sea. It is famous for both its sunsets and sunrises, and its unique rock formations. Also, Hakdong Mongdol Beach, made of pebbles called Mongdol, has camellias and fairy pits in spring, and comes alive as a beach resort in summer. Oedo Paradise Island, which recently became a popular site, is called the ‘Paradise of Korea’ because of the 3,000 kinds of decorated trees and the Mediterranean style buildings that stand upon this 264 square km land. This island is a poplar site for filming soap dramas due to the combination of the exotic atmosphere and sea.
Geojedo Island is historically a significant place. Memorial services are held annually in memory of General Lee Sun-Shin at the Okpodaecheop (war) Memorial Park, built in memory of the battle of Okpo(1592.5.7 - 5.8). Geojedo Island also had the biggest concentration camp during the Korean War, and the camp has been restored as a historical relics site.

Jagalchi  Market  (Sightseeing around the  area)                                       

The area includes a sushi center where a number of restaurants cater to the needs of visitors during lunchtime. Across from the market is Nampo-dong. This area is also famous for the PIFF Square where the Busan International Film Festival is held every year. After you enjoy some sightseeing on the streets of Nampo-dong, make your way to the nearby Yongdusan Park, go up the Busan Tower Observatory in the center of the park or enjoy a view of the city.

Busan Nampo-dong StreetThe theater district of Busan is packed with movie theaters and play houses, hosts to the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF). To commemorate the PIFF every year the winners of the festival contribute copper plates imprinted with their hand and foot prints. These copper plates stretch far across the plaza walkways. The streets are especially crowded in October, when the films are being screened for the movie festival at local theaters. It is during this time that you can also find various events revolving around the promotion of the movies featured at the festival. In the vicinity of Nampo-dong Street you can find Jagalchi Fish Market and Choryang Arcade for Foreigners. This well sought after area is flourishing with not only theaters, but many kinds of shops and eateries as well.

Noodles at Nampo-dong Meokjagolmok

Recommended! Noodles at Nampo-dong Meokjagolmok!
The meokjagolmok (food alley) in Nampo-dong has a long history stretching over 50 years. It first started with a few cart vendors who catered to refugees after the Korean War. Today, there are about 30 to 40 vendors lining the alley to sell snack foods such as noodles, japchae (Vermicelli mixed with vegetables), gimbap (rice rolls), tteokbokki (rice cakes in hot sauce), and sundae (Korean sausage with a casing of intestines). With prices ranging between 2,000 and 3,000 won, travelers are sure to find delicious local food for a very affordable price.

Yeongdo Lighthouse

Taejongdae Park’s coastal  cliffs.       Famous for its oddly-shaped rocks and cliffs, Taejongdae Park offers a great sightseeing course along a 4.3-kilometer coastal road. The sites include Taejongsa Temple, a lighthouse, and an observatory, which are accessible on foot or by tram. The most popular is the Yeongdo Lighthouse Maritime Culture Area. First opened in 2004, this site offers views of the sea from a white lighthouse, which also has a maritime theater, a library (free Internet), a natural history gallery, and a coffee shop. After visiting the lighthouse, walk down to view the sea. You can easily access Taejongdae by taking a Danubi tour tram.

Because of their unique geographical surroundings, Yonggungsa Temple and Beomeosa Temple have totally different features. While Yonggungsa Temple, located on a coastal cliff, offers a beautiful view of the sea, Beomeosa Temple, which is nestled deep in the mountains, has a different ambience. You can choose either of the two temples depending on personal preference.
A round trip to Yonggunsa takes an hour by taxi (public transportation is not recommended) and two hours by subway to Beomeosa, so make sure to allocate enough time for a temple visit. If a temple tour isn’t how you want to spend your time, you can top off your Busan trip with a leisurely shopping trip to a duty free shopping center.

Busan Haedong Yonggungsa Temple 01

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is situated on the coast of the north-eastern portion of Busan. This superb find of a tourist spot and temple offers visitors the rare find of a temple along the shore line. Most temples in Korea are located in the mountains. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple was first built in 1376 during the Goryeo Dynasty. During the reign of Uwang, the great Buddhist teacher known as Naong established this temple beside the sea. Haesu Gwaneum Daebul (Seawater Great Goddess Buddha), Daeungjeon Main Sanctuary, Yongwangdang Shrine, Gulbeop Buddhist Sanctum (enclosed in a cave), and a three-story pagoda with four lions can all be seen looking out over the ocean.
The main sanctuary of the temple was reconstructed in 1970 with careful attention paid to the colors that were traditionally used in such structures. On the right-hand side, inside the a cave, is a uniquely designed Buddhist sanctum, while situated just in front of the main sanctuary is a three-story pagoda with four lions. The four lions are symbolizing joy anger, sadness, and happiness. Other special sites at the temple are the 108 stairs and stone lanterns lining the rocky landscape. After going down the 108 steps, one will be delighted with the beauty of the temple. Midway down the 108 steps one can stop and enjoy the calming sounds of the waves as well view the majestic sunrise. Many people often come to this spot on New Year's Day to make a wish for the new year as they watch the sun come up. April is an especially beautiful time of year with cherry blossoms in full bloom. The birth of Buddha is also celebrated in April (following the lunar calendar) and offers a spectacular night view as the temple area is aglow with electrically lit lanterns.

Busan Beomeosa Temple 01 Beomeosa Temple is located at the edge of Mt. Geumjeongsan, a famous mountain in Busan. About 1,300 years ago it was constructed by monk Ui Sang in the 18th year (678) of King Munmu (reign 661~681) of the Silla Kingdom (the kingdom mainly occupied the Gyeongsang-do Province region in 678A.D.). In the geography book 'Donggukyeojiseungram' the origin of Beomeosa Temple is written as follows: "There is a well on the top of Mt. Geumjeongsan and the water of that well is gold. The golden fish in the well rode the colorful clouds and came down from the sky. This is why the mountain is named Geumsaem (gold well) and the temple is named 'fish from heaven'."
The original Beomeosa Temple building was lost during Imjinwaeran Invasion (Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592) but was renovated in 1713, which remains as it now is. Daeungjeon is one of the most delicate and luxurious architectures of the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910). There is Iljumun, the three-story pagoda with four pillars, built in the 9th century, and seven royal palace wings, pavilions, three gates, and eleven hermitages. Designated as a natural monument, the wisteria woods and valleys are most beautiful in May.

You can enjoy some of the major tourist destinations of Busan for just 10,000 won by taking a city tour bus. The bus tour, which is becoming more popular, offers both one-story buses as well as the double-decker buses. It offers the Haeundae, Taejongdae, and night tour programs, which all start from Busan Station. The tours take about two hours. If you buy a one-day pass, you can enjoy a leisurely tour and get on and off any time during the route.Each seat is equipped with a personal monitor showing information on each tourist site. The audio service is available in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese. The best seats are usually the front seats on the top deck, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are three operating routes:-

1 Taejongdae Tour: Busan Station ~ Yongdusan Park ~ Coastal Ferry Terminal ~ Taejongdae Park ~ Jagalchi Market ~ PIFF Square ~ Busan Station

2 Haeundae Tour: Busan Station ~ Busan Museum ~ UN Memorial Park ~ Gwangalli Beach ~ Nurimaru ~ Haeundae Beach ~ Municipal Museum ~ BEXCO ~ Busan Station

3 Night Tour: Busan Station ~ Gwangan Bridge ~ Haeundae Beach ~ Dalmaji ~ Busan Station

To wrap up your trip, why not spend the night at a jjimjilbang (a Korean sauna or bath-house) for a uniquely Korean cultural experience. Vesta Jjimjilbang is located on Haeundae’s Dalmaji Hill. The side of the building facing the sea is all glassed in and so visitors can enjoy a fantastic night view of Haeundae and Gwangalli while taking a steam sauna.
This 5-story building has an information desk on the first floor, a women and men’s sauna on the 2nd and 4th floor, a jjimjilbang on the 3rd floor, and a fitness center and open-air bath on the 5th floor. Don’t miss the fabulous view of Haeundae from the open-air bath. Swimsuits are required.

Jjimjilbangs are also a great deal for the cost-conscious traveller in Korea. For 6000-8000 Won, one can sleep overnight there and enjoy the bathhouse and sauna and wake up fresh and ready to travel the next morning. If you have bags and backpacks with you that are too big to fit in the lockers, usually the front desk will watch your bags at no charge, during your stay.

Guess that’s all for today. Tell you about the wonderful shopping and some of the festivals  in Busan in my next post, so don’t forget to stop by ok?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Korean Customs and Lifestyle

Whenever I visit a foreign country I like to find out about the lifestyle and customs of the inhabitants of that country. Sometimes due to our ignorance we may do something which may be taboo and hurt somebody’s feelings in the process. Why start on the wrong foot when we could have avoided it by being a little more prepared and understanding. So I thought I’d let you in on a few Korean customs and also take a peek at their lifestyle.

Family

In the past it was the trend in Korea to have fairly large families, sometimes with 2 or 3 generations living under one roof. A big family was thought to be a blessing. It was also the custom that the eldest born son in the family should take care of his parents in their old age. When the father passes away he then takes over as the head of the family. That was why most Korean families preferred to have sons rather than daughters.

And in order to tackle this problem of male preference, the government came up with new family-related laws that ensured equality for sons and daughters as regards to inheritance. But in the sixties and seventies with the rapid growth in the industrialization and urbanization of the country the Koreans were introduced to birth control and the eighties saw a decrease in the average number of children in a family. And nowadays newly wedded couples move out from their extended families home to start a new life on their own. So times have changed.

Names

According to government statistics for the year 2000, 54% or well over half of the population of the Republic of Korea has one of the five family names Kim (21.6%), Lee (14.8%), Park (8.5%), Choi (4.7%), or Chung (4.4%). Rounding up the top ten family names are Kang, Cho, Yoon, Chang and Lim.

We have to bear in mind though, that not all Kims are the same. Surnames are divided into regional clans (bon-gwan) based upon a clan center or place of origin. So there are Gimhae Kims, Gwangsan Kims, and Gyeongju Kims. Similarly there are Lee clans based in Gyeongju, Jeonju and Seongju.

Koreans do not refer to others by their given names except among very close friends. Even among siblings, the younger ones are not supposed to address their elders by given names but rather by eonni for elder sister or oppa for elder brother.

Marriage

Koreans believe that marriage is the most important thing in one's life and a divorce not only brings disgrace to the couple but also to their families. Despite this the divorce rate in Korea is still growing rapidly.

Everybody loves weddings I’m sure. There are a lot of customs involved that one has to perform before the marriage and on the day itself. Want to know some of them that I’ve sourced from  KTO?

When a couple decides to get married, the man will visit the girl’s parents to get their permission, then the man will bring the girl to meet his parents. When both parents agree the sanggyeonnye will be held. Sanggyeonnye is when the parents and relatives of both parties meet officially for the first time to discuss the marriage.

About a month before the wedding, yedan or gifts from the bride’s family to the groom’s family will be sent to the groom’s house. In the past the groom’s family would send silk to the bride’s family as it was expensive then and the bride in turn would personally make clothes with the silk, for her parents-in-law. Then the silk garments or yedan would be sent back to the groom’s house. In appreciation of the bride’s endeavours the groom’s family would send some money back. Today, however, all gifts sent by the bride to the groom’s home are simply called yedan regardless of content. In olden days, only goods were offered as yedan; but with the changing of times, nowadays money is also being sent for the purchase of wished for items.

ham

If yedan is the gift by the bride to the groom’s family, then what do we call the gift from the groom to the bride’s family? It’s known as ham. Originally, the ham was sent the day before the wedding but it has now become more common to send it on a pre-determined date prior to the wedding. Inside the ham, which is a gift box, is a carefully prepared letter, written by the groom’s father to thank the bride’s parents for sending their precious daughter as their daughter-in-law which signifies the recognition and blessing of the marriage. Inside are also blue and red silk, and a list of necessary items. The blue and red silk also known as chaedan, was originally cloth material for making hanbok. The blue silk is wrapped in red paper and then tied with a blue string; the red silk is wrapped in blue paper and tied in red. This signifies the harmonious union between the man (blue) and the woman (red). The string signifies the binding of two hearts into one for everlasting love. My, how romantic can they get? The ham, which is wrapped in a red cloth called bojagi is sent to the bride’s home by hamjinabi or the person responsible for the delivery.

Traditional Korean Wedding  Ceremony

It’s the day of the wedding. The wedding ceremony is a public ritual to notify the public of the couple’s marriage. In Korea, there are two types of wedding ceremonies. The first and most common is the Western-style wedding held in a wedding hall or church. The other is the traditional Korean wedding, which is becoming more popular among young couples who want to have the unique experience. The traditional wedding involves the bride and the groom bowing to each other in traditional wedding outfits and sharing a cup of liquor in a gourd to vow their full commitment to a happy marriage to heaven and earth. After the actual wedding ceremony, the bride and the groom participate in a pyebaek ceremony to bow to the groom’s parents. During pyebaek, the parents throw chestnuts and jujube fruits to encourage many offspring and bless a happy marriage.

After returning from the honeymoon, the married couple would visit the bride’s home to show their respect to the bride’s parents. That night, the couple stay there to spend the night in the parent’s room. This signifies that the parents commemorate and congratulate their daughter’s return as the wife of a man. The next day, the couple leaves for the groom’s home with ibaji, food carefully prepared by the bride’s mother.

Ibaji comes from the word ‘ibajihada,’ meaning ‘to contribute’. The bride’s mother usually prepares ibaji right after the couple’s return from the honeymoon. It is prepared with great care to send to the in-laws through the daughter. The food can vary depending on the family style and regions, but commonly consists of galbi, seafood, fruit, and tteok (rice cakes), all done perfectly. In some cases, simpler fare such as with tteok, fruit, and hangwa is prepared. Ibaji food contains the love of the bride’s mother wishing that her daughter would be loved by her parents-in-law and would have a happy marriage. Upon receiving the ibaji food, the groom’s mother also sends back food as a sign of appreciation.

Ancestral Memorial Rites

Koreans believe that when people die, their spirits do not immediately depart; they stay with their descendants for four generations. During this period the deceased are still regarded as family members, and Koreans reaffirm the relationship between ancestors and descendants through jerye or ancestral memorial rites performed on special days like Sollal (Lunar New Year's Day) and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day), as well as on the anniversary of their ancestors' passing. Koreans also believe that people can live well and happily thanks to benefits their ancestors bestow upon them.

Religion

Jogyesa Temple     Seoul Church

Unlike some countries where a single religion is dominant, in Korea, the Koreans have the freedom to choose from a wide variety of religions. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution of Korea. Historically Koreans lived under the influences of Shamanism, Buddhism, Taoism or Confucianism. But in modern day Korea you can find Koreans who are Protestants, Catholics and Muslims.

Seoul Catholic Church                 Seoul Mosque

In a 2005 social statistics survey, 53.1 % of Koreans follow a specific religious faith. Buddhists account for some 43% of them, very closely followed by Protestants (34.5 %) and Catholics (20.6%) of the religious population. The remaining 1.9% mostly practice Confucianism, Shamanism, Islam and Chondogyo (Heavenly Way) an indigenous religion.

Festivals

In days gone by, festivals were lavish religious affairs. The harvest thanksgiving festivals began to be observed officially during the confederated kingdoms period. They included the yeonggo (spirit invoking drums)of Buyeo, dongmaeng (worship of the founder) of Goguryeo, and mucheon (dance to Heaven) of Dongye. Usually, the festivals were conducted in the 10th lunar month, after harvests were over, except for yeonngo which was held in the 12th lunar month.The tradition of enjoying the autumnal harvest and greeting the New Year in festivity continued through the later kingdoms and dynasties, although each kingdom had its own addition and deletion of holidays. Due to the hectic pace of life today, modern Korea has lost many of its traditional holidays. But a few holidays are still celebrated. One such day is Seollal, the first day of the year according to the lunar calendar. The entire family gathers on that day dressed mostly in traditional hanbok to perform ancestral rites. After the ceremonies the younger generation will make the traditional bows to their elders.

Other major holidays include Daeboreum the first full moon after Seollal. During this holiday, farmers and fishermen pray for a bountiful harvest and catch whilst most households pray for a fortuitous year and good luck by preparing special dishes of seasonal vegetables.

On Dano, the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, farmers took a day off from the fields for joint festivities marking the completion of sowing while women washed their hair in special water prepared by boiling iris with the hope of preventing misfortune. Dano was a major holiday in the olden days but interest has decreased except in a few provinces.

Chuseok, (Korean Thanksgiving Day) the autumnal full moon day that falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month is probably the most anticipated festive day for modern Koreans. Almost all institutions and stores are closed for 3 days during Chuseok. This year it will be celebrated from 2nd to 4th October. Family members get together, pay tribute to their ancestors and visit ancestral graves. People living in other cities return to their hometowns to observe Chuseok.

There are several family celebrations that are important for all Koreans and which are celebrated with feasting and merriment. They include baegil, the 100th day after a child’s birth, dol, baby’s 1st birthday and hoegap or hwan-gap, one’s 60th birthday. Such occasions were observed as festivals in which even remote relatives attended but these days they are usually observed by only close family members

Ondol

Ever wondered why Koreans sit on cushions on the floor or sleep on thick mats on the floor? Thanks to the ingenious invention of under-floor heating (ondol) the rooms in Korean houses are kept warm during the cold winter months. Underneath the floors are stone or concrete flues. Traditionally hot air was vented through the flues to provide heat. Clay or cement would be placed over the stones to protect the residents from noxious gases. So the lower a person is to the floor, the warmer he will be.That is why most people sit and sleep on the floor on thick mats. Nowadays hot water is piped through cement floors covered with linoleum. Traditional Korean rooms have multiple functions. There are no specific bedrooms or dining rooms. Rather, tables and mats are brought in as needed.

Table Manners and Table Settings

From ancient times, Koreans have used spoon and chopsticks as their eating utensils. The spoon was for scooping steamed rice, soup, and stew, and chopsticks were used to eat a variety of prepared side dishes. Koreans are trained to use the spoon and the chopsticks correctly from childhood. Using both the utensils at the same time is considered bad manners. Here are some more table manners to observe. In Korean table manners, great reverence is shown towards seniority and appreciation for the food that is served. Before seating down at the table one should clean one’s face and hands. Never delay eating while the meal is still hot. One should not make others at the table wait. Try to pick up food at once and avoid searching around dishes with chopsticks. No matter how hot the served rice or soup may be, do not blow so as to cool it. Do not chew your food too quickly but enjoy leisurely dining with cheerful conversation with the others. Be careful not to touch dishes with your sleeve when you pick up food.. Do not rap on the table with the chopsticks nor make noise with your spoon hitting against the tableware. When in a group it is impolite to leave the table alone earlier than others. Etiquette requires all participants to finish meal at the same time. Do not pick your teeth in the presence of others. Do not read newspaper or book at dining table.

A Traditional Korean Meal

Bansang is the usual meal of steamed rice, soup, and side dishes.

Jangguksang is the main dish, and it is arranged with kimchi, cold greens, mixed vegetables, pan-fried dishes, confectionery, fruit, and fruit punch. This simple meal can be served as lunch as well.

Juansang - Alcohol drinks (ju) and accompanying side dishes (an) are set on the table. The dishes vary depending on the kinds of liquor or wine.

Kyojasang is a large table prepared for banquets. Alcohol beverages and a large variety of side dishes, rice cakes, confectionaries, and fruit punch are all placed on the table. After the liquor is finished, noodle soup is served.

The Traditional Ceremonial Meal

Baegil (100th day after the birth of a baby)-Steamed rice, brown seaweed soup, white rice cakes, rice cake balls.

Dol (first birthday) - Steamed rice, brown seaweed soup, white rice cakes, rice cake balls, rice cakes of five different colors steamed on a layer of pine needles.

Juansang - Alcohol drinks (ju) and accompanying side dishes (an) are set on the table. The dishes vary depending on the kinds of liquor or wine.

Marriage - The parents-in-law of the bride and bridegroom both prepare special dishes to express their mutual happiness and congratulations. The food includes fruit, confectionaries, and rice cakes which are stacked 30 to 60 centimeters high. This kind of table-setting is called, " gyobaesang."

Hwan-gap (60th birthday) - Gyobaesang is also prepared to celebrate one's 60th birthday

Lastly when you beckon to a person, do so with your palm down, and then flutter your hand up and down with your fingers touching together. It is not polite to beckon with your palm up especially using only one finger, because Koreans do that only to dogs.